Dawdle: Total Eclipse Plans

While lazing around to recover from my fall, there has been plenty of time to think about our upcoming camping trip and major event: The Total Solar Eclipse on Monday, August 21, 2017.

The weather forecast shows a chance of rain in our greater southeast region for the weekend. Current projections are 50%-60% scattered rain with light winds for the campground Friday through Sunday, while Monday’s odds improve to partly cloudy and 20% rain.

It will be our first camp out in such damp conditions. Running the air conditioner will help control humidity when inside of Lily, our Vistabule Teardrop Trailer. Back up will be a DampRid Hanging Moisture Absorber found at a local Home Depot.

As a future precaution, when Lily is in storage, we plan to buy DampRid’s Disposable Moisture Absorber with Activated Charcoal for RVs because it is refillable. Click here to go to the DampRid website to view their products.

I have also been thinking a lot about how to set up the campsite to keep us relatively dry. We are still camping novices, figuring out what to do as we go along.

Image: Empty Campsite

The Empty Campsite
(Photo courtesy of reserveamerica.com)

For this trip we have a huge curved pull-thru site. The parking area is 52′ long and 13′ wide. It adjoins the “living area” which is 40′ long and 11′ wide. Both areas are gravel. There does not appear to be any problem with staking shelters in the combined 40′ x 24′ space. The electric and water posts are at center along the outside of the parking area. The fire ring is centered towards the opposite side, halfway into the living area. The picnic table is movable, though we don’t expect to use it.

Image: Model of a camp setup

Modeling a camp set-up

I made a rough scale model to work out different camp set-ups. Then, saved photos of the best configurations to my iPad. The models are laid out as if the pull-thru is straight, though it is actually curved. That should not make much difference in this case. We shall see.

I was considering a number of situations.
1. If the sliver of lake view is not blocked by large RVs, angle Lily to take advantage of that view between the other campsites.
2. To avoid tripping hazards along our walk areas, watch placement of staked lines for the shelters.
3. Also, keep the electrical cord and water hose under the Vistabule, out of walk areas.
4. Remember to work around the stationary fire ring.
5. Allow space for walking areas on both sides of the Vistabule when shelter side walls are used
6. When not using the side walls, think about best views.
7. For muggy hot weather, control the sound level of the outside fan so that its noise does not disturb other campers.
8. Think about how to secure our campsite items when away.

A major consideration is also being worked out for an Autumn outing, when we return to the same campsite. There will be a group gathering in another area of the campground. Visiting back and forth with the rest of the Teardroppers means we want to take advantage of our large site by keeping space clear for visitor parking.

Naturally, we will not know how plans from the model will work out until we get to the campsite. Between rain drops, we may be spending some time entertaining ourselves by moving shelters around.

For August 21st, all thoughts go to the Total Solar Eclipse!

Image: Total Solar Eclipse Path Over SE Tennessee

Total Solar Eclipse Path Over SE Tennessee: 8/21/2017
(Photo courtesy of US taxpayer money at eclipse2017nasa.gov)

Our campsite is along the outer edge of the eclipse, north northeast of Chattanooga, TN with 99.94% of totality.

However, sadly, I have read that even 99.9% is not the true experience of totality. Plus, a scientist warned that on maps the southern boundary of the path of the eclipse’s totality are wrong (even NASA’s), from a football length to a mile off. Much of the width of the band for seeing the Total Solar Eclipse is closer to 69 miles wide than 70.

Many schools in the region will be closed. It is expected that most of the population of Tennessee, plus hoards of visitors (like us) from out of state, with be making their way to festivals and viewing sites. So, I studied online maps in an effort to find potential quiet spots. Our plan is to enjoy a festival in the morning before heading out to a less crowded afternoon viewing spot.

We will have a couple of days to look around the surrounding area before the big event happens. Could simply decide that the .06% gain is not enough to get us up and out of the campground into traffic, but that is doubtful.

Dawdle – Laid Out

This is a Thursday. Last Monday night I stubbed my toes and tilted off balance. My rib cage slammed against a hard floor. In spite of all the padding my body carries around, just had to aim for skin and bones.

Have not seen any surface bruising or swelling, but the deep pain makes itself well known. It feels similar to slamming your finger in the car door; just over a much larger area, with sharp stabbing edges and general pain that takes much longer to subside.

