There is no substitution for the experience of a long trip. By the time you return you will
Know all you needed to know before you left, but the trip would have been more comfortable and more enjoyable if you knew what you needed to know beforehand. This is both, a Guidebook for new RV users who have pets, as well as a sharing of knowledge of the good stops along the way.
We wish that all the campsites and fun places always stayed exactly as we found them. This, of course, is impossible, so please understand that some might have changed since we were last there. It is our hope that the information we set down here will provide you with fewer hours of worry and more hours for fun.
For the most part, we will share our helpful hints in a narrative fashion, as we encountered the situations which prompted them. We have tried to put as much advice that would be useful in starting a trip at the very beginning as we prepared for our trips. We hope that this will help you have smooth roads in far places and return you safely from your journey.
Tiger's Travels - Chapter 1
Great traveling companions aren't born. They're made. Especially if they are pets!
Different pets will have different affinities for motor travel and different breeds will react to new experiences according to their temperament. Some pets may require more training for a longer trip. Although we offer many tips for training a traveling pet in this chapter, please check with your veterinarian for advice on how to best train your pet.
If you haven't acquired a pet yet and are considering getting one, plan on at least a year or two of training before taking your new friend with you on trips. Basic house training and obedience training must be completed before introducing your dog to new and changing environments every day. It takes several months to get puppies attitudes sublimated to the desire to please and even longer for them to obey commands consistently. When we decided to get Tiger we were almost two years away from retirement and we planned on 15 years or so of reasonably good health to care for a dog. We had long been considering getting a pet, but never got to the "lets look for one" stage. One weekend, while we were going to a local boat show with my daughter and her husband, my daughter suggested we stop by the Humane Society and look at the puppies. We decided to go, even though my wife hesitated for fear she would end up bringing home all the dogs instead of just one. My son-in-law went into the puppy yard and walked out with a four-pound bundle of fur with big paws and handed it to my wife.
Tip#1. If you put a puppy in your wife's arms and it starts to lick her face and whimper, she is not going to leave it there. Tiger's feet didn't seem all that big at the time and he had bright eyes and nice markings. It was either leave my wife or take them both home. That little four-pound bundle of fur is now 90 pounds and races my wife to the front seat of the RV as soon as I turn the key.
Libraries and pet stores have books on how to select pets and I recommend you ask a veterinarian to guide you in making your selection. The choice of a pet is very personal, but I like to think that the dog picks you. Even if breeding is important, a trip to the local Humane Society may produce some favorable surprises. A small dog is easier to care for in small quarters and takes up less space. I feel a larger dog, though, offers a better sense of security and protection than a smaller dog. On many moonlit night walks through the woods or in towns in remote areas, I never became worried for safety with Tiger. His bark commands attention and his warning growl rumbles half a football field and would give a linebacker reason to pause.
Obedience training is important. It has to be in place before you leave and reinforced before each trip. When we are home we live a different life style and we tend to be more lenient with Tiger. What occurs at home on our block and in the neighborhood with friends that are acceptable and even liked may not be at all acceptable behavior while in a campground and around strangers. Your dog must consistently obey "Sit", "Stay", and "Come." Tiger also obeys an "On Guard" command as well as OK, which calms him down after being on guard. You may also want to train your dog to "Go Potty." It is helpful to know that a dog requires exercise to stay regular and to move the bowels. Realize that while traveling, your pet has been sitting or lying down for several hours and needs to run a little before he will "Go Potty." Frequent stops about every 2 or 3 hours is necessary for dog walks. We usually stop at a rest area where my wife prepares lunch or a quick snack while Tiger & I take a walk.
In addition to training your pet, let your pet train you or rather teach you a few things about him. Your dog talks to you in many ways. He talks by sound, body language and eye contact. Start with the premise that a good dog is always trying to please you. When he wants to bring something to your attention he does it in the language of sounds. A quick sharp bark can be saying "pay attention to me" or "let's go now". When the bark is repetitive it may mean "someone's coming." When the bark becomes loud and angry he may be saying, "someone's coming that I don't know and that I am unfamiliar with." The recognition of what your pet is telling you is important for your pet to continue to communicate with you. Learn to listen to your pet and to acknowledge understanding of what your pet has told you.
Body language also plays an important role in how your dog communicates with you. Of course, the wagging of the tail tells you "I'm happy." When your pet wants you to play he will bow down on his forefeet. When your pet senses danger his ears will straighten, his hair will stand up, and he may seem to not pay attention to your voice for several seconds. When Tiger and I were walking one morning, he stopped in the middle of the path and refused to go any further. I could have forced him to continue by command, but he was happy walking the other direction so I chose to listen to him. When we returned to the RV, other campers had spotted a grizzly bear in the direction that we had originally headed towards. Your strong insistent command to "walk" with a tug on the leash or pulling him up tight on a short leash and turning him in the direction you want to go will override his reluctance, but it is not always wise to do so.
