Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Onapa Campground and RV Park - Cheocotah, OK

We are on our way to Farmington, New Mexico, for the 2015 Wally Byam International Rally. The Wally Byam Club (WBCCI) is the Airstream owners association and it sponsors lots of fun things including rallies and caravans. More than 400 Airstream trailers and motorhomes are scheduled to be in Farmington for this rally.

We saw on Facebook that a group from the WBCCI Southeast Camping Unit was traveling together to Farmington. After a quick comment on Facebook, we were invited to join their caravan. Rosie, our 25 foot Airstream trailer, became the 11th Airstream camper in their group. It seemed to us that it would be more fun and safer to travel in a group rather than going 1,500 miles alone.

By the way, the leaders of this caravan did a great job putting it all together. There was always something interesting or fun to do at each of our stops. I know that it had to be challenging to find campgrounds at the end of each day's journey that were able and willing to accept 11 trailers for a night.

One of the campgrounds our caravan stopped at after a 370 mile day was the Onapa Campground and RV Park near Checotah, Oklahoma. This is a small private park near I-40 with about 30 camp sites. Probably half of those sites are filled by people living year-round in the park.

Onapa Campground

You could tell that the owners of this park were trying to provide a nice camping area. It had a playground area for the kids, a basketball court and an above ground swimming pool. Information about the park found online said that it had a bathhouse, but we could not find it.

Rosie in the campground

Here are some specifics about this park:
  • The site we stayed in was gravel and pull-thru.
  • Our site had 20, 30 and 50 amp electrical service.
  • Sites also had water and sewer connections.
  • The park provided adequate Wi-Fi service to its campers.
  • We were able to use 4G voice and data service from AT&T while in this park.
  • This is a pet friendly park.
  • We were able to watch HD signals from ABC, CBS, FOX, PBS and NBC from Rosie's antenna. We were also able to see Me-TV, Escape, GET, Grit, Ion, Cozi, Bounce and Laff digitial channels.
While in this park, our group pulled out the grills and shared a good evening meal together. Early the next morning, we all headed west to our next stop on our way to Farmington.

The park's storm shelter. A reminder of where we were staying.

Friday, June 26, 2015

T. O. Fuller State Park - Tennessee

Traveling to the T. O. Fuller State Park is an un-nerving experience. You travel through some neighborhoods that have more boarded up buildings than we felt comfortable with.

Things didn't improve when we entered the park. The welcome station was closed and a huge burglar metal door covered the actual door. That was some welcome to this state park.

Needless to say, we were very apprehensive as we pulled Rosie, our 25 foot Airstream trailer, into the campground. We saw the camp host and our first question was, "Is this a safe place?" It was easy to tell that he answers that question every day for every new camper arriving at the park.

Sign entering the park

In case you are wondering, his response was that he had lived in the park for years and it was very safe.

The camping sites are large and you have the feeling that you are in the woods. It was also quiet while we camped there.

Rosie in T.O. Fuller State Park

Unfortunately, the phase we found ourselves saying most often in this park was, "What's that smell?" We found the source of the unwanted aromas. The park is down-wind of a sewage treatment plant.

Here are some specifics about this park:
  • This park appears smaller than most state parks we have visited. There is only one camping loop with 45 campsites.
  • Most of the sites are gravel. There are a couple of concrete sites for disabled visitors.
  • Camping sites offer water and electric connections.
  • The camp host had to show us how to turn the water connection on. It was unique and we are glad he showed us the trick.
  • Our site had 20, 30 and 50 amp electrical service.
  • There were many mature shade trees in the camping loop.
  • The park was built by the Civilian Conservation Corps during the late 1930s. It appears that the bathhouse hasn't been updated since the Great Depression. The showers have concrete walls and floors and it appears that mold is a growing problem there.
  • There are two washers and two dryers in the park. Four quarters will wash a load of clothes and another dollar will dry them.
  • There is a motel-style ice maker in the campground. We enjoyed the luxury of having all the ice we wanted while in the park.
  • There is one dump station in the park.
  • AT&T provided adequate 4G voice and data service over the park.
  • The park does not provide Wi-Fi service.
  • We were able to watch ABC, CBS, CW, FOX, ION, NBC and PBS using our antenna. Digital channels included Antenna, Bounce, Decades, GRIT, ME-TV, THiS, Movies and a couple we could not identify playing movies and cartoons from the 1930s.
  • There are several hiking trails in the park.
  • There is a swimming pool in the park. It is outside the camping area and costs extra if you want to use it.
  • This is a pet friendly park.
The park is close to Memphis and the many attractions there.
Rosie waiting her turn at the dump station

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Pine Mountain RV Park by the Creek - Pigeon Forge, Tennessee

The Great Smoky Mountains National Park holds a very special place in our hearts. It is one of the places my family frequented when I was a child. It is also where we brought our young family for our vacations. There are legendary family stories about the times we day-hiked Mount Le Conte and climbed the Chimney Tops that still enter our family conversations.

