Best parks for Trailering

Today the topic was to be Bruges, Belgium, but I can’t do it. I have camping on my mind, and specifically, trailering. In America, “trailering” has been converted into a verb, and now is the time to book before all the good spots are gone. This is a short compilation of our top stops we go to time and again, and you need to book now because they are worth it. PS- if the spots below are booked on your dates, make sure you check around midnight because cancellations take effect when the clock turns over. We have skated in several days before thx to cancellations. In no particular order, our favorites are:

Cape Disappointment State Park, (south of Oceanside, Longview, Seaside) Washington

The reason it’s so named is because of all the shipwrecks that occurred off the coast. This unique location offers Yurts that can be rented (rounded, tent like structures but are permanent), beachside slots for all sizes of RV’s and the inner “suburbs” for more trailers which are walking distance to the coast. Like most state parks, it offers showers among the amenities, and lots and lots of biking trails. We go annually for clamming—a task so easy even our then-four-year-old could do it. Beware, the top temperature is high sixties unless you go in August, and the clamming isn’t so great at that time, but the weather is better. Less rain, more sun.

This is the site to make reservations for ALL Washington State public parks.

This is rush hour at Cape Disappointment. Strangely, some of the warmest days are in June
RimRock Lake Resort, Naches, Washington

Located on the opposite side of Washington (locally known as the Eastern side of Washington), this lake is large, rather remote while at the same time easily accessible. We have been going nine years in a row now, booking our spot at the RimRock Lake Resort a full year in advance. At this particular resort, the property has a pinnacle setting, wherein it’s located on two jutties. One has a 280-degree view of the lake, wherein trailers can be positioned all around the point. The resort also features a peninsula that only allows for a handful of trailers. You walk out of your trailer, and can jump off the rocks into the clear, cold lake below. We have rented three spots, one at the very end, and either one beside us for friends (or just for the privacy). The Resort has a small shop and tackle, and a restaurant but the hours are limited. We just usually drive down to Yakama, which is about 45 min east of the lake. Trails with soft dirt circumference the resort, leading down to a swimming area that’s naturally protected from the rest of the lake. The dock is a short swim, and thankfully, the bottom of the lake in this area is both rock and hard sand, not soft and gooey, which is a plus. The facilities include an indoor showering area which is known for the incredible water pressure and length of hot water (most showers are on a timer and go cold after a few minutes to force one out. Lastly, the Resort also has its own boat launch, and requirement for lakeside!

My friends served as models for these shots:) I chose both of these because they show how close the trailer is parked to the edge of the peninsula at RimRock Lake Resort. Walk out a few feet and jump off into the cold water. It’s glorious.

If RimRock isn’t available, a number of small, lake side resorts exist, some with cabins and other with the option for trailers, but I can’t recommend one in particular, as we’ve always stayed at RimRock Resort.

Lincoln Rock State Park, Wenatchee, Washington

If lakes or the ocean isn’t your thing, try a river. Our local favorite is the Columbia River, staying at the State Park. It’s always hot (think 90-100 degrees July-September), the river very cold and the park itself is laid out really well. For the premier spots, try for “the bluff.” This is limited to trailers and the massive diesel pushers. If you score a sport on the ride of the plateau the spots offer unobstructed views of the dam, river and valley below. You can take your dog for walks down the short hill, to the other areas of the park, which are segregated into tent-only areas, RV trailer areas and the like. For non-trailering folks, the loudest areas area always the tent-only locations. The reason should be obvious—they aren’t inside being boisterous, it’s right out there! The park has a boat launch and shore line where you can ride your jet ski up and park beachside.  

When your pitbull thinks she’s a lapdog, but conveniently keeps you warm as the campfire gets going.

If this Park is sold out, Wenatchee Confluence State Park is our second favorite. The downside is that the layout, which makes it seem far more crowded, and it’s not as easily accessible. This also has a marina and a rocky beach area but easy enough for jetskiiers to ride up to the short.

