New Camper!

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So, like I said, we planned to buy a new camper NEXT year, in 2017. But in January, we went to the Boat and RV show at the fairgrounds. After camping for 2 years we know better now what we really want, and what we DON’T. Although we did not go in with high expectations, we found a few models that we just kept thinking about.

The RV dealer kept the Show pricing going for a few weeks, and we made a few trips over. We kept coming back to two models in particular, and the more we looked at them (on the coldest, windiest day of the year) the more we just fell in love with one in particular.

It was by a maker we had never heard of – Grand Design.Our model is an Imagine 2800BH. Apparently Grand Design used to only make toy haulers, but expanded to travel trailers. We just loved everything about it, nowhere did we have to settle. It gave us more than we expected everywhere, and with the Show discount we saved about $10,000.

So after we brought it home, we got our old camper to sell and posted it. To refresh your memory:

We posted it on Craigslist for what we had in it, and immediately had multiple offers. The very first couple who looked at it drove off with it. From the time I posted it until it was off our property was 2 hours! So, out with the old, in with the new! We camped 19 times in three years and travelled 1,685 miles with our old camper. It was a perfect starter camper for us.

We leapt forward 36 years in RV technology in one bound! We had to learn how to operate everything. Also, our new camper required a weight distribution hitch with sway bars, which we never had before, so that had a learning curve.

An unexpected problem reared its head early on. Our old camper was 25 feet long.Our new one is 30′ bow to stern, 32′ with the tongue, so it didn’t fit in the same spot in the driveway. We decided to add more gravel and expand our driveway beside our pole barn. That way it is out of the way, and we can keep it plugged in to shore power. Here is our driveway before:

And after:

40 tons of gravel. Looks great, right? Small problem. Instead of delivering crushed limestone gravel, which is sharp, oddly shaped, and locks together like puzzle pieces; they delivered 80,000 pounds of round river rock. So now, instead of a flat hard surface to drive on, my entire 200 foot driveway was like loose marbles. When you WALKED on it you sank in up to your ankles! Forget trying to back a camper up it, uphill! At first I got the camper stuck sideways in the driveway blocking the garage and the truck stuck in the yard, buried in the mud up to the axles.

Eventually we got the camper straight and the truck unstuck, but the best we could do is put the camper halfway up the driveway straight and drive around it:

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Eventually, little by little the driveway has compacted down and firmed up. This past weekend I managed to get it halfway beside the pole barn before the truck bogged down in the loose stone. Eventually I hope to rent a plate compactor and spread some lime dust and pack it all down really well. In the mean-time, it is workable.

So, now we started personalizing the camper and making little improvements. From simple decoration:

To more practical concerns:

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Nowhere to hang a coat? There is now!

 

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What doofus builds a bathroom without TOWELL BARS? Where are you supposed to put your towells?

We usually camp with our small dog, Tessie. We don’t want her claws to snag the screen door so we added this panel. I am going to replace it soon with clear plexiglas cut to the proper size:mods

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And mundane mods: A place to hang a broom, something to keep stuff in place while traveling:

I have also began some more functional modifications, but more on those later. Now we are ready to camp for the first time in 2016, and in April, we did!

NEXT: First time camping in the new camper.

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Last camping trips of 2015

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So in September we boondocked at the Delaware County Fair again. That was fun and it wasn’t as cold as the previous year. Unfortunately once again I didn’t get any pictures. Julia’s sister brought her camper and with ours made a little compound. Julia’s mom and her sister and the kids spent a lot of time there that whole week, and I finally got to stay the night once. I volunteered for my company in our booth in the vendor building, just talking to the public, handing out OhioHealth goodies, etc. Always fun.

I had to stop by after work one day and pick up the kids and it happened to be on Jug day. The Little Brown Jug is the name of the largest sulky horse race in the U.S. A sulky is a little two-wheel carriage that is hitched to the horse, also called “harness racing”. The whole town of Delaware is flooded on the days before and after the race with all kinds of fesitvals and activities. When I picked up the kids that day the traffic was insane! I think it took me 90 minutes to get in from town and another 90 or so to get out. Lesson learned: AVOID JUG DAY!

We also had problems when we went to leave. To get into the fairgrounds you have to set-up a few days before the fair starts and pick up your camper a few days after the fair is over. We had to keep going back to get ours, because every other truck and trailer in the campgrounds left one by one, except the guy who set up his camper right in front of mine blocking access to my hitch! We even had to call the fairgrounds office a few times, but maybe a week later we finally got it done.

Then in October, we camped back at Deer Creek with my coworker Dave and his wife Angela. Dave doesnt own a camper, just a tent. Nathaniel also set up his tent on our site and we got adjoining sites with a nice large area between for a common area.

That friday night, Dave and Angela introduced us to Cards Against Humanity. Lee and Tracy Perkins, our full-timing friends, had blogged about that game a few years ago but we had never played. That was a blast! It was mid-October, though, so the nights were chilly!

