Monthly Archives: May 2018

Campground Types

540x360In our six months on the road, I’ve come to learn a lot about campgrounds. There are a wide variety of types and amenities, so I thought I’d share some of what we’ve learned, and what we look for in a campsite.

Here’s how I break it down:

  • National / State / County Parks: These are usually rustic campgrounds in beautiful natural surroundings. Most were built in the days before monster big-rigs, so the roads and sites often cannot accommodate the larger RVs. Also, the sites are typically 30 amp electric only, or electric/water only – it is rare to find full hook ups (sewer) or 50 amp service. A very basic (think concrete block) bath house and dump station are likely the only amenities besides a campsite. But, you have the entire park at your doorstep. The cost is usually modest ($20-30/night) and most offer online booking options. If you can fit, these sites can be wonderful. Recognizing the need, some Park campgrounds are upgrading to meet the needs of big-rig sites, so I always check. I love to stay in parks where we can, but it is often just not feasible for us.
  • Basic (bare-bones) RV parks: We’ve stayed in a few of these. Often located just off the highway, they will offer a long pull through site with full hookups, a bath house, and not much else. They are fine for overnight stops or a few days stay.  Prices are usually moderate in the $30-40 range/night. If the campground is in the right location for our travels, we’ll stay there. We have to watch for unpaved surfaces, though. Once we stayed in a campground that had been carved out of a cow pasture, the gravel was inadequate and soft and our jacks simply sank into the ground.
  • Upscale RV Resorts: These can be really, really nice. Typically newer and built with the high priced big rigs in mind, they offer paved roads with ample maneuvering room, concrete pull through sites, and full hookups including cable TV and wifi. The grounds are usually manicured. There is a club house, pool and often a hot tub. Bath houses are hotel-like; tiled, spacious and immaculately clean. You may have daily garbage pick up from your site and there may be organized activities offered.  Of course, you pay for the privilege – $50-$75/night, depending upon length of stay. We have found ourselves often gravitating to these parks simply because they are so easy to get around. We don’t have to worry about shoe-horning ourselves into a too-small spot or bashing the rig on overhead tree branches. It’s just easy.
  • KOA’s:  I’ve made this a separate category because we’ve ended up staying in KOA campgrounds several times due to their locations. The closest campground to the kids in Orlando is a KOA, for example, but we’ve also stayed at others around the country. What we’ve found is the campground quality is wildly variable as these are “franchised” facilities. Many are older with big-rig-unfriendly characteristics. Although many do have resort features such as pool and organized activities, the cost is typically higher than private campgrounds with similar amenities. I’ll stay at a KOA if it is the right location, but only if there isn’t a better value nearby.
  • Membership campgrounds: I’ve stayed at exactly one “Coast to Coast” campground and one “Thousand Trails” campground and was not favorably impressed with either. Both were older campgrounds with limited big rig sites. Both memberships required hefty up front buy-in plus annual dues, for limited campground options within their network. Both campgrounds had the “show up and find your own campsite” system, rather than assigning a suitable site during the reservation process, which makes me very nervous. At least the C2C campground let us stay for 5 free nights as a promotion to try them out. I paid a premium price for the TT campground experience and that was for a 30 amp site that put our slide-out 4 inches from our neighbor. I’m sure these membership programs work admirably for some, but it’s not for us.

We knew going in that buying such a large motorhome would limit our camping choices. Since this is currently our full time home, we chose our motorhome for the daily luxury and cargo carrying capacity it offers. The downside is that we rarely have the “wilderness camping experience” that can be had with a smaller rig and the camping cost is higher.  But, we budgeted for that.

We find that we can mitigate the cost by staying longer in one place. Campgrounds often offer weekly and monthly rates that are discounted, so we try to stay at least one week anywhere we go. We have several “monthly” stays booked as we go forward, and that can be quite a discount over the daily rate. Also, when you move less, you burn less diesel fuel.

Our primary search tool for campgrounds is the AllStays app.  It’s fantastic! It gives you campground locations, facility information, and a link to the facility website. It also gives location of rest stops, truck stops, low bridges, and steep road grades. We look for campgrounds with pull through sites, or back-in sites with lots of maneuvering room. We look for easy access into the campground, and satellite-friendly (open) sites. We check the Google Earth satellite view to see if tree limbs may be an issue for our 13.5 foot tall bus.  Full hook up is preferred, although we can do without sewer for a week or more if a decent bath house is nearby. Once we zero in on a campsite, I’ll also check reviews on Google, Yelp, and RV Park Reviews.

