We really needed to dump our tanks last weekend (before heading to Merlefest) and The Fairgrounds is the closest full hook-up park (I feel like park isn’t quite the right term…). To say Raleigh is in need of a full service RV park is an understatement. Mebane has the closest full hook up RV park we could find, but it’s 46 miles away from our house. We could go to one of the campsites at Jordan Lake, but we really needed to clean out the tanks an that’s not easy to do just at a pull-through dump station.
We’ve tried to find The Fairgrounds park a few times before, and it’s not easy. The area is a maze of loops with fields, ponds, horse barns, arenas, and parking lots. There’s also an RV parking area for the NC State stadium on the same road, so it can be a bit confusing. The GPS address is: 801 Youth Center Drive, Raleigh, 27606. Follow the signs for Horse Complex 7– You’re looking for the “newer sites on the hill”.
There’s a tiny office building, but the sites are run by Fairgrounds Public Safely, and are first come, first served. Just call them when you’re in the area, they’ll tell you if they have availability and you show up, find your spot, then call them again so you can pay them. It’s $30/night — the bonus is you can check in and check out anytime within that 24 hours — they told us we could stay until midnight on Sunday if we wanted to!
There’s always something going on at The Fairgrounds — this weekend there was an Arabian Horse Show which we walked around and checked out. Typically there’s a car or boat show and sometimes a dog show, although it was super quiet the entire time we were there. Also, we’re regulars at the Raleigh Flea Market which takes place down the road, and it’s definitely worth checking out if you stay at the park over the weekend.
Overall, this is a great place to stay if you want to explore the Raleigh area. It’s clean and quiet, but not fancy, and right in the city.
Our last stop over our 2 week holiday break was Dreher Island State Park in South Carolina. The park is actually a few islands connected by a bridge with two separate campgrounds and a marina. Campground A and the entrance gate are first — it has 30 rv spots with water and electric (and a dump station). The sites are aligned around the water, paved, but pretty close together. We nabbed a site with a huge dip next to it, so we had a little more room.
The second island is the marina and visitors center where you check in, and the third island is Campground B which has more RV sites, and tent sites and also some huge cabins to rent.
Bike riding, boating and fishing are the big activities here. Walking across the bridge from one island to the next you’ll see a number of boats — and everyone seems to be catching something.
This was the perfect place to do nothing but watch the sunrise and sit by the fire.
Before coming here, we’d visited 3 state parks in Georgia and they’d all been fantastic. George L. Smith was no exception. It’s a hidden gem of a park kind of in the middle of nowhere — no offense citizens of Twin City, Georgia!
View from our door. Not bad!
There are 25 sites (electric and water) that seem to be a variety of sizes, but definitely all on the bigger-than-normal side, and almost all back right up to the lake.
When you have a view like this, you just want to get out on the water, so we rented a canoe and headed out on the 10 miles of waterways around the park.
This was one of the most relaxing and serene mornings of the whole two weeks.
One of the other cool things about this park is the 1880s mill. The park uses the mill for special events like grinding corn or making sugar cane at certain times of the year. You can canoe up to it, or walk through it to the hiking trail that starts on the other side.
Deke took another video, you can see us canoe up to it at the end!
Note:The entrance to the campground is not the same as the park entrance, so check the directions before you go! Also, the gate closes at 5pm and there is NO way to get in after that time, and there are no gas stations or grocery stores for miles, so make sure you have all your supplies before you go. Oh, and there’s no internet here — nothing at all.
Typically when we travel for a few weeks at a time, we both pick one place we definitely want to go and then work around those 2 stops. My pick this trip was the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge. The swamp itself is huge — 402,000 acres, and the Stephen C. Foster State Park is the only campground within the boundaries of the park. The entrance to the campground is not the same as the park entrance, so check the directions before you go!
If you’ve been to the Hoh Rainforest on the Olympic Peninsula, the drive into this campground is really similar. It’s an 18 mile, narrow-ish 2 lane road off a slightly larger 2 lane road with nothing in site but land. There are no assigned sites, you reserve a site size, check in at the office (you drive PAST the campground to get to the office) and they’ll tell you what color sign post to look for. We got a pull-through site across from the staff cottages, it was pretty packed when we were there — I think there were only 2 sites to pick from.
