Our Chalet Truck Camper

Our Chalet Truck Camper

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Up Up and Away - The Balloon Fest Rally

It's been a great year for meeting up with camping friends. The North East Truck Camper group does go some interesting places.
The 34th Annual South County Hot Air Balloon Festival was held on the athletic fields of the University of Rhode Island in West Kingston, RI July 20-22. Twenty five truck campers, a 42’ foot A and a small travel trailer gathered on what was less than level ground. This section of the fields had been used for a mud bowl truck pull and the divots, holes and hillocks left behind when it dried were a bit disconcerting. No ankles were twisted or broken but a great deal of staggering was done.

During last year’s Balloon Festival the temperature hit 104F. This year after light rain on Friday morning, all enjoyed a high 70s weekend with sunshine. The four new to the group campers were treated to the sight of a very well coordinated tent lifting akin to an Amish barn raising. By noon a long line of pop ups had been added on and appetizers and adult beverages were enjoyed out of the rain. It’s amazing how many pop up tents, tables and chairs can come out of truck campers.

Mike Tassinari surprised the group with an old fashioned ice cream social. He brought 9 gallons of ice creams, bananas for splits, fruit, sprinkles, whipped cream and bowls/spoons to use.

John Cafferty and the Beaver Brown Band played by the flying field while the balloons were lit so they glowed in the night.
Saturday morning many campers were awakened by a WOOOSSSHHHH – the sound hot air balloons gas burners make as they take off. The balloons were right over the campers at low altitude as they climbed off. This balloon was directly over our Heiki hatch.

This year there was a large craft show, a wild animal show and kid’s rides area by the balloon moorings. The Kansas City Barbeque Society held a cook-off with barbeque pork, chicken and beef. These folk travel around the country from event to event and compete. Most sold the results as very tasty meals. The “Cannon Lady” had her cannon mounted on a F450 with low body utility compartments, a bit of an envy for a lot in the group.  There was an exhibit of model airplanes, not the kind  built out of balsa wood but seriously large, powered planes. They were flying out of a field beside the campers and the aerobatics were fun to watch. Many of the TCers went to see the Revolutionary War Encampment and returned grateful for the luxury of a truck camper.

Our truck campers looked pretty cool lined up in two rows with the tents in between. We got a lot of visits from nearby campers in huge A sizes who wanted to see our small rigs compared to theirs. Lots of campers were shown and cards for dealers passed out. Mike Olesnevich from Xtreme Campers attended as a camper and finally got to eat some of the Sunday morning breakfast he sponsors. Every time someone walked by his camper, he was sitting on his back porch eating lobster! Well - almost every time.

A late afternoon potluck was enjoyed, leaving time for the traditional raffle before the balloon “glow” and fireworks.  Mike T always has the new folks to the group introduce themselves and share why they got into truck camping. Lots of tips and tricks on where and how to camp and best handle the rigs were shared as always.
Sunday – tents down, tables folded and we all lurched over the broken field headed back home or on to other adventures. The balloons, planes and BBQ really were fun.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Tall Ships, Newport, RI July 5-8, 2012

North East Truck Camping Jamboree Tall Ships, Newport, RI July 5-8, 2012

We joined a gathering of 40 truck campers for a pirate themed jamboree celebrating the arrival of the Tall Ships in Newport, RI. Ocean StatesTall Ships Wagon master Geraldine Roy secured berthing for the hearty crew at Oak Embers Campground in West Greenwich, RI.   Event tents were set up, fire rings secured and pirate campers arrived from as far away as Quebec and Maryland.  At registration, Geraldine gifted each rig with a bag filled with chocolate doubloons, eye patches, and various booty.

Around an overflowing appetizer and drink table, instructions were given on how the van shuttle would work on Friday to get everyone into Newport. Even though truck campers are not large, Newport is very small with narrow, winding roads and huge crowds for the ships. On Friday, Geraldine and Dave "sailed" the 15 passenger van back and forth the 30 miles many times during the day. No campers were lost in the shuffle and all enjoyed the ships, old Newport and a perfect, though hot, weather day.

Mike Tassinari provided hamburgers for dinner and the cooking was done by a hot crew who needed to stay well hydrated with adult beverages.
On Saturday morning, Mike T gave a demonstration of installing an hour meter in a Honda generator. This was followed by Geraldine’s talk on the life of a pirate in RI. Who would have thought that pirates were very welcome as they brought both income and employment to the area?  24 lucky ladies got to take an afternoon craft class on dying a silk scarf with plants, fruit, spices and vegetables. The hard pounding noise was from rocks smashing the juicy pulp inside layers of silk.

One of the most popular events at the North East rallies is Bingo. Cathie Tassinari always comes up with awesome cards and "chips". Often participants munched away on their chips -  Necco wavers, Goldfish, etc in the past. This year the chips were pennies! No munching but lots of fun and great prizes.

