Thursday, November 27, 2014

A RVing Christmas - Making it a Cool Yule for the RVers on Your Gift List

RV and camping gift guideAt the Thanksgiving dinner table, the RoadAbode Crew were discussing with friends what we've been thankful for throughout the year. Inevitably for us, the stories turn toward our favorite trips in RoadAbode. Either the beauty of natural surroundings we've encountered, yummy delights we've dined upon, or the great times had exploring with family and friends. We feel it's such a blessing that our girls have grown up taking trips in RoadAbode, and we are thankful for the memories that they will be able to share with their future families. When the conversations turned to planning for Christmas holidays, there were some Christmas wishes for under the tree, including items to make our RoadAbode adventures more interesting or fun. Even the youngest of the crew have some items to use in RoadAbode on their list! Hopefully our list below will help you find stuff for the RVers and campers on your gift giving list - from young to the young at heart!

Gift of Tech 

Even when out in the wilds, we still end up using some technology. One item the family enjoys is the OontZ Curve Bluetooth Speaker. Small enough to pack, but large sound to enjoy whatever is on your playlist. the OontZ wirelessly connects to your Bluetooth device: iPhones, iPads,iPod ,Android Tablets,Cell Phones, and Computers - anything that can output to Bluetooth. You get up to 5 hours of play time from the built-in rechargeable lithium-ion battery. It also works as a wireless hands free Bluetooth  speaker-phone for your Android or iPhone. Ours is not as loud as a boombox, but we don't even want that while camping! I have used it when we stream movies from my Samsung Note 3, wired to our Vizio LCD TV, and output wirelessly the sound to the OontZ. Perfect for inside RoadAbode! If you want  to double your playtime, check out the OontZ Angle.

The OontZ Curve Super Portable Wireless Bluetooth Speaker - The perfect speaker to take RVing

To keep your RVer on the right roads, consider the Rand McNally RVND 7720 7-Inch RV GPS with RV-specific routing, customized for their vehicle - choose from 11 different RV types.The RVND accounts for propane restrictions and even right- or left-hand turn preferences. Or switch to car mode for everyday use. This new design features easy-grip hardware, brighter screen that adjusts for low and strong light, and upgraded speaker. As a plus, it can be connected to a wireless hotspot or mobile access point on their smartphone to receive live weather data while travelling down the road.  This GPS also comes with free lifetime maps subscription

Rand McNally RVND 7720 7-Inch RV GPS with Free Lifetime Maps

Gift of Memories

For Mom or Dad at the office, show off some adventures to their office-mates with a RV Picture Frame We love how we can look back and remember some of the fun we've had in RoadAbode, and how the picture frame helps sparks conversations. The frames are available as popups, trailers, 5th wheels and Class A styles too!

Class C Motorhome RV Theme Photo Frame

Gift of Lighting

To save on battery and because they look cool, we love using our LED Lanterns. Whether for a starry night hike, or to illuminate our game of cards at the campsite, led lanterns last longer, burn cooler, and offer a brighter light than our old incandescent bulbs.

Coleman 8D Family Size LED Lantern

We also like to keep on-board RoadAbode LED Motion Sensor Lights. These square little lights are great to keep one to automatically light up near the step, or if anyone (or anyTHING) approaches RoadAbode in the middle of the night. Sometimes I just place one on the running board facing out to our campsite. You can also flip the switch to be constantly on or off. They are just as handy to pickup (they fit in the palm of your hand) and use as a flashlight to take Molly our pup on her nightly romp. We've had these lights about five years now, and  we have not had to change the three AA batteries in each yet. Perfect little lights!

Wireless LED Motion Sensor Light, 3-Pack

Gift of Play

One of our favorite games to play when at our campsite is a grassroots campground game.  Taking the best ideas of corn hole and horseshoes, Ladder Golf is played by throwing a bola of two golf balls connected with a rope at a ladder type structure. It's origins are traced back to a campground in Pennsylvania back the 1990s, and was patented by one of the players in 2001. The game is easy to learn, and all ages can play together with just a change of distance or point spread. Kids love it!
Double Ladderball Game

Gift of Reading

Books are always a favorite on the RoadAbode Crew's gift list. There's something about sitting in a camp chair and nesting in with a good book. Or if it's a rainy trip, laying in the bunk or on the couch in RoadAbode and drifting to wherever the story takes you. We've found some great inspiration in the writings of Least-Heat Moon's Blue Highways: A Journey into America and Steinbeck's classic Travels with Charley; in Search of America
For the younger set (and even we older RoadAbode Crew enjoy them) check out John Green's teen road trip stories like  Looking for Alaska, An Abundance of Katherines, Paper Towns, and Fault in Our Stars - which was made into the hit motion picture. If your tween or teen RVers haven't read these, they should! John Green Box Set
If learning is more important than fiction, then reading about RV Travel and Repair may be more to the liking of your RVer. Travel guides to the US, or tomes on repairs and how RV systems work will help keep their travels and RV in great shape!