We are not sure why, but we stopped coming to the Smokies once our children grew up and left the nest.

We were trying to come up with some summer camping destinations heading north when the conversation shifted to talking about returning to the Smoky Mountains. Staying away for 20 years was way too long.

The first decision was where should we stay? There are a couple of campgrounds in the National Park, but reservations are hard to get unless you book them a year in advance.

There is another potential problem with reserving a spot in the Smoky Mountain National Park. Your site is slightly elevated from backpack camping. The Park's campgrounds have no connections. None! Zip! Nada! Zilch! No sewer connections, no electrical service and no water means you are boondocking during your entire stay.

The ranger said the restrooms have running cold water in the sinks, but that's it. That translates into no showers while camping in the park.

We may try camping in the National Park one day down the road, but not on this trip. If you have been following our camping adventures, you know that we prefer public parks over private ones. But, there are times when the best choice for the moment is a private park and there are some very nice ones to choose from near the Smokies.

Our route to the Smokies was from the north, so we decided to camp on the Gatlinberg/Pigeon Forge side of the park. Again, there are many good RV campgrounds in that vicinity and we relied on the All Stays app and the RV Park Reviews Web site to pick Pine Mountain RV Park by the Creek in Pigeon Forge.

Pine Mountain RV Park in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee

This park is a couple of blocks off the main road in Pigeon Forge, which is far enough away so that you don't hear the noises from it nor are you bothered by the stop-and-go traffic on the strip. As the name implies, the park is next to a creek--sort of. It is very generous to label the flowing water behind our camper a creek as it appeared to be closer to an over sized ditch, but we will let that issue slide for the moment.

The Creek

We were pleasantly surprised at how clean, manicured and well maintained this park was during our stay. For example, I alerted the front office around 8:30 one evening that a mound of fire ants suddenly appeared on our site close to Rosie's door. (Rosie is our 25 foot Airstream trailer.) A maintenance person was there about 10 minutes later and he took care of the problem.

Rosie in the park

There is a splash pool for children. Adults also enjoyed that pool. In addition, campers were allowed to use the swimming pools, hot tubs and exercise room at the hotel across the street.

Splash Pool

The park itself is new. I would guess that it is five to ten years old and the trees haven't grown to the point to where they provide adequate shade. Make sure your air conditioner is ready to work long hours to keep your camper comfortable during the summer.

The restrooms and showers in this park may be the nicest and most up-to-date we have seen in a RV park. Similar to everything else, both were well-maintained and clean.

After being in the park for a few days, I determined that I may not be the best judge to determine if the flowing water running through the park rates the label "creek." The authority on the subject may be the duck and her five ducklings who swam in it then paraded along its banks everyday. Since ducks tend to avoid ditches, we will accept the park's classification of "creek."

Here are some specifics about this park:
  • This is an RV only park. You will not find tents here.
  • Our site had 20, 30 and 50 amp electrical service.
  • In addition to electric power, all sites have water and sewer connections.
  • The park does not have a dump station.
  • Each site has a concrete pad to park your RV on.
  • The sites are close together, but most of the RV parks in Pigeon Forge and Gatlinberg tend to pack RVs in much tighter than here.
  • There is a great kiddie splash pool with things squirting water that both children and adults will love.
  • Campers have access to the indoor and outdoor pools, the hot tubs and a lazy river at the motel across the street. Campers can also use the motel's exercise room.
  • This is a pet friendly park.
  • AT&T provided reasonable 4G voice and data service over the park.
  • The park provided Wi-Fi service. It worked best if you sat on the ground under their Wi-Fi access point. As you walked away from their wireless antenna, expect a huge drop in network usability.
  • The park provided a basic tier of analog TV cable service. It included several ESPN channels, news and a handful of entertainment channels. We were able to get HD signals for all of the networks, except NBC, using Rosie's antenna. We were also able to see the following digital channels: MY-TV, CW, Escape, Grit and Bounce. We missed having ME-TV as one of our choices.
  • There is a camp store in the park. It sells ice cream, candy bars, soft drinks, firewood, sewer hoses and ice. I thought there was a law requiring all camp stores to sell hotdogs.
  • Everything in this park is well maintained. As expected, the rest rooms and showers were clean, modern and among the best we have ever seen in a campground.
  • Trash pick up is mildly entertaining. You simply place your trash to the side of the road and it magically disappears, usually within the hour. There is a dumpster at the front of the park if you need to throw out something after hours.
There are several RV parks nearby that include the word "Resort" in their names. They appear to me to be nothing more than a parking lot. While the Pine Mountain RV park does not include "Resort" in its name, it clearly is one. All this comes at a price, so bring plenty of money when it is time to pay the bill.

