Have Camper, Will Travel – Part 1

I’m a little behind in writing about our camping trips, as we’ve now returned from our second adventure. I’ll try to catch up…

So, the verdict is in. Thanks to our little trailer, we love camping again.

We left on our the maiden voyage, heading east on June 14th.

After a few hours of driving we stopped for the night at a truck stop in Castleton-upon-Hudson. The great thing about towing your lodgings is that you can just park and sleep. And that is exactly what we did.

It’s fairly well known throughout the RV community that retailers like Walmart and Ikea welcome travellers to use their parking lots overnight. That’s great, but a parking space isn’t enough for us. We both need a hot shower to start the day, and we don’t have those facilities in our tiny camper. After some quick research, we discovered that many trucks stops also offer free overnight parking, and have showers available.

Even as we pulled off the road, I really wasn’t sure about the whole sleeping in a parking lot thing. We didn’t really need a proper campsite though. It would have been an added expense and out of our way. In the end, we chose the conviencet and buck saving option. After all, it was worth at least trying once.

It turned out to be just fine. The rest stop was well lit, busy, and noisy, which made us feel safe, but wasn’t ideal for a peaceful slumber. Once we got used to the hum though, we got actually managed to get a decent night’s sleep. It’s not something I’d want do all the time, but I’d consider doing it again in a similar circumstance.

Then there were the showers. If I’d had to speculate about what I’d be writing here about a truck stop shower before our trip, I would have expected to tell you about some fresh hell, but that could not be any further from what we found. They were spotless, five star facilities. We were shocked at just how lovely they were. The cashier had been sheepish about charging us $12.00 to get the keys to the shower rooms, but it was worth ever penny.

Clean and refreshed, with our coffee cups full, and a topped up tank of gas, we left the truck stop and continured along the highway.

We arrived in Newport Rhode Island just before lunch.

Do you remember the A&E show America’s Castle’s from the 1990s? One episode focused on the Newport Mansions and I’ve been dying to visit them ever since. Finally, last weekend, we did!

During the guilded age, Newport was the place where plantation owners came to escape the oppressive southern heat, and the families of northern industrialists took refuge from the cities during the summer months. It’s location offered cool ocean breezes, making it the ideal spot to build a summer cottage.

Like this one:

It’s a little cramped in there, but supposed it would do for only four months out of the year.
With social reform and hard economic times early in the 20th century, the Newport cottagers could no longer afford this level of opulence. By the end of the great depression, many of these houses were closed and fell into disrepair. Eventually, some buildings were converted to apartments, nursing homes, and religious or educational institutions. Others were simply razed. A few of these homes obtained landmark status over the years, and have been restored to their former glory. About a dozen of these incredible buidlings are open to the public (unfortunatly we couldn’t take pictures inside though).

The Breakers was was the grandest of these summer houses.

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This was built as the summer home of Cornelius Vanderbilt II, for about $12 million. To but that in perspective, the modern equivalent would be about $331 million. It’s insane. There’s a room here with walls decorated with platinum.

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Rosecliff was my favourtite. We were jokingly trying to imagine our furniture in there.

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It’s ballroom has been used in several movies, including the 1974 Version of the Great Gatsby.

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This is the view from Rosecliff’s backyard:

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Next, we visited Marble House.

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Alva Vanderbilt was given this house for her 39th birthday.

I turned 39 this year but I didn’t get a beaux arts mansion overlooking the ocean. Who do I speak to about this injustice?

Our final tour of the day was The Elms.

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The estate was named the after trees that once stood on the property, but have since succumbed to dutch elm disease.

This was one of the last Newport cottages to be run with a full staff and social season in the tradition of the gilded age.

After the owner died in the early 1960s, The Elms, and it’s contents were auctioned off, and it was slated for demolition. Just weeks away from the wrecking ball, it was saved by the local preservationists.

It’s a panther wresting an alligator.

If they ever auction off this stature – I must have it!

There were few others I would have loved to have seen, but four tours was already a bit much for one day. In fact, by the time we walked though The Elms, we were mansioned out. I was becoming increasingly less impressed by another grand staircase, another marble mantle, another ornate tapestry, etc…

Meanwhile, our summer retreat was parked on the street behind out car. We returned to it and moved on to Cape Cod for the rest of our trip…

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Where do you camp?

Now that this has become summer of camping for us, we’ve been compiling a list of places we’d like to go, including some of our favourite outdoorsy places from our tent camping days. Over the next few months, we’re planning to go to the Pennsylvania’s Allegheny National Forest, New York State’s Finger Lakes and the our own Bruce Pennisula.

setting up our old tent (we gave it away a few years ago)

We’re looking to add some new parks to our list, and I’m looking for recommendations. Ideally, we’re looking for places within about a 300km radius of the Greater Toronto Area, but I’d love to hear about any other amazing spots for longer road trips in the future.

Here’s what we look for in a campsite:

Cook Forest State Park, Pennsylvania

Trees
We like to have trees for both shade and privacy. I see so many campgrounds where people are just crammed into an open field. This just doesn’t look fun at all.

Dorcas Bay, Ontario

Water
I’m not much a swimmer, but I like to be near water. If it’s really hot, I’ll even risk coming in contact with the unidentified scary things that lurk beneath a lake’s surface. Occassionally, we’ll also rent a canoe. Whether we use the water recreationally or not, we like to have the option.

Watkins Glen State Park, New York

Attractions
This is really more for me than Jeremy. I’m not good at sitting still. After our trip a few weeks ago, Jeremy expressed that he wished I could just sit and do nothing for a while.

I can’t. It’s genetically impossible. I come from a long line of busy bees and putterers. I get restless if I sit idle for too long. Therefore, I need things to see and do when we get away. I prefer to visit places where there’s something interesting to check out. Perhaps a geologically impressive formation, a quaint country town, or a historically significant monument. I just need something to do, other than just camp.

Dune’s Edge Campground, Massachusetts

Plumbing and Electricity
I really do wish I could be one of those people who could just camp out on a piece of crown land and be happy, but I’m not. I need a flushing toilet, a hot shower, and a place to plug in my hot rollers (for those reading this, who don’t know me well, I’m not kidding about the rollers).

So, where do you think we should go?

I’d love to hear all about your favourite camping spots and experiences.

Thanks!

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My Obsession

As I mentioned last week, I am OBSESSED with our new camper, and I can hardly focus on anything other than decorating it.

Before we take it on the road next month, I have the following projects I want to complete:

  • Cushions – The existing cushions in the sleeping/dining area are fine but they are tired and a bit grungy from age.
  • Window Valances – to coordinate with the new cushions, obviously.
  • Cupboards – I’m going to paint the cupboards dark brown. Right now they’re white, which s fine, but I think they’d look better if they matched the trim in throughout the rest of the camper.
  • Fridge – Right now there’s a fabric panel on the door, but I’d like to replace it with stainless steel. Alternatively, we might just replace the whole fridge because it’s very old, but in the meantime, it’s getting a blast of spray paint.
  • Counter Space – My Dad, the king of sheet metal, is going to make us a cover to place over the stove when it’s not in use. This will give us more workspace on the tiny counter.

Next, we’ll need accessories. I’m trying to achieve a rustic cabin look for the interior.

The one thing I’m struggling with at the moment is the fabric for the cushions. I’d like a print or pattern – something a bit kitschy without being over the top. Most importantly, it needs to be affordable. Last weekend we searched every fabric store within a 50km radius. Next weekend, we’ll be casting our net wider.

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