This past weekend I took a long weekend and got to try out some of my latest additions and modifications at the Colorado River RV Park in Columbus Texas with my Thousand Trails camping pass. I was able to enjoy the weekend and not spend it working on the camper or fixing things, so that was a big step. All in all I am happy with how things are working on the camper, but I do still need to make some small tweaks before striking off across the country.
Many things worked really well though. My attempts to streamline the set up and tear down improved the trip a lot. Packing to leave was super easy. I only had to pack food and clothes the night before because everything else was already set and ready to go. I still had to lock up and pack things like the power cord and chock blocks, but by making everything self contained on the trailer I didn’t have to pack a lot in the Escape before leaving and was hooked up and ready to go in about 15 minutes. It was so easy in fact that I spent the entire drive there worried that I had forgotten something important. Spoiler alert, I didn’t.
Once I got there I was also able to get everything setup and unpacked in about 30 minutes. Longer than I really wanted but I had some issues. The first being that once I again, I forgot how DARK it gets outside of the city, so being able to see to back up and find everything was a challenge. Of course I gave up on backing up and just unhooked and rolled it into place with the help of someone at the campground. Now, I know I shouldn’t depend on this as my setup method or that someone will be there to help me, but really people are campgrounds are nice and helpful so I don’t feel that I will ever have a lack of help if I really needed it.
My next issue was that I did not get close enough to the power and water box. This is something I have to remember in the future. In order to store the water hoses in the PVC pipe I had to go with shorter hoses, which work perfectly fine, I just have to make sure I am close to the hookup. Unfortunately I did not realize I was not close enough until after I had the chock blocks and the stabilizers down. It wasn’t a huge deal to move them and back it up, but it’s something a check list for setup could prevent in the future.
Once I got the outside setup the inside was very easy to organize thanks to the small additions I made last time. The small table for my phone also worked well for my kindles and chargers. That may not seem like a big deal, but in a super small space, any functional storage you can add is huge. Best of all, I was able to run the cord between the table and AC cabinet and it never got pulled out or unplugged.
The side table I added just inside the door was wonderful as well. It gave me a place for books, cups, ect. as well as a place to put my purse inside the drawer. The drawer could also be accessed from the side so it was a great place for remote controls, medicine, hand lotions and lip gloss. All things that I was just cramming in any available space I could find before.
The rug was such a simple addition that just made things more pleasant. I was not picking leaves and dirt off the bed all weekend.
After testing out the advice of a previous camper I mounted the water heater on a screw used to hold the handles on the front of the camper and glory, hallelujah I had hot water! See my previous blog post of more about this heater and tips to make it work. After it got cold the second day I saw that my next step in the evolution of the shower will be to winterize it. It does not matter how hot you get the water when it is 50 degrees outside.
Another addition I am really happy with it the bike rack. It was very easy to get the bike on and off and and the anti-sway bars of the Jack-It made for a very smooth ride. I do think I am going to change how I carry it though and move it to the back of the rack, so it rides between the bike rack frame and camper. Mounting on the front it gets a little to close for comfort to the Escape on tight turns and I actually can’t open the hatch all the way with it there. A minor change though. I was very happy to have the bike becasue this campground is very large and it allowed for ease of getting around without having to drive everywhere.
Our first morning started out super early because, in case you didn’t know, squirrels are assholes. When I arrived I was told I could pick any spot, so I picked one close to a large tree for shade. We slept all night in perfect peace and quite, but right around the time the sun was coming up we were woke up by what sounded like someone shooting at the camper. It was not of course, it was squirrels dropping pecans on us from the tree I just had to park under becasue, squirrels are assholes. It was ok because it was the most perfect weather you could have and we were ok with getting up. It was around 68 and overcast, perfect for outdoor cooking.
Another purchase I made since my last trip was an RV mat. If you are not familiar with them, they are not a rug. This is a major issue on the Amazon reviews becasue they have poor reviews from people who did not realize what they bought. It is a large mat made of plastic that is used outside of RVs in place of a rug. They are superior to a traditional rug because they are lighter, can be easily cleaned and dry faster than a regular rug. This seemed to please Miss Priss since she didn’t have to stoop to laying in the dirt. She used it to watch the squirrels above and steal the pecans they dropped before they could make it down to them. I discovered that she seems to only like pecans when she takes them from squirrels. There were a lot that were knocked out of the tree from wind over the weekend but she didn’t care about them. It was only the ones the squirrels had that were good.
