Tag Archives: RV

When things don’t go as planned … two lessons learned on the Fourth of July

At the midpoint of our trip when we were half-way from Georgia to Washington State, we had our first obstacle to overcome. The previous day had been full of rough roads from construction in Nebraska and we were looking towards less jolting and smooth roads in Wyoming with the Grand Tetons as our destination that day. We had started out around 9 am, pulling out of a Walmart parking lot after overnighting in the parking lot next to some semis. This was the view outside my bedroom window that morning…

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We were all in good spirits as it was our nation’s birthday, July 4, 2015. We were making our way through Nebraska with our five kids ages 2 to 14 and our RV travel trailer towing behind our Excursion. We had only been on the road for an hour-and-a-half and had already pulled off on the road twice for potty breaks when one of my oldests said, “Is it possible to stop at the next exit? I need to go to the bathroom.” I sighed in exasperation and said, “Really? Seriously?! You couldn’t have gone the other two times we stopped?” It wasn’t that it was an inconvenience to stop (we are towing the family bathroom right behind us so it makes it actually quite easy when it comes to bathroom breaks) so much as it was one more delay to progress as I was eager to get to Grand Tetons.

But as it may, we were nearing the noon hour and my husband saw a billboard for Taco John — a fast food place we used to have in his hometown growing up — and as it had been over 20 years since he’d had a taco from there, we decided to make our stop the next exit in the little town of North Platte, Nebraska — home to Buffalo Bill — to see if those tacos were as tasty as we once remembered them. Taco John was about a mile or two in off the free way, and our GPS helped to route us to it quickly taking us through town. But as we pulled up to park near Taco John, my husband started pumping the breaks and with a concerned look on his face simply said to me, “Our brakes are squishy. I think they may be going out. The pedal is going all the way to the floor.” He was able to stop in a spot that was off the main road and near the restaurant, so we just decided to go ahead and feed the family and deal with the problem on full stomachs.

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5 Kids and RV Taco Johns in Nebraska

After our crew had eaten, Jes popped the hood on our towing vehicle and checked the brake fluid reservoir. It was empty! We had topped off all fluids before embarking on our journey across country and we quickly concluded that something must have happened while towing. But where we had parked was not a spot where Jes could safely get under the vehicle to check the brake line. So we had two things to solve: 1) figure out where to get more brake fluid on a holiday when stores were closed and 2) to find a safe spot to check out what might be causing us to lose brake fluid.

We checked our GPS and spotted a Ford dealership around the corner from where we were parked and thought they might be able to help us fix it… Nope. They were closed to celebrate the 4th of July.  We then spotted a auto parts store not too far away… Nope. Closed for the 4th of July.  We saw a small grocery store near the dealership and had hope — surely they would have brake fluid? They did, but it was the wrong kind. The reality of our situation began to sink in at that moment. We headed down the road and saw a small gas station open with a mini mart and we thought we might stop and check there… While my husband headed inside the “what ifs” began to hit. I began to worry, “What if we can’t find anyone open?! What if no one has the special brake fluid we need?!” As almost as quickly as the worried thoughts had come, I knew that worry was simply a lack of faith, so as I sat in the cab waiting with the kids, I bowed my head and we prayed for God to help us find the right oil and to figure out the situation. And then we continued to wait.

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As we waited, my middle son noticed two women smoking in a not so safe spot — not to far from propane tanks!
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Hooray! The right kind of brake fluid! Making a special note after this experience to always have a couple of these stowed away!

Thankfully, my husband emerged quickly from the store with three containers of brake fluid. He topped off the reservoir and closed the hood and I hopped out of the vehicle to help him navigate backing the RV onto the street as there was no way to pull forward and around in the tiny parking lot of the mini-mart gas station.

He drove slowly through town and navigated back to the Walmart Super Center located near the freeway and parked toward the back of the lot by some semis that were stopped to rest. The kids hung out in the car while I watched the area around my husband while he climbed underneath our tow vehicle to check out the brake line. Sure enough, some how the back brake line had gotten severed and  crushed and was leaking a steady stream of fluid. There was no way we could head over a mountain pass, let alone get on the freeway with our vehicle in this condition. Feeling stressed, both my husband and I, along with our children, bowed our heads in prayer, asking for God’s wisdom in how to handle the situation we found ourselves in at that moment.

