Monday, September 16, 2013

#169 Salt Lake City Utah-Timpanogos Cave, Little Mill Campground

Ok, we didn't boondock last night. Todd wanted to explore this national monument, even though we weren't going to visit the cave itself. It was wonderful to relax in our own comfortable chairs right next to a rushing creek in this very clean campground and just do nothing and enjoy... It was a mini vacation inside of our vacation!  $18/night.

WHAT a gorgeous, clean campground! There were absolutely no hookups of any kind and pit toilets.  VERY clean though for pit toilets!

Today we head south after doing one  quick load of laundry in Provo and taking care of a little work business on the computer. SO excited to get to Bryce Canyon and the real heart of our trip!

Sunday, September 15, 2013

#168 Twin Falls Idaho

We spent the day in Boise yesterday while Todd attended his class.  It was fairly warm-in the 80's and I spent much of the day walking through the very nice art fair/farmer's market they had going on downtown. I also watched a little TV in the camper which I had parked in the street near the hotel where Todd was attending his class.  Nice to be able to have that flexibility.

Definitely took the solar system to the mats yesterday, it got extremely warm inside the camper as it was in full sun. I turned on all of the roof vents AND the furnace fan on full.  Not only that, I had the TV and DVD player going the whole time and not to mention phone chargers, water pump and things like that. The battery stayed fully charged in spite of this load! Now, granted, the panels were in full sun and pulling in max exposure, but I was very pleased on the consumption rate.

We left Boise and stopped at the local Flying J on the way out of town and filled up our water tank and dumped our holding tanks. We stopped and bought some fresh fruit and decided we were ready for our next adventure. We traveled down I-84 to Twin Falls where we spent the night in a Wally World parking lot. It was restful and I think it's awfully cool of Wal-Mart to offer this convenience in so many of their stores. We always purchase our current shopping list full while we are there. Some people say they "won't camp at a Wal-Mart" but I disagree. Staying overnight on your way somewhere is not "Camping". Wal-Mart is never a destination, it is a resting spot on our way to somewhere to "Camp".

Saturday, September 14, 2013

#167 Boise

We made it to Boise afer a really great day of simply driving and enjoying being on a trip.  We stopped in Pendleton, Oregon for a few groceries and found it crawling with the annual Pendleton Roundup. That's how we do things... come rolling into town during one of the biggest rodeos in the country! Boondocking spots in the local Walmart were going for $20 for the week. We parked in what was left of the regular parking lot, hoping they wouldn't mistake us for cowboys trying to get a freebie.

We had lunch at the overlook just leaving Pendleton and were again amazed at the might of our new solar system. So far it has been super good. Full power most of the time and the Odyssey batteries that were so expensive deliver power much like being plugged in to AC. We simply have not felt the effects of not having a campsite at all.  I expect today we will have to top off the water, or tomorrow.

Last night we stopped at the Julia Davis Park near the Boise Zoo. We had a delish steak dinner with sweet potatoes and grilled eggplant. As a weak thunderstorm rolled in we unstrapped the bikes and rode over to Boise State University because there was a Broncos football game going on. It was a lot of fun mingling with tailgators and listening to the crowd inside the stadium. So festive. Once again, our timing has been perfect!

Todd has his training in Boise all day today and then we are truly free. 

#166 Giles French Park USACE

It's finally here! We left last night on our "BIG TRIP" about 6 PM just like we thought we would. There is always more to do just before we leave than we think there is. So off we went and headed East up I-84 in Oregon. We drove about 2.5 hours and then decided to stop and eat and call it a night. It was a busy day.  We stopped at a place we have stopped before to boondock for the night right next to the John Day Dam. There is ample parking and feels relatively safe. I have seen others post that they thought it was dangerous because of crooks in the night, but in 30 years we haven't heard of a single incident occuring here. Besides, anyone trying to come for a visit in the middle of the night in our rig would almost certainly regret it... Todd's not exactly "helpless" and we travel well armed.

During the night, as it often does in the Gorge, the wind kicked up. I mean it REALLY kicked up! It sounded like a hurricane was raging outside even though it was over 90 degrees when we went to bed. We had to close our roof vents because they were being ravaged by the wind. Definitely need to get more vent covers so we can have them open in all weather conditions.

