Our Chalet Truck Camper

Our Chalet Truck Camper

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

The Lance is away for the winter, all winterized and rodent proofed as best we could. Joe cut and fit insulated panels in all the appliance openings and then hung orange flag tape out the grills so we would remember in the spring. We've had very heavy rains and we check the TC often to be sure it is weather tight. So far, okay - that is after the hatch repair. We are away in VA and a neighbor noticed the emergency hatch over the bed almost ripped off. This was during a 65 mph storm and torrential rains. He and the house sitter got up there and duct taped the hatch down. Unreal but the snap on winter insulating cover on the inside of the hatch held the water from soaking the mattress. I bet the wind was so hard the rain was going sideways anyway. The wind had ripped the hatch up and snapped the pop rivets. It's now much more secure with stainless steel screws and nylon washers in place of the rivets. The mattress was propped up and is now totally dry with no mildew. Phew! Sad to see the truck camper put up for a while. Want to bet we cannot stand it by mid winter and just load it on, drive south and de-winterize where the nights aren't freezing? Maine has been in the mid-50s so far this fall and it is really hard not to be out travelling but family obligations keep us off the road for a while.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Salem MA and dodging witches

Back from Salem MA and weekend camping with a group of truck campers from all over New England. We decided to come back today rather than the Monday holiday. Salem is the "witch capital" of the US and they celebrate witchdom all month. Town was an absolute zoo and no place to park at all. All streets are posted for resident use only and the town tows anyone without a resident sticker. Beside, the town is a very old one and the streets are narrow and probably wouldn't hold a truck camper anyway. You could catch a trolly at Winter Harbor campground to go into town but it was always full with not even standing room on the return trip. We didn't particularly want to spend time in the witch shops but did want to go into the Peabody Museum http://www.pem.org/homepage/ We'd been years ago and enjoyed it. Oh well, another time.

Joe's niece Beth and her husband Jerry live in Salem so they picked us up and gave us a delightful tour of Salem (a drive through) and an extensive tour of Marblehead, Nahant and Gloucester and all the incredible old houses and new mansions. We shared both a superb Italian supper and seafood lunch and had a good time visiting. We'll go back when it is not so crazy and visit the Peabody Museum which can take you more than a day to go through.

As usual we did a pot luck supper with the camping group. One of the locals had brought over two large tents so we were toasty warm and dry though there wasn't rain for a change. The campground was on Winter Island which used to be a US Coast Guard base. Joe was stationed there back in the late 60's. The barracks are torn down and other buildings are in disrepair but he enjoyed just looking where he served back in his "youth". Beautiful drive back to Maine with full sun, bright fall leaves and lots and lots of campers on the interstate. Everyone is trying to get in one last weekend before the cold hits. We did get an excellent lesson on how to extra winterize the camper by a couple who camps at Quebec Winter Carnival each year in zero and below.

Fellow doing construction work in the area camps at Winter Island. He has a Ford F650 and a Lance and needs 6" blocks to get it off and on. Amazing truck and everyone was in deep truck envy. Never did find out what the mpg was.

Our home perennial gardens got hit with a hard frost while we were gone and we're glad we have already done so much clean up. This RV trip was probably the last until spring unless the urge hits in the middle of the winter to see something other than ice and snow. We've cleaned the entire camper and truck out, dumped the fresh water tanks and will give it a really good cleaning tomorrow inside and out. I hope to wash and wax the roof even. Supposed to be 70 tomorrow and we'll take advantage of one last warm day to do the outside work.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Vermont leaves and crisp nippy weather

Vermont leaves and crisp nippy weather go hand in hand this time of year. Back from a cool, rainy but fun trip up to Horseshoe Acres Campground in Andover, VT to meet up with some truck camper friends. We continue to learn more about proper use of our truck camper, winter camping and getting the unit ready for cold weather. At this point, all we can give back is details on using a GPS unit and software to navigate live and plan routes. We enjoyed two evening camp fires and a pot luck supper with amazing variety.

