So how do you visit New Orleans when you are traveling in a camper or rv? I’m sure there are many ways but here’s how we did it. The two options to rv camping that we knew were from hearsay and Campendium research. One being the French Quarter RV Resort right downtown and the other at Bayou Segnette State Park in the Westwego area. The in-town one was to expensive for us, running $100+ a night. So the logical choice for us was Bayou Segnette. Our electric /water site ran $32 a night. Sites were nice and spacious. There was standing water in some of the sites but a big storm had been through so a little understandable. The bathhouses were nice, although the bleach had not been rinsed off walls and I now have some new white spots in my clothes. Laundry was free! We did not explore the park, but it looked like it had a water park to cool off in the summer months.
GETTING TO DOWNTOWN
Now the fun part, getting to downtown NOLA. It’s about a 10 mile/20 minute trip to the ferry from the campground. The park gave us good info on the Algiers ferry. There is a parking lot there that was currently charging $10 a day to park. We were told that they can change their prices on a whim. But we choose to street park, keeping our fingers crossed that our car would not be ticketed or towed when we returned. The ferry was running once an hour when we were there and cost $2.00 each way. Once across the Mississippi River we took various streetcars to places, Cafe du Monde, the garden district, and the cemeteries. They however, do not always run on time, plan to be early if you are taking a tour and need to be there at a set time.
The biggest problem with this set up is if you want to stay out late.Our last ferry on week nights back to Algiers and the car was 9:30 and weekends 11:30. Some of the music on the week nights didn’t start till 9:00pm so plan accordingly.
We downloaded the RTA app, created an account and bought all of our tickets online. I’d lose a paper ticket in a hour! This way as long as we had our phones we were good. We only needed one account to buy both of our tickets. We purchased a Jazzy pass for the day for $3.00 pp that allowed us to ride any of the streetcars and busses for 24hrs. The ferry and street car employees were very patient with helping everyone figure out their apps and money.
Tip: plan to be on the next to last ferry so if you miss it because a 10 minute freight train cuts off the only way to get to the ship you can get the next one home! 😳 True story! If we had missed the last ferry it could have been a very expensive taxi ride back to the car.
Our daily average price for transportation: Parking: $0 Ferry RT: $4 Jazzy Pass: $3 TOTAL: $7
So that’s how we did it. But double check prices, schedules and availabilitybefore you plan your trip. I loved taking the ferry. We got to see NOLA from the water and the cruise ships in port. And do it all again at night with all the lights twinkling! Beautiful! Even if you don’t camp across the way, walk down and ride the ferry just to say you’ve been on the mighty Mississippi!
To be perfectly honest, I was not really looking forward to NOLA.I’m not into touristy stuff, and hoards of drunken people, but it was so much more then that. The history, the music, and the food! I’m actually wanting to go back! New Orleans, you got me! ⚜️
When we bought an 1982 Scamp we knew eventually we would need a new axle. After the last couple of trips we notice some odd wear on our tires. The door side was wearing a lot faster than the back and we were going through tires to fast. So we knew it was time bite the bullet for a new axle.
The New Axle
Axel replacement is something that is discussed in great detail over at a wonderful website/forum called Fiberglassrv.com. I highly recommend this group if you own or are thinking about owning a fiberglass camper. It’s a great group of people who are very knowledgeable! If you want to know more about axles and replacements, check this site out.
We started looking for someone to replace the axle last winter. We went to a welder, he said no. Went to a camper place, they said maybe. But there wasn’t a lot of confidence in that maybe. All I could see was my tiny red caravan going up in flames from the welding machine!
