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".