The roads that go east/west in New England are pretty small and scenic as the larger roads go only north and south. This leads to great rides through rural areas, pretty steep climbs and sometimes pretty scary downs on small roads. Spent time wandering around Chester, VT and enjoying a town that has not strayed from its roots. Small town center with a craft fair, delicious breakfast in an old inn, several book stores and a huge quilt fabric store. I was very surprised at the size of the quilt store but owner said it was the largest in VT and often hosted bus loads of quilters from all over.

The Lance continues to perform well, keeping us warm with propane heater, dry from all the rains and giving us the opportunity to meet up with friends from all over New England. We keep good notes on their adventures and are planning a long western trip next spring using some of their suggestions.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Intervale, NH to Bethel, Maine - a mountain trip

The Bethel Maine annual fall harvest and chowder cook off was this past weekend. We've been going up for years to sample the best chowders from the local inns and restaurants. Every year the competition gets fiercer and the chowders better. This was the first trip up in the Lance camper so we combined it with some camping. The leaves are beginning to turn color in the mountains, crisp cold nights and days still in the mid to upper 70s. Perfect time of the year to live in Maine. Camped on the Saco River in Intervale, NH though "river" is a bit of exaggeration. It was very low and mostly a stream with deep fish pools here and there. Eons of tumbling river rock make it fun to explore. Joe has gotten interested in HO model railroads again so we visited the Hartmann Museum and model store http://www.hartmannrr.com/. Again the TC worked perfectly as I got to sit beside it in the shade and use the camper as a hotel room while he took his time inside the museum. Did get a few looks as I sat in the canvas chair, feet up on the rear step and knitted.

Next day on to Bethel for the festival. Bethel is one of those perfect small towns in Maine that has refused to go strip mall or big box. http://www.bethelmaine.com/ It is a very active community and everyone seems to know each other. Lady in line next to us waiting to buy chowder tickets even gave the local policeman a hug - she'd had him in grade school We're thinking of going back up for the big Fall Festival and the international wife carrying contest. http://www.bethelmaine.com/Members/cochtera/sunday-river-ski-resort/fall-festival-weekend. Back to the train store and then on to a campground in Fryeburg, Maine. This one we drove into and quickly back out - filthy with trash all over the place and not a comfortable feeling. We've been in enough campgrounds and areas now to know what we want and first impressions usually are correct. Ended up at the Vacationland Campground on Crystal Lake in Harrison. If we had been parked any closer to the lake, we would have been in it. http://www.vacationlandcampground.com/ Most of the campsites are seasonal but they have a few drop in spaces. New friends made sitting around their campfire trading places to go - and how to work the GPS on a camper.

Photos never do the scenery justice. Mount Washington was in cloud cover, across the valley Wildcat Mountain was crystal clear and the views went as far as you could see. The $$ spent for the gondola ride to the top was worth it. The walk down will take some more recovery time.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Skowhegan, ME to Rangeley to the NH Mountains

Started the day early with a trip up to the annual Skowhegan Agricultural Fair. Always fun to walk around and see the 4H kids with their super clean, well trained livestock. Good grilled hot dogs at the fire departments booth and then a trek through wilderness over to Rangeley lakes area. I'd remembered years ago before Rangeley got all the gift shops so we didn't walk around very much. The old Rangeley Inn was still pretty much like it was in the early 1900s. We were headed to a campground on Capusic Lake but didn't like the looks of it at all so kept going over into NH. Found a super campground right on a small mountain lake. Tomorrow we head down to St. Gaudens National Historic Site for a tour of the sculptures and gardens and to pick up Joe's Golden Age National Park Pass. !!

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Kokadjo Maine to St. Andrews, NB

We finally have a C-less T meaning a camperless truck. At last we got the courage to take the Lance off of the F-350. Broke out the video that came with the Lance, watched it and easily took it off. Course it isn't back on yet but we haven't tried yet. It was time for an oil change and we knew the camper had to come off sooner or later. Amazing how much pep the F-350 has without a 4,000 pound camper on it.

