The camper is (almost) officially ready!


Fair warning: This post really has nothing of importance; it's just me talking about my day working on the camper.

And, wow, what a long day it was.

As I mentioned before, while every smart camper is enjoying Memorial Day weekend at a nice campground, probably tending the campfire and enjoying a cold beverage (or two) at right about the time I'm writing this, I waited until the official-start-to-summer-weekend to de-winterize the camper.

Actually, the day started by cutting the grass. Then it was time to go get the camper from the super-secret storage location, park it in the driveway and then spend the next 6 hours washing, cleaning, and fixing up the camper.

We had to clean a lot of mold off the exterior. Since we do not store ours indoors it's to be expected, but it seems like there was more this year than before. No matter, it all came off. We use the RV Wash-n-Wax by Camco (bought it at Wal-Mart), and a sponge that's soft on one side and a bit more abrasive on the other, which seems to do the trick.

There was really bad mold on the hard plastic trim edging the windows, but that's been there since we bought it used four years ago. Never have been able to get rid of that stuff.

We used Rubber Roof Cleaner, also by Camco, for the roof. I didn't think the roof was that bad until I cleaned a section of it and looked at the difference. I also was pleased with how well the Eternabond is holding up. Couple years ago we put that stuff on the front and back roof seams, and around the vents and TV antenna. Seems to be the real deal.

We also cleaned the awning, and I am hoping it makes it through this season. We've always had trouble with the rear support, but now the front support is giving me fits.

The inside made it through the winter just fine. A few dead flies, but that's all. Cleaned the antifreeze out of the pipes, washed the windows and swept the floor. Mrs. Gr8LakesCamper wants to do a more thorough cleaning of the inside later.

The other thing we did today on the inside was finish off the rock guard mod. Earlier, I posted about this mod, which was installing a large sheet of stainless steel on the front panel, starting just below the front bed frame (we have a hybrid camper), wrapping along the bottom edge and extending under the camper about another 6-8 inches. Stainless steel carriage bolts along the top and bottom, along with a healthy dose of silicone, keeps it in place.

The final work on it today was on the inside storage area, which extends along the width of the front of the camper. Initially, I wanted to cut off the ends of the bolts, and fashion together something to cover the exposed bolts/nuts so that the compartment was more manageable. But after careful examination, I discovered that my homemade risers and blocks (risers to elevate one side of the camper on uneven terrain; blocks to set under the stabilizer jacks) fit nicely in between the exposed bolts, somewhat securing them into place.

Cool!

So all I did was take last year's outdoor rug and cut it to fit the front storage area. Last year we had to pull up the laminate flooring, which had come unglued, and I replaced rotted wood flooring with new wood, so the rug finishes it off nicely.

I have one photo of the camper here, but there's an album with more photos, including detailed shots of the rock guard modification, at the Gr8LakesCamper fan page on Facebook.

And my helper for the day was my oldest son. His reward, I'll let him start and tend the first campfire of the season. My reward: After we were done he look up at me and said "This was a good bonding experience, wasn't it Dad."

2-Day Lake Huron Cruise to help save Lighthouses



The Great Lakes Lighthouse Keepers Association (GLLKA) will be offering lighthouse lovers a unique two-day lighthouse excursion on northern Lake Huron on Monday Aug. 23 and Tuesday Aug. 24.

As a registered non-profit group, the association will use a portion of the income resulting from this event to help fund its ongoing lighthouse restoration and education programs.

GLKKA is dedicated to the restoration of Great Lakes lighthouses, preserving the memories of those valiant individuals who served at them, and fostering a new generation of preservationists, said GLLKA Executive Director Terry Pepper.

"To this end, we have already invested over 20 years in our restoration of the St. Helena Island lighthouse on an isolated island in Lake Michigan, 7 miles west of the Mackinac Bridge," Pepper said. "Much of this work was undertaken by Boy Scouts and Association volunteers."

"While our restoration of this lighthouse is almost complete, the structure’s exposure to the extremes of northern Lake Michigan extract an annual toll on the buildings. We have a number of pressing projects to undertake including installing a new roof, a solar powered ventilating system and masonry repair work on the tower,” Pepper said.

GLKKA also owns a lighthouse in Cheboygan, Michigan on the shore of Lake Huron.

“We took ownership of the Cheboygan River Front Range lighthouse in 2004 through the National Historic Lighthouse Preservation Act," Pepper said. "After completion of a professional engineering study, we learned that there has been significant deterioration since the building was erected in 1880. While we have been successful in obtaining three grants to help in our restoration, we still have around $250,000 in expected costs to bring the structure back to its original beauty.”

“Clearly, this is not the kind of money a non-profit group has languishing in its bank account, and with Federal and State funding drying up, we must seek alternate ways to fund our restoration and ongoing preservation effort. The income from these lighthouse excursions plays a critical role in this effort.”

Pepper said GLKKA is hoping the two-day Lake Huron excursion will help raise funds needed for the group's efforts. At the same time, participanmts will be in for quite a treat, he added.

“This two-day boat excursion will offer a unique experience combining close-up views of all the US lighthouses in northern Lake Huron, including a number of lighthouses which are otherwise difficult or impossible for the general public to see, with expert narration and a gala meal at one of the nation’s premier maritime museums,” Pepper said.

