Camping Trip – July 26-27, 2017

With summer winding down, we’re scrambling to finish various projects AND to get in more camping trips! With a little window of opportunity on Wednesday and Thursday, we decided to do another quick trip, this time to Sherando Lake Recreation Area.

Even though it’s called Sherando “Lake,” this recreation area and campground in the Blue Ridge Mountains actually has two lakes.  The larger, lower lake has a beach area for swimming, and the upper lake is for fishing.  There are hiking trails around both.


Since we were too close to the date to be able to reserve a site online, we decided to try the “first come, first served” option.  We drove over (without the trailer) on Wednesday morning, and the young park ranger who greeted us at the gate told us that a site in “B” loop (River Bend) had just opened up.  We paid for one night, and when he suggested that we put something on the site as a visual notice to mark that it was reserved, we asked if our camp chairs would be enough.  When he said yes, we drove into the campground to claim site “B1.”

In the previous post, I mentioned that our car (a Kia Sorento) did great as a tow vehicle.  This trek–though only 25 miles–offered the new challenge of crossing Afton Mountain, westbound on I-64.  While it’s not especially steep (about a 1200 ft climb over 5 miles), and we know we have more than enough towing power with the Kia given the weight of our trailer, it seemed like the car struggled a bit trying to find the right gear.  We were in “sport mode,” as before, but according to some feedback on a Kia forum, I probably should have also used the “manual” gear options.  I’ll try that next time…

In case you’re not familiar with “The Mountain,” this video show eastbound and then westbound travel over Afton Mountain on I-64. It’s definitely a pretty drive. 🙂

Once we were over the mountain, the car pulled the trailer with absolutely no problem, and soon we were backing into our site.   It didn’t take us long to get set up; I think we’re getting better at this….


You meet the nicest people at campgrounds!  In fact, sometimes you meet your cousin!  My cousin, Mary, was camping at Sherando, too. 🙂

After a short visit with her, Wayne and I went back to the trailer, changed into swim suits, and went to the lake.


We spent an hour or so enjoying the water and scenery, then drove back to River Bend Loop.  We both still smile when we see our trailer sitting at a campsite; given what we started with, it’s awesome that we’re now able to use it. 🙂


Time for dinner!  We brought homemade Chicken, Cannalinni Bean & Mushroom soup from home and heated it up on the camp stove.  Another delicious, quick meal….


Just before dark we started a campfire, and Mary and her husband, David, came over to our campsite.  I tried to take a picture with “natural” light (which didn’t work), so I blinded us all for a moment with the flash. 😉

After Mary and David went back to their campsite, we continued to sit out by the fire.  SO nice and relaxing!


Later, when we walked up to the bathhouse, we paused for a while to enjoy the night sky in an area with fewer trees.  Just in the 5 minutes or so that we were standing there, we saw a couple of meteorites and a large, bright satellite.  (The “shooting stars” were probably part of the Perseid meteor shower which will peak around August 12th.)  Last August when we were camping at Sherando, I took this picture of the stars:

It was starting to get cool (which was actually very nice in late July after all the heat and humidity we’ve had!), and the sweatshirts we’d brought with us felt good when we put them on.  Ah, a campfire and katydids; yep, we were happy campers. 🙂

By the time we came inside, it was close to midnight and the fire had burned down to embers.  With the windows open in the trailer, it was definitely “good sleeping weather,” as the old folks say, but at some point during the night,  I realized I was cold!  No worries–I shut the large back window behind the bed, pulled an afghan over me, and drifted back to sleep.

The next morning was clear and beautiful, and we talked (some more) about the feasibility of staying another night.  But with cats to feed and with other “outside world” obligations (there’s no cell service or wif-fi at the campground), we knew we needed to come home.

Before starting to pack up, we walked over to Mary’s campsite (David had left for work earlier in the morning), and enjoyed another chance to visit.  Their trailer is just a bit bigger than our trailer, wouldn’t you say?   But it still wasn’t anywhere close to the size of some of the absolutely enormous trailers and motor homes in the campground!



Mary and I agreed that we’d have to plan a multi-day camping trip together next year at Sherando, but we were glad that we’d wound up there at the same time this year! With goodbyes said, we walked back to our site to get ready to leave.

