03 Nov

RVFTA 2015 Fall Rally: Fun Times, New Friends!

A fantastic group of RVFTA podcast listeners gathered last weekend at the Philadelphia/West Chester KOA for our second go around at this whole rally thing.

Rallies aren’t so popular with our generation, so we felt like we were taking a risk last spring when we decided to host one for the first time. In short, it was a smashing success and everyone refused to wait an entire year to gather again.

Enter the RVFTA 2015 Fall Rally.

We are pretty convinced that the heart of a successful family camping rally is lots of free time for kids to run around and play together, while parents get to sit around and talk. Keeping the schedule loose and flexible worked like a charm once again, and while we offered plenty of suggestions for activities, families were free to figure it out as they went.

Some went fishing, while others walked the nature trails. And someone loved his afternoon canoe ride on the Brandywine.

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While some enjoyed the fine arts…

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Others appreciated life’s simpler pleasures.

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Rally attendees–and area locals–Bill and Karen led a class trip to The Market at Liberty Place in Kennett Square where we enjoyed ridiculously good fare at Buddy’s Burgers. The kids claimed a table for themselves and we were happy to oblige.


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Then there was coffee (of course) at the local craft roaster, Philter Coffee.

And the organized festivities…

We celebrated our podcast’s 1st birthday with an adorable craft organized by listeners Leslie and Philip.

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And then they put hats on our heads, lit candles, and sang Happy Birthday because our listeners are just that awesome.

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A White Elephant game followed with some serious trading and back room deals. The Toas Tite was a popular pick, but a dark horse favorite was a Camp Casual t-shirt that all the men seemed to want.

And Darryl won the grand prize of a two-night stay at any KOA by knowing virtually everything there is to know about our podcast.

Potluck dinner, our own special craft brew, movies under the stars, trick or treating, and (of course) roaring campfires.

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The activities were fun. The food was delicious. The weather was mostly spectacular. But ultimately, the magic is because of the people.

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Maybe we have just been super duper lucky to gather some of the chillest folks around who happen to dig camping podcasts. We left both rallies amazed at what a wonderful time we had with a bunch of families that barely knew each other and yet were united by a common commitment to venturing out and connecting with their kids in the great outdoors.

We have decided there is something to be said for this old-fashioned rally tradition. Social media may help us connect and find people who share similar interests and passions. But relationships really develop when you share a meal…and some s’mores.

We can’t wait to hang with old friends and new at the RVFTA 2016 Spring Rally at Lake in Wood Campground in Narvon, PA. Hope to see you at the potluck!

To hear more about our rally, and to hear some great interviews with rally attendees, listen to podcast episode #60: Fall Rally Roundup!

25 Oct

RV Family Travel Atlas: 6 Epic Camping Fails

In this week’s episode of RV Family Travel Atlas, we discuss the six worst things that have ever happened to us while we were traveling with our camper. We also share on the lessons learned, so maybe you can avoid the same mistakes.

Our campground review focuses on one of our family’s favorite places: Philadelphia/West Chester KOA in the beautiful Brandywine Valley. It was our first time enjoying a Halloween weekend at a campground, and we had a blast.

Plus, we announce our first podcast giveaway!!!!

All this and more, on Episode 6 of RV Family Travel Atlas…

Play
21 Oct

Happy Halloween, From the Philadelphia/ West Chester KOA

Our friends often ask us if we really think weekend RV trips are worth the work. We tell them that getting on the road on a Friday afternoon may require some extra effort, but it is worth it every time.  Why?  Because of magical weekends like the one we just spent at the Philadelphia/West Chester KOA.  Weekends that are filled with action and adventure and relaxation.  Weekends that bring our family closer together, and leave us dreaming about our next trip.

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Over the last four years, the Philadelphia/West Chester KOA has become one of our family’s favorite places for a weekend getaway.  The campground is less than two hours from home, but it feels like it’s a world away.  It is nestled among gently rolling hills in the heart of southeastern Pennsylvania’s Brandywine Valley.  In the past we have always visited in the spring, when the countryside is bright green and in full bloom.  But this fall we decided to join owners Gary and Lori Levesque for one of their popular, activity-filled Halloween weekends.  Between the spectacular fall foliage and the campground Trick or Treating, we may have just discovered our next great family tradition.

The fun started right away on Friday night with a flashlight hayride.

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And continued all day Saturday with pumpkin painting in the Liberty Lodge.