Gift of Peace of Mind

One thing we've only used a few times, but are thankful we have is our Good Sam Road Service Membership. It keeps not just RoadAbode but also our family vehicles protected in the case of roadside breakdowns. Good Sam Roadside Assistance has been around since 1984, and has handled nearly two million roadside breakdowns. Designed with RVers in mind, Good Sam Roadside Assistance gets you the right tow truck for the size of the RV. Benefits include help should you have a tire blowout, need towing, run out of fuel, lock your keys in your vehicle, or experience any other issue that disables a RV. Help for your RVer can be a call away!
Protection RVers Need!
Roadside Assistance  - first 3 months free

Gift of Entertainment

Amazon Prime Gift Membership Offers your RVer FREE Two-Day Shipping on millions of items available at Amazon, plus the added bonus of  instantly streaming thousands of movies and TV shows wherever they are. Amazon Prime also offers unlimited, ad-free access to over a million songs and hundreds of playlists to help them keep rocking while their rolling down the road.

Give the Gift of Amazon Prime

Other Gift Giving Ideas 

Other Ideas Include Prepaid Credit Card for filling up the RV or pay other expenses while on the road,  or a meal out by giving Restaurant Gift Cards. How about a Coleman Folding Camp Wagon to cart kids or supplies? New Heavy Duty Folding Chairs and a few extras are great for new friends you make at the campground. There are plenty of ways to enhance your RVers next trip out!

We want you to know - If you click on the images or links in this blog post and purchase, the RoadAbode Crew get a small commission and you pay the same price as if you went straight to Amazon. These are items we have or have used while RoadTripping in RoadAbode. Read our disclaimer for more info. If you can use any suggestions from our gift list, enjoy, and we humbly thank you in advance for your support..

Monday, November 17, 2014

Winterizing ~ Keeping RoadAbode the RV in the Pink

RoadAbode at Country Acres, Gordonville, PA

Come November, the RoadAbode Crew gets a little melancholy. Late fall means getting ready for all the exciting things happening to celebrate Thanksgiving, Christmas, & the New Year. We get to see friends and family over the holidays, and prepare for special services and events at Roxborough Church. But even though we are enthused for all the joy occurring during the season, for us November also means the last RVing trip of the season. Our tradition is to put RoadAbode to "sleep" from the end of November to mid-March.  The winter months are just too busy for our family, and too cold for our bones in the Mid-Atlantic United States.
There are a few things needed to be done in the mid-eastern US to protect an RV over the winter months. The process includes draining tanks, prepping the water heater, getting special antifreeze in the water lines, checking the roof and a few other things to protect our home on wheels. One year we winterized too late and fortunately only lost our kitchen faucet to a hard enough freeze. When reviewing our process, understand that each manufacturer is different, and valve locations and processes can be dissimilar to what we do for RoadAbode. It's best to check with any owner manuals and manufactures directions you have. This list should give you a good starting point of what needs to be done to keep on RV "in the pink" over the cold months. Here's a look at our process for making sure RoadAbode is snug over the winter.
Each year our last November RoadTrip is usually to Country Acres Campground in Gordonville PA. We've written about Country Acres as one of our top spots in the past. Since we don't have adequate connections at storage or home to winterize, the RoadAbode Crew selects this RV park for a few reasons that help in the winterizing process.

What we look for in a "Winterizing" Campground

  • We make sure the campsite we select has full hookups and is level. This helps with flushing out the black (sewer) and grey (waste-water) tanks. 
  • We select a site close to the restrooms. Country Acres has modern and very clean restroom and shower areas, and an added bonus are heated floors. This really makes us happy on brisk November mornings!
  • We can stay till 2pm.  This is still a family outing, so don't winterize until our departure day. It's great having plenty of time to finish the winterizing process. Some campgrounds want you to leave by Noon or 1PM. The extra hour or two let's us still enjoy our morning, and maybe a quick shopping trip or quick adventure out.
  • The views are great. We're still RVing, so even though some would think of this a working weekend, for us it's all part of the adventure of owning a motorhome. In reality the work is only a short time of our weekend, so we like to make the most of it. Country Acres is right next to beautiful Amish farmland. If we pick the right weekend, the farmer and his team of horses will be tilling under his fields for next years crop. It's interesting and beautiful to be in Lancaster in the fall! Even when working on winterizing, we try to enjoy as much of our weekend as possible. We wait to do the work of winterizing until Sunday, preferably late morning. When we work together, it takes no more than an hour and half. Before that time, we are out enjoying all the shopping, flavors, and sights of Lancaster County.
Our winterizing process is done in this order:

