Adults Only

Food and Wine Festival is one of our favorite vacations. We are heading back in 70 days with some adult friends and I am getting really excited!  Here’s my story on our first trip to Food and Wine and why we keep going back.

 

An adult only vacation

So a few weeks ago I turned 40.  Since it was a milestone birthday my loving husband graciously planned a vacation for me and him.  Yes you heard that right just the two of us, no kids.  The kids didn’t get it.  Mom and dad don’t go on vacations with out us.  They were in denial for some time.  But the day came, my parents arrived to our house bright and early and we headed to the airport without them.

That’s right too, we flew.  Sounded like a great idea when booking.  Just the two of us and rates weren’t to bad.  Flight times were ok…  Then the times changed on our flight down. So I had to spend a Sat night on hold with Delta for a half hour to get a better time (this was a blessing in disguise since this time was way better than the first.)  Then a month or so later the time changed on our return trip so repeat process.  Again blessing since I decided at that point to pick seats and got Delta Comfort + which may have been the only way I was able to get back on the plane on the way home- more leg room and free wine and beer.  I typically don’t mind flying but with all the turmoil in the world my anxiety was up.

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So where did we go?, you ask.  Orlando, of course.  Specifically for the Epcot Food and Wine Festival.  We haven’t been to Epcot since our honeymoon in 2001.  Just hasn’t appealed to us with the kids.  The other parks seem to have more to offer our children.  But we have talked many times how we would love to tour the worlds when they are older.  Instead of waiting another 4-5 years until they would all be able to do their own thing this became the perfect time, a trip on our own and Food and Wine Festival- perfect!

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Epcot Food and Wine Festival was amazing.  The lines at all the booths moved faster than I would have ever guessed.  The food and drink was wonderful (seriously didn’t have anything I didn’t like.) The variety was great. The weather was perfect.   The prices were reasonable.  My favorite was the tenderloin and Malbec from Patagonia and Scott’s was the filet from Canada.

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Bonuses for getting to ride Test Track before the festival opened, a not so long line on the boat ride with the Three Caballeros in Mexico and the chance to see Captain EO before it closes later this year.

Plus we found Remy and Donald Duck.

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Highly recommend attending this event.  Really there is nothing better than food and wine tasting at a Disney Park.  Hoping to go back next year.

 

 

 

What else do you do in Orlando without the kids?  Lots!  Disney Springs is a ton of fun as an adult.  We got to go to the new tavern Jock Lindsay’s Hangar Bar.  It was awesome, really really awesome. They decor was amazing, the drinks were great and the bartenders, Launchpad and Scooter, were fantastic. They even have domestic beer in aluminium bottles if you want to take it to go.  And we got to eat at restaurants there that the kids would not have picked.  The first night we ate at The Boathouse, right on the water, and then later in the trip at The House of Blues (where we learned some new information- if you get on the water taxi behind The House of Blues you can take a ride to the other end and get dropped off near The Rainforest- then walk back towards where you parked- or vice versa.)  We were also able to make it all the way through and able to look at all the stores with out the kids.  Normally we only get about 2/3 of the way before we have to turn back.

We sat by the pool.  I read a book and didn’t have to watch any kids swimming.  Don’t get me wrong I love to watch my kids having fun in the pool, but I also love to read in the sun.  We had drinks and lunch delivered to us pool side as well.  There was also a man made beach at the resort that we relaxed on. (Huge plus the Marriott refillable mug!  Love it.  Have to get one every time we go)

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We took walks around the property.  We did not feed the alligators

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We went to the mall.

We had dinner at the fancy restaurant, The Grille, at the golf course at the resort. It was amazing- easily my best meal on the entire trip.

We, peacefully, enjoyed coffee and breakfast, each morning on the patio of our suite which overlooked the golf course. Our suite at Marriott’s Grande Vista  http://www.marriott.com/hotels/travel/mcogv-marriotts-grande-vista/ was a 1 bedroom with full kitchen and washer and dryer. We love having a kitchen to cook breakfast in and reheat leftovers for lunch.  Then we can eat dinner out and not feel like we are eating out all the time.

We did debate going to the Magic Kingdom.  I am still a little disappointed that we chose not to.  It would have been fun to take everything in as just the two of us.  To just do whatever rides we decided to do on a whim and not be super planned while there.  Not to mention to be able to see the park decorated for Christmas- but I guess that gives us a reason to go back during this time of year.

Adult only vacations are good every once in awhile.  They are a great time to reconnect and be together.  But family vacations are great too- and I can’t wait to go back with the kids

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Lake Dubay Shores Campground, Mosinee WI

This weekend our travels took us to Central Wisconsin. We headed to Lake Dubay Shores Campground in Mosinee which is located right on the Wisconsin River.

The campground has a few lake side sites that can be rented overnight, but most of the lake sites are occupied by seasonals.  We did book early (just under a year ago) and were able to nab two in a prime location.  There are also several sites right across from these sites that friends were able to book.  The lake sites are not large.  They are outlined with trees and fairly easy to get into. The 40′ Class A and 32′ Class C fit perfectly.  We were able to park in an L shape maximizing our space and giving us a great view of the water.

Sites have water and electric hook up (20 and 30 amp.) There are also full hook up sites available closer to the office.  There are two small playgrounds and a game room. The camp store is a decent size with a nice selection of stuff.  They do sell wood by the gator full and deliver it to your site for you. The campground staff was friendly- just make sure to have your parking pass showing at all times or you will get stopped to make sure you have registered.

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The campground has a boat landing for registered campers to use as well as boat docks that can be rented.  They also rent small boats, peddle boats and pontoon boats. There is a small swimming area with a grassy park next to it.  There are a couple of picnic tables and large swings available if you are watching others swim or just enjoying the water.  The swim area has a lily pad and a shallow area for the little kids to play in and big kids to stand in.  .

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We also had stair access and a path down the hill to the boat docks that were closest to our sites

There was only only one bathroom with flush toilets and showers whic was next to the office.  They were clean and centrally located in the campground.  There were also some porta potties available near the lake.