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We really enjoyed watching the boys take their time and craft their individual pumpkin masterpieces. Even Wesley, our 18 month old, joined in on the action.  But the real magic happened when the pumpkins were placed together to dry for that evening’s festive Halloween party.

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The highlight of the weekend for our twin five year old boys, Max and Theo, was Trick or Treating around the campground. The cabins and RV’s were decorated with lights, pumpkins, cobwebs, ghosts, and skeletons, and it was so easy for the boys to collect their buckets of loot as we meandered through the campground at sunset during a perfect fall evening.

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After the boys filled their buckets with candy we all headed to the Liberty Lodge for pumpkin pie and spooktacular live music.  The band played ghoulish party hits like the Monster Mash and Werewolves of London, then a rousing version of the Hokey Pokey that had everyone on the dance floor.  When we returned to the camper the boys were exhausted and fell asleep the second their heads hit their pillows.  Then it was date night for mom and dad around the campfire.  For us, weekends don’t get much better than this.

But it wasn’t all Halloween all of the time. This KOA is located along the banks of the Brandywine River and it is a perfect place for families to fish, kayak, or canoe.  The campground rents canoes at a reasonable price, but this time we brought our own kayak and the adults took turns enjoying the quiet beauty of an autumn afternoon.

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Yes, the campground is beautiful, but one of the reasons we love this destination so much is its close proximity to wonderful, family-friendly attractions like Longwood Gardens and Winterthur Museum, Garden, & Library, two amazing trips guaranteed to delight no matter your age.

Longwood Gardens is the former home of Pierre S. DuPont, and is truly one of our country’s great horticultural treasures. Although the Flower Garden Walk is always spectacular, the highlight for us is the magical Indoor Children’s Garden.  Our boys love to get wet in one of the many whimsical fountains and then run through the bamboo maze and bang on the xylophones at the music station.  If you go, make sure to bring towels and extra clothes for the kids! Also bring a picnic lunch to eat while you watch the Open Air Theater Fountain Show just outside the Conservatory.

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Winterthur was founded by Henry Francis du Pont and is filled with rolling meadows, sparkling green woodlands, and secret gardens that will surprise and delight your entire family.  No signs saying “keep off the grass” found here.  Only room to run free. Again, there is plenty of horticultural interest, but our boys spent most of their time in the Enchanted Woods where fairy houses, tea rooms, mushroom gardens, and giant birds’ nests kept them spellbound for hours. An added bonus is that the gourmet cafeteria is actually very kid-friendly and affordable, offering delicious comfort foods that will please everyone.

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So as you can see, we love our weekend adventures.  But are they worth it for your family?  We encourage you to hit the road and find out.

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To learn more about the Philadelphia/West Chester KOA tune in to the upcoming episode of our podcast RV FAMILY TRAVEL ATLAS, available here on the blog and on iTunes.

We are repeat customers of this campground, but this trip was sponsored by Kampgrounds of America.  As always, all opinions expressed are our own.

16 Jun

Celebrating Mom and Supporting KOA’s Care Camps

This article originally appeared in the Jayco Journal.

When you own an RV, planning your next family adventure is always part of the fun.  But should you go somewhere new or return to a place that you love? Our family has camped in eight different states, and we hope to travel to all fifty.  So whenever we hit the road with our White Hawk, we usually prefer exploring new destinations. However, there are certain campgrounds that call us back again and again.  The Philadelphia/West Chester KOA is one of those special places.  It is the home of our family’s favorite camping tradition.  Here’s why:

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1. It is a perfect place to spend Mother’s Day weekend. This KOA, which is owned and operated by Gary and Lori Levesque, is a wonderful setting for spending quality time together while celebrating Mom.  They have a shady playground, an open field for sports, a gem mining station, and a miniature golf course.  But most importantly, the idyllic Brandywine River meanders across the southwest side of the property.  This river is perfect for fishing with little kids or for taking mom on a long Mother’s Day canoe ride.  The banks of this historic river are filled with red-winged blackbirds and American golden finches, and the water is usually crystal clear and perfect for a brisk swim.  The Philadelphia/West Chester KOA is close enough for a weekend getaway–but once we dip our oars into the Brandywine we feel like we are a world away from home.

