The Vineyard Campground and Cabins: Grapevine, Texas

We chose to stay at Vineyard Campground because of its location. We wanted to visit family in Dallas and this campground was close to everyone we wanted to see. The price fairly high, but it is a very nice campground in a wonderful location. When examining price, it’s good to take into account driving costs for the places you want to visit frequently during your stay. Sometimes the more expensive but closer park is ultimately less expensive.

Nights: 9
RV Park Cost: $457 ($51/night)
Discounts Used: None
Address: 1501 N Dooley St  Grapevine, TX 76051
GPS32.955527, -97.072860
Website: www.vineyardscampground.com

Pros

  • Beautiful Grounds
  • Good location for Dallas, TX
  • Tour Bus

Cons

  • Expensive

This is the view from our site. We spent more than a few evenings watching the lake as the sun went down.

The Details

Vineyard Campground and Cabins is run by the city of Grapevine. It sits on lake Grapevine and while it is close to the city, it is surrounded by a dense grove of beautiful oak trees. Trail and I were lucky enough to score a spot on a grassy slope leading down to the lake. Not only is it a nice view, but there are always lots of birds to watch and so far the weather has been fantastic for sitting outside both to dine and write.

Not too long ago the park was badly flooded leaving all the campsites 20′ under water. As a result, nearly everything in the park is brand new, and thus very nice. The pads are level and the utilities in great shape. The only down-side is they are still building a new clubhouse so there is not an indoor gathering place in the park. The bathrooms and showers were also new and thus in great working order and very clean.

One nice feature is that the park has its own shuttle bus which takes folks to the shopping and dining destinations in the city of Grapevine and into Dallas. There is a fee to use it but having paid it you can make as much use of the Shuttle as you like. You can also rent watercraft to take out on the lake and fishing is allowed on the docs.

There are lots of oaks on the property, summer and fall must be gorgeous.

The only inconveniences we had were that the facilities and trash were a fair distance from our site due to the long and winding layout of the park and cell reception was on the weak side for our Verison hot spot. Then there is the price, which is definitely on the high end. The park doesn’t have enough amenities to make it a resort class park so it feels a little on the high side despite its convenient location near Dallas and lovely setting. If it wasn’t so close to everywhere we wanted to go on this stop, we would have gone with a cheaper park further out of town.

If you are looking for a bargain, this probably isn’t it, but if you want a really nice location to park and don’t mind the premium price, we give it a hearty recommendation.

 

 

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Traveling the US, Politics, and Safety

2016 / 2017 has been an interesting year for politics in the US. Trail and I tend to run in liberal circles. We come from Seattle, a very liberal part of the country, and our views aren’t much out of sync with that city’s demographics. When Trump won the election in 2016 many folks were surprised, ourselves included. And some were also frightened. I started to see folks who aspired to full-time travel shy away, afraid that as they traveled the country, they would find themselves in hostile territory. Some Canadians expressed that they were concerned about crossing the border due to the “dangerous mood” of America. Even before these recent elections, I’ve seen liberal friends express concern about going to “red states” for vacations and the like, concerned they would encounter hostility and possibly danger.

I wanted to write this article to say that there is no need for this concern. Whatever the politics of a traveler, and the places in the US they travel to, the chances of there being any kind of conflict based on political views is incredibly slim.

Today’s picture theme are flowers we have seen in our travels. Nearly everyone likes flowers after all.

5 Reasons not to worry

Firstly, when you travel, a good number of the people you meet are either fellow travelers or people who cater to travelers. Fellow travelers come from all walks of life and are going to be asking about your travels rather than your politics. The most common topics are “Where are you from” and “Where are you headed.” The people who cater to travelers tend to be eager to avoid any controversial topics of all sorts. They would like your business so they are not eager to get into any kind of conflict.

The second reason why it should not be a worry is that most Americans don’t discuss politics in public, in person, on any kind of regular basis. Where are you from, what do you do for a living, sports teams, and the weather are pretty much the de-facto conversation topics for strangers in America. Unless you wear your politics emblazoned on a T-Shirt no one is going to even know what your political affiliations are. Even if you did, chances are good folks are likely to avoid the subject anyway.

Thirdly, it is important to understand that the news media and people’s reactions to it provide a pretty distorted view of what day to day life is like. The news reports on only the most sensational and most outrageous things it can find, and it plays them up for as much drama as it can muster. Most of life in America is on the whole, quiet, peaceful, and mundane. People go to work, they go to school, they go home, they go out for meals and so on. Drama is the exception, not the rule.

You can focus on the thorns or you can focus on the flowers. If you are respectful of the former, you can enjoy the latter without danger.

Fourth, most of America still practices the ancient arts of hospitality. By and large, when a local person meets someone from out of town, they try to put their best foot forward and make their home seem like a nice and welcoming place. Ask folks about the best things to do and the best places to eat and you are sure to get some good tips and engender that hospitality instinct in them. In traveling more than a year and a half, the worst we’ve met with is indifference, and that is rare. We’ve been through deeply liberal parts of the country and deeply conservative parts. The difference in the day to day interactions with people we meet is non-existent. By and large, they are all very nice to strangers.

Finally a word of advice. Don’t make assumptions about people’s attitudes based only on where they live. You will never really know what people think unless you ask. Too often we make assumptions based on appearance or circumstance but everyone all around the world is their own person. Everyone has a unique background and views. If you approach people with warmth and kindness you are most likely to get the same in return. If you come at people with fear and judgment you are likely to get that in return. If you want to learn about someone, just ask, never assume you know the answer unless it came from their own mouth.

Seek beauty in the world and you will surely find it.

