At Last!

It’s the end of March, and we are finally making our first outing of the year. The weather hasn’t been all that good up until now but with Spring Break upon us, the time had come to get the trailer out and hit the road.

We’ve set up at Woodhead Park, the nicest of the campgrounds Idaho Power operates in the Hells Canyon area. We got here Friday morning and found a spot with a decent view of Brownlee Reservoir, not that there has been a lot of opportunity to sit outside and enjoy the view.

The weather for the first two days we’ve been here was some of the least pleasant that late March can throw at us. The rain held off long enough for us to get set up, but since then, it has been windy, rainy at times, cool, and we woke this morning to snow on the hills around us.

You know what? We don’t care. We have most of the comforts of home – food, beer, wine (the important stuff), books, DVDs, even internet if we want to pay for it. The best part is that we’ve been able to get away from the house, away from work, away from the everyday responsibilities of life.

We woke this morning to blue skies, which two hours later are still visible in spots. That has me hopeful we will have some nice weather for at least part of our nine days here. Even if we don’t though, we will still enjoy our stay because we are here and not there.

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Road Trip

No, we aren’t getting the trailer out just yet. The weather still isn’t quite good enough, and work keeps getting in the way. However, we are hitting the road tomorrow, a little day trip to scout out possible camping locations for a future camp-out we’re helping to organize.

We’re headed to the Crouch-Garden Valley area, a little valley nestled in amongst the mountains about an hour or so north of Boise. We’ve done a little camping on our own in that area, but this is different as we have to find a spot suitable for ten to 15 rigs and close to activities or sites others might be interested in. A challenge, especially when we can’t always decide on what we like.

However, I’m looking forward to getting out of town, even if it’s only for the day. We’ll be going with another couple from the camping group we belong to, and it will be nice to seriously think about camping, even if we can’t yet do so.

It has been more than five months since we’ve taken the trailer out, and that’s much too long in my book. Although we won’t be taking it tomorrow, this road trip is just what the doctor ordered. It will reinforce the fact that spring and warmer weather are coming, and it will reassure me that we will once more get to enjoy our trailer and spend some time in the beauty of God’s creation.

Cabin Fever

I sit here, looking out the window of our family room, as Sunday afternoon, and with it the weekend, winds down. This weekend has been one of the sunniest in recent weeks, albeit a little chilly as winter works to maintain its hold.

Because the afternoon was such a nice one, we decided to get in the car with the dog and go for a drive into the foothills overlooking Boise just to get out of the house for a little while. The car ride and the sunshine served to whet my appetite for the months ahead and the outings hopefully to come.

For now, though, our fifth-wheel sits, unused, in its storage space, neglected and unvisited – aside from an appointment for some maintenance – as it has since early October. We’ve talked several times about going somewhere, but the weather has been decidedly uncooperative. As a result, the trailer sits, and we have started to develop a serious case of cabin fever.

The equivalent for full-time RVers is something known as “hitch itch,” which occurs when a person has been parked in a particular spot for sometime, usually a couple of months or more. The “itch” gets so bad until finally one can no longer resist the urge to hitch up and go. That’s where I am now.

The days are getting longer, and soon temperatures will begin to get warmer. The spirit of wanderlust is beginning to take hold again, and the urge to get the trailer out on the road again is strong. At this point, the destination could almost be a city RV park.

I don’t know whether this year will bring visits to new places, returns to places that are almost like old friends, or something in between. I also don’t know what fuel prices will do. However, I do know the feeling I get when we’ve set up camp somewhere surrounded by trees and open skies, and I cannot put a price on that.

One for the Money, Two for the Show

A few weeks ago, we made our third annual family outing to the Treasure Valley RV Show. Unlike the annual RV show in Hershey, PA, said to be the largest such show in America, where rumor has it you could spend two or three days and still not see everything, our local show is a bit more modest. Still, we found plenty to pique our interest.

When we went to our first show in 2009, we had never been to an RV show before, and I think we experienced a bit of sensory overload. We saw all sorts of RVs, but at that time we still had our tent trailer and were not yet sure what kind of RV might be in our future.

Our second show last year seemed a bit of a letdown after our initial experience. The economic slowdown took its toll on the show. There seemed to be fewer RVs to see, and none of them really spoke to us.

Despite that experience, we decided to return for the 2011 edition. And we found plenty to see.

One of the highlights was an Open Range fifth-wheel with its own patio. Mere words cannot describe it and do it any judgment, so you need to see it for yourself. The model we saw was the H345MPR, and Open Range has a virtual tour of the floorplan. (Click on virtual tour to see it.)

Although we agreed it was not a practical floorplan for many of the places we like to go, the Open Range did do two things for us, I think. It showed us more clearly than any other rig we had looked at to that point just how much of a home a fifth-wheel could be. It also showed us more than past rigs we looked at the potential of a toy hauler as a future home.

For those not familiar with toy haulers, they have a garage area at the back of the trailer that can be used to transports such toys as bicycles, motorcycles, ATVs, and so on. Most have a bed or two that lowers from the ceiling for additional sleeping once you set up camp, and some also have a table area that can convert to a bed.

The excitement after seeing the Over Range allowed us to see the rest of the show without feeling the fatigue we usually begin to feel about half-way through one of these shows. That was a good thing, as it turned out, because we ended up looking at more RVs than we had at either of the previous two shows.

