Almost On The Road Again

Well it is time for my second camping trip.  The dogs are ready and don’t seem to understand why we are still here when I started going in and out of the camper yesterday.  They know what is coming yet I haven’t loaded them in the truck yet. I think they worry that I might forget them.  That won’t happen as I can’t imagine going without them. Bones at the campsiteTomorrow.  Yes, I will wait until the day I had originally planned to leave.

I have my pre-camping checklist, thanks to several You-tube videos.  I will pretty much start working on the items later today.  I use OneNote for all my checklists, camping, work related, shopping.  It is great! I can update it from my tablet, phone, or computer.  I have generic checklists for my packing up, getting ready to leave, and setting up camp.  I even started one for this trip with the meals I planned, groceries I need to pack when the refrigerator is cold, places I want to visit, and items I need to pack, all in one spot.  I have always used lists and having them available on my phone is so great. I will make up paper copies of the regular camping checklists for when I am out of cell range and post them in my camper after I get them laminated.

This trip is to Brighton State Park in, of all places, Brighton Vermont.  There are no hookups.  I will bring a couple jugs of water for the toilet while I am traveling.  I have done a fair amount of primitive camping with my brother in the pop-up so I am not concerned about not having water or sewer hookups.  I wish there was power to plug in my devises but I will have an inverter or converter, I can’t remember which is which,  installed eventually to remedy that issue.

I am excited about this trip but not nervous as I was before my trip to Bar Harbor.  I have done many of the firsts and understand some of the ins and outs of my camper.  This trip will be different because other than Oreo, Aurora and Bones, no one will be joining me on this trip.  While I really enjoy exploring and having adventures with my friend Jeni, I am single and there is a certain thrill of stepping out alone.

Camping Alone, well sort of….

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I was wondering how I would do camping alone.  I have been camping for three years with my brother in a pop-up but now I am beginning a new chapter in my camping adventures.  I will be camping with my dogs in a travel trailer.  My brother married and is starting new adventures with his new wife.  I know I am able to do whatever needs to be done but the dogs are not much of a backup when it comes to setting up camp, doing maintenance, or starting things like water heaters.  I am good at talking myself into massive canyons of self-doubt and I find my negative self-talk dangles me over those canyons on a regular basis.

My first trip was to Bar Harbor, ME.  Friends and I were going to travel up the same day but as I covered in another blog, I didn’t wait.  I left four days before we were initially planned to leave.  It was empowering and exhilarating to strike out on my own.  I have been a widow since 1999 and have become quite independent in many ways but each new step invokes a little trepidation.

I enjoyed the trip which took longer than originally planned because I didn’t want to travel main roads.  I like the journey as well as the destination.  I like seeing small towns that are missed on the divided highways that are designed to get you to your destination in the shortest time possible. One problem I discovered was it is not quite so easy to park and explore when you are pulling a 24’ travel trailer.  By the time you find someplace that will accommodate your needs you are well beyond the cute villages and towns.

I did find that adding Bones, my daughter-in-law’s min-pin to the mix made walks more difficult.  Bones wants to be alpha and pulls and winds to try to accomplish that end.  It makes walks more of a task as leashes tangle and twist.  My two dogs are littermates and walk well together, providing we don’t see any other dogs.  I did find I was not as inclined to jump out of the truck and take a walk with him along and with the travel trailer to consider.  It is something we will have to work on.  Bones and his owners live with me and he is part of the pack.  He would not understand being left behind.

I was concerned that I would not be as inclined to explore with just the dogs but I found that was not the case.  We got out and went exploring and I met so many neat people along the way.  I rediscovered what I guess I have always known, you are only alone if you choose to be.  There are people everywhere who are willing to say hi and stop for a brief, or not so brief, conversation.

All in all I have to conclude I do like camping alone.  I also enjoy camping with friends.  Life is good.

Starting Early

20170601_154930It is getting nerve wracking waiting to leave on my first trip.  I just added an extra day to my reservation.  After this first trip I will be more relaxed about traveling but until then ….. Until I have backed into my space for the first time……………  Until I have put down the awning………  Until I light the water heater…………… Until I have done all the firsts…..

