Maiden Voyage – Day 2

We like to get up and out the first full day of camping.  It seems counter-intuitive and certainly your miles may vary, but for us, getting out and seeing things when we are fresh works.  Since we were at Lake Placid, we decided to look at the Olympic sites.  (Luckily, they were already there. It’s like they knew we were coming. – Lee) One of the nice things about us as a couple is we always like to try new things and we never say we are ‘too cool’ to do something.  We pass on things because they are too scary or physically demanding, but never because we are too cool.  Giant ball of string? I want to see it. Cornhenge? Let’s go take a look.  (You can skip cornhenge. We might not be too cool for it, but you almost certainly are. – Lee).  Sometimes these roadside attractions are lame, but generally we are delighted by what we get to see.  

When we went to the first Olympic site they were selling a multi-pass to four different events for $32 a person and I felt a twinge.  I am trying to keep budget in mind during these camping trips, although it’s tough with all the one-time purchases we have to make.  Lee felt it was a good deal and, as much as I hate to say it, he was right. (This is a common occurrence, me being right, and her hating to say it. – Lee)  Coming from the Midwest, I need to guard against being penny-wise and pound foolish, as my grandmother says, and Lee is great at balancing our money.  (She misspelled a word in there, she meant to type “Lee is great at spending our money.” It’s true, I rock at it. If there were an Olympic event, I would be unable to stand from all the gold medals around my neck. I should get a statue, or a parade. – Lee) Suffice it to say, it was a bargain and gave us enough relatively cheap and interesting activities for 2 days.

We went out and about the first day seeing the sites and doing a little shopping.  We bought our second magnet for the fridge; I spent forever deciding which one to buy. We also bought a little sign to hang on the front of the camper. This was a major decision 🙂


Having learned our lesson from last time, we  got back in plenty of time to start the fire and cook the chicken.  One really fun thing for me was stopping at one of those roadside stands and getting additional wood.  The wood at the campground was pretty cheap (only $5.75) and came with a fire starter, but I always wanted to buy bundles from a roadside place–I know, I’m weird like that.  You have to have cash, though, and exact change; luckily I had $4 in my purse and we grabbed a bundle, which made me very happy. It’s the small things in life.    The only downside to the day was when my allergies really kicked in.  It’s high pollen season here in the North  and sniffling all day was a bit of a drag.  We stocked up the medicine cabinet and the over-the-counter medicine helped some but I’ll definitely keep this in mind for next time.

One other thing that was a bummer was the lack of a decent Wi-Fi signal.  The campground says Wi-Fi but it’s largely unusable (kicking us off after a few minutes every time we tried to use it) and although I don’t want to spend a ton of time connected…it’s a nice option to have especially on a rainy day (more on that tomorrow).    It really wasn’t a campground issue in this case but an area issue because cell phone coverage was extremely spotty as well.  As much as I enjoy getting away, not having GPS or Google Maps forced us to go old school with navigation.  Let’s just say we are a bit rusty and got lost a lot. (I don’t recall ever being lost. I was sightseeing. – Lee)

There is raging debate–ok, maybe that is an over statement–over the relative merits of independent sites versus KOA campsites.  I’m going to give the newbie perspective but fully reserve the right to change my mind at a later time. Both seem to have advantages.  The independents are cheaper and have the seasonal residents.  I like the seasonal folks a lot, generally people who are retired or semi-retired and have a place at the site.  They keep an eye on everything and there are definitely fewer kids at these sites probably because they have less kid related activities. KOA campsites, on the other hand, have more employees, more family activities, and guys in little carts constantly monitoring the site.  Both seem pet-friendly, although I did see more big dogs at the KOA site.  In both cases they had nice helpful people at the front desk and an assortment of those immediate necessities you might need.   In a nut shell, more weekenders with kids at KOA and more seasonal folks and fewer kids at the independents.

