The Information Bulletin of Safari Condo Owners vol. 8 num. 3, December 2006
Translated by Dominique Nadeau
Fall Trip on the Blue Ridge.
By Claire and Claude Villeneuve
For those who like scenic routes and fall foliage colors, the Blue Ridge Parkway is without a doubt the most picturesque route in the eastern United States. As it follows the peaks of the Shenandoah National Park in Virginia through to the Great Smoky Mountain National Park in North Carolina and Tennessee, the Blue Ridge Parkway is a way into the Appalachians where one can get away from the stress of modern living. Along this 765 kilometre long stretch of road with no tolls, no stop signs, so street lights, you will find a most spectacular environment. The walks, hikes and climbs you can do along the way offer physical exercise as well as spiritual renewal. The trails of the park are varied and suitable for visitors of all ages. The numerous campgrounds at 16$ a night are very clean, and even though they offer no services, they have toilets, but no showers.
It is in early October, at the time where fall colors are at their brightest, that we had the opportunity to embark on this trip with 4 other condists. During the next 2 weeks Gina and Marc Villeneuve as well as Denise Girard and Camil Bouchard were our companions on the road. After a night at the Wal-Mart in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, we made our first stop at the Country Wave RV Resort, 2 miles north of the Luray Caverns in Virginia. It was rainy, the sky was grey and it was a good thing we had planned to visit the cavern anyway! This beautiful cavern was discovered in 1878, and it is now visited by thousands of tourists each year. The admission price for two adults is 38$ and pictures are allowed inside.
After a short entry at the north end of the Blue Ridge, in Waynesboro, we had to drive back down due to a dense fog that prevented us from seeing more than 10 metres ahead. In high altitudes this is not a rare occurrence, and thankfully there are a number of interesting attractions along this chain of mountains. We therefore used this foggy day to visit the Natural Bridge. As its name suggests it is a 215 foot high bridge carved in the rock surrounded by an easily accessible hiking trail. The entry price for this site is 12$ per person. The stop, which is only 15 minutes away from the Blue Ridge, is worth the short detour. After the fog lifted at the end of the day we got back to the Blue Ridge to spend our first night at the Peaks of Otter Campground, located at milepost 80. After this first night under the stars a visit to the Sharp Top Mountain was on our mornings schedule. Our two youngest, Marc and Camil, decided to do the 4,000 foot climb by hiking along the trails. We chose a more practical approach and took the small bus that took us along 3 miles of small, curvy mountain roads. This alternative only cost us 8$ round trip. We also had a very friendly driver who offered us descriptions and information about the landscape around us. Once our visit was completed we took a long pause, and then headed back on the road until we reached the Rocky Knob camping, at milepost 170, where we spent another magical night under the stars. In the morning, after a copious breakfast, we visited the post card perfect Mabry Mill. This mill is not only spectacularly beautiful but it is also incredibly interesting to visit. We stayed there taking pictures for what seemed like forever.
We continued on the highest route in order to always have the best view of the breathtaking landscape. It was wonderful to see these three little snails climbing up these high summits. All around, all we could see were spectacular views of valleys, mountains and fields. Up here it becomes clear that the Blue Ridge has earned its name because in the distance the tops of the mountains are all tinted a in a blue hue. It seems this work of art was carved out of the earth with a knife. For our third night out in this beautiful nature it is at the Doughton Park campground , milepost 240, that we pop up the tops of our Safari Condos (except Camil who has an electric roof!).
