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!


How to Change the Location of an RV Park

As we've said before, RVParking.com is still a pup. While we have over 18,000 RV parks, we realize that not all of the map data is accurate and are working on fixing it. That's why we have a team of fact checkers who are currently working on correcting RV park data, as we've previously mentioned on this blog. But what you may not know is that you can fix map data yourself. Here's how you do it:


Step 1: Click on the submit Changes link.

Step 1: Click on the submit Changes link.

Once you are at an RVParking.com page, click on the link that says "Submit changes for this park." Once you click the link, you will see a page that will let you change park data.

2. Decide how you want to change the map: by changing the latitude and longitude or moving the pin on the map.

3. Change the map:

Latitude/Longitude Method

lat_longIf you already know the latitude and longitude for the park:

1. Enter it into latitude and longitude boxes, as shown on the left. The map on the “Edit” page will update as soon as your cursor leaves the input field.

If You Don't Know the Latitude/Longitude: Google maps has a handy tool which will let you find the Lat/Long information from their maps, but you need to turn it on:

1. Click on the green maps icon at the top of maps.google.com.

2. LatLngMarkerOnce you've done that, enable "LatLng Marker".

3. Right click to drop the marker and get the latitude and longitude. Copy and paste it into the edit screen on RVParking.com.drop_marker

Map Marker Method

The second way to update a map is to edit the map on the edit page. The map on that page is interactive -- if you double-click on the map, it will move the marker to the point where you double click.

So there you have it, now you know how to change the map yourself. If you have any problems, please leave a comment below. Stay tuned for tomorrow's post about San Antonio by Betty Barnes.


The Best Tool for Finding Free Wi-Fi On the Road: Resourcefulness

If you don't have tools like MiFi or satellite Internet, you may often have to go to other businesses to get your WiFi. Although this may sound like a daunting task, it is possible to do work from the road using only WiFi provided by local businesses as proven by todays guest bloggers, Sue and Joel from Canfield of Dreams.

Like most people, our primary experience with Internet access has been our own DSL/Cable/whatever at home and office, peppered with the occasional trip to Starbucks. When we chose to become a nomadic family, finding Internet access on the road hit our radar. We're both virtual workers conducting virtually all our business over the Internet and telephone. Our plan as nomads is three weeks house sitting here, four weeks with friends over there, with short trips in between. Most of our Internet needs would be met wherever we're staying. Since we're hopeless email addicts and occasionally have client deadlines that won't wait, we realized we would have to find Internet access while we were on the road.

I'm sure you would love a link to a website where you could enter your zip code and find all the free wi-fi in that area. I don't have it. I suspect no one does. The Internet is in its infancy and free wi-fi is embryonic.

At this early stage in its development, the best tool for finding free wi-fi as you travel is your own resourcefulness. If you're used to the stability of your own Internet connection at home or in the office, it might not occur to you to simply drive through residential areas with a laptop looking for a connection. And yet, that is an extremely effective method of finding Internet access.

We're certainly not advocating trespassing or any kind of sneaky, unethical behavior. In the past most wireless networks were secured. This was partly to prevent the bad guys from getting in; but mostly because in those days Internet access was metered. Yes, folks, there was a time when you could not buy unlimited Internet access. What that meant was a single neighbor casually watching a movie over your Internet connection could use up your month's allocation of bandwidth in 90 minutes. It just made sense to limit access to a limited resource. Metered Internet access is almost impossible to find in the U.S. these days. Unlimited access is becoming the norm most places, thus removing the primary reason to secure a wireless connection.

A note about security. As a 20-year veteran of computer networking and security, I would suggest that you have someone that knows what they're doing check the security configuration of your personal computer. It's just good sense. There is a difference between securing your computer and locking down the inherent sharing capabilities of your wireless equipment. It's also my personal belief that if the bad guys want into your machine or network, they'll get in. Ease of use versus security is always a trade off. When it comes to sharing wireless networks, I lean strongly toward openness. I depend on the configuration of my individual computers to protect me from casual unfriendlies.

Most of my acquaintances leave their wireless networks open and unsecured. They're not afraid of hackers and actively encourage others to share their unlimited Internet usage. If you're driving through a small business area or residential neighborhood and notice an open, unsecured network, chances are very good that its owner has left it open with the intent of sharing it. We are bombarded with information about security almost daily. I personally find it hard to believe the average person could accidentally leave their wireless network unsecured. However, if for any reason the idea of what was once known as 'war driving', cruising a neighborhood looking for an open network, bothers you, there are alternatives.

If your travels take you through a large city, you will find a Starbucks, a Perkins Family restaurant, a Radio Shack or some other small business offering free wi-fi. If you Google the words 'free wi-fi' and the name of the place you're in, I'll be astonished if you get less than a dozen possible options. Again, for those of you who might, like me, be a little hesitant to 'take advantage', I have been delighted by the welcoming attitude of the folks who've given us free wi-fi along the way. The Wired Monk in Surrey, BC, Canada, the Starbucks in Rapid City, South Dakota, the Northern Exposure Computer Center in Torrington, Wyoming--all thanked us for visiting them and encouraged us to use their free wi-fi even if we didn't buy a thing. In today's economy, generosity is rapidly becoming an important marketing tool. If you're passing a Starbucks, need Internet and don't need coffee, they'll welcome you with open arms. You're not taking advantage; you're simply accepting the generosity they offer.

We found Internet connections in unlikely places. Driving across the wide open spaces of South Dakota we stopped in a small town, parked outside a classic car museum and connected to the Internet while Sue checked on a client project. Before shutting down she realized the wireless connection was from an RV Park we couldn't even see, not the building we were parked in front of.

