Monday, May 30, 2011

Cooling Off

Yesterday we had quite the problem on our hands after figuring out our central air definitely wasn't working. We called a few RV repair companies, including one the Holly Shores office referred us to, but we didn't have much luck. The one guy Steve was able to get on the phone said he wouldn't do work for this campground. Steve even offered to bring the RV to him but apparently this guy didn't much feel like working on a Sunday during a holiday weekend.

So we had two options...either suffer through the heat until we could get a repairman out here, or cut the vacation short so we could bring the RV into the shop back home, where this would be covered under warranty anyway.

Luckily Steve had the excellent idea to buy a portable AC unit. It definitely came at a steep price, but at this point we were willing to do anything to get some cool air circulating inside our oven of a trailer.

The thing is kind of a beast:

40 lbs of cold-blasting goodness
There's no real attractive way to rig up a portable air conditioner. We needed the hot air in the vent to filter back outside, so Steve used a piece of cardboard to attach the vent to the window.

Cardboard windows, 'cause that's how we roll
After the AC kicked on, we were finally free! And it was time for the pool. Holly Shores has a nice-sized pool with water that's absolutely the perfect temperature. Most of the people in the pool were kids horsing around, while their parents worked on their tans on the chaise lounges. We did a mixture of both. Operation: Get As Tan As Genetically Possible has officially commenced, with Steve pulling out ahead at least for the day.

When we returned from the pool, it was a shock to see Lola sitting on the couch, when we'd put her in her crate with a bone before we left. Either Steve didn't latch it properly or she hatched quite the escape plan. The best part was that she didn't destroy anything! She literally just hung out on the couch and napped until we got back. Best.dog.ever.

She's also a big fan of futons

Saturday, May 28, 2011

We made it!

Well folks, it’s real now! We've finally made our grand debut at Holly Shores Campground & RV Resort in Cape May, NJ. So far, the place is lovely. Very quaint, wooded and homey, although the sites are packed a bit tighter than I would’ve liked. It only took a few minutes for us to get set up, with the help of a friendly neighbor who directed Steve as he backed in. It was quite a relief after last night’s events, which involved about an hour’s worth of failed attempts at hitching up in the dark at our bug-ridden storage facility, where mosquitoes waged a massive attack on my flesh.

Behold:

Last night we set off from home at around 11 p.m. and arrived at the Mays Landing Wal-Mart around 1 a.m. We were the only trailer in the parking lot, and I have to say I was a little creeped out. Who knows what weirdos hang around at Wal-Mart parking lots in the middle of the night? Weirdos I don’t want to have knocking on my trailer door, that’s for sure. Thankfully, aside from a few employees arriving for the graveyard shift, we were left to ourselves.

Look how tiny the trailer looks compared to that truck!
There wasn’t much to do other than settle in and go to sleep. We had some battery power so we were able to turn on the lights, but the beauty of boondocking is that your options are pretty limited. Luckily it had cooled down some, so AC would’ve been unnecessary anyway (as it is, it’s shaping up to be a colossal disappointment, which I’ll get to later).
This morning, I woke up even earlier than Steve and Lola, thanks to some very loud truckers yelling about something, possibly about how we were parked in their spot. Ah, the joys of sleeping at Wal-Mart! Those people who stay at hotels don’t know what they’re missing. We worked on our shopping list until the store opened its doors at 9. Originally we planned on doing all of our grocery shopping for the week there, but their food selection left something to be desired. We did get a few staples – bread, lunchmeat, chips and dip, hot dogs, eggs, and of course Steve’s favorite, sardines – but we’ll have to buy our chicken and other meats elsewhere.
Yum yum yum

Us: 1, Awning: 0
Us: 0, Central Air: 1
We had two crucial items on our minds upon arrival. Number one was turning on the central air (for the first time), and number two was setting up the awning (also the first time). You would think those would be simple enough to figure out, especially with an owner’s manual. As I remember, our RV salesman didn’t want to show us how to operate the awning because it was too windy on the day we bought it. And the central air, well, we were just happy the thing had heat at the time.
Good thing for YouTube, though! Steve watched an instructional video on setting up the awning and within minutes, we had it pulled into place. Voila!
Pretty neat!
Only wish we could say the same for the central air. We’ve had it on since we got here about four hours ago, and it’s still about 300 degrees hotter inside than it is outside. Our plans are on hold until we can get it cooled down, because otherwise we’re definitely not leaving Lola alone here. RV friends, does anyone have any recommendations/advice for getting the central air to actually do its job? Or does it just take forever to start working?
Look at poor Lola. The mean RV is making her pant!
And roll her eyes, too

Thursday, May 19, 2011

In only 8 days...

