Gotta Have It

Denise and I have been camping together and separately for much of our lives, most recently in our Unity MB, which makes being on the road, including our latest eight-plus week adventure across the northern U.S and all Canadian provinces west of Toronto, easy. We’ll write about those adventures in a series of articles very soon.

Along the way, we’ve discovered some neat little things that we’ve not only heard about, but many of which we’ve also tried, and wanted to pass them along so you can not only plan to bring a few along next trip, but which would make great holiday gifts, or to put in your RV permanently.

Some items I’m sure will have you thinking, “now why would I need that?,” but others might just have you heading to Amazon or even your local dollar store. Either way, we hope you consider them. Here we go!

Go Away Ya Bug Me!

Racquet-style insect zapper—We’ve had one stored away in the back of our Unity for a while, but our visit to Banff National Park’s great campgrounds was the first time we’ve used it. Now we won’t let it out of our sight, and wished we’d remembered we had it aboard earlier. Powered with two AA batteries in the handle, just push the button and wave it towards a stinging wasp (I’m seriously allergic) or a pesky mosquito and seek revenge or a pre-emptive strike. They’re available at many dollar stores and other outlets and are inexpensive. We’re still on our first set of batteries, and will switch to rechargeables when these go.

Another mosquito wars weapon we won’t be without is our Thermacell Patio Shield. Screw in the butane cartridge, put in a repellent pad, and give it a click. Check the small window to make sure it’s lit and the butane will heat the pad to give off enough repellent to cover a 15-by-15-foot zone, depending of course on the wind (try putting it upwind if there’s a breeze).

The pad lasts about four hours and when it turns white, you know you need to replace. Thermacell also makes personal skeeter’ repellers you wear on your belt or elsewhere, as well as ones that are placed on a post that also acts as a lamp. Great products. In fact, I used a Patio Shield at Banff’s Johnston Creek Canyon campground. Since I fired it up, I’ve not had to use our electric swatter. The unit, new pads and butane are available in many big box, some hardware, and other stores.

Newest from Thermacell is a Lithium battery operated system, providing up to 40 hours of protection. No more butane cartridges. Cool!

E-Bike, Or No E-Bike? That’s The Question.

Ready to spend some big bucks? How about an electric assist bike? There are a lot of makes out there these days and more will be joining the fleet. One e-bike version is called a cargo bike, and one type is the Electric Boda Boda by Yuba (around $3,000). This type of electric pedal assist bike is extremely useful as it can haul up to 220 lbs—hence the name—excluding the driver, for trips to the local market or brewpub, or to haul up to two young passengers.

Electric Boda Boda by Yuba

One LTV owner reports that while boondocking in a Walmart recently, their electric bike was stolen right off their rear bike rack. Here’s one maker with a built-in anti-theft system: It’s the Vanmoof. The rear wheel locks using your phone, will sound a piercing built-in alarm, and the company will replace or find it if it is stolen. Lights are even integrated into the frame. Around $3,400.

Another compromise is the Copenhagen Wheel, developed by MIT, which retrofits an existing bike into an e-bike. The company also makes entire bikes. It also has some anti-theft capability.

Best advice, however, is like purchasing your Leisure Travel Van, do your research. Try several at e-bike stores, and read reviews of the various styles.

And of course, decide whether you need, or just want, an e-bike, and what you’ll use it for. After all, one of the biggest reasons for riding a clunky old-fashioned 27-speed carbon-framed mountain bike, or your 27-speed carbon frame road bike, that only cost $2,000 each rather than $3K and up is, E-X-E-R-C-I-S-E.

Our own human-powered bikes work just fine. They’re not flashy. My Trek 4500 is nearly 20 years old, therefore not thief-attracting! And only recently have I changed the tubes due to run-ins with goatheads, aka puncture vines, in Denver. They’re named that for good reason. Hope you never find out why. Especially with these expensive—and heavy, up to 50lbs—e-systems.

Along with that bike, also buy a big “U” lock and chain to secure your expensive rides to the rack. Then lock that bike rack to the hitch with a locking hitch pin, available at most hardware stores.

Once you settle on your bike, get brimmed. With cancer from sun exposure an increasing concern for many, here’s one more way to mitigate your risk. Da Brim fits over your bike helmet to provide a wide area of shade while you ride. Recumbent users can add an accessory to keep the brim from riding up on your ride. Brims come in three different shapes and range from $35 to about $45.