Final Words

When adventure calls and you yearn to see the world, try not to let fear of the people you will meet stay your wanderlust. Travelers are generally welcomed with open arms wherever you go, and strangers are often kinder than you might expect. Just because folks are not the same as you, doesn’t mean they won’t be kind and welcoming. Be respectful of your differences, look for common ground, and you can make friends wherever you roam.

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I-35 RV Park and Resort: Waco, Texas

On our way to Dallas, we stopped over at the aptly named I-35 RV Park and Resort in Waco Texas. Wako didn’t exactly have a bumper crop of promising RV parks and our attempts to make reservations at others gave us some “bad vibes” so we settled on I-35. It’s a bit expensive and not especially exciting but it met our needs and has some nice perks.

Nights: 2
RV Park Cost: $77 ($39/night)
Discounts Used: None
Address: 15131 Interstate 35 Frontage Rd, Elm Mott, TX 76640
GPS: 31.704537, -97.103517
Website: www.i35rvpark.com

Pros

  • Free Breakfast
  • Full Hookups
  • Fishing Ponds

Cons

  • Sparse grounds
  • Limited/Small Facilitiesities

I imagine that summer time and clearer skies make for a prettier landscape.

The Details

While the park is surrounded on three sides by trees and small ponds, the actual park itself is almost devoid of greenery. There are hardly any plants to be seen other than sparse lawns. RVs are packed in pretty close so the overall effect is more parking lot than park. Fortunately, the boundaries of the park are nice and we took advantage of it to do some fishing when the weather turned nice.

One of the first things they tell you about here is the free breakfast. Each morning from 7 to 9 they have a little diner/kitchen that will feed you a selection of classic American breakfasts at no charge. It is expected that you leave a tip for the cook/waitress and if there are a lot of folks, you may have to wait a bit for your food to be prepared. We took advantage of the offer and I’m happy to say my breakfast was very nice. Most remarkable was that my eggs over medium were cooked to perfection, something rare in my experience.

This pond is in the back of the park and is lovely. We didn’t catch any fish but we saw some in there.

While the park claims to be a resort, it does not have a resort feel. It has a pool, and it has food service as well as the other usual amenities, but all of them feel less than resort-like. The pool affords a not so tranquil view of the highway. The laundry room is more like a laundry closet, and for a park with a lot of spots, it has tiny bathrooms in which a second toilet has been awkwardly installed. That said, I must admit the single shower they had was actually one of the best I’ve used in a park. It was fully tiled, had great temperature control, was roomy, and very clean. In all other respects, it reminded me of a gas station restroom.

The utilities worked just fine and the staff was friendly if a bit over-taxed when we arrived. All in all, it is a decent park, but the lack of discounts available and the somewhat higher price limit my recommendation to a mildly positive one.

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Hill Country Cottage and RV Resort: New Braunfels, Texas

Our stay at Hill Country Cottage and RV Resort was short and mostly pleasant if a bit pricey. We did have some excitement on our last night as an extreme tornado warning was issued for the area and the map showed the RV park as right in the eye of the danger zone. Luckily, nothing more than a lot of lightning and rain came of it. (Note that my photos are all on an overcast day which doesn’t put the park in its best light.)

Nights: 3
RV Park Cost: $122 ($41/night)
Discounts Used: None
Address: 131 Rueckle Road, New Braunfels, TX 78130
GPS: 29.673380, -98.152404
Website: www.hillcountryrvresortnb.com

Pros

  • Great clubhouse and play areas

Cons

  • Small shower and bathroom stalls
  • Higher than average price

We intended to take a dip in their lovely pool but the lightning storm had other plans for us.

The Details

Hill Country is a large park in a suburban setting. At least half the park is dedicated to cottages rather than RV lots and as a result, it caters a little more towards vacationing families than longer term RV residents. As a result, it doesn’t have a lot of community activities or culture. It is a park that is clearly making upgrades and you can find some parts that are shiny and new, while others are definitely showing their age. On the whole, it shows they care about keeping their park relevant and inviting but it does make for uneven quality at the moment.

The RV spots were a little on the small side for our rig and truck. We had to park our truck partly on our concrete patio in order avoid sticking out into the street. All in all, it was adequate but not ideal. The RVs were also packed in pretty close to one another, so on the whole, the park felt a little crowded. The utilities were all in good order and even fared pretty well through the nasty electrical storm that swept through with the tornado warning.

They have a really nice club room, as well as both an indoor and outdoor pool. Both appeared to be fairly modern and new. They also have a large fenced in yard with lots of playground equipment for kids. Their newest edition is a game room with billiards and video game cabinets. Unlike most of those I’ve seen at RV places, these were all in good working order. While it didn’t feel very resort like, their list of amenities and services is enough to qualify for the label.

I didn’t partake of the put-put golf. I require trick courses and funny little buildings for my golfing pleasure.

The bathrooms, on the other hand, showed their age. They had that cinder block public facility vibe and the shower and toilet stalls were barely wide enough for me to stand or sit in. They were kept clean but the plumbing could have used some attention and overall I’d score them as adequate. Compared to the new parts of the park, they felt a disappointment. On the plus side, they made for a good storm shelter since they were sturdy structures with no windows.

The park’s location is decent. It has a nearby gas station and you can get to the city pretty quickly. They did a decent job having enough trees and greenery to keep the street noise down and afford a little privacy from surrounding businesses and residences. The price was a little steep for what I found to be an average quality park and I would not book here for a longer stay.

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Wilderness Lakes RV Resort: Mathis, TX

Our stay at Wilderness Lakes RV Resort was short but pleasant. It was a remarkable park for its lovely grounds and wildlife, but it does have a few serious flaws that may rule it out for some travelers.

