YAY! A New Campground - Buck Hall Rec. Area

We recently spend a week at the Buck Hall Recreational Area in the Francis Marion National Forest. This is a wonderfully small campground, 14 RV sites, that is situated right next to the Intracoastal Waterway. The area is primarily used for shrimp baiting, albeit out of season when we were there. The campground has a boat ramp providing access to the ocean. We saw many large boats, cabin cruisers and sailboats, mostly heading south for the winter, as well as a few schools of dolphin.

A section of the Palmetto Trail, leading from the ocean to the mountains of South Carolina, is accessible from the campground.


Buck Hall Campground viewed from the air via drone
Buck Hall Campground viewed from my Phantom 4
Buck Hall is a pleasantly small campground with only 14 RV sites fitted with water and electric; there is a dump station available. It also includes 5 tent sites and a group shelter with electric. The bath house was a little on the "tired" side but it was clean, and the shower had plenty of hot water.

The historic city of Charleston, SC is a short 30-minute drive that offers plenty of options for sightseeing and gastronomic pleasures.

Being only a 4-hour drive from Charlotte, Buck Hall will definitely make our Top 10 list of "long weekend" campground destinations.





RV Roof Vent Covers

When we first got our Jay Feather I installed 2 Maxxair Roof Vent Covers, one over the fan vent in the bathroom and the other over the vent in the bedroom. They are a must have as far as I'm concerned; covers enable you to leave the vents open when it rains, during travel and when the trailer is in storage keeping it smelling fresh.



Maxxair (00-933066) White Vent Cover


A few months later we were on a trip and we stopped at a rest area to do what people do when they stop at a rest area. While walking back to our rig I noticed 1 of the vents was not sitting right. Upon further inspection I discovered that a couple of the clips that attach the cover to the vent had come loose, and I actually had lost one of the clips. I removed the cover totally so we could continue our trip, (with the vent closed). I figured I must not have had the screws tight and it vibrated loose; I'm sure there is a lot of movement while driving down the highway. Fortunately, I was able to purchase the  Maxxair (00-225000) Roof Vent Zero Leak Mounting Kit without buying the vent cover.



I decided to reinstall the 2 vent covers using lock nuts as well as the lock washers to prevent the incident from happening again. Overkill? Maybe, but I'm all about overkill.




           



RV Skylight Install Apprehension

We have a perfectly sound roof on our Jay Feather 24T travel trailer, and I cut a 14" x 22" hole in it... that made me very apprehensive.

Why, you ask? The kitchen in our Jay Feather, by comparison, is fairly large for an RV, with a lot of coveted counter space, which usually is a premium. Friends of ours have a much larger rig (and a lot more expensive), and they have "kitchen envy." But, the space is very dark and that makes it feel small, cramped, and not very homey. The solution to that problem was a skylight, and that requires a very large hole in a perfectly good roof. Nothing ventured; nothing gained.

BEFORE SKYLIGHT

I was able to obtain a framing detail of our trailer from Jayco; their Customer Service is actually quite good about that. I just sent them an email with the VIN, and an hour later, I was emailed a PDF. I then found a skylight that was the exact size of the opening required. Apprehension was starting to set in on the day of reckoning, but I persevered with my eye on the prize of sunlight. 

I laid out the location of the 14" x 22" opening required, using the Jayco roof framing drawings, and proceeded to drill a 3/8" hole in each corner with a 6" bit... no turning back now. With my Bosch saber saw, equipped with a 6" blade for cutting PVC pipe, I needed the extra length to cut through the thick roof (rigid  styrofoam sandwiched by 2 - 1/4" sheets of plywood and the EPDM roof membrane) I climbed up on the roof  and made the 4 cuts, guided by the 3/8" corner holes. Let there be light!

The skylight consists of 2 parts: the outer component is made of high performance thermoformed polycarbonate to be long lasting and easy to clean. I screwed the skylight to the roof using #8 x 3/4" stainless panhead screws, then taped the perimeter with 4" EternaBond Sealant Tape. To insure a complete waterproof installation, I edged the tape with Dicor Self-Leveling Lap Sealant.

