"We like camping better!" --Raymond Alexander Kukkee

view of the north shore Critter Pond, KOA Canandaigua NY [c] 2009 jcb

Our July Camping Give-Away: One FREE pair of Motorola Talkabout® 2-Way Radios

Tracking down the kids while camping...

~Here's my review of the product we're giving away this month. See details, below ~

by Jim Bessey,

When we go camping we take two teenage boys with us. Much as they love roasting marshmallows and telling ghost stories by the campfire, they love being on their own even more. So after an hour or two of being helpful and great company, both boys tend to disappear from our campsite. Eventually we have to track them down. This can be tedious and time-consuming.

Motorola Talkabout 2-way radios
It didn't take us long to adopt the strategy used by other campers in similar situations. We bought walkie-talkies and insisted the teens take one with them. This worked fine until the guys discovered how easy it was to pretend they were out of range, or only heard mysterious static.

"The batteries musta been dead," one would volunteer after a couple hours among the missing.

Now we've fixed that little communication breakdown for good. We bought better two-way radios from Motorola. Yeah, we spent more money than before, but not much - still way under $100 for the pair. We chose Talkabout® 2-Way Radios because they looked rugged and boasted a much higher range than our original radios offered. Best of all, these use rechargeable batteries. I got really tired of buying 8-packs of AAA batteries for the old ones.

The kids like the Talkabouts® because they are big, black, and look like something an Army Ranger might carry. There's a nifty extra trick, too: you can use these 2-way radios hands-free! Sound clarity is fantastic, so no more "what??" for an answer when we try to find our kids. There's even a setting that eliminates interference from non-Motorola radios. The 22 available channels offer over 100 privacy codes, too. None of the campgrounds we stay at are nearly big enough to exceed the 5- to 10-mile rural transmission range.

Motorola Talkabout 2-way radios
These radios are solidly built, with a nice big flexi-antenna that reminds me of the ones on those ancient Motorola "brick" phones. That's probably why the effective range is so high. Talkabouts® can receive NOAA Weather Radio Alerts, too (where available). That helps with peace of mind if a big thunderstorm is about to roll in, for instance. For real emergencies there's an Alert button that sends a distress signal AND transmits background noises, too - just in case.

Each unit also includes a built-in flashlight! They came with a handy charger stand that plugs into any regular outlet, and include ports for charging via mini-usb - same as the boys' mp3 players use. So far our kids haven't yet managed to scratch or dent the units, despite frequent hard handling.

Can you get by with a $30 pair of off-brand walkie-talkies? Sure, and we did for a while. But we spent the price difference on batteries and frustration that first summer. We'll end up buying another pair this summer, since my oldest now likes to go off on his own without his kid brother tagging along. I think I'll Free-cycle our old, original 2-way radios and let someone else buy the batteries. I'm sold on the Motorola Talkabout® radios, and very happy to be able to track down my children at the campground.

copyright 2008 - all rights reserved

Our July Give-Away is ONE PAIR of these radios. You can enter by adding a new Comment to any 2010 JCO post. One comment per post, but multiple entries are allowed (multiple posts). Be sure your contact info is available via your link or comment text.

Winner will be chosen at random from all entries, and will be notified via email. No purchase required. Odds improved by making multiple entries, as noted above. JCO does not provide any warranty for this product, and Motorola is NOT a sponsor of this give-away. Deadline for entries is July 31, 2010 EDT.

* * *

Motorola Talkabout® 2-Way Radios - EM1000R FRS/GMRS radios. Suggested retail is $69.95. Available online or at retail electronics stores.

From Motorola's 2008 press release: "The Motorola Talkabout® EM1000R two-way radios not only keep family members in touch with those that matter most, but also provide peace-of-mind knowing that everyone can enjoy their adventures without missing important emergency or weather alerts.

"With a range of up to 20 miles2, the compact EM1000R two-way radios are ideal for family emergency kits with a variety of practical features to keep everyone prepared in any circumstance or setting from remote mountainside retreats and lakeside fishing trips to unexpected power outages at home. The radios are equipped with an Emergency Alert feature." [~Jim]

10 reasons why YOU might love to go camping

by Jim Bessey

Why bother camping at all?
our campsite fall 09
Fall camp at secluded site, Holiday Hill Campground
Everything about Home seems better -- certainly the facilities, right? And there's bugs, and mud, and it always rains. So what's the point? Why would anyone want to pay for the privilege of roughing it? And yet, every good-weather weekend, wherever you live, thousands of people head off with tents or campers, even motor homes, to find a spot (secluded or otherwise) so they can go camping. Anyplace but home will do.

Here are ten reasons why we go camping, and why you might like it, too.

