Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Two Fall Nights on the Des Moines River

Photo from my summer bike camping days

Bentonsport is an old town in southeast Iowa, an old river town that was once a hub of river commerce and that is now a hamlet where folks live quietly and tourists--and campers--visit.

Campground art

Bentonsport Campground is right on the river, flowing water on one side and now, in early November, the campground is a yellow, umber, and scarlet carpet of fall leaves. The rich smell of leaf mulch is a fragrance that permeates the environment, just wonderful, the lush river and forest smells.

A room with a view

When I arrived, the water rippled with shades of grey, reflecting the colors of the sky, for it rained off and on during my stay in my tiny trailer. I didn't even unhitch because the trailer was perfectly level on the gravel pad next to the water, the head of the bed just a touch raised. I was planning on continuing my way in three days, anyway, to Indian Lake at Farmington, eleven miles away. The county planned to shut off the water in three days, along with the flush toilets at a shelter in the park about a tenth of a mile away. The Indian Lake campground was booked pretty full anyway for the weekend. At Bentonsport, the only campers were the hosts and one cold, wet, and miserable guy in a tent who was an instructor for a weekend chainsaw class for beginners--and the class was not in the campground! Yay, although I did have earplugs.

I arrived on Friday at about noon, set-up camp, and then took a walk. Set-up was minimal because rain was forecast, therefore, no awning or table set-up. I just got the trailer ready and set out materials on the campground picnic table that wouldn't blow away with the wind. Then I took a walk, exploring the area outside the campground. I've camped here before, twice, both times while bicycle touring. I walked a mile down Hawk Drive along the Des Moines River, beautiful riverfront with trees with brilliant foliage and stark white trunks mixed with evergreens, framed top and bottom by the cloudy sky and flowing river. Returning to camp, I also explored the city park and the old Bentonsport bridge, which is now closed to all traffic except bicyclists and pedestrians.

Hawk Drive, west of Bentonsport

An amusing anecdote to share (detailed on my bicycle blog) is that the first time I camped here, I headed out the next morning to follow Hawk Drive to a couple of other gravel roads that would lead me to Highway 1 and then home. Hawk Drive followed the river and narrowed until finally ending in overgrowth. Obviously the road was not continuously maintained. I checked Google Maps (that had suggested this route) using the satellite mode, and saw that the road was not maintained for about two miles. So I had a choice--add about twelve miles to my trip home or beat my way through the two miles of neglected gravel road. I could see where the road continued; it had been explored by 4WD vehicles that season. I decided to go for it, pushing the bike for most of the way, forging my way through tall weeds, sometimes the trees and brush curving over me to form a canopy, scaring up a few deer, and miraculously coming out to a small abandoned bridge over a stream (probably the reason why the road wasn't maintained--not enough traffic to justify a new bridge), and onto maintained gravel where a man was tending grape vines in his backyard.

He looked at me, startled. "Google said this road goes through!" I exclaimed. "Took ya out into the wilderness, hey?" he said. I agreed, and now have a fun experience to relate, although the ramble had me wondering a time or two.

Coming back to camp, I followed what appeared to be a river trail until I came to a secluded river cabin and a big red stop sign, beneath it another sign that said "Beware of Dog." I decided discretion is the better part of valor and returned to camp to bake veggies and feta for dinner.

The next morning, I mixed in the leftover veggies and feta with scrambled eggs for a big breakfast, so I decided to take another walk. Up away from the campground and across Highway J40 was a sign for the Bentonsport Nature Trail, up the hill steeply, climbing out of the river basin. I followed it, a nice walk through forest up the hill and then onto a trail of mixed prairie and forest for about a mile. Taking a fork that would return to camp, I met up with the chainsaw class. For their practice, they were clearing invasive species of trees from the county land so that native species could re-establish themselves. They all stopped their buzzing when I met them on the trail, everyone wearing their heavy bright yellow and orange safety gear and hardhats, saws in hand. "Some guy walkin' the trail," one of the anonymous, colorful figures said, and I was led through the cut zone and continued on my way. There was some point in this interchange when I joked (to myself) that I was glad I'd never watched any of those chainsaw massacre movies!

On the Bentonsport Nature Trail

The fall forest smells were especially inviting, what with the falling leaves, the rain showers, and the fresh smell of sawdust. The poison ivy was also a beautiful, luminous red--and fairly abundant; however, I was able to contain my enthusiasm and stay out of it. The total trail walk was about two and a half miles, estimating from the signage along the way. When I had passed through Bentonsport on bicycle, I had completely missed the trail and some of the beauty of the Bentonsport area. I'm glad I've stayed there longer and am now more familiar with the area.

