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How We Select Campgrounds

Our 2019 Route – 45 campgrounds in 10 states and 2 countries (5,000 miles)

I use a fairly rigorous process to plan our route. Typically. Typically, the process works, but not always as you’ll see below.

For the past year I’ve been using an Internet-based program called RV Trip Wizard. This application has made planning much much easier as it combines a Google Map-like interface with detailed campground information which park telephone, address, elevation, facilities, park reviews, and so on.

Nevertheless, for me, selecting campgrounds is a multi-step process . . .

First, Where Are We Going?

Because it’s become increasingly difficult to book choice campgrounds, we start trip planning at least a year in advance.

Our long trips have one or more “destinations”. These are places we want to see and to spend several days at like Banff National Park in Canada.

Second, What’s the Route?

After selecting the major destinations, we rough out a route between them and guesstimate when we could “comfortably” arrive at each destination. For us “comfortably” means as much as possible following the 2-2-2 Rule: driving 200 miles or less between campgrounds (we’re currently averaging 116 miles), arriving before 2 pm, and staying at least 2 days.

Third, Destination Reservations

Since destination campgrounds are very popular, you’ll typically find “No room at the inn” if you just drive in without a reservation, especially in the peak summer season. People have successully done this, but it’s a great way to ruin a trip.

We made reservations for Banff National Park at 8 am on January 9th — the time and day when Banff officially opened for 2019 reservations. Even then, most of the prime locations and times vanished in minutes. However, we were able to score 10 days in a row but in 3 different sites in July.

We made a 2-week reservation at Grand Canyon’s Trailer Court one year in advance.

Third, What are the In-Between Places?

I try to leave the in-betweens, the campgrounds between destinations, unreserved as long as possible. We might change our route, have RV problems, etc, etc. However, it is becoming increasingly harder to get campgrounds in summer, especially on weekends when families flock to the parks.

So we ended up booking many of our in-between campgrounds weeks or even months before arriving.

Fourth, Reservations: Art or Science?

A bit of both I think.

Campground reviews are indespensible. Usually I check Campground Reviews (which are incorporated into RV Trip Wizard), Google/Trip Advisor reviews, Campendium, and RV Parky.

Google and Trip Advisor Reviews

Finally, Google is indispensable. It allows you to examine the roads into a park, the terrain, local area, places to shop, and so on. Also, Google’s Street Views are fantasic because often you can look at the outside (and sometimes the inside) of an RV park.

Fifth, What Could Go Wrong?

Plenty. Here’s a recent example. Last night I was reviewing the final 3 campgrounds we’ll stay at before arriving at Banff. I had reservations at all three.

Using Google maps, I was looking for a Safeway grocery store near the Twin Rivers Canyon Resort in Moyie Springs, ID where we would be spending two days.

Then I noticed the road coming into the Twin Rivers campground . . .

Switchbacks = Serious Elevation

 

Switchbacks. That meant some serious elevation changes, so I checked the park reviews, and sure enough, bad mojo:

I Guess I Missed This Review — Our Motorhome is 41 feet long

 

Jan and I like to look at mountains, but we don’t like to drive on them.

We’re Midwestern Flatlanders at heart.

So at about midnight I decided to cancel our reservation at Twin Rivers and look for new lodgings. Luckily, given the late hour, I was able to make online reservation at two campgrounds. One is a KOA which I call the “McDonalds of campgrounds” — a sure bet, but mediocre. Mission accomplished.

 

After and Before (click on map to enlarge)

 

Columbia River Travels

Astoria, OR – Crossing the Columbia

Going Up

 

Coming Down

 

Woodland, OR – Watching the Boats

 

 

Boardman, OR – Camping @ Boardman Marina & RV Park

Front View

 

View from Our RV

 

Walking Path around the Campground

 

Marina

 

People Swimming

 

Flirt Swimming

Fixing Things: Bathroom Fan

en-tro-py

noun

  1. a thermodynamic quantity representing the unavailability of a system’s thermal energy for conversion into mechanical work, often interpreted as the degree of disorder or randomness in the system.
  2. lack of order or predictability; gradual decline into disorder.

Never a truer word spoken. In this case, our RV’s electric bathroom fan declined into not working.

 

 

 

So break out the ladder and tools and up to the roof we go . . .

 

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Campground WiFi Speed Record

I’ve never seen these kinds of WiFi download speeds in a RV campground . . . so I measured twice . . .

Speedof.me

 

SpeedTest

Fixing Things: UV Filter

We filter the bejeezus out of our water (see Water Filtration System). I think it’s because we were living in Milwaukee, WI during the 1993 cryptosporidium outbreak, the largest documented waterborne disease outbreak in US history.

Our UV (Ultra Violet) filter is a key part of our RV’s water purification setup. Not only does our UV filter disinfect water, it also stops water system algae outbreaks (see The Green Stuff under Fixin’ Stuff).

Our UV Filter (click on drawing to enlarge)

 

UV Light Bulb

The “heart” of a UV filter is the UV light itself. The ultraviolet radiation from a UV light effectively sterilizes water.

However, since the UV bulb gradually dims over time, it must be replaced. In our case that’s once a year. Our Sterilight UV system has a Controller that notifies us when the UV light is failing by flashing “A3”.

So when our Controller started flashing “A3” recently, I replaced the UV bulb and the glass sleeve that surrounds the bulb. Easy peasy, right?

Not this time.

This time our Controller kept flashing “A3” and other error codes. Bad mojo.

I knew what this meant — the Controller had gone south. Since we first installed our UV system, the Controller had failed once before about 3 years ago.

Because a new Controller costs over $300, replacing it was not high on my list of things to buy.

Blue Screen of Death

 

So I played a hunch.

What if the Controller was still sending power to the UV light? However, since the UV light is sealed up, how could I tell if it’s working?

 

Does it feel warm?

 

Because we weren’t running water, a functioning UV bulb will warm up its enclosure. So I just “laid hands” on the enclosure — it was warm. Pretty complex test methodology, eh?

I’ll be saving some money for a while and just keep feeling up our UV tank.