Travel changes you. As you move through this life and this world you change things slightly, you leave marks behind, however small. And in return, life-and travel-leaves marks on you.
----Anthony Bourdain

Sunday, January 3, 2021

First Time Hip Campers

This year Robert wanted to try something different for our annual Christmas to New Year’s camping trip. He had heard about (and researched) “hip camping” for a while. Because of COVID and our lack of planning way ahead, we weren’t able to find a campsite in warmer weather. Robert was able to find a spot for “hip camping” outside of Ocala, FL. If you don’t what about hip camping, it’s like an Airbnb for campers.

Final preparations included getting the electricity in the Mitsubishi Delica wired up. Even though our site had water & electricity, Robert wanted to try our stay without using the electricity available. After a few difficulties, which only caused a one-day delay, it was done. Instead of leaving on the 26th, we left on the 27th. We were able to make up some time by going on the interstate through Atlanta. Yes, we actually saved time going through ATL; we were fortunate that there were no delays on that day.

Our site was right on Lake Weir and we were treated with gorgeous sunsets each night. Mind you, not 
“The Keys gorgeous”, but gorgeous just the same. There was a dock that we could walk farther out but we had to be careful where we stepped because of massive poop and rotting boards.
When Robert first looked at this site, the owner specified that she only wanted RVers. She has an outdoor bathroom and shower; however, they were not available to do COVID. One of the things we didn’t have on our list to bring was the portable shower head. On a quick trip to Camping World, we bought another solar shower. While waiting for it to heat up, the sky turned extremely cloudy and the water never heated up so we headed to a nearby state park, paid $8 to get in, and used their shower facilities. She used the solar shower the next day. While it wasn't as hot as the shower in the house, it was warm enough and seemed to get the job done. 
Mary felt disappointed with this hip camp. It seems that if someone is setting their property up for visitors, you would make sure things are in tip-top shape for them. There was a pile of brush, pieces of stone pedestals strewn around, and an old outdoor cushion from a chaise lounge on another brush of pile. The dock wasn’t very sturdy, and then, there were the rotting boards. All in all, it looked a bit trashy. She really felt like we were just camping in someone’s yard, which we were. The other site was the better one with a bit more privacy. But, that site had to deal with a neighbor’s barking dog. On top of all of that, there was an issue with the highway noise.
Our Gazelle Tent did great once again. For Christmas, we gave each other the Gazelle Gazebo so we would have someplace to sit without the mosquitos eating us alive. When we set it up in our yard for the first time, our son was so impressed with it that we quickly ordered another one for him as a gift.

Hip Camp: Yay or Nay? Robert’s vote: yay; Mary’s vote: Maybe. Now that we know what questions to ask, such as: how close is it to a building and other campers and how close is it to the highway.

Sunday, October 13, 2019

PEI National Park: Cavendish Campground

We took a trip to the Canadian Maritimes in July. Robert traveled that way on his motorcycle a few years ago and knew that I would love it. We planned to go a couple of years ago but had a change of plans due to family matters. We had a not-so-relaxing vacation the previous summer and our Christmas vacation was a fiasco. We were looking forward to what we hoped would make up for the past year's "vacations".
Robert had a new Gazelle Tent to try out. Since I'm not a big fan of sleeping on the ground, before the trip I tried out an older cot. I set it up in a spare bedroom and spent the night. Nope, it was not comfortable at all, so I tried Robert's cot. It was fantastic! I hopped right on to Amazon and bought my own. I've got to tell you: after a few nights in an AirB&B I was looking forward to sleeping on the cot again...that's how comfortable it is.

We debated about taking the trailer with us or tent-camping part of the time. Not taking the trailer was a good decision. We knew it at the end of the first day of travel when we went through a good 2 hours of torrential rain and thunderstorms. Robert had just enough when we got to our first destination.

We decided to do a mixture of B&Bs, camping, and we even stayed at an AirB&B during one leg of the trip. Robert wanted to make sure I could sleep on a cot in a tent before he committed me to a whole vacation in a tent. When it was said and done, I definitely could have done the whole time in a tent.   Especially this tent and this cot.

We camped at the Cavendish Campground on Prince Edward Island for a couple of nights. We had an awesome spot.
Looking out to the Gulf of St. Lawrence
Bank Swallows were nesting across the road from our campsite so there were no sites open. The only time we had rain was when we camped, but it only rained a bit and then it was done. The tent stayed dry so no worries about getting wet, plus it held up great in the wind. We put up Robert's Rhino-Rack 270 Degree Awning and 2 side panels that he has on his truck.
I thought we had a sweet little set-up. Unfortunately, we didn't take a picture of the inside of the tent with our cots in it. We had plenty of room for both cots and space to walk around.  The best part about this tent is the set-up. We had the tent up, staked down, and the rain fly on in about 10 minutes. Pulling the tent up (literally, pulling it up) took about 2 minutes, if that long. It was definitely a lot quicker than getting the trailer set up.