  1. A change of scenery. Sometimes that's enough. No-four-walls is even better.
  2. To commune with Nature -- because for whatever reason, we almost never think of doing that, otherwise. The sound of raindrops on canvas, or the beauty of a few million stars in a pitch-black sky; priceless.
  3. To hang out with our friends and family somewhere else, where none of us is the "host," yet we are all still gathered together. Who washes the dishes? Maybe you can flip for it.
  4. To leave the TV off. The best way to do this is to remove the option to turn it on in the first place. Camping is great for that! Radios are okay, but not too loud. That's the rule.
  5. To get away from all the ordinary crap that clutters our daily lives at home. All those to-do lists and chores will still be there when you get back. Forget them for a few days or a week. Chop some firewood instead; it's good for you.
  6. To force our kids to spend time with us. For many of us, you have to remove A LOT of options from the kids in order to make "time with the parents" appealing. Little do they know, we're pretty good company when you give us a chance. Hey, remember "board games"? Yeah, those are cool.
  7. So we can have campfires and roast marshmallows. Two great things you never get to do at home! Why can't we have campfires at home? Good question, isn't it?
  8. Camping gives up permission to sit in chairs and just hang out, alone with a book or in a ring of seats with 20 friends around a big fire -- it's all good.
  9. Maybe there are hiking trails, or fishing ponds, or horseshoes, or a big pool, or paddleboats, or fireflies, or playgrounds, or group bingo, maybe even karaoke. You won't find most of those at home, will you?
  10. Reason #10 should be a big one, right? There must be ONE totally awesome most compelling reason to go camping. "Because we hate hotels and they are expensive." How's that? I'll bet there are dozens of other great reasons we love to go camping. What's your #10?
Want to share a great camping experience? Ask me about a possible guest post.

Camping tips: Take your kayak!

   The latest in great camping tips from New York Outdoors Blog...
Posted: 15 Jun 2010 06:33 AM PDT
By Sue Freeman

One of the things I love about kayaking is the opportunity it affords me to escape into nature, away from motorboats, away from throngs of people, and away from man-made noise. By combining camping and kayaking you can extend the escape and submerse yourself in nature. Some wonderful opportunities for these escapes exist in the Finger Lakes region.

But first, camping needs to be sub-divided into two distinct experiences. The first is the use of campgrounds where you can set up a tent or use a camper and enjoy the luxury of a shower after a day of paddling. As drawbacks, you won’t escape the noise and throngs of people and there is a cost involved. Primitive camping, on the other hand, is free and offers solitude and quiet, but you have to be willing to forgo showers and flush toilets. You choose.

  1. Stay at Fairhaven Beach State Park and paddle Sterling Creek. Fairhaven Beach State Park is a spectacular 1,400-acre site with nearly two miles of Lake Ontario shoreline. A stay here can combine shoreline walks, hikes on trails, and paddling on Sterling Pond and Sterling Creek. ...
  2. Susquehanna River
  3. Stay at Hickories Park and circumnavigate Hiawatha Island on the Susquehanna River. Hickories Park is a campground owned by the Town of Owego that sits on the banks of the Susquehanna River. Launch from the campground and paddle upstream or down on the wide, slow river. ...
  4. Camp at Park Station Recreation Center and paddle Park Station Lake. Park Station Recreation Center in Erin offers 6 miles of hiking trails, a RV and tent campground, and a 100-acre man-made lake to paddle or fish.
Primitive Camping:
  1. Tent camping is allowed at the locks along the Erie Canal. Simply ask permission from the lockmaster. Camp at Lock 30 Canal Park in Macedon and you can paddle through history. ...
  2. Become an explorer on a 21 mile loop using the Erie Canal and Clyde River and camp along the shore in the Galen Marsh Wildlife Management Area. A true sense of adventure is helpful for this trip.
  3. Long Pond in Smithville offers 10 primitive campsites at its north end that are free and on a first-come, first-served basis. ...
Maps and details for each of these camping/paddling adventures and others can be found in the guidebook “Take A Paddle – Finger Lakes New York Quiet Water for Canoes & Kayaks.”

 Reprinted from the New York Outdoors blog, hosted by Sue & Rich Freeman
Please see the original article for the full text descriptions of each camping venue.  _______________________________________________
If you love the outdoors, and especially if you're a devoted kayaker, you'll love the New York Outdoors Blog. Content is updated daily, and there's rarely a dull moment. Subscribe today!