Exterior Component - RV Roof

The inner component, the garnish, is used to trim-out the rough opening to give it a finished took, and it is easily installed using the same #8 x 3/4" stainless panhead screws. The transformation is nothing less that amazing. "Let the Sunshine In." The skylight completely changes the feel of the kitchen: bright, warm, and inviting.

"Let the Sunshine In"

The installation is not for the faint of heart, nor an unskilled craftsman who is not comfortable using power tools, but it is not that difficult either. It is, however, well worth the effort. Below is my install video for those up for the challenge.





           

Stay-Camping

Why not... right?
When we were camping at the Gulf Islands National Seashore last month, I torn a ligament in my left knee (ouch). It didn't really feel that bad at first, so I kept on with business as usual; not a good move. After we returned home, it started hurting really bad, so I went to an Ortho Doc (that's when I found out it was a torn ligament). He put me in a brace (that was too small so I returned it) and told me to ice and stay off it for awhile.

I was a compliant patient, iced several times a day, and chilled in the crib, but progress was slow. Fast forward 2 weeks, it was still really bothering me, and the problem was we were scheduled to go up to the Blue Ridge for a long 4 day weekend at New River State Park to ogle the fall colors. Gail said, "No way, you can't go with your knee like that."

On an occasion when we feel the need to get uncooped, we'll make a pot of coffee, fix a nibble to nosh, and go over to the Jay Feather at our storage yard to pretend we're in the mountains. We ended up stay-camping instead of ogling the mountain leaves. Better than nothing... right?

Our Stay-Camping Campground






Sunset 09/29/2016

Sunset on 09/29/2016 at the R. Shaefer Heard Campground. This Corp of Engineers waterfront facility on the southern shore of West Point Lake, which spans parts of Alabama and Georgia. 
We stayed here for 1 night on our way home for a Pensacola Beach trip.





Sunrise 09/27/2016

Sunrise on 09272016 on Santa Rosa Island in the Gulf Islands National Seashore. The Gulf Islands National Seashore is home to sparkling blue waters, white beaches and coastal marshes. However, more than 80% of the national park is underwater, as it's a vital protective habitat to marine life.
We stayed here for 10 days at the Fort Pickens CG.








Pensacola Lighthouse at the Pensacola Naval Air Station

We had and Adventure Day climbing the Pensacola Lighthouse at the Pensacola Naval Air Station while camping at Fort Pickens CG on the Gulf Islands National Seashore. It was a beautiful day and we had great views of Pensacola Bay and Santa Rosa Island. We have also climbed several other lighthouses on our travels: Bodie Island and Cape Hatteras on the OBX, and the Hunting Island Lighthouse in SC.

Lighthouse History:
In 1825 a 40-foot (12 m) tower was built on a 40-foot (12 m) bluff at the south entrance to Pensacola Bay. This light was also partially obscured by trees close to the tower and on Santa Rosa Island. In 1858 a new tower was built on the north side of the bay entrance, and was lit on January 1, 1859. The new, and current, tower is 150 feet (46 m) tall, and also sits on a 40-foot (12 m) bluff located on the Pensacola Naval Air Station, placing the light 190 feet (58 m) above sea level.












Gulf Islands National Seashore

We just returned from a 12 day camping trip to the Gulf Islands National Seashore (GINS) in our Jay Feather 24T, and it was absolutely spectacular. This was our first time there and definitely will not be or last. 

We camped at the Fort Pickens Campground which has large sites and beautiful, clean bathhouses. Because it is part of the National park Service we were able to take advantage of our Senior Pass for 1/2 price camping (if you don't have your Senior Pass, you need one).

The GINS is located on a barrier Island, and the waters surrounding it, just south of Pensacola FL and extends west to barrier islands off Mississippi. The Gulf Islands National Seashore is home to sparkling blue waters, white beaches and coastal marshes. However, more than 80% of the national park is underwater, as it's a vital protective habitat to marine life.

A notable feature of the beaches here is the sand: this area has some of the purest whitest sand anywhere in the state. Its dazzling crystals are nearly pure quartz resulting in soft fluffy sand that is a pleasure to walk on.










Custom RV Cherry Table

As traveling empty nesters, the OEM dinette design in our Jay Feather 24T just wasn't working for us:

1. It was very uncomfortable
2. Took up too much room
3. It didn't work well with our computers
4. We would NEVER use it for sleeping
5. And, well... it was butt ugly

we decided to tear it out and start from scratch with a totally new design.

