Sun Roamers RV Resort

Our original plan for visiting New Orleans, Louisiana, was to stay at one of the state parks on the northern side of Lake Ponchartrain, Fountainebleau State Park in Mandeville. We called the park for availability, and much to our disappointment, they were booked up for the weekend. After calling and researching online, we discovered that all the state parks within a decent driving distance (defined as an hour and a half or less) of New Orleans were all booked, except for Bayou Segnette and Grand Isle. These are both on the south side of New Orleans, and Richard and I agreed neither of us wanted to take the coach through the New Orleans metropolitan area. We much prefer to avoid driving in large cities, or even driving too close to large cities, if possible.

So we started searching out private parks in the area, and found many of them to be either inconveniently located (for us) or out of our price range. Interestingly, and for those more adventurous about driving their RV in city traffic, we even found, on recommendation from our friends on iRV2, a park located nearly in the French Quarter itself. Finally we found a park just over the border in Picayune, Mississippi, called Sun Roamers RV Resort.

Image of Driving into Sun Roamers RV Park
After a couple of turns down the drive, the park opens up.
Like many private parks, Sun Roamers is primarily a seasonal destination, with many sites filled with stationary park models or RVs. The presence of seasonals don’t bother us, although if we are planning on a long stay somewhere, we generally prefer for the seasonal sites around us to be well taken care of, as in the case of Sun Roamers. Sun Roamers does have a fairly good selection of sites designated for their traveling visitors, however if you are a big rig (40 feet or larger) you may find some of the spaces pretty tight.

The sites in the front area are reserved for short-term stay visitors, while there is another section for longer stay visitors. Three of the short-term sites have full concrete pads (always a plus in my book). The park is surrounded by tall pines which act as a visual reminder that you’re in the Pine Belt, as they call it.

There is a distributed wi-fi system at the park, which provides a fairly good signal throughout, although like most systems it gets very slow around the later afternoon and evening as everyone gets home and logs on. Laundry and shower facilities, as well as an Olympic-sized pool (not heated), a clubhouse, a small non-denominational chapel and a pond round out the amenities. We managed to get a weak satellite signal on 110, but not 119. 129 (if we had the capabilities to use it) was also clear from our site at the front of the park.

Image of The office front porch at Sun Roamers
One of the office cats sunning on the front porch at Sun Roamers.
After Katrina, the park underwent some renovation. The office looks new, and the staff were welcoming and helpful, with popcorn and coffee for visitors. They offer daily trash pick up, which is fabulous, but although they advertise as being a green park, they did not have recycling facilities. I have to say that I am very disappointed by the general lack of recycling at most parks, even state parks, but I suppose that’s a complaint for another time.

Image of a Crook-necked crane
A crook-necked crane in the water.
I got my first picture of a crook-neck crane here, and the office is home to three or four cats who were friendly. I do enjoy stealing some cat time when I can. 🙂

Weathering Over

It’s five in the morning, an hour before my normal wake-up hour, and Richard and I are sitting out here in the living room watching the storm. We couldn’t sleep anymore due to the very loud and very close lighting strikes. As you can see from the radar, it’s pretty darn huge, and it’s been moving slower than we thought based on the weather forecast from last night.

Image of Large Storm over Mississippi Radar View
Here’s the radar from last night, around 10:20 pm when we went to bed.
Here’s the radar from last night, around 10:20 pm when we went to bed.[/caption]The storm is now moving in a north, north-east direction, sticking us with some red and yellow bits for a while yet. This was exactly why we decided not to go all the way to Mandeville, on the north side of Lake Ponchartrain outside of New Orleans. Not only did we think it wouldn’t be a great idea to explore New Orleans in the rain, we also weren’t sure of the amenities at Fountainebleau State Park, the campground we’d decided on in the area.

So, the decision to stay here and wait it out was probably a good one from a travel perspective. Our choice of sites, however, was probably not a good one, from a tornado perspective. We are out of the lake’s flood plain (that I can tell, although massive flooding could reach us from here), but here in the New Campground area of the park, there isn’t a storm shelter very close by. The closest is in the area they call the Second Loop, which was packed with RVs on Monday, and didn’t have any spots available for a coach our size.

There was a tornado watch issued for Hattiesburg at 3:00 am this morning, and there still is a one for the area until 9:00 am. Which brings me to two points: having a weather radio or app, and what to do in case of a tornado.