It all got the best of me.  After I wrote the above paragraph I called to extend my reservation to include Sunday and found out since I had five nights paid for I could have two free, a pre-season special.  I went from checking in on Monday to checking in on Friday.  It was Thursday.  I decided to start and drive to North Conway, NH to a Camping World store located there.  I planned to stay over in a nearby Walmart.

One thing about being spontaneous …. Check and make sure the Wal-Marts in the area­­­­ allow overnight parking.  North Conway, NH doesn’t allow any overnight parking in any parking lots. The plan was to visit Camping World.  I ended up driving to outside Portland, ME where I found a Wal-Mart parking lot I could utilize. Needless to say I didn’t backtrack to Camping World.  I will order online which is probably better.  I won’t be as tempted to buy more than I need that way.

It is nice having a bed and bathroom moving behind you for those times when you get very, very, tired. Having three dogs with me helped me feel secure. They are not aggressive, unless you are another dog, but I was rather surprised that they didn’t seem to be bothered by the noise outside the camper in the parking lot.  I was concerned that they might bark when they heard people talking but they didn’t.  It did take me a while to settle in and fall asleep, but I finally did and got a good four or five hours sleep.

What a confidence booster it was just to start early and sleep in a parking lot. Starting from Portland to Bar Harbour on Friday I was much more relaxed.  I was still excited but it was not a nervous excitement.  I am so glad I started early!

As you can see in the picture above Bones is not so sure about this camper thing.  It is his first camping trip but as long as his hero Oreo is along he figures it will be fine.

Hadley’s Point Campground, Bar Harbour, Maine

I picked the right campground for my maiden voyage with my camper and with my dogs. I have not camped alone since I took my now 44-year old son camping for his 2nd birthday.  The last three years I camped with my brother Joe in a pop-up which was fun but different than camping with a 24’ travel trailer. The people here are so friendly and helpful.

When I reached Hadley’s Point Campground I was pleased to find they help you get into your site   I have been practicing my backing but it was nice to have someone tell me which way to go.  They have a policy to guide everyone to their sites. The owner told me they even would back in the camper for you.  That was not what I wanted.  I want to learn independence with my camper, not dependence.  When I couldn’t figure out how to light my water heater they came over and showed me. The lessons on YouTube talked about a red button.  Don’t you know it there is no red button on my water heater. It turns out you have to turn the dial beyond pilot and hold it for a short while after you light the pilot. The pilot lite but I didn’t get any hot water so I turned it off and decided that I would simply shower at the bathhouse and heat the water on the stove or fire to wash dishes.

Eric, the owner of the park, stopped by to introduce himself the third day I was at the campground.  I told him how great it was Friday when his people came over to show me how to start the water heater. When I mentioned it didn’t work he said he would be right back and he went and got his tools.  He started the water heater and found out that I had switched it to bypass and was only getting water from the fresh water tank.  He showed me how to hook up the water as city water.  I had thought it needed to go through the fresh water tank.  Turns out that there is a connection where “city water” attaches to the camper and I don’t have to mess with the fresh water tank at all.  Had I known that I would not have had to buy and extra length of hose.  Oh well there must be a reason why I bought the extra hose.

While he was here Eric came in and showed me how the furnace and air conditioner work. He told me it is good to run them frequently even if you don’t need the heat or cooling.  It keeps them “happy” is what he told me, but not in a condescending way. When I asked him how much I owed him for all his help he told me nothing.

When I went to get wood one of the men who had helped me light my water heater the first day came over to carry the wood for me.  Wow!  These people under promise and over deliver.  He even apologized when he found out the water heater hadn’t worked and said he should have stopped back by to check on me.  I don’t expect that kind of help and sometimes I would take issue with someone offering to help me like that because I can carry my own wood, but other times I know when to let people help me.

I will be so much better prepared for my next trip because of all they have taught me and because I found out what I needed in the camper and hadn’t purchased before the trip, like a broom and dustpan.  My dogs shed a lot of hair and I can’t get them to wipe their feet before coming inside so a broom and dustpan are a must.

I would highly recommend this campground to anyone going into the Bar Harbour area.