Just back from another short RV trip, this time up to Greenville and Kokadjo, Maine and then over to St. Andrews, New Brunswick. We cut west to east through an amazing expanse of unoccupied forests, broken occasionally by old farms. Never did see any moose but Canada geese are not in any danger of becoming extinct. They are everywhere. Stayed at a campsite at Northern Pride Lodge right on First Roach Pond at Kokadjo. Sat by the lake and knit and read after taking a very long hike. No noise, not many people, just a night sky almost white with stars. Moosehead Lake is still unspoiled and worth the trip. Town of Greenville is not the quaint logging town it used to be, it's two blocks of stores now being mostly tourist shops.

We returned to St.Andrews, New Brunswick, Canada for another visit to Kingsbrae Gardens, 27 acres of every perennial and ornamental tree you can imagine, all in full bloom. We spent several hours just walking around enjoying the color and variety and then had lunch at the tea room, a sampler of salmon and fruit and pastries - not very calorie wise but delicious. Walking through St. Andrews, I was again drawn to the Cottage Crafts knit shop and couldn't resist some light weight off white wool yarn. Somehow just happened to stop in Harvey, NB at Briggs and Little yarn store and another sweater worth of yarn made it into the truck.

Since the line at US customs to get out of Canada was hours long, we drove up to Vanceboro to cross back in. Good move as we were the only one at the border! Customs went into the camper to look around but they said they enter all campers. Truck camper worked flawlessly again. Mileage is now up to 12.1 mpg fully loaded. This rig has been perfect for us, letting us get into small areas without the worry of trying to move or park a big rig. Time to plan the next trip!

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Boothbay Harbor Maine and a crowd of Truck Campers

HOT in Boothbay, Maine but cool along the river at Big Pine Point, Shore Hills Campground. Point was out into the Cross River just off the Sheepscot River and from there, out to the ocean. Tidal water on three sides so a bit marshy smelling at times but lots of shore birds and fishing. Temps were in the upper 80s, bugs were fierce. This is an excellent campground with large, wooded sites. Good thing the sites were good size because we crammed 24 Truck Campers into 18 sites and shared hookups. Fun to meet up with new friends met along the road.

There was a shuttle bus from the campground into Boothbay Harbor for those who wanted to play tourist. Since we are local to this area and not far to drive, we took an extra truck and did our own touring out into the small places we've loved for years. Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens on Barter's Island are new spectacular flower gardens not even finished yet. http://www.mainegardens.org/. Acres and acres of beautiful plantings, stone walkways, paths, benches, sculpture, walks into unspoiled forests right by the river. This is a MUST see place if you enjoy gardens. The stonework and arbors are worth going for alone.

Skipped the lobster, had fun at a pot luck dinner and all too soon back home and our own gardens which need weeding and mulch as usual. The truck camper rig performed flawlessly once again. As hot as the day was, evening cooled off enough so we didn't run the air conditioner. However AC noise might have made sleeping early AM a bit easier because it would have drowned out the crows who started calling at 4:38AM! Next trip? Maybe back up to Kingsbrae Gardens in St. Andrews, New Brunswick.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Lake Champlain, Isle LaMotte and the Green Mountains of VT

Back again after a long weekend over to the Burlington, Vermont area. Original plan was to go to the Vermont History Expo in Tunbridge, VT but the best laid plans, etc. etc. The web site looked great http://www.vermonthistory.org/expo/ with lots of interesting activities. We left Maine in the rain of course. It has rained more or less constantly ever since we bought the Truck Camper. Blame us! Cut through Western Maine and New Hampshire via Route 25 managing not to stop at several well visited quilt and knit stores.

Rain broke so we lunched in the camper at a large VT rest and tourism bureau area on I-93. Picked up a Ben and Jerry's brochure about factory tours and thought that would make a nice dessert. http://www.benjerry.com/our_company/about_us/tours/. Found out why the roads were so quiet in VT. They were all at B&J's waiting to take the tour!! Line for ice cream was about a half hour long and since we can buy it anywhere, moved on. Met up with another truck camper in the parking lot and they told us of a good campground in Burlington which is one of our favorite cities. Headed north and after driving some incredibly scenic side roads, ended up north of Burlington on Grand Isle, Vermont at the Champlain Adult Campground. http://www.champlainresort.com/. This campground was pristine and we got a camp space right on the water beside a rock beach. View was down Lake Champlain and over to the ferry landing in New York. We spent a lot of time relaxing in the canvas chairs just enjoying the water, birds, passing ferry boats and listening to the other passing campers talk mostly Canadian French. Lot of them come to stay the whole summer. I would highly recommend this campground to those adults wanting a quiet CG.

