Reflecting on our 2019 Adventure

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Our 2019 Adventure was our first year in our 2005 Safari Cheetah diesel pusher motorhome. Traveling in the motorhome as opposed to the 5th wheel presented a bit of a learning curve for us. We got the Cheetah in January and put a lot of effort getting comfortable on the “camper side” of the rig. However, when we started traveling in April (and in spite of our having taken a few shake down cruises in it) we began finding mechanical issues that needed attention. Not only that, but we had a few mishaps that added to the list of needed fixes. We worked our way through them as we traveled and finally felt we had resolved most of problems.

Over all we drove the motorhome just over 4200 miles, visiting 31 campgrounds in 17 states. Our longest move day was 305 miles but our average move was just 136 miles.

Our winter stay was a bit longer than usual. Our year started and ended at Green Caye RV Park in Dickinson, Texas – 150 days total for the year. This isn’t anything close to being our favorite park, but it is near friends and family (and doctors) so it is a reasonable winter landing spot for us.

Our Thousand Trails membership continues to be a good investment for us. This year we spent 154 nights at Thousand Trails campgrounds in six states.

Our favorite campgrounds, though, remain Corps of Engineers campgrounds. Our America the Beautiful pass makes these great campgrounds a real bargain for us.

One of the highlights of the year for us was having our family join us at Hershey, PA Thousand Trails. We had a great time visiting all the sights of the Hershey-Lancaster-Gettysburg area. It was especially fun sharing with them some of our favorite attractions in the area – places like Jiggers in Mt Gretna and the Bird In Hand Farmer’s Market.

The other highlight of our year was celebrating our 50th Wedding Anniversary at Niagara Falls.  We celebrated all week, exploring the area everywhere from the beautiful Gorge to taking a boat ride through locks on the Erie Canal.  We saved our day at the Falls for the actual date of our anniversary and then went out for an excellent meal after a busy day at the Falls.

In a couple of weeks I’ll finish the year with an expense report – admittedly, it has been a pretty expensive year. Still, as you can see, we got a lot of bang for our buck!

2019 – Airport Park CoE, Waco, TX


As I have said before, Corps of Engineers campgrounds are our favorites and we have enjoyed Airport Park CoE again this stay. The campground is located on the northwest side of Waco on Lake Waco. There are many campsites with great lake views. We were in the middle loop. Only three of the campsites in our loop have full hookups. All three FHU sites are on the side of the road away from the lake. We still had great views but there were campers in pull through sites (but no sewer) between us and the lake. I think the loop most distant from the entry has more FHU spots. On future visits we will probably try for one of those sites (but see the information on the airport below).

A previous review is here.

Still, though, we had little to complain about. Our view out the front window was very nice, the site was paved and easy access, and we enjoyed having FHUs. Most of the sites slope a bit toward the water. Because of that I noticed that the motorhomes especially that had back in sites with the rear of the camper toward the water had a harder time getting level – something to keep in mind when making reservations.

And, if you are coming over the weekend, you will want to make a reservation. This popular campground fills up often.

The fact that this is called “Airport park” might help serve notice that the campground is adjacent a busy airport. Everything from recreational small planes to passenger jets to military aircraft come and go. During our visit a major fall cold front came in (record lows in the 20’s matter of fact). With a north wind, the air traffic came and went right over the campground and lake. Our middle campground was a bit west of the primary traffic – that most distant campground I mentioned was directly under it. After a few days the wind shifted and so did the air traffic. There was still some action, but not nearly as much.

Waco is a neat city with lots to see and do. We visited Magnolia attractions, went to a big Christmas market and book sale, and walked across the famous Brazos river bridge in downtown. There is more to see, but this is not our first visit to Waco. With the cold, rainy weather throughout the first part of our visit we were mostly happy to hang out at the campground, staying inside, enjoying the view.

This is a great campground and we recommend it to you.