The next plan was to drive up to Backus, Minnesota where the campers are manufactured and have them do it. We called Scamp when we first started this process and they recommended a 2000lb Dexter Torsion axle. Months later we called back and they recommended a Lippert 2000lb Torsion Axel. We had never heard of the Lippert Axel so we started rethinking that plan. Then we stumbled upon a company that makes trailers for a tear drop camper company. So that was promising. We drove the camper down for them to take a look. And four weeks later we had a Dexter 3500lb Torsion Axel ready to install. The trailer guy recommend a “beefier” axle. The camper weighed in at 1700 lbs, 75% loaded. So we decided that maybe a stronger axle wouldn’t be such a bad idea. Only time will tell. The heavier axle also a five lug instead of a four which required us to purchase three new rims. Two for the trailer and one for the spare. We also purchased two new tires for the trailer. The hardest part of this whole process was leaving her for a few days while it was repaired!
After the old axle was removed we found out it was bent in addition to just being worn out. They said that after the new axle was added that the tires were running on the fenders. So they then added about a 2″ square bar to raise it up, which we actually wanted to happen. Our camper is stored in between trips in our garage, so one of our big concerns with getting the new axle was about how high the camper would sit afterwards. Not too high, not too low, just right. In order to get it to fit in the garage before, we would have to remove the Maxx Fan. When we got her home and backed her up it was obvious that she was not going to fit with the solar panel on. So after removing the panel and a few tense moments with me on the ladder watching to see if we scraped she slid right in to her resting spot!! Whew. Some of the options if she didn’t fit was to let some air out of the tires or to find smaller tires to switch out. The later would have been a serious pain in the butt. So glad she fits!
We’ve traveled around 500 miles since getting the new axle and so far, so good. She seemed to tow a little better and had less bounce while driving. However there was still bounce in her, it was just a different bounce. Things in the camper that usually bounced around were fine, but a couple of new areas obviously were now getting some new vibrations. The metal plate on the door frame decided to loosen up, which could have just been coincidences, but probably not. A little superglue on the screws fixed that. We also seemed to get approximately two more miles a gallon. Every little bit helps.
Jack it up
The trailer company also took off the two, yes two, old Tongue jacks and replaced it with a shiny new crank jack! (Things that make you happy!!) I really wanted on that would just be vertical in the center of the tongue, but with the future addition of a split hitch to hold the bikes we were worried about it being to tall.
So how much?
I hate talking about cost because things are different all over the country. Parts, labor etc. can fluctuate greatly depending on where you live, but the cost in our neck of the woods of just our new axle was around $400.00. Additional cost’s were the three new rims, two new tires, tongue jack and labor with a total bill of 650.00. Not cheap. But with plans to head back out west and eventually Alaska, I’m hoping it was money well spent!
Stick out your tongue
The other new addition to the tongue, is a storage box, two new batteries and a pvc storage pipe. We are adding a little more tongue weight but we will still be good.
The tongue box will hold the two new batteries, power cord and extension, chocks and whatever else we can get in there to free up some space in the car. We bought the 2-1/3 cu. ft. Haul Master Tongue box at Harbor freight, with a coupon for about $80.00. (Here is a similar one on Amazon.) It was a black steel box so of course it needed to be painted white to match the Scamp. I used Rustoleum primer and then 3 cans of Rust-oleum Automotive Paint in Gloss White. Now it covered nice but I can’t say it was real glossy. So there might be a better alternative.
We added a PVC storage tube behind the box. The pvc tube idea is nothing new. I lot of folks use this set up for their sewage hose, which we do not need. We will be using it to store the awning poles, flag pole, mini broom, and whatever else can find a home in there. It was made with a 4″ diameter cut to 48″. Then we glued a cap on one end and added a threaded screw cap on the other end. This also got a coating of Krylon Spray paint just so it would match the box. Then the tube was attached with two adjustable full/pipe clamp’s that were attached with screws on the tongue.
I’m loving the tongue box! Not having to dig through boxes for set up items is nice.
Maybe Florida was not a good choice after all… Maybe I’m the biting insect whisper.
We decided to split our week in two and after spending the first half at W.P. Franklin we headed down to Collier Seminole State Park in Naples, Florida. A quick history of the park, in 1920 Barron Collier owned a million acres, which included a hardwood forest known as Royal Palm Hammock. This was because of a strand of native royal palm trees that grew there. A 150 acres were reserved for what was hoped to be the “Lincoln-Lee National Park. The government did not accept the proposal and it became a county park before it was turned over to the state in 1944.