The excursion begins early Monday Aug. 23 as participants board one of Shepler’s Ferry’s comfortable high speed boats which will serve as the primary transportation for the two-day event. After departing Mackinaw City, the boat will set a course for the Cheboygan River for up close views of the 1880 Cheboygan Range light, the 1884 Cheboygan Crib light, the 1930 Fourteen Foot Shoal light, and the lighthouse on Poe Reef which was built in 1929 to replace a lightship which formerly marked the reef’s dangerous shallows. As the cruise continues south, the boat will pause to view the magnificent 1897 Forty Mile Point lighthouse and then make its way to Presque Isle for views of the diminutive 1840 Presque Isle light and the majestic 113-foot tall “New” Presque lighthouse which was built in 1871 to replace it.

As the boat continues south, guests will enjoy a picnic lunch on board the boat before pausing off Middle Island to view the 1905 Middle Island lighthouse and off beautiful Thunder Bay Island to view the elusive 1832 lighthouse which guards the island’s western shore. After passing the Alpena light, the boat will tie-up in the Thunder Bay River in front of the Great Lakes Maritime Heritage Center.

Pepper and GLLKA President Dick Moehl will serve as guides and narrators for the event.

“On our arrival at the Heritage Center, guests will not only have the opportunity to experience the center's state-of-the-art exhibits on shipwrecks and Great Lakes History, but will also enjoy a first-class meal with special guests and door prizes before vans will transport us to our awaiting luggage and our night at the recently upgraded Alpena Holiday Inn,” Pepper said.

After a buffet breakfast at the hotel the following morning, vans will return the guests back to the boat at the Maritime Center to head back north to view the isolated 1874 monolithic limestone lighthouse on Spectacle Reef.

“It must have taken a special type of individual to serve a repeated three weeks on this light and one week of shore leave throughout the navigation season, living in the cramped quarters inside the tower with virtually no view of land in any direction," Pepper said of the Spectacle Reef lighthouse. "One can only imagine how loud it must have been when the roar of the fog signal located in the small building attached to the base of the tower reverberated up through the living areas!”

From Spectacle Reef the excursion will continue north to view the beautifully restored 1931 Detour Reef light. This structure serves as a testament to the dedication of the Detour Reef Light Preservation Society which formed to save and restore the lighthouse in 1998. The boat will then head west to view the 1927 Martin Reef light.

“Automated and abandoned to the elements by the Coast Guard in the late 1970s, this structure has undergone significant deterioration over the years," Pepper said of the Martin Reef lighthouse. "With the Detour Reef light having been in similar condition before restoration, it serves as witness to the incredible restoration effort the DRLPS has undertaken.”

From Martin Reef, the boat will head toward Bois Blanc Island where the second U.S. lighthouse on Lake Huron was established in 1929.

“That first lighthouse was poorly situated and constructed and came crashing to the ground," Pepper said. "A second lighthouse erected to replace it in 1839 was evidently not much of an improvement, as it was found to be so deteriorated that the existing lighthouse we will see on this excursion was erected to replace it in 1867.”

Finally, the boat will pause near Mackinac Island to circle the 1947 Round Island Passage light before crossing the busy passage to view the 1894 Round Island lighthouse before making its way back to the awaiting luggage at the Shepler’s dock in Mackinaw City.

Tickets for this once in a lifetime two day excursion to view sixteen difficult to see lighthouses are $575 per person on a double occupancy basis, and $630.00 per person single occupancy, and include all transportation, meals and gratuities from departure to return to Mackinaw City. To purchase a ticket or to obtain additional information, please call the GLLKA office at (231) 436-5580.

Not gonna camp this Memorial Day Weekend

I am going to commit camping sacrilege this year. We are not going camping this Memorial Day Weekend. Instead, we are going to put the camper in the driveway and de-winterize it.

Yup. I haven't even gotten it ready for the season yet.

Don't want to bore you with details, but with three kids all doing something every night of the week, plus weekends, I just simply haven't had the time.

I know, I know. No excuses. You're right. There is no excuse not to have the camper ready for Memorial Day Weekend. I can only humbly ask for your forgiveness.

So what will I do this weekend? Work on the camper!

Going to pull it out of my top-secret storage location, park it in the driveway and clean the inside, flush out the anti-freeze, wash the outside, and finish the mod I started last year.

The mod I'm talking about was installing the stainless steel rock guard. Actually, the main reason for the rock guard mod was to permanently fix a failing seam where the front panel met the floor. The glue was no longer holding, so the front panel was quickly coming apart from the bottom of the camper. The rock guard starts under the front bed (we have a bybrid), and then wraps under the bottom of the camper. Stainless steel carriage bolts along the top and bottom edge keep it in place, along with a healthy dose of silicone.

This weekend, when I finish the mod (just need some touch-ups on the inside storage area), I'll take pictures and post them in an album on the Gr8LakesCamper Facebook fan page for all to see.

Then it'll be time for camping!

Ludington State Park


As I mentioned earlier,the May/June issue of Midwest Living magazine has as one of its feature stories their picks for the top state parks each Midwest state has to offer. Beginning with this post, I’ll periodically feature each of their selections.

