It’s Winter – let’s talk Summer camping!

Jack asks, if you have a minute won’t you come sit by the campfire and we’ll chat? It’s Winter and the perfect time to talk about camping next Summer.

I’ll start. As kids growing up in the Northeast we endured Winter. We couldn’t afford snowmobiles and ATV’s but we made our own fun.

After high school, fun with the Military and entering the work civilian force Winter took on a whole different meaning – like starting out every morning in a cold car, always looking forward to going to work in the dark and coming home from work in the dark. All  while trying to stay warm and keeping the car on the road.

Yes my friend, “cabin fever” can be a very real threat.

But that’s when I learned I had a love for golf!

Well, actually not for the game of golf itself but rather the sunny, blue sky days and green grass venues from where they always broadcast the tourneys. I admit I spent a considerable amount of Sunday time watching them and daydreaming while it was snowing and blowing outside my windows.

I guess at some point in my life I really and truly decided I did not care for Winter at all!

Unfortunately my career was based in the Northeast and Winter was really hard to ignore. It usually begins to slowly creep up on you from every direction and by late February it has taken up entirely to much space in your mind – my mind at least.

Fortunately for the last few years before I retired I shared office space with a like-minded individual named (don’t call me Ronnie) Ron. Ron and I both loved Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. Though we vacationed at different times we would spend countless hours each Winter planning the perfect Myrtle Beach getaway – what to see, where to go, what restaurants to try, etc. To make a long story short we spent many more hours planning the next trip than we actually spent going on the trip. You know what though? It got us through the worst parts of Winters.

Once I retired and Niki and I started RVing, Winters took on a whole different meaning. In fact we started looking forward to each Winter as much as the Summer. That of course is because when the leaves started falling we started packing our little home on wheels for the trip South to a warmer Winter, old friends and familiar places.

You may have heard or seen me mention on our website (snowbirdrvtrails.com) that we always took our time coming or going. No quick three days down and three days back for us. At one time we did have to scurry like that but soon decided it’s really not what retirement should be about.

In our travels North and South we normally take a month coming and going. A different route each time and normally different campgrounds in different areas to explore. One motto we have pretty much followed is “Last out of a campground in the morning and first to arrive at a new campground in the afternoon!”

After our first 1,500 mile trip where we spent a night in each campground and put in as many miles as we could each day, we arrived at our destination so tired we were ready to sell the trailer! That’s when we decided that on the return trip we would travel no more than 250 – 300 miles each travel day and spend at least two nights in each campground to explore a bit of the area. Eight years later that’s how we still do it.

That brings us up to today and this very Winter of 2018. No doubt it may be sub-zero and  snowing and blowing where you are. You may be at work, you may be at home snowed in or you may be retired and actually enjoying warmer weather. Wherever you are let’s you and me do some planning and looking forward to the warmer weather to come. You know that time when the snow is gone and you can air out your camper or your tent and get ready for the fun to come.

I know many of you are still working and have to plan your vacation days with the destination in mind rather than the trip. I understand that. We were also there as well not so long ago.

With that in mind let’s just talk about areas and campgrounds past, present and future. We have over 38,000 miles on the road and are closing in on nights spent at 200 campgrounds so far. I am going to start posting some of our favorite campgrounds and areas we have visited in our travels. It may be an area you have visited or that you might be interested in visiting one day. Maybe you know a special place we need to visit near there or elsewhere. Maybe you are thinking about where you plan to RV, camp or visit on your next adventure. What ever the case you are among friends around this campfire and we invite you to join the conversation.

Fellow campers we’ll get through this Winter thing together!

I do apologize in advance for any writing errors. Niki usually edits my articles but I am just winging this one and we’ll talk about whatever makes you happy.

The first campground I would like to bring up that we like is somewhat centrally located on the East Coast. It’s located in Mt Airy, North Carolina and called “Mayberry Campground”. The name is appropriate as the town is the birthplace of Andy Griffith. We have camped there several times coming and going and we find something different and interesting each time. The people are friendly, the food is good and the prices are right.

