Our Chalet Truck Camper

Our Chalet Truck Camper

Saturday, April 30, 2011

April 28 and 29 From Meteor Crater to Lake Powell

April 28 - Up early to tour Meteor Crater which was much, much larger than we thought it would be. The exhibits explaining the science behind a meteor earth strike were well presented and easy to follow along. Joe and I sometimes watch “Meteor Men” on TV, a show about two guys who search the earth for meteor fragments. We walked as far on the rim as you could go without taking an hour tour.

Travelled west on I-40 through a lot of smoke from preventive burns on to Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument. This is a hidden gem of an area rich in geography and early Indian culture. We walked the trails at the volcano down through the lava beds and up into the cinder cone area. Very little vegetation has returned as the ash is very deep and hard.

There are three pueblo ruins and also exhibits at the visitor center 20 miles from the lava fields. What resourceful early Americans the Indians were to move around the land guided by the weather. We try to change the land, they used the land to their advantage.

We ended this interesting day at Wahweap campground on Lake Powell near Page, AZ. I was surprised at the depth of color in both the water and the surrounding rocks. Campground was very busy with most of the campers hauling boats. I sat and enjoyed a beautiful sunset and watched the jackrabbits hop by. No, none of them ended up in the stew pot but one is large enough for a meal.

April 29 - Travelling the way back roads

We want to be Wazoo ( a fellow truck camper who lives in Arizona and who makes incredible back country trips) when we grow up. What better place to try our wings than in the west. Wandering north from Page, Arizona we saw this small road to the right that led back up into the incredible rock formations. So we turned in to Smokey Mountain Road. Mapping software showed it as the back road into Escalante and Capital Reef.

The geography reads like a book with all the sediment layers and tortured rocks left behind after millennium of upheaval. This nice small graveled road just kept going.

I figure hey what the heck – we’ve got emergency gear with us, a whole truck camper full of supplies and we’ll just do what Wazoo does and just keep going. Joe is starting to look a little concerned

when he sees this ahead of us.

Out I get to see how wet, dry, good, bad it actually is. Turns out it is dry and the ruts are from someone who ran the road right after a rain. Since he didn’t drive off in reverse and leave me, we continued on.

Eleven miles later and about a bazillion stops to walk the road and look at rocks, flowers, washes, canyons, we were still Wazooing along.

Those of you who have been here, done this are laughing by now. We get to this sign. Hmmmmmm…..

Common sense won. We turned back knowing that a hard body tall truck camper would not play like Wazoo’s pop up. Was it worth the drive in? Absolutely. Joe was so happy that I wasn’t acting stupid that he smiled all the way back to Route 89. Bye, bye road and thanks for our introduction (newbie style) to Wazooing.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

April 26 and 27 – Airplanes, Petroglyphs and Meteor Crater

We thought Kansas was windy? It’s a mild, gentle breeze compared to New Mexico yesterday. We pulled into Liberal, Kansas at dusk the 25th to spend a free night in the Mid America Air Museum lot. It was too late to tour the museum so spent a non-windy night and got this great shot of one of the museum jets at sunset.

This museum is well worth the visit and we learned a lot about aviation in Kansas and all the people like Cessna and Lear who started there.

The distance from KS to OK to TX is tiny in that corner of the states. We only spent 55 miles in OK and 90 miles in TX travelling down Route 54 which runs arrow straight forever.

OK was getting windy, TX was getting a big hard to handle and by the time we hit Tucumcari, NM it was downright frightening. Winds were sustained between 30 and 40 miles per hour with gusts 60-70. Even the 18 wheelers weren’t tracking too smooth. We found shelter at an excellent NM state park at Santa Rosa.

There is a dam and lake at the park. It’s pretty obvious how little rain NM is getting as you can see the water level on dam pillar.

Here’s the Chalet buttoned up against the wind. We closed one slider totally and one partially until the wind finally dropped. Met up with a couple from Florida travelling in a BT Cruiser who want a truck camper. Gave them information on the fall TC rally in Florida and hope they show up.