Campground reviews: Cheerful Valley Campground of Phelps, NY

by Jim Bessey editor

Beautiful scenery, a wide choice of campsites, and a friendly family atmosphere make Cheerful Valley a fine choice for western NY camping. Our Rating: * * * * (of five)
happy campers meet at Cheerful Valley campground

Down by the winding banks of the Canandaigua Outlet, in a lush little valley east of Phelps NY, lies a pleasant family-owned camping resort named, appropriately, Cheerful Valley Campground. It's a twisty, grassy, shady glen filled with big trees and a wonderful variety of campsites. Located just off the New York State Thruway near Exit 42 and centered between Lyons, Geneva and Waterloo -- Cheerful Valley attracts visitors from all over the United States. Campers will find everything from swimming and fishing, to horseshoes and volleyball, to music and movies in this quiet rural getaway.

Carl and Peg Carlson, 2nd-generation owners, took over day-to-day management about five years ago. They've been adding improvements ever since. This year, we found a brand new round-log play area next to the newly renovated pool. Utilities have been upgraded, and the grounds look fantastic. About one third of the more than 150 campsites are rented full-time by campers who take very good care of their sites. Plenty of open lots await weekend and vacation visitors.

There's room for no-hook-up tenters, pull-through motor homes, pop-ups and trailers, and plenty of choices for larger groups (with advance reservations). Cheerful Valley even includes two rental cabins situated between the main office and the pool area. The terrain varies from hilly or terraced to shady meadow, and from somewhat secluded to open and festive. A range of full-service sites are scattered throughout the campground, so that campers aren't confined to specific areas dictated by their choice of accommodations. Two sets of modern restrooms and hot showers are provided.

The campground follows the curve of a lush valley leading down to an wide bend on the Canandaigua Outlet... keep reading

  Reprinted from the original hosted on Helium. Copyright 2010 -- Jim Bessey, all rights reserved. Reprints available.

See this review as it appears on Helium.com

Where have you been? If you've recently stayed at a campground you liked -- or even one that disappointed you -- we'd love to host your review. Contact me for more information.

Camping tips: How to buy tires for your tow vehicle

by Mark Polk   writer at blog RV.Net

June 7, 2010

Over the years we have owned five RV’s. First there was a small pop up, then a travel trailer, then a bigger travel trailer, a Type C motorhome and currently our Type A motorhome. I have always owned and driven a truck that is capable of towing a good size trailer. I don’t tow trailers as much as I used to, but just the nature of my business requires that I have a truck that can tow a trailer.

During a routine inspection of my truck I noticed the sidewalls of the tires had some cracking caused by too much exposure to the sun, and that the tread was just about down to the tread wear indicators. These were the original Michelin tires that came on the truck when it was new, and with over 65,000 miles on them I really can’t complain about replacing the tires... keep reading
 Reprinted from the blog section of RV.Net -- an outstanding resource for RV owners
Not a subscriber to blog.RV.Net yet? If you own a recreational vehicle, this magazine provides a wealth of information on a wide variety of topics for the RV camping crowd.
See also: Home from Home: The World of Camper Vans And Motorhomes

Camping tips: Taking your dog camping with you

by Donna Thacker guest author

[Editor's note: Donna is a freelance writer and hosts My Widows Web]

For a lot of us dog lovers, taking poochie camping with us is as natural as taking our children. Doggy is a part of the family and we would never think of leaving him or her behind, or boarding them in a kennel while we go off to enjoy ourselves. Our loving family pet deserves to go on a little vacation, and enjoy "family time" as well as we do.

camping with dogs by OakleyOriginals
photo by OakleyOriginals
Camping with your pet can be an enjoyable time so long as you are prepared for anything that comes along. First and most important, your family pet should be up to date on their shots and vet check ups. Don't take them camping if they aren't feeling well either. Sometimes dogs feel a little "under the weather" just like we do, and just want to lounge around at home.

If your dog is good and healthy and raring to go, that's great. Now you'll have to make sure to accommodate his every need, just like you do at home. Be sure to pack plenty of his favorite food and treats in zip lock bags to keep them fresh and dry. Also pack his food dishes and a couple favorite toys. Doggy will feel more at ease having his own things along.

Other doggy necessities you will need are: brush and comb, disposable doggy wipes, old towels (just in case of rain!) I also suggest ear and eye wash solutions, because you just never know what these guys can get into. It's also a good idea to have your vet's phone number packed in the "doggy bag," in case of an emergency... keep reading

See this story as it appears on Helium.com Read Donna's profile at Helium

Reprinted by permission from Donna Thacker, all rights reserved
How about you? Do you have a camping article or true story you'd like to share? Guest authors are always welcome. If you'd like to submit your article for posting, you can reach me via Comments or by using the link at the top of this page.
For more information about camping with pets, see: Camping and RVing with Dogs, 3rd: The Complete Reference for Dog-Loving Campers and RVers

Why do we go camping? So we don't miss sunsets like this one!

