Camping

5 Reasons to Rent a Screen Shelter at Lake Livingston State Park

The setup of our shelter #4

The weather in our area has been crazy to say the least so we got a “screened shelter”. My eldest daughter is a bit of a princess and I could just see how this camping trip would go if it rained on our tent. So here are the top 5 reasons why I think you should do what I did, and rent a screened shelter for your next camping trip at Lake Livingston State Park in Livingston, TX. (For reference, we stayed in shelter #4)

1. It really does keep the bugs out. Ok, maybe not spiders, but by being mindful of the door it did a good job in limiting the flying bugs from invading our space. That was nice as we were sleeping. Plus the shelters are raised so it seemed like there was very little issues with ants as well. You can also eat bug free and in the shade.(sorta) There is a picnic table inside that you can sit at and so you can eat without having to worry about the sun hitting you. Just move the sides, if needed. Plus, if everyone is shutting the door, you don’t have to worry about ants crawling up in your food and any other flying insects. We tried to eat at the table by the firepit one time and a squirel came up and stole a piece of one of my daughters gram cracker. He had no fear. We were even at elbow length to it!

2. It comes with electricity. There is one light outside by the door and one inside. Both have switches that you can turn on and off. There is a also a GFCI outlet inside as well. This was nice to keep my cellphone charged and on the super wet days, I was able to plug in my electric skillet to make pancakes. (Don’t laugh! It worked!) My only suggestion is that you bring a surge protector as there were times when the rain would hit that area and it made me a bit nervous to plug stuff in, but we never had an issue.

4. The sides adjust for privacy. Each side has a large block of wood that you can roll back and forth to cover parts of the shelter. This was really nice if we wanted to get dressed. Although you can stand up in the middle of the loft and get dressed assuming your under 6ft. Plus this worked well when we had rain coming in. I was able to keep at least HALF of the bottom of the shelter from getting too wet.

3. You can sleep in a loft. You can climb the stairs and sleep in the loft. There are rails at both ends so you don’t have to worry about rolling off in your sleep. I would say two adults and two children could sleep up there. There is also a screen window up top to help ventilate so depending on the direction of the wind you could keep cool. The way the wind went in our shelter, the bottom was very chilly from the wind and my kids were toasty uptop. Plus, when the storm came pounding through, they were dry as a bone and I ended up getting soaked from the spray of wind. (yah. not fun) If you really want to make it a treat, there are strong beams that you can hang a hammock from. I did this to give my kids more room in the loft. It was great in the cool breeze and even for being lazy in the middle of the day. Some sites will allow you to pitch a tent if you still want to tent camp and just use the shelter for eating and storing your goods. There is a latch on the outside so you can padlock it. Most of the time thought I never saw anyone and it was always quite.

5. It’s the closest you can camp to the lake in the park. Each shelter is right off the lake so you can fish, cook, and eat all from right at your campsite. Some shelters where in areas that had their tables close to the shore line that you could even swim a little. Not to mention wonderful views of the lake. Very cool!

As of this writing they were only $30 a night which I thought was a pretty good deal vs the local KOA. Be sure to check their website for the most up to date information.

-Gin

 

 

 

 

 

Wolf Creek Park -Livingston, TX Review

wolf creek park livingston lakeSo I will start off with saying that we enjoyed this park. There is a playground, showers, clean restrooms, full RV hookups, and a friendly staff. I would recommend that you do not come down without a reservation though. This place is popular! You can call or make reservations on their website. I would recommend calling as sometimes their website can glitch in terms of availabilty. They also post last minute openings on their facebook page, too, so I would follow them if you are interested. They have sites that are both next to the lake and even nearby the lake so youu still get a nice view. They have them for both tent camping, as well as full hook ups for RVs. There is swimming, however, it does appear to be seasonal as it was closed during spring break in early March when we went. (Although that could of been mostly due to the gloomy weather we were having that weekend.)

wolf creek park livingstone storewolf creek park livingston campsite viewYou can catch fish here in the lake and many people near us did. (We didn’t have any luck, but we are terrible fishers.) You can buy bait, tackle, and even all different kinds of fishing licenses at the store. I was even surprised that they had RV supplies! The kinds of fish you can expect seemed to be the Crappies, bass, and catfish. Catfish seems to be the predominate fish, but you can check the TX fishing website for more info on that.

