Thursday, March 21, 2013

Planning the next trip

So, we've learned quite a few things about the trailer based on our first camping trip.

1) It's going to take us a while to figure out the most efficient storage inside and outside of the trailer
2) I don't like where my clothes were and would prefer them to be closer to the bed
3) The underbelly of the trailer could've been organized better
4) We're loving the 3M Command products

Numbers 2 & 3 are easily rectified.

For the clothes storage: I'm planning on getting a tote (maybe 2?) from Thirty One to go under the bed where the sofa folds down to add a little more storage. I'll probably put clothes in them. If not, they'll hold kitchen stuff so that I put my clothes in the overhead storage next to the bed. We'll see how this works out.

The underbelly of the trailer: We reorganized this to make a bit more sense the last time we were at the trailer. Now the tire stuff is closer to the tires and the water/power stuff is on the side of the trailer that has the hookups. Makes more sense, doesn't it? :) I have a feeling there might be a couple of more changes, but we'll get to those whenever we feel like we need to.

I'm also DEFINITELY getting velcro dots. In fact, I should go ahead and order some now. It'd be nice to be able to know things will stay in place when we're moving. We found the remote for the sound system on the floor next to the door instead of where we put it.

Right now, I'm trying to figure out what to plan for meals for our next trip. I'm not even 100% sure when our next trip is yet, but I'm still trying to figure out meals. Maybe I should be more focused on the actual logistics of our next trip!

I'm sure we'll have even more lessons as we prepare for & go on our next trip. Looking forward to them!

Thursday, March 14, 2013

First camping trip - Jon's thoughts about glamping

I was totally NOT white-knuckled the entire drive down. Ok, maybe a bit... I'm still learning to tow. But I digress. With Heather already covering a lot of the logistics, I'll hit the technical details.

Tow prep and hitching up

Since I had already checked my lug nuts with a torque wrench (110 foot-pounds) a couple of weeks prior, I knew they were in good shape. So I proceeded to check the tire pressure on the trailer, and I was amazed at how much pressure they had lost in just three weeks (down to 35 psi from 50). I quickly realized that my 12V air compressor works much faster when I actually have the truck running and the alternator generating some current.

Hitching up was pretty straightforward, as I haven't really touched our weight distribution setup since the dealer installed it. Absolutely love having the power jack, it really helps lift the tongue up high enough to secure the weight distribution bars.


Ok, I'll admit that heading south on 95 with a lot of big rigs passing me was intimidating. I keep expecting the trailer to sway, but I'm slowly learning to trust that my truck and hitch are doing their job properly. I'm also probably changing lanes way too early, but I freak out in anticipation of having to get over into the lane I need to be in to turn. Ah well, hopefully it'll get easier.

Chocking, unhitching, leveling, and stabilizing

Got to the KOA just fine, and love those pull-through sites! Made parking super easy. First order of business: we put the slide out, because we wanted to level with the weight shifted as it would be parked. Second order of business: wow, that's a big slide. Put it back in, pulled the truck forward about four feet, and put it back out. Would have hit the electrical hookup with it otherwise. Didn't need to level left to right according to our bubble level, so I chocked, unhitched, leveled front to back, and cranked down the stabilizer jacks.

Shore power and city water

Hooking up to shore power was a piece of cake, but we realized that our GFI breaker was tripped at the galley outlet. None of our outlets worked as a result, but that was an easy fix. Water was a bit more interesting, because I couldn't decide how I wanted to hookup the regulator, the hose, and the filter. I ultimately decided to hook them up in that order, but I disconnected everything probably five different times before I turned on the water. No leaks, so that was promising. Went inside, ran the cold and hot water to get all of the antifreeze and air out of the lines, then I turned on the water heater. We had hot water in about fifteen minutes, which I thought was pretty impressive.

Now, it went below freezing each night and our hose was not of the heated variety. In fact, I didn't even realize they made heated water hoses until my boss (an expert trailer camper) told me about them the following week at work. So to prevent freezing I basically disconnected and drained the hose and filter each night, storing them in the storage areas of the trailer. Our Lance is 4-Season rated, so according to he manual: as long as you run the furnace in freezing weather the pipes and tanks stay above freezing. We had no problems at all, though our next winter camping trip will definitely involve a heated water hose.

