Travel: Sammy B’s Restaurant in Lebanon, TN

We recently spent the night in Nashville as part of a quick trip to see a concert. The next morning we woke up a little early, but neither of us felt like exploring the city. (We missed our pups!) Rather than waiting around until restaurants in the Nashville area started serving lunch, we decided to hit the road. When we saw the sign for the Lebanon outlet mall, we figured it’d be a good place to stop and grab some lunch. And some shopping, obviously.

Lebanon is about half an hour East of Nashville. I’ve been there once, and that was to pick up the shark puppy last year. I’m pretty sure we ate McDonald’s for dinner that time.

Turns out there are actually quite a few non-chain restaurants in Lebanon. Jimmie wasn’t feeling Mexican or sandwiches, so we ended up at Sammy B’s.

Sammy B’s

SammyB's

Sammy B’s is a casual upscale American restaurant located right next to City Hall in the Castle Heights area of Lebanon. It’s in the former home of the Castle Heights Military Academy’s President. The place has both a patio and an atrium, as well as plenty of room for private events. The food is classic with a twist, and everything is homemade. They even cut their own meat.

sammyb'sentrance

The attention to customer service and detail shows in both the service and the food. While we had a dedicated server, each staff member came by to check on us as they walked by. If they saw we needed a drink refilled, they refilled it. When a server brewed a fresh pot of coffee for another table, she topped mine off. The staff were courteous and friendly, and though it may sound cliche, the place oozed Southern hospitality.

The Food

Both of us had a hard time choosing because the menu is enormous. Our server recommended the Fish and Chips, Lobster Roll, and the Rajin’ Cajun sandwich. I had my eye on the Reuben, and when she said she’d already put in two orders for it that morning, I knew it had to be good. Jimmie chose the Trifecta and Chips, which was fish, shrimp, and chicken (and fries). I chose sweet potato fries for my side; he wanted to sub out the coleslaw on his platter, but that wasn’t an option.

SammyB'sReuben

I’m a sucker for a good Reuben, and this one didn’t disappoint. My biggest complaint with Reubens is usually that there’s too much dressing and not enough sauerkraut. Sammy B’s has the perfect ratio, and their sauerkraut is nice and tangy with a hint of sweetness. The marbled rye was toasted perfectly, the cheese melted just enough, and the corned beef (thankfully) wasn’t too salty. The only thing they could have done differently was slice the corned beef a little thinner. I had to do a lot of chewing, but then again, it just meant I ate more slowly. Not a bad thing.

SammyB'sTrifecta

The Trifecta had the fattest fried shrimp I’ve ever seen, and the strangest looking chicken tenders. Both tasted delicious, with slightly peppered breading. The fish was a little on the thin side, resulting in more batter than fillet, but was still packed with flavor. I stole Jimmie’s coleslaw, and appreciated the subtlety of the dressing – again, not too overpowering, with just the right amount of tang. Clearly, the chef knows how to balance flavors.

After lunch I snapped a couple photos of the Castle Heights Military Academy (now City Hall) because look at that gorgeous building.

Castle Heights Military Academy in Lebanon, TN

Castle Heights Military Academy in Lebanon, TN

Next time you’re in the Lebanon or Nashville areas, make sure to stop at Sammy B’s!

Book Club: The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend by Katarina Bivald

About The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommendthereadersofbrokenwheelrecommend

Book Club: June 2017 
Hardcover: 
394 pages
Published: January 2016 by Sourcebooks Landmark
Source: Purchased

Buy it on Amazon

Goodreads Description: Once you let a book into your life, the most unexpected things can happen…

Broken Wheel, Iowa, has never seen anyone like Sara, who traveled all the way from Sweden just to meet her pen pal, Amy. When she arrives, however, she finds that Amy’s funeral has just ended. Luckily, the townspeople are happy to look after their bewildered tourist—even if they don’t understand her peculiar need for books. Marooned in a farm town that’s almost beyond repair, Sara starts a bookstore in honor of her friend’s memory.

All she wants is to share the books she loves with the citizens of Broken Wheel and to convince them that reading is one of the great joys of life. But she makes some unconventional choices that could force a lot of secrets into the open and change things for everyone in town. Reminiscent of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, this is a warm, witty book about friendship, stories, and love.