Everyone is familiar with the point of a bird dog. Your pet's stance, along with the position of his ears and the fur on his coat will help communicate what your dog is pointing at. Tiger points, but not usually at birds. He points at something he smells, hears, or senses. He lets us know when an animal is close by, often wanting to chase it. We don't let him of course, especially after we saw him pointing at two skunks on one of our morning walks. If your pet is quivering and his ears are flat, your pet might be frightened of what he sees, hears, or senses. Petting and stroking your dog and keeping him close to your body will help calm him. Tiger is afraid of thunder and lightning. A bolt of lightning struck six feet away from the RV with an explosive sound and a fireball of light. Fortunately, Tiger was in my wife's lap and she covered his ears with her hands. We found that music will relax Tiger. We also cheerfully tell him that "everything's all right." If you are cheerful and confident, than your pet will be too.
We started getting Tiger ready for traveling with our car and short trips to the grocery store. In the beginning we always gave Tiger a biscuit when he got in the backseat of the car to keep him occupied until we were moving. Pets can get motion sickness just like humans. We found that a small amount of VANILLA ice cream (never, never chocolate!)will settle Tiger's stomach and prevent motion sickness. Two tablespoons of ice cream is enough to settle digestive enzymes in a large dog. While on the road, soft-serve ice cream from fast food restaurants works very well. As the trips became longer, Tiger began to be at home in the car and looked forward to going for a ride.
As experience in the car and motor home grows, you can gradually introduce outside noise to your pet by opening windows. Care should be taken to keep forceful wind out of your dog's nose and ears. We are glad to have the old wing windows in our Class C just for this reason. Be careful to secure loose items in the RV before leaving to prevent falling objects and loud noises that might frighten your pet. On one of our first long trips with Tiger, we forgot to secure a mini television set. As soon as we pulled out of the driveway the television set came crashing down next to Tiger as he was lying on the floor. To this day, Tiger always sits in the front passenger seat until we are moving for a few minutes before lying down.
When you leave your dog in your RV for a while, ventilation must be adequate even in moderate temperatures. We highly recommend an automatic vent fan sold in most RV supply stores. This vent opens automatically at a temperature you choose, turns on the fan upon opening and closes automatically when it rains. This fan, together with the top vent cracked and the side windows slightly open will assure an adequate flow of fresh air for your pet. We also leave the generator running and the air conditioning on low- cool in hot weather; with the automatic vent on a preset temperature, as a backup to open and go on should the generator stall and the A/C shut off. We usually leave the blinds on the sidewalk side of the RV drawn when in town. This prevents anyone loitering nearby from looking in as well as keeping the sun out. Anyone looking in would have to do it from the traffic lane or through the front window where Tiger will let anyone know not to get too close. Always be sure to return in a reasonable amount of time to care for your dog's needs. We recommend leaving your pet alone for no longer than four hours at a time.
We've missed very little and gained much by having Tiger on our trips. He requires as much preparation as we do. Humans need passports and proof of citizenship to travel and your dog will need his papers to travel. Your veterinarian can provide you with proof of shots and good health. These are required to cross borders and, if necessary, to board your pet in a kennel in an emergency. We have never boarded Tiger.
The license is both an identification tag and proof that your pet's rabies vaccinations are up to date. However, we suggest you attach an additional tag to your pet's collar with your name, your telephone number, and if you have the service, your number to leave a voice-mail message. On excursions in isolated areas it may be tempting to let your dog out on his own, especially if it's early in the morning. Don't ever do this without his collar with his identification. Without you nearby he can wander and explore. His senses may be good, but in strange surroundings he may not be able to find his way back to you. On our last trip we camped in an isolated area by a river. I walked upstream one day and ran into a man looking for his dog. He had camped at the same location two weeks before and was stopping periodically to see if his dog had been found. It is best not to let your pet out of your range of vision and voice in unfamiliar territory, but if your pet has identification tags you have a good chance of getting your pet back if he is lost.
Tiger's Travels - Chapter
Planning the Trip
The secret of worry free traveling is planning for every contingency and having a backup plan readily available if problems arise. Start by choosing a RV that is mechanically good and is right for your needs. But, as the saying goes, "If it has wheels, it's gonna have to be fixed!" My ace-in-the-hole on automotive breakdowns has always been to initially purchase value in the vehicle so that you don't mind spending money on it if you have to. I purchased my RV at a price that allowed me to recondition it mechanically before I left. I overhauled the engine, replaced the transmission and replaced the tires. I could still afford to drop in a new engine and be ahead of cost on the vehicle when compared to buying a brand new RV. Some folks will prefer a shiny new rig; however, an older unit has advantages. First of all, you can refurbish the interior to your liking and not be bound to dealer restrictions on choice.
Secondly, an older unit does not draw as much attention from would-be thieves. And finally, you will feel more comfortable taking the rough roads and parking your RV in the trees and bushes since you won't be as worried about scratching the paint. Routine maintenance will keep repairs to a minimum and even the newest of RV's require repairs. Be sure that your warranty, insurance, and towing agreements are readily available should you require roadside assistance. Also make all necessary repairs to your RV before you leave home. If something "ain't broke", but looks like it may not last long, fix it. One last thought about RV repairs. Always allow a few extra days for repairs in your itinerary just in case you need them.