Hike It!

Whether you’re an urban or forest hiker, you may be using hiking poles on your treks. These modified ski poles not only provide balance the way a stick does but on both sides of your body. They also provide an extra workout benefit as you swing your arms. The best we’ve found are made by a Michigan-based company, Available in models from aluminum to carbon, these poles are custom-fitted to your height. Unlike cheap import poles that often collapse when you don’t want them to–yup, we’ve got those too, the main reason we went with ski walkers–these are one piece. We use these instead.

Now, Clean It!

When we travel to Florida for our mid-February break, we bring our bikes, and by the time we reach warmth, they’re covered in crude and have been bombarded by everything from slush to salt.

Here’s the ultimate in bicycle maintenance kits. Muc-Off comes in its own storage container and is just about the most complete kit I’ve seen. There are four crud-removing brushes including a specialized “claw” to reach every hard-to-reach spot on your bike after a day on the trail, or on the back of your rig. Also included is a one-liter spray bottle of biodegradable general cleaner, and a half-liter of protectant spray, for about $70.

Light It!

A lot of folks have asked us about our Luci Light when they see it in action, so I’m also including it in this collection. It’s been around a few years but remains one of the coolest lighting products I’ve seen, and it has a bonus impact when you buy one. It’s a compact, inflatable solar-powered LED light that we use all the time. There are three light settings including a blinking mode, and now the makers have even included a charging station for your phone if you’re boondocking.

They offer up to 12 hours of light before needing recharging, which involves simply putting it on your dash. Now here’s the bonus: buy one Give a Luci Light at its website for $10 when you purchase yours, and its partners will send it to someone with no electricity access. Since the program began in 2012, the company has sent lights to more than 100 countries, positively affecting more than three million lives across the world.

Here’s another. The Button Lamp is a quick LED mini-light with an adhesive back that attaches anywhere and lights up those dark places in your LTV, such as the under-sink cabinet. These little guys are waterproof, about the size of a quarter, have a battery life of 17 hours, and cost $9.99 for a six-pack. They come off easily, too. Just gently pull it off, says the maker. They’re available at lots of stores including Walmart.

Pack It!

The Xpedition backpack is modular.

We’ve all got our favorite backpacks. One I’ve got is so well-used the straps are beginning to fray. Here’s one to consider if you’re in the same situation as me: the Xpedition by Bag Smart is modular so you can even build your own for whatever your needs, be it photography equipment, carrying electronics, or day hiker.

Keep It!

Here’s a great–albeit pretty expensive for a pair of pants–way to keep your valuables secure from pickpockets when you’re traveling. These “Pickpocket Proof” pants are lightweight and have multiple layers of protection, from button closers over zippers, to hidden zippered pockets within zippered pockets, so if you’re in close company in a city, you’re armored. Both mens and womens sizes are available.

Water Bottles

You may have a favorite style of water bottle. Mine is a stainless Contigo, purchased at Costco. I’ve not seen this style anywhere else. These bottles usually appear in late winter or spring in our area, and aren’t around long. They’re stainless with a positive “click” seal. By pushing a button on the side, and it keeps my water cold all day, and inside the bottle regardless of position. But here’s another.

Rootblue’s bottles feature double-wall vacuum style and say it keeps cold items cold for 24 hours, and hot liquids hot for 12. The Nevada-based company sends 10 percent of its profits to the Tahoe Fund to help protect and preserve the Truckee River and Truckee meadows near its headquarters.

Portable Shower

Don’t want to use the inside shower (ours is usually storage), or too shy to use your Leisure’s outside shower (I’m not)? Check out the new Geyser portable shower system.

Foam It!

Ok, you’ve just emptied your tanks, and although you’ve used your gloves, you still need to clean your hands. Clean Trek is what we use. It comes in a pump foaming dispenser that cleans without water and contains aloe and vitamin E.

Clean It!

You may have heard the tip to drain out your home water heater every so often from the bottom spigot to get rid of the crusty hard water scale deposits that often form, and reduce the life of your heater as a result. Well, the same could be said of your LTV water heater if you have the older tank style system. There’s a solution from Camco, the company with literally myriad solutions to issues from water hoses to sewer hose supports to lots more. It’s a water-pic-style hose attachment that reaches inside your heater to give it a high-pressure rinse. I just bought one. It makes sense.