It started to rain, so I was inside more, learning how to cook in my tiny trailer. This time for lunch I had steamed vegetables and potato salad, for dinner a toasted bagel with cream cheese and homemade black raspberry jam. I read, wrote, watched the Matt Damon movie The Martian on my cellphone, and then went to bed. It rained hard, and I realized about midnight, waking up, that this would be a good time to see if I had successfully caulked that leak in my cargo hatch. I was able to pull a few stored items out from beneath the bed, wiggled under with a flashlight, and checked. The hatch wasn't leaking, but there was still a small seep in the lower right hand corner of the trailer.

It was at this point that I decided that, come the next morning (and the shift to standard time), I would head home to do some more caulking before heading out again. The next morning camp breakdown was swift, since I was already hooked up and had stored items out of the rain. I loaded just three boxes and my dishwashing buckets and headed out, listening to the Chieftains' Nashville Sessions CD.

It was an easy drive home, and after talking to my son-in-law, who is a builder, I have a clear idea of how to caulk my trailer. Tomorrow has promised to be windy and dry. Then the day after I can head out to camp at Indian Lake, challenging myself to my first camping when the weather drops to a range of highs in the 30's to lows in the teens. The trailer so far has done well in the twenties as far as temperatures go; in fact, my biggest sleep issue has been getting too warm, not too cold!

It sounds like I might have another adventure to relate, as soon as I finish my trailer touch-up, wash and pack all my thermal underwear, and head on down the road.

Monday, November 5, 2018

Fall Leaves and Camping, Please

It's late October, just past the harvest moon, fifty-five degrees, and the trees are in full reds and yellows, the sky blues and grays, and the fire is a quiet companion as I sit and write at my camp at Jefferson County Park, a campground just four miles from my house. In the first half of the month, my wife and I spent five nights at this park; now we are spending four nights, enjoying the mild fall weather with our new tiny trailer.

It seems to be hard to beat fall camping, the smells of the season a richness of completion and satiation, the summer ended, the seed sown, and the squirrels busy stuffing themselves prior to the first snowfall. No bugs! Mind if I repeat myself? No bugs, no bugs! No flies and mosquitoes or ticks. This fact alone is worth wearing thermal underwear.

I stop writing and gather sticks from the surrounding campsites to feed the fire and conserve my firewood. Of the twenty-five campsites in this small campground, we are the only campers resident, although an RV down the way and a 5th-wheeler around the corner are parked here, the owners probably waiting for the weekend. The campground closes at the end of October, so we'll see if there is a last-minute scramble this weekend prior to its closing. I doubt it, and it's unfortunate that so many are missing this mild weather and this easy sliding of fall into winter.

Owning a tiny trailer really extends the camping season. Wet weather or cold weather are much less of a challenge--or should I say that such weather becomes an enjoyable challenge rather than a survival experience? If I had to characterize camping in our tiny trailer, I would describe the experience as having a home away from home, a familiar living environment out in nature. Relaxing in nature in our second home, the Green Goddess.

This is different than my bicycle camping trips, where the focus is more on the day's journey, the sights and sounds of the road, the experience of the body working well as I travel up and down the rolling hills of Iowa. Camping on a bicycle is reaching the campground, setting up camp, eating, showering, and joyfully climbing into my one-person tent and resting. Usually, also, this experience includes some pretty hot weather during the day.

Here at Jefferson County Park with our tiny trailer, my wife and I hike and enjoy the campfire, I enjoy cooking more complex meals with toaster oven or Instapot pressure cooker, or on our induction burner or Coleman propane stove while she works. She enjoys getting away from the office, and I enjoy familiar routines engaged in outside. Soon it won't just be cold; it will be damn cold, so we're enjoying our time outside and together.

Bicycle touring is epic; tiny trailer camping is bucolic, or if not that, then rustic. And autumn is a quiet time, past the summer busyness of the family vacation season, past the time of two nights out and go home. My wife and I are fortunate that if the phone signal is strong, she can work at camp, so we can camp during the week. Combine weekday camping and off-season camping, and the experience is idyllic--not too cold or hot, not too crowded, everything in moderation except the beauty of the season.

Yes, fall leaves and camping, please.

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Stabilizing Your Tiny Trailer: a Few Essentials

Okay, so you've arrived at your camp spot, you park the trailer, but when you get in, do you find youself having to worry about motion sickness because your tiny trailer rocks and rolls so much?

A month ago I wrote a blog post on trailer security, making sure your lovely tiny home doesn't get stolen. This post is about just making sure your trailer has a stable foundation as you enter it, move around and around up and down in it, and then leave it. Although your tiny home is mobile, it doesn't have to be a trampoline experience!

Here is a list of equipment to use to make your camping home feel (and be) more stable.

Mounted stabilizers. My tiny trailer came with mounted rear stabilizers. They are angled and meet the ground at about a 45-degree angle, which lessens side-to-side sway, although some just slide straight down. I just pull mine down, but some larger RVs have scissor-jack stabilizers.

