Pigeon Forge: Clabough’s Campground & Lots of Jeeps

This is part campground review, part Jeep lust and part food review. So, not even sure what to tag it. Just hope you enjoy reading it!

In August, we went to the 4th Annual Great Smoky Mountain Jeep Invasion. It’s an amazing Jeep show/rally. Tons of vendors, some seriously fancy-pants Jeeps and (the best part) lots of Jeep Owners, or as I think of them… Jeeples!

Last year was our first year going to this show and we took Miss Behavin’.

Obviously NOT a shot from this trip. No snow in August in TN.
Obviously NOT a shot from this trip. No snow in August in TN.

She got a LOT of attention in the parking lot. But, this year we wanted to camp, so we took Lil Red Wagon (our Jeep Grand Cherokee), as she tows the camper a bit easier.

As we entered Pigeon Forge the day before the show (Friday), it was evident it was going to have an impressive turn out. The parkway going in was half Jeeps! Old ones, new ones, in betweens. I Jeep waved ’til my wrists hurt.

 

As always, going in to Pigeon Forge was a nightmare. They’re really trying to get the infrastructure beefed up to handle the traffic. But, lunch time on Friday, they had the lanes going in to PF down to one lane at times. SIGH. So, we had plenty of time sitting still to play spot the Jeep. My favorite part was that the signs announcing lane changes were about a mile PAST where the traffic stopped. Due to the winding turns on the roads, you couldn’t tell which lanes (if any) were the issue. So, that did not help conditions a bit.

But, we made it in! And, shortly we made the turn onto Wears Valley Road, waved Hello the nearby Kroger and pulled into our home for the weekend: Clabough’s Campground. We camped here when I was a kid, straight up thru adult-hood, in Mom and Dad’s campers. My favorite story from here is when they left their 5th-wheel camper set up for us for a week. Myself, Chad and my cousin Valerie were camping, and it poured down rain. So much that the rivers and creeks overflowed. Did I mention we were on a creekside site? They came by to tell us we were going to have to move the camper or get flooded. Um… we are driving a small car. It’s a 5th wheel. Panic??? Nope. They had someone come and help us pack it up and tow it to another site. The guy was PRO, too! He hit that hitch in one try in the rainy dark (my poor Dad never had the kind of luck, LOL).

So, it was neat to be checking in here with OUR camper. Kind of a nice addition to our family history. Check-in is super fast, and so friendly. The office is at the end of a gas station/convenience store/camp store/restaurant. Yes, you can get everything in one place! If you need matches or tacky lights or a fuse or a candy bar or a bag of ice… they got ya covered! We paid $38 per night, and I think I got the Good Sam’s discount, too, but I don’t remember and can’t find my receipt! They handed us a map with our site number circled, gave us the wi-fi password and away we went!

I had picked our site in advance, thinking it was one I remembered. I was wrong. Still a great site. It was site C10 and it was in the right hand side, front of the campground. It’s on the creek (no rain in the forecast!), but also right beside the road. It had a tree on the site, so decent shade. We ran the AC because it was in the mid-to-high 90’s all weekend with bright sun. So, the road noise didn’t bother us at all. But, if you weren’t running it, you’d hear it. Since we knew we’d be back, we cruised the whole campground and found the sites we like the best. The veeeeery back right corner has the best spots, to me. Lots of shade, right on the water, and a nice bathhouse nearby. Sites 145-154 seemed ideal to me.C1-3 are also great sites, closer to the front. Almost every site in the campground has shade, so you can’t really go wrong.

Didn't put up the awning, or the camp kitchen. Too hot!
Didn’t put up the awning, or the camp kitchen. Too hot!

We are definitely getting faster at setup. I think I have finally figured out how to get that stupid door on without tearing a hole in the ozone from all the foul language. I get all of it fixed except actually latching the bottom to the top, and I open it a little latches SO much easier that way! And, closes super easy. So, I think I’m getting it!!!

Even having everything done in about 30 minutes (inside and out), we were drenched in sweat. It was miserably hot. So, a quick trip to the showers was definitely in order before lunch. They were so clean! It’s an older campground, but the bathhouse is not showing its age. There’s a row of toilets to one side, a row of sinks down the middle and a row of shower rooms to the other side. All of them SUPER clean. Tons of hooks in the shower parts, so nothing has to go on the floor (I’m a nurse and am a little psycho on the germ front). Shower curtains, floors, stalls, all clean as can be. Also, at the sinks is a hand dryer that has a blue light on it. It actually dries your hands. Completely. No need for a pants-leg-wipe when you’re done. Pretty sure it’s black magic, but I liked it!

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Shower room doors
Shower room doors
Showers
Showers

You can’t tell from the pictures, but there’s a nice bench, towel rack, and the aforementioned hooks in the little part before you step in the shower. And, in the corner of the shower is a fairly large, built-in shelf. Also, great water pressure, which amazes me in a huge shower house like that.

In this same block, there’s a laundry room. I didn’t use it, but here’s a shot.

Not pictured, huge counter for folding.
Not pictured, huge counter for folding.

To me, the best part of the bathhouse/laundry room was that it is climate controlled! Heated in the winter and blissfully cool in the dog days of August. Also, whatever exhaust fans they have in there really work. No steamed up mirrors in the bath house! YAY!

All cleaned up, we headed into Gatlinburg. We ate at Luigi’s Pizza. We’d walked by one day, while waiting for breakfast at the AMAZING Crockett’s Breakfast Camp (so worth any wait… they have Aretha Frankenstein’s pancakes and killer country ham). The scents coming out of there were pure heaven, so we made a note to go back. It was pretty good. Not the best I’ve ever had, but certainly worth giving it a try. We just got a plain ol’ pepperoni pizza, since that’s sort of the standard for pizza in my world. It was hot, super cheesy and the crust was perfect. Not too thick, not too thin. Then, we just wandered around in downtown Gatlinburg. My favorite section there is the Village (totally on the other end of the strip from Luigi’s, naturally). I love the Spice and Tea Exchange, Lazy One, Zi Olive, and of course, the main reason to go… The Donut Friar. Beware, it is cash only, but they do have an ATM. Tons of other awesome shops, including pottery, shoes, candles, bath stuff, candy, paintings, etc. Also a pretty darn clean public restroom and some shady spots to sit.

