My Favorite Vacation

camping When I was a very young child, my parents and my sister and I started camping on Norris Lake in East Tennessee near Knoxville. Shortly after Norris Dam was completed in 1936 and filled in 1937, Dad bought a surplus World War I army tent and some Army cots. We began camping, cooking on fireplaces that were built by the CCC boys (Civilian Conservation Corps, for those of you who remember that program; if you don't, check your history books). They built benches, tables, and fireplaces on TVA (Tennessee Valley Authority) land surrounding Norris Lake. Back then, it was truly "camping"!

campfire In those days there were very few people who camped, so the primitive camp sites (not campgrounds, because there were no gates or attendants or paved roads--only dirt roads, which were more often than not rutted and muddy, particularly after a rain) were easy to find empty. We camped for two weeks every summer during my dad's vacation. My sister and brother and I *loved* it and always hated to come home. Norris Lake is a beautiful lake and in those days was pure and clean. Many people drank the water from the lake. We carried drinking water, but boiled lake water for washing dishes and did our bathing in the lake. Toilets were trenches dug in the woods with camp stools with cut outs in the center to resemble toilet seats. We used kerosene lanterns for light after darkness fell.

It was an ideal place for youngsters (and adults), and I have loved camping ever since! We continued to camp in tents until after my husband and I were married and we had children.

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However, our camping style evolved over the years into a much more modern, more comfortable way of life (known now as "RVing"). When our children were young, we owned two different pop-up campers. In 1983 we bought our first travel trailer, a 24-foot Sportsmen. In 1993 we traded for a 26.5-foot Coachmen trailer. In 2003 we traded again for a 29-foot Coachmen, and in late 2004 for another Coachmen.

In August of 2005 because of a design defect in the trailer, which made it "back-end heavy" with water in the water tank, on I-40 east of Knoxville, the trailer started fishtailing and wrecked. See pictures here of the wreck. But fortunately, no one was hurt and good insurance (thanks, Allstate) paid us ACV for the ten-month-old trailer. We then purchased a Fleetwood Prowler Regal, a 30-foot "tagalong" with a 15-foot long, three-foot wide slideout, a stand-alone dining room table and chairs, and many other great features. We lived in it for two to three months each winter while we enjoyed Florida's beautiful weather. It was almost like living at home. We later traded for a used 2010 35-foot Keystone Sprinter. (Bad idea: it had black water tank problems so we had it repaired and traded for a 2012 34-foot Keystone Sprinter, a very comfortable trailer with a king-size bed and recliners for watching the 32-foot digital TV!) After I was widowed in September 2013, I decided it was time to stop RVing as I'm unable to handle a trailer that long. So I sold it, thinking my RVing days were over. I was so sad, as camping has been one of my great loves for so many years.

But my RVing days weren't over after all. I went to Florida and bought a used Holiday Rambler fifth wheel. After using it for one winter season in Florida, it began having so many problems that I traded it in on a 37-foot 2017 Open Range fifth wheel with a side porch/patio. It stays on my site at the RV park in Florida as my winter home. I spend up to six months there each winter. Last winter I replaced the cheap, uncomfortable furniture with La-Z Boy love seat and recliners. (Why do these manufacturers charge outrageous prices for the RVs and then equip them with such cheap furniture?)

Modern RVs are like portable homes, with innerspring mattresses, gas/electric refrigerators (my current one has a side-by-side residential refrigerator), microwaves, automatic water heaters, modern central heating/air conditioning systems, modern kitchen facilities (including pantries), TV, and comfortable bathrooms with showers. I have a washer and dryer so no longer have to go to the bathhouse to do my laundry! (And, of course, the cell phone goes along, making it easy for family to reach us in case of emergency.) My Directv antenna is on the roof so is easy to set up so I can watch TV;.

Generally today most modern campgrounds have water, electric, and sewer hookups and guarded gates. They do not have the privacy we had in our early days of camping; but because of the dangers of being out in the wilds (dangers not from animals but from "kooks" out to do others harm), campers are safe and it's possible to camp comfortably during hot weather or cold weather and enjoy it. It certainly beats staying in a motel--both in price and in comfort.

If you've never camped (RV'd), try it--you'll like it! If you want to try it before investing big money, RVs are for rent at many RV dealerships and Camping World centers.)

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my current RV

Our favorite campground for many years was McKinney Campground on Lake Allatoona, north of Atlanta, Georgia. McKinney is a Corps of Engineers Campground. Corps campgrounds in the Southeast are beautiful campgrounds with electricity and water hookups. (Because so many sites are close to the lakes, some have dump stations instead of sewer hookups.) Most have paved roads and the sites are large. There are some pull-thrus and many back-ins. Many have guarded gates so campers feel safe and protected, even in tents. Costs are among the most reasonable of any campgrounds anywhere. There are many different passes issued that allow reduced rates at various government sites. Many of the Corps campgrounds are on lakes with swimming beaches, bathhouses, and picnic sites.

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There are lots of Web pages with camping information. Searches for "Camping" using search engines will return hundreds of documents! Here are some of my favorite camping sites.

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Last Updated: January 12, 2019; 12 noon

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