Rear stabilizer and pad

Portable (stacking) stabilizer jacks. I use these for the front of my tiny trailer. I didn't for the first few trips but then realized that the front swivel jack (with the wheel) created a triangular foundation that was susceptible to rocking. The jacks lessen that.

Stabilizer jack pads. Sometimes the ground is pretty soft, so there needs to be some kind of pad to keep the jack foot from sinking into the ground (thus making the stabilizer ineffectual). I have a pack of four. You can see my yellow jack pads in the photos above.

Wheel chocks. You don't want your trailer rolling down a hill once you've unhitched it. Wheel chocks keep it sitting where you want it. One of my wheel chocks is also a security lock. That's not in the photo below because I mounted it on the tire not raised by wheel blocks.

Leveling blocks. Even flat-earthers admit the earth, while not round, certainly has its rolls. Leveling blocks help ensure that the lateral lean of the trailer is, if not non-existent, at least minimal.

Leveling blocks and wheel chocks. 

Tongue jack wheel dock. I know some who use this to keep the wheel from moving around or sinking in wet conditions. I don't use it because often there is not much space between the tongue jack's swivel wheel and the ground. If the ground were soft, though, I'd have to improvise with a piece of wood or stabilizer jack pad or one of my leveling blocks.

A leveling device. How do you know your trailer's level? I just use a small, 8-inch carpenter's level. I had mounted bubble levels on the trailer frame, available at Wal-Mart, but was never sure about how accurate they were . . . and then they didn't stick. For me, the carpenter's level is enough. I slap it on the tongue to determine whether I need leveling blocks to level side to side, and also how much to raise or lower the tongue jack to level the trailer front to back. I also double check by slapping the level on the counter and floor inside the trailer prior to finishing off the leveling job.

The above items are what I use to create a foundation for my trailer that is safe and sound. I'd sure like to hear if other campers have something useful that I haven't mentioned.

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Tiny Trailer Owner Profile: Mark and Irene Busha

After forty-eight years of marriage, Mark and Irene Busha’s travel itinerary is to do what they like and like what they do. They’ve camped together, traveled to Europe together, camped alone, and traveled to Europe alone. Ah, the comfort and stability of a lifelong relationship! Southeast Michigan is their home, but the world is their backyard.

Irene and Mark have been camping for almost all of their years of marriage, in tents and in a number of small trailers. Their largest trailer was from about thirty years ago, a Sunline 16-footer. In 2014 they owned a 4’ x 8’ square-drop trailer, but “found it a bit tight for long trips.” Their current travels are often long and diverse. Mark says, “I travel by myself about half the time. In late winter and the spring of '17, I circled the states for four months. Last season, Irene and I traveled across the bottom of the country for several months, also attending the RTR. This year I'll travel alone, and she may fly out and meet me once I start up the West Coast.”

The Bushas have traveled the U.S. for long periods of time, crossing the nation and touring its different regions several times. “As we travel for long periods, we cover lots of different terrains. I think the variety is my favorite thing.” Mark confides that “Irene absolutely hates the desert, the Southwest and particularly Quartzsite. She's a Michigan girl,” which, of course, could be a one reason she’s flying to Europe this year until Mark reaches the Pacific coast. “While she is a trooper, I could tell she was not so happy about [the desert].”

The Bushas’ current camping trailer is a Prolite Cool 13-foot, a 2014 model “that sat, unloved, on the dealer lot for a couple years.” They purchased it in May of 2016, choosing the tiny trailer because it was the lightest trailer they could find, at 660 pounds of dry weight. Mark guesstimates that it’s maybe 1,500 pounds on the road now, with the modifications he’s made and fully loaded. Their criteria for purchase included “a full-time bed, separate dinette and inside cooking. No other 13' we saw offered that.”

Their tow vehicle for a time was originally a 2010 Ford Ranger 2WD pickup with a 1,548 tow capacity. It got “decent mileage” at 18 to 20 mpg but was “a bit weak for any mountains or worst yet, headwinds.” Now Mark and Irene are much happier with their 2014 Ford Escape, with a 2.0 engine with ecoBoost and 4WD. “We actually own two of these Escapes, his and hers. These have plenty of power although the mileage is worst at 15 to 17 MPG. The only real concern is its small gas tank. That and the mileage limits the range a bit. We added a 5 gallon Jerry can to the trailer tongue, we'll see how that does. Otherwise, we’re extremely happy with the Escape.”