Drain and Flush all Tanks -

We start by emptying all our tanks.  The process is pretty simple. Since we are working with sewage and waste-water, and items that touch these products, we always wear rubber gloves when working with the hoses and connections to these tanks. The Black and Grey tanks have individual gate valves with manual pull handles.
Sewer Hose
Sewer Hose and Flush King setup
The two connect together at a built in wye connector. We use a "Flush King" clear fitting that has it's own gate valve, and a connector with a ball valve to turn on/off a connector to a water hose. The water hose connector also has a built in back flow preventer, which is important so you don't accidentally contaminate your water supply. We do not use our white fresh water hose for this job, so there is less danger of cross contamination.  We use a gray-colored water hose so that there is a distinct differentiation between the two This is important for keeping our fresh water sanitary - all our fresh water connections and our waste or sewer connections are stored in separate bins.We connect our expandable sewer hose, one side  to the Flush King, and the other to the campsites sewer connector. We like the Rhino flex hose because the connectors are easy to grab and lock together, and the hose is sturdy and built to last. Once everything is connected, wee open the gate of the black first. Once we see the black tank is not releasing any more waste-water, we do an extra back flush (or sometimes two) of water from our gray hose to help clear the tanks of any solids clinging to the inside walls.We rarely have issues with our sewer tank, as we flush it out once almost every trip. After the black tank is complete we close it's gate valve, and we repeat the process with the gray water.
For the fresh water tank, we access valves under our rear queen bed. These valves allow the fresh water tank to empty from underneath RoadAbode. Depending how much water is in the tank, the process to empty  the fresh water can take  a few minutes to an hour.
Empty the Water Heater -
Emptying RoadAbode's Water Heater
Water Heater
RoadAbode has a six gallon water heater. Preparing it for winter is a two step process, but relatively easy. The water heater is located under the kitchen area sink. First, we go outside to the access panel, twist the spring clasp (which oddly looks like a flip-top from a soda can) and lower the access door. We use an adjustable wrench to open the nylon drain plug. I recommend picking up a pack to have as backup, the spot is tight and I seem to mess up the head of the plug after a few times emptying the tank throughout a season. To quicken the release of water, I flip up the release on the hot water pressure valve and open the hot water faucet in the kitchen. Both let air into the tank help displace the water. Once empty,  I close the faucet and pressure release valve, and tighten the water heater plug back in place. Close the access panel, and on to part two under RoadAbode's kitchen sink. First I have to open the access panel underneath the sink. Once this is lifted out of the way we can peek past the "house" heater duct work and see a single plumbing valve. I set this to the "up" position, which is important for our next part in winterizing. The valve causes any water in the pipes to bypass the water heater. Once we are finished our next set, I reset it back so that the water heater will be ready for use when we de-winterize in spring. As a reminder, I just lay the access panel to the side for now.

Fill Freshwater system with RV antifreeze -

Important safety tip - RV antifreeze we use is specially formulated for fresh water systems. Never use vehicle coolant/antifreeze in your fresh water or waste water systems! Even small amounts of the wrong stuff can make someone sick. No matter what you read in a RV forum or some RVing old-timer (and I think I'm actually an old-timer!) tells you about using automotive antifreeze, don't. Not good for the environment, not good for septic systems, not good for pets or people, and it's not even cheaper!
Winterizing with the "Pink Stuff" - RV Antifreeze
We are fortunate to have a setting on our water control panel located in the road-side basement, allowing us to add RV antifreeze right from the jug! Some RV's have to use a second pump or hand pump antifreeze through their fresh water inlet. Whichever way it needs to be done, the importance is to displace any water in the system with the "pink stuff". Fresh water antifreeze is a bright pink. You won't confuse it with the neon green of automotive antifreeze.
RoadAbode's Water Works
RoadAbode's Water Works

With RoadAbode, we open the basement door, flip the valves to the correct position, and connect the "feeder tube" to the winterization inlet on the water control panel, it's other end goes into a bottle of RV antifreeze.. Then we go inside, flip the pump switch on, and open faucets one by one until the water coming out is bright pink. We do this for our kitchen, shower, and restroom faucets - hot and cold, and the toilet. We shut off the pump, and retrieve the bottle of RV antifreeze from the basement. Into each drain we pour some of the antifreeze to displace any water in the drains "P" traps. Last job of the "pink stuff" is to pour some into the toilet and let it sit in the bowl.

We usually have about a third of a bottle of RV antifreeze left. This we leave in RoadAbode and use in case someone needs to use the toilet while visiting RoadAbode December through March. We don't "de-winterize" until April in the Philadelphia area. The RV Antifreeze is usually listed as working until -50, which is plenty fine for our area. Dilution with water does not worry us as it is so concentrated. In ten years we have only had one issue, and that because we waited to winterize because of an outing with friends. Fortunately, we only lost the original kitchen faucet, and replaced it with a much nicer from Home Depot in just an hour.(It was so easy even I could do it!)

Check the Roof - 

Installing more Maxx-Airs in August 2014
Installing more Maxx-Airs on the roof
If not this weekend, then a week or so before or later we like to get on RoadAbode's roof to check for tears, cracks separating seams, or broken vent covers. We are pretty diligent and do this throughout the year, but it's always good to check before putting RoadAbode to bed for the winter. If we find an issue with the roof, we repair either with Lap Sealant, or Eternabond Roofing Tape. We now have all our vents covered with Max-Air vent covers. These are installed over the existing vents, allowing us to leave them open, even in wet, windy weather. The Maxx-Airs seem to be more UV resistant than the vents were. Maybe we should post how that install went (I didn't even do it, Amy did!)

Last Few Things - 

Before we close up for December through March, we do a few other items to keep RoadAbode happy and safe.
Check and Disconnect the Battery - We have a knife switch (a quick disconnect on the pole of the battery) on RoadAbode's house battery that we disconnect. We do this every time we go to storage after a trip. On our last trip, we also look for any corrosion, or if the battery is leaking. So far, we're in 10 years we are on our second house battery.
Have Service Done on RoadAbode's Chassis -  Pennsylvania requires a state inspection, so we usually take RoadAbode in October or November for this annual checkup. Besides the state inspection, we have an oil change done, and all fluids checked or replaced as needed. All hoses and belts are checked. We take RoadAbode to a shop that specializes in truck repair, so they can put her on a lift and check her underbelly and suspension.
Clean - I'd be remiss in not saying that we give RoadAbode a through cleaning before heading back to storage. We take all the rugs out, (matching, various size bath rugs with rubber bottoms are perfect for us as area rugs) sweep the vinyl floors and clean all inside surfaces. All bedding come home to get cleaned. Any stored food items (we always have extra snacks!) are removed and carted home. It's almost sad RoadAbode's so barren!
Cover RoadAbode's Tires - When she's finally back in the parking spot  in storage, we put wheel covers on RoadAbode's wheels to keep the sun and weather off them. This helps keep the tires from prematurely aging, and having the chemicals in the rubber leach out.