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2019 – Belle Starr CoE – Lake Eufaula, OK


Belle Starr CoE is another great Corps of Engineers campground. It is located on Lake Eufaula in beautiful eastern Oklahoma, about 10 miles south of I40, just off of Highway 69. This campground has a lot going for it. Most of the campsites offer a lake view, in fact, a many of the sites are along the lake. We were in a section of good pull throughs that are long enough for any rig, and right along the lake. These sites are quite popular, so it might be a challenge to just arrive and snag one of them. There are also several spots that would be ideal for smaller rigs, each right on the water.

The soil is sandy here, so there are plenty of sandy beach areas. The sand, though, is also a negative for the campground due to considerable erosion caused by flooding over the past few years.

None of the campsites have a sewer connection. Many are water and electric, although not all have water. The section we were in had 50 amp electric service. While most of the sites seemed reasonably level, I noticed that a few were obviously sloping toward the lake. I had to do some leveling back to front, but, in general, our site was quite good. In fact, I’d say that this may have been our prettiest campsite of the year.

Our Verizon signal was good and, since aiming at the satellite was out over the lake, there was no problem seeing the satellites.

This is an outstanding campground for those traveling north and south on Highway 69 or east and west on I 40.

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2019 – Bo Wood CoE – Sullivan, IL


We wanted a nice campground near Decatur, IL and, even though this one was a bit farther than we wanted, we couldn’t have been much happier with a campground than we were with Bo Wood CoE Campground at Sullivan, IL. We often tell people that Corps of Engineers campgrounds are our favorites and this one is a great example of why we say that. The sites are very large, level, and spacious. In fact, I’d say that the theme of this Shelbyville Lake campground is “big.” There are actually multiple campgrounds on the property that vary in amenities from electric only, to water-electric, to full hookup. While a few sites in the “older” section offer a lake view, most are either in the woods or in open areas away from the lake. The large “new” section has many FHU sites, including several huge pull through sites. The property also has a boat ramp and two fenced in dog play areas.

I think you could have parked four motorhomes the size of ours on our back in site. In the mornings we had more sunshine than we wanted, but by late afternoon we were in the shade. If we had any complaint about our campsite it was the big oak tree that dropped acorns on us from time to time. Judging from the ground cover, we actually missed the worst of the bombardment.

My Verizon signal was pretty good and I was able to get satellite TV without much trouble. No doubt it would be nigh on to impossible in many of the more wooded areas of the campground.

Bo Wood is off the beaten track far enough that it is off the radar of people just passing through the area. It is easy to see, though, why this is a popular spot for the locals!

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2019 – Tompkins CoE Campground – Lawrenceburg, PA


We were at Tompkins CoE Campground at Lawrenceburg, PA in 2013 and were glad for an opportunity to visit this beautiful campground again. Since I reviewed the campground then, I’ll just do a brief review and post a few new photos.

It wasn’t especially by design, but we ended up in the same campsite as we were in when we were here six years ago. It is, though, a great campsite. No doubt, the spots along the lake are great sites, if you can’t get one of them, Knoll 17 is a good one. For one thing, it is one of the few sites that offers a clear shot at the Dish network eastern arc satellites. I’m guessing that the spots along the lake have a view of the sky, but aside from that, there aren’t many sites that do.

About half the sites are full hookup – the rest are water/electric only.
The campground is in a bit of a black hole for cell service. We had a 1X signal. That meant that a text message might get through and that’s about it. We found that if we walked along the lake to a spot closest to the dam that we got a usable 3G signal. Needless to say, if internet is important to you it might be better to find a different campground.

However, if you are looking for great Corps campground in a beautiful setting you’ll love this campground.

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Reflecting on our 2018 Adventure

Schoodic Woods Campground – Acadia National Park, Maine

Our 2018 Adventure included lots of travel. We towed the 5th wheel over 5100 miles, visiting 34 campgrounds in 17 states. Our average travel day was 150 miles and our average stay was about 11 days (although that is skewed a bit because of two longer winter stops).

We had lots of opportunities to enjoy our upgraded Thousand Trails membership, spending 120 nights at their properties. Our membership saves us a lot of money and much of my travel planning consists of stitching together a route that includes these campgrounds.

