Finally! The day arrived for our maiden voyage. I traveled for work quite a bit in the interim, but Lee snuck in lots of time to work on the camper. I can’t list every single thing he did, but suffice it to say I have the best husband ever. One of the things he did that I absolutely loved was put some additional shelving in the pantry cabinet. The original cabinet is tall, and very deep (24″!) but only had three shelves. Lee added two more shelves to make more reasonable heights and significantly increase the food storage.
Here’s the original pantry cabinet, with some stuff in them to give you an idea of the scale. And because Lee is Lee, he added lighting.
There were also lots of little touches and during the first day of setting up it was like having a ton of little presents. Small touches like a wood soap container that matched the interior that really made the day special. We did find the time on our no-camping weekend to go to the Container Store. I highly recommend a trip just to get ideas for storage. The best purchase was a case of plastic shoe boxes at $1.69 each. All loose items are safely stored in these boxes, they fit great in any storage space in the camper, and they are clear so it’s easy to open the door and quickly find something. This was actually my idea, and I was pleased to see it work well.
My other favorite purchase was a condiment/vegetable tray that holds ice in the bottom and has a lid so you could keep snacks outside longer. It’s a bit of a frivolous item, but a bargain at $14.99 because it made me so happy.
After checking out the improved camper, we hitched it up and Lee maneuvered it out of the storage area. I think we were so excited that we had successfully managed that part that what happened next was sort of inevitable. Lee was getting ready to turn onto the main road and we were talking when we heard a big crunch. I looked out my rearview mirror and the wheels of the trailer were going up and over a pretty big rock. Lee was upset; I started laughing. Yes, I know it’s an odd reaction, but when we bought the camper the daughter-in-law of the couple who sold us to it gave me one piece of advice. She said the first time we dinged the camper not to get upset. It was going to happen and it was just a camper. This flashed into my mind and I admit I felt a little relieved that the first ding seemed so minor. We pulled off at the first place we could and Lee checked the camper. The stairs were slightly bent and one of the panels was crunched a bit, but nothing too major. Lee didn’t take it quite so well.
(Well, duh. First of all, I was just minding my own business, driving out of the parking area, and this seriously large rock, a boulder, really, with a major attitude problem leapt off the side of the road and bit right into our sparkly new camper. You can see the perp in the photo below.
Seriously though, I was worried I might have done real damage to it, and in the first few minutes of our first real trip. Luckily, it was only a slight bend to the steps that I was able to straighten our with some pulling and grunting (see pulling and grunting below) and a judicious kick.
As you can see, the affected step brace now has an arch to it. Engineers say that an arch is the strongest architecturally, so if you think about it, I improved the design and made it stronger. Some of the skirting, which is just cosmetic also came loose, but it doesn’t flap while driving at highway speed, so it’s really just art. My ego, on the other hand, damaged beyond repair. – Lee)
Once we were back on the road, the traffic surprised us a bit. We thought we had left in plenty of time, but the drive was on mainly two-lane highways and it is construction season so the roads were often down to one lane. I only mention it because I always have to be on time. Why it matters being on time to a campground for vacation weekend, I have no idea, but I need to have a healthy dose of “we get there when we get there” for these trips. Why start off stressed? It turned out to be fine since check in started at 3:00 and despite some unexpected delays we still arrived at 3:15. (I chalk this accomplishment up to my almost supernatural ability to manipulate time and space. It’s eerie, really. – Lee) In our previous travels (without a trailer) we saw tons of places to pull over and shop or maybe have lunch, and indeed we saw tons of those places during this trip, but very few have a parking lot that accommodates a truck and trailer. (And of course, now that I was aware that there are roving gangs of boulders wandering around looking for innocent campers to attack, I didn’t want to take any chances. – Lee) Once we got closer to the campsite, I made some mental notes of places to visit, and we circled back later in just the truck once we had dropped the trailer, but mostly the little shops along the way are something that you might have to give up. Lunch was another challenge. If you are on interstates there are truck stops along the way, but since we were on less traveled roads it was more of a challenge. Luckily I had bought a phone app for $10 called AllStays which shows your vehicle on the map and what facilities are coming up. This was really helpful for finding gas stations that could accommodate trailer height and upcoming turnarounds or pull offs to take a quick bathroom break. As a side note, the ability to stop and get into your trailer to use the bathroom is pretty awesome. At first I felt kind of weird about it, but no more scary public restrooms for me–you bring yours with you! We ended up stopping at a small Citgo truck stop which had gas and a small deli inside. (Eat here! Get gas! – Lee) I would have preferred one with a restaurant of some sort, but the food was cheap and did the trick, plus, as I said, options were limited. One word of advice: start thinking about where you will stop at least 30 minutes in advance. The app was very helpful in this case because you can look ahead along your route. It’s definitely a mindset adjustment if you are used to just being able to stop anywhere. Plus, setting up the camper is physically demanding and a good solid lunch is key for later on.
