September 25, 2020

The 2020 Outdoors RV East Coast Owners Rally - Memorable for All the Right Reasons

This morning, I put on my big kid pants, and I didn't raise a fuss when we had to head home from our last camping trip of the season.  Despite the many restrictions brought about by COVID-19 this year, Alan and I were still able to enjoy almost six weeks' worth of delightful days in the great outdoors, camping comfortably and safely in a number of carefully operated State Parks.  Nature never fails to deliver a one-two punch of peace and pleasure that settles me down and soothes my soul no matter what's going on in the world around me.  I hope all of you have found people, places and/or activities that soothe your soul, too, building resiliency and providing strength for whatever hardships lay ahead.

This is the story of The Little Rally That Could – and Did.  It’s the tale of a small group of health-minded, safety-conscious individuals - loyal RV owners and dedicated campers – who braved a pandemic, in the safest ways possible, and came out winners.  Alan and I hosted the 2020 Outdoors RV East Coast Owners Rally, an event that we weren’t even sure would be held right up until the very last minute.  Before you envision a mob of hundreds gathering in close quarters for a myriad of seminars and activities (which would, understandably, send contact tracers into a full-blown panic), let me set you straight.  Alan and I tend to be conservative with our health risks anyway, and the coronavirus had our safety antenna on full alert.  The Rally brought together ORV owners from five different states in the east, but total attendance came in at under twenty – and that includes our two kids and our son’s girlfriend who were on a family camping trip with us.  I have to admit, though, that the six months prior to the Rally seemed like one long, never-ending, heart-pounding roller coaster ride.  Here’s the story . . .

September 05, 2020

Biscayne National Park & the Florida Keys - The End of the Road

This post represents the final installment in The Big Switcheroo series – tales from last spring’s epic journey from the northeast to the Florida Keys and back – involving family, friends and an extraordinary range of adventures.

A quick recap for those of you who might be wondering why this three week, whirlwind tour was called The Big Switcheroo:  In 2018, we had planned a spring 2019 loop tour of the southern states in the eastern half of the country.  Alan and I were hoping to add a decent number of states to the map (in the column at the right) that indicates in which states we’ve camped.  On Christmas Day, 2018, we found out that our vacation plans ensured we would be out of town when our son Ryan’s longtime girlfriend, Anya, graduated with her Master’s Degree in mid-May of 2019.  In January of 2019, we decided to switch our 2019 vacation plans with those we had scheduled for spring of 2020 and it was off to Florida we went, visiting friends and family all along the way.  With Everglades National Park in our rear view mirror, we pointed the truck toward the Florida Keys.  Luckily, the travel trailer followed behind.

August 27, 2020

Everglades National Park - I Can Appreciate the Diversity, But . . .

This post represents another installment in The Big Switcheroo series – tales from last spring’s epic journey from the northeast to the Florida Keys and back – involving family, friends and an extraordinary range of adventures.

No, I didn’t drop off the face of the earth.  Alan and I were camping for a full two weeks at our family favorite, Northampton Beach Campground on Great Lake Sacandaga in central New York.  The first week was spent with fellow owners of travel trailers and fifth wheels made by Outdoors RV Manufacturing.  The get together – a small gathering of only 7 ORV rigs – was tons of fun, despite being somewhat restricted by current COVID guidelines.  I’ll be covering that event in a future post, for sure.  The second week was spent with our daughter, son and our son’s girlfriend, and that, too, was absolutely delightful.  Now, we need a vacation from the vacation.

In the last installment of this series of posts, I recounted how Alan and I had spent several enjoyable days at Ortona South, an Army Corps of Engineers campground on Florida’s Okeechobee Waterway.  Our trip through the mid-Atlantic states and along the east coast was winding down, but we were nowhere near finished with the highlights.  Still ahead were Biscayne National Park and the Florida Keys.  But first, the Everglades.

August 07, 2020

LP Gas Refills: Camping World vs. Tractor Supply Co. (Opinions Included at No Extra Charge)

I’m taking a quick break from The Big Switcheroo series to fill you in on an experience we had last week in reference to the purchase of LP gas (propane) for the tanks on the travel trailer.  Please note that I’m not affiliated with either Camping World or Tractor Supply Company, I’m not being paid in any way by either one, and I am most definitely not recommending that you buy (or not buy) stock in one or both of these companies.  I’m just sharing our experience with you, and offering my opinions which, by the way, are worth exactly what you paid for them.