We're just about to set off on our first real vacation of the season. For the first time ever, we'll be spending a week (well, eight days to be exact) at the Jersey Shore...in a campground instead of a crappy overpriced motel! (Don't get me wrong; I love those crappy motels -- they have a certain charm. But there's no way we're spending potentially over $1,000 for a room where the TV doesn't work and the bedspread is littered with cigarette burns.)

We've had this planned for weeks and have been talking about it pretty much nonstop. Our campground of choice, Holly Shores, was voted the Best Campground of 2010 by CapeMay.com. It's halfway between Wildwood (our favorite place) and Cape May, so if we want to add a touch of class to our stay, we can easily hop on over to the latter. Holly Shores also boasts a heated swimming pool and dog park (both new for the season!) and perfectly level sites (allegedly), along with some fun Memorial Day-themed activities.

The only problem is that our vacation is coming at the absolute least convenient time of the year. This weekend will be consumed with wedding activities (we're members of a wedding party), and I'll be in Nashville from Monday through Wednesday of next week for work. So that leaves us only Thursday and Friday of next week to pack (well, the part of those days where we aren't working), and then we're leaving late Friday night so we beat the Memorial Day weekend shore traffic.Will that be enough? Argh! I know that we usually leave packing for the last minute, but we're going to need clothing/supplies for over a week. We need to get crackin' on a serious list, and then figure out where we're going to PUT everything in the trailer. Honestly, I don't understand how full-timers do this, because I'm literally stressing over an eight-day trip!

The good part is that we're not checking in until Saturday afternoon, which means we're spending Friday night boondocking in a Wal-Mart somewhere in New Jersey (if they'll have us!). Then the next morning we can buy all our food for the week there, so that'll be one less thing we have to pack. 

Any suggestions for how we're going to get everything done in time, while staying (relatively) sane?

Monday, May 16, 2011

Lake-in-Wood, Part III (The Final Chapter!)

Steve isn't the biggest fan of picture-taking in public, but that's too bad! In the interest of our blog, I'm forcing him to change that attitude.

Which is why he was a little peeved when I insisted on snapping a pic of him carrying 30 lbs worth of logs for our campfire. He wouldn't stand still because he was just trying to get back to our site as soon as possible without dropping them or throwing out his back. But he managed a smile anyway:

My hero!


You might think that with a bundle of fresh logs and those fire-starter things, you'd have no problem getting a nice blaze going in no time. Not so. We started the fire while there was still plenty of daylight, and gradually the sky grew dimmer and dimmer.

Not much doing here
After a while, I went inside to escape the bugs while Steve (and Lola) kept a watchful eye on the fire:
Time to play yet?

Getting closer...

And then finally...

Jackpot!
It was good timing, actually, because we ended up being just hungry enough for the s'mores we picked up supplies for earlier.

Waking up
After a restful night sleeping on our new memory foam mattress topper, we awoke to the incessant whimpering of the biggest baby in the world, aka Lola. It was approximately 6 a.m., much earlier than she even gets up at home. I know you're thinking she really needed to go to the bathroom, but she didn't. I sucked it up and took her out, only so she could proceed to drag me around the perimeter of our site, sniffing and exploring and doing everything but peeing. 

Needless to say, we were already up at that point, so Steve decided to make breakfast. We'd brought eggs and bacon from home, so Steve got that cooking while I fixed up some lovely instant coffee. I've only recently become somewhat of an early riser, but the mornings in the RV make it fun. There's something about being up early, smelling the fresh country air, and having the whole day stretch ahead with possibilities (that don't involve work or anything gross and unfun like that). Revelations, eh?