For now, RoadAbode is all set for winter. December through March, we visit, perhaps do a few update projects, run her engine and generator a few times, and shovel snow if there's a lot. Mostly though we dream and plan for our next RVing adventures come early spring! We enjoy our RVing lifestyle!

Items Mentioned in this blog post
Below are some of the products we mentioned while winterizing RoadAbode. If you click on the Amazon links below and purchase, the RoadAbode Crew get a small commission and you pay the same price. These are items we use in keeping RoadAbode healthy and fun to be around. Read our disclaimer for more info. If you can use anything below - thanks in advance for helping us out.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

RVing Lancaster County, Pennsylvania ~ Three Campgrounds, Three Unique Experiences

Amish Family in buggy - Lancaster, PA
Amish Family in buggy - Lancaster, PA
Lancaster County is one of our favorite places to travel with friends and family. We visit so often, it could be considered our second home - a great base camp for RoadAbode Adventures.
Frequently called Pennsylvania Dutch Country,  the naming of Lancaster actually receives its roots from England. The area was actually named after the city of Lancaster in the county of Lancashire in England. Lancaster is both the name of our Pennsylvania county, encompassing over 980 miles of land, and also the largest city in the county. We love the area for the breathtaking views of Amish farmland. Besides it's agricultural roots, Lancaster seems to draws a diverse mix of industrial, retail, and eclectic artisans to the area. Just as diverse are the people of Lancaster. The county is known for it's quiet long-standing religious communities of  Amish and Mennonite. Lancaster City has a growing population of Hispanic immigrants, and the entire region is quickly becoming a place where retirees from across the country come to call home.
Below are just a few of the wonderful places we've visited. If you have a favorite we missed, please tell us about it in the comments section below - we're always looking for more Adventures with RoadAbode.
There is so much to experience in Lancaster, we enjoy different adventures, depending on what area we want to explore during our visit. For more information on all the happening in the Lancaster area, check in and Discover Lancaster.
Here are our three "go to" campgrounds, and how each affords us a different flavor of Lancaster.

Lake in Wood Camping Resort ~ Narvon, PA

A short drive through farm and woodland from Route 23, Lake in Wood is a beautiful wooded campground. Highly rated by Woodalls and Trailerlife, it features an indoor/outdoor pool, cafe, and store featuring all the items a RVer may have forgotten, and some items they never knew they needed! All the main roadways within the resort are hard-coated and smooth. The RV sites have full hookups and there is free WiFi available on the premises. If you bring children along on your travels, there is plenty to keep them occupied. Fun stuff like paddle-boats, bikes, and pedal-carts are available to rent. Also there are two great playgrounds and a nice mini golf course if they want to play a round. Most months have planned kid and family activities so you can get out, have fun, and meet your neighbors. There's even a play yard for your "furbabies" if your four legged kids like traveling by RV. If you have friends or family that don't RV, they can try out one of the unusual rentals available. Who wouldn't want to stay in a converted double-decker bus, teepee, ship-wreck or tree house? There are other units just as interesting for their camping options. One thing that you will find either cute or creepy are the "gnomes", little men and women in red, pointy shaped hats abound  throughout the landscaped gardens, and pathways of the resort. The cafe is even called "The Gnome Cafe" and the decor takes the Gnome obsession to a whole other level. We think the gnome theme is really cute, but more jaded tweens and teens seem to just roll their eyes.
Maple Grove Raceway
Maple Grove Raceway
What we visit when at Lake in Wood ~ If you're in the mood for cool cars and catching some drag racing, head just five miles up the road from Lake in Wood to Maple Grove Raceway. Every weekend from April to November (the months we most like to RV!), you can catch NHRA Drag Racing and other Motorsporting events. There has been a track at the site since the 1930's, and it has been operating continuously as Maple Grove since 1960. The track is a quarter mile drag strip with the viewing stands close to the action. Lots of fun, food, and cool things to see for all ages, but be warned - it gets LOUD!
Lancaster is famous for it's smorgasbords, and one of the best is just a few minutes away from your campsite. Shady Maple has been a favorite of church groups, bus trips, and families since the erection of the first produce stand at the location in the 1970's. It's possible to spend your whole day at the Shady Maple complex. There are a variety of shopping experiences, and even an RV dealership. Lancaster County's largest smorgasbord features plenty of mouth-watering treats, including some delicious and authentic Pennsylvania Dutch specialties. Foodie Tip - If you want to sample good Dutch cooking, but want to save your waistline and budget, try one of the two other eateries in the complex; The Dutchette is located in the huge gift shop below the smorgasbord, and the Maple Leaf Cafe is located inside the entrance of the Farmers Market. Both offer healthy portions of Dutch cooking with a casual friendly dining experience.  When shopping in the Shady Maple Farmers Market, you'll find it specializes in products from local farms, but is also a full fledged supermarket. Check out the goodies in the large bakery, extensive meat shop, and find some very interesting medicinal selections in the pharmacy. I marvel that for locals, this is their regular grocery spot!
Good's Store is another local gem by the Shady Maple complex. Describing it as an "Amish Walmart" does not do it justice, but it's the best visual I can give. When we visit, our family is keen on perusing the large fabric and sewing department, gardening section, and shop among the interesting kitchen items. Clothing, shoes, and the handmade toy aisle also are favorites of ours. Be warned, we rarely leave without buying something. As the Pennsylvania Dutch community says, "Come Onct" to Good's Store!