Next morning we headed up to Chazy Reef on Isle LaMotte north of the campground. This is a huge exposed area of ancient reef in which you can see portions of old coral, fossilized sea animals and shells. http://www.vtlife.com/vtlife/current_issue/su06-inns.htm. The drive to the reef was an adventure in itself as the roads are narrow, right by the water and curvy. Our Ford F-350 and Lance Camper did well in places a larger rig would never have fit.

Next headed south down Route 7 to Middlebury, VT one of those small towns which has not "gone modern". Wandered the farmer's market for goat cheeses, cranberry bread and some cranberry preserves for Doris, Joe's mom. Spent so much time wandering around we decided better head to Tunbridge, the purpose for the trip. This portion of the trip put the F-350 to the test going over Route 125 from Middlebury to Tunbridge through the Green Mountain National Forest. Extremely beautiful through tight, twisting, mountain roads with brooks cascading down the side of the road. We stopped at many old covered bridges and also just to better see some of the mountain views. By the time we finally got to Tunbridge it was too late in the day to take in all the fair so decided to not even start. Took 110 which was an even smaller road over to a campground in Warren, NH which is not to be recommended. Slept fast, left early and headed home. Reminder to self - put ear plugs in camper.

In all we packed too many activities into a short trip and came back tired but full of good memories of the mountains and especially Lake Champlain. Many tasks before the next trip which will probably be up to Boothbay Harbor - if we don't sneak in another short trip back to Kingsbrae Gardens in St. Andrews, New Brunswick.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Zoo, Mansions, Rain and Pizza

We've now put 6,500 miles on the Truck Camper since we picked it up April 8th. No moss growing under these tires! It is amazing how much rain there has been over these two months and how much of it we have walked through. This past trip was no different but at least it is warming up a bit.

Went to Providence, RI to go to the Roger Williams Zoo http://www.rogerwilliamsparkzoo.org/. We both enjoy zoos and learning about some of the conservation efforts going on. Rainy, windy and quite noisy as it seems the 2nd graders were having a field day. Hundreds of eighth graders were loud enough that some of the animals were staying in the far reaches of their enclosures. We also walked around the Roger Williams Park http://www.nps.gov/rowi/ and read up on one of the men who helped found our country on a basis of religious freedom.

Headed on over to Newport, RI with the idea of walking the trails along the ocean side of the mansions. http://www.cliffwalk.com/, Parked at the visitor center and then walked into old town Newport. Not a lot of "old" left with mostly souvenir shops and the usual franchises. Futile effort to find a place to park the RV up near the cliff walk trail so ended up just driving the Ten Mile loop around the road side of the mansions and up to Fort Adams http://www.oceandrivenewport.com/. Many of the mansions seem to be in the midst of total remodel and those that weren't show an obvious need of repair. Just how many people can afford to own a mansion and keep it in tip top shape? Not many and those that can appear to have their homes open to tours. Bet our Lance is about the size of half a coat closet on some of those mansions. From Fort Adams you can look back at Newport and see many of the mansions from the ocean side.

We were so close to Mystic, CT just decided to go over a day early to camp. Good thing we did as the heavens opened and glad we were already set up or we would have needed a boat to move around the camper. Saturday and Sunday were spent exploring the small town of Mystic, just looking at and passing up yarn in a way overpriced yarn shop, and having a great time with other truck camper folk we met there. Mystic Pizza was as good this trip as the last. Also went over to Stonington Harbor, CT and walked the streets that truly still look like an old whaling town. Perfectly preserved town that made you feel like you should have on 1800 style clothing. That alone made the trip worthwhile.