Sure enough, some how the back brake line had gotten severed and  crushed and was leaking a steady stream of fluid.

Then with a deep breath, we went into problem solving mode. Our next thought was to see if we could get to a spot where we could unhook our tow vehicle from the RV. There were two RV places to stay nearby. One was flooded by the river and closed leaving us only one option. The good news was it was nearby. We called ahead while we sat in the Walmart parking lot and thankfully they had a spot open for us to park and stay the night while we came up with a game plan. We ended up checking into the Holiday RV Park and paid about $43 for the night after Good Sams and cash discounts.

Once we were settled in our site and unhooked, my husband began calling around. We tried the nearby Pilot truck stop and unfortunately they didn’t have anyone working because of the holiday. We also tried calling Good Sams which we had purchased for emergency situations such as this, but it wouldn’t be until the next Tuesday (3 days later) until they could send someone out — the day we were suppose to arrive at our destination.

After exhausting all of the options available to us, Jes decided to attempt the job himself — he had done jobs like this with his father who was a mechanic and even though it had been about 20 years since he had turned wrenches with his Dad, he felt confident he could fix it with the right tools and parts. So he unhooked the truck and he and our middle child (armed with extra brake fluid in the car) drove a mile to the nearest Advanced Auto Parts store — the only one we could find open on the holiday — to see if he could find parts to fix it himself. In the meantime, the heat of the day was setting in and it was over 96 degrees out, so I took the other four kids to the pool in hopes that it would lift our spirits.  We had been on the road for three days and laundry was already piling up, so we started a few loads to run while the kids swam.

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Cooling off in the pool at the RV campground we found on short notice.

While four of our kids and I were at the pool, Jesse and our middle son were able to find the parts needed to repair the severed brake line. They returned to the campground and were busy with the repair underway only to discover that he needed one more piece to finish the repair. Since everything was taken apart, he couldn’t simply drive the Excursion at this point, so he and our middle son took the pieces they needed and began to walk a mile+ back to the Advanced Auto Parts store in the afternoon 96 degree heat.

Upon arriving at the Advanced Auto Parts store, the manager who had helped them previously, noticed how hot our son looked and gave him a free water when he went up to buy one. And the part that we needed was not readily available in their inventory listing, so the manager began to take down boxes of other parts to see if the same part could be found in another box. He was able to successfully find the needed part and even took it back to crimp it with a special tool needed to join the two together — a tool we didn’t have — to connect it to the other part Jesse had brought with him.  It was because of this one man’s willingness to help us, that we were able to finish the repair job.  Jesse and our 11 year old son walked back once again in the heat with the parts that were needed.

I had just changed out of my swim suit when I went out to check on how things were going with the repair. Jes had returned from the auto parts store and had just put everything back together and was ready for me to help bleed the brake line and showed me for the first time the pieces that had been damaged. Our best guess was that it had happened the night before while going over some bumpy construction as at one point, we remember being concerned about the bumps. We had evidently bottomed out and hit the pavement  and the brake line got not only crushed, but severed in that moment.

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We definitely bottomed out and hit the road as we went through that construction! Here you see the line crushed and broken in half.
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Jesse happy after a job well done! Thankful for how God answered our every prayer and that my husband had the ability and faith to complete the job!
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This pedal matters a lot when you’re traveling by RV!
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Our son with the water bottle he went to go pay for and the manager paid for it himself in the spirit of Independence Day.

With the truck repaired, we decided to drive it for a bit to test the repair out before hooking up and heading across a big mountain range. We drove it through town, grabbed some dinner, stopped in at a “tourist trap” for the kids to shop a little bit and came back to our RV to rest and finish up laundry. There’s something about taking a shower in a normal shower that refreshes you as well.  The kids recall laying on the merry-go-round that night and spinning while fireworks exploded in the area around our campground.

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No, this isn’t a real fort. It’s a store with some tourist paraphernalia to see and buy.

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We would have loved to check out Buffalo Bill’s place in North Platte, Nebraska, but had to save it for another time due to the holiday and needing to stay on our travel schedule.
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Our 2.5 year old daughter sizes up the native american in the grassy area behind the tourist shop.