The Radio Shack in Torrington, Wyoming was a surprise. We drove through this small town looking for our usual suspects, major chain coffee shop or restaurant, Internet cafe advertised as such, and saw nothing. Sue walked into the Radio Shack and asked where we might find a wi-fi connection, assuming that the local geeks would have it wired. And we were invited to use theirs--absolutely free. They even gave our little girl two scoops of ice cream for the price of one. So there's another angle. If you can't find an Internet connection on your own, stop anywhere that people are used to being asked for directions or where they may know the local computer landscape and ask. We've had excellent results every time.

Sometimes it's just a matter of trying. My mother has never owned a computer and may never own a computer. We expected during our three-day stop with her to find Internet access elsewhere. But when we opened our laptops we found an excellent connection while sitting comfortably in her living room. It was stable and powerful for our entire visit. I hadn't even planned on checking.

There are websites which are trying to aggregate real life information about open wi-fi hot spots. If you like, contribute the hot spots you found to one of these, or use them to find wi-fi near you. But your most powerful tools for finding wi-fi on the road are a little bit of resourcefulness and the willingness to try.

Joel D and Sue L Canfield and their little one, Fiona, are conducting a nomadic experiment. September 30th of 2010 they gave up their fixed place of residence to travel the U.S. and Canada and they hope eventually the world. You can read about their adventures as they happen at http://CanfieldofDreams.com where you can also pre-order the book they're writing and the movie they're making and even make arrangements for them to come visit you.

Be a Water Conservation Warrior from the Road

Today's guest blog post comes from our contest winners, Rene Agredano and Jim Nelson. In this post, the first in our series on green RVing, they share some unique ideas about how to save water while on the road. Did you know that eating more barbecue can help save water? Read on for that and more eco friendly RVing tips.

When we first entertained the thought of purchasing an RV to travel around the country, I was mortified by the thought of us moving around some of North America's most beautiful places in a gas-guzzling house on wheels. Until we actually started fulltime RVing, we were avid backpackers who assumed that RVs were terrible for the planet, and that the people who drove them were selfish souls who cared little about the environment.

How wrong I was!

While they're typically not the most fuel efficient vehicles, RVs are actually one of the most environmentally friendly ways to travel and live. Even if you're just on a weekend getaway, when you travel by RV, you can practice environmentally-friendly ways that can help put less stress on the planet than flying from one destination to another. And if you're lucky enough to live in one fulltime, your tiny house can be more eco-friendly than a standard sticks-and-bricks home in suburbia. RVs use less water and energy, and we can go where the resources are, instead of trying to bring them to us.

Conserving water is one of the greatest things you can do to ease your carbon footprint while RVing. Some tips and tricks we've discovered during our time on the road include:

Water Catchment

When you're dry camping without hookups, saving water is critical. But for those times you're hooked up to utilities in an RV park, it's still not very eco-friendly to let clean water go to waste. For example, when you run water to take a shower, instead of letting fresh water go down the drain while you get the temperature just right, grab a large container to catch that burst of cool water. Keep it in the sink for washing dishes, or put it in your dog's water bowl.

Use Skoy Cloths

Paper towels kill trees, plain and simple. And while sometimes you can't avoid using them, Skoy Cloths (http://skoycloth.com/) are one way you can reduce your dependency on paper products for simple clean up jobs. These mighty little towels act a cross between a paper towel and a rag. Using a SKOY cloth is equivalent to using 15 rolls of paper towels in an average home. They have an absorption factor of 15 times their own weight, and can be used many times before getting so skanky the need to be tossed. Even after going into the trash, Skoy Cloths will completely biodegrade within five weeks of being tossed.

Sure, they're not as eco-groovy as a rag that can be re-used hundreds of times, but unlike a rag, Skoy Cloths dry within minutes after use, and they don't get stinky or mildewy, which tends to happen when you attempt to dry rags in a small space like an RV.

Waterless Cleaning

Just as you take a quickie “shower” with pre-moistened body wipes, you can clean your rig inside and out with waterless cleaners. My favorite is Dri-Wash (http://www.dri-wash.com/), a waterless, biodegradeable cleaner that can be used for everything from washing a rig, to cleaning your greasy stovetop, to removing tough laundry stains. I wouldn't have believed that a waterless cleaner could work so well on so many surfaces, until we parked our rig in a place that didn't allow vehicle washing. The Dri-Wash not only cleaned the rig better than any RV cleaner, it took out the black streaks and stubborn marks that had been on our rig for three years, which I assumed we'd just have to live with.

Dri-Wash comes in a concentrated form that you just add water to, and although it's not cheap, it also lasts forever. So far we've washed our rig once, our truck twice, and cleaned the interiors of both, all on one bottle of concentrate, with more to spare.

Eat More Barbecue

Some may find it hard to believe that eating barbecued food can reduce your water consumption, but it's true. Think about it; unless you're one of those obsessive compulsive types, you don't clean your grill every time you use it, right? Well, barbecues can make an entire meal without a pot, and all you're left with is cleaning up the dining ware. Supplement your carnivore appetite with a side of grilled veggies, and you've done the planet a favor!

Re-use Your Gray Water

Doesn't it seem like a huge waste when you flush your toilet with drinking water? Don't let that resource go to waste; re-use it first! Many RVers have designed grey water systems with an inexpensive simple pump and filer that cycle grey water from the tank and back up through the toilet, so that none of that precious clean water gets wasted. Just Google a phrase like “RV recycle gray water systems” to see what these inventive RVers have done.

Drink More Beer and Take Fewer Showers

Be a water-conservation warrior; drink more beer, take fewer showers and save the planet! Ok, I'm kidding . . . sort of.

These are just a few of the real-life RVing conservation tips we've discovered during our years of living on the road. Share your own experiences, and follow along with us as we embark on more adventures across North America, by visiting us at LiveWorkDream.com.


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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