Photo by Jim Bessey location: near Shortsville, NY 

When we go camping we leave the TV behind, and usually find ourselves outdoors looking westward at sunset. The final sixty minutes before the sun goes down are known as "the golden hour" by photographers -- a time when the light is muted but somehow magical. Almost-sundown provides ideal conditions for taking picture, not to mention relaxing with your loved ones, a cold drink, and the beginnings of a campfire.

Stunning sunsets and the time to notice them -- just one of the reasons we go camping. "We like camping better!" (RAK)

Copyright 2010 Jim Bessey * Reprints with attribution, unaltered
If you have Camping pictures you'd like to share, please contact me via Comments or by using the link at the top of this page. You can also find me on Facebook if you prefer.

Travel trailer towing tips: Safety checklist before you hit the road

by Jim Bessey editor  Part One of Two

See Part Two "On the Road" here 

Towing safety begins in your driveway.
camping tips also on Jim's portfolio
Other than driving in a blizzard or hurricane, pulling a camper trailer down the highway is one of the most dangerous things you can do with your tow vehicle. On the other hand, what's better than being on the open road, with your living quarters on wheels? With sound attention to detail and a reasonable level of caution, you can safely haul your family camping trailer down the highway for a memorable vacation. Make it a habit to go over your camping rig with a safety checklist before you hit the road.

There's a lot riding on your tires.

You've heard the expression, "kick the tires before you go," right? That's a great place to start. Proper inflation for all eight tires (at least!) on your tow vehicle and your travel trailer is critical. Use the high-end of your tires' listed cold pressure numbers for good-weather hauling. All four trailer tires should have identical readings. You can use a mid- to low-range setting for your vehicle's front tires to ensure smooth handling. Visually inspect all tread surfaces for unusual wear while your adjusting tire pressures, too. Never needlessly risk a blow-out on the highway!

Look for trouble before you hitch up your wagon.

Two sure warning signs of trouble are rust and frayed wires. A rusty hitch could be dangerously weakened. Use a wire-brush and good lighting for a closer look. See any cracks? If you have any doubt about your hitch's integrity, have it checked by a qualified shop. Replacing a damaged hitch component is a minor inconvenience compared to the potential consequences. If all you're seeing is surface rust, brush it clean then prime and repaint. If your safety chains are badly rusted, consider installing a new set - a small investment that looks good. Take a minute to lubricate moving and load-bearing parts, too. Make good connections.

Hook it up and check it out.

Leave yourself plenty of time to hook-up your camper trailer and do a serious "pre-flight" inspection. . ... keep reading

  Reprinted from the original hosted on Helium. Copyright 2009 -- Jim Bessey, all rights reserved.

See this story as it appears on Helium.com

Would you like to win a free pair of Motorola Talkabout Portable Radios? See our Giveaway Post for all the details.

Cooking and camping: Tips for great steak and eggs

by Rex Trulove guest author  

[Editor's note - Rex is an experienced camper and senior editor at Helium.com]

Nothing quite beats wonderful steak and eggs for breakfast when you are camping. With a steaming hot cup of coffee, this hearty meal gets you going for the camping day. The dish isn't even very difficult to prepare.

cooking by the campfire
The type of steak is entirely up to the camper. Pork, beef, venison, buffalo, and elk all taste fabulous. For best results, the steak should be 1/2 to 1 inch thick. The thinner it is, the faster it will cook, so if you like steaks cooked rare to medium, thicker cuts allow you to better control how done the meat will be.

The heat should also be low. High heat can tend to overcook the outside while the inside is still blood rare. While this can be fine if you like very rare steak, cooking at cooler temperatures again allows you more control.

Start by adding a couple tablespoons of olive oil to a fry pan. Other cooking oil can be used, but olive oil is usually tastier, healthier, and doesn't leave a strong aftertaste like many oils can. Heat the oil over a slow burner. Camp stoves are perfect for this...keep reading

Read the rest of Rex's guide to cooking steak and eggs on Helium.com.

Reprinted by permission from Rex Trulove - All rights reserved. Read Rex's profile at Helium.com  

Camping photo courtesy of jen robinson at Flickr.com

If you're a steak lover, you might also like to learn about Grill Charms™  -- a simple yet elegant way to mark your steaks during cooking, developed by Leslie Haywood of Charmed Life Products LLC.

I love reprinting great articles from my friends at Helium. I also accept original submissions on any Camping theme, as well as your Camping pictures. Guest authors always receive full credit and generous links, and are chosen based upon the quality of their work.

If you'd like to be included here at Just Camping Out,  you can reach me via Comments or by using the link at the top of this page. Find me on Facebook, too, if you prefer.