Spring Gulch Resort ~ New Holland, PA

Spring Gulch was the first campground that we stayed with RoadAbode way back in April of 2005, so this resort will always  holds a special place in our hearts. The campground is large, split into a lower and upper campground. Both areas have their own large pool, playground, restrooms and shower facilities. In the lower section, is a hall where bands and DJs entertain campers on many weekends. Individual sites (especially those in the upper campground) are roomy with full hookups. The main roads into the resort are hard surface, but most side roads are gravel. With plenty of activities for the kids, this park has a fishing pond, mini golf, and planned arts and crafts. Adults can take advantage of the day spa located on premises. The campstore is well stocked, and will have what you may need while RVing. Gone with the Wynns, one of our favorite RVing bloggers, even made a video featuring why they enjoy this resort.
Yoder's New Holland PAWhat we visit when at Spring Gulch ~ We love to go thrifting, and when staying in this section of Lancaster County, it's a short trip to hit the Goodwill store in the town of East Earl. The store offers two floors of sometimes new or gently used clothing and household items.For buried treasure, dig through the clothing bins in the lower level. More upscale than Goodwill is the Re-Uzit Shop in New Holland. Run by the Mennonite Church, the proceeds provide food, health, school, and relief supplies for people in need both locally to the Lancaster area,  and throughout the world. This store is neatly organized and has the feel of a small department store rather than a thrift shop. Beautiful glassware, unique furniture and current fashions can be found easily, and at great prices. For those that like to dig through to find a treasure, there are opportunities in their bookstore, Christmas, and household item areas.
We always enjoy taking a ride through the countryside for a sample of local fare. One stop we love for a bite to eat is Yoder's Country Market. Yoder's offers a great variety of comfort food and local favorites. For those not afraid of expanding their waistline, try the lunch or dinner buffets on for size. They even have a gluten free menu. Besides the restaurant, they have a full grocery store to stock up on essentials and Amish goodies like smoked meats and shoofly pie. Take a stroll, let your meal settle in, and check out the cute gift shops they share space with.

Country Acres Campground ~ Gordonville, PA

Country Acres Campground is located right off Route 30 For the RoadAbode Crew, it's the easiest and closest campground to travel and arrive within an hour of Philadelphia.. Having a smaller footprint than either Lake in Wood or Spring Gulch, Country Acres still offers ample amenities, and a few that the other two campgrounds do not. Nestled between Route 30 and Amish farmland, the campground has all gravel roads and sites. Some of the campsites are located right next to the fields, and many have views which allow you to see the Amish working the soil. Of the three parks, the restroom and shower facilities of Country Acres are our top rated. Well lit with heated floors, ample shower stalls, and clothing hooks, are appreciated especially during the colder months. The campground has a small playground and arcade. The camp store is not stocked as fully compared to the other resorts,  but it is just a few minutes drive to pickup needed items in a local convenience store. Part of the reason we love this campground is the smaller size. With less children's activities, it seems to be a quieter experience for us.
What we visit when at Country Acres Campground ~Since it is part of the Smucker Family's Bird-in-Hand Corporation, in winter months you can use the Bird-In Hand Inn's indoor pool. They also offer informative and fun shuttle bus tours year round led by locals  - for no charge - to guests of the campground and Inn. The occasional seasonal packages including breakfast or discounted meals at the Bird in Hand
Bird in Hand Restaurant, Lancaster PA
Restaurant and Smorgasbord. Local favorites and scrumptious desserts are on the menu, and plentiful. Although I enjoy the variety of vendors lining the aisles at the authentic Farmers Market located next to the Bird in Hand Inn, the rest of the RoadAbode Crew like our relatively close proximity to the Rockvale Outlets. This shopping experience boasts over 90 outlet stores, and close to a dozen eateries to keep your strength up while hunting down deals. Other interest shopping venues include Tanger Outlets further west on Route 30, and the uniquely Pennsylvania Dutch Kitchen Kettle Village, located east of  Bird in Hand Restaurant on Route 340. If we don't even feel like driving, right outside Country Acres Campground, on Levens Road is the Almost Paradise barn, packed with statuary, knickknacks and home decor. Sometimes it's nice to stroll from our campsite and take a peek at the offerings there. In warmer months, they also offer locally grown produce. A great addition to a meal made in RoadAbode.

There's So Much More!

These are just a few of  our favorite options we enjoy when touring and relaxing in Lancaster County. There are plenty of other adventures to experience in Lancaster, that we do while staying at either three of these campgrounds. A couple that we have done in past years:
You can check out Rail Roading at Strasburg Rail Road, and The Rail Road Museum of Pennsylvania. For a feel of Christmas all year round, check out The National Christmas Center
For entertaining theater, Sight and Sound TheaterRainbow Dinner Theater Dutch Apple Dinner Theater, and American Music Theater include performances for all ages.
 If you have a favorite we missed, please tell us about it in the comments section below, we love to learn about treasures worth visiting in Lancaster County.  For more information on all the happening in the Lancaster area, check in and Discover Lancaster.