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All food tastes better outside!

 

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Tessie was also cold, but loves to snuggle!

So we didn’t camp as many times in 2015, but we tried to make the trips longer and better. We also held a hard line at paying for all trips cash! In 2014 we were so excited to get out camping that unfortunately a lot of the expenses went on plastic. That added up fast!

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One of my favorite things to do camping is just looking at the trees. Like John Candy said in The Great Outdoors: “I just see trees”.

So we ended 2015 feeling like camping pros. We had a great set-up and hitch-up routine, had experiences ups and downs and felt confident in our ability to navigate the camping lifestyle. Our plan was to get through one more year of camping with our old Shasta camper, then in late 2016 or early 2017 buy a new camper. That was the PLAN! 🙂

Five days of fun in the sun

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Our other favorite campground is Dogwood Valley Jellystone. Jellystone is a National chain, like KOA. We camped there in 2014 and were amazed at how clean and well kept the park is. It is more like a resort. Next year we hope to seasonally camp, and it will either be at Autumn Lakes or here.

We camped for five days, which was a first for us and amazing. However, the trip started off bumpy. When we got there and hooked up, we lost power after a few minutes. The breakers in the camper and at the pillar were good. Our electrical plug had been falling apart for some time. Our camper was 35 years old, and instead of a molded plug like modern campers, this one was screwed together of several pieces of brittle plastic. I took it apart and it needed rewired. I wasn’t planning on having to do this in the field, but I pressed on. I got it done, and STILL no power. So I decided to replace the plug.

Here is where the adventure started. The camp store was large but mostly full of overpriced souvenirs and didn’t have it. So we drove into town (Mount Gilead) and checked at the mom and pop hardware store. No dice. No camping stuff at all, which I found a little surprising that close to a major campground.

So we asked around and were referred to a mom and pop RV dealership way out in the sticks. So glad we found this place, they had everything we could need. Got the plug and met the husband and wife owners who were great. Got back to the campground and fixed the plug.

STILL no power. At this point I was sure it was NOT our camper so I called down to the office. They sent out a guy on a Gator, and it turns out our bad plug tripped a breaker on a pole (a tree, really) down the road about 150′ from our campsite and about 10 feet in the air. I never would have found that.

This was August so all of this happened on our first set-up day in 90+ degree heat so when we were done 3 hours later I was pretty pooped! We also had a nice feature we had never had before at our campsite – cable TV!

Our dinette during the day converts to my bed at night, with TV!

I knew they had cable so I brought a length of coax but it was not long enough. I bought more coax in the camp store, but it wasn’t long enough either, and they didn’t sell connectors so you could join two lengths together (what we AV professionals call RF or Coax “barrels” or female-female couplers, which sounds dirty but isn’t!) So this caused another run into town.

Mount Gilead is a quaint little town. I like it a lot. The local Radio Shack is housed inside a combination drug store/ice cream shop. I had to dig DEEP in the drawers of connectors and finally found ONE coax barrel. Voila! Cable TV!

The rest of the trip went great. The kids played on the water slides, beach or pool all day. Nathaniel went canoeing and used the gym. On Sunday, Julia’s sister and her family came out and we all spent the day at the beach in the water.

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It was on this trip that we started using our recycle containers. I always felt bad enjoying the outdoors and then throwing all the cans and bottles in the trash. No more!
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I always seem to take lots of pictures of trees and leaves when I camp!

Fourth of July Camping at our Favorite Spot!

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So in our admittedly small sample size of campgrounds, two stand out. On Fourth Of July weekend, we like to camp at one of those – Autumn Lakes in Galena. They have their own fireworks display! That isn’t the only reason we love it there, though.

It is fairly close to our house. There is so much to do there: they have kayaks and paddle boats, a petting zoo, pizzas delivered to your campsite on fridays, home-made fudge, an on-site day spa, fishing, a dog park, etc. The weekender and seasonal sites are totally separated. Most of all, the owners are constantly improving it, and are very friendly and easy to work with.

Last July we camped for four days, and we tried our first pull-through site, which was nice. The kids made friends with another brother/sister who were their ages and played together all day. They spent a lot of time in the pool or doing arts & crafts with them, or watching movies in the shelter house, etc. Sometimes they would just ride bikes or play corn hole, whatever. The kids had a great time.

Julia went CRAZY cooking on the fire. We had steaks, chicken, burgers, brats. So much food. You know it will be a day I always remember when I can say “I think I’ll have another steak or two”. SO GOOD!

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Our $30 fire tripod we got at Lehmans in Kidron. The one we wanted was $300!! We bought this one instead and I jury-rigged the cooking surface with miscellaneous hardware.
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Us eating one of Julia’s many delicious fire-cooked meals!
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Fireworks over the lake.
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These shotgun shells lit up like Christmas lights. This was on the camp store. I thought this was a cool idea!