One final point is that this park is at the gateway to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Don't spend too much time in this park or at the go kart track when you have the amazing Smokies next door. Go for a hike, wade in a mountain stream or watch a waterfall in the cool air of the national park. After all, the Airstream lifestyle is all about getting out and enjoying the wonders of God's creation. That is much better than being a consumer trapped by the bright lights of the shopping and entertainment district.

Grotto Falls in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Wading in a mountain stream

Deer in Cades Cove

The mountains

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Levi Jackson Wilderness State Park - Kentucky

One of our family discussion points has centered around "spontaneity" while on the road. Let's simply say that one of us wants reservations for every night we plan to be on the road and the other is OK with heading in a compass direction and finding something along the way. While this discussion continues, our compromise is that we always have a full list of reservations before we hitch up Rosie, our 25 foot Airstream trailer, for a new "planned" adventure.

We were surprised when the service work at the Airstream factory was completed on the second morning. We planned on being there for three days. That meant we were about to test the theory that we could find somewhere to stay while heading down the road. It also meant that one of us was going to be very nervous on this leg of the trip.

To make things more interesting, we wanted to be south of Lexington and far enough from Knoxville that we would miss rush-hour traffic the next morning. How hard could it be to find the perfect spot while traveling through the hills of Kentucky?

The All-Stays app and the RV Parks Reviews Web site helped narrow down our choices to two. We selected the park closest to the Interstate highway, making Levi Jackson Wilderness State Park our default choice for a one night stay. The park has more than 130 campsites, so we figured we had a good chance of squeezing in for the night.

Rosie at Levi Jackson Wilderness State Park

A few of the negative comments left online in reviews for the park said it was full of kids. We were amazed at the number of children playing in the campground, but we saw that was a positive sign.
Clearly, many families wanted to be in this park. In fact, it seemed to us that this park had many things you expected to see at a good summer camp for kids.

For example, we noticed that you could check out basketballs at the recreation center and many kids took advantage of that service. The rec center also offered arts and crafts classes for campers, both big and small. In the park were several playgrounds, a great swimming pool with children's splash pools and a miniature golf course. All this adds up to Levi Jackson being a wonderful park for families with children. The reviewers complaining about kids being in the park are missing the point of family camping and should be sticking to 55+ campgrounds. We found the family atmosphere at this park to be positive.

One of the trails

The miniature golf course at Levi Jackson State Park

Looking back at the first camping loop in Levi Jackson State Park

There were several nice hiking/bicycle trails and we loved the shade trees in the park. There was a geo-cache in the park, but we were reluctant to leave the trail and hike through the brush to find it because we saw a few plants that could have been poison ivy.

Here are some specifics about the park:
  • There are three camping loops in the park, each with its own attributes. The first loop featured larger campsites and some were along a creek. This loop has water and electric connections for your camper. We think the first loop had more shade than the others. The center loop added sewer connections to the package. It appeared to us that these sites were closer together. The last loop had water and electric connections and those sites were much closer together.
  • Our site had 20, 30 and 50 amp power.
  • There is one dump station in the park.
  • There are multiple pricing tiers based on your loop and the day of the week. Holidays and weekends are pricier than the middle of the week. There are several discounts available. We were able to cash in on the "veterans" discount.
  • Our "TV Towers USA" iPhone app said one TV signal covered the park. We were unable to pick it up. Don't expect to watch over-the-air TV while camping in Levi Jackson State Park.
  • AT&T provided the faintest signal for voice and data over this park. If patient, you may be able to load your email.
  • The camp store sells Wi-Fi access in this park. I hope this does not become the norm for state parks.
  • This is a pet friendly park.
  • The bathhouses appear to be well maintained. One negative is that water for the showers is turned on with a push button. Once pressed, the water turns off too soon. We won't go into water temperature issues with the push button system.
The camp store sells the normal items found in these places. If you need firewood, bug spray and hot dogs, you will find the store well stocked.