Being so hot you could hear your brain fry, we headed back to the car, and back to the camper, where we got down to the serious business of napping. A rain shower (where did that come from? Are we gonna drown?) gave that wonderful rain-on-roof noise and we slept like the dead.

That night, we hit No Way Jose’s. Excellent salsa, even China A18 approved.

YUM
YUM

We also enjoyed the Carnitas, and hubby enjoyed some beer, since I was driving back to the campsite! It’s a really easy spot to get to, as you can access it from Wears Valley, via the light at Kroger’s and never even have to hit the Parkway. We were conserving energy and effort for the next day!

We hit the Jeep show a few minutes after it opened. The line was long, but moved quickly. Last year, it was slow and they were just figuring out how to handle the cards, etc. This year, so much smoother! As you headed to the interior of the Le Cont Centre, there were booths set up selling things, and highlighting area attractions. Also, my favorite booth, the one for Smoky Mountain Service Dogs! They’re an amazing group, training and placing service dogs with Veterans with disabilities. Last year & this year, the proceeds from the raffle went to this group. They also had a donation jar, and in the 20 minutes we talked to one of the gentlemen at the booth, I saw money flying into the jar. Not all $1s, either. I hope they made a small fortune. GREAT job, y’all!!!

Then, into the main hall. It was a mass of humanity, sales, Jeeps, Jeeples, and parts. Everything from Jeep tents to parts to earrings to stickers to t-shirts. I’m not even gonna try to explain. It was just amazing. Here’s the pictures. Keep an eye out for China A18. He put in some appearances. He’s a Jeep dino.

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Jeep Parking Only

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Got to love it when your Jeep has its own matching toy!
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These are toys. Like the Little Tykes Jeeps got real!

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The Surry was my favorite. I think China A18 liked it, too!
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Where the rubber meets the road meets the dinosaur!

The Lecont Centre is located on the other end of the parking lot from The Island, which is a shopping/food/entertainment complex anchored by a Margaritaville restaurant and the Margaritaville Hotel. Tons of cool shops. It’s a nice place, and even nicer, there are little trams that run from the Centre to the Island and back. So, you don’t have to move your Jeep and lose your parking spot!

We ate at one of my favorite restaurants, which is odd. Why? Because I’m not a french fry person, but the fries here are the whole reason we go. Poynor’s Pommes Frites. They have amazing bratwurst and an ice cream dish that seriously looks like a plate of spaghetti. And, all that is well and good. But, it’s all about THE FRIES!!!!

So, so happy.
So, so happy.

If you get a combo, it’s one of the brats on a hard roll, a drink and a cone of fries. You also get to pick from a list of about 40 dipping sauces. I went with the BBQ and it was delicious. The fries are perfectly golden brown. I am a serious eater, in case you haven’t noticed. I still cannot finish all the food here.

Luckily, I had help.
Luckily, I had help.

We did some shopping and a pair of shoes may have followed me home. What?! They were on sale!!! And, I had been good all weekend. Mostly.

Then, back to the Jeeps!!!

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A few weeks before the show, a local seafood place (I know that’s not something you expect in the mountains, but I swear… it was really good) announced they’d do an after-hours party. So, when the Jeep rally stopped, the party started. Harpoon Harry’s Crab House had specials, live music, etc.

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They also have a huge crab on the ceiling.

We got there at an odd hour, so we didn’t see a lot of Jeep folk, but I heard it got a lot of business. We just enjoyed the food (I didn’t take a picture of my fried shrimp, but it was sooooo good) and got some shots of the cool truck bar upstairs.

Conch Fritters. OH MY YUMMINESS!!!
Conch Fritters. OH MY YUMMINESS!!!
Sushi. LOTS of sushi.
Sushi. LOTS of sushi.

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So, feet killing us, bellies full and wallets empty (did I mention there were lots of T-shirts at the Jeep Invasion? Yeah), we headed back to Pandora. This was a strange camping weekend for us. It was more the type of camping my family did growing up: a tourist area, lots of shopping and eating out. Since we’ve been camping, we’ve gone for the middle of nowhere, and cooked every single day. I enjoy both kinds, but I missed sitting out with the campfire, I missed cooking together over the grill or the Coleman stove. So, even though we knew we wouldn’t be doing those things… I missed it. I’d like to come back when we can relax more, and not run as hard.

The next morning, we ate some cold pop tarts, broke camp and headed home dirty. Traffic was steady, but not at a standstill as it often is. When we got home, we popped Pandora up to dry, as the AC condensate had gotten all down the back window. I’m always worried about mold/mildew, so we never pack her away wet. She aired out in about the time it took us to put up all our junk and shower off the stank.

So, back she went to her little spot at the back corner of the yard. Hopefully we will get in some Autumn camping. That’s my favorite time of year. But, we have a beach trip planned that will be a hotel trip, since my Mom is coming, too. So, Pandora gets to rest for a bit.

ADD: If you want a ton more pics, click here to go to the Facebook page for the event. Lots of Jeep eye candy!

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Panther Creek State Park Review

This year, I have discovered 2 Facebook groups that are SUCH a help to pop up owners, such as myself and Chad.
The first is Popup Camper Owners. If you can have it go wrong, it’s happened to someone here and they can tell you how to fix it in 2 seconds. They also post funny stuff, pictures of their campers (inside and out), great modifications they’ve done, etc. It’s like the Popup Portal in Facebook form. REALLY fun. Warning: there are a couple of folks on there with really dry senses of humor and some people don’t get it and get offended. Assume the posters are being nice, ’cause they are.
The second is Pop Up, Teardrop, HTT and Tent Camper Campground Reviews. The admin on that site works his butt off. As soon as you post a review, he will put it into a folder for that state, and they’re all searchable. Seriously, if you’re thinking of camping somewhere, there’s probably a review there. And, since no one is getting paid… the reviews are honest. It’s lovely.