Nights: 2
RV Park Cost: $33 ($16/night)
Discounts Used: Passport America
Address: 22552 Park Road 25  Mathis, TX 78368
GPS: 28.058172, -97.870850
Website: www.wildernesslakesrv.com

Pros

  • Good Price
  • Wonderful park setting
  • Great wildlife in park

Cons

  • Roadways in poor condition
  • No Wifi outside of clubhouse

The Details

Wilderness Lakes lives up to its name. It is located next to a state park and there are a number of lovely lakes on or adjacent to the property surrounded by trees and lawns. It is a very large park but you don’t get a sense of how large until you are inside it because the natural surroundings mostly hide it from view. The wetlands, woods, and relative seclusion make it a great habitat for birds. Bird song filled the park in the mornings and evenings as cardinals and sparrows celebrated the arrival and passing of the sun. Egrets and other wetlands birds were easy to spot on the lakes which are well enough stocked that fishing is allowed for park guests. We were even delighted to discover a colony of leaf cutter ants near one of the lakes. It is a delightful setting.

It is an eclectic park and it seems that many of the residents live full time in the park. Some lots are large and feature permanent buildings in addition to the trailer. One person had built a mock gas station on their lot and others had gardens. Old trees provide ample shade through much of the park and the whole place feels a bit like some lost village in the woods. The cost for a year’s stay is really cheap, around $3000 so it’s easy to see why some folks have decided to make it home.

We saw quite a lot of cardinals at the park more than at the bird sanctuaries we visited in Southeast Texas.

The amenities are a mixed bag. There was a brand new pool near the new clubhouse and office. It was in good repair and well kept. There were not other readily accessible bathrooms or showers that I could find and the clubhouse was not open late at night. If you are relying on park Wifi you will be disappointed. The only coverage they have is at the clubhouse itself. On site, you will have to rely on cellular options. Fortunately, coverage for Verison seemed fine so we were not inconvenienced by it.

The biggest issue at the park is its uneven ground. Our spot was very near the entrance and clubhouse so we didn’t have too much of a problem; just a few small potholes in the drive to the park. But as we walked around we found absolutely huge dips and bumps in some of the main access roads deeper into the park. Our rig would easily bottom out on these if we had had to traverse them. Many of the sites did not appear very level and trailers around us had to jerry rig supports to level themselves out.

With our Passport America 50% discount, our stay was a bargain. Non-discount pricing was reasonable though had I paid full price and had to deal with the bad roads in the park, I’d have been disappointed. For us, it was a real bargain and I would have enjoyed staying longer to watch the birds and hang out by the lakes.

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Carlsbad Caverns: Slaughter Canyon Cave

Tom’s Missing Goats

Tom Tucker went searching for a group of missing goats back in on hot July day in 1937. Eventually, he found his animals but in doing so he also found the Slaughter Canyon Cave entrance. Back then, the cave was filled with bat guano and in the following years, miners would bring in their tools and machinery to harvest this important agricultural resource. They soon discovered that the guano was too old and too much of the nutrients had leached out to be useful as fertilizer.

Slaughter Canyon Cave

Slaughter Canyon Cave

Introductions at the Visitor Center

On an October morning, Hitch and I wake early. Today’s cave hike will last for 6 hours, so I prep a decent sized breakfast, rich in proteins. We grab our packs, which I prepared the night before with water and snacks, and head for the visitor center for our pre-hike instruction. When we get to the center, I’m surprised to find that there are only six of us in our group and two ranger guides. Apparently, taking the tour in October is a boon for us. In the height of summer when the tourists flock to the cave, the Slaughter Canyon Cave Tour group will fill to its maximum capacity of 20! For about 20 minutes we learn names, rules, restrictions, prevention of white-nose syndrome in bats, and get geared up. There are no bathrooms at Slaughter Canyon, and I am repulsed at the thought of doing my business in a bag, so I quickly hit the restroom before hopping back in the truck to join the car caravan.

I remember being really excited about this particular cave tour, with its gigantic columns, stalagmites, and flowstone formations. I also know it will be hard work getting up there, but I was determined.

Slaughter Canyon Trail

From the visitor center, we drive out to the trailhead of Slaughter Canyon Trail. The trail up to the cave entrance is what can make this cave hike a bit strenuous, especially in summer when the temperatures can reach into the 100s. In half a mile, we gain 500 feet in altitude, which calculates to an average grade of 15%. I’m told by the rangers, that trail is considered “difficult to very difficult” due to the harsh environment. I do my best and I’m thankful for my Black Diamond trekking poles and Camelback. Despite being slow myself, as a group, we still make short work of the trail. I guess there’s a real advantage to having a small group; less people to move from point A to point B. I do remember being winded, but it was not as heart-rending as the Rocky Mountains.

Slaughter Canyon Trail

Slaughter Canyon Trail

At the Entrance

When we reach the Slaughter Canyon Cave entrance, we take a rest, have some water, leave our backpacks and sticks behind, and gear up with helmets, headlamps, and gloves. As I looked down into the cave from the entrance, the natural light casting foreboding shadows and mysterious shapes. The light pouring in through the main entrance only penetrates about 20 feet, and beyond that, there is only inky darkness. The deeper inside, the cave is devoid of any light save the ones we brought ourselves.  As we wait in the twilight area, I’m struck by the coolness of the cave; such a drastic change when compared to the outside. I later learned that the average temperature is around 56° F all year round.

Gate to the Cave of Slaughter Canyon

Gate to the Cave of Slaughter Canyon

Tom Tucker’s Room

We head down a mildly steep but slick trail and into Tom Tucker Room, supposedly where Tom found his animals loitering in the dark. Here we focused our bright lights on the walls to spot the layers of an ancient sea bed. I take a quick glance spinning in place and gasp at great columns, which seem to hold the ceiling up. Some look like tree trunks covered in moss, but I know all are made of limestone set here by water dripping and pouring over millions of years.

