Camping without the kids part 2: Tennessee, Georgia & North Carolina

So, day 3 was the start of the meat of our trip.  If you haven’t seen part 1 of our adventure click here.  This was the day we were heading to Chattanooga which we’ve been looking forward to for a while now.  Neither of us have visited Tennessee before, so this was a long awaited trip for sure.  Our plan was to spend a few days exploring Chattanooga, do a day trip into Georgia, and then spend a few days in North Carolina visiting family.

Checkout the video below to see the highlights of the 2nd leg of this trip.


And here’s Part 1 if you missed it.

So, in the end this was an awesome 8 days.  I joked with Sandie that this was the best 8 days we’ve had in 12 years.  We had a blast together, saw so many new things, and had some very peaceful/quiet drives (and we don’t get too many of those.

Camping without the kids part 1: West Virginia & Virginia

So, we couldn’t think of a better way to celebrate our 15th wedding anniversary than to ditch the kids for a vacation.  Well, that vacation turned into an 8 day/1906 mile camping trip between Pennsylvania and Georgia.  We spent the first 2 days exploring West Virginia and Virginia and would have loved to spend many more there.  Checkout the below video to see the start of our anniversary adventure as we tried to squeeze as much of Harpers Ferry, WV and Buchanan, VA in as we could.

Keep an eye out for the next part of our trip, Tennessee and Georgia.  We have tons (76.6GB to be exact) of awesome footage that we’ll be editing this week thanks to the new camera and drone.

Day at the beach through a 7 year olds eyes

This is what you get when you let a 7 year old roam the beach with your GoPro camera.  I woke up early on our last camping trip and decided to look through the footage and was surprised with what I found.  For the most part it was violently shaking footage of him running around the beach, but there were a few gems in there that I needed to share (after some prodding by a certain 7 year old red head boy).
There’s not much I can say about it, so here you go:
 
Well, I hope you got a kick out of this one.  Now I need to go back an look at other footage the kids have shot to see what else is lying undiscovered.

Elk Neck State Park Camping

Another weekend trip, another rainy weekend.  Camping and rain seem to be synonymous these days, but it’ll take more than rain to slow us down.  We’ve wanted to visit Elk Neck State Park for a while and this weekend was it.

Our first impression of the park was great!  The rangers were all friendly and the park itself was beautiful.  We were camping with the dog, so we stayed in the pet friendly Elk loop which is also right on the Chesapeake Bay.  We booked late, so we only had a few sites to choose from, but after cruising the Elk loop site 136 has the best view with access down to the water (albeit steep access).

On top of the campground, we also visited the lighthouse at Turkey Point and North East beach and would recommend both of them.

Checkout the below video to see the highlights of our trip.

 

Washington DC camping on a budget

This is one of the reasons we love camping!  We wanted to stop in Washington DC during our spring break trip, but didn’t make it and wanted to squeeze it in this year.  We didn’t have this trip budgeted for, but were able to make it work with some careful spending.

Instead of a full immensity campground we decided on National Park that didn’t have any hookups for just $16/night, but was only 11 miles from downtown Washington DC.  We also used a parking app to find some inexpensive, yet convenient parking, near the Air and Space museum.

The only thing that set us back was our lunch.  We couldn’t pack lunch into the museum and decided to eat there while waiting for the rain to end.  We could have packed lunch and left it in the car, but with limited time we decided to splurge a little.

In the end we spent $202 on our three-day trip to Washington DC and I’m not so sure it would have cost us less to stay home for a weekend.  Here’s a breakdown of our costs:

Fuel: $ 70
Parking: $ 13
Campground for 3 days: $ 48 at Greenbelt Park
Lunch at the museum: $ 48
Pizza for 6: $ 23 at Slices Pizza

On our trip we got to see the Air and Space Museum, Museum of Natural History, Washington Monument, Lincoln Memorial, Vietnam Veterans Memorial, and got a glimpse of the White House and Capital Building.  We went from one end of the National Mall to the other and had a lot of tired kids at the end of the day!  Checkout the below video to see our trip highlights.

Sandie was a bit concerned with the bare bones  campground, but it worked out great and our next trip will be to a state park with no hookups at a great price.  It turns out the kids love camping anywhere there’s access to a playground and this allows us to squeeze in more trips (and memories).