For the kiddies

There is a playground and even mini golf for those who don’t feel like fishing. I saw many kids riding their bikes around the park as well. I have to say the playground was really popluar, even with our kids. We were lucky enough that our campsite was nearby enough that they could easily play while I stayed by the fire and watched them. Next to the Playground is a volleyball court and basketball court. This appeared to be another popular spot but for teens.

wolf creek park livingstone campsiteThe sites

At this time I can’t speak about the tent sites as we stayed in a RV site. My only annoyance was that the water was in the front of the site and the electric was in the back. For our 30′ this required us to park it in a position that they would both reach, only to find that the sewage hose just barely reached. However, we found them all to be paved and leveled. A MAJOR plus and they were all CLEAN! Another plus. I’m sure this has to do with site trash pick up in the morning. canopy

They are set up with 50/30/20. So that was nice so that we could plug our lights for the dining canopy as well and not take away from the 30amps were were using for the RV. Speaking of dining, each site had a picnic table, with a grill very close by, and a fire ring pit.

camping with dadFinal thoughts…

I can’t wait to go back and maybe even stay longer. The staff was SO nice. At first we were going to be on a hill pretty far from the action, but I called back a little closer to our time and found out a cancelation opened us up to site 13 which ,even though it was not next to the water, we still got a good view of the lake from our campsite and the lake looked BEAUTIFUL at night by the fire with all the lights by the lake in the distance. ::sigh:: Plus there was a wide enough space behind and around us so we weren’t cramped by other campers. If I were to do it again, I would choose the same or similar sites 11-13 as they seem to have the best distance.

~Gin Nixon

lomo cruise america pinwheel

One Way Cruise America Rental

lomo cruise america pinwheelThis was my first experience with RVs and let alone a rental. The ride has been bumpy (even literally speaking) I finish the writing from the warm comforts of an airport restaurant. I’ve got my pink margarita in hand and I’m ready to lend my experience and wisdom from the last 6 days. For some background, I am rented a 30′ RV from Cruise America for their “Cruisin’ into Arizona. It was to go one way from Houston to Mesa, AZ. Oh, and did I mention, I’m an RV virgin. I’ve never been in one let alone drive one.

Some tips:
1. Before you leave, check EVERYTHING OUTSIDE. In fact that is what your only signing off on in terms of condition. This surprised me since most of the insides seem to get torn up from what I read on other feeds. My reason is this, when we got our tire fixed the tire man told Cruise America call center that I tore up the entire side walls of the vehicle! FURIOUS I assured them NO its was not me and that it was documented as a preexisting condition when i picked it up. Well, they apparently DIDN’T believe me and it took the nice man at the Mesa Cruise America people about 30-40 minutes on the phone with them to remove the bogus charge as he saw no new damage. Only what was already marked! OMG!

2. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Ok, I watch that orientation video twice and even read the manual and I still wondered what I did wrong with the heating. (see below)

3. In the future, I will make sure the heater is working PRIOR to leaving the city and during normal business hours. I did eventually get the furnace working after a few minutes on the phone with Cruise America assistance. I was up for an hour when it finally starting to toasty up. AHHHHHHH.

4. Just cause it says it will fit 7 people doesn’t mean you should. We had that limit and with the couch pulled to a bed and the dinning table turned into a bed, at breakfast time it was a bit scrunched. That was with 2 adults, 2 teens, and 3 children. Squishy!

5. Cook outside and only cook indoors for small meals or boiling water. I would love to see Martha Stewart cook in these conditions for this many people. the convection oven did work nice, however in microwave mode the popcorn either didn’t cook all the way or got burnt and the stove was slow to boil water.

