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

 

Back to school!

It is the beginning of August, which means I have roughly one month until school starts again.  I’m one of those teachers that actually really enjoy the process of setting up my classroom every year.  I am usually the first one in the building, and I come in for at least a few hours just about every week day to set up nice and slow.  There are other teachers that reprimand me for spending my time free in the classroom.  This is a frustration, but if it means I can relax during all the back to school meetings on our staff work days it is worth it to me.

packed

I moved into a new classroom this year.  It took me a full day just to unpack most of my stuff.  I admit, I didn’t unpack any of my teacher supplies, just shoved those boxes into the closet.

unpacked

I just love an organized closet!

closet

One of my most used areas in my classroom is my assignment board.  Every week, I put all the assignments, standards, targets, and events up on the board for students to refer to.  Students write the assignments in the planners and take them home for parents to see each weekend.  In my old classroom, I had three big white boards.  One whole white board was used for this purpose.  In my new classroom, I only have two white boards.  I will need all that space for teaching each day.  So, I decided to use this wall of cabinets as my new interactive calendar wall.

blank wallIt took me a while to decide how I could make this space really functional.  It had to be dry erase.  It couldn’t interfere with the cupboards opening and closing.  And, it couldn’t cause damage to the cupboard doors.  Dollar Tree vinyl book covers and my Cricut machine to the rescue!

calendar wall

It took me just over 4 hours to complete this project.  I used my Cricut to cut 10 inch scalloped squares out of the vinyl book covers.  Then put them up on the cupboards in a grid.  The vinyl book covers are sticky, but don’t leave a residue.  They are dry erase-ish.  The marker does leave a bit of darkness when it is erased.  The squares were easy enough to make/put up that I plan to cut extras to have on hand.  Then if one gets particularly grungy, I can just put up a new one!  I’m also excited to have a full month view.  My students really like knowing what is coming up at school.  This large calendar will give me plenty of space to write in events, birthdays, and assignments.

Our class mascot, Earl, approves this message.

Simple Knit Hat

Last fall, I decided to take a day for myself.  I left all the family doing what they do, and I drove ALONE to the nearest big city.  I spent the day perusing book stores, eating lunch by myself, and wandering JoAnn’s craft store.  It was amazing.  I haven’t done that in a very, very long time.

After the craziness of last summer, I had been thinking about routines and getting back to basics.  This includes getting back to my simple hobbies.  One thing I have enjoyed for the last fifteen years is knitting.  When my children were small, I would knit or craft every day.  It might only be a row or two, but I did something every day.  It was my relaxation time.  In the last couple of years, I have gotten away from that habit.  I miss that meditative process of creating something wonderful from a piece of string.

While I was in JoAnn’s, I decided to purchase everything I would need to make myself a nice warm winter set.  I chose a super soft, Buttercream alpaca blend yarn in solid brown and purple.  Because of the bulkiness of the yarn, I chose size 10.5 knitting needles in both circular and double point.  I didn’t have any scissors with me and I always like to have something to cut the yarn with me in a project.  Instead of purchasing another expensive pair of small scissors, I opted for a large seam ripper.  I like using seam rippers because they are small, have protective lids over the blades, and cut yarn with ease.  Oh, and they are cheap!  I also decided to try one of their Snapware Yarn Containers for this project.  This large plastic jar is big enough to hold all of my supplies for this project to keep it all clean while crafting on the go.  The lid has a hole so I can have my yarn pulling from the center of the skeins to work with both colors without any tangling.

By the time I was done shopping, I was excited to get started on my first non-gift knitting project in a very long time.  I headed out to my car, and enjoyed the air conditioning while I casted on my simple knit hat.

KnitHat1

The next day, we had a family reunion to attend.  I made a lot of progress during the 45 minute drive.  I just love how quickly bulky yarn works up!

Knit Hat 2

While we visited and relaxed with family, I finished the whole hat.  I just need to sew in the ends of the yarn.

Knit Hat Done

I really love simple knit hats.  This bulky alpaca yarn will be nice and warm in winter.  The two skeins of yarn should be enough for me to make a hat, finger-less mitts, and a cowl.  It really feels great to wear something I have made myself.

This pattern can be used for any size needle and yarn.  You just have to adjust your cast on number for the gauge and row count for length.  The basic hat has a rib section that is at least an inch to two inches long for the cuff.  The knit portion of the hat needs to be long enough for the hat to cover your head all the way to the crown.  I often try the hat on while in process to make sure I make it long enough.  Once the knit section is long enough for the hat to cover your ears to the crown of your head, you are ready to reduce.  The reducing pattern I use goes pretty quickly without looking pointed when you wear it.

The following instructions are for bulky yarn using 10.5 needles.  I prefer to start my hats on a circular needle, but if you prefer to work with double points go for it!  Also, I like to knit a couple of rows before I connect to knit in the round.  This makes it easier for me to see that my stitches aren’t twisted.  It is easy enough to use the end of the cast on yarn to stitch up the small opening after the hat is done.

Simple Knit Hat Pattern

Cast on 68. (brown)

Row 1: K2P2 (brown)

Row 2: K2P2 (purple)

Connect to knit in the round.

