Monday, March 28, 2011

Maiden Voyage: Part II

Although we didn't go into it expecting much, our first campground experience was a raging success. We only made reservations the morning we left, but since there ended up being only a few other people braving the chilly temperatures, we scored a prime spot all to ourselves.

The drive itself was rather uneventful, luckily. Driving on a highway is definitely preferable to driving anywhere else. Once we arrived in Lancaster, we saw quite a few horse-and-buggies, and made a couple of lame jokes about how we could finally sympathize with the horse "towing" the buggie, and how it gave all new meaning to the term "horsepower." (EDIT: OK, Steve just informed me that's where the term actually originated, my face.)

Then, we arrived and it was time to check in!

Overall, we ended up learning quite a bit at our first campground stay. So I present without further ado, the six things we learned about RVing at Country Acres:

1. Hooking up is a cinch.

I anticipated it being a lot harder to hook up to electric and water. While I was walking our hyperactive canine around the campgrounds, Steve worked on getting things squared away so we could have a comfortable, warm night featuring our favorite things, lights and water. In Steve's words: "We hooked up to city water supply but then had to fill up our on-board tanks because they were going to shut off the city water when the temperature went below freezing." Yep, I totally would've known how to do that (not). We didn't have to hook up to cable because our TV hasn't been installed yet.

There was another dog in the vicinity, so getting Lola to smile for the camera was not gonna happen

2. Maybe we shouldn't buy our cooking supplies at the dollar store.

In real life, we have all sorts of fancy cooking supplies (thanks, wedding guests!). But I was hesitant to bring anything too nice into our RV kitchen. Why? I don't know. For whatever reason, we picked up a plastic-ish skillet at the dollar store. I used it to cook turkey burgers, which turned out mostly burnt. Now, turkey burgers are usually my forte, if I do say so myself, so I'm going to blame the cheap skillet. Oh, and we forgot to bring non-stick spray. And also? Our damn smoke alarm kept going off, so we eventually just removed the battery. There. So much safer.

Inching my way toward domestic divadom

3. No matter how cold it is, a fire and 'smores are a must.

We're already pretty well aware of this, actually. When we stay at Steve's family cabin in the Allegheny Mountains, campfires are a nightly activity. So the first item on our to-do list upon arrival was checking out the on-site camp store and buying out their supply of graham crackers, Hersheys bars and marshmallows. The adorable old man manning the store said, "Somebody's gonna make some 'smores!" I already can tell I'm gonna love the camp stores.

Nom nom nom...

More nom nom nom...
Once the fire got going, we didn't really worry too much about the cold. We forgot to bring lawn chairs, but each campsite had a picnic table, so we were able to move that over.

4. The radio is amazing.

It didn't bother us one bit to be without a TV. The radio that came with the trailer was pretty entertaining itself! We had it tuned to the same station all night, which happened to have basically every good song ever created. As if that wasn't awesome enough, we also have outside speakers, so we could jam out while ingesting way too many 'smores. Sweet!

5. Lola is the best RV dog.

A lot of people assume she's a complete nutcase 24/7, but she's more of a snugglebug than anything else. In fact, sometimes she snuggles so much it's annoying (she's almost 50 lbs of solid muscle!). It was her first time inside the RV, but she behaved beautifully. She had the couch to herself most of the time as Steve and I were sitting at the dinette.

Yeah, somebody settled right in
6. Our bed is hard as a rock.

OK, I understand that it's not going to come equipped with down comforters, but wow. Neither of us were able to sleep much. And even though we had been talking about buying a memory foam mattress topper for the bed, our sore backs ended up rocketing that item to the top of our priority list. Way overpriced memory foam mattress topper for an RV Queen, here we come!

Maiden Voyage: Part I

Immediately after we picked out our RV and put down a deposit, and after the initial glee subsided a bit, Steve's face turned (somewhat) serious and he said, "OK, we need to learn about RVs fast." It's not that we hadn't done our research - we had been for months - but now it was going to become real, since we were about to go from casual RV fans to actual owners.

