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. 🙂

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! 🙂