We needed comfortable seating, so we bought 2 upholstered chairs from Ikea and I fabricated a custom cherry top stained to match the cherry veneer in the trailer. The difference is striking and so much more workable, being able to use our computers, and eat our meals as well.

BEFORE

AFTER

Here is a fabrication and installation video:








Bear Island - Crystal Coast , NC

Bear Island is the major section of Hammocks Beach State Park on the Crystal Coast of North Carolina. The Island is 4 miles long with a south facing white sand beach the is only accessible by boat. The park operates a ferry, but many choose to paddle the 4 mile trail through the salt marsh, which is what we did. While it serves a recreational function, with a new bath house and primitive camping sites, the vast majority of the island is wild and undisturbed. There are no bears on Bear Island; local folklore is that it used to be called Bare Island, but a cartographer misspelled the name on a map and it stuck.
The island was once owned by Dr. William Sharpe, a neurosurgeon of New York, where he came to hunt. He loved the island so much that he acquire it for his retirement. Sharpe intended to will the property to John Hurst, his longtime hunting guide and friend, but Hurst persuaded him to donate it to the North Carolina Teachers Association, an organization of African American teachers. In 1950, the group assumed the deed to Bear Island and attempted to develop the property. Limited funds and the island's remoteness rendered their efforts unsuccessful. In 1961, the association donated the island to the state of North Carolina for a park.

The Crystal Coast of North Carolina is an 85 mile stretch of coastline that runs from Cape Lookout National Seashore westward to the New River (not to be confused with the New River in NW NC that flows north to the Ohio River). This area is also call the Southern Outer Banks. This is a great place to visit with much to offer and explore: Morehead City, Atlantic Beach, Beaufort, Harkers Island. 











Digital Thermostat Upgrade


Rv Comfort Coleman-mach 12- volt Digital Thermostat

The problem with an analog thermostat is that it's difficult to get the temperature set just right and even more difficult, if not impossible, to recreate it. You are constantly having to more the slider to adjust the temp. Very frustrating.  I decided to solve the problem with a simple digital thermostat upgrade. Nothing rarely goes totally as planned, but it wasn't that difficult

The only issue I had was the physical connection. I assumed is was a matter of unscrewing the old and screwing on the new, but the original was soldered and connected with a plug. To solve the problem I simply cut the plug off the old and soldered the wire on the new. The colorers matched up so it was 100% compatible.

I usually set the AC to 75 degrees and the  heat to 70 degrees. Here is my install video:





weBoost Drive 4G-X Cell Phone Signal Booster

We do a lot of wilderness camping with our Jay Feather 24T where cell service can be very weak (or nonexistent). My wife, Gail, and I both work remotely, so it is essential that we have internet access. On a recent trip to Lake Powhatan Recreation Area, where cell reception (we use Verizon) was very poor, we ended up spending too much time going to Starbucks to work. That is when we decided to invest in a cell signal booster. After-all... we go camping to be in nature, not in Starbucks.

After some extensive research, I settled on the weBoost Drive 4G-X Cell phone Signal Booster. weboost (formally Wilson Electronics) is the manufacturer of America's strongest cellphone signal boosters according to FCC submissions. They make about 7 different models specifically designed for RV use. They start off in the low $100s, but the model we bought is at the upper end. We reasoned that internet connectivity was something we couldn't skimp on.

weboost Drive 4G-X Cell Signal Booster
  • Amplifies cell signal in your car or RV for up to 4 devices
  • Works with all carriers and cellular devices simultaneously - USA or Canada
  • Fewer dropped calls and lost connections
  • Faster data downloads
  • Longer battery life
The unit comes with a small magnetic antenna used to mount on the outside or your car or RV. It also has a low profile inside antenna that will broadcast the boosted cell signal 3-5 feet to your phone or personal hot spot and switchable power adapter that plugs into a 12v outlet (cigarette lighter). We found it worked best to lay the iPhone directly on the inside antenna.