This is a great little park for families. There are a lot of things for the kids and plenty for the adults. We were very pleasantly surprised by how nice this Kentucky State Park is and how friendly the park staff was to us.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Airstream Terraport, Airstream Factory, Jackson Center, Ohio - Second Visit

Our first visit to Airstream's factory in Jackson Center, Ohio, was to fix a list of nagging problems with Rosie, our 25 foot trailer. It is easy to see that we were impressed with their service department since we decided to return eight months later for a couple of factory installed upgrades to our Airstream.

The Airstream Factory in Jackson Center, Ohio

Our earlier visit to Jackson Center was during November and we had to deal with winter in Ohio. Snow flurries and freezing temperatures were what we faced during that trip. Weather would also play a role in our second visit.

Temperatures were better on this visit than during our winter trip

Our service appointment started on a Tuesday and our plan was to take our time and leisurely drive part of the way on Sunday. That would allow us to arrive in Jackson Center on Monday afternoon. That flew out the window on Saturday while looking at the weather apps on our iPhones. Severe thunderstorms with heavy rain and winds were moving into Ohio Sunday evening and were predicted for most of Monday. If we followed our original plan, it appeared that we would be traveling, arriving and setting up in a storm.

Plan B was to leave home earlier on Sunday morning and to drive straight through to Ohio. That would put us on the road more than 12 hours as we pulled Rosie nearly 700 miles in one day. While ambitious, we felt the benefits of arriving ahead of the storm outweighed the negatives.

Entrance to Airstream's Terraport

We had to stay focused on our goal and were successful in arriving at the Airstream factory in Jackson Center at sunset and about 40 minutes ahead of the storm. That gave us enough time to park Rosie in the Terraport and get set-up before the rain and winds started.

According to our weather radio, the winds were 25-30 mph and gusting up to 50 mph. We placed a tarp over our bicycles and I ended up having to go outside to better secure it. Rain drops hitting at 50 mph leave an impression on you.

There is a story shared among Airstreamers about three families traveling out west. One in this group was pulling an Airstream and the others had some other brand of campers. When they arrived at the campground for the evening, the other RV'ers were talking about the high winds that rocked their rigs as they traveled down the road. That was when the Airstreamer asked, "What winds?"

I thought about that when I had to go out to the truck to get some stuff. I was shocked when I felt the wind grab the door as I tried to open it. I was unaware inside Rosie that we were really suffering through 25-30 mph winds with gusts up to 50 mph. While we could hear the rain hitting Rosie, I thought the winds were in the 10-15 mph neighborhood. I was wrong.

There is always a group of nervous Airstream owners on their first morning in the Terraport. The tractor starts pulling trailers into the service bay at 7 a.m. Since our minds tend to think in Central Time, that translates into 6 a.m. for us. There is a rush to disconnect the trailers from the utilities to get them ready to travel the hundred or so feet to the shop. Most people leave some things on their site to let campers arriving that day know that the site is occupied.

The tractor hitching-up Rosie

Rosie being pulled to Airstream's service bay area

Once the tractor picked up Rosie, we rushed over to Airstream's service department to talk with the service writer. (Don't drop by wanting service without an appointment because both the bays and technicians are busy all day!) In a few moments, the service technician assigned to work on Rosie went over the the list with us.

The people that were anxious moments ago in the Terraport were now in the service area lounge draining the coffee machine and swapping adventure stories. As before, we learned about some interesting places to go and we shared some of our favorites with the other owners.

Rosie in the service bay

Airstream's service bays

The tractor brings the trailers back to the Terraport as the technicians complete the projects or at the end of the day. If there are more things to be done, the tractor will return at 7 a.m. the next day to start pulling the trailers back to the service bays.

When our technician found us in the customer waiting area, he said that he sent Rosie back to the Terraport and that he would only need three or four hours the next day to finish everything. That meant we could get an early start the following day on a new Rosie adventure.