Google accounts repeatedly state that it will take four weeks to recover from bruised ribs, meaning that is the time it takes to be able not to fear sharp pain from sneezing or laughing. Do have to remember to take some daily deep breaths (pain or no pain) to keep all the pipes clear.

Thankfully, I have a fairly high pain threshold and have always healed quickly from previous injuries. Even in old age, my expectation is to get through this in record time. We definitely want to to be ready and able to head out for our upcoming 2017 Total Solar Eclipse camping trip, the third week of August.

Instead of feeling foolish for falling, there is recognition of my failing an important responsibility. My husband, Earl, has impaired eyesight and is legally blind, so the State (wisely) no longer gives him a driver’s license. Driving is one of the things I handle for us. Earl, in turn, takes care of many of my shortfalls. This time, very literally.

My fall “drives” home all of the reasons we escaped the suburbs and downsized to an urban apartment in our late fifties, well before normal retirement age.

We now live smack in the midst of shopping and healthcare facilities; within two blocks to a transit station. A bus stops at the doorstep of our apartment, and the light rail train takes Earl into the city to his workplace or we can continue across the city to the airport. Either of us can obtain necessities by delivery, walking, commercial drivers, bus or train. Our car often sits in the parking garage for a couple of weeks at a time.

Conversely, the fall also emphasized my “drive” to purchase our Vistabule Teardrop Trailer for more pleasure trips.

Earl lost his 20/20 vision by his early twenties. We met in our mid-fifties. Before we met, I was able to travel a good deal more than Earl. Yet, he is a person that is very open to new experiences, enjoys learning (especially about tech, science and nature) and he sees the good in people. Before I reach the age that I “can not drive”, my most heartfelt aim is to take Earl traveling to meet as many new sights, experiences, and people as possible.

For now, it is my responsibility to get healthy and ready to drive again!

Learning Curves: Selecting Campgrounds

The criteria for making campground choices is unique to our travel style and desired activities, but the need to locate campgrounds is universal.

Due to the extreme heat of the summer, we are sticking to weekend day trips to get a drive through view of some of our nearby campgrounds.

I am retired and have the benefit of free time to throughly research and screen numerous campgrounds. In his free time, Earl also spot checks areas online and brings up locations that I overlooked.

That means searching a 200 mile radius from Lily’s storage facility in north Georgia, roughly an easy half day drive. That area includes slices of four neighboring states: Alabama, Tennessee, North Carolina and South Carolina, along with the upper half of our home state Georgia.

Image: Target Base Camp Area

Target Base Camp Area: Continental United States view adapted from a free map provided at 50States.com

Before heading out on a day trip “inspection” we have selected locations from campground icons on Google Maps, mentions in camper’s blogs, Facebook group pages, camping apps, TripAdvisor comments and online reviews from various sources.

We also look over campsite photos and amenities, compare campground maps to Google earth views, check routes on Mapquest and route elevation apps, plus look over campground rules and regulations for even more information.

We want to select a few campgrounds to use over and over for short weekend camping trips, and as possible base camps for the first and last nights of any of our long trips. Through this research process a lot of area campgrounds have been screened and disregarded.

An upcoming post will feature a review of our first researched campground selection. We are looking forward to using our appealing basecamp during a trip that will include viewing the Total Solar Eclipse on August 21, 2017.

Organization Series 2 of 5: Car

At long last, I am sharing an overview of camping items loaded into our car. We do not intend to take everything each time we head out. (For instance, we may take just one RV mat or tent on a short trip.) The goal is to plan well once and be prepared for different types of trips.

Prior to planning, I made several command decisions.

1. Items in the very back of the car will fit under the hatch cover, protected from sunlight and prying eyes.

2. The back seats will not be laid down. I want it to be easy to clear the seating area for passengers.

3. The driver’s sight lines must remain clear.

4. The car’s contents have to be kept in order, because we both need to be aware of every item’s whereabouts.

A few of the labels are still being worked out, but I did not want to delay this post any longer.