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Our 5-year-old checks out a diorama of Buffalo Bill's Show in North Platte, Nebraska
Our 5-year-old checks out a diorama of Buffalo Bill’s Show in North Platte, Nebraska

Buffalo Bill diorama

Buffalo Bill diorama
Buffalo Bill (William Cody) started his famous Wild West Show near his ranch in North Platte. The first rodeo was held in North Platte on July 4, 1882.
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One of our older boys wanted a “Jack-alope” which we thought looked good on the dash. It’s good to find ways to smile through difficult circumstances! 😀
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Leaving our emergency overnight pit stop — the Holiday RV Park in North Platte, Nebraska. It cost about $49 after discounts were applied. At the time of our stay, they had a pool, playground, showers, playground, and small RV spaces.

With all of us clean, fed, and with clothes folded and put away, we tidied up our trailer and started out for Wyoming the next morning, refreshed and ready to continue our journey towards Washington State.

Now, a year later, as I reflect on that fourth of July, there are two main takeaways from that experience:

  1. Don’t fuss over delays — they may very well be God’s providential answer to prayer.
  2. One person can make a difference in someone’s life.

PROVIDENCE:

Before leaving the comforts of our home, I had all sorts of scenarios run through my mind of what could happen and this one was not even one I had considered. The timing of how everything transpired that day was more than “coincidence”; my husband and I believe it was providential. Had my son not asked to stop to use the bathroom, we would have continued on the freeway and very well could have been without brakes to stop traveling at a high speed! When I think of what could have happened, I shutter at the thought and am grateful for God answering many a prayer for protection as we traveled.  As we recount all the things that happened that day…

  1. We were able to stop safely.
  2. We were able to drive the car and travel trailer a short distance to find brake fluid on a holiday when a lot of stores were closed.
  3. We were able to find the right kind of brake fluid.
  4. We were able to get back across town to a better spot.
  5. We were able to find a spot that was reasonably priced to stay the night and unhook to deal with our emergency.
  6. We were able to make it within walking distance to the one open auto parts store in town.
  7. We were only able to fix the repair with the help of a kind and generous person — otherwise our trip would have been delayed and we may have missed out on wheat harvest.
  8. We got a chance to rest a bit in the middle of our journey and clean some things.

God, in His goodness, answered the prayers of all of those who were praying for our safe journey. There would be many times those brakes would be pushed to the test and the brakes would hold firm and keep our family safe (I’ll have to write about the California experience sometime.) And our kids learned one more time, that we don’t serve an imaginary God, but the one true God Jehovah-Jireh (our provider) who cares for our every need.

HOW ONE PERSON CAN MAKE A DIFFERENCE:

The gentleman that helped my husband that day at the auto parts store went over and above to help meet our needs that day.  My husband shares that had he not helped search through boxes for the right part and offered to use his machine in the back to do the step we had no tool to do, we would not have been able to complete the job and we would have had to have waited for a mechanic which would have cost us days in the schedule and possibly affected our ability to get to Washington in time for wheat harvest which was coming early that year due to the high heat.  This manager at Advance Auto Parts store, not only went beyond in his customer service, he also encouraged us and especially our son learned a lesson on the power of kindness as he received a fresh ice cold water to quench his thirst.

OH! AND ONE MORE THING…

I guess there’s a bonus tip from what we also learned … it is a good idea to keep some extra brake fluids in our storage area for unexpected issues! From North Platte, Nebraska we headed out towards Wyoming which I’ll share more about in another post. Thanks for reading and stay tuned for more…

— Erin & Jes + our 5 kids and a RV


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5 Kids and a RV recommendations are based on personal experience and do not represent the business or not-for-profit we feature. We share our experiences in an effort to inspire parents and caregivers to engage and explore with their children. On occasion we may post a review or provide information as an affiliate.

5 Kids and a RV: “Let’s go learn something today!

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Midori Travel Journal – Just for Kids!

I’ve used the Midori Travel journal for about three years now and I continue to love having a sketch book and journal with me — I call it my UNfacebook! lol I get to record life as it happens and it can remain personal.  I just don’t have time to scrapbook, so it’s also sort of a way for me to do some creative journaling and throw in photos at the speed of life. You may have heard of Smash Books (similar concept), but the Midori system makes it easy for you to swap in various journals depending on your need.