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2. We love supporting KOA’s Care Camps charity.  Mother’s Day weekend always coincides with KOA’s Care Camps weekend.  Four years ago we came for the free night of camping, but now we return to support this inspiring charity.  Each spring participating KOA campgrounds and their campers raise money to “send children with cancer to medically supervised camps where they have a great time in the great outdoors.”  Pretty easy to get behind that cause, right?  It was for us.  The Care Camps charity began in 1984 when donations for six camps totaled $7,100.  This year $800,000 was raised to support 52 different camps across the country.  The Levesques helped raise money by, among other things, selling Care Camps t-shirts and throwing an ice cream social with live music at their Liberty Lodge.  We did our part by polishing off some of that tasty ice cream and leaving with a bag full of new t-shirts.  This charitable aspect of our family tradition gives us an opportunity to teach our boys that they can help others and have fun doing it.

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3. Longwood Gardens is a hop, a skip, and a jump away.  You could spend the entire weekend right on the grounds of this delightful KOA, but then you would miss Longwood Gardens, which is a short drive away from the campground and makes for a perfect day trip. It is the former home of Pierre S. DuPont, and is truly one of our country’s great horticultural treasures. The highlight for us is always the magical Indoor Children’s Garden.  Our boys love to get wet in one of the many kid-friendly fountains and then run through the bamboo maze and bang on the xylophones at the music station.  Mom and Dad have wizened up over the years and now we make sure to bring towels and extra clothes for the kids.  When a camping destination becomes a family tradition you are given the opportunity to perfect your approach–and we definitely have more fun each year during Care Camps weekend.

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4. It’s a great place to bring family and friends.  We are big believers in sharing the joy of RVing with our friends and extended family, and we also believe in letting our favorite family traditions grow and change.  The Philadelphia/West Chester KOA is one of those super friendly campgrounds that has a very welcoming atmosphere.  So this year we brought Max and Theo’s godmother along and she contributed to the trip in spades.  When our twins found out that she was coming, they told her that she would have to be on best behavior while at the campground.  I’m happy to report that she was.  She made sausages for dinner, read the boys books before bedtime, and started up a baseball game right in front of our campsite.  She threw all strikes.  We definitely plan on saving her a bunk for next year’s trip.

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Are you hoping to start a new family camping tradition?  If so, find a campground that your family will love returning to for generations to come.  Why not try a KOA during Care Camps weekend?  Your family will help raise money for a worthy cause and you’ll get to celebrate Mom, everyone’s favorite camper.  Take her out for an invigorating hike and a canoe ride on a sparkling river.  Instead of buying her a bouquet, surround her with gardens of beautiful flowers.  She won’t miss brunch a bit.

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18 May

Hank’s Place: Perfecting the Family Restaurant in Chadds Ford, PA

We have returned to the Philadelphia/West Chester KOA every May for the last four years. It may be hard to believe that in all of those trips we have never once had a meal out. There was that first year when we bought some extremely overpriced sandwiches at Longwood Gardens (a mistake never repeated). And then there was the time when we still had our pop up camper,  and it started to rain buckets at dinner time. We ordered pizza delivered to the campsite (seriously, don’t knock it until you’ve tried it–beats grilling in a downpour any day). So sandwiches and pizza, but never a proper sit down at any of the area eateries.

Well, there is something about perfect spring weather that always makes me want to laze around at a restaurant and be served a fantastic meal. So after we had enjoyed a beautiful morning canoeing on the Brandywine River, I just couldn’t help myself. We were supposed to be headed home, but instead we headed out to lunch.

Where to go? We consulted one of our favorite resources: the 36 Hours column from the New York Times.  36 Hours in the Brandywine Valley suggested a few lunch options, but we needed a place that wasn’t serving a Mother’s Day brunch and that sounded like we could bring in three kids without crushing the souls of our fellow diners.

Hank’s Place delivered on all fronts.

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It is definitely a locals’ joint, and it took us by surprise that there is no waiting list to put your name on…just a front of the house guy who ‘remembers’ party numbers and shouts them out to the crowd on the front porch.

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Nevertheless, we sat in under 15 minutes, a minor miracle on a holiday weekend.

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Let’s cut to the chase: the service was wonderful, and the food was exceptional. The sign advertises Homestyle Cooking and that is what we got. Max and Theo got their tuna and turkey sandwich standbys. Wes scarfed down the homemade mac and cheese (with help from some adults at the table).

 

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My friend Jessie and I were lucky enough to enjoy the spanakopita, which was quite honestly some of the best I have tasted (and I have traveled in Greece a bit).