The Chalet is handling all we’ve been throwing at it so far. The wind has dropped out mileage from 11.2 to 9.9. Ouch!

April 27 –

Calm!!! The morning didn’t have howling wind, the sky had cleared from all the wind blown sand and we were ready to hit a calmer road.

We easterners aren’t exactly used to driving 75 mph which is the posted speed. The roads are so straight and visibility so good we didn’t worry about driving 60-62 and getting passed. In our larger eastern cities we would get “gestures”. Out here most people waved with all their fingers and smiled.

As you travel along, you are out paced by long train loads. The trains carry many hundred trailers usually seen behind a tractor. Keeps a lot of traffic off the roads and lots less energy. What a shame trains aren’t used like they used to be.

Our goal for the day was the Petroglyph National Monument, Rinconada Canyon in Albuquerque. We spent several hours walking back into the canyon looking at some of the 3500 glyphs. Unfortunately the photos didn’t come out but the rock art was fascinating.

Rest of the day was booking it along I-40 to Winslow, AZ to a commercial campground. Long day on the road but we had decided not to go up into Chaco Canyon this time. It is time to catch up on laundry, cleaning the camper inside and all the paper work life entails. Tomorrow is Meteor Crater, Sedona and the Red Rock Trail loop.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

April 25 – Fighting our way across Kansas

No wonder Dorothy and Toto went flying. Kansas is WINDY and no matter what direction you travel it seems to be head on. Mileage is dropping like a rock but the roads are incredibly smooth and not much traffic. Spent last night at the Cheney Reservoir as the only camper there. Pretty lake with good level parking place and lots of paths to walk.

Lubbers Ford in Cheney, KS took us in as a walk in to do an oil and filter change. Good dealership if you are travelling through. Joe noticed one of the Stable Loads looked odd so pulled on it to straighten it out and half came off in his hand.

With a bit of research and phone calls, we found that we shouldn’t be mixing Stable Loads with SuperSprings. (Stable Loads go with air bags, Supersprings go with the original pads). Lubbers Ford had none of the original rubber auxiliary spring pads in stock. Good old internet found some down Route 54 in the direction of our travel in Meade, KS. Joe has swapped the rubber pads out, keeping the Stable Loads so they can look them over and replace if under warranty.

Kansas is a beautiful state and must provide a huge percentage of the wheat grown in the USA. The farms are far apart and are so neat and clean. Each is surrounded by a wind break of trees and look tucked in for a big blow. The trees all lean one way so you know where the prevailing winds come from.

Many of the fields have small pumps in them. We are assuming these are individual oil pumps going to the tanks beside them that must get hauled off periodically.

As you enter small towns, you usually see the local co-op grain elevator. Easy to spot the towns coming along as they stick up tall on a very flat horizon.

These towns are usually one street long by four or five wide and are spaced about every thirty miles. The high schools are enormous and serve a big area. I wonder how many hours a day the kids spend riding the buses. Unfortunately, even these towns are beginning to lose their local flavor as they have Subway, McDonald, and other chains. At times you could be anywhere. As Buckaroo Bonzai says “No matter where you go, there you are”.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

April 22 to 24 Pigeon Forge to Wichita

April 22-24 Titanic exhibit at Pigeon Forge was a true tourist trap and one we didn’t get snared in. Not a slam at those of you who live in Pigeon Forge but the place was built for tourists. Somewhere underneath all the “glitter” is a small, old town. At least we got caught up on internet, laundry, some truck washing and sleep. We left there on Route 321 which was a lovely windy, cork screw drive through mountains and valleys over to Route 40 around Nashville. Remind me never to go live in a big city and Nashville is big compared to what we have in Maine. The new rear view camera was a blessing to know who was hanging on the rear bumper.

