Tag Archives: weather

2017 – Wilson State Park, KS

20170912_183147.jpg We spent four nights at Wilson State Park located in central Kansas, not far from I70. I had to smile as I realized we were in the “Hell Creek” area, but camped near Tatanka Lodge, a large shelter where church services are conducted through the summer months. This portion of the state park has a cluster of campgrounds scattered in the hills surrounding a pretty lake. The steep hills don’t match the traditional view of flat land Kansas! In our case, though, the wind very much did fit the Kansas stereotype. We had lots of hot, dry wind with gusts rocking the camper and blowing one lawn chair clear across the road. Obviously, this isn’t an everyday occurrence, but we dealt with the wind (at times over 40 mph!) our entire stay.

There are only a few full hookup sites in this part of the state park and we were happily settled into one of them. Like most places, there were very few campers present during the week, but things got busier over the weekend when every spot, including camping cabins were booked. One thing you might want to know is that above the camping fee there’s a $5 a day entry fee. There’s a nearby Corps of Engineers campground with, I think, electric only that might be a better short stay.

I had no problem getting a satellite signal – keeping it was a different thing, as the strong winds tended to move the dish just enough to disrupt the signal. During one especially strong blast associated with a passing thunderstorm one of the guy wires I had put on it snapped. My Verizon had a weak but usable signal.

20170914_193854.jpg We enjoyed the star-lit nights and beautiful sunsets over the lake. The near record temperatures and constant winds rocking the camper, though, kept us inside through much of the day. Had the weather been more enjoyable I think we would have been quite satisfied with this stop. The weather, though, caused us to look forward to calmer, cooler days elsewhere.

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2017 – Farm Island State Recreation Area, Pierre, SD

20170818_145911.jpg After driving nearly 200 miles across the corn and hay fields of the South Dakota Prairie we dropped into the Missouri River Valley and arrived at a beautiful lakeside campground on the outskirts of Pierre, SD. Farm Island Recreation Area is a pretty spot with large, level sites and 50 amp electrical hookups. There is a convenient water and dump station near the entrance. We arrived, happily with reservations, on an August Friday afternoon and the campground was nearly full. There were many families and the kids had a blast swimming in the lake. The lake is fed by the Missouri River. It has a sandy bottom and is pretty shallow for a good distance out – making it perfect for children. Because of the layout of the campground only a fourth of the sites are by the water. Because of that, people pretty much walk through those sites to get to the lake. I know some people get bent out of shape when that happens, but at this campground it’s just the way it is. We smiled and said “hello” and they smiled in return. By Sunday evening, though, that was all over. The place was nearly empty and we pretty much had the campground to ourselves the rest of our stay.

20170818_141312.jpg Here are a few things you might want to know if you plan on visiting Farm Island. In addition to the camping fee there is a South Dakota State Parks vehicle entry fee of $6 a day. Since we were intending to stay four days and then visit Custer State Park later on we got a $30 annual pass instead. There is also a $7.50 out of state booking fee. I had no problem getting satellite TV which is a good thing because I don’t think there was any over the air TV. My Verizon signal was solid. When I tested the water with our TDS meter it reported numbers as high as 1000. That’s really high and at the limit of what is considered fit for human consumption. I suggest you bring drinking water. Finally, the flies are real pests throughout this area. Be prepared to defend yourself unless the wind is blowing.

20170821_123147.jpg Our final day at Farm Island was “eclipse day.” We woke to a severe thunderstorm that was pretty scary – wind, hail, and a downpour. Really, we should have bugged out to one of the shower houses. However, the storm was on us before we knew it. After 10 or 15 minutes of (thankfully) small hail, things let up. We feared the heavy clouds would block our view of the eclipse which was at nearly 90% for the area. However, at just the right time the skies cleared and we had a good view of the impressive display of God’s handiwork.

2016 – New Air Conditioner Project

20160621_120731.jpg Our surprise  change of plans means we’re “enjoying” our first Houston summer since retirement in 2013.  It’s also our first extended hot/humid stay in our 2007 Hitchhiker II.  Of course, the weather isn’t unexpected.  After all, we lived in this area for many years.

While we’re ready to cope with the “summer swelter,” apparently our Hitchhiker isn’t.  It’s wired for two rooftop units, but only has one and as an uncommonly hot June arrived the comfort level in our house, well, let’s say it wasn’t so comfortable.

My first effort at keeping my cool was putting Reflectrix on several of the windows.  It makes the camper feel a bit cave-like but it does help.

Unfortunately, not enough.

My second effort was to close off the vents in the bedroom and keep the door closed.  The idea was to keep all the cool air I could in the kitchen/living room area.  I think it made a difference – at least it made the bedroom hotter.

So, unfortunately, not enough.

My third effort was buy a portable air conditioner.  These units have a big dryer-like hose on them that vents the hot air and humidity out the window.  The 10,000 btu unit we got was pretty loud and, if I put it in the closed-off bedroom it worked okay.  However, downstairs still got uncomfortably warm.  Not only that, but the unit we had tended to spit water at us.  I decided it was not only lacking in cooling ability for our needs but was probably somewhat defective.  I took it back.

We still didn’t have enough.

My fourth effort was to call an a/c guy to come in and evaluate our rooftop unit.  By now I was starting to think my only hope was adding the second rooftop air conditioner.  He thought my air conditioner could use a good cleaning and that it might help a little.  However, he warned us that our air conditioner was, after all, a 2007 (or earlier) model.  Freshly cleaned or not it was getting close to going to the air conditioner retirement home.  Maybe, he suggested, it was time to bite the bullet and go for a new one.