Limestone Columns of Slaughter Canyon Cave

Limestone Columns of Slaughter Canyon Cave

Bat Poop is Good

We hike deeper into the cave, where the trail turns into hard pack guano. Here there are deep trenches and tracks left by machines and tractors. We also find wires, broken glass, tin cans, magnesium flare handles, and old light bulbs. We stand in the remains of a bat guano mining operation. I don’t think I would last long digging around in bat poop, no matter how cool bats are.

We step into a trench and examine the layers of bat guano and earth. Within the layers of dirt, there are millions of tiny white slivers of bat bones protruding at all different angles. Nearer to the cave walls the reddish guano layers are covered by a dark soil. According to our guide, Slaughter Canyon Cave was flooded several times, leaving a layer of sediment throughout the cave. Just before 2015, the cave was blocked off and no visitors allowed inside due to flood waters.

King Solomon’s Mine

As we move past two majestic giant limestone columns, our guide goes on to tell us about “King Solomon’s Mine,” a movie filmed in the caves back in 1950, which was very loosely based off the Alan Quatermain book of the same title. At one point our ranger points out a location on the cave wall with a smudged reddish mark. Supposedly, after the filming was done the leading lady kissed part of the cave and left her lipstick. Our ranger then leads us to another wall, where Native Americans have left pictographs. Sadly, we don’t know who left them here, just that they match ones found outside the cave in another location. I think I like the pictographs better than the lipstick smudge.

Watch Sig climb off a flowstone slope.

Wall of China

Our group then descends down into a larger cavern, where our lights barely reach the ceiling and walls. Upon the floor is an ankle high rimstone formation which winds along the floor. The pools that once helped form the stones are now long gone, leaving a stone dam. They call it Great Wall of China since this delicate formation looks to be contiguous. I crouch down and closely examine the rimstone closely, I guess it kind of looks like a diorama of sorts. They should just rename it Tiny Wall of China.

"Tiny" Wall of China

“Tiny” Wall of China

The Klansman

At this point, our ranger decides to give us the extra special tour. Normally he would have skipped some areas of the cave but decides to make an exception since there is only seven people in our group. We then trek to a steep and slick flowstone path. Our guide then grabs a knotted rope and shakes it loose from its hiding spot. After a quick primer on how to climb the path using the rope, we all form a line. One by one, we climb carefully down that slick flowstone path. On the other side, we get to see an amazing site: a gigantic stalagmite glimmering against the light of headlamps. This formation is called the Klansmen, due to the fact the layers of rock have formed a kind of hood. I suggest they rename it Skeletor from He-Man and the Masters of the Universe.

The Klansman, the Guardian, Skeletor - take your pick!

The Klansman, the Guardian, or Skeletor – take your pick!

The Christmas Tree

We carefully make our way top another flowstone floor and are delighted by the sight of a column called The Christmas Tree. Even in the dim light, there’s a glittering crystal covering this formation. It looks a bit greenish with an ivory cream coat. Behind us is a huge column which bulges out in the middle, giving it a kind of teardrop shape, which is why they probably called it The Tear Drop. I love that we took a moment to sit on the flowstone floor and listen to water drops echoing throughout the chamber.

The Christmas Tree

The Christmas Tree, it sparkles in the light!

The Monarch

Our guide makes motions toward where we came from, and I secretly wish we could stay longer. To exit this area we have to climb down that flowstone path using the rope. Now practiced at the rope use, all of us make it to the other side in no time. We are then taken to another rope and flowstone trail. Following the same procedure as before, we quickly gather on the other side. Here we get to view the Monarch, a large 89-foot limestone column formation. I thought the columns near the entrance and within Tom Tucker Room were big, but this one takes the cake. I wished we could linger here longer, but our tour is almost up and we have to head back out.

We slowly backtracked through the cave. We gather our things at the entrance and begin our descent down the trail. At the cars, we hand over our helmets and gloves. We bid our guides a hearty handshake and thank you. Inside our truck, the cab is sweltering hot and the AC kicks into overdrive, frantically cooling us. I take a quick glance at the clock and we’re both amazed that we’ve spent 5 hours within the cave. Without daylight or any other indicators, time seemed to just fly by. Now that’s a quality cave tour.

The Monarch

The Monarch

How to visit Slaughter Canyon Cave

After speaking with the rangers, I learned that in the summer Slaughter Canyon Cave tour group fills up pretty fast, and to the maximum 20 slots. Having taken the tour in October, our group size was small by comparison. In the winter season, they stop giving tours and resume in April. You can make reservations by calling 877.444.6777 or visit Recreation.gov.

What to Bring:

  • 4 AA batteries
  • Hiking boots required
  • Water, but it must be left at cave entrance
  • Sun protection, such as hat and sunscreen
  • Walking sticks are allowed on the trail, but not in the cave.

Provided Gear:

  • Helmets
  • Headlamp
  • Gloves

Restrictions:

  • No food or water inside the cave
  • No bathrooms in the cave
  • No backpacks or purses while in the cave (Okay while on the trail leading to cave)
  • Minimum age is 8 years old
  • Anyone under the age of 8 must be accompanied by an adult

Cost:

  • Adult: $15.00
  • Youth (Ages 8-15): $7.50
  • Discounts for Senior and Access Pass holders.