After lunch it was my turn to drive. This was my first time driving a trailer of any kind and I was pretty nervous, but the only way to make this work on longer trips is for me to take a turn so I took a deep breath and pulled out of the station. Below are my takeaways from the experience. I didn’t get comfortable on that first go, felt a lot like a brand new driver, which, in a way, I was.
- Make wide turns and look at the lower side mirror on the side you are turning (left mirror for left turn and right mirror for right turn) to watch the trailer tires to make sure you clear.
- Obey the speed limit. I found every time I crept above the speed limit even 5 mph I started to struggle. Apparently the speed limits are for bigger vehicles and are pretty accurate–who knew?
- Watch for sway. The truck we have gives a message on the instrument panel to slow down if the sway becomes too bad. This is great, but you can sway over the middle line because of the wind if you’re not careful. I had seen people driving and swaying and always thought they weren’t good drivers… shame on me.
- Stay to the right. The middle lane is way too stressful with having to watch both sides almost constantly. In the right lane, people can easily pass you and generally you have a lot of extra space to play with on the right, so it’s much less stressful.
- Take your time. If you’re one of those people plodding down the road, so be it. People can get around you if they have someplace to go and you’re new at this, so don’t be pressured into speeding up. Plus, you’re the big vehicle so they can be more agile than you if needed.
We made it to the campsite and signed in. Again, the people checking us in were super nice–mostly older, semi-retired folks who seemed generally pleased that we were newbies. The setup went pretty easily, although Lee had reorganized and I wasn’t sure where a lot of things were. (Hey, I can’t help it. Things needed to be put where they needed to be put. I had an orientation class, but she didn’t show up. – Lee) There were a couple of challenges. We didn’t have enough sewer hose to park where we wanted. Lee ran down to the store and bought another twenty feet of hose, so now we have forty feet in all. (If I keep buying sewer hose, eventually I will have enough to just run the hose from the camper to our house. – Lee) Also, either from going over rocks or something else, a black plastic hose with wires inside had rubbed against the tire and some of the wires were bare. This is where I am really lucky to have Lee in my life because he repaired the wires. (It is astonishing to me how often it comes up that she is lucky to have me in her life. I should get a medal. Or a statue. Or at least a parade. So, like she said, there’s this little bundle of wires that are attached to the slide-out. When the slide-out slides out, the wires go along with it. And when it’s not slid out, there’s a spring that’s attached the to bundle that is supposed to pull the slack that is created up under the trailer. Some genius engineer designed this whole thing and put it smack in front of the trailer tires. You know, right where it would flap against the tires if the spring broke, allowing the tires to rub away the protective sheath, then the insulation around the wires, and eventually, right through the wires themselves. When we got to the campsite, my eagle eye caught this and I tried to figure out what the wires provided power to. Everything worked, so I can’t imagine what purpose the wires served. I didn’t have a multi-tester with me, but I did put together an “I don’t know this camper very well so I better be prepared for weird things to happen” kit. Luckily, that kit included some wire, and wire nuts. I was able to splice the mess together and for the return trip I used baby bungee cords to stow away the slack loop.
Back home I will have a few weeks before I drive over another boulder to figure out what the wires supply, and install a better splice, and a more robust slack-wire-retraction device. – Lee)
- Leave extra time for construction traffic
- Invest in an app that shows camper resources
- Don’t leave lunch until the last-minute
- Make wide turns and look at the lower side mirror on the side you are turning (left mirror for left turn and right mirror for right turn) to watch the trailer tires to make sure you clear
- Obey the speed limit
- Watch for sway
- Boulders are dangerous, sneaky creatures, and are not to be trusted
Easy and Delicious Baked Fish
- 1 cup herb season stuffing mix (finely crushed)
- 4 Tbsp butter, melted
- 1 7.6 oz portion of grill flavored frozen fish (2 portions)
- 2 tsp lemon juice
1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees
2. Combine stuffing with butter, tossing well until mixed
3. Lightly grease a baking dish
4. Place fish portion in bottom. Sprinkle fish with lemon juice
5. Place crumb mixture lightly on fish and extra around the sides
6. Bake in preheated oven for 18-20 minutes or until fish flakes easily with a fork