Campground we avoid are those we won’t fit (obviously) and those with poor reviews. In today’s economy, there are increasing numbers of people who are choosing to live in RV’s because it is cheaper than other housing options. Many of the parks we’ve visited allow long term residents, which is fine as long as the sites are kept tidy. However some campgrounds are allowed to get trashy, or are in unsafe neighborhoods. Fortunately, having access to campground reviews allows us to screen out those less desirable options.

So, what type of campground do I like the best? I like …. variety! It’s nice to stay in a park and experience nature. It’s also nice to stay in a fluffy resort and enjoy the beautiful bath house, hot tub, pool, and activities.  The best thing about this lifestyle is that you can try all sorts of places and have different experiences.  That’s what it’s all about.

Campground Review: Flag City RV Resort, Lodi, CA

IMG_3431Campground Review Summary

  • Name: Flag City RV Resort
  • Dates of stay: May 14 – 30, 2018
  • Location: 6120 W. Banner Rd, Lodi, CA 95242
  • Type of campground: Private / Independent
  • Cost: $45.47/night, biweekly rate
  • Additional fees: $2/night for visitor or pet (dog). No charge for cat.
  • Stay limit: none
  • Accepts mail / packages: yes
  • Cell reception:  ATT very good
  • Website:
  • Pros: Clean, big-rig-friendly resort close to Lodi amenities
  • Cons: none

Full Review

Several years ago, Jeff and I participated in a few wine tasting classes at a Total Wine and More store near our South Florida home. During one of those classes, we were introduced to a great Reserve Ancient Vine  Zinfandel wine from Oak Ridge Winery that Jeff fell in love with. It was, and still is, his favorite wine of all time. When we looked up the winery, we found it was located not in the famed Napa or Sonoma regions, it was located in a small town we had never heard of – Lodi. For this reason, when we went on the road, Lodi was high on our list of destinations.

Flag City RV Resort is conveniently located just off of I-5 and across the road from both a Flying J and Pilot. Ample shopping, including Walmart, Target and Kohls, can be found in the town of Lodi, 5 miles down the road. San Francisco is within day-trip distance, if you don’t mind fighting the traffic.

The RV resort is big rig friendly with wide asphalt interior roads and long concrete pull-through site. Our site was fully long enough to park all of our vehicles, with no problem. Spacing between rigs is average for private resorts, and each site has its own picnic table on a concrete pad area. The areas between sites are either dirt/plantings or gravel. Some reviewers have complained about the dirt surface, but it wasn’t bothersome except for the one day it rained and got muddy.

All 180 sites are full hook up with 50/30 amp electric, water and sewer. Cable TV was included but we didn’t bother with so many over the air channels available plus our satellite TV. Wifi was also available, but our ATT hotspot was adequate for our needs. The utilities worked well, although a drop in water pressure was noticeable when the park was full, like over Memorial Day weekend. Even then, it was quite usable.

The resort is equipped with three spacious and clean bath houses and 3 laundry facilities. The laundry uses a card system that is purchased from the front office, and any unused card balance is reimbursed upon departure. We actually used the propane fill station at this park when we depleted our portable gas grill supply. The resort also has a lovely pool, hot tub, and club house area.

The office staff was very courteous and helpful. Because we stayed longer here than typical, I took advantage of that and did some shopping with Amazon. There was never a problem with package pickup. The office also provided coupons for free tastings at several wineries, including our favorite – Oak Ridge. Who could ask for more than that?

Even considering all the amenities, the average cost came in at around $45/night, a bit cheaper than we’ve found elsewhere in California.  It was well worth it.

Bottom Line: A reasonably-priced, big-rig-friendly RV resort with ample amenities, in the heart of Lodi wine country.


Lodi and its environs

We’ve been bouncing around the California central valley region and settled in Lodi for a couple of weeks. While here, we took care of some business such as dental work for Jeff and replacement of our failed rear air conditioner unit under warranty. It helps to stay put for a while in order to get those things done!