A funny thing happened as we arrived back at the Terraport. There was a box motorhome in Rosie's spot. Yes, this fellow camper (non-Airstreamer) ignored our power cord, water hose and the two tarps we left in the site and commandeered Rosie's place. We found Rosie sitting on the site next-door to our original one.

Many of the power boxes are shared between sites at Airstream's Terraport. That shouldn't be a problem because the 30 and 50 amp services are on different circuit breakers. A few minutes after I plugged Rosie in, the box motor home's breakers blew along with our new neighbor's congenial spirit. He was convinced that I was responsible for his power problems. It appeared that the neighborhood was going downhill fast so I flagged down the tractor driver and he moved us to another loop.

View of the sky from the Terraport

Rosie's new camping site was in a loop quickly filling up with Airstream campers returning to the "mothership" for factory service. It didn't take long before we were all outside talking and helping each other. We were very glad we moved. The sharing and fellowship among the Airstreamers was similar to being at a rally.

This visit to Airstream's factory service was more about upgrades to Rosie than for repairs. We added new awnings on the side and rear and a rear-view camera that paid for itself a little more than an hour after we left Jackson Center.

We were a few miles south of Cincinnati heading to our next campground when a big 18-wheel truck suddenly swerved into our lane and hit the breaks. That forced me into a panic stop. As I was watching the road ahead, I was thankful that our Pro-Pride hitch was keeping Rosie straight and that we had left plenty of space between us and the car formerly in front of us, Becky was paying attention to the new camera and saw that the 18-wheeler behind us was quickly running out of road and was about to rear-end us. She excitedly told me to go forward and I closed the gap between us and the front truck giving the truck behind us enough room to stop. Needless to say, the camera alone justified our trip to Airstream's factory.

Here are some specifics about the Airstream Terraport:
  • There are multiple camping loops (we think four) in the Airstream Terraport. Each loop is named after an Airstream model.
  • Each loop is a circle with back-in sites.
  • Each site has concrete pads.
  • The sites have water, electric and sewer connections.
  • There is a dump station in the park.
  • AT&T placed a dismal signal over the Terraport and Jackson Center. Most of the time our iPhones failed to connect any better than at Edge speeds. Fellow campers with Verizon and T-Mobile also complained about their service. One person said his Sprint service was adequate.
  • There is Wi-Fi in the Service Department's Customer Lounge. That signal tends to leak out to the Terraport area. It helps to choose a loop close to the service building.
  • This is a pet friendly place.
  • There are lots and lots of over-the-air TV signals. We were able to watch ABC, CBS, CW, FOX, NBC and PBS. Digital channels included ME-TV, MY-TV, GET-TV, GRIT and Bounce.
  • Jackson Center isn't known for its vast variety of restaurants. Your choices are Subway, the bar or the other bar. We joked that one of the bars claiming to serve food must have used "I Can't Believe It's Not Lard" as its secret seasoning. There are other choices about 15 miles away along I-75.
This was our second trip to Airstream HQ for service. We came away both times glad we made the trip to Ohio and appreciative of Airstream's hard-working service technicians and staff. We were very impressed with the knowledge, skills and professionalism our service technician exhibited.

While nothing else is planned at this time, I have a feeling that Rosie will return one day for more modifications and service work.

Display of some early model Airstream trailers at the factory

Selfie at the factory

At the start of the factory tour
Every Airstream trailer leaves the factory with this sign
What a sad sight! A new Airstream on its way to a dealer was rear-ended.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Fort Pickens Campground, Pensacola Beach, Florida

We made our third trip in Rosie, our 25 foot Airstream trailer, to Fort Pickens' campground during May 2015. Fort Pickens is inside the Gulf Islands National Seashore near Pensacola Beach, Florida, and is administered by the National Park Service. For this trip, we returned to Loop A in the park.

Entrance to Fort Pickens

One of the first things we noticed this time was the new bathhouse in the A loop. We noted in an earlier visit to this park that the old bathhouse was in need of serious repairs and we suspected that new forms of mold were being incubated in the shower areas. The new bathhouse was built to the side of the old one and the workers were finishing the sidewalk on our first day in the park. Since we were going to be there for two weeks, we looked forward to seeing the new bathhouse opened and the old one closed and eventually removed.

I'll talk more about the bathhouses later in this posting.

Two weeks is a perfect length for a visit to this park. The Gulf of Mexico beach area was calm during the first week and very active the second. The days were sunny during the first week followed by time periods of windy and rain the second. We would have been slightly disappointed in the weather if we were only there our second week.