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Jeremy raved about the tzatziki sauce on his Gyro. I, unfortunately, have to go by word of mouth, since I didn’t get even a bite.

We arrived home later than usual on Sunday due to our spontaneous mid day hunt for the perfect lunch. It was worth it though. I have a feeling Hanks’ Place will become a fixture on our West Chester weekends. Actually, I know it will…because I will be craving that spanakopita until next May.

 

14 May

12 Images from the Enchanted Woods of Winterthur

It is in no way hyperbolic to call Winterthur a magical place.  The 1,000 acre preserve, founded by Henry Francis du Pont, is filled with rolling meadows, sparkling green woodlands, and secret gardens that will surprise and delight your entire family.  The Lively Little Campers spent a refreshing morning there this past weekend and left with a year long family pass.  Here is why we will go back again and again:

Winterthur is filled with open green spaces and the curves and contours of the landscape beg you to stretch, and roam, and play. No signs saying “keep off the grass” found here.  Only room to run free.

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Or take a quiet stroll…

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Or just pause and reflect…

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But the enchanted woods are best of all, because that is where the faeries make their home.

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Where the stones sing and tell stories, “merrily merrily, merrily.”

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Where gigantic birds let you visit their nests and watch over their eggs.

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Where the water invites your fingers in for a cool dip.

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And no one tells you not to splash!

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And while there may not be signs commanding you to stay off the grass, there are signs commanding you to “never, ever step into a faery ring.”  Lucky for us, Wesley didn’t disappear into fairy land, but he was sprayed with mist from these magic mushrooms.

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But Winterthur sprayed its magic over our entire family…

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and brought us closer together somewhere deep in the heart of nature.

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13 May

Big News, Folks: The Lively Little Campers Are Writing for the Jayco Journal!

The Lively Little Campers just spent another beautiful Mother’s Day weekend at the Philadelphia/West Chester KOA, where we enjoyed some annual family traditions and also discovered some new regional treasures.

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For those of you following us on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, you got a sneak peak at the fun we had during our fourth stay in this beautiful area.

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Normally we would be telling you all about it in our blog posts this week. But this time, we have to keep some things under wraps.  Why, you may ask?

Well, let us tell you…

We are so excited to announce that we will be sharing our story of this past weekend on the Jayco Journal! For those of you not in the know, Jayco is the nation’s largest family-owned and operated manufacturer of RVs. They have just launched a new website, and we are thrilled to be contributing content to their blog.

We bought our White Hawk two years ago and have spent 75 nights camping in it. We absolutely love it, and we also love Jayco’s Brand Promise, Generations of Family Fun. You can check out this video on YouTube to learn more about it. If you want the whole story, the longer version is (of course) our personal favorite. After watching it, you will definitely want to get on the road and create new and exciting memories with your own family.

Our first article on the Jayco Journal will be posted toward the end of May. We will be sharing a bit more about how we became a Jayco family, along with articles on building family traditions and finding great family activities no matter where you are traveling. Follow the Journal throughout the month of June to read all of our articles.

And remember to subscribe to our eNewsletter. In addition to receiving a weekly email with great tips for family travel, you will also get the first announcement when our stories are up on the Jayco Journal.

And as always, thanks for joining us on this amazing adventure!

04 May

Twins Taught Us to Hold It All Together; The Third Taught Us to Let It All Go

Max and Theo turned five this past week, and Wes turned one last month, so we have been celebrating some pretty big milestones around here. Sometimes it takes my breathe away thinking about how my life has been transformed by these three boys.

After Max and Theo were born, it didn’t take us long to figure out that routine, structure, and a good sense of humor would help us emerge from their infancy with our souls intact. A few months into their life, we realized we would also need a lot of fun. Not Chucky Cheese, theme parky fun, but road-trippin’, outdoor adventure fun.

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So when the boys were 11 months old, we scrapped our plans for an international 10-year anniversary trip and bought our first pop up camper. Instead of two weeks in Ireland, we spend a long weekend in Belleplain State Park. Lucky for us, we agreed it was the best decision we ever made.

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Adjusting to having a child is a huge life transformation. Adjusting to multiples? Well. For three years we pretty much willed order out of chaos. Anyone who has ever witnessed a parent of two year old twins simultaneously darting in opposite directions (while laughing with glee) might have an idea of what our life was like. But we focused. We developed systems. We came up with rules and routines. We planned and practiced, held it all together, so that what could have been a circus act instead felt like a magic trick…creating surprise and excitement and leaving us wondering, how did we pull that one off?

