Tag Archives: pet friendly

Free Things to Do in Rapid City: Hiking to the Strato Bowl

Free Things to Do in Rapid City: Hiking to the Strato Bowl

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The Strato Bowl is the best of both worlds for us: Hiking for me, aviation for Mike. It was the such a fun Labor Day outing. We got some exercise, enjoyed incredible views and learned something new about aviation history.

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The Stratobowl is a small, flat valley completely surrounded by the Black Hills where some of the first early manned balloon flights were launched in the 1930s. In 1934 and 1935, the Army Air Corps and National Geographic Society launched manned balloon flights into the stratosphere from this location to a record 72,395 feet. The Explorer II flight proved man could survive the altitude in a pressurized capsule, an important part of the space program and our quest to walk on the moon. Since then, the Stratobowl has hosted aviation pioneers Ed Yost, Steve Fossett, Troy Bradley and others.

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The view is spectacular. There are few places where you will see such an interesting view including pine-covered hills, wide blue skies and the small stream that winds through that peculiar flat valley nestled between the Hills.

 

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Dogs are welcome on this  1.7-mile, moderately trafficked out-and-back trail. To get there, take Mount Rushmore Road into the Black Hills (16). Stay on 16 past Reptile Gardens and Bear Country USA. Just past the service station is a small parking area on the right-hand side (westbound), marked by powerlines.

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Gold Brook Campground (Stowe, VT)

Gold Brook Campground (Stowe, VT)

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We were able to squeeze in the New Hampshire gig because Mike was already scheduled to work at a Harley dealership in Vermont.   There wasn’t a year-round campground in Barre, so we stayed at Gold Brook Campground in Stowe.  (Thankfully, this time, the commute was only 40 minutes, instead of an hour.)

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This was the first time we had a campground completely to ourselves.  It was eerie with no one around.  There’s something disconcerting about a quiet playground.  Then we settled in and really enjoyed the privacy.

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Another first for us was staying at a campground that has no website.  We relied on the couple of reviews we found online.  They were accurate.  The campground is,  indeed, “no frills”, and the owner is a “crusty old Vermonter” who warms up as you interact with him.   There are full hook-up sites along with tent spots.  Full hook-ups normally include electric, water, and sewer, but in mid-November, the water had been shut off.  We were able to fill our fresh tank from a spigot on the outer wall of the shower house when we arrived.  We had to improvise with two five-gallon buckets and a pump to replenish our supply after we were connected.

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My routine was to drive Mike to the dealership, head to Black Cap Coffee and get my work done, go back to the rig and take the dogs on a nice, long walk, and then do some sight-seeing before returning to pick Mike up.  There’s a lot to see in Stowe and also nearby Waterbury, like the Ben & Jerry’s factory tour, a Cabot Cheese outlet and Lake Champlain Chocolates.

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For a couple of days, the weather was warm enough around midday to make walking along the river brisk but pleasant.  The bark babies haven’t seen much water, so they were unsure what to make of it.  Meeko rushed up, put his front paws in, and jumped back like he’d been stung.  Too cold for our little man!  Sadie didn’t even bother to get close.  I think she might be smarter than I give her credit for.

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Knowing bad weather was on the way, I made sure to make the most of the sunny skies.  So when the snow came, I was ready to appreciate it from the cozy confines of the RV.

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Field & Stream RV Park (Brookline, NH)

Field & Stream RV Park (Brookline, NH)

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As we head into winter, it’s getting harder to find campgrounds that are open year-round.  That’s how we ended up  an hour away from where Mike was working in Swanzey – at Field & Stream RV Park in Brookline.  Even though we would have preferred to be closer, Field & Stream was a nice place to bunk for a week.  About half the rigs there seem to be permanent residents, parked on the outer edges or back section of the park.  The sites are paved and level, able to accommodate large rigs.  It’s a gated campground, so they give you a key to get in and out.  My mum and her husband David, who live about 45 minutes away, in Raymond, loaned me one of their cars to use during our stay, and the campground kindly gave us a second access key.

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Another challenge we’re having at this time of  year – since we’ve been working in the northeastern part of the country – is the availability of water.  Because the water to the sites comes through pipes in the ground that aren’t heated, they’ll freeze when temperatures drop.  This, of course, can be a problem in a stick house, but it’s much less likely.  Field & Stream advised us that they’d be shutting off the water toward the end of our stay, and they did.  We had been filling up our tank every night, just to be on the safe side, so it didn’t create too much of a hardship.  I did, however, stop doing laundry in the rig and instead went to a laundromat with Mum.  It turned into a rather nice afternoon of chatting and crafting while the clothes washed and dried.