We have invested in three Midori leather journals for our three older sons. We love that the more they use them, the more adventurous they look (think “Raiders of the Lost Ark”). The boys use these to keep track of ideas as a sketch book, they use them to track and organize school projects, and for our cross country trip, they had an insert to record any experiences they did as we went.

Don’t have a Midori? No worries! This little booklet type journal can easily fit an any glovebox and act as a stand alone. (I do encourage you to  put a heavy card stock cover on it if you are not putting it into a Midori.)

Our six year olds journal

(Above: I filled out a travel journal for my youngest son who was five at the time and not quite a writer.)

There’s even a spot for the kids to put their ID (in case they leave the journal somewhere) and they can color or shade in each state they’ve visited. I’m wrapping up the “stamp” designs for each state that you can print onto sticker paper and use to endorse the page (making it feel official). If you visit any National Park, you can also use their free stamp to stamp this area of the journal!

State by State sticker passport

 

Below is a sample of what you’ll receive in the file. The file is laid out in such a way that all you have to do is print the pages front to back in order. When you assemble and fold in the proper order, the states are all alphabetized so you can find them quick!
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Above is a sample of the intro page where you can personalize it with your mailing address should the journal be accidentally left behind at a location you are visiting, along with a spot to shade or color in the states you have visited.

Encourage your child to add photos, postcards, brochures, press a flower they find between the pages, and more! This is meant to be a memory keepsake for your child to look back on all his/her adventures.

Get the early-bird discount of 10% off!  The Kids Passport Travel Journal is on sale today, May 15th through Saturday, May 31st (2017) in the store!  Coupon code: LOVEMYMIDORI

This is a digital file, so you can download immediately and print as many journals as you need for personal use. Please don’t share the file with friends, but instead encourage them to support our family by downloading a copy for themselves. Thanks so much!

 

 

 

Osmo for iPad: Our kind of travel learning game

Oslo Words Numbers Tangrams

So, while the boys were working on set, the parents were in the holding area hanging out and one of the Moms I met pulled out Osmo and I got a great demo as I watched she and her daughter play the Word Game (thanks again, Tanis).

The minute I saw it in action, I knew my tech-loving guys would love interacting with the technology using the tiles that come with the set. Originally, I thought of our Kindergartner, but it’s turned out to be fun from age 5 on up!

Kindergartner playing on Osmo

How it works:  A reflector mirror attachment that comes with each set uses the camera on your iPad to “see” the tiles thru color recognition. When you plop a tile down in the viewing area, Osmo identifies the shape, letter, or number.

The tiles come organized each in their own box with easy to open and close magnetic closures. And this Mom loves the added thought to put a magnet under the paper layer of each cover so that the set stays together. (Very smart Osmo product developers!) The base fits an iPad or iPad Mini.

Osmo Learning Game

Here’s a quick one minute video to give you a demo of our Kindergartner in action using Numbers, Words, and Tangram.

This is perfect to take with us on the road in our RV! The boxes are fairly small and light weight. Plus, since each of our kids have their own unique profile (up to six profiles can be assigned), it can be used K-12 and quickly adapt to their level of learning. If you’re curious how it works for older kids, I’ll be posting more examples of the olders using Osmo soon. In the meantime, if you want to learn more, you can visit their Web site here.

OSMO Genius Set

click to learn more >

Don’t blink

If you’ve been wondering why it’s been quiet … I’ve been working on pulling together a Florida trip to share with you — it’s one of our favorites — and I’m really excited to post that soon as it is a trip we’ve taken twice and took instead of going to Disney World one year (because, yes, it was that good). No spoilers on details yet, but I will let you know that we are going to share all the highlights so you can take the same trip (but without all the planning).  Stay tuned, you’ll get the inside scoop right here!

While thumbing thru our pics for my project, I ran across this shot from 2014 that just made me take pause.  I took this shot while we were embarking on our first long trip with baby girl — the kiddos look so much younger here!  When you’re living life at full speed, pausing to look at moments like this seem in the scheme of things like such a blink.

Home is Anywhere I am with YOU!

If you’ve been putting off a family trip, can I just encourage you to stop putting it off. This is your year to make it happen! Don’t wait for things to be perfect. Start planning. Start selling something to put in your savings jar. Put the money you’d use to buy a latte in your savings jar. Pick a realistic goal and go after it!  Take it from a Mama who sees her boys quickly turning into men… you only get them for a season…

 

What’s your travel goal?