Friday, November 07, 2014

RVing in Pennsylvania? Five Great Hikes You'll Want to Do

One of the great things about travelling in our motorhome RoadAbode is being able to camp only a short distance from the most beautiful areas Pennsylvania has to offer. Depending on schedule, weather, or mood, we can do an eye-opening morning, leisurely afternoon, or a starlight evening hike. The timing doesn't matter;  RoadAbode as our base camp is right there to afford all the comforts of home, because well, she is our home! Here's a list of five favorite places to hike in PA. We're sure you have your favorites too, and we'd love if you could share and discuss your hiking places and tips in the comments section below.

French Creek State Park ~ Elverson, PA

French Creek HAS to be on our short list of hikes, because it holds fond long-ago memories of traveling with parents.  Measured at 7,730-acres, it is the largest block of contiguous forest between Washington D.C. and New York City. Only an hour from Philadelphia, this wooded area off Route 23 in Elverson PA was as far as my parents liked to travel for a day trip. Now for our family of four, camping with RoadAbode for a few nights blesses us with time to relax, fish, canoe, and still get to see plenty of what the area has to offer. French Creek State Park has it's own multi-looped campground. Some sites are only for tenting, but most have electric hookups. Water is available at strategic locations on each loop, so as you come in, make sure to top off your RV's fresh water tank. If you come with fido, there is a loop of designated campsites for those with pets. A modern playground is right in the campground, and a swimming pool is a short drive or nice hike on the other side of Hopewell Lake.  There are also Yurts and Cabins, if you have friends that don't RV you want to include in your adventures. Reservations are recommended for all accommodations.
Hopewell Lake, French Creek State Park
Hopewell Lake, French Creek State Park
There are multiple trails that crisscross the park. Horses are permitted on the Horse-shoe Trail and bikes are prohibited on trails south of Park Road. This makes for time of reflective hikes or fun group hikes without worry. Leashed pets are allowed on all the trails. The trails are well marked, and for the most part well maintained. Sturdy soled sneakers, shoes, or boots are smart - flip-flops are not.
Cool Trail Tip: For hiking right from your campsite there are at least four enjoyable trails to choose which pass right by the campground. Here is one  personal favorite which is not too long. Start by hiking from the campground, following down the entry road. You should be able to see the trail off the road, a little past the campground's check-in station. Enter the trail on the left where the Boone trail (blue blazes) and Lenape trail (green blazes) intersect. Follow the Lenape a short way. The Colliers trail (white blaze) will be available for you there. This trail will take you south toward the dam of Hopewell Lake then west, toward Hopewell Village National Historic Site, a restored Colonial era Iron Forge village. If you go in autumn. you may be able to pick heritage apples there!
Grab a trail map of the area here
For more about French Creek, check the PA DCNR site.

Hickory Run State Park ~ White Haven, PA

This State Park wins for best named trail: "Shades of Death Trail" The best part is, it's not deathly at all - it's a shaded hike by swift moving water - and a really great place to trek into. Hickory Run State Park is located in the part of Pennsylvania known as the  foothills of the Pocono Mountains. It borders the Leigh River on its western boundary. Besides hiking, Hickory Run is a great place to camp, fish, and swim. One thing the park is know for is the oddity of  Boulder Field, formed by the most "recent" glacial period, approximately  20,000 years ago.  Boulder Field is registered as a National Natural Landmark.
The campground is spread over several loops. It also encompasses a large field in it's most upper camping area. Both upper and lower areas have specific sites allowing pets. As with French Creek, sites only have electric hookups available, with water fill stations found on each campground loop. A dump station is available to utilize on your way home, not far from the camp store. The topography of the campground from the topmost area to bottom loops is quite steep. Thankfully individual sites are fairly level. According to a camp host we spoke to on a recent trip, The upper campground will be experiencing some much needed updating in late 2014 or early 2015. Water and possibly sewer hookups will be added to individual sites. Currently, there are newer cabins available for reservations in the upper area
Shades of Death Trail Hickory Run State Park
Trail-head - Shades of Death Trail, Hickory Run State Park
Cool Trail Tips:  The Shades of Death Trail follows along the Sandy Spring Run, and is the most picturesque trail in the park. Sandy Run flows and meanders through a thicket of Hemlock and  rhododendron woodland. Wear good footwear that's water resistant, because there are plenty of tree knots and roots to trip over in a slightly swampy section of the trail. Get past the challenge and be rewarded with a hike up a set of steps carved into the rock outcropping. Once you reach the top, have a bit of fun with a chance to make your own cairn, atop this sunlit and moss  covered rocky plateau  in the forest..The stacked rocks are as much trail marker as they are art. Respect and admire the ones already there! Some sections of this trail are steep. The chance to relax next to the stream, or gaze up at the water flowing off of the CCC made dams are worth the extra effort. You can find the trail-head by the park office on Route 534 across from the chapel.