After having used Camil and Denises exterior shower for the past 3 days, it is in a KOA of Boone city (town of the legendary Daniel Boone) that we stop to get some cleaning done
The next day is a packed one. First, we visit Blowing Rock, with an admission price of 8$ per person. We also do two good walks at the Linn Cove Viaduct, which is a bridge attached to the Grandfather Mountain. According to experts this bridge is an engineering marvel. Many of us had planned on visiting the summit of Grandfather Mountain and then crossing the one mile high bridge, but the very strong wind convinced us to go on our way to the Crabtree Meadows campground for another night
The next day we ascended Mount Mitchell with our vehicles. At 6,684 feet it is the highest peak east of the Mississippi. The road that took us up the mountain was nice and easy to climb, even with the dizzying height. Once at the top the clear day allowed us to have a spectacular view of our surroundings. After a brief walk, a small lunch, and numerous photos we get back on the road to get to Asheville, North Carolina. Without a doubt the most important attraction in town is the Biltmore Estate, THE largest residence in the United States. The 8,000 acre estate was the primary residence of Georges Vanderbilt. It has 250 rooms, 35 bedrooms and 65 fireplaces. Every part of this manor is simply wonderful to savour and look at. The entry price is 42$ per person. This may seem high, but this visit is definitely a MUST see on your next trip to the area. You can easily spend all day visiting the manor, its gardens and the vineyard. For more information go to http://biltmore.com/ .
We camped at the Lake Powhantan Recreational Area. This campground on the edge of Asheville is outside of the Blue Ridge. Nonetheless it is easily accessible, since it is only about 2 miles out, and worth the detour since it has showers.
To end our journey we drove through the highest part of the Blue Ridge between Asheville and the Great Smoky Mountain. Once again the view is both breathtaking and awe inspiring. In the following days we visited the Great Smoky Mountain, which can be done in two to three days depending on how much time you want to plan for it. The most popular spots are the Newfound Gap Road, the village of Gatlinburg and the Cade Cove Loop Road.
For Claire and I it was our third visit to the Blue Ridge and once again it promises not to be our last. Each season offers visitors a whole different experience. In the spring its an explosion of rhododendrons and wild flowers that one can enjoy, while the fall offers visitors a symphony of red and gold.
For all of those who wonder what to visit if they do not have a lot of time, it seems hard to define the most beautiful or interesting part of this scenic journey. It is gorgeous everywhere along the way. Nevertheless, there are definitely places that one should see during their journey.
If you only have one week we suggest that you go up to Buchanan, north of Roanoke Virginia, through road 81 and then take the Blue Ridge through road 43. It is only a very short distance between road 81 and the Blue Ridge. Once on it our first favourite is Peaks of Otter (mile 82). You will have to head north to get there, but it is worth the short detour. There is a visitor centre where you can get more information, but most importantly you can go on an unforgettable ride on the Sharp Top Mountain. The view from the top is amazing and you will not forget the bus ride. Afterwards head south to the Smart View (mile 154.5) where you will once again be able to savour the view as well as visit a small cabin built in 1890.
Your next stop should be the Mabry Mill (mile 176.5), a small mill that you often find on the cover of several American magazines. Bring your cameras and prepare yourself to take many pictures. You will find three campgrounds between Peaks or Otter and Mabry Mill, in case you need them. There are several other interesting stops after this, but a visit at Linn Cove Viaduct will let you see an architectural feat, where a viaduct is hung to the mountain. If time permits and the weather is clear, a stop at Mount Mitchell will give you a birds eye view of the region. Finally, you must not miss the visit of the Biltmore Estate in Asheville to learn about American history through this well known American family.
For more information and to help you plan your next trip, you can get French brochures by writing at :
Blue Ridge Parkway Association
P.O. Box 453
Asheville, N.C. 28802
Or you can visit : http://www.nps.gov/blri/
Havre dun soir
Each year at the beginning of January we edit our havre dun soir registry, which is available on our internet site www.safaricondo.com. As you know clients who register their names in the list offer to welcome a condist for a night. If you would like to add or take out your name from this registry, you should contact Michèle before December 31st, 2006.
Reunion at les Îles de la Madeleine
By Michèle and Camil
Many of you are looking forward to our visit to les Îles de la Madeleine this summer! Already about one hundred vehicles have reserved their place on the ferry! It is boding well isnt it? It is understandable, of course, because even if it is not your first visit, the islands always have a mysterious side to discover.