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When Wesley joined the family last year, we knew things would be different. We hadn’t camped with Max and Theo when they were newborns, so in a way we were newbies all over again. We talked about cutting back on traveling. We talked about shorter trips.

When Wesley was only 5 weeks old, the time came for our yearly trip to the Philadelphia/West Chester KOA. We love going there every May on Mother’s Day weekend, and the idea of giving up the tradition hit us hard. I can’t say I felt at ease about it, but I couldn’t say no. We went.

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Boy oh boy, was that a good decision. There was canoeing, fishing, music, campfires, and botanical gardens. There was everything that we enjoy about that trip, just with another camper in the mix.

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Things are definitely different now that we are a family of five. We often have to change plans or adjust our expectations on a trip because of the needs of our youngest. Now though, we are willing to deal with those situations as they arise. Now Jeremy and I are more prepared to reevaluate, change the direction midstream. We get the big picture and are fine with letting the details work themselves out.

Max and Theo taught us how to work for what we wanted. It is not easy to travel with twins, but we were determined to live the life we imagined, so we figured it out.

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Wes taught us how to relax, be flexible, and enjoy the moment. He has helped us understand the true value of doing what we do with our children. The best part of traveling with your family is that you all realize that things may not always work out how you planned, but they will work out just fine. Even better, most of the time they will work out just grand.

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Next week we will be returning to West Chester for the fourth time. Some things will be the same and some things will be different. Some things will go as planned, but some plans will have to hit the bricks.

Five years in, the one thing I say with confidence is…things will be interesting. And most likely awesome.

Happy travels!

29 May

Max and Theo’s Brief but Passionate History of Fishing

Last year about this time, I posted about our desire to make fishing a regular part of the boys’ lives.
Here is Theo a year ago at the West Chester KOA…

Well, we actually made good on this one. We showed up in the Finger Lakes last summer with two fishing poles (courtesy of Ami, grandmother extraordinaire) and put them to good use.
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This year the boys were determined to go fishing on their very first camping trip of the year. At home they repeatedly reminded us to pack the fishing poles. Then, from the moment we arrived at the campground,  they harassed us mercilessly about heading down to the river. So even though the sky was heavy and threatening rain at any moment, we got the poles and the bait and hiked down on Saturday afternoon.

Wes was his usual accommodating self and tagged along in the Moby Wrap:

The boys are not exactly calm while they fish. They still maintain a certain level of shimmering energy that makes a parent worry that they might fall into the river at any moment.

But they do quiet down a bit.
And they hope. You can feel the excitement–the potential–every time they cast out their line. Up until now, they had managed to catch something every time we took them fishing.
Not this time. The disappointment was evident, but it was nice as a mother to watch them grapple with it and then put it to the side. The rain started coming down and we scrambled back up the trail getting wet and muddy, already talking about the next time, and those huge fish just waiting to be hooked.
28 May

During Nap Time (it’s the only time) Daddy Rows Alone…

We were all tuckered out after another great morning at Longwood Gardens.  Max and Theo had played for hours in their magical children’s garden and we had enjoyed a picnic lunch while watching a massive fountain show on their main lawn.  So when we pulled back into the Philadelphia/West Chester KOA it was definitely cozy RV nap time.  We got the twins settled in their rear bunks and then mommy and baby Wes started to doze off up front.  I was pretty tired myself and my eyelids were feeling very heavy…

But then I suddenly realized that I didn’t have a second to spare!  If I was going to go I had to go now.

I had been hoping to rent a canoe at the camp store and spend a quiet hour paddling on the lush and lovely Brandywine River.  Now was my chance.  I quietly whispered to Stephanie and asked if it was okay to head out alone on the river.  She nodded yes and dozed off.

The canoe rentals at this KOA are very reasonably priced and I grabbed a life jacket and padlock key at the campstore and then tramped down the steep walkway that leads to the tent sites along the banks of the river.

The day was slightly overcast and the air was cool.  Which meant that I had the entire river to myself.  It was peaceful and lovely and the reflection of the trees on the calm water was stunning.  The scene made me feel like I was paddling along the banks of a river from a storybook.  I felt deeply relaxed for the first time in a long time–and I clearly had the river to thank for that.