Let's discuss itineraries since I brought it up. Everyone has one and they stink, if you stick to them. Except for meeting up with friends at a particular place in time, I've tried hard not to be anywhere at any certain time. The whole idea of leisurely RV travel is to do it at your own pace. If you have to make reservations, always allow an extra day or two to take the pressure off driving a long distance if you happen to get sidetracked. And as contradictory as it may sound, making itineraries is fun!
Planning my retirement trip was detailed and precise, day by day, down to specific parks on specific days and to see specific points of interest nearby. Estimated driving times and scenic stopping points for breaks were all duly noted down and maps were marked and placed in sequence. I spent weeks of evenings planning just two or three days. It kept me sane for at least the last six weeks before I retired! Planning our trip was fun and the anticipation going to all the places we planned was thrilling. Out of 150 carefully planned days, we actually were "on schedule" to only 2 of them. We just didn't bother to go from "A" to "B" if "C" seemed more interesting. We also stayed in places as long as we wanted or skipped stops that just didn't seem worthwhile.
An itinerary should give you a general overview of your trip. (See figure 2.1). This is a sample itinerary that we have devised for our trips. Changes and notations can be made directly on the calendar. Directions to campgrounds and pertinent information follow the calendar overview. The idea is to have a campground target for the day you start out, know the directions to get there before you leave, and be willing to go somewhere else as time and interests dictate. Unless you require full hookups to be comfortable at night, reservations are largely unnecessary.
However, getting to a campground before 3 P.M. is advisable or it may be filled. Having the capability of being totally self-contained with a full water tank, empty waste tanks, and a generator to provide your own electric makes it easier in case you're required to stay in an overflow area during crowded season. We provide copies of our itinerary to family and to friends who might want to meet us along the way. Knowing that we deviate from our plans, our son at home is our message center for anyone wishing to contact us. We phone home once a week, rotating weeks between our son and our daughter. They keep each other informed and pass on any messages to us. We also keep a cellular phone and a CB radio for emergencies. Another option to keep the communication lines open, is an 800-message center where you can collect and leave messages.
In your planning of where to go, the "where" is often determined by services of campgrounds and whether or not they accept pets. You will frequently want to select your next stop based on your needs to dump, refill water, or to do laundry. I always prefer to have full fresh water and empty waste tanks while traveling to enable me to stay anywhere, regardless of hookups. However, some people prefer to have minimum fresh water in transit to cut down on weight and fuel consumption. We have "dry" camped for up to 10 days with careful water management. There are faucet attachments that save two-thirds of "sink wasted" water available at RV supply stores. These screw into most faucets and require a "push" pressure or the water stops. It saves a lot of water, rinsing dishes, or brushing teeth, where water is usually left on.
Also be mindful that while traveling with a pet, make sure that the campground you've selected allows pets. It has always bothered me that my home state, Florida, does not allow pets in all state owned campgrounds.
This is starting to change, but they charge extra where they do accept pets. There are plenty of resources that can provide you with information on campgrounds that accept pets. Below are just a few that you can write to and ask for information. Specific state and regional addresses for federal, state, and county parks are listed in the appendix. After you gather the information, you might consider storing it alphabetically by state in large envelopes for easy reference.
Private campground directories are available from camping stores and RV clubs. A few of the good ones are Trailer Life Campground/RV Park Directory, Woodall's Campground Directory of
1 - THURSDAY
11 - SUNDAY
Henry's Lake Camp State Park
21 - WEDNESDAY
Libby Dam, Montana
2 - FRIDAY
Harry S. Truman
Lake & Dam
12 - MONDAY
Fishing Bridge Campground
22 - THURSDAY
Kootenay National Park
CANADA (Divert to Macdonald lake Glacier National
3 - SATURDAY
Harry S. Truman
Lake & Dam
13 - TUESDAY
Fishing Bridge Campground
23 - FRIDAY
Jasper National Park
4 - SUNDAY
Corp of Army Engineers
14 - WEDNESDAY
Island Lake Camp Hwy. 27
(Divert to N. Of Red Lodge.)
24 - SATURDAY
Jasper National Park
5 - MONDAY
15 - THURSDAY
Island Lake Camp
25 - SUNDAY
Jasper National Park
6 - TUESDAY
16 - FRIDAY
Buffalo Bill State Park
26 - MONDAY
7 - WEDNESDAY
Jackson Lake Reservoir
17 - SATURDAY
Jackson Hole, Wyoming
27 - TUESDAY
Mc Leod Lake
8 - THURSDAY
Deer Run Or Buckboard Crossing Flaming Gorge National Rec. Area
Wyoming & Utah Border
18 - SUNDAY
Clark Canyon Reservoir
Near Dillon, Montana
28 - WEDNESDAY
Ft. St. John
9 - FRIDAY
19 - MONDAY
Clark Canyon Reservoir
29 - THURSDAY
Ft. St. John
10 - SATURDAY
8 Mile Canyon
20 - TUESDAY
30 - FRIDAY
Figure 2.1 (contd.)
- June 1 - Thursday Route 12 N to 79 NW to Paducah, 62 W to 286 W through Cairo, 60 W at Poplar Bluff 67 N to 49 W through Williamsville, 34 N to HH road at Piedmont, (5 miles W) to Clearwater Lake, US Corps of Army Engineers, Missouri.