6. You will have blind spots. pick a side of the road that has hug the side with no drivers. (like the empty median)

7. That truck you see getting ready to pull out in front of you and cut you off, will. He’s not intimidated by your size. He can accelerate faster. You can not. He can stop faster when the breaks are hit. YOU CAN NOT so keep your eye on the road for such dare devil lunatics. You will see them.

8. Don’t drive more than 300 miles a day. I repeat, DON’T! It’s very tiring and you don’t want to drive in the dark. Those blind spots get harder to see.

9. Try to stay a day in a planned spot or even two if you can. I wish now I had been able to use the 6 days entirely on getting back to AZ but oh well, next time.

10. Plan you gas. I typically got 8mpg going an average of 75mph on the rig. Made the whole thing shake but we needed to be there at a certain time.

11. Watch check in and check out times at your planned RV parks. If none are posted, plan to get there before 4 or 5. I had one call me at 350p wondering if I was still coming. When I arrived I found out that I was taking the last spot and I’m guessing they were probably going to give it away to a drive up if I had not confirmed.

12. Another tip before you leave. Try hooking up your water and electric before you leave the house by hooking up to your house. This will help you become familiar with the basic stuff and you will find out sooner if you water hose is leaking. This is good incase you stop somewhere they don’t sell hoses and they sell you one at double the price you would pay at Walmart.

13. Bring DISPOSABLE gloves. The sewage connections come loose and sometimes hold water and , well, at one point I felt like I was in that Robin Williams movie. ewwwww…My husband was proud of the fact that I was willing to do the ‘shitty’ job, though. I say disposable, because you wont want to keep those stinky things around until the next dump. TRUST ME!

14. Get over whatever issues you have about Walmart because they will have your supplies for cheep AND may even house you for the night. So be nice to Walmart. (my teen took of picture of me in a Walmart cause he was so shocked i was even stepping foot in one. if i can get over it, so can you.)

15. Personalize you RV. If you didn’t see my post about this before, I recommend going back and checking it out.

16. Rinse and Repeat. Go home, take a shower, relax for a day or two and DO IT AGAIN! I’m so ready to do this again. I’m already plotting my next adventure. Just need to convince the hubby!
😉

~Gin

Not starting off well, Cruise America.

As you know, I rented a one way rental and it wasn’t in the greatest shape, but that wasn’t going to deter me from having a good time with our new home on wheels. So the day of departure I have everything loaded up and now I’m just waiting for the kids and hubby to get home from school/work when I walk one last time by the RV I see it. Part of the wall of the passenger wheel tire was peeling off. So much that I could see tread! How did I miss this in all the excitement of picking it up? (I think I just answered my own question.)

So I promptly called the 800 number listed in the little manual that was in the rental and was told someone would be contacting me shortly. So I waited, but not too long. In about 5 minutes a Cruise America rep was asking me questions about the tires. At that time I also informed her that it appeared the front tires were also losing their tread and might cause some problem on the way from TX to AZ. However, the agent wasn’t really concerned about the front tires. Only about the one that was peeling. She then gave me a commercial tire dealer’s address and asked me to drive it there. So I unplugged it from my house (I was hooked up to the garage GFCI) and slowly made my way there. It was just 5 miles away so I wasn’t worried about it blowing.tire

I was happy that I found this before everyone got home. Once I got there, they only change the damage tire and then sent me on my way. Later the rep called me up and said that the tire dealer had told them that the sides were all scratched up. A little annoyed she was possibly accusing ME of doing this damage, I quickly advised her that I was aware of that and that it was clearly documented on my rental slip about the damage prior to my pickup. She then said ok and that was the last I heard of her.

And we’re off…

So like I said the 30′ is HUGE. However, I was doing much better and my hands were not gripping the steering wheel so hard this time. We did stop off on the way at a Walmart to get some more toliet chemical. They only gave me one. I’m going to have this sucker for 6 nights/7 days with 7 people using the bathroom and they gave me only one when I’m suppose to add it after every dump?!? Not cool! However, the chemical was not that expensive, I think we paid less than $10 for the non-formaldehyde enzyme version. So far, nothing smells.

