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

Wednesday, May 24, 2023

Quick Overnight Boondocking

Maybe it's boondocking, maybe it's "Moochdocking". Technically we were boondocking but since it was on a friend's land, maybe it is moochdocking. But, when a friend with land says, "Come and stay any time", you do. We're still getting used to Maeve Anne and all of the nuts and bolts of her. And since we plan on doing some boondocking in the future, we need to make sure we have a good idea of how much battery and water we'll be able to use. 
We enjoyed sitting right on the lake and admiring the reflection of the trees in the water:

We only stayed 1 night but we were able to gauge how much electricity and water we would use per day. We made full use of the bathroom for the first time and used the inverter so we could cook supper and then breakfast. Maeve Anne did a great job although the water situation is a little questionable. When we left the house we had 67% of the tank but it quickly fell to 33%. We've read that the water gauge isn't real reliable so we'll have to continue to figure that one out. 
It was pretty warm during the day so we thought we would leave the back doors open and use the screen. When I got in bed that night we decided to close the doors. With the window over the bed open, the front windows of the cabin open and the fan on, it was pretty chilly. So we have yet to sleep with the doors open. 

We went to bed and woke up to the sounds of bullfrogs and birds. Since the friend's land is popular with motorcyclists, there was a class going on that morning. It was a little loud but not too badly and they were very respectful. 
One thing I am really enjoying is the short amount of time it takes to pack up. With the Cargolite Xtreme and the tent, we would be so sweaty by the time we were ready to get on the road.  (Robert more so than I.) With Maeve Anne, I make sure everything is ready in the cabin and Robert checks outside and makes sure everything is ready to go. Right now we have a large tote in the garage that we are tying down to keep it from moving around. We think we have an idea for what we want to do. It's different than what we've seen anyone else do but it's what we think will work for us and will give us some additional storage. So stay tuned!
Robert also had the chance to try out the 4-wheel drive:  He drove through the creek to get to our site, and then got to drive back through it on the way out. She did great!

Wednesday, May 17, 2023

Hornsby Hollow, TN


Hornsby Hollow is a favorite campground of ours. We first visited back in 2016 when we had our Cargolite Xtreme.
Cargolite Xtreme Toy Hauler by Watts Bar Lake
This time we were on the opposite side of the campground and I have to say that I prefer the side we were on before. It just seemed a little more crowded than the last time we were there. 

But I'm getting ahead of myself. Where is Hornsby Hollow? It is in Ten Mile, TN between Chattanooga and Knoxville. It's right on Watts Bar Lake (one of the largest lakes in the south) which makes it a favorite for fishermen and water enthusiasts. TVA created the lake when it built the dam. 
Hornsby Hollow is easily accessible from I75 or I40
The sites are spacious and absolutely gorgeous. I would argue that every site has a view of the lake. We were lucky enough to snag a site right on the water.
View from Campsite
The sites will cost you, though. It's definitely not the least expensive place we've camped, but it's not the most expensive either. Their website indicates that the average site will cost $40-$43/night. We were told that the reservation system is going to change, but for now, you have to call the morning of and reserve a spot then. 

Cell service is okay but not great. Wifi is available but only at the entrance. Water and electricity are available at the sites; the dump station for gray and black water tanks is located at the entrance. Each site has a picnic table, lantern post, and a firepit/grill.
All of the sites are equipped with a grill/fire pit
A very small store is at the entrance with a book-lending library and a residential washer/dryer. When we arrived, we were able to go directly to our site since Robert paid online. I was surprised at the great site he was able to get, but even more surprised that there were so many sites available on the weekend. The bathhouses are plentiful and the shower pressure is good. 
The bathhouses are energy efficient

Spacious shower with good pressure and warm water
Nice big bench in the shower far enough from the water to keep your things from getting wet
2 sinks with paper towels!
More pictures of the campground:
Boat ramp with more sites
The sidewalk leading to swimming section
Stairs to the swimming section
Like I said at the beginning of the post, I prefer the other side. I'm sure it's not, but it feels like there's more room over there. Luckily, we didn't have anyone in the site next to us so it felt like we had more room than we actually did. 
Would we stay here again? Absolutely. It's not far from home so it's good for a quick getaway. It's peaceful hearing the water lap against the shore and watching the fishermen out on boats. Not to mention watching the water birds.  We aren't water people but we do enjoy being close to it and watching others enjoy it. 