Ricketts Glenn State Park ~ Benton, PA

There's something about the sounds and scents near falling water that makes a hike more relaxing. Ricketts Glen State Park is home to the Glen Natural Area. Here, branches of Kitchen Creek create over twenty named waterfalls flowing through Ricketts, Ganoga, and Leigh Glens. The Kitchen Creek branches form the Ganoga and Leigh Glens, and come together to form Waters Meet, a swirly whirlpool of water. The waters continues cascading down through Ricketts Glen. The waterfalls  range in height from nine feet to over ninety, The trail follows along the waters, through the three glens which make-up the park land. Absolutely one of the most beautiful places on the east coast, the PA Bureau of State Parks named Rickets Glen State Park a top "Twenty Must-See Pennsylvania State Parks"
Ricketts Glen State Park
Ganoga Falls, Ricketts Glen State Park
The campground at Rickets Glen is beautifully laid out, with picturesque sites situated alongside Lake Jean. The campground does come with a few caveats for RVers use to having all the comforts of home.  The restrooms are modern and clean. However, there are no hookups at the individual campsites, not even electric.  2015 will add new cabins to those already existing. The cabins all have electric, however the newer buildings will not have running water. To get to the campground, RVers will need to be careful with the roads they use. The road entering the park from the south, using Route PA-118 to Route PA-487 North,. is too steep and not recommended for RVs of any size.  The recommended route is entering from Dunshore, PA, going South on PA-487 for anyone with a RV.
Cool Trail Tips: The main trail to see at Ricketts Glen are the Falls Trails. Round trip utilizing these trails is approximately seven miles, and at times has a very steep decent or incline. Of all the trails in Pennsylvania to wear proper foot gear, The Falls Trails of Ricketts Glen are most definitely the ones. The constantly falling water can make some trail sections slippery, and slippery rocks and steep walkways have spelled disaster for those not paying attention or coming prepared. Bugs seem to be more prevalent from spring into July. August through September seems to be when the area is both less buggy and at it's most beautiful. In winter months the falls are closed off to all but those proven experienced with ice climbing equipment. It's possible to see all the waterfalls by following the Falls Trails, but if you are short on time - or afraid that you won't make the full trip around - Take the Ganoga Glen side of the trail first, so you can see the largest falls at least. Another idea if you have a few people doing this adventure, is to leave someone's car at the parking lot located on Route 118. Then hike down, past Waters Meet and ride back up to your campsite!
 For more about Ricketts Glen State Park, read here, or check out the PA DCNR site.

Hawk Mountain Sanctuary ~ Kempton, PA

You have to pay a fee (or be a member) to hike these trails, but it's for a good cause, and totally worth it. Hawk Mountain is the location to see hawks, eagles and other raptors, also known as birds of prey. Hawk Mountain is actually a ridge of mountains, part of the Appalachian Mountain chain. It is not a state or federal park, but a member-supported wildlife sanctuary operated by the Hawk Mountain Sanctuary Association. The fee you pay (as of this writing $6 or $8 for adults with breaks for children and seniors depending on time of year) helps fund research, education worldwide, and operations within the park.
Hiking North Lookout Hawk Mountain
North Lookout Hawk Mountain
There is no campground located at Hawk Mountain, but you can find local campgrounds nearby. If you have children, Robin Hill RV Resort located in Lenhartville PA has a pool and other activities to keep the kids happy, Our personal favorite is Pine Hill RV Park, located in Kutztown, PA. Both have campsites with full hookups, and cabins available. For us, since Pine Hill is located right next to a small farm, it seems like the quieter and more relaxing campground of the two. Pine Hill RV Park also happens to be a mile away from Pinnacle Ridge Winery which is a wonderful local vineyard.  Stop to sample some award winning vino in their tasting room!
Cool Trail Tips: When you arrive at Hawk Mountan, your first stop should be to the Hawk Mountain Visitor Center. You can pay the trail use fee, and check out the large relief map of the area to see where you will be hiking. The Visitor Center also has a great gift and book store, proceeds which benefit the sanctuary. Don't forget to get trail maps. (free with your trail use fee) Our personal favorite hiking end point is the North Lookout, the highest point on the ridge. We enjoy watching the raptors glide on the updrafts from the mountain.. You might like to pack a snack or light lunch to enjoy while relaxing on the large boulders dominating North Lookout. Please remember, whatever you pack in, you are required to pack out - back to your car. Being an eco-sensitive site, there are no trash containers available at Hawk Mountain Sanctuary. Parts of the trails can be rocky, so we'd advise against flip-flops, but sturdy sneakers or walking shoes should get you where you want to go. There are parts of the trail that are a steep climb, and parts you will be hopping boulder to boulder, but if you made the hike to that point, you're in for some spectacular views. Along the hike you may have the opportunity to meet resident and interning raptor experts. People studying or researching raptors coming to Hawk Mountain from around the globe. Most times they love to answer questions and get the truths of these majestic hawks, falcons, eagles, and others out there!
For more information on Hawk Mountain Sanctuary, check their website here