Row 3: K2P2 (brown)

I switched colors every row to create the stripe pattern.  When switching colors, tuck the previous color under the new one before starting your row.  This will prevent holes along the seam.  I continued this pattern for the remainder of the hat.

Continue the K2P2 rib for a total of 8 rows.

The rest of the hat is worked in all knit.  Continue to switch colors every row.  Knit for    12 rows. Or until the hat reaches the crown of your head comfortably.  The reducing will go pretty quickly, so error on the side of too long if you aren’t sure.

Now is the time to start reducing for the crown of the hat.  I transferred to four double point needles at this point.  Each needle had 17 stitches.

For each needle: K2tog, K until two stitches left, K2tog

Continue this pattern for each needle until you have three stitches on each needle.

For each needle: K2tog, K1

Cut a nice long tail.  Thread the tail through the remaining stitches and drop them off the needles.  Pull the tail tight in the inside of the hat to close the top.  Tie it off in a knot to hold.

Use a large tapestry needle to sew in your ends and your hat is completed!

 

 

First Camping Trip 2017

My family has been camping for many years.  Each summer, we pack our vehicle to the gills and head into the woods for some much needed relaxation.  The first trip of the season is always eventful.  We discover what equipment didn’t get packed properly for the winter.  Something always needs to be replaced.  A few things are usually missing.  I am usually pretty stressed because I am the list maker, the bag packer, and the worry wort of the family.

I spend days, if not weeks, before our first trip of the season writing out lists of things to pack, recipes to make, groceries to buy…… Then a few days before we leave I actually start packing.  I unbury the totes of camping equipment that have been stored for the winter.  I unpack them, and take stock (more lists!) of what is there.  I clean everything from being in storage for months.  I figure out what needs to be replaced or refilled.  The day before we leave, I pile all the things out in the driveway for the hubby to pack into our rig.

This year’s first camping trip was special for several reasons.

First off, we scheduled our trip for much earlier in the spring.  Normally, we have to wait until the weather allows for tent camping.  I’m not particularly fond of tent camping in the rain.  That means our trips usually are scheduled well into our pacific northwest summer.   This year we have Bessie!  With a travel trailer, I didn’t stress about the weather.  I was just excited to get out and camp!  In fact, we scheduled our first  trip so early, the campground wasn’t completely open for the season yet.  We were the only seasonal campers there.  Other than the camp hosts and one other trailer that was a long term resident, we had the entire campground to ourselves!

Second, we were missing a couple of people.  The eldest had to work, and middle spent the night with a friend.  We made up for the missing people by taking all three large dogs with us.

Third, the weather was not your perfect camping weather.  It poured.  It stormed.  It blew.  There was standing water outside Bessie.  All of us, including the three dogs, were stuck inside the trailer for the whole night.

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Fourth, we camped really close to home.  We wanted to camp close to home for our first trip with the travel trailer in case of any issues.  Because we were close to home, we decided to go visit hubby’s mother for dinner.  That means the only “meal” we had was breakfast.  By breakfast, I mean I made coffee and we ate cereal.

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The next morning it did clear just enough for us to have a short walk around the park.

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Campground: Bruceport County Park, just south of South Bend, WA.

Cost: Full Hook Up $25 per night

Review: Bruceport was a lovely little campground.  It has a nice easy trail to walk along the beach.  All the campsites are located on the cliff above the bay.  The full hook up sites are pretty close to each other in the center of the camping area.  There are several non-hook up sites with beautiful views of the bay around the outside of the camping area.  Park restrooms were clean, and there was a coin operated shower available.  The park has a lovely large field to play outside games with a group.  There is also a covered area if you wanted to have a group event.

Website: Bruceport RV Park

Follow our camping adventures over on Instagram with the hashtag #inamedherbessie

Everybody, meet Bessie!

truck and trailer.jpeg

This last weekend, my family picked up our very first travel trailer.  I’m so excited!!  I named her Bessie.  We have been tent camping for the last thirteen years.  I love it, but I’m so done with sleeping on the ground and hoping the campground bathroom isn’t gross.  Also, the hubby would prefer to camp in undeveloped areas, which means no bathrooms at all.  Not my favorite thing.

Our goal with the travel trailer is to have everything ready and packed.  So that on Friday, after a long week at work, we can grab some food, grab the dogs, and head to the woods for some rest and a recharge.  We are spending the week getting her all packed and set up.  Friday we will be taking her out to camp for the very first time.  The weather is still all rainy and nasty here in the northwest, but I don’t care.  Woods here we come!

 

Follow our adventures on Instagram with the hashtag #inamedherbessie

Politics

I had planned to post my reaction to the presidential race yesterday evening.  But then it just kept going, and I went to bed.

What an amazing example of the democratic system.  This has been the first presidential campaign that I have really followed from start to finish.  Never before have I stayed up so very late on a work night, refreshing my Google page every few minutes, to see history made.  Because history was made.  I am not asking who you voted for.  I’m not going to say who I voted for.  No matter what side you are on, this years presidential campaign has been the most dramatic and world wide attention getting elections that I can ever remember.

I hope that our population can slow down and see our friends and family that we may disagree with politically for what they are.  Friends.  Family.  Let the next few weeks be a healing time in relationships that were stressed or hurt because of political views.

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