That said, here’s the review of our latest trip. I posted it there, but wanted to share it here, too, with more personal stuff that people who are campground hunting don’t need. Like plastic dinosaurs.

Panther Creek State Park, Morristown, TN

First, let me brag a little. This is the first time I towed Pandora! Well, the Jeep towed her, I just drove, but still. I have some um… issues we’ll say… when it comes to driving in reverse. Mostly that I back up like a spastic duck that someone has blindfolded. Yeah, it’s not pretty. So, imagine my surprise (and Chad’s semi-terror) that I got the camper backed into the spot in 2 tries. I felt like a camping goddess!!!! Chad was wanting to drive the first bit (he says to make sure everything hitched up right before he had me tow. I think it was to keep his terror level down to manageable. He has some slight control issues). So, here’s the obligatory pic of Pandora following us on our adventure with me in the passenger seat.

It's following me!!!
Pandora, keeping up just fine!

Some background: We stayed here July 8,9,10. It’s a 50 site state campground. Small, but clean and quiet. They redid the campground a couple of years ago, so some of the trees are new and small, leaving many sites out in the open sun. But, if you get on the outer edge of the loops, and on the higher numbered sites, you wind up in a bit more shade. We stayed in site 37, and as luck would have it, I’m pretty sure it was the best site for shade. It has the woods on a hill behind it, and to the right side. So, shaded for a good part of the day. Site 38 is the same in reverse. They’re also near the bath house and picnic pavillion.

Our campsite with our friend Adam's truck and our Jeep. Notice the woods all around the side and back.
Our campsite with our friend Adam’s truck and our Jeep. Notice the woods all around the side and back.
The pavilion is super nice. HUGE fireplace in the middle, tons of tables. Not a lot of parking, though.
The pavilion is super nice. HUGE fireplace in the middle, tons of tables. Not a lot of parking, though.

This is the first time we got to use our groovy new Coleman Deluxe Camp Kitchen. I got it on sale and with free shipping at Target. It is AWESOME!! As I’ve pointed out, the tiny thing that is Pandora is NOT conducive to cooking. This bad boy has a place to put your Coleman stove, a place to wash dishes, store your pots/pans, even racks to hang up measuring cups, etc. And, as it turns out, one of the baskets holds our current favorite glasses.

Folds nicely for storage. We keep it in the floor of Pandora when we pop her down to travel. Fits perfectly along side the EZ Up.
Folds nicely for storage. We keep it in the floor of Pandora when we pop her down to travel. Fits perfectly along side the EZ Up.
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Notice the super cute platter. It doesn’t match the blue on Pandora, but it was $1 (I already had the vinyl and the file, so it was almost free!). It isn’t functional, just for cutes!
In use!
In use! Husband not included. 

Pandora does not have a water heater, so we take an electric kettle. One of those full into a dishpan and mix with room temp water to wash. We use the pan on the kitchen to rinse. The kettle works like a dream! Here’s the one we have. Well, ours is older, but this is the newest version. We’ve had ours for about 7 years. Love it!

Bath houses: There are 2, each has 4 units. Each unit has a sink, toilet, tiled bench and shower. So, it’s like your own private bathroom. Each shower has a short and tall shower nozzle, and a pull down bench). They were pretty clean, but the curtains were mildew city. Also, there are no flat surfaces or hooks in the shower stalls, so no place to lay your shampoo bottles, etc., except on the bench. There was a huge fan in each unit. They were cleaned at least daily, I think maybe twice daily. Again, pretty clean for as much as they were used. In the bath house block there was also a laundry room. I didn’t use it, so not sure about them.

A pano of the bathroom. Lord, they were hot. But, relatively clean for as busy as it was.
A pano of the bathroom. Lord, they were hot. But, relatively clean for as busy as it was.

Sites are paved, relatively level and many have a tent pad that’s graveled. Most have a large, grassy area good for tents, as well. Lots of sites had tents as well as campers. The sites are HUGE compared to most campgrounds we’ve visited, even other state parks in East TN. Each site had electric hookup and water at the site. No sewer. Dump station and dumpsters were located at the campground entrance, by the campground office (which is closed, more on that later). Water pressure was enough that it made me happy we had a pressure regulator! Our power had regular power, 30 and 50 amp. I think all sites do, but I don’t want to say that for sure. Each site has a nice fire ring with an adjustable height, swing out grill, and also has a park type grill (the tall, metal kind).
The only issue I had was that the campground seemed to have no staff. It had a campground office, but it was closed, and that appears to be permanent. There’s a sign as you come in telling you to check in at the office, but it means to check in at the Visitor’s Center. It’s only open a few hours a day, closing for lunch. And, it has NO camping stuff, just gift shop stuff. So, no ice, no firewood, etc. They require you to have “certified” heat treated wood or downed wood from the park. But, the closest place to buy any firewood is a BP several miles away, and it’s not certified. So, not sure how that works. There are no campground maps available, but there are maps of the trails, and they’re only $1. Very worth it if you’re hiking or biking. I never saw a site that said camp host, but did see Rangers coming thru in trucks pretty often, just keeping an eye on things. They were super nice. I’m just used to having a small camp store. Next time, I’ll know to bring more ice, and remember the firewood situation.

