I’m not sure you’d really call us rally people. If you were going to call us something. Other things would probably come to mind first. But when the dates and location for the RV Family Travel Atlas spring rally were announced last year right around the same time we were deciding that we really and truly were going to to go through with this whole buying a trailer plan, and when said dates and location happened to mesh perfectly with our already planned east coast road trip….it seemed kind of meant to be. In fact, our Lake-in-Wood reservation was the first one we ever made, back before we even bought the trailer.
I credit/blame RVFTA to a certain extent for our trailer purchase. The first wave of my trailer buying obsession happened in late winter/early spring of 2015. During this period of obsessing research and fantasizing, I came across the RVFTA blog and podcast. I had just gotten around to listening to my first episode when our trailer buying mania went into a short hibernation. I don’t even remember why, exactly; I think it was mostly just that I wore myself out with all the reading and researching, and the whole thing started to seem overwhelming. I remember thinking, “well, that’s too bad; that podcast would have been perfect for us if we were going to buy a trailer.”
But the obsession resurfaced again after just a few months, and this time it didn’t seem to be going anywhere. We listened to RVFTA podcasts religiously to feed our fixation. And Jeremy and Stephanie made having a trailer sound really fun and like something sane people do. And less overwhelming. So. I think we would have ended up with a trailer either way, but, if I had to guess, I’d say the podcast probably moved the process up a good 4-6 months.
So, you see, we had to go the rally.
I’m going to attempt one (no doubt massive) post about the campground, rally, and the day we spent in Philadelphia, because none of them really seem to quite want their own, separate post. We’ll see how this goes.
This is definitely the most resort-y of all the campgrounds we’ve stayed at, and, given that, I’ve been trying to put my finger on why the kids (and the adults, really) liked it so well. The kids had a really negative initial reaction to the bustling, activity-filled Mammoth Cave Jellystone, but they all really enjoyed Lake-in-Wood. I think it probably boils down to how much more private and secluded the sites themselves were here. The kids did a ton of stuff at the campground while we were here, but they could always retreat back to our super private site and have some down time, too. For some reason, I think this is the only campsite of the whole trip that I neglected to take a picture of. Oops. Here’s a picture of the lake (in the wood) instead:
We had an asphalt pull-through just a little ways off from the big field where all the rally activities were held, but it might as well have been a mile away, so thick were the trees and underbrush. The sites weren’t incredibly far apart, but the foliage was so dense that they felt that way. Ours was more private than some, but all of them had tons of vegetation, as far as I could see. Our site was fairly level (I think we used one block to get it level), and very easy to get out of it. Getting into it required a pretty tight turn (we did okay, but later on we saw another trailer have to back up and try it again). We had a picnic table and a fire ring (one thing that was annoying was that the picnic table was NOT level, and there was really nowhere for it to go where it would be).
There are quite a few quirky little rentals available, too, if you don’t have an RV. Here are a couple that were near us:
Okay, so we’ve established that the sites are private oases in the middle of a bustling resort. What can you do at the resort? Pretty much anything. Indoor pool, outdoor pool, kiddie pool, shuffleboard, mini-golf, paddleboats, two playgrounds, nature trail, restaurant. Also lots of gnomes.
Here’s the board listing the activities the weekend we were there:
The playgrounds were Abe’s favorite things. There was a big one right across from the camp store/office and a smaller one right near our site. The big one had a TRAIN!
The store was big, with a nice selection of both camping/grocery stuff and souvenir type things. Also hand dipped ice cream. We forgot to bring goggles from home, so we picked some up here:
We ate breakfast at the Gnome Cafe one morning, and it was good and really reasonably priced:
I’m a little concerned about exactly what’s in the “gnome burgers” though. Also, I’m not sure why Gus is making that face:
The roads are all paved, and the kids rode their bikes all over. We saw a lot of golf carts, too.
The pool complex was lovely, but Milo and Gus were grumpy because there were–gasp! …..other people in it:
They eventually got over it and had a good time swimming.
I hear that other RV rallies are very programmed, with, like, seminars and whatnot, but RVFTA’s rally was, thankfully, super casual. Everyone got together Friday and Saturday evenings, but for the most part people did their own thing (though often with other people from the rally) during the day on Saturday. So a lot of people went to the pool at the same time as us on Saturday, and Dave and I got to talk to people some while the kids swam. And then Dave took the big kids to outdoor laser tag (which the campground runs, for free! on weekends) while I hung out with Abe (and we ran into Stephanie from RVFTA and her (also sitting out laser tag) youngest at the playground).