Because there is a chance our son may have to come along for the ride, as it were, if we ever are able to live full-time in our RV, we’ve had several conversations about what our needs might be. Most of those have worked on the assumption of getting a rig with either bunk beds or a couch long enough for someone to sleep on.

At the RV show, however, we decided to consider a different approach – a separate smaller trailer for our son, something to give both him and us a bit more privacy. So this year we looked at a number of smaller trailers.

One of the models that intrigued me the most was the r-pod RP-175, an aerodynamic 18-foot travel trailer (including hitch) that was compact yet had the necessary features for a person to be comfortable – a small kitchen, a couch, and a roomy bed with an overhead entertainment center that allowed watching TV from bed or anywhere else in the trailer. The r-pod website has one virtual tour available featuring a sister floorplan, the RP-177.

We looked at several smaller trailers then toured a few motorhomes, which did not impress. What they did do was perhaps help us move a little closer to the type of rig we will want to full-time in.

After that, still remembering the Open Range model we had toured, I was ready to see a few more toy haulers. To my mind, at least, it turned out to be a case of saving the best for last,

The last rig we toured was the Voltage V3200, perhaps the most residential feeling toy hauler we’ve seen aside from the Open Range unit we had seen. The use of wood in the kitchen cabinets and the bedroom and the rounded corners in several spots softened the industrial look and feel many toy haulers have.

We saw plenty and went home with plenty to think about and talk about and feeling sated – at least until next year’s show.

Living the Dream – One Invoice at a Time

Not that you’d know it from today’s weather – wind, rain, hail, and snow – but it’s just about time to get the trailer out for another season. Our goal is to get to where we are going out year-round, but with colder weather than usual and household projects that didn’t happen this year.

One of the projects we needed to get done before beginning another RV season was to have the bearings on the fifth-wheel’s wheels repacked. So, off to one of the local RV dealers to have the job done.

Since the trailer was going to be there anyway, I decided to have them look into a couple of other problems we were having. The first and more serious of the two involved some separation along the street-side sidewall.

Unlike most newer trailer and motorhomes, which have single piece sidewalls, usually fiberglass, ours has sidewalls made of aluminum sheets or slats that fit together and overlap slightly. If you picture vinyl siding or perhaps tongue and groove laminate flooring, you might get an idea.

Shortly after we took delivery of the trailer (on my birthday – happy birthday to me!), we began to notice a little separation whenever we would hitch to or unhitch from the truck. It didn’t get worse over time, and we could usually pop it back into place, but we knew it was something we should have looked at, if not addressed.

Fortunately, the service department where I took the trailer employed someone who had worked on the sidewalls on this model before that company went under. So he had an idea of what to look for and how to do it without it costing a fortune.

With the use of some longer screws, they were able to better secure the sections so they would not separate during the hitching/unhitching process. While they were at it, they also straightened out the doors on the front cargo compartment so they would close and latch properly. During a return trip from a weekend outing, the doors had come unlatched, and by the time we heard the banging noise of the doors slamming against the truck’s rear bumper at 65-miles hours, the damage was complete.

Of course, none of this was done out of the kindness of their hearts, and by the time all was said and done, the total was $561, which also included replacing a damaged bearing and sealing a small crack they had found.

On a newer fifth-wheel, that probably doesn’t sound like that much money. However, based on what we paid for the trailer and its age, that is a fairly sizable sum, especially when you add in the $800-plus we spent last year after some juvenile idiots cut a hole in our door while the trailer was in storage.

On the one hand, we’ve spent an additional 15% of the the price we paid for the trailer on repairs in the last year. On the other hand, it gives us a sense of what we are letting ourselves in for if we do realize our dream of living full-time in an RV. What it hasn’t done is dampen our enthusiasm for RVing or for the lifestyle we’re hoping to one day live.

Introductions Are In Order

As if I didn’t have enough going on, I’ve decided to start a second blog. Unlike my other blog, From Out of Left Field, which is about a variety of subjects, I hope to narrow the focus a bit here.

Specifically, I plan to write about things related to RVs, RVing, camping,  some of the places my journeys take me, and hopefully about adventures I experience. I may also do a bit of verbal dreaming here, but always with the overall general focus in mind.

Let’s start with the basics – of our rig, that is. We have a 2006 F-350 Crew Cab DRW (dual rear wheel for those not in the know). Besides being my daily transportation to work, we use “The Beast” (as my son dubbed it when we bought it) to pull a 33-foot, 1995 Kit Cordova fifth-wheel trailer. It has two slideouts, a rear kitchen, and one well-worn recliner my wife and I often fight over. (Well, not really. Just wanted to liven things up a bit.)

Because our son is still in school, we have not yet been able to travel far and wide, but we have taken the trailer to numerous locations in Idaho and Oregon in the 14-months we have owned it. We hope to take it many more places before it comes time to move to the next rig.

The Kit was, for us, a step up from our previous rig, a 2007 Jayco 1007 tent trailer. We used that 10-foot trailer plenty in the four years we owned it, but when we added a dog to the family, it was no longer big enough. Not to mention that soft walls are not conducive to the kind of year-round RVing we aspire to do.

Before that, wetent camped for a couple of years after being reintroduced to camping by a couple of friends after we moved to Idaho in 2003. Despite the fact, that we pretty much hated tent camping, we realized that we enjoyed seeing new places and being out in nature. After these same friends told us about meeting people in Yellowstone National Park who lived in their RV full-time, the seed was planted. Once we moved from the tent to the tent trailer, the idea of RVing had taken root. I hope to put some of the blooms on display in future posts.