First Time Camping at a State Park in a Fifth Wheel

This morning I did much better at navigating.  I starting immediately when we got in the truck and looked at the My Pilot app, typed in our route, and saw all the Flying J’s and Pilots along it.  This let us decide in advance where we would stop and fuel.  Much better plan since we love Flying J’s and they aren’t everywhere and this allows us the greatest opportunity to find them along the route.  Lee gave me our approximate stopping point for the night…I really recommend this because it gives the navigator a starting point for a campground search and you can talk about shortening or extending the days trip based upon what you find in the area.   Howard had recommended a new website called Ultimate Campground Project.  There is  even a mobile version I purchased for $5.99 and well worth it!!  The site helps find public campgrounds which are less expensive and sometimes there are hidden gems as Howard says.   They do require more research though because generally their websites are not that great.  Based on his seminar at the rally…I search the area we were going then I called the campground first to discuss the size of our rig and see what they recommended and once armed with some site numbers I called the reservation desk.  It’s a good plan BUT the kid I talked to at the State Park was a trainee and we were having a tough time communicating and the reservation desk was clearly reading from a script which ultimately was not that helpful.  I did however get through the steps and locked us into a pull through site (#39) within 1 hour of getting on the road.   So I am feeling very proud of myself…very organized and together (For those who read my blog often you know pride often goes before the fall so prepare yourself.)

At our first stop I took another turn driving. Another advantage of Flying J’s with RV lanes is the are relatively easy for an inexperienced driver to get out of, so we departed easily and took off down the road.  I am really feeling comfortable driving the freeways.  My method (and I know not everyone will agree with this…Lee doesn’t) is to find a truck carrying special materials of some sort (liquids, heavy metal, etc) who I think is driving particularly well and pace them 4-5 car lengths back.  They know the road better than I do and I can watch when they change lanes which gives me plenty of lead time to do the same.  Now this being said, never do anything reckless to stay with them.  If you lose you truck buddy another one will come down the road.  I NEVER do this with the standard box trucks because their driving is to inconsistent from truck to truck but as a general statement the drivers with the unusual loads seem to be more cautious and better overall drivers.   One last comment on this…you can keep an eye on them but don’t relax so much you forget you control your vehicle.  I just look at it as an extra set of eyes…so to speak.  Hope that makes sense.  Oh one other thing…when I get tense I grip the steering wheel to tight which tightens the whole body and you actually have less control.  Keep your hands loose on the steering wheel.  Lee was really great about reminding me when he saw me gripping to tight.

Because we were doing so well, I wanted to stop and get a nice lunch at a Cracker Barrel.  We have been eating lunch in the rig everyday which was fine, but I wanted a treat so Lee found an upcoming Cracker Barrel on the All Stays app.  We know not all Cracker Barrels will fit a rig this size so he google mapped the area and saw the parking lot was small, but there was a large hotel next door.  We pulled in and because the parking lot in the back was empty Lee got out and gave me directions on how to back into a space (my first time).  This turned out GREAT!!!  Me giving directions to Lee has not worked that great because I don’t relaly know what to tell him, but he knows exactly what to say and told me step-by step how to park…it looked great.  We are definitely onto something.  I was totally calm because I trust him and he was kind while giving good directions!   My only feedback to him was to allow me to go as slow as I wanted because there is a delay between when he would say stop and when my brain could register it and hit the brakes.  The other thing is I don’t know what “straighten out” means..so he had to tell me turn the steering wheel left or right instead.  We were both pretty excited and think for us as a couple we are definitely on the right track with this method.   We went inside and asked permission at the hotel to stay for an hour (she said it was fine as long as we didn’t camp out) and had our lunch.  Although I loves me some Cracker Barrel…I would have to say overall it’s to much of a pain finding a place to park etc…plus it cost $30 for lunch versus something in the RV so I don’t think we will be doing this much.

So we finally came to the Frances Slocum State Park (in Pennsylvania) and checked in.  The office closed at 4pm but we made It by 3:20 so felt we had plenty of time.  We received direction…the trainee I had talked to was there and brand spanking new, and we got our maps and headed to the site.  This park is known for its man-made lake…which is nice, but we quickly realized that the small campground was designed for pop ups, tents, and small travel trailers.  We went to our pull through site and it was terrible. It was a tiny semi-circle next to the bath house with no view whatsoever. Also  the fifth wheel would face the road and the campfire would be on the wrong side.  Since the campground was practically empty we drove around the small circle looking at our alternative sites and Lee thought using our new method (me driving him spotting) we could get into one of the backup sites.  The office was closed by this time and I was trying to call the reservation d, but Lee (who is smart like that) walked over to the camphost and got her permission.  At the same time we realized there was no water at the site.