Wednesday, May 3, 2023

The Maiden Voyage with our Entegra Launch

First night in Maeve Anne

For Maeve Anne’s maiden voyage (which we have dubbed “Maeveanne voyage”) we drove about an hour from home to a campground where we have stayed a couple of times. This is a campground that you have to call the day of to see if there are open sites, then you can reserve a site. Not only did we reserve a spot, but there were several that were open. This is definitely a hidden gem…right on Watts Bar Lake with every site having a view of the lake.

Robert had no trouble backing her into the spot. Once there, I put some groceries away and Robert got out our chairs. Then we started figuring things out. We got out the covers for the windshield and the cab windows. That’s where we encountered a problem. The shades are supposed to have magnets in them, and I think they do but they are so weak that they won’t hold up the shades. Fortunately, we didn’t have anyone right beside us so it wasn’t a huge concern this trip. Buying magnetic shades quickly went to the top of the list of things we need to purchase...or heavier magnets and some glue.

I managed to get the side cover up but it didn't last long!

Now for the bed. I’m 5’9” and Robert is 6’3” so we aren’t small people. We weren’t completely sure how comfortable we would both be since the bed is a little on the small side. Size-wise, it turned out to be fine. As with most RV mattresses, the comfort level left something to be desired. We watched videos of people recommending different toppers or mattresses. I ordered the one recommended by a guy who is about our age and at the time of this writing, it's on the bed, all made up, ready to go.


We used the portable induction cooktop for the first time to make breakfast. It worked great but getting the sticker off it was fairly time-consuming. It’s going to take some time to get used to the controls and how the heat works, but it’ll come. I like that it is stored under the pantry instead of taking up a whole drawer. It has its only little place so it will be protected.

First meal! Another thing on the list...outdoor rugs!
Coffee...a must-have

We hooked up the water without incident. Robert checked everything inside to make sure there were no leaks and that everything was working as it should. No problems there. When I washed the dishes I put a collapsible bin in the sink, filled up one with soapy water and one with just water for rinsing, and washed outside. Thankfully, we have a lot of camping supplies from our years of camping so the only things we’ll need to buy are things specifically for the van (like the window coverings). 

Now...why "Maeve Anne"? As mentioned in the previous post, our Ireland trip inspired this purchase. While we were in Killarney, we walked into a crowded pub and asked a young couple if we could join them because there were absolutely NO seats available. They said yes and we ended up talking and laughing with them for a few hours. (Okay, truth be told, since we were in a pub, of course, drinks were involved!) Her name is Maeve...she was absolutely beautiful and extremely nice. And to top it off, she is a special education teacher of high school students with autism. That's why we named her "Maeve". Robert said that since she's southern (the van, not the Irish lady) she needs a second name, and "Anne" just popped out. I didn't think about how it sounded when both names are put together but we think it works.

We can't wait to see where Maeve Anne takes us!

Thursday, April 27, 2023

The Journey to Find Maeve Anne

Roche's Caravan and Campsite, County Wexford
A year ago, Robert & I rented a campervan and toured around the Republic of Ireland for 10 days. We appreciated the ease of pulling into a parking space and staying the night. No setup, no teardown, just unplug, turn things off, and go. The few times we have gone camping since then made us appreciate the van life even more. We aren’t getting any younger, and Robert likes to have things packed and set up just so. It’s too much for me to handle, getting the tent and gazebo along with other camping items on the top of the Delica Van, which is why that's Robert's job. And then once we get to the site, staking out the tent and gazebo. Our Gazelle tent & gazebo makes things pretty easy, but having to stake them down was a pain in the least and a chore at the most.
FDR State Park, Pine Mountain, GA

After our last camping trip, we decided that if we want to travel like we do we need to make a change. We need something that 1) will allow us to travel on the interstate, 2) be easy setup/tear down, and 3) that I can drive if I need to. We kept talking about our Ireland Adventure and the camper we rented. It was just about perfect; we really liked the layout and the space. An added plus was the convenience of a bathroom if it was needed. So, we began our search.

