Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Reflections on Tompkins

While Ilse and I are relaxing in our lawn chairs at the end of our first day at Tompkins, a beautiful Serenity class ”B+” pulls into the campsite across from us. We soon meet the owners, Manuel and Roz De Lizarriturri, who are on their way to Canada. They have a long, extended vacation planned, finishing off the summer and watching the leaves change color as fall descends on the Northeast. They are the creators and owners of the RV site, “RV there yet?” We share stories and experiences, trade cards, e-mail addresses, and of course inspect each others RV. Their new Mercedes-chassis Serenity is the ultimate class “B+” self-contained unit. It is modern, well made and well thought out. Their RV is definitely high-end state of the art, ours, well, not so much.

We have been on the road for over two months now, and our small travel trailer looks like we live in it, which, obviously we do. Ilse vacuums and washes the floor every several days, but living in a space less than eight feet wide and twenty feet long with two dogs is a definite challenge. Without the dogs it might be comparable to living on a sailboat, or a one-room flat somewhere. Material items have an order of relevance. Everything has a place, and we have found a place for just about everything. Even the dogs.

The Moccasin Trail at Tompkins

We have had a few problems on our camping adventure, mostly simple issues requiring just a few dollars to repair. Such as the headboard for the couch backrest which pulled out of the poster-board type wall. The manufacturer screwed the backboard directly into the poster-board without using any type of anchor. No wonder they pulled out. A quick trip to a home supply center in Painted Post, New York, and a bag of nylon screw anchors and we are back in business.

I made a stop in Wellsboro, Pennsylvania, earlier in the trip to replace a chain-retaining nut that came off one of the torsion bar load levelers. That was about a dollar or so. It was my fault as I hadn't checked the nuts since we started the trip. I now check every time I unhook from the trailer.

We've added a couple of battery powered touch lights in closets, mounted new shelves and clothes hooks in the bathroom, and pretty much figured out our storage protocol. We can usually find anything we need in less than an hour or so. The only major expense has been the failure of the power converter while in Tionesta, Pennsylvania, which cost just under $300 and almost a week to replace. That little adventure merits a chapter of its own, palatable only to techies and propeller heads. I'll post it soon in a separate blog.
The only cell phone coverage

Now, however, we discover the floor edge of the cabinet on my wife's side of the queen-size bed is damp. The discovery process begins. It isn't raining so an open window is out of the question. A leaky water hose? A bad connection somewhere in the PVC water system? A blocked air conditioner drain? Oh well, as long as the floor doesn't rot and fall out before we get home in three weeks, we're OK. Only kidding, we immediately start taking things apart looking for the source of the water. I find a wet spot just behind where the external water hose enters at the other end of the trailer. We clean, dry, check and recheck the whole trailer after I take out the assembly and re-tighten all the connectors. We check the front, the sides, underneath and on top. So far so good. Now we will just have to monitor to insure everything stays dry and the problem is solved.
Yes!  Speed control!  Other COE Campgrounds take notice!

We also meet Holly and Randy, who pull in across from us, and their huge puppy, Roscoe. Roscoe, a Great Dane, is just over three years old and 175 pounds. Holly graciously gives us a tour of their three-axle, fifth wheeler, a big Raptor, which somehow seems appropriate for the size of the dog. The big 42 foot-long Raptor is at the other end of the size spectrum from our little 21 foot KZ Sportsmen. They have three televisions while we have room for maybe three DVDs. If I stack them right, of course. The Raptor is a beautiful unit that again, showcases the varied types of RVs available to match the varied needs and wants of the RV community. With vertical headroom that resembles a hotel room and dual, opposing slide-outs, the Raptor has almost three times more living space than our KZ. Their unit is big enough for a small family reunion. Holly and Randy are from nearby Mansfield, and like most of the campers here, meet their families for a congenial weekend get-together.
Lake Cowanesque

Family get-togethers are a ritual during weekends at every campground we have visited on this trip, and Tompkins is no exception. Grandparents and grand-kids have as much fun sitting around the campfires as the campers who show up in every kind of RV or tent imaginable. We have seen everything from basic geodesic tents and screen rooms to huge self-contained Class “A” buses and fifth wheels like the Raptor, and on weekends they are a center of family activity. Just about everyone around us has visitors and guests for the weekend.

Still, one of the quietest weekends we've spent in a campground comes and goes without fanfare. The campsites at Tompkins have plenty of room and greenery between sites, quite different from the cramped inner loop at Tionesta. There are plenty of boats and kids on bikes, but everyone is friendly and almost subdued compared to some of the mad-houses we've seen. By Sunday afternoon, the campground is practically empty.
One of Three floating docks at Tompkins

We go to shower after the campground empties, but the toilet/showers on our loop are a mess. If we have any complaints against Tompkins, it is the toilet and shower facilities, especially on our loop. They are far below the standards we have seen at all other Corps facilities. Dirty, hard to flush urinals, and generally just plain dirty facilities are not the norm for Corps campgrounds, but we have been here six days now and have seen no improvement in the care of the facilities. We called once about a toilet that backed up, and even though the local handyman has wandered around for a couple of days with his crescent wrench, the toilet still doesn't flush. One shower in the men's room now hasn't shut off the entire time we've been here.

The lake-front between two of the floating docks
One oddity has caught our eye here, and that is the condition of the lake front around the campground. While the public access areas at nearby Hammond Lake, where we stayed at Ives Run Campground, is well taken care of and quite clean, Tompkins Campground, on Lake Cowanesque on the other hand, has shut down its swimming beach and left the entire water front completely unattended or maintained. The area next to the boat ramp has trash, including an old tire, floating nearby. They don't even mow the area around the lake front. The rest of the campground is well-maintained and clean, but the water front does not reflect any other Corps of Engineer facility we've seen. Different strokes for different folks, I suppose.

The camp-hosts tell us there are absolutely no vacancies next weekend, the three-day Labor Day Weekend, which is traditionally the end of the RV season for most working families. We'll see how that works out as the remnants of Hurricane Isaac are forecast for the weekend. We've had a solid evening of rain this week, which adds to the serenity of the almost empty campground. It also gave us a chance to check our trailer for leaks. We are tight and dry, so our previous problem has been solved.

Most northern campgrounds revert to first come-first served after Labor Day, and many close completely by the end of October. RVing then takes on a whole new personality. Before long, waves of retired RVers will jam the highways and Interstates headed south to Florida. Florida does its best to absorb the thousands of RVers who winter there to avoid the cold weather. It's like a funnel, with RVs from all the northern states trying to cram into a state that may soon sink or tip over. Reserving RV campsites in Florida in the winter is almost impossible. That is for another chapter.

NEXT: Allegheny moon, at:

1 comment:

  1. Hi George and Ilse

    It was very nice meeting the two of you at Tompkins! Just a few corrections are in order, though: our Serenity is a Class B+, not a class C. And our website is, while our Facebook page is RV there yet?


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