During the winter season, when the campground guide is being produced, we often head south to escape the winter storms in Canada. Some of our favorite campsites in the U.S. include a first night stop at the Twin Lakes KOA near Findley, Ohio. This has saved our bacon on a few times in early February when the weather turned ugly.
Rather than taking I-75 south of Cincinnati, we normally take I-71 over to Louisville, KY, bypassing the long uphill climb through the mountain area north of Knoxville, TN. Driving through Kentucky, we like to stop at the Louisville North KOA owned by Campers Inn. This campground is right across the road from one of our favourite stops – the Derby Dinner Theater. The food and entertainment are excellent, and it is often the highlight of a long drive! When we travel during the winter months, the weather usually breaks enough here for us to fill our freshwater tanks for the balance of the trip south.
One of our favorite cities along our north-south route is Nashville, TN, and the facilities at the Nashville KOA on Music Valley Drive are second to none. A trip to the Gaylord Opryland Hotel is a must, to see all the magnificent gardens inside the hotel. We always meet old friends and make new acquaintances at the Nashville Palace on McGavock Pike while listening to genuine western music.
In our travels through Tennessee, we often visit Memphis, the home of “The King”, and we like to visit the “Chattanooga Choo Choo” while staying at the Lookout Mountain KOA. A trip to Chattanooga is not complete without a visit to “Ruby Falls.” Discovered in 1928, this is the largest and deepest underground waterfall. You travel on a one-hour journey through underground caves, buried 1120 feet below the surface of Lookout Mountain, before you experience the magnificent falls.
A trip through the South is not complete without visiting Vicksburg, the location of Civil War battles and many historic re-enactments. This is a town that time has left alone. The center of town looks like it is still ready for the battle between the Blue and the Grey. Just south of Vicksburg, along the Mississippi River, is Natchez, TN, with its beautiful antebellum homes – take the time to tour at least one of the homes that are open at this time of the year, and relive history. Don’t forget to spend some time at the Natchez Historical Park, and cruise on the Natchez steamboat, the last authentic steamboat in regular operation on the Mississippi River.
From here it is time to cruise down through Baton Rouge, LA on your way to the “Big Easy” A.K.A. New Orleans. We like to stay at the New Orleans KOA West, this is just a skip and a holler to the world-famous French Quarter. This is the most picturesque and colourful section of the city. The streets in this area are very narrow and not suitable for driving your car. Shuttles are available, so you don’t have to worry about finding a parking place while you tour the French Market areas and pick your spot to view the many Mardi Gras parades.
New Orleans was the birthplace of Jazz over 100 years ago. The finest Jazz is played at Preservation Hall. Save some room for fine dining – New Orleans food is to die for!
Head on over towards the Emerald Coast of Florida, and spend time at Campers Inn in Panama City Beach. With 27 miles of beaches, two state parks, miles of hiking and biking trails, and 100 public beach access points, it goes without saying that there’s a lot to see and do in Panama City Beach! As you explore this beautiful beach, you will find that each area has its own unique flavor and character. Take the time to visit the fabulous white sand beach surrounding Fred’s Hammerhead Bar, and sample some of the greatest seafood in the USA. Fred may even do a few card tricks for you at your table.
The Clearwater/Lake Tarpon KOA has been recently renovated, with larger sites complete with stone patios. Take a side trip to Dunedin, FL, and watch the Blue Jays in spring training. We were fortunate to see the Jays beat Pittsburgh, 10 to 1 – it was a glorious sunny afternoon game! Plan to have dinner at “Rusty Bellies” on the wharf, or visit “Dimitri’s on the Water” for food fresh from the sea! Clearwater Beach is everyone’s idea of a tropical paradise. Miles of white sand beach with sunbathers, volleyball enthusiasts, parachute gliders hanging from speedboats, and the ever-present advertising signs towed behind airplanes.
We stopped at the Titusville, FL KOA to visit old friends Aimie and Walter Cannon, the Director of RV Safety & Education Foundation (RVSEF). We enjoyed great food at El Leoncito Mexican Restaurant, and Time Out in Cocoa. You can’t visit this area without going to Cape Canaveral, and reliving the space launches. Visit the space exhibits, where you can strap in for the sights, sounds and excitement of a space shuttle launch, touch a moon rock, and stand beneath the largest rocket ever flown.
On our way North, we often drive through Georgia, and our greatest surprise was the campground at Stone Mountain Park, just east of Atlanta. There are 365 sites surrounded by the woods with full hookups, and the campground has a riverboat ride, a summit sky ride, golf courses, treehouse challenge, and a laser show spectacular lighting up the monument of Confederate Generals Robert E Lee, Stonewall Jackson, and President Jefferson Davis carved into the surface of the mountain. The entire carved surface measures three-acres, larger than a football field and Mount Rushmore. The carving of the three men towers 400 feet above the ground, measures 90 by 190 feet, and is recessed 42 feet into the mountain. The deepest point of the carving is at Lee’s elbow, which is 12 feet to the mountain’s surface.
One of our favourite times camping is attending rallies of associations like Family Motor Coach Association (FMCA), Good Sam, The Escapees, and the Tiffin Allegros. It is great to meet up with old friends and new RV’ers. Each of these rallies are designed to gather a group of RV’ers with a common interest, and they provide educational seminars, displays of new coaches and accessories, along with excellent evening entertainment each day. Each year, the rallies are held in a different part of the country, making it easier for people to attend. Rallies are usually held in a State Fairground that offers facilities to host many families. This winter’s FMCA rally was held in Perry, Georgia. The Good Sam rally was also in Perry, and the Tiffin Allegro rally was in New Orleans. Perry Georgia is an excellent facility, hosting 2700 FMCA families this year.
RV’ers from all sections of the country plan their holidays to attend as many rallies as possible. Plenty of fun and fellowship are in store for you, and you can shop for items to make your traveling more enjoyable.
In coming issues, we will continue our travelogue with descriptions of some of our favorite winter destinations and campgrounds in the west.