Ok so this was on me…despite my research and phone calls it escaped me the sites were electric only.  I assumed electric and water…bad bad assumption.  And we don’t carry much water on travel days (hurts the MPG) so we had to go fill up with water first which was way down the road.  Now I want to say this is where my positive attitude kicked in.  As they say the difference between an ordeal and adventure is attitude and I was bound and determined to look at this as an adventure…Lee not so much J  We went to the water area and hooked up our hose.  We knew we were getting water but it did take a long time.  I sat at the panel and kept hitting the tank fullness indicator and it took about 20 minutes to get to 2/3 full.  Once full of water we went back to our new site and Lee backed me in.  This took quite awhile because the angle to get into the site was pretty sharp.  We finally made it though but the fiver was seriously slanted.  So Lee pulled out the blocks and the moved forward a bit and then back and he used the stabling jacks…which we usually don’t have to do for a one night keeping hitch stay and we were somewhat level.    Actually he perked up during this process…he was very complimentary on how I followed his directions..I told him I trust him so it was easy to do exactly what he said and I think we both felt a sense of victory over the accomplishment.  He did say since we were beginners maybe we should stay away from State parks for a while, but I am eager to try another one just do a much better job on the upfront research.  Oh and as a benefit they don’t sell wood here but we were told we could burn any of the dead wood on the ground and we had a ton of it so had a very nice fire that night

 

Tilted fifth wheel :)

Tilted fifth wheel 🙂

Nice parking on the blocks by Lee

Nice parking on the blocks by Lee

 

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Much more level after the jacks were out

Much more level after the jacks were out

 

Overall the campground was less than average.  I don’t mind rustic but it should really have large sites and folks should not be right on top of each other in this case.  So I have to give them a relatively low score.  Please see below for a more detailed review.

I woke up in the morning with a terrible chest cold.  We went from 87 degrees in Tennessee to 57 degrees in PA and it went down to 33 overnight.  So here’s something I learned /…when you have a 2nd AC unit…even though the temperature controls have heat …it is not turned to the furnace so when you turn heat on you get outside air.  Basically I was warm and snuggly in my blanket but breathing super cold air all night 🙂  So I felt pretty yucky and helped Lee with the outside so we could get going as soon as possible.  The leveling blocks are like big Lego blocks and snap together so once Lee rolled the RV forward I started to pull the bricks apart.  One came off easier than the others and wham I smacked my self right in the bridge of the nose.  I literally saw stars and for a moment I thought I broke my nose…but it got better after a little while.  When we went down to the dump station that actually worked VERY well. I stood on the hose at the connection and Lee did the other parts.  While I was standing there I did notice the water we filled with yesterday had a huge sign saying Danger NO potable water.  The sign was not on the spigot though so we had gotten this water and I had brushed my teeth with it in the morning.  It makes no sense because every water spigot that’s potable will not hook up to a hose, so I think they expect you to use buckets or something.  Give me a break…we are buying a Water Bandit ASAP!!

After a long day of driving we reached the dealer we bought out rig from Flagg RV.  This was our first trip with our fifth wheel and despite a pretty extensive PDI (we tested everything except for water as it was still to cold) we had a small list.  The big one was the washer/dryer combo because the instrument panel doesn’t light up at all and it leaks.  Lee was ticked about this one, because everything else was relatively minor but obviously this aftermarket item was not installed or inspected correctly.  The Service Manager Steve was great though and had one of his top techs Chad review the issues while were there and then said they would order parts and have Chad make the 2 hour trip top our seasonal site to complete the repairs …couldn’t have gone better.  One other weird thing was a squeal in our Fantastic Fan.  Apparently Fantastic Fan makes an amazing product and Steve said in twelve years he had never seen one squeal (probably a bad bearing).  There is a lifetime guarantee on their part so they think they can fix it easily but both Chad and Steve thought it was weird we had an issue with it.  It didn’t show up in the PDI,  by the way because it only happens when the fan is on for a length of time.    Anyways the trip went VERY well…Lee picked up some valve extenders at their excellent RV store (seriously they have more parts than any store I have seen), and finally we headed to our seasonal site.

