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Packing up
When we arrived to pick up Chuck, Jessica, and Eli that afternoon, their front yard looked like a Walmart had exploded. I could see beach chairs, coolers, a grill, tubs of food, suitcases, backpacks, toys, a pup tent, even a box of craft supplies. The extent of our preparation had been signing up for El Monte's "housekeeping" package--which means they pack dishes and linens for you--and a single trip to Costco, picking up milk, chicken breasts, steaks, and some fruit. Thankfully, Jess understood the core beauty of the RV experience: Sleeping in a sylvan glade is no reason to give up extra-virgin olive oil.

Another revelation: After the rental agent shows you the RV features, it would be wise to repeat the tour for your youngest riders, focusing on their needs. While we were loading up, Diego tried to go to the bathroom but couldn't figure out how to open the door--so he peed in a corner of the back bedroom.

We arrived in Rocky Gap as it was getting dark. Our spot was a pull-through, which meant that instead of having to back in the RV, we could just pull in, and, when we were ready to leave, drive on out the other side. Our territory had a picnic table, a shady tree, a fire pit, and a hookup for electricity.

Of all the goodies our pals brought, I was especially glad for the grill, which allowed us to hang out outside while cooking. After a lovely dinner of steaks and salad, we bedded down the kids--Diego in the pull-out sofa, Eli in the over-cab bed between his parents.

The Campground Scene
A ranger at Rocky Gap had told me that, for peak summer weekends, they book up almost five months in advance. Next year, I'm getting in line: Our loop was an easy walk to the campground's sandy lakeside beach and had a refreshing Leave It to Beaver feel to it. In the morning, senior citizens waved as they walked by with their dogs; later, kids whizzed by on bikes, clearly scoping out which campsites had possible playmates. Walking around ourselves, we met families that had been coming to the park for 15 years. It had a neighborliness that I haven't experienced on other types of vacations--and rarely even in my own neighborhood.

That first day, we swam and rented a kayak, visited the camp's family fair, and, in the afternoon, made crafts on our picnic table. As the sun went down, we grilled burgers and let the kids run around on the grass. Just this past year, the Maryland Park Service decided to become more family-friendly by not allowing alcoholic beverages outdoors--you can only drink in your vehicle. Though this made our beer-loving husbands mildly cranky, it might have contributed to the utter peacefulness of our stay. Everything was quiet by 10.

The next day, we'd arranged to take a steam-train ride about seven miles away. We had to pack everything in our RV, unplug from the hookup, and set off in, essentially, our house. We were very lucky to find parking and just made our train. Next time, I would tow a car; I noticed every other RV on our loop had.

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