On our new solar: I am very pleased to report that we arrived with a full battery and it was put to full use overnight with fans running and the television and dvd player running most of the night to drown out the wind.  The morning showed it barely diminished and it felt like we had full hookups, wow. SO cool.  We have decide that it might be best to try and keep our driving time to early morning and late evenings (after dinner) because of the heat. So far so good!

Monday, September 9, 2013

Heat Your RV And Save Battery and Propane With A Catalytic Heater

The biggest drain on our battery when we are boondocking is using the RV furnace to heat our camper.  We often talked about how much better off we would be if we didn't have to run the heater.  We tried toughing it out and turning the thermostat way down low, but those middle-of-the-night calls of nature were getting to be pretty uncomfortable and that is the reason we USE  an RV instead of tent camping isn't it? 

It didn't take long to do some research and see what others use for heat that doesn't drain the battery: Catalytic heat.  It's a propane-powered unit that uses very little propane and NO battery at all. It's very safe too, even though it does take some getting used to. If you have a functioning LP detector in your RV (and you should) there should be no concerns after a proper installation.  We installed ours ourselves after watching the very helpful video put out by Trailer Life HERE.

The heater does not have a thermostat (it's only downside) but does offer a "low"and "high"setting. We haven't put ours to use yet, as it is newly installed for our "big trip" but we will keep you posted. If you get just a little too warm on the "low" setting, then you can crack open a window. Not a bad way to go, because this helps get rid of excess moisture buildup in the RV when you are indoors a lot with the furnace on. Todays RVs are pretty air-tight and everyone benefits from a little fresh air.

We installed the Camco Olympian Wave-3 Heater, and purchased it from Amazon.com. We don't have a lot of square footage to heat, so we feel the smallest model will suffice. You can either install it by hanging it on the wall in an appropriate place (the video above talks about placement) or you can purchase the legs to set it on. We purchased the legs, but opted not to use them because of safety reasons. Our local RV shop said they would not do an installation inside of an RV with a "soft hose" propane connection and that it was illegal. We decided that it was likely that this was for a reason and hard-plumbed the unit in.  We also purchased the dust cover because of all the reviews we read, getting the glass mat dusty would render it useless and it is costly to replace.  The dust cover is only about $19 and we feel, good insurance. They make two versions, one for a freestanding model and one for a wall-mounted model.

Friday, September 6, 2013

LED Light Conversion In Our RV

We recently added a solar system to our Lance camper.  We love it, and we want to try and take advantage of the life-changing benefits it provides. The most important thing to attack is the drain of wattage in the usage of RV lights and systems. In our truck camper, this is extremely easy because generally, truck campers are constructed to be universally run on DC power (except for the air conditioner and the microwave). Even the television and stereo are DC powered, so converting to solar was super easy.

In the picture at left, you can see that the new LED light is white and bright. I always thought it would be rather dim and bluish for some reason. Not at all! It's blindingly bright, you can't look directly at it!

I was able to purchase most of the lighting on Amazon.com. There is a huge selection. For the two florescent ceiling lights, I enlisted the help of the local RV repair shop. The proprietor took time with me and retrofitted our existing lights with an LED Kit that he had available (not cheap: $48 each!!)  that basically stuck two rows of led strips where the old florescent tubes used to be. He removed the old ballast gear, because that is no longer needed.  Then we just put them back up where they were using the existing wire setup. Piece of cake.

It will be reassuring on our future trips to not feel too guilty when turning on the lights at night. They use a tiny fraction of what the old lights used, and don't produce heat. Such a huge improvement to our RV lifestyle!

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Our Camper Bathroom Is Bullet-Proof!

Bathrooms are big deal to RVers. It's the one big convenience that sets us MILES apart from tent camping. It's what allows Mom and the kids to get into camping. It's all about the bathroom baby, and make no mistake!
Our bathroom is teeny. While it is Lance Camper's "Largest Wet-bath" it is still teeny compared to other RV bathrooms. We don't mind. Our bathroom has features that some people might think are the opposite of "features". For example: Our bathroom has no carpet in it. Now why someone would want carpet of ANY sort in a bathroom is beyond me. It's just not a carpet kind of place for OH SO MANY reasons. Had ours come with carpet, we would have paid to take it OUT. Our bathroom does not have a separate shower/bathtub. For one thing, most people do not take TUB baths, unless there are small children involved, then a small tub would be useful.

