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Q&A with Rick Kessler

by Timothy Martinez Jr.

“Rick Kessler, an avid RV camper, runs the wonderful site Gr8LakesCamper. Lost in the Woods recently talked with him about why he opts for and RV instead of a tent and what he loves about camping in the Midwest.

Where do you live?
I live in Temperance, Michigan, which is a drowsy suburb of Toledo, Ohio. Great place to raise a family.

What drew you into camping?
Like many others, I come from a long line of campers and, more specifically, RVers. My grandparents traveled in their motor homes as far south as the Panama Canal and as as for north as Alaska. I have several aunts and uncles who also own motor homes, travel trailers and fifth wheels, as well as a handful of cousins who have been bitten by the RV bug. With my extended family providing the introduction, it was an easy transition from tent camping to RVing.

Why did you make the change to RV camping?
My wife and I tent camped for several summers, then brought along our daughter after she was born. When our son was born, he, too went camping with us. But, once our third child was born, our modest little cabin tent had simply become too small for our family of five. At the same time, my wife and I were realizing how the relationship between our backs and the ground was on the rocks, sometimes literally. So when we looked across the campground at our family sleeping comfortably in their RVs, it was a pretty easy decision to buy a travel trailer and get ourselves up off the ground.

Is there anything you miss about traditional “tent camping”?
I miss the gas mileage when traveling to our destination. That’s about it.

What are the benefits of RV camping?
The benefits are comfort and convenience. We’re more comfortable sleeping on mattresses, sometime with the air conditioning on, and it’s more convenient to have our own private bathroom just a few steps away. And it’s both more comfortable and more convenient to be inside a camper when Mother Nature decides to unleash a thunderstorm and our campsite is under several inches of water. We’re high and dry in our camper, while the poor people in tents could only take refuge in their cars.

What kind of RV do you have?
Our RV is known as a hybrid travel trailer, or sometimes as an expandable travel trailer. It has hard sides like a traditional travel trailer, but beds unfold out of the front and rear, similar to the pop-up campers. What’s nice about this is the bed ends are covered in a breathable canvas, so it’s very similar to sleeping under a tent.

Please share any tips for new RVers or those thinking of switching to RV camping.
Tip number one is to be absolutely certain that your tow vehicle will be able to safely tow an RV of a specific weight (unless, of course, you’d be in the market for a motor home). Tip number two is to go to an RV show and shop around. Nowhere else will you see so many different types and models and sizes and styles of RVs under one roof. Tip number three is to poll your RVing friends and family about their experiences with their RVs.

What makes camping in the Midwest unique? Why should people go camp in the Midwest?
The West Coast has the beaches and the mountains. The East Coast has more beaches and more mountains. The south has desert landscapes and hot weather. The Midwest? The Midwest offers a temperate climate, enormous mosquitos and mostly flat landscapes so towing an RV isn’t so bad. Actually, like anywhere in North America, the Midwest has a lot to offer, just waiting to be discovered. It could be the perfect ice cream shoppe, a corner antique store or a family owned diner with the best homemade pies of all time. Or, it could be sand dunes taller than a roller coaster, canyons that appear from nowhere as you’re driving along on a rolling prairie, or a cave so big it’s mammoth. From big urban cities to friendly small towns, the Midwest offers a slice of genuine Americana no matter where the road takes you.

What are your favorite camping spots in your region?
Most anywhere along the Great Lakes coastline. We like to think of our camper as a cottage on wheels, so we usually look for a campground on a lake. We’ve been trying to go to different places as much as possible, but the campgrounds we always seem to return to year after year are Maumee Bay State Park, located on the shores of Lake Erie in Northwest Ohio, and Albert E. Sleeper State Park, located on the shores of Saginaw Bay in Michigan’s “thumb.”
Is there anything campers should know before coming to the Midwest to camp?

This could include weather and environmental conditions. Don’t forget insect repellant, and layers of clothing because the weather can change drastically from one day to the next. Also, check with the local chamber of commerce or tourism association before you book a trip. Your search for rest and relaxation could be rudely interrupted if you’re camping trip coincides with the Biker Reunion of Post-Apocolyptic Zombie Festival.

What’s the best time of the year to go camping in the Midwest and why? Anytime during our three seasons of camping can be nice. I enjoy the spring because after a long winter of shoveling snow and dealing with bad drivers and bad driving conditions, there’s nothing like camping to put all that behind you. I enjoy the summer because camping and warm weather go together as well as marshmallows, chocolate and graham crackers. I enjoy autumn because the days are made for shorts and maybe a sweatshirt, while at night the campfire’s heat is just as important as its role of mesmerizing conversation piece.”