2016 Spring Break camping spectacular

Our goal for 2016 is to make it a year we all remember and our first big adventure was Spring Break.  We knew we wanted to do a road trip, but our aversion to planning had us figuring out locations up until the week we were leaving.  Charleston was on our list of stops from the start, but everything else was pretty open.  We decided on Richmond and Charlottesville at the last-minute and lucked out with some great campgrounds and day trips.  This trip turned into 8 days, took us through 6 states, and over 1900 miles of roadway.

Being our first trip of the year in the trailer I expected a few repairs and I was in luck!  Here are the bits and pieces that needed attention during the trip:

Break 1: Snapped a chain on one of the weight distribution bars.  There was a worn link that gave way after a few tight parking lot turns.  I made a parking lot repair and replaced the chain on both bars the next morning.
Break 2: Cabinet door latch broke.  Picked up a new one at home depot.
Break 3: Trailer door latch broke.  I had a replacement in the toolbox already and replaced it.
Break 4: Car alarm left us stranded in the campground after I disconnected the truck battery.  With a Good Sam Roadside service call the tow truck driver was able to disable the alarm.  I don’t think I need an alarm in a 17 year old truck and will be removing it ASAP!

With the repairs out of the way, we had a great trip.  The kids toughed out a few long days in the truck and we visited some awesome places.  Here’s a quick rundown of what we did along the way:

Day 1: Home to Richmond, VA.  We checked into Pocahontas State Park, got settled, and hit Target & Home Depot for some things.
Day 2: Headed down to explore the Richmond waterfront.
Day 3: Rain in the forecast, so we left for Charleston a day early.  We drove all day and arrived at James Island park just before sunset.
Day 4: Headed to downtown Charleston for a carriage tour and walked the city.  Also had some great pizza.
Day 5: Trip to the Mount Pleasant Pier and Folly beach.  Dinner at The Charleston Crab House.
Day 6: Another long day of driving from Charleston to Charlottesville KOA.
Day 7: Woke up early to hit Monticello, but had some car problems (see above).  We ate lunch and spent a few hours at Monticello before going for ice cream in downtown Charlottesville. Sadly, most shops were closing up when we got there at 7pm, leaving only restaurants and bars open. Would have been nice to have a baby sitter that night.
Day 8: Left the Charlottesville KOA early and made a stop at the Grand Cavern before driving home.  Spent all day driving with the exception of a few hours at the caverns.

And checkout out the highlights of our trip below:

Up next on our list is Washington DC!

The best small travel trailers at the 2016 Atlantic City RV Show

On this frigid February afternoon we headed to New Jersey to find the best small travel trailers at the 2016 Atlantic City RV Show.  We had one goal in mind and that was to find some great ideas for our upcoming small trailer project.  We haven’t decided on whether it will be a restoration or a fully custom trailer, but we’re looking for inspiration!  With that in mind we had some very specific criteria in mind when looking for a small travel trailer.

  • Length under 20′.  The smaller the better to see how manufacturers are creative at maximizing space.
  • Hard sides.  We weren’t including hybrids, popups, or A frame trailers in the mix.
  • Creative.  We wanted to see some creative solutions which turned out to be the most elusive requirement.

As a little overview of the show, it is a pretty standard RV show.  For the most part it was local RV dealers showing off units they had in stock.  For this reason there weren’t too many odd or interesting new RV’s on display that I’ve seen at other shows.  I was also a little disappointed in the vendor area and the lack of RV gadgets being displayed.  The vendors were of the typical home improvement variety that can be found at most fairs with a few campgrounds and RV type products mixed in.

After combing the show floor for a few hours we came up with our top 3 list.  Checkout the below video to see our picks.

 

3. Keystone Passport 151ML

This Passport is the least expensive of the three and has a few interest features that the others don’t have.  It’s the only one with a full bath, but you get that at the expense of losing the dinette.  It also comes with a murphy bed which Sandie likes.

2. Forest River R-pod 179TT

The R-pod is the largest of the three and the only one that has a slide out.  The slide makes this 20′ trailer feel even larger.

1. Airstream Sport Bambi 16J

Being a tiny Airstream is still being an Airstream.  This well thought out design makes this tiny trailer feel more spacious and the quality is pretty amazing.  The quality is far beyond what is offered by the other manufacturers, but so is the price tag.

At the end of the day we didn’t see too much at the Atlantic City RV show that we haven’t seen before, but we still came home with some good ideas for our project.  Stay tuned over the next month or so for details on our new project.  If you have any suggestions on interesting or creative compact RV’s leave them in the comments below.