***Since I put this review on the FB group, I actually got an email back from a park survey I did. Super nice email that addressed those issues. They’re getting better signage, and are in the middle of hiring for the park & campground. They’re also in works with a furniture manufacturer on getting them to do the certified firewood, which is probably already in place by now. I was really impressed with how quickly and directly they addressed the issues I brought up!***

Speaking of hiking and biking: The trails are great. Everything from beginner (easy) trails, to some pretty advanced and rocky mountain bike trails. The trails intersect with the campground, so it’s super easy to ride a while, come back and grab a bite to eat, etc.
The next entrance down from the main entrance to the park has free lake access, but no swimming there. In the main section of the park is a nice pool (fee to use), a playground, some ball fields, more picnic shelters, etc. The creek runs thru the edge of the campground, and saw a lot of kids cooling off down there. Now, we all know that I did not experience the mountain bike trails or anything beyond  walking to the bathhouse. It was a million degrees and so humid that you dried off after taking a shower and were immediately soaked again, but with sweat. Ick. And, I do not do heat. So, Chad and his friend Adam went and did a ton of riding that Saturday. Courtney (Adam’s fiancee) and I sat under the EZ Up tent and even made an impromptu trip to the Walmart in Morristown (about a 20 minute drive away). But, we did NOT hike. So, all the trail info is from hubby and Adam. Not me!

As far as electronic needs: If you use a Sprint mobile phone, you’re going to be doing good to get texts/phone calls. Courtney has a Verizon phone and had 4 bars. So, yeah… go with Verizon! We were one site over from the Wifi, but when we called and made our reservation, I asked about it, and the ranger told me the wifi is terrible. She did not lie. I’d get the little notice it was there, and 2 out of 3 rings, but I could NEVER get connected. So, if you’re an internet addict (guilty!), you’re gonna go cold turkey. But, it was so nice, I didn’t mind.
I’d give this a solid 4.25 stars out of 5. I am definitely coming back, and really, really enjoyed this campground.
TLDR: Clean, quiet, good amenities, no camp store, nice bathrooms. Great mountain biking/hiking.

And, since they don’t fit anywhere else in this review, here’s more pictures.

A Christmas gift from Courtney that fits perfectly in here!
A Christmas gift from Courtney that fits perfectly in here!
Awesome husband and super cute pillow from my friend Kim! If you can't tell, the lifhts around the camper on the pillow are owls!!!
Awesome husband and super cute pillow from my friend Kim! If you can’t tell, the lights around the camper on the pillow are owls!!!
Panther Creek Office
Panther Creek Office

Now, I may have mentioned dinosaurs. Well, it’s actually just ONE dinosaur. He’s a little plastic fellow that we found lost at Brews and Tunes in Jonesborough one afternoon. He has China A18 stamped on his belly, so we figure that’s his name. He now goes with us on many adventures. This was his very first time camping! He liked the air conditioning best (what? I speak dino! He told me! I swear!).  Here’s some shots of his adventures. Funnily enough, I think he’s the most popular part of my Instagram. I feel unloved, y’all. But, you can follow him by hunting up #chinaa18 on Instagram.

The giant TN state map made of wood. Has a small visitor if you look closely.
The giant TN state map made of wood. Has a small visitor if you look closely.
He was pretending he was Godzilla, rampaging through the Appalachian Mountains!!
He was pretending he was Godzilla, rampaging through the Appalachian Mountains!!
He loves grilled food, but much like me, he also loves carbs.
He loves grilled food, but much like me, he also loves carbs.
And, apparently, he likes Starbucks. He's a modern dino in a modern world.
And, apparently, he likes Starbucks. He’s a modern dino in a modern world.
He really was taken with the Coleman lantern. We didn't have the heart to tell him it runs on fossil fuels, and we may have been burning his ancestors. Shhhh!
He really was taken with the Coleman lantern. We didn’t have the heart to tell him it runs on fossil fuels, and we may have been burning his ancestors. Shhhh!

So, that’s it for our trip. Well, not really. There will be a separate post in which I explain what happens when you were being a cheapskate and don’t buy a new battery for your camper’s lift system, and think you’ll rely on your hand crank system… and it fails. I was all for sitting down and crying, but thankfully Chad has some serious ninja skills when it comes to cars and electricity and keeping his wife from having a full-on meltdown in Morristown. I want to get some pictures of how he did this, just in case anyone is ever stuck in a similarly sucktastic situation. He saved the day. So… keep an eye out, and when I can stage a photo shoot, I’ll post that little update, too!

New State Park

So, remember when I said I was going to do so much better and post more? Yeah, well…
Better late than never! Right?!
As promised, here’s some pictures (and a little information) on Tennessee’s newest state park: Rocky Fork.
First off, where is it? 501 Rocky Fork Road, Flag Pond, TN 37657. It’s just outside of Erwin, and easily accessible via I-26. Signs are everywhere. Here’s the “how to get there” from their website.

Welcome!
Welcome!

The park actually was established in 2012, but just got signage, got the last huge acreage deeded to it, and actually started being usable this year. It is just gorgeous. BUT, be warned, parking stinks. They’ve barely got it open, and they have plans to improve the parking situation, but right now, it’s parking alongside a one lane gravel drive and a parking lot that holds maybe 4 cars. So, carpool and be prepared to park where you can find a space.

Now, let me tell you why it’s awesome. It’s easily accessible to people like me: chubby, bad knees and not that great with nature. From the parking area, it’s a wide, gravel road up beside the water (I hate to admit this, I have no idea if it’s a creek or a river. I’m assuming creek). Some rolling hills, but nothing a girl with a torn meniscus and serious laziness couldn’t handle. And, trust me, the walk is worth it. I’ve never seen so many photo worthy areas in my life. And, this was back before anything had really started blooming and greening up.

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I’ll try to get back there and post some pictures now that everything has greened up and gotten beautiful. This is about a 25 minute drive from our “usual” campground, Riverpark in Jonesborough, TN .

First trip of the year… Rain, Sun in a Box and hand cranks… OH MY!

OK, I think maybe we’re a little boring. We tend to go to the same campground over and over and it’s in the town we live in. But, in our defense, this trip was to make sure that the new tow vehicle (Little Red Wagon, our “new to us” Jeep Grand Cherokee) did okay.

