December 30, 2017

2018 Pennsylvania State Parks Calendar

The Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) has announced that a 2018 calendar featuring photos of various State Parks in Pennsylvania is now available through ReserveAmerica. 

December 25, 2017

Christmas Reflections

As I write, it is lightly snowing with five inches already down and the trees dressed in their holiday finest.  In addition to shoveling and plowing, it looks like we'll be cleaning off the travel trailer for the second time within a few weeks.  But a White Christmas is always on our daughter’s Christmas list and this year she certainly won’t be disappointed. 

December 23, 2017

National Park Service Centennial Postage Stamps - Still Available!

Have you seen the National Park Service stamps?!  They are GORGEOUS!  As part of the year-long celebration of the National Park Centennial (1916 – 2016), the United States Postal Service issued a sheet of 16 “Forever” stamps in June of 2016 that depicts views of National Parks or plants, animals, artwork, objects, and structures found in or associated with a National Park.

Represented are Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve, Mount Rainier National Park, Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historical Park, Acadia National Park, Grand Canyon National Park, Assateague Island National Seashore, San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park, Arches National Park, Theodore Roosevelt National Park, Kenilworth Park & Aquatic Gardens, Bandelier National Monument, Everglades National Park, Haleakalā National Park, Yellowstone National Park, Carlsbad Caverns National Park, and Gulf Islands National Seashore.  The image in the center of the sheet is a detail of the one cent Yosemite postage stamp that had been issued in 1934.   Take a look at these stamps, my friends.  They’re spectacular and they reflect the many different and intriguing personalities of our National Parks, Monuments and Historic Sites.  What an excellent way to celebrate the Parks!  A round of applause and a tip of the hat to the many individuals who worked on this project and brought it to fruition.  These stamps are available for purchase at your local Post Office or online from the United States Postal Service (link HERE). 

December 18, 2017

The Butler County Donut Trail - Bucket List Item!

I couldn’t wait to share this with all of you donut lovers (doughnut lovers?) out there!  I happened to be reading the State of Ohio Official Travel Guide today with my morning coffee.  (Link to the guide HERE.)  I’m always picking up print editions of travel guides when we’re on the road and hold on to many of them for help with trip planning.  I realize that there are many, many online resources and I do use a lot of them, but I’ve always loved the feel of a book in my hand and the pleasure that the slow turn of a page will bring.  Besides, who wants a “Travel” filing cabinet with empty drawers!  I’d much rather have a few glossy guides to enjoy along with a cup of coffee.  Anyway, I was reading all about Ohio and then, there it was, right on page 27 – an article about the Butler County Donut Trail!  Apparently, all you need to do is print out a Map and a Passport (find them HERE) and you can be tasting your way through Butler County!  According to the web site, there are currently 10 donut shops on the Donut Trail.  Simply stop by one of the participating shops, buy any donut you want (or donuts!) and ask the shop clerk to stamp your Passport.  Once you have all 10 stamps on your Passport, either mail the Passport to or drop it off at the Butler County Visitors Bureau in West Chester, Ohio (the address is on the passport), and you’ll receive a free Donut Trail t-shirt.  The Travel Guide also referred to a Donut Trail Selfie Station which is just icing on the . . . donut!  Sweet!  My current favorites are Krispy Kreme’s original glazed doughnut (donut?) and Dunkin’ Donuts’ chocolate cake donut (doughnut?), but this is a scavenger hunt that I could seriously get into.  Now, if I could only figure out why these companies insist on spelling doughnut/donut differently . . .  No matter how it’s spelled, the Butler County Donut Trail is going on my Bucket List!