Hope many of you camp in Corps of Engineers parks. Friday night we spent in splendid isolation as the only camper in Canal Camp in a primitive loop right on Lake Barkley near Paducah, KY. Primitive is not the right term as we had water, power, a paved pad, concrete stairs going down to a lower level right on the lake where there was a concrete picnic table and pole for hanging a lantern. This cost the amazing fee of $8.00 with the Seniors America Parks pass. See – there are benefits in getting older.

We watched an eagle, couple of raccoons, deer and a whole flotilla of large turtles. Fish have been jumping but we had no poles/lines/license with us. Now if that @#$@ Dometic refrigerator fan would stop whining life would be perfect.

Saturday was a travel day to get closer to Wichita for Easter visits. After the torrential rains Friday night, there was a lot of flooded land along the Ohio and Mississippi rivers.

At this tiny tip of Illinois that sticks out into the rivers at Cairo, we were unable to cross the bridge but had to detour due to flooding. Poor Cairo is a ghost town almost with most businesses closed, abandoned housing and closed factories. Sad to see.

We travelled mostly on US60 which was a surprise. We had expected a two lane road but it turned out to be a divided highway, two lanes each side with limited access. The road is concrete, smooth and almost no traffic in the 250 miles we travelled. Some congressman brought home the goods on that one. It cuts through the Mark Twain National Forest and a lot of very scenic terrain. Weather was not good as it went from black clouds, to rain, to hail with a high wind all day. We lost about .2 in diesel mileage today battling a strong head wind. The Chalet’s height is a definite disadvantage in these conditions. Tonight we are boon docking in a Walmart – a very busy one but we are tucked into a corner so we could get the slides out. Wichita tomorrow.

Sunday - At my daughters and just finished a fabulous Easter dinner. They've given us tips on a couple of good places to visit after we get oil/filter change tomorrow. Santa Fe next?

Thursday, April 21, 2011

High Point NC to Pigeon Forge TN

After a stay in New Bern, NC with Jim and Cathie (Lance 845) we headed to High Point, NC.

April 19, 2011 - What a change in temperature from what we’re used to in Maine. It’s been a beautiful sunny 80F but no humidity. Today Mike O and Travis at Xtreme Campers in High Point, NC put in SuperSprings, a hanger for the generator exhaust pipe, a propane tank slider latch and started a back up camera.

Travis will finish up the camera install tomorrow and we have fingers crossed that the LED bulbs come in on the UPS truck.

Driving out of Maine the propane tank door popped open and the tank slide was hanging out the back end of the camper. We think we didn’t push the tanks all the way in but there isn’t a really secure latch. Mike at Xtreme thought about it a bit and designed this cool hinge latch. He welded it, painted it and put rubber on the back side where it holds the tank in. Clever!!!

Something we are going to have to live with is a new cooling fan that is on the Dometic refrigerator. There is now a second vent opening way above the frig to vent the heat. This is to “cure” the overheating problems. The fan is a small muffin type fan but it has a really high pitched hum to it. No time right now but later we’ll look into what might be available that is quieter. It’s been running a lot in the 80F heat and has a long cycle. It is a very annoying whine. We’ll research and see if we can find a quieter fan.

April 20-21 When we left Xtreme, we headed west instead of to FL. We’ll save the “visit the relative” loop through the south, include Vicksburg and do that this fall. From High Point we headed to Scott Kerr Lake near Boone, NC having a very leisurely drive along back country roads. Incredible luck but we got a site in the Corp of Engineers camp right on the water. Very windy but warm and so much different than the past winter. The F350 handled better with the SuperSprings, riding level and easily. The rear camera took the place of the radio area with a 6”x 6” screen. Radio, DVD, blue tooth still work with controls on the side of the camera screen plus it has a built in navigation system. Now we can see who/what is behind us. Fingers crossed that the Synch for the phone would work but it did so can answer calls hands free. Course I managed to hang up on a few camper friends learning how it worked but they called back.

From Boone, we travelled windy, twisty Route 321 through the mountains from Boone to Johnson City, TN. The mountains are so soft and green this time of year with azaleas, dogwoods in the dense woods and new leaves.