Here is a preview of how the reunion will unfold as well as the costs associated with it. Our stay includes 5 nights at a campground; those are on July 23,24,25,26, and 27, 2007. These are from Monday night to Friday night inclusively. The large supper will be held on Friday night. There will be a local group playing as well as a colourful folk tale teller who will teach us about the history of various communities on the Islands.
All week long you will be able to choose the activities you want to do with the help of tourist information that will be given to you upon your arrival. Furthermore, since we have two wonderful organizers from the islands they will gladly advise you on things to do that fit your interests.
All this will be yours for 165$ per couple! Excluding the price of the ferry, this is a cheap price for 5 nights of camping and a large supper amongst friends. It is evident that Michèle has contacts on the islands
Since many of you will be on the same ferry we will use the time of the crossing to give you all the information, documents, bracelets and car tags that you will need. Once you get there, you will be able to drive directly to the campground and get your campsite.
As in the last years, if you would like to be close to your friends you should plan on arriving at the campground together. This is especially important this year where almost everyone will be arriving at the camping at the same time!
For those who are taking the boat later, you must inform us of this on the subscription form. You can also go to the campground directly upon your arrival. Once there we will give you all your documents. Of course if you arrive before you must pay for the extra nights on your own and you can choose any other campground on the islands. If you were already installed at the Barachois campground, expect to share your site starting July 23rd. Just like in previous years we will also have to share electricity. There is no need to worry, however, since on the islands you should be using your car daily. Please remember to bring extension cords and power supply bars with multiple electrical inlets.
You can bring your dining tents, but be aware that you will most likely have to share it with your neighbours. It is also possible that you might not be able to put it up at all in certain rare instances. Just like for your awnings you might have to take down your tents on certain nights: Its windy on the islands! If you dont put it away you run the risk of finding it on another site in the morning!
Finally dont forget that you will have to leave eventually! It is important for you to reserve your return trip on the ferry. If you would like to prolong your stay reserve you campground right away. According to our local friends by mid-march reservations are already made everywhere for the peak season.
News in Brief
Les Escargots givrés
Once again this year, the frozen snails are organizing a weekend of camping. We invited you to join us on February 16 and 17 2007 at the Genévrier in Baie-St-Paul.
The package includes 2 nights of camping with electricity for 15$ a night and we will have a supper on Saturday night (though the price and menu are still being determined). The number of spots available is limited to about 20 vehicles.
We will have electricity for each vehicle. The restrooms (that have no showers) will be open until 11 p.m. every night. On site you will find cross country skiing and snowshoeing trails. At the nearby Mont Grand Fonds you can enjoy downhill skiing and cross country skiing.
Think about it. If you would like to join please register with Michèle by phone or by e-mail. You have until January 31 2007 to sign up.
Heres another scoop! In the December/January edition of Camping Caravaning there will be an article on our last winter camping experience. The beautiful pictures inside as well as the cover photo were taken by Stéphane Nadeau, contrary to what is written in the article.
2006 Safari Condo Photo Contest
What a record participation! Congratulations and thank you to all of you who sent in their pictures. Your comments on the places you visited were also greatly appreciated. On our new 2007 Calendar you will find our three winners as well as several worthy photos. You can also access most pictures on our Safari Condo internet site.
In the name of all condists I would especially like to thank my brother-in-law Stéphane for his involvement in the contest, and most of all for the design and creation of the calendar. He has volunteered in this project an enormous amount of time and energy, and has done this all for free. Once again all our thanks to Stéphane!!
The winners of the 2006 Safari Condo Photo Contest are:
First Prize: Louise Lanthier et Pierre Boivin : Safari Condo gift certificate of 100$
Second Prize: Christian et Anouk Paquette : Safari Condo gift certificate of 75$
Third Prize: Caroline Jean et Johanne Dumas : Safari Condo gift certificate of 50$
Let me congratulate one last time all our participants!