After about a half hour of moderate paddling I hit a very shallow part of the riverbed and decided to head back to the campground.  I took my time paddling back to the KOA and stopped a few times to check out some colorful birds who were singing along the riverbank. I also found a few huge trees that had fallen and found new homes along the bottom of the Brandywine.

During the final stretch I considered diving into the clear, inviting water for a swim.  But the air was a bit too cool.  I filled my hat with water and dumped it over my head instead.  The water washed off any lingering desire for a nap and I felt charged up to get back to my crew.

I love camping with my family more than any other activity in the world.  And when we head out in the RV it is all about spending time together.  However, I was very grateful for this peaceful hour alone.  I felt refreshed and thankful.  I was excited to wake the boys up and take them fishing before dinner.  But they were already awake.  As I headed out of the camp store Max and Theo crashed around the corner and upon seeing me started yelling, “dad, dad, dad, dad, dad.”  They were carrying their fishing poles and ready to go.

The river had filled me up with peace and comfort.  Now it was time for my boys to fill me up with joy.

Onward.
23 May

One Fish, Two Fish, the Campers Caught You Fish!

Jeremy and I have mentioned quite a few times over the last year that we would really love to get the boys out fishing. The conversation comes up, we nod in agreement, and then the subject is dropped with no action taken.

What’s the big deal, you might ask. You can drag your toddlers up to Acadia National Park for weeks on end, but you can’t get a $10 Spiderman fishing pole and mosey on down to the lake?

I know. Jeremy and I both grew up on the water. I had a river in my backyard and he had the Atlantic Ocean.  We both dabbled in fishing or crabbing here and there, but neither of us took it very seriously. So I had this feeling like we might wind up with a fish hooked on a pole and not a parent in sight who was willing to deal with the issue.

Lucky for us, we have our friend Joe. After the ice cream social at the West Chester KOA last weekend, Joe stuffed some leftover hotdogs in his pocket and led the kids like a bunch of ducklings down to the Brandywine river, which runs through the campground.

He made sure each of the boys got to reel in a fish (thank you, universe, for cooperating!). The fish were examined, photographed, unhooked, and thrown back in record time.

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I want my boys to be the type of boys who fish. I want them to pack supplies, walk to the water, and patiently wait for that stroke of good luck. I want them to kick into gear when they feel a tug on their line. I want them to know what quiet expectation feels like, even thought they are the loudest two boys I have ever met.

Mostly I want them to know the rewards of waiting patiently for nature to provide just one second of joy. Like when you stare at a night sky for ages, just hoping to catch sight of a shooting star. It is always worth that investment–every time.

It is harder and harder these days to find that quiet. We bring our iPhones to the campfire and our DVDs on car rides. I can’t even imagine what it will be like for my boys in ten years.

But maybe fishing will help. I’m going to buy them those stupid Spiderman fishing poles and give it a shot. This time I mean it. Really.

17 May

The Art of Outdoor Hospitality: An Interview with KOA CEO

An Interview With Jim Rogers

Chairmen/CEO of Kampgrounds of America

This past weekend the Lively Little Campers enjoyed a magical stay at the Philadelphia/West Chester KOA.  Our weekend adventure was memorable for a variety of reasons: firstly, it was mother’s day and the staff made Max and Theo’s mom feel special with a complimentary breakfast and tulips hand delivered by the owner. Secondly, the campground itself was beautiful and our visit was jam packed with excitement and activities.  There was live music, hayrides, an ice cream social, a visit to Longwood Gardens, and canoeing along the lush and sparkling Brandywine River.
But this visit was made even more special because this past weekend was KOA’s 9th annual “Come Camp and Care With Us Weekend,”  and we were able to help raise funds for “a group of 43 specialized summer camps located throughout North America.”  These camps “provide a true summer camp experience for children with cancer and their siblings.”  During these “Camp and Care” weekends participating KOA’s generously offer a free night of camping with one paid night.

My family was touched by this charity event and we wanted to find out more about KOA’s Care Camps so we called their company headquarters in Billings, Montana.  We were surprised and delighted to receive a call back from their CEO Jim Rogers who graciously answered some questions for our readers.  He proved to be a passionate and articulate advocate for the Care Camps and for the art of, as he called it, “outdoor hospitality.”