We had a great time here. The kids all hung out together; swam, played games, kayaked, paddle boarded, watched movies, explored, climbed hills, played with their dogs, talked to each other and the teenagers were entertained by the little ones.

The adults sat around, hung out in the water, kayaked, told stories, played games, built big fires, ate and drank wine using our wine hook from http://www.thewinehook.com.  We love our camping family and the fun we have together. We cannot wait to do it all over again.

Munising Tourist Park, Munising MI

We just completed our third year of camping at Munising Tourist Park in Munising, MI.  It’s a 3 1/2 hour drive and we travel from CST to EST so we lose an hour on the way there.  Because of the long drive and how much we love this campground we go for a long weekend.  We try to get there at check in and try to leave just before check out.

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This year we left at about 9 A.M. and caravanned with some friends. For the most part the drive is uneventful except as you are getting closer to Escanaba, MI where there always seems to be some sort of construction going on. M-35 is a two lane highway so any construction poses a problem.  This year it was at least a 15 minute stand still. You could see the worker with the stop sign but no cars were driving through.  Turns out they were “working” in both lanes which is not efficient for drive time.

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Lady in front of us going to see what’s going on

When we arrived at the campground we were able to quickly check in.  The campground manager is always helpful and friendly.  This is not true of all staff, however.  There is one lady there that is not the nicest and likes to speed around in the golf cart in a huff.  Try to deal with the manager if possible.  The camp store is very small.  It has a few camping necessities like cords and some small snacks available.

There are a few different types of sites located right on the beach next to Lake Superior.  Both ends have full hook up back in sites.  They have gravel parking pads water and sewer and direct access to the beach.  There are a few large grassy sites and several smaller sites with dirt, gravel and sand in the middle.  They also have direct beach access and gorgeous lake and sunset views.  Tree coverage in the middle sites is minimal. I do recommend having extra electrical cords and hose.  The poles are located near the road and if you park in the ideal spot you may not be able to reach it with normal lengths.  The sites are bigger than you expect.   This was the 3rd different site we have had and they all seem pretty level.  All but the 6 middle sites are pretty close to each other with little to no separation so make friends with your neighbors!

All sites have fire pits and picnic tables as well.

 

On either end of the RV/Camper sites are tent sites.  Most of these are rustic.  The sites to the west are more secluded from each other but the ones to the east are more directly located on the beach itself.  The rustic tent sites are all walk to sites.  There are a couple tent sites on the east side that you can park directly at.

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Rustic tent sites on the east end of the campground

 

There are also sites not located on the beach.  They are all good size sites and have water and electric hook ups.  There is also a public beach and picnic area where you can access the Lake if you have one of these sites.

This is a no frills campground.  A very small playground- swings and a slide- is all you get.  But with the lake right there it is all you need.  You will NOT find yourself looking for a game room or craft time.  The kids will just want to walk down the beach and explore or swim in the ice cold water (even at the end of July) as you sit in your chair parked in the sand and wonder how they can brave it.

You can kayak or paddle board or bring the boat and go for a spin.  There are a lot of shops, tours, hiking trails and other beaches to check out in neighboring towns.  I highly recommend Miners Beach just east of Munising.  It is on the edge of the rock cliffs and absolutely amazing. We drove by a beach in Au Traine on the way home I want to check out next time, it is right on M-28 and looks beautiful.

Booking is crazy. You have to be on your game.  And it is online only for the first month.  Whatever day and time is designated (and the last 2 years it has been at midnight EST) you have to be ready.  Those great beach sites, for the prime and not so prime summer weekends, will be gone in minutes, maybe even seconds.  Honestly, this doesn’t surprise me.  For what you get it is super inexpensive, between $25-$40 per night, and totally worth staying up late to make sure you get your site booked!

There are 2 bathrooms which are both heated and clean.  I personally have not used the showers but have heard good things about them. The dump station is easy to get to and use.

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Check in and check out time is noon.  The next person coming in will most likely be waiting there for you to leave.  But remember to enjoy your last morning!

We love camping by the water and Munising is a great place to do this.  But when packing one must remember that the weather in Munising can be fickle.  One day can be a cold rainy 55 degrees and the next a gorgeous sunny 72 that feels like 80 when there is no wind.  When the sun goes down you will typically need your pants and sweatshirts but this year was the first year that we had bad daytime weather and needed to pull out the stocking caps on the first night. Misty rain and high winds reminded us that we are happy we are from the north and most everyone had stocking caps in the cupboards of their campers.  We also did some improvisation and built a wind block while we braved the climate.  Regardless of the weather the company is what makes the trip and my family and friends always make them such a great time

 

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Munising Tourist Park, Munising MI

We just completed our third year of camping at Munisng Tourist Park in Munising, MI.  It’s a 3 1/2 hour drive and we travel from CST to EST so we lose an hour on the way there.  Because of the long drive and how much we love this campground we go for a long weekend.  We try to get there at check in and try to leave just before check out.

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This year we left at about 9 A.M. and caravanned with some friends. For the most part the drive is uneventful except as you are getting closer to Escanaba, MI where there always seems to be some sort of construction going on. M-35 is a two lane highway so any construction poses a problem.  This year it was at least a 15 minute stand still. You could see the worker with the stop sign but no cars were driving through.  Turns out they were “working” in both lanes which is not efficient for drive time.

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Lady in front of us going to see what’s going on

When we arrived at the campground we were able to quickly check in.  The campground manager is always helpful and friendly.  This is not true of all staff, however.  There is one lady there that is not the nicest and likes to speed around in the golf cart in a huff.  Try to deal with the manager if possible.  The camp store is very small.  It has a few camping necessities likes cords and some small snacks available.

There are a few different types of sites located right on the beach next to Lake Superior.  Both ends have full hook up back in sites.  They have gravel parking pads water and sewer and direct access to the beach.  There are a few large grassy sites and several smaller sites with dirt, gravel and sand in the middle.  They also have direct beach access and gorgeous lake and sunset views.  Tree coverage in the middle sites is minimal. I do recommend having extra electrical cords and hose.  The poles are located near the road and if you park in the ideal spot you may not be able to reach it with normal lengths.  The sites are bigger than you expect.   This was the 3rd different site we have had and they all seem pretty level.  All but the 6 middle sites are pretty close to each with little to no separation so make friends with your neighbors!