- June 2 - Friday 34 SW to 60 W to 125 N before Springfield to 65 N to 7 W at Warsaw, (1 mile N of Warsaw), Harry St. Truman Dam & Reservoir, Corps of Army Engineers.
- June 4 - Sunday 7 W to 71 N, 70 W to 232 N, (Exit 206), to Wilson Lake, Corps of Army Engineers, Wilson Lake State Park, Kansas.
- June 6 - Tuesday 70 W to 183 past Alma to Harlan County Lake, Corps of Army Engineers Nebraska
- June 7 - Wednesday 136 to 34 W from 183 to 76, stay on 34 W to 76 W to 144 W at Ft. Morgan (Stop for County water), 144 W to Goodrich, W to Jackson Reservoir, Colorado State Park
- June 8 - Thursday 144 W to 34 W to 25 N to 80 W to Green River, Wyoming, Buckboard Crossing. US Forest Service Campground 25 miles S of Green River on WYO 530, then 2 miles E on Forest Service Rd to marina, or into Utah, Flaming Gorge, Deer Run Campground.
- June 9 - Friday Visit Soda Springs with Dale and Eileen. Set up camp at Eight-Mile Canyon. Sat PM Church at Father John's in Soda Springs.
- June 11- Sunday 30 W to Pocatello, 15 N to 20 N at Idaho Falls to Henry's Lake State Park.
- June 12- Monday Call ahead to reserve campsite at Fishing Bridge, Yellowstone M-W. 20 E to W. Yellowstone, camp in park site or stay in W. Yellowstone Town Commercial Site and tour town.
- June 14- Wednesday After touring Yellowstone Park exit NE gate (Silvergate) Cook City through Beartooth if pass is clear and return to Top of the World at Island Lake Forest Service Campground on WYO 212.
- June 16 - Friday 212 W to WYO 296, 47 miles S to WYO 120 then 17 miles S to Cody &
16,20,14 W 9 miles to Buffalo Bill State Park. See Cody night life, dinner in town.
North America, and American Automobile Association RV and Tent Sites. The directories are usually updated once a year. Some parks listed in these directories have resort amenities such as tennis courts, swimming pools, spas, and playgrounds. They usually have paid to have their information listed and may not be listed every year due to the expense.
Public parks and conservation areas are usually managed by one of four groups. The National Park Service manages parks such as Yellowstone National Park and Glacier National Park. Information on National Parks is readily available at camping stores or you can write the U.S. Government Printing Office for "The National Park Camping Guide". The address is:
Superintendent of Documents
U.S. Government Printing Office
Washington DC 20402.
To date, we have found that all National Parks accept pets.
The U.S. Forest Service often maintains campgrounds in many of the forests under its management. Information about campgrounds in U.S. Forests is maintained by region and you must contact the regional forester for information. As part of your request, be sure to mention the size and type of your RV because some campgrounds cannot accommodate 5th wheels or large units. Address your correspondence to The United States Department of Agriculture, Forest Service at one of the addresses listed below:
Regional Forester, Northern Region
Federal Bldg. P.O. Box 7669
Missoula, MT 59807
Regional Forester, Southwestern Region
Federal Bldg. 517 Gold Avenue SW
Albuquerque, NM 87102
Regional Forester, Pacific Southwest
630 Sansome Street
San Francisco, CA 94111
Regional Forester, Rocky Mountain Region
11177 West 8th Avenue P.O. Box 25127
Lakewood, CO 80225
Regional Forester, Intermountain
Federal Bldg. 324 25th Street
Ogden, UT 84401
Regional Forester, Pacific Northwest Region
319 SW Pine Street, P.O. Box 3623
Portland, OR 97208
Regional Forester, Eastern Region
310 West Wisconsin Avenue
Milwaukee, WI 53203
Regional Forester, Southern Region
1720 Peachtree Road NW
Atlanta, GA 30367
Regional Forester, Alaska Region
Federal Office Bldg. P.O. Box 1628
Juneau, AK 99802
We have found some of the best campsites are in U.S. Forests and they all accepts pets.
By far, the best campsites, we have encountered are managed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers manages areas around waterways such as dams, locks, and rivers. They often establish campgrounds for travelers to enjoy. The campsites are very well maintained. Water, electric, and shower facilities are available and the sites are almost always level. All allow pets on leashes. The campsites are reasonably priced at approximately $15.00 per night and offer half-price discounts for Senior citizens, with the Golden Pass. Unfortunately, some of these campgrounds have recently been turned over to state and county management locally. They have suffered a loss of sites available to national travelers with almost summer-long communities being established by local people. We found this was the case in the Ohio Valley area where former US Army Corps of Engineers Parks created by federal funds has been given over to local water districts management.
