Thursday, December 31, 2015

Go Green!

My Alma mater, Michigan State University is playing in the College Football Playoff game tonight at the Cotton Bowl against favored Alabama.  Since it's a night game I needed a campsite with electric hookups to run my laptop and 4G modem as I didn't want to stress the Tank's solar batteries for the three to four hours the game would last. (It's on ESPN so I can stream it)  My plan had been to stay at one of the two Texas State Parks near Houston but I foolishly waited to secure a reservation and both parks were full for New Year's Eve.  Using the online reservation tool Texas State Parks runs I was lucky to find a spot at Buescher State Park about 75 miles from Houston which I previously reviewed here:  Buescher Park Review .  Checking my 4G modem on arrival I was getting 3 bars so it should be a satisfactory streaming experience....I'm pumped for the game!

Me at a East Lansing game...wish it was me at the Cotton Bowl tonight!
I won't have my fancy foam Sparty helmet on tonight but I will have my Spartan shirt in that picture.  My three college buddies, Scott, Steve and Gary and I text back and forth commenting on the plays as the game goes on so it's a group-like experience even though I'm watching it solo in the Tank.

Me and Sparty!
I hope everybody has a safe and Happy New Year!

Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Eggnog Pie Recipe Revisited

Merry Christmas everybody!  Per my now three year old tradition (seems crazy I've been "in the Tank" for three Christmas's now) I want to repost my blog post on my family's holiday tradition of consuming large slices of Eggnog Pie and also the recipe and how to make it.  Here's the link:  Eggnog Pie Post .  I get December 24, 25 and 26th off but my daughter is coming to Houston and wants to see Star Wars on Christmas day (probably along with tens of thousands of other Houstonians) so that will keep me in the metro area.

Thanks for reading!


Thursday, December 17, 2015

Low Profile

Readers of the blog know that I've been "sub-urban boondocking" in the Katy, TX area since September while working again at the Home Depot I worked at last spring.  Urban boondocking is different things to different RV'ers but to me it's staying in a city space for pretty much no cost.  There are different ways of accomplishing urban (or suburban) boondocking -- friend's driveways, Walmart parking lots (the ones that still allow overnight stays) the parking lot where you might be employed, area parks that allow overnight stays, and possibly other places.  One of the things I try to do is not stay in the same place for more than one night at a time.   I got off work Wednesday at 2 and have Thursday and Friday off so I drove back down to the FM 521 Park in Matagorda County that I previously reviewed here:  FM 521 River Park Review

The Tank basking in December sun at the FM 521 River Park.
You can camp for up to three days at the River Park so I'll take advantage of those three nights and let my overnight spots in Katy "cool off" for a while.  Next week I'll probably have to stay at least one paid night at one of the Texas state Parks in the area to dump my tanks and fill my fresh water tank back up.

That's pretty much all I have in the way of updates for now.  I can't wait for Spring when I get to go back on the road and camp where things are more attractive and interesting than parking lots.

Thanks for reading!

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Temporary Solutions

I've referenced the RV Repair Goddess in the past and how her intervention (or lack there of) in my attempts at affecting repairs to the Tank determines the ease and success of my efforts.  She was in a bad mood the day I attempted to replace the rooftop vent/escape hatch which had been ripped off the top of the Tank by a powerful rogue gust of wind.  I was behind the eight-ball somewhat from the start due to the fact that the wrecked vent measured 26" X 20" and when I Googled that measurement I got zero hits in response.  So I ordered a 26" X 26" vent with the thought that the slightly larger hatch would just cover 6 extra inches of roof and would still function normally over the 26" X 20" hole in the roof.  This is where the Goddess decided to intervene.  The old installation had a aluminum frame that fits inside the hole in the roof and my feeble attempts at removing that framework which must be super-glued in place ended in.....nothing.  Thanks a lot, Goddess!