Why We Picked It

The theme for June was In a Land Far, Far Away. We didn’t really come prepared, so I pulled out my “Book Club Recs” list on Goodreads. The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend sounded promising, and since the main character traveled halfway across the world we figured it met the theme.

My Thoughts

Clearly, I have a thing for Swedish authors. By now it’s no secret that I’m a card-carrying member of the Fredrik Backman fan club. I also really loved the Millennium Trilogy (that’s The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo), written by Stieg Larsson, also Swedish. As is Katarina Bivald.

Needless to say, I’m going to look for more Swedish authors, so let’s hear those recommendations.

The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend is kind of a love story to books and small towns. Sara is a bit of a wet blanket, but for once in her life has decided to do something bold by traveling halfway around the world to spend two months in a town she’s never heard of with a pen pal she’s never met. Unfortunately, the pen pal dies right before Sara arrives, so she’s stuck in town and knows literally no one. It’s a relatively common theme, but one I almost always enjoy.

There are certainly books that do it better, though. Jenny Colgan’s The Bookshop on the Corner is a far better story. I found The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend to be much too predictable and cliche. And unlike Nina, Sara doesn’t really grow as a character. Her situation changes because the backdrop changes…not because she actually makes changes.

I still enjoyed it, don’t get me wrong – a lot, in fact.

 

Book Club Discussion

This was another super short conversation. For the most part, we all agreed. The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend is a light, easy read, but not the best example of the books-about-books genre.

July/August Book Club Theme: Firecracker (Dynamic Characters)

July/August Book Club Book: The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper by Phaedra Patrick

Blog Tour: My Glory Was I Had Such Friends by Amy Silverstein

About My Glory Was I Had Such Friendsmyglorywasihadsuchfriends

Hardcover: 352 pages
Published: June 2017 by Harper Wave
Source: Publisher via TLC Book Tours

Goodreads Description: In this moving memoir about the power of friendship and the resilience of the human spirit, Amy Silverstein tells the story of the extraordinary group of women who supported her as she waited on the precipice for a life-saving heart transplant.

Nearly twenty-six years after receiving her first heart transplant, Amy Silverstein’s donor heart plummeted into failure. If she wanted to live, she had to take on the grueling quest for a new heart—immediately.

A shot at survival meant uprooting her life and moving across the country to California. When her friends heard of her plans, there was only one reaction: “I’m there.” Nine remarkable women—Joy, Jill, Leja, Jody, Lauren, Robin, Valerie, Ann, and Jane—put demanding jobs and pressing family obligations on hold to fly across the country and be by Amy’s side. Creating a calendar spreadsheet, the women—some of them strangers to one another—passed the baton of friendship, one to the next, and headed straight and strong into the battle to help save Amy’s life.

Empowered by the kind of empathy that can only grow with age, these women, each knowing Amy from different stages of her life, banded together to provide her with something that medicine alone could not. Sleeping on a cot beside her bed, they rubbed her back and feet when the pain was unbearable, adorned her room with death-distracting decorations, and engaged in their “best talks ever.” They saw the true measure of their friend’s strength, and they each responded in kind.

My Glory Was I Had Such Friends is a tribute to these women and the intense hours they spent together—hours of heightened emotion and self-awareness, where everything was laid bare. Candid and heartrending, this once-in-a-lifetime story of connection and empathy is a powerful reminder of the ultimate importance of “showing up” for those we love.

Purchase Links

HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

About Amy Silverstein

Amy Silverstein is the author of Sick Girl, which won a “Books for a Better Life Award” and was a finalist for the Border’s Original Voices Award. She earned her Juris Doctor at New York University School of Law, has served on the Board of the United Network of Organ Sharing (UNOS), and is an active speaker and writer on women’s health issues and patient advocacy. She lives in New York.

Find out more about Amy at her website, and connect with her on Facebook.

My Thoughts

My deepest apologies to TLC book tours for being a serious slacker in actually finishing the books they’ve sent me this month. Or at least, finishing them before my assigned tour date, since I fully intend to finish them both this week. But anyway.

Books like My Glory Was I Had Such Friends are hard to review. Memoirs are life stories, so how do you in essence say, hey that’s a good life story or hey that’s a bad life story? I can’t, anyway. So that leaves technical aspects, which isn’t always easier and can even make you feel like a jerk. Honestly, I’m struggling a little with this one, so bear with me as I try to piece together my thoughts.