I also purchased a Spring-Mount Antenna with 13.5 - Feet Rg58 Cable and Sma Male Connector to permanently mount on the rear of our travel trailer for better reception. Since the weboost Drive 4G-X mounts in a bracket making it removable, we are able to use it in the car while traveling. I use the magnetic antenna to mount on the car.
Spring-Mount Antenna
Last week we were back up at Lake Powhatan just after installing the weBoost, so it was a perfect time to test out the unit. We could not have been happier. Prior to the weBoost, our cell signal was "1bar Extended 1x," so we couldn't make any calls, internet was impossible, and sending a text was sporat. After we turned on the booster, we were able to get "2 bars LTE-4G" enabling us to make calls and use the internet. A vast improvement!

This is my install video:



Exterior Antenna Mount


       






Flight 93 National Memorial


Recently, on a “solo dawdle” through the Appalachian Mountains, I discovered the Flight 93 National Memorial was 45 min from my campsite at Confluence, PA... I felt compelled to visit.
I spent an afternoon at the memorial and I found it to be a very moving experience that brought back a rush of emotions. Not only is it a place of honor to the 40 courageous men and women who lost their lives on 9/11 but also a reminder of the extraordinary job our National Park Service does to showcase and preserve what it means to be an American. 

National Park Service - Flight 93 National Memorial

Congress authorized the design and construction of the Flight 93 Memorial in 2003. The work of Paul Murdoch Architects and Nelson Byrd Woltz Landscape Architects was selected from over 1000 entries that were submitted to an international two-stage competition. The design consists of a:

  • Visitor Center Complex that includes visitor center, exhibit area, and the Flight Path Walkway and Overlook that traces the trajectory of Flight 93 on that tragic morning.
  • Memorial Plaza with its Wall of Names sits at the edge of the crash site, which is the final resting place of the passengers and crew; sacred ground.
  • Memorial Groves, AllĂ©e, and Wetlands Bridge that consists of 40 Memorial Groves, one for each of the passengers and crew, that runs along the Ring Road  from the Visitor Center Complex to the Wetlands Bridge.
The visitor Center opened on September 10, 2015.



Flight Path + Memorial







Devils Fork State Park - Salem, SC


Devils Fork State Park, located on the 7,500-acre Lake Jocassee, is not only a wonderful campground, but also offers swimming, boating, hiking, and villas.
Lake Jocassee remains mostly undeveloped with the only boat access  being at Devils Fork. There are 4 mountain streams and several waterfalls that feed the lake making cooler than other lakes in the area.
There are 2 trails:

  • Bear Cove Trail - 2.5 mile loop
  • Oconee Bells Nature Trail - 1.5 Loop

The park has fully furnished villas and 2 campgrounds on the lake. There are restrooms and showers located in the campgrounds with a laundry facility and a dump station. There is wifi at the Visitors Center and the villas.
Available for reservations:

  • 13 Boat In Sites
  • 2 Picnic Shelters
  • 25 Rustic Tent Sites
  • 57 Standard RV Sites with 30 amp service



Lake Jocassee












Seneca Rocks, WV

Seneca Rocks & Seneca Shadows, WV

On a recent dawdle I  spent a couple days at Seneca Shadows Campground in Seneca Rocks, WV. Definitely a wilderness in the West Virginia Appalachian Mountains. There are a lot of activities in the region such as rock climbing, hiking, kayaking. Be aware that there is NO cell service but, there is wifi and the Seneca Rocks Discovery Center. The wifi signal is pretty strong inside certain areas of the building but all but nonexistent outside.

According to the Forest Service website, the hardness of the Tuscarora sandstone formation, and the degree of climbing difficulty, Seneca Rocks offers rock climbers a unique opportunity found nowhere else in the east. There are over 375 major mapped climbing routes, varying in degree from the easiest (5.0) to the most difficult (5.12). Only trained and experienced rock climbers should attempt to scale the rocks. There are two climbing schools located in the communities of Seneca Rocks and nearby Riverton who train prospective climbers in beginning and advanced rock climbing. The school in Riverton also offers a climbers rescue course.

Seneca Rocks
Seneca Shadows Campground

Doll Sods is another interesting area to explore while in Seneca Rocks.




The Sailing Car Camper


“Mr. Elon,” I thought of him before I found out he was Richard Chaytor. The Elon University sweat shirt he wore was homage to his daughter’s alma mater; I later learned. When I first walked past his campsite at Lake Powhatan Recreation Area outside of Asheville, North Carolina, I noted that he only had a car: I presumed he was packed up and ready to go. The next day I walked by his campsite again, and he was still there. I stopped to chat. It turns out, his car was his camper, and he was staying at Lake Powhatan, soon to start a four-month car camping tour of the western states.