Driver’s Side

Back of driver’s front seat: – 8 Hanging Pockets
What was originally a door length pocket organizer was shortened for the back of the driver’s seat. (At a campsite, it can be transferred to hang in the corner of the shelter. It holds items we do not want to store in the heat of the storage room, so it is convenient that we can also hang the pockets in a closet at home.)
1. Pain Relief pills & Salve
2. Bandaids & Tissues
3. Neosporin
4. Insect Spray
5. (As needed)
6. (As needed)
7. Sun Screen & Chapstick
8. Hand Sanitizer & Wipes

Image: Behind Driver's Seat

Behind Driver’s Seat

Floor behind driver:
1 – 2 folded 8’X5′ RV mats & 2 runners

Back seat behind driver:
Portable toilet in box (covered with old blanket, cut and sewn to fit)

Image: Driver's Side

Driver’s Side

Center of Back Seat

Medium sized cooler & 3-4 Blue Ice Blocks
(To delete the mess and expense of using bags of ice, we will keep 3 Blue Ice Blocks in the cooler and 1 in the Vistabule freezer at all times. In rotation, a Blue Ice block will be moved to the bottom of the Vistabule freezer before breakfast and after supper – about every 12 hours. The cooler is lined with Reflectix, so we hope that the mass of 3 Blue Ice Blocks will keep drinks chilled in the cooler by using the rotation plan. That saves the galley refrigerator/freezer for food items.)

Passenger’s Side

Back of passenger’s front seat:
2. In Net Pocket: Rain Coat

Floor behind passenger:
1. Saratoga Jacks Thermal Cooker
2. Soft Bag (Black) for Electronics:
A. Solar Chargers
B. A/C Chargers
C. External Battery Pack
D. Spare Electronic Cords
3. Small Soft Bag (Green) for Batteries, packed as needed
(not seen in photo)
4. Attaché Case
(Holds iPads, maps and trip related information)
5. Folded Rain jacket
6. Small Sun Hat

Image: Behind Passenger's Seat

Behind Passenger’s Seat

Back Seat Behind Passenger:
1. Two stacked plastic boxes (while in transit) to stow a rotation of shoes: shower shoes, sneakers or hiking boots & slip on shoes
(These boxes can go on the TDT’s fenders or beneath the TDT’s doorways while in camp. The boxes keep shoes dry and bug free. If heavy rain is expected, or the camp does not allow loose items outside, the shoe boxes are taken inside the cabin and stacked between our feet or can be set on the galley counter and reached through the pass thru.)
2. Large Sun Hat

Image: Passenger's Side

Passenger’s Side

Hatch Area

Behind passenger seats:
2 plastic totes
(These are stored at home between trips.)
A. Colleen’s clothes, towel and toiletries bag
B. Earl’s clothes, towel and toiletries bag
C. Zip Bag (to hold soap and plastic bags for dirty laundry) atop one of the totes. (Filled dirty clothes bags will share back hatch space with tents.)

Image: Totes for Clothes and Toiletries

Totes for Clothes and Toiletries

Between wheel wells:
Top: 3 plastic storage boxes (across top of drawer units)
1. Driver’s Side – Games, Books and Writing Supplies
2. Middle – foil, extra paper towels, storage bags & napkins
3. Passenger’s Side – shower curtains and shower curtain rings (used as side walls, also as an outdoor projection screen. There is one additional liner, stored in the cabin, that is cut one down to size for an indoor projection screen.)
Bottom: 3 units of storage drawers (3 sallow drawers each)
1. Driver’s Side – Site supplies
A. Top – Art Supplies / Dry Eraser Sign Board & Manuals Folder)
B. Center – Hooks / Table Cloths
C. Bottom – Clips / String Lights
2. Middle – Dry food
A. Top – Dry Cereals / Dry Grains
B. Center – Dry Sauces / Dry Starches
C. Bottom – Canned Meats / Dry Vegetables
3. Passenger’s Side – Small Tools and electronic cables
A. Top – Microfiber Towels/ Set-Up (various tent stakes)
B. Center – Tools / Flash Lights
C. Bottom – Sports Radio / Electronics

Image: Storage Between Wheel Wells

Storage Between Wheel Wells

In back of wheel wells, next to hatch door:
1. RV Fire Extinguisher #1 (A second extinguisher is carried in the Vistabule’s cabin.)
2. REI Alcove Shelter Bag
3. Small Bags for 2 REI Side Walls
4. Changing Tent Bag
5. 12X12 Screen Shelter Bag
6. Space for dirty clothes bag

Image: Back Hatch

Back Hatch

Mission accomplished: the hatch cover closes to hide contents in the back, items around the passenger seat are easy to pull out, the driver’s sight lines are clear, and we both know where to find things.