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Bentsen Palm Village RV Resort: Mission, Texas

I like it when a park lives up to their name and the information on their website. Bentsen Palm Village RV Resort is definitely a resort level RV park, they have lots of Palm Trees, and its big enough to be a village. Their site claims they are one of the best RV parks in the country, and they might be right about that. It is certainly one of the top parks we have stayed in.

Nights: 60 (Two Months)
RV Park Cost: $1853 ($31/night)
Discounts Used: None
Address: 2500 South Bentson Palm Drive Suite 267B  Mission, TX 78572
GPS: 26.186253, -98.376705
Website: www.bentsenpalm.com

Pros

  • Pretty Grounds
  • Nice Location
  • Excellent Amenities
  • Lots of Activities
  • Reasonable Price

Cons

  • Over 50 age requirement

Not the largest pool, but it was a nice place to hang out while doing laundry.

The Community

We signed up to stay in the park through their website where you will be hard pressed to find the fact that it has a 50+ age requirement. We only found out after we paid for reservations. They called to let us know, but after a brief and polite conversation they made an exception for us and honored the reservation. While our age had a few folks curious about us, no one was upset to see us there and we were treated warmly by staff and residents alike.

Bentsen is a big park with around 250 sites. Many of its residents are “Winter Texans” who spend full seasons at the park year after year. While not everyone is a regular, there is a great deal of camaraderie among the folks at the park. We were asked which part of the park we were in, what our lot number was, what kind of trailer we had, and how long we were staying. Everyone was keen to know their new neighbors, even more so than most normal neighborhoods I’ve lived in.

There is a strong community here and they have events of all sorts going on all the time. We participated in a few large potluck events, as well as a new years party and a Christmas party while were there. We dropped in on game night a few times and learned to play Mexican Train, a dominoes game. Folks were super nice and very active in doing things together and greeting one another as they walked about the park.

The wood show was both very popular and well equipped. This is only half of it.

A pretty Park

The park itself is very lovely with lots of palm trees and flowering plants. It is divided into “circles” and each circle has a green space in the middle with a pavilion of some kind. Mission, Texas is well known for its birds and butterflies, both of which were evident in the park in good numbers. The grounds were very well kept all around as were the facilities.

They have all the normal amenities. There are two shower and restroom facilities as well as two laundries. The pool is not very large but includes a hot tup area and a large covered area for lounging. There are three outdoor cabanas and a large clubhouse. They have a dog yard complete with an agility course. There is a huge wood shop that is very popular as well as a crafts shop for sewing and art projects. Everyone gets their own mailbox and they have cable tv and internet available through the local provider which you arrange and pay for yourself. For us, this meant two months of perfect high-speed internet.

The park is located right next to a large bird sanctuary and within half a mile of a wonderful butterfly sanctuary. Staying at the park gives you a pass to the bird sanctuary and a discount for the butterflies so there are lots of great walking opportunities without driving anywhere. The park is otherwise in the midst of farmland so there is little noise other than the occasional brahman cow mooing in the distance.

The Bottom Line

Since we booked for more than a month, we paid a metered service for electricity, which we included in the price calculation above. Even though we were here in their peak season, the average price was right on our average target of $30 per night. Considering how nice the park is, that’s a very fair price. All in all, Bentsen Palms RV is top notch.

I thought I’d show someone else’s Airstream at the park this time. Made in America!

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The Top 10 Challenges of Going Full Time

Everyone’s experience will be a little different but this list represents 10 of the most common challenges a full-time RVer will face as they try to figure out life on the road. This list doesn’t aim to answer all these questions but hopefully, we can get you going in the right direction. Being a full-timer is not common, but neither is it all that rare. According to the 2000 census, some 260,000 people said they had a non-traditional hoe with no permanent address. That means whatever the challenges, a great many people have made it work and their advice is not hard to find.

Money

The Challenge: Going full time has two money challenges: getting the initial capital to acquire your RV and maintaining an income while on the road. The cost of an RV can vary wildly from million dollar motorhomes to a used travel trailer your Uncle is practically giving away. The key is to figure out what your budget is and then get the best value possible. If you have a source of regular income lined up, then taking a loan may make good sense. If not, then I’d suggest buying it outright to minimize monthly expenses. Making an income on the road, however, can be a real challenge. Most traditional employment expects you to show up at a given place at a given time every weekday and when you travel around, that just isn’t possible.

The Silver Lining: Life on the road is generally pretty cheap. Rent for RV spots is typically much less than renting an apartment or paying a mortgage. Sometimes it is even free. And you only rarely pay for utility charges. You can choose residency in a state with low taxes, and because you have less stuff, you will find there is less maintenance to pay.

Advice: If you can’t yet afford an RV, saving up is the way to go. It’s also handy once you are on the road. I was very impressed with this article: 100 great tips for saving money. Pretty much every single one of them is good practical advice. For making a living on the road, there is no better resource than our friends Heath and Alyssa. They specialize in helping people find a way to make a living on the road.

Downsizing

The Challenge: Most of us own a lot of stuff and the older you get, the more stuff you end up with. Living in an RV generally means you have to get rid of most of your stuff, and that can be very hard for some folks. It can also be a surprising amount of work to pair down and sell off what you own.

The Silver Lining: First off, you can make a fair bit of money selling your stuff, enough to buy a lot of adventure and possibly help pay for your RV. That’s partly how we financed our adventure. There are also some advantages to living with less, both financial and emotional.

Advice: I’ve written a few articles on the subject of downsizing for full time living which I think can help you with the process. Stuff Part 2: Five Principles to Purge ByStuff Part 3: The Benefits of Having Less, and Learning to Be a Minimalist.

Three friends enjoying a day out on Yellowstone Lake!

Three friends enjoying a day out on Yellowstone Lake!