Mark describes the Prolite when they bought it as a “blank slate,” but he’s modified the bares bones of that tiny trailer quite a lot. A “bare bones” Cool was unusual for the manufacturer, says Mark, “but it really worked for us, as I had particular ideas. Also, a workshop.” Here’s a list of his mods:

  • Started by adding a front window and portholes.
  • 200W of Renogy solar on the trailer and another, tiltable, 160w panel on the Escape. MPPT charge controller.
  • 200ah in two AGM batteries.
  • Whynter (compressor type), 45-quart refrigerator.
  • Propane tank for now, permanently mounted, stove and Camco Wave 3 heater. Also, Tank Check Bluetooth gas level indicator.
  • Large sliding storage drawers under the bed and dinette. 
  • Added rear access hatch.
  • 10-gallon freshwater tank, 12v pump, and small bar sink.
  • Proper lighting.
  • Modified the 3 speed Fantastic Vent with a PWM variable speed control. Best $7 bucks you can spend.
  • Changed frosted door window to deep tint and got rid of the silly curtains for blackout shades.
  • WeBoost cell booster, AT&T hotspot, and Wilson directional antenna.
  • TPMS, Tire Pressure Monitoring System. Learned the hard way!
  • Learned the advantages of a Luggable Loo. Best system on any trailer we have ever used! Irene approved!

View for 360 Link

Since the summer of 2016, the Bushas and their Prolite have logged just shy of 30,000 miles, visiting thirty-three states, their time on the road around ten months. Although they spend some time in more developed campgrounds, a lot of the time is off the grid. “Once in a great while, it will be on an electrical hookup, but that’s rare. I don't carry a hose, just fill the little 10-gallon tank with a water jug. Sometimes we stay in a primitive National, State, Army Corps of Engineers (COE) or Wildlife Management Area (WMA) campground, especially if it’s inexpensive or free. National primitive campgrounds are a good deal with my half off Senior Pass. Most of the time we are boondocking, particularly anywhere west of the Mississippi. In the winter of ‘17/’18, we spent $90 on camp fees in three months. We like the space and quiet.”

Mark Busha is the administrator of the Facebook group “Teardrop Camper Adventures.” Even with all his experience, he maintains a balanced attitude about learning how to enjoy the tiny trailer camping life: “While fun to read, don't take to heart the experts on FaceBook! :-)” Learn, enjoy . . . and dream? Well, he also says, that being almost seventy years old, the Jessie Ventura quote is pertinent: “I ain't got time to dream!” You don’t have to dream about Mark and Irene’s adventures. You can follow them on YouTube on Mark’s travel channel, Adventures with Jane.

As of this October 2018 posting, Mark and the Prolite are already off on a new adventure of the American West for six months or more. “Fourth trip around the country with the ProLite. Irene is staying home and opting for a European vacation instead. With an internet connection, we talk every day. Actually seems to work out really well.” And may they meet up on the Pacific coast to share a sunset, just like in the Hollywood movies.

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

How the Green Goddess Glamps

Honey Creek State Park, Iowa, September 2018

When I named this blog "Green Goddess Glamping," I did so because the title defined for me what I wanted and needed from a trailer camping experience. Of course, I have my personal definition of glamping that also impacted my decision.

I know how to get down and dirty with camping . . . something unavoidable at times if you bicycle camp, as I do. Show up sweaty and dusty at a campground with no shower, then "bathe" by tossing pots of cold water over your head. Go to sleep, have a thundershower pass during the night, and then wake up to a campsite muddy instead of dusty. Eat pre-packaged food heated over a one-burner alcohol stove or a sooty hobo stove. Spend fourteen hours of winter darkness in the tent, waiting for dawn and something to do, having already slept yourself to boredom.

I bought the Green Goddess, though, to camp with my wife and to have a cleaner, easier camping experience. That's how I decided that the word glamping was appropriate, although some people will say, "Glamping, but your trailer doesn't have a bathroom or kitchen. It's 10 x 5, including the bed!" My initial experience with tiny trailer camping came about when a woman named Ann whom I met while bicycle camping said to me, "Well, I've finally met someone camping with a smaller setup than me!" Yes, a one-person backpacking tent is small! That woman owned an RTTC teardrop, Grizzly model.

I was curious when the great outdoor equipment co-op REI decided to publish an article titled "Glamping 101: How to Go from Camping to Glamping." Would their definition fit mine? Will they say I'm a happy glamper or just a wannabe?

I was pleased with REI's definition of what constitutes putting the glamour into camping. It's a spectrum, they say, from "uber-luxe" to "cozy." Well, that fits my tiny trailer experience with my wife--warm, dry bed, portable toilet for nighttime trips, two-burner stove for outside cooking, some electric cookgear that can be used inside or out, and an inside heater or ac as needed. REI lists seven DIY glamping tips.