I think, given a choice (and there often isn’t one, believe it or not), I would choose the independents because we don’t have kids and I really like talking to the seasonals, but I have one major caveat.  We often see independents with no websites, and we had an opportunity to drive through and scout one of those on this trip. It was pretty scary. I’m sure there are many nice independents without web sites, but this place was scary.  It was pretty wild and unkempt and the full hookup area was a wide field, which we are not really interested in.  So for me, unless personally recommended by someone I trusted,  I would stick with independents with websites, and that significantly shortens the list of available places.  I am glad KOA sites are an option because you do always know what you are going to get, which is comforting.

On a totally different note: we worked out the showers.  You have a limited hot water tank so you need to take a few minutes and talk about how you are going to handle showers.  There are basically three options: take extremely short showers, use less water in the shower, or have a break between showers. We went with a combination of the first two.  Lee gets wet, turns the water off for soap and shampoo, then turns the water back on.  I take a pretty quick shower.  So everything works out fine.  The main point is: communicate about this in advance.  One more thing–if you both like a morning shower, make sure you save the breakfast dishes until after the showers are done! (Personally, I had a fool-proof plan which involved both of us taking a shower at the same time. Sadly, this would be impossible because the shower is very small. Our next camper will have fewer couches and a larger shower. – Lee)

Lessons Learned

  • Carry cash
  • Allergy season is different in different places, so be prepared with your medicine cabinet
  • Allow for extra time in your meal prep time calculations to get the fire hot
  • Chicken takes an hour to cook on a fire (no way around it that I’ve found, yet!)
  • ‘Wi-Fi’ doesn’t necessarily mean ‘usable Wi-fi’
  • Be extremely cautious when going to a campground with no website
  • Have a shower strategy and avoid the fight that happens after someone uses all the hot water
  • Save the breakfast dishes until after the showers are done

Campfire Wishbone Chicken 

  • 1/2 cup Wishbone Italian dressing
  • 5 chicken legs

1.  Pour salad dressing over chicken and let sit overnight in the refrigerator

2.  Get the campfire started and build up a nice base of coals

3.  Cook chicken on a flat grilling pan over fire for one hour, turning over at least every 10 minutes










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Trial Run – Saturday

 Trial Run – Day Two

It’s a good thing we went to bed early because we got up early. Very early. As in, the birds asked us to keep it down because they were trying to sleep. Excitement coupled with a desire to get started got us going.  I should say here in complete honesty Lee got me going.  (Yes, that’s true. – Lee) Lee is a very early riser, so for him a 5:30 rise time is normal, but for me on a weekend, not so much.  We got up and walked outside and it was so quiet.  I mean really quiet, like you never get to experience in a town, and I took a deep breath and smiled.  I had forgotten how much I liked the quiet.  Raising three kids and working at a job that requires non-stop communication with people (I am a project manager/efficiency expert) doesn’t allow for much genuine quiet.  It was a great feeling, but then the practicalities kicked in.  We had no coffee. No food. Some people can roll with these kind of things, but for me these are pretty basic requirements. So we got in the truck went back home and took showers and grabbed a bite to eat.  I know what you’re thinking, at this point we had spent precious little time actually at the campsite.  You would be right and it actually gets worse before it gets better!

Refreshed and ready to face the day we went back to the camper.  Of course it wasn’t even 8am yet, so I puttered around double checking the list and Lee worked on whatever it was that he needed to do. Finally it was time to go back to shopping!  We had picked up a lot of what we needed at Target, but it turned out that there a lot of things specific to a travel trailer that Target didn’t have. We needed to go to a store that specializes in camping and RVs.

