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We are a family of 5 living in good old Tennessee. Mama Bear, Papa Bear, Teenage-Big Sister Bear, Middle Sister Bear and Little Brother Bear. We love spending time together. This is our camping diary where we chart our fun times, camp successes and everything we do through trial and error. We plan on making alot of good memories and logging alot of miles!
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Thursday, January 17, 2013

Where Do We Begin?

Since we have camped on and off numerous times over the years, we have collected a fair amount of camping stuff. Coleman stove, aluminum cups and plates, lanterns, etc. We probably have  3-4 Rubbermaid totes full of a variety of items one would find useful while camping. The time has come to figure out the intricate puzzle that is the inside of our storage shed to try to get to said totes. Really, we need to lay it all out and see what we have (that is useful) and take inventory.

I have hit a couple of Goodwill stores lately looking for items that we could use. But having seen how small the storage areas are in the RV, I know we are going to have to be somewhat selective in what we bring. Of course we have the bed of the truck we can always toss a tote or two into but still, I sometimes tend to overkill on packing. I just want to be prepared.

One thing we do not have that I know we need, is a ladder to get into the top bunk. The dealer wanted almost $80 for an official RV ladder. Somehow I think we can either improvise with a multi step step-stool or Sean can make one. Checking things out online, I have seen some made out of PVC and some made from nice oak wood (for the sides) and what looks like heavy dowel rods for the steps.

We did purchase an over the door shoe organizer for the bathroom door. This will come in handy for storing things like shampoo, conditioner, deodorant, toothpaste, etc.

Sean and I did a quick run through Bass Pro Shops to see if we could get any ideas of "must have" items. Mostly I just learned that official "camping gear" is ex-pen-sive! Now I realize that if you are back packing, that the weight of every single item has to be strongly considered. Makes sense since you are literally carry everything on your back. And for us, I know that all our "stuff" will add up quickly in weight. So I do not plan on bringing our free weights or bowling balls, but having items to make our camping trips comfortable (but not excessive) is the plan.

I will break out the camera this weekend and start adding some insightful and entertaining pictures to my blog entries to document all the fun we are having!
Hopefully this weekend we can get to the shed and access the totes for a look-see at what we have on hand.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

All the Bells and Whistles

After getting Sister Bear and Brother Bear off to school this morning, hubby and I headed to the RV dealer to receive RV Owner Education 101 and pick up our new pride and joy.

James was our teacher and what a fabulous job he did! He was the tech at the dealership who checked and rechecked all the systems, seals, etc. So by the time he was ready for our "class" he knew our RV inside and out (literally). He was patient and thorough with us. Not knowing much about things like emptying the black and gray water tanks and which appliances use LP gas and which use electricity, as you might imagine, we had many questions. And he answered them all in ways that made it all easy to follow. He even showed us some of the things he had done to just make slight improvements. I"ll snap a picture for a future post of a well run bead of caulk to divert water. It is genius I tell you!

This inspection had been a critical component for us because although we'd seen the camper twice and opened doers and cupboards and jumped around on the floor to check for soft spots but because it is not hooked up to gas or electricity when it is out on the lot, you just cannot test those things. We agreed to buy it so long as everything worked as it should. The dealer's standard is to do just that and stand behind the unit by repairing or replacing whatever does not work right during the inspection. Now, there is no warranty and after we drove off the lot the baby is ours. Everything worked flawlessly during testing and inspection. Yippee!!

During the inspection both James and my hubby heard a "pop" from the furnace. James wanted to investigate that and asked us if we could hang around the store a while. No problemo. Turns out there was a part inside the furnace (I won't even pretend to know what the part was called) that had gone bad - he showed it to us and even I could see it was done for - so he replaced it right then and there.

We also had to get a variety of things done to our truck. Sway bars, equalizer hitch, brake control box, etc. I went ahead to run some errands and let Sean (Aka, hubby. Aka, Papa Bear) hang around the shop while everything was finished up.

Sean wanted me at home to help him guide the RV (we REALLY need to name her) into the driveway for the first time. Narrow driveway, sharp turn on a two lane street with zero shoulder and ditches surrounding the street and both sides of the driveway = no fun. But after a few minor corrections in his approached, he was able to back her in very neatly. And now she is settling in to her new home.

We chocked the tires, unhitched from the truck, stabilizers down, leveled front to back, slid the "bedroom" out and plugged her in. Then drained all her tanks and blew compressed air through the lines to winterize her.

The Grand Tour was given to Grandma Bear, who graciously picked Brother Bear up from preschool. She agreed, this new home away from home was leaps and bounds better than the very sad little pop up we used to have. And if you can believe it, even Teenage Sister Bear said she "might" like to camp with us.... that is IF we are going someplace fun.

Now, we know it is January. And several of the surrounding counties were closed today for ice warnings. But we are ready to go camping! Ok, we really must spend a little while stocking her. I am off to make one of my famous lists. A "Stuff We Need To Outfit This Camper" list. The $50 gift certificate from the dealer to use in their store will come in mighty handy, but unfortunately won't go very far I'm afraid.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Your Adventure Is About To Begin

Okay, here we goooooo! Off to Neverland! 

I'll admit it, in front of the whole world... I am still a little kid inside. Sure my exterior may appear to be well, older than 10 years old. Sure I may have a gray hair here or there and an achy back from time to time. But when I think about the things that I love to do the most, they are almost always things my kids would love to do too! Disney World? You betcha! Been there, done that (multiple times), going back! The zoo, the county fair, the latest Pixar film, I'm in!