One great thing about this campground was the large amounts of space. Our view from the kitchen and porch was wide open space. There was also plenty of space between the campsites, which I really prefer. It also helped with sleeping because every noise in the campground wasn’t right outside our door so she didn’t have to sound the alarm every 20 minutes.
The only issue with the campground section I was in that they lost some site to Hurricane Harvey. By that I mean they literally lost them. I thought when the ranger told me they lost some that meant the power maybe didn’t work or weren’t in good shape at the time, but no she meant they were gone. They have fallen off into the Colorado River in a giant landslide at the end of the park.
One of the most amazing things about this campground is the deer. Luckily I had Bella the Great Hunter on a long leash at the site the first time they showed up because she took off in attack mode as soon as she saw them. They will get amazingly close, even going right up the screen door of someone’s camper across the path.
Bella felt that she was not getting enough attention on this trip and made it know that she was displeased. She started on day one with jumping in my lap every time I sat down. If you have never had a 30 lb, short legged dog jump in your lap without warning, let me tell you, it’s not pleasant. I made her a deal that she could stay as long as I could use her as a table.
Of course I would inevitably have the nerve to want to do other things and make her get down. Instead of sitting on the mat or her camp bed, she would lay in the grass in her most pathetic position she could manage.
The real fun of the trip started Saturday when a cold front came in. It started blowing in in the morning and it was somewhat windy but manageable. By noon it was about to blow everything away. It caught the rain cover of the tail veil and pulled it completely off and was rough enough to catch the screen house and knock over the crate and breakfast center. After lunch I gave up and took it off and just tried to weigh it down to see if the wind would let up.
The big excitement at the campground was Saturday afternoon. This was when the wind started getting rough and we all got to watch the main power box for our section spark, explode and burn, multiple times. This gave me the opportunity to test out my boon-docking capabilities. It wasn’t a bug deal to anyone else there becasue they all had generators, but it made me think about looking into options for back up power sooner than later. I learned that I can run on battery with the refrigerator, lights, phone chargers, the coffee pot and heater for 2 days. The power actually was not out for 2 days, I just forgot to turn the breaker back on when it was so it was an unintentional test. Consequently I was not making any effort to conserve the battery so I think it did well.
Once the front moved in and the temperature dropped there was a brief break in the wind and I tried to put the tail veil and rain cover back up. It held for a little while and I was able to cook dinner before I had to abandon it all together. I did learn that the rain cover is pretty well sealed and without heavy winds I think it will work well to hold in the heat from cooking. Once I gave up on it, it was cold and there was no way my food was going to stay warm outside. That was ok though because I was prepared for just such an occasion. This meal inside was a drastic change from my first meal in the teardrop of chips and salsa on a book.
Before going on this trip I knew it was supposed to get cold so I went ahead and got a heater. I decided on a small Honeywell ceramic, 250 Watt personal heater. Since the cabin is literally the size of a queen size bed, I knew I didn’t need anything big and this was $16 from Amazon. I would highly recommend it for a teardrop camper. The first night I turned it on high and woke up around 2:30 am and had to turn it down because it was 78 degrees inside. It is very small and light and fits in the inside cabinets so I can leave it in it all the time. It also has a safety switch on the bottom so that if it gets knocked over it will turn off. Although I have a tray table to set it on, I think it would work just as well in one of the end cabinets left open.
Most of Saturday was spent at the campsite holding everything down against the wind, but by Sunday the cold front had come in and it was much more pleasant outside. Me and Bella did some walking around the campground and I decided to go play mini golf. The mini golf was the beginning of the end for Bella. While we were walking from hole to hole she got a coco-bur stuck in her paw and she was ruined on nature for the rest of the trip. I though she had got stung by a bee or bit by something from her reaction. She started crying and fell down on the ground and held her paw up in the air like “here, mama, fix it,” Of course I could see it right away and pulled it out, but it was too late, she was over camping. When we got back to the site she sat at the door for a good five minutes waiting to be put back in the camper, where she stayed the rest of the day other than going to the bathroom.
She continued to be a drama queen on our last morning on Monday. I started packing up after breakfast so of course she was not getting enough attention. So what does that manipulative little heifer do but pull to the end of her 25 ft leash and go lay by the walkway looking sad and pathetic because of course people would walk be and be like “oh poor baby, do you need some attention.”People really do think you are a horrible person when you tell them your dog is just manipulative. She was very happy to get home after this trip.
All in all I really enjoyed this trip and am even happier with my T@G. I still need to make a few adjustments for colder temperatures and I will probably look into solar panels sooner than planned as a back-up, but they will be minor changes I can make in the future. Now on to planning out next trip.