Picking up from yesterday’s post …
After posting photos of the Nutshell yesterday, I realized that I didn’t say much about the new canopy and table. They’ve worked out pretty well so far. The table is great … it’s easy to assemble and break down and stores pretty easily. Made of aluminum, the top detaches and rolls up (whoever thinks up this stuff is a genius in my book).
The table’s really taken the pressure off of trying to use the galley for cooking. The coffeemaker and electric skillet have found homes there, which leaves more room for the crock pot in the galley. I also have a nice cutting surface on the galley’s main shelf, too. The tables a little under 4′ long. I’m running an extension cord from the main power source at my campsite to a little outlet hub that sits on the corner of the table. From there, another extension cord hooks up the the main outlet on the Nutshell to power the cpap machine, Sirius XM box and crock pot.
I really like the tripod canopy, too. It was a bitch to set up the first time, but it’s gotten much easier to put together now that I’ve got the hang of it. I attach one pole to the Nutshell’s front hitch with a bungee cord. Another pole rests on the ground in the back, giving just enough clearance for the galley door to open. This allows the material to stretch over the Nutshell’s body and provide shelter over the door. The third leg sits out and away from the door. What I like about it is that if you can change the inner height of the shelter by moving the leg closer or further out from the door – the closer it is, the more head room you have.
That’s not to say that there have been issues. First off, there was a gap where the canopy went directly over the Nutshell, so water would leak in when it was raining. I think I’ve fixed it though – I’ve been putting the tent carpet on the roof so that it overlaps the canopy and closes the gap. Frank and I have been able to step out of the door directly onto dry grass at the last couple of places. I may have to figure something else out for when we’re stepping out onto gravel instead of grass, though. I’ll figger that out when it becomes a problem.
Another issue was when there was rain accompanied by wind. First off, there’s a canopy insert that attaches pretty easily, but there’s a gap between it and the main canopy, so there have been a couple of times where rain’s made it through that gap. There’s a tie-down loop in the middle of the insert though, and I’ve figured out that if you stretch that loop out so that the insert is at a 45º angle and then tie it down with a bungee cord, water dripping off the top part of the canopy will get caught by the insert and not drip through into the living space. If I was more of a handyman, I’d figure out how to lessen the gap with velcro, or something like that, too.
The biggest problem I had was in really high wind. Because the poles are so lightweight and flexible, the canopy bends in high wind conditions. REALLY bends! I learned the hard way that you don’t want to leave stuff out on the table in that situation. I awoke in Colorado Springs to find everything on the ground one morning. The wind had pushed the canopy inward … and did it with such force it simply knocked everything off! I was pretty lucky the coffeepot didn’t break!
I’m now using tie-downs on outer leg. It’s helped a little bit with the pole bending, but I’ve not been in high winds since I started to do that … I guess I’ll find out at some point if that’s going to solve the problem. Knock on wood.
Now that all that is out of the way, let’s get back to the recap:
- Fort Wayne wasn’t just a convenient stopping point as we headed back east. My brother, Andy, lives there. Because of the situation growing up, our family has never really been that close … I hadn’t seen Andy this century, nor have I ever met his kids. His two oldest girls are grown and out of the area, but his son is 8 and still lives at home. It was great meeting him and seeing my brother … well, it was great to a point. Without going into details, I’ll just say that I always knew I was at risk for a crazy ex-wife threatening to have “8 big n____rs” put me in a hospital … I just always assumed it would be one of mine! For whatever reason, Andy’s got a wild hair up her ass about him enjoying a reunion with me. Now I’ve never been one to back down from a fight and my first reaction was, “bring it on.” But then, I got concerned about what might happen to Frank. So we left a day early. Despite that … and despite the fact that I came down with the flu or something and spent three or four days laid up in the Nutshell, Andy, Aiden and I had a pretty good time when we did manage to get together. Hopefully things will have changed by next year … if they do, I plan on stopping back by as we head up to the see the Great Lakes area next summer.
- I had left three days open in the schedule to travel from Fort Wayne to our next stop in Lancaster, PA. Now I had four days to fill. As it turns out, I found a nice little park in southwestern Pennsylvania near Somerset. Now in my two stints living in New Jersey, I visited the eastern part of the state quite a bit, but I had never been west. I loved it! The area is beautiful. The park, Hickory Hollow Camp Ground, is a Passport America park … as an aside, I highly recommend Passport America. Its annual cost is under $50 and it’s already saved us ten times what we paid for it! While staying there, we visited the Flight 93 memorial (very simple and quite moving) and Fort Necessity, George Washington’s first command during the French and Indian Wars. I have to research this area a bit more for weather, cost of living, etc … but as of right now, it’s joined La Veta, CO, as a potential retirement locale if and when I ever come off the road. (If you knew me, you’d really laugh. I HATE SNOW!!!!! And here the only two places on my short list for retirement are both snow bound in winter! Go figger!)
- From Somerset, we took the old Lincoln Highway across the state to Lancaster, which is where we are now. I haven’t mentioned it until now, but we pretty much avoided interstate on our cross-country drive from Colorado – I think we spent only 20% of the drive on interstate. I’m so glad we did – you get to see so much more when you’re not whizzing down a 6-lane corridor! The Lincoln Highway … US Route 30 … was one of the country’s first transcontinental highways and it took us through some really cute little towns.
And that brings us to where we are now – the Circle M Camp Ground, just southeast of Lancaster, the heart of Amish country. This is the first Thousand Trails campground we’ve stayed at and if the rest of them are like this one, the Thousand Trails membership will be one of the best investments I’ve made for this journey!