From the whole team at Safari Condo
P.S : If you would like, go and tell Stéphane some comments on the calendar and its design.
If you would like to download various images of snails, here is a fun link : http://www.rosemerschnake.net/gif_escargot.htm
Many of us are insured with the AXA company. Dont forget that you can get a rebate if you are a member of the FQCC, and an additional one if you have an anti-theft device installed.
Many of us carry our small two way FRS radios. They are very useful when traveling with friends or in large groups. After a condist suggested that we could all use the same frequency we thought it would be a simple way to communicate with any Safari Condo you meet on the road! Therefore we propose that you set your FRS radio on channel 10.5, if you have one of course.
A Useful Piece of Advice!
When arriving from the grocery with a dozen bags I started placing the empty bags in the cabinets between the food and the supplies. But what a mess! At the dollar store you often find plastic cylinders to store these empty bags. In your Safari Condo you can do even better. Why not put your empty grocery bags in the leg of the table located near the sliding side door? Its simple; all you have to do is pile in all your plastic bags and reach in from the top or bottom to get them back. If your bags get stuck in the middle just use the awning crank to push them out. We have just found even more storage space in our Safari Condo. I should have registered for the Mad scientist contest
Your Solar Panels Love the Sun!
Solar panels are an extraordinary way of charging the deep cycle marine batteries on your vehicle. They operate silently, cleanly, and in full respect of the environment and your resources. Furthermore, they require very little maintenance. They only need one thing, and that is sunlight. When I refer to sunlight I mean that the entire surface of the solar panels should be exposed. None of it should be in the shade. If you have a roof rack that creates shadows on your solar panels remember that they will never charge more than the darkest solar cell. If a leaf has stuck itself on your solar panel it is exactly as if one gigantic leaf had fallen all over it, preventing the sun from reaching any part of the surface. Therefore to get the maximum efficiency out of your solar panels they must be kept clean, free of leaves or snow, and they must always be in full sunlight.
The Radio Switch of most 2006 Models
In 2006 we began installing a switch in the dashboard that allows one to listen to the radio in the camper without ever putting the key in the ingnition. This is done by transferring the electricity consumption from the car battery to the camper batteries. This switch should only be on the AUX position when you are actually listening to the radio while the engine is NOT running. This switch should always be put back in the MAIN position when you no longer need the radio. If you leave the switch on AUX, the radio will drain your camper batteries, and ultimately your car battery in a fairly short period of time (about 2 days). Dont forget that your radio consumes 3 times more electricity than your fridge! Therefore, put your switch in the AUX position only when you need to listen to the radio. Put it back on MAIN as soon as you are done and no longer need it.
Update on our Sliding Kayak Roof Rack
After using our rack for a whole summer, here are my notes on it.
- It works quite well.
- No need to climb on the roof.
- You can easily clear the roof to fully expose your solar panels to sunlight.
- The roof vent still works when the kayaks are on the roof (though it does not open completely).
- Allows for more storage on the roof (eg. With a Thule Box) and gives you easy access to it.
- Requires a certain physical effort. Nonetheless installing a kayak on the roof always requires physical effort!
- When you get close to the maximum weight of 150 pounds (with two kayaks for instance) it is better to be two people to bring down the rack. It becomes tough on the arms for a single person. When you are two its childs play !
On the Safari Condo website we have added a new link under the « Condists Corner » : The Condists/ Kayakists Group. If you have experiences or tips to share, please dont hesitate to write to us so that we can put it on the site for the benefit of all condists.
If your vehicle is stored for the winter, here are a few reminders:
- Dont forget to make sure that your propane and CO2 detectors are off by taking out their fuses. These appliances require energy and over a prolonged period of time they will drain your marine batteries. If you batteries are drained during the winter they will freeze and will be rendered unusable come spring.
- If the vehicle is accessible it is best to turn on the gasoline heater once a month for 10 minutes. If you cannot get to your vehicle while it is in storage, you should start your heater as soon as you get your vehicle back in the spring.