Learned a lot about our rig and the tips were invaluable and appreciated. We'll meet up with some of these TCer again over the summer and hopefully give help back with GPS set ups. A special thanks goes to Mike T who replaced a suddenly discovered missing bolt on one air bag as we were ready to drive back to Maine. Dropping an air bag would not have been fun on I-95.
The Lance continues to perform perfectly, diesel mileage slowly rising, packing the rig easier each time. No idea where we're going next but hopefully it will be soon.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

North to New Brunswick

Joe and I went up to Campobello Island, New Brunswick, Canada this past week. We drove Route 1 up the Maine coast and stopped at lots of very scenic sights including a couple of state parks. We enjoyed spotting a couple of eagles, many hawks, beaver and what we think was a coyote. It turned cold and rainy (again) instead of the partially sunny, warm weather it was supposed to be. We now take four seasons of clothing and bad weather gear with us at all times. We look sort of odd in our hiking boots, slickers and rain hats when what few tourists that are here are running around in flip flops and shorts. Bet we are more comfortable?

Stopped for the night at Herring Cove Provincial Park on Campobello Island which has about 75 camping sites.http://www.campobello.com/herring.html. The ranger said to pick any site we wanted as there were only 2 other campers there! Cold, rain with thunderstorms but the Lance camper was warm and dry and tucked into the edge of the woods so we weren't a lightning target out in the middle of a field. Next morning went to the Roosevelt Campobello International Park http://www.fdr.net/ and were the only tourists there when we arrived. We got a private tour of the Roosevelt cottage and grounds which were fascinating. So odd to walk in the footsteps of historical figures, to know you are standing in the same places as the people in photos on the wall stood. After the grounds, we took a 2 mile slog through wet woods and a stone beach to a good vantage point to see the tides turn. Quite awesome to see the water boiling as it switches for what will eventually be a 24 foot drop/rise. US Customs inspected the camper when we left NB but I think they were just more interested in seeing the truck camper than in actually looking for anything. They never even opened the truck cab.

We then headed up to St. Andrews, New Brunswick after stopping at Cobbscook State Park near Lubec, Maine. Too early to stop for the day but if you get a chance, the water front campsites are $14 a night and every picture perfect image you have ever imagined in Maine. Crossed the border again at Calais with no customs inspection. Pulled into the Kiwanis Campground in St. Andrews and sat by the Bay watching the tide turn once again. Lots of campers there from all over Canada and we learned of many more places we would like to visit. This time of year most people in campgrounds are retired couples so there is a lot in common.

Walked through Kingsbrae Gardens in St. Andrews for two hours the next morning in the rain and it was worth every step. RVing is turning us into waterlogged, wrinkled old prunes but we sure are having fun. http://www.kingsbraegarden.com/. Took Route 9 known as the Airline from Calais to Bangor and then Route 95 to home. There are times you feel like there is no one else left in the world as you see no houses, no traffic and keep looking at the sides of the road for a moose to step out. We are lucky to live up this way.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Niagara Falls - an awesome place

On the Road Again - this time to Niagara Falls, NY to see the famous falls and play tourist. This is a place on earth that both Joe and I had always wanted to see. 635 mile drive to get here from Maine but we took our time through the mountains of both NH and VT. Stopped at King Arthur Flour for their annual sale but it was pretty wiped out by the time we got there. Also went to Montshire Museum which is a hands on science museum also in Hanover, NH. Great for kids and we both enjoyed being kids and doing all the experiments. Rain continues to plague us but the LL Bean rain gear is perfect.

I did score a large number of Jamieson and Smith Fair Isle weight knitting skeins at a small VT store. She had the skeins in a trash bag in a closet because they were not selling well and took up too much room. My coup at $3.00 a skein. Best buys were the color Coral and a tweedy blue both in 8 ounce skeins.

We are staying at a KOA in Jamestown, NY. Very clean, quiet, well maintained spot. We took a bus tour into Niagara yesterday with one other couple/campers our age and had a great time. The "Maid of the Mist" boat trip is not to be missed. You literally float under the falls with spray and water pouring over you. Of course my camera battery died! We also walked down into the "Cave of the Winds" under the Bridal Veil Falls. That was awesome, very cold, wet and a true adventure. It was 43 degrees and we didn't thaw out for hours. Good campers that we were, we joined each other for a pizza supper. Joe and I also went back into Niagara today and walked about a total of 5 hours seeing what we hadn't seen yesterday. This included walking over the Rainbow Bridge into Canada. To be kind, where you land in Canada is quite tacky, geared towards souvenirs and you don't get to see any of the real Canada. Lines to cross the border were just too long to take the truck camper over and see the countryside. That will be another trip.

