Lessons Learned: Packing for the trip.

Five lessons I have learned when packing for an extended camping trip in the trailer.

  1. Teen boys do not do a good job packing clothes.  At least, not mine.  This often means they have too little underwear and too many hoodies.  I have two choices for this, I can micromanage them and go through their clothes before we leave (frustrating for all).  Or, I can let them deal with the consequences, and see them wear the same outfit for more than they should.  I most often choose the latter.
  2. Dogs are not helpful when packing the trailer.  Two of our dogs love camping.  When they see me start putting things in the trailer, they often plant themselves on the couch in the trailer.  They refuse to move or leave for fear of being left behind.  This is especially frustrating when we aren’t leaving until the next day.
  3. We always forget something important.  It doesn’t matter how many lists I make and check.  It doesn’t matter if I start packing a week in advance, or we decide on a whim to go.  We will forget something.  Examples over the years have included: pillows (often), cast iron pan, towels, clothes (see number 1), hatchet, lighter, medications, camp chairs, etc.  We are getting better about this, but every trip, at least one thing will be forgotten.  Usually, we just deal without it.  Sometimes we decide it is worth purchasing on the way.
  4. Cell phones are great when parking the trailer; until you don’t have any service.  When parking the trailer, hubby is in the truck with is cell on speaker.  I am behind the trailer watching for obstacles and helping to line it up.  This works pretty well.  No yelling across the campground, very little “what did you say?”.  We have yet to camp in a spot without any service.  I’m sure this is coming, and it is going to be frustrating.  I’ve already added “walkie talkies” to our wish list for the trailer.
  5. You can never have enough water and food.  I tend to over pack for food and water.  Chalk it up to paranoia of being without services and trapped by some unforeseen event.  I always over pack food and water.  I have never regretted this decision.

What are some lessons you have learned when packing for a trip?

Marco packing

Lessons Learned: The right gear makes your life easier.

Having the right tool for the job always makes the job more efficient.  Having the right gear when towing and camping makes your life easier.  For some of the gear, it makes your life safer too!

Extended mirrors on the tow vehicle are a must have in my opinion.  We drive a large truck with big mirrors.  With our mirrors at their regular placement, I cannot see down the side of my trailer very well.  Most of my view is blocked by the trailer itself.  With the mirrors extended, I can see all the way down the side of the trailer.  With the small beveled mirror on the bottom, I can see the road all along the trailer to cut down on blind spots.  In the picture below, we are going around a corner, and I can still see a fair amount down the side of the trailer.  The more you can see, the safer you are going down the road.

A cordless power drill makes set up and take down so much easier!  We keep a handheld cordless power drill in the storage bay with our set up / take down gear.  Hubby put a socket on it that fits our landing gear.  No fussing with that silly bar to get the gear up or down, ZIP ZIP ZIP ZIP and all four feet are down.  Setting up in a new site is quick and easy.  While hubby gets the tongue jack set up, I quickly walk around the trailer putting down pieces of wood for the landing gear and putting in the wheel chocks.  Once he has the tongue jack secure, he walks around with the cordless drill and just zips the landing gear down.  Then he pulls the level out, I run the electric tongue jack to level the trailer.  We are generally set up within ten minutes.

All the comforts of home are already there.  When we bought Bessie, hubby and I agreed, we wanted the trailer to be as ready as possible to just hook up and go.  We wanted to be able to just grab some food, a change of clothes, load up the dogs, and hit the road.  So, we gathered and bought household items to live in the trailer.  I color coded as much as possible.  When we come back and do laundry, it is easy to tell what towels and washcloths go in the trailer.  All the brown or purple go in the trailer.  An extra set of bathroom items are already in the medicine cabinet.  I knew I didn’t want to be dependent on paper plates.  I bought a cheap set of dishes for the trailer.  They are a different color than our in home dishes, so children can easily tell what needs to go back in the trailer after we bring them in for sanitizing in the dishwasher.  I bought an electric coffee maker for when we have electric hook ups, and have my percolator for when we don’t.  I keep all my camping pans and cooking utensils in there, so we are ready to prepare a meal.  I also keep a small amount of shelf stable food in the trailer.  Over the past few months, we have slowly built up the trailer to be as set up as possible without packing.  If I wanted to go camping today, all I would need to grab is our pillows, daily medications, some clothes, water, and fresh food.  I love knowing that we are that close to getting out and camping.

the right gear

Lessons Learned: Having coffee on the road.

I love my morning coffee.  One of my favorite things about camping is that quiet time in the morning.  Usually I’m the only one up.  I’ll brew a pot of coffee to enjoy with my book and nature.  I’m a fairly early riser, so the campground is usually pretty quiet and all the birds and small animals are out and about looking for crumbs left by lazy campers.

There are many ways to brew coffee while camping.  When we tent camped, I had my trusty percolator that I would use on the little propane stove.  With the trailer, I was excited to have an electric coffee pot as an option.  I bought myself a cheap electric coffee pot to live in the trailer.  Out of nostalgia, I packed that shiny little percolator into a cupboard just in case.  I’m so glad I did.