Even when I was tent camping, I always carried a weather radio with me into the forest. Now we have a weather radio combined with our walkie talkies, and I have an app called Weather Alerts on my phone. The app gives the same sound the weather radio or the television would, and woke me up at 3:00 am when the first tornado alert was issued. It is my opinion that no RVer should be without some kind of system like this. We use the app primarily, but we have the weather radio on the walkie talkies for emergency use, such as when the power goes out and my phone battery dies.

I think we’re pretty well prepared to be made aware of bad weather, or a tornado specifically, but what do you do if there is a tornado near you while you’re in an RV? In our sticks and bricks, we new exactly what to do. Go to an interior location, low to the ground, putting as many walls between you and the outside of your house as possible. The news last night had a new one for me: wear helmets if you’ve got them. Stay away from windows. Go to a storm shelter if there is one nearby.

But there really is no place in the motor home that puts multiple exterior walls between us and the tornado. The only place I can think of is the bathroom area, but it’s got a lot of glass in there. If we’d been near the shelter, I might have gotten Richard up and moved us there when the 3:00 am alert sounded. So, I went back to sleep. Was that the right thing to do? Not sure. We didn’t get picked up and thrown to Oz while we were sleeping, so it worked out. This time.

I’d love to hear about any of your stories or advice on what to do when a tornado alert sounds and you’re living in an RV.

Paul B. Johnson State Park

Yesterday we checked into Paul B. Johnson State Park. I think this one is going to go in our personal favorites list. It has everything we want in a campground to stay at for a couple of days. We think it’s going to be a great place to weather over the next few days.

If we’re only going to spend one night somewhere and get back on the road, we’ll stay pretty much anywhere as long as it’s close to the interstate (and at the moment, we also like to stay someplace with electric for the night). Paul B. Johnson is not close to the interstate, so it doesn’t fit with our over night criteria.

Image of the view from my window
The view from my window at Paul B. Johnson State Park.
The view from my window at Paul B. Johnson State Park.[/caption]But for places we’re going to stay a few days and nights, we want something more than an electric hook-up and nearness to the interstate. Paul B. Johnson has all the criteria we look for (pretty much in order of priority):

  • Full hook-ups.
    So, yeah, we can get by without full hook-ups; our work camping job in the summer doesn’t have full hook-ups. We have a huge blue boy that we use to dump when we’re at Big Rock Campground for the summer. We wanted a break from that routine, so we decided on full hook-up places for the winter season (and stuck our blue boy in storage). And, oh, my, goodness, is it great to have full hook-ups again! Shower as long as we want, whenever we want; don’t have to be careful while doing the dishes, etc.
  • Cement/concrete pads.
    Richard and I do a pretty good job at leveling the coach on any terrain, but it is very, very nice to be able to level quickly and easily when you get in after a long drive. And then not to have to level once more after it rains and the jacks sink or shift is also a plus. More like a plus-plus.
  • Spacious sites.
    Although we are social creatures, we also value privacy. We’ve stayed in places where you wake up to the sound of your neighbor brushing his teeth, and that’s okay. There’s many reasons why we’ll compromise on this point. Sometimes the budget can only take places where we’re packed in. Sometimes that kind of park is the only one close enough to where we want to be. But if we have our druthers, we would rather not be kept awake by the neighbor’s business. And we’d very much prefer for the neighbor’s not to be disturbed by our everyday noises as well.
  • Image of one of the native birds
    A male pied Muscovy duck. There is a flock of them that lives here, and about four that that have made the New Campground is their home.
  • A natural setting.
    Part of why we chose this lifestyle was to be surrounded by nature and beauty. We like being near natural features, or historical attractions. I know Richard especially likes being near lakes, not just for the joy of waking up everyday to see the light flashing on the water, but for fishing too (an activity we enjoy together). I love being close to trails I can hike, and beautiful scenery I can appreciate while walking Chloe. I also enjoy being in a natural setting where I can observe local wildlife, birds in particular. Am I a full on birder? Not yet….
  • Low(er) cost.
    This is most definitely a relative term. We understand sometimes you’ve just gotta pay more, but we generally like to pay less than $30 a night.