We also stayed 45 nights in Corps of Engineers campgrounds. These are our favorite campgrounds: almost always well laid out, spacious, and in beautiful locations. With our America the Beautiful pass we average paying $11-12 per night. Really, the CoE campgrounds spoil us for staying in tighter, urban campgrounds. If there is any negative at all it is that these campgrounds often offer only water and electric hookups and are generally rather out of the way, off the beaten track.

Generally speaking, we like alternating our stays between campgrounds right in the middle of the action and quieter, more laid-back spots. That approach was really evident during our two weeks at Acadia National Park in Maine. The first week we were in a commercial campground located in the heart of the action on Mt. Desert Island. The second week we were at Schoodic Woods campground located in the “quiet side” of the National Park. That week was our favorite week of the entire summer. In fact, we enjoyed our month in Maine very much. It is a beautiful state with friendly people.

We also spent quite a bit of time in Pennsylvania.  We had been there before, but this stay was longer and we had time to get acquainted with more areas.  It is a great state to visit with lots to see and do.

One change for us is that after volunteering at Battleship Texas and San Jacinto Monument the past several years, including the opening months of 2018, we decided to take a break upon our return to the Houston area. Instead we settled into a residential RV Park in Dickinson, TX for a few months.

This year, in spite of the enjoyable travels, wasn’t trouble free. Right off I knew I needed to take the 5th wheel in to the factory for service. It was a major repair and rather expensive. Then, in Indiana I had the pickup in the shop. I knew the repair was coming, but there was another big hit to the bank account. A couple of months later the pickup was back in the shop not once, but twice, for both maintenance and work again. All in all, this was our most expensive vehicle/5th wheel year to date. These expenses will be obvious when I release our 2018 expense sheet in a few weeks.

We’ve been reminded in unwelcome ways that traveling in a RV doesn’t take us away from real life as we’ve had our share of doctor’s visits and expenses. Happily, the outcomes to this point have been reasonably good although the final chapter hasn’t been written on some issues. One silver lining to these clouds is that we’ve had a chance to affirm that traveling fulltimers can walk into most any Urgent Care and get help. Another is that all the money we spend on insurance actually gets us decent coverage. Still, I’d rather just buy the insurance without needing it!

We still enjoy the nomadic RVing life and hope to continue for the foreseeable future. With both 5th wheel and pick-up being in the shop this year we’re thinking about doing some trading, likely to a motorhome. However, at this point we’re just thinking about it. Stay tuned on that front.

2018 – Rocky Point CoE Campground – Queen City, TX

When we lived in this area we drove past the road to this campground many times but it was only after we became fulltimers that we actually stayed at it. I wrote a review on the campground then and it is still pretty accurate.

A few campsites have been added since our last visit and we stayed in one of the new spots, enjoying a 50 amp/full hookup site. If we were coming in for a shorter stay we would head for one of the many terrific sites along the lake. However, none of them are FHU and we opted for convenience rather than view.

Once again, we give Rocky Point Campground on Lake Wright Patman a two thumbs up and will return when our journeys bring us to northeast Texas.

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2018 – Maumelle CoE Campground – Little Rock, AZ

We had a shorter stay at Little Rock’s Maumelle CoE Campground in 2015 and looked forward to this return visit. This is a terrific Corps of Engineers campground located along the Arkansas River in the Little Rock metro. I reviewed the campground on our previous visit and I think everything I said then still applies now.

The campsites away from the river are great sites. The ones along the river are, well, excellent. Most of them are 50 amp, paved, back in spots. A few are pull through. Many motorhomes pull in rather than back in so they can enjoy the beautiful river view. A good rule of thumb when reserving is that the riverfront sites on the western end of the campground have their river view blocked by a big marina. Those on the eastern end are 30 amp only. And – unless you are coming in for only a night or two, you will need reservations if you want one of these prime sites.

Otherwise, I think it would be a challenge to get satellite TV in many of the sites away from the river. To be fair, most of the Little Rock broadcast TV stations towers are very near the campground. Without even raising our TV antenna we got nearly 40 channels! I also got satellite so there was no lack of TV for us. Also, my Verizon 4G signal was a good one.

