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We are home

Well we’ve been home about a month and a half. I’ve had this post about our trip home during the onset of the Covid-19 shut downs written for a while but just haven’t felt like getting it to print. But now with places starting to open up I want to post it and maybe give you a little insight on our experience traveling during a pandemic.

We found at the time, State Parks were only following about half of the safety measures that they were supposed to be following as stated on their websites. My hope is that with some time under the parks belts that things and polices have improved and are and will be running a little smoother. 

Traveling during a pandemic. 

On March 12th were evicted from our campground in New Mexico due to Covid-19 shut downs. We spent the two weeks, which honestly seemed like a month, trying to decide what to do. Campgrounds were closing down daily, news was bad, there were talks on state borders closing. On March 24, we looked at each other and said it’s time and on March 25 we left our little home on BLM land in Arizona for our sticks and bricks in North Carolina, 1980 miles away.  (On March 13, US declared national emergency and on March 26, US had the most cases in world) 

The decision to return home was bittersweet. There was so much we hadn’t done. Places that needed to be explored, history to be learned, flowers and birds to be seen, breweries to be visited! But we wanted to stay safe and well, we wanted to be with our kids, and we wanted to make sure we weren’t spreading the virus to small communities and depleting their resources.

We were also returning home to family members with compromised immune systems and we wanted to make the trip with as little contact with people as possible. This proved easy except for the actual campgrounds. We chose to overnight at State parks for a few reasons: 

  • Campgrounds and public lands were closing daily. We wanted to stay somewhere that we could make a reservation the day before arrival. Hoping that if the state closed all public lands to camping we would hopefully still be able to keep our reservation for the night.
  • It was starting to get warm on our route home. Our first night in Texas, it was 97 degrees (F) when we got to the campground. So electric was essential.
  • We were thinking that State Parks would be implementing better safety measures than private campgrounds.

It was a crazy time folks. There was a lot of unknowns at this time. We stopped before we left in a small town in Arizona to restock. It was obvious that we were outsiders and although no one said anything to us we did get the feeling people did not want us in their community stores depleting their supplies, which I totally understand. At this point finding four rolls of toilet paper to get us back home was a cause for celebration. 

The long haul

Our trip back involved leaving Southern Arizona, traveling through part of New Mexico, across the state of Texas, southern Arkansas, Mississippi, Georgia, South Carolina to North Carolina. The 1980 mile trip took us 7 days 6 nights. The last two days were 10 hour days because a planned night in-between was canceled when one of the states closed their campgrounds. 

  • Start: Left Indian Bread Rocks BLM, Arizona after 14 days of self isolation. 
  • Day 1: 123 miles. Harvest Host Winery, New Mexico. Only person in winery to check in. Only overnight guest. (We had stayed at this winery two weeks earlier, where there were about 8 RV’s overnighting and they were already implementing the 50% capacity and 6 foot rules inside the winery building.)
  • Day 2: 340 miles. Texas, Monahans Sand Hills SP.  Full campground. Not following social distancing guidelines, campground host approached car window within 2 feet and had to be asked to step back. Guest ask us to take photo with her phone, which didn’t happen. 
  • Day 3: 288 miles. Possum Kingdom SP, Texas. Had to get receipt from host at campground station. Camp store was open but no one allowed in. You would “order” your items from outside at a window. Host bagged them and you paid. Bathrooms were open. 
  • Day 4-5: 308 miles to Atlanta SP, Texas. No in-person check in, drove straight to site without having to interact with anyone. A large group of 30 were having a group camp out. The host was seen delivering fire wood to camper and shaking hands. People not observing the 6’ rule. The bathrooms were open, but supposed to be closed. We spent two nights here to take a rest from the road. 
  • Day 6: 478 miles to Lake Lurleen SP, Alabama. No online check in. Had to receive clipboard with pen attached to fill out paperwork. Then return inside of camp building to pay and get 3 different pieces of paper for dashboard. The playgrounds were roped off. 
  • Day 7: 460 miles to Home, North Carolina

Our drive home was made without going in to any store, eating only from the camper at rest areas or at campgrounds. We did not use public washrooms, only our porta potty. And our gas was pumped with doggie bags and credit cards wiped with Lysol.