Our kids range in age from 5 to 9 to17! How to please them all? Well, that is usually impossible. But if there is one thing that is almost universally loved by kids of all ages it is a beautiful day exploring in the great outdoors. Well, my 17 year might not agree with that. But I'm holding out hope that she will come around.

My nature loving hubby (almost 19 years of wedded bliss) is an avid outdoors-man  Hunting, fishing, well that's his thing for sure! So, how do you keep a family such as ours entertained, relaxed, happy and together? Why, camping of course!

So our adventure begins. 

After years of hit or miss tries with various tents and even a decrepit old pop up that leaked and smelled funky, we have made the plunge. We scoured Craigslist and RV.Net for months (well, years really) looking for an RV we could afford and that we thought we could live with for a while.

We have camped as a family probably a total of 15 nights over the years. We even rented a small travel trailer to camp in last July for 5 nights. We really do enjoy it. Away from the stress of work and school, household chores and homework...yes, we do like to get away from it all. Exploring with the kids or just sitting by the fire watching the flames (why is that so mesmerizing?), there is nothing better.

There are many RVs on Craigslist. We learned quickly that like hotel pictures on the web, you gotta see it in person to get the true "picture". Campers with some age on them seemed to almost always have water damage somewhere. And if you could not immediately see the water damage, you just knew that it is there, because you can smell that mildewy odor. We learned from that Craigslist pop up we purchase a couple of years ago. You do not, I repeat DO NOT want a camper with water damage. That is, unless you plan on gutting it to replace all the rotten wood that lies under the linoleum and cabinets. We did just that on that pop up. No thanks. Camping is meant to be relaxing for us, not another stressful headache. Our house is 40 years old and it needs all the TLC we are capable and willing to give. 

So, we started to think, we might need to raise our budget a bit and look for something newer. Now, I am the slowest person to make financial decisions. I have to think about it left to right, up and down, forward and backward and then do it all over again. And in the end, if it does not "sit right" with me in my gut, I cannot commit. Responsible? Maybe. Tenacious? Perhaps. Drive my husband crazy? Definitely  But in the end I was on board and ready to take the leap. I mean if I spend all my life thinking and thinking, the kids will be grown and we will lose our opportunity to do these things with them. So, yes honey. I'm in! 

We found a 2008 Jayco Jay Feather EXP 213 on the lot of an RV dealer in our town. They've been in business for 50 years and are well respected. The salesman who took us out on the lot heard what we had to say, what we were looking for and what we wanted to spend. I'd done enough research to know that I really wanted bunks for the kids. I mean, making the dinette and couch into beds each night was doable but not preferable. Hubby said with his 2005 Ford F150 5.4 L truck, he wanted something less than 5,000 lbs. And because we have a sharp turn into our driveway with no way to pull into a drive across the street to help, we needed something under 28 ft. The Jay Feather he showed us fit the bill all the way around. It has a slide out queen sized bed that is kind of reminiscent of a pop up, but then again it isn't. It is all hard walled and motorized and SOLID as a rock! But by having that bed slide out, it brings the camper in around 21ft when closed and around 25ft when open. Nice little dinette that makes into a bed, a jack knife couch, 2 bunks that fold up and have an access door from the outside for carrying various camping paraphernalia or bikes while traveling, a cute kitchen, bathroom with a tiny tub and shower. Even a TV. Heat and a/c and a ginormous motorized awing! Hubby checked it all out, he even climbed underneath (said it was clean as a whistle - looked liked it had barely been on the road). Really everything about it looked new. So, I feel good about this. Still, we went home and thought about it for a few days. Sure, someone could have snagged it whilst we were thinking. But I have always been of the school that, if it isn't meant to be, that it is for a reason. Plus, it is mid January and not many people are out there looking right now. 

We looked on a few more lots around town. We even looked at some 2013 models. Now for my weak financial stomach, I just could not bear the idea that we would take a beating on depreciation. And I just did not want a payment book THAT big. At least not with a child going to college in the fall. 

So after much deliberation we headed back to take another look and possibly make an offer on the Jayco. We brought the kiddos with us the second time and let them sniff it out for approval. Although our 17 year old decided she wanted to sleep in instead of checking it out. Our 5 year old son wants the top bunk for sure. Which suits his 9 year old sister just fine. She likes the bottom bunk anyway. Figuring out what to do to keep him from falling out of said top bunk...well, that is something to work on in the next few weeks.

Now, let me say this... I am so grateful for the no pressure, no gimmick, no BS sales approach by Steve (our salesman). It is a rare thing in sales and I appreciate it! Salesmen, take note! We knew what NADA had listed as the value, we also knew their lot was full and this camper was taking up space. It is also January and honestly in all our looking, we never encountered another customer on any lot. Sales are slow right now. And this was by far not a high dollar sale for them compared to their other units. So, we made an offer and advised that we'd add onto that the price to have the sway bar and stabilizer thingy added to hubby's truck (another $500). Didn't think they'd take it, but they did. Now, we go back on Wednesday to do the thorough walk through to check all systems for proper working order and to learn how everything works. Then it is ours! 

I do not have a picture of our RV but here are some a stock photos I found. 

Look at that HUGE awning. And it only takes the press of a button to open it!

Now, what do we name her?