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Faulty Fee Structures

When we first started camping, and I was making all the reservations, you paid for the rig. There was one price for the site- so tent sites were cheaper than big rig sites. This always made sense to me, and I never had a problem with this method. Some places still do this, and they get my loyalty.

Then we started seeing one price for a “family” and fees for guests. While I understand that campgrounds do not want people using the facilities for free while others are paying for them, the first time I encountered it really made me angry. I was trying to get ahold of my in-laws in the days before cell phones. I had to drive all the way over to their campground, and pay $5 to go leave them a note. I was there all of 10 minutes, and only drove my little car on the roads in and out. I was livid. Needless to say, I am not a fan of fees for “guests”.

In recent years, I have been seeing fees for any family over 4 people. Apparently, that is the allowance for a family now. Pardon me for having too many children. While I can see that more children use more water and electricity perhaps, but most kids while camping are just playing and running around. They are generally not using electricity nor do they want to bathe.

Today I was making the last of the reservations for our trip to New England, and came upon a new fee schedule. This one says that the rate is only for 2 people. You now have to pay and extra $2 per child per night. I said I only had 2. This place I would not consider a family friendly campground. Camping is apparently now for baby boomers. I would say though that my 5 children use significantly less water electricity and septic in our travel trailer than any two baby boomers. I love my in-laws, but they are more likely to have multiple devices going, my MIL loves to iron things, and I know some of those big rigs have TVs and even fireplaces! We did not have a TV in the trailer until last year, and still rarely turn it on (movie nights when it is raining is about the only time).

Perhaps some campgrounds need to remember that they are not an airline that can get away with charging all those little fees. If you are not making enough money, then raise the overall rate, but don’t say your rate is one thing, and then charge me for each person. Think of the all inclusive resort fee structure, not the cheap airline that makes people angry. (Side note, I recently purchased a “$55” ticket that ended up costing me closer to $200 after all the fees.)

How to stop this? Today when I was making the reservation (and they called me after I emailed them) I told them that I was not happy with the fees for each child. I said I thought it was wrong to do it this way and it should be one fee for the CAMPSITE. He said he would make note of it.

If you decide to go to one campground over another because of the cost, then you should be able to tell what the actual cost is! We changed plans when we found a KOA near Niagara was $125 a night. I want to know what the full cost is up front. The funny thing is, this is the cheapest night we will spend out on our trip (even with the per child/dog, etc fees), and yet the one that angered me the most. Maybe campground owners need to think about who their customers are and how to encourage them to come stay at their campground. A little customer service and a reasonable fee structure would go a ways toward encouraging the next generation of campers.


Accidents happen

I have not been posting much this summer, but hope that some of my previous posts are still useful for people. I am so glad we planned out our summer over the winter, or we would not have gotten out much at all!  We were able to head out in the camper last weekend to see the My Old Kentucky Home- inspiration for our state song which I am sure you all know from watching the Kentucky Derby, right? It was a beautiful weekend that we spent doing “in town” things, such as a bourbon distillery tour, walking on Main Street and window shopping, and an afternoon treat at an ice cream shop. It is rare that we do this type of camping, but the state park is really just 35 spots in the middle of a golf course in Bardstown. So no hiking trails, river, lake or swimming pool. It was nice though to have a change of venue and activities.

Unfortunately, when we were putting the camper into the storage place we use, we hit a large tree root when The Dad went around a vehicle parked where it was not supposed to be, and unfortunately caught both the steps and the trailer’s bumper and did quite a bit of damage. The trailer is still in the “trailer hospital”, so no camping this weekend. It is kind of a bummer, but we will get to spend some much needed time together as a family. Next weekend extended family comes for #2’s Eagle Court of Honor, and now #1 son joined the Navy, and school starts this coming week, so we really need a quiet weekend together. The Bs are off camping with Mrs B’s family, which is good for them too.