All sites have fire pits and picnic tables as well.

 

On either end of the RV/Camper sites are tent sites.  Most of these are rustic.  The sites to the west are more secluded from each other but the ones to the east or more directly located on the beach itself.  The rustic tent sites are all walk to sites.  There are a couple tent sites on the east side that you can park directly at.

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Rustic tent sites on the east end of the campground

 

There are also sites not located on the beach.  They are all good size sites and have water and electric hook ups.  There is also a public beach and picnic area where you can access the Lake if you have one of these sites.

This is a no frills campground.  A very small playground- swings and a slide- is all you get.  But with the lake right there it is all you need.  You will NOT find yourself looking for a game room or craft time.  The kids will just want to walk down the beach and explore or swim in the ice cold water (even at the end of July) as you sit in your chair parked in the sand and wonder how they can brave it.

You can also kayak or paddle board or bring the boat and go for a spin.  There are also lots of shops, tours, hiking trails and other beaches to check out in neighboring towns.  I highly recommend Miners Beach just east of Munising.  It is on the edge of the rock cliffs and absolutely amazing. We also drove by a beach in Au Traine I want to check out next time, it is right on M-28 and looks beautiful.

Booking is crazy. You have to be on your game.  And it is online only for the first month.  Whatever day and time is designated (and the last 2 years it has been at midnight EST) you have to be ready.  Those great beach sites for the prime and not so prime summer weekends will be gone in minutes, maybe even seconds.  Honestly, this doesn’t surprise me.  For what you get it is super inexpensive, between $25-$40 per night, and totally worth staying up late to make sure you get your site booked!

There are 2 bathrooms which are both heated and clean.  I personally have not used the showers but have heard good things about them. The dump station is easy to get to and use.

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Check in ad check out time is noon.  And the next person coming in will most likely be waiting there for you to leave.  But remember to enjoy your last morning!

We love camping by the water and Munising is a great place to do this.  But when packing one must remember that the weather in Munising can be fickle.  One day can be a cold rainy 55 degrees and the next a gorgeous sunny 72 that feels like 80 when there is no wind.  When the sun goes down you will typically need your pants and sweatshirts but this year was the first year that we had bad day time weather and to pull out the stocking caps the first night. Misty rain and high winds reminded us that we are happy we are from the north and most everyone had stocking caps in the cupboards of their campers.  We also did some improvisation and built a wind block while we braved the climate.  Regardless of the weather the company is what makes the trip and my family and friends always make them such a great time

 

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We stayed on property!

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We have lots of what we call Disney friends.  They love all things Disney, just like us.  And more often than not, when we tell them we are heading to Orlando they ask what hotel we are staying it.  Up to this year we have always said some off property resort and most could not understand why.  No transportation from resort to parks, no Disney dining plan, no booking fast passes at 60 days?  How can you do that?  Our answer has always been that there are some amazing accommodation options in Orlando. Many within a short drive to all things Disney.  We also have been able to get larger units with more amenities for cheaper rates than we could stay in a hotel room at Disney for.  Our family of 5 does not do hotel rooms well, so staying off property has always been ideal.

Then we bought an RV and this was the game changer.

The RV opened up the opportunity to stay at Fort Wilderness Campground. Some may think- but how can you go to Disney and camp?  Well, by staying in our RV we had the space we are accustomed to, we had cooking facilities, we had a patio, we had our own beds.

And there is also the cost- a premium site at Fort Wilderness cost half what a standard hotel room at an All Star Resort would have cost.  And we got so much more.

We got transportation.  Buses ran to all the theme parks and Disney Springs.  There was a bus line that ran through the campground that would drop you off at the outpost where you could then catch the bus to the parks or to Disney Springs. It would also take you from your loop to the swimming pools, trading posts, beach and restaurant area. (We rented a golf cart so we eliminated one bus ride and wait, and it was a ton of fun to drive around.). Bonus transportation was that Fort Wilderness is one of the resorts located on Bay Lake. These resorts all have boats that take you to Magic Kingdom and boats that take you to the other Bay Lake area resorts.  This, by far, was my favorite way to get places. I can honestly say that once I was at Animal Kingdom and Hollywood Studios I could not imagine taking the bus back to the resort and then back to the park.  Once we were there we stayed until we were ready to be done.  However, taking the boat back from Magic Kingdom was no big deal, and not having to take the boat or monorail to the transportation center and then the tram to the parking lot was awesome. I also think taking the monorail to Magic Kingdom from Epcot and then getting on the boat would have been fine- but we didn’t leave and return there either.  By the time we did leave we were done for the day.

We got a campfire.  Many of the resorts have nighttime movies.  But at Fort Wilderness we got a movie after a campfire sing along. Yes a good old sing along followed by the lighting of a large campfire that you could roast smores at. There was also a food truck at the campfire for food and beverage purchases that also sold smores kits (marshmallows, chocolate, graham crackers, and sticks.)  And to add to all the fun each night includes a visit by Chip and Dale.  They sing and dance along with the crowd as well as taking pictures and signing autographs for those who want them.

We got the Backyard BBQ and Hoop D Do Revue. We ate at the Backyard BBQ and I would recommend it to everyone- even if you are not staying at Fort Wilderness.  BBQ buffet with a country style sing along with Mickey, Minnie, Goofy, Chip and Dale. I would also recommend spending the extra money to get the preferred seating. Not only do you get to sit at an assigned table closer to the dance floor and stage but you get to enter an hour earlier than the general seating. This extra hour allowed us to get all of our meet and greets done, eat ice cream, have a couple of drinks and fill our plates before the other guests came in. We did not attend the Hoop D Do Revue but I have heard great things about it.  Definitely plan on going someday.

We got to watch the fireworks from Magic Kingdom from the beach of the campground every night, with the music all piped into the speaker system at the beach.  We also got to watch the electric water pageant which travels Bay Lake. This was awesome and I went every night that I was able.  It was a short golf cart ride to the beach from the loop we were on so we could head down there last minute and watch the show.  Simple easy, free entertainment.