As far as subject matter goes, there’s no denying that Amy Silverstein is a remarkable woman – though I suspect that’s the last thing she wants to hear. I’ve learned so much about organ donation that I never knew, and I’m thankful for that. If that’s a cause you’re interested in (or if you just like medical stuff), definitely pick up My Glory Was I Had Such Friends. 

Technically speaking, I’ve really been interested in what I’ve read so far. Silverstein writes well enough, and though the chapters are a bit long, they’re engaging. There is a fair bit of background in the beginning to sift through – I’m only now at the point where I’m starting to read about her hospital stay, and I’m about 150 pages in. That isn’t a fault, as I think the background is critical to setting it up.

I’m anxious to read more, because I’m hopeful there’s quite a bit of growth coming. Not just from Amy, but from each of the women who stay by her side. As someone younger than Amy and her friends, I kinda see My Glory Was I Had Such Friends as an instruction manual for how to be a better friend. I’m not sure if that’s the intent or not. Regardless, all I can say at this point is, how lucky would we all be if we had such women in our lives?

Check out the rest of the Blog Tour stops, and show your fellow readers some love!

 

Thanks to TLC Book Tours and Harper Wave for the chance to participate in this tour! 

Review: Waking Gods by Sylvain Neuvel

About Waking Godswakinggods

• Series: Themis Files (#2)
• Hardcover:
 325 pages
• Audio: 9 hours
• Published: April 2017 by Random House Audio
• Source: Purchased

Buy it on Amazon

Goodreads DescriptionAs a child, Rose Franklin made an astonishing discovery: a giant metallic hand, buried deep within the earth. As an adult, she’s dedicated her brilliant scientific career to solving the mystery that began that fateful day: Why was a titanic robot of unknown origin buried in pieces around the world? Years of investigation have produced intriguing answers—and even more perplexing questions. But the truth is closer than ever before when a second robot, more massive than the first, materializes and lashes out with deadly force.

Now humankind faces a nightmare invasion scenario made real, as more colossal machines touch down across the globe. But Rose and her team at the Earth Defense Corps refuse to surrender. They can turn the tide if they can unlock the last secrets of an advanced alien technology. The greatest weapon humanity wields is knowledge in a do-or-die battle to inherit the Earth . . . and maybe even the stars.

My Review

I knew about halfway through Sleeping Giants that I was going to listen to Waking Gods, even though I had no idea what happened next in the story. Much of what I loved so much about Sleeping Giants is present in Waking Gods. That feeling of suspending belief and imagining a universe where we’re not alone is still very much part of the story.

That said, in Waking Gods we learn a lot more about the background, and we watch how the world deals with the discovery of other life forms. It’s less of an action thriller and more of a political one. That isn’t a bad thing, but it does alter the pacing significantly. I still finished this one quickly, but I didn’t feel compelled like I did with Sleeping Giants. 

For those of you listening to it, I do want to warn you: not all of the narrators are the same between the two books. Kara is different, and though the new narrator is close, it took me a while to get used to her.

I’m also going to semi-spoil it for you and tell you that not everyone survives Waking Gods. And while I understand why Neuvel killed the characters he did, I don’t actually think he had to. I think the story could have progressed much the same way had they lived. I suppose we’ll see for sure in the third book.

When I reviewed Sleeping Giants, I made the comment that I kinda liked the thought of an alien race who’s just as (or more) advanced as we are. Then, I said to ask me if I still felt that way after reading Waking Gods. Answer? Yes, I still think it’s neat, even if the aliens turn out to be (shocker) not so friendly.

No word yet on when we can expect Book 3, but I’ve got my fingers crossed for early 2018. There’s also some buzz that Sony picked up the film rights….dare we hope?!

Missed my review of Sleeping Giants? Look here.

This post contains affiliate links. 

Blog Tour: News of the World by Paulette Jiles

About News of the Worldnewsoftheworld

• Hardcover: 240 pages
• Published: June 2017 by William Morrow (reprint)
• Source: Publisher via TLC Book Tours

Goodreads Description: In the aftermath of the American Civil War, an aging itinerant news reader agrees to transport a young captive of the Kiowa back to her people in this morally complex, multi-layered novel of historical fiction from the author of Enemy Women that explores the boundaries of family, responsibility, honor, and trust.

