Adventures

What a busy, productive day!!

We got up early and started working on the trailer.  Since we bought it in November 2014, we’ve had some minor leaks inside which are probably due to tiny pinholes on the roof (that are essentially invisible).  We’d patched all that we’d found but still had some leaking after heavy rains,  so we decided to do an all-over roof sealant.  Fingers crossed that this will fix it, once and for all…

 

By 10:00, Wayne had the first coat of sealer on the roof, and while we waited for that to dry, we drove over to the local landfill and had our car weighed; 4620 lbs.  The woman at the scale said it would be fine to come back later to get the weight of the car and trailer, so that became part of the afternoon’s plan.

16′ Scamps can weigh anywhere between about 2200-2800 pounds (or more), depending on how they’re equipped and packed, but the weight of our trailer has been a mystery since we bought it.  It was basically a shell before we started renovating it, and everything we built (counters, cabinet spaces, benches, permanent bed in the back, etc.) was made with 3/4″ plywood–certainly heavier than the fiberglass components that are found in traditional Scamps.  On the other hand, we only have an A/C in the front closet, and don’t have a refrigerator, stove, heater, water tanks, and other things that you’d find in a trailer fresh from the factory.

Last September when a friend had to tow our trailer home after our Toyota 4Runner broke down on our way to a campground, he said it felt really heavy to him–possibly as much as 3500 pounds!  Yikes!  It seemed impossible that we could have added that much weight with the wood, but we’d started wondering if we should try to make some modifications inside to make it lighter.

Our 2000 4Runner served us well (most of the time…) as a tow vehicle, but last August I bought a Kia Sorento with the intention of being able to use it to pull our trailer.  Rated to tow 5000 pounds, I finally had a hitch, wiring harness, and brake controller installed early this summer.  Since it was too hot (and WAY too bright!) to try to get the second coat of sealant on the roof during the middle of the day, we hooked up the trailer to the Kia to do a test drive.

The hitch on the Kia is much lower than the one on the 4Runner, so I got a 4″ rise mount and hoped that would be enough to keep the trailer level while towing.  Also, the new brake controller was different from the one on the 4Runner, and we needed to figure out how to use it.

The reviews for the Tekonsha Voyager brake controller were quite good, but after reading the manual, it seemed much more complicated to calibrate than the one we have on the 4Runner. Once we had the basic adjustments figured out (while still in our neighborhood), we made our second trip of the day to the landfill.

I could definitely feel the trailer behind me (these little single-axle trailers bounce like crazy…), but the car seemed to handle it without a problem.  Also, while we’d attached towing mirrors to the regular side mirrors on my car, I found I could actually see better just with the Kia’s wide side mirrors.  (We’ll probably try these towing mirrors again at some point before deciding, for sure, that we don’t need to use them–or that we need to buy a different style of mirror.)

We got to the landfill, waited until the attendant (a different person) waved us onto the scale, and explained that we’d like to get a weight on the car and trailer.  If we’d wanted an “official” weight with a printed receipt, there would have been a charge, but there was no charge just to have it weighed. Nice!  With a combined car/trailer weight at 6300 pounds, we were delighted to learn that the trailer weighs just 1680 pounds!  MUCH better than we’d anticipated.

Virginia law states that trailers over 3000 pounds are required to have brakes, but as people in RV forums always point out, it’s not just a matter of how much your vehicle can safely tow, but how much it can safely stop.  Since the brakes on the trailer were fully warmed up, we continued to drive around, making adjustments on the controller.  At one point when I felt the brakes “grab” when I was stopping, I turned the power down.  But then when I didn’t feel them activating quite enough, I moved the power up a bit.  After more back and forth tweaking, we finally we seemed to find the right degree of braking power.

I also wanted to check to see how level the trailer was, so we pulled into a parking lot to check the car, hitch, and trailer, and to take some pictures.  Seems to be quite level.  I’d bought a ball mount that offered a bit more space from the back of the car to the trailer because I wasn’t sure if a standard one would allow us to open the hatchback without hitting the jack on the trailer.  I think either would have been fine.