We got magic bands.  We bought magic bands when they first came out and used them for entrance to the parks and for fast passes.  But when you stay on property magic bands are so much more.  They act as a room key- which is not necessary at the campground but you do use them to open the gate when not entering the campground through the main entrance, to access the bathrooms during over night hours and to access the laundry rooms.  You are also able to connect a payment method to them and use them to make purchases and stores, restaurants, and snacks stands throughout the theme parks, resorts and Disney Springs.  Each band can be set up with and individual pin so all family members are able to use them.  This came in super handy when we weren’t with the kids and they needed an ice cream or smoothie.

We got horseback riding and Segway tours.  Another activity we were not able to take advantage of with our busy schedule but hope to do in the future.  There is horseback riding in the horse corral for young kids or a 45 minute horse back tour for older kids and adults.  There is also a Segway tour that you can take from the campground.

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We got to drive around in golf carts.  They campground is quite large. Yes, I am sure one could walk it, but it would take awhile.  You can also walk to a bus stop at each loop and the bus will take you to all of the main locations within the campground.  We choose option 3.  We rented golf carts from Tee Time Rental (for a fraction of the cost that we could have rented them from Disney.). We did have to pick them up and return them ourselves but we saved a good chunk of change and it was a great convenience to be able to get where we needed to go on our schedule. There are parking areas all over the campgrounds for golf carts so there were no hassles at all.

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We got fast passes at 60 days.  On site guests can book fast passes 60 days from your check in date.  Those that stay off property can only book 30 days from the day you plan to go to the park.  You can start booking at 7 am EST, which of course I did.  It amazed me how easy it was to get the fast passes we wanted with the extra 30 days.  We got everything we wanted at the times we wanted.  (After using them I did learn that I should not have booked first thing in the morning- 1. For parks that you have to take the bus too you may stress about getting there on time since you are at the mercy of the bus. 2. Lets be honest when you are staying on property your teenager is hoping to sleep in)

We got extra magic hours. We only used these once for Magic Kingdom.  We left the park for a few hours late afternoon, went back after dinner and stayed till they ended at 1 am.  It was a long night.  Even when you take a break it is hard to make it till 1 am.  But it was still cool to not have much of a wait for rides, to be there with a minimum amount of people, to hear the goodnight over the loud speakers and to say we were still there “the next morning.” We may have stayed into Epcot’s extra hours for a half hour or so-but only because the meet and greet line for Joy and Sadness did not move- so much so that we ended up getting out of it after a half hour (yes, we should have just took the trip to Arendelle.) Hollywood Studios and Animal Kingdom had morning extra hours- which wasn’t our thing so we just headed there after the parks had officially opened.

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We didn’t have to find parking at Disney Springs.  This may not seem like a big deal with the parking ramps open now, but on a Fri. or Sat. night during spring break it can get pretty busy and we have had to park in overflow at the marketing building in the past.  Being able to take the bus there eliminates having to do this. And you get dropped off right by Town Center which is a plus.

We love staying at the Marriott Vacation Club properties, Harbor Lake, which we own at as well as several others we have tried.  But we definitely can understand why others prefer to stay on property after giving it a try.  Cost will always be a fact to us.  The more we save the more we can go.  Fort Wilderness is great for this.  It was reasonably priced and we got the accommodations we are used to (and no it did not really feel like camping.)

 

It’s been awhile

It’s been way to long since I have sat down and wrote about our adventures.  Did we stop going places?  Heck no. I  can’t imagine a life without spring break trips, weekends camping and summer road trips.  When I look back I can’t believe the last thing I wrote about was Memorial Day weekend.  We had some great trips last summer and fall that I can’t believe I didn’t write about.  No good excuses other than time just gets away from me.  With our Spring Break trip starting less than 50 days from now my goal for 2017 is to simply do better.

But in the mean time I will try to hit some of last year’s highlights since we had plenty of good times in the RV.

After Labor Day we headed to one of our favorite campgrounds- Pinegrove Campground in Shawano.  Back when we bought our first travel trailer we had a seasonal site there.  Since then the campground has grown.  They have updated the playground and store, as well as added a pool and inflatables. We had some rough weather after setting up but after that the weekend was great.

We had a site right across from the field and pool area, which was a great location. Everything was a short walk so the kids were able to do whatever they wanted.  Lots of time spent in the lake, the pool, playing mini golf and on the playground.  We were able to watch the movie Saturday, from our fire. We were also close enough to the store that the WiFi worked from our site- there is a small daily fee for this service but so worth it with a teenager.

Our other trip in June was to Cedar Point in Sandusky- but we will save that for it’s own story.

July took us to our annual Diederich family trip to Bear Lake Campground for the Iola Old War Car Show and Swap Meet. As always this was a great long weekend.  Lots of time was spent at the lake and hanging out on the pontoon boat (even if it was anchored), tubing, jet skiing, at the playground, playing cards, hanging out with family and relaxing around the bonfire.  But the best part of the weekend was our group dinner on Saturday night.  This year we did things a little different and made a Louisiana style shrimp boil.  It was so much fun eating straight off the picnic table and it tasted AMAZING!!

We ended the month with a farther journey to Munising, MI where we stayed at the Munising Tourist Park Campground.  This is one of my all time favorite campgrounds.  There are no bells and whistles at this campground.  The playground consists of 2 or 3 swings and an old rusty slide. BUT the sites we stayed on where right on Lake Superior.  We opened our door to a beautiful view and the sand was less than a 25 yard walk.  There was no better morning coffee than the ones we had in Munising right next to the water. It was a convenient spot to put the kayaks in (looking forward to having the paddle board there this summer) and had we had a boat it could have been docked right at our site. Sunsets were gorgeous.  The park is also just a few miles out of the quaint little town of Munising and a short drive to the famous Pictured Rocks.  We enjoyed being at the site so much we didn’t venture to either but look forward to visiting them in the future.