Paul B. Johnson State Park has all these things. It’s a large campground, but it’s been split up into areas that make you feel like you’re in a smaller place. Lots of sites have full view of Geiger Lake. There are some that are right on the water, but these are smaller sites that we couldn’t fit into with the 40’ Scepter.

Image of the spillway crossing
The spillway you have to cross on the way to the campground area.
The spillway you have to cross on the way to the campground area.[/caption]One drawback to Paul B. Johnson is the incredibly long drive in over narrow, old roads. The park was constructed after Geiger Lake was built by German POWs housed at nearby Camp Shelby. I’m pretty sure that the spillway you’ll drive over to access the campground dates to that period, or perhaps a little later. Going over that spillway in a 32,800 lbs vehicle is an experience to be sure. So if you stay here, and I highly recommend it, you’ll want to count on extra time exiting and entering the campground in your planning. It takes between 20 and 30 minutes depending on how much oncoming traffic you encounter, and how fast you want to drive the old, narrow, winding roads.

Image of signs on the entrance gate
If you’re going to be camping, you don’t need to pay the entrance fee. Also, the campground office takes credit cards. 🙂
If you’re going to be camping, you don’t need to pay the entrance fee. Also, the campground office takes credit cards. :)[/caption]At $21 a night with tax, this place is a steal. I’d expect to pay $30 or more a night for all the features of this park. I’m pretty sure it fills up during high season, since it is such a gem. Given the native dogwoods I’ve seen around, the place is probably even more spectacular in the spring. We may just have to find out on our way back to Illinois next spring.

Addendum: 11/18. Although we intended to stay through Thursday the 19th for some reason we only registered through today, the 18th. It’s raining right now, so we really didn’t want to go up to the campground office. I called up there, and spoke to a very nice attendant who renewed me over the phone. She told me I could come up there and get the vehicle passes when (if) it stops raining.

I also spoke to her about when the park sees it’s most campers. During the winter, she said they have “winterbirds” who stay the entire season. During the summer, June and July are their most busy months, with the campground being near to almost full during these months.

Benchmark Coach and RV Park, Meridian, MS

Our original plans for November 14th and 15thth, however, Richard and I decided we wanted to give ourselves a break and stay two days at our next stop in Meridian, MS at Benchmark Coach and RV Park. We were also hoping to be able to get the Bears game (unfortunately this was a no) and the NASCAR race (yay!).

Image of Benchmark Coach and RV Park

Image of The office at Benchmark Coach and RV Park
The office at Benchmark Coach and RV Park. I always like to show pictures of the offices at parks we go to, because I don’t know how many times we’ve driven into a park and asked, “Where’s the office?”
Benchmark does not fit all our usual criteria for a more than stop-over place. The sites are extremely close together, and there isn’t any views. It does fit our idea of a good stop-over, one night kind of place perfectly. They honor plenty of discount programs including Passport America, Good Sam, and FMCA, although you should know that they only honor Passport America’s discount for one night.

The sites, while somewhat tight, are all paved and level. The campground consists primarily of pull-thrus, which is very convenient for one night. Most of the folks were only staying one night, so we were able to watch a rotating cast of coaches throughout the two nights we stayed. One thing I really appreciated is that although it is very close to I-59/I-20, it is surrounded on both sides by woods to block the interstate noise. There does some to be some kind of heavy industry nearby, though, so I’d expect some noise pollution during weekdays.

Image of Laundry Room at Benchmark Coach and RV Park
The laundry room at Benchmark Coach and RV Park. Accessed with a keypad, it is in the same building with the showers.
The park is well kept and has several amenities: laundry room, showers, propane fill, and a small dog park. It’s a family run place, and everyone was very nice and friendly. On the weekends, the office is only open from 4:30 pm to 6:00 pm. However, they’re happy to let you know which site to go to if you call them if you arrive outside of these hours. This did produce a line at the office when we went to register, but I didn’t think that was a problem since Richard and I were happy to chat with our fellow RVers while we waited.

Be aware that it says on the website that sites start at $25.00 a night. Only the five or six back-in sites are this price, and these do not have 50 amp service. With the discounts we applied (Passport America and FMCA) we were able to average $26.00, but if you do not have a discount, you will pay more. All in all, it’s a great stop-over on your way further south.

Our (Loose) Plans for Now

Richard and I try to remain flexible on the road, but we do like to make some sort of rough road map for at least the next couple of weeks or so. But these are not set in stone. Things change: weather, health, constitution, roads, the budget, etc.