There are a few small trails to walk around —
but the real winner is the water.
You can rent kayaks or canoes and try your luck in the swamp on well marked waterways. A few things: there are over 12,000 alligators in the swamp but I didn’t expect to see as many as we did –less than 6 feet from the canoe/kayak dock regularly sits a mom and her babies. Maybe it’s the city girl in me, but I was not interested in getting that close, especially with an inflatable kayak, so we opted for the $15, very cool, 60-90 minute guided boat ride with one of the parks naturalists. Her name was Sarah and she was awesome — go on a ride with her if you can. Oh, and she confirmed my no-kayaking decision was a good one by telling me that people fall in the water all the time. No thank you.
We saw over 25 alligators during the boat ride — the photos don’t do it justice so here’s a video Deke took (make sure to put your setting on HD and turn your volume down if you don’t want to hear the music):
Thankfully he added music so you don’t hear my mini-scream when the one starts flailing around next to the boat!
Note: Just because you rent a Deluxe Spot with a little pier right behind your spot, does NOT mean that’s your private pier. The piers are for all guests to use, so you may end up with a bunch of people right behind your RV at any hour of the day. It’s a little weird. However, it’s the closest (1 mile) decent sized park to town (the other park only has 4 spots), but there’s also another park 8 miles north.
The view from Site #7.
Sunset Isle is tiny and the 63 full hook-up spots are very tightly packed together. It’s basically a parking lot, but not as flat or paved. It’s a short bike ride to town so you can’t beat the location for exploring Cedar Key. Our spot was on the water (#7), and farthest from the entrance that sits a bit hidden right off Rt. 24, the only road into Cedar Key. There are other spots that sit just feet from the road, and I imagine they’re a bit loud. It was fun to have the water view and the pier, but being able to bike to town was worth feeling a bit sardine-like.
The town is super laid back, small, a bit behind the times maybe, but awesome. It’s got a great old cemetery, some hiking trails through old historical areas and overall just a lot of character – there’s something to see everywhere. And seafood! We bought clams (it’s what the area is known for) at a roadside stand, and you can also get local oysters and crabs.
Cooke’s Seafood. 50 clams for $10.
We watched football and ate oysters at Carlin’s (they don’t have a website) downtown — their oysters are local and the variety of craft beer was great (plus a great outdoor patio and live music). For breakfast we tried Away From The World Cafe — also delicious (Deke had the breakfast hamburger with maple syrup) and hilarious. Here’s their motto:
And they mean it. The whole menu is based on DMB songs and that’s what you hear the whole time.
The rest of the time, we rode our bikes around and explored the town — there’s an airport where Mike will give you plane rides for $25, a hiking trail made out of an old trestle bridge and there are countless places to just sit and watch the water.
Note: This campground is NOT in the State Park – it’s 8 miles away. The address for the campground is on the reservation page – however, our GPS did NOT take us to this address when we plugged it in, it took us to a housing development next to the park (the ranger says it happens all the time). We had to call the office to figure out how to get there. Also, there’s a gate that locks at 5pm, so if you’re showing up later, you need to call and get the code.
The loop road looking at our spot.
Rainbow Springs Campground is beautiful – but I would definitely recommend getting a site on the outer edge of the loop – they’re totally enclosed and really big. Basically anything from #12-#21 are more private – we were in #16, a full hook-up spot for $30/night. Also, Nathan at Wand’rly suggests site #51. His review can be found here on Campendium. Unfortunately, these are also the farthest from the boat/kayak ramp, but they have dollies to help you get your equipment from Point A to Point B.
Rainbow Spring is Florida’s 4th largest spring – the water is completely clear and shallow – perfect for snorkeling, kayaking and paddleboarding. There are no motors allowed on this area of the river so it’s an incredibly quiet and peaceful 1.5(ish) mile cruise to the headspring.
