Norbert and I are back home after taking The Doghouse on its maiden voyage! We trekked three hours south to the Lonestar Preserve in Bonnieville, KY where Speleofest 2016 took place this weekend. Arriving just before sunset on Friday night, the 77-acre campground was already in full motion with a live band playing beside a carefully architectured giant stack of wood, awaiting nightfall to be lit ablaze. After checking in, we started our way on the gravel road to find a quiet area to setup camp. Being in an unfamiliar place and with dusk falling, it was hard to see which paths were the best ones to take to find an open space. The rains earlier in the week had made for a muddy traverse which is where the adventure (and early lessons for a green RV owner) began.
Long story, short, with the help of a number of fellow campers and a man with a large tractor (Lee, I believe, was his name), the Subaru and Cricket were both successfully pulled out of the mud and into the most perfectly private little space in the campground. Though we weren’t there to cave, the trip gave me the opportunity to drive a few hours with the camper, experience the setup in both rain and shine, and see how Norbert did at a campground (he was a natural and did 100x better than I could have ever imagined!). Though the trailer is small, it offered plenty of space, especially when hooking up the fridge/freezer outside to allow for more floor room. In our final evening, we were able to comfortably sit six of us plus Norbert in the trailer, enjoying a few brews and and plenty of laughs.
The caving community truly lives up to its reputation of being filled with great people. Not only did they jump in to help in our mudfest when we arrived (not to mention helping maneuver the Cricket back around and down the hill on Sunday – shout out to Lynn Marona!), but after spending just a small amount of time with them, one can see they are a close-knit family. Everyone we met were friendly, passionate about their exploration of caves, and all-around good folks.
Some lessons learned:
- Review the map of the campground before searching for a space. If the grounds are wet and you are hauling an 1800lb trailer, DON’T opt for the campground named “Hilltop” (AWD or not…)
- When the man in charge of the tractor is hooking up a chain under your vehicle and saying, “I won’t hook it on Blah nor hook it on Blah. Instead, I’ll hook it on Blah-Blah so if it breaks you’ll still be able to drive”, just go along with it. You have no other choice.
- When off grid, conserve your batteries. Turn off the water heater and water pump until you need to use them so you don’t lose power in a day.
- Thankful I made the decision to purchase the compatible solar panels. It was easy to get power back and the portable panels made it easy to move them around to the sunniest spots. Plus, it is so cool to run things off of the sun!!!
- When it does rain, enjoy the spacious room of the Cricket to relax and read with a precious pup snoozing at your side.
- Black rat snakes may very well be good to have around, but they do not appreciate your dog taking a dump near their tree. When they hiss at you, you may only note their unhappy face, only to later realize just how large they are when looking back at photos.
- There is a reason the Lonestar Preserve is named Lonestar. It is NOT because it is in Texas. See http://www.tickinfo.com/lonestartick.htm
- The portable toilet was a nice convenience and the clean-up wasn’t too terrible; however, if I had a campsite near a stall, I’d likely opt for that (or, if it wasn’t a tick-infested area, would have no problem going in the woods).
- The caving community is truly the best!!!