In Aug we went to Shawano Lake, another one of our favorites. We had to pull a pop up so the boat could come along. It was our second time here that year, and much different from the first.  There was no snow- although it rained most of Saturday and was pretty chilly for late August.  The snack bar was open since it was after Memorial Day- I love the snack bar.  Sunday was a beautiful day so by mid afternoon the lake was quite busy unlike in early May.  We took the boat out and the kids got to ski and tube, which is always a great time.  I was just happy sitting in the sand and enjoying a Margarita.  One of the nice things about Shawano Lake Campground is the late check out time, 3:00 PM, which allows you to fully enjoy Sunday on the lake.  Bonus when Saturday’s weather isn’t the best.

Labor Day Weekend we headed to Chute Pond.  Still not my favorite campground, but it is spent with some of my favorite people to camp with so that totally makes up for it.  Why not my favorite?  Long walk to the beach down an actual well-traveled road that runs through the campground.  An even longer walk to slippery rock. These walks can be stressful at times with the kids. The “beach” is a grass hill, although the lake is pretty decent- the kids had a blast on the paddle board all weekend. We bought it right before this trip so the were all pumped to use it. The site is also a pretty good walk to the flush toilets.  Thankfully we don’t have to worry about that.  The staff is not the friendliest.  But like I said it is a great group of people to camp with and therefor we are able to overlook all of this.

This year fall camping took us back to Bear Lake for a lakeview site, which was super cool. We went to Plymouth Rock Campground for Tough Mudder Weekend and to Quietwoods South for Halloween.

Friday and Saturday of the weekend at Plymouth Rock were cool and soggy.  Rained most of the time.  But Sunday was beautiful!  The kids and I hung out at the RV while Scott took part in the Tough Mudder.  We watched some movies and played some board games.  And I got to enjoy a bloody mary in the warm fall sun.

Our final weekend of the year was a Halloween theme weekend in mid October at Quietwoods South in Brussels, WI.  It was so much fun and will become an annual trip for us.  Saturday afternoon the campground had activities for the kids (young and old alike.)  We painted pumpkins, made caramel apples and took a wagon ride around the campground.  Then in the late afternoon there was trick or treating.  Majority of the sites (and the campground was full) had trick or treating set up for the kids and adults.  Kids dressed in their costumes and got lots of candy and parents that walked around with them were rewarded with jello shots, beers, mini bloody mary’s, and various other treats.  There was a haunted corn maze and a haunted house. Quietwoods also has a bar and snack bar with hot food at the camp store, which is always nice when there isn’t time to cook or you just want to grab a quick bite.

The weekend after this was one of the nicest late October weekends we have had in a long time.  We were very sad that we had other commitments and weren’t able to book a last-minute weekend.  We sadly winterized the RV and gave it a good wash before we parked it for the winter.

We have now started our repacking lists and are getting ready to bring our second home back out of storage.  Starting the countdown to our biggest adventure yet and the beginning of another great season.

It’s been awhile

It’s been way to long since I have sat down and wrote about our adventures.  Did we stop going places?  Heck no. I  can’t imagine a life without spring break trips, weekends camping and summer road trips.  When I look back I can’t believe the last thing I wrote about was Memorial Day weekend.  We had some great trips last summer and fall that I can’t believe I didn’t write about.  No good excuses other than time just gets away from me.  With our Spring Break trip starting less than 50 days from now my goal for 2017 is to simple do better.

But in the mean time I will try and hit some of last years highlights since we had plenty of good times in the RV.

After Labor Day we headed to one of our favorite campgrounds- Pinegrove Campground in Shawano.  Back when we bought our first travel trailer we had a seasonal site there.  Since then the campground has greatly grown.  They have updated the playground and store as well as added a pool and inflatables. We had some rough weather after setting up but after that the weekend was great.

 

We had a site right across from the field and pool area which was a great location. Everything was a short walk so the kids were able to do whatever they wanted.  Lots of time spent in the lake, the pool, playing mini golf and on the playground.  We were able to watch the movie Saturday from our fire. Also close enough to the store that the WiFi worked from the site- there is a small daily fee for this service but so work it with a teenager.

Our other trip in June was to Cedar Point in Sandusky- but we will save that for it’s own story.

July took was to our annual Diederich family trip to Bear Lake Campground for the Iola Old War Car Show and Swap Meet. As always this was a great long weekend.  Lots of time was spent at the lake and hanging out on the pontoon boat (even if it was anchored), tubing, jet skiing, at the playground, playing cards, hanging out with family and relaxing around the bonfire.  But the best part of the weekend was our group dinner on Saturday night.  This year we did things a little different and made a Louisiana style shrimp boil.  It was so much fun eating straight off the pick nick table and it tasted AMAZING!!

We ended the month with a further journey to Munising, MI where we stayed at the Munising Tourist Park Campground.  This is one of my all time favorite campgrounds.  There are no bells and whistles here.  The playground consists of 2 or 3 swings and an old rusty slide. BUT the sites we stayed on where right on Lake Superior.  We opened our door to a beautiful view and the sand was less than a 50 yard walk.  There was no better morning coffee than the ones we had in Munising right next to the water. It was a convenient spot to put the kayaks in (looking forward to having the paddle board there this summer) and had we had a boat it could have been docked right at our site. Sunsets where gorgeous.  The park is also just a few miles out of the quaint little town of Munising and a short drive to the famous Pictured Rocks.  We enjoyed being at the site so much we didn’t venture to either but look forward to in the future.

In Aug we went to Shawano Lake, another of our favorites. We had to pull a pop up so the pontoon boat could come along. It was our second time here this year, and much different than the first.  First there was no snow- although it rained most of Saturday and was pretty chilly for late August.  The snack bar was open since it was after Labor Day- I love the snack bar.  Sunday was a beautiful day so by mid afternoon the lake was quite busy unlike in early May.  We took the pontoon out and the kids got to ski, which is always a great time.  I was just happy sitting in the sand and enjoying a Margarita.  One of the nice things about Shawano Lake Campground is the late check out time, 3:00 PM, which allows you to fully enjoy Sunday on the lake.  Bonus when Saturday’s weather isn’t the best.