Getting Ready for My First Trip

A week until my first trip with the camper. I am so excited! I have been waiting to begin for months. I must admit that there is a little trepidation creeping in as I think about moving away from the safety nets I have in place where I live. I have driven some long trips in a car but I was several years younger, which I am finding out makes a difference. As much as I think of myself as self-reliant, I realize that I have talked myself into feeling unsure of my abilities. I didn’t know this whole adventure was also going to be a journey into discovering who I am, again.
Anyway, I started buying the items I deemed needed for the camper like dishes, hoses, tiki torches, etc. The more I purchase the more I feel I need but I am only purchasing the things I cannot borrow from the house, for the most part. It is kind of fun to be setting up something that is just to my tastes and needs. My dogs don’t care what kind of dishes I have or about the bedding. They only care that there is room for them and that they are with me.
I went out and slept in the camper last week to test out the bed. It was more comfortable than I had anticipated although I think I will get a memory foam topper just for added comfort.
I finally found the fuse box today. It is amazing how empowered I felt with that one discovery. I have de-winterized the camper, and rinsed the tanks. My checklists are added to one note. The games are packed. The meals are planned.
The problem is going to be waiting until Sunday to leave. I don’t check into the campground until Monday but I am going to take a more scenic route through New Hampshire and try parking lot camping for one night. I found an app called Overnight Parking Finder and plan to use to locate a place to stay overnight.
I will only have a 3-hour drive on Monday. That way I won’t be so tired when I get to the campground. It will be my first setup with this camper so it will take longer. Since I will be arriving ahead of my friends, I am cooking Monday night.

Learning to back up

The picture above is of my truck and trailer. The trailer is 24′ and I haven’t measured the truck yet, although I will have to before I book the ferry from Bridport, Ct to Long Island. If you look closely through the windows you can see two of my three copilots. Two of them are excited to be going camping again.
The guy in the front seat has not had the experience yet but I am sure he will adapt. I am looking forward to having a camper that will contain my furry friends if I am kayaking.

It has been a long while since I backed up a travel trailer and even longer since I backed a trailer with a full size truck. Until I bought my Ford F-150 4X4 a couple months ago, I never backed up a full sized truck with a crew cab. That makes a huge difference. Needless to say there is a learning curve. My son backed up tractor trailers through garage doors on the job so I asked him to come along and give me some tips.

We went to a parking lot that was completely empty and I practiced backing the trailer. The first day was hard and I had fair amount of difficulty but all practice helps. I learned a few things and was pleased with myself. The practice began to ease the trepidation I felt when I thought about backing up the trailer in a campground, or in the driveway when I am on my own.

I have a short driveway to park in at home. The road is also only two lanes in front of the house with a steep upward embankment that is on the shoulder of the road across from the driveway. I inserted the pictures to show the challenges. The trailer is within two feet of the garage and is just a few feet from the road. Kind of like backing into a campsite. Well I had to pull forward a couple of times to change direction or angle but I got it in and it was fairly straight. What a confidence builder success is!

The second day we practiced with cones that I was to back between. It went much better and I was actually able to back into a parking space almost consistently, even though I had to pull forward to adjust a few times. We practiced where I had to rely on the mirrors from both sides of the truck. I like relying on the mirrors on the driver’s side better because I can also look out the window and see where the trailer is. That isn’t possible when you are relying on mirrors on the passenger side of the truck.

We placed duct tape on the truck and trailer so I could tell where the hitch lined up. It gives me an additional visual to work with when I hook up. Additionally we put some tape on both sides of the trailer that will show only when I am as close to a jackknife as I want to be.

When we got home however I had to back into the drive relying on the mirrors from the passenger side of the truck. The first day I approached the drive from a different direction. I back the truck into our driveway using the passenger mirror all the time but it is more difficult with the trailer for some reason. I did get it in rather easily although it was about a foot from where I wanted it

I will want to practice some more before I hit the road for my first camping adventure alone next month. Long term I plan to have back up cameras installed on the trailer and truck but right now I am going to have to practice backing the old fashion way.