Running the furnace

We ran the furnace (which uses propane) from the moment we hooked up to shore power to the moment we hitched back up to leave, and I was pleasantly surprised that we only seem to have burned about half of tank of propane. I'm fairly confident we came back home with a full tank and a half left, which was more than I expected to have. The furnace kept us quite warm all night long. My only nitpick is that with the thermostat set to 66 or so, it would let the temperature fall to about 63 before kicking the furnace on and heating the interior up to about 68. I had brought along a digital thermometer and humidity monitor, and we noticed that we wanted to shed layers up around 68 and then pull them back on down around 63. Ah, well. All in all I can't really complain, everything worked great.

Keeping an eye on humidity

With two adult humans converting air into CO2 and water inside a buttoned-up 19.6 foot trailer, condensation can become a concern. The owners manual says to ventilate if the humidity ever gets above 60%, and to always ventilate while using the propane stove or showering. With just the furnace running all night, we awoke to find very minor condensation on the inside of the double-paned windows - which we expected from reading reports from more experienced campers online. We wiped everything down each morning and ran our Fantastic Fan for a bit, but we never got about 45% humidity unless we were cooking or showering. Performing either activity inside quickly brought the humidity levels up over 60%, so we had all the exhaust fans running while cooking or showering. That Fantastic Fan can move some air, it's incredible.

The bed that hurt me

So we have the optional queen bed that converts into a sofa in our 1885. I'd call it a sofa-bed, but it's totally not what you have in your homes. It's more of a queen bed first and sofa second. Heather and I both agreed to give the queen mattress a try before buying any sort of mattress pad or topper. We left it made up in bed mode the entire trip, not really needing the sofa with just the two of us.

So after the first night we promptly got dressed, made breakfast, got into the truck and drove to the nearest Costco in order to buy a 3" memory foam mattress topper. We discussed the purchase for all of about 30 seconds at breakfast, and the decision was unanimous. The second night's sleep with the mattress topper installed was much improved over the first's.

The shower that hugged me

So with a corner shower (photos below in Heather's post) in our 1885, we decided to double up on the shower curtains to try to prevent water from spraying out and getting onto the floor. We've seen a bunch of people post about their rather ingenious solutions to this problem, so we knew the threat was real. We decided to keep it simple (and cheap) for now, and the good news is that the two curtains did a fabulous job of keeping the water in.

The problem is, when you get a nice hot and steamy shower going, the updraft tends to cause the curtains to hug you. I kept backing further and further into the corner of the stall until I finally pushed the curtain back out a bit, and this fight continued throughout the shower.

I'm not going to lie to you: the water pressure was abysmal. I used the Navy shower approach primarily because it would have been more annoying not to, what with the pathetic trickle of water coming from the shower head. After we got home and did a little research, I promptly ordered a proper water pressure regulator and a replacement shower head from Camping World. Both were recommended by other Lance owners as solutions to the problem, and I'm looking forward to getting them installed before our next trip out.


Before towing our trailer back to our storage lot, we took the time to re-winterize it by following the steps Lance recommends on their website (which essentially mirror the user's manual). I was very intimidated by this process at first because it seemed rather involved, but it ended up being extremely simple to follow the directions. We'd brought along far more RV antifreeze (4 jugs) than we needed (1.5 jugs), but better safe than sorry. I pumped antifreeze through all of the water faucets (remember that outdoor shower!), both cold and hot, after draining and bypassing the water heater, and finally put some down into the grey and black tanks for good measure. We didn't use our fresh water tank at all, so really we just had to worry about the water heater, the plumbing, and the grey and fresh water tanks.

That's it for now! All in all, a successful shakedown camp. I'm going to get the shower sorted out, and try to get a TV mount and flat panel installed before our next trip in April. Can't wait!

