13 Feb

Mid Winter Camping Fixes: Episode 118

Winter’s grip seems particularly strong this year and we are only half way through it! For those that love to camp that snow covered trailer in the backyard is like an ice cream sunday to someone on a diet.  I have compiled a list of things to make that longing a little more bearable.

  • Stay at a Lodge – Make reservations at a state or national park lodge. Each year we take a midwinter trip to Blackwater Falls State Park in Davis, West Virginia and take advantage of the parks beauty in the winter. Sitting by the roaring fire after a hike to the falls in the snow is like a tonic to the spirit. The Lodge has a great restaurant, comfortable rooms and great gathering areas for socializing.

Blackwater Falls in winter. Photo courtesy of Tucker County CVB.

  • Gateway Communities – Gateway communities is the phrase the tourist industry uses to describe towns near attractions such as state and national parks. If the parks lodges are closed for the winter, chances are that the local hotels are open and prices are cut for the off season. Gatlinburg, Tennessee is a great gateway community that gives you access to the Smoky Mountains, great restaurants,  and entertainment. It’s a great time to visit the parks and see them without the crowds and in a different season.
  • Do A Trailer Project – Sew a set of sheets that actually fits an RV bed! Make new curtains, matching napkins or pillowcases. Think about something that bugged you last year and find a solution. I need a magazine rack and key holder this year. Think about what needs upgrading and do it. Make a new First Aid Kit and throw away all the expired things in your old one. Order storage containers, new floor mats or something collapsible for the RV.
  • Practice Your Camp Recipes – Learn how to master dutch oven cooking at home in your oven or on your backyard fire pit. Start making foil packet meals on Friday nights in the oven and create new recipes for when camping season begins. Break out the pie irons and get inventive. I use my Toastite Pie Irons at home all the time in the winter. Having a camp meal beside the fireplace helps! Light the firepit and eat outside on your back porch even if its in the 40’s. That’s what we do when camping!

I’m practicing new cast iron recipes in the off season.

  • Online Collecting – Pinterest is full of beautiful pictures of campsites and all of the accessories, collectibles and antiques used in them. We swoon over them but don’t think to look for those items. Gather some things to set a magazine worthy dinner table at your first camp out. I collect vintage flashlights, wool throw blankets, vintage metal pie tins which I use as plates, souvenir plates with state names on them, vintage Coleman camping gear to name but a few! Usually there is a buying lull after the holidays and that is when I hit up Ebay, Craigslist, and Facebook Marketplace looking for hidden treasure. I really use the things I collect though. I pass out wool throw blankets to guests at my campfire. I use vintage thermoses to store coffee, rice, sugar and pasta. I display and use my vintage flashlights at home and while camping.

I use my collectibles while camping and at home. This was our Christmas dinner table full of red and green vintage flashlights!

  • Trip Dreaming – While we are chilly up here in the northern parts of the USA our southern friends are camping. I am just a bit jealous but I am also trip dreaming about where I might want to go this coming year and someday. It’s a great time to crowd source friends favorite places, study maps for hidden gems, contact CVB’s and tourist offices and get information about what you can see if you visit, and search the Net for documentaries about those someday locations. Before you can trip plan, you have to trip dream.
  • Go To an Outdoor Retailer – Grab a friend and visit an outdoor retailer. Make a day of it. Sign up for one of their classes. If they don’t have the class you want, ask if they can find someone to teach it. Treat yourself to a new piece of gear. Pick an associates brain about the gear you are interested in and gather information. Soak up the outdoor vibe.
  • Host a Camping Party at Home – Invite your camping buddies over and have a camping party. Create a slide show of some of your best camping trips from last season. Serve your favorite camp food. Do a craft project for next season – fire starters are always fun to make. Watch a good camping movie like  The Long, Long, Trailer with Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz. Relive last years fun and make plans for the coming year.
  • Read All About It – Gain knowledge on any camping subject. I love to read old camp guides and ‘how to’ outdoors books that are at least a couple of decades old. They were written in a time when most people tent camped and are full of practical wisdom and evoke lots of sentimental memories for those of us that grew up camping. One of my favorites is, The Complete Book of Camping by Leonard Miracle and the Camp Fire Girls Book which are both full of inspiration not only for camping, but for improving yourself on all levels.
  • Waste Time On Line – Spend time researching  people, places and things. Get the story behind the story on that tiny plaque you read at a stop along the way. Go to YouTube and watch ‘how to’ videos on anything! Dutch oven cooking, leveling your trailer, draining your black water tank, or knitting mittens. Read the blogs that you bookmark because you’re too busy to read them when you see them. Roam the Internet and don’t feel bad about it.
  • Take A Factory TourThe Airstream Factory in Jackson Center, Ohio gives tours weekly as do most of the RV manufacturers. I had some fun googling “factory tours in Ohio” while I was making plans for my summer travel. I was so surprised by how many there were and the variety of them from the Dum Dum Lollipop factory to the largest makers of American Flags.  Find a factory to tour near you.
  • Shop Online for Preseason Bargains – Start stocking up on the items you know you will be buying for your RV and camp outs next season and spread the cost of starting up again  over a few months. Many retailers offer discounts  and free shipping during their slow season to entice buyers to purchase now. Stock up on tank, awning and black streak remover supplies.
  • Visit a Year Round Campground – Stay in a cabin at a year round campground. Last year we left our trailers in hibernation and drove from NJ to Tybee Island, Georgia and stayed at a campground with rental cabins. It was a great midwinter fix. Many campgrounds that do not allow trailers in the park because their water is shut down still rent out their cabins. You are still camping, spending time with friends and enjoying a good campfire.

