Monday, June 29, 2015

Campground Review: Badger Park Peshtigo, WI

I continued my drive north through Wisconsin with the goal of spending a few days at Badger Park in the small town of Peshtigo. had indicated a very nicely maintained park for under $15 / night so I was looking forward to some moderately priced camping with hookups.

Lovely Peshtigo, WI.
Upon arrival at the park check-in I was a little disappointed to find the town had increased the nightly rate to $20 / night effective this camping season.  I changed my plans and decided to just stay overnight as I really try to stay away from rates above $15...Econ 101, increase the cost of something and people use less of it...oh well.  Curiously, one of the reviews of Badger Park I had read was a camper complaining that the park had no shade, I have no idea what park he confused with Badger Park but as you can see the park has an abundance of tall shade trees.

The Tank's shady campsite.
Badger Park is a very large facility for just a town park.  It straddles both sides of a main route into Peshtigo with the campsites on one side of the road and a more conventional park with beachfront access on the other side.

The Badger Park beachfront complete with little swimmers.
Here's the park's data sheet:

Hookups:                                 20, 30, 50 amp & water
Fire ring:                                  Yes
Water Access:                         Yes
Fresh Water:                            Yes
Trash Service:                          Yes
Toilets:                                    Yes
Showers:                                 Yes
Dump station:                         Yes
WiFi:                                       No
Level sites:                              Yes
Laundry:                                  No
Store:                                       No
Pool:                                        No
Shade:                                     Yes
Verizon reception:                    4G, 3 of 4 bars
Internet reception:                    3 of 4 bars
Cost:                                        $20 / night

If nothing else Badger Park is the most family friendly town park I've stayed at.  There were several small play areas with playground equipment but the real kiddie attraction was one of the most impressive climbing/playing/running around in constructions I've seen.

No, this is the small play area right by the campsites.
Now THIS is a playground!
I stayed at the park on a Wednesday and the ranger who checked me in let me know that there was a country concert that evening at the park's band shell.  The music was very listenable and could be clearly heard throughout the park.  The show lasted from about 6 to 8pm and most of the town seemed to show up on the lawn in front of the shell.

The band shell and lawn where the concert took place.
Badger Park is a great camping spot for families with kids.  Between the beach and all the play areas there is a ton of stuff to keep the little guys occupied.   Try to get there on a Wednesday and you'll get a free concert too!

Thanks for reading!

Friday, June 19, 2015

Campground Review: Waubedonia Park Freedonia, WI

I enjoyed four days visiting my brother and his family in Lake in the Hills, IL and decided to head north through Wisconsin towards the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.  About 25 miles north of Milwaukee is the tiny town of Fredonia, WI that offers camping in Waubedonia Park, the town's park.

There are only about eight RV sites along with four or five tent camping sites so its a rather small campground and the sites are rented on a first come first served basis but there was only one other RV and a single tent campsite there when I pulled in.  There is no host or attendant so you pay the $11 dollar per night fee by filling out an envelope with the site number and placing your cash into the envelope and depositing it into a steel mailbox on the center of the park.  Curiously the nightly rate jumps up to $20 if you require a water hookup in addition to the electric hookup....I went electric only.

The boat launch into the Milwaukee River that runs through the park.
Here's the Park's data sheet:

Hookups:                                 20, 30 amp.  A couple sites have water too.
Fire ring:                                  Yes
Water Access:                         Yes
Fresh Water:                            No
Trash Service:                          Yes
Toilets:                                    Yes
Showers:                                 No
Dump station:                          No
WiFi:                                       No
Level sites:                              Yes
Laundry:                                  No
Store:                                      No
Pool:                                       No
Shade:                                    Yes
Verizon reception:                   4G, 2 out of 4 bars
Internet reception:                   2 out of 4 bars
Cost:                                     $11/night, electric hookup only

Being new to the park, I hooked the Tank's 30 amp power cord into the campsite electrical hookup and......nothing!  I took my electric coffee grinder to all the available sites and plugged in and...nothing??  The one other RV'er helpfully popped his head out of his door after observing my fruitless search and advised that I had to call the number on the steel envelope box to have a park employee turn on the electricity at my site, which I did and a friendly city employee drove by about 15 minutes later and verified I now had power.  He said they operated the hookups that way to dissuade teenagers from partying at the park.  So you're forewarned about the park hookups.

