Thursday, November 26, 2009

Louisiana to Mississippi with Seymour

After leaving New Orleans, I drove to Jackson, MS to see the Capitol. It was getting late so I had called ahead for reservations at a State Park just outside of the Jackson city limits. It was really difficult to find, even with a GPS so it's always good to ask "Can I just put the address into my GPS and find the park?" Their response was "no" and they gave me a little better directions.

The park was on 500 acres and our spot was right near the restroom and next to the lake - really pretty. I walked Seymour around the camping area but noticed when I got the trails they had signs that said "No dogs allowed". That was a little disappointing. I think it would be easy to put a little pet litter station up with plastic bags and a sign to tell pet owners to pick up after their pets. The only other thing I didn't like about the park was that the bathrooms had no soap at the sinks. Unfortunately by the time to see that, it's too late.

The next day was a work day so the streets were busy and I couldn't find parking. I drove past the Capitol and down a few recommended streets and then headed out. I was planning to go to Vicksburg since it was close to Louisiana and started me on my way home - and had a Casino that had an RV park.

On the way I saw signs for Natchez Trace parkway, which I heard was a beautiful road. Just as I started down the parkway an inviting sign said "Clinton Olde Towne" and "Clinton Welcome Center" so I changed my mind and headed to the Welcome Center. The grounds were pretty and there was a nice walking place for pets. Seymour appreciated getting out and smelling some new smells. He couldn't come in the Welcome Center with me but the couple working there were so enthusiastic about the town that I decided to check it out. The main street is part of the Main Street Revitalization Project and it was really nice - brick paved roads, cute shops, and a beautiful college campus called Mississippi College. I was told that this was starting to be an artist's community (my favorite) so I walked Seymour around until I saw a place called Wyatt Waters Gallery. I went in with Seymour and the artist was there - painting - and his wife an another man were there. They all made a great fuss over Seymour. We ended up talking for at least 45 minutes. This was an unexpected adventure - and again Seymour broke the ice.

We finally left and I drove down Natchez Trace parkway for about 25 miles and then went on to a Good Sam's RV part associated with a Casino in Vicksburg. This was the most I paid for a spot - $22.50 but it did include a free breakfast buffet at the Casino the next morning. Also, the Casino had a bus come to the park and the nearby hotel to pick people up. The park also had a great place to walk Seymour so again he was happy.

We stayed one more might at the $10 RV slot at the Isle of Capri on the way home. This time they gave me a key to the health club so I could take a shower, exercise and use the sauna. (No one told me about that the first time). For some reason, this last night was extra noise and I could not sleep with the train and the loud cars in the parking lot. It was a bargain and there were nice places to walk Seymour but I think I would have rather been in a State Park.

So, overall I think my trip was better because of Seymour. I might have missed a few things due to the "no dogs allowed" rules but what I found instead were wonderful people, beautiful parks and amazing scenery. I can't wait to do it again.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Traveling to New Orleans - First Part of Trip

My trip started one day late due to me losing my only set of camper keys and having to get another made. I had everything on my list packed, but didn't include "get keys". With the way things have worked out so far, leaving a day later was probably a good thing.

Seymour is a good traveler and does make me stop often to take walks, which is healthy for both of us. He had his travel crate but only spent about 1/2 the time in it. The rest of the time he was on my lap - and I know that isn't safe. In fact, I understand that in Canada - and probably some States - it is illegal.

The first night we camped at the Isle of Capri Casino in Lake Charles, Louisiana. They actually had about 8 spots with electric hook-ups right in the parking lot. If you look carefully at the picture below you will see the line of campers in the parking lot. I was lucky that there was one available. It cost $10 but if you joined their club, you got $20 in gambling money. There was no problem walking Seymour around the grounds and the Casino is a Riverboat so we were steps from the Lake.

I hooked up the camper, turned on the A/C and let Seymour relax while I "lost" my $20 and a little more at the slots. It was actually very relaxing and I didn't hear any noises during the night. There is a train nearby but again I only heard it before bed. Seymour has taken to burrowing under the blankets and sleeping with part of his body touching me - and I"m not complaining!

Back to the Casino -the rest rooms were inside the front door so it was not a very far walk form the camper. Luckily I do have a potty that I sometimes use. There was no place to take a shower so it was a wipe down morning. But I would go back.

The next day we drove to Baton Rouge and I walked Seymour all around the Capitol grounds with no problem. In fact I know that more people talked to me because of him than when I was traveling alone.