Quote-keeplookingforwardLet’s dream a little… if you could go anywhere, where would you go? If you could see anything, what would you want to see?

Need inspiration? Check out our Pinterest boards featuring state-by-state ideas and RV helps. Great for the newbie RVer or individual seeking their next family adventure.

Connect with us on Pinterest here: https://www.pinterest.com/5kidsandarv/

 

Our Wish for Your New Year…

If there’s anything I’ve learned from our travels in 2015, it’s this… that the best things in life are the people we love, the places we’ve been, and the memories we’ve made along the way.

This last year we took our dream trip traveling cross country by RV to be a part of wheat harvest and to visit with family that lives in the northwest. This was a big first for us as in the past 11 years we have always flown. It was an amazing experience that stretched us financially, emotionally, and physically — and most of all taught our children that we can trust in Jehovah God.

We attempted the trip actually three times in the same year — even having to turn back from St Louis at one point and return home due to things going on with my husband’s job as it went thru a transition.

We learned a lot about relationships. We reconnected with some, were blessed by those friendships sending us off and reminded of what love really is, probably let some people down because we couldn’t always do what we hoped to do or because we were away for a long time, and we met some great people along the way. This blog will share that journey as we recap and prepare for our next trip.

Wishing you a Happy New Year full of new adventures and the people you love... Erin & Jes and our tribe
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Most of all, we grew stronger as a family. I thought we were close before, but when your sitting in close-proximity with 7 people for 5 days straight and experience stressful driving conditions in the midst of all that, well, you learn just how much you can do as a family! lol

So, lots to share with you and if you’re thinking about taking a trip this year — I hope you pursue that dream. Make it a goal and put everything you’ve got into it. I don’t miss the things we sold and the sacrifices we made to take our trip, but the things I do remember are moment after moment watching my children grow in love for the people we love and their wide-eyed excitement about exploring this amazing world God has created for us.

I look forward to you journeying with us thru this blog in 2016… Happy New Year!

Erin

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So you don’t think you have enough money to travel…

Quote by Graham Cooke
Our boys exploring the gentle giants — Redwood trees in Northern California — something that has long been a dream of ours to experience.

When you have a dream and chase it, you say no to the things that you might want now in order to experience what you want later.

When everyone is at a movie opening night, you wait to watch that movie until Apple has a digital rental for $4.99.

When others are eating out, you’re eating at home and fixing dinner even though you’re tired and don’t feel like it.

When others get a fancy latte concoction at the local coffee bar, you’re brewing a pot at home.

When others go out for ice cream at the ice cream shop, you go to the grocery store and buy what’s on sale and have a sundae party at home.

When others are upgrading their phone to the latest technology release, you say to yourself, “My phone is just fine – thankful it works” and avoid the Best Buy or the Apple Store.

When others are getting a new car (or new used car), you take care of the one you have and remain thankful she still carries you where you need to go and throw some duct tape on that seat that’s starting to tear from use.

When others go to the nail salon to get a mani-pedi, you pull out your nail clippers and nail polish and give yourself your own mani-pedi.

You clip coupons and look for deals when you have the time to do so.

You don’t run into town whenever you need something, but instead make purposeful trips and stock-up.

You cancel that outrageous Cable/Satilite contract, buy an Apple TV and Netflix membership and your annual cost goes from $1,800 (estimating an average bill of about $150 a month) down to roughly $200 only annually.

Delayed gratification. It’s tough. It’s no fun. It’s doesn’t earn you popularity points on Facebook. But that’s OK, ’cause you’re on a mission to make a dream into a reality.

But when you say “no” to the things that bring pleasure now so you can say “yes” to experiencing something you’ve always wanted, well — there are no words to describe how that moment feels when you reach that goal. Simply amazing.

Want to travel, but you don’t think you can afford it? It’s like Mr Cooke says, “… you must be prepared to do things you’ve never done before.”

Now go chase that dream!

Dream Big! You can do it!

Drop Spot Station Organized!

With seven people, it’s easy for clutter to take over and when you’re living in a small space, anything you can do to combat clutter is a good thing! So, right as you walk into our RV, there’s a small space to the right underneath our mirror where we’ve had a few small baskets and some remotes and small things. The problem has been that sometimes when we travel, even though there is a small lip on the edge of this shelf area, we still find things on the floor.