Labor Day Weekend we headed to Chute Pond.  Still not my favorite campground, but it is spent with some of my favorite people to camp with so that totally makes up for it.  Why not my favorite?  Long walk to the beach down an actual well traveled road that runs through the campground.  An even longer walk to slippery rock. These walks can be stressful at times with the kids. The “beach” is a grass hill, although the lake is pretty decent- the kids had a blast on the paddle board all weekend. We bought it right before this trip so the were all pumped to use it. The site is also a pretty good walk to the flush toilets.  Thankfully we don’t have to worry about that.  The staff is not the friendliest.  But like I said it is a great group of people to camp with and therefor we are able to overlook all of this.

This year fall camping took us back to Bear Lake for a lakeview site, which was super cool. We went to Plymouth Rock Campground for Tough Mudder Weekend and to Quietwoods South for Halloween. Friday and Saturday of the weekend at Plymouth Rock were cool and soggy.  Rained most of the time.  But Sunday was beautiful!  The kids and I hung out at the RV while Scott took part in the Tough Mudder.  We watched some movies and played some board games.  And I got to enjoy a bloody mary in the warm fall sun.

Our final weekend of the year was a Halloween theme weekend in mid October at Quietwoods South in Brussels, WI.  It was so much fun and will become an annual trip for us.  Saturday afternoon the campground had activities for the kids (young and old alike.)  We painted pumpkins, made caramel apples and took a wagon ride around the campground.  Then in the late afternoon there was trick or treating.  Majority of the sites (and the campground was full) had trick or treating set up for the kids and adults.  Kids dressed in their costumes and got lots of candy and parents that walked around with them were rewarded with jello shots, beers, mini bloody mary’s, and various other treats.  There was a haunted corn maze and a haunted house. Quietwoods also has a bar and snack bar with hot food at the camp store which is always nice when there isn’t time to cook or you just want to grab a quick bite.

 

The weekend after this was one of the nicest late October weekends we have had in a long time.  We were very sad that we had other commitments and weren’t able to book a last minute weekend.  But we sadly winterized the RV and gave it a good wash before we parked it for the winter.

We have now started our repacking lists and are getting ready to bring our second home back out of storage.  Starting the countdown to our biggest adventure yet and the beginning of another great season.

 

 

NO Electricity? Can we do it?

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For Memorial Day weekend this year we decided to go to Peninsula State Park in Fish Creek, WI.  First problem for us is that the Wisconsin State park system starts booking 11 months in advance.  We didn’t decide to book there until closer to the 8 month mark (which is still crazy early for us) so we didn’t have the option to book one of the coveted sites with electricity. (Most state parks in WI have a limited number of spots with electricity and water.)  It’s been years since we have camped without electricity- up north shortly after we bought the land before the electric lines were ran.  Kids still went to bed early so charging electronics wasn’t as important to them back then. AND generators are off limits in WI state parks.

Not so much any more. Charging is still ok as long as we have battery power and yes the tv’s run on 12 volt battery power as well, but batteries die without electricity to recharge them (and when they want to watch different movies at the same time.)  And of course they never turn lights off, and there’s the microwave, the ac and  XBOX. Thankfully the weather was nice so being outside for most of the time was alright. We also invested in a solar panel just in case- We did charge for a few hours during the day. We were lucky there was a nice sun patch with in the cords reach. Not really sure if it helped or not but we did not run out of power.  Of course we did limit everything, including movies. The kids are not used to this and I don’t like telling them they can’t watch them at night  or while we are packing up but sacrifices had to be made.  It was not hot so the ac wasn’t necessary and there was no XBOX playing on this trip.

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On the plus side we did  end up right across the road from friends and just a short walk or bike ride down the path to the beach.  The beach was great and it was a really nice weekend so we got to spend a lot of time there.  There was also a nice store that the kids could get to on their own for ice cream and candy. The sites were great too.  Our friends had direct access to the trail that led to the beach and a fishing dock. They were large and ours had to access points so it was easy to get in and out of.

As for the coffee, it was the best.  We boiled water and then perked it by hand, slowly pouring the water over the grounds in the coffee pot.

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Verdict?  Not the end of the world.  Would we do it again, sure.  But I would feel much more relaxed about it if it wasn’t a long weekend.  The extra day could have broke us.  When it comes down to it I find it easier to just book privates.  I like electricity and being hooked up to city water, but as long as there is sun I will be ok.  You can take the girl out of the city but you can’t take the city out of the girl.

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Universal Orlando vs Disney World

We are what is referred to as Disney People.  We love all things Disney.  We love Disney World.  We love the parks, the rides, the shows,  the food, the shops, the characters, the music, the atmosphere.  We love driving into Disney World and seeing the sign that welcomes us.  We love parking in a themed parking lot. We love the ferry boat and the monorail and sometimes can’t decided which one to ride. We miss the sorcerers hat at Hollywood Studios, the robotic garbage can in Tomorrowland,  Mickey and Minnie’s houses in Toon Town (Pluto’s house was Quinn’s favorite picture spot.)  We miss the Back Lot Tour. We are sad that there were attractions we never got to experience like Maelstrom, which for some reason we chose not to when we went to Epcot or (for all but me) the 2000 Leagues Under the Sea Ride which was gone before Scott made his first trip to the Magic Kingdom.  But we look forward to the new attractions, restaurants and shops that are coming.  We can’t  wait to ride through Arendelle and travel to Pandora.

That being said we also have some huge Harry Potter fans in the house and have been planning to go to Universal Orlando since the Wizarding World’s of Harry Potter have been added.  So this year was the year.  I had hoped to go to the Magic Kingdom as well, but since we like to only do a couple park days and since we couldn’t pick one Universal park over the other we put Disney off.  (Yes I am counting down to the next visit.)

So the question is ‘Is Disney better than Universal?’

Better no, Different yes.