Geese like the park's access to the Milwaukee River too.
The campsites are fairly spacious and mine had bushes on both sides that screened me from the other campsites.

The Tank in seclusion.
Waubedonia Park is almost perfectly quiet and is really well maintained, with a city groundskeeper on site both days of my stay.  For $11 a night, electric hookups included, it represents an excellent camping value.  Despite the quirky electric hookup policy I definitely place the park on my "Will Revisit" list.

Thanks for reading!

Friday, June 12, 2015

Two Years In the Tank: Lessons Learned

June marks my second anniversary of being a full-time RV'er.  I'm a little surprised at how normal living in a 130 square foot camper seems to me.  Having left a 2400 square foot house it seems like a 95% reduction in the living space I occupy should feel claustrophobic, but it really doesn't. In this post I thought I'd list five of the more important lessons the last two years have impressed on me, maybe someone else just starting out can pick up some insight and make adjustments faster than I did.


1)  Running out of gas just sucks:  I now operate under the assumption that the Tank doesn't have a 26 gallon fuel tank, instead I assume it has a 13 gallon tank.  Having foolishly run the Tank out of gas (and come perilously close in some really remote locations) I start the gas hunt when the Tank's needle hits the 1/2 mark.  This has a secondary advantage of allowing me to drive by stations with outrageously high prices.  Gas Buddy is a really useful app for locating the lowest local prices.

 2)  Nobody ever complains about having too much solar:  Early readers of the blog know that I originally started out with a single solar panel.  I fairly quickly added a second 100 watt panel and that's the current solar configuration charging the Tank's battery pack.  Having now camped during winter months where, even out west, the Sun never gets too high in the sky I probably would go back in time and recommend to "2 years ago me" something approaching 400 watts, either two 190 watt panels or four 100 watt panels.

I think I could have squeezed 2 more on the roof with a little planning.
3)  Stay fit:  One of the smartest things I did in getting ready to hit the road was to join a health club. In reading a bunch of full-timer blogs I found that many of the more experienced RV'ers were members of Anytime Fitness, which has over 1500 locations nationwide, so I joined that one too.  It's $30/month but I find the price worth it in that almost any decent sized town I pass through has one of their franchises and I can get in a real workout on well maintained equipment AND get a shower in.

4)  West is the best:  For boondocking at least.  There is so vastly much more BLM and US Forestry land in California, Arizona, New Mexico, Utah and Colorado than all the rest of the lower 48 combined it isn't funny.  You can, generally, camp for free for up to 14 days on some of the most beautiful land in the US if it's BLM or US Forestry administered.  Go West young man.

I never did find out what was in that cave.
5)  Bring family and friends when you can:  I lived alone in my sticks and bricks dwelling prior to heading out so I knew solitary RV living wouldn't bother me.  Still, it's been great when either my daughter Nickelle or Camping Buddy Becky can join me (Becky will be joining me in July for some Michigan camping).  Introduce your family and friends to RVing, they'll thank you and you'll have a blast.

My daughter where we camped in Colorado.

I still learn tons about full-timing from reading other RV'ers blogs and I would highly recommend anyone considering this nomadic life doing so.  Those are probably my top five although I've probably not listed some that I should have.  It's been a great two years and I'd absolutely do it all over again, given a chance.

Thanks for reading! 

Monday, June 8, 2015

My Truck Driver Friends

After leaving Texas I had intended to travel to Fayetteville, AR but ran into a flooding Red River that seemingly shut down every state highway out of Texas into Arkansas.  I kept getting "pushed" further and further west in my attempt to find a dry route into Arkansas until I was actually in Oklahoma.  A final "Road closed in 27 miles.  Seek an alternate route" sign and I overnighted in Oklahoma's Murray Lake State Park.  I didn't review it because it was half under water with only a few sites open, maybe next time through it'll be in better condition.  Heading northeast the next day I entered Missouri and after a long drive decided to spend the evening in what was a virtually empty Missouri Visitor Welcome Center along I-44.  I parked in the deserted truck parking area and settled in for what I assumed would be a quiet evening.

Down right cozy!
About 2am I was woken by idling diesel truck engines that sounded like they were parked 3 feet from my pillow because.....they were.  After falling asleep the truck parking had maxed out and my new "buddies" really had no choice but park next to the Tank.

Next time I think I'll park in the car parking area, at least cars don't idle their engines all night.

Thanks for reading!   