Being able to be flexible is one of the most important skills I think full-timers can have. It’s not necessarily my strong suit, because I am a planner at heart, but it is a skill I would like to develop. I knew this lifestyle would help in that development. I’ve recently (like in the past year) adopted a more optimistic attitude.

“It will work out,” comes to my lips now without even having to try, because I know from experience that it will. Will it always work out the way I planned? No. Will it always work out the way I’d prefer? No. But life continues, and it does work itself out.

I didn’t always have this attitude. It was something I had to work to gain. I faked it for a long time before it became instinct. When something seemed challenging, or in danger of “not working out” I forced myself to take a breath, and say,

It will work out.

And low and behold! It worked out. Often better than I’d wanted, or in a way totally unexpected than I’d planned. But because I had accepted that life works out, one way or another, I didn’t find it unbearable when it worked out in a, shall we say, less pleasant fashion then I’d planned.

Are things always hunky-dory? Nope. But without a doubt, even when things worked out not so well, things still worked out. The key for me was taking away the unspoken valuation on the phrase, “it will work out.” Before, I attached a positive value to the phrase. So when I said, “I hope this works out,” what I really was saying “I hope this works out to my advantage.”
Our friend from RVillage, Peter, expresses a similar concept in his blog, Life Unscripted:

I suspect we all say things we mean in part, but don’t mean absolutely. There is a portion of travel I tire of; there is a flavor in hazelnut that I dislike; I don’t like the tingling sensation I get in my fingers when I’m in extreme cold. — We all say we don’t like things with an emphasis on specific characteristics.

And I think these characteristic valuations go unspoken but not unexpected.

Now I merely say, “It will work out,” secure in the knowledge that life will work out one way or the other, ether to my advantage or not. But one thing is certain, life goes on, and life going on isn’t anything that I can’t stand, since if I’m alive, I’m clearly standing life.

So, here’s the (loose) schedule for our next few days:

Travel Data

  • Traveled 240 miles in 5.1 hours from Fort Payne, MS to Marion, MS
  • Used 26.4 gallons of diesel at an average of 9 mpg
  • Cost of one night (averaged between one night with Passport America discount applied and one night with FMCA discount applied) at Benchmark Coach and RV Park $26 (averaged, with tax)

Chattanooga Traffic Craziness

Today we journeyed from London, Kentucky, to Fort Payne, Alabama. We were in four different states, and traveled our longest day yet of this particular route: six hours and 254 miles. It was not exactly a fun travel day, with happy sing-a-longs and road trip games (not that even our fun days produce such cringe worthy activities, but I think you get my drift, wink, wink, nudge, nudge).

Out the windshield view of Smoky Mountains
The view of the beginning of the Smoky Mountains in Kentucky on I-75 from my seat.
The views from my seat were very pretty, I must admit, and I think they would have been even more beautiful a week or so ago when the colors would have been at their peak. There weren’t too many serious grades: one downhill at 4% was as high as it went. I-75 skirts the Daniel Boone National Forest (DBNF) (FYI, Levi Jackson State Park is also in the DBNF) all the way down to the Tennessee border, and there were many attractions that caught my eye and have since been placed on the “places I’d like to see” list, hiking the Sheltowee Trace heading the list.

We went round the western side of Knoxville with a little more extra traffic than we experienced coming down I-75, but it was the kind of traffic we would expect in a metro area. There is a left hand exit from I-640 (Knoxville by-pass) to I-40/I-65, though. Things continued along, with the hills and grades gradually decreasing as we headed on to Chattanooga.

We hit the outskirts of Chattanooga about 2:00 pm, eastern. Traffic started to get very heavy around Cleveland, KY, with increasing amounts of semis and the dangerous behavior cars that are accustomed to a specific route exhibit when around them. The end of the route around Chattanooga on the south-east side terminates with a left hand exit, not a lot of fun in light traffic, but particularly difficult in heavy, semi-laden traffic.

View through windshield of Tennessee River just outside of Chattanooga
Don’t judge the traffic by this shot, Richard likes to give a lot of space in front of him. The Tennessee river is on the right hand side.
Then came the really fun part. In order to get to I-59 on the western side of Chattanooga, one must take I-24 for approximately 17 miles. There is a moment in this stretch where you break out ugliness and overlook the city nestled in it’s valley, followed by a beautiful curve bounded on one side by cut cliffs, and on the other by the Tennessee River. It is absolutely gorgeous. And absolutely not fun for the driver.