Fairmont Park ~ Philadelphia, PA

Fairmount Park
Fairmont Park Logo
Surprised? Don't be.
Nestled in Penn's “Greene Countrie Towne,” is Fairmount Park, Philadelphia's emerald gem of forested land. One of the largest urban green spaces in the country, Philadelphia's Fairmount Park consists of more than 9,200 acres of trails, woodlands and wetlands. It actually is an amalgamation of over sixty parks within city boundaries, interconnected throughout Philadelphia. The Park cuts a big swath of green from the center of the city, reaching outward toward the Northwestern and Northeastern suburbs. It follows the waters of the Schuylkill River, Pennypack Creek, Wissahickon Creek, and other smaller tributaries. Hiking in these green spaces is a great way to explore natural, historical, and other treasures found in the City of Brotherly Love. If you have the stamina, the Fairmount Park trails connect with suburban Rails-to-Trails, make it possible to Hike  or Bike from Center City, to Valley Forge, and beyond.
Here's some of what makes Fairmount Park a great place to hike:
Am I really hiking in a city? Throughout Fairmount Park there is the ability to hike or bike through parts of Philadelphia, and not even realize you are in the city. In places the bustling noise of the city gives way to the sounds of babbling streams and chirping birds. The experience can be as if you suddenly dropped off the city map. In the early morning and early twilight it's possible to see deer grazing, and chipmunks, rabbits, or groundhogs scurrying about. Even fox have been spotted hunting in sections of the park. Though many trails are not marked, they are defined and well traveled. The Schuykill Trail follows along the Schuykill River, and in places is along streets and sidewalks. To feel more in the wilderness, hike in the Wissahickon Gorge, located in the Northwestern part of the city The main hiking path there is known as Forbidden Drive.
Tedyuscung statue,” by John Massey Rhind overlooking the Wissahickon
Tedyuscung near Forbidden Drive
No motorized vehicles are allowed passage on the graveled path of Forbidden Drive. The only exceptions are for emergency or park employees. While hiking in the Wissahickon Valley, you will meet equestrian riders and bicyclists, but since the way is as wide as a two lane street, sharing is not a problem. Dogs are welcome here, but must be leashed and under the owners control.
Hiking past Remington's Cowboy on Kelly Drive in Philadelphia
Remington's Cowboy on Kelly Drive 
Hike past Art Art installations abound in Philadelphia. It's possible to hike from the Ben Franklin Parkway, past the Art Museum, along Kelly Drive, and toward the Wissahickon trail and enjoy over fifty installations of various art pieces and historic statuary.
Hike past History Though Center City Philadelphia is the home to famous treasures and landmarks, like the Liberty Bell, Independence Hall, and Read Terminal Market; Fairmount Park has lesser known historical attractions of it's own. Chief Tedyuscung - controversial monument to a famous Lenape Chief, the Thomas Mill Covered Bridge - only covered bridge still standing in city limits, Hermit's Cave and more are all accessible from Forbidden Drive. Many historical homes, churches and landmarks are close by the trails.
Hike to an Eatery When hiking in Fairmount Park, you don't necessarily have to pack a lunch or snack to take along with you. There are possibilities near - or even right on - the trails. We do however recommend you stay hydrated and carry a water bottle with you. Located by the western terminus of Forbidden Drive, Northwestern and Germantown Avenues, is Bruno's Cafe, with plenty of seating to relax and chow down on favorites like breakfasts, burgers, fries, milkshakes with dessert in the attached ice cream parlor before hitting the trail again. Or park at the historic Valley Green Inn for snacks and beverages at the takeout window, or; be seated and partake on the porch or dining room and be served something more fanciful to fuel up for your hike. For real variety in cuisine, if hiking on Kelly Drive, check out the noshing options located by Boathouse Row. Hike to Manayunk and it's canal path trail, and along Main Street you'll find the latest and hippest places to grab a bite or drink. For good food cheap, Union Taco is our current favorite in Manayunk.
Philadelphia is a hiking and exploring paradise with the exception of one thing for RVers. There are no campgrounds in the city. The closest campground to serve Center City to the east is over the Delaware River in New Jersey, Timerlane Campground. To the south of Philadelphia, next to the Brandywine River, is West Chester KOA . We've personally enjoyed staying at West Chester KOA when we visit the Chester County area. A real restful place to camp - and they have a shuttle/tour to Philadelphia. Another idea is to contact friends in the city. Depending on where they live in the city, you may be able to "boondock" for a night or two in their driveway while you explore. For the more adventurous, contact one of the many churches in Philadelphia and check if you could boondock on their parking lot for a night. Those in the Northwestern section of Philadelphia or nearby suburbs may be more palatable to your request.
Section of Forbidden Drive Philadelphia
Section of Forbidden Drive
Cool Trail Tips: Forbidden Drive is the only trail we'd ever say is "OK" to wear flip-flops. It's flat and well graded. We still recommend good sneakers or walking shoes, especially if you are planning to hike from center city using the Schuykill Trail along Kelly Drive and westward toward Forbidden Drive or the Canal Path in Manayunk. There are plenty of  interesting spots to explore in "Penn's Woods". We don't recommend doing them at night however. In fact, many parking areas that access trails close at dusk. Forbidden drive is a relatively easy hike, but if you want to be more adventurous, try the smaller trails that branch off from Forbidden Drive, or are across the other side of Wissahickon Creek. One of the great things about hiking in Philadelphia is you are never more than a mile from a major road or bus stop! If you really get tired, you can even call a cab! Happy Hiking!

We'd love to learn about where you camp and hike in Pennsylvania. If you have some tips of your own, the RoadAbode Crew would love to hear them - comment below!
For more more in depth information on Hiking in PA, check these books listed on Amazon - Hiking Eastern Pennsylvania