Friday, June 5, 2015

Campground Review: Martin Creek Lake State Park Tatum, TX

About 3 miles to the southwest of the tiny town of Tatum, TX lies the 287 heavily treed acres of Martin Creek Lake State Park.  I stayed there overnight on my way north to western Chicago after departing soggy Houston following my Home Depot gig.  As Texas state parks go this one is on the smallish size with 61 campsites spread over two loops but the park appeared well maintained and the staff was very friendly and folksy.  The bathrooms were spotless.

Martin Creek Lake and a chair you can watch it from.

Here's the park data sheet:

Hookups:                                 20, 30, 50 amp and water
Fire ring:                                  Yes
Water Access:                         Yes
Fresh Water:                            Yes
Trash Service:                          Yes
Toilets:                                    Yes
Showers:                                 Yes
Dump station:                         Yes
WiFi:                                       No
Level sites:                              Yes
Laundry:                                  No
Store:                                      Souvenirs and small food items
Pool:                                        No
Shade:                                    Yes
Verizon reception:                   None (2 bars of 4G with signal boost)
Internet reception:                   None (3 bars of 4G with signal boost)
Cost:                                        $13 / night

Lake view from my site, which wasn't a "Lake View" site.
The park charges $5 extra for what it considers "Lakeside" sites and these are denoted with a special colored card on the campsite post.  As I drove through the loops to select my site I noticed a few Lakeside sites where access to the lake would be iffy, as in having to drag your kayak through a  hundred feet or so of trees and brush.  At the same time there were several non-Lakeside sites that almost had as good a view so for $5 less  I chose one of those.

Rental canoes are available for rent from the park office.
There is a 1.5 mile hiking trail through the thick trees along the lake and a 6.5 mountain bike trail at the park. not as much as at the bigger Texas state parks but Martin Creek Lake is one of the smaller parks.

The hiking path along the lake side.
One out-of-the-ordinary feature at the park was this small amphitheater with a movie screen where I guess you could show films if you had one of those HD projectors.

I wonder if the mosquitoes get a concession here?
 There is a lighted fishing pier and a wide boat launch path near a loop that contains about a dozen little cabins that you could rent if you were a car camper and RV-less.

The boat launch ramp and lighted fishing pier.
CAVEAT:  You can probably tell I enjoyed my stay but Martin Creek Lake State Park has a serious issue that they need to address because it (they) aren't going to go away by themselves.  That problem is ants.  Not Fire Ants (thankfully) but some other non-biting but very territorially aggressive (as in they want into YOUR territory) strain.  The ranger warns campers about the ants at check-in and I was advised to spray a circle of Raid on the ground around each of the Tank's four tires to keep the ants from climbing aboard.  I did that only to find the next morning that the ants had climbed up the Tank's electrical cord and were attempting ingress through the electrical socket.  I "Raided" hundreds but was still killing ants inside the camper two days after I left the park.  Some sort of campsite ant treatment program needs to be instituted quickly to keep this nice little park camping experience from being ruined.  You may want to call the park office prior to driving up and inquire about the current ant situation.

At $13 per night Martin Creek Lake State Park is one of the best values in the Texas State Park system and offers a varied recreation opportunity for almost everyone.  I really enjoyed the quiet and solitude to be had there.

Thanks for reading! 

Monday, June 1, 2015

Getting Out While the Getting Is Good

I outlasted the wettest May in Houston's history (or at least as long as they've kept records) and completed my temp work assignment at the Home Depot on the 31st.  I was a little sad to leave my co-worker friends I had made but let them know that Home Depot management refused to accept my resignation and insisted that if I return to west Houston I would be rehired "on the spot" which was pretty cool.  Speaking of anything but cool....

Note the Tank's internal temperature in the lower right corner!
I took the above picture of the Tank's chronometer two days before my last shift.  I really couldn't have stayed much longer in Houston, at least if I intended to keep urban camping without hookups to run the Tank's AC.  The record setting rain kept the skies cloudy a lot of the time too.  Normally May in Houston is four or five degrees warmer than it was this year.

So I should be posting more frequently now that I'll have more variety in subject matter as I first travel to the western Chicago suburbs to see my brother and his family, then continue north through Wisconsin and across the Upper Peninsula of Michigan before heading down to see the members of my family, including my Dad, in Midland, Michigan.  Really looking forward to sub-92 degree weather!

Thanks for reading!