Shamadon RV Resort

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Tomorrow we head off on our last expedition of the year in our coach, the Castaway.

We will be spending the weekend at Shamadon RV Resort in West Grey County, Ontario. The park is roughly a 5-hour drive from home. The owners convinced us to try one of their grass sites, Deer Meadow 211 (the upper left site in the map below). It is a large site, 60 feet by 80 feet. And private.

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There is rain in the forecast so I am not too keen on a grass site. Despite its prime location, it is also only a 30 Amp site. We can manage on 30 but the nights are starting to get colder and we may need to have a few more services online. So, we will see how things go.

We are picking up our youngest son from University on the way there. Driving through Toronto on a Friday afternoon is always fun, especially in a 40-foot coach.

I am very excited to see my son tomorrow. My oldest daughter and her family, including our two grandchildren, will be coming up to visit us on the Saturday. Even if the weather is off, this weekend will be awesome.

And then, the Castaway goes into storage for the winter.

So sad.

Lancaster New Holland KOA Review

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We were a bit late in finding a site near the Hershey RV show and we did not want to boondock at the show itself. We found a place to hangout for a few nights at the Lancaster/New Holland KOA.

Although the weather forecast was originally sunny and warm, we found a mostly cloudy and overcast weather pattern for our stay. No rain, but most of the scenery was tempered by a greyish mood to the light.

The New Holland area is home to Lancaster County’s Amish community. It is really quite a beautiful area and we will go back so that we can spend a lot more time here. The Discover Lancaster website is a good resource if you are thinking about travelling in this area.

We loved the area. We had a quiet campground with awesome views of the countryside. It felt private and it was also very quiet. The customer service at this KOA? About what I expected when reading the reviews for this campground. Mixed. If all you need is a place to park for a few nights and nothing else, then this place is fine. If you need anything outside of the basics, be warned. Bonnie, who has a bit of a reputation online, is not what I would consider to be a customer focused individual.

That said, we were gone for most of our time here. It took us about an hour to drive to the Hershey RV from this campsite. And we left early and returned late each day that we were here.

On our first night, we enjoyed a meal at the Shady Maple Smorgasbord.

Oh my goodness. What a place.

Good thing that we had not eaten very much that first day. So much great food!

Shady Maple is very popular so best to avoid it on the weekends.

So, without further fanfare, here is our review of the Lancaster/New Holland KOA.

First Impressions

Overall I would rate this park 7.5 out of 10.

We don’t mind paying more for a nice experience however this campground is overpriced. We paid $87 per night presumably for the view and the location. There is really not much else to this KOA. A basic gravel pull-through site with full hook-ups. Water pressure was low at our site and we elected to fill our freshwater tank and run off the internal water pump.

The park was well maintained. And it was very quiet. Not much in the way of kids probably because there is nothing for them to do here. Which suits us fine. We enjoy quiet and peaceful surroundings and this KOA delivers exactly that.

Getting into the Park

Be prepared for an adventurous drive getting to this campground. I have never seen such a convoluted route on a GPS. We were coming southbound on I-81 and spent almost 2 hours after leaving the Interstate to get to this KOA. We must have crossed every possible turnpike and roadway in this part of Pennsylvania. Tight roads, lots of hills, numerous small towns. If you are driving a big rig, well, let’s just say the drive to the campground will be a bit challenging.

This KOA is located in the country. It is near the small community of New Holland and it is actually a fair distance from Lancaster. We thought that we would have a relatively moderate drive of 6 hours or so. It took us more than 10 hours to get here. The toughest part of the drive was the last 2 hours. The Interstate was smooth for the most part although there was an extensive amount of construction work on the bridges of I-81 that proved interesting for a big rig. Someone needs to tell those highway folks to put the cones on the other side of the lane marker. We hit several areas where the cones were set inside our lane by a good foot or so making it very tough to stay between the lines.

Although complicated to get to this site from the Interstate, this part of Pennsylvania is truly beautiful. Wonderful vistas for the passenger. For the pilot, well I had to stay pretty focused on the driving.

Pulling into the KOA you will find a barrier just before the office. We were let in as we had arrived during office hours. The office check-in was quick. We received a basic map and a keycard with a stern warning to bring it back or pay a $20 penalty.

Sites

We were assigned X10 although any of the sites from X1-X14 are nice. Great views in front and not tightly packed. Sites 32-41 are also very nice. Similar views as the X sites. Access to the gravel sites is via paved road. Our site was level and we had no issues pulling in and getting set up. One well used picnic table and one fire pit. No trees in the X sites.

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Pros

Very quiet park catering more to older couples
Clean and well maintained
Good lot size and expansive views of the Amish countryside

Cons

Limited services and facilities so make sure that this park will work for you and your family
Lots of mixed reviews on the web in terms of customer service

Our customer service experience?

Well, we had rented a car from Enterprise. We needed to leave early Sunday morning and getting the car back to the rental agency would take us about 40 minutes out of our way. We had to make the drive home in one day and we knew from our experience coming down that the drive was more in the range of 8 – 10 hours.

Enterprise kindly offered to pick up the car at the campground. Leave the keys at the office, park the car outside the gate and they would come by and pick it up.

Only Bonnie would not support that kind act. Her view was that they were not in the car rental business and that they would not hold the keys nor would they allow the car to be left outside the gate.

Fair enough. But I really did not understand why this would be such an imposition.