Collier Seminole had been closed for around a year for renovations. Other then the nice new bathhouse I’m not sure what updates were done since we had not been there before. The campground loop we were in was not a very private one. Sites were tight and ours backed up to a very noisy road. Hind site, we should have booked a site in the tent loop. One of the benefits of being in a tiny camper is we can sometime fit in the smaller loops. If a site says pop-up, we are usually included, but always ask!
Enough with the mosquitoes…
Yeah, I know, it’s Florida, what did we expect? Now we had heard rumors that the mosquitoes were bad at Collier Seminole. And it wasn’t a rumor, it was a true story. I don’t know how one person can walk outside and be covered in bites and another person, nothing! But by this point, with my legs and other areas itching from the bites at Oscar Scherer, I’d had enough. At this point I was also rethinking the logic of a trip to Florida. (Luckily the bugs did get better the further south we went.) It was time to get the big guns out. Yet another trip to Walmart, and 38.00 bucks later we were the proud owners of a Thermacell Mosquito Repellent killer! This little gadget was going to be my Obi-Wan Kenobi! My mosquito whisperer!
The Thermacell comes with the main unit, a butane cartridge and packaged inserts that are coated with insecticide. Now this is where you need to do your own research on the pros and con’s of using this chemical. I’m not going to go in to it here. For me the pro’s out weighed the cons. Flying little things that bite, love me! Seriously, my skin is like fly paper. I’m very careful chemical wise with pretty much anything I slather on myself. I try for no parabens, phthalates, no animal testing etc… However, when it comes to mosquito’s, gnats and ticks… I turn a blind eye, and just don’t read the fine print, Deet becomes my friend. I do try to use an essential oil mix as a first line of defense. But sometimes you just need the big bad nasty stuff.
So how did this little unit work? Luckily, we didn’t have to use it very much after Collier Seminole, but when we did and sat within a 5 feet radius I didn’t get bit?! I know that’s not a very scientific report, I’m sure you can find one though if you google it, but for me it was worth the money. The only draw back, you need to remember to turn the butane off! Refills are not cheap and you want to make sure you are not wasting it. I would recommend putting a timer on as a gentle reminder to turn it off. I also put the partially used repellant pads in a zip lock bag between uses keep them from drying out as fast.
In the State Park
Collier Seminole does have a nice kayak trail that is tidal so you want to check the tides for the easiest out and back. We choose to paddle out to Mud Bay at low tide so we only got out so far. But it was a nice lunch spot to get out and muck about in the mud! Be careful if you do paddle out in high tide. The tide goes down fast and you will be dragging your boat though some deep mud.
Always check the park office and the bulletin boards around the campground for programs offered in the park.There is usually something going on that will interest you or give you a little insight in to the the area. This time we lucked out and caught an ice cream sundae night put on by the Friends of Collier Seminole. Always show up for ice-cream and especial when there is homemade fudge sauce!
Apples and Batteries
The other pluses to this park was the close proximity of Walmart for those times when your car battery dies! Luckily a very nice Canadian with a full supply of tools was camped across from us and got us jumped. He even cleaned all our connections and checked our fluids!
And the close proximity to Naples and the Apple store was another benefit. After having issues with my phone for the 2 weeks prior (30% battery bug) I decided to take it in for a quick fix. Seven hours later….well it did work somewhat better. On the plus side they have supper fast wifi and I got a lot of work done and got to see how Apple closes shop for the night. Theres a lot of polishing!
On the bright side…
When you travel, whether full-time, part-time or just for the day, you are bound to run into issues. Things break, reservations get messed up, people are obnoxious. But with just about every issue you run into there’s a flip side. The good side. Some small take away. You just have to step back and look for it. Yes I could have found something more exciting to do besides sitting in the apple store for seven hours. But I met some great people, had fast internet!. The car battery? Well I’m glad it died in the campground not in some random trail head and we got some great pointers from our neighbor. The mosquitos? umm. I might have to get back to you on that one… 😉
Notes on the campground:
Site 81 backs up to a road.