I end up using my percolator more than I ever thought I would in the trailer!  Turns out, we are boon-docking and dry camping more often than we are in a full hook up park.  When boon-docking or dry camping, the trailer isn’t plugged in to any electric service.  My lovely electric coffee pot isn’t a good choice to use up battery life.  So, I pull out that trusty little percolator, and brew my morning coffee on the propane stove just like I always have.

Lesson learned?  In order to enjoy your morning coffee, you might still need to be prepared to brew without electricity.  Having a back up plan is always a good idea.

coffee on the road

Lessons Learned: Walk around before you drive.

As we learned in my last post, when the valve pull for the black tank is left open bad things happen.  Today’s lesson learned is all about getting ready to drive away.  There are scary videos and blog posts all over the internet about what can go wrong if you don’t hook up correctly to your tow vehicle.  The safety of your family and others on the road depend on being hooked up correctly.  A simple Google search will get you all the information you could ever need on that.  I’m not going to talk about that.  I’m going to talk about all the little things that make your life easier by preventing damage to your trailer.

While hubby is hooking up the trailer to drive away, I’m in charge of making sure everything else is turned off, closed properly, and ready to go down the road.  The inside of the trailer is pretty easy.  I walk from one end of the trailer to the other starting in the bathroom.  If it opens, close it.  If it turns on, turn it off.  If it slides, put it on the floor or secure it.

Then I walk around the outside of the trailer. I start at the hitch on the passenger side.  I literally touch everything as I go around.  Are all the hatches closed?  Is the awning in all the way?  Is the door closed completely and locked?  Is the door support handle tucked in all the way?  Are the steps up?  Are the end caps on the bumper pushed in?  Are the lights all working?  Are the valve pulls tucked in and the cap on the sewer pipe?  Are all the caps secured over the water and electric hook ups?  Are the propane tanks off?  Is the lid secured on the tank cover?

I started this after our first trip down the coast with Bessie.  As we were coming home through heavy traffic, a man in a small car pulled up along side us.  He was waving and trying to get our attention.  I rolled the window down and he gestured that our travel trailer door was swinging open!  We pulled over, and sure enough the door to the trailer was wide open.  The door support handle had swung open and folded back.  We couldn’t see it in the mirror because they had both opened wide enough they were folded back against the trailer.

At our last stop, we had gotten in the trailer to get a snack.  Whoever was the last one out, didn’t fully click the door shut.  Then they folded the support handle over the door, and we headed out.  Well, that handle won’t hold the door closed.  Thankfully, nothing was lost and no damage was caused.

Now I am very careful to push against the door to make sure it is fully clicked shut and locked in place before we drive away.  I may look silly walking around the trailer touching all the spots on the outside.  But it gives me a level of comfort knowing that we are all secure before we pull away.  Often, hubby will go around after me and do the same check.  You never can be too safe out there!

walk around before you drive

Lessons learned: Water is your friend in the black tank.

We have officially spent more weekends in the travel trailer than our home this summer.  Bessie the Jayco trailer has seen five different states and a lot of miles over the six months we have owned her.  We have made some mistakes, had some repairs, and lots of adventures during our first camping season with Bessie.  As the summer is winding down, I thought I would sit down and write out  a few lessons I learned as a new travel trailer owner.  Each day this week I’ll be posting a new lesson learned.

Water is your friend in the black tank.

While the trailer was parked for a couple weeks at our home, the eldest teen decided she wanted to use the trailer as her own space.  She moved in, and took it over.  The trailer had electric hook up, but no water.  I did warn her to use the tanks sparingly, and to make sure she poured water in every time the toilet was used.  We kept an eye on the tank gauges and when they were getting full, we hooked up and headed to our nearest campground with full hookup for a weekend of camping.

I had a late day at work that Friday with a field trip.  Hubby was meeting me at the campground.  He was going to get everything all set up before I got back from taking sixty-three sixth graders on a field trip.  Hubby pulled into the camping spot and went to hook up the sewer pipe, that is when the adventure began.

First thing that was wrong, somehow the valve pull for the black tank was already pulled out. The lid over the pipe was securely in place, but the pull was open.  I can only imagine what my hubby was thinking about that, but I can only imagine it wasn’t very friendly.  Hubby was faced with a very full black tank, with only the lid holding it all back.  He did his best to get the sewer pipe set up and hooked to the trailer as quickly as possible with as little spillage as possible.

Once the hook up was achieved, it should all be good.  The tank would empty and our weekend of camping would commence.  Right?  Right?

Unfortunately, that is not how this story ends.

Come to find out, the eldest had not been using enough water when using the black tank.  It was blocked.  Full.  And blocked.

Thankfully, our trailer has a hook up for a black tank flush.  Hubby hooked in the hose and started running water into the tank, careful to keep an eye on it inside.  No over flowing toilet, please!  After two or three minutes of running water into the tank, it let loose.  It let loose in an amazing fashion.  It took ten to fifteen minutes for the tank to empty.  However, we dealt with issues of false readings on the gauge and problems emptying the tank for the next few times we went out.