  

Wayne wanted to get a picture of me with the car and trailer, but oh my….  Yes, here I am making quite the fashion statement, still dressed in my early morning goofy painting garb. 😉

  

We drove for a while at highway speeds on Rt. 250 because I wanted to experiment with the “sport mode” on the Kia.  Many people recommend using this engine mode when towing a trailer.  (This model of Sorento has normal, eco, and sport modes.) At this point, I’m not really sure what I think of it; I’ll need to read more to see what the advantages are–and tow a bit more to see how the car responds–before knowing if it’s the best mode for us to use with this particular trailer.

When we got home, I had to back the trailer into the driveway.  Ugh.  While I DO understand how to do this–in theory–it is still a miserably slow process, even with Wayne’s patient assistance.  Finally, finally I had it backed up into the right place, and overall we agreed that we were pleased with the way the car had performed on this short trip out and about.

By late afternoon, it was time for the second coat of roof sealant.  Again we used painters tape and newspaper to make sure that the sealant stayed just on the top of the roof.  I guess this time it went on faster, but by the time we’d finished we were both sweaty, exhausted, and ready for Ibuprofen.

So after a few Scamp-centric days, we got a lot done!  The main body of the trailer is much shinier than it was (and hopefully easier to keep clean); the roof has been sealed and is now a very shiny, bright white; we know what the trailer weighs; we know that the car will tow it just fine; and we know that the brake controller will stop it.  Now to find time to actually GO somewhere with it! 🙂

Saturday, April 8th was gorgeous–really the quintessential Springtime-in-Virginia type of day.  We had a slow, lazy start to the morning, and then thought about working in the trailer.   We also thought about “driveway camping” that night since the weather was so nice, but then Wayne said we should actually go somewhere with the trailer.  Hmmmm…. I knew that a couple of relatively close campgrounds were already full (I’d checked earlier in the week, just in case), but then he suggested Misty Mountain, which is literally right up the road from us.  It was 12:30 in the afternoon, and I wasn’t too optimistic since it’s a very popular campground.   When I called, however, they said they had a few open sites, so I quickly made a reservation for that evening, and said we’d be there within an hour.  Things didn’t quite work out that way!

Once we took the tarp off, we could see that the trailer was really dirty, plus I noticed that the tires looked low.  Wayne tried to inflate the first one with a manual pump, but it actually let air out of the tire. Not good….  Ultimately, he had to go buy an electric pump, and while he was gone, I cleaned off the outside of the trailer as best I could to make it a bit more presentable.  The next challenge involved getting a car close enough TO the trailer to be able to connect the pump to the cigarette lighter in the car and still reach the passenger side tire.   Anyhow, a couple of hours later, we were hitched up and pulling out of the driveway. 🙂

  

Our site was #49, and since there was a little pop-up trailer in #50 (and no vehicle at the site when we got there), we were able to pull through instead of backing in.  This is always a good thing!

By not planning ahead for this trip–and knowing we were close to home–we brought very little “stuff.”  The advantage to this is that we were set up–and relaxing–in no time. 🙂  With few leaves on the trees, we could see the Blue Ridge Mountains from our site.

  

The trailer looked so pretty inside with the late afternoon sun shining in.  Yes, we’ve still got a lot more we want/need to do with the trailer, but we’re so glad that we can use it! After a lot of hard work, it’s become a comfortable little home on wheels.

  

The disadvantage of bringing “very little ‘stuff’,” however, meant that we didn’t have our camp stove or cooler with us, and we didn’t have anything for dinner.  No worries–Wayne went out foraging (to a place a couple of miles away),  and came back with fried chicken, macaroni salad, potato wedges, and some drinks, which we ate while sitting at the picnic table.

Misty Mountain has lot of scheduled activities (and LOTS of things for kids), so we decided to go down the hill to the community building at 7:00 pm to check out the live music.  We were in the upper camping area, and there are two lower camping areas (past the little pond).   There were two other fiberglass “eggs” in the lower campground Saturday night–a Casita and a 13-ft. Scamp.

Before going in to listen to the music, we decided to make a quick trip to the house to get our cell phone chargers (which we’d forgotten), and some yogurt for breakfast (that we put in an insulated backpack).  After giving the kitties a little more food, we drove back to the campground community building.

Yay!  Live music!  Pool tables!

  

  

We played four games of pool while listening to a couple of sets of music by the groups, and drove back up the hill to our campsite a little after 9:00 pm.  We’d left our Scamp’s “porch” light on, and an almost-full moon was rising above it.