Ludington State Park, Michigan

Midwest Living said Ludington State Park, located 100 miles northwest of Grand Rapids, is “busy enough to warrant a rich lineup of amenities and programming – including boat rentals, lighthouse tours and guided dune walks – but large enough, at 5,300 acres, to escape summer crowding. Lake Michigan beckons, cobalt waves washing onto unruly dunes. Eighteen miles of trails hopscotch over bridges and boardwalks along inland Hamlin Lake. A bike path traces the tranquil Sable River, and a 2-mile hike north through wild sands leads to the lighthouse tower at Big Sable Point.”

Because it sits nestled between Lake Michigan and Hamlin Lake, which was created by loggers at the turn of the last century, Ludington State Park is practically an island.

The park boasts nearly seven miles of Lake Michigan shoreline and features sand dunes, evergreen and hardwood trees, sandy beaches and 18 miles of hiking, biking and canoe trails.

The park’s education and interpretive programming is very popular and offers slide and video presentations, and live programs that can give you a better appreciation of the wildlife, geology, and history of this unique area.

Ludington State Park offers wonderful wildlife viewing opportunities from its trails. Walk the Skyline Trail for some spectacular views of high dune ridges and Lake Michigan, and hike the Lighthouse Trail to Big Sable Point Lighthouse to sample a bit of Michigan’s maritime history.

Perhaps the most unique trail here is the canoe trail, which takes you along the bayous and inlets of Hamlin Lake’s shoreline. Slip silently down this trail early in the morning for a high probability of viewing herons, egrets, waterfowl, deer and other animals along the water’s edge.

There are three modern campgrounds at Ludington State Park — Pines, Cedar and Beechwood — with a combined total of 355 campsites including three mini-cabins. These sites have electricity and modern shower and bathroom facilities in each campground. Full-hookups are not available; call 1-800-44-PARKS to get site specific information.

Cedar Campground also has a small loop of eight tent-only sites separated from the modern site loop. These tent sites do not have electricity but are within walking distance of the restrooms and showers. For backpack campers, Ludington offers 10 remote tent sites in the new Jack Pine Hike-In only campground. This campground has no electricity and the toilet facilities are rustic. Showers are available at the Pines modern campground.

My relatives — RV campers, of course — have stayed here many times and it’s easily their top choice when it’s time for camping. Trouble is, Ludington State Park is so good it’s nearly impossible to reserve a site, especially on weekends and holidays. Michigan allows you to reserve a state park campsite six months in advance, though, so pick a summer date and sometime in late winter go online here and stake your claim.

Folks at RV Park Reviews had a few minor complaints, but overall most seemed to really enjoy their stay.

“Large, diverse, and pretty park with lots to do,” said one camper. “There’s a long beach along Lake Michigan for sunbathing, a good-sized inland lake for motor boating and canoing, and a short stretch of river connecting the two lakes for lazily tubing/rafting.”

“Very impressive State Park, well run and well maintained,” said another camper. “Very quiet with a wonderful boardwalk for fishing, walking and bird viewing. Many terrific hiking trails and a very picturesque lighthouse. Great campground if you like the outdoors and wildlife.”

Minnesota DNR offers 28 parcels of land for sale

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) will offer 28 parcels of land for sale at public auction scheduled for June 22 at 11 a.m., with registration beginning at 10:45 a.m.

The parcels will be offered at an oral auction at the DNR Northeast Regional Office, 1201 East Highway 2, Grand Rapids, MN 55744.

A variety of parcels are being offered including residential, recreational, lakeshore, and parcels with development potential in the Twin Cities metro area.

Additional information regarding the land sales and terms and conditions can be found at: www.dnr.state.mn.us/lands_minerals/landsale.

Duct Tape Festival and other Ohio events in June

Strawberry pie-eating contests, duct tape parade floats, live jazz & blues, outdoor arts, stilt walkers, cross-country bicycling, washboard music, military encampments and musters and the Memorial Golf Tournament are all sure signs of June in Ohio!
 
Celebrate summer this June with your choice of quirky and fun travel opportunities. Stick with the family and head to northeast Ohio for the festival that pays homage to all things duct tape, or invoke your inner artist during a visit to Columbus for one of the country's premier arts festivals. Cheer on cyclists from all over the country as they challenge themselves throughout southeast Ohio on a 350-mile cycling adventure or commemorate the end of slavery in America.

For state parks or private campgrounds, click on either link on the column at right.

The following is just a sampling of June events that make Ohio Too Much Fun for Just One Day! For more fun, budget-friendly travel ideas close to home, visit DiscoverOhio.com, follow us on Twitter @DiscoverOhio or find us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/discoverohio.


Family Fun
Troy Strawberry Festival, Miami River Levee, Troy, June 4 - 6 (SW)
Check out the sweetest free festival of the summer and delight in a wide variety of foods infused with this delicious berry. The center of Ohio's strawberry production, Troy celebrates with three stages of free, live entertainment and more than 275 art and craft exhibitors displaying handmade wares. Other highlights of the festival include a strawberry pie eating contest, berry beach volleyball, cornhole and more. Click here for more information.
 
Pork Rind Festival, throughout downtown Harrod, June 11 - 12 (NW)
Visit the Pork Rind Festival to see how many tasty ways you can prepare a pork rind. This year's family-friendly festival includes live entertainment from the Josh Hawkins band, a 1905 Shay and Caboose Display, community parade and Civil War cannon firing demonstrations. And of course, sample an array of freshly popped pork rinds or check out the hog roast and chili cook off! Click here for more information.
 