While many lakes have banned stand-ups, most of the State Parks have not, nor have the rivers. Hurray!
Mt. Rushmore KOA at Palmer Gulch Resort in South Dakota

This is the mother-of-all trailering parks, and the reason is fascinating—it’s the second oldest KOA in the country, and it’s located on the spot of a former golf course that went bust. From the glorious entrance and center (which is well-managed by through-lanes when you arrive), to the portioned areas.

As my husband says, “This is a camping Disneyland.” From the miniature golf course, outdoor theatre, three pools (at last count) horses back riding, rental bikes and an all-you-can-eat pancake breakfast every morning for $4.00. One can even rent a guest house, which were a part of the golf course and were included in the sale. Some of the bigger homes are 5-6 bedrooms overlooking the entire valley. Quite lovely!

It’s right around the corner from Mt. Rushmore, no more than 15 minutes. We went mid-June, when the reservations were open (and we booked about this time, early May), and were pleasantly surprised to find the lines at Mt. Rushmore were non-existent. We went on a Friday morning, found front-row underground parking and had a great two hours. More on Mt. Rushmore in another blog, but for a visitor wanting the premier location to stay, this is it.

Medicine Lake, California

This region is prominently featured in Chambers: The Spirit Warrior, which is book two in the series. As I mention in the back of the book, it’s because I grew up spending every summer here as a child with my family. The lake is a long-dormant volcano, and the places visited by the characters are real: Glass Mountain, the undergound catacomb tunnels, which can be explored for miles, as well as Captain Jack National Monument.

Dozens of other wonderful destinations exist within the State Parks, to say nothing of private resorts, but time is short and I had to pick my favorites.

Tip: for booking on-line, each state has its own state park website. This is the one for the State of Washington. The reservations for booking is here.

Book away, and we might see you there!

Feature image: this was taken at Cape Disappointment. The ecology is so amazing- from the coastal waters to this almost rainforest-like area. the Yurts are located within these spooky woods–beautiful and sheltered from the blowing wind.

Luxury for less: finding the best accomodations

Call me crazy, but I love a good deal, and for those who know me, a good deal doesn’t equate to going on the cheap. When I say I got a good deal, that’s code for “I got the luxury I want without paying triple.” In other words, I want the Four Seasons experience without the overhead, both financial and mental. (Can you hear the glee in my voice as I type this?)

This article is the first of what will be an on-going, detailed account of our accommodations. I do realize that by exposing our secrets, they will be secrets no more, but that’s my gift to you, the reader, traveler and explorer. If more people know travel can be both luxurious and economical, they’d do it more!

Our criteria: location, cost and convenience

When we travel for two weeks, we find a “home base” from which we can drive to lots of destinations. This allows us to get a major cost break for staying more than five days. We have found one pays a lot more when the stays are minimum, such as 2-3 days. Anything over five days can usually be negotiated down quite dramatically. 7-10 days is optimum.

For instance, during a four-week vacation, we picked Belgium, and specifically, Tervuren, for eight days. From this location, we visited many destinations in Brussels, the Netherlands and France. Using VRBO, we found a 5-bedroom, four bath, two story home with an in-ground pool. It was road off Park Tervuren, also known as the Empress’s Park. That meant it was also a ten-minute walk from the quaint downtown. It had garage parking for two spaces, and all the facilities one expects in a lovely home.

Luxury on Lake Cuomo: 3 bedrooms, 2 baths, private elevator and rooftop terrace. Every door opening to a private terrace

The price? $1,200 US. That’s right. All that for $150/night. A comparable location in Brussels central (twenty minutes away) first off, wasn’t even available. Homes don’t have pools, and aren’t for rent unless you are paying diplomat fees, which are about $10K/month, or $2,500 a week. Hotel rooms are about $400/night, and a family needs two. (Our family does anyway. Don’t know about you, but we believe in intimacy while on vaca).

To provide another example, in Vienna, we found a 2-story, 3-bedroom downtown apartment near the Palace. It was $1,400 for a week. In Prague, it was a 2-story, 3-bedroom modern apartment about three blocks from old town for $800. Both places were penthouses, with decks, by the way. Where did we find such deals? VRBO. Don’t worry, I’ll be posting more in-depth reviews with more pics on each in that country section.