Image: Hatch Cover Extended

Hatch Cover Extended

It is helpful for us to have this packing guide documented and we are hopeful it may interest others in some way. A couple of the storage ideas are adapted from ideas floating around the Internet and shared on Pinterest, but I do not believe that any of these can be attributed to a different original source.

Please feel welcome to follow, and comment with your suggestions or questions.

The five part Doze Dine Dawdle Organization Series will continue with three additional posts to give more details: 3) Galley, 4) Cabin, and 5) Exterior Storage Box.

Miles 1544 to 1566

The Teardrop enlivens even mundane tasks, taking us down roads we would have never tried, past sights we would have not seen otherwise and into new experiences.

This week we took Lily out of her storage unit to get overdue initial maintenance done: her bearings greased and brakes adjusted.

On the way to a neighboring small town RV sales and service business, we raced a line of identical camouflaged military vehicles loaded on a freight train.

Train on Bridge Image

Train on Bridge Passes a Stop Sign.

The train and its repetitive load stretched beyond our line of sight. We never saw the total length.

Military Vehicles on Train Image

Stretch of Train Loaded With Military Vehicles

We had to leave the Teardrop at the RV garage Thursday and Friday night, to allow flexibility for fitting our maintenance requests into their workload. The shop workers got their tours of the interior, and told us that the Vistabule Teardrop Trailer would be an attraction in their lot. They even decided to secure her inside of the garage at night.

Before we got out the door, a couple of customers asked to have a close look at Lily. So, we also gave them the complete tour before leaving.

We returned to the garage Saturday and the work was completed as planned. The buzz was that eight very interested people had noticed the Vistabule; four of them offered to buy her on the spot. (No telling if that was exaggerated, or not.) We did see that the mechanic resorted to hiding the Teardrop between two large RVs so that he could get some work done.

On the way back to Lily’s storage unit, we stopped to clean her exterior at a self-serve wash. We take our car to an automated car wash or for a rare hand detailing session, so a DIY wash was a first for us.

Washing the Teardrop Trailer Image

Washing the Vistabule Teardrop Trailer

I made the dial selections and ducked spray as Earl did the actual work. Washing Lily was as close to cleaning a cute baby elephant as I’ll ever get.

Rinsing Lily Image

Rinsing Lily

We barely needed to dry off the Teardrop. The outdoor temperature was 93 or 97 degrees, according to if you believe our car thermometer or the bank’s sign. It is not summer yet! On the way home, we cooled down with ice cream from a Dairy Queen.

Can’t wait to take the Teardrop out to get her dirty again!

Organization part 1 – Initial Steps

This is the first of a five part Doze Dine Dawdle Organization Series to share details: 1) Initial Steps 2) Car, 3) Galley, 4) Cabin, and 5) Exterior Storage Box.

Organizing storage between the Teardrop Trailer, tool box and car has been an ongoing experiment for us. This series will cover our thought (and lack of thought) processes, favorite finds, a few resource links, and inventory lists in parts 2 – 5.

Pre-Teardrop, we had organized bug-out gear with whatever was on hand. That meant stacking labeled shoe boxes into a large suitcase that was never used for its intended purpose. It was similar to a cook box, a way to keep all of the small items packed and ready to go.

Bug-Out Suitcase

Bug-Out Suitcase / Cook Box

A medium sized suitcase held set-up gear and tools for erecting a tent and arranging a campsite. Though bulky, the loaded bags were a successful solution. They could easily be shifted in or out of the car.

Suitcases

Suitcases filled with Bug-Out Gear

A lot of those basic cook box supplies were packed during our first long “shake down” trip from Georgia to Minnesota to pick-up Lily, our Vistabule Teardrop Trailer. Those items were quickly transferred from car into Lily’s storage areas during our first afternoon in a campground.

We still did not know the exact dimensions of the Vistabule’s storage spaces, but I guesstimated and made a inventory list for each drawer and shelf. Our loose plan was to place like items together, near their point of use.

Another consideration was that some cabin storage spaces were blocked when the futon was up or down in the cabin. The lower cabinets next to the air conditioner were easiest to reach at night when the bed was in position. When the sofa was up during the day, the front floor wells were more accessible.

For our second outing the focus became short local trips, and staying in place for several days. Until Earl retires, weekend get-aways will be our primary type of travel. We pared down a few of the supplies, like excess silverware and flashlights.

Yet, we also wanted to include new gear and prepped camp meals. That meant packing additional items into the car, including comfortable camp chairs and a cooler.