Traffic is still very heavy, the lanes are narrow, and the curve around the bend in the river is accompanied by a more steep slope than one would expect from an interstate in an urban area. Follow that up with the fact that to get onto I-59 you need to get into the far left lane, and you have a recipe for some real Chattanooga Craziness.

Craziness aside, Richard got us safely to our destination in Fort Payne, Alabama, at the Wills Creek R.V. Park. This park is great for an overnight stop, with tons of pull-throughs. Bonus, it’s not at all far from I-59. But there are little trees on either side of each site, many with low hanging branches, as well as narrow, dirt roads and tight corners. All in all, Richard and I are glad to be relaxing here and no longer in the congestion and headache of Chattanooga (even if we don’t have TV because we we’re too tired to set up the dish for one night and there’s no antenna reception here).

Road Data for November 13th

  • Traveled 254 miles in 6.1 hours from London, KY to Fort Payne, AL
  • Used 31.3 gallons of diesel and average 8 mpg
  • Cost of one night at Wills Creek R.V. Park $28.82 (with tax)

The Visone RV Boneyard

View of the Visone RV Boneyard from the road
Driving into the Visone RV Boneyard, you can see all the RVs parked on the rolling hills.
My mind has been totally blown by a visit to the Visone RV Boneyard. I guess I should explain. In London, Kentucky, lies one of the largest RV boneyards, if not THE largest east of the Mississippi. Not only can you go there and find spare parts in their warehouse, but you can also give them a list of needed parts and they will run out to the lots and try and find them for you.

Image of RVs lined up on the Visone Lot
Some of the RVs lined up on the Visone Lot.
When we first drove in, we were shocked by the amount of RVs, specifically motorhomes, they had on their property. And then there was the damage. I’ve never seen so much shear damage around me. It was just completely mind-boggling, to see the condition some of the RVs here are in after experiencing fire or an accident.

Image of the burnt side of Monaco
A fire in a Monaco completely destroyed the entire driver’s side.
The fire damaged ones, to my mind, were both the most impressive, and the most frightening. Fire is something that lays heavy on my mind sometimes. If a fire starts by the furnace or refrigerator, there isn’t much that can be done. You can do the safety-training stuff and aim the fire extinguisher, but there is a good chance that you will lose your RV. On the left is a Monaco coach after a fire in, I believe, the refrigerator area. The damage is extensive, and (as we discovered from talking to the guys here about the fire-damaged HR Scepter we were hoping to pull some cabinet doors from for a future project) the interior is nearly completely a loss. The featured image for this post is a close-up of some of the fiberglass damaged by the fire.

We were a little disappointed that we were not allowed to roam over the yards to seek out parts, but we understood why. A close friend had an accident out there, and their insurance company won’t allow them to let people roam at will anymore. But we were allowed to walk around some of the coaches in the yard, which was still exciting.

Image from inside the Visone Warehouse
Down one of the aisle inside the Visone Warehouse.
The warehouse is large and extensive. It contains nearly anything you could want for your coach, from cabinet fixtures to power inverters, to exterior covers. Some of the inventory is new, but mostly it is used parts pulled from the various coaches in the yard.

A visit to an RV boneyard has been something we’ve wanted to do since we started RVing, and Visone paid off in spades. Even though it’s a bit scary to see all the different ways our RV could, well, die, it’s still an amazing site to see all these RVs in one place.

We brought our purchases home and made our replacements. In addition to the door, we also bought several covers for our overhead florescent lights which had cracked, and therefore fell down at the slightest bump in the road. The new covers fit snug and don’t look to be going anywhere.

Image of the broken hinge
The hinge that broke on our OE door. Note the duct tape fix.
Replacing the door was not an easy task. First we removed the old door (with the fridge off so it would not beep at us). With the door off, we removed the old, broken hinge. Then we striped the black trim off one side of the old door, and knocked the wooden panel out.

Image of the new door
The new door on our kitchen table. Yes, we got thickburgers for lunch that day. 😉
The panel is held in on the edges by runnels, but it is also glued on. At Visone they’d advised us that we could possibly encounter this, and they said to run a file underneath the panel to break the hold. We didn’t have a file, so we used brute, but gentle, force. We had the cuts of wood we’d used in the great cabinet lift of 2015 that we used to protect the wood as Richard hammered the panel out.

