Laura and I bought our new to us ’05 Casita
17’ Freedom Deluxe trailer in November, ’15 as an early empty nest toy. We bought the tow vehicle, ’09 Kia Borrego V8 Limited rated to tow 7,500 lbs in December. I started planning camping trips in January. I decided that I wanted to have one camping trip with the girls, Natalie (21) and Claire (18), before Claire left for college in August. Laura and I started camping in March and the following trip represents our fourth trip and our first trip that exceeded a long weekend. Claire graduated from high school on Saturday of Memorial Day weekend. We left on Tuesday, May 31st for our trip that I planned in January before ever camping or towing:
Tuesday, May 31st – Typical of our trips, we left around 11 am rather than the desired 8 am to 9 am. Still working on mastering the hitching/packing routine. More “stuff” than usual since there was going to be four of us for 12 days rather than Laura and I for three or four days. Laura, Claire, and I picked up Natalie in Lexington. This was our first experience towing the Casita
in a somewhat urban environment. It was not pleasant, but it was manageable. We then proceeded to the Fox Fire KOA just east of Huntington, WV. By the time we got there, it was nearly 7 pm. We unhitched, ran back into town for dinner, got gas, and came back to do the bed routine. The girls spent the night in the Borrego since the KOA would not allow a tent on our RV site. The KOA was nice. The staff were very nice. We had a pull through full hook up site. The bathrooms were nice in terms of the facilities, but warm, humid, and mildly unkept. We dumped our tanks Wednesday morning since we had sewer. Nice place to stop for a quick overnight. Towed about 300 miles for the day.
Wednesday, June 1st – Hooked up. Packed up. Had coffee. Hit the road. Left mid morning, but between breakfast, lunch, gas stop, and a few rest stop breaks, we pulled into Rocky Gap State Park in Maryland between 5 pm and 6 pm. We had a very woodsy pull-off site with electric only. If needed, potable water was close-by. We did not need to use the central dump station. The bathrooms were utilitarian, but nice and clean. The girls were able to use a tent for sleeping. Rocky Gap was very cool. Staff were very nice. They even had a casino, but Claire was too young for us to go in. No big deal, I am not a casino fan anyway. Rocky Gap also had a lake, beach, and lots of hiking. After unhitching, we drove to downtown Cumberland for a nice dinner. Got up the next morning and had coffee and a light
breakfast. Got a little bit of rain in the morning, but nothing major. Got on the road by mid morning. Towed about 300 miles for the day.
Reflection – I have a long history of loving road trips and driving a car 500 to 700 miles a day. I thought keeping our tow days to 300 miles would be manageable. I was already beginning to realize that late starts and 300 miles of towing left very little time to see things at the cool places that I picked for us to stay. We did not get to see much of Rocky Gap State Park. I believe a good reason to go back again.
Thursday, June 2nd – Departed Rocky Gap State Park. Got to do some hilly towing on I-68. Some the grades were as much as 6%. I conservatively kept my speed under control and used the transmission as needed. It was a great learning experience for me. The Borrego excelled. I was careful not to get the brakes
overheated. No problems.
Thursday, June 2nd to Monday, June 6th - By 5:30 pm, we arrived at Lake in Wood Resort in Narvon, PA after catching a nice dinner at an Italian Pub close to the resort. We attended the RVFTA Rally
from Thursday, June 2nd and departed on Monday, June 6th. Lake in Wood was in Lancaster County (Amish Country). It was a beautiful resort. It was huge. It was too big to walk and we did not even drive the perimeter; however, it did not feel big. There were lots of loops and lots of woods. The girls stayed in a tree house! Lake in Wood has all kinds of units besides cabins, such as a wig-wam, double-decker bus, caboose, yurts, Noah’s Ark, a tree-house, etc. The tree house had electric and water, plus a ˝ bath and AC. Very cool. It was still a bit rustic for Claire. She did not appreciate the dead bugs in the windows
, nor the wood boring bees that she could hear in the wall next to her head!
Our site had full hookups. The campground bathrooms were fine, but could have been a bit more kept at times.
Laura and I absolutely loved the rally
and the resort. We finally got the chance to cook some meals at our site as well as making s’mores, etc. Lake in Wood is full of all types of family activities, including playgrounds, a lake for fishing, hay rides, swimming pools, a camp store with ice cream, as well as a grill for food. The rally
also included a number of activities, such as campfires, a potluck, morning yoga, etc. Most importantly, there was ample time to visit and socialize with the other folks attending the rally. On Friday, we grocery shopped at a cool store with lots of Amish products. Saturday we stayed at Lake in Wood and participated in rally activities. On Sunday, we took a day trip to Hershey World. While there we did the 4D Mystery Movie (kid oriented, but fun), a chocolate tasting, a trolley tour, as well as an educational ride that reviewed the chocolate making process. We had lunch while we were there. It was a very nice day.