Headed east tomorrow to find more adventures. Truck Camper is working perfectly except for the mystery of why the bathroom vent hatch keeps coming open. Fellow TCers at http://rv.net on the truck camper forum are giving hints on how to fix it.

Very tired, quite content at all we have seen, glad our house sitter is so good and ready for more travel tomorrow.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

New Bern and Outer Banks, NC to Maine

New Bern and Outer Banks, NC May 2-4, 2006

Headed to New Bern, NC to visit family. Picked up the kids from school in the Lance and what a hit! Ended up with 5-6 under twelve year old boys and a dog up on the bed looking out the front window for a too short ride home. Camped on the Neuse River at a KOA overnight. Quiet, nice, very clean site with wi-fi to catch up on emails. Walked New Bern next morning but since we are early risers and town doesn't open up early, nothing was open. Joe did find the home of Pepsi Cola though. Took off for the ferry across the Pamlico Sound at Aurora. Lunched in the Mattameskett Wildlife Refugee waiting for the ducks to come grab the sandwiches. Fun to drive very narrow road across NC's largest natural lake.

Toured the Elizabethan Gardens in Manteo, NC in the rain. http://www.elizabethangardens.org/visitorinfo_directions.aspx Are we cursed with rain? Beautiful flowers and great floral smells. We'd been here once in November when nothing was in bloom - this was better.

You can see how narrow the Outer Banks are on a map but you don't realize how truly narrow until you drive the road from Manteo down to Hatteras. Huge areas of preserved land for migrating bird flyways. Camped in Rodanthe snugged right up to a sand dune. Massive thunderstorm just as we were setting up but once over, we scrambled up the dune to see huge waves crashing in on a totally deserted beach. Walked for a long time in a place we drove a long time to reach, a very special time. Camper folk are fun. Met up with a couple from PA who are full timers and who are headed to ME this summer to the Rockland Lobster festival. We clued them in on all the "not to miss" spots on coastal Maine.

Next day, bright blue skies and warm temps for a change. Drove down to Hatteras and toured the "Graveyard of the Atlantic" museum. http://www.hatteras-nc.com/atlanticgraveyard/. Very interesting especially the history of Billy Mitchell proving that airplanes can sink ships - done right off Hatteras during WWII as a demo to the Navy. Joe then trotted up Cape Hatteras Lighthouse followed by softshell crab sandwiches at Dirty Dick's. Walked Pea Island Wildlife Refuge, http://www.stateparks.com/pea_island.html another preserve for migrating waterfowl. Saw lots of geese and other birds but we were too late for the huge spring flocks.
After taking the state ferry at Currituck over the Currituck Sound to Knotts Island and the entry to VA Beach, we headed to a KOA in VA Beach. This was NOT a good camp for us, the worse we were in the whole trip. It was a clean, well wooded site but right beside a major road and under the flight path for the Oceana Naval Air Station. If I'd spent more time with the Delorme map program I'd have seen the air field. Oh well - long day, lots of beach walking done and a couple of drinks and we finally didn't hear the planes anymore .

May 5-8th. More visiting with mom and family and then a leisurely drive back to Maine. Camped in Plattekill, NY at a very comfortable campground with lots of geese escorting the baby geese around. Skipped going through Hartford by heading up Route 87 towards Albany and then over to the Mass Pike and home to Maine.

We learned a lot about the truck, the Lance, planning routes, campgrounds, living together in a small space and how well it all worked. Oil and filter changed today, truck all cleaned and ready to hit the road again soon.

Total of 3164 miles, 273 gallons of diesel for 4717.30, 11.6 mpg or 22.6 cents a mile. Sure beats moldering on the couch waiting to get stuck in the "home".