We will have a few more weekends of camping and those are hiking weekends too. I do not think we have any more backpacking weekends, but knowing our menfolk, they will try to find a way to squeeze one in before it gets cold. Hard to imagine that as it is a hot one here today!

Happy camping everyone!

Super busy summer!

I think this has been the busiest summer we have had yet. #2 child graduated from high school, finished his Eagle project for Boy Scouts, and then had his 18th birthday. #3 and #4 have been busy with swim team every morning, which of course means I have been at the pool for half a day since before school let out. I try to do the doctor, dentist, eye appointments in the summer so as not to interfere with school, so that took up a significant amount of time. The girls and I also went to Indiana for the American Heritage Girls convention for 5 days. Over Father’s Day weekend, we also had a backpacking trip, which was supposed to be in Red River Gorge, but ended up being the first 16 miles of the Appalachian Trail in Georgia! In between all this, I had to change banks, my camera broke, and we have been planning a big party and our summer vacation! There have been times when I have not sat down at my desk for several days at a time, and this is the first week that is not crazy insane with appointments and lengthy to-do lists. Whew!

Hiking the AT was amazing. It is beautiful and yet strenuous. Fun and miserable. Fun in that we were all pretty excited to hike it and to be together, and miserable because we overestimated how far we could go with fully loaded packs and did not stop when we should have. What we had planned was that we would be able to hike at a 2 mile per hour pace. We can easily do that on most of our day hikes. However, what we found it that the terrain was a bit steeper both up and down, and that with full packs we were really only going about 1 to 1.5 miles per hour. Now we know better and can plan accordingly.

When we were packing up, our family each carried their own gear. Of course the Dad carried the shared gear such as the water purifier, and he and I both carried stoves, gas, and cooking gear. #2 son has heavier gear as he has older stuff, so we didn’t want to weigh him down much more, and the younger kids had only the basics on them. Weighing our packs, we had the little kids at about 13-15 lbs each, #3 and I both had about 22-24lbs, #2 never weighed his pack, and The Dad carried about 39 as he had all the extra water. The Dad is extremely fit (he did the Tough Mudder last weekend) and was fine. I was not as sore as I had expected, but I do a lot of walking both in my daily life, and as a deliberate form of exercise.  The kids and I were a little sore, but #2 and The Dad could have kept going no problem.

The B family approached things differently. They had one person assigned to each item, such as one pack carried the food. While logistically this makes some sense,  it can take away from each person’s feeling of doing their part and feeling like it was his/her hike and being able to take care of themselves. For me, I would be concerned that if something happened to one pack, the whole trip could be jeopardized. We hit some major rain downpours, and one pack was soaked. Luckily it was not a clothing pack.

As for the rain, having ponchos was great! I got some cheap ones at a discount store, and they went over the packs helping them to keep dry, and gave good air circulation so we didn’t get too hot. They were easy to put on and off as the downpours were interspersed with warm sun. One thing I found out the hard way, is that my favorite pair of hiking socks tend to wick the water from my legs right into my boots. I think a good pair of gaiters would be helpful, but I think I will also pack a dry pair of socks inside two bread bags. I had dry socks to change into, but when there is water literally sloshing around inside with each step, dry socks will only be dry for a few seconds. Knowing your boots are soaking wet inside and having to put back on wet socks is horrible.

We also found that trekking poles are a huge help. I was having trouble with one knee on the downhills on the second day, and having the poles is the only way I was able to keep going. The Dad got a set for Father’s Day, and we picked up two cheap pairs at Walmart for the youngest two. They truly helped the hike, especially through the more treacherous areas. After the rains, the trail was slick and muddy.

Hammocks are great. I could move around as much as I wanted without disturbing anyone else. It is cozy, and at least as comfortable, if not more so, than sleeping on the ground. As it was summer in Georgia, we did not bring the pads, but both The Dad and I felt like we had cold spots where our bodies compressed the sleeping bag to almost nothing such as at the shoulder bone and hip bone. I haven’t be able to figure out how to attach the sleeping pad, and the one time I tried taking a nap with it, it kept slipping one way, while I went another and the sleeping bag went a third direction. This is something I plan on working out in the backyard before the next trip.

