First Holiday – Day 2

Apparently I was very tired….I slept in until 10:30 this morning… can’t remember the last time I did that.  What was great was Lee shut the door and I slept through him going about his normal morning routine.  I wouldn’t have thought that was possible in such a small space, since I am a very light sleeper (many years of child rearing have programmed me)… not that I plan on sleeping that late often, but it’s a nice option to have.  When I woke up and got some coffee I was a bit agitated, but Lee was completely relaxed.  I don’t mean somewhat relaxed, or sort of relaxed but completely 100% relaxed.  Now my husband is a pretty intense guy… not in a bad way but he’s always working on something and I rarely see him just sitting.  He was outside on a chair, hair all messy, completely relaxed.  I can probably count on two hands the number of times I’ve seen him look like that and it was really nice.  He was also very frisky, you know, kissing and stuff, which was also nice.  Who knew that camping would  lead to  kissing and stuff … let’s just leave it at that since my kids will probably read this 🙂

After a nice big breakfast we decided to head out to Kingston.  I had poked around a bit on the web and had heard from a couple of people Kingston was nice and we headed down that way expecting a quaint little resort/tourist town.  Kingston used to be the capital of New York  and sits on an outlet of the Hudson River so we were expecting something like Lake Placid.  Unfortunately that is NOT what we found.  There are some beautiful old houses but they are really run down and Kingston is definitely a city in decline.  Even the waterfront area looked dilapidated and there was nothing worth getting out of the car for. As a matter of fact there were places I wouldn’t want to get out of the car.  This was a real bummer as I didn’t really have a plan B, but I pulled up this new app Lee had got me Roadside America and took a look for the nearest weird attraction.  As I’ve mentioned before I am a girl who would go out of her way to see the giant ball of string and Lee found a website full of just such attractions.  The website is free and the Iphone app was only $2.99. I saw that the giant fork in the road was only 25 minutes away.  In regular life I would have skipped it because it was an hour round trip, but Kingston was such a disappointment I wanted to try to see something.   This is where Karma comes in.  Karma and taking the road less traveled because you never know where it will lead you.

We were driving to the fork ( Lee was way more patient with my navigation struggles) when we saw a sign that said Historic home of FDR.  Franklin Delano Roosevelt is my favorite president and we had recently watched the movie “Hyde Park on the Hudson” so it suddenly clicked that we were very close to Hyde Park.  We made a right and I scrambled on the Ipad to find where we were headed and what was close by.  Hyde Park is a beautiful town.  Everything I expected Kingston to be, actually. As we were driving to FDR’s house, Lee saw a sign for a Vanderbilt mansion and we decided to turn in.  I have visited the Breakers and Marble house in Rhode Island and the Biltmore in NC so I was very excited to see another Vanderbilt house.  Because Karma was with us we arrived at 2:45 just in time for the 3pm tour.  The tour was fantastic and because this house was donated as a federal park (at the behest of my guy FDR) it only cost $8 for the tour.  We finished just in time to drive down to FDR’s house and take a quick look at the grounds and see he and Eleanor’s grave site.   The grave in particular meant something to me and held the same gravity of moment that I felt when I visited John F. Kennedy’s grave.

IMG_0216

We had gone far off the path but found a wonderful way to spend the day, so we grabbed a quick bite and headed to the fork in the road.  I have to say that the fork was the best part of my day.  Completely tickled my funny bone and Lee said I was wonderfully weird, probably because I am equally impressed by a mansion,historical grave, and a goofy fork statue.  The fork statue pic is below… seriously don’t you love it.

Lessons Learned

  • Roadside America is a great app
  • Don’t be afraid to take the road less traveled; you never know what you will find
  • If you see a giant fork in the road stop and take a picture

 

 

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First Holiday – Day 1

 

We were so excited about camping and visiting local sites that booking the fourth of July kind of got away from us.  Even though we knew better I waited until 2 weeks ahead and unfortunately most of our first choices were booked.  We have a four-day weekend and wanted to go a bit farther afield, so ended up at the KOA in the Catskills.  Even though we hadn’t visited the KOA in advance, the nice thing about KOA is you can have a certain expectation, so we were glad when they had an opening.