The adventure begins

In April of 1999 my husband, Frank, and I bought an 18′ tag along. The long range plan was to camp around the country.  In truth, I don’t know if Frank would have really enjoyed that but perhaps if music festivals were thrown in along the way, perhaps he would have.  We used the camper once to camp at a music festival called Merle Fest in N. Wilksboro, NC.  We spent several days camped in the grounds of a local community college where the festival was held.  Other than sleeping in the camper at my son’s home in Charlotte, NC that was the only time we were able to get away together.  In August 1999 Frank died suddenly.  I was not able to tolerate staying in the camper after he died and ended up giving it to friends a few years later. One of the characters on a Madame Secretary episode recently quoted Kierkegaard ” The most painful state of being is remembering the future.”  I lost my future when Frank died and the camper was just too potent a reminder.

I never gave up the idea of camping around the country.  A few years ago my brother, Joe, and I bought a pop-up camper and outfitted it.  We camped in state parks in Vermont and also included some trips to New Hampshire and Maine.

The pop-up was an inexpensive way to get into camping but as I age, having to walk to bathrooms in the middle of the night became old.  I wanted a tag along with a bathroom again.  Joe married last year so the small pop up wasn’t going to allow enough room any longer and the walks to the bathrooms became longer each year we camped.

Another incident enforced the fact I wanted a hard sided camper.  Joe and I camped with my two dogs, Oreo and Aurora. In June 2016 we were camping at Mt. Ascutney and decided to go kayaking on the Connecticut  River.  We carried a metal dog crate for times like these.  The crate was collapsible but when in use zip strips needed to be added to the sides or they would push their way out and while they were in the camper they knew how to get out.  When we returned from the river our camping neighbor told us that the dogs had escaped 15 minutes after we left. We had been gone for hours!  They found a spot where the strips had not been added and pushed out.  I was frantic.  They are sweet dogs but they are dog agressive.  We got back to the site and spent about 30 minutes looking for them.  Aurora returned to the campsite first.  Usually they stay together, as they are litter mates, but Oreo had apparently decided to search further than his sister.  We finally located him down near the office.  Thankfully there had not been any encounter with other dogs as it was a Monday and the park was almost empty.

Recently I purchased a Ford F-150 that would be able to pull a small camper easily.  I found a 24′ unit locally and purchased it as well. I bought my truck on Friday.  I had been driving a Ford Focus so stepping up to a full sized truck with a crew cab challenged my skills.  It has been over 20 years since I had driven a truck this size.  The following Thursday I bought the camper.  Again I had driven a truck with a large landscape trailer in the 90’s but that was a while ago.  Pulling the camper was no problem but backing it up proved to be a bit of a challenge.

I tied up traffic and my neighbor’s drive way as I tried to remember how to back up a truck with a trailer attached.  My first attempt to park perpendicular to my house ended up with it almost horizontal to the house and wiped out one of my birdfeeders.  The second attempt  fared a little better but the trailer was still angled at about a 45 degree angle but closer to where I wanted it.  Frustrated at that point I decided to leave it the way it was and plan for some practice in a empty parking lot at some point down the line.  I used to be able to back a large landscape trailer through a 9′ gate so I have no doubts that I just need some practice, and watch a few more youtube videos.

Book Review

 

RVing With Pets by Sunny Skye.  Purchased on Amazon for $3.99.

While there were a few good suggestions about camping with pets, I guess I expected more. The book was more like a pamphlet than a book. It might have been worth the cost if it was $.99 or maybe even $1.99 but not $3.99.  I have been camping with both dogs and cats so to be fair I had traversed some of the challenges that can occur when traveling with furry friends and this may impact on my opinion regarding purchase price.

I really appreciated the information on medical considerations.  I guess I had not really considered the possible first aide needs of my furry friends and that there may be different considerations attached to such a kit. The medical requirements provided about taking your pets into Canada was particularly helpful since I was not sure what was required and I am planning a trip into Canada soon.

I did like the authors writing style and bits of humor. Her discussions were easy to follow and concise. I appreciate the effort and time Ms. Skye expended on this book and purchased other books she published that I will be reading.

Overall I appreciate the author’s insights into camping with pets.  For a person who has not dipped their toes into that experience this book might be just the thing.  For the more initiated, this book might not be worth the expense.