Inside the Irish Campervan

We started looking at different vans with different layouts but kept coming back to the one in Ireland. That narrowed things down somewhat. Robert started looking at different types of chassis and we narrowed things down further. We finally had it narrowed down to 2 different vans: the Airstream Rangeline and the Winnebago Revel. A local dealership had both of them so we could compare literally side-by-side. Robert discovered that a lift kit could be put on the Rangeline so it was very desirable. I liked all of the storage space it has; every inch has a purpose. The last question we had to ask ourselves was, “Where do we want to go in it?” That was the clincher: we want to be able to camp on the beach and off the beaten trail and you can’t do that in a front-wheel drive van.

I have to be honest: the first time I looked at the Revel I wasn’t sure about it. I thought it was overpriced for the space. But it grew on me the more I looked at it and the more YouTube videos I watched. As I said, there was a dealership in town that had a Revel for sale. Robert began negotiations which ended up being pretty short. He knew we could get one for a lot less than their final offer. He sent me a link for an Entegra Launch and asked what I thought. I knew when I saw it that that was it. It is basically the Revel but with upgrades. The inside is more aesthetically pleasing and the kitchen drawers are more functional.

Once we decided on exactly the van we wanted, Robert took to the internet to find one. It didn’t take him long to find a dealership with few in stock. A couple of weeks later, we had perfect timing to fly down to pick it up. Our plan was to fly in on Wed. night, inspect and pick it up on Thursday, and drive 2 days home. Only that didn’t happen. The van we wanted had battery issues in the cabin that the dealership couldn’t resolve. They had another one with a working battery, but it turned out the chassis had issues that couldn’t be fixed. So we called it a day (or rather, a weekend) and flew home. We were really disappointed but realized that it was for the best.

I did a search for the van in our home state, and one popped up that was a couple of hours from us. The dealership is a national chain that just opened up a branch in Nashville. Robert immediately called and spoke with someone. He assured us that everything was working as it should. He sent Robert pictures of questions he had and even sent him a video to answer one of the questions. Again, the timing was right so Robert ubered over and came home with her that night. He said the dealership was professional and knew everything about the van that he expected them to.

Maeve Anne is home!
Owning a camper van was such a dream of ours since Ireland. We thought about buying a van and having it customized. In fact, Robert spoke with some guys a few months ago and was getting ready to look for a van when I got cold feet. We have the Delica and I thought that was pretty much all we needed...until we camped again with it a couple of months ago. In the cold. Without a bathroom. We expect to have some stellar times with Maeve Anne and can't wait to get started!

Find out why we named her Maeve Anne in the next blog post!

Monday, April 10, 2023

F. D. Roosevelt State Park, GA

Robert spent a night at FDR State Park on his way to camp in Florida. He said it was a place we needed to return to, so when we were looking at someplace to camp in mid-March, I suggested FDR. It was further south which was important for warmer weather... or so we thought. Since we were in the Delica, we took the back roads instead of driving on the interstate. The drive wasn't bad at all, although there was one section that was a bit boring. We arrived after 5:00 so we checked in online. We found out the day before we left that we still needed to check in with the office so we could put a tag on our post. (Oops...totally my fault. I thought since I had checked us in online it would be taken care of.) What's a trip to a state park without us getting in trouble for some minor infraction! 

We chose a site on the outside of the campground since the lakeside sites were taken. We weren't sure how close together the inside sites were; we like our privacy. There is plenty of space; however, so we would have been fine with an inside site. Our site backed up to the woods, perfect for our next-door neighbor's golden retrievers. They had plenty of space to run and do their business.