Relief Band For Motion Sickness

Here’s a product to try for anyone affected by motion sickness. The Relief Band is a watch-like affair that delivers pulses to the median nerve on your wrist. It’s a mite pricey at $175, but if you’re constantly worrying about getting sick and aren’t able to enjoy the scenery going by outside your LTV, it may be for you.

Kitchen Items

The Instant Pot has become a go-to staple for many who now cook with the six-quart version at home, including us. However, try stuffing one into your LTV storage area. Fortunately, we’ve found that the three-quart version fits in our back closet and is very handy for cooking under pressure when plugged into shore power. Each pot comes with a recipe book, and there are more online, along with accessories.

Worried about your non-stick pans when they begin peeling? We are too. We’re now refitting with ceramic-lined pans that fit above and under the sink. We found ours at an outlet mall kitchen store, and they’re also available online and stores like Target.

One more item. Many at the LTV owner’s Facebook site have recommended various sleep sacks rather than normal sheets, which we still use. Here’s another alternative from Its silk sleep sack also features an attached pillow.

Flip It!

On our travels, many people love wearing flip-flops even while hiking. Well, I like my boots, but if you still like flips and can do without the slips, then FlipRocks could be for you. These flips have lug soles and grippers to help you stay on the trail instead of flipin’ and slippin’ off. They also could be the answer for your canoe/kayak needs.


Here are two ideas we picked up at our most recent Leisurely Great Lakers fall rally, from owner Willis Gray of Concord, North Carolina, who stopped by our event in Holland, MI.

Willis Gray’s critter-keeper-outer large mesh screen.

He’s had one robin with nest and eggs found in his engine air cleaner and is taking no chances. Using large-mesh screens so it won’t impede airflow, and perhaps a bit of metal duct tape, he fashioned and installed a guard at the front of the engine air intake behind the driver side grill, and at the cabin air filter box to keep critters out. He also put one across the “intake” of his Truma hot water heater for wasps. Great idea!

That’s it for this edition of Gotta Have It. We’ll have more soon.

Note: The recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and are not necessarily those of Leisure Travel Vans.

Just Add Saltwater, Then Steep

Our top picks and tips for a Florida winter escape

If you’re seeking respite from Old Man Winter you may find your Leisure Travel Van pointing its nose toward Florida, with good reason. Lots of sunshine, pristine beaches, and challenging golf courses. Plus, fresh local seafood and saltwater fishing are just some of the reasons why people choose The Sunshine State as their winter destination.

Bill and I have traveled to Florida for the past four winters, each year refining our choices on where to stay, eat and play. We quickly learned a few lessons on how to plan a winter trip here, too. We’ll share some of our tips, as well as a few little-known facts and some of our favorite spots (such as Oscar Scherer State Park campground pictured above) to go.

For us, it’s all about the Gulf Coast, and most of the places we stay are located along Tamiami Trail (US 41). Yup, we’ve stayed in the Keys and several cities along the Atlantic, including Hollywood Beach, Sebastian Inlet, and St. Augustine. All those places are fine, but for us, we prefer the Gulf.

So, here’s our “Best of” list of campgrounds, beaches, eateries and more.

Lovers is My Key

“Lucky Us,” our 2015.5 Unity MB, at Koreshan State Park

Campground: We’ve found there’s no reason to stay any farther south than Koreshan State Park, north of Naples near Estero. Drive any more south to a state park on the mainland and you risk registering “run” on the mosquito meter that’s at the entrance to Collier-Seminole State Park, near Naples.

Campsites at Koreshan are nestled among the palms and palmettos, offering shade and privacy. The bathrooms are a little dated, but functional, and have laundry facilities as well. This past winter, we happened to be there during the park’s annual car and craft show, which also featured a small farmer’s market.

Coffee with the hosts on Saturday brought us a pleasant exchange with other RVers on why we chose Leisure, as well as tips on places to go as we head north. And if you like to paddle, bring your kayak – or rent one at the park. The Estero River provides a gentle, scenic trip.

The Hollow Earth

A visit to the historic Koreshan Unity Settlement explains this failed cult and their belief in cellular cosmogony, or the hollow earth.