We’re getting better and faster about getting everything travel ready, too, and we left the campground with a minute or two to spare before the 11:00 a.m. checkout time.


Homeward bound once more, with our little house on wheels following behind. 🙂

Camping Trip – July 22-23, 2017

Misty Mountain Camp Resort is less than 5 miles from home, and sometimes staying so close has advantages: we can pack lightly, come home to get things we inevitably forget (cell phone chargers…), and also take care of our kitties without having to arrange for a pet sitter.  And each time we go somewhere in our Scamp, we learn things that will make the next trip even easier/better, plus it helps us think of some day using this as a true “travel trailer”–when time and circumstances allow.

This was our first camping trip with the Kia Sorento as our tow vehicle.  We recently learned that the trailer weighs just 1680 pounds, and the Kia is rated to tow up to 5000 pounds, so we knew we should be good.  It did fine on a test run last weekend, and of course this was also a short hop with no mountains.  But even with the extreme heat, the car did well, and it seems that using “sport mode” will be the way to go; plenty of power going up the steep hill to site #57.

But heat?  OH, yes–about 95 degrees when we left home, and closer to 100 late in the afternoon.  At least we had a bit of shade–for a while–at our campsite.


After we got set up, Wayne sliced chunks of cold watermelon, which was a most excellent idea!

We’d turned on the air conditioner in the trailer and closed the curtains, but the sun was shining directly on the back of the camper.  I got a sun shade out of the car and put it in the back window, and it seemed to help.  This gave me the idea of making custom sun screens for the trailer windows using Reflectix.  With a couple of pieces of Velcro on them, we’d be able to attach them to the marine hull liner inside.  I’ll add this project to the “to do” list….

It was “Christmas in July” weekend at the campground and some folks really went all out with huge inflatables, Christmas trees, etc.  We kept it simple and just strung some lights around the belly band and the door.  (Oh, do you see the sheen on the front of the trailer?  It looks so much better since we “Zepped” it!  Before, the finish was completely dull and chalky.)


As we lost our shady spot and the day became even hotter and muggier (how was that even possible?), we drove down the hill to the pool.  Even though a lot of people had the same idea, it felt GREAT to get in the water.


Aw, he likes me. 🙂


From swimming pool to playing pool–another fun thing to do at Misty Mountain.


After a couple of games, we went back to our campsite to start dinner.  The previous night we’d gotten Chinese food, and we brought the leftovers with us in the cooler.  Wayne used our propane stove to heat it up for a quick, easy dinner.


Just after we finished eating and had cleaned up, we had visitors–several visitors, actually.  The owner of a 13 ft Trillium trailer came by (he was from Illinois, traveling with his wife and daughter), and several people from the lower level of the campground (in a vintage Airstream and in a Jayco Kiwei hybrid) also stopped at our campsite.  They were all very curious about Scamp trailers, in general, and also interested to see what we’d done inside, once we told them we’d started with an empty shell.  Earlier in the day, Wayne and I had talked about how everyone in a campground is part of a unique, temporary community, so it was fun to meet fellow campers and to show them our trailer. 🙂

We made a quick trip home after that to get my cell phone charger and to feed the cats, then we went back to the campground.


There were activities in the community hall (karaoke and some other contests), but we enjoyed simply sitting outside by our festively-lit trailer.  We thought about building a campfire, but decided it was still way too hot to really enjoy it!


I was fascinated by the moving laser lights that another camper had set up under a canopy of trees….


Like thousands of fireflies twinkling on the leaves, the effect was absolutely magical, especially with a chorus of katydids supplying the soundtrack.


We noticed a lot of “heat lightning,” but then realized we were hearing thunder–uh oh….  We weren’t really surprised that we’d get a storm (given the day’s heat), but when a weather app on my phone flashed an alert about a severe thunder storm warning, we got moving.  We put the chairs, camp stove, and Wayne’s guitar in the car, and ducked into the trailer just as the rain started.  It poured for a while, and I actually enjoyed hearing the pounding rain on the roof of the trailer because it reminded me of some of the camping adventures I’d had with my parents when I was a kid.  I think that’s a lot of the appeal of camping for me now–while Wayne and I are creating new memories, it also helps me remember simple–but special–times with my parents….