Finally we felt like we had a routine so Lee went to the camper the night before our trip to turn on the refrigerator.  Unfortunately the marine battery was totally dead.  It’s brand new so it was unclear what had drained it, but he unhooked it and brought it back to the house and put it on a charger and we hoped we wouldn’t need to fork out another $100 for a battery. (The culprit is the clock in the stereo/DVD player, and a few other minor things that pull a constant low voltage. After three weeks, it had drained the battery. – Lee)  It’s important to me at this point that costs kind of settle somewhat.  The whole reason we decided to do this was for inexpensive weekends, but thus far with all the one-time purchases we have spent quite a chunk of money.   Luckily when Lee woke up (he’s a VERY early riser) the battery was charged and he was able to take it back to the camper and start the refrigerator.  Even though the refrigerator runs off propane it requires an electric spark to get it going,  but it all worked out great and the refrigerator was cool by the time we took off.

The next important thing was the grocery store.  I had been clipping recipes for a week or so and had some things I wanted to try but didn’t wan’t a huge grocery bill…again with an eye towards inexpensive.  I “stole” liberally from what was in the house and came up with a relatively short list of items needed and was absolutely thrilled when we only spent $80.  Before you judge, food is expensive in New England and we regularly spend $200 at the grocery store so $80 was a bargain…although I can still remember many years when I fed a family of 5 on $80 so I can’t call it a total victory 🙂

Hooking up the trailer went great.  We used walkie- talkies which worked MUCH better thank yelling obscenities back and forth at each other…plus I got to say cool stuff like “Copy that”  and hitching up the trailer was a breeze.  We also managed to avoid the big killer rocks on the way out.   Perkins for the win!!!  The campsite is three hours away and for the first time it was mostly freeway driving so we were excited to see how that would go.  Not so great, unfortunately.  It was very windy so Lee really had to focus on his driving and the gas mileage was terrible.  We have a brand new Ford 150 XLT with an Ecoboost engine and we were only getting 6.9 mpg.  It took an entire tank of gas (about $125) to get us there which was a bummer.  One great thing was we found a Cracker Barrel for lunch. The meal was fantastic and we found a place to park our truck and trailer relatively easily.  Cracker Barrels generally have HUGE parking lots.  The food was great and thus fortified, we continued on with our journey.

Once we arrived we were pretty disappointed.  The sites we could use are more less pretty stacked right on top of each other, with no trees between them, but at least they are staggered which was a bit of a benefit and it was HOT!  95° and about 95% humidity. Setting up went flawlessly but we were both drenched by the time we were done.  Luckily the campground has a nice pool and we threw on our swimsuits and walked down.  An interesting side note…Lee doesn’t like pools particularly, but he gave it a try and found it really refreshing. (People pee in the pool. ’nuff said. – Lee)  Cooled down…with the AC on inside we started a fire and I started to make dinner.  I’ve been trying out new recipes and many are duds…you won’t see those in here, but this was fine and it was quick (only 20 minutes) and filling.  Sitting outside with our hair messy and full of good food, we were pretty content and definitely relaxed  so overall it was a very nice day.

Lessons Learned

  • Disconnect the marine battery when finished camping so it doesn’t drain down while the trailer is sitting
  • Walkie-Talkies are a must have for communication
  • Pulling on the freeway does NOT give you better mpg than 2 lane highways
  • Cracker Barrel is a great place to stop and have lunch in an oversized vehicle
  • Don’t forget your bathing suits

 

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Camper Chronicles is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com.  Search Amazon.com here