Duct Tape Festival, Veterans Memorial Park, Avon, June 18 - 20 (NE)
Did you know Avon is home to the world's duct tape brand Duck® tape? This Father's Day weekend, get together with the family to celebrate Dad and his favorite adhesive. Each year, this free festival features a different theme for its parade, and this year's is "Peace and Love." Check out parade floats, sculptures, crafts, fashions and more made of-you guessed it-duct tape. Click here for more information.
 
Arts and Culture
Columbus Arts Festival, Discovery District, Downtown Columbus, June 4 - 6 (C)
The Columbus Arts Festival celebrates its 49th year with more than 240 nationally acclaimed artists. Indulge in gourmet fare from some of the city's finest restaurants or enjoy live concerts, hands-on art activities and the nearby Columbus Museum of Art, where admission is free during the festival. Look for the "Ohio Too Much Fun for Just One Day!" tent to spin the free prize wheel and get some great deals for summer travel in Ohio! Click here for more information.
 
Parade the Circle, University Circle, Cleveland, June 12 (NE)
Travel to University Circle, the largest concentration of artistic and cultural venues in one square mile, for Parade the Circle and check out a lively parade featuring puppets, elaborately dressed stilt-walkers and floats. Events at the Children's Museum of Cleveland, Cleveland Botanical Garden, Cleveland Institute of Music, Cleveland Museum of Art and the Cleveland Museum of Natural History make this multicultural festival a summer "must-do." Click here for more information.
 
Creekside Blues and Jazz Festival, throughout downtown Gahanna, June 18 - 20 (C)
Check out this free jazzy festival and sing along with your favorite 12-bar blues songs. Three music stages provide non-stop entertainment from the likes of Duke Robillard and RJ's Rhythm Rockers featuring Alberta Adams and Eddie Kirkland. This Father's Day weekend event also offers a delicious Dad's Day brunch, family-oriented games and an area for amusement rides and carnival attractions. Click here for more information.
 
Sports and Recreation
Memorial Golf Tournament, Muirfield Village Golf Club, Dublin, May 31 - June 6 (C)
Visit the event where the stars come out to play! Designed by golf giant Jack Nicklaus, the Muirfield Village Golf Club hosts the PGA Memorial where each year, the tournament is dedicated to the memory of a person, living or dead, who has played the game with conspicuous honor. See who's honored this year and witness some bold birdies and extreme eagles. Click here for more information.
 
All Pro Dads Day, Pro Football Hall of Fame, Canton, June 12 (NE)
Sure, the Pro Football Hall of Fame commemorates football greats, but you can pay homage to your team captain - dad -- at the All Pro Dads Day celebration. This fun-filled family bonding event is held in major NFL cities in hopes of bringing togetherness to fathers and children alike. Join in on this interactive event where dads and kids can participate in football-themed games. Click here for more information.
 
Great Ohio Bicycle Adventure, throughout southeast Ohio, June 19 - 26 (SE)
GOBA is a week-long bicycle tour with nearly 3,000 cyclists from across the country and internationally. This year's route visits southeastern Ohio with stops in Logan, McConnelsville, Marietta, Athens and McArthur. Travel through the peaceful countryside, stop at exciting destinations in the region and enjoy Ohio's friendly, small-town hospitality while cheering on the riders during the challenge of their lives. Click here for more information.
 
History and Heritage
Washboard Music Festival, throughout downtown Logan, June 17 - 19 (SE)
Celebrate the washboard's enduring role in the history of American music styles. The annual festival offers a variety of music styles, including Dixieland Jazz, Jug Music, Celtic, Blues and Cajun Zydeco, played by bands from across the country. Check out performances from featured acts including Peter Babcock, Mike Johnson, the Buffalo Ridge Jazz Band, and Robin Lacy and DeZydeco. Click here for more information.
 
Cincinnati Juneteenth Festival, Eden Park, Cincinnati, June 19 - 20 (SW)
Celebrate the end of slavery in America at this free festival in beautiful Eden Park, near downtown Cincinnati. Enjoy a unique parade of flags of the African Diaspora, speeches from Frederick Douglass and President Lincoln re-enactors and live entertainment of African-inspired music genres such as jazz, Latin, gospel, blues, reggae and R&B. Click here for more information.
 
Muster on the Maumee, Fort Meigs, Perrysburg, June 19 - 20 (NW)
Muster on the Maumee showcases the evolution of the common soldier from the Roman Legionnaire through the modern American military. Soldiers, artisans and civilians will give demonstrations throughout the weekend and period military camps will be open to visitors. See what vendors have for sale in Sutler's Row where period trades people will demonstrate their crafts. Click here for more information.
 
For additional June events, visit www.DiscoverOhio.com. To order a free copy of the 2010 Ohio Travel Planner or the 2010 Spring/Summer Calendar of Events, click on the Free Publications icon at www.DiscoverOhio.com or call 1-800-BUCKEYE. The Ohio Travel Planner and Ohio Calendar of Events also are both viewable online. Trained travel counselors are available to assist 1-800-BUCKEYE callers weekdays from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. and weekends from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Some more ways to eat S'mores


From the wonderful people at MARVAC (Michigan Association of Recreational Vehicles & Campgrounds), comes this tantalizing treat to tease and tempt your tastebuds.

The classic s'more assembled with marshmallows, chocolate and graham crackers has proven to be the ultimate campfire treat for many years. Try transforming your s'more with these tasty twists to discover new ways to eat an old favorite.