Before we prepared to leave, Lola enjoyed another romp in the dog park. Again, it was completely deserted, and she lapped up the space like it was her own personal water bowl (have you seen the paper towel commercial with the dog pawing frantically at his water bowl? That's Lola, like all the time).

Happy Lola
Sad Lola? No, that can't be it
Next time
The sole tragedy of our stay here was the fact that we didn't bring swimsuits, and when we arrived we found out they have a freaking indoor SWIMMING POOL. To add insult to injury, the camp store carried all sorts of clothing and swim accessories, but no bathing suits. I could've cried. The chance to go swimming indoors at the end of April, alas, was a dream deferred for another day.

Next time, we have big plans for Lake-in-Wood. We're definitely going to bring swimsuits (actually, we're going to stock a pair in the trailer so they're always there just in case). And in addition to taking a dip in the pool, we're going to take advantage of the lake as well. We saw some people paddleboating on Saturday, but we felt a bit overdressed. Note to us: No need to make fashion statements at the campground (okay, this is mainly just a note to me, but Steve has been talking a lot more recently about new shoes and shirts he wants to buy, so who knows...). For the summer, we'll definitely be just fine in shorts and T-shirts.

Ratings
Going forward, we're doing a pros/cons list for every campground we visit. Even though we did come up with a few cons for this one, it took some thinking. Overall, this was a pretty awesome place, and close enough that we hope to be back plenty more times this summer.

Pros: Scrumptious dinner, very friendly and welcoming staff, spacious dog park, wooded site, resort atmosphere, beautiful scenery
Cons: WiFi was a little spotty, trading post was low on food/supplies, low water pressure, sites weren't level

Oh....how could I forget...Checkers!! The on-site horse/pony...

Definitely goes in the "pros" list
'Til next time!

Monday, May 9, 2011

Lake-in-Wood, Part II

Last weekend we gave up free Flyers playoff tickets for the chance to take our trailer out for a little spin, and some much-needed RVing "practice" before we set off on our longer (in both duration and distance) trips. Steve, a devoted Flyers fan, was a bit conflicted about the decision, but I sure wasn't. Sitting in the freezing Wells Fargo Center while overzealous fans shout obscenity-laced insults in my ear (at the players, not at me, although I'm always a little afraid someone will) has never really been my thing. 

TV setup

As soon as we checked into Lake-in-Wood and hooked up, Steve's first priority was, of course, installing our RV-sized HD TV so he could catch the beginning of Game 1, Flyers v. Bruins.

First came the wall mount...
Then the TV! Yay



With the help of his tools, Steve had the whole thing up and running and tuned into the game in about 20 minutes. While he was doing this, I was preparing a light lunch of hot dogs for us (note the mustard in the bottom right of the above photo) and also busying myself taking self-portraits. Important stuff.


Lola time!

It's nice to be able to watch TV inside your RV, but on such a gorgeous day, we were itching to get outside. Steve managed to tear himself away after the first period of the game (the Flyers had started their sad descent anyway), and we headed up the hill with Lola to the "pet play area."

This place was absolutely awesome! We could finally let Lola off her leash and she was absolutely stoked. No other dogs were in sight; we had the whole huge, fenced-in yard to ourselves.

And she damn sure made the most of it...

video

So far, we were feeling extremely spoiled by the folks at Lake-in-Wood. There are so many campgrounds out there these days that restrict pets -- or certain breeds, and Lola's unfortunately falls in those restricted breeds. It's really gratifying to know that places like Lake-in-Wood appreciate and even celebrate our four-legged friends, giving them space to run, romp, fetch, etc.

During our stay here, we ran into quite a few other guests with dogs, and I was pleased to see Lola was among the most well-behaved. She never barked (she never really does, anyway), and she sat (mostly) still while a little girl petted her. She's growing up, y'all!

The good part about this place is that there were several different pet play areas, so depending on where your site was, you were never far from one. That's probably why there weren't any other canines staking a claim on that particular dog park. I'm definitely excited for her to play with other dogs at RV dog parks in the future, though. Maybe they can trade camping tips!

