10 Places I Really Want to See

I always said my dream home would be a little house with a big yard. I didn’t exactly have an RV in mind when I said that, but what d’ya know? My house on wheels is just 23 feet long, and my yard pretty much covers the North American continent.

It’s going to take me a while to explore these extensive grounds. So here are ten places I’d really like to see (in no particular order):

Yosemite National Park

2013-10-20 Illilouette_Fall_08911 Yosemite National Park - Wikimedia Commons (480x640)

Mountains, forests, waterfalls … The pictures remind me of the opening scenes of Disney’s Snow White. According to the Yosemite National Park website, most of the park is operating normally despite the Rim Fire.

 

 

 

 

New England in the Autumn

2013-10-20 800px-Vermont_fall_covered_bridge_2009 - Wikimedia Commons (640x414)

I don’t know if it’s true, but I picture New England as a quiet place time forgot, where the rivers roll lazily and horses’ hooves clop across covered bridges as they haul wagons brimming with maple syrup. (Oh, never mind. Syrup season is in spring.)

Cape Disappointment State Park, Washington 

2013-10-20 Cape_Disappointment_and_Cape_Disappointment_Light - Wikimedia Commons (640x428)

I saw the name on a map and knew I wanted to go. One story behind its strange name says that Lewis and Clark, upon reaching the Pacific Ocean, hoped to meet a ship that would take them back home. No such luck. Cape Disappointment also holds the title as one of the foggiest locales in the US.

Fort Jefferson, Florida

2013-10-20 Fort-Jefferson_Dry-Tortugas - Wikimedia Commons (640x425)

I could think of worse places to serve time. This fort in the Florida Keys remained in Union hands during the Civil War and was used as a prison. Not too sure how I’d get the RV there …

 

Grand Canyon

2013-10-20 Grand Canyon - Wikimedia Commons (640x190)

Okay, sorry, this one’s just obvious.

Kentucky Horse Farms

2013-10-20 Kentucky_horse_farm - Wikimedia Commons (640x480)

Kentucky’s famous blue grass pastures … idyllic farm scenes … and grandiose stables that put the Walt Disney Castle to shame.

 

 

 

Atlantic Coast Lighthouses

2013-10-20 Portland,_Maine_Lighthouse - Wikimedia Commons (640x480)

Any one will do. Particularly if it’s really cute, and if there’s brightly-painted fishing boats on the water, and if there’s 30 different seafood restaurants in town (even though I can’t stand seafood–I’m just there for the ambiance).

 

Sequoia National Park

2013-10-20 Sequoia_Tunnel_Tree - Wikimedia Commons (516x364)More modern pictures reveal that the park system still hasn’t finished removing this dead tree. (But who’s complaining?)

 

 

 

Cape Breton, Nova Scotia

2013-10-20 400px-Bagpiper_in_Edinburgh_001 - Wikimedia Commons (400x600)As close to Scotland and Ireland as my RV will ever get! Fiddles, pipes, bodhráns, sword dancing, step dancing … even the signs along the highways are written in both English and Gaelic.

 

 

 

Glacier National Park

2013-10-20 Saint_Mary_Lake_and_Wildgoose_Island - Wikimedia Commons (600x399)Okay, I did save the best for last. More than anywhere else in the world, I want to see Glacier National Park. I was in Colorado once and fell in love with the Rockies, but not with the major metropolitan areas nearby. Montana is pretty sparsely populated, and that’s what I call paradise–a place where you can be alone with nature and with God and with your thoughts.

Some of the places I’ve listed are pretty well known, but the ones I’m most excited to find are the places no one’s ever heard of before. The quiet retreats you share with five or six other campers, the off-season locales, or the forgotten nooks you can have all to yourself.

What about you? Where do you most want to go? Leave me a comment, and you might tempt me to alter my “top 10” list!

 

How to Survive Cold Weather Camping … without a Four Seasons RV

004 (640x427)It’s getting cold these days. As repairs on the ol’ camper drag on, I’m watching the thermometer droop ever downwards. Needless to say, I thought I’d be on the road by now, but Murphy and his law had other plans.

So here I sit, watching the odd snowflake drift by, mockingly, and ask myself: How cold does it have to be before the pipes freeze on your RV?

Winter Camping

Am I completely crazy? Almost, but not quite. According to Google, people search for the term “winter rv camping” about 210 times per month. Not a lot. More surprising—people search for the phrase “winter camping”—meaning tent camping—about 4,400 times per month. So get this: tenting in the winter is about 21 times more popular than RV camping in the winter. Now that is crazy. Better put it on my bucket list.

How Cold Before Your Pipes Freeze?