The crystal clear skies brought falling temperatures, so Wayne started a fire and got out his guitar.  When I took this picture, I didn’t expect the flash to go off; I thought I would get his silhouette.   As a result, the picture is too bright, and the video clip is too dark. Reality was somewhere in the middle.   🙂

We turned on our little ceramic heater to let the trailer warm up, and we continued to sit outside by the fire, moving closer and closer to it as the night got colder.

When I started getting shivery–and the fire had burned down to embers–we went inside, where it was quite cozy.  I always sleep incredibly well in the trailer (we have a full size memory foam mattress that we cut to fit the curves of the trailer), and this night was no exception. Even though the temperature dropped to the low/mid 30s outside, we were warm and comfortable in the Scamp.

When we woke up on Sunday morning, we fixed coffee (always a priority) and ate breakfast in the trailer (yogurt, plus peanut butter on bread).  The dinette was a huge project last summer, and this was the first time that we’d had a chance to use it.  🙂

We were blessed with another beautiful Spring day, and it warmed up quickly.

  

  

Can you see me through all the reflections in the window?

  

I finally ventured out, and we enjoyed a few more peaceful, relaxed hours at Misty Mountain before heading home.

Yes, indeed, happy campers.  Very happy campers. 🙂

  

We finally had a free weekend–with no rain in the immediate forecast–so we decided to go camping at beautiful James River State Park.  We’ve been to this park several times over the years on day trips, and we were excited about camping there.  Realizing that the campground might fill up on a Saturday, we finally took the plunge and made reservations for Saturday, September 17th.

It seemed to take forever on Saturday morning to get all of our stuff organized and packed into the car and/or trailer: our cooler with homemade soup, cheese, butter, cream cheese, dip, eggs, etc.; our propane camp stove; folding chairs; cooking and eating utensils; clothes; extension cords; flashlights and more–but we were finally ready to leave the house.

And leave we did!  It always makes me happy to see our tiny house tagging along behind us.  🙂

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Smooth sailing as we drove on Rt. 250 West to Rt. 151, and then we turned left on Rt. 6.

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As we were approaching the intersection of Rt. 29 South, however, Wayne said there was something wrong because the battery light had just come on!  Ugh, not good!

I remembered that there was a gas station and convenience store about 1/4 mile down Rt. 29, and we pulled in, thankful that we had a safe place to stop.  But what could be wrong?  Was the battery on the trailer somehow draining the 4Runner’s battery?  (The Scamp battery is set up to “trickle charge” from the vehicle’s battery.)

We unplugged the electrical connection between the car and trailer, and then Wayne opened the hood of the 4Runner to see if there was anything obviously wrong.  And–unfortunately–yes, there was something obviously wrong: The serpentine belt had broken and it was tangled up in the engine.  Seriously not good. 🙁

As frustrating as this was, we were still very thankful that the 4Runner had at least gotten us to “Shady’s Place” instead of stopping dead in its tracks on some narrow stretch of rural Rt. 6….

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We went in the store and asked the woman at the counter if she could recommend a garage that might be open (on a Saturday–after noon…) She gave us the name and number of a garage in Lovingston.  We thanked her, went outside and called.  The man who answered said they only worked on tractor trailers. Darn….

I next called our insurance company’s “roadside assistance” number, and the woman I spoke with gave me numbers for other garages in the area that could provide towing. There was no answer at Garage #2, and the woman who answered at Garage #3 said she’d get in touch with her part-time driver and call me back.  Fair enough.  While waiting, I quickly called the campground to cancel our reservation. (Thankful again, this time for cell phones!)

In the meantime, we realized that we had more than just a problem with our vehicle, because we also had our trailer with us.  The woman at Shady’s had said they couldn’t guarantee that it would be safe if we left it on their lot, so we knew it had to go somewhere, too.  Well, darn.

After some discussion about what to do, Wayne called our friend Mark to see if he could possibly help us out–and he could!  He said he’d meet us there with his truck in about 30 minutes, and that he’d tow the trailer back to our house. Excellent!