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As with most parks, our site included a picnic table.  Dogs had to be leashed and picked up after, but there was no designated area that they were confined to.  The bark babies enjoyed crunching through the leaves and sniffing at the muddy little lakes that formed on the dirt road around the park.  Field & Stream had the other amenities that we’ve learned are pretty standard:

  • Free Wi-Fi
  • Paved, level sites
  • Water
  • 30- and 50-amp electric
  • Sewer
  • Cable TV
  • Laundry facility
  • Shower house
  • Propane

In the good weather, campers can enjoy the play area, the fishing pond and a canoe dock.  The campground is also very close to pretty Lake Potanipo.  There’s no path around the lake, but it’s got parking and boat access.  The best part of the lake, though, is the small lighthouse that I got to walk by on my commute to work at The Cozy Tea Cart Cafe, just a mile and a half away.

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Tower Campground (Sioux Falls, SD)

Tower Campground (Sioux Falls, SD)

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Tower Campground is a year-round park in Sioux Falls that’s got easy access to all the stuff you want to see, like the U.S.S. South Dakota Battleship Memorial, Falls Park and the historic downtown.  Even better for our purposes, it was also a quick jaunt to Mike’s gig at J&L Harley, just four exits up the highway.  The proximity to the highway has led to some negative reviews of the campground because of the roadway roar.  Our rig is well insulated, so we didn’t really notice the noise inside.   Outside, yeah.  But, the trees buffer some of it.

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I don’t know if the staff was workcampers or owners, but they were super friendly and helpful.  While we were there, we had oodles of packages delivered, including two folding bikes.  They texted us when our multiple boxes arrived, and they helped me load those big boys into the Jeep.

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This was the perfect place to break in our new bikes because we were practically on top of the Big Sioux River Recreation Trail.   The nearly 26-mile route follows the Big Sioux River as it loops around the city.  In particular, we enjoyed the River Greenway, a paved bike trail that winds through scenic urban and wildlife areas.

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The park has full hook-ups and one pull-through spot, it looked like.  Of course, that was on our side, which I think was the newer side.  The other side looked packed, and I’m not sure if there were pull-throughs.

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Our one complaint about the campground was the Internet.  The Wi-Fi is free, but it’s very controlled.  If you hog bandwidth, they don’t just throttle you back; they cut you off completely.  Frustrating!  I spent my mornings at one of the Starbucks in town so that I could get my freelance work and blogging done.  Not a bad way to deal with the problem.

Despite our Wi-Fi woes, we enjoyed Tower Campground and would stay there again if we were back in the area.

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Nashville Shores Lakeside Resort (Nashville, TN)

Nashville Shores Lakeside Resort (Nashville, TN)

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It was happy news when the GPS routed us through Nashville on our way to Mike’s next gig in Sioux Falls.  Nashville is close to where Mike’s oldest daughter, Stevi, lives in Smyrna.  Since we had a few days to kill, why not spend them with Stevi, catching up with her and delving into the history of the area?

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We chose Nashville Shores Lakeside Resort for a few reasons: good reviews, pretty lake views and an on-site adventure park.  The park has 84 RV sites, all with some sort of view of Percy Priest lake.   Rates range from $45 to $55 a night.  At this time of year, the adventure park is only open on the weekends.  Since we arrived late on a Saturday night and were leaving Tuesday morning, that left Sunday as my only day to do the zipline and ropes course.  Unfortunately, the weather was abominable on Sunday.  Although the course is open rain or shine, the heavy wet drops and cold winds were not conducive to a positive outdoor experience.  I chose to stay cozied up with Mike and the pet babies, getting stuff done in the RV and reading.

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Nashville Shores has the best dog run of all the campgrounds we’ve visited so far.   The long enclosure is shaded by tall, leafy trees and has picnic tables where owners can sit comfortably while watching their bark babies cavort.  Meeko had room to run flat out, and Sadie delighted in dashing back and forth, barking vociferously at kids on bicycles on the other side of the fence.  (The KOA in Laramie, Wyoming, is a close second with its fenced-in doggie agility course.)

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We enjoyed Nashville Shores in the fall, but it’d be even better in the summer when the water-based amenities are open and the adventure park is running every day.