Walking north on the beach, Lovers Key State Park

Best Day Trip: From Koreshan, it’s about 11 miles to Lovers Key State Park, home to one of our favorite beaches in Florida. The four barrier islands that make up this park provide a haven for wildlife, including West Indian manatees, bottlenose dolphins, osprey and bald eagles. RV parking is convenient in their big overflow lot. Concession stands offer food and kayak tours and also rent bicycles, canoes, kayaks, paddleboards, beach chairs, and umbrellas.

Shell decorated tree

Heron on the beach

From the parking lot, walk or take the tram to the two-mile-long beach; from there, walk north along the shore to discover the shell-decorated tree stump, ospreys nesting, and shorebirds. Bring a bag if you like to collect shells. If you go a second time, walk south along the beach to get a different view.

Driving Tip: Avoid the traffic jams in Fort Myers Beach by taking US 41 south from Koreshan State Park, then west on Bonita Beach Road to the coast and then north to Lover’s Key. If you travel with a dog, your pooch might want to visit the dog beach south of the Lovers Key entrance instead.

Best Seafood Market: Skip One Seafoods, along with US 41, doesn’t look fancy, but it has the goods, as in fresh, local seafood. We picked up stone crab claws (in season) and a piece of red snapper to cook later. In addition to their market, they also have a small restaurant, which typically is packed.

Cape Coral/Fort Myers

Flamingos reign at Tamiami RV Resort.

Campground: Once we start to head north from Koreshan State Park, we like to stay a few days at Tamiami RV Resort on US 41. It usually has a few nights open if we call a week or two in advance, and it’s a convenient spot for us to stay when visiting friends in Cape Coral. The campsites are tight and there is not a lot of shade here, but kitschy decorations, like flamingo-themed campsites and lots of home-state pride, prevail here among this clean, well-kept, private campground with daily trash pickup. Most folks hang out at one of the pools in the afternoon, and potlucks, campfires, and pancake breakfasts bring this small community together. Statues honor veterans from Canada and the U.S. With our Good Sam card, our site was less than $30 per night, an unbelievable deal for a nice campground in Florida.

Main Street, Matlacha

Day Trip: Head for Matlacha, west of the Cape Coral/Fort Myers area on Pine Island Road. Pronounced “Matt-LaShay”, this Seminole name is reputed to mean “big warrior, junior warrior or knee-deep water.” It’s a fishing town, a shopping town, but most of all, it’s a small town, population just over 700, with whimsical, brightly painted homes and shops flanking the main street. Park at the Matlacha County Park where it’s an easy walk to visit a few shops. Lunch at the Blue Dog Bar & Grill, sample their crab cakes and other delights, and then walk across the street to Barnhill Seafood Market for their fresh catch for dinner, along with Karen’s Key Lime Pie, made locally. YUM!

Edison Winter Estate

Day Trip: Plan to spend the day at the Edison & Ford Winter Estates in Fort Myers, where 20 acres of historic buildings, historic gardens, the Edison Botanic Research Lab and the Edison Ford Museum will open your eyes to hundreds of inventions, artifacts, special exhibits, and the award-winning Moonlight Garden. Picturesque banyan trees and tree-lined walkways give a glimpse into the winter estates for these two inventors who were winter neighbors.

Some of the seafood – dine in or take home to cook – at Lobster Lady Seafood Market and Bistro.

Best Seafood Restaurant: If you don’t mind nixing a waterfront venue for some really great seafood, try Lobster Lady Seafood Market and Bistro, nestled in a shopping area on Cape Coral Parkway West. Reservations are recommended at this popular restaurant, where waits up to an hour or two are not unusual during peak season and peak times. We go there for lunch instead. A glass case filled with lobster, clams, mussels, fish and more will tease you with what’s about to be served; bring a cooler so you can also buy some fresh, local fish to cook later.


Campground: Continuing north along US 41, our next stop is Oscar Scherer State Park, near Osprey (Our campsite is featured in the top photo). By now, we are ready to park Lucky Us to settle in for a week or two while we ride our bicycles on the Legacy Trail, a 10.7-mile paved route linking Venice and Sarasota, with plans for expansion into downtown Sarasota.