Jim informed me that the KOA owner’s association has actually been involved with fundraising for these special camps for “about 40 years” and that their efforts “have been grassroots all the way.”  Each campground owner raises the money in different ways but they all have “taken the charity to heart” and have shown great passion for the Care Camps.  Jim was proud to say that the Camp and Care weekends raise approximately “350,000 to 400,000 dollars a year” and that he is hoping to push that number even higher in the future to help some of these camps update and improve their facilities.
After the money is raised it is given out in the form of grants that range from “2,000 dollars to 18,000 dollars per camp” depending on each organization’s individual needs.  According to Jim, they “are indeed specialized camps with doctors and nurses and highly specialized facilities.”  He described one in Montana “that is absolutely exquisite: with dorms, Olympic swimming pools, and arts and crafts studios.”  The overall mission of the camps is to provide an empowering outdoor experience for “children who have cancer or for children who are recovering from cancer.”  The testimonials on the Care Camp’s website make for very emotional reading.  Please take a moment to read them and consider making a donation here.
While I had Jim on the phone I also asked him some questions about the KOA brand and about his job as CEO.  When I asked him about what makes the KOA camping experience unique he was quick to answer, “it’s the service, the yellow shirt, the owners who recognize their customers, the friendly people who drive you to your site and help you set up.”
When I asked him about the favorite part of his job as CEO he said that he “takes great pride in knowing that we are helping small businesses become successful across American” and that “these small businesses can bring this country back.”  He also stressed that “Americans need to get outdoors and KOA makes it easy because they have options for tent campers, RVer’s, and those that prefer luxury cabins.”  Jim also loves “helping visitors enjoy the freedom of travel” and he “loves helping them spend family time outdoors.”
We had a great time talking with Jim and we couldn’t agree with him more.  The Lively Little Campers have had memorable vacations at KOA’s from Bar Harbor, Maine to Cape Hatteras, North Carolina and several others in-between.  During each of these visits I have always been left with the impression that KOA is a passionate and unique company.  Now I know why.
14 May

The Best Mother’s Day Yet…West Chester, Pennsylvania

Did I miss brunch?

Not for a minute.

18 May

Season Opener: West Chester, PA Campground Review

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The fun and excitement of any adventure with lively little campers begins with planning the trip.  For our family that usually means selecting a campground and reserving the best site.  I take my planning seriously and have been known to analyze campground maps and KOA catalogs like a rabbi analyzes Talmud.
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After I have selected a campground, I make the all important call to reserve our spot.  I always ask the owner for a quiet spot without too many other people around. I do this because of what I call the reverse “Led Zeppelin Effect.”  Robert Plant and Jimmy Page were known to raise hell late into the night by drinking excessively and throwing TV’s out of hotel room windows.  Our boys take a different approach.  They like to raise hell VERY EARLY in the morning by chugging back milk and making “milk messes” while running onto other people’s campsites looking for sticks and “b-balls.”  Repeat “b-ball” ten times while pouring organic milk over your head and running across your neighbor’s lawn if you can’t get the picture.
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My request for a quiet site is often greeted with suspicion by the campground owners.  Probably because they think I am planning a weekend of binge drinking and incoherent storytelling that will end at sunrise with my buddies and I peeing into the fire and singing Sammy Hagar-era Van Halen songs until all of the other campers wake up good and angry.  What the owners don’t know is that my buddies are two year old twin boys who like to get the party started at around 5 a.m. and rock and roll until nap time at High Noon.
When I let the campground owners know that we have twins who wake up VERY EARLY they always find us a nice, private spot very quickly. They often respond by saying something like, “Don’t worry, we know EXACTLY where to put you!”
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Do you see any other campers in the picture? Using the “my kids wake up VERY EARLY” approach will get you the best site at most fine American campgrounds.
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For our latest adventure we chose the Philadelphia/West Chester KOA and we absolutely loved it.  We had a spacious site that gave our boys lots of room to roam.  Just beyond our site was a lovely grassy meadow that sloped down towards a quiet road lined with empty cabins.  They had a fun little playground nearby next to a wide open field that we romped through after returning from Longwood Gardens.  Mom received free breakfast on Mother’s Day at the on-site café: three pancakes, three pieces of bacon, one sausage patty, orange juice and coffee!  A sweet and thoughtful touch.
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After we put the boys to bed at night and got the campfire roaring it was nearly heaven.  We fell asleep with raindrops falling through the trees and the sound of the Brandywine River rushing through the campground.