Wednesday, September 29, 2010

How and Why We Make Our RV Home Choices

See that black protrusion in the water? That's fishermen enjoying the rich waters near the dam on Lake Sharpe, COE, South Dakota.  We watched several boats motor toward the dam and then put their poles out as they drifted with the propelled water shooting out of the dam. Then they repeated the ride.We make choices all the time about where our home will be. After seven years of fulltime rving (yes, it really is.), we’ve developed a quasi evaluation process for selecting our parking spots.   Although from time to time we’ve talked about a favorite parking spot here on Hurley Travels, it occurred to me recently that I’ve never focused on the hows and whys of our choices.  It’s about time.

Short-time options -- So, how do we make choices?  The answer depends to a major degree on how long we are stopping.  Is this an overnight resting stop or a longer visit to the area?   While traveling from point-to-point and pausing for an overnight rest our usual selection is a convenient boondocking spot.  (Boondocking = no electric, water or sewer hookups.) We might look for something close to our route thereby saving fuel and making it simple to continue our trip in the morning.  Many times we combine an opportunity to shop, eat or buy fuel.   There are numerous quiet, safe boondocking sites along the road that are perfect for these overnights.  For instance, a choice might be a WalMart or Cracker Barrel, a visitors’ center parking lot or a casino. We’ve experimented with them all and had good experiences overall.  Our rule is that if we ever feel uncomfortable in any way, we start the wheels rolling for another location.  We find many of these locales online at or the DaysEnd CD, a handy Escapees RV Club reference. (Note the hyperlinks above and below that take you to a relative site or the Google map showing the campground.)

Longer-term stops - But, if we are looking for a longer respite there are different goals. Over these years the factors that came to be important are space/privacy, settings/surroundings, cost, and communications.   After sampling many locations, a few types of stops have proven to be most dependable. One of our Corp of Engineer park selections. This one is the Left Tailrace Campground, Lake Sharpe - Fort Thompson, South DakotaBased on our experiences, Corp of Engineer parks and county/city parks get automatic consideration whenever they are available. We have also found reasonable accommodations at several Elks Lodges across the country. And, when we are in the southwest we have a love for the plentiful Bureau of Land Management areas that offer a million-dollar view in the wide open spaces.  This is where our solar panels and large holding tanks are most rewarding. We can live comfortably, sometimes with the company of a few of our fellow rvers, sharing thousands of acres and mountain scenery.  We have been known to go out of our way for a few days stop at an attractive-sounding campground or a boondocking site with a beautiful view.

Since we left Deadwood, we’ve been leisurely crossing South Dakota, Nebraska and Iowa, enjoying September in the Midwest on our way to Indianapolis. With no specific destination along the way, we’ve made some good finds. That’s one of the bonuses of this lifestyle. Surprises.

Choice in South Dakota --  . Above are two photos of the Left Tailrace Corp of Engineer (COE) campground on Lake Sharpe, near Fort Thompson, South Dakota.  While traveling east on I-90 we located this campground in our COE reference book and then found online the GPS coordinates.  Since we wanted to spend a few days relaxing, we traveled the 20 miles north off the highway with perfect guidance from Tillie, our Garmin GPS.  The price is right; $7.00 for electrical and water hookups, with a free dump station available.  I have to mention, however, that this price is one-half of what we would pay if we did not have Jerry’s Golden Age Pass. The campground is well kept, sites are clean and roomy. There’s a pleasant area next to Lake Sharpe to take walks. Overall, we rate this location an 8 out of 10 since the Verizon cell and Internet reception is intermittent.

Nebraska Selection -- Nebraska Tailwater Campground at Lewis & Clark Lake, across the dam from Yankton, SDMoving along southeasterly we chose another COE campground at the Lewis and Clark Lake on the Nebraska-South Dakota state line, the Nebraska Tailwaters Campground.  This park is just a few miles outside the town of Yankton, SD.  We liked Yankton, not too big and not too small, with all theThe view of Lewis & Clark Lake, from our Corp of Engineers campsite on the  Nebraska side. conveniences we might need. The price of $7.00 and the hookup provisions matched our last stop. All the sites are long and narrow as the campground stretches along one side of the lake.  Every campsite faces the lake. We could all watch the fishermen and migrating waterfowl without leaving our spots. (See two photos above.)   Although it doesn’t fail on cell and internet reception or immediate surroundings, the sites were quite unlevel and narrow. This stop wasn’t one of our favorites. Sometimes it’s difficult to say why. Just a feeling about the overall make-up, the starkness of the long row of us all backed up into our shoots, facing the exact same direction. So, after weighing all the factors, this one gets 6 out of 10.  

Iowa Stop -- Our next choice came after we stopped in Des Moines, Iowa, for our “First Byte of an Apple.” We Pickard Park, city park two miles outside Indianola, Iowawanted to stay in the area in order to test out the iPad for a few days before we left the vicinity of the Apple store.  Therefore, we checked our trusty sources and found Pickard Park in Indianola, IA, a city park with electric and water for $8.00, a mere 20 miles south.  Didn’t take long to decide to drive down for a look.  The park is only two miles from town.  We found Indianola an attractive small college town with good restaurants and friendly people.  I even came across a skilled haircutter at a shop on the downtown square where I watched the hometown parade go by as my locks were trimmed.

Our Verizon reception was excellent at this location.  There is no dump station, but we were okay at this juncture without it. It rained heavily for a couple of days so we were very observant of the grass area where we were parked. This is one of those small (10 sites) city parks that are often empty because they aren’t near the major highway.  We shared the park with one neighbor for our four night stopover. But that’s a mark on the positive side in our book.  Pickard Park is across the road from a small ranch with cows who serenade you occasionally and bordered by rolling green meadows.  We’ll give this one 8 out of 10 points.

Finding a 10 -- Lastly, we areHere we are at our spot on Loop B, just up the hill from Lake Rathbun.  We like the room between sites and the lovely, Midwest setting in the oak and maple trees. currently situated in the Buck Creek COE campground at Lake Rathbun, near Centreville, Iowa.  Again, we drove a few miles off the highway to this quiet and comfortable temporary home.  We have a lake view site that scores high on the roomy, quiet and private scale.  The cost is $8.00 with the Golden Age Pass for electric and water.  We took advantage of the free dump station when we arrived.  A special note here is that when we reported an issue with the electric outlet on our site we had an electrician fixing it within an hour.  Internet and cell phone reception is excellent. Since this one has so many positive features, it receives a 10 ranking. 

I’ll wrap this up with a peaceful look at Rathbun Lake during my evening walk at Buck Creek Campground.    Lake Rathbun, ten miles north of Centreville, Iowa.

Seven years and counting –   Our years in the fulltime RV lifestyle have seasoned us for making all kinds of menu choices. Of course, there are other opinions within this gypsy-like group about how to live.  But, for what it’s worth, we are happy to pass along our experiences. Should anyone wish to take advantage, just ask.

Safe travels. See you down the road.

1 comment:

  1. We all seem to have our "hows and whys" and reading about yours was very interesting. I love to read all the different RV blogs and see what other folks are thinking and doing. Thanks for sharing some of your recent experiences. Great read!


Hi: Thanks for your thoughts.