Campsite on the inner side
The lakeside sites are absolutely beautiful. Robert was lucky enough to snag one of these sites when he stayed there. 

All of the sites are level and have electricity and water. Gray water dump stations were numerous. If I had to say anything negative, it's that the only place to throw your trash was in the dumpsters which were quite a walk away. In fact, there are only 2 of them for the entire campground.
In addition, the sites also have a table, a fire ring, and a lantern stand. We opted to set up the tent on the drive instead of on the tent pad; we put the gazebo on the tent pad. 
This campground had the nicest playground I think I've ever seen. 
The bathrooms are very clean. In addition to a regular shower, there is a handicap-accessible shower. We were in area #3; the restrooms in area #1 were updated but they did not have paper towels...they only had hand dryers. When I'm camping when it's cold, I like to be able to make sure my hands are dry before I go outside. Personally, I'm not a big fan of the hand dryers at all. 

I was pleasantly surprised to see these messages in the bathroom. Even if 1 person is helped, it's worth it.

FDR is Georgia's largest state park. It is located right next to Callaway Gardens in Pine Mountain, GA.  If you haven't heard of Pine Mountain, you've probably heard of Warm Springs, where FDR went for polio treatments. Visiting the Little White House, walking the trails in the park, and visiting Pine Mountain are some of the activities available. We really enjoyed the Little White House, the pools at Warm Springs, and having a picnic lunch on Dowdle's Knob. This is definitely a place we would revisit.
Brick oven where FDR would grill while on Dowdell's Knob

Saturday, July 30, 2022

Gazelle T4 Hub Tent vs. Rhino-Rack Sunseeker Awning Tent

Comparing these 2 tents may be comparing apples to oranges because there are different factors that come into play when deciding to use each one. I'm going to do my best to provide a run-down of both of them and give you my opinion.

Answering Questions

  • What kind of camping will I be doing? The Gazelle is great for general camping. If we're camping and we want to do some sightseeing, this is the tent. I would use the Rhino-Rack if we were overlanding and were going to stay put for at least a couple of days. 

  • What time of year is it? My first experience in the Rhino-Rack was in the Southeastern USA. That means it was hot and humid. Even with the huge doors on all sides of the Rhino-Rack very little air went through the tent. We put a fan in the top of the tent and didn't get a lot of relief. I've gotta give this question to the Gazelle. I think we would have stayed cooler in it. We've camped in warm weather with the Gazelle and actually ended up getting a little too cool with the fan going. 
    • That being said...I think the Rhino-Rack would be awesome for winter camping. Robert has a little stove that can be brought in and vented out of a door to make it even warmer.

  • Which is faster to set up? Hands down...the Gazelle. While the Rhino-Rack was pretty quick (especially comparing it to your standard camping tent), nothing beats the quickness of a Gazelle. Before putting up the awning tent the awning has to be out, so that takes a few extra minutes. Unless you use the tent as a "stand-alone", which can be done.

  • What about tear-down? Again, the Gazelle. The Rhino-Rack is so airtight that air bubbles in the tent when taking it down. Of course, it helps to have the doors unzipped a bit to let the air escape. Considering the time it takes to put either tent in their respective bags, it really doesn't take that much more time to put the Rhino-Rack away than it does the Gazelle. I just think the Gazelle has a slight advantage. Again, take into account that the awning also has to be put up so add a few more minutes to the awning tent.

  • Which will keep you dry if it rains? This one is a toss-up. We've been in the Rhino-Rack in a good hard rain, and if we had zipped up all of the doors we would have stayed completely dry. The Gazelle has also kept us dry without any problems. The Gazelle will keep you more comfortable when you're in a summer rain because chances are you'll be able to have most of the windows open with the rain fly keeping the rain out. The Rhino-Rack attaches to the awning and has a door so we can easily get into the van without getting wet so this tent may have a slight upper hand. Of course, the campsite could be configured to have the Gazelle next to the awning (when not using the Rhino-Rack) to keep you drier. Like I said, it's a toss-up. Both do equally well in the wind. We've had the Gazelle in extreme wind in Canada on the St. Lawrence and it held up exceptionally well. 