Caramel Apple S'mores
• Apple slices
• Caramel sauce
• Peanuts
• Marshmallow

Chocolate Mint S'mores
• Chocolate graham cracker
• Chocolate mint bar

Marshmallow Cookies 'n Cream S'mores
• Chocolate Graham
• Cookies 'n Cream chocolate bar
• Marshmallow

Peanut Butter S'mores
• Chocolate chip cookie
• Mini peanut butter cup
• Marshmallow

Outdoors EXTRA! coming to Minnesota State Parks


A new program series, Outdoors EXTRA!, will bring live animals, music, and other free entertainment to Minnesota state parks and trails this summer.

A new program series known as “Outdoors EXTRA!” will provide a lengthy list of things to see and do at Minnesota state parks, trails, and recreation areas this summer. More than 50 events, between June 6 and Sept. 5, will feature known entertainers, musicians, storytellers and outdoor skill-building experts.

"It is no exaggeration to say that everyone can find something enjoyable in this special program series," said Eric Pelto, interpretive naturalist and program coordinator. "We especially hope that people who haven’t been to Minnesota state parks or trails before, or those who haven’t visited in a while, will find new reasons to check them out."

In its pilot year, the new program is offering a wide variety of opportunities for all ages. Examples include:
• For adventure seekers - sea kayaking, fly fishing, or rock climbing.
• For animal lovers - the chance to see live elk, eagles, owls, and reptiles.
• For creative types - live music under the open sky, or workshops on nature photography and poetry.
• For history buffs - dramatic stories about the legends of Minnesota and much more.

All of the events are free, but a vehicle permit is necessary to enter Minnesota state parks and recreation areas. Permits ($5 for one day or $25 for year-round) can be purchased at the parks. There is no charge to use Minnesota state trails.

For more information about Outdoors EXTRA! and other special events and programs at Minnesota state parks and trails, visit www.mndnr.gov/parksandtrails or contact the DNR Information Center, info.dnr@state.mn.us or 651-296-6157 (Twin Cities) or 888-646-6367 (toll-free).

Cedar Point to open May 15


Cedar Point opens for the season May 15. This post first passes along information from Cedar Point about what's new this year, then my opinion on camping at one of the most popular amusement parks on the planet.

SANDUSKY, Ohio – Giant coasters, live shows and special activities will highlight Opening Weekend at Cedar Point when the Sandusky, Ohio, amusement park/resort opens for its 141st season on Saturday, May 15.

The reigning “Best Amusement Park in the World,” Cedar Point’s rides and roller coasters will be complemented by special live music throughout the weekend, an opportunity to win a John Deere lawn mower and an all-you-can-eat meal and ticket combo on Sunday afternoon.

With 74 rides, including 17 roller coasters, no one has more rides and more coasters than Cedar Point. Its Big Three coasters include the relentless Maverick, the 120-mph Top Thrill Dragster and the 310-foot-tall Millennium Force, which will celebrate its 10th anniversary this summer. There are also plenty of other guest favorites including the Cedar Point & Lake Erie Railroad, the Giant Wheel Ferris wheel, three traditional carousels and four kids’ areas including Camp Snoopy and Planet Snoopy.

The park’s newest addition, the Shoot the Rapids water ride, is expected to be in operation for the Memorial Day Weekend beginning Saturday, May 29. Located along the Frontier Trail, the $10.5 million water ride will feature two hills, a dark tunnel, canyon walls with spraying water and a grand finale that will send boats skimming across churning rapids.

In between rides, guests will be able to watch some of the park’s award-winning live entertainment. Tropical Heat, Island Beat, a new show in the Red Garter Saloon, will feature the hits of Jimmy Buffett and Gloria Estefan, while Charlie Brown’s Funtime Frolics will be performed in Camp Snoopy. Four other new shows will open later in the summer.

Other special activities at the park during its Opening Weekend include:

• On Saturday, the Ohio State University Spring Athletic Band will perform the National Anthem at 9 a.m. The band will also march along the midway and perform near the Iron Dragon and WildCat roller coasters at 1:30 p.m.

• Beginning Opening Day through Father’s Day, Sunday, June 20, guests can register to win a new X324 or z445 John Deere lawn mower. Entry forms can be obtained at Cedar Point’s Guest Services, the Town Hall Museum or by mail. For more information, please visit cedarpoint.com.

• On Sunday (May 16), The Undeserving will perform three shows at the Jack Aldrich Theatre (formerly the Centennial Theatre) at noon, 2 p.m. and 4 p.m. The four-man band, which originates from Northwest Ohio has recently garnered some national attention when its song, Something to Hope for, was used in commercials for the American Idol television show.

• The park will also hold an all-you-can-eat Picnic in the Park meal featuring broiled Johnsonville Brats, hot dogs, baked beans, potato salad, cookies, ice cream and assorted Pepsi beverages. The picnic will be held in the Coral Courtyard from 4-6:30 p.m. on Sunday. Tickets can be purchased online at cedarpoint.com or at the park’s admission gates.

• Through the end of May, Pick-a-Date tickets for a June visit can be purchased online at cedarpoint.com for only $29.99, a savings of $16 per ticket! Pick-a-Date tickets can be used with an upgrade to regular price for a visit to Cedar Point on any other 2010 operating date.