IMG_4007Lodi is a pleasant small town known for its vineyards – particularly those growing old vine zinfandel grapes. There are vines here over 100 years old and still producing! This area produces more grapes for wine making than Napa and Sonoma put together – in fact, some of those wineries source their grapes from Lodi. They just make the wine and charge a whole lot more for it! We found prices to be reasonable here – tastings run $5-10 and very nice wines can be had in the $20-30 range.

Jeff’s all time favorite wine is a Reserve Ancient Vine Zinfandel from Oak Ridge Winery, here in Lodi. In fact, that winery is the primary reason we put Lodi on our travel itinerary.  It just coincidentally happened that our RV park gave us a coupon for free tastings at Oak Ridge and 20% off wine purchase there! We made our pilgrimage and found Oak Ridge also makes other brands that we have tried and liked, such as “Old Soul” old vine Zinfandel. Now we know why we liked it! We used that coupon and stocked up. Other wineries we especially liked in this area include Drava Wines (makes a great Mourvedre) and St. Amant Winery  (really nice ruby and tawny Ports). There are a number of wineries here, so you could be tasting for quite a while!

img_3986.jpgUsing Lodi as a home base, we took some day trips to sights nearby, including the city of San Francisco. Here’s a parking tip if you can plan in advance – use the Park Whiz app. We booked a 12 hour parking spot at a hotel right at Fisherman’s Wharf for $22; their normal daily rate was $60!  I pre-booked a Big Bus Tour (saved 10%), and we spent the day touring the classic sights:  Chinatown, Fisherman’s Wharf, Golden Gate Bridge (and Park), and Haight AshburyIMG_3989 (Summer of Love) area. I had been to the city twice previously but did not remember the homeless problem being quite so … evident. It was disturbing to see so many homeless people sprawled on sidewalks, and two even gave a not-so-friendly single finger wave to the tour bus. San Francisco is an interesting historic town, but between the traffic, high prices, and belligerent homeless – it dampens my desire to visit there.

img_4012.jpgOff in the other direction toward the Sierra Nevada Mountains is the Marshall Gold Discovery Historic State Park. In 1848, James W. Marshall discovered gold in the tail race of the sawmill he was building. That discovery launched the California gold rush — a mass-migration of people flooding into the area, seeking their fortune. California became a State just 2 years later, due to the unprecedented increase in population and development.  The gold discovery site became a bustling town (Coloma) and the park includes buildings and historical exhibits dating from that era. Tours are given twice per day for the nominal fee of $3 per person. We were the only two that booked the 1 pm tour, so we had a private guide! It was fascinating to delve into this exciting time of history. Ironically, James Marshall wasn’t that great of a businessman and didn’t profit from the gold rush that he inadvertently started. He died penniless.


Reflections: 6 months on the road

6monthsIt’s been almost 6 months since we set out on our grand adventure. I thought I’d share a few things that I’ve learned along the way about the journey, and about myself.