OK is an understatement! Oh, my gosh, it did great! Amazing to go from our little Jeep Wrangler to this V-8! To say the least, it was quite the change. Pandora just kind of floated back there. Easy-peasy!

Aren't they pretty together?
Aren’t they pretty together?

I also did some decorating. We had originally gotten some really nice, fluffy gray bed throws. They were awesome, but had some serious static cling going, no matter how much fabric softener we used. Also, they shed like crazy! So, you wound up having to fight your way out of bed and then lint roll yourself! Eeek!

I thought there was a little TOO much gray in there, so I wanted to punch it up with some yellow. I am, at heart, a cheap skate. I hate paying a lot for much of anything. Which, in hind sight, is probably how I wound up with the clingy covers. Ooops. But, I posted on Facebook to see if my friends would keep an eye out for some cheap yellow quilts. My friend Teresa hit the jackpot and found me some for $14 each at Steinmart!!! I also got a nice, gray pillow cover for my body pillow (a must have for me). So, here’s a totally staged picture. It looked like this until the very first night I went to sleep in it, and I never made it up after that. Sorry, I’m a slob. But, can we pretend it looked like this all weekend?

Moxie the Owl just adds the perfect touch. She knows it's a comfy bed!
Moxie the Owl just adds the perfect touch. She knows it’s a comfy bed!

And, yes, that’s a candle in the left corner, but I’m not a fire bug, it’s LED and battery operated. It’s so nice to have that at night. I just reach over and pop it on when I have to get up to go to the bathroom. It’s dim enough that it doesn’t kill your night vision, and bright enough that I don’t fall and kill myself on the way to the bathhouse!

Now, we all know that the best parts of camping are the unexpected, right? Well, we have covered that for the year! Let me tell you about our first night. For starters, I wound up having to work late, so we didn’t even get out the door until about 7:30pm. So, it was getting a bit dark. Luckily, campground is close! Did I mention it was raining? Just a sprinkle, but still.

We get there, and pull on into our space, level and unhook. We are getting pretty good at this, so I’m thinking we have it made. Then, we hit the switch to raise the roof, and… it goes up about 3 inches, super slowly. And dies. Caput. Dead. Finis. No more. Oh, no.

All is not lost, though! There’s a little port on the front, where the motor is. Just  insert the little hand crank-thingy and all will be fine. Now, where did we store that? Oh, yeah. Under the mattress. SIGH. Luckily, we could reach in and pull it out through the door. If it had been in the middle or if the battery would have been totally dead… we’d have had a much worse evening. It is now stored IN THE JEEP!

So, we got it out and began the process. It’s almost full-dark. But, I remember having the hand-crank roofs when I was kid, and it didn’t take long. Well, that was when they were made hand crank only and had a huge crank.

Old School! These were easy!
Old School! These Were Easy!

 

Now, it’s a tiny thing, like a coat hanger wire on steroids. And, it takes F O R E V E R.

This. I hate this thing.
This. I hate THIS!

So, we haven’t eaten, it’s dark, it’s raining and the roof is going up by millimeters. But, you know what? We just laughed. We’re in a beautiful place, listening to the river just roaring, and we’re about to get to spend a whole weekend together in our wonderful camper. So, it’s all good!

Of course, by the end of the weekend, we’d ran home to check on the Mom and the Cats, and brought back the trickle charger to get the battery back to life. No luck. It was dead. Gotta get a new one. But, it is the original battery, and who knows how well it was maintained. So, not the end of the world. Chad was NOT going to use that stupid little crank, though. Not my man! So, he brought a different socket to use on our cordless drill (the one we use to put the stabilizers down). It went MUCH faster this time!

He hates having his picture made, but this was genius, so I had to!
He hates having his picture made, but this was genius, so I had to!

One of the things I have always loved about camping, and am so glad has remained true, is the friendliness of other campers. While we are hand cranking up the camper in the dark, a guy comes by and notices we’re doing this by flash light. He asks if we want to borrow his lantern. We told him thanks, but no. A few minutes, he’s back. With the actual sun. Seriously, someone took the freakin’ sun and crammed it in plastic housing. I have no idea how they did it, but it was AWESOME!!! It made it like setting up the camper during the day. We took him up on his offer, and then proceeded to buy one just like it the next day!

It's the sun.
It’s the sun.Buy it Here

His name was Bill, and over the weekend, we talked to him and his girlfriend Sherri several times. He even brought Chad over a cold beer, and let us share his campfire. They introduced us to the couple beside them, who had made a weekend trip down from WISCONSIN! That’s a very long drive for a 3 day weekend! They were the only other pop up in the place. They had a Flagstaff like ours, but bigger. I had camper couch envy! They have the wraparound sofa. It’s so nice! But, I didn’t say it out loud. Pandora might hear, and I don’t want her feelings getting hurt.

For some reason, camper manufacturers assume that you are going to cook (they include a cook top in the camper), but never wash dishes. At least, I assume that’s what they assume, because the sink is about 7 inches across and about 5 inches deep.

This is supposed to hold iron skillets. Right.
This is supposed to hold iron skillets. Right.

OK, maybe not that bad, but they are STUPID tiny. And, then, to make matters worse, they have faucets that have no rise. You seriously cannot fit a small Tervis tumbler under our faucet to fill it with water. And, I’m supposed to do dishes in that. Really??  So, I bought this to add to our sink.

Enter: Rinse Ace!
Enter: Rinse Ace!

It’s supposed to be something you use to rinse a baby off in a sink. But, it snaps onto your existing faucet aerator (did I spell that right? Spell check says yes, but I’m just not liking it), and works like a spray handle on a kitchen sink. I can fill glasses, our hot pot, and rinse off dishes easily. I can also fill the dish pan I use like it’s a second sink basin. SO MUCH EASIER!!!