Reflection – The RVFTA Rally was a wonderful activity and Lake in Wood was a great RV/camping resort (very family oriented). Even though we were arrived on Thursday and left on Monday, I would have liked more time to relax at the resort and tour the area. It was so cool to meet many of the folks that we have met on the RVFTA forum.
Monday, June 6th – We left Lake in Wood by late morning. The plan was to drive to Ohiopyle State Park in PA and stay there for two nights; however. . .
Reflection – After six nights of the Borrego, a tent, and a tree house, and with Ohiopyle being a fairly rustic campground with electric only, we decided to change our plans a bit. Our primary reason for going there was to tour Frank Lloyd Wright’s Falling Water. This was still the plan, but we decided to cancel our camping reservations and check-in to the Best Western just west of Cumberland, MD. Executive decision that two nights of tent camping for the girls might be pushing it.
We drove from Lake in Wood Resort in PA to west of Cumberland, MD. It was around a 225 mile drive. Once we settled into the Best Western, we hit Cracker Barrel for dinner and then settled in for the evening.
Tuesday, June 7th – This day consisted of touring Falling Water. Our tour was at 1 pm. We arrived early to Ohiopyle to check out the state park’s visitor center and to have an early lunch. We then drove a few miles to Falling Water. Our oldest daughter, Natalie, is an architecture major at the University of Kentucky. While at Falling Water, she took notes, sketched, and even had a tape measure to measure steps! She indicated that touring Falling Water was the single greatest day of her life! LOL! After Falling Water, we went back to the state park to hike and sight-see a bit as well as to have ice cream. I was so impressed with Ohiopyle and the state park. The area is renowned for its white water rafting. It was a beautiful area with lots of outdoor activities.
Reflection – Once again, we just did not have enough time to even scratch the surface of the area. Spending two nights in the Best Western was a great idea. It worked out really well. The girls enjoyed a couple of nights in the hotel. It was fun to have all four of us together.
Wednesday, June 8th – We were on the road by 9 am. Wow, a first for us!
We had a long day of driving, but it was beautiful day. Actually, it got down to the upper 40s in the mountains by morning. It was only getting in the upper 60s in mountains and was kinda chilly when we would stop at a rest area for a break. Felt good! It was also quite windy for the first few hours. This was another experiment/learning experience for me. I got the chance to see how the Borrego/Casita would handle in the wind. I was very impressed in how well the Casita
handled and the wind did little to impact our progress. By the time we got to Carter Caves State Resort Park in eastern Kentucky around 5 pm, it was a beautiful and in the low 70s. We ate dinner at the restaurant at the lodge. We had hoped to get the girls a room in the lodge, but they were full, so we broke out the tent one last time and the girls camped on our site with the Casita. As it turned out, it was a beautiful night to camp. Clear skies and low 50s. In fact, I even put the cube heater on top of a cooler in the tent to keep Natalie warm. The tent stayed toasty for them. Our longest travel day of the trip. We covered about 320 miles.
Thursday, June 9th - We took our time in the morning for breakfast (coffee, fruit, and Amish peanut honey butter and toast). We got on the road by around 11 am, but we weren’t rushing. We drove approximately 125 miles to Lexington. We dropped the girls off in Lexington, so Natalie could pack. After packing, they drove onto Bowling Green, so Natalie could begin her summer job at WKU as a camp counselor on Friday. Laura and I drove about 75 miles to My Old Kentucky Home State Park in Bardstown to attend the Eggs A La Bourbon Rally.
Reflection – Once again, we had to leave Carter Caves State Resort Park having spent very little time exploring the park and the area. I really liked the campground. Full-hookups and a nice balance of rustic meets family campground. The bathrooms were adequate, but not great. The cost was about $25 per night. Very nice. I would definitely like to go back to hike and explore the caves. The lodge restaurant was mediocre at best. Most of the lodge restaurants at the state resort parks in Kentucky offer decent home-style cooking, but I was not impressed with this particular lodge restaurant.
Thursday, June 9th to Sunday, June 12th - My Old Kentucky Home State Park is a smaller park. I am guessing no more than 40 sites primarily water/electric only sites. Approximately, 5 sites have full-hookups. The sites are mostly shaded. Some of the sites are a bit small. The campground is adjacent to the park’s golf course. Unless you are playing golf, the primary reason to stay at the campground is to explore Bourbon Country and Bardstown (The Bourbon Capital of the World!). The campground is less than 4 miles off the parkway. You pass a Wal-Mart and restaurants on the way to the campground, plus there is easy access to gas. The campground sits just on the edge of Bardstown, so it is easy to explore. There are many activities to see and do, including regular performances of the Stephen Foster Story, an evening dinner train, bourbon tours and tastings, Abraham Lincoln history close by in Hodgenville, and much more. Given we only live 90 miles from Bardstown, Laura and I were careful not to tour too much. We can easily go back. Instead we spent a great deal of time at the campground just relaxing and enjoying the fiberglass egg rally. There were probably 2 dozen egg campers there. Rally activities included community campfires and music, trailer tours, and a potluck. Once again the bathrooms were adequate at best.