Verizon was good.
Paddle trail in the park with rental boats available.
Laundry at one bath house.
Max RV length is 50 feet.
Walmart and Publix grocery store about 10 miles away
The best thing we did in Naples was ride our bikes. We parked the car for free at the Cambier Park and then went on a bike ride around the neighborhoods and out to the pier. We had thought there would be bike lanes and there wasn’t. For us it wasn’t a problem, but know that you are riding on streets with cars. The pier is beautiful and it’s sitting off a pretty beach. The shells where beautiful and there were several shore birds I’ve not seen buzzing around. After the pier we rode our bikes over to The Old Naples pub for lunch. Outside seating and on the tables, mason jars with all you can eat pickles, for free!
Back on the the bikes and on to Naples City Dock for some entertainment. All the charter boats were coming in and cleaning their fish so the pelicans were all hanging out waiting for handouts! What can I say, we are easily entertained!
The closest beach town is Marco Island. It’s a condo beach town that you have to pay to park and enter the beach at designated areas. We lucked out and found a lot that was either broken or having a generous day and we got to park for free. The best part of this beach was all of the shells that were on the sand! I’ve never seen so many great “conch” shells in one place. I believe they were fighting conchs. But there were thousands of them. Way cool.
If you’re looking for a place to base camp to explore Naples and Marco Island, then Collier Seminole might be the place for you. I could not see myself just hanging out in this campground because of the mosquitos and lack of privacy. Now maybe the privacy issues might be better in another site? And the mosquitos might be better another time of the year? It was good park as far as a quick launch with the kayak. And there were enough roads within the park to get a bike ride in. Oh, and the homemade fudge sauce was great!!
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers almost burnt our house down, so staying at a USACE campground sometimes brings back some not so good memories. More on that later.
W.P. Franklin Campground is the second USACE Campground we’ve stayed at, and I have to say, so far, they’ve done a nice job with the parks. W.P. Franklin sits on a small peninsula on the Caloosahatchee River, part of the Okeechobee Waterway in Alva, Florida. On one side is a lock that was partly built for flood control. According to their website, approximately 15,000 vessels pass though the lock yearly. Although we didn’t see a one? There are 30 rv sites on two loops. We stayed in site 7 which was on the opposite side of the actual lock. We had a nice view of a home and its pet cows! There are also boat dock sites if you have a boat and need a place to spend the night. The campground is in rural area, surrounded by a few horse and cattle farms. Take a peak on the opposite side of the road from where you turn into the campground. There was a field with mini horses, donkeys and lamas!
The best of friends..
The W.P. Franklin campground is about 16 miles from Ft. Myers. We spent one day at the Edison Ford Winter Estates. In 1986, Thomas Edison completed his winter vacation home, called “Seminole Lodge”. Edison good friend, Henry Ford, bought “The Mango’s” next door in 1916. (There was row of mango trees planted on the property, thus the name.) They are both beautiful homes, however you can not go in them which was a little disappointing. You are allowed to peak in windows and some doors are open for viewing through. The surrounding grounds are lovely, including a pool and a moon garden! I have always wanted a moon garden. It’s a garden that’s planted with white flowers and meant to show off its design in the moonlight. I pictured myself hosting evening teas, with mint juleps and cakes, surrounded by the fragrant night blooming flowers. Yeah, that never happened.
I find it fascinating to see were famous people worked. I always wonder what they were thinking while working? What were they looking at out their windows while they were coming up with the next big thing. I wonder what they did as they worked? Did they tap their pencils, bounce their legs, lean back in their chairs. Our culture as become such that our “desk’ can be anywhere from the line you are waiting in to the chair in the sand by the beach. (Mine right now is the table top in the Tiny Red Caravan.) So the physical area that was the gathering place of the notes, scribbles and tidbits of these people seems to me to be one of the best pieces of art in museums such as this. If only I could run my hands over their desks and absorb the their talent.
