Sunday, June 25, 2023

6/25 Status of State Parks

I haven't been posting much lately because I am in Ohio, staying in various state parks near my youngest son’s home, and catching up on doctor and dentist visits.  Last week, I had an x-ray of a finger on my right hand to determine why I had pain there.  Unfortunately, it is arthritis.  I had hoped two little painful bumps could be easily removed.  Also had a couple of cat scans to check out some long-running issues.  No changes, so that is good news.  Then I saw my dentist and scheduled a tooth implant—not fun to look forward to, but glad to get it done in next few weeks.  Also, spent some time with grandkids and am now working on doing some deep cleaning and reorganizing of stuff in my motorhome. I am embarrassed to say I washed my privacy curtains for the first time in 11 years!!! They were marked "dry clean only" but came out fine after being washed in cold water.

In between all of these things, I have had some conversations with people about the condition of state parks.  As you might know, I nearly always stay in federal, state, or county campgrounds.  They tend to be less crowded than commercial campgrounds, with sites farther apart and a few animals running around. 

The problem in this country is that with only a few exceptions, most state parks were built several decades ago, in an era when most people stayed in tents or relatively small RVs.  A few decades ago, most state parks added electric and sometimes water hookups to sites.  They also usually laid down some asphalt for RVs and cars to park on. 

Unfortunately, RVs have gotten bigger, and many require 50 amp hookups instead of the older 30 amp connections that most state park still have.  In addition, trailers and motorhomes have become a lot longer and a few inches wider over the years.  Also, campers expect more amenities such as showers and flush toilets these days.  The problem is that when it comes to state budgets, recreation is an easy thing to cut, which has been common in the last couple of decades.  The result has been delayed maintenance and few improvements made in most state parks over the past 20 – 30 years.  This means that asphalt is crumbling, electrical hookup boxes have been backed into a few too many times, and utility systems have degraded, plus many sites are too narrow and too short for modern big rigs.  Since Ohio can be a rainy state, a narrow site means you step off your stairs into the mud!!

(I won’t even get into another of my pet peeves in campgrounds—the fact that whoever laid down the asphalt pads 40 years ago were clearly not campers and often did not realize the importance of sites being even reasonably level.  I call these sites “ski jumps”!)

COVID caused a lot of people to cancel hotel and cruise-type vacations.  RV dealers had banner years during COVID as people bought trailers and motorhomes as safer means of vacationing.  This was exacerbated by the large numbers of baby boomers who retired, bought RVs, and took off for the open road.  Places where you could always get a last-minute camping site are now booked weeks and months in advance. 

Some states have started to make improvements, as evidenced by the State of Ohio replacing about 10-15% of the older sites with full hookup sites last year.  (A full hookup site has electric, water, and sewer.)  Most importantly, these new sites Ohio constructed have new concrete and asphalt, are wider and longer, and are much more level.  They also have concrete patios, which reduce the mud and the mats campers put down to have a clean place to put chairs on.  They also have put the hookup utilities on concrete pads, which means you do not have to get muddy feet or wade through a puddle to plug in your electric cord!!  Yea!!!

Unfortunately, there is a lot of infrastructure like underground electrical wire and water systems that still need to be replaced in a lot of state parks, and there are still too many “ski jump” sites that need to be replaced.  As an example, the campground I am currently staying in has only 20 amp sites, except for two handicap and two ex-camp host sites.  This means that you cannot run an AC unit in an RV on hot days.  Last winter, they put in underground wiring for 30 and 50 amps, but installation of the electric posts were delayed until this coming October because they could not delivery of the posts before the busy summer season.  (I got one of the old camp host sites, so I am lucky to have AC if I need it.  I know camping with AC might sound silly, but I am getting older and without AC, every recreational vehicle soon resembles a tin can on a hot day.)

I have mentioned RV sites, but I have to add that tent sites are even worse in a lot of places.  In the two places that I tend to stay at while visiting my son, tent sites are just opening in the woods, with a driveway nearby to park a car.  Newer state and federal campgrounds will have tent pads that are slightly raised and consist of fine gravel on top of coarser gravel with the materials held in by a wooden barrier of some sort.  This means that campers will have a dry or at least well-drained surface on which to pitch their tents—a considerable improvement over mud or wet forest ground.   