Fortunately, the storm didn’t last too long and it wasn’t severe in our area (other parts of the state weren’t so lucky…), but there was still some vivid lightning, and a few rumbles of thunder shook our little house on wheels.   But good news: everything stayed completely dry inside.  We’re hopeful that the sealant we recently put on the roof closed up any tiny, essentially invisible pinholes that had caused a persistent leak near the front of the trailer.  I guess we’ll need a sustained rain to know for sure.

As usual, I slept soundly in the Scamp.  This was the first time we’d ever left the A/C on all night, and I’m sure that helped immensely.  Another storm may have moved through at some point (I’d looked at weather radar before turning out the light), but if it did, I didn’t hear it.

In the morning, we ate a quick breakfast of coffee and bagels out on the still-damp picnic table.  We had time to go feed our cats (as well as the feral kitties that I care for) before the noon checkout time.


On our way out to run these errands, we stopped by the lower camping area to see some of the folks who’d visited us the night before. Again, there was this sense of “community” as we talked with a private school administrator, a French teacher, and with the Airstream owner who showed us some of the modifications he’d made on his trailer.  Good people, one and all….

When we got back, a lot of campers were on the move–heading home or heading out to continue their vacation travels–and it was time for us to pack up, too.  We thoroughly enjoyed having the opportunity to be a part of this special “neighborhood” at Misty Mountain, even if it was for only one night. 🙂

July 15, 2017 – Scamp-centric Day!

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! 🙂

July 13, 2017 – Shiny!

Well, at least “shinier.” 🙂

Last year when we waxed the Scamp it looked pretty good, but the shine didn’t last long at all.  While we don’t know the full history of our 1995 trailer, we can assume that not much has been done to maintain the exterior over the years; any gloss or gel coat was long, long gone by the time we bought it.  The surface turned very “chalky” whenever we washed it, and the water we rinsed it with actually looked “milky.”

We cleaned it up last Spring for a quick camping trip, but by June it looked worse than ever!  There were green streaks on it, and an amazing amount of dust and dirt.  When we washed it again in early July, it literally took hours to get it clean.  WAY too much work…

We kept it covered with a large tarp after that while we tried to figure out what to do.  We were disappointed with how quickly the wax coating had faded, and weren’t sure we wanted to go that route again.

I’d read about people using Zep floor polish (!) to make old fiberglass trailers shiny again (and therefore easier to keep clean), and while some people don’t recommend using this because it has no UV protection, we decided to give it a go.

I didn’t take any pictures before using the Zep, but this is what the trailer looked like last April after we’d washed it for our camping outing–clean, but with a dull finish.  That’s basically how it looked after our most recent washing and scrubbing session.

So we bought a gallon of Zep and some microfiber towels (use white or light towels–we discovered that a yellow towel started leaving yellow streaks!), and started wiping on the polish on Wednesday, July 12th.  We didn’t notice much of an improvement after two coats, so we added a couple more coats.  Finally–as we reached 7 or 8 coats over the course of two days–we were able to achieve a nice gloss.

Having the trailer look nicer was certainly one of the goals, but from what we’ve read, it should be much easier to clean in the future.  Fingers crossed!

Oh, did you notice the blue painter’s tape along the roof line?

Since we’re still apparently dealing with some tiny, essentially invisible pinholes on the roof that have caused some leaks, our next project will be painting the roof with a sealant.  After that, we’ll need to reattach some of the hull liner and insulation that have started sagging inside as a result of the leaks. (!)

Before we fix the ceiling, however, we might try to get in some camping trips because the summer is going way too quickly, as usual.  I’ve finally got the Kia set up as a tow vehicle (same tow rating as our 4Runner, 5000 lbs.), but first we need to figure out how to set the new brake controller. (It’s much more complicated to calibrate, but it’s probably a better product than what we have on the 4Runner.)

We do love our little trailer, but it seems we’re still in a pattern of restoration–and then fixing the things we’ve already fixed!  Always something. 🙂