Our seasonal site is very tight and requires professionally backing the camper.  No really after seeing it with fresh eyes in the new fifth wheel we need a professional.  Luckily the owners sun is a professional truck driver and he moves them on the weekends, so we parked in the empty lot until Lee can meet the son and get it permanently moved to our seasonal site….finally!!!  I had an amazing time and really enjoyed myself but I am tired of driving so far every day.  I did want to add one picture thought that pretty much sums up how we felt about this week…which is in the top 5 vacations I have taken in my life !!

 

Who knew I could still bend back that far :)

Who knew I could still bend back that far 🙂

 Lessons Learned

  • The more challenging the day the more lessons learned 🙂
  • Check Fuel options along the route first thin in the morning and again after every fuel up so your deciding on where to stop in advance. Significantly reduces stress and gives you more options.
  • If traveling as a couple have one person selected the approximate end point for the days travel and have the second look for campgrounds/stopping places in the area.   Sometimes you can have too many choices is it’s wide open and it can take forever to research.
  • If you get a trainee at a campground and are uncomfortable with what their level of knowledge don’t be afraid to ask to speak to someone else. I was worried about hurting the kids feelings and ultimately that did not serve me well
  • Reservation call centers only know the information they have been given so if you have any concerns at all call the campsite directly
  • Try having the driver with more parking experience navigate and the other person drive the rig. It seems counter intuitive but it works great for us.
  • Have a small clip board and pad on hand to write down instructions such as fueling exit number and website campsite directions (GPS doesn’t always work for campsites)
  • Be careful when booking a public campground …don’t take anything for granted
  • Know in advance if you’ll need water and plan accordingly.
  • Buy a Water Bandit
  • If you have a 2nd AC unit it does not necessarily do heat despite having Heat on the controls
  • Wen you are separating the leveling blocks don’t whack yourself in the nose.
  • Pay attention to potable water signs

 

Frances Slocum State Park – Luzerne County, PA 2 out of 5 pine cones

Very small state park with a nice man-made lake   The sites are pretty small with electric only although the 50 amp was good.   No wireless but solid AT&T cell service.  The camp host was very nice and moved us to a larger site when the reserved site was not a very nice one.  Any dead wood laying on the ground can be burned and there were tons of cut trees.   Overall it was ok, but for that level of rustic I would expect much nicer views.  IT would be fun with kids in a popup for a weekend but definitely not “big RV” friendly.

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9 thoughts on “First Time Camping at a State Park in a Fifth Wheel

  1. I did the same thing a few years ago when going to the Daytona 500, stayed in a Federal Park and did not do the research, assumed they would at least have electric.
    It was the February race so it was cold, the sites were water only !!!.
    We ran the furnace and lights on battery power (only 1 battery as at the time we were weekenders and did not boondock), the bath house did not have hot water either.
    Lesson learned, do your research and never assume anything 🙂

  2. I’m going to enjoy reading your Fifth Wheel experiences. We have had a class A for 14 years but will probably change to a 5er. We feel like newbies all over again!

  3. It sounds to me like the two of you are already pros! Other than camping at the dealers lot, last night was our first night and it had to be Wallydocking. Due to the very long drive, looks like tonight will be the same. Not bad. There were 2 other RVs next to us. But it was a tad warm and we had no AC without running the generator. We have fans at home, but not with us, so Steve went in and bought 1 small battery operated fan and one small one that plugs into a USB (we had plenty of battery power). Poor thing. I hope your nose feels better. Hopefully I will feel as comfortable driving as you! Steve hasn’t given me a turn yet!

  4. Hey Tracy, It sounds like you are learning a lot and it is great that you are able to make the best out of it. It was so good to meet y’all at the rally and get a chance to talk, even if it was just a short time! I enjoy reading your blog. Keep up the good work and keep in touch!

  5. You know the first time we camped last year we let friends make reservations for us at a state park. I happened to call to ask a question and found out the park not only had NO shower houses, but not even flush toilets. Yuck. We all (there were three of us) ended up cancelling and booked a different campground. You never know unless you check!

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