I paid a little visit to several RV forums, like RV.net and RVForum.net. Imagine my relief when I discovered that RV water lines don’t magically freeze solid the instant the thermometer brushes against 32° F. More than one person noted that if you set a dish of water out on a night that dips below freezing, you won’t find any ice in the morning. Generally speaking, most RVers find their water lines are good down to the upper twenties.

Two important factors come into play:

  • Ice takes time to form–several hours of below-freezing temps
  • The RV itself retains heat, helping to keep the pipes warm

But what if I accidentally get caught in really cold temperatures? I found cool answers to that question, too. RVers are a very creative and determined group of people.

How to Turn a Three Seasons RV into a Four Seasons RV

  • Perform an emergency winterize. Drain the tanks and water pipes and fill with RV antifreeze (usually used for storing your RV over the winter). Then outfit yourself with several gallons of drinking water, park next to a bathroom, and voilà.
  • Perform an emergency semi-winterize. Several people noted that you can still use your own bathroom, so long as you pour RV antifreeze into the holding tank. Flush with bottled water.
  • Invest in heat tape. This stuff looks so cool. It’s like a string of Christmas lights, minus the lights. You wrap the tape around your pipes, cover it with insulation, and plug it in. Tada! Heated pipes.
  • Apply skirting. From the pictures I’ve seen, campers don’t actually look cute in skirts—but it’s the only viable option for severely cold weather. Tarps, plywood, styrofoam, straw bales, and snowbanks have all been used for skirting. For extra coziness, you can park a little heater under the camper. (Does this create heated floors, too?)

Everyone is quick to note that none of these options are fail proof. So you could just …

Buy a Four Seasons RV

I’ve been a very naughty girl. While I’m at the RV stores getting repairs done and picking up supplies, I always succumb to the urge to peek inside the big, fancy new models. Apparently, I’m not the only one who wants to enjoy cold weather camping. Four seasons RVs are the thing now days. They sport such niceties as enclosed and heated water pipes and are guaranteed down to 0° F. Of course, they also come with flat-screen TVs and electric fireplaces. Hey, I wouldn’t complain!

So what do you think? Will I and my camper survive this dare against Jack Frost?

RV Food Storage – Elusive Freezer Space

IMAG0134 (640x480)There’s so much I love about my new (old) motor home. The wood floor in the kitchen. The wood paneling on all the walls. The plaid upholstery. And the super-cool, totally retro tinted sidelight next to the bathroom door.

But I’ll confess, I’m a little worried about my RV food storage space. In particular, the freezer. I have a smallish fridge with a mini freezer compartment on top. That’s it. And that’s gotta cover my needs for both me and my 90-pound dog Molly while we full-time RV.

I cook all my dog’s meals—which translates into 10 pounds of meat every week. I’m used to the deep freezer at home! In addition, I keep frozen veggies, frozen organ meats (again for Molly), frozen chicken broth and beef broth cubes (also for Molly) and the occasional frozen leftovers. And we haven’t even discussed the possibility of ice cream.

Soon after I bought the RV, I tested out a five-pound package of hamburger. Just fit inside the freezer. Not a heck of a lot of room for anything else, though. So I started looking at my options. Here’s what I found.

 

New RV Fridge

Lots of newer RVs have more spacious refrigerators—with more spacious freezer space. (Hmm … testament to popularity of easy frozen dinners?) That would have been my ideal—a brand new, two-door fridge and freezer model.

So I talked to the people at the RV stores. Here’s what I found out:

New Fridge: ………………………………………… $1,560

Cabinet remodel and installation: …………….$1,650

Total: …………. $3,210

Aside from the shocking price tag on the fridge, installation would have involved ripping out the old cabinetry around and above it. And at $110 per hour, that gets expensive. (Never knew RV repair people made such good money. Good for them.)

 

New RV Freezer

Okay, next plan. How about adding just a small RV freezer? The helpful RV guys flipped through their catalogs and found a really sweet unit that could function as either a freezer of a fridge. Best price I found?

Mini RV Freezer ……………………………………….$650

AC adaptor ……………………………………………… $ 70

Total: ……………..$720

The AC adapter was so I could plug the unit into one of my wall outlets … instead of plugging into the cigarette lighter and eating all my engine’s battery juice.

$720 was better. But still not good.

 

Appliance Store Mini Freezer

The ever-helpful RV people suggested I try the appliance stores. So I looked and called around. My ideal would have been a freezer about the size of a microwave that would fit just above my fridge. Otherwise, I had some space for a top-opening floor model.

Unfortunately, the microwave-sized freezer does not appear to exist. The best I found was super-cute and super-compact, but just barely too big. Plus the reviews on Amazon.com warned that it was poorly packaged and likely to arrive damaged. (Sob.)