The food needed to stay cold on the way to the Teardrop’s storage facility. Plus, the plan for this trip was to use the Teardrop’s refrigerator freezer solely as a freezer and continue using the cooler for chilled foods. (Yes, we (I) ended up taking too much food.)

Anyway, the job of loading everything into the car was left to Earl. He was a fabulous moving-day-style packer. He laid down one of the back seats and juggled the shapes like puzzle pieces. Everything was in without blocking the use of the rearview mirror.

Camping Gear

Car Loaded With Camping Gear

At the campsite, we found ourselves repeatedly shuffling around the things left in the car, searching for whatever was needed. Part of the problem was not being able to return each item to a designated storage spot where we could find it again.

After returning from the trip, we spent a week putting our heads together to plan better organization for the car. That included reconsidering what was stored in the trailer’s cabin during transit and how to handle camp meals. We took a lot of measurements for different areas in the back of the car and tried out placing equipment in proposed spaces. Then, we purchased and labeled new storage pieces.

The Vistabule’s galley and cabin shelves and drawers were also measured in order to line them. The liners were cut and all fit, so that chore was completed. It actually went fairly quick and the numerous measurements were entered into my iPhone Notes for future reference.

Measurements

Interior Shelving and Drawer Measurements Saved To iPhone Notes

As a special mention, from the very beginning, our top online “advisor” has been Cosmo Weems. I watched his videos repeatedly as we considered ordering and outfitting our Teardrop Trailer. We even purchased some products recommended by Cosmo, for example the REI Alcove shelter and collapsible food containers.

Cosmo has a website dedicated to listing the products that are shown on his YouTube channel.  Cosmo Weems: Website Link

His videos showcase his Vistabule Teardrop Trailer, his love of the outdoors and “real” food, campsites visited, plus his thoughts about the camping products he has used.  Cosmo Weems: YouTube Channel Link

The five part Doze Dine Dawdle Organization Series will continue with four additional posts to share more details: 2) Car, 3) Galley, 4) Cabin, and 5) Exterior Storage Box.

If you are not already a follower: To receive a notice as the segments are added, hit the blue “Follow Button” at the bottom of the righthand menu column.

Camp Sign

Due to Teardrop Trailers having a retro vibe from an interesting history, the Glamping trend and the fact that Teardrop Trailers are just so darn cute, one of the things a new owner may fret about is creating a nice looking campsite. If you need a nudge to find it important, there are plenty of great images on Pinterest showcasing decoration themes, color schemes and customized projects used to create special camp settings.

On the way to gaining our functional items, we ended up with an eclectic mix of whatever colors the manufacturers were offering this year. There were choices of greens and grays, browns and cream colors that none quite matched or coordinated with each other. So, I have several projects to complete in the future to up our decorating game.

Earl purchased a wire garden signpost on Amazon to get things started. This weekend I made a camp sign to coordinate with our Vistabule galley’s olive green batwings and the cabin’s window shades.

As a base for the sign, we picked a cheap pink plastic placemat from Target because the size was right to fit the signpost and it was a sturdy thickness, heavy enough to hang straight down on its own.

The placemat was given two layers of silver gray acrylic paint as a primer coat. Then I freehand sketched a Vistabule image to size. I also stained a small pair of clogs that we may hang from the corner of the signpost.

The second step was to come up with some wording and determine the size of lettering needed for the sign. So, I made a mockup to run pass Earl for his input.

Mockup of Camp Sign

Mockup of Camp Sign

Next it was time to paint the Vistabule image onto the placemat, using the primer as the base color of the Teardrop Trailer. Adding the Olive colored background was the step that gave me a sense of what the completed sign would look like.

Vistabule and Olive Background

Vistabule and Olive Background

Then, there was a final decision made on which font to use.

Final Font Choice

Final Font Choice: Georgia

After resizing and arranging the lettering on Photoshop, I printed words out and transferred them using the old fashioned method of burnishing carbon paper to mark them only to the surface of the sign. Then, paint or markers were used to fill in and outline each letter.

Camp Sign

Camp Sign

Champagne gold is the color of our tow car, so I used it for the title. Our names were added to the clogs, but I did not like the result. So, the clogs may be redone someday.

Sign and Clogs

Sign and Clogs

All that is left is to give the camp sign a protective clear coat and punch holes to be able to hang it.