A complete list of campgrounds can be obtained by writing to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers at the address below:
3909 Halls Ferry Rd
Vicksburg, MS 39180-6199
You may obtain maps and directions to specific campgrounds by listing a regional recreation area from the list below:
Lakeside Recreation in New England-EP 1130-2-419
Lakeside Recreation in Mid Atlantic States-EP 1130-2-420
Lakeside Recreation in the Southeast-EP 1130-2-421
Lakeside Recreation in the Great Lake States-EP 1130-2-422
Lakeside Recreation in the Upper Mississippi-EP 1130-2-423
Lakeside Recreation in the South Central States-EP1130-2-425
Lakeside Recreation in the Great Plains-EP 1130-2-426
Lakeside Recreation in the Northwest-EP 1130 2-427
Lakeside Recreation in the Southwest-EP 1130-2-428.
Finally, the Bureau of Land Management also manages tracks of land and permit camping on the land. The land is usually leased in order to preserve the land from development and to keep the land useful in the public domain. The areas are usually used for watershed, grazing, or for recreational purposes. Most of the areas only offer primitive campsites, but many accessible and comfortable sites can be found in the western and northern U.S. Some of the best "dry" camping we've done was on these wide-open spaces of land. You may obtain maps and campsite information by writing to the U.S. Department of the Interior, Bureau of Land Management at one of the regional offices listed below.
Alaska State Office
702 C Street Box 13
Anchorage, AK 99513
Arizona State Office
3707 North 7th Street
P.O. Box 16563
Phoenix, AZ 85011
California State Office
2800 Cottage Way, E-2841
Sacramento, CA 95825-1889
Idaho State Office
3380 Americana Terrace
Boise, ID 83706
Montana State Office
222 North 32nd Street
P.O. Box 36800
Billings, MT 59107-6800
Utah State Office
324 South State Street, Suite 301
Co-ordinated Financial Svcs. Bldg.
Salt Lake City, UT 84111-2303
Nevada State Office
850 Harvard Way
P.O. Box 12000
Reno, NV 89520
Oregon State Office
825 NE Multnomah Street
P.O. Box 2965
Portland, OR 97208
New Mexico State Office
Joseph J.Montoya Federal Bldg.
South Federal Place, P.O. Box 1449
Santa Fe, NM 87504-1449
Wyoming State Office
2515 Warren Avenue
P.O. Box 1828
Cheyenne, WY 82003.
Municipal Tourists bureaus and Chamber of Commerce will also provide a wealth of information. As you enter most states and provinces you will usually find a welcome station. Road maps often list state parks and campsites by symbols such as a tree or a tent. Maps may also provide a key to identify services provided at campsites. If you are traveling to Canada it is best to write to provincial government agencies and regional tourist bureaus rather than relying on the National Bureau of Tourism. A listing of those agencies and tourist bureaus is located in the appendix.
Now that you know where to go, it is time to start planning what to bring with you. Our first experience in a RV was with one we rented. As part of the briefing on the use of the vehicle we were provided with a small checklist verifying that all required items were on board. We thought the checklist was a good idea so we developed our own. We separated the checklist into categories for ourselves, Tiger, general items, and spare parts and tools. If you intend on doing any outdoor activities that require additional gear such as rafting, or backcountry, hiking, we suggest you have separate checklists as well. We also have prepared checklists for leaving in the morning and arriving at a campground in the evening. It may seem like a waste of time to refer to a checklist all the time, but we have seen rigs leaving campgrounds with compartment doors open, having their TV antennas ripped off by trees, and hoses left attached and trailing behind. Below are examples of checklists we have used.
_____ food dish with reserve feeder
_____ 40 lb. Bag of food
_____ jar of dog treats
_____ 50' line and pulley
_____ dog license, health records
_____ flea and tick spray
_____ shampoo, comb, and brush
_____ dog sweater
_____ extra dishes for campground
_____ Heart worm pills
_____video tapes and player
_____personal grooming items
_____stationary and stamps
_____video camera, charger
_____first aid kit
_____ bath and hand towels
_____ oven mitts
_____ skillets and pans
_____ coffee mugs
_____ potato masher
_____ microwave bowls
_____ storage bowls
_____ large fork
_____ salt and pepper/condiments
_____ steak knives
_____ cutting board
_____ ice bucket
As I briefly alluded to before, you should bring some automotive spare parts and tools along with you on your trip. Breakdowns, repairs and maintenance are as much a part of RV travel as is the traveling itself. Prepare for it and take any delays as routine. You should expect to lose time and spend money, making repairs. On 125 miles of unpaved Alaskan highway, screws will back out and unscrew themselves with the constant vibration of the road. Figure 2.3 is an example of our spare parts and tools checklist that may be helpful to you.
_____oil, 10W40 for engine, 15W40 for generator
_____power steering fluid
_____power steering fluid
_____generator air filter
_____weatherstrip adhesive (gorilla glue)
_____antifreeze and spray lubricant
_____jump start cables
_____PVC cement and cleaner
_____assorted clamps, nuts, and bolts
Start loading up a day or two before you plan to leave on your trip. Your refrigerator will need time to reach an adequate temperature for storing food. It's a good idea to already have the food items for the refrigerator already chilled before you put them in your RV. We use our morning and evening checklists to help us get started. These we keep handy on a clipboard since we use them so often.
