Travels with Andy – New Fulltimers Product Giveaway

We hinted that we had something exciting in the works for you and here it is! Andy Baird has given us 1 copy of his book, From Camping to Fulltime and his Eureka 2 CD to giveaway to two lucky RVers. Here's how you enter to win!

Please note: You can do any one of the following options to enter the Giveaway. We're not asking that you complete all 5 steps (though we would love that!). But every step that you complete will count in your favor as an additional entry. The person with the most entries will win one of the prizes.

  • Leave a blog comment (extra point for including a link to your user profile on RVParking.com) on their blog post letting us know you are participating in the Giveaway and leave us with some sort of way to contact you!
  • Follow RVParking.com and Hit the Road JACK on Twitter. Tweet the two of us saying you are participating in our Giveaway! So we know to count this as an Giveaway entry for you.

Official Rules - Entries will be accepted until 9pm PST Sunday, March 6th. Both winners will be chosen by amount of entries and announced in this post on Monday, March 7th. Good luck!


Eureka! One RVer’s Bright Idea for New Fulltimers

A while back, we took to some of our most trusted RV forums to ask what research our users (that's you!) did before making the transition to Fulltime RVing in preparation for a future post. Some of you replied with the names of books, e-books, and websites that you used for your research. That particular blog post is still coming but we did want to share one recommended website, Travels with Andy in the meantime. Below Andy shares with us his RVing back story and a couple of popular tips from his book, "From Camping to Fulltime" and his CD "Eureka 2 - Bright Ideas for your RV".

Upcoming Contest: We'll be giving away a couple free copies of both Eureka 2 and From Camping to Fulltime in the near future.  So make sure to come back on Monday, 2/28 for the upcoming details for how to enter to win!

Eureka! One RVer's Bright Idea
I fell into RVing almost by accident. A friend was looking to upgrade from her small, 15-year-old motorhome to something larger; I had become fascinated by her tales of adventure, and when she mentioned that “Gertie” was for sale, I ended up buying the rig.

Once the initial thrill of having a cozy home away from home had worn off, I began to notice things that could be improved. After leaving my gas cap behind at a filling station, I made a simple wire gas cap holder so I’d have a place to put it while filling up. Then I worked on organizing Gertie’s storage space. I added a few halogen interior lights. It seemed there was always something more to do.

And I took photos, at first mainly to show my friends the enhancements I was making. But pretty soon I realized that I had the makings of a website, which I called “Improving Gertie.” I started getting a lot of compliments on the site. Complete strangers would email me to say things like “You have a well written, interesting site... Any wannabe, newbie or someone wanting fresh ideas (‘RVing 101’) should read ‘Improving Gertie.’ ”


The email that really caught my eye, though, was this one: “Have you thought about getting ‘Improving Gertie’ published in book form? I think it would be a great read, and a help to anyone thinking about RVing.” That set me thinking... and writing. I ended up expanding the “Improving Gertie” website into an electronic book with more than three times the material, covering everything from “home improvements” of all kinds to safety tips. I called it “Eureka! Bright Ideas for Your RV,” and it’s now in its second edition.

What is Eureka?

Over the years I’ve done a lot of tinkering with my rigs, and I’m always looking for ways to make them better—more comfortable, more space-efficient, more home-like. Eureka is a cornucopia of hints, tips, and projects based on my experiences. Everything from how to shower with less than a gallon of water... to plans for making a quilt that turns into a pillow... to ten useful things you can make with coat hanger wire... with more than 800 photos and illustrations showing how to put Eureka’s ideas into practice. But heck, why just talk about it? Here are a few quick examples.

The school of hard knocks
Here's a true story. When I was one year old, I fell down a flight of cast-iron stairs at Harvard's Museum of Comparative Zoology and landed on my head. Some of my friends would say that this explains a lot. It may account for the fact that I can't seem to see a shiny silver awning strut until I walk right into it.

Well, I'm not completely stupid. After a few bruises and a lot of embarrassment, I got the bright idea of slitting a couple of foam swim noodles lengthwise and slipping one over each awning strut. Now the struts are not only visible, but padded. No more black eyes!