All of Cedar Point’s resort properties will open for the season on Friday, May 14. New Build-Your-Own Packages will be available throughout the season. Resort guests also qualify for Early Entry and can enter the park one hour before it opens to the public.
Cedar Point will open for the summer on Saturday, May 15 and will be open every day through Labor Day, Monday, Sept. 6. The park will reopen on Sunday, Sept. 12 and will be the headquarters for the Revolution3 triathlon. The park will also host HalloWeekends 14 on Friday nights, Saturdays and Sundays, Sept. 17 through Oct. 31.

For additional information about the 2010 operating season, guests can log on to cedarpoint.com or call the park’s general information line at 419.627.2350.


RV Camping in Camper Village at Cedar Point.

First off, for us camping at Cedar Point — or any amusement park for that matter — is different than camping most anywhere else. We camp there for convenience, and nothing else. If you are expecting a state parks-like camping experience, you will be extremely disappointed.

Camper Village is divided into two sections: the Chippewa Circle (sites 1-112) and the Circle "B" (sites 113-224).

The Chippewa Circle is a million times better than the Circle "B". The sites are grassy and more spacious, you're closer to the swimming pool and this is where the full-hookup, pull-through sites are located. If you have a big rig, you'll want the Chippewa Circle.


The Circle "B" section is a parking lot, especially on weekends. The Circle "B" section of Camper Village (the concentric circles on the map, near Soak City water park) is tight and well-used. The bathrooms are probably as clean as they can be, given the amount of use they receive. In some cases, there's barely enough space to roll out your awning before you hit the camper next to you. However, the sites are level. We prefer the outer circle sites because you don't have someone behind you.

However, if you're like us and you only intend on sleeping there because you're going to spend all morning, day and night at either Cedar Point amusement park or Soak City water park, then the Circle "B" section fits the bill.

The main benefits to Camper's Village are it's only steps away from the water park and a side gate entrance into the amusement park, you get inside the parks an hour early and you get a $16.99 discount on daily admission (brings it down to $29). It's also nice to eat a healthy lunch at the camper (vs. over-priced fried foods inside the park). And when it rains, like it did for us last year, you can wait it out in the camper rather than fight for cover with thousands of other people.

Two dump stations and water are available. Ground fires are not permitted, although a grill (and picnic table) are at each site. Bikes are not allowed.

Bottom line: The Chippewa Circle section is better, but the Circle "B" section is fine, provided you have the right expectations.

Rates:
• $83 full hookup, pull-through
• $78 full hookup, back-in
• $63 electric only, pull-through
• $58 electric only, back-in
(Note: A number of park admission discounts are available for campers. For details click here.)

Raffle to support Illinois parks

Ticket sales extended for Illinois Sportsman’s and Parks Raffle

Drawing for prizes – including $100,000 first prize – now set for September 1

SPRINGFIELD, IL – The Illinois Conservation Foundation (ICF) and Friends of Illinois Parks have announced that the prize drawing – including the $100,000 first-prize drawing – for the “Illinois Sportsman’s and Parks Raffle” will be held on Wednesday, Sept. 1, 2010. Tickets can be purchased until 5 p.m. on Tuesday, Aug. 31.

Tickets for the raffle are $100 each and they are available from both the ICF and the Friends of Illinois Parks. Ticket sales have been extended to the new grand prize drawing date of Sept. 1. (The previously announced first-prize drawing date was May 14, 2010).

Proceeds from the raffle will support programs in local park districts, forest preserve districts and recreation agencies, as well as youth outdoor recreation and natural resources protection programs throughout Illinois.

Only 4,000 tickets will be sold for the raffle for a chance to win these prizes:

1st prize - $100,000
2nd prize - $10,000
3rd prize - $3,000
4th-10th prizes - $1,000
11th-20th prizes - $500
21st-50th prizes - $250

The ICF was established in 1994 to raise funds in support of programs of the Illinois Department of Natural Resources. Many of the programs supported by the ICF are focused on youth participation in outdoor recreation, environmental awareness and conservation education.

The Friends of Illinois Parks supports park districts, forest preserve districts and recreation agencies in providing open space for recreation, wildlife habitat and natural resources protection. Proceeds from the raffle will support research, environmental awareness and the PowerPlay! Beyond School Grant Program, a Friends initiative that provides Illinois children with safe, structured beyond school activities focused on health, fitness and nutrition.

Tickets for the raffle are priced at $100 each and are available at www.isp-raffle.com (to purchase tickets or download ticket order form), by calling 217-523-4554, or by mailing Illinois Conservation Foundation, One Natural Resources Way, Springfield, IL 62702-1271.

Midwest Living's Top Picks for State Parks

Midwest Living magazine, one of my very favorites, came out with their picks for the best state parks in the Midwest. The magazine's May/June 2010 issue features 36 of the best state parks in Michigan, Indiana, Ohio, Wisconsin, Illinois, Minnesota, Iowa, Missouri, North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska and Kansas.

I plan on highlighting some of their selections in the very near future.

It is interesting to note what states Midwest Living considers as those comprising the Midwest. I have been somewhat struggling with what states to include as the Midwest for this blog and it became a source of minor debate over on my RV.net blog of the same name.

The name of the blog is Gr8LakesCamper, so the Great Lakes region is in play. But I also say that Gr8LakesCamper "celebrates the world of RV camping in the Midwest." Are the Great Lakes region and the Midwest one in the same? Probably not.