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

RV Organization Tips

Today, I was reading an article called "20 Tips to stay organized in your RV", which can be found here.

A few of my favorites are:

  1. Pack safely by layering bubble wrap or non-skid liner between your dishes. Can koozies will help protect your favorite glasses, too.
  2. Store grains & pasta in airtight containers, and keep hidden away in a cool microwave or oven when not in use. This is a great way to keep out unwanted critters and utilize unused space.
  3. Easy-to-remove hooks from 3M won’t leave residue on your walls and they’ll come in handy for your bathrobe, kitchen tools, cables, and other hangables.
  4. Recycle old plastic jelly & mayo containers to hold beans, rice, flour, and sugar.
  5. Keep baby wipes on-hand for easy stain removal, and re-purpose the plastic container for storing everything from small documents to makeup, to kitchen gadgets, and a first aid kit.
  6. Keep moths and other insects at bay by taping Bay Leaves inside your cabinets.
  7. Use a pop-up laundry hamper or laundry bag that can be folded flat when not in use.
  8. Wipe counters frequently to reduce ant trails. Ants will be attracted to water in your sinks and tanks, so make sure they’re emptied when not being used.
We currently do #3, 5, 7, and 8. We're especially loving the 3M Command Stick products. We even found a shower caddy by 3M. Love it!

3M Command Shower Caddy - it even has a hook for the loofahs!
Have any suggestions that are missed in the article?

Monday, March 4, 2013

Fredericksburg KOA Trip, Fredericksburg, VA (Part 2)

Campground & Adventures Day 2 - March 2, 2013

We were planning to get up "whenever", but the geese had other ideas. Promptly at 7am, they decided to have a squawk-fest. We took our time getting up and moving. Jon reconnected the water and I started making breakfast.

Bacon & pancakes - Yum!
It was while I was making the bacon that I realized we really need a grease container. We used a coffee mug for this trip, but I'll be adding that to the list to bring to the trailer.

After getting breakfast put away, we decided to head to Costco. You see, we slept like crapola. The mattress was NOT comfortable at all. So, off to get a gel mattress pad. We also picked up a TV and case of water for the trailer. Ours didn't come with the TV installed, which was fine by us. The case of water was probably the smartest thing we did all weekend (to be explained later).

After we finished up at Costco, Jon decided we needed to go to Walmart... again. We got an extension cord to be able to inflate the tires using shore power when we're hooked up and a few other things.

We knew there was an RV show in town, so we decided to head over there and check it out. It was pretty small, but we were happy to find that there wasn't anything that we were like "oh I wish we had known about this before we bought our Lance". Also, we were waiting for the weather to warm up a bit.

Since we were out, we had lunch out (at TGIFriday's). Nothing really all that special, but it was good. It also gave us time to plan out our afternoon.

(This was probably the part of the trip I was most excited about) We went to the Fredericksburg National Battlefield Park and then to Chatham Manor. We really enjoy the National Parks and get the cancelation stamps from ones that we visit. I had forgotten our passport on my desk at the house. I used the back of my business cards to get the stamps, which turned out to be a bad idea. While at Fredericksburg NBP, we walked the Sunken Road.

Hanging out at the Visitor Center before walking around
Visitor Center
Sunken Road
Innis House
Goofing off before headed into the cemetery. Jon was half laughing, half like "REALLY?!"
Kirkpatrick Memorial
A very small part of the cemetery

After freezing long enough at the battlefield, we headed to Chatham Manor. It's a really cool mansion that has a very interesting history.

The "new" entrance to the house
Statue added in the 1930s
Chandelier and pretty curtains in the house
Music notes on the stairwell railing
Hospitality pineapple
The "old" entrance to the house.
Where the white bricks are used to have a portico on it. One of the many owners removed them.
Interesting read
Corn House - who knew?!
After getting done at Chatham Manor, we decided to head back to the campgrounds. We got the mattress pad out of the box & started to let it gain it's form back. I set about making dinner and Jon got a shower. Humorous because Jon's not really a Navy shower type of person. After he got out, we had a tasty dinner of polish sausage and mac & cheese. Nothing fancy on this trip. Once we got done cleaning up, I got in the shower and Jon started washing dishes. I helped finish dishes after I got out of the shower, Jon filled the bucket for toilet flushing, and then Jon shut off the water for the night. We played a couple of games of Yahtzee and then turned in for the night.