Friends and Family

The Challenge: For those of us who plant deep roots, packing up and hitting the road can be hard. It can also be very painful for those you love, especially if they rely on you. Some full timers have faced resentment and anger from loved ones because of their decision. Too often people just don’t understand the motivations for wanting to be a full timer. Other times they can simply be jealous.

The Silver Lining: Going on the road is in some ways less dramatic a departure than moving to a permanent address far from home. You have an RV and you can swing back to the home turf whenever you feel the urge or have the need. Not only that, you can travel to visit relatives and friends in other places and spend as much time there as you like without imposing since you brought your own accommodations.

Advice: While we didn’t have many difficulties on this front ourselves I wrote this guide to help folks struggling with these issues:  Going Full Time: Talking to Friends and Family. I think it is a good place to start.

Kids

The Challenge: The biggest challenge with RVing with children is schooling. Unless you plan to stay in one spot for the school year, you will be home-schooling your children. It’s a big challenge and a big commitment, but it can be very rewarding for everyone involved. You may also be in a situation where your kids are not as enthusiastic about the prospect as you are. They face all the same challenges in terms of friends and family as you will, but possibly without as much control. Beyond school, activities like sports and other social clubs are not really an option.

The Silver Lining: Traveling is an incredibly enriching experience and the opportunities for hands-on learning are worlds beyond what most children have access to. The opportunity to teach through travel will also expand your own horizons and lead to very engaging experiences. Finally, you will spend far more time with your kids that you otherwise are likely to.

Advice: We don’t have children so we can’t honestly provide our own advice and it’s not easy for us to judge the quality of others advice either. That said, here is a link to get started with homeschooling. For further inspiration, I liked this article on The Scenic Route which talks about the positive sides of RV life for kids. I think the bottom line is that together as a family, you can overcome whatever challenges you face.

Bison Hayden

It’s one thing to see it in a book or online, another to be there in person.

Getting Mail

The Challenge: You don’t have a permanent physical address but just about everyone in the world assumes you do. Not only does this make it a challenge to get mail regularly, it can be a real stumbling block to most financial transactions and government paperwork.

The Silver Lining: Establishing a new mailing address is an opportunity to establish residence in another state which can come with various advantages. Of course, that can be a challenge of its own we will hit on later.

Advice: My experience is that it no one option will cover all your mailing needs. We use a mailing service but have some items sent to our parents. We also try to use paperless bill pay and notifications whenever possible. Since we don’t have a good article on Trail and Hitch for this just yet, I’ll refer you to a nice summary of your options over at Wand’rly.

Residency

The Challenge: Many laws are based on the state you live in, as are government services, taxes, vehicle registration, and many other things. The biggest challenge in all this for an RVer is that you may have to return to your state for things like license renewal and vehicle inspections. It can also be tricky to wrap your head around the legal ramifications or explain to bureaucrats that you are a resident of a state but don’t live in the state.

The Silver Lining: The bright side is that you can pretty much pick any state in the country to be a resident of. That means you can figure out which state has the best mix of taxes and licensing for your needs.

Advice: My article, State Residency for the Full-Time Traveler goes into a lot of detail on the subject and has links to resources so you can see what the laws and taxes are in all the states.

Here I am working on creating helpful blog posts as we roam about.

Internet and Phone access

The Challenge: This isn’t a big deal for every full-timer, but it certainly is for us. And finding a solution to allow us to have the kind of internet access we desire, has not been cheap or easy. Most mobile data plans offer limited data and buying extra can get incredibly expensive. Because we are always on the move, the best carrier can change from place to place, and sometimes you won’t find any signal at all. Most RV parks have wifi internet bit it is almost always frustratingly poor and unreliable for a whole host of reasons.

The Silver Lining: There really isn’t any here other than the fact that we live in an age where this kind of thing is even possible and chances are options will continue to get better with time.

Advice: No one can help you more on this subject than the fine folks at the RV Mobile Internet Resource Center. The keep up to date on all the options and have a wealth of advice to look through.

Choosing an RV and Tow Vehicle

The Challenge: There are simply a huge number of options and if you are a first time RV buyer it can be an overwhelming decision. Even if you have picked out a make and model, there are still plenty of considerations to work through. There is plenty of information out there on this topic, but that too can be challenging to sift through due to sheer volume.

The Silver Lining: The good news is that all that variety means plenty of choices for you and if you can sort out all the options, the perfect fit for your needs.

Advice: The most popular article on our blog is: Picking a Tow Vehicle For Your Airstream. It goes to show that even when you know what RV you want, there are still challenging decisions to make. If you are at square one, I have a three-part series on Choosing an RV.

Kia, Hunter of Shadows

Kia, hunter of shadows and American traveler with Trail and Hitch.

Medical Insurances

The Challenge: Medical insurance in the US is governed by state laws and often assumes you live in the state in which it is issued. To keep costs down on medical services, most insurance plans have a network of covered providers in a specific area. It is much rarer to get insurance that will cover medical work no matter where you happen to be. All that is in addition to the typically challenging world of selecting insurance.

The Silver Lining: Telemedicine is on the rise with the ability to see a doctor by phone or via the internet. This can be really nice when you are out in a remote area far away from any doctors office and something comes up you want help with.

Advice: The RVer insurance exchange is a good first stop. Not only can they help you buy insurance, they have a lot of articles on this complicated subject.

Pets

The Challenge: If you have pets, especially a companion animal like a dog or cat, going on the road means making accommodations for your furry friends. The scale of your challenge will depend a lot on the temperament and needs of your pets. A rambunctious high energy animal is going to be a lot harder to transition than a mellow one.