Captain Jefferson Kyle Kidd travels through northern Texas, giving live readings from newspapers to paying audiences hungry for news of the world. An elderly widower who has lived through three wars and fought in two of them, the captain enjoys his rootless, solitary existence.

In Wichita Falls, he is offered a $50 gold piece to deliver a young orphan to her relatives in San Antonio. Four years earlier, a band of Kiowa raiders killed Johanna’s parents and sister; sparing the little girl, they raised her as one of their own. Recently rescued by the U.S. army, the ten-year-old has once again been torn away from the only home she knows.

Their 400-mile journey south through unsettled territory and unforgiving terrain proves difficult and at times dangerous. Johanna has forgotten the English language, tries to escape at every opportunity, throws away her shoes, and refuses to act “civilized.” Yet as the miles pass, the two lonely survivors tentatively begin to trust each other, forming a bond that marks the difference between life and death in this treacherous land.

Arriving in San Antonio, the reunion is neither happy nor welcome. The captain must hand Johanna over to an aunt and uncle she does not remember—strangers who regard her as an unwanted burden. A respectable man, Captain Kidd is faced with a terrible choice: abandon the girl to her fate or become—in the eyes of the law—a kidnapper himself.

addtogoodreads

Purchase Links

HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

paulettejiles

Photo by Jill Gann

About Paulette Jiles

Paulette Jiles is a novelist, poet, and memoirist. She is the author of Cousins, a memoir, and the novels Enemy Women, Stormy Weather, The Color of Lightning, Lighthouse Island, and News of the World. She lives on a ranch near San Antonio, TX.

Find out more about Paulette at her website.

My Thoughts

I admit that I’ve only read half of News of the World. I thought I’d have plenty of time with a 200 page book to knock it out over the weekend. I didn’t think about the fact that it was the 4th of July weekend.

News of the World is the kind of story that makes you feel like you’re in it. It’s slow and steady, with almost a rolling cadence to the words. Jiles writes in a way that uses very few words to describe character interactions – but those words are chosen carefully enough to have maximum impact. Reading it, I feel like I’m in the wagon with Captain Kidd and Johanna.

I’m really enjoying the way the Captain and Johanna are learning to get along. Watching Johanna’s experience makes me stop and think about being a stranger in a strange land. I think a lot of the themes are ones that apply today, despite the fact that News of the World is set right after the Civil War.

I don’t want to give this one a rating yet, because I’m not finished with it – but if I had to guess, it’ll be a solid 4 stars. Don’t be fooled by the short length – News of the World has the makings of a great story.

Check out the rest of the Blog Tour stops, and show your fellow readers some love!

 

Thanks to TLC Book Tours and William Morrow for the chance to participate in this tour! 

Book Bites: What I’m Reading Right Now (July 3, 2017)

bookbitesreadingrightnowWelcome to Book Bites, where you get a glimpse into my reading life! Here I chronicle what I’ve finished (and what you can expect reviews on soon!), what I’m reading right now, and what I’m reading next.

Happy (early) 4th of July! I love this holiday, not in part because it’s just a couple of days before my birthday. I think we’ll spend this holiday on the boat with the pups – Olga has a life jacket now, so she can swim without me worrying she’ll drown. Maybe a barbecue later, maybe a game night. Whatever you’re doing tomorrow, I hope you enjoy yourselves!

On the What I’m Reading Right Now front, I’m working through American Gods, and I have a couple of blog tours coming up. I’m still sort of struggling with my reading slump, but I think it’s more that I don’t have the energy to start a book at this point. Does that make sense? 

We also got new appliances this weekend. I’m SOOOO excited to have a functioning dishwasher, and a fridge that’s not from the stone age. Though it was a good fridge, and still doing just fine after 20 years. They certainly don’t make appliances like they used to.

Last Week’s Posts:

Review: Ella’s Ice Cream Summer

Review: Sleeping Giants

I Just Finished:

  

What I’m Reading Right Now:

 

On Hold for the Moment:

salttothesea difficultwomen strangethedreamer gonewiththewind

Soon I’ll Be Reading:

ensnared theacidwatcher truthwitch     

What are you reading right now? Any must-read books I should add to my list soon?

Missed what I read last week

Linkups

bookdatesundaypoststackingtheshelvesKathryn over at the Book Date hosts It’s Monday! What are you reading! It’s a way to share what you’ve just read, are currently reading, and are reading next.