Naturally, I did not remember to take a picture of it in use, or even just attached. But, it’s a freaking miracle, and keeps you from having to attempt major remodeling to add a better sink and/or faucet. And, at $20, worth every dime!!!

Next post, I’ll share a new State Park here in TN that we visited. I thought I’d keep this one camper-centric and share outdoorsy stuff separately. Does that make it more cohesive? Not that my rambling is EVER cohesive. But, still…

 

Up with Upholstery

So, eventually, we want to reupholster the dinette cushions. They’re not dirty or worn, just very blah. Most of the camper is decorated in gray, yellow and blue. With blue being the color of the canvas, we tend to use more gray and yellow inside.

We have our adorable owl curtains & other owly accents. So, keep those in mind:

 

See, isn't she adorable??
See, isn’t she adorable??

 

Now, with that adorable-ness in mind, here’s some of the upholstery “in the running” for being Pandora’s next update. Vote for your favorite!

dotty
dotty
Script (pick top or bottom
Script (pick top or bottom
dandelions
dandelions
peacocky
peacocky
flowery
flowery
ovals
ovals

Spring is Coming!!

Well, we’ve had a strange winter. It was crazy warm throughout December, and then when January hit, it was miserable. Wet and snowy, and nasty and cold, and all the other bad words you can think of. So, we hunkered down and dreamed of warm days by the river.

Lousy weather made for beautiful sunsets
Lousy weather made for beautiful sunsets
Brrrrrr
Beautiful drive home on a freezing cold day

Today, it’s feeling as if it might some day be Spring. It was over freezing, the sky was clear and blue (for a while, anyway), and if you got out of the wind, it felt pretty good.
So, we felt the camping itch, and got Pandora out today. During the winter, we got a new (well, new to us) tow vehicle (TV for those of you that get the slang). It’s a Jeep Grand Cherokee. Chad being Chad, he went through it from one end to the other, replacing everything that was even slightly less than perfect. He’s a gear-head and perfectionist, so it look new, even though it’s a 2004 model. Today was the first day we got to hook up Pandora and give it a test-tow. Holy crap, was it ever different than towing it behind that tiny Jeep Wrangler. You can forget it’s even back there!
Naturally, I got all excited and forgot to take a picture of it hooked up. SIGH. But, here’s a pic of the tow vehicle by itself. As I name every inanimate object in our home, it has been named Little Red Wagon.

Little Red Wagon on Roan Mountain
Little Red Wagon on Roan Mountain

We did a small version of Camp Driveway. We pulled Pandora out of the yard and up into the driveway, pumped the tires up a bit, and popped her out. I was terrified that we’d find a family of chipmunks a commune of mice and a couple of anacondas, but thankfully, we only found one spider and one dead stink bug.
We just had to get something fun done, so we thought we’d do a quick project. I had bought these super cute owl drawer pulls on Etsy, and Chad put them in for me. It should have taken just a few minutes, but of course, it’s us. Let’s see… some of our original pulls were on with phillips head, some with flat. The new pulls were too long for the 3 doors, but not the 3 drawers. And, one pull had been put in with some sort of epoxy, and hadn’t been screwed in properly prior to that, so we had to pull the pull off the screw, tap it and re-epoxy. Yeah, only us. But, totally worth it.
Before:

IMG_1080IMG_1081
After:

IMG_1085IMG_1083

Whoooo's cute?
So stinkin’ cute!!!!!

Chad also took a moment to figure out a solution for the side canvas. We had two places it was supposed to tuck in that it was always working loose. They simply didn’t give a long enough “tail” on the canvas. So, he did a quick fix with just a sheet metal screw. Just caught the canvas in its “tucked” position and tacked it in to stay that way.

The blue part to the right loves to pop out of the channel
The blue part to the right loves to pop out of the channel
You're so screwed.
Not anymore!!!

The only other addition was a purchase to keep me from killing myself. We have a slide out step that slides STRAIGHT OUT. It’s still a pretty good hike up onto it. It was only a matter of time before I wiped out. So, we got me a little step. It’s awesome!! Super stable and came in handy. We stood on it to get the canvas wraps all the way around the corner posts. We usually just have to jump and smack at it. Yeah, we’re some short campers!

No more jumping!
No more jumping!

I realized that I was the worst blogger ever last year. I didn’t post stuff from the other campground we stayed at last year! It was a 4th of July trip with family, and it was AWESOME! So, I’m going to put up a post about that soon. Better late than never, right?!

I’ve ordered several things for Pandora over the past week, so hopefully the next time we pop her open, we’ll have some pretty interior shots. She’s freaking adorable, and I must share.

OH, and big mile stone!!! Pandora has been ours for a year now! She has to have her tags renewed this month. Technically, in TN, she’s a small enough trailer we do not have to tag her. BUT, it makes it easier to trace and file paperwork if she’s stolen, and helps with insurance. So, she’s tagged.

Any of our other camping friends, where are you planning to camp this year? When do you get started? What are your go-to camp spots? Are you a rough it person, or a glamper? What kinds of fun stuff are you going to do to/buy for your camper?

It’s OWL about the curtains!

Sorry, it’s a pun thing. I have to do it. Please forgive me.

Now, on with the news! Pandora got new curtains! The old ones were kind of amazing, in a very not-good way. They were ugly. And, they were made terribly. I mean, the fabric was cut horribly unevenly, and they didn’t even cover the entire opening of the bunks or windows. Not impressed AT ALL. And, after years of working in healthcare, the mesh at the top of the curtains, while I’m sure helps air circulation, made me feel like I should be sleeping on a gurney and hooked up to a heart monitor. NOT RELAXING. It had to go.

U. G. L. Y. You ain't got no alibi...
U. G. L. Y. You ain’t got no alibi…

So, thankfully, we have an awesome friend (hey, Gay Lynn) who owns an awesome company and she just so happens to make awesome drapes/curtains and other amazing things.