The Silver Lining: Most animals are very adaptable and easily trained using food rewards and the like. RV parks and other places are generally very pet-friendly provided you keep your pets under your control at all times and clean up after them.

Advice: We travel with two cats and have some advice based on our Cat Litter Experience. Do It Yourself RV has a nice detailed article on getting your pets and your RV ready for travel.

The post The Top 10 Challenges of Going Full Time appeared first on The Adventures of Trail & Hitch.

5 Romantic Stories Of Real Life Adventure

Romance and Adventure two wonderful life experiences made all the more exciting when paired together. Trail challenged me to come up with a Trail and Hitch article for valentines day. Something perfect for our audience. Something that might have some Amazon affiliate links in there for good measure. I said, “Kiss me darling and I will be inspired!” And she did, and I was, and here it is. 5 Romantic Stories of Real Life Adventure!

Martin and Osa Johnson

Martin Johnson was a part of Jack London’s voyage across the pacific in 1907. He later toured America recounting stories of the voyage and met Osa Leighty while in Kansas. By 1911 they were married and set off on their first grand adventure to the Solomon Islands where they were famously held captive by the Big Nambas tribe. They escaped with the help of British gunboat. Using film footage from their journey they created their first film Among the Canibal Isles of the South Seas. They returned the next year to the same tribe to show them the film. This time with armed guards, but they were not necessary as the Big Nambas were delighted on seeing themselves in the motion picture.

Their adventures continued taking them all around the southern hemisphere where they continued to film remote tribes, wildlife, and the amazing vistas they found. Along the way, they met with King George and Queen Elizabeth, led eagle scouts into East Africa, were the first to film in sound from a plane, and even appeared on the Wheaties Cereal box together. Tragically Martin perished in a plane crash in 1937 but Osa continued her adventuring ways until her own passing in 1953.

You can read about their life in Osa’s renown book: I Married Adventure

You can watch their real life adventures in their many films such as: Simba King of the Beasts

Martin and Osa, famous adventurers, lovers, and film-makers.

Lady Jane Franklin and Lord John Franklin

This is a tragic love story. Lord John Franklin was a Rear Admiral in the Brittish navy. He was both renown for his military service such as in the battle of Copenhagen and as an intrepid explorer in the arctic waters north of Canada, searching for the Northwest passage. In one harrowing journey, his crew was forced to survive on Lichen and the soles of their shoes. He lost his first wife to Tuberculosis just 2 years after marriage. John Franklin married Jane Griffin a friend of his late wife’s in 1828. In 1982 John saw knighted and they became Lord and Lady Franklin. In 1836 Lord Franklin was made Lieutenant Governor of Tasmania. There Lady Jane founded a university, museum, and gardens. She also took up exploring and mapping the southern coasts of Tasmania with her Johns Neice Sophia Carcroft when her husband was on his naval expeditions.

In 1845 on his third expedition to find the northwest passage in the arctic, John Franklin’s expedition goes missing. Distraught and determined not to give up on her husband, Jane charters a series of naval expeditions to find John and relocates to the northern reaches of Scottland and the Isles to be as close to where he was lost as possible. She searched for seven years until his death was confirmed. Jane refused to believe the rumors the ill-fated expedition had resorted to cannibalism and many years later chartered another expedition to try and find the records from the journey. She died while it was in route and ultimately they were forced by the weather to return empty handed.

You can read about Tasmania Jane in: The Ambitions of Jane Franklin: Victorian Lady Adventurer

John Franklin’s lost expedition is detailed in: Frozen in Time: The Fate of the Franklin Expedition

Lady Jane Franklin and Lord John Franklin, both explorers in their own right.

Isabel Grameson – Jean Godin

Another tragic tale but with a happy ending this time. Jean Godin des Odonais was a french cartographer, part of a geodesy expedition in 1735 to what is today Equador to try to determine the roundness of the earth through precise measurements along the equator. It was there he met and married Isabel Godin des Odonais. She was 14 and the daughter of a Spanish administrator in 1741. When the expedition was done he decided to remain with his wife as she was with child.

When Jean learned that his Father had died, he planned to return to France with his new wife and children. He went ahead to arrange the trip but became stuck in French Guana because the French and Portuguese authorities refused to allow him to travel through their territory back to the eastern side of South America. For 20 years he worked to gain such permission while his wife watched their children die of smallpox and received no word from her husband.

Finally, he persuaded the Portuguese king to grant permission and charter a ship to travel up the Amazon to retrieve his wife. Jean became suspicious and fearful for his life and got off the ship at the first port of call up the river. The ship however continued and word eventually reached Isabel that a ship was waiting to take her to her husband. She set out with 41 other relatives and servants to make the journey to where the ship was docked on the amazon. The ill-fated group suffered numerous mishaps and in the end, only Isabel lived, wandering the Jungles alone for 9 days in the jungle before finding help from a native group.

In the end, she was reunited with her husband and they returned to France together, her harrowing story of survival becoming a famous tale of the time.

You can read about Isabel’s nightmare journey to reunite with her Jean: The Mapmaker’s Wife: A True Tale Of Love, Murder, And Survival In The Amazon

Patrick and Rosemarie Keough

Most of our stories are from the past, and I wanted to highlight a contemporary couple who travel and explore together. Patrick and Rosemarie Keogh are renown wildlife photographers who live in British Columbia and travel the globe taking absolutely amazing photographs. They have traveled extensively in their Native Canada and were instrumental in the expansion of the Nahanni National Park. It was there they first met in 1984 on a 540-kilometer canoe trip.

Their work has been honored by the Explorers Club and the Royal Geographical society and appears in the Smithsonian, Time, Forbes, and other major magazines. Every year they host the Salt Spring Symposium at their home in BC with explorers from all over the world gather to share research, inspiration, and fellowship. They have been to both the arctic and Antarctic, Africa, the South Seas, and Asia. Together they have hiked and canoed more than 2,000 miles.