Whatever helps you make it to “Opening Day” is all good!

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06 Feb

Episode 117 – Re-imagining the Toy Hauler

On this week’s episode I am starting my series on exploring all of the different options out there in recreation vehicles. I will be highlighting the features that make each model something that someone chose above all others for their travels. The RV industry has never offered more options than they do today. There is something out there for every camp style, weight limit and budget. Today it is all about reimagining the Toy Hauler and why they may be an option you didn’t consider.

  • Haul Toys -The obvious reason for buying a toy hauler is to haul your toys but, what kind of toys? Most people who think of toy haulers think of quads or off road dirt bikes. After just returning from the Outdoor Retailers Show in Denver I could not help but think of what a great option this is for the outdoor enthusiast without the conventional toys. The snow boarders; the cross country and alpine skiers;  the snow shoe enthusiasts. A toy hauler gives you the ability to store gear safely, retrieve it easily, and is also place  to return to after a day of fun and fall into a warm bed, have a bathroom and share a great meal with friends. It’s the gathering place at the end of the day to unwind and recharge for the next day.
  • DIY Designer – Another reason for buying a toy hauler is to be your own RV designer. Unlike a retired school bus, a new toy hauler is already road worthy and manufactured adhering to strict safety standards. The weight distribution has been worked out and the coach already has a bed, kitchen and bathroom in it. Along with these essentials you get what amounts to a “great room” – RV style. People often complain about the RV industry’s excessive use of the color brown. The toy haulers is essentially a blank slate. You can create your own space to your own taste, customizing and personalizing your home on wheels. You can create a boho chic gypsy wagon or a sleek contemporary minimalist space. Unlike a tiny house, a toy hauler can be taken anywhere, parked anywhere RV’s are allowed, and is a lot easier to resell if you modify your travel plans.
  • Road Hobbyist – There are many hobbyists that follow the Artisans Show Circuit and the toy hauler is a great option for them. They can have product storage, room to create and a place to sleep while traveling all in one. Without the expense of hotel rooms artists have more money for adventure, the ability to choose where they want to stay rather than settle for what’s available, and a place to retreat to while the show is going on. Being able to grab a nap, lunch or skip the long lines at the Port a John at fairs makes a toy hauler a great option.
  • Moble Classroom –  Most things that can be taught can also be mobilized. Taking your skill set on the road allows you access to more students. Once you have exhausted the interested clients in your area you can head in a new direction. It gives you the opportunity to travel and earn money at the same time. Some great ideas for mobile classes are the fiber arts, plen air painting workshops, park photography lessons and music fairs with ukulele 101 lessons. If you can teach it, chances are you can mobilize it.
  • Mobile Business – There are all kinds of mobile dog grooming and veterinarians out there in vans but chances are they are not using their mobile dog salon as a camper on weekends. A toy hauler is an option that would allow you to remove the equipment used for work from the vehicle on weekends and move your camping gear in. This means that your business vehicle can do double duty as a recreation vehicle.
  • Handicap Friendly –  A toy hauler can be a way for those who are disabled to create a trailer at a fraction of the cost of having a custom trailer built. There are several manufacturers that will build and modify a toy hauler to your specifications. I recently met a woman suffering from neuropathy in her legs. She did not want to stop camping so she bought a toy hauler that she carries her scooter in. She pulls up to the campfire in her mobile chair. It’s also a great way to carry a golf cart with you if you need assistance getting around.