Another tip: if your dinette table, like mine, has a leg that sticks out, you can cut off six inches or so of the swim noodle and put it on the bottom of the leg, where it'll keep you from stubbing your toes.

A stretchy solution
The small items in my medicine cabinet tended to wind up in a jumbled heap. Here's what I mean:


So I stapled a strip of 1"-wide elastic across that area, and now everything is nice and neat!


The first time I tried this, I put the elastic halfway up the space... but then discovered that it was difficult to remove or replace the items. Keeping it low (about an inch above the shelf) worked much better.

Turn up the pressure!
My old rig’s shower spray was a bit anemic, which made showering less enjoyable, not to mention taking longer. But I came up with a simple fix: plug half the showerhead's holes, and the flow from the remaining holes is twice as strong. I tested the idea first with tape, and it worked... so I laid a bead of epoxy glue around the outer set of holes, giving me a much more vigorous spray at the same water-saving flow rate.


Sleep cheap
Many RVers use the Travasak “sleep sack”, a sleeping-bag-like pair of comforters with a removable bedsheet insert. It’s nice, but pricey at $150 to $230. I made my own sleep sack from a couple of sleeping bags and a couple of twin-sized bedsheets—an easy job for anyone with access to a sewing machine. Eureka includes my plans for making your own under-$60 sleep sack.

Doorstops in the cupboard?

Yup! In my kitchen cupboards I use doorstops—the kind that resemble tightly coiled springs—mounted upside-down on the cabinet shelves. They keep the stacks of dishes from sliding around, yet still make it easy to pull them out.


There’s more to Eureka than quick tips, of course. Full-length illustrated chapters cover topics such as understanding and troubleshooting your electrical system without being a technical wizard, connecting to the internet while on the road, keeping your refrigerator cool, building a pantry closet, and making the most of your limited storage space (I have lots of tips on that topic!). For example, here’s a link to Eureka’s complete chapter on electronic books and ebook readers—an increasingly popular way to save space and weight while traveling.

The best part of putting together Eureka has been the enthusiastic response from folks who’ve bought it. Comments have ranged from “Wow, what a gold mine!” to “A must for everyone with an RV” to my favorite: “Eureka is the best money I have ever spent.” No matter what kind of RV you own, you can pick up some bright ideas from Eureka. To get an idea of the book’s scope, you can take a look at the complete index or visit the Eureka homepage for more information.

Andy Baird was plodding along at a desk job, convinced that he couldn't afford to retire... until a friend introduced him to RVing, and he learned that as a full-time RVer, he could retire and live comfortably on a fraction of his salary. Since then he’s traveled over much of the US, and has written several books and many articles about his adventures. You can read about his experiences on his “Travels With Andy” website.


Announcing the Winners of RVParking.com’s First Review Contest

Monday is upon us, which means it's time to announce the winners of the Fall Review Contest, but first, I'd like to thank everyone who submitted reviews in the past five weeks. Every review helps RVers make a more informed decision about where to stay, making RVParking.com a more useful resource. It's been great to see so many new members pop up. We're glad that you're part of our community.

And now, onto the winners:

First the two winners for the best review, who will each be receiving a $50 gas card, are NuRVers (for his review of Lost Alaskan RV Resort) and OkieDave for his review of Glen Ayr Waterfront Resort.

With 32 reviews between September 7 and October 15, LiveWorkDream.com wins the prize for the most reviews. Stay tuned to the blog for an upcoming guest blog post from them about RVing and the environment, as well as an upcoming WiFi related post.

There will also be another contest so keep visiting the site for more information. I got to read many great reviews during the contest, so I hope that you will all keep adding reviews.




What Makes a Good Review?

When I've told people about the contest, some people have responded with the question "What makes a good review?". In this post, I'd like to answer that question by discussing some things to consider when writing a review. You do not have to use all these things in your review, but hopefully this post will serve as inspiration if you don't know what to write.

1. Check out our tip sheet. We have a whole list of things to include in your review. This list, while not all-inclusive, is something that you can through as you write your reviews to make sure that you cover some of the most important details. The rest of this post will give examples of ways people have addressed components of the tip sheet or discuss things not included on the tip sheet.

2. Think about what you would have wanted to know about the park before you stayed there. Odds are, that's what other RVParking readers want to know too.