Two-story penthouse in Prague, modern, private decks and triple security (inner/outer doors)
VRBO and Airbnb

Generally speaking, hate mail doesn’t resonate with my soul, but on this topic, I’m going there, no matter what comes. In our experience (underline, bold and with emphasis), VRBO is the only way to go for travel, for the following reasons, each one vital to the safety and security of our family.

  1. Vetting. VRBO seems to have a process for background checks/screening, credit/reputation, management of the property and overall, quality listings. Compare this to Airbnb, where anyone looking to sublet out a room, couch or whatever can just throw it up and list it. It’s sort of like buyer-be-ware.
  2. Quality. Along the lines of the above, you can rent chalets, mansions, apartments, flats and just about everything in between. The next time I want to entertain 40 of my best friends, I’ll snap up that lakeside mansion on Lake Cuomo for $10K for 2 weeks, but until then, I’m super happy I got the two-story, 3-bedroom penthouse with it’s private elevator on the waterfront of Bellagio (which sits on a peninsula Lake Cuomo) for $1,100 for eight days. The accommodations, whatever they may be, must be true to representation, or risk getting a bad review, which results in the owner (and associated location) being banned from VRBO. This accountability really is fantastic for us travelers.
  3. Management and payment. On VRBO, most of the locations have an on-line calendar for direct booking. Depending on the location, direct communication is required with the owner and/or manager of the site. A small deposit is usually required, but we have learned over the years that negotiation is always possible—e.g. small deposit, part cash when we arrive if all is in order, and then the remainder of the cash when we check out. This makes it a 1/3, 1/3, 1/3, reducing the risk of the site being awful and us getting stiffed.

    On that note, we have read horror stories about travelers paying half and showing up to find that the place doesn’t exist, the reviews were fake and someone took their money and ran. These were 100% Airbnb, never VRBO. Still, one can never take chances. If the owner/manager doesn’t get back promptly, the dates show up then disappear on the calendar, or other anomalies, they are red flags. Nothing is worth the risk of standing on foreign land without a place to stay
View off the deck of the 5th story penthouse on Lake Zurich. Most buildings are modern with natural treatment for roofs. Down the cobblestone lane (beside this building) is the waterfront. The apartment, waterfront and surrounding yoga studio and eateries are all featured in the Danielle Grant trilogy.
More on Parking

It’s not always possible to get a place with its own parking spot, so in those cases, we use a local garage. In Vienna and Prague both, the $10 daily fee (for a week rate) was nominal. Day rates can be higher, but we never paid more than $20/day. If your location doesn’t offer parking, ask your contact about local parking availability so you come prepared.

Final notes on rentals

When locating a home base for our travels, we look for laundry facilities and air conditioning. For Americans, many are shocked to learn that the majority of non-hotel accommodations (and even quite a few hotels) around Europe lack air conditioning. One must look, double and triple check these things or else you will be in for a nasty surprise. It’s usually in the ‘details’ section of the listing, along with things not allowed—think dogs, and quite a few places don’t allow children. On that note, we’ve found that if we identify the ages of our children, and that they are girls, we’ve had pretty good luck. Sorry to say that discrimination against young boys does exist, and there’s not a darn thing you can do about it but look elsewhere.

Feature image: taken from the balcony of the penthouse villa in Lake Cuomo

Kissing Pete Townshend While Living on a Prayer: Hard Rock PV, Mexico

Kissing a rockstar was never on my bucket list of things to do. Still isn’t. Yet, when the opportunity presents itself, one must take it, mustn’t one?

It all started when Rog said that ‘we needed a break’ and he wanted to spoil me. I don’t recall the order of those two comments, but when one is offered a Mexican vacation, the standard response should invariably be ‘yes.’ When he asks about where I want to stay, I didn’t have an opinion (when you’ve been going to Mexico for as long as I have, you’ve pretty much seen it all–or so I thought).

A day later he tells me he has mixed it up and booked the Hard Rock Hotel in Puerto Vallarta. Yes, I’d seen the ads for the one in Las Vegas (in case you have missed the MTV-like commercials, everyone has seemingly stepped from the pages of a magazine, the music is all that is hot and sexy and the food heaven sent), and yes, they were offering a special ($1,500 worth of hotel credit). Thus, I checked out the spa, read the reviews (mixed on all aspects) and said ‘why not?’