To remedy this, we stopped into the nearest bookstore and grabbed the only RV book they had, which turned out to be The Complete Idiot's Guide to RVing. It was just what we, the ideal audience, needed. Narrated in an appealingly tongue-in-cheek style, the book was basically a compendium of all things RV. It offered an insider's peek into the exciting parts of this lifestyle, like camping, as well as the less glamorous aspects, like dumping stations and learning how to drive.

It was a good way for us to get a preview of what was to come, but like the book recommends, in order to really learn what you're in for, you need to get out there and do it. Obviously we were going to make mistakes but we'd learn along the way what worked and what didn't.

So, a week after we brought the trailer home, we embarked on our maiden voyage to a campground about an hour away from home for a one-night stay. We opted to try out Country Acres Campground in Gordonville, PA. What made us choose to grace this spot with our newbie presence?
  • it was open year-round 
  • it had a generous pet policy, i.e. no breed restrictions (sadly, it seems like a lot of campgrounds have anti-pit bull policies, but that's another rant for a different day), and
  • it was close enough for us to get there without too many problems, but far enough away and full of enough Amish people sightings that we still felt like it was a "getaway."
On the morning of our trip, we naturally had a million things to do. Lola was scheduled for her annual check-up, which included a host of vaccine shots so we could proffer a vaccination certification at the campground if needed. Steve had to install his brand-new towing side mirrors, and we had to pack, then transport our belongings to the trailer before hooking up and blasting off.

Thankfully, most of our preparations went pretty smoothly. The one hitch (ha! have a feeling I'm gonna wear that one out) in our plans? Re-hitching our car to the trailer. Someday, this might be second nature to us, but right now we're still figuring things out. Our system in the meantime: Steve puts the car in reverse and backs up, while I stand outside by the hitch and point wildly in either direction until the car connector thing magically matches up with the trailer hitch.

Sounds simple enough, but we're dealing with someone who frequently mixes up "left" and "right" (me) and someone who's easily frustrated with that person (Steve). After a while of me shouting "left" while pointing right, Steve gave up and told me to "just point" instead. It took about a thousand tries, but finally everything lined up just right.

And then we were ready to go!
Lola, I know Daddy's still getting the hang of this towing thing, but I still don't think you're ready to take the wheel just yet...

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Day 1

If you told me a year ago I'd be the co-owner of a brand new recreational vehicle, I would've called you straight-up nuts. My experience with trailers has been pretty limited to those The Price of Right episodes, when I used to salivate over all the amenities in the winners' showcase showdown trailers (in my opinion, it wasn't a good prize package unless there was a trailer included). To my six- or seven-year-old mind, trailers were the neatest thing in the world. I mean, a bathroom and a kitchen and a bed on wheels?!?! It was just too good to be true!

Now, we have our very own 2011 Jayco JayFlight travel trailer. Although I must say, it's a bit trickier than I expected when my husband Steve and I first sat down to talk logistics with a very charming RV salesman. For one thing, our Mercury Mountaineer, which I once referred to as a "beast," might as well be a mouse in the world of towing vehicles. We had to purchase a special hitch to accommodate the 4,500-lb weight we'd soon be hauling all over the highways, and then Steve installed it himself when the RV technicians where we bought the trailer complained the installation would "take four hours" (for the record, it took him the same amount of time, sans bitching). 

Then there's the slight issue of towing the thing. For some reason, when you're touring an RV in the showroom, it doesn't look half as big as it does when it's hooked up to your SUV. Suddenly it's this massive monstrosity and we have to somehow figure out how to navigate narrow roads, turns, gas stations, and don't even get me started on backing into teeny-tiny spots at storage spaces and campgrounds...

It's a reality now.

All of a sudden we look so much tinier...
But when we're sitting at our kitchen table, enjoying a meal I cooked on our adorably compact stove, and sneaking looks at our dog passed out on the couch two feet away, all the stress and headaches are worth it. It may still be freezing outside and the campground we're staying in for the night is next to deserted, but we're tucked away in our own little home on wheels, cozy as can be. This is the life! 

It's really ours!