Anyway, it was a great holiday weekend and we love going back!

Camping with Full Timers

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So in June we camped for the first time at Alum Creek state park. My friends Lee and Tracy Perkins who full time were on their way through Columbus and stopped for a week or so to visit with friends and family. It was great to see them in person after so long, and to see their camper and get a glimpse of their lifestyle up close. They blog about their experiences and I always look forward to seeing what they are doing. You can read their blog at camperchronicles.com. Actually it was their blog that partially inspired me to write this one!

We really enjoyed Alum Creek. Our campsite backed up to a little pond, and the sites were very wooded and private. We are looking forward to camping there again. It was here that Julia really got deeply into cooking our meals overthe campfire with the wrought-iron tripod that we bought at Lehman’s in Kidron.

We did have a little trouble on this trip. Haley was riding her bike and got lost in the campground, which is pretty big. Fortunately, we had just gotten her a little wrist-band cell phone device and she called me. She was scared but she did the right thing and stayed put until I found her, which was pretty easy because this device had a GPS locator on it so i opened the app on my phone and essentially walked right to her. Pretty cool, technology saves the day!

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Most of the camping loops were connected by paths. I saw this huge tree while walking one and thought it was very interesting looking.

Unfortunately, when I visited with Lee and Tracy it was Lee’s mom’s birthday, so I felt self-conscious about invading their privacy and taking pics, so I didn’t and I have none. Tracy took lots, though, and posted it on her page under “First Time RV’ing In Columbus”.

 

 

Work Camping Retreat

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So our second camping trip of 2015 was a few weeks later. In mid May we camped at Deer Creek state park with all of my coworkers. We had a work retreat. My family, plus the families of my coworkers Mike, Adam and Amy all brought our trailers. Dave tent camped, Bob and his family stayed in the park Lodge, and my director Kara and her family drove down for the day. We had an all-day retreat, then a party that night.

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After dinner friday night we played a pick-up game of touch football. This pic was taken shortly before my coworker Dave, who was blocking me from rushing the QB, knocked me flat on my ass.

That afternooon we all went to the shooting range at Deer Creek. Everyone in my department has our concealed carry permits, and Dave was the certifying instructor for five of us. My director Kara had never shot before, and in a few hours she worked her way up from single-shot .22 pistol to high-powered rifle.

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My coworkers and friends from left Adam, Bob, Pete, Kara, Mike, Amy and Dave.

Saturday night we had dinner and just enjoyed each others company. Our VP even came down to hang out for awhile, and even brought stuff for the kids, which was great. The really cool thing was seeing all the kids playing together.

I am very fortunate to work with friends, and we really enjoy camping together. This was one of those trips that created a lot of stories and cherished memories. Trips like this one are what life is all about!

 

 

First Camping Trip of the season – Hickory Grove Lake campground

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Our “very shady” campsite, between two half-dead trees! Actually, it turned out to be a great site.

So, we spent several weeks getting the camper ready. There was damage to repair, missing parts to replace, and dewinterizing to be done. It was Mother’s Day weekend and Julia chose a campground we had never been to before. It was less than a half-hour drive from home. At first we were disappointed in our “very shady” campsite, but actually it turned out great. We were right next to the playground, which Haley used a lot, and were quite close to the lake. The lake is gorgeous.

Hickory Grove Lake
Hickory Grove Lake
The beach.
The beach.

The kids loved playing at the beach, Julia fed the fishes and loved watching the baby goslings, and Nathaniel had a ball kayaking.

The mommy and daddy geese would hiss if you got close, and honk like crazy at dawn!
The mommy and daddy geese would hiss if you got close, and honk like crazy at dawn!

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Friday night we were all tired, and we were able to find a place to deliver pizza and breadsticks to the front gate, which was awesome. Saturday Haley did a craft while I took Nathaniel to one of his baseball games.

Julia cooked us lunch – hamburgers cooked over the fire. They were awesome.

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It was 80+ degrees the whole weekend and we did run the A/C nearly non-stop, but even still we spent most of the time outside. We took a lot of walks, and found some nice sites to seasonally camp, and some awesome ones to weekend camp at, the next time we camp here.

Nathaniel rounds home.
Nathaniel rounds home.

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Queen Tessie, the Poot.
Queen Tessie, the Poot.

11216356_10204185321218011_1544133009_n One odd thing. The campground had an automated gate and to get back in you needed a coded gate card. To get it you needed to put down a $10 deposit, but they did return our deposit fast and offered to stay up late if they needed to.

When we went to leave, at the dump station I discovered the locking ring had come off the end of our sewer hose and I had not noticed. Fortunately the ring itself was in a tub in the back of the truck so it just took a few minutes with some improvised tools to re-attach it, but after that the procedure went smoothly. When we got home, we let Julia go in and relax while we did all of the unloading and unpacking so she could enjoy her Mother’s Day.

We are already looking forward to our next trip, at the end of the month!