Legacy Trail

Dona Bay

Legacy Trail Surry

Bicycle to the trail from the campground, and then travel north toward Sarasota or south to Venice. It’s an easy-to-pedal asphalt trail with one steep slope, encountered when you head south and traverse the US 41 overpass. We prefer the southern route, as it passes by more water, including Dona Bay and the Intracoastal Waterway near Venice. Look down from the Dona Bay bridge to see oysters, and maybe even a passing manatee. If you’re not up for cycling, the Friends of the Legacy Trail Surry is available, free, for a 45-minute guided tour along the trail. In 2018, it ran Tuesdays and Wednesdays, January through March.

Casey Key Fish House

Best Eats: Casey Key Fish House, 801 Blackburn Point Road, Osprey. This “Old Florida” waterfront restaurant offers a casual atmosphere where dogs are welcome to sit with their owners. Novelist Stephen King frequents this eatery, although we have yet to spot him. Grab a beer, crab cakes or a grouper sandwich at this moderately priced venue, as you watch boat docking and pelicans hoping for a morsel or two.

King’s Key:  King lives on Casey Key, just a short drive from the Fish House. To almost see where he lives, continue west on Blackburn Road from the restaurant to Casey Key, then turn north and drive to the end of the road. He lives in the last house on the right, but plenty of “do not enter” signs will warn you to go no further. Heed the warning.

Lime/orange and pure orange ice cream – orange you glad you tried each?

Sweet Treat: Nokomis Groves sells everything citrus – valencia and honeybell oranges, ruby red grapefruits, jellies, candies and some of the best, freshest orange juice I’ve tasted.  You can order up to three flavors of soft serve ice cream in your cone, choosing from orange, lime, vanilla, and chocolate. Try the lime, my favorite. The store is open November – mid-April, but the ice cream cones are sold year round.

Siesta Key

Turtle Beach Campground sunset from our campsite

Campground: If you want to stay on the ocean on the Gulf, about the only place to camp is Turtle Beach Campground on Siesta Key. With a trolley running daily, once you park your rig, you can get just about anywhere on this Key. Their 39 campsites are pretty tight (they call it “intimate”), but if you want to walk to the ocean, during the day or for sunset conch shell blowing, this is the place.

Siesta Key Beach

Day Trip: Siesta Key Beach. Take the trolley to spend the day on the powdered-sugar soft sand, always cool on your feet. Rated the #1 Beach in America, plan for big crowds on hot, sunny days. If you drive there, arrive early to get a spot in their large, open parking lot.

Fort De Soto Park

Fort De Soto campground

Campground: Fort De Soto Park, made up of five interconnected islands (keys), south of St. Petersburg, almost looks like a mangled hook on a map. The campground, on St. Christopher Key, has good-sized sites with plenty of trees and bushes for privacy. Many are located along the water. Don’t be surprised if you encounter a gecko or two in the bathrooms and herons and egrets along the shore.

One of the beaches at Fort De Soto Park

Fort De Soto’s 500′ pier on Tampa Bay

Day Trip: Once we arrive at Fort De Soto, we don’t leave the park until the end of our stay. Run by Pinellas County, you’ll find the historic Fort De Soto at the heart of the park where the Gulf meets Tampa Bay. It’s just a few miles along the flat, paved bicycle trails from the campground to three miles of pristine beaches; several parking lots provide ample space to park your rig if you prefer to drive. We were surprised to discover that fishing licenses are not required if you fish from either of the two piers, where we saw anglers catching yellowtail snapper, grouper, and other saltwater fish. Frozen squid and live shrimp bait are sold at the concession stand on the piers.

Go Fish? Go Salty

We took a three-quarter day charter out of Sarasota

Denise catches two-on-one

Bill holds the day’s catch

Each year, we typically book a half- or three-quarter day group charter fishing boat. This winter, we chose a trip out of Sarasota, which gave us a beautiful day on the water, with stunning views of the shore, and even a Portuguese Man O’ War sighting. And, some 20 fish to bring back for dinner.

When You Go

Plan Ahead: Although you may luck out and grab a last-minute cancellation, we plan our trip one year in advance. Florida State Parks accept reservations 11 months in advance, and Fort De Soto, run by Pinellas County, accepts reservations six months in advance for non-residents. Turtle Beach, run by Sarasota County, accepts reservations 12 months in advance. Florida’s State Parks offer an entrance fee discount to Veterans. Even better, disabled Vets are eligible for a free entrance card.

Ready to Rally? Go Local!