Clearest, bluest water I’ve ever seen.
The trip to the headspring was FILLED with bird sightings – egrets, blue herons, anhingas, cormorants, red shoulder hawks, and gallinules. Oh, and a lot of turtles.
It’s also a great place for stargazing. Deke got a pretty amazing telescope for his Christmas/Birthday and we busted it out to view the stars on the clear nights.
One other fun thing we did during our 4 days here was drive to Ocala to go zip-lining. Deke got me a beginner’s package for Christmas and it was really fun! I’m not fond of heights (those of you who went to Alumafandango in Denver might remember be freaking out on the ferris wheel…) so this was a challenge for me, but I really, really enjoyed it.
This was a great place to spend Christmas — but obviously we need to up our game in the decoration department.
Like last year, we decided to head south for the holidays. Although it’s been unseasonably warm in Raleigh for over a month, traveling back to Florida seemed fun, and the weather predictions were in the upper 80s on Christmas. Last year we explored the east coast of Florida (Tomoka State Park and St. Augustine), so we hit the Gulf this time.
The first day we stopped about halfway, at Fort McAllister Historic State Park in Richmond Hill, Georgia (south of Savannah). They have a great link on their website that allows you to check last minute availability and it showed that there were 12 spots for the night.
Walk through the park.
The park is 10 miles off the highway, on the banks of the Ogeechee River that actually surrounds the park making it an island – Savage Island. It has the ‘best-preserved earthwork fortification of the Confederacy’. You can explore the fort and there’s a small museum that contains some artifacts (and the check-in desk for the park).
The park’s boat ramp.
There are 60 sites with water, power and a fire pit, and all with shade from tall oak trees. There’s a boat ramp, covered picnic areas and a dump station. As you travel down the causeway you’ll also see some elevated cabins which look really cool. We picked site #11, an enormous pull-through next to the river and completely shaded.
We typically use holidays to get out of dodge. We’re not Black Friday shoppers, nor do we really like trimming the tree and hanging the lights (it sounds very bah-humbug, but we love the holidays, really!). We use holiday vacations to spend much needed time with each other, with our dogs and with the outdoors. So for Thanksgiving we decided to check out the Davidson River Campground in the Pigsah National Forest.
The campground is in Brevard, a small town 45 minutes south of Asheville, and a little over 4 hours from Raleigh (at least the way we went).
The campground has several loops, all with different amenities and rules from reservable/first come-first served, generators allowed/generators not allowed, electric/non-electric. We were in the Appletree Loop — reservable, generators allowed, non-electric.
It’s also one of the loops closest to the water (good) but also closer to the walking path and road (bad). Next time, I think I’d try a loop on the opposite side of the park so we don’t have the road noise (it’s the only road in and out of the park — it gets more traffic than you’d think) or people walking by all the time on the path. At this time of year, not all the loops were open, so we took what we could get!
There are some nice trails around the park, all clearly marked and most with signs indicating the level of difficulty and if bikes or pets are allowed.
A short drive will also get you deeper into the forest where you’ll find many more trails and even a connection with the Blue Ridge Parkway.
This is a really great park — there are so many things to do and you’re only a short drive into town where you’ll find a brewery, bakery, coffee roaster, movie theater and some shops and restaurants all within a few blocks. It’s definitely worth checking out if you’re in the area!
Here’s a short video we made while touring some of the hiking trails around the campground!
There have been a handful of times over the last few years when I’ve said, outloud and to other people, ‘there needs to be a summer camp for adults’. So when our friend Nation told us about Wild Yonder’s Friendship Feast and Camp Out, I was more than intrigued. One quick email to Camp Director Heather to get approval to bring the Airstream and we were going! Activities included pie making class from the folks at Scratch,
Arts and Crafts (!!!) and a whole hog BBQ from none other than my favorite rock cellist Joe Kwon, who studied BBQ with North Carolina’s own Sam Jones whose grandfather started the famous Skylight BBQ. Here’s the smoker along with chef Matthew Kelly of Durham’s Vin Rouge and Mateo restaurants. Go eat there. Also notice the Bojangles boxes of biscuits smoking along side the pig.