 

 

Our 2015 Year in Review

So, 2015 was a pretty good year for us all around. We spent time with family & friends, visited some great places, and created MANY memories. In addition to all the great times we also lost a loved one far too soon. Now that we’re a few days into 2016 it’s time to look back at the good times and plan for the future.

Check out our 2015 Year in Review video to see some of our highlights.

Now that 2016 is here we have some big things planned. Our goal is for this year to be our best ever (only to be topped by 2017). Here’s a quick preview of things to come.

New project RV
We haven’t decided on the type yet, but we’re starting our search now. What we’re looking for is a small RV for mom & dad date trips and are leaning towards a smaller class C or a <15’ travel trailer. Follow along as we choose and rehab our new RV.

Spring Break road trip
Our 2015 trip was cancelled because of a job change, but not this year. We’ll be embarking on a road trip that includes stops in Washington, Charleston, Charlotte, and somewhere along the Blue Ridge Parkway in Virginia.

15 Year Anniversary road trip
Tennessee. After 15 years we’re going all out for a trip to…Tennessee. We haven’t decided on all the specifics, but Chattanooga is our main destination. Our goal is to have our new “date RV” completed and ready to go for this trip.

Knoebels
We went to Knoebels for the first time last year and had a blast. We decided this is now a recurring annual trip and can’t wait to return.

In addition to these plans, we intend to complete several smaller projects and trips throughout the year. We’re also working hard to improve the quality of our blog and video content, so stay tuned for what we have in store in 2016.

Camping: Our 22 hours at French Creek State Park

Sometimes the stars align. On Election Day this year, they did for us. It happened to be Mark’s birthday and since our polls are held in our school, the kids had off too. On top of all of this, the weather was 70 and sunny. So what better way to end the camping season for 2015. With all this good fortune, what could possibly go wrong?

Well, us being us, we didn’t realize all this until two days before Election Day. So our planning and preparing were nearly non-existent especially because for at least a day I though Mark was joking when he first suggested the one night trip. We were going to have to leave after the kids got home from school the day before Election Day which left daylight in short supply.

We picked French Creek State Park due to its fairly close proximity to our house at about an hour away. They also had open sites for pets available so we tried our best to hightail it out of the driveway after the kids got home. Still, we were racing twilight and…

We lost.

Honestly, I think if anyone could see us in the dark, with tiny flash lights and my poor hand signals they would have gotten a good laugh. Navigating into a spot in the dark is never fun. I half-joked that we’ll need to buy a pair of traffic batons for the next time we arrive after dark. What is great about these is that the kids can play Star Wars if they get bored. There’s a win-win right there.

After setting up and dinner, we need to get everyone to bed fairly quickly. We didn’t have a lot of time the next day so we wanted to get an early start. More importantly, we REALLY didn’t want to have to attempt to get our trailer up our mega-steep driveway in the dark either. At least, not without my fancy traffic batons.

The next day after some exploring around the camp area and hitting the playground, we decided to take the kids on a 5 mile hike. Five miles was probably 3.5 miles too many. OK, 4 miles too many. Possibly, 4.5 miles too many. We had no hiking shoes which wouldn’t have been a big deal if not for the completely rock covered trails we were about to embark on for the next 3+ hours. So, in addition to the batons, I added hiking boots to the list of to-gets. I always go for looks first which is why I have a husband to talk me out of picking the wrong shoes. I would go with the pink or teal.

And for my favorite littlest lady, some pink to match.

Needless to say, walking for 3 hours with kids over rocky paths (imagine sharp cobblestone) is going to elicit some whining, complaining, refusal to go another step and finally begging to be carried. I still told Mark no, I didn’t care if it was his birthday. He was the one who got us into this mess and he was going to have to walk like everyone else.

When we finished the loop there was much rejoicing and grumbling tummies. BUT, it was getting late now that daylight savings had started we really needed to head out so we packed up and grabbed some lunch on the way home.

We made it back with plenty of daylight and the burgers we brought for lunch became dinner.

I would definitely put French Creek in our rotation for another camping trip. I had been to the pool years before and it was a nice walk-in pool. We didn’t get to see Hopewell Furnace this trip so there is still plenty of exploring to do in the summer. I think lounging by the pool would be more appealing to the kids than another 5 mile hike anyway. It sure does sounds better to me.

If you’ve been you French Creek, what were some of your favorite activities.  Feel free to leave them in the comments below so we can add them to our list for next time.