The stubborn frame work that refuses to let go.
Giving up on installing the new vent I reasoned that since it's almost Winter and I never even open the vent between December - March I could devise a temporary fix that would get me to a point next year where I will be able to reattempt the full install perhaps at a friend or relative's home where I'd have access to both additional brawn and possibly a crowbar to attack the balky frame.  So here's what I ended up doing:

Working in the Building Materials Dept at Home Depot gave me some ideas.
I carefully cut some pink insulation board (R-30) material to fit into the vent-hole first applying a clear sealant between it and the aluminum frame to achieve a water tight seal.  Over that I applied overlapping strips of a 3-ply 6 inch wide roofing tape that has a tar-like substance in the middle ply that self-levels and seals the edges of the tape with it's neighbor piece.  I bought it all at my Home Depot store after talking design considerations with several Lumber/Building Materials associates who have tons more experience in the department than I have.  I had to buy a whole 4 foot by 8 foot sheet of the insulation board so I ended up spending about $31 for all the materials but so far I'm happy with this solution.  The primary function of the hatch is to offer a second point of exit should fire or some other catastrophe block the Tank's normal door and it still fulfills that mission in that I could fairly easily kick upwards and knock the insulation board out of the hole.  Hopefully this installation gets me to April when my plans are to end my urban boondocking and head back out on the road.

Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Cosmetic Change

The Tank is getting on in age and some of it's plastic components that get exposed to the Sun's ultraviolet rays have yellowed to the point of attractiveness.

Believe it or not the yellow parts were originally white.
I bought some flat white spray paint that adheres to plastic ( most don't so you have to be careful when you buy) and waited for a nice, low wind day to paint the offending yellow plastic trim.

Beginning painting the lower screen door panel.
The outside door has two pull down shades that I had to remove but that was just a matter of removing four screens on each shade.

The pull down shade had to be removed but no biggie.
The slowest part of the project was having to tape around the inside of the windows and outside of the trim to prevent overspray.

The screen door after the more yellow!
It looks five years younger!
I've recieved the replacement hatch from Amazon and I'll do a post on the (hopefully) smooth installation process.

Thanks for reading

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Weather Induced Change

I was spending the afternoon in a Katy, TX park (you can't stay overnight) and there was a severe weather alert in effect.  A front was supposed to come through and chase away the muggy low-80's weather and replace it with more Fall-like low humidity 70's.  In less than 15 minutes it got dark and extremely windy.  I got up from where I was working on my laptop in order to tighten down the escape hatch vent that is in the ceiling over my bed but before I could get there an extremely powerful gust of wind first ripped the hatch to it's wide open setting and then an even stronger gust ripped the hatch completely off the top of the Tank!  It happened in less than a couple seconds and I stood looking up through my roof at rapidly approaching storm clouds (up to two inches of rain was forecast).  Racing outside I was able to catch the pinwheeling hatch cover and bring it back into the Tank but by now raindrops were starting to fall through the open hatch onto my mattress with the high winds continuing unabated.  I got a piece of rope I keep inside the Tank and tied it to the hatch cover's crossbar and fit the cover up onto the roof of the Tank through the escape hatch.  Instantly the wind caught the cover and would have ripped it out of my hands had I not had the attached rope wrapped around my left hand.  The cover was now shielding most of the hatch cover but I couldn't get the hatch to fit over the entire opening because the screen part of the assembly was bent and in the way.  The only thing I could think of was to flip the screen out of the hatch and up onto the roof, allowing the cover to be about 95% "in place" but rain was getting blown by the powerful wind through spaces the hatch cover wasn't sealed around.

Garbage bags "sealing" the space around the roped down hatch cover.
I got a roll of kitchen garbage bags and stuffed them one at a time into the spaces allowing the rain in beneath the hatch cover and they ended the direct entrance of rain but still allowed some slow dripping through the hatch opening (it was a virtual monsoon outside at this point).  So I got every pot, frying pan and mixing bowl out of the kitchen cupboard and placed them underneath where the drips were dropping.

A frying pan protecting my files from rain drips.
 With the situation (mostly) stabilized I got online and found a replacement hatch cover assembly on Amazon for $299 and ordered it, although it wasn't eligible for Prime two day shipping so I won't have it until next week.  I didn't have much choice as the old hatch assembly was trashed and unable to be repaired.  I emptied the pots and pans as needed until the storm finally blew through.

