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When Diane (the DW or dear wife) and I made the decision to retire and use our motorhome to explore we really had no idea as to where we were going, where we would stay or how long we would stay. This by (our) definition is the RV life. We did learn that we love the RV state park life.
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Prior to hanging up the uniform of the working life our focus of camping and RVing had always been either boon docking or luxury stays in the excellent state parks. From time to time, we tried the destination resort style campgrounds and found them to be fun but overly crowded for our taste. Yes, there was more to do, watch and see but those were not the reasons we were wanting to “get away”.
We are RV state park life and forest campground fans. These campgrounds as a rule are close to nature. The state park offers large sites, power, water (most of the time) and a central place to dump your tanks. Additionally, you get a fire ring, picnic table and security. Most are quiet except for the occasional rowdy group. All are built in landscapes that promote being out of doors. Be them the deep woods of northern Michigan to the farmlands of the Midwest.
The forest campground is more basic. Water is often by a hand pump. Toilets are commonly pit toilets and security tends to be a bit less. On the upside the sites are more private, more camping in the woods “boon docking” with neighbors. The prices vary with the state parks often being a bit less than the local privately owned and the forest campgrounds being very reasonable.
Of the states we have traveled to we have found all the states to nicely maintain their facilities. Some in the Southeastern states easily rival destination type resorts in terms of amenities. The downside is that the stay is often limited to 14 days. For the RVer that wants to spend a month or two they will find themselves having to leave the site if not the park for a 24-hour period before they can spend another two weeks.
There are ways around this rule. The simplest is to volunteer as a park worker or host camper. This group of campers provides a valuable service to the park and to their fellow campers. The upside is in exchange for 10 or 20 “work” hours a week the site is free. The states of Southeastern United States have perfected this “host” program to a fine art. Another method to extend your stay is available for the couple. When you make a reservation, the husband makes a two-week reservation, and the wife makes a separate two-week reservation back-to-back on the same site.
If you are an outdoor person, the public campgrounds have a lot to offer. For us, peace and quiet was high on the list. The bonus (s) were miles of hiking trails, interpreted nature trails, fishing, photography, hunting and historic sites that are off the beaten path of modern civilization. Park rangers offer activities for adults and children. On our last trip “civilization” was easily within a thirty-minute drive at every park except for one that was in the center of Saint Marks National Wildlife Refuge in Northern Florida. That park had so much wildlife that we hated to leave even to go site seeing or pick up supplies.
One of the real pluses we enjoyed with the RV state park life was sharing nature with like-minded people also camping at the park. You tend to make temporary friends very quickly with people that share your love for the outdoors. On return to camp from one of my photo expeditions I had the opportunity to meet a lady who was just returning from a twenty-five-mile kayak paddle. She and her friends were all in their sixties and excited about what they had just accomplished. A gentleman I came across on the trails was also into photography. He and I talked about nature photography and shared ideas and information for over a half hour before going on our separate ways. He turned out to have his Doctorate as a Naturalist and had been working the preserve for a decade. He was loaded with information. When RVing in the state or federal lands the people you meet are the best and always willing to share.
The summer months offer warm weather, star filled nights and bugs. A wide variety of bugs. While the privately operated camps do their best to minimize bugs the public camps see the crawly little critters as part of the experience. Come prepared and you can keep the little critters at bay. Summer also brings out the family camps, a lot of them on weekends and many on weeklong camping trips. If you happen to be traveling to some of the more popular areas, I suggest you pay extra to get a reservation. Yes, campground reservations are not like hotel reservations, you must pay for the privilege of making a reservation.
If you are on a budget or simply hate the thought of paying for the privilege, you may try arriving on a Sunday when most of the weekend campers are heading home. Arrive early in the day to boost your chances of getting one of the nicer sites. We tend not to worry about reservations during the week but give the idea serious consideration for weekend camping. A travel pattern that works for us is to arrive on Tuesday and stay through the next Tuesday. Even then you may be forced to move as someone has reserved the site you have grown to love when on their weekend outing.
If you are looking to spend a few weeks or better yet the summer on the road spend time checking out our nation's fantastic public operated campgrounds. You will be glad you made the effort.
Now you know why we love the RV state park life so much.
Micheal “Mike” Whelan is a retired wild land firefighter. He and his wife Diane recently retired with one goal of traveling and learning the true history of North America. By true history he means the culture, the people, who their people were and why they live, where they do and how they live. Mike retired from the emergency services in 1995, first working as a consultant and in 2001 starting a software business. The first product was scheduled to be released on September 10. When the attack came on September 11th the old product was shelved and immediately scaled to service the new requirements of the emergency responders. The intended local business went national the following year.
caused extensive travel across the U.S. and parts of Canada, always
working, and never having time to visit and get to know the people.
The business was sold in 2015. Mike and Diane decided to get their
affairs in order and begin visiting all the places as tourists, often becoming emerged in the local culture. They are part
timers of snow birders having no desire to sell everything and hit
the road. Now retired and no longer “working” from their RV on
the road their adventure is just beginning.
The travel adventure includes extended two- or three-month travels as well as short one- or two-week trips in their 2003 Winnebago Adventurer. On long trips they take their “toad” (a 2014 Jeep Wrangler). Mike and Diane are photographers and explorers. Much of Mikes photo time is nature photography, Diane captures people, the unusual, often seen but seldom observed. They live in Traverse City, Michigan (a tourist capital in its own right) and use their motor home to visit their children and grandchild. Blog site is http://michealwhelan.wix.com/whelans-on-the-road