So, in keeping with the name of the blog, I have decided that all states with shoreline on the Great Lakes — New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin and Minnesota — plus Ontario Canada, will receive the most emphasis for this blog.

However, should a suitable post topic present itself, I reserve the right to blog about those states in the immediate vicinity — such as West Virginia, Kentucky, Iowa and Missouri. For example, this summer my family and I will be camping at Mammoth Cave, Kentucky, and I will most definitely be blogging about that trip.

There. Ground rules have been set.

Indiana Summer of Savings

The Indiana Office of Tourism Development will offer exclusive, limited daily discounts to destination hotels, premier golf courses, concert venues, sporting events and attractions May 7–14, during Visit Indiana Week, through its social media channels. Visitors can go to IndianaSummer.com and choose up to three different ways to be notified of these great deals: Facebook, Twitter and e-mail.

The first exclusive discount, unveiled today at White River State Park, is a 60 percent savings on White River State Park passes. The discounted passes are $24 for an adult pass and $18 for a child’s pass, available to the first 64 respondents, limit two passes per customer. The White River State Park pass includes gate admission to six attractions: Indianapolis Zoo, Victory Field (home of the minor league Indianapolis Indians, Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art, the Indiana State Museum, the IMAX Theatre and the NCAA Hall of Champions. More information is available at IndianaSummer.com.

The exclusive discounts for May 10–14 will be announced daily at 11 a.m. Eastern Time through Facebook, Twitter and e-mail. They will include such offers as:

· An unbelievable discount for the first 25 callers for a luxury hotel offer;

· Amish hospitality at a steep savings for the first 15 callers;

· 50 percent off a round of golf at a championship course for the first 25 callers;

· Baseball fans receive additional value for the first 50 callers;

· Swimmers receive 50 percent off savings for the first 50 callers.


In addition to the special offers, the Indiana tourism office offers more than 200 everyday discounts to Indiana hotels, attractions and restaurants on its website, VisitIndiana.com. These discounts include:

· $7 off Holiday World admission in May; $5 off Holiday World admission in June;

· Free children’s admission at The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis with purchase of an adult admission in May;

· $2 off Conner Prairie admission;

· $2 off Marengo Cave admission;

· $159 Hampton Inn Indianapolis Downtown, Talk with Animals Package. Includes stay and two adult and two children’s tickets to the Indianapolis Zoo.

· $199 Foursome and Filet Package at French Lick Resort. Includes stay, one round of golf at The Donald Ross Course and an entrĂ©e at Hagen’s Club House Restaurant.

Indiana also boasts a healthy list of private RV campgrounds and state parks. Click here for user reviews of many of those campgrounds.

Tin Can Tourists Annual Gathering



The 13th Annual Gathering of the Tin Can Tourists, an organization committed to the celebration of classic trailers and motor coaches, will honor the 100th Anniversary of the RV Industry at its Thirteenth Annual Gathering on May 20-23, 2010 at Camp Dearborn in Milford, Michigan.

The event's Open House and expanded Concours, The North American Vintage Trailer and Motor Coach Show, which takes place noon to 4 p.m., Saturday, May 22, will give everyone an opportunity to view over 150 vintage trailers and motor coaches. This year’s feature will be three rare 1935 Bowlus Road Chief trailers. The Airstream was patterned after the Bowlus.

The day’s activities will culminate with a catered banquet, awards presentation, and a musical performance by the Deepwater Bluegrass group.

Over 160 trailers and motor coaches were displayed during the 2009 Gathering. Some very rare or unusual models will be shown during this year’s Open House and Concours including:

• a 1949 American, full of polished wood and Art Deco curves,
• a 1932 One off Rear Porch Trailer,
• a rare 1937 Curtiss Aerocar towed by a custom built 1938 International Truck,
• a 1949 Airstream Southwind Liner towed by a 1949 Buick Sedanette,
• and shiny 1960s Airstreams, as well as Scotties and Shastas of every description.

Owners and fans of vintage travel trailers are invited to visit, especially during the Open House from 12-4 on Saturday, May 22nd.

Dan Hershberger, RV Historian, will make a presentation on his 1927 Kamp Kar and display artifacts from early Autocar and camping.  

Camp Dearborn is a family friendly recreational facility, owned and operated by the City of Dearborn. It is open to all visitors. The Camp is located in picturesque Milford, approximately 35 miles northwest of Dearborn City Hall, and near the M-59/U.S. 23 interchange. It's conveniently located in close proximity to many of southeastern Michigan’s main attractions, including downtown Detroit.

Camp Dearborn offers a wide range of amenities for outdoor activity; a half-mile swimming beach, acres of shaded picnic sites, fishing, paddle boat rentals, hayrides, Mystic Creek Golf Club with mini golf and opportunities for a choice of camping style.

For RVers, Camp Dearborn offers 190 campsites and, at least according to three people who posted reviews on www.rvparkreviews.com, is a very nice park. "Good paved roads and sites. Full hook-ups available. Sites are large with plenty of room for slides" said a reviewer who stayed there for two weeks last summer.

Other nearby RV Parks include:
Proud Lake Recreation Area (130 sites; reviews),
Waldenwoods Family Recreation Resort (Resorts of Distinction membership required; reviews),
Haas Lake RV Park (487 sites; reviews),
Highland Recreation Area (rustic; 30 sites; reviews).