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A few minutes later, the woman from Garage #3 called me back, apologized profusely, and said that their driver was unavailable.  She gave me the number of Garage #4 in Nellysford.  I dialed the number, and the man who answered at Stoney Creek Auto Center said that he could meet us in about half an hour. Yay!  “Fourth time’s the charm”, eh?!

While we waited for our rescuers, we picnicked in the parking lot on fried chicken and mac & cheese from Shady’s and washed it down with green tea that we had in the cooler. Fine dining in the hot September sunshine. 😉

The tow truck driver arrived first, and he quickly and efficiently got the 4Runner loaded onto the rollback wrecker.

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At first we weren’t sure where we’d have it towed, but then decided it would make sense to have it taken to one of our local garages.  I got in the cab of the tow truck with the driver, and Wayne stayed with the trailer to wait for Mark.  And so back up the road we went–back to Rt. 6, to Rt. 151, to Rt. 250 East and on to the garage.

About 30 minutes and $100 later, the 4Runner and I were safely deposited at the shop where All Will Be Made Okay….

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…and before too long, Mark, Wayne, and the Scamp arrived to pick me up.

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After Mark got the trailer backed into the driveway (not an easy task) and headed home with our thanks, Wayne and I drove over to the garage to get everything out of the 4Runner.

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Back at home, it took a while to get everything put away: our cooler with homemade soup, cheese, butter, cream cheese, dip, eggs, etc.; our propane camp stove; folding chairs; cooking and eating utensils; clothes; extension cords; flashlights and more. (Remember?)

Since we’d planned to be gone overnight, we’d left tons of wet and dry food out for our four cats.  Since we were now not gone, Kai let us know that this arrangement was totally unacceptable. 😉

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As to our food, we heated up the soup from our cooler (a delicious chicken chili), and ate dinner at the kitchen table.  Would it have tasted better outside on a picnic table at James River State Park?  Yes, maybe–but it was still wonderful!

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And would we have enjoyed sitting by a campfire on this Saturday night at James River State Park?  Yes, of course!

But you know what?  We’ve got a sweet trailer sitting just outside under a rising, almost-full moon.

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We can still go camping this weekend; it will just be driveway camping. 🙂

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July was a challenging month. Due to circumstances beyond our control, we weren’t able to get anything done on the trailer, didn’t go camping, and didn’t even go on any day trips.

Things improved by August, and we were able to do a one-night camping trip on August 7-8.  After a quick stop at the grocery store to get some ice and snacks, we were on our way!

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Our destination was Sherando Lake in the George Washington National Forest near Lyndhurst, VA.   We didn’t have reservations, so we knew it might be iffy getting a campsite because the campground is very nice–and also very popular.   Fortunately, we were able to get the next-to-the-last open site in the section with water and electric, and a trailer right behind us got the last site!

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Our site was wide and level, and it didn’t take us too long to get set up.
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When we checked in, the ranger at the gate told us that they’d had trouble with bears recently, and when the camp host came to greet us, he also warned us to make sure that all our food was securely stored.  They have big, steel bear-proof storage containers on each site in this part of the campground.

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After getting settled, we drove down to the lake and enjoyed some time in the sun and the water.  SUCH a pretty place!

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When we got back to the campground, we stopped to admire our sweet little trailer sitting exactly where little trailers are supposed to be–in a campground and not just in a driveway! 🙂

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We explored a trail along the creek that borders the campground, and checked out the amphitheater.

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Wayne always seems to run into someone he knows when we’re out and about! 😉

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We’d brought soup from home, so we heated it up on the camp stove and also got a fire going in the fire pit.

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Even though the temperature was quite pleasant–especially for a night in August!–there’s just something so relaxing about sipping coffee while sitting by a campfire….

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Once the crescent moon set, we could see so many stars!

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As clear as it had been that night, however, we were surprised to wake up to rain….

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Without an awning or canopy, our plans for cooking breakfast outside weren’t going to happen.  At least we had coffee!

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After a while, we hitched up and rolled on home, thankful that we’d been able to enjoy beautiful Sherando lake and campground the previous day and evening!

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Now that we’re both back in school, the work weeks are super busy and we don’t have a lot of time for all of our trailer projects.  To be better prepared for rain while camping, however, we recently purchased a 10 x 10 canopy that was on sale Labor Day weekend.