For food, we planned meals to cook. Partly because the kids had so much fun coming up with various meals of their own. I had bought a big box of dehydrated or freeze dried vegetables and beans. I put all the ingredients out, and let them come up with meals. For example, ramen noodles (throw away the season packet) with chicken bouillon, dried peas, onion, celery, and carrots, and some dried herbs, and you have chicken noodle soup. Another was boil-in-bag rice, black and or pinto beans, dried tomatoes, onion, corn and some Mexican spices such as adobo and/or taco seasoning. Some that they made they liked, and some they didn’t. What we found out though, is for lunch on a hot day, it isn’t that fun to eat soup. The Bs and the Dad did various flavored tuna pouches with crackers or pita bread. Certainly easier and faster. The funny thing is that we know all kinds of lunch foods to bring on hikes, but just got carried away with cooking on the trail.

In the end, we cut off the last day and got a ride back to one of the vehicles as the kids were tired and we felt it was better to head home happy and have them willing to go out again soon, then push them too hard and have them balk at ever backpacking again. We had some great adventures, and some of us earned trail names. Overall, I think we are all looking forward to doing another section of the AT.

I want to put a special shout out to our personal trail angel, Ron “Ribeye” Brown who helped us navigate through the fire roads to drop off the first car, gave us incredible advice, helped provide us with a private water stash, and then came to get us early to get the second car when we didn’t make it to our destination. If you ever need a shuttle driver, give Ron a call and tell him Lia and “Fireball” sent you. 706 669-0919

It’s Camping Season!!

W_C2After a long cold winter, it is finally camping season! Yay! This past weekend we went out on our first trip. We had wanted to go out the weekend before for our first “shake down trip”, but the campers were in a spot where they could possibly sink axle deep in mud had we tried to move them. We decided it was not worth the risk. We like to do our first trip of the season at a campground close to home so we can put things to rights easily and are able to run home for anything we forgot to pack. Lucky for us some friends did that and we got to go see them and sit around a campfire and eat s’mores.

Last weekend was our first trip out, and I am happy to say that the only thing we forgot to pack was the kitchen knives. I had removed them months ago as I wanted to get my regular house kitchen knives sharpened,and I completely forgot that they were still in the house. We rarely camp alone, so I just borrowed a knife on the meal we had. That is the other fun thing about camping with other families, not only can you borrow stuff you forgot, but you can share meals so no one has to cook very much and everyone gets a rest, even the mom.

The weather was not great, and in fact we spent part of Saturday evening huddled in the ladies room with 50 of our new friends waiting out a tornado warning. The kids and the dogs just settled down to wait, and it was not too awful, although not exactly fun. We had finished dinner quickly and made some s’mores on the fire we had started earlier. We knew the forecast was not great, and that night we had a minor thunderstorm. It was nice to just be together in the camper and knowing it was supposed to rain most of the weekend, we had brought things to do. In the end, the weather was not as bad as was predicted, and we did spend more time outside that we thought. Which just goes to show that you shouldn’t give up a camping trip just because there is a chance of bad weather.

In other news, this blog was selected by Good Sam to be an affiliate, so if you are planning on renewing or getting a Good Sam card (please click through my banner ad. Yes, I do get some money in return, but I would not endorse them if I did not think it was a good deal. And yes, we will be getting/renewing ours this month too. I honestly cannot remember if we had one last year, but most years we do get it. I find that it pays for itself in two camping trips on average. We rarely remember to use it at the fuel station, but this year I will make more of an effort to remember that! It would probably pay for itself in one trip there based on the amount of gas the Suburban uses when we are towing!