  • Laundromat
  • Horseshoes, volleyball, basketball and shuffleboard
  • Pet-friendly with dog park
  • Waterpark with wave pool and lazy river, multiple water slides, pools, beach, lake cruises and much more – open seasonally
  • Treetop adventure park – open seasonally
  • 310-slip marina with fuel dock – open seasonally
  • Private access to Percy Priest Lake
  • Waterfront RV sites
  • Pull-through sites
  • Free cable
  • Free Wi-Fi
  • 50-amp full hook-ups
  • Fishing
  • Nature trails
  • Camp store
  • Bathhouse
  • Playground
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Sadie meeting her “cousin”, a 15-year-old Boston named Samantha, who, like Sadie, is petite and tailless

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Rutledge Lake RV Park (Fletcher, NC)

Rutledge Lake RV Park (Fletcher, NC)

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Mike got a last-minute job in Fletcher, North Carolina, so we headed there after our stay in the Washington, D.C., area.  Rutledge Lake RV Park was just minutes away from the place he was working, so it was very convenient.   It’s a fairly small park but picturesque.  We liked everything about it, especially the ease with which we extended our stay.  When Mike was asked to work an extra day, the staff initially wanted to move us to another spot.  That would have been, of course, a pain because we’d have had to unhook and rehook for just one day.  After we asked to keep our existing site, the staff quickly called the arriving campers to see if they’d be open to going to another spot.  They were, and we were able to stay put.

Rutledge Lake, like many of the other places we’ve stayed, has quite a bit to offer:

  • 50-amp full hookup sites
  • Lakefront RV sites as well as some pull-through RV sites
  • Easy big rig access
  • Tent camping sites and cabin rentals, too
  • Open year round
  • Gated community with a 24-hour on call person available to answer any questions
  • Free Wi-Fi
  • Pet friendly but no designated dog run
  • Bathhouse and laundry facility
  • Heated pool open from Memorial Day to Labor Day
  • Recreation room that is available for gatherings, playing pool, table tennis or relaxing in front of the tv and fireplace
  • The lake is stocked, and catch and release fishing is allowed
  • Paddle boats and canoes are available for rent for $5 for 4 hours
  • Propane fill station
  • Walking trails along the creek
  • Easy access to Asheville

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Loved this mural in the laundry room!

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The Undy 5000

The Undy 5000

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Because we were having such a wonderful time with Grant, Barbie and their daughter Catie in Virginia Beach, we didn’t make it to DC to do the Diva Dash.  Instead, I ended up doing the Undy 5000 a week later.  It wasn’t an obstacle race, but it was notable because it was my first event with a dog.  While Mike and Sadie cheered from the sidelines, our little athlete Meeko was my running buddy.  He did great.  At the halfway mark, I joked with the race volunteers that if Meeko was running by himself, we’d already have finished.

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The Undy 5000 is a family-friendly, dog-friendly 5K run/walk that was created by the Colon Cancer Alliance as a fundraising event.  All through the course there are informational placards about colon cancer, and the finish area has a giant blow-up colon showing how malignant polyps and advanced cancer look.  Participants are encouraged to run in their “undies” to bring attention to the area affected by colon cancer.  We were so busy doing stuff in DC that I didn’t have a chance to go shopping for a top-notch costume.  So, the night before the race, I created an outfit with a polka-dotted tank top, lace-trimmed boxer shorts, and striped tights.  Not my best look, but it worked.  Meeko was the real star of the show anyway.

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The race was held in Rock Creek Park.  Not only is the park stunning, but it also has quite a history.

For millennia, American Indians quarried rock outcroppings to make tools, fished the creek, and hunted wild game in the woodlands. In the 1600s and early 1700s, European Americans claimed title to the land. As tobacco farming and African American slavery became more widespread, Georgetown was chartered at the mouth of Rock Creek. In the late 1700s and into the 1800s, tobacco farming exhausted the soil, resulting in many farmers switching to wheat and corn production. Gristmills, the most successful being Peirce Mill, were constructed along Rock Creek to convert grain into flour.

The Rock Creek area was deforested during the U.S. Civil War. Logs and branches were felled and then laid out systematically throughout the soon-to-be park by Union soldiers to make a Confederate march through the valley impossible. Civil War fortifications in and around the valley bombarded General Jubal Early’s Confederate troops during the July, 1864 Battle of Fort Stevens.

In 1890, Rock Creek Park became one of the first federally managed parks. Since then, citizens seeking recreation and re-creation in nature have sought out this 1700 acre park.

Doing events like this is one of the many wonderful things about our nomadic lifestyle.  I am fortunate to run in lovely, historic places all around the country, places I’d normally never get to experience.

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Cherry Hill Park (College Park, MD)

Cherry Hill Park (College Park, MD)

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We picked Cherry Hill Park campground in College Park, Maryland, because it was the closest park to D.C.  We were in town to inter Mike’s mum with his dad, who was buried in Arlington National Cemetery in 2003.  Evelyn passed away in early 2012, but it took a while for the family’s schedules to sync up so we could reunite Evelyn with her husband of over 50 years.