The next morning dawned sunny and perfect -- low-seventies and low humidity.  I got onto the Tank's roof with a roll of duct tape and did this:

Good ol' duct tape!
I'm hoping the tape will keep head winds from ripping the hatch off while driving.  I'm also keeping the rope tied down to the hatch cover's crossbar inside the Tank so if the duct tape fails the hatch doesn't go flying off the top of the Tank and into someone's windshield.  Fingers crossed until the replacement hatch gets here next week!  I'll do another post around the installation.

Thanks for reading!

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Getting Lucky

The part for the repair of one of the Tank's lift legs delivered and I opened the box form Rieco-Titan to find these parts:

Everything you need, nothing you don't!
My past experiences involving repairing the Tank led me to expect difficulty to rear it's ugly head.  Maybe the bolt was the wrong size, maybe the threads in the bottom of the lift leg were stripped.  So I got the ratchet wrench from the Tank's tool case wondering what might go wrong this time.

The Tank's extensive tool set pays off again!
This time, however, everything went smoothly.  I held the foot pad to the lift leg with one hand and hand twisted the bolt to get it started and then ratcheted the bolt home with the wrench.  Since I had the ratchet out I checked the other 3 pads and found one other that was slightly loose so I tightened it too.

The Tank's shiny new foot pad.
I guess this time the RV Repair Goddess smiled on me!

Thanks for reading!

Monday, November 2, 2015

Tank Repairs

Unlike the Tank's truck component the camper part was really never designed and built with every day full-time use in mind.  The manufacturer, Sun Valley, probably envisaged perhaps two to three months of usage per year.  Readers of this blog know that I've been full-timing in the Tank since June of 2013 and a lot of that time has been spent driving down BLM roads that were wash board and pot holed at best. Wear and tear to the Tank is pretty much unavoidable over time.   A few weeks back I came around the passenger side of the Tank and saw this:

Hmm....something appears to be missing.
For reference the other three lift struts look like this:

No missing foot plate....yay!
The loss of the foot plate on the lift means I couldn't take the camper off the truck if I needed to because the plate-less jack could potentially be damaged.  So today I contacted the company that makes the electric jacks, ReicoTitan, and ordered a replacement foot plate for my ailing jack.   Hopefully, I can just lie on my back and screw the replacement foot plate in with it's included bolt and lockwasher and things will be great.  (Foreshadowing).

Thanks for reading!

Monday, October 26, 2015

Return to Brazoria County Free Beach Surfside, TX

I got a rare three days in a row off from Home Depot so I decided to revisit the Gulf beach at the Brazoria County Free Beach which I originally reviewed here:  Brazoria County Free Beach Review .
When I got to the Free Beach I noticed that, contrary to my last visit, there was a strong breeze whipping up the waves and driving them to the beach.  I didn't think much of this but this factor would play an ominous role in my stay later that evening.

The tide rolls in.
 The beach itself is generally wide enough that a rig the size of the Tank can safely (and dryly) camp overnight by setting up close to the dunes, that's what I'd always done in the past, but this visit was going to be different.   Around 5pm I noticed that the incoming waves were pushing more and more over the beach and with the wind undiminished I re-positioned the Tank as far up and close to the dunes (which are protected, you can't even walk on them let alone park on them) as I could.  I awoke at about 11:30pm and felt the Tank swaying in a worrisome way.  Looking out the door window I discovered that the tide had completely covered the entire beach and the Tank was standing in 3-4 inches of Gulf!  I was fairly worried but I consulted the tide tables for the area off a Google referral and saw the tide would be going out from that point in the evening so things wouldn't get too much worse.  I also considered that the Free Beach sand remains fairly solid when wet or damp, you really only get into trouble when it drys out completely and you suddenly sink up to your axle in fluffy white sand.  It was pitch black and I reasoned trying to drive off the beach would probably just get me into more trouble so I went back to bed--and to sleep!

The Tank's rear tire after a night of standing in the Gulf tide.