As you can tell we really like Maumelle and give it a two thumbs up.

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2018 – Seven Points CoE, Hermitage, TN

Everything we read about Seven Points CoE campground on J. Percy Priest Reservoir at Hermitage, TN was positive, so we looked forward to this stay on the east side of Nashville. The campground lived up to its billing. The campground is in a beautiful wooded area along the big lake. The campsites are long and deep with large patio areas. If you want to stay more than a chance night or two (and even that won’t be possible on weekends) you’ll need to make reservations well in advance as this campground is very popular and it fills up night after night. Our stay was for a week and the “no vacancy” sign was up for our entire stay.

Seven Points is close to I40 but it feels farther than it is because you have to make several turns through residential streets to get to it. The roads are plenty wide enough for any RV, though, and not really a problem. Follow the directions on the campground website and you’ll be fine.

While all the sites are very nice the lakeside ones are something special. All of them feature long driveways off the road and great lakeside camping in the trees. The rest of the sites are nicely wooded and if not for comparing them to the premium lakeside spots they would be considered prime real estate in most campgrounds.

So, right off, you want a lakeside spot if you can get it (I reserved four months out and they were all taken). If you can’t get a lakeside site, there are a few on the inside loop that afford nice lake views. They are, I think, sites 26-30 and 38-44.

There are no sites with sewer, but all do have 50 amp electric and water. There is only one shower house and it is a bit of a walk from both the north and south opposite ends of the campground. I found it strange that there’s a nice gravel trail from the back of the shower house, through the woods to the opposite side of the campground. However, once you get there you find yourself in the back of someone’s campsite with no further trail. It seems like a lot of effort to service just two or three campsites.

The dump station was designed by someone who obviously never drove a larger RV. The turns are sharp and the roadway is narrow. You’ll likely end up with wheels “cutting the corner” but no worries, it’s obvious that it has happened many times before.

Satellite TV will be easy for people with portable domes and lakefront property. It will be considerably harder for those with rooftop units or who are camped on the inside loop. It will be impossible in several sites. I made it, but the window was very small. Our Verizon signal was decent.

The campground is close to some major shopping areas, especially at nearby Mt. Juliet. Also Andrew Jackson’s Hermitage is nearby. All the Opry-related attractions are less than 30 minutes away.

We most always like Corps of Engineers campgrounds and this is a great example of why. We hope to return the next time was come to the Nashville, TN area.

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2018 – Sightseeing the Pennsylvania Wilds


The northwestern part of Pennsylvania is called the “Wilds” and we enjoyed touring a portion of this beautiful, mountainous country. We took a driving tour through Pennsylvania’s Elk Country. Our first stop was the Elk Country Visitor Center. To get there we drove State route 555. Although the highway was steep and twisty it was a pleasant day for a drive and we enjoyed seeing the many farms, houses and cabins along the way. Scott said he didn’t mind the mountain driving as long as he wasn’t towing the 5th wheel! We didn’t see any elk until we turned into the Visitors Center and we saw one in the trees along the road. The center itself has wide sidewalks bordering a viewing area. Inside the building there are interactive games and hands-on items that teach about the area and wildlife. Several dioramas display scenes from the wild. There’s a gift shop with many souvenirs and gift items. Outside we walked down a wide path to an overlook for elk viewing.

Another fun stop was Parker Dam State Park. We enjoyed seeing the swimming beach and the water running over the dam. Civilian Conservation Corps played a large part in building this park. Although the Lew and Helen Adams CCC Museum wasn’t open we enjoyed seeing a road grader and caterpillar that was used by the Corps.

We also visited Bilger’s Rocks. This unique area of huge rocks and trees has trails winding through them. We had a surprise. As we were walking Scott suddenly stepped backwards. I knew immediately there was a snake somewhere. Thankfully the snake just wanted to move on which was just fine with me.

This area has so much to offer. A few years ago we visited the Grand Canyon of Pennsylvania. We thoroughly enjoyed the “Wilds” and will look forward to exploring more in the future.

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