  • Our equipment is awesome. The motorhome we selected, the truck, the motorcycle, and the gear we brought along has worked out just fantastic so far. We researched our options for YEARS, and all of that research really paid off. Our rolling home is beautifully appointed and very comfortable. Using the truck as a trailer for motorcycle and bicycles works flawlessly. For us, it’s perfect and I wouldn’t change a thing.
  • I don’t miss all of the “stuff”. If anything, we brought more stuff than we actually need or use. If I had space I brought it, but so far I find there are clothes I haven’t worn and dishes I haven’t used. I’ll give it a bit more time, but we’ll likely continue to pare down over time.
  • Traveling gets easier with practice. As posted earlier, moving from one location to another is quite a process, one that made me rather nervous at first. Now that we’ve done it a couple dozen times, it is much less daunting. We’re also getting more comfortable with maneuvering the beast through roads and campgrounds. It doesn’t mean we’re less careful, just less nervous!
  • This is a great country. Being on the road gives me a renewed sense of appreciation for all that the US offers. Interstate highways. Rest stops. National and State parks. There is so much beautiful scenery, culture and history to explore right here in the US, it can keep us busy for years. I feel as though we’ve barely scratched the surface.
  • It’s difficult to make new relationships on the road. We’ve met some friendly and interesting people in our travels, but it seems always to be a transient encounter. I can’t tell you how many times we’ve struck up a conversation with a great couple, only to find they are leaving the next day. Or we are. Part of the challenge is that we are usually on the go, touring new places. It’s hard to build a relationship when you are both moving targets. We have several future campground bookings of a month or more, and I’m hoping a longer stay will give us more opportunities to make new friends. On the other hand ….
  • Technology helps us stay connected to our friends and family. What did people do before email, the internet and social media?  Make phone calls and send post cards, I guess! I’m grateful for the technology that allows us to stay in touch with our friends and family. Without that, this lifestyle could feel quite isolating.
  • Adjusting to the gypsy life was harder than expected. I totally wanted to do this and am really happy we are on the road. But, I have to confess, I went through a period of feeling …. adrift. Surroundings were ever changing and foreign –  no more familiar environment, friends, and routine. I missed my car and the autonomy that goes with having your own wheels. It’s a challenge to structure a new routine in an environment that is constantly changing. It’s just a really different lifestyle, and it takes time to become fully acclimated.
  • Jeff and I are closer than ever. Living in such close quarters can surely pose a challenge for couples. And I’m not saying that we haven’t had our share of disagreements and adjustments. But I can’t imagine having this adventure with anyone else. The fact that we were both 100% on board with launching this lifestyle helps. He is my best friend and true partner in  life.

A couple of weeks ago, I flew to Chicago for a few days on business. It felt oddly strange to re-assume the business traveler role that I had performed so many times before. The hotel room seemed unreasonably large. It was weird not to have Jeff there;  we texted or talked several times a day. I thought it might feel wrong to fly back to the Fresno airport rather than South Florida, but I found myself eagerly looking forward to returning to our bus.

It’s Home.

Yosemite National Park

IMG_3925There’s a good reason why Yosemite National Park is iconic – it’s simply astonishingly beautiful.

Our campground was located about two hours from Yosemite Valley, which made for a long day trip. But the drive itself was beautiful as we transitioned from nut groves, through cattle pasture, through the foothills and into the mountains. That really didn’t get old.

IMG_3915One of the park highlights is the gorgeous Yosemite Valley, a U-shaped glacier cut valley complete with dramatic granite rock faces reaching thousands of feet high and long flowing waterfalls. Looking out from the tunnel view overlook to see El Capitan, Half Dome and Bridalveil Falls was one of those “pinch me, am I really here” moments. Being here in the spring meant that all of the waterfalls and streams were in full, spectacular flow.

IMG_3394One of the best ways to explore the valley is by bicycle on the network of bicycle paths. We parked the truck at a central location and used our bicycles to meander through the valley to the various sights, villages, and trailheads. The spring weather was glorious. We even stopped for a leisurely late breakfast at the Majestic Yosemite Hotel, a 1920’s era structure that retains its elegant vibe. Most of the Valley highlights can be viewed from the road, or by a short trail. More rigorous hiking is available if you want to climb steep trails up the granite walls out of the Valley.

Another “must see” is Glacier Point, a Yosemite Valley overlook. It is accessed by Glacier Point road (closed in the winter, but open by our visit) Yosemite also has its own giant sequoia grove, (Mariposa Grove), but it was closed during our visit for refurbishment. It is slated to reopen later this year (2018). We didn’t explore the road that runs all the way through to the other side of the Park (Highway 120) because it was still closed for the season.

Because the park is so beautiful and iconic, it is very popular and very, very busy. Even early in May, if you don’t get to the park early, you may have trouble finding parking. I understand that peak season is literally bumper to bumper. Make reservations as far in advance as possible, and get there early!

We are currently in Lodi, California experiencing wine country and day tripping to San Francisco. More on that later!

