Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Campground Review: Venango Park Marquette, KS

I'd blown it by not lining up a Memorial Day campsite.  I had wanted to camp at the Corps of Engineers park on Kanopolis Lake near Marquette, KS but I had put off trying to secure a site and when I finally did try all the full hookup sites were reserved.  In a Hail Mary I drove to the park anyway hoping for a cancellation I could snap up or, failing that, a boondocking spot that would have a sub-optimal location away from the lake.

Beautiful Kanopolis Lake.
The ranger station where you check in was closed for an hour at lunch when I arrived so I drove around the camping loops seeing nothing but "Reserved" signs on the campsites until I got to site sign!  I parked the Tank in the site to "reserve" it and waited for the rangers to get back from lunch.  When I went to register the site the ranger said "Oh yeah, 29 doesn't have hookups so most campers ignore it."

Site A29, the site nobody wanted, right on the lake!
So having a solar setup allowed me to get a premier site on a major holiday weekend that nobody else wanted (I was still pretty lucky!).

Here's the Venango Park data sheet:

Hookups:                                             30 & 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:                                                   No                                                      
Level sites:                                          Yes                                                                 
Laundry:                                              No                                                                              
Store:                                                  No                                                                              
Pool:                                                   No                                                                  
Shade:                                                Yes                                                                 
Verizon reception:                              4G, 3 Bars                                                      
Internet reception:                              3 bars              
Cost:                                                 $18/night for full hookups, $12/night no hookups

My daily rate was supposed to have been $12 / night since I had no hookups but by playing my Senior Pass my rate was reduced to $6 night....on a major holiday weekend!  The pass costs $10 and is good for life.  It offers holders a 50% discount at all Federal campgrounds, areas administered by the Corps of Engineers (like this one) and will probably pay back the $10 it costs the first time you use it.

Cost me $10 and saved me $18 this use alone.
My campsite was on the eastern end of Venango Park and during one of my walks I discovered how big the park is.  About two miles from my site was the swimming area.

Venango Park's sandy swim area.
On my return walk from the swim area I ran into this guy just outside the Tank's campsite:

Wild Turkey anyone?
Every Corps of Engineers park I've visited has been meticulously maintained with immaculate restrooms and Venango Park is no exception.  I screwed up by not camping in Kansas for my first three years full-timing in the Tank.  There are a lot of great camping locations in the state and I'll be back to camp them in the future.

Thanks for reading! 

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Campground Review: Beymer Water Recreation Park Lakin, KS

As I continued my journey to Michigan's Upper Peninsula I stopped at the Beymer Water Recreation Park just south of Lakin, KS in western Kansas for a brief two day stay.

Donate the land and there's a decent chance they name it after you.
The park is located in the middle of farm country on the west side of Kansas Hwy 25.  It's not boondocking because there's a $10 per night charge but for the $10 you get a 30 amp electric site and access to very clean bathrooms with a hot shower and access to garbage service.

$10 per night is a decent deal for an electric site.
The park has eight campsites, number one was occupied when I arrived so I went to the other end and occupied number eight next to a picnic pavilion.

My site was to the right of this pavilion. 
The park has two ponds but both were way down in level during my stay.

This pond used to be about ten feet deeper.
I asked the park caretaker why the water level was so low and he said that while there had been a slight drought the main reason is that agriculture irrigation had lowered the water table in the area significantly.

Here's the park data sheet:

Hookups:                                             30 amp, water                                    
Fire ring:                                              No                                          
Water Access:                                     Yes                             
Fresh Water:                                        Yes                 
Trash Service:                                      Yes                 
Toilets:                                                Yes                 
Showers:                                             Yes                             
Dump station:                                      No                  
WiFi:                                                   No                  
Level sites:                                          Yes                 
Laundry:                                              No                              
Store:                                                  No                                          
Pool:                                                   No                  
Shade:                                                 Yes                 
Verizon reception:                                4G, 3 bars                   
Internet reception:                                3 Bars             
Cost:                                                  $10 per night

During my mid-week stay no local residents visited their nice little park which seemed surprising to me as there were several play areas for kids that were all in good repair and the caretaker apparently takes excellent care of the park in general.