The next morning the wind was still blowing strongly and waves were washing over the entire width of the Free Beach but water was no longer standing on it.  I decided that I wanted off the beach but first walked the beach looking for bad areas that might be hazardous to drive through.  There were a number and I mentally chose a path avoiding them.  During my walk I encountered a Ford F-150 that had driven into an area off the beach that was dry sand and had gotten stuck up to his rear bumper.  There was no one near the truck so I guessed they must have walked out trying to find a tow truck.

The tire holes the Tank's rear tires left after it thankfully moved.
Having the path reconnoitered in advance really made the difference as the Tank made it off the beach without too much difficulty even though I had to drive through some standing water that was 3-4 inches deep in places.  One of the standard procedures I always use when deciding where to drive the Tank (or not drive) was taught to me by a much more experienced RV'er:  "When in doubt, get out."  Meaning get out of the truck and walk the path you're considering instead of driving ahead and hoping for the best.  It has saved me a ton of trouble and it really helped in getting off the Free Beach.

I still recommend camping at the Free Beach but add the caveat to heed the strong winds and the tide tables in deciding where to camp on the beach.

Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, October 21, 2015


This is one of the things an eight hour shift at the Home Depot will get you....ready or not:

Most experts say 10,000 steps in a day is a worthy goal!
When I go to Anytime Fitness and treadmill for 30 minutes I get around 4500 steps.

Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Return to Stephen F Austin State Park

I've been "urban camping" around the Katy, TX area waiting for Home Depot to assign me some hours and that assignment hit in force last week.  I'm being tasked to work in the Lumber/Building Materials department this time because things are slow in Garden where I used to work and also because there is a labor shortage in Lumber.

My store, taken from Garden where I WON'T be working!
While I was initially disappointed not to be going back to Garden where I knew all the employees and the business, I now see getting assigned to Lumber as a big positive because of what I'll learn there.  One of my ultimate goals is to buy some land out west (Southern Utah and Northern Arizona come to mind) and build an off-grid solar powered "Tiny House" (Hey, after living in the Tank for three years a Tiny House will seem like a McMansion!)  Having no practical experience in home building would make that a daunting task for me although there are plenty of "How to" u-tube articles online specifically dealing with Tiny House construction.  So by absorbing knowledge from the Lumber and Building Materials department and also getting to talk to the customers, many of whom are building contractors,  I figure I'll get "educated" on proper stud frame construction, how to put a metal roof together, how thick a slab needs to be, etc.

I had the last two days off so I went out to Stephen F Austin State Park to camp and dump tanks and replenish the Tank's fresh water supply.  I reviewed the park here: Stephen F Austin State Park Review   It has been so unseasonably hot this October (low 90's) that having hookups to run the Tank's AC for a couple of afternoons has been a real blessing!

A rare opportunity for the Tank to have hookups!
I don't know when the dreary heat wave is going to break.  October in Houston is usually one of the two or three nicest months of the year for weather.  It almost feels like we're getting cheated out of Fall this year, and it also makes urban boondocking a lot more uncomfortable than what I had anticipated.

You have to enjoy this early in the morning because it gets too hot after lunch.

I'll post some updates about my Lumber Department experiences and also any Houston area camping I do.

Thanks for reading!

Monday, October 5, 2015

Return to Fort Anahuac Park Anahuac, TX

I'm waiting to get some hours back at Home Depot in Katy, TX.  They hired me back in September just as their business faded (the economy in Houston is suffering with the low oil prices...there have been thousands of layoffs).  So I'm trying to stay in the Houston area since Home Depot could call any day and tell me I'm scheduled for tomorrow.  So I headed back over to Fort Anahuac Park which I had previously reviewed here:  Fort Anahuac Park Review .

Sunny and 80 degrees!
Here's a few more current pictures of the park.

Fort Anahuac was built on this bluff.
This historical plaque tells the story of the fort where William Travis was imprisoned.
The fishing pier, it's lit until late at night.

I'm trying to keep daily camping costs to a minimum and the three free days Chambers County allows at this really nice park helps out.  I spent $3.00 a day for September so that'll be hard to beat.

Thanks for reading! 

Friday, September 25, 2015

Back at FM 521 River Park

I'm currently about 15 miles south of Bay City, TX at the FM 521 River Park on the Colorado River (in case you wondered).  I've stayed here several times and reviewed it here:  FM 521 River Park Review .  Temperatures aren't quite as high here (hi-80's) as the low 90's in the Houston area so that works.