Chimney Rock, NC

Chimney Rock, NC April 27, 2006
Heavy rain still but headed to Chimney Rock, NC anyway. http://www.chimneyrockpark.com/ We have all the bad weather gear including good hiking boots and slickers so figured what the heck. Just as we approached the rock, the sun broke, temps rose and the weather had kept the crowds away. What a challenging but fun drive up to the rock entry. One mile of switch backs to the park gate, then a mile up to the rock itself. I doubt a class A could have made it around some of the corners but the TC handled it perfectly. We have to return to this area and explore some more. Took elevator the 26 stories up to base of Chimney Rock but walked to the falls and all the way down. Kept thinking I'd meet Daniel Day Lewis running up the mountain like in "The Last of the Mohicans" movie which was shot partially in this park. http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0104691/.

One of the best roads we drove was a tiny one from Chimney Rock up to Black Mountain, NC. From Lake Lure on Route 64, head west to Route 9 at Bat Cave, NC. Follow the deep curves, steep hills and switchbacks through country side that hasn't changed much since the settlers. We've often thought of retiring to this area but a look at real estate prices might make us stay right where we are. Reluctantly left the area and went interstates up to VA to visit the family.
Lots of time with mom from April 28 - May 1, rescuing her from the assisted living facility for day trips and family time. Be kind to your kids - they are the ones who will kidnap you from the home when it is your turn.

Skyline Drive, VA

April 24-26, 2006
7AM - headed out on a two week trip in 48 degree pouring rain. We'd planned on doing a lot of geocaching along the way and had a bunch printed out. See http://www.geocaching.com/ for more information on a fun hobby that takes you to places you never knew existed. Lots of rain and ended up driving 11 hours and 526 miles to the Twin Grove Park and Campground in Pine Grove PA. Campground is super clean, very friendly staff, big site with a couple from Maine next door driving back from a winter in FL. On site diner type restaurant for a breakfast with way too many calories and carbs but delicious.

Noon saw Front Royal, VA and the start of a 100 mile trek over the Skyline Drive. We've always done most of our travelling out of season and this was no different. We felt like we were the only ones on the Skyline with a rare auto sighting and no one sitting on our bumper. The truck performed perfectly with the advice from the Truck Campers on rvnet.com about tow/haul working perfectly. Having an engine break on those down hill legs was comforting. Views over the mountain were worth the trip alone. Blue doesn't even begin to describe the mountain color and the vastness is awesome. Thankfully the land has been preserved in the Shenendoah Park system for all the enjoy.

Camped the 25th in the Shenendoah Valley KOA in Verona VA. Entered and almost ran over a huge multi-colored rabbit who was being followed by several ducks. Found out there are over 100 rabbits in this campground, all so large because the kids feed them all summer. Campground is on a river, large sites, friendly staff and clean restrooms. Had a pleasant evening visiting with two Maine couples who have travelled in their 5th wheelers all over the country. Got lots of great tips including why we couldn't get TV to come in well and why we should use propane all the time for the refrigerator. No wonder our battery was getting drained so quick.

Little excitement in the night during a very hot thunderstorm when the carbon monoxide alarm went off. Opened every window in the Lance and since we didn't have the propane on, finally figured it was the thunderstorm. Since we are still alive, had to have been a false reading but sure gets your heart going.

26th - headed to Roanoke and a day visit with friends who have camped for years. talked about fishing in Alaska, driving over the Rockies, sunning in New Mexico, enjoying the western National Parks. They have a new 5th wheeler as an 18 wheeler brushed by them and rolled their Airstream and truck last year. Totalled the unit but they were okay. First bad campground that night - Statesville NC, way too close to a major highway but the rain helped drownd out the truck noise. Lance was warm and dry. 1038 miles, 89 gallons of diesel for an average of 11.6 mpg so far. Pretty good over all those mountains.

