Monday, May 20, 2019

My Tiny "Standy" Trailer Is My Dacha Just Outside of Town

"Dacha," according to Merriam-Webster, is "a Russian country cottage used especially in the summer."

Russian dacha: green but without the wheels

Right now I'm just loving my "dacha" on wheels. My wife and I are comfortably camped four miles from our house at our local Jefferson County Campground. It's our summer cottage for the next ten days, where we will have our grandchildren over to play after school, and where we can enjoy some peace and quiet while our house is being rebuilt to get rid of some water leaks that manifested during April with the ice storms that were followed by rainstorms. Off to the dacha, we said!

Our "dacha" on a rainy evening

Actually, the taking off was a bit of Keystone cops chaos. We were going to leave Thursday so that we would be sure to get the spot we wanted before the weekend crowd arrived. The weather, however, was cold and rainy, so we decided to wait until Sunday afternoon to head on over.

Then my son-in-law, who is working on our house, said, "I've made arrangement for the dump truck of gravel to be dumped on a tarp in your driveway once you leave. They're arriving around 2 P.M."

So, OK, I guess we are going camping on Thursday--if I want to be able to get the trailer out of the driveway. We decided to have a casual take off and to park the camper in our spot on Thursday with the plan to begin camping on Friday evening, me gradually ferrying our supplies over Thursday afternoon and Friday morning.

It's definitely a "dacha just outside of town" kind of experience, living and working in two places--Friday me doing the packing, my wife working; Saturday and Sunday with our grandson at our house, with some swinging first at the park; Monday my wife working at home in the morning and at our mobile office camp in the afternoon; sleeping Friday through Sunday at our campsite. It's been a see-saw of camping experience so far, but fun: rain, sun, home and campsite, together and apart: but now we are here together, my wife working at the dinette table, me on my laptop, relaxing and writing before we both take off for a late-afternoon walk.

Baking potatoes
This morning at home, we transferred some clothes we'd tossed into duffles over to our cloth storage bags which stack in our camper. We'd had two nights of the chaos of the duffle bags and packed according to protocol even though we're camping so close to home. I packed our three storage bins in the car and then rode my bicycle over to the campground. For the rest of the week, whether my wife works in her office at home or in her mobile office, I'll be able to ride my bicycle and leave her the car. We cooked a good lunch today, baked salmon for my wife, a quesadilla for me, with vegetables--our first bonafide meal cooked at camp, outside and without rain. We did, however, cook baked potatoes the other night, inside the camper because it was raining. Baked potatoes in a toaster oven . . . is that too easy to count as "cooking"?

Today it's been raining off and on, sprinkles and downpours. I rode my bike this morning back to our house in town from our campground dacha, light sprinkles but a nice time through the park and across town. It's an interesting experience just hopping between two places. The guys are pretty much finished with putting up new siding on the lower half of the house, so the pounding is less. Since it's been raining, though, the priming  is going slowly.

The next two days are scheduled to be sun and clouds, and then the forecast is rain and thundershowers for the next seven days. Wow! We have it scheduled for the north side of the house to have additional drainage to be put in, but with so much rain, we will probably be put on hold. I hope the forecast changes.

This weekend there's going to be a Dutch oven cookoff event at the picnic are of the park above the campground. Sandy and I were planning on going, but we'll have to see about the weather. It may be a Dutch oven swimoff . . . and I doubt that cast iron is great at treading water. Maybe it will be a borsch cookoff, better suited to the excess of liquid. We could have borsch in our dacha and then brew some tea in our samovar.

Today is the seventh day of our camping locally. This morning was a beautiful morning--cool yet no wind. I built a fire, and Sandy and I sat by the fire drinking tea. It was a beautiful way to begin the day. Later, we drove into town to our house, Sandy taking off to get her hair done. I spent the day in the garden, weeding and transplanting volunteer raspberries. We brought our ice boxes home to refresh the ice. We have a small freezer downstairs, so we freeze water jugs and "bricks" of ice. They last a lot longer than the cubes.

Today is the eighth day of our "dacha" stay just outside of town. Privyet! Yesterday temperatures were in the high 70s and the high for today is forecast to be 87. It's morning, and I've come home to weed the garden some before it heats up too much. Tea by the fire again this morning. We slept well last night because we switched out our heavier down sleeping bags for the summer weight bags. It's amazing how such a thin, light sleeping bag can keep you warm!

Yesterday temperatures rose to 90 degrees, so we stayed at home. It rained hard last night and early morning, so I'm glad we were at home. I had to go out in the hard rain and re-work the drains that had been disconnected because of outside reconstruction. No flooding, though, and the hard rain gave us a good look at what needs to still be done outside. There was a silver lining to that storm cloud!

Sandy and I are heading back to camp this afternoon so that we can enjoy the weekend at the campground. There will be a Dutch oven cookoff this weekend, and we're curious as to how that will go. I think, though, that I'll make that a separate post so I can focus more on the weekend activities. It seems that weekends can be quite different than weekdays at campgrounds--and that seems like it might be a fun post. Until the next post, just know dark rain clouds and thunder will most likely be our weekend experience.

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Friday, May 17, 2019

Pacific Coast Tiny Trailer Meander with Nancy Rushefsky

Hug Point Recreation Area, Oregon
Bears in the Wild

One woman.  One dog.  One tiny camper . . . together for six thousand miles. The result? "My confidence restored!" says the woman.

In late summer in 2018, Texas resident Nancy Rushefsky took off for a 6,000-mile jaunt with her dog Mayla and her Rustic Trail Teardrop Papa Bear camper, gone for five and a half weeks for an epic solo journey. "Traveling solo has many advantages, but one huge disadvantage is having to do all the driving.  In the beginning I was able to cover 400-500 miles per day.  By the end I was exhausted after 300 and got hotels the last two nights." The disadvantages of solo driving, though, didn't touch the positive experiences.
"I made the journey to recover some confidence lost in a nasty divorce, and I was pleasantly surprised to also regain some confidence in my fellow humans. I was amazed, almost daily, how helpful and kind people were. I think that is one of the things I love most about camping--that people from wholly divergent backgrounds can come together for conversation around a campsite--and for those moments accept each other openly and completely. 
"This was my first big trip, solo--with a dog. I made the decision not to leave her in any campground or the car for site seeing purposes, so I’m sure I missed some things, but to me that was well worth it. After all, I did drag her 6,000 miles so wanted her to have fun, too. We hiked a lot and explored many a small town together. I was surprised how welcome she was in most small towns that we toured about in. So many shops had water bowls and treats etc., especially in Colorado, Idaho  and Oregon, which made the trip very pleasant for us both 
"I learned to manage bathroom breaks on travel days by finding local parks where we could both stretch, play, and relieve ourselves.  When at a gas station, I paid at the pump to minimize our time there.  When I wanted restaurant food, I either found one that had dog-friendly patio seating, or ordered food to go and found a park to eat at.  It was super easy to keep us both happy."
The word Nancy used to describe her experience of traveling with a tiny trailer was "fabulous," and she provided several reasons.
  • Gas mileage is terrific so I don’t feel guilty for traveling long distances.
  • It’s not stressful to have to park it or navigate with it.  I feel it's much more forgiving than a large trailer would be, especially being a solo traveler.
  • I always met my neighbors because the trailer is so cute!  I think people are also intrigued by a woman traveling alone.  Neighbors always looked out for me, brought me food, invited me to take walks and hang out, etc.
On an epic trip like this, Nancy experienced the great variety of the American West, so much so that her journey breaks down into at least five segments: Texas, Colorado, the Great Basin, the Oregon coast, California, and the Grand Canyon country. That's a lot of diversity!

A Texas parade

Segment One

Driving out of Texas was "a feat of and by itself.  We passed through a small town, Post, Texas, that I frequently stop at to walk and stretch, but found a ton of traffic which surprised me.  Turned out they were having their rodeo parade, and all the roads were blocked off.  So, luckily my camper is tiny and I was able to park easily and we got out and enjoyed the festivities."

Mayla enjoying Colorado

Segment Two

Spending a total of nine days camping in Colorado, Nancy included Pagosa Springs and Durango on her route.  "I stayed in private campgrounds in both places (Pagosa River and Lightener Creek), and loved each immensely, but particularly Pagosa.  The hikes are amazing there and the hot springs make a truly wonderful way to end each day. The town is cute and easy to navigate.  While in Durango I went to the town of Silverton and enjoyed the Million Dollar Highway, and stumbled into a wedding at an alpine lake, so that was pretty cool.  One thing I really like about Colorado is that if it’s hot where you are, you can drive ten minutes up a mountain and need a jacket."

Pagosa Springs, Colorado

Layton, Utah

Segment Three

The Great Basin country of Utah, Idaho, and Eastern Oregon was next on the map. Nancy visited friends in Boise, Idaho, and then drove to Bend, Oregon. "We didn’t camp at all during these days, but we did sight see a bunch.  It was great to see old friends, do laundry, and take it a bit easy.  Boise, Idaho, is a great little town, and I hope to visit again sometime.  We spent some time in an art alley, which was quirky and urban. Bend, Oregon, has amazing parks and breweries, which we got to explore a little bit.

Depoe Bay, Oregon. Many whales this day!

Segment Four

When Nancy, Mayla, and her Papa Bear reached the Oregon coast, they stayed a while, at three state parks for four nights each: Fort Stevens, Bullards Beach, and South Beach.   "I loved each in their own way and really enjoyed exploring the lovely coast and eating the seafood.  I probably ate my body weight in smoked tuna and salmon.  Hah!  Oregon is super dog friendly, which made me super happy, too."

Fort Steven State Park, Oregon. Low tide revealed a bit of history

Camper about the size of tree circumference

"Words cannot express the beauty of [the Oregon coast], whale watching, beach combing, hiking, etc., all in a breathtaking setting.  Plus, for me being directionally challenged, all I really had to do was know north from south. One hike in particular stands out though, and it was recommended by a local who said a shipwreck was revealed at low tide, which would be around sunset.  So Mayla and I hiked the two miles or so through the woods from our campsite, and we certainly were not disappointed!"

Mayla adding some glamp to a California redwood campsite

Segment Five

Nancy designates the fifth segment of her journey as traveling through California, from Trinidad to Lake Tahoe and then down south to the Grand Canyon area. She was at first disappointed because she was an avid hiker but discovered that her dog wasn't allowed on any trails in the state and national parks.
"Bad on me for not researching it more thoroughly.  It all worked out amazingly well tho!  First off the campsite at Emerald Forest was possibly my very favorite of the entire trip.  It’s a privately owned piece of redwood forest and was simply beautiful – moss covered giant trees and tree stumps all over the place!  I wish now I had scheduled more time there, but such is life.  There was a beautiful beach in the town of Trinidad just minutes from the campground, and we also drove to Arcata (upon the campground owner’s recommendation) where we were able to hike in a redwood forest that was municipal, so dogs were welcome."
Nancy enjoyed her stay at Lake Tahoe, finding the Sierra Nevadas beautiful. "Lake Tahoe is so amazingly blue! I was lucky to have a friend who lived there, and she took me on a hike to down to Seal Bay that I never would have found otherwise. That day was the highlight of the area for me.  I camped in a private campground called Coachland in Truckee, and I would never recommend it to anyone. It was jammed packed with zero privacy or space between sites. Live and learn."

Lake Tahoe beauty

Traveling south, Nancy left behind the beauty of the Sierras and headed into drier country, ending up at the Grand Canyon.
"The Grand Canyon, was of course, GRAND.   I hiked the rim trail because it was dog friendly and soaked in all the views – or tried to at least.  Perhaps the picture that best sums up the trip was taken by a man from Germany, who saw Mayla and me sitting and taking a rest.  He thought we looked peaceful so he took our picture.  Then he offered to text it to me, so this pic is one of my favorites – it captures my dog and me taking in the world together, and it came from a kind stranger, which I learned are everywhere!"
Grand Canyon vistas

Although Nancy mentioned that driving the long miles was fatiguing, that wasn't the most challenging part of her trip. Her description of her greatest challenge was both shocking and unexpected.
"Without a doubt the most challenging day was driving in California from Trinidad to Lake Tahoe.  I chose the forested road, which happened to be having fires. I could barely see, had no cell service, was on a road too tiny to turn around on, and I was ALONE. This is the only day on the entire trip that I doubted I could handle this all by myself, but in fact I was able to. Which is pretty cool. At one point I stopped and prepared an emergency bag in case the dog and I had to abandon the camper due to burned road ahead. I had no idea what we’d do to stay safe, but felt better at least doing that. When we finally made it across the forest and to HWY 5, my phone blew up with concerned friends. And I broke down into tears from relief and exhaustion."
Boise, Idaho. Freak Alley Gallery
Sometimes the best or most significant journeys are not just those with pretty sights. Sometimes what we gain from a journey is not only from the outer journey but also from the corresponding inner journey. Sometimes our greatest journeys are not those we count by miles. Nancy grew stronger from her solo experience, weathering long distances, fire, and solitude--and from her experiences gained strength and resilience.
"I embarked on this journey as part of divorce recovery. I needed to know I could have a full and interesting life on my own, without a human partner. And I must say, I feel like this experience was the last thing I needed to do to be whole again."
With her experience has come wisdom, not just universal wisdom but personal wisdom about what camping experiences she enjoys best, which Nancy intends to use. "I did learn on the great 2018 NW journey that while I’m solo, I prefer to be near towns, and I prefer to have cell service.  I’m more comfortable knowing other people are around, so I’m tending toward state and private campgrounds and not sleeping in national forest land.  I’ll take a day trip to serene forests, but find I sleep better in more populated parks."

Nancy is taking her well-earned strength and experience down the road again in 2019. She and "the pup" will spend three to four weeks in Colorado, driving less than last year. She's looking forward to cooler temperatures than central Texas once they hit the higher elevations.

Tall mountains and a tiny trailer--what a perfect combination for happiness.

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Friday, May 10, 2019

Tiny Trailers and Urban Campgrounds of the Future: a Vision

Will city campgrounds become a part of the future?

About sixty years ago, Nobel Prize laureate John Steinbeck published his travelogue Travels with Charley. At fifty-eight years of age (1960), Steinbeck believed he had lost contact with America, that he "had not felt the country for twenty-five years." His plan for reconnecting with America was to buy a three-quarter ton pickup, add a camper, name his rig Rocinante (after the horse of fictional character Don Quixote), and head west from New York.

How does Steinbeck's late-life trek connect to campgrounds of the future? Let Steinbeck do a bit more talking, where he described a particular kind of home he kept seeing.
They are wonderfully built homes, aluminum skins, double-walled, with insulation, and often paneled with veneer of hardwood. Sometimes as much as forty feet long, they have two to five rooms, and are complete with air-conditioners, toilets, baths, and invariably television. The parks where they sit are sometimes landscaped and equipped with every facility. I talked with the park men, who were enthusiastic. 
Steinbeck described the units as having all the modern conveniences, and that sales of these "mobile homes" were on the rise, as much as one in four of the sales of homes. "It seemed to me a revolution in living and on a rapid increase"--and along with the rise of mobile home living was the rise of mobile home parks, where Steinbeck said he regularly stayed overnight as he traveled west. "Could it be that Americans are a restless people, a mobile people, never satisfied with where they are as a matter of selection?" Steinbeck left his readers with the thought that maybe these "mobile homes" would have a significant role in how future Americans chose to live.

If Steinbeck had been able to travel forward fifty years, he would have seen an America where mobile homes and mobile home parks are everywhere woven into the fabric of our culture. Where can we travel without seeing a mobile home or mobile home park--if not within a city then certainly at the outskirts of a city, which Steinbeck observed even during his travels--mobile homes and parks cropping up at the outskirts of towns where the land was cheaper and parking more available.

For anyone who follows news stories involving people living mobile lives--that is to say, living in their vans, campers, and trailers--what is common in the news media now is not a new thing called "mobile home" living. What is much more common are news stories about full-time RVers, tiny houses, and the challenge of homeless populations, especially in our larger cities. "Homeless" populations can be categorized as those unable to integrate into society for various reasons, those who are jobless and down on their luck, those who are working yet cannot afford the high expense of renting or buying a home, and those who choose a mobile lifestyle and who already possess or are able to earn the funds to live a lifestyle of the full-time RVing. Most likely, those in the last category would object to being classified as homeless.

Urban campgrounds of the future will, I believe, primarily serve the last two groups: people with jobs who own a camper but who cannot afford exorbitant rent or mortgage payments, and itinerant RVers living the full-time mobile life. These two groups will be the 21st century iteration of Steinbeck's "restless, mobile people."

One significant feature of future urban campgrounds is that along with the common mobile home parks with their 60-foot double-wides, in the future towns and cities will also have affordable RV campgrounds where the owners of vans, campers, and trailers can set up and live, not having to move out every two weeks. Some will be "snowbirds" migrating as a lifestyle, yet most will be people who work in town and just can't afford higher housing payments or who would rather not saddle themselves to a lifetime of high mortgage payments. Some will be single, some married, and some will have children that attend local schools. These folks will be the tiny living version of Steinbeck's new "mobile home" trend that blossomed more than half a century ago. Those who adhere to the new "tiny mobile" lifestyle will be folks who say, "I can't afford to pay $2,500 a month on rent, but I can buy a used 20-foot trailer and live in an urban campground." They will literally be able to pull their own weight in society if cities or private campgrounds provide affordable spaces to rent. They won't have to live by parking their rigs on city streets. They won't be considered nuisance "tiny trailer trash," if you will.

Ironically, Steinbeck also documented in his novels about the Great Depression the migrations of people without homes, working where they could and living out of their cars and in tents. The Grapes of Wrath and Cannery Row are just two of his novels that chronicle that "land is a tangible, and tangibles have a way of getting into few hands. Thus it was that one man wanted ownership of land and at the same time wanted servitude because someone had to work it." His musings in Travels with Charley still resonate today. Buying or renting a home is a competitive business, and there are people who work full time who simply don't earn enough to afford a home; however, growing numbers are able to afford a small trailer, camper, van, or RV to live in and can, therefore, find an alternative to those too-high rents from those who want "ownership of land and the same time [want] servitude."

This vision of urban campgrounds in this essay does not intend to address the needs of those suddenly without a house and living on the streets, in cars not adapted to tiny living, or in tents. It does not address those homeless because of mental health or addiction issues. And if there exists some mixing of these "homeless" categories, some blurring of demarcations--well, since when has life ever fit neatly into discrete boxes? My brother lives in an long-established mobile home park, and he's told me stories of tenants who sell drugs or who have mental issues, stories that include sheriff cars and flashing lights in the middle of the night. Urban campgrounds will also have such issues, but safe management is possible. Background and credit checks that are a part of current space rental at mobile home parks or for apartments can certainly also be required for long-term space rental in urban campgrounds.

Camp the Future
Recreational campgrounds of the future, according to KOA (Kampgrounds of America) at its virtual reality display premiered at at the RVX, an RV trade show held in early 2019, Campground of the Future,  will include robotic delivery to your site, beachside and cliff-side vistas, and off-the-grid power; luxurious urban campgrounds in the future will be the RV dream of dreams. I hope that such campgrounds will exist for those with the bucks to afford them. I might even spend a weekend in one sometime down the road. However, the greater need for campgrounds, and especially with urban campgrounds, is for affordable, safe options for people honestly living in tiny campers so that they can get off the streets. When cities establish urban campgrounds, affordable and with amenities, people living in these tiny mobile parks will be as common as residency in mobile home parks today. Society and the distribution of wealth has changed. The 21st century is not the 20th century, and cities and towns must change with the times. The small travel trailer, van, or RV will be the lifestyle choice of many, either to avoid huge debt for themselves, or because small is the only living option they can afford. Tiny living by choice, even if by limited choice.

Permanent residence in urban campgrounds is already a dawning reality. I read in one article of the possibility of California's Department of Transportation land being used for campers to get RVs off city streets. That's just one step away from adding water and sanitary facilities and creating an urban campground. Landowners with a bit of land or ample driveway will, with some modifications, have a space to rent to a tiny camper. For those "homeless" that work yet cannot locate affordable housing yet own an RV, providing access to urban campsites for people who have a home on wheels will eliminate some of the housing pressure cities across America are currently experiencing.

The Press Democrat, 2018

I see no reason why there cannot be affordable RV parks to meet the needs of individuals who want to own their home but do not want to be saddled with huge mortgage debt--or who simply cannot afford the high mortgage or rent payments. There are already government programs for low-income housing and for rent rates based on income. Such programs could easily be adapted to individuals who own their RV but need assistance with the space rent.

Llamalopolis, Las Vegas

Urban campgrounds that are the equivalent of mobile home parks are coming. Churches are looking at parking lot options for those needing a campsite. RV parks already exist for snowbirds who need a place to reside during the winter months, assuming they can afford the rent. Many whose homes are on wheels and who work in a city can afford $600 a month for a living space but cannot afford $2,500 or more for an apartment. Cities can provide urban campsites with a shade canopy, an electrical hook-up, access to water, dump stations, and sanitary facilities. They will charge for these, based on income, but even standard rates can be within reach. For a variety of reasons, more people will be living in their mobile rigs; and local, state, and federal governments will have to recognize and react to that reality.

I sent an online camping friend an early version of this article, asking his opinion as a more traveled tiny trailer owner. His response was that housing trends are mostly about economics. She said, "With so many of the issues of housing, it comes down to economics.  If you create the urban tiny house/urban campground areas, they will be used.  In fact, they may draw in many more people than they can hold.  Unintended consequences will occur, and the campground may be what draws countless others to find the inexpensive place to stay.  What is designed to solve a problem could be the thing that multiplies the problem."

I have thought about these "unintended consequences," and, yes, it may very well be true that the demand for urban campgrounds will outstrip the availability--at least at first. I am reminded of the Great Depression, where hundreds of people would be drawn to locations where jobs or housing or assistance were rumored to exist. We cannot fault the company or city (or rumor) for the existence of an overwhelming need. The reality was that people had no money and were desperate for jobs. How is that Great Depression reality different from the current shortage of affordable housing? It is true that a travel trailer is much more easily moved than a 40-60 foot mobile home. That mobility will create greater transience. However, I believe urban campgrounds will be able to be managed as well as our current mobile home parks. That transience is possible to be managed. I've seen campgrounds developed by the Army Corps of Engineers that are like small cities on busy weekends, yet the flow of traffic and people goes as planned.

 The idea that the need for tiny living may overwhelm an urban campground's capacity is a weighty issue. If too few a number of urban campgrounds were to occur, then it would be an indication of the magnitude of the housing problem in that particular town. Towns being overwhelmed by housing crises is not a future possibility; an overwhelming need for affordable housing is a current problem for many cities right now. As my friend said, "It comes down to economics." If wages are so low and living options so limited that people cannot afford a brick-and-mortar home, then that is not a problem caused by the establishment of an urban campground. That is a problem endemic to our society. However, it is true that such an economic imbalance could manifest as challenges for the urban campground--right along with all the other challenges housing inequity present city planning.

Kampgrounds of America may speculate that campgrounds of the future will be environments that utilize technology to enrich the camping experience--for those that desire such "enrichment." After all, we already have campgrounds with water, electricity, sewer, and wifi. However, one significant feature of camping in the future will be the establishment of urban campgrounds for people who have adopted the tiny living lifestyle. Private and governmental bodies will establish safe and economically viable sites for those choosing small "mobile homes" for residency. Tiny house communities (that can include tiny trailers) already exist or are being planned, as indicated by online website The Spruce's article, "15 Livable Tiny House Communities." Micro communities? Why not urban campgrounds?

This new wave of "tiny mobile homes" will house individuals who contribute to their communities, send their kids to local schools, and who weave themselves into the fabric of their towns and cities. This lifestyle will no longer be considered "alternative" Rather, it will be a viable aspect of city planning. Maybe Americans are, as Steinbeck said, "a restless people, a mobile people," and for many, the roots they plant will be within the society where they live, not in land they purchase. They will rent a camping space rather than an apartment. Their footprint will be tiny, not double wide. If Steinbeck were traveling across America today, he would see the beginnings of the tiny house movement, the tiny homes on wheels movement, and he'd say that the movement toward small is growing big. "Perhaps we have overrated roots as a psychic need. Maybe the greater the urge, the deeper and more ancient is the need, the hunger to be somewhere else."

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Friday, May 3, 2019

The "Shakedown" Camping Trip

A tiny trailer owner is looking forward to that long-anticipated trip in her newly purchased tiny camper, gone for at least a month, the tour beginning in the wilds of Michigan. "Are there any tips on this long a journey?" she asks. "This is about double the furthest distance that I ever took my popup, and I will be driving solo. Should I take a few shorter trips first?"

This is an actual post from a popular tiny trailer Facebook group, and the responses were almost unanimous: "shakedown" camping trips are really helpful--not absolutely necessary (Walmarts and hardware stores abound, as one comment indicated). No, not absolutely necessary, but useful.

Shakedown camping trips are great because they are reassuring. Any challenge on that first camping trip, and you can say, "Well, I'm only a half hour from home." Now, that doesn't make the challenge any less, whatever it is, but . . . you are indeed only a hop, skip, and jump from home--and "home" isn't just your house, it's also friends and family, familiar businesses, and all the familiar circumstances available as you proceed to deal with whatever situation you have before you. Since one big reason folks camp is to relax and take it easy, then dealing with adversity in a supportive environment actually is a big deal. If camping is a new interest, or even if you just have a new camper or tent but are experienced, a shakedown trip can verify and reassure you that indeed, your long road trip readiness is optimal.


If you've never towed before, a short trip to a local campground is a good way to start. I actually gained my initial towing experience by practicing backing into my driveway. I live in the last house on a street that "doglegs" around to the next street in a little development on the edge of town. Every morning for a little over a week I'd hitch up, pull my trailer around the block, back in, then pull out, taking the opposite direction, and then back in. I wanted to be able to park the trailer in an exact spot, and my first try took me forty-five minutes. I got better over time. My first time towing beyond that was to the local county park, four miles from my home. I went on a Wednesday, when the campground was almost empty, having scouted out the route ahead of time, so the experience was successful and enjoyable. I didn't have ten campers sitting around in lawn chairs watching me back in. I had a nice flat field across from the campsite, so I could easily pull forward and even things up as many times as I needed. 

A shakedown cruise can answer many questions. How well does the trailer pull? Does it bottom out in low spots. Needless to say, checking all the electrical hookups for towing is essential. Some people have a checklist to make sure nothing was missed: everything hooked up, jacks and stabilizers put up, windows and vents closed, cords and hoses unplugged. Those shakedown trips can help establish safe and easy routines. Two YouTube videos I found helpful were from Airstream owners at the Long Long Honeymoon: "For Beginners: How to Back Up a Travel Trailer," and "The Scoop: How to Back Up a Towable RV/Travel Trailer." This full-time RV couple provides good advice and a little bit of reassuring humor.

Camp Set-up

Having parked at the campground, then the set-up begins, usually not as much an epic event as tent camping, but there is a rhyme and rhythm to it: stabilizing the trailer, securing it, hooking up (usually minimal for tiny trailers), awning, utilitent/portable toilet, outside table and chairs, preparing the cook area. It takes a while but doesn't need to happen all at once. I usually back in, stabilize and secure the trailer, hook up the electric, and if it's hot, put up the awning. I pull enough out of the trailer to be able to get in, and then usually sit down and have a glass of water and maybe have a snack. Then I continue setting up. How much I bring and set up depends on how long the stay will be. Sometimes I don't even unhook the trailer from the car.

Tiny trailer camper all set up for cooking and outside living

Unhooking the trailer from the tow vehicle and having the trailer secure from theft and stable for moving around in takes a bit of research and practice, with a shakedown cruise confirming that all is well. After quite a bit of research, summarized in my article "Security: a Starter Pack for New Teardrop Owners," I've settled on a security strategy for my tiny camper. Now, what I chose was determined in part by the fact that I live in rural SE Iowa in a low-traffic area. As for stabilizing your trailer--it isn't difficult, and having the right equipment makes it even easier. Leveling and stabilizing equipment can be a DIY project by cutting up some wood blocks, or you can buy some plastic blocks, which I chose to because of limited space and weight. In my article "Stabilizing Your Trailer: a Few Essentials," I describe the equipment and process I use stabilize my trailer, including leveling blocks, wheel chocks, and jacks.

Gearing Up

It's best when gearing up to keep two lists while camping: what to add to your gear, and what to get rid of. I keep my list on my phone notepad. At this point in my tiny trailer career, the list is getting smaller. New to my "bring" list this season is a 30 to 15 amp converter, which I've just bought at the local Walmart RV section. Previous items I've added to my list have been metal eating utensils rather than plastic sporks, a paper towel holder, and a yoga mat and small tarp.

As for what items not to take, that's a smaller list because packing something usually requires a bit of thought and energy. On one of our first trips, my wife and I took along an extra sleeping bag, one of those older model cotton Coleman brands, thinking we could use it as an extra blanket if the temperatures dropped. We discovered the bag was too big and bulky, always getting in the way in our tiny trailer. We switched it out for a smaller thermal blanket. Other items we've switched out over time include cooking and bathing items. We've stopping bringing big beach towels and have substituted instead the quick-drying microfiber towels used for backpacking. They are lightweight, easy to pack with a mesh bag, and come with a hanging loop. Definitely not as luxurious as a cotton towel, the quick-drying towels earn their way by not always being in the way. The food we bring to cook has simplified in that we are now bringing less junk food and more simple, fresh food. For me, for instance, bringing a lot of macaroni salad means I eat a lot of macaroni salad, and then I tend to get sluggish and want to take a nap.

Keeping Organized

Keeping organized in a tiny trailer is essential, and it is something that gets better with attention and practice. In an earlier article, "Keeping Organized in a Tiny Trailer, I mention that it's important to bring gear that has multiple uses, and it's important to put things away once you're done with them. Shakedown cruises provide opportunities to discover what works, what doesn't, and to find out what might work better. It's a creative process, one that often includes research. Whether online or at the campground, it's always fun to discover some new way of doing something better. I once saw at one campground a teardrop owner who had brought a small refrigerator and had it set up on a table beneath his camp canopy. That's not something I'd do, but it certainly was an interesting approach to setting up a camp kitchen.

Whatever works for each of us we should incorporate into our camping routine, whether it's hooking up, gearing up, or cleaning up. In a way, every trip is a "shakedown" cruise if we pay attention. Over time, though, the "shakes" become smaller. Like I mention in my article "How the Green Goddess Glamps," over time the camping expeditions become more about comfort and less about coping. Starting the camping season with one or several shakedown trips can definitely increase the cozy and lessen the chaos.

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Friday, April 26, 2019

The Traveling Teardrop Sisters: a Tiny Trailer Owner Profile

Betty and Ann, the Traveling Teardrop Sisters

Ann Schnepf and Betty Hanscum are the Traveling Teardrop Sisters.

The sisters travel a lot together with their tiny trailers and have discovered that they create a parade-like effect. "I travel in tandem with my sister," says Ann, "so there are two teardrops going down the road. I am in the lead, so by the time a car is passing me, they have already seen my sister. The looks we get are hysterical. We always have to give tours to other campers. You can tell they are curious as they walk by slowly. The usual response is, 'Is there a bed in that small thing?' Most people marvel at how much room and storage there really is in a teardrop." Both sisters reside in Iowa Des Moines area, having owned side by side apartments in a condominium for the last two years. Both own teardrops: Ann a Rustic Trail Teardrop Grizzly, and Betty a 5x10 T@G teardrop.

I (Tom Kepler, Green Goddess Glamping's sole cook and bottle washer) know this because I've seen the Traveling Teardrop Sisters all set up in their full campground splendor. The two rigs were the first teardrops I'd ever really looked closely at, and the story goes like this . . .

I was on an overnight bicycle camping trip to Lake Darling State Park in SE Iowa, having arrived early because of a wonderful tailwind. I pitched my one-person tent, cooked my dinner over a little alcohol stove, showered, and drifted off to sleep with the beautiful colors of the sunset reflecting on the lake. The next morning while walking, I met two women, whom I later found out to be Ann and Betty, who asked me about my camping set-up. They owned two teardrops, a T@G and an RTTC. Looking at my tent, Ann said, "Well, we finally met someone with a smaller camp set-up than us!" The sisters later took me on a tour of their teardrops and their campsite, answering my questions and allowing me to peek inside. That was my introduction to tiny trailer camping and my introduction to the RTTC models that eventually led to me buying a used RTTC Polar Bear--the Green Goddess. Therefore, I will always be grateful to Ann and Betty for introducing me to the world of tiny trailer camping.

Betty bought her T@G new in 2015 in Missouri, ordering it "with some custom items on it, no stove or sink in my back kitchen galley, just storage . Mine also has an ac unit in it with a 3-way roof fan. I also have an awning for my teardrop. My teardrop is white and yellow, and her name is Lemondrop. I bought it from Missouri Teardrop, outside of Warrensburg, Missouri, great place and great guy, Dana, to work with! He also installed a double bike rack to the tongue of my teardrop because I didn’t need a propane tank." Betty has modified her trailer from a double bed to a single, giving her more storage and open space. She can stand up in her 4-foot trailer by "hunching over," since she is only 5' 2" tall! She has also added a Velcro screen door to the trailer to keep out bugs and says it works great.

Ann hit the camping scene running (or driving), buying her Grizzly in July of 2017, picking it up in North Carolina, and camping all the way back home to Iowa. Her tow vehicle is a Honda CRV, which works great for her. She camped four times in 2017 and "was only able to camp five times in 2018," which shows that Ann is hooked! Ann and her sister camp at state parks because they love the availability of electric hook-ups.

That Traveling Teardrop caravan must be quite a sight, since not only do they both own teardrops but also the same model of tow vehicles, each a Honda CRV. Betty says, "I tow my teardrop, that weighs just about 1,000 lbs., with a 2018 Honda CRV. I got a new car this past summer; my previous car was a 2012 Honda CRV. There are no brakes on my trailer and generally I get 17-20 mpg towing. No issues ever with towing in Mountains, wind, all types of weather, etc. I usually forget she’s back there. I’ve even driven through fast food drive-throughs with her behind me! The best gas mileage was 32 mpg in Texas with a significant tailwind!"

For thirty years Ann was a tent camper, but over the years the tent routine grew old. "My sister had a smaller teardrop, and I loved it. I was tired of always having to put my tent up, and in bad weather we would sit in her camper."

Betty's take on her years of camping is similar--of how her life changed over the years until she finally "grew into" the teardrop camping life.
"I have been camping for over forty years, starting with my ex-husband going to Yellowstone camping in tents, every year coming back with a bigger tent until we bought our first pop up trailer. We pulled that little pop up with a 4-cylinder car (no ac) into the mountains! No problems. We had our first pop up for about 14 to 15 years before the roof rotted out. After that, we didn't camp for for about 2 to 3 years. Then we bought another pop up camper and had that one for eight years before we sold it. About 10 to 12 years ago my ex decided that he no longer wanted to go camping, so I packed up my son and my sister, and we went every year to lots of different places. After my son graduated from high school, the pop up was too large for one person, so I started looking into getting a teardrop. I was able to rent a teardrop from Missouri Teardrop to see if I liked the little trailers, and it was love at first sight! So I ordered one the following spring.  I love the size and tow abilities of a little trailer; also I could hitch up and go by myself and didn’t need any help at home or at the campground,. I felt very secure and safe if I was camping by myself."

The sisters have traveled throughout the Midwest and Southeast, state parks being a common destination. "Ann and I," says Betty, "belong to a group of women campers--Midwest Glampers. We attend several events every year with this group of over 250 women campers. Members set up camping events, usually starting in April, and we camp until October, depending on where in the Midwest and when. We usually camp on-grid in campgrounds, usually state or county campgrounds. We usually have electricity but not much else, and need a bathroom but have taken our portable potty a few times with us!  The thing that bugs Ann and me the most is that so many campgrounds make us get two campsites. Even though we aren’t as big as some of the big rigs and use hardly any electricity, they make us set up in two sites! Missouri has what are called family sites which have worked out well for us, but it is still two sites!"

Ann has also developed a particular style or look that has developed over time. "My camper had a short queen bed. I am single and do not need that size, so with the help of my sister and brother we modified my camper to a single bed, which gives me more room for storage. I love it. I've also decorated [my trailer] with pictures and quilts." Ann and her sister have a camp routine that works well for them. "Betty and I love to cook, so we have a screen room that we put up between the two campers. This is our kitchen. We put the picnic table in there. This is also an area to play games or retreat to when it is raining."

"Trailer trash." Where's the fashion police?
The sisters and their Midwest glamper group do enjoy glamping it up a bit for fun, hangers and pictures that can be changed out according to the holiday or glamping theme. Their club often has a theme which is common for a particular campout, such as Halloween to Trailer Trash to Christmas in July! Ann and Betty have several buckets of fun lights and decorations that they just pack up and go with. And although they have crazy fun, they also have their more personal and heartfelt memories. Betty says, "My main theme in my camper is one of outdoors, wildlife and basic camping. Years ago when I still had my pop up, Ann made me a mountain outdoor wilderness-themed quilt that I still use today. Putting curtains inside the camper also helps make it homey and comfortable, with extra pillows for comfort."

Although their camping norm is the comfort of a state park, there are some qualities Ann especially looks for in a campsite. She feels a lake or a stream is a plus. "I did tent camp in Canada by a lake and it was beautiful, until the moose came through our camp site!" Her favorite time of year is the fall when "the weather is cooler and the leaves are turning." Betty remembers her first time camping alone. She was in southern Missouri, "going to meet with fellow Glampers but was going to be by myself for two days. The campground was empty, no owner, no campers, no neighbors, no cell service--this remote part of Missouri was very scary, but I survived and have a great story about my 'Deliverance' camping experience!"

One interesting trip Ann and Betty took last summer was to Indianola, Iowa, for the balloon festival.

Betty feels that new campers should invest in good quality products. "Cheap doesn’t last long and just frustrates you when trying to do what you want to accomplish. Also a really great camp chair is important. You’ll be sitting in it for a while, so invest in a really good one." More advice from experience is that "quality cookware and stoves pay for themselves over time. Start with the basics and then look around camp to see what others do and start stealing ideas from others to build up your campsite." The sisters aren't afraid to let go of stuff they no longer use, frequently swapping or shopping out their equipment with other campers.

One useful tip is to take everything out of your trailer at least once a year. It helps you discover what you aren't using and what you need--and keep a list of what you have and where it is!  An important recommendation is to also to pack warm weather clothes and blankets, "no matter what the temp, you never can tell when you might need it!"

The Midwest Glampers group always checks with Ann and Betty if they need something because between the two of them, they usually have it, the two tiniest campers having the most stuff! Since Ann and Betty camp together most of the time, they don’t have to duplicate a lot of items, which saves a lot of space. One sister carries some stuff, the other sister carries other stuff! Permanent equipment and supplies stay in the campers, replaceable or temporary supplies go in the cars, which makes it easy to get up and go. "Just load up the cars, hook up the trailers, and go!"

Lake Darling, Ann and her sister Betty's campsite in the background, where Tom Kepler first met the sisters

As for future plans, Ann and her sister belong to several camping groups. Starting in January the groups they belong to start organizing different camping trips, so the sisters begin scheduling a camping calendar or destinations and dates and who they will be camping with, trying to schedule at least two camping trips every month from April till November, some close to home, others bigger trips, some with one camping group, some with another camping group, some just with the two sisters.

They are planning a few trips to southern Missouri and northern Arkansas,  in Iowa, and a big trip to Florida in November. "We plan on kayaking with the manatees down there!" says Ann. Travel dreams include trips to the Northeastern US, and also to North and South Dakota, and Colorado. "Wherever we can and for as long as we can!" The joy of camping for the Traveling Teardrop Sisters is infectious. They take the love and support they feel as sisters and radiate it out into the world, making the world a better place. The best way for me to finish this article is to say that I know that meeting the Traveling Teardrop Sisters has changed my life, and I sincerely hope our paths cross sometime during this next camping season.

(To read all the Green Goddess Glamping owner profiles, check out the Owner Profiles page. Click the link or the Owner Profiles button beneath the header photo.)

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Monday, April 22, 2019

First Spring Camping Trip: Flowers, Showers, and Everything Else

Tiny trailer camping in the spring means being ready for any kind of weather.

The pounding of hammers and the buzz of saws outside our house were the busy sounds of home maintenance--new siding replacement. The solution for escaping the hubbub was a week-long camping trip to Lake Sugema Campground, about thirty miles from home. Soon we were rolling down the highway, sun shining, field birds singing, trees a glowing green in that first blush growth, the sun warm upon our faces.

Well, no, actually. Our drive out was to the possibility of snow showers, which never happened, happily. We were well prepared for the possibility of cold weather, though, and the first morning was a couple of degrees below freezing. That was no problem. We had regularly hiked during the winter in freezing or near-freezing weather, and because we had dressed warmly, our hikes had be a lot of fun--no over-heating, no bugs, and great exercise. The sun burned through the haze, and wind blew away most of the cloud cover, so the day warmed as the day progressed. My wife and I settled in, cooked a good meal, I enjoyed some photography. Our sleep the first night was too hot, the second night too cold with only a cotton thermal blanket--then too hot when we added the sleeping bags. I felt like Papa Bear--to hot, too cold, what about just right?

Sunset is a golden time whether camping with a tiny trailer, a tent, or a larger RV.
Our activities during the second day included more sun and heat, up to seventy-five degrees. We set up the awning and took it easy. Having skipped warm weather clothing and sunscreen, we laughed at how totally unprepared we were for hot weather. Ditto for day three, hot and sunny. Lake Sugema must be on the migration route for birds heading north because we saw White Pelicans, geese, and ducks on the lake. In the trees around us were many birds singing, especially at dawn.

Day four turned so windy that we had to break down and put away our awning. All day the gusting wind had acted like a sail, rocking the tiny trailer, causing some of the suction cups to break loose with heavy gusts, allowing the awning to flap. It was cloudy,and thunderstorms threatened for the night. It rained that night but not a violent rain--peaceful. For two nights we hadn't used our oil heater at all and slept much more comfortably.

Our fifth morning, though, we woke to temperatures in the upper 40's and switched on the heater for a little comfort. We also enjoyed the fact that with the cloud cover and lower temperatures, the clothes we had packed were perfect. This trip I haven't done much hiking except shorter walks with my wife after she shuts down business for the day in her mobile office, aka the Green Goddess. What I have been doing is duplicating our home meals so that there isn't the physical shock of suddenly easting heavier, less fresh food. That's been working out well--baked vegetables, curried vegetables, toast over the fire, lot of hot tea in the morning.

This is our first camping trip of the season, so reaffirming our camp routines and reminding ourselves how it all works has been a great boost to our confidence. The only glitch we've had in our camp routine was when we first arrived and were unhooking and setting up. A camper walked by with his dachshund and hung around, talking. He stayed on, and I was trying to remember all the little details--and discovered after unhooking that I had forgotten to check the lateral level of the trailer. Luckily, it was only a little off, so no worries. That's been our running joke this trip--if we only had a dachshund, we'd be reaaalllly kicked back campers!

On cold, overcast days, it's great to own a tiny "standy" trailer to get away from the inclement weather.

We're finding, though, that as we stay in one place and the time extends more, we have more free time to either relax or to try something new. We aren't taking a good part of the day setting up or packing up. Last year I managed to identify a number of campgrounds with good cellphone reception, so this year we'll be able to head out more frequently, Sandy and I, to mix her work during the day with good meals, energetic yet peaceful hikes, and snug nights in our tiny camper. Tomorrow we're driving four miles to the city park and playground in Keosauqua, which is right along the Des Moines River, where we will meet and play with our grandchildren. Yay!

Plan change! I'm at home right now, two days later (the day we had actually scheduled to come home). Wind was the culprit for our early return home. Too windy for our sun awning, too windy for a day of play in the park with the grandkids, too windy for campfires, wind drying the sinuses and causing nosebleeds--we decided to come home, having enjoyed ourselves thoroughly and not feeling the need to force our pleasure. We did dodge the wind long enough to have three campfires in six days. We did enjoy cooking, especially getting to know how to use our induction hotplate--which is awesome to use in the wind! And Sandy and I did enjoy spending some time together alone.

Most of all, though, we enjoyed how easy this experience was--and the idea that we have a whole season of camping ahead of us. So, for the second time, YAAAAY!

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Friday, April 19, 2019

Tiny Trailer Travels West with Bob and Dian Teschke

a Rustic Trail Teardrop camper, Grizzly model

Bears in the Wild

"There’s something enjoyable about being around like-minded people." So say Bob and Dian Teschke, online members of a Facebook group I belong to, Rustic Trail Teardrops Camper Owners Group. The Teschkes and I both own tiny trailers manufactured by RTTC--a Grizzly for them and a Polar Bear for my wife and me. My travels center mostly around home--with literally several dozen campgrounds within a hundred miles of my home. Dian and Bob, though, have been able to take off--so let me share their journeys with you. Maybe it will inspire you to see a "Bear in the Wild"--as their adventures have inspired me.