Kimba @ Caffeinated Book Reviewer hosts the weekly meme, The Sunday Post. It’s a chance to recap the past week, showcase books and things we have received and share news about what is coming up for the week on our blog.

Stacking The Shelves is all about sharing the books you are adding to your shelves, may it be physical or virtual.

Review: Sleeping Giants by Sylvain Neuvel

About Sleeping Giantssleepinggiants

• Series: Themis Files (#1)
• Hardcover:
 304 pages
• Audio: 8 hours
• Published: April 2016 by Random House Audio
• Source: Purchased (Scribd Audiobooks)

Buy it on Amazon

Goodreads Description: A girl named Rose is riding her new bike near her home in Deadwood, South Dakota, when she falls through the earth. She wakes up at the bottom of a square hole, its walls glowing with intricate carvings. But the firemen who come to save her peer down upon something even stranger: a little girl in the palm of a giant metal hand.

Seventeen years later, the mystery of the bizarre artifact remains unsolved—its origins, architects, and purpose unknown. Its carbon dating defies belief; military reports are redacted; theories are floated, then rejected.

But some can never stop searching for answers.

Rose Franklin is now a highly trained physicist leading a top secret team to crack the hand’s code. And along with her colleagues, she is being interviewed by a nameless interrogator whose power and purview are as enigmatic as the provenance of the relic. What’s clear is that Rose and her compatriots are on the edge of unraveling history’s most perplexing discovery—and figuring out what it portends for humanity. But once the pieces of the puzzle are in place, will the result prove to be an instrument of lasting peace or a weapon of mass destruction?

An inventive debut in the tradition of World War Z and The Martian, told in interviews, journal entries, transcripts, and news articles, Sleeping Giants is a thriller fueled by a quest for truth—and a fight for control of earthshaking power.

My Review

The prologue of Sleeping Giants ends with a line something to the effect of, “I looked around, and I was sitting in a giant metal hand.”

That’s the line that hooked me.

First of all, I don’t really see the comparison to The Martian, a book I read and absolutely loved. That’s not an issue in the slightest, since I also really enjoyed Sleeping Giants. Just throwing it out there, in case you’re thinking you’re getting a similar story. You’re not.

Second of all, I really really recommend the audio version if you can get your hands on it. Sleeping Giants is told in a series of vignettes – interviews, files, journal entries. In the audio, each character is voiced by a different actor, so you really get a feel for how different each person is. Plus, the narration is stellar.

Sleeping Giants is a little hard to explain, and the book jacket doesn’t really help. Basically, Rose falls into a hole and lands in a giant metal hand when she’s a kid. When she grows up and becomes a physicist, she gets assigned to study the same hand she fell into. Eventually, she realizes the hand is just one of several body parts strewn around the world. She sets out to find them all, convinced they’ll make up a robot left on Earth by aliens, though she has no idea why or what the robot does.

I know. It sounds absurd.

So maybe there’s the comparison to The Martian. A totally ridiculous idea that’s maybe not so ridiculous. And a whole lot of fun to read.

Sci-fi isn’t my genre. I don’t have anything against it, it’s just not usually the type of story that sucks me in. Space and robots and aliens and weird technology tend to fly right over my head. But. I loved Sleeping Giants because it explores the question of whether or not we’re really alone in this universe. And that’s really what sci-fi is supposed to be about – the idea that something is possible. That something fantastic and outrageous and beyond our imagining is…feasible. And while I don’t think it’s likely that there are giant metal robot parts strewn around the globe, I do kinda like the idea that there’s an alien race out there just as (if not more) advanced as we are.

Is that a terrifying thought? Perhaps. Ask me again after I finish Waking Gods, the sequel.

Anyway, Sleeping Giants. Pick it up if you like thrillers, mysteries, and possibilities.

Review: Ella’s Ice-Cream Summer by Sue Watson

About Ella’s Ice-Cream Summerella'sice-creamsummer

Series: Ice-Cream Cafe (#1)
Kindle Edition: 334 pages
Published: May 2017 by Bookouture
Source:
 Netgalley

Goodreads DescriptionElla’s life just hit rock-bottom, but can a summer by the sea mend her broken heart? When life gives you lemons… make ice-cream!