  1. Bring cozy bedding
  2. Add touches of home
  3. Light up your space
  4. Make a comfy living room
  5. Make gourmet meals
  6. Set up stations
  7. Bring the entertainment with you
I would add that to glamp up the outdoors experience, you should bring those things that allow you to unwind. Leave your stresses at home, but don't replace them with survival stresses. Find a way to minimize heat/cold, bugs, wind, rain, humidity, and an environment with too many or too few people, depending on your individual needs. Bring some company, whether it be the pooch, a friend, or one's significant other. Or go out and wander alone, if that suits your needs.

Let's look at these seven tips in terms of my wife's and my "glamping" experience.

  1. Cozy bedding The first thing my wife did was buy new foam for our bed and table unit, redesigning the layout to better fit our needs. Then we bought a wool mattress pad that really added "cozy" to our sleeping experience. When we set up our table, we just fold back the pad and leave 75% of the bed made. Right now, we are also bringing our sleeping pillows from home.
  2. Touches of home We ordered a couple of 16" x 16" pillows of us and our grandkids from our trip to the Pacific Ocean. Now, no matter where we camp, a bit of home and family is right there beside us. We are also using as much tent-camping equipment as we can, which not only saves money but also provides a sense of continuity (and emphasizes our newfound sense of "cozy"). A Cuisinart tea pot for mornings really extends that sense of home since my wife starts every morning with a pot of tea.
  3. Light Well, I have added a little stick-on tab for a battery-operated reading lamp for the back of the trailer. It's also a novelty still for us to have the trailer's electric lighting system. However, our biggest addition of light is having a nice campfire to sit by. That is a special time for us.
  4. Comfy living room I suppose we're still working on this, but the campfire, the trailer's awning, a utility tent for the portable toilet, and a couple of comfortable camp chairs (thanks, REI) do add to the comfort level of the camping experience. We are still looking for a rug for under the awning. From our research, the trend is more toward gaudy than glamourous. Our main "comfy" addition with the trailer is having ac and heating possible, thereby increasing the number of days we are willing to camp and not cope.
  5. Gourmet meals We are working to continue our good meals from home. We eat fresh, healthy meals at home, and we want to continue that--not so much macaroni salad, even though we love it. We bring our Instapot pressure cooker so that we can make a quick and easy kitchari of greens, rice, and dahl. We are also researching the suggestion make to buy a portable induction cooking burner. My wife recently purchased a small toaster oven so she can bake chicken.
  6. Stations At this point, setting up "stations" beyond the obvious of cooking and portable toilet comes down to having a "station" with binoculars, and bird and tree identification books. I want to learn more so that I can have a fuller experience than just saying, "Pretty tree. Pretty bird." What kind of tree or bird--a pin oak? A goldfinch?
  7. Entertainment For my wife and me, entertainment is pretty much one another and books. I am taking one teardrop camper's advice, though, and bringing speakers for movies on the laptop. A long afternoon of rain can be a great time to show a movie . . . and be able to hear the dialogue.
The end analysis is not that the REI list is the ultimate authority on glamping. For my wife and me, it was a useful angle to consider when planning and examining our camping experience. We plan to leave Sunday afternoon to camp for five days again at Lake Sugema. My wife has lots of work to do, I'm bringing my bike, and we're also bringing our favorite tea mugs so we can wake up every morning to a hot cup of green glamping tea. Something like that--you get the idea.

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Toilet or No Toilet for a Camper?

image from Handyman Tips
The question of "Should I bring a portable toilet with me when I camp?" seems to come down to "How icky is it to clean the toilet?" A recent post in the FB group Teardrop Camper Adventures received many responses regarding the following question: "My husband and I are looking into buying [a teardrop trailer]. Need thoughts bathroom or no bathroom? I love the look of the teardrops." So does a trailer need a bathroom/shower?

Here's what people are basically thinking:

  • Teardrops are too small for built-in toilets/showers.
  • A portable toilet and utility (shower) tent is convenient for peeing during the night.
  • During very cold (freezing) weather, a toilet with water has to be inside.
  • Dump stations are icky.

Teardrops are too small for built-in toilets/showers.

What developed out of this idea was a debate on the definition of "teardrop" trailer. In order for the discussion not to move sideways, let's consider toilets for all "tiny" trailers, thereby eschewing the "What is a teardrop trailer?" debate. Some folks clearly choose no toilet. As one FB teardrop owner said, "Of all the things I want to take camping, a box of human waste is not one of them."

Some tiny trailers have foot space inside the trailer (such as RTTC models) and are not all bed. For these, a portable toilet could fit inside the trailer if the owners weren't squeamish with the close quarters. The main sentiment for those naying toilets is that one can always arrange to be near a restroom, and that space can be better used than for a toilet. The Prolite Plus is a tiny trailer that has a toilet and shower, but at 15 feet and 6.5 wide, it certainly no longer fits the teardrop  category, although it is smaller and lighter than most camp trailers. If you'd like to learn more about small trailers with bathrooms, the blog Camper Guide posted an article "10 Small Trailers with Bathrooms (We Review the Best)," which provides a list of some small (not tiny or teardrop) campers that are available on the market. Please remember that the blog post is just opinion; for instance, Prolite is not on the list.