Shakedown cruise - Mystic, CT

Easter Sunday April 16, 2006 - Five hour, 235 mile drive to Mystic, CT., slower than we thought but driving a loaded F-350 is a bit different than a much smaller Escape. What a test trip to go around Boston on an older rutted highway with heavy traffic even on a Sunday. Learned a lot about seeing and not seeing vehicles behind and around the truck camper and how to safely change lanes. This unit does not have a backup camera and we'll have to do something about better side vision (added convex mirrors later to the main side mirrors). Seaport Campground in Mystic was just opening and pretty sparce for campers. Since we have yet to take the Lance off the Ford, we drove the whole unit into Mystic Seaport. Big parking lot with easy room for the truck camper. What a wonderful museum full of American history with acres and acres of exhibits. We found the rope factory especially interesting as it shows how the huge old ship ropes went from hemp to hawser. As a fiber person, quilter/spinner/knitter, it was stunning to see the work that went into the ropes. After a walk through the tiny town of Mystic with all the shops closed for Easter, time was spent sitting by the camper, relaxing, knitting and being happy to finally be on the road.

Up early, used the Lance shower for the first time - tight but worked perfectly with more than enough hot water and ventilation with the roof vent fan. Spent most of the day at Mystic Aquarium especially in the exhibits from the Robert Ballard Titanic and Mediterranean dives. We played kid and sat in the 3-D ride that takes you undersea through the sea monsters and wrecks with shaking seat and all sorts of sea creatures reaching out for you. Fun to be a kid again. Parking was very tight at the Aquarium. We could have missed an RV parking area and ended up taking two regular spaces end to end.

A short drive up to Foxwoods Casino was next, my first time in a Casino. Needless to say, I didn't win the millions but had a great time spending a grand total of $7 worth of nickles. Too much smoke and noise but quite a place. Parking is very RV friendly including a shuttle bus from the far parking to the casino doors.

Back to Mystic, parked in the Seaport parking area as even the 25' Lance wouldn't fit into Mystic town very easily. Walked up to Mystic Pizza and had an excellent pizza. Joe loved the movie and had always wanted a pizza there. Next day headed back north with the idea of stopping in Newport, RI to walk the path behind the mansions. Unfortunately, couldn't figure out an easy drive to get around the Jamestown Bridge area. The old part of the bridge was being blown up and the drive around looked pretty long. VERY windy drive back to Maine so even slower than the drive down. Truck handles best at about 60-62 miles per hour. Mileage on the 590 mile trip was an average of 11.5 mpg - not bad for a heavy load and winds. This was a successful shake down cruise, learned a lot and eager to go again soon.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

At last - on the road

April 2, 2006 - After about 5 years of looking at different classes of RVs and never being able to settle on a size or configuration, we finally bought a unit. Great compromise on Joe’s part since he wanted a 30-32’ Class C with a car tow rig and I wanted as small as possible so we could get into small towns and small roads. We’ll start small and work up if needed though so far the truck camper is doing all we wanted. What made us finally decide to do it? Having to put my mom into an assisted living facility and realizing that there isn't that much time left for us to hit the road before our turn comes for the home!

We bought a 2005 Ford F-350 V-8 diesel,5 speed pickup with dual wheels with air bags carrying a 2005 Lance 1121 truck camper, bought used with only 3710 miles on it. Original owner’s wife decided after the first long trip that she wanted a Class A, his loss, our gain. We purchased through State Line Auto in Lebanon, ME and videotaped our 3 hour intro on how to work all the Lance systems. We spent the next ten days picking up gear and setting up the camper finding NetBoy's web site accessible from http://www.rv.net/ invaluable. There is a super discussion group for truck campers on this site with many willing people to answer questions on dewinterization, articles you cannot leave home without, etc. etc. We felt like we are getting a plane ready for flight.

Since we navigate with a GPS unit and laptop, time was spent with black iron pipe setting up a computer table between the seats. The tablet the laptop rests on was purchased online and the pipe from good old Home Depot. We ended up putting in a leg for extra support and sewed a padded pillow for the front of the tablet to rest on the area between the seats. Works perfectly with Delorme Street Atlas 2005 and a Delorme Earthmate LT-20 GPS suction cupped to the windshield. Sure occasionally you lose the GPS signal but for the most part works great.
Finally prepared for the first real trip to actually get on the road for a test trip to Mystic, CT.