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Saturday, November 19, 2016

Left or Right?



No, I'm not talking politics. Haven't we all had enough of that for a bit?

I was thinking back to previous years when my lovely wife and I spent winters traveling. We did a lot of camping and not a lot of planning. After a few days of camping we'd pack up and drive to the main road. Then we'd ask each other: left or right? It was pretty much a coin toss which way we'd head.

Sometimes we'd stumble into some amazing places. Other times we'd find ourselves out in the middle of nowhere, darkness moving in, and no place to stay. That's part of the fun. If it always went smoothly it wouldn't be an adventure. Over the years we found a lot of places that were worth going back to. Our traveling was a bit less random as we'd want to end up in certain areas sooner or later.

In more recent years we've discovered that a bit of planning is required for prime areas. If you want to camp in a primitive campground in the middle of the Everglades, a reservation might not be needed. A state park with nice facilities in the Florida Keys where you can camp on the beach . . . well, that's a bit harder to do.

People reserve campsites almost a year in advance. While it's not impossible to pull up to a popular campground and get a site without reservations, don't count on it. The odds are low. Not only that, in a lot of popular places they've cracked down on stealth camping. At one time if we couldn't get into a park we had stealth camping options. In places like the Keys there are very few good stealth camping spots left. The cops are cracking down hard too.

Even though popular campgrounds book up months in advance, we could usually put together a trip just a week or two's warning. That requires a good Internet connection. Just about everybody uses http://www.reserveamerica.com/. Love 'em or hate 'em, they are often the only game in town.

So, for example, you go to their site looking for a nice week in the Florida Keys. You may find that all the sites in a campground are booked. However, one thing about people booking so early is that there are cancellations. A lot can happen in a person's life between the time they book and the time they plan on vacationing. Those sites don't stay open very long. If you see them, get them.

Rarely will you find a whole week free. Usually 2 or 3 days together aren't too hard. Here's what we'd do. We might end up with 3 days in Key Largo, a couple more days at Long Key, then maybe some more days at Bahia Honda Key. Once in a while we'd bridge a booking gap by taking a day or two in private campgrounds.

We like to stay in the Florida State Park system. They have great campgrounds if you are into nature. Prices are usually cheaper than private campgrounds. Not that they are cheap in the Keys, but everything is relative.

Federal campgrounds can be some of the best deals and discount cards are available for people on disability or retired. Unfortunately there are no Federal Camping sites in the Keys, but there are some in other parts of southern Florida. The remote Everglades campground in Flamingo comes to mind.

A hard winter up north will bring the snowbirds down in droves so campgrounds fill up quickly. While it's fun to decide your route with a coin flip getting a place to stay might be a toss up too. Of course, there's always traveling off-season if you want to ramble at random.

-Sixbears

14 comments:

  1. While I like .reserveamerica most parks have a few sites set aside for first come first served. Your wife has plans for the holidays at home. Take a Benadryl to kill the itch till after Christmas ! The sun ,beer and cheeseburgers will still be there.

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    1. I'm definitely hanging around until after the holidays.

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  2. Replies
    1. Pretty horrible. Still not doing much of anything.

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  3. Heading north this time of the year is the wrong direction, but there is lot of free camping if you are willing to put in the miles even during the summer months. A few years ago we did Newfoundland and Labrador. Late fall is the best time to go. Less bugs. From here it takes about a day and a half of driving and an eight hour ferry ride from Sydney to Port-Au-Basque. Once you get past the bottle neck of Nova Scotia/PEI you start to leave the tourists behind. On The Rock you can camp virtually anywhere you want and no one will bother you. A four wheel drive vehicle is convenient to access the more remote locations. But generally within fifteen minutes of deciding it was time to stop for the day we could find a spectacular secluded place to pull over and camp. No reservations nor cost involved.

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    1. We've wanted to go to that part of Canada but spring and summer are so great around home it's hard to leave.

      . . . but you got me thinking about it again, so it could happen.

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    2. We went on the strength of one photo we saw in an advert for Parks Canada of Gros Mourne national park.
      Something like this one:
      http://images.boomsbeat.com/data/images/full/36926/12-jpg.jpg
      We did not regret it at all and would like to return. Labrador can now be reached via the road from Quebec. Go up to Goose bay and then head south along the coast to Blanc Sablon and catch the ferry across to Newfoundland that way. Another place I'd love to visit would be St Piere and Miquelon, the two French Islands just south east of Newfoundland. A motorcycle would be ideal for that trip.

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    3. Thanks! I'm saving all this info. If the currency difference holds it'll be a reasonably priced trip too.

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    4. M. Silvius: have they upgraded that road to Goose Bay? I was reading about it a few years back and they called it "the trans-Labrador cowpath", just a dirt two track with lots of timber truck traffic.
      Sounded interesting, but not the sort of trip my wife would like.

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    5. In 2002 we hopped the ferry from St Barbe Newfoundland to Blanc Sablon, Quebec and drove as far as Red Bay. 150 or so miles, the majority was unpaved. That was as far as you could go back then. Since then they have opened the road from Red Bay to Goose Bay. I have not driven it but I understand it is unpaved and no services so bring extra fuel and expect to be self sufficient in every way possible. It is my understanding that the road from Goose Bay to Baie Comeau is unpaved as well. The Canadian Govt site shows it a a primary unpaved road.
      http://www.roads.gov.nl.ca/cameras/default.stm
      For a good idea of what the whole loop is like here is a nice write up on it.
      http://www.expeditionportal.com/forum/threads/46651-Trans-Labrador-Highway-and-other-places-of-interest-2010

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  4. We don't do camping anymore, but when we travel we always make sure the room at the Holiday Inn is reserved! ;-)

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    1. When we do take a hotel we have to make sure it's pet friendly. That limits us a quite a bit.

      We ended up spending a few days in a hotel once just because we were sick of camping in the rain. It's nice to have the option.

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  5. I have camped overnight with only Hemlock boughs for a bed and my jacket as a cover up to my diesel pusher RV that is like a home on wheels to everything in between. I enjoyed all of them. Grew up camping with my Mom and Dad.

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    Replies
    1. All types of camping are great.

      I too did a lot of camping with my folks. Good memories.

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