Campground Review: The Lakes RV & Golf Resort, Chowchilla, CA


  • Name:  The Lakes RV & Golf Resort
  • Dates of stay: May 6 – 14, 2018
  • Location:  5001 E. Robertson Blvd., Chowchilla, CA 93610
  • Type of campground: Private / Independent
  • Cost:  $52.95/night, weekly rate
  • Additional fees: none
  • Stay limit: none
  • Accepts mail / packages:  yes
  • Cell reception:  AT&T reasonably good
  • Website:
  • Pros: immaculate facilities, beautiful sites, gated entry
  • Cons: a bit pricey, 2 hour drive to Yosemite

Full Review

We really, really, tried to get closer to Yosemite, but just couldn’t find anyplace that could accommodate our size motorhome. However, staying at this resort campground was certainly no disappointment. It was absolutely beautiful. As we approached the park, we passed new housing developments, lakes and a golf course that looked remarkably like South Florida. I felt immediately at home. The 56 site resort is even gated – a first for me. We were given a garage remote and card key to access the various entrances.

IMG_3407Our concrete site was spacious and level with hedges planted on either side for privacy. The site was fully long enough for all of our vehicles.We had the usual 50 amp electrical service, water and sewer hookups. Cable TV was also available, but we didn’t bother trying it. We received several over the air channels for local news access and our satellite TV was unobstructed. Wifi was available, but our ATT hotspot served our needs. The only utility issue we had was the lack of water pressure. It was fairly low most of the time and faded to almost nothing at times, forcing us to shut it off and use our own water tank and pump for our needs. This was a city problem though, not a campground issue, not their fault. Apparently one of the city water wells was under repair, causing the low pressure. The only other possible negative was a slight “barn yard” smell when the wind blew from the right directions. This is farm country, after all.

IMG_3405The resort facilities were immaculately kept. The bath houses, pool and hot tub were clean and modern. We even had daily garbage pick up from our site.  A Save Mart grocery store is conveniently located a mile or so away. The resort is affiliated with the Pheasant Run Golf course located next door – if you pay full price gate rate, you get two free rounds of golf per day  (not including cart rental). Since we weren’t interested in playing golf, we got the Good Sam 10% discount, which essentially paid the 10% transient tax! If you are really into golf, I suppose the full rate plus free golf would be a good deal. It is a bit pricey, but when you factor in the amenities (plus this IS California), the cost seems about average for above-average features. For comparison, the rate here was only a few dollars more than Lemon Cove park (the last place we stayed) and has WAY better amenities.

The only downside is that we were there primarily to visit Yosemite National Park, and Yosemite Valley was a good two hour drive away. But, after a long day in the park, it was delightful to come back to this well-appointed RV resort.

Bottom Line: Beautiful park with immaculate amenities. Worth the price, but be prepared for a drive if you want to go to Yosemite National Park.

Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks


I’ve gotten a bit behind in my blog postings lately. Part of the reason was a business trip to Chicago last week, which occupied much of my time. Soon after I got back, we moved on to our current location which is about 2 hours from Yosemite National Park and we’ve been busy exploring. So let me catch you up!

IMG_3864The heart of Sequoia National Park is the giant trees, but there’s much more to see. This area of the Sierra Nevada mountains is home to several parks meshed together:  Sequoia National Park, Sequoia National Forest, and Kings Canyon National Park. During our visit in late April, not all areas of these parks were open, but we were still able to cover quite a lot of territory.

I’ve already described some of our experiences visiting the giant sequoia trees, and that is certainly a park highlight. There are several areas where you can find the giant trees, including the largest in the world (the General Sherman tree) found in Sequoia NP. Kings Canyon NP has a similar giant tree grove with the second largest tree in the world (General Grant tree). Both areas have trails that wander through these groves, providing an opportunity to feel both awestruck and humbled. We spent several days exploring these special areas.

Another Sequoia NP highlight is the climb up Moro Rock, a huge granite outcropping. The road up to the trail head was closed for the season, adding about 1.5 miles (each way) to the hike. Upon reaching the Rock, a 330 step ascent takes you to the top, which affords a spectacular 360 degree view of the surrounding mountains.  Even though the climb is a huffer-puffer, it is so worth it. I was happy to see there were guardrails at the top, otherwise I don’t think I would have had the courage to venture out! We lucked into a spectacularly clear day, other days later in the week were clouded up.

IMG_3871 IMG_3873

IMG_3869Continuing a little further up the same road is the Tunnel Log. When the log fell back in the 30’s, they just cut a tunnel in it and left it there! Fortunately, a bypass road is available for high vehicles.