Mr Elon
Richard Chaytor (Mr Elon)


“Seventy-six years young,” he told me, as introduction to his story of growing up an army brat, never living in one place very long. Born in Singapore, his grandfather a New Zealander, he was bred to travel, and that he does. He grew up in the United Kingdom after the war and remembers rations, picking up nails to sell, and learning to be resourceful and frugal. Those traits were aptly exhibited by his well-organized car life, ready for another solo car camping adventure. 

His life has been a continual adventure. Richard learned to sail in Malaysia where he began to build and repair boats. He worked on boats in Australia and Mombasa, Kenya. In the United States, his boat building career took place in Deer Island, Maine; there he eventually had a gift shop and worked in a boat yard on the Maine Coast.

However, staying in one place was never long lived for Richard because he is a wander-luster at heart. “I never wanted a home or to be tied down to a mundane life” he said; “I like to meet different people because it’s really interesting to find out about what they’ve done.” He managed his need for an income and travel by saving money for several years and then taking eighteen months off.

He has traveled to Afghanistan, Kashmir, India, Nepal, Burma, Thailand, and Malaysia. Another one of his great adventures was shipping a car to Uruguay and traveling through South America and the Andes Mountains. He also drove across Canada to British Columbia, drove a Volkswagen Beetle across the United States two times, and traveled around Alaska.

Now, at age 76, he prefers shorter, four-month trips, in large measure to get out of hot summers in South Carolina where he lives part of the year. He outfitted his Honda in 2013 and began test runs in the Smokey Mountains, fine tuning his passenger-side car bed, food organization in the hatchback, and snap-on canvas and screen panels, used on boats, for bug control and ventilation - all skills from his boat building days that he has applied to his current “Sailing Car Camper.”

Canvas & Screen Panel

Canvas & Screen Panel

To prepare for his four-month adventures in the United States, he did test runs in local areas and then spent the winter months modifying his equipment and car outfitting. Preparing food for four months and cooking on a tiny Coleman stove took a lot of practice. Richard tries to eat salad every day, and lots of canned chicken, curry, oranges, and oatmeal. Soaking rice and lentils in a jar of water in the sun for an hour helps them cook quickly. Richard constantly experiments with his culinary efforts. For example, drinking tea can help cover the taste of bad, local water. 

Hatchback Storage
Richard Chaytor is a brave man, but he is also pragmatic and aware of staying safe. He tries to let rangers know where he is when in remote areas. When he decides where he is going next—on a day-by-day basis and never in advance—he writes the road numbers in big letters on paper, so he doesn’t have to use his GPS when traveling. He also keeps a journal of where he’s been, who he’s met, information about National Forestry Campgrounds (where he often stays: $7/nightly), free camp grounds, boondocking, Army Core of Engineers, and information from the Bureau of Land Management.  

His latest trips have taken him to Bryson, Arches, Canyonlands, Zion, and the Redwoods, where the views are “unbelievably dramatic,” and the “redwoods are tall and majestic above an underbrush of ferns and bracken.” A man who “never books ahead and never knows where I’m going,” Richard is a traveling Sailing Car Camper with a zest for travel that is extraordinary. Sitting around the campfire and chatting with Richard Chaytor is a treat beyond measure. I hope we meet him again somewhere out West, in the near future. Happy Car Sailing, Richard!

Lake Powhatan Recreation Area, NC

We just spent 5 days at Lake Powhatan Campground in the Bent Creek Experimental Forest located outside of Asheville, NC. The campground is in a very wooded area just minutes from Asheville at an elevation of 2.200 feet. The campground is located next to the NC Arboretum and the Blue Ridge Parkway.
The campground has over 80 sites ranging from tent only to full- hookup for RVs in 4 different loops. There are 40 miles of hiking and biking trails and a beach for swimming.

Lake Powhatan is located in the Bent Creek Experimental Forest which is the oldest federal experimental forest east of the Mississippi river. It encompasses nearly 6,000 acres within the Pisgah National Forest. It was established to conduct research and educate natural resource professionals and others about forest management in the southern Appalachians.