  • Cost. We had heard over and over that Universal was more expensive than Disney.  A 1 day ticket to Magic Kingdom was $105 when we went which is the same as a 1 day ticket to either Universal park.  Disney includes 3 fast passes to begin your day with the cost of admission.  Universal charges for their express pass, $39.99.  This pass gets you unlimited express pass access to all rides that it is valid for for that day.  It does not include the 2 big Harry Potter rides (one in each park)  so we personally did not spend the extra.  Food was similar in price. But Universal had a refill program that Disney does not.  You could purchase a souvenir mug and refill it all day at one of the many Coca Cola Freestyle stations around the park (it uses the chip technology and you do need to  wait 10 minutes between fills.  You are also able to have the chip reactivated each day for about half price.)  as well as refill your souvenir bucket of popcorn for a few dollars.
  • Story Lines.  At Disney most of the story lines for shows, rides and attractions put you into the current story you already know. On Peter Pan’s Flight you soar over London to Neverland and take in the sites of the story just as Wendy and the boys did. Indiana Jones gives you the feeling that you are on an adventure with Indy to find some lost gem. The attractions at Universal seem to tell a new story. You may be on a broomstick flying around Hogwarts but you are not living the same adventure you watched in the movie.  In the Terminator you watch a new story unfold instead of just taking part of the one you already know.  For some new is good and a new story is a great way to continue on, but I like to live the story that I already know and that brought me to the park in the first place.
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  • Attraction Format. Universal rides are a little different than those at Disney.  They definitely shake you more and there seems to be more of an emphasis on motion.  There are less shows and rides that just take you through the story.  After a half day at Universal Studios I knew that I had enough and would have to sit any additional rides out.  The Minion ride did have an option to sit in stationary seats and just watch the movie that played, this option also decreased wait time by well over an hour.  ET was a simple ride that took you though the forest searching for ET but when the signs advise you that if you are pregnant, have back problems or motion sickness believe it. Islands of Adventure rides were a little easier going for me. Dr Seuss land was a great spot for all ages and adventure styles- not much shaking but you will get wet (as to be expected) on One Fish Two Fish. And beware that you will spin win fighting the villians in The Amazing Adventures of Spider Man and my eyes remained shut for most of Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey.
  • Meet and Greets.  At Universal it was old school style.  No fast passes for meet and greets.  No cued lines.  They characters just finish their street show, the MC makes an announcement and BOOM lines form.  I LOVED this.  For us it worked great in Dr. Seuss land.  Kooper quickly made her decision we formed a line and since we were so fast the rest of the line formed behind us!  Best way to meet the Grinch and Sam I Am EVER!!
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  • Harry Potter. Hogsmede and Diagon Alley were awesome.  You don’t have to even be a fan to appreciate the coolness of these to areas.  You also do not need to ride the major rides to enjoy the worlds created in the Harry Potter stories, all the detail in them makes them easy to enjoy on their own- the rides are just bonuses.  The authenticness of the streets and shops was beyond amazing.  You felt like you were actually there.  The employees were well versed and knew their subject matter. The merchandise was great. The fire breathing dragon outside of Gringots was spot on. Hogwarts felt life size- wether you were looking at it from the street or walking though it on your way to the Forbidden Journey Ride. Interactive wands and wand choosing at Olivander’s. The train station, Hogwarts Express and 9 3/4 Platform at Kings Cross. Seeing the house elf peer out the window at #12 Grimmwald Place. Butter Beer (regular, frozen, and ice cream). It is something that can only be truly appreciated in person.

 

  • City Walk vs Disney Springs.  Disney Springs has free parking.  City Walk shares a parking ramp with the 2 parks so parking is currently $20 before 6 pm (discounted after that.) Both have restaurants, street shows and night life. Disney Springs, however is much bigger and has more of everything.  I would be able to spend a lot more time walking around Disney Springs than I could around City Walk.  City Walk seemed to be more about a destination that you would need to spend money at, I could easily just walk around Disney Springs for hours looking at things and watching the street shows.  That being said I have really only eaten at City Walk once, 15 years ago and walked through it on my way in and out of the parks.  We did try to go there last year but couldn’t rationalize paying to park to just walk around and eat dinner (although it does have some amazing restaurants!)
  • Rides that didn’t allow you to take anything on with you.  Many rides at Universal made you completely empty your pockets before getting in line (or going beyond a certain point.)  I have never experienced this at Disney.  You would get to a certain point and have to put ALL your belongings into a locker that was access by thumb print.  When I say all ALL I mean it- cell phones, sunglasses, hats,  bags, wallets, change from your pocket. When getting in line for Rip Ride Rocket we even had to go thru a metal detector to make sure we didn’t have anything on us still (and I was just walking thru the line- I didn’t ride the ride.) I guess I can understand this for a ride like that it was a pretty crazy coaster and they could be concerned about stuff falling out but we had to use the lockers for the Men In Black Ride as well.  If you have never been on it but are familiar with Disney it is similar to the Toy Story Rides- you just spin more.  I found it quite annoying having to find an empty locker, shove all my stuff into it (which really meant finding at least 2 lockers), going thru the process of opening and locking it, and having to remember the locker number(s).  Then get back into line without my drink or snacks for another 30-40 minutes.  Seriously this locker thing was probably the biggest annoyance of the day.
  • Food.  Although the food was somewhat themed Mel’s Drive Inn in Hollywood Boulevard, Krusty Burger and Moe’s Tavern in Springfield,  Wimpy’s in Toon Lagoon the only thing that could really compare to Disney iconic Mickey Mouse Ice Cream Bars, Mickey shaped soft pretzels, and dole whip (as well as the food served at the many quick service and full service restaurants) was the Butter Beer and Gilly Water in Diagon Alley and the french fries and atmosphere at Mel’s were fabulous! And again I must give props to that refill program.  For us being able to refill our soda and popcorn bucket is huge. And since it was a freestyle machine there were tons of non soda options as well.  You could also use the machines for ice and water free of charge.

These are just some of the big difference I picked up between the two.  Lots of things were similar. I have heard many times that the service isn’t as good at Universal as it is at Disney.  I did not find this to be the case at all.  I listened to the gentleman outside Olivander’s tell countless numbers of people that the line was for the wand choosing experience not to purchase a wand.  He did it with a smile every time.  He also talked to my kids while we waited and was never annoyed.  The park was clean, there was no garbage lying around.  Lines moved as quick as they could. There was rider swap and single rider lines. Questions were asked and answered just as they would be at Disney. The displays were fantastic and there was fun to be had around every corner. There were character meet and greets happening all the time.  Tradition was still upheld. And yes both Universal and Disney have Starbucks.