It was cool to be able to talk to so many people about RVs and travel, something that doesn’t happen nearly as often at home. Our shy kids kind of hung around in the periphery and didn’t really interact with the other kids a whole lot (had they had a week, it would have been different), but they really enjoyed themselves anyway, and Gus in particular was bummed when the rally was over.
I’m feeling disadvantaged here by my lack of photos to help with my narrative. But people sitting around eating and talking is not very exciting to photograph. Umm, here:
That was the Saturday night potluck. Saturday happened to be Ari’s 15th birthday, so our potluck contribution was a cookie cake, which I managed to make edible in our trailer oven!
Rain kept threatening on Saturday night, and eventually it moved in for good, but it held off long enough for the trivia contest…in which we won third prize:
Thanks to Jeremy and Stephanie for hosting a great rally! Now we’re going to go to ALL the rallies we can find. Just kidding. I still don’t think we’re other rally people, probably.
Now I’m going backwards in time, because we got to Lake-in-Wood on Thursday night, a day early for the rally, and spent Friday in Philadelphia. “Oh, is Lake-in-Wood a great campground to stay at for day trips into Philadelphia?!” you might be asking yourself excitedly. Nah, not really. It took us well over an hour each way with traffic (even though we did our best to avoid the worst of rush hour), and we felt very rushed and like we didn’t have enough to time to really see much.
We did, however, have time to have lunch and catch up with Meir, a friend from my grad school days, which was the primary thing we wanted to accomplish, so that was good.
When we passed through Philadelphia a few years ago, we visited the Franklin Institute science museum, so we decided to devote this visit to the history side of things and see Independence National Historical Park. This is kind of a motley collection of historic sites, with the main attractions being Independence Hall (where the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution were signed) and the Liberty Bell. There’s also a visitor center, some historic homes that you can tour, a portrait gallery, the site of the President’s House (where Washington and Adams lived and worked before the White House was built), and museums about Benjamin Franklin and military history. We only saw a tiny fraction of this; you could very easily spend at least a full day here.
You need (free) timed tickets to tour Independence Hall. You can either pick these up the day of your visit or pay a $1.50 per ticket convenience fee to reserve them in advance. But there weren’t any available when I went online the day before, so Meir very generously offered to run by in the morning and grab some for us. I’m not sure if it would have been necessary or not; it seemed crowded the day we were there, but it seemed like a lot of people were picking up tickets for tours that started not long after they arrived. We actually were able to go in earlier than our ticket time because a large group never showed up to get the tickets they’d reserved.
You have to pass through a security checkpoint to get into the area where the Independence Hall tour starts and, word of warning, there are no bathrooms past this point. So we went through it twice. The tour itself is fairly brief (but still too long for Abe. Sigh). You sit in a big room and listen to the ranger give an introductory talk first, and then you see two rooms, including the assembly room where the Continental Congress met. Then the ranger told us about another tour of something or other that we could go see next door, but, alas: Abe.
I celebrated Ari’s birthday by accidentally breaking his glasses (they’d fallen off the wardrobe while he was asleep, and I stepped on them). So he didn’t have glasses on this day or for a few days after this, while we called around to glasses places and tried assorted glues trying to figure out what to do until we got home. Eventually we bought some gorilla tape and got them back together well enough to last until the end of the trip (and, in the meantime, I ordered a replacement pair from Zenni and paid for faster shipping so they’d be waiting for him when we got home).
Our plan for after this was to see the Liberty Bell. But the line was really, really long. So we looked at it from outside instead:
We walked through the President’s House site (right next to the Liberty Bell), and by then it was nearly time to head back to the van, both because we were hoping to get out of town before rush hour and because we had parked in a two hour parking spot.
With our last half hour, we went into the Benjamin Franklin Museum:
The admission fee for the museum is $5 for adults and $2 for kids 4-16, but we got in free with Gus’s Every Kid in a Park Pass. I’m going to miss that pass after this summer. The museum is small, but nicely done, and really interesting for the (older, in particular) kids, because Benjamin Franklin was quirky and fun. Lots of interactive exhibits about his life and inventions, and frequent appearances by Skuggs the Squirrel (Franklin was fond of pet squirrels. I would also like a pet squirrel. I’m a lot like Benjamin Franklin in many ways. I just got sidetracked momentarily googling “pet squirrel.” The internet is not at all supportive of my desire for a pet squirrel. FINE, internet: be that way!)
And with that, alas, our brief visit came to a close. Leaving an NPS site without getting Junior Ranger badges or even going to the visitors’ center nearly killed me. We did, at least manage to get passport stamps and buy a magnet at the Benjamin Franklin Museum gift shop.