Were the rubber meets the road..
The other interesting area on the property was the Edison Botanical Research Laboratory. During WWI Edison worked with Harvey Firestone (the tire guy) and Henry Ford to try to find a rubber tree that would grow quickly and help reduce the dependency of rubber from foreign suppliers. They created the Edison Botanic Research Corporation in 1927 with 25,000 dollars each. Edison tested over 17,000 plant samples! There are great examples of the trees they used in their experiments growing on the property. Once again I was loving the laboratory and all the work stations. The light was hitting it just right and it looked like the scientist had just left for the day.
There is a museum at the end of the tour. (Or beginning depending on what you choose.) that has a great collection of Edison and Ford paraphernalia that was quite interesting. One of my favorite’s was the 1918 Ford Model T Roadster chuck wagon he used for his camping vacations. One of the conversions he made was to convert the gas tank to hold fresh water. There was a great quote from one of his camping buddies, John Burroughs a naturalist and writer. that rang true for me..
“We cheerfully endure wet, cold, smoke, mosquitos, black flies and sleepless nights, just to touch naked reality once more.”
Did you know that Edison was hard of hearing? I didn’t. He was self described as deaf. One of the items on display was a phonograph that he had a wooden box built around. He would bite into the wood so he could “hear” by feeling the vibrations.
There is also a garden center that sells plants at the museum. I wish I had some extra room in the camper to buy some. I had to settle for just taking photo’s! I’ll post some photos of the plants over on the Tiny Red Caravan Facebook page.
About 9 miles from the campground is the Lee County Manatee Park. The county park is at the power plant discharge where the manatees like to congregate because of the warm water that is being discharged. There are walkways along the Orange River that runs by the park where you can try to see a glimpse of one of these beautiful mammals. The park rents kayaks or you can use their put in for your own kayak or canoe. The river is not a clear river so we really only saw a snout here and a tail there. We did paddle about 6? miles south on the river. We saw a some wildlife, birds and turtles mostly. No gators. There was one area that could have been on the edge of a botanical garden with all the beautiful plants that were growing amongst the trees. Keep an eye out along the north side of the river.
Another put in within a mile near the campground that we constantly saw activity at was Telegraph Creek.
We really enjoyed our stay here. The campground was nice, even though not extremely private like the campground before this one, Oscar Scherer,, we never felt closed in. We loved the Edison-Ford museum but would buy tickets online line next time. Luckily we were moved to the front of the long line when a quick rain came through and people ran for cover! We would probably pick a different paddle next time. It was just to hard to see the manatees in the water and I would have preferred a little more twisty turns paddle.
OH! So the whole Army Corps and fire thing…
We once lived under a bridge. (Yep, kinda’ like a troll!) Said bridge needed repair. Let just say that arc welders, dry marsh grass and windy days are not a good mix. It’s never good to get a call at work from the local fire department saying that they are in your home. Luckily the fire was put out on the back stairs before it reached the gas line. The USACE did follow up and pay for the damages. (Just wish I knew we would be camping at their campgrounds. Might could have worked a deal!)
Notes about the campground:
Cell speed was good with Verizon.
Keep track of your laundry time! (You will be tracked down at your site if you are not prompt.)
There is a good bench for watching sunsets at the point of the park but you will have to walk along the shore or through a campsite to get there.
Closest grocery store is the Publix, about 8 miles away. (15 min.)
Great covered picnic tables! We’ve never had that before.
Places worth mentioning:
About 4 miles east of the campground is the Caloosahatchee Regional Park. There is hiking, biking and equestrian trails. There is also a campground that seemed to be only tents.
About 19 miles (30 min.) is Log Cabin BBQ. This is a local lunch spot and it gets crowed! Good BBQ, free soup and a friendly staff.