As new owners of our gently used 2015.5 Unity MB, it was an easy decision to attend our first-ever Leisure Travelers Club Chapter Rally. We expected to meet a group of like-minded people, exchange ideas, and check out other rigs. We didn’t expect, however, to meet a famous couple within the LTV family, or realize a rarely used appliance we left at home was on nearly everyone’s “must have” list in their LTV kitchens. Best of all, we discovered some of the yummiest ice cream in the state, made right nearby. Will we go again? Absolutely!

Since we live in Michigan, we joined the Heartland LTVers Chapter (now the Leisurely Great Lakers Chapter), which includes owners from Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, Tennessee, Kentucky and West Virginia. Headed by co-chairs Paula Allen and Cristi Swauger, they have held three rallies so far: fall, 2016; and spring and fall, 2017. The Kal-Haven Outpost Campground, near South Haven, Michigan, provided the venue for this Sept. 21-24 rally, with 10 LTVs and their owners in attendance.

(L-R) Back row: Denise and Bill Semion, Becky and Roy Brown, Cristi and Sam Swauger, Johnnie and Mila Johnson, Roy and Paula Allen, Anne and Frank Meier, and Pam and Mike Orth. Front Row: Steve Zoller, Mary Nelson, and Andy and Ann Dudler. Missing from photo: Romaine Broughton

Meet the owners, and why they attend local rallies:

Cristi and Sam Swauger, of Dayton, Ohio, with their 2016 LTV Unity MB “Waverly” come for the people and the stories. “A local rally is much more informal, lots of conversations and less structure,” says Sam. They went to Winkler in 2016 and 2017, and have attended all three local chapter rallies. Waverly is the street Sam grew up on.

Rod and Paula Allen, of Huron, Ohio, with their 2015.5 LTV Unity MB “no name.” They’ve been to the Winkler rally twice, and all three local rallies, and also attend Jeep Jamborees. They like meeting people “from everywhere.”

First-time attendees Frank and Ann Meier, of Lexington, Michigan, decided to come so they could meet people with the same rig and learn from them. After owning three diesel pushers, they downsized to a 2017 LTV Unity Twin Bed, naming it “Junior.”

Romaine Broughton, of Shumway, Illinois, traveling alone since 2002 when her husband passed within the first year after they bought a new 30’ rig. She downsized in Marc 2016, to “My Playhouse,” her 2014 LTV Freedom SS. She’s been to two Dixie rallies, and all three Heartland rallies. “I learn how to use it, and get some new tips all the time. When my husband died, I thought ‘I can sure drive it five more years’…I’ve been going by myself since then.”

Newbies Mike and Pam Orth, of Clinton Twp, Michigan, with “RV,” their 2017 LTV Unity Twin Bed bought January 2017. Recently retired, this was their second rally. “We want to get more information on maintenance, the whole shebang,” said Mike. “I’d like to go to Winkler if we can get on the list, to get information, learn technical upgrades, different ideas.”

Johnnie Johnson and Mike Orth

Johnnie and Mila Johnson, of Chicago, Illinois, with their 2016 LTV Unity Corner Bed named “J. Runner II.” They returned to this, their second local rally, for the camaraderie as well as being around owners with more experience on the road. “I really admire her independence, traveling alone and she handles that rig like a teenager,” Johnnie said of Romaine. “I said to myself, ‘Wow I hope I can get to that point. I can do this, this can be a lifestyle for us.’”

Becky and Roy Brown, of Highland, Michigan in their 2012 LTV Unity Island Bed “U-Nice.” “We like the way everyone shares and helps each other, plus seeing how everyone modifies their rigs,” said Becky, who along with Roy, also attended the spring rally.

Mary Nelson and Steve Zoller, of Cincinnati, Ohio in their 2015 LTV Serenity “Beagle 2.0.” They attended the Winkler rally primarily for the technical seminars and came to their first local rally last fall. Steve posts regularly on technical topics on Facebook, and prides in the technical knowledge he has gleaned researching social media outlets, Google and YouTube. He headed up our nightly “tech talks.”

Ann and Andy Dudler, from Iowa City, Iowa, in “The Pugmobile,” their 2017 LTV Unity MB. Ann heads up the Heartland LTVers Travel Club chapter (formerly Leisurely Great Lakers), covering Iowa, Illinois, Wisconsin and Missouri. They have attended several local rallies along with Winkler to glean ideas for their chapter’s first rally coming up in June 2018. They like meeting people, listening to their stories, and seeing how others personalize their rigs. “I hope more people take the initiative to register their unit and become involved,” said Ann. Traveling with pugs Chorgia and Chalala, they were attending a “Pug Jam” after this rally.

