Tag Archives: tow vehicle

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!

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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:

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After:

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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?

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”??