Gas mileage…

Ok. So this little trip is a good way for me to see what I’m looking at in terms of gas mileage. It was approximatly 100 miles here and 40 miles from the dealer home. So assuming I took 150 miles, I’m already at half a tank. :/ Not feeling good about that. So I’m looking at refueling a 55 gallon tank about every 300 miles and that is ONLY if we don’t turn on the generator. (The generator uses gas from the fuel tank.) That’s a lot of stop on the way from Houston to Phoenix. 🙁

At camp…

So I get the campsite and I’m totally ready! I’ve watched the orientation video TWICE and read that entire manual. I’m ready. So I hook up the electric. All is good. Check the fridge. We are level. (Sweet!) then I go to hook up the water. Not working! In fact there is a leak at the connection behind the part that we tighten. ARG!!! Luckily, they sell hoses at the camp store! YAH! We hook up the new hose and all is well.  Next the gross part, the sewage. It was rather easy. I hooked it up just like it says in the video and worked well. The only probably we had was making sure we parked in a position to reach all the cords. My suggestion: Preview where all your hook ups are going to be first, then position it so that your sewage tube is just shy of sitting in the hole. Just remove it and only take it out when your ready to dump, and just have someone hold it down while you dump. Frustrating, but it should work.

More Detail of kitchen area.
More Detail of kitchen area.

As you can see from the pictures, the kitchen is small. You WON’T want to cook much but boil water in there. I did however use the convection microwave oven and made some brownies today. Came out YUMMY! Kids loved it, too. For the rest of the trip though, we are cooking the main meal outside over the grill or fire. Just as if we were tent camping. The kitchen in this 30′ is not supportive for a party of 7. Although using my camping skillet for the pancakes was easy since it covered two burners evenly.

Next, Review of Wolf Creek Park  and more of our RV trip…

http://www.desertsunsettravel.com

Step one: Pick up RV and Redecorate

rv-0So yesterday I picked up the rental from Cruise America and for the record the guys at the west Houston Cruise America office SUPER nice! But back to business, the rental I have is a one way because typically it is going back to be sold or refurbished. With that in mind, it means that it will not be in the ‘best’ of shape. What I ended up getting met most of my expectations. The sides were all scratched up and it looked like it had seen better days. My only thought was “please don’t leak if it rains!” (We will find out this weekend if that happens.) The interior was seriously worn and there was SO much dust and dirt. My guess is that it has been sitting for the winter because there were cobwebs in places that would of seen heavier traffic had it been rented recently. So my first thought was to clean this sucker as soon as I got home. The nice man gave me a quick tour and advised to me how everything worked and answered any additional questions I may have. Then I was off on my own.

On the way home I was a little surprised how big it was. I thought this would be similar to my rental with Uhal or even Budget. Of the two I would say this 30′ Large RV from Cruise America was much like driving the larger Budget rental moving trucks. Luckily, I just drove one of those 6 months ago when we moved from AZ to TX. (Now I’m driving back to AZ to TX for a visit. Crazy!) So even though I was white knuckling it most of the way, I started to get back into the grove of driving a larger vehicle. I-10 here I come!

Decorating

After a quick wipe down of the interior, including dusting, and a LOT of 409, I began to fill our home for the next 7 days with a bit of ‘home’. To cover those worn out cushions I used sheets. I had a love seat cover that worked perfectly on the couch however it covered the seat belts and I was not about to make holes in the love seat cover. So I settled for some blankets and one of my knitted throws.

Next I added some ‘personal touches’ with pictures. To hang the photos I used 3M poster/picture tape. Its reusable and is even safe on the RVs wooden paneling. For the heaver round pictures that I have by the sink I used Quake Shake. It’s a strong removable museum putty that does not damage. This worked well to also put my little glass for holding my cooking utensils. They didn’t move a inch on the drive! I also added them to the bottoms of the toothbrush holder  and soap dish. The pictures really made the area shine, I think.  (as with all adhesives, prolong use or in high temperatures may cause permanent attachment and cause damage upon removal.)