I am using Ohio as an example, but it is pretty typical.  A friend of mine sent me a list of the improvements the State of Michigan is planning for its state parks, and it totals $15,962,000 over the next couple of years, much of which is coming from Biden's American Rescue Plan.  Here are two articles:



I looked through the second item, the project list, and I am especially glad they are replacing the sanitation system at Traverse City SP.  The existing dump station is a terrific example of poor design, so I hope they are relocating it or at least relocating some of the campsites near it. I assume it was built when few campers had tanks to dump because it is located at the end of a line of camp sites. This is a very large campground in a very popular place, so there are so many RVs that line up to dump each day that they have to station a camp host to direct traffic, plus the line ends up forming down the roadway so that it blocks in several campsites!! Can you imagine being stuck in your camp site for several hours each day by RVs lining up to dump their sewage tanks??? It really needs to be located away from where campers are camping.

I know that Michigan has spent a lot of money on Wilderness SP near Mackinaw City over the last couple of years, redoing most of the campsites. Like most other state parks, it is packed at least six months of the year. I remember staying there 11 years ago, and the sites were so close together and the roadway so narrow that most campers had their vehicles parked hanging out into the road. I remember people having to move trucks before I could leave!!

In reality, all this good news is just a small amount of what really needs to be done to catch state parks up with the needs and wants of campers. If you look through the Michigan list, you will see that a lot of the changes will not be immediately noticeable to campers because many of the projects involve replacing electrical and water systems, but it is a good start and will eventually make camping easier and more pleasant for a lot of people.

Tuesday, June 13, 2023

6/13 Dam East on Carlyle Lake

I made it to Carlyle Lake in central Illinois after three days at Bloomington East in Missouri and two long day's drive.  In between Bloomington East in Kansas and here was Arrow Rock SP in Columbia, MO.  I did not take any photos of either place because frankly, they were not terribly interesting places.  

Bloomington East campground was packed because it was the weekend, but I got four loads of laundry done, which is a real accomplishment.  I had not done laundry for over three weeks, so not only had I run out of clothes, but I had a ton of towels and bedding.  So, all is now clean and will last me until I get to Ohio in two days.  One of the really nice things about Ohio and Florida is that almost all the state park campgrounds in those cities have washers and dryers in each restroom.  

But back to Dam East, where I am now.  I have spent two nights here to rest up from the two driving days to get here.  This is a very large lake, and this is the third campground I have stayed at in this Corps of Engineers recreation area--Dam West and Boulder Beach are the other two.  Dam West is obviously west of the dam and Dam East is east of it.  Boulder Beach is on the east side, but quite a ways north.  This campground is pleasant, and I am getting two out of three DISH satellites, which means I am getting nearly all of the available channels, even the locals. 


Very nice, large, paved campsite.  It is nice to be able to walk around on your site and not get muddy!  


A few too many trees for my preferences, as I like open areas so I can get satellite TV. But, as with almost all COE campgrounds, this one is clean and well-taken care of.  Also, it is cheap for seniors because we get a 50% discount for all federal campgrounds. 


A couple of days ago, I spent an hour putting my new bike cover onto my bike which is on a rack on the rear of my motorhome.  It was tightly wrapped and the cover was fastened with about a dozen long elastic ties.  So, today, I decided I wanted to take a bike ride to do some exploring, so I had to take all my work apart and then put it back on when I was done.  

I was a little shaky since I had not ridden my bike for a while, but I managed to ride a few miles without falling.  Below is the beach area near my campsite.

Strangely, this lake has two dams.  This is the smaller of the two and is close to Dam East campground.

This is the second and larger, main dam.  I rode down the lower road, than turned around and rode back and down the upper dam road.  Way down at the end is the spillway. 


 This is the bottom of the dam and the spillway. 

This is the top of the dam, directly over the spillway and dam controls.  It has recently rained, so they were dumping a lot of water today.

The spillway.  

It was an amazingly long ride on the top of the dam.  I would have continued to ride farther, but it was very windy and I was afraid of getting blown over. The Dam East campground is at the far end of the dam, and towards the lake.

Enjoyed my bike ride, but I need to build my confidence up a bit. 

6/7 Minooka Park on Wilson Lake, KS

I've been here before, but it is such a nice place to stop along I-70 that I am here again.  It's also only $11 per night for a well-maintained camp site with water and sewer, plus a view, so that is a very good deal.  

And most importantly, it had no moths, although I had a very long drive to get here after bailing out of the Denver campground. 