Our next trip out is Mother’s Day weekend. You know you are camping crazy when you chose to spend your holiday not getting breakfast in bed, but getting breakfast in the camper. Lol.


Pouches and Bags

IMG_9447I got my new big backpack recently, and the first thing I noticed was it did not have all the exterior pockets that I had on my smaller red bag. I was so sad! I actually thought for a moment about returning it, but then The Dad said that his bag didn’t have hardly any exterior pockets either. Hmm..  I used to have all my small items organized by what pocket they were in – first aid, snacks, personal care, etc. I figured I would have to get some small ditty bags to replace the pockets. That sounds good until I saw the price of just one tiny bag! Multiply that times several for each person who may want/need them and we are talking big money. Luckily, I have been sewing most of my life, so I figured I could just make some bags instead. This has all been made easier by one of my favorite sites- Pinterest!

I found a great little pouch pattern there, which you can see here: Little boxy pouch tutorial

Then I went to Walmart and I bought some quilting squares for 97 cents each, a zipper for each for $1.97, and some thin paracord for $2.00. So for roughly $5.00, I had enough for one pouch. This would be expensive, except that the paracord will make many drawstring bags, and the material left from the little pouch was enough to make a nice sized ditty bag. So two bags for the $5, but since I bought 3 squares and 3 zippers, I paid more than that, but will be able to use the paracord for many, many bags. I used 18x 21 inch quilt squares because they are cheap, lightweight, and come in fun fabrics. Also, they are washable and I figured about the right size. IMG_9443

I started by making the navy set as I figured that while I would notice every possible mistake I made forever, The Dad (or whichever boy takes it) would either not notice, or not care, so I made this set first. The only thing I would do differently is to make a ribbon or paracord loop on one end of the pouch so it is easier to pull out of the bag and so I could potentially hang it up somewhere. (I did this with the flower one.)  I love that it stands itself up and does not flop over. The beauty of the quilt square I bought, is there is almost zero scrap material left over. I hate having lots of scrap as it feels like such a waste.

I made the pouch first, following the directions in the link above. You basically start by cutting out two rectangles that are 6 by 8 inches. I laid the material out with the long edge closest to me, then cut them out one on top of the other. This left me with the left side of the material having a flap at the top of the remaining material.  IMG_9444IMG_9445This is important in order to make the drawstring bag. I didn’t use a pattern, but just went by my experience after seeing a picture of a sailor’s ditty bag instruction drawing on Pinterest. Knowing it didn’t matter how tall it was, but rather that the circumference of the circle bottom matched the length of the material, I measured the large piece I had left. It was about 18 inches. I found a lid to my oatmeal in the pantry that had a circumference of 17 inches, which was just perfect. I cut out a circle just slightly larger than the lid, and knew when I sewed the material into a tube, it would lose some length. Sure enough, when I sewed them together to make the bottom of the bag, they matched up just fine.

Here are the steps I did to make the bag:

1) Cut out the circle, then trim off the scraps to leave a rectangle. IMG_9433

2) With right sides together, sew the short sides together of the rectangle (should be about 14inches tall).

3) Press open the seam.

4) Pin the circle to one open end, putting right sides together. Sew slowly and carefully so as it stays flat and even around the edge.IMG_9446

5) Fold  over (iron if needed) a small amount of material at the top and sew down.

6) Fold the sewed amount down about an inch. This is where the paracord will go. I like to sew right over the last seam.

7) On the outside, using a stitch ripper, take out a few stitchesIMG_9435  and thread the paracord through. I used about 20 inches.  (After cutting the paracord, be sure to seal the ends with a flame so it doesn’t unravel.)

IMG_9438That is it! The whole project took me less than an hour to make the two items, and that was with other distractions and taking pictures (when I remembered!) Now I am off to make a few more. I did find an old slide from a jacket that I will use for one of the drawstring bags. Otherwise, you can just loosely knot it shut, or tie it in a knot of some sort.