For the shower, I placed the trash bin here as well as the bottled water (because if it spills it will just go down the sink anyways.) Luckily, they come by every morning to pick up trash so no need to worry about it spelling the place up. The only thing is that shower cover was kind of icky looking and I didn’t want to see the trash bin all the time, so I used a wrap I got from a friend and hung it to cover that ugly part of the space. The color was a nice touch.

The other bit I added was area rugs. There is a hallway rug in the walkway, and at the top of the stairs a welcome mat (although I’m thinking of putting it outside now at the campsite), one in front of the stove/sink area and then a small square bath rug in the bathroom. (I hate cold bathrooms)

Finally

I think that all these touches help make the rented space feel more comfortable. Yah, what I put in I have to take out so then why not make it enjoyable. At first my husband was apprehensive about me putting so much work into decorating, however, I can see he enjoys the personal touches. Especially seeing familiar photos that we have around the house displayed in the RV. So even if it’s just a little, DO IT!

Next…Set up camp and our review of Wolf Creek State Park

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Cruise America – Planning Stage

 

Ok. So reverse the rolls. I’m Robin Williams and my loving husband is Cheryl Hines. I’m TOTALLY convinced we will have a good time and I’ve been dreaming about doing this for YEARS!  In fact, getting an RV is in our plans for retirement. However, the truth is NEITHER of us have actually been in an RV so this will be a good chance for us to see if we need to ‘adjust’ our retirement plans.

So how do we start?

Ok, at first I admit. The sticker price for renting an RV nearly floored me. “You want $1500 for a weekend roundtrip! WTF! #@!” Yah, that was not what I was expecting. I’m mean, where is the ‘savings’ everyone keeps talking about?!? Plus that only include about 400 miles. So that would be only local travel. If I wanted it for the week I was looking at $2000 with 700 miles. There is no way I would be able to take a trip to the Grand Canyon and back from Texas. Not without paying the .34 per mile, which would end up being almost as much as the RV rental. Not to mention gas! (and at this writing it is about $3.70 national average.)

So how do I do this cheap enough so that the sticker price doesn’t shock my husband into an early grave?

Solution: One Way Rental.

Renting one way can actually cost you more if you don’t do it ‘right’. There will be a drop off fee of $300 typically in addition to the cost of the rental. HOWEVER, Cruise America has their main facility in Mesa, Arizona. We plan to go to Phoenix. So this works for us. (Mesa is a city within a city as Phoenix has grown so big.) You will find these rates, “Rolling Into Arizona” or “Rolling Out of Arizona” on Cruise America’s website under “Hot Deals: Rentals”. The rate is $30 a night and you get a specified amount of “free” miles that are usually a roundup of the total miles from point A to point B. (ex. from Houston to Phoenix is approx 1200 miles and we get 1500 free.) The only thing is you have to be willing to travel between the specified time from the specified city. I did learn that if I didn’t see my dates, I would just wait and about every 2-3 weeks they would adjust rental dates.

If there is a city near enough to you that you can rent it I would recommend this method. Just know that the number of nights is the number of nights they expect you to rent it plus tax. My rental for 6 days was $207 with tax. NICE! Plus a $500 refundable deposit, which I would of had to pay anyways on a regular rental. To take the “Rolling Into AZ” rental I just had to put $300 down. The cost is for ANY size you rent. Small or Large. Same price. Even with the deposit that is cheaper than a roundtrip for 600 miles! (They give you 100 miles a day on roundtrips.)

Now the deal is the same for rolling OUT of AZ, except the rate goes down to $12 per night. Something I’m considering for later this year.

So our plan is to camp for the weekend nearby and then drive the RV back by its return time. We’ve done the drive several times before so this will be really nice in an RV. I plan to makes some stops, but I’ll discuss those later. Then when I get to AZ I will just fly back on Southwest when I’m ready since they allow two free bags, I can pack my pots, pans, bedding, etc in one and clothes in another.

Stay tuned….

We pick up the RV in a few days, so the next blog will be about Personalizing your RV!

Until then!

~Gin