3. Length - The best RV Park reviews give fellow RVers a good idea of what it's like to stay at an RV park. This requires a lot of  information, usually more than you can fit in a sentence or two, which is why I look for reviews that are at least a paragraph or more.

4. Support your opinion - It's great to know if an RV park is good or bad, but it's just as important (if not more important) to know why. The best reviews are really specific about why an RV park is being rated a certain way, like in the review of Craters of the Moon National Landmark Campground by joannb:

"The only reason this is a 4 star campground is that it doesn't have showers. It is a self-serve campground; you pick out a site then go back, fill out an envelope, put the top half into the board showing which campgrounds are taken and the other half with your money in a slot. Real simple. This otherworldly landscape may not be for everyone, but it fascinated us. Most sites are very ample, set among the lava with a black cinder base."

5. Noise Level - Is it a quiet park? Is there a lot of noise coming from a nearby interstate? From rowdy campers? Does the park have quiet hours? The review LiveWorkDream.com wrote about Lindenwood Park Campground does a great job of addressing freeway noise:

"Yes, there is freeway noise, but if you ask for the LOWER campground along the river, it's not so bad."

6.  Staff - Are they approachable? Helpful? Did they go the extra mile? For example, Don C. tells us why the staff at Oregon Dunes KOA Kampground & RV Resort made his stay a great one:

"The staff bent over backward to make our stay a great one. This started with a call to let me know that a spot had opened up and I could get in. We were traveling without reservations."

7. WiFi - One of the things RVParking.com readers care about the most is being able to connect with their loved ones and employers from the road.  Just mentioning if the park has working WiFi on site or nearby is a big help for your fellow RVers, but the extra details in LiveWorkDream.com's review of Johnsons Corner Retreat make this one of the best Wifi/Internet assessments I've seen so far:

"Tree shade here WILL block your satellite connectivity. They did just hire a smart networking guy who installed a brand new Wi-Fi system which works GREAT. So skip the dish and go right for the Wi-Fi, which is free."

8. Are the sites level? Here is a good example from Wheeling It's review of South Sandusky Campground. Not only do they discuss the levelness of their site, but they also cover the levelness of every site at the campground:

"The one thing that got us were the sites. There were really so hit and miss in terms of how level they were. Our own site had a huge drop and we weren't able to level. Some had moderate drops whereas a selection were completely flat."

9. Cell phone coverage - Are you able to get any bars out in the mountains? What cell phone provider are you using? Here's a good example from Technomadia's review of Meriwether Lewis National Park:

"Cell & Data Coverage:

AT&T – Weak, but usable.

Sprint - Very slow but still usable CDMA 1xRTT. (D: 115Kb/s, U: 56Kb/s, 669ms) (Sprint indicates roaming – probably on Verizon)"

10. Cable/TV - Does the park have cable? Is it free or do they charge? What channels do you get? Is it available in all parts of the RV park? Here's an example from RVingToadless' review of Garden of the Gods Campground:

"As for the cable, currently it is installed in rows B and C. The cable is limited, just some networks, Travel, CNN, Discovery, Weather, and some 'who cares' channels."

11. Activities - Are there any activities the park offers on a regular basis? Movie nights? Ice cream socials? Potlucks? Do they have any special holiday celebrations? For example pdronline says that Shabbona Lake State Park's Fourth of July fireworks celebration is a must-see:

"DON'T MISS: Each year on July 4th catch the fireworks display over the lake and in February go night fishing on the lake."

12. Amenties Not Covered on RVParking.com - RV Parks offer so different many amenties these days that it's hard to list them all. Does the park have an exercise room or amenities not seen at other RV Parks, such as a car wash or barbecue delivery? Don C.'s review of Junipers RV Resort does a good job of addressing the different amenities they have:

"We were met by a friendly camp host, assigned a spot and shown the Pavilion, barbeques, laundry facilities, bathrooms and showers. They even have a business center with fax machine."

13. Trees - Are there any? How big are they? How long are the branches? Here's an example from joannb's review of Twin Falls/Jerome KOA:

"The park is well shaded by mature trees."