You can read more about them on their website: Pat and Rosemarie Keough

Their photography books such as The Niagara Escarpment: A Portfolio – can be had for as little as $0.09 (used and at the time of writing this) plus the cost of shipping.

A Leatherbound first edition of Antarctica: Explorer Series, Vol. 1 hailed as “the most exquisite photography book created in modern times” and “winner of 19 international awards for excellence and craftsmanship – more than any other modern book” will set you back $3,800 or more!

Samuel Baker and Florence Szasz

Last but not least we have Sam and Florance. Florance was born in Hungary and orphaned in war. She was adopted into an Armenian family but later captured and sold into slavery in Vidin. It was here that Sam Baker, a renown English huntsman, and adventurer was on a far-flung trip with Maharaja Duleep Singh. On seeing Florence in the slave auction Sam fell in love and bid for her, only to lose out to the Ottoman Pasha of Vidin. Undaunted he bribed her attendants and the two of them fled the city together.

Thereafter Lord Samuel and Lady Florance were inseparable and together they set out on many adventures. Perhaps their most famous was an attempt to trace the source of the River Nile on which they discovered Lake Victoria. While they did not trace the river to its source, they did determine that it was in Ethiopia rather than Egypt. In 1869 the pair, both avowed abolitionists, led a military expedition into the Nile basin to stop the slave trade in the region and establish a Brittish colonial presence there.

The couple’s fame was only tempered by the widespread scandalous, and likely accurate claim that they had been traveling together for some time before actually being wed and had thus been living in sin. There was also speculation that the story of how the met had been embellished somewhat. Regardless, their adventures together and their courage were not in doubt.

You can read about this pair of star-crossed lovers of adventures in: To the Heart of the Nile: Lady Florence Baker and the Exploration of Central Africa

An adventuring couple not to be trifled with. Sam was renown for successfully hunting elk with a knife.

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10 of the best websites for Airstream Fans

If you are looking for Airstream resources on the internet, you are in luck. Rivet Heads love their trailers and as a result, there are many great communities online who have created lots of fantastic resources.

Community

Airstream Addicts on Facebook

This is the largest airstream group on facebook with more than 14K members. The posts are almost all advice and expressions of joy for airstream ownership. If you use facebook and want to see some airstream love in your feed, join on up. Be aware there are rules in place to keep the discussions focused on Airstreams and free of spam or fighting between members. The do a great job keeping it positive and helpful.

Wally Byam Caravan Club International

Wally Byam is pretty much the father of the Airstream brand and he was dedicated to a life of adventure and travel. His Airstream caravans are the stuff of legend and this spirit lives on in the WBCCI. One of the primary activities of the club is arranging for Airstream caravan events. The club is divided into regional chapters, each with their own events and website. The WBCCI site has a number of informational articles, maps and other goodies you may find handy. You can read their magazine on the site as well.

Air Forums

If you are looking for help from the community or just want to chat about Airstream stuff, Air Forums is a good bet. They are the largest and most popular Airstream Forum site on the net. Searching their history of posts can turn up innumerable bits of advice on nearly any make or model. And you can always post a new question and get answers from folks who have decades of Airstream experience.

Information

Airstream.com

Airstream’s official website has a number of useful features beyond checking out the newest models and getting in touch with a dealership. They have some great historical information about the company, as well as a historical archive of airstream manuals and documentation. If you want to know the exact specifications for older and newer models, it’s a great place to go. You can find those under the Service section of the website. Airstream is also very responsive to contacts made through their website and I’ve had quite a few questions answered this way when doing research for articles. It is also one of the best places to look for service centers that will do warranty work.

Vintage Airstream

This site is dedicated to vintage airstreams and has a few really nice features. One that I really like is the photo archive where you can find pictures of specific make/model/year airstreams. They also feature a lot of how to articles and other useful resources for those looking to buy or work on a vintage airstream. It seems to be the central hub of vintage Airstream Enthusiasts.

Shopping

Airstream Classifieds

If you are looking to buy or sell a used Airstream this is the place to start. There are always new ads going up and the search features are easy to use. Even if you are not looking to buy or sell, it can be a lot of fun just to browse the adds looking at various models and customizations that people have done on their Airstreams. Also, if you are looking for pictures of older airstreams, this site is a bonanza.

Airstream Supply

This site is part of a larger RV parts network and has a large selection of parts, as well as Airstream themed decorations and accessories for sale. If you want an airstream branded dog bowl, a replacement tail light, or an airstream Christmas ornament, you can find it here.

Vintage Trailer Supply

While they are not exclusive to Airstreams the bulk of their offerings are Airstream related. For variety and quality, I like them a bit better than Airstream Supply. In addition to selling refurbished and reclaimed parts, they also manufacture their own replacements for parts that commonly break. As a result, you can get some very hard to find pieces at a very reasonable price. They also are a great place to shop for Airstream themed gifts.

Airstream stuff on Etsy

If you want to find something unique for yourself or another Airstream lover, Etsy has a lot of offerings from craftspeople all over the world. You can find things that are truly unique and wonderful there and Airstreams seem to appeal to folk artists and other generally creative people.

Pictures

Airstream pictures on Flicker

If you want to find cool pictures of airstreams, this link is your best bet. Flicker is great at highlighting the coolest and most interesting images for just about anything. It tends to be better than a google image search in finding fun stuff to look at or inspire you. That said, if you want to know what you are looking at, Vintage Airstream and Airstream Classifieds are great resources.

 

 

 

 

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