_____Stow electric line and plug in converter box.
_____Open propane valve and turn refrigerator propane on.
_____Check all pilot lights, stove and oven switches are closed.
_____Replace toilet chemicals.
_____Close white water dump valve, check both valves closed.
_____Disconnect sanitation hose, flush out and stow.
_____Disconnect waterline and stow.
_____Bicycles secured and tarp tied down.
_____Exterior compartments closed.
_____TV antenna in down position.
_____Rear door locked, step in.
_____All windows and vents (except cab) closed.
_____Refrigerator door latch secure.
_____All interior compartments closed.
_____Bathroom door back and secure, not obstructing rearview mirror.
_____Water pump off.
_____TV on floor of cabinet, VCR down, telephone on floor.
_____Heavy objects down and secured.
_____Pick up leveling blocks during engine warm up and stow.
_____Climb ladder and check roof for open vents.
_____Walk around "rig" for visual check.
_____Pull away from campsite and stop and recheck site.
The above seems pretty straightforward. Remember to make your hookups before it gets dark or rains and pay attention to procedures provided by the manufacturer for your appliances. Preparing for a longer trip should start a week before you leave. Pack clothes for weather you're not planning to encounter until later in your trip first and get clothing stowed, holding on to what you need to get you through the week. There are enough last minute checks the morning you leave without wondering if you are forgetting something. You will realize after a few longer excursions that you can probably leave at home half of what you took with you. Now that you're ready to go, let's get rolling.
_____Level bubbles on dash and refrigerator to level rig.
_____Electrical hook up - verify on microwave.
_____Water hook up - use pressure regulator.
_____Sanitation hook up - wear disposable gloves.
_____Light and turn on water heater.
_____Cover windows, lock all doors except main door.
_____Set up Tiger's running line.
_____Switch refrigerator to electric.
_____Connect TV and telephone hookup.
_____Spray wheels and cloth to tie to electric wire with ant killer and secure.
_____Spray Tiger's legs and paws with tick repellent.
_____Set out chairs and start fire if grilling.
_____Take Tiger for walk.
Tiger's Travels - Chapter 3
Away We Go - Destination Florida
Initial trips should be shakedown cruises. Don't try to do it all on your first trip. A good resort campground, not too far away, will let you get used to your rig with the security of being close to home should any major problem develop. If you have purchased your RV from a dealer under a 30 day warantee; make at least 3 trips to campsites near that dealer within that time; and use all the rigs systems to check everything. A good way to get started is to join a RV club in your area. You will gather many helpful hints on everything involving camping from making repairs to microwave cooking and campfire recipes. Since we live in Largo, Florida, most of our shakedown trips were in the State of Florida. After that we headed to the northwestern United States with a stop here and there along the way.
Just east of Tampa at McIntosh Rd. near exit 9 on Interstate 4 is a resort campground called Green Acres Travel Park. The campground (located on US 92, is just South of the Travel Park) has a lot of shade trees and with full hookup facilities. An overnight stay was about $17. We always like to choose a campsite with a tree we can attach Tiger's pulley line to so he has room to move around outside. This comes in very handy in the mornings when you haven't dressed yourself yet. If there aren't any trees on the site, I run the pulley between the rack on the top of the rig to a corkscrew steel stake designed for holding dog lines. These can be purchased at any pet shop. We never leave Tiger completely alone on his pulley. We may stop to see a few of the neighbors but we always have him in our sight. The campground is located within 40 minutes of downtown Tampa and within 1 hour from Clearwater Beach. The main route to the Clearwater Beach, (Courtney Campbell Causeway), has areas where dogs can run and play in the water. Green Acres Travel Park also has plenty of room to let your pets run and exercise. They also have clean facilities, a swimming pool, and meeting rooms.
When Tiger can't come with us sightseeing, we leave him in the RV with a dog biscuit, which usually keeps him occupied until we are gone. We also give him a "on guard" command that tells him to stay alert. After he finishes his biscuit, he jumps behind the driver's seat and watches us leave. We know that he will bark loudly if anyone comes too close to the RV. On hot days we always leave the air conditioner on and the fan vent open. This may not be very economical, but if the air conditioner stopped for any reason, hot air would leave through the fan vent. Tiger is part Rhodesian- ridgeback, and part Greyhound. Besides being a pretty dog, he has a ridge of hair that measures about 6 inches that stands straight up along his back, even when he is calm. When angry, the ridge of hair runs all the way back to his tail and gives a very threatening appearance.
I once took a computer class at night given by an excellent teacher at the local college. Even though he explained how to get started using a computer, it seemed I was always playing catch-up. Since I had never seen a computer before, I finally realized that while he was talking about booting up programs, I was still trying to find the switch to turn it on. Take it Slowly, don't let anyone rush you! So, while the first thing to do on entering a campground is to select a site, take it slowly and think about the direction you'll want to park in or how you will back your rig in to the site you want. It may not be as easy as it sounds.