Life hasn’t always been easy for single mum Ella, but she has just hit an all-time low; she’s jobless, loveless, very nearly homeless and, to make matters worse, now the owner of a pocket-sized pooch with a better wardrobe than her.

Packing her bags (and a bigger one for the dog), Ella sets off for the seaside town of Appledore in Devon to re-live the magical summers of her youth and claim her portion of the family ice-cream business: a clapped-out ice-cream van and a complicated mess of secrets.

There she meets gorgeous and free-spirited solicitor, Ben, who sees things differently: with a little bit of TLC he has a plan to get the van – and Ella – back up and running in no time.

Ella’s Ice-Cream Summer is a heart-warming and hilarious romance that will scoop you off your feet and prove it’s never too late for a fresh start. The ideal holiday read for fans of Lucy Diamond, Abby Clements and Debbie Johnson.

My Review

This cover just screams Summer, doesn’t it?! Light and fresh and fun.

Ella is 44-years-old, with two teenagers about to leave the nest, a mother who’s just discovered social media, and an ex-husband affectionately referred to as “The Dick.” She’s in a rut, feeling like she’s lost all sense of adventure and light. When her aunt dies, leaving a portion of the family ice cream business to her, Ella decides once and for all to do something just for her. She packs up, drives south, and begins selling homemade ice cream out of her aunt’s old van Reginaldo.

I loved the idea of Ella’s Ice-Cream Summer. It sounded perfectly summery, a light, airy escape read with heart. And yet, something just didn’t work for me. I gave up after reading about 35% of the book. Ella had JUST gotten to Devon with the van. The story simply didn’t move fast enough. I’d read roughly a third, and wasn’t interested in continuing.

I should remind you, I’m coming off a pretty serious reading slump. So….take this review with a grain of salt. It’s quite possible the issue is me, and not Ella’s Ice-Cream Summer. 

Good things: Ella’s mother cracked me up. I kinda think a book just about Ella dealing with her mom would have been more interesting. And when I finally did get to the ice cream, that was enjoyable too. But I wanted more. Much, much more….even for an escape read.

Thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for the ARC!

Book Bites: What I’m Reading Right Now (June 26, 2017)

bookbitesreadingrightnowWelcome to Book Bites, where you get a glimpse into my reading life! Here I chronicle what I’ve finished (and what you can expect reviews on soon!), what I’m reading right now, and what I’m reading next.

I know, I know. We missed a week last week. I didn’t read a single book, and I thought we’d change it up a little by skipping the “I’m in a slump” post. *grin*

Truthfully, it took me a while to recover from having my heart absolutely shattered by Beartown. Backman does that to me. Needless to say, I’m going to be reading a lot of fluff reads for the next couple of weeks. Which means, I’ll read like 4 books a week. I’m ok with that. (If I ever pick up the pace, that is.)

On the What I’m Reading Right Now front, I’m a little over halfway through Waking Gods, sequel to Sleeping Giants.  I picked up Neil Gaiman’s American Gods to listen to next, since I’m simply not going to get around to reading it in print. (Lots of Gods going on.) And speaking of print, my copy of Gone with the Wind still hasn’t arrived, what’s up with that??

Not much else new in my world – we went to a beer festival, we’re gearing up for the 4th of July, and I’m eagerly counting down the days until we’re back in Mexico. (48, in case you were wondering.)

Last Week’s Posts:

Review: The River of Kings by Taylor Brown

Review: Beartown by Fredrik Backman

How to Choose the Perfect Campsite

I Just Finished:

What I’m Reading Right Now:

 

On Hold for the Moment:

salttothesea difficultwomen strangethedreamer gonewiththewind

Soon I’ll Be Reading:

ensnared theacidwatcher truthwitch        

What are you reading right now? Any must-read books I should add to my list soon?

Missed what I read last week

Linkups

bookdatesundaypoststackingtheshelvesKathryn over at the Book Date hosts It’s Monday! What are you reading! It’s a way to share what you’ve just read, are currently reading, and are reading next.

Kimba @ Caffeinated Book Reviewer hosts the weekly meme, The Sunday Post. It’s a chance to recap the past week, showcase books and things we have received and share news about what is coming up for the week on our blog.

Stacking The Shelves is all about sharing the books you are adding to your shelves, may it be physical or virtual.