December 15, 2017

Choosing an RV

When Alan and I first began camping, we were just young kids starting out in our life together.  We were saving to build a house and didn’t have much money to spend on travel.  But we loved the idea of road trips and, by choosing to tent camp at that stage of our lives, we were able to cover our living expenses, save for the house and still give in to our wanderlust as often as our jobs would allow.  At that point, tent camping was absolutely the best option for us and we continued to camp that way for more than 15 years.  We took a break from camping entirely for about 10 years when the kids were very young but, when we were ready to jump back in, we faced a dilemma.  Alan and I had a fairly large tent, one that would easily accommodate our family of four, but we knew in our hearts that our “growing older bones” would no longer tolerate sleeping on the ground, no matter how many air mattresses they had under them.  Then there was the selfish thought that we would just love to have our own bathroom and shower.  So, we started thinking about a pop-up – also known as a tent camper.  I’m finding that different types of “campers” have different names, depending on what part of the country you’re having the conversation in.  I recently found out that travel trailers are simply called “trailers” in at least one part of the pacific northwest, although if we refer to a “trailer” back east it often means a utility trailer or a tractor trailer.  As I understand it, “campers” out west tend to be truck campers not travel trailers.  But, I digress.  (I do that a lot, so consider yourselves forewarned.)  Since we were in the process of shopping for a new vehicle, we figured it would be a good idea to check out pop-ups to see how much they weighed.  It would be pretty foolish to buy a new vehicle that couldn’t tow the kind of camper we were considering buying in the future.  We stopped at our local RV dealer to take a peek at the weights of a couple of pop-ups and decided that the “deluxe” model was right up our alley.  It had a hard-sided bathroom that folded down for travel (nice!) and the bathroom itself was large enough that my big guy Alan felt comfortable in it.  It came with a very “deluxe” price tag, also - $14,500.  YIKES!  (My kids would point out that “Nobody says that anymore, Mom.”)  Not believing that this could possibly be indicative of the true cost of a pop-up, Alan and I decided to visit a large Jayco dealer some distance from our home.  We looked at pop-ups and, not seeing anything that really tickled our fancy, asked about the next level up.  The salesperson showed us a hybrid camper – part hard-sided and part tent camper.  Very nice, but the layout wasn’t really helpful.  The next level up?  Just out of curiosity, of course. (Do you see where this is going?  And do you remember that we went out to check the weights of pop-ups, not out to buy one?)  At that point, the salesperson explained that a regular travel trailer would be the next step up and he showed us . . . the best camper EVER!  Alan and I fell in love all over again - with a 30’ travel trailer!  It was gorgeous!  We loved the set up with bunks for the kids – perfect!  Oh, by the way, the price?  $14,000.  What?!  That was less than the cost of the pop-up we had liked!  Alan and I both spoke at the same time - one of us asked if the camper was used and one of us asked what was wrong with it.  At that point, the salesperson started laughing and he explained that, since it was one of their most popular models, they ordered it in bulk from Jayco and passed the discount on to their customers.  (Apparently, this really annoyed the competitors which, of course, delighted the staff at the Jayco dealership.)  So, despite the fact that our little expedition was for the purpose of checking weights only, two days later we signed on the bottom line and became the owners of a brand new travel trailer!  But we didn’t really choose this RV – it chose us.  Our Jayco Jay Flight 27BH has served us well for over 40,000 miles and we love it to pieces.  For our family, in the end, a bunkhouse model travel trailer was the perfect choice.  Towing a trailer allowed us to load four bikes and three kayaks (one’s a tandem) on the pickup truck.  Once we’re settled in at a campground, we’re able to use the truck to explore the area or easily move our “toys” to where we’ll be using them.

A travel trailer was the right choice for us but, if you want something a little smaller that will fit in a regular parking place or a tight campsite, a Class B might be a better choice for you.  If you’re looking for more space because you’ll be taking extended trips or living in your RV full time, you might consider a Class A or Class C (with or without a towed car) or a fifth wheel.  For those who love to camp off the beaten path and don’t have a large family or need a lot of storage space, maybe a truck camper would be the perfect choice.  The beauty of camping is that there’s an option for everyone no matter where or how you intend to camp.  If you’re just getting started on the search for the perfect RV, the web site GoRving (link HERE) has an extremely useful section that compares all the different types of RVs on the market.    The folks at GoRving also provide a wealth of information about many other aspects of camping, too.  They can help you find rentals, campgrounds, dealers and RV shows.  Manufacturers of outdoor gear and all types of RVs make it easy for each of us to enjoy the great outdoors in whatever way is most special to us.  And that’s just one of the things I love about camping.

December 11, 2017

Rather than just provide a complete list of my favorite blogs and websites under “Check out my favorite places,” I decided to add them one at a time and let you know exactly why I like them.  That way, you’ll be able to determine whether or not the site might be of interest to you.  Besides, I believe that these sites do such an awesome job of providing information and/or entertainment that it really is a pleasure to bring them to your attention!  First up is

December 07, 2017

Thanksgiving Reflections

Since Reflections Around the Campfire wasn’t up and running until after Thanksgiving, I missed the opportunity on that special day to count my blessings with you.  Working under the “better late than never” theory, I’d like to share a few things for which I’m grateful.  Without a doubt, husband, children, siblings, other family members, friends, good health and the financial resources to live comfortably are all at the top of my list and I would guess that is true for many of you.  But there are times when I find myself saying, “Wow, isn’t that nice?!”  Not in a big boisterous way (“WOW!  Those fireworks are spectacular!!!”), but in a quiet moment of realization that there is something in my day that I’m extremely grateful for.  I think that I’ve become more mindful of those moments as time goes on and so, here’s my list of some small, ordinary things which make my life fuller or richer in some way.

Camping Lifestyle 101

Welcome!  Since Reflections Around the Campfire marks my first experience in the world of blogging, I imagine that many of you stopping by this virtual campfire would be curious as to my background and credibility.  Due to a career in finance and human resources, my writing has mostly been for personal, not professional, reasons.  I try to write with an easy, conversational style; it seems to work well for me and, earlier this year, led to having a personal essay published in a major magazine.  I truly do hope that you’ll enjoy the topics here and that you’ll visit often and share your comments.  As for my camping credentials, please know that my husband Alan and I have been camping for more than 35 years and have made six cross-country camping trips – four for extended vacations and two for personal business.  Although we now travel in a 31’ Creek Side travel trailer made by Outdoors RV Manufacturing, our lifetime of camping began with a small and simple tent.