When you approach a site that has full hookups, the determining position of your rig on the site will be the length of your sewer hose and the position of the sewer tap. Usually the water hose (I carry 2) is long enough and the electric line (extra-heavy duty extension) is adequate to reach the connections. If it's a "pull-through" site, where you enter from one direction and continue in the same direction when you leave, you simply pull straight in until your sewer valve is in close proximity to the tap. RV magazines continuously print articles on how to back up a rig. All agree that having a guide to help you is the best and safest way. Make sure your guide is in full view of your mirror when he or she stands to the side and not directly behind the RV where you can't see him or her. Also have an agreed upon system of hand signals for stop, left, right, forward, etc. While you can roll your windows down to hear your guide's voice, wind direction or noises from passing motorists, children, or thunder can make it difficult for you to hear.
Most sites in resort campgrounds have sites that are level, but always check the "bubbles" on front-to-back and side-to-side indicators. If you don't have leveling bubbles, you can get them at any RV supply store. The most important reason to be level is to keep the refrigerator working properly and efficiently. Many rigs have automatic hydraulic levelers. I carry two 3" thick boards and a small hand shovel. If you are using boards, remember you have to lift the side you want the bubble to go towards. If most of the bubble is in the center or at the 0-1" mark that's about as good as it gets. You should stay between 0 and 2" to be level. Many campgrounds under the management of the National Forest Service, Corps of Army Engineers, and State Parks do not have sewer connections. Holding tanks are dumped as you leave at a "dump site". Since you don't have to back in close to a sewer connection, you can position the RV on the site for better shade or to have your door close to the grill. Just remember to follow any restrictions on parking such as "Park on Road Surface Only" or "Park Next To Cement Pads Only". Most campgrounds allow for a little latitude in positioning on the campsite. The steps in setting up and breaking down camp are all the same, yet each site will present slightly different challenges.
One destination we particularly like for weekends is Mar-Good Resort in Goodland, Florida. Goodland is a small fishing village just southwest of Marco Island and on the northern end of The 10,000 Islands. It's residents are mostly fisherman or townspeople that cater to tourists. Mar-Good is the only RV campground, but it is mostly a cottage resort having less than 30 hookup sites. The sites are relatively small and are located very close to the cottages. They are also within a few minutes (walking) of a sheltered cove, which provides mooring to about, 50 small boats. Mar-Good Resort, with its rear bar on the water overlooking the cove, has boat docks, a restaurant, grocery store and a WWII movie theater converted into a dance hall. The owners, Sandy and Elhannon, have never been known to turn away a guest. Even if it means parking your rig along the street, next to their store, and running electric and water from a nearby cottage. To take a trip to Mar-Good Resort, take I-75 south to Exit 15. Turn south on Route 951 to US 41 south. Then take State Road 92 southwest to Goodland. After you cross the bridge over the Intracoastal Waterway you will make two left turns (almost a U-turn). A few more minutes through the mangroves and you'll be at Mar-Good
Laid back and quiet, except for Saturday nights, you have arrived in Old Florida! Goodland had a post office, a fish packing plant, marina, restaurants, lounges, motels and cottages. You can walk around the whole town in less than a hour and never be more than 100 yards from the water. We like to rent a flat deck pontoon boat and take Tiger out to the cays and sandy beaches. He likes to swim and play in the water. It's not hard to find a private little island just for yourself. Tiger really enjoys the dolphins when they swim and jump next to the boat. He must think, the dolphin's a strange breed of dogs coming to play with him. Birdwatchers will find an abundance of sea birds along with ospreys, owls and an occasional eagle or two. There are plenty of quiet roads to walk the dog and a few "town" dogs that run loose. They are pretty friendly and are not a problem as long as you control your dog. They are mostly looking for a playful romp. Through our many walks, Tiger has learned the names of other animals. When I walk with him I constantly point out animals and call them by name. He knows and can distinguish between a cat, puppy, big bird (egrets and cranes), birdies, (baa) sheep, (moo) cows, and horses. We call all other dogs, "puppy", regardless of their size or age. Tiger loves to run and chase rabbits and squirrels (though he never comes close to catching one), however, I caution about walking a dog unleashed in Florida. Along with the rabbits and squirrels, we also have alligators that live in the lakes and have, on occasion, made a meal out of a domesticated pet. Evenings in Goodland can be quiet or as lively as you choose. Sit around the dock by the marina or go to the dance hall or one of the many restaurants in town. Stan's usually has entertainment (Stan himself) on either Friday or Saturday night. Don't bother to dress up as nobody will be impressed anyway. Automotive services, banking, malls and churches are only about ½ hour west on US 92 in Marco Island.
A convenient campground in the center of Florida near Orlando is always a must for visitors. For us it is just a short trip and, in an area that is overrun with tourism, there is one campground, Tropical Palms, we favor whenever we go to Orlando. Tropical Palms can be easily reached from I-4 by using exit 25A. Drive southeast on US 192 about one mile to Holiday Trail and turn right. The campground is well maintained and has a swimming pool, outdoor cafe, gift shop, restaurant, cottages, and full facilities. While not inexpensive for a campground, the price is well worth it for the convenient location to Orlando attractions and the friendly atmosphere at the park. In fact, you can walk from the campground to an entertainment and shopping area called Old Town. Old Town has quaint stores, novelty shops, rides and restaurants. On some nights (mostly weekends) a parade of classic cars drives through the streets of Old Town. Tropical Palms is also a good home base for trips to the Kennedy Space Center on the East Coast and the gulf beaches on the west coast of Florida. Pets are not allowed in Orlando attractions, but most do provide a kennel service if you desire. We prefer running our air conditioner for 4 hours and letting Tiger be comfortable in his own rig". Being close to the attractions is important so you can get back quickly after a long day to give your dog plenty of exercise and attention.