Survey predicts RVing to increase


My Synopsis: More people are discovering what we already know — RVing is great affordable family fun.

From the Go RVing pressroom: As the RV industry celebrates its 100th anniversary this year, a new survey shows that interest in RV travel remains strong, with nearly half of RV owners planning to spend more time on the road this spring and summer than a year ago.

According to the latest Campfire Canvass, a biannual survey of RV owners by the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA), 45.4 percent of RV owners expect to travel more this summer than they did last year; 41.9 percent say they’ll travel the same amount. More than 8.2 million U.S. households own an RV.

RV travel is as popular today as it was in 1910 when the first mass-produced RVs were built.

“For a century, Americans have enjoyed exploring what’s over the next hill and around the bend,” says Richard Coon, president of the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association. “That pioneering spirit is still alive and well today.”

Survey respondent Bob Jaffe, 65, of Palm Beach, Fla., exemplifies that pioneering spirit. He and his wife, Sheila, bought their RV in August 2009 and spent five months traveling throughout the U.S.

“Our No. 1 goal was to visit our daughter in wine country in Northern California,” said Jaffe, who retired from his printing business in 2008. “During our trip, we visited 13 national parks, five national monuments and many historic sites, and we didn’t even get wet.”

The Jaffes, who used to get soaked putting up and taking down their tent in the rain before they bought their first RV, are planning another five-month summer trip that will take them from Florida to the Bay of Fundy in New Brunswick, Canada.

Among the survey respondents, 75 percent cited the flexibility of RVing as a major benefit of owning an RV.

Dennis Kiegel, 59, of Tampa, Fla., enjoys the freedom and control that RVing offers.

“Whenever my wife and I feel like it, we can just get up and go,” said Kiegel, a former Anheuser Busch employee.

“What we like best is the freedom to come and go as we please. With our RV, we can travel at our own leisure. We don’t have any set plans for the summer. For us, it’s more interesting to wake up in the morning and make a spur-of-the-moment decision.”

According to the survey, a primary reason so many RVers will be traveling this spring/summer is that they appreciate the value they get compared to flying, driving and staying in hotels. Almost 82 percent percent of owners say they save anywhere from 15 to 75 percent by traveling in their RVs. This is consistent with a study by international travel and tourism experts PKF Consulting, which found that family RV trips are, on average, 27-61 percent less expensive than other types of vacations.

“RV travel continues to appeal to people looking to save money and cut costs,” said Coon. “RVers get a bigger bang for their buck than they get from other types of vacations.”

State and national parks are among the most popular destinations for RV trips this spring/summer. Seventy-seven percent of the survey respondents said they’ll visit state parks, while 71 percent will visit national parks.

Rob Long, a 33-year-old architectural designer from Newark, Ohio, frequently visits state parks with his wife and three-year-old daughter in their RV.

“Staying at state parks is my way of giving something back and helping to sustain them,” said Long.

Long, whose parents and two brothers also own RVs, appreciates the family togetherness that RVing creates.

“RVing is a great way to work and play together as a family,” he said.

According to the survey, RVers plan to be on the move during major holidays, with 60 percent planning to travel over Memorial Day weekend and 64 percent over the July 4th holiday.

RV owners appreciate the recreational and health benefits associated with RV travel:

• 78 percent say RV travel provides them the opportunity to spend more time enjoying outdoor activities
• 73 percent of RV owners say they are more physically active on RV trips compared to other types of vacations
• 72 percent say RVs allow them to escape everyday stress and pressure
• 80 percent say their children are more physically active on RV vacations than other types.

The Recreation Vehicle Industry Association is the national association representing approximately 400 manufacturers and component suppliers producing approximately 98 percent of all RVs made in the United States.

Visit GoRVing.com for more information about RVing and to watch a video on how to get started RVing.

Double your blogging pleasure

Exciting news for Gr8LakesCamper!

The folks at www.RV.net must be bonkers, because they think Gr8LakesCamper is worth adding to their site!

Yes, you heard it right folks, as of this past weekend, Gr8LakesCamper is now blogging both here and there. Or there and here. Either way, we're double the blogging, double the fun.

You may be asking yourself, as did Mrs. Gr8LakesCamper, why is this so exciting? After all, I have just now doubled my blogging workload. Well, the parent company of www.RV.net is also the parent company for "Trailer Life" and "Camping Life" magazines, the Good Sam Club and Coast to Coast campground membership clubs, and the Woodalls campground directory, among other RV and camping stuff.

Yessiree, I'm rubbing elbows with the big boys! I know! Crazy stuff!

A quick point to make: This blog will continue. In fact, this blog is going to feature separate and distinct posts from the blog of the same name at www.RV.net. Okay, there may be a teency weency bit of duplication every once in a blue moon. But if you want the whole scoop, keep following this blog. But if you want the whole scoop with hot fudge on top, then follow both blogs.

Actually, the goal is for people who read my blog at www.RV.net to somehow get enticed enough to come on over here and follow this one. Can you imagine all the comments then? Everybody and their Uncle Ed will want to get their two cents in.

So there you have it. Gr8LakesCamper has got his foot in the door and is about to go big time. But I won't let the impending fame and fortune go to my head. I promise I won't forget all you little people.

Just kidding.

I might forget some of you.