We’re now in the Pigeon Forge area of TN. Joe is indulging me tomorrow as I want to go see the replica of the Titanic. If it is a total tourist trap from the outside, we’ll forge (yuck, yuck) on headed for Wichita and a visit with my daughter and grandsons.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Headed to Alaska - the long slow way

How do you get reservations in a camp or chalet in Alaska? Simple - you drive one there. Here’s our new Chalet – a 2011 Chalet double slide truck camper with rear dry bath and center island. We traded the Host double slide for this beauty on April 2 and spent a frantic week transferring gear and setting it up for a hoped for trip to Alaska via who knows where. Bill Penny at Truck Camper Warehouse in NH did a great fast turnaround for us on getting the camper ready. Here it is almost ready to roll.

On April 9th we left Maine headed for the Mid Atlantic TC rally. We stayed with TC friends in PA overnight having been greeted with surprise at the new rig. We were trying to keep it a secret until the rally which was really hard to do. First up was a three day stay in the bayside loop at Assateague National Seashore.

Assateague is always a treat even with a lot of fog and pretty nippy weather. We met up with fellow TCers Ron and Toni (TinCanSailor) and did day trips to Berlin and to the pig iron museum at Snow Hill. Both these small towns have managed to retain the charm and look of towns I remember growing up in in the south.

The rally at Tall Pines Harbor Campground was huge this year with around 170 rigs attending – 400 some people. I think every one of them came through the Chalet to take a look both inside and out (smile). It was fun showing folks through and we got lots of good feedback on storage and layout use. Joe’s really happy with all the outside storage and the ease of getting to the propane tanks, water inlets and dump valves. As usual, between the events that Ron and Michelle had planned, we did a lot of socializing.

Didn’t matter if you were from the cold north or the warmer south, we all enjoyed standing outside and catching up on the last year. We met a lot of new campers and shared tales of places to see. Wazoo is quite famous but most of us agreed that we would live vicariously through his photos and not take the bigger rigs where he ventures.

Saturday night was pretty scary with huge thunderstorms and a deluge of Noah’s Ark proportions. We were lucky and did not have the tornados that so many nearby did. The bay water was driven into the campground, the rain was pouring and pine cones were dropping like grenades. Many TCs lost power but there was no serious damage to anyone. In the morning, we found that the water level around the camper was an actual measured 8” up on the tires. It took a while to sort out the firewood, folding chairs, door mats, dog bowls, etc. etc. that had floated around. It looked like an inland sea for a while. Ron Humphries held the raffle after Sunday breakfast as he had to cancel it Saturday night – way too dangerous to be out in the storm in a big tent.

We traded campers for several reasons, the biggest one of which can be seen here.

Side entry seems cleaner to get to, no slides have to go out to get to the bathroom, and the steps on the Chalet are extremely sturdy. We also wanted an on board generator instead of having to set up the Honda 2000 when we stopped on the road. We weren’t sure how we’d like the center island but were frankly shocked at how much room there is to move around it.

I still have empty cabinet and drawer space and Joe has room in his outside space. We’ll leave that empty for those items you pick up on travels. Yes it is a heavy camper but the F-350 dually diesel is handling it fine with an extra leaf spring. Diesel mileage has gone from 11.2 with the Host to 10.9 with the Chalet but the truck just turned 8,000 miles so we may gain a bit. The ease of use and space gained is worth the mileage.

After crossing the Chesapeake Bay Bridge we travelled on down to New Bern, NC and are camped with Lance845 by the Neuse River. Beautiful evening, we’re all super tired from the travel and rally. Tomorrow will be a rest day and then onwards. Our plan is to go to the Atlanta Aquarium, Vicksburg, Meteor Crater, Hoover Dam, Death Valley and then head north towards Alaska. Many other places to see in between and who knows if we will make it all the way to Alaska but we’re on the way.

The rear of our camper – paint not quite dry. If you see us on the road, flag us down and share tips on those special places where you live.