And us, Bill and Denise Semion, with homes in South Lyon and Roscommon, Michigan, victims of “two-foot fever,” healed when upgraded this spring from a 20-foot Sprinter to “Wanda-er” our LTV Unity MB dream.

Each day, early risers practiced yoga, hiked nearby trails or gathered around the fire for a cup-a-Joe and conversation. Later, some bicycled the nearby shady Kal-Haven Trail State Park, while others explored the area including South Haven, a Lake Michigan beach town just five miles away, or stayed at camp to chat.

Afternoon chat.

Pam and Mike Orth, followed by Sam and Cristi Swauger, ride the Kal-Haven Trail State Park.

After our first morning bicycle ride, Bill and I ate lunch at camp and then headed for the lake and an ice cream treat; South Haven did not disappoint. The Lake Michigan water provided the relief we needed in the 90-degree heat, and my phone directed us to nearby Sherman’s Dairy Bar for ice cream. Once we arrived, and took a quick look at their menu, we knew what we wanted: one Tour of Sherman’s please, a dish of six golf-ball sized scoops of some of the tastiest flavors we had ever had, just right to share between two ice cream lovers. We knew we would return the next day and revealed our newly-found treasure back at camp.

“Tour of Sherman’s” lets you pick six flavors of creamy ice cream at this South Haven landmark.

Evenings, we gathered for dinner: LTV rally funds provided our main dishes (thank you, LTV), with everyone else bringing a side dish or dessert to share. Although we heard stories of five different baked bean dishes served at a previous rally, we seemed do all right with a good variety of salads, veggies and desserts.

Dinnertime at the Kal-Haven Outpost.

A campfire and “tech talk” followed the dinners. Thursday night’s topic centered on system upgrades (sway bars, bump stops and shocks/struts); Friday night focused on leveling and chassis maintenance. Saturday night’s discussion morphed from favorite trips to goofs and gaffs, like driving away before bringing in the slide and forgetting various items at the last stop. Offenders shall remain nameless. Lesson learned seemed to be: Always review your checklist before you drive off, even if you only stopped for lunch. (We call it “airplane check” when we make sure all cupboards and drawers are locked in place.)

During our conversations at the rally, I realized that Sam Swauger wrote the winning story in the 2017 LTV Calendar Photo Contest, “LTV, Elvis & Wedding Bells!” His blog of how he and Cristi flew out of Dayton, Ohio to Vegas on Leap Day, February 29, 2016, purchased and picked up their LTV, and they were married by Elvis by day’s end, was incredible to hear from our local LTV celebrities first-hand.

The Instant Pot, a multi-use appliance.

How to cook on the road and favorite dishes were also a frequent topic; nearly everyone chimed in on how they use their Instant Pot to cook soup, pulled pork, hard-boiled eggs and more. After I asked what is an Instant Pot, and this multi-use appliance was explained to me, I recalled have one at home collecting dust. Maybe we will rethink that one!

Saturday afternoon, Bill and I, along with Becky and Roy, headed for South Haven for a swim, followed by daily visit to Sherman’s. As we were finishing our treats, most of our LTV group came in for one last end-of-summer scoop. Later that day, the guys got together to watch and help Bill change out our propane grill to a quick-connect coupler to hook up directly to our RV, and most of us took a tour of Johnnie and Mila’s showcase vehicle boasting Johnnie’s personalized touches, including custom exterior paint, chrome exhaust tip, and custom grill and dashboard. They even bring an outdoor kitchen sink and a motorcycle among the items stashed in their tow garage.

Johnnie and Mila Johnson, Romaine Broughton, and Cristi and Sam Swauger get ready to dive into their treats at Sherman’s Dairy Bar.

“J.Runner II,” with its custom paint.


According to co-chair Paula Allen, the Leisurely Great Lakers LTV Chapter has 41 member units, with about one-quarter in attendance at this event. Bill and I hope to meet other members at future rallies and will be watching the LTV website to see if we can fit any other local rallies into our travels. In the meantime, check the LTV website to join a Travelers Club, and see you at a rally!