Together we slid the old panel onto the new door. That took some coordinated effort to jimmy properly in place.

Image of Richard preparing to replace the door
Richard sitting before the door, preparing to do the replacement.
Now we were ready to mount the new door. First we slid the new door into the upper hinge. Then I got down onto my back on the floor while Richard held the (now very heavy with the wooden panel) door in place. Seating the screws properly to attach the new door’s hinge to the bottom mount was difficult, but once they were properly in place with their washer, I was able to screw the new hinge bracket in place.

What an amazing day! We got a project accomplished and had our minds totally blown by the mass of all the RVs at Visone. Definitely a place worth seeing, but it is also a great online resource.

Levi Jackson Wilderness Road State Park

Today we traveled from the FMCA Campground in Cincinnati, Ohio, to Levi Jackson Wilderness Road State Park in London, Kentucky. We are travelling here instead of going directly south in order to visit the Visone RV Boneyard. This trip to the boneyard is both in the nature of a pilgrimage and a necessity.

The day after the slide broke, Murphy and his Law decided it was a good day to come to town. I opened the right hand door of our Norcold French-door style refrigerator and the entire door fell of the hinge, dropping everything I stored in the door on the tile. Luckily, nothing broke (most especially my bare toes), except the door. Turns out (though some of you may already be aware of this) the Norcolds have a bit of a design flaw in the bottom hinge, allowing the plastic to break and the door to fall off the top hinge.

So we needed a new door. Richard temporarily fixed the problem with duct tape so I could access the things I had stored in the fridge behind that door. We took everything out of the door to keep the load light. But this was a temporary fix to be sure, so we would be looking for a new door at Visone.

Levi Jackson Wilderness Road State Park is a beautiful park in the foothills of the mountains of south-central Kentucky. It’s named for one of the first pioneers of the area, and contains historical sites such as the McHague Mill, the Wilderness Road, and Boone’s Trace (named for Daniel Boone), the two primary routes for pioneers settling in the area.

The drive in recommended by the park is over several small, narrow roads, including one ascent around a right hand curve. There are two routes in, and I would recommend taking the route directed by Google using KY-229.

Image of a pull-thru site at Levi Jackson State Park
A pull-thru site next to us at Levi Jackson Wilderness Road State Park. The pads are all concrete and level (at least the pull-thru sites are).
Our site is a pull-thru, though from egress angle, it will be difficult to actually pull out of this site, so we are thinking we might have to back out. This park is open year round and still had the water on this time of year, though do to construction further inside the park, they advised us it may be turned off from time to time.

It’s a lovely park, with lots of space and things to do (mini-golf anyone?). Although we are surrounded by trees, there is enough of a clearing around us to be able to get a satellite signal. I wish we were going to spend more time here, as there is much to explore, and good hiking opportunities. Alas, we’re planning on going to Visone tomorrow, then moving on the following day.

Road Data for November 11th

  • Traveled 172 miles in 3.8 hours from Cincinnati, OH to London, KY
  • Used 21.7 gallons of diesel and average 7.8 mpg
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Cincinnati Chili Chains

Okay, so the main reason we went to Cincinnati was those free nights at the FMCA campground but the secondary reason was to score some authentic Cincinnati chili.

Now, I should start by saying that I have no intention of offending anyone with regard to chili. I understand that chili is often dear to many people’s hearts, and many people have a specific definition of chili. I like chili, and am all-inclusive in my affection for it. So I like chili con carne, chili with beans, chili with big cubes of steak in it, green chili, etc. I also like chili on lots of different things: chili-cheeseburgers, chili-dogs (known as Coneys in some parts of the country), chili-fries, chili-sizes, etc.

Image of Gold Star Chili's open kitchen
Gold Star Chili in Cincinnatti has an open kitchen and a counter, so you can watch what they make.
Okay, so on to the subject of Cincinnati Chili. Like all regional foods, there are many places that do this dish well in and around the city. And many people swear by their particular local place. On this food mission, Richard and I wanted to compare two chains that are local to the Cincinnati region: Gold Star Chili and Skyline Chili.