The nearest camping store was 1-1/2 hours away in Chichester, near Concord, but we decided to make the drive and go to Camper’s World.  Camper’s World is definitely the place to go for RV camping specific supplies!  We had gone to outdoor/sports places and they have items but mostly these are for tent camping and the hard-core adventurer.  (As you are learning, we are not hard-core adventurers. – Lee) Camper’s World is for the RV traveler and our wish list got MUCH longer once we saw what they had to offer. One thing I want to mention here is their Good Sam club membership. It includes, for $69.95, tow assistance for both your vehicles and trailers.  Even if you have tow assistance on your current vehicle it may not cover the trailer, and I thought the coverage they provide was definitely a bargain for the corresponding piece of mind.  I also want to mention that this is where we blew our budget.  We had spent the bulk of the initial $1,000 on “household goods”, but Camping World had RV supplies, really a completely different category and I’ll be honest we completely blew the budget.  By the time we were done with initial expenses I think we hit about $1,800.  Also, measure everything before you go.  Spacial relationships are different in a camper than what you’re used to, and you’d be surprised how often things won’t fit. Below are some of the more interesting things we saw:

  • Carpet for the steps – Apparently camping is a bit dirty…who knew?  So as I was sweeping for the umpteenth time I realized we needed both mats and carpets steps to minimize the dirt. The people in my family will laugh to hear me say I was sweeping (I am not known as the cleanest person in the world) but it’s a small space and keeping it neat just makes sense.  But step carpeting for the RV was #1 on my list.  Unfortunately we hadn’t pre-measured so we had to delay this purchase until later
  • Electric jack – when we had the incident with not being able to get the camper unhitched poor Lee was cranking the trailer up and down and up and down.  I tried but it’s pretty hard to do, so electric jack is definitely high on our list of things to buy in the future
  • Paddy O’ Room –  This is a way to enclose your canopy.  VERY expensive and we did not buy one, but it did go on our wish list
  • New mattress – the mattress was really not working for me, but the ones they had for sale were in the $600 range.  Too much to spend without some comparison shopping and some thought.  While Queen sheets may work on a Queen short the mattress has to be specially made in order to take advantage of the storage space underneath.  It was good to know there were options, but this was something we would chew on.
  • Pioneer Grill – I love the fact that the camper has a three burner stove and an oven, but I wanted to try cooking on a campfire.  We had done some of this when we took the kids tent camping, but I love a fire and the challenge was appealing.  I did remember however what a pain it was to cook on uneven heat and saw a product I just had to try.  The campfire grill looked great in the box, but older and wiser now I knew it was a long shot.  Imagine my surprise when it worked great.  It is very heavy-duty and has a stake that sticks in the ground.  You can adjust the grill up or down over the fire and it comes with its own nice carry bag.  This product was great and absolutely lived up to its packaging. (Update:  we love this product.  It has totally held up and works at almost every campfire ring we have had.)

Finally done, it’s getting late again and by the time we stopped at the store it was 6pm.  I decided to try something simple, that I had never done before so I made chicken legs, corn on the cob, and sliced tomatoes.  We grill out a lot; hamburgers, steak, beef products, but never chicken, so I was in uncharted territory.  It took 1-1/2 hours to get the fire hot enough and cook the chicken but it tasted great and it was an easy start to my cooking adventures.  I should mention here that the camper has a real table and 4 chairs.  This was a huge selling point for Lee as he doesn’t like the little booths and we were both very happy sitting down to our first meal. (Seriously, take a look at the picture. Doesn’t that look better than some weird booth that turns into a bed? Who wants to sleep where people eat? Who wants to eat where people sleep? Give me a proper table and chairs, and I’m a happy man. – Lee)


Lessons Learned

  • Coffee, food, and showers are a minimum requirement (at least for us)
  • A trial run 15 minutes away was once again a brilliant idea.
  • Budget for the money you will need to equip the camper
  • The lighter, cheaper, less expensive option is often best
  • When purchasing always think about storage and space
  • Don’t skimp on the can opener
  • Know what matters to you and don’t skimp on those items.  Everything else bargain shop
  • Invest in trailer roadside assistance.  The piece of mind is worth the price.
  • Be prepared to go over budget.
  • Measure everything in the camper (interior and exterior) before going shopping.


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