Where's the kids?
I've mentioned previously that this was the first time taking the Tank through Kansas and I've been pleasantly surprised by the number of free or reasonably priced camping areas there are in the state.  I found Beymer Park to be a nice, quiet place to stop over for a few days and I would definitely stay there again if I'm ever in the area.

Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Don't Be "Those Guys"

I woke this morning around 7am and was lying half asleep in my bed when...

The van owner was much more thoughtful of his fellow campers than the guy below, his generator must be on an auto-start program because it started up at 1:30am and 3:45am (I checked my smart phone after I got woke up).

Two words:  solar power!  Solar panels have gotten so much more affordable today than even when I installed mine on the roof of the Tank it's hard to understand why more people don't use them when camping.

The Tank's solar install.  Wish that vent hatch hadn't blown off.

If the reason for not utilizing solar panels was not wanting to permanently install them on the RV in question then the answer is using portable panels like the two panel setups that fold up like a suitcase when not in use.   There are even flexible panels now that are like long strips of plastic that roll up when not in use.

Anyway.....don't be those guys!

Thanks for reading!

Monday, June 6, 2016

Three Years a Nomad

Three years ago today I closed the sale on my house in Katy, TX and began full-timing in the Tank.

I lived in this house longer than anywhere in my life!
At the side of this blog you can note all the states I've camped in, basically all but the eastern portion of the country.  I've been asked a few times which is more expensive, living in a house or full-timing in an RV.  The answer is that it varies by individual circumstances.  In my case I was still making mortgage payments on my 30 year mortgage (I sold the house in it's 19th year) so for me full-timing meant a very drastic reduction in my monthly living expenses, even when gas was $4.00 + a gallon.  I boondock so often now (which is free of charge) that it's rare that my monthly camping cost exceeds $150 which would include state parks and places that charge an overnight fee.  When I was living in the nice home in the picture above my mortgage payment was $1300 a month and utilities probably averaged another $250 a month.  My neighborhood association fee was $80 a month making my monthly tab something north of $1600!  And I skipped landscaping costs by mowing my own lawn (which I hated doing).  You might think that I spend a ton on gas since the Tank only gets 11 mpg but, with the exception of times like the last few weeks when I relocate from the Southwest back to Michigan, I tend to find places I like to boondock and stay there.  Often time the pickup doesn't get started for a week to ten days!

Antero Reservoir in central Colorado, I stayed until I ran out of food!
I've really enjoyed the last three years and I don't regret heading out one bit.  I became convinced that my house and all my belongings and "stuff" were really a gigantic anchor holding me in place so I got rid of them and don't regret that either.  I hope the mostly strangers I gave the "stuff" to have used and enjoyed it.  In my view I was transferring my "anchors" to them but I know they probably didn't see it that way.  I hope you've enjoyed the three years of this blog, I'll keep finding places to camp and blog about it.

Thanks for reading!


Thursday, June 2, 2016

Return to Maxwell National Wildlife Preserve Maxwell, NM

Back in October of 2013 when I had a whole three months of full-timing under my belt I visited the Maxwell National Wildlife Preserve in northeast New Mexico.  I reviewed it here:  Maxwell Wildlife Review .  The Lake 13 (that's it's real name) was so low from drought at the time the camping experience then was somewhat diminished so when I heard that the lake had refilled I made plans to return.

Someone got real creative in naming the lake.
When I pulled into the campground with the Tank I could barely believe I was at the same place I'd camped three years ago.

Lake 13 refilled!
For the first of my three nights I had the campground completely to myself.

The Tank all by it's little lonely.
My first campground review didn't include a data sheet on Maxwell so here's one:

Hookups:                                             None                                      
Fire ring:                                              No                              
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:                                                 No                              
Verizon reception:                                4G, 2 bars                               
Internet reception:                                2 bars              
Cost:                                                  Free for up to 3 days

This time I had a reason to take the kayak off the Tank's roof.

The early morning water was like glass.
 Lake 13's comeback from what was almost a big mud puddle to where it is now is just amazing!  The Maxwell National Wildlife Preserve is one of my all-time favorite boondocking spots.  Only bad thing is you only get to stay three days!

Thanks for reading!