 

Is Disney World better than Universal Orlando.  No it is not.  Is it different? Yes, there are some similarities but they are two very different theme parks. I am glad we finally went to Universal but I am glad we waited for all of the kids to be older.  Kooper may not love Harry Potter, but she was able to appreciate it. She did love Dr Seuss Land, the Woody Woodpecker Coaster, The Barney Live Show, Fieval’s Playground, Kang and Kudos Twirl and Hurl and the Minion Mayhem.

Would we go again?  Yes. Honestly we could spend most of the day just walking around the Harry Potter Worlds.  The other attractions we hit would just be a bonus.  I would probably do both parks in 1 day though.  I think with the park hopper we would have been able to still do everything we wanted to do as well as ride The Hogwarts Express- which we unfortunately did not get to do since we didn’t have the park hopper.  There’s always next time.

Our First Adventure

 

School was cancelled due to an potential 6-12 inches of snow with high winds.  How did we spend the day off?  We finished our packing and loaded up the RV.  We were getting out of this icky weather the following morning.  Heading to warmer weather.  Loading up in weather like that is not fun but we turned the heat on and did our best.  4 AM came we all took our seats and we headed for the highway.

We had a full tank of gas so our first stop was 6 1/2 hours south in Lebanon, IN for gas and a leg stretch.

It took almost to Indianapolis for the icicles to fall of the roof.

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We stopped again at a rest area about 30 miles from Kentucky where we had lunch, sandwiches and tacos, and Scott took a nap.  That was awesome.  He usually gets tired in Indiana and since I wasn’t comfortable driving the RV yet he was able to shut the bedroom door and sleep while we all ate.  It turned out that our lunch time and bathroom break was the was the perfect amount of time for him for him to rest because he got up right as we were finishing.  He then had a sandwich and we headed on our way.

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Parked at the Rest Stop in Indiana

There was a ton of traffic in Tennessee.  We took an alternative route around Nashville- not our normal one either.  Saw lots of cool Ranches.

Also had to bypass Chattanooga.  We ended up on a road that went along the other side of the Nickajack Lake.  I wish it would have been light out because it looked like it would be a really cool area.

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traffic back up on I24 going into Chattanooga

We had planned to stop for the night in a Walmart parking lot.  We called ahead and had 3 or 4 on our list.  But saw a billboard for a Cabela’s in Acworth, GA so opted for that instead.  When we pulled in there was one camper there already, and since this was our first boon docking experience that made us feel a lot better.  The lot was well lit and spacious.  It had enough room for a few RV’s. It was quiet all night.  When we woke up I showered and we were able to leave before the store even opened so we weren’t able to go in and buy anything but if it had been we would have checked it out. Only down fall was that we hand’t worked out how to make coffee- where was the best spot to store and set the pot while driving.  That will be taken care of before the next trip because not knowing when you will get coffee is not the way to start your morning. Thankfully we needed gas and it only took about an hour before we stopped.

We got to the resort late in the afternoon the next day. We stayed at Marriott’s Harbor Lake which is the vacation club resort we own at.  We had a 2 bedroom unit with a full kitchen and washer and dryer. Our unit was located right off of one of the main pools and 3 gas grills were located next to it (we used them twice!) . As always the resort activity center did a great job- egg hunts on Easter, poolside trivia, magic shows, an alligator show, teen poker night, crafts, daily ice cream sundaes, and for the adults wine and beer tastings.   We were also pleasantly surprised to find out that they had several spots to park RV’s.  We parked right on the other side of the parking lot for our building.  This was great since we were completely prepared to have to drive to the RV if we needed anything in it. But it only took a few seconds to walk there, and yes we made several trips to get essentials from it.  We also were not rushed to unload it, which was greatly different that last year.  Instead they told us to take our time and made sure we knew all of our options for parking and the easiest ways to get to them.

We did rent a car while we were there since we were unsure how parking would be at the resort and at Universal.  It wasn’t necessary since both seemed to be pretty convenient.  I don’t think we would rent one again .

While there we were able to enjoy pool time, wine on the dock, a wine tasting, both Universal parks (yes we have some big Harry Potter fans in the family),  hit the outlet mall, and hung out at Disney Springs.  It was probably more than I typically like to do- not enough sitting around time.  But I am always happy to have time with the family no matter what we are doing. And if we missed something it just gives us more reason to go back.

On the way home we encountered a ton of traffic (which is typical for that weekend) and accidents causing back ups.  It was a great benefit having the bathroom and the space to move around during this. And there is nothing better than the kids having their space.  They did spend a few hours watching movies on the big screen together but when they got sick of each other they didn’t have to be next to each other anymore. It was also nice not having to book a hotel or try to find one once we wanted to stop.  When we were ready we just found a Walmart, checked to make sure it was o.k. to park overnight there and pulled in for the night.

The Walmart we chose was in White House, TN. We have stopped at the Quality Inn across the street many times.  I would highly recommend this spot.  It was a huge parking lot that had a Waffle House, a Mc Donald’s and a gas station all connected to it.  We got there about 11 PM and there were already several RV’s parked.  2 more came in before we woke up.  The lot was also well lit and felt safe and the staff at both the Walmart and Mc Donald’s (yes we were able to get coffee before heading off in the morning) were very friendly.

We used the dump station at a Flying J in northern Indiana, cost was $10.  We really like to stop at Flying J’s and Pilots because they have room to pull in for gas and move around.  Plus they have Chicken Pot Pie soup  that Kooper loves to have for lunch.  This one happened to be right across the street from a Wendy’s so we all got lunch and snack size frosty’s for the kids. We did realize about 15 miles up there road there was a Cabela’s which we could have dumped at for free, since we have the Cabela’s card- mental note for next time.

The rest of the trip was pretty uneventful other that it being extremely windy.  We got home about 7.  The best part when we got home with our own RV instead of a rental was we didn’t have to unpack everything (just what we wanted) fill up the gas tank and return to the dealer.  However we (well Scott) did have to re-winterize it.

Can’t wait to use the RV on it’s first camping trip. I can already tell that it is going to be great accommodations.