The campground was pretty nice. The water pressure in the shower wasn't that great, but it was about the same in the B&B where we stayed the previous nights. We washed clothes right before we left for the next leg of our trip. The washing machines and the driers were extremely efficient and quick. Each campsite had a fire grill. Since we were in the tent section we didn't have electricity or water; however, there were "charging shelters" (I don't know that that's what they're really called.) strategically placed around the campground. It also has water spigots so you can fill water jugs.

"Charging Houses"
The campground is conveniently located, with a store nearby and the House of Anne of Green Gables not far away. Our site was very close to the beach access, so I took advantage of it and walked to get a better look at the Bank Swallows.
Beach Access
Bank Swallow flying into the nest

Another Bank Swallow flying in
It might not have been the prettiest sunset I've seen, but it was the first time I saw the sunset over the Gulf of St. Lawrence
Someone asked about the bugs. The wind kept most of them away, and I made sure I put on some spray. I had no trouble at all with the bugs while we were there. I used a spray with all-natural ingredients so I wasn't really sure how well it would work, but it worked like a charm!  I also used "camping soap" from the same company for added protection. For more information, click here.
I would have liked to have stayed there another day or 2 to explore PEI; unfortunately, we had a limited amount of time and were expected at our AirB&B. We would definitely stay here again.

picture of PEI in flowers on the side of the road; text under reads Cavendish Campground

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

Manatee Springs (Florida) State Park

This year for our annual Christmas-New Year’s getaway, we decided to try something different and go somewhere we’ve never been. Last year’s vacation to St. Andrews State Park (Fl.) was cold and rainy, so we decided to go a little further south. That turned out to be a good plan because St. Andrews was hit hard by Hurricane Michael and is, for all purposes, non-existent at the moment. One of the volunteers we met either last year or the year before mentioned Manatee Springs State Park so that was our choice for this year.
I called the campground on the morning of our reservation since I already knew we would be arriving after sundown when the gate is locked. I was told that the code was not given out until after 4:00, so I called again that afternoon and received the number to get into the campground. When we arrived at our site (#75) we were greeted by a couple of deer who were bedding down just behind our site. They ended up moving as we quickly set up the camper so we could crawl into bed after our 8.5 hours turned 12-hour trip. No one was in the site next to us so CH was able to pull through that site to drive into ours. I think this was one of the easiest pull-ins to a site we’ve had.
Campsite #75 ended up being a good choice; 74 has a trail leading to the springs right behind it so people were intermittently walking to get to the springs to see the manatees. Unfortunately, the area had quite a bit of rain; swimming was not allowed due to “brown-out” conditions of the spring. We were able to see the manatee coming up when they took breaths, but the water was too murky to see them otherwise. I heard people commenting that usually, the water is crystal clear. The springs feed into the Suwannee River, so when Georgia has a lot of rain the water backs up into the spring. The water was over the patio. That is a covered umbrella in the middle of the picture.
All of the sites are quite large. We were able to set everything up without worrying about the easy-up being too close to the fire pit. 
The sites are only along one side of the loop; the center of each loop is preserved with vegetation and the bathhouse.

We stayed in the Hickory loop, which is in desperate need of updating. You really notice it after looking at the Magnolia loops. I don’t know about the sites in Magnolia, but in Hickory, they aren’t raked between visits. The road doesn’t appear to be as well maintained as Magnolia, and the bathhouse is in need of updating. That being said, I’m not sure why Florida insists on putting up these hooks in their bathhouses that don’t hold anything on them. 
The bathhouse in Hickory was okay though. The shower didn’t have great pressure, but it was warm. Soap is provided by the sinks, although the hand dryer only put out cold air. This bathhouse had 2 sinks, 3 stalls, and 3 showers.
No benches (or hooks) in the shower makes it hard to change into dry clothes after the shower.
There is a handicap stall in Hickory Loop.
Needs updating but is very clean.
The 3rd shower stall had a space for changing when you get out of the shower, as well as a baby changing table.
Don’t even think about putting up a utility tent here, even if you don’t use it for showers. If you’ve read our other posts, you know that I put up the tent to store my luggable loo for those late night/early morning trips. We ran into this same problem at Edisto, but the ranger let us keep it up as long as we didn’t have water in it. The ranger at Manatee Springs was unrelenting. He put his foot down and said absolutely not. He said that if other campers see a shower tent they will think they can do it, too, and then he said something about gray water. We totally get that; we are very careful about gray water.
BUT…if they’re so worried about gray water, why don’t they have washing stations at the bathhouses for campers to wash their dishes? This is something I’ve always wondered about…where are you supposed to wash your dishes if they don’t provide a place? Not everyone is in an RV or camper with water. Tent camping is very popular, and people do cook outdoors on pots and pans. I’d love for someone to answer this for me.
See? Plenty of space for a sink to wash dishes. Take out the water fountain (I wonder if it's even used?) and put in a sink. 
Maybe we have been spoiled by the other places in Florida where we have stayed. There isn’t much to do around the park. It’s rather small, so after riding your bikes through the 2 trails and trying to see the manatees, you’re done. A week is really too long to stay; 2 days…3 at the most would do it. While it’s very cool to see the manatees in their natural habitat, we saw them better when we were in The Keys and they would come into the boat slips.