 

Riverside Retro makes a great small toy hauler that would make the perfect mobile office, salon, artist studio or tricked out Girl Camper home on wheels. I like the floor plan of their small model with the Queen bed up front, bathroom in the middle and kitchen living area open to the drop back. The 820 R has been one of my favorites for a long time. I dislike the color scheme but know it can be ordered in different colors. You can even order this in the Retro colors they use in that line of trailers.

Riverside RV Retro Toy Haulers

2017 Riverside RV Retro 820R Travel Trailer Toy Hauler Floorplan

The Forest River Cherokee Wolf Pup 17 RP is another small toy hauler that is packed with features. The front bunks give you the option of sleeping multiple people and the floor plan is large and open but still provides a kitchen and wet bath. This new trailer was chosen as one of RV News Best in Show at the annual Louisville Show.

 

 

Image result for forest river wolf pup 17rp

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30 Jan

Friday Night Quick Meals

Sometimes getting to the campground on Friday night takes all the energy I’ve got and the last thing I want to do is start cooking a big meal. I do want comfort food though. Hummus and carrot sticks aren’t going to do it.

Rather than breaking out the charcoal and cast iron pan I make quick meals in my electric skillet. All of the carb comfort in just a few minutes.

There are a few staples that I always keep in my trailer that come in handy for quick meals. Quick cook pasta, Knorr bullion cubes, canned “cream” of anything, canned corn and canned white sliced potatoes are a few.  I also always have condensed tubes of garlic, tomato paste, and pesto. I love these because they pack a lot of flavor and don’t take up a lot of room.

Another camping staple I try to have in the freezer is a few bags of ready to go shredded chicken breast. I use my mothers tried and true system for cooking this ahead of time. Bring a pot of water to a rolling boil and turn it off. Place bone on split chicken breasts in the water and place the lid on leaving it for an hour. The retained heat of the water cooks the breasts perfectly. Place them on a plate to cool and then shred it for quick meals.

I use a combination of these ingredients for quick comfort food meals in the electric skillet. I place two cups of water and a bullion cube in the skillet with a quick cook pasta. I then add the cream of anything, corn, and whatever leftover protein I had from the week past or a bag of my quick cook chicken. A shot of hot sauce or pesto for added flavor makes a quick comfort meal if you’ve arrived late at the campground.

Another option is to order premade Campfire Meals. I recently tried the freeze dried meals from Campfiremeals.com and they were really good! I expected a chemical salty tasting “artificial” food and discovered they tasted as close to homemade as any I’ve ever tried.  One pouch contains two servings and sells for between $7-$10 per package. Having a hot meal in ten minutes for $5 or less is a great alternative to whatever chips and dip you might have in the trailer.

Having a hot and satisfying meal at the end of a long work week and the beginning of a camp weekend seems to signal that it’s time to relax and let the unwinding begin. Getting there by shortcut doesn’t take anything away from it for me! In fact I feel a little bit like I gamed the system and win! Cheers!

Pantry Staples for Quick Meals 

  • Quick cook pasta
  • Cream of anything soup
  • Pesto
  • Knorr bouillon cubes
  • Concentrated Tomato paste, garlic, basil
  • Canned sliced cooked potatoes, corn, beans
  • Bags of frozen protein (chicken, beef, pork)

 

23 Jan

Save the Date – Upcoming Events for 2018

My calendar is filling up already with fun Girl Camper events and I want to share some dates with you in chance you can get out and Camp Like a Girl with us.

March 2-4. Camper College at Setzer’s World of Camping in Huntington, West Virginia. Our friend and podcast sponsor Lynn Butler from Setzer’s World of Camping  is hosting us at her dealership for a Camper College. What is Camper College? It’s an information gathering night hosted at the dealership for would be and wanna be Girl Campers to learn how to operate and tow a travel trailer. One of Setzer’s experienced team members will walk us through the operations of a travel trailer. From how to hitch it up to where the water goes in and most importantly, where it comes out, there’s no part of the process uncovered. There’s also no such thing as a dumb question. If you have never owned a trailer you may have many questions about how they work and this free evening of Q & A with friends is a great starting point. We will also be camping out at the Huntington/Fox Fire KOA. We will be renting their cabins and bringing our crock pots and swapping tales for the weekend. All are welcome. There is no fee for the Camper College and the camp out is a pay as you go. Rent  your cabin or sign up to share. Food details will be posted on the Camp Like a Girl MeetUP site.