Saturday night pot luck always brings out fabulous food and drinks and this feast was no exception. It is amazing what the small ovens, stoves and grills contained in truck campers can produce. The tables looked like a hungry hoard of pirates had pillaged by the time the meal was over. 

The raffle draw was called by Nik Rende who lent a lot of humor to the event. The final raffle was drawing small bags out of a treasure chest. The bags could then be cashed in or traded with another bag holder. Surprise inside? Susan B Anthony gold looking dollar coins, the pirate treasure for real.
Each evening Mike showed a movie and fired up a pop corn machine for those watching. Mike also got "arrested" by the Gendarms but didn't have to walk the plank.

Tom and Pam came up to visit. They are temporarily TCless but won't be for long. Pam looked quite dashing in a pirate hat.

Joe Z won the pirate costume!

Sunday is always sad at a rally as camper friends are once again scattering. The men cook breakfast on Sunday and the ladies do no work, just enjoy a feast. Mike Olesnevich of  Xtreme Campers  sponsored the breakfast and it was enjoyed by all. Tent take down goes fast with a lot of helping hands and the area was policed so it was cleaner than when we all arrived.

In between all the planned events, there was time to sit and visit with old friends and meet new ones. There were many brand new truck campers and/or trucks to tour and discuss. As usual, trips were retold and new places to see discovered. There were many shared photos of sites seen and "gotta go theres" found.  Truck campers might be a small market, small footprint but mighty in spirit and adventure.

Note: This was originally written for Angela of Truck Camper Magazine as they had to leave early for a family emergency.

NH to Salem for the 4th of July

June 29 - July 4 NH to Salem - On The Road Again! It's hard to do yard and house work when the out doors calls especially here in New England with so many beautiful places to see.

We met up with Jayne/Rob, Jimmy/Cathie, Phil and his new lady friend, Tracy, up in the mountains of NH to see Jayne's new Eagle Cap. Wow! No wonder she keeps saying "I love my camper". It's the new EC 1160 with rear couch, huge bathroom with full shower, tons of storage closets and easy in/out on the dinette. No wonder they love it. Rob's made peace with his tool and gear storage and Jayne just "Love my camper".

This was a perfect friend, weather, place, time to just simply relax. We talked, played blongo, knit, cooked, ate, drank and just enjoyed no events other than relaxing. Joe and Cathy kept switching from penny poker to Blongo.

Jennie, Phil's spaniel, kept us all busy throwing her ball. If we didn't she would bring us large rocks! Thanks McCulloughs for having us up and especially for the boiled dinner we all enjoyed Sunday night.

Monday the 2nd we drove over to Truck Camper Warehouse to talk to Bill about swapping out our microwave/convection oven for a regular gas oven. He had taken a few well deserved days off to Long Island to fish. We always meet prospective truck campers when at Bill's and enjoy showing off our Chalet. Thought we might see the McCullough's short bed Eagle Cap that they had traded in but it was already sold.
Cut through back roads especially Route 12 in MA down to Salem, MA to join up with a few TC friends for the 4th celebration. Rain of course that evening but it always rains when we camp at Winter Island. It's a very busy time for that campground and we were sandwiched in between two massive A size campers that first night. It just reminded us that even though our truck camper is huge by truck camper standards, we're a small camper.

Mid morning on the 3rd, Lee/Beth from PA arrived with good dog Chopper. It's such fun to catch up with those met before on the road. Gordon/Angela of Truck Camper Magazine had been at Mike's as he was giving them lessons in beach sand driving. We ended up with 8 campers including Kevin's new to him 42 foot A. Kevin bought a jewel and has finished resurfacing all the cabinets, flooring, etc. He's using it to go to NASCAR races and still has his truck camper for the beach.

Mike cooked an awesome 22 pound beef beast for our July 4th party. Do truck campers know how to eat or what?

It was a race that evening to see which was more spectacular, the fireworks or a pretty ferocious lighting storm. We stayed for the start of the fireworks over Salem harbor but chose to come back to the camper before getting soaked. Age, wisdom or chicken? One of the benefits/drawbacks of having an IPhone with NOAA radar is that you can see the size of what is bearing down on you. After our tornado adventure last year, I'll err on the side of caution.

Wonderful Recompence by the Ocean

June 9, 2012 - Wonderful Recompence by the Ocean

What's better than a truck camper and a spur of the moment trip? It had been raining for a week solid and we were crazy to get outside in some sun. Saturday AM - sun out, 75F - called Recompence Shore Campground at Wolfe Neck Farm in Freeport and yes they had openings in West Bay on the ocean. Since we keep the camper pretty well packed and stocked, it was just a matter of a few clothes and fresh food thrown in and off we go. 
All the water front sites were taken but the sites on the pasture side of the dirt road have ocean views and full sun. I'm driving and stupidly make that last turn of the wheel to get us in a better view spot. Like the whole place is a view spot. Of course I got us stuck on long grass and mud.