I am very thankful that I arrived at the campground as this whole story was finishing up.  We are now VERY careful to make sure enough water is used when dry camping, and we always flush the tank when a hose hook up is available at the dump station.

We went on to enjoy our weekend at the campground.  Some friends of ours were at the spot across from us.  Much music was played, good food was eaten, and the weekend was enjoyed.

Korgan bruceport may

 

Vacation Dreaming

img_2627Today was a rainy nasty day in the Pacific Northwest. Days like today have me dreaming of our annual trip to Arizona. There is nothing like the sunset in the desert.  The wide expanse of sky with the mountains in the distance.  The temperature drops to reasonable and it is so peaceful.

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Also, I bought my very first pair of LuLaRu leggings. Every thing you have heard about how soft they are is true. I want 473 pairs. Seriously. I may live in nothing but these leggings for the rest of the weekend.

My Happy Place

When you live in a three bedroom house with six people, it can be hard to find space that is just for you.  As the mom in the house, this seems to be especially difficult.  This summer, after several very stressful events, I decided that I needed my own space. My sewing machines had been in storage for years while I waited for the craft room that I dreamed of.  I missed my hobbies. I missed the peace and beauty of creating with fabric.  So, I took over an old dining room that was being used for storage.

I created my own happy place.

 

Just looking at this picture gives me peace.  I adore having a space where I can sit and create. This is what feeds my soul.

Where is your happy place?  Comment, Follow, Share!  We all need a happy place.

Cooking Up New Posts

imageNovember is known around the world for NaNoWriMo. This month long challenge has an amazing amount of people starting and attempting to finish an entire novel in just 30 days.  I don’t have a novel in mind, but I sure would like to get some more posts up here!  My goal is to write a new post every morning.

Will all all the posts be brilliant and amazing works of literature? Probably not.

Will I still be working on my first cup of coffee while I write them before going to work for the day?  Yes, most likely.

Will I possibly lose my mind trying to create posts on an out of date/glitchy IPAD?  Based on this post alone, this is likely.

Will there be recipes, life management tips, and funny stories about camping with teenagers?  Most definitely!

I sure hope you stick with me for the month.  Click, Peruse, and Comment!

Pre-Spring Cleaning

Sorry friends.  I know I planned on writing a post all about different types of planners.  A rare uninterrupted weekend home inspired me to do a bit of pre-spring cleaning instead of writing a post.  I’m sure you can all understand the need for a clean start this time of year.

I’ll be back to my previously scheduled post next weekend.  Hope you are all having a great day!

Setting up for weekly success

I have had many different planners over the last twenty years. While their format, color, and size may have changed, one thing has always remained the same.  My weekly planning time.  Every weekend I carve a little time out just for me to plan the upcoming week.  My weekly planning has happened while we were out and about in the car, in the stands of a sporting event, while waiting for the teen to finish their job, or even on a friend’s dining table while we visit.  Most often my planning happens at the dining table while I cook dinner on Saturday or Sunday night.

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I start with my blank week in the planner.  I have a few stickers that I use to track things each week.  First I add in my meal plan stickers, blog tracker stickers, and a few pretty background stickers.  I like to leave plenty of blank space for adding in appointments, lists, and inspirational quotes throughout the week.

Once I have those put in, I start to fill in the appointments and reoccuring items for the week.  Anytime I make an appointment I write it on the monthly view of my planner.  This week, I only had a couple of appointments that needed to be filled in.  I love easy weeks!  Then I look at my meal plan and choose meals that fit with our schedule.  If the day is full of appointments and things to do, I choose a crockpot meal.  If I know I’ll have plenty of time for cooking, I’ll choose a more involved dinner to cook.  Then I look at my blog plans for the week.  I like to have a reminder for well thought out instagram photos and facebook posts.  I don’t want to be obnoxious, but I do want to get my blog out there!

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This week, I had plenty of white space left.  Throughout the week I will add in inspirational quotes that I see, funny memories, and lists of things to do.  I also love to draw zentangles and mandalas.  I use my planner to draw and sketch in.  I often use my planner as my journal.  I love going back to previous years planners and read what was happening in our lives.

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By the end of the week, I will have filled in most of that white space.  Some weeks will be completely filled.  Others will be like this one, with some blank space still available.  A planner is a personal thing.  Each one is going to look different and that is how it should be!

As a final thought, I’d like to talk about the expense of a weekly planner.  You don’t need a fancy desk with glorious pens, stickers, and washi tape.  You don’t have to spend a lot of money on Etsy for custom stickers.  You don’t have to spend hundreds of dollars on a fancy planner.  My current planner cost me only $25.  I have had more expensive planners.  I enjoyed them greatly.  However, I want to be clear that this is not just a hobby that I spend money on.  I really do enjoy my weekly planner time, and I do view it as a hobby.  For this week’s layout, I used all free downloadable stickers that I printed and cut myself.  I admit, I like a pretty planner.  Just remember your planner is for keeping your life organized, not just displaying pretty stickers and layouts.

Come back next weekend when I’ll be talking about different types of planners.  Finding the right planner for you is really important!  If you don’t like it, or it isn’t formatted for your needs, you won’t use it.  That would be sad.