Getting Started

Tale: Getting Started 

Lee and I have been married and raising kids for a long time–a really long time. Over the years we have often talked about what we would do someday when the kids were grown and gone.  One of our ideas  was traveling around the country in a camper.  My grandparents did it for years. They sold their house, bought an RV, and spent six months traveling the fifty states.  The freedom of that was VERY appealing to me, and I’ll admit I had a completely romanticized view of what that would be like.   As we grew older, and frankly more practical, we still talked about it, but the practicalities were a larger part of the conversation and through the teen years there was always something going on.  Fast forward to a few weeks ago, our first romantic weekend getaway in 20 years.  I kid you not, we had taken two vacations alone, but hadn’t had a romantic weekend alone since the kids were babies, and our oldest is 24, you do the math. We loved the weekend; we went to the Corning glass festival, stayed in a lovely B&B and really enjoyed each other’s company.  But the weekend cost well over  $800 and on the 5 hour drive home were lamenting the fact that we wouldn’t be able to afford to do this very often. The subject of camping came up again, and as we often had, we started to talk about how great that would be but the what the challenges would be.  This time though the conversation was different.  There were less challenges than ever before and oddly the idea seemed almost feasible.  You can cover a lot of conversational ground in a 5 hour drive! I had taken an extra day off from work so we decided to travel to Campers Inn (a large RV dealer in Nashua, NH) and take a look to see what our options might be.

The next morning we went to the dealer and started with the very smallest camper on the lot.  We wanted a shower and on board toilet, (I have to confess, that was my requirement. I just can’t stand the idea of walking, unshowered, to a public shower and then standing in someone else’s dirty water. It’s one of the reasons I’ve never been that interested in camping. It’s just gross. – Lee) so that ruled out pop-up style campers, and we were pleasantly surprised to find that there are tiny campers that have bathrooms that are just a little bigger than pop-ups, but aren’t pop-ups. We were also limited to the 3500 lb towing capability of our minivan, which kept us in the very-small-trailer category.

I am a bit claustrophobic so I would walk into a camper, walk in the bathroom and shut the door, and walk right back out again. Lee and Lance Simmons (an excellent salesperson who is an avid camping enthusiast himself) were very patient for the next 2-1/2 hours as we methodically worked our way through the various models and types available.  (It was amazing how quickly both of us decided what liked and didn’t like.-Lee) Finally we walked into a travel trailer and I felt good.  It was a “couples” trailer, designed for two people so it felt like there was extra space and I felt comfortable and at home.  Two problems, though: it was $35,000 and it was over our 3500 lb tow limit. There was one I could have lived with, but it would have been a stretch versus the larger ones I actually felt comfortable in.

I told Lee we could buy a truck…trade in my car and get a new truck, so that problem was solved but we weren’t going to spend that much money to try something out.  We were in luck, however. There was one used model that was similar to what we liked on the lot. A 2005 Keystone Hornet for $12,500; and despite having obviously seen a lot of use it was clean and most importantly, designed for two people.  We decided to sleep on it (something else we have learned the value of as we have gotten older) and do some internet research.

That night I went online, typed the make and model into Craig’s list, and the EXACT same camper was available in my small town! What are the odds??? It was quite a bit newer, a 2010 model, and immaculately clean for only $15,000!  This really got our attention; when the universe wants you to do something it generally sweeps barriers aside with remarkable speed. I won’t bore you with all the details but here is how the next four days went:

5/29: See the camper, meet the incredibly nice retired couple who have barely used it. (It turns out he hated camping!) Make a commitment to buy the camper.

5/29: Take out a 401K loan…takes literally 3 minutes online.

5/30: Go to trade in my car and buy a truck to haul camper, find out my company has a partnership deal and I get any truck on the lot at invoice price automatically. Find a truck and buy a truck, drive the truck home.

5/31: 401K Money gets direct deposited into our account. Lee gets the money, meets the couple, and buys the camper.

On Monday we talked about getting a little camper, on Friday we owned a “new to us” 32′ travel trailer and a brand new truck to pull it with.

camper and truck

Lessons Learned 

  • It never hurts to look
  • Visit an RV dealer and go into every camper, starting with the smallest available size and work your way up. When you’ve found what you like, you’ll know it!
  • Sleep on it; don’t get pressured into an immediate decision
  • Comparison shop – Craig’s list is your friend
  • When the universe makes something that easy ..go with it

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