Baby manatee coming up for air.

There is a place at the springs to rent canoes & kayaks. They have a very small camping store; your best bet would be to drive the 5 miles into town and shop there instead. Wi-fi can be used at the snack shop but it has a very limited range…As in only directly in front of the window. We ate lunch there one day; their barbecue is pretty good; not the best we’ve ever had, but not the worst, and fairly reasonable.
View from the BBQ stand. There was Spanish Moss all over the trees.
If you’re a diver, there are a couple of sinkholes with caves. I wouldn’t be too sure about getting in the water with all of that green stuff on top, but apparently, it’s no big deal because we saw a few divers in Catfish Hotel.
Watered sink hole covered with green vegetation with divers going down the steps on the other side.
If you’re coming to Manatee Springs specifically to swim with the manatees, check the weather. I would even suggest booking a reservation in this park and another one at the same time. Just make sure you know the cancellation policy. We didn’t think ahead so by the time we were thinking about going someplace else, everything was booked. I definitely wouldn't plan on spending a whole week here; there just isn't enough in the surrounding area to keep you busy. 
Manatee statue on top of the title on a light blue background.

Monday, January 8, 2018

Panama City Beach Camping

Well, this is embarrassing! I looked at the last post and realized it's from last year!  Due to some family issues over the past year, I (Mary) didn't go camping at all. Last summer, Robert went out to Colorado with some of his Overland buddies, so he camped. Now...if I could just get him to write some posts! 😁
We revisited St. Andrews State Park in Panama City Beach, Fl.  between Christmas & New Year's Day. Things were very much the same as last year, except the weather. This year was cold, rainy, and windy, but we made the best of it. We had 2 days of warmer weather, and we didn't let the bad weather deter us. We brought bikes with us this year and we rode almost every day.
We thought way ahead this year (as in we made our reservation in Feb.) and ended up with this site: (I took this picture last year as an example of the water-side sites.)
I actually thought I had reserved the next site over, but this turned out to be a pretty good one. Since there was some foliage along the water, it did block some of the wind.
This was our setup this year. We took the camping kitchen but didn't set it up because of the weather.
We used the windscreens on our canopy the whole time except for part of 1 day.
Last year we discovered the Farmer's Market that is next to Captain Andersons. We were pleasantly surprised to find that it was open on Saturday. There were a few more vendors than last year.
We discovered Lumpia made by an extremely nice military family. They had samples; we tried them and then bought lunch. If you're in the PCB area, check to see where I Roll Lumpia can be found. Well worth the search!
We didn't see any deer around the campsites this year, but we did see them out and about in the park. Our first night there, the people next to us had to shoo away a raccoon, but we never saw any.
We didn't cook as much as we normally do. Robert fixed a couple of breakfasts and dinners. We have a 2-burner stove in the camper, but we don't use it. We do all of our cooking outside.
Robert saw this log in the store and wanted to try cooking on it. He made some shrimp that had been marinated in Italian Dressing. We have a little basket that Robert put the shrimp in & then put over the fire.
Robert gave it a thumbs up. I could taste gas (from the wick maybe?) and wasn't a fan.
Even with the rotten weather, there was plenty for us to do around the area. Our first stop was Thomas Donuts in Laguna Beach.
Last year we found another excellent place to eat, drink some beer, and watch some football: Dat Cajun Place. We ate here a couple of times and stuffed ourselves each time. This definitely isn't a fast food place! Go, enjoy the atmosphere, and have a good time!
We enjoy the beach in the winter. As Robert said, "the solitude feeling of strength".
During a bike ride, we discovered this old still in the park. As many times as Robert has been to St. Andrews, he had no idea this was there.
The birdwatching. Need I say more? (These were all taken from the edge of the water at our campsite.)

This is the edge of our campsite. I had to walk on the boards to get the pictures.
This heron was at the water across from Gator Lake.
Scenes from our campsite at night:

We had 1 day when it was warm enough to get rid of our sweatshirts:
I don't think I've ever seen the water so clear there.
The 1 decent sunset we saw. This was also from our campsite.
This was the most time we've spent in our camper. Even though it's small, it was very cozy. We have gas heat but, since there is electricity at the sites we used a small electric heater. We stayed warm, relaxed, watched movies, and read books. I can't think of a better way to spend a vacation!
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