View of the back door of the Rhino-Rack opening to the van

  • What about space? Which one has more room? Keep in mind that the Rhino-Rack is a straight up and down square. The Gazelle gives a little more room on the sides since they bow out a bit. The sides of the Gazelle aren't as tall as the Rhino-Rack. We use 2 cots when we camp. With the Rhino-Rack Robert barely had enough room length-wise. There was no room to walk around the cots at the bottom or top. With the Gazelle, there is a little bit of room. There seemed to be more room on the sides of the cots with the Gazelle as well. I'm not sure how much this little difference matters; all you're doing is sleeping anyway. 

Both cots inside of the Gazelle T4 Hub Tent with room around the sides and bottom to spare

  • What about the cost? The Rhino-Rack Sunseeker Base Tent is $539.10; the Gazelle T4 Hub Tent is $459.99 but they have sales what seems like all the time. At the time of this posting, the Rhino-Rack was out of stock and it looks like it would have to be bought internationally and then shipped to the USA.

The Verdict

As you can probably tell by the above answers, I have to go with the Gazelle. I've gone from having to have a trailer with heating and air to loving tent camping with the Gazelle. I definitely think the Rhino-Rack would be great for cold weather camping but we haven't done much of that in the past. Yes, they are more expensive than the tents you'll buy at a local department store but it's well worth the money...and aggravation of the traditional tent. 
Portsmouth Island, NC

Thursday, July 21, 2022

Camping on a Tuesday: Jake Best Campground (TN)

I had one more week before it was time for another school year to begin. We decided to take a mid-week break and take a chance on a campground that is first come, first serve. We were a bit concerned that it might be full, but...

We had the whole place to ourselves. Jake Best Campground is in the Cherokee National Forest in East Tennesse, between Vonore and Tellico Plains. More specifically, it is in the Citico area. As we made our way along the gravel road to the campground, several dispersed camping areas were on the creek. This one is on the other side. The ones on the creek are quite spacious.

There is no fee to camp at these sites. Jake Best is $6/night and includes no hook-ups. The campground is open from around the beginning of March through the end of November. There is only one bathroom with a vault toilet.

Yes, I said only one toilet, but there are only 7 sites at this campground. During the peak season, there is a campground host who takes 1 spot. 5 sites are up a hill from the creek; there are 2 on the other side. Those 2 back up to the road; however, the road is one lane. When we were there, there was very little traffic. Robert said that the area gets quite busy once trout are released in the creek as well as during hunting season.
The road leading to the campground

The road leading to the campground on the other side.
Right beside the toilet is a box with envelopes and a pole where your payment is inserted. I'm not sure about other times of the year, but we didn't see any rangers while we were there.
The sites are a good size and are fairly level. There is no electricity or water, so be prepared. There is also no cell service so you're able to completely get away from distractions.
Site 2 seems to be the best site for RVs

Site 3 seemed to be the shortest site.
We chose Site 7 because it had a view of the creek down the hill at the back. The site next to ours also had a view but it wasn't quite as good.
The back of Site 7; the creek is down the hill

Site #7

Since this is bear country, bear-proof trash cans are provided. There are 2 right next to Site 5 and 2 beside the toilet. We didn't see any evidence of bears, or even raccoons for that matter. The campground was very clean and the garbage bins were empty when we got there. 
Bear-proof bins next to Site 5

Bear-proof bins next to the toilet

I would definitely stay there again. It was a little unsettling to be the only ones in the campground the first night but the second night I wasn't bothered by it. We had a backup plan in case the campground was full so we would definitely do that again. There is another campground not too far away that has overflow camping so Indian Boundary may be another option.

We very much enjoyed the solitude of Jake Best. The walk to the creek was easy. The water was very cold and very clear. Robert took a couple of dips in the cold water (I got in once) and we skipped some rocks. It was an exceptionally relaxing couple of days.

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