Reflection – Our site was electric and water only, so we used a dump station for the first time. All went smoothly. After 9 days of significant traveling and camping with the girls, it was very nice to slow down and be lazy for a few days. Laura and I would eat a couple of meals per day at our Casita. We wandered around Bardstown for pubs and/or an evening meal. Once again, we really enjoyed the rally experience. As a newbie, I really enjoy interacting and learning from other RVers.
Sunday, June 12th – After enjoying breakfast, visiting with other camper friends, hitching up, and dumping our tanks, we exited the park at 1 pm and drove 90 miles home. After arriving home, we spent the next hour or two unloading and unpacking the trailer before jumping right into evening errands and getting ready to return to work on Monday! ☹
Final Summary, Confessions, Analysis, and Reflections – We achieved a number of firsts:
1. First trip longer than a long-weekend.
2. First time to have a back-in site (3).
3. First time to use a dump station.
4. First time to tow in the wind.
5. Towed considerably in the mountains, but we did a bit of this when we visited the Great Smoky Mountain National Park in late April.
6. First time to camp with the girls.
We traveled, 1903.4 miles (mostly towing, but probably 350 or so miles touring without the Casita); we averaged 42 mph; we spent 45 hours and 14 minutes driving; and we averaged 13 mpg. In terms of a learning experience/experiment, I would rate this trip as an A+; in terms of a relaxing vacation, I would rate this trip as a C+. I planned this trip in January before ever using the Casita. I thought 12 days of vacation with travel days of no more than 300 miles would be easy. I found out that I don’t like driving 300 miles only to get up the next day and press repeat. For Laura and I, an important aspect of RVing and camping is to relax; therefore, I think I would rather take more time or travel less distance.
Along the way, Laura and I discovered that our old iPhone 4S devices had a very difficult time keeping up with the demands of modern GPS apps and poor service. We need to upgrade our phones. We may also want to consider a stand-alone GPS device or upgrading the GPS software on our Borrego. Speaking of technology, my girls will vehemently support the limited WIFI capability in nearly all the campgrounds where we stayed!
Laura and I don’t have a TV in our Casita and so far don’t miss it at all. We have the hook-ups, but no TV. That might change in the future, but for now there is too much to experience to watch TV.
Given that Laura and I bought the Casita to create empty nest adventures, taking the girls with us was a novel thing to do. With Claire going to college this fall
, I wanted to have the experience of one big family camping trip. We had lots of fun, but we don’t really have the best setup for family camping. The Casita is designed for one or two. It has limited space and storage space. Our mid-size SUV has limited storage space as well. Twelve days of camping and traveling with the girls was much different than Laura and I camping and traveling over long weekends of 4 or 5 days. Therefore, if our goal is to focus on Laura and I, we will use our Casita for our empty nest adventures. If we are going to vacation with the girls, it will involve more of what they want to do in a cabin in the mountains or a condo at the beach for 5 to 7 days.
This 12 day adventure was the last camping activity that I planned in January. As of today, we have completed four camping trips besides two nights of drive way camping. We have 20 nights under our belts and my goal is to get 30 nights or more of camping before the end of our first season. I wanted to see how these first four trips went before scheduling anything else. I have now scheduled us to attend the Land Between the Lakes Fiberglass Egg Rally in early October. It was this rally in the Fall
, ’15 that resulted in Laura and I buying our Casita one month later. We also know that we will return to the Eggs A La Bourbon Rally in June, 2017. We have discovered how much we like rallies. I really like to talk RVs and learn about the RVing lifestyle from others. We have met so many wonderful and knowledgable FG egg camper
owners. What a great group! I will repeat something I have said several times over the last couple of months. In many ways, the American Campground appears to me to be the nostalgic neighborhood that We long to be part of.
At this point, I like the destination more than the journey. Once we get more experience, maybe this will change. For this reason, I think I would like to keep most of our trips to 300 miles or less, so we can maximize our time camping rather than driving. We still need to perfect our efficiencies in terms of the time to pack and hitch-up, etc. We enjoy eating at our site. I like to cook and grill, but I have not quite figured how to most effectively to do this while camping.
In closing, well, it looks like we need more practice ☺ and I want future camping trips to integrate what we have learned from our first four spring trips.. We hope to see ya in the Campground!
If you are interested in seeing some pictures of this trip, I plan to post them on Instagram at DeanCHS1980