A few days later, with the wallet somewhat deflated, our Hitchhiker has a new 15,000 btu air conditioner.  I’m not sure how it will do come August, and it may be that we will have to deflate the wallet even more for a second unit, but for now….

….I think we have enough.

Reflections on our 2015 Adventure

We enjoyed our 2015 Adventure very much! It took us to the northern Midwest with an emphasis on Wisconsin and Michigan and included some great stops along the way, both coming and going.

100_4806.JPG Our favorite campgrounds are Corps of Engineers. They almost always offer great campsites in pretty settings. Our America the Beautiful pass gives us half-price camping at these parks, making them not only great spots to camp but also provide a real savings too. Some of these campgrounds only offer water/electric hookups but others offer full hookup sites. You probably need to plan ahead and make reservations if you want to stay at these popular campgrounds on busy summer weekends.

Topping our list this year in order of our visits are these Corps of Engineers Campgrounds:

PHOTO_20150727_142048.jpg We also found some great city and county parks like Castle Rock, Friendship, WI (people kept asking us how we found this local, but out-of-the-way camping gem), Holtwood Campground, Oconto, WI, and Finn Road Campground at Essexville, MI. While these campgrounds don’t offer us the great America the Beautiful pass prices, they are still economical, great campgrounds that beat most private campgrounds we visit.

IMG_4220.JPG Our membership in Thousand Trails is our best choice when it comes to finances and we stay in them whenever we can. However, we don’t want to limit our travels to only Thousand Trails. Depending on the parts of the country we visit they are more or less a part of our plans. This year we were in areas where there aren’t as many Thousand Trails so we didn’t use our membership as much. Also, these campgrounds are generally not our favorite places to camp. Some are quite nice and others aren’t nice at all. We are glad we have our membership and plan to use it a lot in the future, although there are a few Thousand Trails we would likely skip all together.

P8129962.JPG I think the sightseeing highlight of the year for us was Pictured Rocks National Seashore at Munising, MI at Lake Superior in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. The natural beauty is amazing. Running a close second was Mackinac Island, MI, just a couple of hours east of Pictured Rocks. This is a world class tourist destination that shouldn’t be missed.

I think Michigan in general, and the Upper Peninsula specifically was our most pleasant surprise of the Adventure. The area is interesting and beautiful. I don’t know what I expected, but the UP was a fun place to visit and I’ll happily return in years to come.

2015 - Cundiff Family on a rainy day at Silver Dollar City - Branson, MO.jpg One lesson learned in this Adventure is how much fun it is to rekindle old friendships. Since Jackie and I met while in college at Olivet Nazarene in Illinois, and thanks to Facebook reconnects, we were able to visit with people from those days. It was so good to get together in person. Also, we met up with RV friends, both old and new, as we traveled. We even enjoyed a weekend with Jackie’s brother and sister-in-law plus time with my sister. Our son and his family joined us for a fun, if wet, time in Branson, MO. While we love traveling, there’s something special about these friendship connections that does nothing but add to the joy of our journeys.

20150327_142949.jpg We have yet to have a full-scale mechanical breakdown while on the road but this year we came very close, not once, but twice. Both times Good Samaritans came to my rescue and repairs were made. I’m very thankful for help beyond the call of duty. Also, I was reminded this year of just how much I dislike threatening weather while in the 5th wheel. We had multiple instances of severe thunderstorms with rain, wind, lightening, and hail. I try to not overreact to these storms, but I spent too many nights watching weather radar and listening to the weather radio.

100_3734.JPG In 2015 we decided to try out volunteering at the San Jacinto Monument Texas State Historical park in the Houston, TX area. We spent the first months of the year there, helping out at both the Monument and on the Battleship Texas which is on the same property. In return for volunteering 25 hours a week we were given “free parking” there. We enjoyed the experience enough that we signed up for another stay in the new year. For us, this is a great win: it is interesting and fun, close to family and many friends, and a real money saver. We also enjoyed being part of the community of volunteers and staff. That’s not to say there are no negatives, but overall, it’s a positive experience.

As you can see we had a good 2015 Adventure and, yes, we’re already working on the 2016 Adventure. We plan to head for the Rocky Mountains – Colorado, Wyoming, Montana, and then across to the Black Hills of South Dakota!

Project: Lasko 755320 Ceramic Tower

We have three options for heating our camper:

  1. The furnace – which is very inefficient but produces a lot of heat; runs on propane which we always pay for
  2. The heat pump – part of the air conditioning system but of limited use when the outside air is colder; runs on electricity which we may or may not pay for
  3. A space heater – amount of heat depends on the unit; and, again, we may or may not pay for the electricity

100_4707.JPG The past winters we have used a combination of the three.  However, in our case we generally spend the winter months in places where the electric service is part of the campsite, so using electric heat makes a lot of sense for us.  We’ve had  “cube” heaters that help a lot but still leave the 5th wheel feeling a bit drafty and with uneven heat.

On the RV forums I kept reading about the Lasko 755320 Ceramic Tower and how happy people are with it so we decided to give one a try.  You can find them at several retailers or online.  The tower has a digital readout, can be programmed, has a timer, and rotates.  It also comes with a remote control.  When we got ours it was 68 degrees in the camper – that running our little space heater and with the heat pump set on 72 and cycling on and off.  Within a half hour the Lasko had raised the temperature to 75.

I’m thinking we’ll remove the space heaters from service all together; although we may keep one as a backup and to supplement the heat on especially cold mornings.  At this point, I recommend this unit to RVers who are looking for alternative heating solutions.