Charging up the solar lantern at the River Park.
Had an early morning run in with a colony of ants who figured out how to climb up the Tank's steps and under the door.  They didn't reckon on my "Leetle Friend":

Still rounding up a few stragglers but this battle is over.

 At least they weren't Fire Ants!

Thanks for reading!

Monday, September 14, 2015

Campground Review: Turkey Creek RV Village Hollister, MO

Continuing southwest from my stay on the Mississippi River my original plan was to spend labor Day weekend boondocking on Winkle Creek which is near the tiny Missouri town of Kissee Mills.  I got the idea to camp there from while ignoring the warning on the review page that the campground floods in the Spring.  Heck, this was September so I didn't have anything to worry about ...right?  As I was driving by Tuttle Creek Lake, of which Winkle Creek is a tributary, I observed water levels in waterside parks that had one-story buildings almost completely covered with standing water.  So when I finally got to Winkle Creek, with the exception of 50 feet of entrance way, everything was flooded out and un-campable.  So there I was on the Friday of a major holiday near Branson, MO, a huge tourist destination, where the heck would I get a campsite?  I had Google Maps search for campgrounds near me and called the first three....all predictably booked up.  Then I remembered that there was an Escapee campground near Branson so I called it.

A sight for sore eyes for a needy holiday camper!
I was extremely fortunate to get the very last campsite at Turkey Creek Village.  While I had hoped to boondock for free that weekend I didn't mind having hookups to run my AC in the hi-90's Labor Day weather in Missouri.  Besides, if you're an Escapee member the nightly charge of $19 is pretty reasonable, especially considering a no reservation walk-in on the Friday of Labor Day weekend!

The Turkey Creek office and clubhouse.
Here's the Turkey Creek data sheet:

Hookups:                                 20, 30 and 50 amp, water and sewer
Fire ring:                                   Yes
Water Access:                          Yes
Fresh Water:                            Yes
Trash Service:                           Yes
Toilets:                                     Yes
Showers:                                  Yes
Dump station:                           Yes
WiFi:                                        Yes (in clubhouse)
Level sites:                               Yes
Laundry:                                   Yes
Store:                                       No (ice is sold from office)
Pool:                                        No
Shade:                                     Yes
Verizon reception:                     4G, 3 bars
Internet reception:                     3 bars
Cost:                                        $19 / night for Escapees (higher for non-members)

Staying at an Escapee RV park is kind of like staying at a park that is staffed and occupied by your parents and their friends, and I mean that in a nice way.  I have yet to meet an Escapee who wasn't friendly and interested in me and willing to talk for 10 or 15 minutes about just about anything.  They are just the friendliest bunch of folks you can happen across and all their RV parks that I've stayed in are kept in great shape, as they live there after all.

The sites were kind of close together but any port in a storm (or flood).
The RV park actually backs up to Turkey Creek (thus the name, duh) which flows about a quarter of a mile into Lake Taneycomo which is a big holiday fishing and recreation destination in the area.

Boat house reflected from Turkey Creek seen from the boat ramp. 
Turkey Creek is only about 20 minutes from the big attractions in Branson and would make a good base of operations for that venue, as opposed to the much higher priced alternatives in the area.  There are a lot of activities at the RV park itself too.  I was invited to attend and even perform at a Friday evening jam session in the club house and I was also invited to the weekly Sunday evening ice cream social ($.75 a scoop).   See, your parents are still fun!  Just make reservations!

Thanks for reading!

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Campground Review: Bear Creek Recreation Area Ursa, IL

Leaving Michigan's Upper Peninsula I drove through Wisconsin to my brother Jerry's home in northern Illinois.  I got to spend the weekend with he and his family, knocking off a couple of repairs to the Tank, and helping him resurface his driveway (mine was more a supervisory contribution).  With a now conceived plan of heading back to Texas I knew my path from my brother's would be south and west so I targeted the Army Corps of Engineers' Bear Creek Recreation Area which is near the tiny Illinois town of Ursa, right on the Mississippi River.