Our shower IS the bathroom. You can see our shower hose hanging on the wall behind the soap dispenser. If there is any inconvenience, it is the need to squeegee the shower down after using it because it leaves the bathroom (and toilet) soaking wet. Now that might seem terrible, but it's really not (note the squeegee hanging on the wall). It takes, literally, about 90 seconds because the bathroom is - well -TEENY.  When you remind yourself the #1 enemy in an RV is MOISTURE, allowing all of that water after a shower to evaporate is a BAD idea even in a luxury motorhome. Moisture + RV's = BAD STUFF.

Do you hate cleaning the RV toilet? I used to. I don't anymore. I do it while I take a shower. Guess how easy it is to make the bathroom sparkling clean when there is soap and water sloshing all over it during the shower? Well, that more than made up for the time I spent with the squeegee, and our RV bathroom is one of the few I have been in that DOESN'T stink. It simply gets hosed down too much with soap and water for anything to start stinking!

#165 Ilwaco, Washington: Doing A Little Deep Sea Fishing

In August, some friends of ours were getting married, and as part of the wedding festivities, the groom took some of the guys on a fishing trip. Todd was one of the few that lucked out and got a salmon.

I went along for the ride and spent some nice quiet time in the camper reading and catching up on emails and the like.

It's always a nice thing to have some time to clear the old buffers out.  It was a foggy/sunny day and it was the first trip we had taken with our new solar system. It was exciting to see that it did, in fact, keep the batteries fully charged even though I was watching television and using the lights.

Later, I walked over to the marina and watched the guys come back in from their excursion on the STARDUST boat. They had a great time, even though there weren't a lot of fish caught. After that, we backed the camper up to a picnic area and enjoyed bbq'd hotdogs and baked beans and some amazing caramel corn that the bride makes that is so addicting it should be illegal. I told her not to send any more of it because I was convinced it was laced with heroin.

The weather turned nasty after that for the drive home but it didn't matter, as they say, a bad day fishing is still better than a good day working.

We Are Almost Ready To Leave On Our Month Long Trip Across The Western U.S.!


It's finally near, our "big trip" as it has come to be known. Now that we have added the desired upgrades to both our home life (sold my horses, put garden to bed, closed pool) and our Lance (added solar, LED lights and bought serviceable hiking gear, MRE's and a good MAP!) we prepare for departure.  This will be the lengthiest and loveliest trip of all, there can be no doubt. We are travelling the entire Western U.S. to see many of our National Parks and monuments.  Is Disneyland a National Park? Las Vegas? No? Well, we are going there anyway! We have quite the itinerary planned... but best of all, it's all "flexible" which is the only way we will travel. What good is a vacation if it is stressful?
One upgrade that we haven't yet completed, but will before we leave is the addition of our new Olympian Wave-3 Catalytic Heater. This will be our biggest battery-draw savings because we shouldn't have to use the resource-gobbling furnace at all. These heaters drink minimal propane and use NO battery whatsoever. They are safe and do NOT produce carbon monoxide. They DO consume oxygen, but that is not poisonous, and is easily rectified by cracking a window open during operation. You would become very uncomfortable (breathlessness, headache) from low oxygen levels LONG before you would be in any danger if there was an accidental depletion of oxygen.  I will update you on the install and our opinion of it when it's finished.



We'll do our best to take everyone along on our trip right here on our little blog, then nobody has to sit through boring trip photos when we return.

We plan to use Google Maps to track our journey so you can see where we are.  You can check our progress by clicking the link at the top right that says "Current Trip Map".  Our goal is to boondock as much as possible and see how that goes. I have already written about our version of "Stealth Camping" HERE and it is sort of unique to us "truck campers". It's the thing we love most about our Lance camper... We can truly be vagabonds of the highest order.

The night of September 12th cannot get here soon enough! We shall depart under the cover of darkness and head east, up HWY 84 toward Boise, Idaho where Todd will have to work one more day before we are truly on "vaykay".



Wednesday, August 28, 2013

We Have SOLAR POWER!