When it started getting late, I used my GPS to search for State Parks nearby and ended up at Tickfaw State Park in (or around) Springfield, LA. It was a beautiful place with so many trees that you felt like you were alone. The rest room was clean and the showers were hot. There were get walking places for Seymour. He had to be on a 6 ft leash at all times but other than that, there were no restrictions. Thanks for my walks with Seymour, I met some really nice people and even planned to meet at a State Park near New Orleans the next afternoon so we could go sightseeing together - with Seymour of course.

So far, traveling with Seymour resulted in no real inconveniences.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Cross County Camping with Seymour

This is a consolidation of my first cross county trip with Seymour. I would say that 90% of it was great. Not being a planner, I knew where I wanted to end up but not where I would stay along the way.

I really lucked out finding Cloud Nine campground just outside of Hot Springs, Arkansas. It was exceedingly pet friendly. They had a little pet disposal container with plastic bags for you to pick up after the "poop". They had a sign reminding people to pick up but it wasn't like some of the State rest areas that spent most of their money on signs and had little left to make a nice place to walk pets. This campground also had a great pet walking trail. It wasn't long, maybe a total of 1/4 mile but Seymour loved it. There's nothing like new smells to make your vacation memorable.

I also stayed at Mammoth Cave National Park. I got in late and there was a sign to pick your camp site and put your money in the locked container. I think it was $12. There were no hook-ups but there was a really clean bathroom with showers. Seymour could walk along any path but they did warn that there could be rattle snakes. Needless to say, I kept a flashlight with me at all times.

On my way back to Texas, it was interesting that my GPS took me a different direction so I didn't pass Mammoth Cave again. That's one problem with the GPS, you don't get to see a map of the country so you just leave it to the machine to hopefully take you where you need to go. It was getting late and I needed to find a place to stay. I decided to follow a highway sign that said "camping". Unfortunately, that was the only sign I saw and after 10 miles of wandering around I gave up.

I then decided to try my luck with my GPS and did a search for campgrounds. It showed me one about 8 miles away so I called and they had space. I should have realized that this might not be the best campground for me when the GPS took me through the back woods of the poorest section of the State, down a gravel road, past a cemetery and finally into the camp grounds. I was tired and really, how bad could it be?

The campground manager said that the only place available was in a parking lot beside the lake (no hook-ups) but I didn't care. Quickly I found that this was a local campground and if you didn't have an ATV, you didn't belong. All night ATVs roared past my camper. If you notice in the above picture, there is an ATV beside the tent that was just in front of my camper. It was the worst experience I've ever had. But it was probably the best experience for the locals. I don't want to embarrass them and won't name the campground. But it was a lesson learned. Since then, I've purchased a campground book and done some other research.

The last night, I went back to my favorite campgrounds outside of Hot Springs, Arkansas.

One of the things I noticed on this trip was there many of the State rest areas were much more pet friendly. I was pleasantly surprised. Maybe there were a lot of complaints.

Overall, camping with Seymour was much more enjoyable than using hotels.
I am off on a trip today. I plan to go from Austin, Texas to New Orleans and then the rest is an unknown adventure.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Cross Country Car Travel Comes to An End

I took Seymour on two more cross-country trips in the car and found the same issues both times:
1. Some hotels made me pay extra for having a pet.
2. None of the hotel rooms were as good as the ones I stayed in when I didn't have a pet.
3. People in hotels usually aren't friendly toward people with dogs.
4. When I stopped at highway rest areas, I didn't have a place to sit and eat lunch because the area that allowed pets most often didn't have picnic tables.(although I found positive changes in that during my trip this past summer)
5. I had to really plan on where I was going to stop in the evening because otherwise I couldn't find a hotel that allowed pets.

Because of these problems, I decided to try taking Seymour on trips in a camper van. I bought a VW Eurovan because I was too nervous to drive anything bigger. It has plenty of room and included a sink, stove, frig, a porta-potty, and a pop-up so that I could have picked up a couple more people along the road who needed a place to stay (or a person with a pet who didn't get lucky when looking for a hotel)

The gas mileage was pretty good, at about 19 mpg and I could park in a regular parking space when I toured. If I needed to - and I did once - I could park in a parking space and camp for the night without plugging in.

It cost me less than 1/2 the price of a hotel room to stay in a camp ground. I knew how clean my bed sheets were and could easily stumble the few steps from my bed to my porta-potty during the night without walking into a door. I also loved waking up and looking out the window to see nature and not a parking lot.

When we stopped at a rest area, I could eat in the camper and then take Seymour for a walk in the small "pet areas". Many more people talked to me in the camp grounds than in the hotels. I decided that the camper van was the way to go.

I took weekend camping trips for about 6 months and then took my first cross country trip in the camper this summer. Mostly it went well -- more details to come.