I took my first trip of the year this past weekend. Although it was only a short distance, just outside of San Antonio, I decided to use it as my test run for my 12 day road trip I have planned the end of the month. I started this test with packing and luck with have with the bipolar weather in Texas also had the the opportunity to test out some of my new cold weather gear.
I discovered, that with proper planning, you can actually store A LOT of stuff in this little camper. I decided to utilize the under bed storage for bulk storage of things I know I will need like toilet paper, paper towels, towels and wash cloths. The idea with the under bed storage is for extras. At any given time I plan to have items on hand that I might need in the kitchen and cab, this is for when those things run out so I don’t have to waste time looking for stores, especially for that special, high dollar, toilet paper, that is biodegradable.
I am also planning to carry plenty of food on my trip to minimize time searching for grocery stores. I discovered I can fit quite a bit of canned soup and vegtables under the bed.
As part of my planning for extreme inclimate weather I also decided to keep some food on hand inside that can be made using my electric kettle. I started with hot chocolate, instant cappuccino and oatmeal. So if I wake up to a freezing cold rain I have the essential, coffee.
When I was working on packing to maximize storage and accessibility I spent around 30 minutes trying to make things fit in the cabinet at the head of the bed so that it would close. This was already where I put towels and extra toilet paper to get to easily from the door that the shower curtain rod surrounds. I figured it was also the best place for food and water and it was really the only place I thought I could put wine without the fear of the bottle getting broken. After a long time of rearranging, I finally asked the question “why am I struggling to make this close?” There really was no reason to close it. I don’t really need it as a shelf since I changed out the bed for a twin and have the side table. I had been working to discipline myself not to put much on it anyway because it was such a hassle to get it open if it did have anything on it. So I gave up and decided to just leave it open.
It opened up a whole new world of storage and convenience! I could fit much more by not worrying about height and it made it much easier to get to things when they were all stored sitting upright. I was able to also put some bottles of water and a sweatshirt in it for easy access. In a happy accident, my small storage bins I was using on the shelf actually hang in between the ledge made for the cover to rest on. Kleenex boxes are the perfect width that they do not fall in either. So I was able to have everything organized at 2 levels, but unlike using the lid, it only required moving one object to get to the bottom layer.
I am overall feeling very optimistic about my long trip now. I know I can carry most of what I need and my Escape did a great job of pulling it. I really tested it’s capabilities on the road to the campground that turned out to be like a roller coaster, narrow, no shoulder with sharp turns and steep hills, often occurring together. The only noticeable difference was the gas mileage. I was getting around 19-20 mpg but with it loaded it only got 16 mpg. It ran well pulling it though, and even when I was pushing it to get up hills to try to keep a somewhat steady pace since I had a parade of cars behind me, it only got up to around 3500 rpms.
My only issue I have to adjust for is the hitch. With the camper loaded down and the equipment in the back of the truck the tongue was weighed down too much to get the wheel under the jack. Luckily the campground had pull through sites so I didn’t need to roll the camper anywhere to reach hook ups. I will have to change the position of the hook before the next trip.
Once I gave up on getting the wheel under the tongue, the setup went well. One of the best investments I made for this trip was a head lamp. It made the setup so much faster and easier without even having to think about seeing. I also made a checklist after my last trip that helped. My intention for the lists was to establish a best order to do everything at set up and tear down, but once I started using it I found that I really just needed as a double check to make sure everything was done.
The first night it was quite cold so I used the opportunity to test out my boondocking capabilities in cold weather. My reason being that I had to make some changes to my original road trip plan due to some campgrounds being full. The changes had given me two days of driving at least 8 hours, which I was not looking forward to. The midway points for those days were around the Ozarks in Arkansas and The Great Smokey Mountains on the Tennessee/ North Carolina border. Both would be beautiful places to stay but the campgrounds with availability on my dates were all primitive only sites. Since it will be the end of March it will probably still be cold and I wasn’t sure how only a battery would work to run heat for a night. So our first night I ran the heater and electric blanket on the battery to see how it would work. The electric blanket does such a good job it was all we needed for most of the night. Now that I know we will be OK I made the changes and booked sites for those two nights.
I was very happy with the Thousand Trails campground at Lake Medina. It is the nicest campground I have stayed at so far. I got a nice wide site with lots of trees and had plenty of space for our new accessories.
Bella was very pleased with “our” new lounge chair. The lightweight folding table I got was a welcome addition as well. I moved it back and forth and used it as an additional surface for cooking.
I love my new mug I got for Christmas. It will hold the entire pot of coffee my breakfast center will make and keep it warm for hours.
My new metal camping plates were another great addition.
I also finally had the chance to test out my idea for weather proofing the “bathroom.” During my trip in November I discovered that an outdoor shower is not ideal when it’s cool. With all the rain we have been having I also thought it would be nice to keep the port a potty dry.
I started with a plastic shower curtain liner. My thinking being that the plastic will help hold on the heat during a shower.
I also worked on covering it to keep rain out. My first idea was to use an umbrella and I bought a sport brella made to attach to folding chairs with an adjustable arm that I thought would cover the whole area. After getting it I discovered that the measurements online were to the tips of the braces, not the actual coverage. When I discovered this I decided to just use one of my extra shower curtain liners to cover the top and used binder clips to hold it in place. It worked wonderfully for a shower, but when it started raining there was no way to get the top liner tight enough to keep the water from collecting in the middle & weighing it down. So I settled on a combined solution using both.
I put the umbrella under the liner to give it a slope for water to run off. It is large enough to rest on the curtain rod. Overall I’m trilled with it & having the option for a fully functional bathroom right outside the Teardrop.
I got use out of some of my previous additions and modifications. I was very happy I bought the breakfast center and had an alternative to cooking with gas when I got up the first morning to discover I was out of propane. I think the griddle will be my first choice for cooking bacon from now on it worked so well. Checking the bottle has now been added to my pretrip checklist.
Having the space beside the bed worked out great when the rain started. It gave me a way to clean Bella off before getting on the bed as well as a place to eat.
As a whole the rain wasn’t a big deal on this trip, unlike my first trip. All my lessons learned and modifications made the day of rain a pleasant day. It wasn’t pouring rain so I was able to sit inside and read with the door open.
Luckily we only had one rain out day but I did get to test out my new appliances. I was able to make hot chocolate inside with my new electric kettle. The only drawback is that the cord is really short so I need an extension cord. It creates a lot of steam so it can’t be used on my little shelf above the outlets.
I also got to try out my crock pot lunch. I am in love with it. It fits on my little shelf above the outlets perfectly and did not create a lot of steam so it can stay there to heat up food.
I had piping hot soup in an hour without having to get out in the rain.
Of course I did come back with a list of things I need to add but it was small this time. This includes detergent in case I need to wash something, a Tide pen, some wet wipes, and a kitchen timer that does not require a battery that I have to remember to check. I also need to pack some extra batteries. While we were there my salary clock died and we had the pleasure of being woke up in the middle of the night by the smoke alarm beeping to tell me it was dying. Why do they always die in the middle of the night? Why never during the day when it wouldn’t be a huge hassle to deal with? But all in all it was a great getaway and I am looking forward to the long trip coming up.