Din-din 

Upon check-in, we learned that dinner was going to be held at the Gnome Cafe at 5:30. The award-winning chef had prepared a smorgasbord of gnome dogs (giant hot dogs), sweet and mild sausages, German potato salad and a selection of cakes. Ummm...have I not mentioned before how awesome this place was? Everything tasted phenomenal, and we both went back for seconds (Steve to get another sausage, and me to get another piece of cake).

The restaurant itself was pretty adorable, with little gnome people decorating the walls and ceiling. I'm kicking myself now for not taking more pictures, but we were pretty consumed with the food. Next time we go, I'm going all-out with the gnome pictures. Promise.

But here's one outside the restaurant to tide you over until then: 

I don't think this is a good look for me

Monday, May 2, 2011

Lake-in-Wood, Part I

Sometimes, waiting until the last minute to plan things is the best idea in the world. We'd been planning to camp this weekend at nearby French Creek State Park, where we'd be able to enjoy all the scenery without spending too much money (staying at state parks is generally the cheapest option as far as campgrounds go). However, when Steve called Saturday morning to make a reservation, we found out there wasn't an available site with electric hookup. We kind of need electric, so it was on to Plan B...which wasn't much of a "plan" but worked out tremendously in our favor anyway!

See, there's a pretty sweet app on the iPad, AllStays Camp & RV, that allows you to search for campgrounds based on location. Then it displays a map so depending on location, you'll be able to see all the nearest campgrounds, low overheads, etc., and from there you can click on the campground you're interested in and get a link to its website.

So, since we'd already discovered French Creek this way, we just followed the map to the next nearest campground, which happened to be Lake-in-Wood Resort in Narvon, PA. Without doing much research -- other than verifying it was dog-friendly -- Steve called and reserved a wooded site with all the available utilities. 
We so excited!
 Getting ready

Slowly but surely, we're perfecting our "leaving" techniques. Packing was a breeze, and hitching the car to the trailer took much less time than it usually does. We did have to make a pit stop at the parking lot of Steve's workplace so we could adjust the sway bars on the hitch. Because the lot there was completely level (unlike the one at the storage facility), Steve was finally able to adjust them to the proper level. I'm not too sure how this all works, but it made a huge difference in the smoothness of our ride. Before, towing the trailer was more "jolty" (slowing down/stopping at intersections was always a little nerve-wracking), and I wouldn't have recommended anyone prone to motion sickness riding with us.

Now, though, you might even forget for a bit that your car is tethered to a 4,600+-lb trailer. Can't complain about that!

The drive

We had no problems for most of the hour-long drive up the lovely Route 23. Once we got deeper into the sticks (it's not real country until you start seeing people in bonnets/overalls/dresses, aka the friendly neighborhood Mennonites), we had to turn off the main road. Steep hills and winding curves time! This was definitely one of those times that served as good learning experience. Steve had to learn how to pull the trailer up hills, down hills and around sharp turns, while I had to learn how to keep quiet, calm and also how to read a map so I could tell him where to turn next.

Now, I'd been reading up on this place we'd be staying at, and the excitement was building to a fever pitch. First of all, the website was written from the viewpoint of "gnomes," which were apparently the mascots of this particular campground. I was psyched about the on-site restaurant, called The Gnome Cafe. At this point, I was picturing a Disney World-type experience, except instead of Mickey and Minnie roaming around and mingling with guests, you'd have gnomes instead. It's official, themed campgrounds are my favorite.

Check-in

 The minute we arrived at the resort (yes, resort -- this was no dinky little campground!), it was clear how much different this was going to be from our last experience. No offense to Country Acres, but there wasn't much going on there aside from a camp store and a playground. Behold, the view from our car at check-in:

Parking lot for front office, trading post, mini golf and Gnome Cafe

The lake
Site arrival

Before we could fully enjoy the place, we had to hook up at our beautiful wooded site, which happened to be conveniently located on a steep hill and ringed on the sides with ominous-looking rocks. Excellent. Steve had to back in, which took some time because the trailer needed to be right next to all the hookups, and the car had to be completely straightened out. I, especially, was getting nervous about him hitting the rocks, and it was my job to tell him when he was edging too close to doing so (ahh! the responsibility). A kind staffer offered to help back us in, but Steve said we'd "figure it out." Just like a man.


He did it! (Note the evil rocks) 






Not too shabby
Much more to come later!