Mini Front-Opening Freezer …………………………$150 – $250

What about top-opening floor models? By and large, the smallest floor models were still about 36 inches tall—way more storage space than I needed, and the sort of thing that would have dominated my RV living space. I can see my guests walking in: “Wow! Nice … freezer.”

Small Top-Opening Freezer …………………………..$170

 

Cooler and Dry Ice

Okay, I was getting desperate. But I was determined to explore all options. I already had a cooler, so …

Dry Ice ………………………………………………………..$1.00/lb

Variable, depending on the brand and how much you buy. Not bad—until you look at how much dry ice you need. A table at DryIceInfo.com suggested I would need 15 pounds of dry ice to keep 5 pounds of meat frozen for two days. Wow.

The stats at ContinentalCarbonic.com were a little friendlier. They noted that if you store your dry ice in the middle of your package, you can get by with a lot less. With this arrangement, six pounds of food would only require one pound of dry ice. If placing the dry ice in the middle doesn’t work, you can place it on the bottom and use 3 pounds.

And both these calculations assume that you’re merely shipping your frozen food … not that you’re keeping it in an insulated cooler.

 

Conclusion to RV Food Storage Dilemma

Be content with such things as you have … and get creative.

I grabbed a five-pound tray of chicken breasts, an egg carton, and a bunch of my storage containers and carried them all out to the camper. The chicken just fit in the freezer with enough room for two squatty storage containers on top and maybe a couple flattened-out bags of frozen veggies in front. Ideal? No. Workable? Maybe.

My strategy:

  • Re-package bulky items (like meat on Styrofoam trays) into space-fitting plastic zip-top baggies (discard space-eating Styrofoam tray)
  • Cook meat as soon as possible (meat can store in the fridge longer when it’s cooked than when it’s raw)
  • In case of emergency, resort to dry ice

And as to the ice cream … I guess there’s DQ.

Camping vs. Campering

IMAG0019 (640x480)Phase One of the great Camper Caper is complete: deep cleaning. It’s a joy to be able to walk into my camper and inhale deeply without bursting into fits of coughing.

But we aren’t out of the woods yet—or more specifically, out in the woods. The water systems are still full of antifreeze. I dare not start the furnace for fear of great clouds of dust blowing all over my freshly cleaned camper. And I don’t even know if I have any propane in the tank to light the stove.

So what the heck. I took it camping anyway.

My friend Mareike (say that mar-I-ka) from Germany was over, and she’d never stayed in an RV before. (Heck, neither had I.)

On the first night of our visit, we camped in the ol’ tent—and were nearly wiped off the face of the earth by a thunder storm. Despite a fresh coat of seam sealant, we shipped enough water to soak my dog and the foot of my sleeping bag. (Like a good dog parent, I shared the remaining dry portion with my soggy pooch.)

More storms were predicted for our second night … so all in all, it was clearly the perfect opportunity to try out the camper. With none of the systems functional, we treated it like a glorified tent … trips to the vault toilet and the whole bit.

For the record, I object to the use of the term “camping” applied to RVs. “Camping” implies a certain intimacy with nature, a lack of comforts and conveniences, and the ability to carry on your back everything you need to sustain life.

RVs establish distance between the inidividual and nature. You have weather-proof walls. You have running water. You have a deep, cushy bed. You have a refridgerator, an air conditioner, and a furnace. It’s nothing less than a small house with a great view.

Hence I’ve coined a new term: “Campering.”

But I’m not sure I was “campering” on this trip. The rain hit in the dead of the night, and it cleverly blew in through my broken vent cover, elbowed its way past the barricade I’d made of plastic sacks, dripped down from on high, and soaked my sleeping bag—worse than my night in the tent.

Intimacy with nature = camping. Therefore, I was camping … not “campering.” Even though I was in a camper. Yeah, I’m confused, too.

Whatever I was doing, my first time with the camper was lots of fun—made more enjoyable by sharing it with a friend … who doesn’t mind getting up at three in the morning to help me waterproof a broken vent cover.

Hot chocolate over an open fire

Hot chocolate over an open fire

Breakfast for Two

Breakfast for Two

View as seen from the roof of the camper—while working some more on the broken vent cover

View as seen from the roof of the camper—while working some more on the broken vent cover

Pawnote from Molly

IMAG0015 (640x480)I didn’t mind the broken vent cover at all. It meant my girl ended up sleeping on the floor with me! The bed over the cab looks cozy and all, but I’ve tried, and there’s no way to get up there, no matter how hard I wag my tail and give my girl that pleading look.

So when my girl parked a bucket under the leaking vent and rolled out her sleeping bag next to me, I laid my paw and my head on her arm to let her know I liked this arrangement so much better. I hope she decides to use the bed over the cab for storage.

See the full album!

Visit Molly and me on our Facebook page to see all the pictures.