We met some great people over the weekend as well. In addition to Meredith, Heather and Kaitlyn of Wild Yonder (check out their bios here), we met Phil Cook, and Nick Neptune, DJ and Camp Activities Coordinator (Capture the Flag anyone?). And, as luck would have it, we traveled 45 minutes to meet a couple, Tripp and Jane, who live right down the road and who also love dogs, beer and bbq.
Our weekend field guide.
The event was held on a beautiful 70 acre property in Mebane, NC — about 45 minutes from us, and less than an hour from Raleigh. The property had to have been a farm at one time — there are remnants of a barn, and a fenced in field and possible pasture.
There are several cabins on the property,
a main house with a huge kitchen where we all ate dinner and breakfast, and a pavilion for bands to play.
Oh, and a tree swing.
And many, many fire pits.
You can see the Airstream and the dinner bell on the balcony.
Overall, the weekend was fantastic. It’s the first time we’ve really met a big group of new folks that had a lot of the same interests as us and we just loved being out in the Airstream again. Wild Yonder is just what the doctor ordered.
Oh, and did I mention the swag? I told you fanny packs were in style!
Well, we’ve been here a year and although we’ve camped a little bit, we’ve not taken advantage of short weekend trips to some great campgrounds really close to Raleigh. As fall approaches, we decided to hit Jordan Lake in Apex. Exactly 21 miles from our house, Jordan Lake has several campgrounds. We chose Crosswinds Campground because it’s on the east side of the lake (closer to us) and it looked very tree-filled, which is what we wanted.
This specific campground within the larger park is smaller, has water and power and beach access but no boat launch like two of the other campground locations. The spots closest to the beach have fewer trees, but all spots are easily walkable to the water.
Beach area — with kayaks to use!
Most spots are very level — ours was a bit unusual because it sloped downwards, but leveled out at the bottom with just enough space. I wouldn’t recommend a motorhome for this spot! However, it was a great spot with a lot of trees and privacy. We could only see one other camper on one side, but a good distance away.
All spots have a fire pit, and obviously a lot of space.
We’re kicking ourselves for not visiting this campground sooner, and we’re looking forward to checking out the other locations within Jordan Lake Rec Area!
After reading Rich’s new book – Airstream Life’s (Nearly) Complete Guide to Airstream Maintenance, our guess is that a lot of folks will say, “I wish this had come out sooner.” The good thing is, it’s out now, and newbies as well as long-time Airstream travelers will find useful tips and hints on how to keep your Airstream in good condition. Also, props to fellow Chicagoan Brad Cornelius for the illustrations!
Deke ‘inspecting” our first Airstream. A used 22’ CCD International.
When we bought our first Airstream in 2009, we had no idea what we were doing (but to be fair, we still don’t know what we’re doing). We bought used and while we tried to do all our homework before purchasing, we missed some things — nothing too big, but back then it would’ve helped to have a more extensive list of things to look for, and catching problems at the time definitely would’ve saved us some money in the long run. Right off the bat, we think that Rich’s chapter on Learning to Inspect can help both current owners and future buyers to do better inspections of their own Airstreams, and any used models they might be checking out.
Making our way through the book, we found chapters on Plumbing (thankfully we haven’t had any problems there), Aluminum Body Repair (oh, that crash in ’09), Electrical, Propane Systems (what’s that smell?) and all the appliances — just to name a few. The chapters are then broken down into subcategories — with some topics addressing vintage models as well.
Cleaning A/C vents and solar panels.
The information is clearly organized with simple basics — for example, getting on the roof (which can go badly if you do it wrong), how to replace rivets, and how to winterize. The broad categories are then broken down to specifics like how to remove and replace sealant (along with a list of tools needed to do so), how to determine the exact age of your tires, and detailed instructions on how to check for propane leaks.
Overall we found 216 pages of useful info — even if all of it isn’t useful to you right now, it will be at some point, like when you need to figure out how to get to your spare (pg. 124) or replace your lights with LEDs (pg. 171).