Don't use Google maps to try to get there.
I typically let Google Maps get me to places the first time.  This time the app took me to a muddy field four miles south of the actual Rec Area.  I've no idea what went wrong with the usually reliable Maps app but I doubt the Corps of Engineers moved the Rec Area four miles north!  If you go use these CORRECT GPS entries:  40.111444, -91.480064 .  Those get you right to this gravel road into the Rec Area:

The last mile to the area was this gravel road.
The Corps of Engineer constructed the Rec Area to utilize the riverfront land that is prone to flooding.  If traveling there in the Spring I'd recommend contacting the Rock Island Division of the Corps to insure the campground is above water.  It's located on the riverside of a large levee and you can kind of tell the Corps is expecting flooding occasionally by the manner in which they constructed the vault toilets:

The bathrooms are built on their own gravel island.
Here's the Bear Creek data sheet:

Hookups:                                 None
Fire ring:                                  Yes                 
Water Access:                         Yes
Fresh Water:                            No
Trash Service:                          Yes
Toilets:                                    Yes (vault)
Showers:                                 No
Dump station:                          No
WiFi:                                       No
Level sites:                              Yes
Laundry:                                  No
Store:                                       No
Pool:                                        No
Shade:                                     Yes
Verizon reception:                    4G, 1 bar
Internet reception:                    1 Bar
Cost:                                      Free for up to 14 days

River access is via a cement boat ramp:

Boat ramp into "The Big Muddy".
At first the width of the Mississippi along the Rec Area was a little misleading, as I've driven across it many times and it's a REALLY wide river, but not at the Rec Area.  Then I looked at a zoomed in Google Maps of the Rec Area and saw the what I thought was the Missouri side of the river was actually Barns Island, a huge island that the Mississippi flows around both sides of.

Barns Island on the left half of the picture.
 Bear Creek Recreation Area is really quiet and peaceful with an occasional train whistle far to the north you can hear sometimes at night.  There was maybe two or three trucks and cars driving through it and then back out a day but really no traffic, maybe because of this sign?

Caution:  Mississippi ahead!
If you like a peaceful camping experience on the Mississippi River that is also free then Bear Creek Recreation Area fits your bill.  I didn't fish while there but you could see catfish (I think) jumping in the evening, but I didn't know if they were safe to eat if taken from this portion of the river so I left them alone.  After weeks of packing my trash out while in Michigan's National Forests it was really convenient having covered trash cans to throw stuff away in.  Just remember to bring all the fresh water you require because there is none available.

Thanks for reading!

Monday, August 31, 2015

Campground Review: Blockhouse Campground Ottawa National Forest

A few posts back I reviewed the really nice Paint River Forks Campground in the Ottawa National Forest and said I would definitely be back and I got pretty close sooner than I thought I would.  If you read that review you might remember a picture of a sign announcing a canoe route downriver to the Blockhouse Campground five miles away.  The Blockhouse is also a free for 14 days campground the US Forestry Service administers and I decided to try camping there on my way out of Michigan's Upper Peninsula. 

Flowers along the Paint River near the Blockhouse.
From the town of Iron River, MI you travel 17 miles to the northwest into the Ottawa National Forest and down a four mile gravel road that dead-ends into the Blockhouse Campground which has a grassy two-track loop that passes the TWO, that's right two, campsites that make up the (very) rustic and only lightly used camping/fishing destination.  As usual I was the only camper there so the Tank snagged by far the most desirable campsite, I had high hopes since I was parked literally feet from the Paint River.

Spin casting from the steps of the Tank?
 I researched why the campground is named The Blockhouse thinking maybe a fort had existed near there at some point in the past but couldn't find a reason for the name anywhere.  Oh's the Blockhouse stat sheet:

Hookups:                                 None (no services whatsoever)
Fire ring:                                  Yes
Water Access:                         Yes
Fresh Water:                            No
Trash Service:                          No (Pack in/Pack out)
Toilets:                                    No
Showers:                                 No
Dump station:                          No
WiFi:                                       No
Level sites:                              Yes
Laundry:                                  No
Store:                                      No
Pool:                                       No
Shade:                                    Yes
Verizon reception:                   0 bars (no signal even with booster)
Internet reception:                   0 bars
Cost:                                      Free for up to 14 days

If your rig is wider than the Tank you might have a problem getting into the best of the two campsites as the driveway is "guarded".