A portable toilet and utility (shower) tent is convenient for peeing during the night.

And for emergencies. Although there was a diversity of comment, the general consensus is that it's nice to not travel too far in the middle of the night to take a pee. This sentiment was concisely phrased by one tiny trailer owner as "If you don't camp in super cold weather, a potty tent would save you money and not take up interior space." There are several styles of portable toilets and utility tents available which have been reviewed many times on purchase pages and by bloggers.

A couple of examples of portable toilets were mentioned by tiny trailer owners. Various models and levels of complexity are available.

Shower tents, utility tents, changing tents--they have many names but are just a 4x4 standable tent, often used to hold portable toilets. Here are a couple of examples.

During very cold (freezing) weather, a toilet with water has to be inside.

Camping in temperatures below freezing has its challenges. Campgrounds shut down their toilet/shower facilities. Do you and your spouse "raise the bar" for time spent together? "Honey, can you hand me the toilet paper?" On the upside, pit toilets don't smell so bad when temperatures are near or below freezing.

Dump stations are icky.

I joked with my wife, "Isn't that why you married me, sweetie?" Personally, I approach poop patrol clean-up in the most phlegmatic manner possible: rubber gloves, Pine-Sol, and a s**t happens attitude. (I haven't yet added a face mask to my gear, although one YouTube video recommended such.) 

Ultimately, the larger question is "Why do we own a teardrop/tiny trailer?" The first two posts to this blog, "Why Such a Tiny Trailer?" and "Why Such a Tiny Trailer? Teardrop Owners Speak Out" speak to this question. What level of interaction with the natural environment do you want? What are your needs and tolerances? What makes you happy?

Here are the two basic viewpoints:

  • "I don’t have a bathroom. Don’t want one either. But admittedly I’m weird about having to get up in the middle of the night. When I do I like taking my time and watching the stars and listening to the sounds of the forest. Sometimes I’m out a good half hour or more. I find I sleep better after doing so."
  • "I was curious to see what other people would say because most teardrops don't have bathrooms. We are selling our teardrop because we are ready to upgrade to a full size travel trailer, and 99.9% of the people that have inquired about it that's the 1st thing they ask, 'Is there no bathroom??'"

Most tiny trailer owners feel more constrained by maneuvering and maintaining a large trailer that is really a mobile apartment than by dealing without some of the conveniences we have readily available at home. One thing is sure--whatever our potty needs, there is a system out there that will accomodate them. I'll leave all the details to you.

On a lighter note . . . 

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

A Camping Trip as Sweet as Honey

The Green Goddess leaning into the wind at Space 124

It is windy today at Lake Rathbun and Honey Creek Campground. After two nights of camping among the trees, I've moved today to the end of the South Campground loop onto the peninsula that provides a beautiful view of the lake. Spectacular . . . but windy without the shelter of the trees.

Honey Creek Campground has all the elements that my wife and I have been looking for in campgrounds--a beautiful view, lake or river, modern facilities, and a strong cellphone signal. My wife's not with me today (a Thursday) because she's home working at her consulting business; I'm out exploring for new places to camp and am so glad to have found this one, less than an hour and a half from home.

The Green Goddess kicked back and relaxed at Space 136

Out here on the peninsula, the wind whipping waves and trees reminds me of the ocean, no barrier to discourage the blowing. I'm enjoying it but, really, am glad I spent the first three days and two nights a couple hundred yards up the road and out of the wind. It was more peaceful and restful; I had a peaceful, easy feeling there, whereas in my current spot for the next twenty-four hours, it's definitely going to be more exciting and stimulating. I plan to spend more time today reading and writing, though, so all is well.

On Tuesday morning when I arrived, it began raining just as I was setting up. That was my fastest set-up ever, I think! That done, I spent most of the day inside reading and writing. My smaller ice chest was also inside, so I snacked for the day--potato salad, chips and hummus, pistachios, bagels and cream cheese, cold cereal and bananas--and hot tea. On Wednesday it was beautiful, blue sky and no wind, so I cooked well, set up the outside camp, and explored on my bicycle, a great day of exploration, exercise, and easy campcraft.

Also creativity! I spent the day taking photos and video snips so that I could make a video of the campground and area, using my iPhone and the iMovies app. I really like this app. It is easy to use and has the capacity to refine and edit to create a better product. The video I created is below.