We are SO excited! We took the plunge and spent a LOT of money (to us) and invested in a solar system for our camper! WOW are we excited. Solar has come a long way in the last few years, and it has now reached the point that it is extremely worth-while for us. While we haven't had a chance to really put it to the test, we are certain it is going to be a dream-come-true for boondocking, which is our favorite style of RVing.

This is our new controller panel. It gives us several digital display options in order to understand the current state of our new (again, very expensive) batteries and how many amps our panels are shooting into them at any given time, and more.  Like most people familiar with solar power will tell you, you can load up your rooftop with great big solar panels, but your system will be limited by the strength and capacity of your batteries, and they are a major upgrade from what your RV will come from the factory with.

Our Lance Camper came pre-wired for solar, but they had to do some wiring anyway because the location that the wires terminated was not desirable (in the bedroom).  Otherwise, the camper was quite happy to become solar powered.  We added two, 100 watt panels to our roof, that fit perfectly on each side of our large sunroof in the cab-over area (bedroom). That part of the camper is slightly canted and if we would like to increase our charging ability in the winter, we can simply park the truck facing south to receive the most direct hit of winter sun.

So far, the camper has remained fully charged since we got the system. We have done very little traveling though, so we haven't really had a chance to put a big load on it.  But not for long!!  In just two weeks we are leaving for our biggest adventure yet: a whole MONTH of travelling! We have never had the chance to do this before, and we are beyond excited.  It's still summer-time and we are going to see how many nights we can actually boondock and not use a paid campsite. As I have described before, what we do is not so much "camping" as it is "travelling".  We spend our days parked at attractions, in parking lots at businesses and restaurants and parks and cool places... we don't care so much where we "sleep".

The Lance Camper is ideally set up for solar because they come standard with nearly everything in the camper being DC powered.  The ONLY things that aren't battery-powered are the air conditioner and the microwave and the AC outlets. Literally everything else runs off of the battery, even the TV and stereo. It's quite awesome.  

So stay tuned for our next big adventure, I will be posting the details about that soon! And... YAY SOLAR!!

This Is How You Hang Pictures, Keys, Phones, Wet Clothes And Other Things Up!

I used to HATE trying to figure out how to customize the inside of the RV. One great thing to do is to hang a key-holder rack just inside the RV door, down low, so you can reach it while standing outside. This is something we use countless times per day to open the storage doors, the outdoor shower, hang the truck keys, etc... But drilling holes in the paper-thin walls of an RV is not only scary (who KNOWS what's behind the wall?) but greatly depreciates the value of your rig and it's aesthetics. You are also putting yourself at great risk of doing damage you will very much wish you hadn't, like creating a hole through to the OUTSIDE!!

This is the solution:
3M Adhesive Accessories


We hang our keys up near the door, reachable from the ground OUTSIDE the RV. Very handy:


We use this charging station by 3M to hang our mobile phone for charging, conveniently next to our DC outlet.  It's a little hard to see, because it's clear. It's directly above the AC outlet on the wall. We love this little thing. It has strategic cut-outs in the plastic that keep the cord where it is supposed to be.
Then we have another favorite little helper that we use all the time. They are suction hooks that you can buy most anywhere. Today's RV's are usually clad in shiny fiberglass, it's the perfect surface for these handy little guys. We use them to hang wet towels and bathingsuits up outside to dry in the summer, and do the same thing in cool wet weather when we have dripping coats. When the awning is out, it's the perfect place to get them hung up to dry, and get them OUT of the camper. PERFECT!

Keeping An RV Journal-Such A Good Idea


Back in 1998, when I first convinced my husband to give RV camping a try, good fortune smiled on us and caused me to start a small journal from day 1. I don't remember what inspired me to do such a thing, but we are eternally grateful that we did.  It wasn't anything fancy, just one of those small, cheezy books you can buy at Wal-Mart for a couple bucks with blank pages inside. We had very young children then, so maybe I was in some sort of home-body, broody mode.

In the early years, we faithfully recorded each and every stop with the trip number, date, time, place and the site number. Unfortunately, we did not record any thoughts or observations, and we deeply regret that.  We do now though.  Usually not much, just a page or two, takes only 5 minutes, but I can't tell you the pleasure it gives us to look back.