March 30, 2018. Camper College at Bankston Motor Homes in Birmingham, Alabama. Just like Setzer’s, Bankston Motor Homes is hosting an informational evening for Girl Campers to gather and learn what is involved in owning, towing and operating a travel trailer or motor home. We will gather at Bankston for refreshments and then be treated to a demonstration of the functions of a trailer. There will be a Q & A and an opportunity to view what’s on the lot, chat with women who are already RVing and start building a community of support. I will be on hand with my new Scotty Sportsman trailer and we will have some great raffle gifts from Camco Manufacturing.

April 19-22. Wonderful Women of Waxahachie. We will camp like girls in the Crepe Myrtle Capital of the South, Waxahachie, Texas. This is my home away from home and I love sharing my favorite place with others. The Convention and Visitors Bureau of Waxahachie is generously allowing us to camp in Getzandaner Park right outside of town. Everything you need to know to join us is on their Facebook event page. The event is in conjunction with their annual film festival and the ticket price includes all of the activities. Pick as many or as few as you’d like.

Country Living Fairs. Nashville, Tn. April 20-22. Rhinebeck, N.Y. – June 1-3. Columbus, Ohio September 14-16. Atlanta, Georgia – October 26-28. Stella Shows is back with their 11th Country Living Fair. It truly is the pages of Country Living Magazine coming to life. This will be my tenth year showing off my trailer and chatting with Girl Campers about how they can become Girl Campers too. I will be at all of the shows except for the Nashville Show if you want to come by and chat. Keep following along on Instagram to win tickets to this annual fun fest with the most creative women in the whole wide world.

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July 12-15. Tearstock 2018. I’m so excited that our annual gathering of teardrop lovers, wannabes and followers is moving around the country and this year will be held in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. Tearstock is open to anyone who wants to attend regardless of whether they own a trailer or not. I will be there with my Max trailer and the whole Liberty Outdoors family. It’s a lot of fun and games and getting to know fellow wanderers! Feel free to check out the details and join us if you can.

Tearstock Caravan

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16 Jan

Tire Tools and Safety Tips

On this weeks mini podcast I am sharing the tools I keep in my tire safety and maintenance bag.  Tire failure is one of the leading causes of RV accidents and it is a preventable one. I am also providing the links from my “go to” safety guru Mark Polk’s articles on tires and tire maintenance. Mark is an industry expert with hundreds of YouTube videos and articles on all things RV’s. I have read and shared these articles more times that I can say. Here is the link. 

Using a piece of chalk is a great way to highlight the small print on a tire. Remember that the number on the tire is the maximum PSI that the tire manufacturer recommends for that tire and is not the number you have to inflate your tire to. Look inside the drivers door for the tow vehicle manufacturers recommendation for that particular vehicle.

My Tire Tool Kit 

The Tekton 5941 Digital Tire Gauge. I have had several tire gauges over the years and this is one that I have used and liked. It has a four star rating out of over 4,800 reviews. It costs under $12 on Amazon and has been a great little tool with a built in light to be able to read the dial at night.

Rhino USA Heavy Duty Tire Gauge. I also have used and really like this   old fashioned analog gauge that has a large and easy to read dial. It is American made with heavy gauge copper and a woven covered hose. It has a a five star rating of over 500 reviews and retails for about $20.00. When I have used this and tested the readings over and over I get the same reading. That has not always been the case with other gauges. This is actually my favorite gauge.

Ryobi P731 One Dual Function Power Inflator/Deflator 18Volt     

Once you have determined that you need air you will need a way to get air without driving to the service station. You need to check the tires before you drive anywhere and then need to put air in them. I bought this Lithium battery operated tire inflator and deflator. It has several attachments for balls, bike tires and inflatable rafts,  beds and pool toys. It also has a built in tire gauge that takes a reading and then lets you press inflate. It automatically shuts off when you reach the desired PSI. The lithium battery holds a charge for a very long time and at $40 I thought it was a great value. It had a 4.2 rating for 565 reviews.

Mark Polk’s articles in the links above will help you determine what your desired tire pressure is. Keeping those numbers in your phone or a handy place where you can get at them when needed is important. It is also important that you take these readings the first thing in the morning before you drive anywhere. Forming good safety habits can make your travel not only safe but more enjoyable.

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