A very large rock that's not going anywhere guards the entrance.
 The Tank only just fit by the stone to the left and through some light bushes.  As always when camping in probably any National Forest but especially in Michigan, bring insect repellent or you will be going crazy swatting them in a very short time at the Blockhouse.

I'm not sure this fire ring was US Forestry Service approved but it seemed OK.
While my campsite at the Blockhouse was fairly open to sunlight (and thus solar power friendly) the other one there was completely shaded and, on a really hot day might be preferable to non-solar equipped campers.

Campsite 2, at the Blockhouse...nice and shady. 
Although my weather experience at the Blockhouse, while sunny, was anything but hot when I awoke the next morning and the Tank's chronometer showed:

August and 46.5 F INSIDE the Tank...41 outside.
You may have deduced from the campground stat sheet that I only stayed one night at the Blockhouse because of the surprising lack of Verizon coverage and you'd have been correct!.  It was the first time I could remember not being able to get a signal of any kind even while using my Wilson cell booster, even while camping in the Rockies!  I think it's because the campground is in somewhat of a valley along the river and hills block the line to the cell towers.  Being a solo camper I found it a little uncomfortable being faced with the issue of not being able to call for assistance in the event of a Tank breakdown or emergency of some kind, plus I like my family to be able to get hold of me so, knowing a great National Forest campground with Verizon coverage was five miles away....

If it ain't broke....
I once again had the Paint River Forks campground to myself and, with cell and internet coverage, found the seven day camping to be the preferred Paint River camping experience of the two campgrounds.  But if you really want seclusion go for the Blockhouse.

Thanks for reading!

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Kewadin Shores Casino St. Ignace, MI

I didn't title this post as a "Campground Review" because a lot of people wouldn't consider staying at a casino in their RV as camping.  I've spent a number of days at casinos this summer and I thought I'd review my favorite, the Kewadin Shores.

I'm not sure about the "Park" part but they do have a spot for RV's.
Located just northeast of St. Ignace the Kewadin Shores Casino offers a full menu of gambling activities (with the exception of sports betting) including craps and blackjack.  Blackjack is my game of choice.  I'm not as good as my college buddy Gary who has won thousands of dollars in a single session but I'm a decent low-stakes player and I usually walk out with more money than I came in with.  You of course can't take photos inside the casino but here's a shot of the outside at sunrise:

Cars in the parking lot even at sunrise!
When you "casino camp" at the Kewadin Shores you have two choices, free or pay.  If you choose "free" then you get to park your rig in a parking space in a large secondary parking lot at no cost for basically as many days as you want.  There are no hookups with this option but there is trash service and free use of the casino's dump station.

The Tank exercising the "Free" option.
The "Pay" option costs $15 / night and that buys you one of the approximately 20 full hookup sites on two sides of the secondary parking lot.  The sites are unshaded and gravel but do include a picnic table.  Up until this year the sites were $10 / night which was a real bargain but a casino employee said the Tribe had noticed a lot of people were renting the sites just to recreate in the St. Ignace area and refraining from ever entering the casino -- so they increased the rate 50%.  Pay me now or pay me later I guess.

The "Pay" experience at Kewadin Shores.
The Tank has solar panels so I always go with the "Free" option and feel that I have a $15 daily stake to start with at the casino.  Over the three days I stayed I won $53 so I looked at it with the perspective that the Tribe paid me $17 a day to stay at their facility! Beats the heck (at least monetarily) out of paying $25 / night for a state park site although in their defense the state parks DO offer a better camping experience than an asphalt parking lot.

Anyway that's where I've been for a while, just thought I'd update things.  I want to close out my Michigan swing by boondocking at the Blockhouse Campground in the Ottawa National Forest where I enjoyed the camping last month but  the Upper Peninsula has had several days of rain and I'm concerned about getting the Tank through the muddy forest roads.....we'll see.

Thanks for reading!