This are is interesting because it has a lot of stone fence posts.  As you can see from the photos, they don't have many trees around here, and I was told that this rock was easily cut and shaped when it was first dug up.  It hardens over time.

I chose the same camping site I had the last time.  It is on a bluff on a peninsula that is situated in the middle of the lake, so it overlooks the lake.  It was a little busy here over the weekend, but once the weekenders left, it was quiet and peaceful.

This is a really big site. 

Onward to Missouri and then Illinois!

Wednesday, June 7, 2023

6/2 Invaded by Swarms of Moths

I have not posted lately, but I decided I really needed to post about my most recent "adventure.)  I left Heaton Bay on Friday, and I drove over the mountains into Cherry Creek SP just east of Denver, only to find out that this was cutworm moth season.

I found a few moths on Friday evening, so I started swatting and electrocuting moths.  I went to bed very late, but woke up about 4:00 am.  When I woke up, I discovered that my motorhome had been invaded by hundreds of Miller Moths.  Between 4:00 am and 5:30 am, and I am not exaggerating, I'd kill a couple dozen by swatting them with my electric swatter, dump them in the toilet, and turn around to find a dozen or more hiding in the bathroom., so had to swat them Finally, I could not stand it and got out the RAID and sprayed my bathroom and closed the door--got about 40 that way. Then a smaller spray to kitchen, and yes, I know you should not spray your kitchen.  Here is the result in the bathroom after the swatting and then the spraying:


My living area floor was equally strew with moths, and I could barely walk around, even after picking up a lot of them. I felt like I had been trapped in Alfred Hitchcock's movie The Birds.  

After some quick research, I found out the moths had hatched in western Kansas and were migrating to eastern Colorado, but the migration was almost done, so I packed up and was off by 6 am, after less than 2 hours of sleep. I knew the farther east the better, so I drove all day and got to Wilson lake, after 383 miles. Tried to take a nap halfway there, but found moths in my bedroom, so gave up and just kept driving.  And I could not use my bathroom at all during my drive, so had to stop for meals and bathrooms. 

On the way through Kansas, I stopped at a hardware store to stock up on insect spray and got two little ultraviolet lights with sticky pads. They are the same as these on Amazon:  Anyways, these really work, but you have to turn off other lights as much as possible! Within an hour each one (kitchen and bathroom) each had 5 moths, so I had to change the pads--luckily I got two packs of extras. Gone through a lot of little plastic bags in last couple of days because a bug that looks dead may just be stunned. Did flush some, however.

I had to cancel the second day of my stay at Cherry Creek, and the ranger was kind enough to give me a partial refund.  I also cancelled a one-night stay at a private campground on my way to Wilson Lake, but had not yet paid, so no cancellation fee.  Luckily, I was able to get a reservation at Minooka Park on Wilson Lake for Saturday and Sunday nights.  Since I already had reservations there for Monday through Wednesday, this worked out well.  (It is not easy in summer to get last minutes reservations, but school is apparently not out yet in Kansas.)  

I normally try to limit my driving each day to about 200 miles, so 383 miles was really an exhausting struggle, but I wanted to get as far east as possible, and I have been here before, so I knew this was a pleasant place, and I was hopeful that my site on a bluff overlooking the lake would have a good breeze to keep insects away.   

When I arrived at Minooka, I heated up and ate some dinner, then I got into cleaning mode.  I vacuumed the floor,  scrubbed the bathroom shower and walls down, and then ditto for the kitchen. There were still some moths around, so I electrocuted all the moths I could.  Also I had to put towels and rug from bathroom into a big plastic bag because they had been sprayed also.  I turned all lights off, except the ultraviolet bug catchers, then went into my bedroom and closed the door. Hard to sleep, but I probably fell asleep at 1 am and slept until 2 pm on Sunday. 

Saturday night, there were fewer moths, maybe 50-60, but I suspect these were moths that had been hiding, not new ones that had come in.  

I had been throwing things around to swat at moths with electric swatter so on Sunday, I did aother vacuuming and did dishes with a little bleach in the water.  Also washed down places where I had swatted moths. So, all is now clean.  Supposedly the moths have mostly migrated west and most of the ones I killed last night might have been from night before. 

Keeping my fingers crossed.  Anyway, my advice is to stay clear of western Kansas and eastern Colorado in May and early June.  Here are three articles about the moths, but the first one is the best because it is funny: