Friday, June 18, 2021

Here We Go Again--Finding an Empty Campsite during the Busy Season

Indian Lake in the fall
I've been busy this spring, what with getting my garden in shape and with helping my son start his handyman and remodeling business. Since it was also a wet, rainy spring I didn't get out to camp as much as I wanted to. Now, it appears that we're in a drought in southeast Iowa, with national heat advisory announcements for our area, with temperatures in the 97-101 range today, depending on which weather service I choose to believe. So, several days of really hot weather. As my wife told me, though, "A day camping is better than a day not camping, no matter what the weather." Our plan was to just reserve a spot and take off . . . and then I started looking at the state and national reservation sites. Yikes! 

What I quickly discovered was that folks have been busy making reservations, especially for the weekends. I was right back to where I was a year ago when I wrote the article "The Agony and the Ecstasy of Campground Reservations." You'd think I would have learned my lesson to reserve early, but I've been busy and I have to confess, I am a bit of an optimist. 

Rathbun Lake, Army Corps Buck Creek Campground
Several options were open for me. Checking out the campgrounds at Rathbun Lake, one of Iowa's largest lakes a little over an hour from home, I quickly found that the Army Corps sites at Island View Campground, which is completely a reservation facility, were almost completely booked. I moved to Buck Creek Campground, also an Army Corps facility, and found that they have continued with having a good portion of the campsites designated as "first come, first served," or non-reservable sites. I moved my search to the Iowa Lacey-Keosauqua State Park facility, about a half an hour away, and found that weekends being already reserved were again the "fly in the ointment" for anyone considering a longer stay. 

It was pretty easy to find Sunday through Thursday sites, but then I'd have to find somewhere else for the weekend. An alternative plan would be just to camp five nights during the week and then come home for the weekend. However, although that would be fun for me, since my wife still has an active business, that would disallow her from enjoying some camping off-time. The solution was to utilize my knowledge of local campgrounds, to not "go big" but to consider the more humble city and county campgrounds close by home. 

Tent camping at Indian Lake, before we owned a travel trailer
I've camped quite a few times at a local campground at Indian Lake near the small town of Farmington, Iowa, right on the Iowa-Missouri border. The lake used to be a state park but was let go by the state because there were several other state parks and forests nearby. The city of Farmington picked up the facility and now runs the campground. I've camped there by myself and with my wife quite a bit over the years--bicycle camping, tent camping, and tiny trailer camping in the Green Goddess. How about camping there with the Basecamp? I thought.

Indian Lake Campground has a rustic feel to it. Yes, it has a small Sewer Alley of about ten sites, but it also has tent sites and a campground within a circle of trees that is tucked away from the hubbub. That little campground provides 30 amp electricity but no water. I called the campground hosts (the park has permanent host residents at the facility) and made my reservation! Then I called the next day and moved the reservation to a few days later because of Father's Day and the extreme heat. Now I'll be arriving on a Monday and leaving on a Monday--unless I decide to extend my stay. The host said that an extension shouldn't be a problem. I was also told that they had a "spill-over" site with a nice view of the lake that I might be interested in, one that is usually used when the campground is full. 

If I were traveling on a road trip, I'd probably book some sites in advance and then take my chances for overnighters, knowing that I could find a Walmart or Cracker Barrel or Harvest Host site for the night if necessary. I'm finding, though, that I'm enjoying setting up for longer stays, and I'm just going to have to remember that during the busy season of camping that I have to plan early or to just take my chances on a "walk-in" site, one that I can stay at for up to two weeks once I get my rig parked. I can stay a week and then decide to stay another week. 

Bike camping at Oakland Mills, a campground 25 miles from home
I momentarily panicked because of the intensity of the reservation program; however, camping in a local facility is an easy way to remove any anxiety. There are more than a dozen campgrounds within forty miles of my home. If worst comes to worst, with a full tank of gas I could just take off, have myself a nice drive, and find a nice spot. That's not so bad. A little serendipity can add a touch of adventure to the experience.

I'm looking forward to staying at Indian Lake. I'm bringing my bike, and there are opportunities to ride along the Des Moines River or on trails and feed roads and trails in Shimik State Forest, which is nearby. There is also a great hiking trail around the lake, about a 45-minute two-mile walk. Next week is supposed to have temperatures in the high 70s to low 80s with a chance of rain, but I have my Airstream Basecamp, and I'll take books to read and my Chromebook for writing. The campground has good cellphone receptivity since Farmington is just across the river. My son's going to keep the garden watered if it doesn't rain, so hooray! I'm going camping.

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Friday, June 11, 2021

The Cooking Beauty of the Instant Pot for the Little Camper

When it comes to meals and camping, especially with the simplicity of camping in small trailers or vans, a one-pot meal is hard to beat. In this review, I'm not going to wax eloquent or drag on, I'm just going to relate how simple the Instant Pot pressure cooker is to use in a small camper space, or even in a tent. 

My wife and I have the Duo Mini 3-quart Instant Pot, and it suits our needs very well--neither too large or small. I have to admit that we haven't explored all the cooking possibilities with this pressure cooker; we've learned how to do a few simple meals--and tend to do them over and over, with the main variations being the ingredients.

Camping Positives
  • The Instant Pot isn't large and stores easily, the cord inside the cooking pot, important in a tiny space.
  • For cold weather camping, the pot vents hardly any steam while getting up to pressure, which reduces condensation. I vent the pot outside before opening.
  • Because the pot is sealed when cooking, there is very little smell, just a whiff when the pot is heating and building pressure. Again, this can be useful in the small, enclosed space of the camper.
  • The pot is portable. In better weather, I usually cook outside with the pressure cooker. 
  • There is a lot of information online regarding recipes, including YouTube videos.
  • Since my recipes include water, cleaning up is easy.
Camping Negatives
  • Be sure to check the plastic gasket seal to make sure it seats well. I've had a few times (in two years) that the gasket didn't seal and steam started shooting out. I unplugged the unit, brought down the pressure, checked the seal, and turned it successfully back on. The recommendation is to change the sealing ring every 12-18 months, so I guess I'm overdue. My wife and I didn't know about the sealing ring change-out, though, until we researched it. Personally, I don't use the programmable timer cooking feature.
  • One-pot meals, at least for me, are mostly stews, with variety being different ingredients or how much water is added. (Is it a soup, a stew, or a pilaf?) If you like meal variety, then that will probably entail more prep work and finesse.
  • Although the Instant Pot isn't large, it isn't exactly tiny, either. It will take up precious space. I recommend using the unit at home, testing out camping recipes. Then if you think you'll regularly use it, pack it up!
Here are a few of my simple recipes. I provide them not to wow you with my culinary skills but to just provide an example of how easy cooking with the Instant Pot is. Be sure to check out bonafide recipes online. I'm just a simple guy, cooking a simple meal.
  • STEW: A third cup of rice and 1.5-2 cups of water. Chopped vegetables. Herbs de Provence and a half a bouillon cube, salt and pepper and so forth. Add tofu or fish sections. Dahl or lentils can also be added (which could mean adding more water). Cook 12-20 minutes, depending on the rice you use. 
  • PILAF/STEW: This meal is much like the above stew, except I add nuts and raisins. Less water brings you closer to a pilaf; more water moves the recipe into "soup" territory.
  • POACHED EGGS: Add one cup of water to the cooking pot. Using silicon egg cups (oiled) add the cup or cups with the eggs inside to the pot. Cook for 1-3 minutes, depending on how poached you want the eggs. I cook mine two minutes and release the steam as soon as the cooking time is done. It works well.
  • STEAMED VEGETABLES: Add one cup of water to the pot. Using a collapsible steamer basket (quite a few brands online) add the vegetables. Cook zero minutes. The steaming occurs while the cooker is getting up to pressure. Zero minutes!
  • NOODLES: Noodles in a pack with seasoning is an easy way to go. I add the two cups of water, plop in the noodles and seasoning, turning the solid rectangle of dry noodles over a couple of times to get it completely wet, and then I add whatever extra I want to eat--veggies and/or tofu. Cook for three minutes. I use the Lotus Foods individual Ramen packs.
I'm sure there are other tasty recipes I haven't bothered trying yet. My apologies to Instant Pot and to all those creative Instant Pot cooking wizards online. Looking at my cooking list, except for the poached eggs, I pretty much have one recipe that I vary according to my mood and what ingredients are available. What can I say? When I'm on the go, quick and easy isn't all that bad.

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Sunday, June 6, 2021

A Classic Fiberglass Tiny Trailer: a Family at Home in Their Trillium

At home in their little trailer
Tiny trailer camping is great for one or two people, but what about family camping? What about two kids that are in their active years and big enough to take up a fair amount of space? Ashley and Nick Smolak, based in northern Pennsylvania, are living that dream with their classic fiberglass tiny trailer . . . along with their young daughter and son.

When it comes to tiny trailer camping, the Smolaks decided to go classic with a 1979 Trillium travel trailer. "We bought it in January 2020, right before Covid hit.  We were SO so lucky.  We had been looking for about a year for a fiberglass camper.  We wanted something light that we could tow with our Outback and didn’t require much maintenance or difficulty in upkeep with a bathroom or extras."

1979 Trillium and Subaru Outback
They feel that the Subaru Outback makes a good match with their tiny trailer. Nick attached the hitch to the Subaru, which Ashley said wasn't a problem for him because he's handy. "Towing has been no problem at all.  The weight of our camper is about 1,200 pounds when loaded.  My husband does the driving. It took some practice when backing into a spot, but he’s got the hang of it!  AND the benefit of a fiberglass, lightweight trailer is that my husband can pick it up himself by the tongue and swivel and move the camper by hand.  It gets us into some great spots and allows us to turn the camper a certain way when we camp with friends."

The Smolaks tent camped since they had first met in 2006. "We always loved tent camping, and it allowed us to travel without the crazy cost of a hotel." Having their first child seven years ago didn’t slow them down, either. "Our kids love it and still ask to tent camp!  However, camping with kids is a lot of work."  After years of practice, Ashley knew she wanted a sink with a water tank. That was her only request when they began their search for a camper. "I knew it would make life easier to be able to wash dishes and babies and have water right there and ready."

Added shelves for storage
Not many renovations were required to get the Trillium ready for the road. "The only true renovations we have done are the added shelves in the vertical closet to utilize that space better for clothing storage.  And the other being replacing and painting new birch plywood cabinet doors over the sink, the closet and the lower cabinets under the bench seat.  The previous owner resealed the windows, replaced the linoleum floor, and put new cushion covers on."

Other additions are more for swank and comfort. "The newest addition is a three-inch bamboo and charcoal memory foam bed topper. What luxury! Sleeping on forty-year-old dinette cushions wasn’t cutting it anymore!  I decorated with inspirational prayer flags in the back window, a national park scratch off picture inside a cabinet door, and a vintage poster of Acadia National Park hangs on the outside wall of the tall cabinet."

Bunk set-up from another site
ViewRVs
The Trillium's set-up works well for the family. "We sleep snug as a bug.  The dinette folds down to a full size bed. There is also a bunk situation.  The bench seat at the door converts.  The back of the bench flips up to become the top bunk, with a  spring rod attachment to prevent our kiddo from rolling out.  Then my youngest, four, sleeps on the bottom.  The dogs are cozy on the floor on a dog bed."

Efficient use of space
The camper has a two-burner gas stove that works well, just like a gas range at home.  Ashley feels it is much easier than the old Coleman camp stove they previously used.  There is an original Dometic refrigerator in place, but it has never been used as a refrigerator, but rather as a pantry.  "It's so tiny that it would be useless to hook up and cool.  We use a big cooler to store our refrigerated goods."  

All of the family's clothing and hats and coats fit into the vertical closet. "We built four shelves and pack efficiently.  I roll our clothing and have drawer organizers on each shelf.  We use coats that pack down also.  Our shoes fit under the bench seat in the cabinet.  I use a big laundry bag for dirty clothes and keep that in the back of the car."

A camp bath!
Although their camper came pretty well laid out for their needs, Ashley and Nick also decided to just jump into camping with their kids and to learn by doing. They say to just get outside and use the camper. "Don’t make any changes, or buy anything special for it until you are using it and know what you truly need while camping. There are a lot of beautiful images of white, squeaky clean, minimal vintage campers, and that is just unrealistic." As a family of four with two dogs, they needed to make their sixty square feet of living space as functional as possible, and that came with practice and finding out what they needed and what was "just fluff."

"Camping with kids is great," Ashley says. "They are so much more likely to entertain themselves when we are out in nature. I do keep a basket of small toys, bubbles, coloring books, and a board game in the camper, but my kids are happier exploring outside with sticks. We do a lot of hiking. Most campgrounds have a playground too which is a highlight for them. And if there’s a creek nearby--big bonus!"

At home on country roads
Camping doesn't always have to be with the kids, though. The camper can be a little getaway for mom and dad. "We’ve experienced so much in a little over a  year of having it, but I can say my favorite part about having the camper is the ability to pick up and go with ease. My husband and I were able to do date nights where we went away just the two of us for a night. Camping date nights are so fun!"

The Smolak family have camped with their trailer about twenty times in the short amount of time they've had it. They feel they are lucky to live in an area with great sights to see and a lot of camping options. Although they have mostly stayed in state parks or the Allegheny National Forest, they would like to explore more off-grid or boondock camping. They mostly travel to mountain areas with water access in northern Pennsylvania, with fall being their favorite time to camp. "Cooler temps and fall foliage is heaven to me!" says Ashely. "We’ve also winter camped three times with snow on the ground and night temps in the 20s, and it has its perks. Way less people out and solitude. We also enjoy the snow."

Classic comfort
Although most of the family's travels have been fairly local for them, they also would like to try some longer trips, having plans to do Mt. Washington and Maine this summer; Watkins Glenn, New York, for a race; and Knoebels Amusement park for an annual trip with Ashley's parents and their 5th-wheel camper.  They had plans for Rocky Mountain National Park last summer, "but Covid ruined that, so we are hoping for a trip out West in summer 2022! I can’t wait to take my kids to the Rockies and Yellowstone and experience that with them, like I did as a kid with my parents in our camper." The Pacific West Coast has been a dream of Nick and Ashley's for many years.  A trip to Olympic and Yosemite is on their bucket list, and "dreams of retiring and hitting the road one day are talked about a lot."

Ashley and Nick are fortunate to have found a camper that fits them so well. They are also wise campers to have realized that learning to adapt is important for happy camping. Their dreams of ranging farther north and west on their travels are grand, but what is really inspiring is that they are living the dream now, living outdoors and enjoying that fleeting, beautiful time when their children are growing up, stars gleaming bright and shiny in the summer sky. The Trillium is a flower "found in the southern Appalachian Mountains in the southeastern United States." There are about fifty species of this genus. This is such a wonderful symmetry: a beautiful Trillium trailer, a beautiful genus of flowers, and a beautiful family--all out and part of the beauty of nature. May all of Green Goddess Glamping's articles end so auspiciously!

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Monday, May 17, 2021

Revised: How Do the Airstream Basecamp and the Zamp 230-Watt Solar Suitcase Match Up?

"Harvest Host" camping at the Kepler micro-farm

"A little knowledge can be dangerous," so the saying goes. What I've found with my first true experience of using my travel trailer with a solar suitcase is that a little knowledge just left me with the desire to know more. Before I explain any further--yes, the Zamp suitcase/Airstream Basecamp configuration worked, keeping the trailer up and running for my two-and-a-half-day trial. Luckily, posting my original version of this article a couple of days ago prompted some useful reader feedback--so useful that I've decided to revise and update this article. No read on for the new and improved version!

Because I was working on some deferred home maintenance with my son, I had put off a camping trip; however, I still wanted to try out my Zamp 230-watt suitcase with my AS Basecamp. My solution was to camp "off-grid" for two days in the driveway. If I couldn't get to the campground, the campground could come to me!

I had hooked up the Zamp once when it had first arrived by mail just to make sure it was in good working order--and it was. Since the Basecamp comes with an exterior Zamp plug-in, even that initial set-up was easy, consisting of opening up the suitcase, connecting the array cord with a Zamp solar extension cord I had also bought, and then plugging the unit into the Zamp receiver on the trailer. The array controller was even default matched with an AGM battery, so I didn't even have to choose the battery type. The unit worked, and after an hour I packed the suitcase up and put it in the garage.

Fast forward to a fine spring day, three days of sunshine forecast, and then a string of ten days of rain and thunderstorms predicted. I decided to combine my house spring spiff-up with two days of driveway camping, relying solely on the Zamp solar suitcase. My wife wisely suggested that I keep notes. 

The result of my three days and two nights on solar was that the suitcase kept me in electricity--lights at night and 24-hours 12v refrigeration. However, especially after reading my notes after completing my "experiment", I realized that I didn't fully understand what all the numbers and figures I wrote down meant. My notes coameme from two monitors, the Basecamp battery monitor and the Zamp controller monitor. After posting the original article to some travel trailer camping groups on Facebook, one kind and helpful member of the Airstream Basecamp group explained "what all the numbers and figures" meant. 

One clear result was that the Zamp 230-watt solar suitcase fully charged the batteries every day, drawing from the full spring sunshine ample power. Each day by around noon to two P.M., both monitoring stations would indicate 13.6 amps, with the Zamp controller also including "FUL" on the monitor. As one FB comment state, "Your central observation is correct: [your solar suitcase] is sufficient to keep the lights on and the beer cold!"

I'd read the manuals and so understood that the Zamp charges the batteries and then goes into "float" mode, which means it just adds more charge with necessary, once the batteries are fully charged. What I didn't understand was why the monitor numbers kept changing. I knew that I was just going to have to continue reading and researching in order to better understand the significance of the data the monitors provide. In the earlier iteration of this article, I provided a list of five aspects of the solar charging and monitoring that I didn't understand. I had even confused readings as amps instead of volts. My list of confusions did generate some good information, though, so I've deleted the list of what I didn't understand and have replaced it with what my further research and FB advice from one fellow camper revealed.

  • The Zamp solar control panel provides three display numbers: Battery Voltage, Charging Current, and Charged Capacity (in Amp-hours). The Basecamp "SeeLevel II Monitor Panel" displays the battery voltage.
  • Regarding what is the safe battery level, the FB advice was as follows: "In short, your Basecamp should never consistently go below 12.0V. That is the 50% point of an AGM battery. For maximum battery life, AGMs should not drop below 50%. There’s a proper way to measure this that most do not realize. When you have loads, such as your DC powered refrigerator running, the vent fan, or the water pump, you will get a “worse than actual” reading. To accurately verify your battery voltage, turn off these three devices, wait about 30 seconds, then take a reading. If you’re 12.0V or higher, you’re fine. If 11.9V, no need to worry, just make sure you charge soon and remove all but critical loads, for example, the vent fan. At 11.5V, you should charge IMMEDIATELY to prevent long term damage to the battery. At 11.0V, damage may have happened. However, if you charge immediately, “damage” likely means your battery is only 95% of its rated value." (I assume this last sentence that the damage would be a permanent loss of five percent of the battery's capacity.)
  • Regarding the Zamp's "Charging Current" reading, useful explanation was also provided. Essentially (as I understand it, anyway), this reading can be used while positioning the panels to ensure the highest charging, both in terms of direction and time of day. Amp input will vary because of time of day and cloud coverage. "It is not uncommon for amps to float +/- 5 amps on a partly cloudy day and even more so if there are more clouds. You can generally ignore all readings on your controller but amps. Use amps as your 'peaking meter' to achieve the highest rating so that you know you are peaked at the sun. For maximum efficiency, you can 'track' the sun throughout the day."
  • I was concerned (and still am) about the capacity of the batteries to keep their charge and maintain the trailer's capabilities, especially 12V refrigeration, while traveling. If I travel for three days, for instance, and stop at night where I can't plug in or set up the solar panels, will the batteries be excessively drained and damaged? More practical advice: "Real damage is done to AGM batteries when they sit at these low voltages for long periods of time, such as days or weeks. If you drop to 11.5V and you charge the next morning, you’re fine. If you drop to 11.5V and park your camper for a month, that can cause real damage. Those on this thread who have bought a used Basecamps and your batteries struggle to make it through the night likely have batteries that have suffered from this practice." What this means for me is that over time and use, I will become more familiar with the Basecamp's 12V battery capacity. I will know when I need to stop and plug in, or if I can keep rolling down the road.
  • More information was provided about how battery charging works. "A quick word about how charging works. In simple terms, there are 3 stages: Bulk, Absorption, and Float. You can Google more about it, but it’s important to know about these three stages when charging. Unlike lithium batteries, which charge similar to your smart phone, it isn’t a 50% charge to 100% and you’re done proposition. AGM and 'wet' batteries require an absorption period. During this absorption period, your batteries will typically be at around 13.8-14.2V or so, with emphasis on the 'or so.' Don’t get nervous if it floats around a bit. This absorption period can take 3-4 hours, depending on the battery. If you cannot meet the absorption period criteria due to lack of sun or enough amps, no big deal, but your batteries will lose charge a little bit faster than a battery that has met the absorption period. Think of the absorption as the time when AGMs go from 90 to 100%. Finally, the float voltage is just that. Float is usually 13.3-13.4V or so, but once you unplug or the sun goes down, it will slowly drop to 12.7V. 12.7V is 100% charge. The biggest advantage to Lithiums are twofold. 1) You can drop to about 10% power without any damage. The battery will 'shut off' before any damage is done. 2) There is no absorption period for Lithiums. They charge from 10 to 100% during the 'bulk charge,' similar to your cell phone. The end result is one Lithium is nearly the equivalent of two AGMs, and they charge faster since there is no absorption period. If you buy two Lithiums, you get nearly double the power of two AGMs."

Trojan 24-AGM 12V battery

I intend to research more, including learning more about my AGM batteries, which are Trojan 24-AGM 12V batteries. I spent a bit on an afternoon getting to the batteries in the Basecamp, which are in the front of the trailer below the storage cabinets. It was a bit of work getting to the batteries, which are stored in a steel box (which had a broken latch). I was surprised at what I thought was a pretty shabby job with the cabinetry access, which required some shimming by me to keep the cabinet floor level after accessing the batteries. 

My first experience with solar power has been a success, though. The solar panels do provide power. Even though the Zamp solar suitcase weighs about fifty pounds, I can manage tit. I can go boondocking now at Iowa's primitive campgrounds and "keep the beer cold."

My next experiment will be to go off-grid for a while without the solar panels to see how long the batteries will last just by themselves, say if my wife and I were traveling for two or three days and not plugging in with shore power or solar power. (I realize there will be some battery charging while towing.) Will the batteries be up to such a task, even with us being careful with power usage? I also understand from my reading that outside temperature plays a big role in battery capacity, so "How long will the batteries hold?" is a moving target. I want to establish a rough baseline, though. I want to know that, yes, during mild spring weather I will be able to run the refrigerator and a few lights for so many days and nights--for instance, three days and two nights, and then I will need to connect to 30-amp shore power the third night--something like that. 

I had a lot of fun experimenting with our new trailer. I've learned a lot from the advice shared with me from readers of the first iteration of this article. I now have confidence in trying boondocking, even though there's not much "wild" in Iowa's wilderness. The state is mostly farmland with pockets of land set aside for recreation and conservation. However, some of those pockets of land are pretty nice, and I have a few in mind, a couple pretty close by home, where the campground consists of an outhouse, a fire ring and maybe a table, campgrounds where you pack in your water and pack out your trash. This isn't like camping on BLM land or in national forests, but it's what's available. I probably won't be sighting Sasquatch, but I might see a friendly neighborhood groundhog or maybe a raccoon. I'll be off the grid while camping in my Airstream Basecamp glamper. Nice!

Any further comments, suggestions, or advice from readers of this revised article will be appreciated. Thanks, all!

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Friday, May 7, 2021

RTTC Bears in the Wild: A Book About the Adventurous Tiny Trailer Camping Life

It was a simple beginning, a simple and innocent introduction. Seventeen miles from my home in Iowa is Lake Darling State Park. "Why not go on an overnight bicycle camping trip?" I thought to myself, so with a song in my heart and a great tail wind, I found myself one Saturday morning camped next to the lake and talking to two wonderful ladies whom I discovered later to be the Traveling Teardrop Sisters. One of their tiny trailer teardrop campers was a Rustic Trail Teardrop Camper, a Grizzly model. A couple of months later, I owned my own RTTC tiny trailer, a "standy" Polar Bear model, and three years later, I've written a book about the travels and adventures of RTTC tiny trailer owners, RTTC Bears in the Wild

I write about what I'm doing; I've always done that. I think writing helps me understand and enjoy my life. As the saying goes, we don't just write to explain; we also write to understand. Soon after buying my tiny trailer, I was happily writing about the adventures of the "Green Goddess" in my blog, Green Goddess Glamping; and then I was also writing about the adventures of other tiny trailer owners, profiles and travelogues. Many of those articles for the blog were about RTTC owners because they were my first contacts in the tiny trailer world. 

My new book, RTTC Bears in the Wild, is a compilation of articles from Green Goddess Glamping about the exploits of RTTC tiny trailer owners, such as trips to the Canadian Maritime Islands and forays through desert and forest; it's about times with new friends sharing ocean vistas. The book begins with the second article I wrote for Green Goddess Glamping, "Why Such a Tiny Trailer?" It ends with a longer chronicle of my trip to the Carolinas to have my trailer's roof replaced after a limb bashed a hole in it during a storm. 

Some of the travels my wife and I shared are included in the book, but my favorite stories are those of other RTTC tiny trailer owners--some just plain fun but also some truly adventurous, such as one travelogue where a woman traveling solo passes through a wildfire. “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."

RTTC Bears in the Wild is my first book that includes color photographs. The photos add to the beauty of the book, even if they also triple the printing costs. It's not my first non-fiction book based on blog articles, though. I've also published I Write: Being and Writing and A Day Out with Mom, two books compiled from articles written for my writing blog, Tom Kepler Writing. Those two books were more personal, one about my perspective on writing, and the other about my family. RTTC Bears in the Wild, though is about the tiny trailer community, and not just the RTTC community. 

"Kicks on Route 66," one chapter in RTTC Bears in the Wild

Camping in tiny and little trailers is a lifestyle that evokes Conestoga wagons and the Oregon Trail. Truly, the book is about people who launch themselves into a lifestyle of discovery and simple living. It's a book about taking the saying "Less is More" and making it real, making it roll down the road and set up camp at the end of the day, the light of the campfire flickering among the pine trees. 

I proud of this book, the most expensive to publish because of its color photographs. Those photos  help the stories told come to life, though, about how when it's raining cats and dogs, tiny trailer owners are snug in their campers with their cats and dogs, warm and dry and waiting out the storm. I invite you to read and enjoy these tales of "Bears in the Wild," these stories of people who decided to get out of their houses, away from their TVs, and to get out into the "wild," to travel and get away from it all--or to get to the source of it all by enjoying nature. I hope RTTC Bears in the Wild opens up the world of tiny trailer camping for you, just as the Traveling Teardrop Sisters opened up that world for me. The book can be purchased both as a paper book and as an ebook on Amazon.

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