14. Size of sites - Do you have a lot of room or hardly any at all? From Technomadia's review of Pecan Grove RV Park, we learn that sometimes you have to trade space around your site for a hip, urban setting:

"Don't expect much in terms of space around you (unlike their monthly spots, which many feature nice yards) - you're here for the location and atmosphere!"

15. Stores - Everyone has to eat. Does the RV Park have a store where you can stock up on supplies? Are there any stores nearby? This example from CarHouse's review of Ocala Camp Resort kills two birds with one stone by discussing both the RV park store and a store in the area:

"All convenience store items have been removed due to the cheapness and proximity of a local grocery store."

16. Restrooms - Are they clean? For example, acoording to TxYellowRose, the bathrooms over at Town and Country RV Park and Storage should be avoided if at all possible:

"Although there are restroom facilities, they are in desperate need of remodel/update, so much so that you will want to be totally self-contained if you stay here. When the water table (dry spell with no rain) falls low, the water starts to look rusty/brown."

17. Showers - Do you have privacy? Do you have to pay extra to use them? Here's a good example from Car House's review of Zion River Resort:

"The showers are private and very nice but cost some coins to operate. One would think at $45 a night they would include a shower ..."

18. Restaurants - Whether folks aren't big on cooking or just want to spend a night on the town,  it's good to know what restaurants are at the park or in the area. For example, RVingToadless recommends the restaurant over at Ekstrom's Stage Station:

"I must recommend the adjoining restaurant. Excellent, world class food for a small restaurant. Dessert included in the meal price."

19. Pet Friendliness - Did the owners/staff treat your pets well? Were you charged extra for bringing pets? Did the campground have a pet park?

20. General feel of site - Is the site big or small? Well-kept or run-down? SilverSnail's review of Crown Point RV Park gives us a great overall sense of the park:

"Nicely situated on the Old Columbia River Highway, and tucked away from the roadside by large trees and a tall wooden fence, this small campground is a secret treasure. I had spent a day looking for campgrounds in the Portland area that were comfortable and affordable enough to stay for a month, and most of the places around Portland were unappealing - mostly commercial places catering to the big rigs with little nature or privacy. I almost passed this place up, thinking it was TOO rinky-dink, but it was cozy and rustic in the way that I like it, and convenient to the Columbia River Gorge and Portland."

21. Is the RV Park website accurate? Were some park features over-stated? Understated? Not mentioned at all? Please let us know.

I hope this list helps give you ideas about what to cover in your park review. For all you RVParking.com reviewers out there, what do you think makes a good review? What do you take into consideration when reviewing an RV Park? Did I leave anything out?

If you still need help with reviewing, please feel free to contact me. Happy reviewing!



Fall Review Contest

We've been getting a steady flow of new reviews. So we thought why not make things interesting?

We'll be throwing a Fall Review Contest from 09/07/10 -10/15/10. Entering is pretty easy... just write a review on any park or RV site that you please. All reviews (by new & returning users) posted by Friday, October 15th will be considered in picking the user with the most reviews.

The user with the most reviews will win the Grand Prize. But since the overall goal of our site is to bring the RVing community reliable & useful RV Park reviews we will also be handing out 2 runner up prizes for the best overall review quality. Here's some review writing tips on what we look for when it comes to review quality. The submission date for the contest ends on Friday, 10/15/10 and we'll announce the winners on Monday, 10/17/10. Good luck everyone! If you have any questions just comment below for a speedy answer.

Contest Prizes

Grand Prize - Portable Solar Power Pack (worth $150-$200)

Featuring a  powerful built-in 400-watt inverter and sealed, spill-free 10-amp/hour AGM battery.The Powerpack solar panel continuously captures, stores, and converts the sun's energy and extends the runtime of many portable devices. Two AC outlets, a DC socket, and a USB port give you plenty of options for simultaneously operating anything from laptops to cell phones to small TVs. We recently asked our Twitter followers , "If you could get a present for your journeys what would you want the most?". This item was so popular that we decided to make it our grand prize!

Grand Prize

Grand Prize - Xantrex X Power Portable Solar Powerpack

1st Runner Up - $50 Gas Card
2nd Runner Up - $50 Gas Card

See Contest rules here

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