I should say that really, Richard was the only one of us able to make the comparison, since we only had the opportunity to go to one and he’d already had chili at Skyline. This left Gold Star Chili as our destination of choice. We’d read online that many people thought Gold Star to be spicier and meatier than Skyline. To some extent, Richard agrees.

I wanted to get Cincinnati chili partly as a tribute to my father. When I was younger, we went to Cincinnati to see the Reds play in the old stadium. My father was always very interested in seeing the classic old stadiums before they were replaced with new ones. We got Cincinnati chili at the ballpark, and I remembered how much we both enjoyed it.

What makes Cincinnati chili different from any other chili, you may be asking yourself? Quite a lot, actually. First off, the chili itself is meat only, and more of a sauce. It also uses cinnamon as one of the primary spices. Cincinnati chili is served (when not as a Coney) on spaghetti. Then comes the lingo: three-way, four-way, five-way. Here’s how the different “ways” you can get your chili stack up (listed from the bottom up):

  • Three-way: Spaghetti, chili, cheese (and when they say with cheese, they mean with a ton of cheese)
  • Four-way: Spaghetti, (beans), chili, (onions) and cheese (items listed in parenthesis are choices, you get one on a four-way)
  • Five-way: Spaghetti, beans, chili, onions, cheese (my personal favorite)

The verdict? I am sure that some of the old school, belly up to the counter, non-chain places are better than either of these outlets. But the chili at Gold Star was tasty and quick. They packaged the cheese and the onions separately since we got the orders to go. We could have used the drive-in, but I wanted pictures. Happy eating all around.

FMCA Campground in Cincinnati

Okay, so, everybody likes free stuff. I think I can say that with some degree of certainty. But Richard and I love free stuff. Any day we can get something on sale or deep, deep discount, or best of all, free, is a pretty darn good day.

Which is why we just absolutely had to stop at the FMCA campground in Cincinnati for our two nights per month free. We joined FMCA when we first started RVing, for some of the other membership perks: roadside assistance, discount at campgrounds, medical emergency travel and assistance program, etc. But getting $40 a month in free camping was certainly an awesome perk: even if you only do it once a year, it pays for the membership. And $20 a night beyond the two free is a great price for full hook-ups with cement pads.

All in all, in was a great place to spend a couple of days while we played more with the slide. You may already be familiar with the battle with the slide (if not, start the story by clicking here. Well, the day we left Bowling Green the slide struck back (I was afraid it was going to freeze us in carbonite after this) and got some of our freelance projects done. When you work on the road, sometimes you just have to stop for more than a day to get stuff done.

Actually, the side’s not that big of a deal. Richard thinks the spring probably needs some more tension on it. Right now it doesn’t have enough tensionto hold the aluminum cap up and roll under it. So Richard has to hold the cap up with our all-purpose pole (handy for many things, this originally was bought to wash the coach) while I bring the slide in. Compared to having the slide not work at all, this is nothing, folks.

Anyway, back to FMCA. Couple words of caution. The first is that getting to FMCA is no walk in the park. You’ll want to take I-275 E around Cincinnati, then you have a choice. You can either take several sharp rights to get to Round Bottom road from exit 59 onto OH-315. Or you can take exit 63A and take OH-32 down to a right onto Round Bottom Rd, with the campground only about a quarter mile on the right. We chose the second route and encountered a nasty surprise on OH-32: a steep downgrade combined with a sharp right. Not fun in either the coach or the car with the speed limit being 55 mph and locals screaming past. So choose carefully which of the two evils you’d like to take on: steep hill with curve, or multiple sharp right turns and a longer drive on Round Bottom Rd.

Second word of caution is that there are not that many sites at the FMCA campground (15 in all), so make sure to call a day or so ahead to find out if they have room for you. They don’t take reservations, so if it sounds like they might be busy, have a back-up plan for the night. FMCA makes this somewhat easier, since they have a parking area with lots of electric only hook-ups just in case. But if they’ve got a rally there, or are using the park for employee visits, they may not even have that over-flow area available.

And of course, it goes without saying (but I’m saying it anyway) you can’t stay at the FMCA campground unless you’re an FMCA member. Also, your goose eggs (the black, oblong thingies with your FMCA member number on it) need to be in full display. And (bonus!) you can tour the FMCA Headquarters building on Clough Pike by calling and scheduling a tour in advance.