Meet the new and improved drop spot for our personal items. I found these handy acrylic trays and repurposed them for this spot because it fits perfect! I know we have seven people in our family, but baby girl and I will share one individual tray for now. 😉 Hubby has a spot for wallet, phone and keys to go. And my sons can put their phones in the trays as well as personal items like wallets, shells, or sunglasses.

Organizer for RV

Step one: I cleared off all the items sitting loosely on the shelf area and wiped down the shelf really well, allowing it to dry while I worked on the trays.

Put a piece of adhesive putty

Step two: Taking some left over adhesive putty, I placed a small bit on each corner and the center of the underside of the tray.  Adhesive putty is great because you can remove it without causing damage to the surface. It also keeps things in their place which works great in a RV situation — the movement while traveling won’t shift items that are adhered with the putty. And, because the trays I have chosen are designed as a joined set of three trays, I only have to secure two trays.

Adding adhesive putty

Step three: Checking to make sure the shelf was completely dry, I then pressed the trays with the putty attached to them onto the shelf allowing the adhesive putty to adhere.

Step four: Repeated steps 2 and 3 on the second tray.

Non Stick Padding

Step five: Taking some left over non-slip lining I had on hand from another project, I measured the interior base of the tray and cut six to nest perfectly into each tray. Voila!

Overall cost was about $21, but it will be worth every penny with the stress it saves. I only need to affix my labels so everyone know’s who’s bin is who’s and possibly add a power cord or two  that can be used to recharge devices while they sit in their designated tray.

Final Landing Pad

Close up of Trays

Want to make this for your RV? Here is what you will need:

We’ve done this trip — you can too! [Guntersville, AL]

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Guntersville, Alabama (or Bass Capital as some call it) known for the pristine Lake Guntersville that frequently hosts the Bass Master Classic.  It’s mid-November and our visit is a four-day stay.  Lake Guntersville State Park is located along the banks of the Tennessee River in NE Alabama. The park overlooks the majestic 69,000-acre Guntersville Lake and ranges over more than 6,000 acres of natural woodlands and touts an 18-hole championship golf course.  The Main Campground includes 321 improved campsites, a primitive camping area, bathhouse, playground and recreation area, and country store.  All improved campsites have water and electrical hookups, picnic table, grill, and fire ring; some sections also have sewer hookups.

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The moment we unhook, the boys grab their rods and hit the lake in hopes of getting something on their line.  This is the second time we’ve camped at Lake Guntersville State Park.  The last time was three years ago and we visited during the month of May. That trip was great, but only days after we broke camp and headed home a tornado hit the area and caused severe damage, closing the RV camp until restorations could be completed this year in May of 2013.  It was a little sad to see the trees that once stood in this area are no longer around — it looks like a completely different park in some ways.  If you do stay at this park in the spring months (April thru June), be sure to have a weather radio that automatically turns on and tune it to the area as tornadoes are not uncommon with spring storms.  We prefer to visit late summer or fall for that reason.

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I particularly love how I can look out my window and check on the boys fishing on the shoreline or dock.  The sites are fairly close together which I am not too crazy about.  They do include a fire pit, picnic table, and are a gravel parking surface. Our chosen space was not very level and required effort on our part to get it right. We have two doors on our travel trailer and the back door by the bathroom was a little high off the ground but more level by the main door. We did have full hook-up and that was convenient. Our nightly rate was  $19 for full hook up + a 12% lodging tax surcharge.  Sites are first come, but it is helpful to reserve in advance in case it fills during busier times of the year.   The conference center is situated on the bluff and overlooks the Lake and RV park (see photo below).  Some young trees have been planted, but none to offer shade or beauty yet.

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We did some geocaching within the park. The first one was easy access, but the second one was a bit more intense and I wouldn’t advise it with little ones and no path. I feel a bit uncomfortable with four boys enthusiastically clamoring thru the woods — it puts my mama safety-senses into overdrive. The kids, of course, are oblivious to my silent concerns over poisonous snakes, falls that could cause a broken limb (of a child, not tree), or hunters that aren’t paying attention … and they climb over rocks and logs in the heat of the hunt for new-found treasure — the cache did not disappoint them. 😉