Chain-O-Lakes State Park
I made it to Chain-O-Lakes State Park in Spring Grove, Illinois at 3 PM yesterday. To say it’s lush is pretty accurate. In fact, the undergrowth is so thick that you’d need a machete to carve a new path through it. You can’t simply walk into the woods. Signs say that ticks are plentiful here. I don’t know about that, but my hopes of coming in too early in the year for the mosquitoes and biting flies were in vain. Still, the classic rule to avoid sunrise and sunset works, as does keeping moving.
The spot I made reservations for has no hookups of any kind, and the overhead treetops limit solar power to most of the day rather than all of it, which will likely be good enough. I had to be careful about that, since most of the campsites are shaded most of the time. A working ground panel system would have helped with that, and allowed for cooler temperatures inside the camper at mid-day. I can’t really complain about that so far though, since cabin temperatures tend to match ambient shade as long as all the windows are open and the roof vent fan is rolling on low. They can go as high as 4 degrees more, in the late afternoon. A 9″ fan I picked up during the trip up, to decrease the agony of 95-degree parking lots, helps keep things comfortable here. It requires an inverter to power it, but my inverter uses maybe 6 watts on standby which, given my battery pack capacity, is no sweat – pun intended.
They have pit toilets close by, and decent showers are a short walk away too, as are dumpsters. Handy! This place is almost deserted on my camping loop, and the only other campers here appear to be tenters. Other loops offering electrical power are fairly well populated with trailers and motorhomes. Makes me wonder how it all fills out on weekends, and I assume that holiday usage is formidable. In my experience on the road, this is a DeLuxe campground: all of the roads are smoothly paved and amply signed. There’s a huge boat launching area on the shoreline of a lake, right next to a concession stand. A horse-riding facility is on the road in. Camping spaces are maybe a hundred feet apart, level, and partially blocked from each other by bushes. Each has a picnic table and grill. This is roughing it the civilized way.
I’ve had an ongoing mystery with the camper’s 12VDC outlets for awhile, which was resolved today. I’ve been periodically blowing a 15A fuse that powers those outlets on the trip up. It seemed to be helped by always using the on/off switches controlling them, rather than just leaving them on and plugging in low-draw devices. While I was out exploring the facility today, I returned to find the fuse blown. Replacing it and turning on my USB charger for the cellular data modem immediately blew it again. Odd. It’s a negligible-draw device! After goofing with it and chewing up most of my spare fuses, I finally disconnected the charger from the modem and powered up the charger alone. The fuse still blew, indicating that the charger had gone rogue. (It’s a Chinese charger, model VC-MT6-A made for a Motorola cellphone, but don’t worry, it’s no longer available.) Fortunately, my “belt & suspenders” mantra worked, since I had also packed a common USB charger and cord that fit the modem just fine. My iPhone 4s can also work as a hotspot all by itself, but it’s reception is markedly worse than the modem’s. In fact, phone call reception here is highly variable, but data reception using the modem is fine.