How to Choose the Perfect Campsite

choosetheperfectcampsiteWe’re big campers. Until a few years ago, I’d never camped, but after that first trip I was hooked. Our setup has changed considerably since we first started out, but that’s how it works. The more you camp, the more you learn what you need and don’t need, and what you like and don’t like. For us, having a great site is one of the most important things.

Choosing a campsite can be a tough decision. Your campsite is your home away from home, so you want to be sure you’ve got a good one. Experienced campers likely have it down to a science, but for those of you who are new to camping, here are a few things to take into consideration.

Before You Go

If you’re planning a trip, you can use a site like Recreation.gov or ReserveAmerica to pick your campsite ahead of time. Many campgrounds let you reserve anywhere from 3 days to 6 months in advance. Depending on the campground, sometimes you’ll luck out and the sites will have photos. If not, you can often Google the campground name and pull up pictures that people have shared online. Sometimes those will have site numbers.

That’s not always the case, though. For this reason, we always make a loop at every campground we visit. We take pictures, and sometimes videos, of sites we like. If we ever go back, we just pull up our “campsite” album and compare what’s available to the sites we have pictures of. If you’re going to do that, make sure you get the site number in the photo, as well as the whole site.

campsite

This is one of our favorite campsites. Lots of trees, close to the bathhouse, and a great spot for the dogs. (It’s at the Bandy Creek Campground, for those interested!)

How to Choose the Perfect Campsite

So, just how do you choose the perfect campsite? Everyone is different, but here are the things that we look for when we’re picking out a site. These same guidelines apply whether we’re reserving in advance or showing up last minute, though our choices are typically a lot more limited last minute!

How close are the other campsites?

Simply put, we don’t like being on top of another campsite. We look for one with ample space on either side, as well as no direct lines of sight into other sites.

On the other hand, if we’re camping with a group of friends, we look for sites that are close together – either right next to each other, or across from each other.

campsites for groups

We’ve camped in these sites twice with friends. They’re close together, making it easy to hang out in the evenings!

If we can’t find a site that’s relatively private, sometimes we’ll look for sites that are next to people with RVs. Often, the RVs will block a lot of the sight lines into the neighboring campsites, giving everyone a little space. Of course, you never know what your fellow campers will be like – we’ve had great neighbors and not so great neighbors. Sometimes we luck out and have no neighbors, though that’s rare in summer.

How close is the campsite to the playground/gathering area/store? 

In general, we stay far away from all of the above. Playgrounds and gathering areas tend to be noisy and full of children, especially in summer when the campground is at capacity. While it’s nice to be close the store if you run out of provisions, it’s also easy enough to walk (or drive) over.

campsite near playground

In summer, this campsite would have been terrible for us since it was right next to the playground. In March, with the campground empty, it was perfect!

How close is the campsite to the bath house?

We like to be close, but not *too* close to the bathhouse. Typically, we try to get within 5 or 6 sites. Being right next to the bathroom is noisy and often bright. People traipse to the bathhouse at all hours of the day. It’s nice to have a buffer, but I also don’t like having to hike too far in the middle of the night.

campsite near bathhouse

This is another of our favorite campsites. It’s close to the bathhouse (that building on the far right), has plenty of privacy, and plenty of trees.

If your campground doesn’t have a bathhouse, or you can’t get a site close to it, look for one with lots of trees. Which leads me to my next point….

Does the campsite have plenty of trees?

There are two reasons we look for trees – the dogs, and our hammocks. We create ziplines for the dogs, so we need at least three or four good-sized trees relatively close together. We look for sturdy ones that will support the hammocks (and us!) without bending or breaking.

For our hammocks, we need two tree pairs; sometimes these double as dog trees.

trees at campsite

Sorry about the angle – I was in my own hammock! These trees are perfect for dog lines and hammocks both.

Trees also provide shade, fallen branches to be used as kindling, privacy from other sites, and in a pinch, impromptu toilet facilities.

Where is the campsite’s fire ring?

I can’t tell you how many sites we’ve turned down because the fire ring was precisely centered in the back of the site. We have a huge tent, so we need a site where the fire ring is on one side. This wasn’t quite as much of an issue with our smaller tent.

Remember – you can move a picnic table (generally), but you can’t move a fire ring.

fire ring at campsite

Great location for the fire ring – away from the tent!

There you have it – our tips for choosing the perfect campsite. What other things do you look for in the perfect site? Do you have the same criteria we do?

Happy camping!