After the farm truck gave us a gentle pull, we moved over one site and all was well. We watched two others get stuck over the course of two perfect weather days. We are blessed to have such a serene camping spot so close to where we live. Perfect weather, long walks by the community veggie gardens, past the cattle, sheep, and shoreline.

This is where we sponsor a camper gathering in mid November. Never had snow yet, sometimes mud, always an awesome place to gather.

May 2012 Spring Rally in Salisbury, MA

May 16-19, 2012

What better way to start off one of the North East Truck Camper rallies than to have truck camper friends at your house first. Pam and Tom were seeing a bit of Maine and stopped by at Camp Brown. Well we had actually stalked them down in the LL Bean parking lot and captured them but all in fun. Tom had a great time with Joe's power washer getting some of that Maine mud off.

Fun to see two big Chalet campers side by side. Had a great evening cooking, yakking, having a few rum drinks and deciding to caravan to the rally in Salisbury, MA. Poor Tom said he'd follow us, never knowing that my usual turnpike speed is 62-64 mph.

We "rafted" the campers up near Jayne/Rob and Toni/Ron and Jayne's daughter and two grandsons. What delightful kids they were. Toni held a wine tasting to try to introduce me to the joys of good quality wine. Enjoyable but I'll watch the girls from the safety of my scotch. We had a special treat when Guy's wife, Louise Anne joined us and told a few Guy tales.

Mike Tassinari had his usual superb slate of events. We learned new ways to clean a camper, took part in Torklift's North East treasure hunt, cooked hot dogs, enjoyed a schedule of camper showings, a fabulous lobster feast, Bingo, 50/50 and raffle with great prizes plus the Sunday morning men cook/women eat breakfast. Unfortunately I didn't take photos as I was just having too much fun. You can see extensive pictures of this rally on Truck Camper Magazine's article called Lobstah Bash

Here is Guy resting up from all that breakfast cooking.

There was a lot of time at this gathering to socialize, visit other campers, talk about trips done and planned. Weather couldn't have been any more perfect - 65-70F and sunny. Mike has also planned several more summer gatherings.

Wonder if Cabela's realizes that every time we stop to dump the tanks headed home that we actually do go in and shop? There is always something in the back bargain bin. If you do stop at Cabela's (exit 42 on I-95 headed north), the pizza and salads at Portland Pie across the parking lot are excellent.

May 6 - 9 West VA to Maine

May 6, 2012 - Our travel folder of places to go is filled with sites in West Virginia. I'd read quite a while ago about the New River Gorge  and we planned the travel to go by there. I had visions of hiking down into the gorge to be able to look up at the bridge. It is the Western Hemisphere's longest arch bridge.

I/we did not walk down to the bottom of the gorge. The getting down would have been okay. The getting up would not have been as we aren't in shape for that type of hike.

The visitor center had exhibits on the bridge building and reason it was built. This whole area has a long history of coal mining and this bridge allowed better access travelling for the miners and support staff.

This was also a  travel day from I-40 to Knoxville, TN  and then I-81 to Marion, VA. There are still a LOT of farms in these mountains, cattle and horses plus a lot more sheep than I expected. Why I don't know since I often buy yarn from the Shendoah region of VA and most of it is locally spun and dyed. We stopped for diesel as we were entering Marion and found Farctic Ox's favorite beer.

It is as good as he says but unfortunately not available yet in the North East. Will just have to get by with some of Maine's micro brews.

Hungry Mother State Park was a welcome stop with very clean grounds, hot showers and supposedly wi-fi. Why is it every time we stop at a place to get wi-fi it has always "just gone down?". The IPad works where ever I can get a Verizon signal so was able to keep up with emails. I know - camping is supposed to be a wilderness adventure but we're on the phone call and email alert for Joe's mom all the time.

May 7, 2012 - Mostly interstate travelling over huge hills and dales but kept the 11.2mph on the F350. We'd stayed before at Confluence, PA Corp of Engineers park and did so again. Love those $4-8 a night fees for level, clean and power when you are tired. We do stealth camping as much as possible at the beginning of a trip but find towards the end, full power is a luxury so you aren't watching the solar battery level indicator.

May 8-9th - PA to ME Travel days with heavy rain and wind and the good old East Coast 18 wheeler traffic. Sat for an hour with engine off at Newburg, NY due to a huge wreck with no fatalities (checked internet later). So nice to have your own bath and kitchen with you. Do you ever get the urge to sell sandwiches or bathroom breaks?

We limped into Maine early evening, tired but exhilarated from all the new sites seen.

I'm catching up this blog in July and now, with some time passed, the highlight for this spring beach was Vicksburg. The wealth of history and ease of getting to it was worth every mile. Best in Vicksburg? The "Cairo" exhibit in the national park. Next best would be Ocracoke. We'd like to return there and camp for a few days and really explore those beaches. We age each day as all of us do but hopefully there is time in our lives left for many more trips.