My wife and I will definitely come here again. Honey Creek Campground is a sweet spot for camping. Lake Rathbun was created by the Army Corps of Engineers, and is one of the largest lakes in Iowa. Next year my wife and I will also have fun exploring some of the Corps' campgrounds on the lake. Honey Creek State Park is run by the Iowa DNR.

For now, since it's warming up, I'm going to go out to take a walk--crosswind.

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Teardrop Owner Profile: the Homespun Harros

Available at Homespun Harros/esty

Yes, I present to you the perfect portrait of Papa Bear! Based in Bend, Oregon, Mark and Kelly Harro are working artists with a flair for the bear--and also proud owners of a teardrop trailer that they built themselves.

The glamping tradition (Photos by Kelly and Mark Harro/Homespun Harros)

Two artists living in the beautiful nature of America's West, what was needed was a mobile office, a utility trailer, a home on wheels--in other words, a teardrop trailer. And so they built "Betty," using Pinterest designs and recycled auto parts. 

This labor of love was built on a utility trailer the Harros already owned, and was a fulfilling project, although it was not easy. Mark said he lost a lot of hair during the process! A full chronicle of the building of "Betty" is at DoItYourselfRV, "Montana Artists Build Teardrop Trailer Using Wrecked Auto Parts." It's a thorough article and includes more great photographs.

For those of you who would like to hear the Harros tell their story, below is a great YouTube video of their journey (6:55 minutes).

The Harros on their Etsy website have a number or fun and beautiful art products to brighten up your home, tiny trailer, or for gifts for family and friends. Below is something a grandparent would just love to give to start a grandchild off right!

Red Black Bear with Fedora Hat Organic Onesie Baby Clothes Screen Print Gift

The teardrop galley was the most difficult and time-consuming part of construction for the Harros. In this photo, notice the dish towel has a print from their art collection. The curtains utilize Papa Bear. From top to bottom, this teardrop is a product of the Harros' creative lives. "Betty" is truly a work of art, all by herself.

Homespun Harros

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

It's Not Just How Many Miles or Places

The same road, the same campground, the same campsite. Are we boring glampers? My wife and I hitched up our new trailer and spent four nights at the same location as our last trip, Lake Sugema in SE Iowa. We've researched several other campgrounds within an hour of our home, but we decided that close by and familiar was good for us this time, just like the last time. Now that our trip is done, we realize there are some real positives to camping at the same place:
  • Less stress and a more relaxing time
  • Exploring more thoroughly the local activities
This trip was easier than the first. Our bed is a better setup with the new mattress foam and the wool pad that covers it. Our cooking was more efficient and varied--and closer to what we eat at home, so we felr better. We bought several new items to help us camp: a camp ax, a somewhat smaller portable table (so it fits beneath the bed), a wheel lock for added security, and a windshield sun block cover for the car. We also stayed a day longer this time, four nights instead of three. I found my attention this trip was not just on the necessities of adjusting to the new environment, essentials such as how does the shower work at this campground? or how far away is the water?

Lake Sugema is beautiful, and being so close to home, learning more about the environment here is really learning about nature in my hometown. For this trip I brought my tree identification book and spent time identifying different varieties of oaks, identifying one tree as a bur oak; however, I've found that tree identification isn't as easy as I thought it would be, especially for sub-varieties. For instance, I had trouble determining southern red oak from northern red oak or scarlet oak; the acorns are different in size, the shape of the cup, and in coloration. I guess I've got a lot to learn . . . but taking the time to learn more about nature around me is interesting. I also took photos and sketched and colored some illustrations of leaves and plants in my Green Goddess Adventures daybook.

Camping at a favorite spot is kind of like people who own cabins. They don't move those cabins around. They arrive, stay awhile and enjoy themselves and the beauty around them. We are doing that with our tiny trailer. Sure, we'll visit new places, but this time we repeating our visit. It's a beautiful site, the temperatures were in the 70's to low 80's, a mild breeze off the lake. We hiked the trails a bit more this time.

A book to read, a blog to write, trees to identify and appreciate, moments to share I enjoyed this trip. I've seen some new sights, and maybe seen some old ones with new eyes. Thanks, Lake Sugema, for reminding me to stop and smell the goldenrod.

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Security: A Starter Pack for New Teardrop Owners

OK, you've bought your teardrop and have your rig all wired and ready to go. What are the first acquisitions before you hit the road? Owners from a couple of Facebook groups have responded with quite a few adventure-tested suggestions, which can be organized into four important categories: security, stability, emergency, and convenience. This first in the series focuses on security. Links to examples of products will be provided, but everyone should study product descriptions, Q & A's, and reviews before buying, making your decisions based on your individual needs.