So it was that the plane ride down was all about introspection. That ended the second we pulled up to the hotel and was assaulted with You give love a bad name by Bon Jovi. I turned to Rog. “You made sure to order up all the sexy people right?” He nods, humoring me.

At the counter, we are informed we can rent any one of 22 Fender guitars, along with headsets and amplifiers to we can practice without disturbing anyone. I don’t catch his last comments because A Whitesnake song comes at me from above, like a demon from hell, piped down in overhead speakers (and I only know its Whitesnake because Rog tells me). As we walk through the lobby (with looping videos of Pitbull and past a stream of authentic rockstar items), I’m suddenly face to face with a lifesize picture of the Guns-N-Roses band members. I realize that Slash has bigger hair than me (I feel a twinge of jealously) and Axl Rose was so skinny his entire waist was the size of one of my thighs.

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post Tom Petty and pre Spinal Tap

It’s about four pm, and as we head into the elevator, I’m starting to snicker. No sexy people. The original flag from Woodstock (it’s of big lips btw) hangs just below the arch of the hallway is the line “Love in an elevator,” by Steven Tyler, nicely called out in subdued, foot-size silver lettering. Are you getting a visual yet?

Blessedly, the room has no music, but I can hear the blasting from the pool area. It’s Back in Black and I start to fantasize about earphones and my favorite Sesto Sento Moby remix–really loud.

You can do this, I tell myself. It’s only a week. I keep hope alive that poolside will feature people in my decade and those that evidently chose the music. But first, I want to work out. The sun is setting, the breeze is coming in. The music in the gym has got to match the vibe. Steel, modern, pool front with the ocean in the background. Rog even takes a picture (the smile is genuine. I’m in a warm place, not much clothing and am positive the gym will be rocking).

2015-02-19 19.59.26

Spinal Tap is alive…every day at the gym

It is. To Tom Petty. Who. In. The. H**l works out to Tom Petty? He’s a great writer of lyrics, of course, but I certainly don’t feel like having my heart drug around.

That’s quite alright I repeat to myself, smiling falsely at Rog. I don’t want him to feel bad for booking this place nor do I want to appear an ungrateful shrew for hating the music. I walk forward with fortitude. Right into a life-size picture of Spinal Tap. For my dear readers who are as cool as I am, do you know who Spinal Tap is? I didn’t. Rog did (his Colorado roots are starting to seep through, don’t you think?). Now folks. When working out, isn’t it more appropriate to see images of beach bodies–or no images at all, rather than be forced to look at a skinny man poured into a lycra outfit that should only be worn by downhill skiiers racing at 100MPH? My thoughts exactly.

I know at this point, you really don’t believe me (I could barely believe it myself), so I started taking pictures as evidence. I made it through the workout, thanking Steve Jobs once again   (may he rest in peace) for the iPhone that saved my ears, changed for dinner and walked to the elevator.

Two things then happened at once. The first is I was struck by Bon Jovi everywhere singing Living on a Prayer.

my air guitar

my air guitar

The second thing was I had (somehow) missed the image of Pete Townsend in front of me, doing the air guitar movement. (I call it this because most men who insist on doing the air guitar never, ever, actually have a guitar. They just think it’s cool to whip their arm around as though they were, are or in their fantasy, will be, Pete Townsend. But I digress).

I can’t take it anymore. I lose myself to the notion of being a product of the seventies, channeling my inner flower-child-meets-bic-lighter-groupie and stand by Pete. In a single moment of rock-star-ness, I swirl my arm like every seventeen year old wanna-be guitarist and I become one with the picture. Of course it would only be fitting that in my moment of anonymous greatness than a woman walks by. She offers to take a photo and I do what I’ve never previously wanted to do. I kissed the rock star. Or at least his picture. That’s as close as I’m ever gonna get. kissing peteAnd as the final notes of Bon Jovi fades, I’m thinking about my prayer. One that includes music from the 90’s, 00’s, 10’s and maybe, just maybe if I’m really lucky, 2019. That is, if my prayers are answered.