Last year in June of 2018, Bob and Dian took an "epic cross country trip," in their words. It wasn't their first time across the country because in 2002 they had driven from California to Ohio in two cars with their young sons and three dogs, staying in motels as they moved--one of those epic migrations most folks have endured at least once if they've accumulated enough years. Think forward to last year, sixteen years later, just the two of them traveling in one car: "no kids, our dog Zoey, and bringing our bed with us in the form of a teardrop." Deciding to travel Interstate 80, they pulled their Grizzly through ten states, visiting family and friends along the way from their home in Ohio to Washington state and back--twenty days and close to 5,000 miles, round trip.

Flying J, Gillette, Wyoming

Hidden Meadows RV Resort, Milton, Minnesota

In order to make time and get on down the road, they took advantage of truck stops like the Flying J Travel Center in Gillette, Wyoming, and Loves in Roscoe, Illinois.  "We planned the driving time and the stops for each day before we took our trip so we knew exactly what truck stops we wanted to stay at.  The nice thing about truck stops are 1) coffee 2) shower . . . in that order.  It was nice that we could go inside, ask where they wanted us to park, pull in, watch our DVD player and get ready for bed."  They did stay at two campgrounds on their way back home. One was Hidden Meadows RV Park, near Pine Island, Minnesota.  The other was the Belvidere East KOA in Midland, South Dakota. These camping stops gave them a chance to relax some before they got home and to enjoy themselves without being rushed.  They felt both places were very nice.

A Grizzly at Mt. Rushmore

Traveling west on their way to Washington, Bob and Dian's first big point of interest was Mt. Rushmore in South Dakota. "Mt Rushmore was awesome, totally unbelievably huge," Dian writes.  "You see it on TV or in magazine photos, but you never really understand the size of Mt. Rushmore until you’ve seen it in person.  They don’t allow dogs, so we didn’t stay long.  We were fortunate that it was in the low 70s and we were able to leave our dog, Zoey, in the car, under shade while we made our visit.  We were also lucky in that I had just turned 62. We received a discount, and it only cost us $5 for parking."

Zoey at home in her tiny trailer

The Spokane area in Washington state was the farthest west Dian and Bob traveled on this trip, spending a few days with family, sleeping nights in their Grizzly teardrop parked in the driveway. Then they headed back to Montana to visit friends again and dip down to Yellowstone,  the Badlands, and then Wisconsin.

Backyard camping, Nine Mile Falls, Washington

Dian is a mountain lover, so Montana really stood out for her. "Everything was so green, and the meadows had tall grasses. The wildflowers were blooming, and with the white-capped mountains in the background, it was breathtakingly gorgeous.  Going through the Continental Divide and passes in the Montana mountains was heart-stopping. Sometimes I thought my husband was going so fast down the mountains that we wouldn’t be able to make the turns."

Old Faithful, Yellowstone

Yellowstone buffalo along the roadway

Yellowstone National Park was a real highlight on the trip back from Washington state. Dian had visited Yellowstone when she was thirteen years old, but having been to the park a second time, she now realizes she didn't really appreciate it fully as a kid. Yellowstone was on her husband Bob's bucket list, too, because he had worked on a ranch near the Tetons in Wyoming when he had hitchhiked across country in the 70s and wanted to revisit the area.  "We saw buffaloes, elk, deer, a black bear and a grizzly bear. . . . Wow!!!  Due to the time, we never got to see the Tetons and just barely made it to see Old Faithful go off at dusk.  We did get some great photos.  Mind you, we left early in the morning, and the drive through Yellowstone took all day and all evening to drive back to Bozeman, Montana.  I was able to get a senior pass at Yellowstone for any of the national parks, which saved us on the entrance cost," Dian relates.

Bear sighting in The Badlands National Park

The Badlands of South Dakota was another scenic stop on the way home, the desolation and the extreme heat providing Bob and Dian with some memorable experiences. "The Badlands National Park was not in our original plans, but everyone kept telling us we need, must, go visit and see for ourselves all the beauty of that land.  We decided to visit the Badlands on our way home.  Being free made the decision easy.  Are we ever glad we took that loop, Highway 240, through the Badlands!  The land and scenery were so surreal that we must have taken at least a hundred photos.  Outside it was 106 degrees and so hot that our phones heated up after taking pictures. We had to hold our phones up to the air conditioner in the car to cool them down.  It took us roughly two hours to drive through the Badlands, about seventy miles."

Road to adventure, The Badlands National Park

Dian can't think of a better way to travel than with a tiny trailer. "I have traveled in a Class C, a travel trailer, truck camper, and a pop-up tent.  Traveling with the teardrop is by far the best choice ever.  It's easy to tow, to park in a parking lot, to unhook or hook up and go, to stop and sleep, to driveway surf, to relax in at family’s and friends' homes, or at parks, at lakes, and at campgrounds.  The simple stop and crawl inside to sleep with no set up made it super easy to spend the night at truck stops, have everything we needed in our camper, and then ramble on down the road in the morning."

The trip did have a few challenges, but Bob and Dian met them like the experienced travelers they are. "The most challenging thing we had to do on the road was eating as healthily as we could and not spend too much money on fast food.  I did go through Pinterest for some camping food tricks and hacks which helped.  We did get a flat tire in Wyoming on our way to Montana, and I thank God that we were stopped at a gas station and that my husband noticed it before we got back on the road.  It was a truly a blessing that we had everything we needed, including a spare tire, to get the job done."

Now that the 2019 camping season is beginning, the Teschkes have plans for teardrop traveling again. "We plan to do a lot of camping this coming season in Ohio and Michigan during the weekends.  We own six acres and love taking the teardrop out to sleep overnight in the 'back 40.'  Just close enough to the restrooms.  We plan to end this year with a big bang by traveling to Huntington Beach State Park, South Carolina, for the RTTC 2nd Annual Gathering. There’s something enjoyable about being around like-minded people."

Dian and Bob went into their trip thinking of all the favorite summer songs heard on the radio--the windows rolled down, hair blowing in the wind, singing loudly.  They recorded over six hundred songs on a flash drive to listen and sing to while driving.  "We had a blast singing.  We were excited to see family and to visit [Dian's] best friend from high school.  We wanted to add some new states, Wisconsin, Minnesota, and South Dakota, under our belts.  We really enjoyed just being on the road again."

I wonder if one of the songs they sang was Willie Nelson's famous road song? Maybe someday you'll meet a "Bear in the Wild," while towing your own adventure down the road with you. And if those fellow adventurers are anything like Dian and Bob, they'll probably be smiling and singing happy songs.

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