It was a very stressful seven days, some areas did not seem to be taking things very serious and we were so worried of being exposed to the virus and bringing it home to family members. We drove a route to avoid as many of the major cities and areas reporting high cases as possible. We planned gas stops outside of metro areas. Not the way you really want to travel.

Stay or Go

Now with campgrounds across the states starting to open up with restrictions, people are starting to think about getting back to the woods, us included. (Neighbors are starting to question why I’m standing in the shrubbery at various time during the week! #pretendwoods) It is a tough decision, do we stay home or do we venture out. We enjoy the outdoors part of our travel the most, hiking, biking and kayaking. With those activities it is a little easier to maintain social distancing. We also enjoy meeting and talking to people, strolling in the towns and cities we visit and supporting local business. If and when we do venture out camping again, the plan, as of now, is not to go any more than a very long days drive from home. That way if we need to return for any reason it will be viable. We do not plan to use any public washrooms and we will not be “touring” any towns.

Camping is and should be a relaxing time to get away and enjoy nature, but things have changed. We thought we’d share with you some of the things we’ve been thinking about before we head back out that might help you make that decision also:

  • What travel restrictions are the state and local government in your home base and where the campgrounds are located asking you to follow?
  • Whats your comfort level? Can you follow the rules? Are you ok with people not following the rules?
  • If it’s important to you, are you ok enforcing your own comfort level/boundaries? Asking someone to step back if they are to close or telling someone you won’t take a photo with their phone?
  • Have you researched what is and isn’t open at the campground you want to stay at such as bathhouses, stores, visitor centers and trails.
  • Do you want to use the public bathhouse and showers? Are they open? Do you have an alternative and are you prepared to use it? TIP: Test your porta potties at home BEFORE you leave. Ours had not been used in a while and the gasket dried out and started to leak. Yay for Thetford and the RV store in AZ that had a free replacement for us.
  • If you head to a trailhead are you prepared for the toilets to be locked? Do you know and understand how to use the bathroom in the woods? Leave No Trace
  • Water fountains may be turned off, do you have enough water?
  • Will you visit laundrrymats? How will you wash and dry clothes if you are out for extended times.
  • Supplies. Are you able to pack and carry all your supples from home? Most campgrounds are located in small towns with only small stores. Restocking during a trip might be difficult and items might be depleted. Camp stores might be closed or have limited items.

That’s all folks

So that’s it in a nutshell, our rv trip across the country with hand sanitizer and lysol in record time. I hate that we didn’t get to see everything that we planned, but I’m thankful for the things we did see, the people that we met and our time together in our little home on wheels.

I hope that everyone stays well and healthy.

And don’t forget to find the good, everyday!

New Orleans: Camping in NOLA
Bayou Segnette State Park, Louisiana


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.

Algiers to Canal Street Ferry
NOLA Streetcar
One of the NOLA Streetcars

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 availability before 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!

A view of NOLA from the ferry.

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! ⚜️

For more NOLA photos check out:

https://www.instagram.com/tinyredcaravan/

https://www.facebook.com/tinyredcaravan/

Want see some other reviews of campgrounds we’ve stayed in? Checkout these posts:
Oscar Scherer State Park, Florida
W.P. Franklin Campground, Florida

Wheels keep turning…
The scamp gets a new axle.

Scamp being towed

 

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! 

 

Tight Squeeze

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!  

 

Road Report

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. 

Scamp tongue jack.
New tongue jack for the camper.

 

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.

Rolling on down the road.

So there you go. Our little scamp has got some new accessories. So when you see us on the road next we will be sitting taller and bouncing less! (Fingers crossed!) 

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Mosquito Whisperer, Bad Apple and a Dead Battery
Collier Seminole State Park

Starfish on the beach.
Some of the shells the beach.

 

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…

Thermacell Mosquito Repellent
Thermacell Mosquito Repellent. aka: The Mosquito Whisperer

 

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

Changing battery
New battery!

 

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

Links

The Park Brochure

 

 

Out and About: 

Naples 

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!

 

Marco Island

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. 

Final Thoughts

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!! 

 

 

 

 

 

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