RV repair house call. I needed hot water, pronto.
We think this book could also help you save money on repairs. We had a problem a few years ago that required a mobile repair service tech to come to the park, which cost a fortune. The problem was a very quick fix, and one we could’ve done ourselves if we had known what to look for. Our water heater ignition wire was cracked — it’s one of the things Rich suggests looking for in the chapter Water heater, subchapter Inspecting the gas orifice, ignitor, and gas valve. That’s $100 back in our pocket.
For me, this book also provided great suggestions for preventative maintenance which I never thought of, and frankly, never do. For example, I have never lubricated the awning arms, I have never checked my smoke detector to see if it’s expired and I have never cleaned and lubricated my Fan-Tastic fan screens (in 5 years!). But I will now, and it will probably save us some heartache down the road.
Much needed, but didn’t have.
Back in 2009, we also relied on the kindness of strangers when it came to having the right tools. We’d meet people on the road, ask them questions and take photos of things they recommended we have. This wasn’t the most comprehensive way of doing it, and we always were missing something, or didn’t have the right tool for our model. Rich put in a Tool Kit list which is great for those of you wondering if you have everything you need. I was also excited to see instructions on how to recalibrate the tank monitor. You know yours doesn’t read correctly!
As we all know in the Airstream community, everyone has their own idea of what works and what doesn’t (one look on Airforums will undoubtedly provide 10 different answers to the same question). Rich’s book isn’t a fix-it guide, it’s a maintenance guide. He’s not telling you how to repair, he’s guiding you along so hopefully you won’t have the breakdown in the first place. Because do you want to be here:
Middle of nowhere Nevada in the summer.
Middle of somewhere PNW.
with no internet and realize you don’t have a clue how to get to your spare and replace your flat tire? (Note: this is my biggest fear after running out of gas.)
Maybe some of you who’ve remodeled numerous Airstreams yourselves might be familiar with a lot of the info already, but for people like us, even after having lived in ours for a few years, we found some useful tips that will hopefully keep our Airstream running well for the long haul.
Finally, a trustworthy and complete book about Airstream maintenance! Maintenance of your Airstream is not difficult. With just a few basic tools and this guide, you can do almost every routine task yourself and save money. You’ll learn how to inspect and maintain every major system of your Airstream, and be ready to fix small problems that crop up while traveling. No other book available contains so much Airstream-specific and reliable advice from experienced Airstreamers, product manufacturers, service techs, and factory personnel. Includes recommended tools, storage tips, practical suggestions, and dozens of illustrations.
Last year while living on Whidbey Island, our friends – and husband and wife team – Janae and Kelly Cameron at Turnco Wood Goods offered to make us a cutting board for the Airstream sink to replace the round, white plastic one that was stained and warped. I was familiar with all the other awesome wood products they made, so obviously this was a no-brainer.
Our little maple, walnut and cherry Airstream Sink Cutting Board.
Soon, our friends Laura and Kevin at Riveted asked about getting an Airstream Sink Cutting Board made in walnut for their Airstream. Easy enough — they have the same model so we knew the sink would be the same size, Kelly just needed to swap out the cuts of wood to customize.
The walnut Riveted board.
Then people who saw the Airstream, or our post about it, emailed asking if they could order one too, and from there, we started taking orders through our website for Kelly and Janae. Each board is made to order from local wood, and can be customized according to what you’d like.
Then our friend Grisel asked if Turnco could make a cutout for her Airstream Sink Cutting Board and this was born —
During the year, they started to find their way into Airstreams of all sized and shapes.
Carolyn’s cutting board– often seen at Highland Haven.
Dennis and Sandy’s 2015 International.
Jeffrey’s board in his 2007 28′ International.
And our first non-Airstream board! Chris’s Winnebago View!
The boards can now be seen in Airstreams from Seattle to Chicago to Kingston, New Hampshire and many places in between (CA, WI, SC, FL, TX, UT, VA, TN, NY, DE, IN and PA so far). If you’re interested in ordering one, you can find out more information here.