I don’t remember what I’ve said about Thousand Trails in past blog posts. I paid a little over $500 for an annual membership. It entitles me to stay at any of their member campsites in one region of the country (they’ve broken the country into five regions: northeast, southeast, midwest, southwest and northwest). They were running a special when I joined, so I was able to pick up a second region for free. You get 30 nights of camping … anything more than that costs only $3 / night. Under my plan, I can stay up to two weeks at any park. I then have to vacate for a week before being able to visit another one (or return to the same one). Along with having done some pretty extensive online research on other campgrounds, I’ll be able to average only $350/month in campsite fees through April of next year!
I was anxious about joining – these places seem more like resorts than campgrounds and I that’s really not the setting I’m looking for on this journey. I was willing to sacrifice that to save money though, figuring that I could get the “camping” experience from the places I’d stay at during my off-weeks between their campgrounds. But like I wrote earlier, if the rest of them are like this one, I won’t sacrifice anything! Our site here at Circle M is away from the main facilities, situated right next to a river that greatly reminds me of the river I lived on growing up in New Jersey. It’s spacious, with a picnic table, fire ring and barbecue. The Memorial Day crowd was a bit overwhelming … I don’t think there was an empty site in the place … but aside from that, it’s been quite peaceful.
We’ve made a couple of side trips while here. Last week, we drove down to Rocks State Park in Maryland to pick up a senior pass for that state. We’ll use it later on in the year. We drove through some beautiful country on the way – the view as we crossed over the Susquehanna River was absolutely breathtaking! And this past Saturday, Frank and I drove over to visit Gettysburg. I’ve always been a history buff but have been more interested in the Revolutionary and pre-Revolutionary War periods. I had visited Gettysburg as a kid but didn’t remember much of it. I have to say, it was quite an experience, despite it being quite busy with Memorial Day weekend visitors. I’d highly recommend a visit for anyone. Here’s the Facebook post I made upon returning:
Frank and I just got back from spending the day at Gettysburg. It’s the first time I’ve been there since I was a kid and the experience was much more meaningful this time around.
We spent quite a bit of time on Cemetery Hill, site of the infamous Pickett’s Charge, near the copse of trees that tradition says was the target for the day.
I took a few photos and will post them later … but for the most part, we just sat on the grass, taking in the expanse of the battlefield. Later on, we drove over to Big Round Top, the hill that was the highest point on the battlefield, overlooking the bloody wheatfield and Devil’s Den where the First Texas Regiment saw action.
It was quite an emotional experience … for me, it was a mixture of sadness and anger. So much wasted life, all over the right to own another human being (I’m sorry, but I don’t buy the “states rights” bullshit which I firmly believe is nothing more than revisionist history fostered by the Lost Cause Movement. But that’s me.)
What makes it all the more sad is seeing how this country is as polarized as it was back 150 years ago. Those who don’t learn from history are doomed to repeat it, I suppose.
I’ve not posted those photos to Facebook yet … when I do, I’ll post them here, too.
Aside from those two excursions, we’ve spent most of our time just sitting in camp, enjoying warm weather for the first time in quite a while. We’ve eaten like kings … taking advantage of a local Amish butcher’s wares, we’ve been barbecuing most every night. Everything from chicken to tri-tip steak to Italian sausage to burgers. Frank’s benefited from that as well, including the huge chicken breast that he stole off the table while I mistakenly went to the car to get something. Frank’s also enjoyed a nice dip in the river as you’ll see from this video I posted on Youtube. Take a look at the smile on his face!
We also had a nice visit in camp while we were here – our first from a fellow member of the Teardrop Campers Group at Facebook. Rena, who lives in Delaware, drove out and spent an afternoon with us and it was quite enjoyable to meet a fellow teardrop camping enthusiast. She brought us a delicious gift of homemade bread, some scones and some fresh strawberries from a fruit stand she passed on the way here. I also joined an association of teardrop camper owners – Tearjerkers (not wild about the name, but it is what it is). I’ve already booked space at two of their regional get-togethers for later in the year and am trying to book space in a third. As an aside, if any of you are interested in meeting Frank and me as we travel the country, feel free to drop us a line.
That’s it for now! We’re only here in Lancaster for one more day before we head on to our next campsite in the Poconos. We’re going to clean things up here at the campsite this afternoon, do dishes, etc and start getting things ready to break camp tomorrow morning.
As I wrote yesterday, I’m going to change the way I’ve been doing the blog … at least that’s the idea. I plan to start making shorter, more frequent posts as we move forward. I’ll still make some longer, introspective posts where appropriate but intend to switch gears a little bit to allow you all to join in on our travels a little more. Robin, a fellow member of the Teardrop Campers Group asked which have been our favorite campgrounds so far on the trip (and why). I figured that would make a good post, so I’ll fit that in soon, too, once we get settled in our next home.
Feel free to email if there’s something else you’d like to see included in the blog, too … or if you have any questions about where we’ve been, the gear we’ve been using, etc. I’m open to any and all ideas you might have.
One last thing – I picked up a large map while in Colorado and have started tracing our travels on it. Here’s the map as it is today. Black lines show our main itinerary, with places where we’ve stayed for more than a few days circled; red lines show side trips we’ve made from camp; the green line illustrates our trip west to pick up the Nutshell. In a couple of years, this is going to be a pretty messy map! :o)