It had to be owls, as I’ve been owl obsessed since I was a little kid. Now, they’re popular and I can find them everywhere. I’m in heaven! So, figured we would owl the heck out of Pandora. We’re going with a gray and brown color scheme, so with the wood and countertops already being brown tones, we wanted gray curtains.

Enter fabric.com with this adorable fabric: Winter Frost Owls Grey

We sent it and the glide tape that we bought on eBay to Gay Lynn and ta-dah… adorable curtains came back to us!!!

Look how pretty!!!!
Look how pretty!!!!
The sink owls approve
The sink owls approve
Moxie and Roxie are quite happy to have some more gray owls to hoot with.
Moxie and Roxie are quite happy to have some more gray owls to hoot with.
A close up of the fabric
A close up of the fabric

We thought about having the curtains lined, as that helps with keeping the camper cool, but we really didn’t want to sacrifice a lot of natural light. So, we just went with the plain ol’ fabric. So long as no one can see me nekkid, I’ve got what I need. LOL!

Next will be upholstering the cushions, but that’ll be a while. I’ve got to find the right fabric and then hopefully I’ll be too busy camping to farm out the cushions for a while!

Maiden Voyage & a Review of Riverpark Campground

My husband, Chad, had scheduled some time off a while back. So, it was heading into Spring and I made us a camping reservation. The weather had been gorgeous. In the 70’s!

Well, until we were supposed to leave! Yeah, each day I looked at the forecast for the weekend, and each day it got colder. I asked Chad if he was willing to still camp, even if it was cold. Like, freezing. He was game, and I was dying to try camping. So, there we went…

All set up and ready to rock
All set up and ready to rock

Our first set up went better than I’d hoped. Took maybe 20 minutes to get backed in, leveled, hooked up & popped up. Then, about another 10 to get the door set. UGH. Turns out we just weren’t putting enough muscle behind it, and the little latch on the top panel that connects to the door is a little um… stubborn. But, we got it done!

The best part is that the furnace on our Popup works wonderfully! It will run you out of the camper, as a matter of fact! But, with the temps in the low 20s. the canvas let some pretty cold air in there. You didn’t notice it unless you were in the bed. But, we had more than a furnace. We had heated mattresses!

For real! Did you even know they made such a thing? I had no idea, and they are GREAT! They go from 1 to 6. Basically 1 is barely warm, and 6 is pretty much like a skillet. LOL!

We stayed snug as bugs in rugs. So, that was awesome. Between the wonderfully warm bed, and the white noise “machine,” we had going, we had some of the best sleep we have had in ages.

What white noise machine, you ask? Well, it’s not so much a machine…

The Rapids
The Rapids

That’d be some rapids in the Nolichucky river, in Jonesborough, Tennessee. Our camper was right beside them. The noise was heavenly. You couldn’t hear another sound from the campers nearby. It was like our lullabye. A very thorough lullaby, too. Holy cow, we slept more this weekend than we have in ages. But, with it being so cold, what else was there to do? Nothing! So, sleep, read, and eat, we did!

Of course, we spent a lot of time figuring out where the best places are to store things. And, figuring things out. Such as, figuring out that the cookware I’d snagged ages ago on clearance was on clearance for a reason. One use, and the exterior paint flaked off. That simply cannot be safe, so we dumped it in the dumpster as we left.

Also, we figured out that we had gotten much too long a gray water hose. Everything I read said to get a super long one, so I got a 50 foot hose. Oh, my goodness… we were like 2 feet away from the sewer connection. So, all the loops pretty much mean that we had not enough pressure to push the water thru the hose. So, we wound up lopping off a good portion of the hose. I’m guessing I’ll be buying a couple of 15 foot hoses, so we can put them together if necessary, but not have a 45 extra feet of hose we don’t need.

We also figured out that the exterior hose that brings water in for us to drink… will freeze if it’s cold enough! Luckily, figured it out BEFORE it froze all the way thru. I turned on the tap to brush my teeth, and the stream of the water was tiny. Uh-oh! Luckily, running it a minute or two cleared it right up. We just left it running a tiny, tiny steam all night and nothing froze up. Phew! That could have gone badly!

We’d packed up a cool of drinks, and we left them outside. The ice froze to the drinks. But, the drinks didn’t freeze solid, so that worked out well!

The cooler was warmer!
The cooler was warmer!

Cooking-wise, our plan was to cook with the stove in the outside bracket. But, we nixed that with the temps. We just cooked inside. I figured with it being a first trip, I’d keep it ridiculously easy. Mostly pre-prepared foods, or at least semi-prepared. Refrigerated tortellini and sauce, a fried hamburger. Some pre-peeled, pre-seasoned homefries. They all did well. Except, of course, the lousy pans. But, that could have been much worse.

All in all, we had a lazy, easy first trip.

Where: Riverpark Campground
http://www.riverparkcampground.net/
Site #32, which is a “riverfront” site and was $41 per night. You get a 10% discount if you have a Good Sam membership. The non-riverfront slots are $31, I think. They have 30 amp, 50 amp and even tent sites.
Each site has a huge fire ring with a flip-over grill.

There is a camp store, and the staff are just beyond friendly. They even joked with me when they found out it was our first time ever camping. They said they were going to bring chairs, sit around and watch us! They also have an adorable little dog that is just as polite and friendly as can be. They have everything in the store from t-shirts to s’mores forks and slim jims. You name it, they seem to have it. $5 firewood bundles.

We had to get our propane tank refilled while there. A 20 pound tank was only $12.95 to refill. I thought that was excellent. Super-fast, too.

Pandora has no potty, so we were pleased to find that there were 2 potty options and they were both pretty darn nice! Just at the river was a small, single bathroom. It was heated, had a nice sink and hand soap. That was nice to be able to run out to in the middle of the night.