The road to the Kings Canyon area fortuitously opened for the season the very week we arrived. We took the motorcycle for the long trek up to the park, through the National Forest, and finally into the Canyon. The road was incredibly scenic and worth the trip in itself. The glacier-carved U-shaped King’s Canyon was absolutely beautiful. Spring melt had the waterfalls in full pour and we even saw two bears (Mama and cub, I think) browsing the spring greens. Most of the sights in the canyon are right off the road, so it’s mostly a driving tour, unless you are doing a backpacking hike out of the canyon.

IMG_3887 IMG_3893

Because of our rig’s size, we stayed at a park about an hour outside of the south entrance to Sequoia NP, which made every visit to the park a fairly long day. Our campground was located in farm country, so there wasn’t all that much to do besides the parks. We did venture into the nearby town of Visalia to take in a movie – Avengers: Infinity War. And Jeff found an A&W root beer place nearby so he could get his favorite root beer float. It’s not all just about nature – we’re doing normal life stuff, too!

Now we’re exploring Yosemite – but that’s another post!

Campground Review: Lemon Cove Village, Lemon Cove, CA

IMG_3388Campground Review Summary

  • Name: Lemon Cove Village RV Park
  • Dates of stay: April 22 – May 6, 2018
  • Location: Lemon Cove, California
  • Type of campground: Private / Independent
  • Cost:  $49.50/night (weekly rate plus Good Sam discount)
  • Additional fees: none
  • Stay limit: none
  • Accepts mail / packages: Not really – see review below
  • Cell reception: decent AT&T reception
  • Website:
  • Pros: within reach of Sequoia National park, pleasant surroundings
  • Cons: pricey for what you get, management issues

Full Review

One of the disadvantages of having a big rig is that you simply can’t camp everywhere. We are limited to those parks that can accommodate our 43 foot motorhome plus large truck. We chose Lemon Cove because it was the closest campground to Sequoia that could accommodate our rig. It is conveniently located about 30 minutes from the park entrance.

IMG_3389The setting for the campground was very nice – mostly farmland. Citrus trees were in bloom during our stay, wafting delicious orange blossom scent through our open windows. Colorful birds twittered and flitted around the campground trees. My window looked out onto a beautiful hill. It was very peaceful and quiet.

All interior roads and pads were gravel, but the gravel was thick and reasonably solid. We had a 50 amp electrical hookup, water and sewer, and a picnic table. The separation between sites was reasonable and the site was more than long enough for all of our equipment. There were some trees in the campground, but were trimmed enough so that we could navigate the space easily enough. The campground had the usual basic amenities including a clean bath house, pet area, and office. Nothing fancy here, but everything worked.

The park was definitely in small-town-land; the nearest supermarket is in Exeter, about 15 minutes away. For a shopping mall or movie theater, a 30 minute trek to Visalia is needed. We could only get about 3 over the air TV channels, but our satellite TV worked fine. The AT&T signal was surprisingly adequate for such a rural area.


The biggest issue we had here was with management disorganization. When we arrived, the site we were assigned was a 30 amp site, not a 50 amp site which is what we reserved and paid for.  We were then told to take the next site over, which was 50 amp. No problem – at least not until the final night of our stay. Our reassigned site was apparently reserved by someone else beginning that night. You might think it would pose no problem, just assign the newcomers another site. However (as I found out later), the office accepted a “drop in” reservation which caused the campground to be overbooked by one site. All we knew was that we got a knock on the door at around 7:30 pm (after dark), telling us we’d have to leave, that someone else was booked into our site! Um, no, that’s not going to happen. You put us in this spot, said nothing about moving, and we paid for this night. Not to mention that packing up and moving out is quite a process and we had nowhere to go! Ultimately, we stayed put and they had to figure something else out, but it simply wasn’t handled well.

Another quirk was the mail service for the park, or lack thereof. Apparently, the park isn’t set up for receiving mail at all. Not even their own. Not knowing that, I had had our mail forwarded and (through tracking) knew the package was at the local post office for pickup. The address I had obtained from the internet for the park was incorrect, and luckily I checked at the post office and retrieved my package before it was mistakenly delivered to the wrong place. I wouldn’t even try to forward mail here.

Bottom Line: It’s a pleasant park near Sequoia, but the management issues discourage me from returning. It’s also expensive for just basic campground facilities.