Mayberry Campground is open year-around and located off Exit 11 of I-74 at 114 Bunker Road, Mount Airy, NC. The campground is gravel, full amenities and has both pull-through and back-in sites. It is a Passport America “half-price” campground.

mayberrycampground1

Before I go further let me say I am not a paid spokesperson for Passport America but I talk about them a lot because we are lifetime members and stay at PA campgrounds at least 75% of the time. The club is not for everyone but if you travel a lot it is definitely worth it (or I wouldn’t be suggesting it.)

Mount Airy and Mayberry Campground are both located on what we feel is our favorite route South from the Northeast.

(Our video pulling into Mayberry Campground.)

Mayberry Campground is located on part of the former 2,000 acre farm belonging to Chang and Eng Bunker, famous Siamese twins of the 1800’s. The twins – forever conjoined – had a prosperous farm as well as 2 separate and prosperous families. They married 2 sisters and had 21 children between them. They kept 2 separate homes, alternating 3 days at each home.

mayberrycampground2

THINGS TO DO IN MT AIRY:
Visit Andy Griffith’s “homeplace” at 711 East Haymore Street. Less than a mile away you’ll find the real “Snappy Lunch” and still making the “famous pork chop sandwiches”. It’s next door to “Floyd’s Barbershop” and “Opie’s Candy Store”. Just a little farther down Main Street you’ll find “Wally’s Garage” and “The Courthouse” with a recreation of the jail set office and cells we remember from The Andy Griffith Show. That’s also the place to sign-up for a real “Andy Griffith Squad Car Tour” of Town in a vintage Mayberry Police Car like Barney and Andy drove.

344x344mayberryandyopie

Not far away you’ll find the Andy and Opie statues in front of the “Andy Griffith Theatre” and the Andy Griffith Museum where they have hundreds (perhaps thousands) of artifacts and memorabilia from Andy’s career on stage, TV and in the movies and as a singer and comedian. The Museum’s lower level has an exhibition of material from Eng and Chang’s life as well.

We do dine out a lot on our trips. We like to find the local “Mom and Pop” restaurants that the locals rave about. You may have seen me mention this before but we have two questions we ask of the hosts or locals at any new stopover – What is the “must-see” thing or place locally that you must show your friends and family when they come to visit? The other question is “What is your favorite locally owned restaurant with great homecooking?” The answers usually supply us with much to see and do on our next day.

If the following sound a tad like reviews it’s because they are. It’s what we also do on our website. We put our own two cents in on the good, the bad and the ugly in campgrounds and restaurants that we find. If we have not eaten there or not camped there we don’t review them. I am happy to say we have only found two of Niki’s “Deliverance” campgrounds in our travels.

On our very first visit to Mount Airy we had dinner at “The Copper Pot”. Real Southern home-cooking served by cheerful ladies with lovely North Carolina accents so thick you almost need an interpreter. Good food and Great people – the feeling is real down-home friendliness.

We also have tried a lunch spot suggested by the campground and backed by many good reviews on the Net. It’s called “Little Richard’s Smokehouse BBQ”. We like BBQ and have sampled it in about every State East of the Mississippi. This place is our new favorite for BBQ done right. Tender and juicy – slow cooked over hickory coals for 16 hours and truly finger lickin’ good. The sides are homemade as well. For sides we both tried the mac & cheese and turnip greens accompanied by a large basket of hush puppies. They have a soft drink – new to us – called “Cheerwine” which is cherry flavored and also tasty as were the warm blackberry cobblers we had for dessert with vanilla ice cream (of course!).

We can also recommend Tlaquepaque Mexican Restaurant & Grill at 2123 Rockford Street. I can’t pronounce it either but it’s a small restaurant with a talented chef. Both of our meals, traditional Mexican combos, were really delicious.

So have you been to Mount Airy and/or Mayberry Campground? What did you like or didn’t like. Did we miss something?

Where are you headed on your next adventure. Come pull up a stump by the campfire. The coffee pot is on and we have your cup waiting.

Jack
(To be continued.)

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