Then, just across from the store, is the main bathhouse. Each toilet in its own little room, and each shower (2 of them) are in their own room, plenty of room in each. Several hooks, a little pull-down bench and a shower unit. SO CLEAN. I can’t say that I saw a single speck of dust anywhere.
Also, in the “entry” area of the bathroom, is a row of sinks and also a large counter with a mirror. Plenty of hot water, so that was a blessing and a plus!

Now that I’m home, I realize I should have taken pictures of so much more. The bathhouses, the other campsites, the camp store and it’s adorable dog. Well, I guess I live and learn on this one, and the next time we camp, I’ll take pictures of everything.

And, hopefully, it will be WARM!!!!

Say what?!

I had no idea, but camping has its own language. And, Pop Up Campers have their own dialect of this language. I’ve been surfing every single popup camper site ever known to man, so I’ve had to get the crash course. Here, so far, is a smattering of this entertaining new language:

TV- I kept trying to figure out why in the Hell everyone was so concerned about watching television in their campers. I mean, you’re in nature… do what any sane person does. Watch Netflix on your iPad. DUH. Actually, it stands for TOW VEHICLE. As in, what you drive to tow your camper. Huh. Who knew?

Yes, we name all our vehicles. What?!
Chad’s Jeep, Miss Behavin’, is our tow vehicle.

PUP- I know a lot of people camp with their dogs, so I totally knew what this meant! Yeah… no. It means PopUP. Yeah, your camper.

NOT a dog.
Our PUP, Pandora.

WDH- I seriously had to go on google and search for this one. It came up about 7000th in the acronym list. Weight Distribution Hitch. Everyone swears you simply MUST have one to town. Unless, of course, you have a smaller camper of a certain design that it will, essentially, rip in half. Yeah, it will warp your camper if it’s placed on one that shouldn’t have it. Please, folks… read your owner’s manual. It was right there in mine, and barely mentioned on any of the websites that told me how much I needed one.

BAL leveler– It’s a brand name, not an acronym! I’m a nurse, so to me BAL is blood alcohol level, and you’re not a real ER nurse until you have bet on how high someone’s is. Take my word on this. Popup enthusiasts seem to love these things, but then I read things like, “I had to pound the device with a rubber mallet to get it to fit around my tire,” and I decide that driving up on the blocks/chocks we have is just fine for us. Especially since Chad can aim when he backs up. If I ever have to park that cute popup… Well, it has wheels, a front roller thingee and it’s light enough I can push it. What?! Not being able to drive in reverse should be recognized as a legal disorder. It’s not my fault!

ABS- I am a car girl from way back! Helped my Dad restore my first car. Hubby is a car geek. I’ve got this! It’s anti-lock braking system. NO IT IS NOT! It’s some sort of stuff they used for a few years to make pop up roofs and apparently, it sucked and you should never get one with it.

I’m sure there are a ton more. But, I’m learning the language along with a LOT of useful advice. So, I’ll keep plugging away at it. Or, should I say, “IKPAAI”??

 

 

 

 

Well, Hello Cutie!

The very first time I ever went camping was in a pop up. A Jayco, to be exact. I was probably 8 or 9. My family is NOT outdoorsy. We are not campers, hikers or hunters. If we were cavemen, we would die. We can’t build a fire with flint. We don’t cook over open fires. Apparently, we had ancestors who were hardy and could work the land, hunt with cunning skill, etc. Well, those skills fell by the way side. So, to me, that camper was roughing it. But, it was SO much fun. I remember a month spent at the beach, with Dad coming down for long weekends, and a week at the end. Me, my parents, and my cousin all crammed into that tiny camper. Without air conditioning! We thought we were super high class to have a pop up that had a refrigerator instead of an icebox! The campground still sold huge ice blocks to those who had the iceboxes. They did brisk business!

As I grew older, Mom and Dad realized that it was way too close to tent camping for them. Within a year or two, they traded up to bigger and better. Shortly before Dad passed away, he sold their last camper: a gigantic fifth wheel with slide outs galore and an electric fireplace. Far from our humble pop up.

My hubby, Chad, grew up very differently. He’s an outdoors guy. He loves to hike, bike and hang out in nature. Lord knows, we’re the poster children for opposites attract. He grew up tent camping. He met me way after our pop up days, and always teased my parents and I that we were not camping, we were “housing.”

For a few years, we’ve been trying to restore an ancient (and decrepit) travel trailer. It has been a trainwreck, and tons of fun. But, life has a way of changing, and we just don’t have much time for leisure. We realized we were not truly willing to use that time working on a camper that pieces and parts were becoming increasingly difficult to find. So, we decided to find a small camper, a new one.

We kept realizing how crazy heavy campers are. Our tow vehicle is a Jeep Wrangler, so heavy isn’t an option. After searching for a few weeks, we decided to look at pop ups, instead of travel trailers. Well, hey… they’re way easier to tow! Light, short, and compact. And, did I mention that it’s way cheaper to get a pop up than a travel trailer? So, yeah… it’s a pop up.

We were set to get a new one, but they got a trade in. A lady had bought the camper to house visitors in. She used it exactly ONCE. So, basically a new camper that we got for used. Cannot beat that! We also hit at a time they were offering FREE 4 year extended warranties, and since it was freezing cold out there and no one else was buying a camper, I did a bit of haggling. Got us a free air conditioner, too!

So, we had to figure out what to call the camper. I’ve got a serious problem… I have to name inanimate objects. I don’t know why. It’s an illness, really. But, the camper needed a name. I love alliteration, so it had to have that. I realized that pop ups are basically boxes. Little things that actually have quite a lot in them. So, she (and it has to be a girl. She’s small and cute, and is going to have a lot of adorable owls) is… Pandora Popup!

We’re 42 years old and haven’t used a pop up in forever. So, I’m sure there will be stories of epic failure. There will be some awesome trips, too. I’ll keep you updated on both. Have fun following our adventures!

Pandora, in the dealership parking lot.
Pandora, in the dealership parking lot.