The NC Arboretum is a must see while visiting the area. It has 434 acres of cultivated gardens and groomed trails featuring some of the most beautiful botanically diverse plants in the region. The arboretum can be accessed by trail from the campground. It can also be reached from the Blue Ridge Parkway at Milepost 393.

Lake Powhatan is one of our "go to" campgrounds in the Southern Appalachian Mountains and luckily for us it's less that a 3 hour drive from Charlotte.

Lake Powhatan, NC
Bent Creek Experimental Forest
North Carolina Arboretum
The National Forests of North Carolina
The Blue Ridge Parkway - America"s Favorite Drive



Lake Powhatan, NC









Valterra T58 Twist-On RV Waste Valve

The waste plumbing design on my Jay Feather 24T was not well thought out. I have 3 tanks - 2 gray and, 1 black water. There is a gate valve right at the drain of each tank - 3 gate valves total. There is a lot of plumbing between the 3 valves and the sewer hose 3" bayonet fitting. When I remove the termination cap to connect the hose at the dump station, there is always about a pint of liquid that comes out. It makes a mess. I purchased the Valterra T58 Twist-On Waste Valve to connect to the bayonet fitting at the end to add another gate valve to the system. It made for a great resolution to the issue. The only problem was that the additional gate valve caused the sewer dump to stick out too far from the side of the Jay Feather. The solution was to cut off 6" of the ABS tubing and add a termination adapter with 3" bayonet x 3" slip hub to connect the T58 Twist-On Waste Valve.

Quick Fix & Bonus
It was a quick and easy fix that also had an added benefit. We have 2 gray tanks, and the kitchen tank always get full before the bath tank. Now I'm able to keep the 2 gray tank gate valves open which, in effect, combines the 2 tanks into 1 large tank.







                   

New River State Park, NC

New River State Park RV campground, Site 10


New River State Park, NC is one of our goto favorites in the Blue Ridge Mountains. It's a large state park with a small RV campground of about 20 sites. The RV campground has a few quirks: some sites have full hookups, some have water & electric, and others have electric only. The thing to really look out for is some of the sites are backwards: the picnic table and fire-pit are on the "drivers side" and the hookups are on the "passenger side."  This can cause a problem for some RVs.
The campground has great views and a clean and modern bathhouse.







Brentwood 9-Inch Gel HD Memory Foam RV Mattress

The mattress that came with our Jay Feather, albeit better than our previously owned R-Pod mattress, was uncomfortable. We tried using it with a 2" foam topper, but that didn't help. Since we had purchased the reasonably priced Brentwood Home 9-Inch Gel HD Memory Foam Mattress for the R-Pod; we already knew how comfortable it was. It was the right choice to purchase another Brentwood for our Jay Feather 24T.

We tested the Brentwood mattress on our 5 day trip in the Blue Ridge Mountains, and we LOVED it.
  • Firm feel. 9-inch height. Special RV Short Queen Size 60 x 75 x 9.
  • Made with CertiPUR-US foams free of flame retardants, heavy metals, formaldehyde, and phthalates.
  • 2-inches of gel memory foam provides personalized support and cooling comfort.
  • Made in USA. No toxic flame retardants used in this mattress.
  • 25 Year Warranty. Mattress comes compressed and rolled for easier shipping and setup.




Jones Lake

Jones Lake State Park is located near Elizabethtown,; it's a small state park but, it has a wide varsity of activities: hiking, boating, fishing, swimming, picnicking, and camping. The park encloses 2 of the many mysterious bay lakes the are found all over the southeastern United States. These are small, shallow, oval lakes that are all oriented in the same direction and have baffled geologists for as long as they have known about them.

The campground is a single loop consisting of 20 sites plus 1 group site. The is only 1 site with electric & water so you ned to book it early. The bath house is a little "tired", but it gets the job done. I must say they have the friendliest rangers of any park that we have stayed. And one important note... there is no dump station.

Jones Lake State Park





Cedar Point Campground, Croatan National Forest

Cedar Point Campground is located in the Croatan National Forest on the Crystal Coast in North Carolina, also known as the Southern Outer Banks. This is one of our favorite places to camp on the coast.

Cedar Point Campground Website

Google Map Location