Lake Oklawaha RV Resort is not on the way from anywhere and it is not on the way to anywhere, although it is only 45 minutes from I-75 in the Ocala National Forest. It is a destination in itself if you want a day or two of quiet relaxation. This out-of-the-way campground overlooks a large lake (Rodman Reservoir) and has all the hookups and features (swimming pool, showers, clubroom, etc.) as a resort at a very reasonable price. Lake Oklawaha RV Resort has about 500 campsites and is said to have the best bass fishing around. We discovered this campground as guests of a RV club that held a pig roast and fun meeting at the campground. Lake Oklawaha RV Resort is probably one of the best locations for group meetings because it has both the room and a nice, quiet location. You can choose to stay away from the busy areas and pick a campsite up on the bluff or near the woods. To get there take I-75 to exit #72. Then take CR 318 east to Highway 441 and turn south (right) to CR 316 and turn east (left), following 316 through Ft. McCoy and Eureka. When you cross the High Bridge over the Oklawaha River on 316, take the first left at the sign and drive approximately 11 miles to the RV Park. Watch out for the little jog to the right and next turn to the left which 316 makes after you pass US 301. It may not be marked and looks like the road stops, but go right and take the next left and you are back on it.
When traveling with another camper, don't ever try to "convoy", as it is difficult enough to drive one vehicle in traffic, much less two. On one trip we started out with friends who would travel through two states with us. A CB radio came is handy and helped us keep in touch on the road. We determined meeting places for lunch and "doggie breaks" before we left and our campsites were already lined up. Our first stop on that trip was a campground managed by the Army Corps of Engineers on Lake Seminole in Georgia just across the Florida border. It is a little hard to find, but it is just off Woodruff Dam from US 90 in Chattahoochee, Florida. You travel one mile north toward the dam into the park area and past administration buildings to the campground. This is a lakeside campground with electric and water hookups, but no sewer connections. There is a dump station on the way out that is well-designed and easy to use. The campsites are large and separated from each other with grills and fireplaces. Rolling hills are great fun for dogs with plenty of room for Frisbee, frolicking and playing. Watch out for ants at this campground. It is a good idea to spray your tires and connections with a mixture that will discourage ants from crawling up your lines and into your RV. Shower facilities are well maintained and there is a boat launch at the lake. We have spent many nice evenings with friends at Lake Seminole and Tiger especially likes climbing the hills and watching the geese that frequent the lake during migration.
Heading into Georgia we found a nice campsite off US 29 near La Grange at West Point Lake, it is managed by the US Army Corp of Engineers. Called R.Schaeffer Heard Campground, the campground has good facilities with electricity and water hookups. Our campsite, #28, overlooked the lake and we had a nice breeze coming off the water.
Near Flovilla on US 23 you will find Indian Springs State Park. They have electric and water hookups. The campground also has very nice shower and laundry facilities. There is a dump station on site, too. The park is mostly open-woods with a lot of grass. It is just perfect for Tiger to run in.
We also stopped at Hard Labor Creek State Park, which is just north of Rutledge off I-20 at exit #49. The campground is in good shape and we ended up spending a weekend there. We saw at least 6 deer and Tiger was able to get close to a few of them before they bolted into the woods. We kept him on a long leash, of course. The campsites have electric and water hookups along with excellent facilities. We enjoyed looking around the small town of Rutledge and having breakfast at the local cafe.
Our friends decided to head out West and we headed into Alabama before turning our sights to the Northwest. Oak Mountain State Park is just below Birmingham in Pelham, Alabama. The campsites are wooded and well maintained. In Coleman, North of Birmingham, the Benedictine Order of Monks, have a grotto of miniature shrines on 3 ½ acres of gardens. The shrines are replicas from Rome, Lourdes, etc. and one monk devoted his entire life to creating the shrines. They don't mind you taking your dog on a leash while you walk and admire the detail on the shrines. It was here that we noticed our "house" battery was too weak to start the generator. We found that by starting the RV engine, we could start the generator and it would continue to run even when we turned the RV engine off, (a useful hint until you get a replacement battery).
In Mississippi we camped at a delightful campsite in the Chewalla Lake Recreational Area, part of Holly Springs National Forest. The campground is peaceful, quiet, beautifully wooded and well cared for. The camps have nice picnic tables and grills. The lake has a boat launch, an overlook platform, and a swimming area (not for dogs). There was so much room that is was possible to let Tiger run and play, "frisbee" without him interfering with other campers. We were on Chewalla Lake on a very quiet day and we were able to select our own site. When you can do this it is always a good idea to drive around the campground a little before deciding on one. Wind direction and campfire site should be considered. Lakeside and riverside sites usually provide nice breezes from the water. From this area of the country we usually beeline it to our favorite place, the Great Northwest, but we have a few other places we want to tell you about first.