*Side note: we were by FAR the smallest trailer in the campsite. It was kind of funny to us actually.

Camping & Return Home Day 3 - March 3, 2012

We were planning on being up around 7-7:30 and the geese didn't let us down. Right at 7, they started their squawking again. We got up and made breakfast (oatmeal this morning). While I had water heating in the keurig (we used the bottled water), Jon went out to hook up the water. The pipe had frozen overnight (it got down into the low 20s), so we were now really glad we had the bottled water! We proceeded to wash the couple of dishes and brush our teeth using the bottled water - third world style. (We joke about it because my first trip to the Dominican Republic included bottled water for brushing your teeth.)

After breakfast and cleaning up, we started to pack up the trailer. While we were packing up, we were also cleaning the condensation from the night before. We noticed that some had built up in the front window.

*Stupid note here* A couple of weeks ago, Jon opened the front window from the outside. I thought the window inside had a screen, so I went to open it up... and the inside pane of the window came out. We still haven't managed to get the window back in properly. *stupid note ends here*

Jon decided we'd deal with the front window later. Well, later turned out to be 2 minutes later. We spent about 30 minutes trying to get it back in. Still haven't quite managed to get it all of the way in there. After getting it in better than it was before, we finished packing up the inside & outside of the trailer.

Jon also had to re-winterize the trailer (especially given the snow storm that they're calling for this week!), so that took a little bit of time.

All-in-all, our packing up went well. We got on the road much earlier than we had expected. Before we knew it, we were headed back up 95. Jon did much better driving back than driving there.

When we got back to the trailer storage lot, we pulled into our row and Jon got out to look at where he needed to be to back into our spot. He got back in the truck and I got out to help him back in. At first, as I was walking around the front of the truck, I said "you need to pull forward a good bit". Then, I looked at our spot and said "Hey! Question! Why don't you just pull straight through since the people behind us aren't here right now?!" I think his answer was "really?" Sigh. So, he pulled the trailer through and we got away without having to back it in!

I got in it and opened up the freezer & fridge. We got it all locked up and put away pretty quickly. It was a bit sad to leave it after such a short trip. Can't wait to take it out again!

Bye bye lil Lance!

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Fredericksburg KOA Trip, Fredericksburg, VA (Part 1)

When? March 1-3, 2013
Where? Fredericksburg KOA, Fredericksburg, VA
Cost? $48/night
Hookups? Full
Type? Pull-through
Site #? 106
Check-in? 3pm (I think)
Check-out? 11am or Noon
Characters? Heather & Jon
Weather? COLD! Highs in the 40s, Lows in the 20s

With all good trips comes the nitty gritty of planning the trip. Being the planning guru that I am (ok, ok, I'm just a bit OCD about details), this fell to me. We knew we wanted something kind of close and in March. My schedule's a bit crazy, so we picked the weekend that worked the best for us, March 1-3 in Fredericksburg, VA.

Over the weekend before the trip, we ran to Walmart (again). We were on the hunt for a couple of small things and then remembered we needed to figure out storage in the wardrobes. We spent a good 20 minutes standing in that aisle trying to figure stuff out. Armed with everything we needed in our cart, we were ready for the trip (storage wise).

We started to watch the weather like hawks in the week leading up to our trip. The forecasts were all over the place. Mostly, we were worried about how cold it was going to be. Initially, temps were forecasted to go down into the teens... that's too cold, even for a 4-season rated trailer. Ok, so the trailer could handle it, but we didn't want to. We decided Tuesday that we'd still be going based on the latest forecast.

With that decision made, I started getting meals ready and making graham crackers. Yes, making graham crackers. I'm slowly working on going gluten free to see if it helps with a medical issue, so why not give them a try? Here's the recipe I used.