The Gulf was calm during our first week at Fort Pickens

The surf was stronger during the second week

As true in any campground, location of your site is important. On our previous visit, we were in a small site and the bushes at the rear of the site were covered with poison ivy. As someone who is very susceptible to poison ivy, that was one of the worst sites in the park.

We were able on that visit to scout out some better sites and were fortunate enough to reserve one for this time. It was much nicer having one of the larger sites and one without vegetation that causes me to break out.

Rosie at Fort Pickens

Back to the bathhouse for a moment.

We noticed on the second day that the barrier tape was still around the new bathhouse and we to continued to use the old one. The new bathhouse had to be ready because the workers were using it and taking their showers in it. We were excited about switching over to it during our visit. More later . . .

If you enjoy watching birds, the Fort Pickens Campground will be a special place for you. Blue Birds, Blue Jays and Cardinals were just a few of the different types of birds that were in our camping area daily. But the stars of the show were the ospreys. We enjoyed watching osprey parents watch over their nest, which was about 100 feet from Rosie's door. It didn't appear that the babies had arrived while we were there, but the happy event wasn't too far off in the future.

Osprey nest near Rosie

Herons enjoying the Gulf
A crab somewhat annoyed that we were disturbing his beach

A Cardinal cleaning his feet

The Cardinal wanting to go inside Rosie

You want to bring your bikes to Fort Pickens. There are several trails and it is fun to ride your bike on the Florida Trail to the fort. The turtles always surfaced to see if you brought them a snack as you passed over the wooden bridge on that trail. Bikes do add to the fun at this park.

The Turtle Bridge along the walking and bike path to the fort

Back to the bathhouses for a moment.

We noticed that the construction workers packed up and left on the third day. Again, we were looking forward to abandoning the old bathhouse and using the new. We were able to ask one of the park rangers what was holding up the move. It turns out that the power company hadn't switched on the electrical service to the new one, but the ranger was confident the power truck would arrive any day and construction barrier tape around the new bathhouse would come down. More later . . .

We suspected that a couple of the sites around us were held as walk-in ones. It became part of our entertainment to see who would be camping in them every morning as the turnover was high.

While we were in the park, there were eight other Airstream trailers and an Airstream Interstate motor home. One of the Airstream trailers was a 50 year old camper. The current owners accounted for twenty-five of those years and they continue using their 1965 Airstream. For many brands of travel trailers, it would be a very rare thing to see someone camping in a 50 year old trailer. If you have been on the road for a year or two in your Airstream, you have seen several vintage Airstream trailers still in service.

Back to the bathhouse for a moment.

You would think that the power company could fit a visit to the park within the two week window we were there to connect the power to the new bathhouse. Obviously, we were wrong. The construction barriers remained around the new bathhouse as we packed up and headed home. Maybe the new bathhouse will be open the next time we visit the park.

Here is some specific information about this park:
  • There are five camping loops in Fort Pickens Campground. Loop A is separated from Loops B-E. Loops B-E are all lumped together in parking lot fashion. Most of the tents tend to be in the E loop.
  • We were amazed that some big rigs were able to get in sites that appeared too small. Calling these "tight fits" is very generous. You probably need to add a few feet to the length of your rig when you book your site to make sure you get one that will comfortably fit your rig. I think the maximum lengths given on the park's Web site are very optimistic.
  • There is very little shade in this park. Rosie's air conditioner was working at full capacity the entire time we were in the park.
  • This is a pet-friendly park. As is only right, you are expected to keep your pets on leash and to pick up after them.
  • Our site in Loop A had 20, 30 and 50 amp electrical service.
  • There are two dump stations in the park. One serves Loop A and the other serves Loops B-E. It was common to see lines waiting to use the dump stations as campers were leaving the campground.
  • There is no WiFi service in this park.
  • AT&T provided reasonable 4G LTE voice and data service over our camping loop. We did notice that service improved when we moved our phones closer to Rosie's rear window.
  • There is a camp store in the park at the entrance to Loops B-E. The park's laundromat is next to the camp store.
  • The new bathhouse in Loop A includes a laundry facility for that loop. Perhaps we will see the new laundry along with the bathhouse open the next time we visit the park.
  • If you need to shop for groceries, there is a Publix about six miles from the park. You will have to invest a dollar in tolls to cross the bridge to the shopping area.
  • We were able to watch ABC, CBS, Fox, NBC and PBS using Rosie's TV antenna. We were also able to see CW, MY-TV, Me-TV, GET and Grit digital channels.
Fort Pickens is a great park to visit and we plan to return in about six months. We will let you know then if the power company finally arrived and switched the power on to the new bathhouse.