We travelled all the way into New Holland to return the car and travelled all the way back before we could begin the drive home.

Not a big deal but just be warned. The reviews on this KOA are mixed and I can understand why. This won’t be the type of place that will look to go much beyond the basics.

Fort Wilderness

 

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We have a premium campsite at Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort. Booking roughly 8 months in advance may seem a bit early to some however we have learned from experience to book ahead at Walt Disney World. It is a very popular spot.

The map below shows where all of the various sites are situated. The premium sites are from 400 – 1400. I’ve put a request in for a quiet spot which looks like the 800 loop. We’ll see when we get there next year. Lots of time to plan the trip there and back. We will be at Fort Wilderness for 10 days and I expect to take at least 3 or 4 days to go down and come back.

Slide 1

Lessons Learned

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After we returned from our first major trip with our motorcoach, we thought about some of the lessons that we learned.

Lesson 1: Be Prepared

Our coach was only a few months old. We were taking her on her first long trip. And we had some problems. Not so much in the planning of the trip, although that part is very important. This is a vehicle that usually likes to travel in one direction: forward. Making sure we had our waypoints well established, particularly for refuelling, was essential.

I had programmed the trip using Garmin’s BaseCamp. I made sure that we had easy access to food and fuel for a trip which spanned almost 3,000 kilometres. Big rigs like ours need big spaces. In addition to our RV specific GPS, the Garmin RV 760 LMT, we carried the Rand McNally Motor Carriers’ Road Atlas. We also carry the Big Rigs Best Bets Campground Directory. The latter includes a list of easy access fueling stations across North America.

Roadside assistance is an essential service. With the engine and tire trouble that we experienced on our first trip, we were thankful that we had spent the money on Coach-Net. The service paid for itself on our first major trip.

Lesson 2: Carry Extensions

Our final stopover before heading home was at the Port Huron KOA. Our sewage hose barely reached and our black tank rinse hose did not reach. We did not bring any extensions. We do have 50-foot power reels for electricity and potable water and a 50-foot reach is more than enough for those services. I thought 25-feet would be enough for sewage and black tank rinse. Not so. We need to bring extensions for our other services.

Lesson 3: Perform Circle Checks

Always, always perform circle checks. If I had not performed a circle check, I would not have caught the sidewall bulge in our front tire. A front tire blowout, particularly at high speed, is going to ruin a good day.

A circle check is a comprehensive inspection of the motorcoach both before and after any trip. I had written a very detailed post about our inspection checklist here. It does seem like a lot of work but it really does not take that much time. When operating a rig that is about 40,000 pounds, the 20 minutes or so that it takes to check the coach before a trip is well worth the effort. Safety first.

Lesson 4: Birds of a Feather

We thoroughly enjoyed our time at Petoskey and it was due, in part, to two things: a quiet, peaceful setting and couples at a similar place in life. Don’t get me wrong. We love kids and families with children. That said, we really stand out when we pull our motorcoach into a crowded, chaotic RV park filled with trailers and 5th wheels. The sites are tight with very little privacy. We often wind up shading many of the windows on our coach.

Not at Petoskey. Even though the sites were not overly generous, the overall look and feel was expansive. There were numerous Class A motorcoaches and wonderful couples similar in age and experience. Very easy to meet people and to make new friends.

It is worth our time to seek out these types of experiences whenever we can. We are confident that this will be easy to do once we are snowbirds and going south to places in Florida and Arizona. We have yet to find anything here in Canada. Lots of Provincial Parks and private campgrounds. And most of them fall into the crowded, chaotic category.

Lesson 5: Lifestyle

This was a tough one. Lorraine and I are both very anxious to start our retirement and to get out there with our coach. Getting a small taste of what lies ahead was wonderful. We also found it really, really hard to leave and to go back to what currently passes as our “normal lives”.

There is a time and a place for raising families and careers. We are finding ourselves more than ready to move on to retirement and to travelling in our coach while we are still healthy and still relatively young.

Lesson 6: Take It Easy

Letting go of all the stresses and worries of modern life takes a bit of effort. Having a few mechanical issues actually forced us to be flexible. We extended our stay by two days. And you know what? That was just fine. Everything worked out.

“All our dreams can come true if we have the courage to pursue them.” — Walt Disney

Bay View Michigan

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We spent several hours walking through Bay View, Michigan. Bay View is adjacent to Petoskey and includes over 400 cottages — if you can call the building pictured above a cottage — 30 community owned buildings, and a number of other facilities like a post office, park and a sail house.

From the Bay View Association website:

The Bay View Association of The United Methodist Church, a Chautauqua on Lake Michigan, is a National Historic Landmark community founded in 1875. It is situated on 337 beautiful, terraced acres in the northwest portion of Michigan’s Lower Peninsula. Bay View is home to more than 30 public buildings, nearly 450 cottages and two inns. Every summer we offer superb music, worship, lectures and seminars, all open to the public.

The community is a seasonal community which closes from November through April. All residences must be vacated during that time. There are hundreds of Victorian style cottages, with many of the owners representing third and fourth generation of families. The camp is listed as a National Historic Landmark district as one of the best-preserved examples of the Methodist Camp Meeting movement.

To own a cottage you must become a member of the Bay View Association. And membership is restricted to Christians only.

A beautiful place to walk. Here are a number of shots from our visit.

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