KOA Niagara Falls (April 26, 2008)

April 27, 2008

(Picture clause – we did not take any photos on this trip, so I have included photos off of the KOA website.)

We finally decided to pull the Airstream out of the field where we store it, and take it on a 2008 shakedown cruise. Getting it home and preparing the trailer for a summer season of adventure is the topic of another post. Suffice to say that we managed to pull it out of the mud, get it home, fix and clean it up, and hit the road.

Niagara Falls KOA Entrance

This year the shakedown cruise was a short 1 hour drive from home, to beautiful Niagara Falls KOA. We have never been to a KOA campground before, and while our decision to go was not without some concern for both our sanity and the potential backlash from diehard boondockers concerned that we aren’t really “camping”, we figured that for a shakedown cruise at this time of year we might as well enjoy ourselves. And we did.

I don’t know what you have heard about KOA campgrounds from other campers. Some of the comments we heard were that they were very child-oriented and very safe. On the critical side we have also heard that they can be crowded and cramped, and occassionally expensive. More on our thoughts about this coming up.

Niagara Falls KOA is located in Niagara Falls, Ontario Canada on Lundy’s Lane. Now at this point anyone familiar with Niagara Falls is most likely fighting to contain their laughter to see where this article is going. To the uninitiated, Lundy’s Lane is where all of the less expensive “honeymoon” oriented activity happens in Niagara Falls. Having been to the campground, I can assure you that all of that is a ways up the road, and when camping at the KOA you are not in the middle of a replay of the story of Sodom and Gomorrha from the Old Testament. Big sigh of relief from the parents there.

Camping in April is an interesting time of year to trailer in Southern Ontario, as most of the campgrounds are still closed until the weather clears up. Fortunately this year we had a terrible winter for snow, resulting in spring weather that has actually been quite enjoyable. So we set out into a weekend that at the very worst was expecting temperature highs of 17C (about 62F).

We were immediately impressed at the state of the campground. Registration was a breeze, the store was very well stocked, and once we pulled into our site – which was not hard to do as there were not a lot of other trailers around – we noticed that this is probably the cleanest campground we have ever seen. I mean very clean. There was no garbage to be found anywhere, and over the 2 days we stayed there I did not see one screw or old rusty nail on the ground. I am sure they are out there, as every campground accumulates things like this over time, but on this trip I could not find any. A fantastic job by the campground staff.

Issues like cleanliness and child activities have become more important to us since G is now old enough to run around with the big boys.

And what a lot of fun they had! There was a lot to do, even though the campground hasn’t really kicked off the summer season yet. Several swimming pools, very clean showers and washrooms, and a great environment for the kids.

A and I decided to unhook the Airstream and take everyone into town to find some supplies, and take a look at the falls. We ended up driving Clifton Hill, and instead of our planned evening campfire dinner we had dinner at the Rainforest Cafe (read a review here).

So I guess I still don’t know if the camping BBQ or stove are working after the winter. Which is ok, because I did remove the tank bracket off the tongue to make room for the new Hensley hitch.

After dinner we noticed that G was not feeling well at all, especially after she threw up all over herself in the car after we buckled her into her seat. Fortunately it had nothing to do with the food at the restaurant, and instead has turned out to be a bout of the flu. Unfortunately A has it too.

For the first time we brought along the oil heater that we use in the basement at home, and it worked very well. Our new bed was very comfortable, and other than the usual commotion of trying to get the kids to sleep during a fun trailer adventure overnight in the middle of a playground nirvana for preschoolers, everything went well.

We decided to skip a campfire at night due to high winds, opting instead to rent “Juno” from the local Rogers Video and have a snug night in the trailer.

The next morning was glorious from a weather perspective, and the kids had a great time playing on all of the equipment at the campground with their new found friends. Bringing along the bikes, which I had to store in the trailer due to lack of an overhead rack on the truck, actually worked out very well as both the boys have really taken to riding.

Once again our Airstream has taken us to places that we would never have imagined before. If you had told me that we would be going to a campground in a city during April a few years back, I would have found the idea mildly humorous. Fortunately, I would have been very wrong. A and I had initially discussed heading to more remote campgrounds this summer, but after this trip I am thinking that we really must plan to attend some KOA campgrounds. The kids had a great time, and while I realize that not every KOA is going to have a Rogers video up the street, we cannot complain about the value we realized on this trip.

Now that we have had the Overlander out on it’s first trip, it is time to start thinking about where we are going to go and what to do this year. I think we will be staying in Ontario and Quebec, especially given the new passport rules and the fact that we need to get docs for the kids, but there is a lot to do just between those two provinces.

This was a great getaway!

Jesse James working on custom chopper for Airstream

February 7, 2008

I finally found a good companion vehicle for our 27ft Overlander:

Radial Hell

From the press release at Autoblog

“San Francisco, 28 January 2008 – World-renowned custom bike builder Jesse James has announced that his newest creation, a glistening aluminum-clad motorcycle and sidecar combo for client Airstream will make its first public debut at the Legend of the Motorcycle Concours on May 3rd…”

Now in this case I completely understand that a bike like this is more of a concept bike than anything else. In my opinion, it must be difficult for a custom creator like Jesse to find inspiration, especially since the masses probably have an appetite for only so many skull and crossbones/green slime/blood and guts/heavy metal/hot chick montage vehicles. At least, the parks that we have been to with the kids🙂

I applaud the creativity that a designer like Jesse has. And I also like the fact that, like so many other designers across the decades, he was able to draw upon the ideas of Wally and the Airstream heritage. Now, if only they would tell us when this bike is going into production…