Let's start with an item that fits into both the security and stability categories--a hitch tightener. When you tow your trailer (or if you have a bicycle rack or box fitted to a hitch behind your trailer), you don't want to have a lot of banging and bouncing behind your vehicle. A hitch tightener--designed to minimize hitch noise, wobble, rattle and hitch movement for cargo carriers, hitch receiver, trailer ball mounts, bike racks, hitch racks, and the like--might make your towing more safe and enjoyable. Many brands are for sale. The one I linked to has over 1,600 reviews.

As a new owner, the last thing you want to happen is for your new tiny home to be stolen. Don't worry, there are several security devices that will deter thieves, although one owner said, "I think people worry about their trailer being stolen way too much. If a thief wants your trailer, there's little you can do to stop them. So relax and enjoy the trailer and your experience. Stop looking over your shoulder." This, of course, is not a suggestion to do nothing, or to place a sign beside your hitch that reads, "I'm OK with you stealing my trailer." Teardrop trailers, especially the smallest have the additional danger of being so small. "For some, four guys could lift them onto a flatbed!" said one owner. Just take security measures that seem to you sufficient measures to discourage theft.

The first three anti-theft devices focus on the ball and hitch: a locking pin to secure the ball mount to be locked to the hitch, a coupler lock to make the coupler ball socket to be unavailable, and a special padlock to secure the coupler licking clamp. With these three items, your trailer should not be an easy mark. The prices can be expensive to cheap. Choose what makes you feel comfortable. There are many brands on the market. Below is a representative selection (the top four mentioned by trailer owners), but I have used none of these. I'm using a brand (which I'm soon going outside to check) that my son-in-law bought me at Menard's when I first purchased the trailer. (After this research, I'm thinking I might research and re-think what I'm currently using.)
  1. (expensive) Proven Lock Model 2178
  2. (expensive) GusHill Industries
  3. (mid-range) Gorilla Guard
  4. (mid-range) Deadbolt Blockhead
  5. (low-mid range) Master Lock (at TSC, a combination set)
  6. (low-range) Tow Ready (at Walmart, a combination set)
Moving to the wheels and tires, a vehicle (trailer) wheel lock and also perhaps a locking lug nut would complete the picture of a secured trailer. The wheel lock interferes with the trailer tire being able to roll. There are various models on the market. As for lug nut locks, they must fit the wheel, so research or perhaps even have a knowledgeable shop check out your trailer's wheels and order them for you. I've linked to two wheel lock brands, the Trimax TCL65 and the Stallion Trailer Wheel Lock, since they were mentioned by a couple of owners. Executing a search brings up a long list of brands and styles (although many look similar).

Here is a YouTube video on the subject of trailer security, which includes a hitch lock and a chock lock. I also follow the videos of the Long, Long Honeymoon YouTube station, a married couple that live in their Airstream. They have videos both on the wheel lock and the coupler lock. Be aware that their YouTube station activities are part of their livelihood, although I feel they are credible.

In conclusion, researching products by reading reviews and by watching YouTube videos is a way to make informed decisions prior to buying the security system that you feel meets your needs. I'd like to thank the folks who took the time to respond to my FB group posts. I've learned a lot from the interchange, and I feel my tiny trailer will be safer in the future because of our sharing.

In the final analysis, it's kind of like the Inspector Gadget movie where the inspector finds himself wearing an unfamiliar pair of underwear-- go with what you're most comfortable with--boxers, boxer briefs, or whitie tighties. Some decisions we just have to make ourselves. Each of us has to determine own level of comfort when it comes to security. I hope I've provided some food for thought. If you have suggestions or observations, please make a comment on the blog so that it will always be available when someone accesses the article. Thanks!

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

A Darling Overnighter at Lake Darling

A cool morning, so I bundled up!
 In my quest to locate campgrounds that will work both as campsites and mobile office, I teardropped to Lake Darling State Park here in SE Iowa, seventeen miles from home. I had camped there before on overnight bicycle trips and visited for day trips, but I really wanted to scout the park to see if there was a pocket of cellphone receptivity somewhere.

Success! There is sufficient receptivity on the hill loop of the campground if I use our signal booster. The only problem is that the hill is prairie transformed to grassy campsites--no shade, and not a good spot for camping when weather is in the 90's.

An overnight trip consists mostly of arriving, setting up, eating, sleeping, and leaving in the morning. Sound like a waste of time? Well, I do see the point. However, I was determined to accomplish more than just check out the cellphone receptivity.

After checking out the receptivity,  I played (field tested) with some of my new toys: hitch tightener, foldable storage bags, but mostly using the new stabilizing jacks and jack pads. Also, I erected the awning again, using the four-inch suction cups. Everything worked well, so this was a successful "shake-down" overnighter.

Below are more photos and captions of my mini-trip.

From a bike camping trip, down by the lake.

Evening. I'd moved my chair to escape the late sun.
Early morning, preparing to leave.