Cherry Hill is a pretty park.  The office and camp store has generous hours – from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m.  Staff is friendly and helpful.  We drove our Jeep into the city, but you don’t have to if you stay at Cherry Hill.  Transportation is available from the campground multiple times daily, and the staff can direct you to the tour that’s best for your needs.  Only minutes outside the park grounds are a grocery store, a Starbucks, a home improvement store and a variety of restaurants.  After all your running around, you can take a relaxing hike along the Nature Trail at the edge of the park.

There are spots for every type of rig at  Cherry Hill, and the list of amenities is long:

  • 400 RV and tenting campsites with water, sewer and electric hookups
  • Sites are open year round.
  • 30- or 50-amp service
  • Handicap accessible
  • Restrooms with hot showers
  • Pets are welcome, and a pet walking service is available.
  • Carpeted laundry room with 19 washers and 20 dryers
  • Free Wi-Fi which was pretty reliable and reasonably fast while we were there
  • Cable TV
  • Miniature golf
  • Playground
  • Game room/Arcade
  • Large screen TV lounge with fireplace
  • Two swimming pools
  • Hot tub and sauna
  • Nature trail
  • Propane refills
  • Firewood
  • On-site Star Café and Grill that’s open until 9 p.m.
  • A camp store with groceries, souvenirs, gifts, t-shirts, and lots of RV supplies
  • Free movies, shown seasonally, in the Starlight outdoor theatre

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Anvil Campground (Williamsburg, VA)

Anvil Campground (Williamsburg, VA)

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We stayed at Anvil Campground while we were visiting family in the area.  As a Passport America park, the rates were more than reasonable for the campground’s long and impressive list of amenities:
  • Williamsburg’s only campground with shuttle services
  • Free wi-fi
  • First-class utility pedestals in select sites
  • Laser leveling in select sites
  • Free cable in select sites
  • 50-amp electrical
  • Paved throughways in the campground
  • Pet friendly
  • Recycling bins next to trash cans
  • Rental cottages
  • Discounted attraction tickets
  • Free public access computer
  • General store with complimentary coffee
  • Swimming pool that’s handicap-accessible
  • Three playgrounds
  • Shower and laundry facilities
  • Arcade, basketball and horseshoes
  • Fire ring and picnic table at every site

Anvil has been in operation since 1954, owned by the same family for three generations.  Maybe that’s why the staff is so friendly.  They seem to truly love the business that’s been handed down over decades.  The park is small but picturesque, with a walking/biking/running trail very close by.  Easy access to a variety of restaurants and shopping means minimal driving, or you can take the free shuttle into town.

The park’s name comes from the family’s blacksmithing past.  Great Grandfather and Grandfather helped to make wrought iron locks, hinges, gates and more n Colonial Williamsburg from 1929 to 1935.  You can see samples of these items – including the original namesake anvil – in the park’s general store.

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Amana Colonies RV Park (Amana, Iowa)

Amana Colonies RV Park (Amana, Iowa)

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Our home during the iRV2 2013 National Rally was the Amana Colonies RV Park.  The campground sits on 60 acres near the scenic Lily Lake and Kolonieweg Recreation Trail.    There are 136 full hook-up sites, 278 water & electric sites, and 48 dry & tent camping sites with optional 20-amp electricity. Three buildings are available for meetings and events, totaling over 20,000 square feet of rental space, which made it a great location for the rally.

  • As you can tell from this aerial shot, taken with Mike’s quadcopter,  the sites are fairly level, gravel pull-throughs with grass on both sides.  Picnic tables are situated on most of the sites.
  • The park offers electrical, water, and sewer hook-ups as well as tent camping.  You have your choice of 20-, 30- or 50-amp electricity.
  • Pets are welcome.  There’s no designated pet area, so you’re free to walk your bark babies wherever you’d like as long as you clean up after them.
  • Dumpsters are placed at various intersections throughout the park, providing plenty of places to dispose of your trash.
  • The free wi-fi was pretty good, especially considering how many campers there were during the week of the event.
  • There’s a laundromat and a dump station, and liquid propane is available.
  • With the Old Creamery Theatre adjacent to the park, you can easily walk over to see a play.
  • Because most of the roads are gravel, some people felt it was dusty.  We found that if we drove the speed limit, dust was not an issue.

The campground hosts were very friendly.  We had several packages delivered while were there, and they brought one batch of boxes right to our rig.  Great service!

In addition to seeing a play, there’s plenty of stuff to do while you’re staying there: a walking tour, dining out, a bike ride. It’d be fun to come back for one of the craft shows, music festivals, and pet events that they regularly hold there.