After a quick camping getaway for a week or so of R&R, Alan and I found ourselves in need of a propane tank refill upon our return home.  Then, a few days after that errand was crossed off the list, the propane tank for our backyard grill called it quits.  So, it was back to town on another propane run.

If the phrases “frugal shopper,”  “good deal,” or “saving money” appeal to you, I encourage you to keep reading.  If shopping isn’t an Olympic sport in your house like it is in ours, but you’d like to hear my opinion, in general, about Camping World and Tractor Supply Co., read on.  If you think that someone couldn’t possibly write an informative and entertaining post about refilling a propane tank, stay with me and I’ll prove you wrong.  However, if you’re not interested in any of that, please feel free to go grab a beverage, find a good book, and come back for the next post which will be, I promise, a continuation of The Big Switcheroo series, and a recounting of our visit to Everglades National Park.

July 30, 2020

"Locking In" a Good Time at Ortona South - an Army Corps of Engineers Campground

This post represents another installment in The Big Switcheroo series – tales from last spring’s epic journey from the northeast to the Florida Keys and back – involving family, friends and an extraordinary range of adventures.

I commented in my last post how much Alan and I enjoyed the slow pace of our relaxing visit with Alan’s brother and sister-in-law, Tom and Joan, at their home near the Gulf Coast of Florida.  That wonderfully slow pace would continue as we worked our way down to the Florida Keys, and that made us happy campers, indeed.

When our all-too-short family visit was concluded, we pointed our truck toward the east and headed for our next destination – Ortona South, the Army Corps of Engineers (COE) campground located at the Ortona Lock on Florida’s Okeechobee Waterway.

We were drawn to this campground for a couple of reasons.  The first is that we’re big fans of COE campgrounds due to the well-designed facilities and the low cost of camping.  The second is that, as boaters, we love campsites on lakes and waterways, even if we don’t have our kayaks or power boat with us.  At the Ortona South Campground, our site was right on the Okeechobee Waterway.  But what was more interesting than the fact that we were on the Waterway is what was in it!

July 20, 2020

The Calm After the Storm

This post represents another installment in The Big Switcheroo series – tales from last spring’s epic journey from the northeast to the Florida Keys and back – involving family, friends and an extraordinary range of adventures.

We are so blessed; that’s all there is to it.  I have one older brother, and I love him to pieces – even though he tormented me when I was young.  Additionally, one of my cousins is, age-wise, right in the middle between my brother and me, and close enough at heart to be considered a bonus brother.  Unlike my actual brother, he has always been nothing but kind to me, and I love him to pieces, too.    Alan has three older siblings – two sisters and a brother – and Alan gets along fabulously with all of them.  The four of them are interesting blends of their parents’ personalities, and no two are alike.  Beyond the siblings, Alan and I lucked out in the in-law department, as well.  Our siblings’ spouses, as well as my cousin’s wife, are absolutely delightful people, and we all enjoy each other’s company.

So, when we checked out of Fort Wilderness after spending a week at Disney World with our daughter, son and son’s girlfriend, we were really excited about the next stop on our journey – a visit with Alan’s brother, Tom, and Tom’s wife, Joan, on the Gulf Coast of Florida.

July 09, 2020

Dealing with Disney Dollars and Details – Part 2 (Tips & Tricks)

This post represents another installment in The Big Switcheroo series – tales from last spring’s epic journey from the northeast to the Florida Keys and back – involving family, friends and an extraordinary range of adventures.  It’s also the fifth and final post regarding our one week visit to Disney World with our daughter (Kyra), our son (Ryan), and our son’s girlfriend (Anya.)  The photos included with this post are of some of the delightful creations on exhibit during the International Flower & Garden Festival at Epcot being held at the time of our visit in May 2019.

Now that we worked our way through my favorite Disney planning resources in the previous post, allow me to share a few of my favorite tips.  Keep in mind that changes are ongoing throughout the Disney Empire.  The information below was current at the time of our prior visits, but may no longer be correct or appropriate – especially considering the COVID-19 pandemic.