We keep our journal in a cupboard in the camper. We pull it out usually after dinner after having arrived somewhere and we take turns updating it. We include interesting things we did or saw, along with any particular markers in our life that will help us remember where we were in our "life's journey" at the time.  We started including more information because we found ourselves wondering about these things when we looked back over our minimal entries from years past.  Ideally, we would have pictures too, but we don't. We can, though, locate our digital photos easily by date to include if I ever get so ambitions in the future. I can't imagine how much work that would be because of the sheer number of trips we have been on, but it's fun to think about!

A New Water Filter In The Camper!

After trying a couple of different solutions, I think we have finally settled on the RIGHT one. I am talking about fresh drinking water filtration in the RV. 

One thing that we have learned from past mistakes, is to make good use of the freshwater tank on board. Keep it clean, use it all the time for drinking water and maintain it properly. The benefit is that we no longer have to buy and haul those expensive and cumbersome cases of bottled water for drinking. I won't even start on the subject about what they are doing to the environment, or how much clutter they create. Being able to pull water out of the tap for making coffee or drinking or cooking is a major convenience and there is no reason why it can't be done.

Besides maintaining proper cleanliness of your freshwater tank, it is usually a good idea to filter water you are going to drink. This is especially true if you are travelling and filling your tank in various places. While most water you take from standard locations will be safe to drink, it often won't taste all that great. It will really mess up your morning coffee too! We get used to a certain taste for our water, and water filtration goes a long way to preserving that expectation.

After losing our RV sink faucet in a freeze incident we needed to replace it. We replaced it with a low-priced domestic model from the local Home Depot. It has the popular pull-out faucet that is extremely handy when you're trying to maneuver in a tiny RV kitchen.  This fix-it job left us with a much nicer faucet than we had before, and it also left us with TWO new vacant holes in our counter top where the old one used to be. I was DELIGHTED! I knew exactly what I was going to put in them; a water filter tap and a soap dispenser.  The soap bottle would be one less thing on the tiny counter top, something I had in my house, and wanted in my RV. Now I do, and it's awesome.

We mounted the filters for the water filter under the sink easily. They are compact and don't take up a lot of space. We are headed out on our big annual trip with 18 other families this weekend and I be putting it to the big test on it's first use... the place we are going has HORRIBLE tasting water. It even smells bad!!

UPDATE:  We are happy to report that the water filter is EXCEEDING our expectations! After an extended stay at a park with really poor tasting (and SMELLING) water, we can now say for sure that we are VERY thrilled with our new water filter! ONE LESS THING to remember to pack: Bottled water!!! Yay!

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Stealth Camping

Travelling, or "Camping" in a truck camper is different from any other RV in a very important, fundamental way. Let me explain: When we go on trips, we almost always have destinations in mind, and most of them are not "Camping" per se.  For example, we are currently planning an extended trip through Oregon, Idaho, Nevada and California. Now, we are only going to be gone about a month, so obviously that's a lot of territory to cover. We have destinations in mind though, and because we have an awesome truck camper, we don't focus so much on where we will sleep as much as where we will spend our days. Make sense? Sure, we go "Camping" sometimes too, usually with our children along (they are grown) and the destination becomes communing together in one spot, like at the beach or in the mountains or on the river.  But when we are in "travel" mode, just the two of us, we think very little about where we will sleep.  We know it will be in our camper, and that's really all we worry about.

How do we do this? We affectionately call it "stealth camping".

Our truck and camper fit easily in most standard parking spaces. Because of this, that is often where we "sleep". We may have played all day in parks (again, parking easily in standard parking lots) and then we keep moving in one direction, stopping to sleep at the appropriate time.  We don't really care so much about where we are while we are sleeping, because the inside of the camper pretty much looks the same whether we are sleeping next to Giant Redwoods, or in a Wal-Mart parking lot.  In the morning, we prepare a nice breakfast in our comfortable, familiar surroundings, and then we take off on the next leg of our adventure. There is never any back tracking to our "campsite" or to our hotel. We move always FORWARD and this style of travel allows us to see a LOT more country than if we were going back and forth all the time. Obviously, there is one more benefit: It's cheap. And I won't even go into the bliss of not making reservations and being on a tight schedule that is expensive and inconvenient to change!!

This style of travel pretty much sums up why we love truck camping so much. It may not be for everyone, but it is most definitely for us.