- If you have access to your vehicle and a source of electricity you should plug it in once month for about 24 hours.
- Make sure that the GM battery is unplugged.
My New Stuff :
Additional Rear Cabinet for MC
Many of you who chose our MC model love its large bed, but often even more its unobstructed windows. You have chosen this spacious interior at the cost of some storage space. In order to meet the demand of clients who wanted to gain some storage without giving up their larger bed and their nice open view we developed a new cabinet unit. This rear cabinet can be retrofitted on any existing MC on the road. It has sliding doors, still gives you a bed 56 inches wide, while leaving your windows unobstructed. You will soon be able to see photos of it on our website. For more information, call Frédéric at our plant.
Tel: 1-418-426-3666 or toll free: 1-877-806-3666
Price: 495$, including installation.
Built-in GPS Radio with rear view camera (for 18 and 20 vehicles after 2003)
Those of you who know me know that I love technologically advanced gadgets! GPS programs no longer hold any secrets for me. I have a portable GPS to play Geocaching with my friends, and I bring it with me on my snowmobile excursions in Northern Québec. I have also installed and tested several models on my portable computer so that I could compare them and tell you more about them. The last one I tried is the AVIC-D2 from Pioneer (lovingly called Mona « know-it-all » by Michèle). It is built-into the dashboard and it is a complete radio AM/FM/CD/MP3 as well as one of the best GPS systems I have ever tried. Furthermore, for those who are a little nervous when backing up with your vehicle, we can also install a rear view camera. The image from the camera will appear on the screen of your radio/GPS system. If you would like to play with it a little and get a complete demonstration, you will find everything you need to know about the AVIC-D2 on the Pioneer website. For more information about this product and all its possibilities call Dominique at our sales office in St-Nicolas.
Tel : 1-418-836-6664 or toll free : 1-866-836-6664
Price: 1,795$, including installation (without the camera)
http://www.pioneerelectronics.ca for information in French,
http://www.pioneerelectronics.com English site with the interactive displays.
TV/DVD system with 2 pairs of headphones, installed under your flip up computer table (for 18 and 20 vehicles after 2003)
It has always been a complex task to find a smart, space-efficient way of installing a television in a Safari Condo. Now with the arrival of LCD screens on the market the small world of RVs has been revolutionized. Now a small screen can be hidden almost anywhere and weighs only a fraction of what an old TV weighed. Our new Audiovox TV/DVD system has a 10.2 inch screen and works on AC/DC current. It comes with 2 pairs of headphones and we can install it for you right under our Safari Condo flip up computer table. It is very discrete and still gives you access to your table. Photos of the device and its installation will be posted soon on our website at www.safaricondo.com.
Daniel and Michèles Christmas
On December 24th at midnight Daniel and I will be somewhere across the river from Québec city, looking at a view of the Château Frontenac from the warm interior of our Safari Condo. This is how we will celebrate Christmas for the second time in three years. In our LX we have a romantic candle lit dinner complete with Champagne and formal dinner attire. All the ingredients are there to make this night magical.
Right after midnight mass we will leave Beauce behind to drive up to Lévis through the old country roads. What a surreal feeling it is to drive around at night while families are all gathered inside their homes for a large feast. I feel just like I did when I celebrated Christmas at my grandfather Bolducs house. Us kids had to go to bed early and I would sit in the dark at the top of the stairs listening to my aunts and uncles preparing the enormous holiday meal. Their laughter, their voices, their conversations, it was all around me. Even alone in the dark I was surrounded by the love that was shared in this house. I always fell asleep sometime after this, invariably missing the arrival of Santa and his reindeers.
In our Safari Condo, when midnight sounds, Daniel and I will raise our glasses to your good health. We wish you a Christmas filled with love, surrounded by all those you love and hold dear.
Merry Christmas to All!
The whole team at Safari Condo wishes you a wonderful Holiday Season!