The Fort

A walk along the Gulf's shore at Fort Pickens

Jeremy and Elizabeth join us at Fort Pickens

Annie, our 16 year-old Yorkie, at Fort Pickens

Annie loves camping in Rosie

Using the Eagle One amateur radio antenna at Fort Pickens

Monday, June 8, 2015

T. H. Stone Memorial St Joseph State Park - 2015

There are some traditions that you simply don't want to break. I was fortunate enough to work in an industry that observed Spring Break, the highlight of many college students' calendars. For more than a dozen years, we spent our Spring Break camping at the T. H. Stone Memorial St. Joseph State Park located near Port St. Joe, Florida.

The beach at Port St. Joe State Park

There are two camping loops in this park and we keep moving back and forth between them over the years. The Gulf Breeze loop is closer to the Gulf and has more of a "beach" feel to it. The Shady Pines loop has more trees and gives you a feeling that you are camping in the woods instead of being at the beach. You tend to find more tent campers and smaller RVs in this loop.

We camped in the Gulf Breeze loop the last couple of years and decided to go back to the Shady Pines loop this time.
Shady Pines Camping Loop

It always seems that weather plays a major role during Spring Break week. The rain and storms were a bigger problem during our tent camping years. Now that we camp in Rosie, our 25 foot Airstream trailer, we are simply inconvenienced by the rain and not chased out of the park.

That wasn't true for our neighbors. Most everything in their tent ended up wet after a big rain storm. Instead of using drenched sleeping bags, they decided to tear down and move to a motel. We understood because it isn't fun camping in a wet tent.

The rains did impact us this year. We moved inside Rosie during the frequent rain showers then went outside and enjoyed the park after the skies cleared up. It did appear to us that the outer camping sites in the Shady Pines loop were much wetter that the inner loop sites. We also felt that the Gulf Breeze loop seemed to deal with any rain runoff better than Shady Pines.

We saw lots of wildlife this year. We normally see deer and birds in the park. We were excited to see the alligator again because we missed seeing her the last couple of years. We also heard an owl in the park. There were lots of dolphins and we saw a baby shark in the Gulf.
A deer on the side of the road

We rented kayaks one morning and paddled around the bay. We spotted crabs, a horseshoe crab and a starfish from the kayaks. The kayaks turned out to be lots of fun and something we will do again.

Traveling via kayak in the bay
Trying out a paddle board

We have talked about this park several times before, so I won't repeat the things we love about Port St. Joe. We have discovered over the years that this is a park that divides people. Some really love it because it is similar to the "old" Florida beaches. Others don't like it because it is too far away from restaurants, grocery stores and entertainment. We are in the group that loves this park.

The park specifics have not changed too much over the years.
  • This is a pet friendly park and you will see many pets at this park.
  • Wi-Fi is now available at the camp store and at the picnic tables next to the children's playground on the bay side of the park. Internet speeds at the picnic tables appear to be slower to us than at the camp store.
  • AT&T 4G service for both phone and data were significantly better this year than previous ones. It was easier for us to create a Wi-Fi hotspot from our iPhones than to travel to the park's Wi-Fi access points.
  • We had both 20 and 30 amp electrical service at our campsite.
  • It was sadly entertaining watching big rigs try to navigate around the sharp and narrow turns in the Shady Pines loop. Big rigs need to stay in the Gulf Breeze loop, which is better able to deal with the big boys.
  • There is one dump station in the park. You will need to plan your departure time around the line waiting to use it.
  • We were able to watch ABC and CBS most of the time from Rosie's antenna. We only saw the NBC station a couple of times. Digital signals from ME-TV and CW were watchable a few times. For some reason, we had weaker TV signals this year than in the past.
  • It is a long way to the closest grocery store. You want to make sure your camper is well-stocked before camping at Port St. Joe State Park.
Rain or shine, we enjoy camping in Rosie at the T. H. Stone Memorial St. Joseph State Park.

Enjoying the surf

Waiting for the tide change
Rosie leaving the Port St. Joe Park