We started packing Thursday night. Nothing big, just getting stuff organized into piles. Friday morning, we woke up, had breakfast, and started packing up clothes. Since it was going to be anywhere between 20 and 40 degrees, we packed warm clothes.

Jon was relegated to packing up things for the back of the truck, while I set about packing the inside of the truck, food, and clothes (into one bag). Hm, I think we need to revisit this one for our next trip!

Seriously too much stuff

Hitching up
We got to our storage place and started to prep the trailer for the trip. I removed the tire covers, put the license plate on the trailer (a story worthy of a post of it's own), did a couple of things in the trailer, and did whatever else Jon asked me to do (like get the battery strap on... another thing worthy of a post of it's own). I have no idea what Jon was doing. I was just keeping busy and out of the way.

It was finally time to hitch up. We've only done this one other time, so we're still learning. We managed to get everything perfectly lined up. I'm still debating walkie-talkies to communicate. Once the hitch was on & secured, we rolled out! (Ok, we checked the lights, signals, and all that and THEN rolled out.)

Any RV people who are reading this, how do you connect your break-away cable? Ours is a bit long, but we have no idea how to make it shorter without it being too short.

We picked the Fredericksburg KOA specifically because it's close to where we keep our trailer. By "close", I mean under 2 hrs. Jon pretty much white-knuckled it all of the way down. I helped keep an eye out when I could and helped guide him to be in the correct lane when necessary. Other than that, I played Candy Crush, checked email, or blooped on Facebook. I might have also busted out some car dancing.

Campground - March 1, 2013
We pulled into the campground and checked in.

Pulling into the campground
While we were checking in, the guy at the front desk gave us the option of where to go, so we picked site 106 - "the island". Cool little spot.

Campground map
We pulled over to the campsite and got busy unpacking the truck. While Jon was doing "outside stuff", I started bringing in the storage containers and put them into the wardrobes. I also put the shower caddy in the shower stall.

Wardrobes - storage containers from Walmart, hangers from Camping World, shoe organizers from IKEA, Command hooks from Camping World, bathroom stuff JCP & IKEA, Step stool from Bed Bath & Beyond
Command shower caddy from Amazon
Once Jon was ready, we put out the slide, pulled in the slide, moved the trailer, put the slide back out, unhooked, and then leveled. We didn't have to do any side to side leveling, just front to back (again, walkie talkies would've been helpful here!) After we got leveled & Jon got us hooked up to the campground stuff (water & electric), I turned on the fridge/freezer and got it going while I finished getting settled in. At some point during all of this, we also opened up the awning to air it out a bit.

Awning opened up. It's a lot bigger than we remembered!
After getting things set up, we decided we wanted to get a fire going... even though it was about 36 degrees out (I think that was the feels like temp). So, back to the front desk to get some firewood. We got back to the campsite and started trying to get the fire lit. The wind started to kick up and every time we'd get it lit, it'd get blown out. Jon finally said "screw it" and got his firestarter lit and threw that in there.

So. Cold.
While we had the fire going, I decided I'd just cook dinner on our little propane stove and then reheat it inside after we were done (we were having tacos). Then, we decided it was time for S'mores. Yes, before dinner.

S'mores? Comin' right up! (Largest marshmallows ever, btw)

Mmmm, tasty!
Those graham crackers are the best graham crackers I've ever had. Seriously. I'll be making them again.  It was so cold out that the chocolate didn't melt at all! Ah well. The marshmallows were messy enough as it was.

After we were done, we cleaned everything up and I went inside to finish heating up/prepping dinner. Jon put out the fire and we settled in for tacos & the evening. Jon did have to go back out to disconnect the water for the night (the temps were going below freezing). So, we filled up a portable sink with water so that we could flush the toilet, refilled our cups with drinking water, and he went out to disconnect.

Once he came back in, we played a couple of games of Rummikub and then headed to bed. (For what would possibly be the most uncomfortable "sleep" in a LONG time.)

Night night lil Lance!
To be continued in Part 2...