And despite our crazy schedules, we’ve managed to do a bit more work on the trailer:  Wayne installed the recessed base for the pedestal table in the front dinette (no pictures yet), and I finally completed the cushions that will allow the dinette to convert to another comfortable bed!

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We really hope to get in at least a couple more camping adventures before winter!

In early October 2015, we were finally ready to head out for our first camping adventure!  We’d originally planned a trip for the weekend of October 3-4 but had to abandon the idea when we learned that heavy rains were in the forecast.   Due to our work schedules, our next free weekend wasn’t until October 24-25, but when I started calling around to various campgrounds, I was surprised to discover that most were already full, or they required a 2-night minimum stay!

A woman in a Virginia “Glampers” group posted that she and a friend or two were planning to stay at a KOA in Natural Bridge, Virginia that weekend. I called the campground, and when they said they still had sites available, I quickly made reservations. It was so exciting to start getting ready for the trip!

On Saturday, October 24th we loaded up the car, hitched up the trailer and headed west on I-64.  Although the day was overcast, the fall colors were beautiful!  Fall in Virginia is often pretty spectacular, and this year was no exception.  These were the sights that greeted us as we crossed Afton Mountain.

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When we reached Staunton, we opted to get off the Interstate and drive south on Rt. 11 so that we could enjoy all of the scenery at a slower pace.  By doing so, however, we totally missed the entrance to the campground!   Apparently the sign is angled toward travelers on I-81/64 and not Rt. 11, and so we wound up going way south of our destination.  We finally turned around, backtracked about 10-15 miles, and then we saw the (big, yellow, hard-to-miss…) sign for the KOA at Natural Bridge.

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We knew there would be a variety of Halloween activities for children, and the office and campground were nicely decorated.

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After checking in, one of the owners escorted us to our pull-through campsite (which was, conveniently, at the end of a row), and we started setting up.

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After getting the basics taken care of, we stopped for a moment when we realized that we were literally “living a dream” that had started a couple of years ago when we first began looking for a trailer.  We were so thankful to have this opportunity; you can see it in our smiles!

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Even though the inside of the trailer isn’t finished, it’s totally usable.  With a pot of coffee brewing, and with lights (and bats) strung on the trailer for Halloween, it really did feel like a tiny house on wheels. 🙂

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After a while we decided to walk around the campground and explore a bit.  Very pretty place!

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We visited the pavilion where a caramel apple-making activity was happening and joined in:

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Soon it was time to start dinner, so we got the camp stove going and heated up the homemade soup we’d brought with us in a cooler.  Very simple meal, but delicious–and it was fun to eat outside on the picnic table.

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Right as we finished cleaning up, the trick or treaters started coming.  Wow–there were so many cute kids and so many parents who’d dressed up with their kids.  We’d brought candy with us–and bought more at the KOA store when we realized how many kids were likely to come by–and we had more trick or treaters that night than I’ve had at my house in all the years I’ve lived here–combined!

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The real “camping magic” happened as it started to get dark….   I thought of all the times I’d camped as a kid with my parents in our small Scotty and Shasta trailers, and I thanked my mom and dad for the wonderful childhood memories that had led to our having this experience.

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When our campfire started to die down, we walked up the hill to visit the “Glamper” women at their campsites.   It was fun to sit around their fire and talk for a while.  We were really quite impressed with all of the people we met in this pleasant and temporary “intentional community.”

Before going back to our campsite, we stopped by the bathrooms.  Like the rest of the campground, the bathrooms were clean, very well-maintained, and quite large.

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The “bathroom” in our Scamp is a porta-potty behind a pinned-up curtain….  While not nearly as large, fancy or well-equipped as the bathrooms at the campground, it proved to be a very convenient feature at 1:30 in the morning! 😉

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After dark it was a little chilly in the trailer, and a small ceramic heater warmed it up nicely.  We both slept well, again so thankful to finally be able to use the trailer that we’d bought–as an empty shell!–almost a year before on November 2, 2014!  Looking back, you can really see our progress:

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The next morning we got the camp stove going again and Wayne cooked toast and scrambled eggs.

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Our Glamper friends stopped by as we were getting ready to leave, and we thanked them for their hospitality the previous night.

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We had such a wonderful time on our first outing, and can’t wait to go “Scamping” again!

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