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.

Miles 1452 to 1543

The first week of June 2017 we were able to reserve the last available campsite for three nights in nearby James H. (Sloppy) Floyd State Park, Summerville, Georgia. I fixated on planning meals and Earl focused upon re-evaluating our campsite supplies.

The forecast ahead showed two mild sunny days and two with light rain. What we actually got were hot humid days with very still air.

For the travel and set-up camp day, our Saratoga Jacks Thermal Cooker finished up Lasagna in the top pan for lunch. Corn on the cob and sweet potatoes cooked in the bottom to add as side dishes to grilled pork chops for supper.

During the rest of camp, we ended up just eating light meals because the heat diminished our appetites. Along with breakfasts and suppers prepared at home for camp cooking, we also relied on prepped salads and fillings for lettuce wraps to make lunches easy.

Lettuce Wraps with Side Salads

Lentil & Ground Turkey Sloppy Joes Lettuce Wraps with Side Salads

To escape the heat the people around us retreated into their RVs during midday to dusk. We had a great ceiling fan, even air conditioning, and comfortable seating in the Vistabule. Still, we also wanted to enjoy being outdoors.

The humidity and heat made it stifling to sit under the shade of our REI Alcove, even with cold drinks in-hand. Earl suggested getting a box fan and we considered strapping it to the ridge pole of the Alcove. At the Summerville, Georgia Walmart Earl bought a lightweight Mainstays 20″ High-Velocity Fan.

Fan

Mainstays 20″ High-Velocity Fan

I came up with the idea of placing the new fan on the Vistabule’s countertop to serve two purposes. With the screen doors of the pass-through closed, the back of the fan could draw and circulate air through the Vistabule’s cabin from open vents and windows. Meanwhile, the front of the fan blew air into the outdoor sitting area under the Alcove.

Fan on Countertop

High-velocity Fan in Front of Pass-through

It was a surprise that the fan fit between the cabinets of the Vistabule’s counter space so perfectly.

We checked the noise level from various distances surrounding our campsite. The hum of the fan was not intrusive, barely heard beyond a car’s length away. The noise it did make was primarily directed toward the front facing into the Alcove.

The fan’s humming noise did not interfere with our conversation while sitting under the Alcove enjoying the breeze. We were spaced about 3-4 feet away from it. Plus, the white noise and air flow certainly helped me get a comfortable quick nap inside the Vistabule.

We would have left a day or two early without that fan, that is how much it helped us while outdoors during the day. I do not believe any fan could be enough relief when the nighttime temperatures also hold above 90 degrees. At least, our old bodies do not handle heat well anymore!

Thank goodness there were still cool mornings and nights, the teardrop’s ceiling fan provided comfort while we slept.

The high temperatures and humidity made for challenging conditions on our first test run of the teardrop’s air conditioner. What better test than during the hottest part of the day with direct overhead sun?

When the futon was up in the seated position, we found that its doubled over back blocked the air conditioner’s output too much. We tried adjusting vents and placing a bag to hold out the back of the futon more and got some improvement.

When the futon was down in the bed position, allowing full air flow, the air conditioning worked very efficiently.

The forest around our campsite was so quiet and still that we just had one tiny toad visitor to the campsite. I did not even see a squirrel until the last morning. The lake had several ducks. It was along the roads just outside of the state park that we saw more wildlife: three deer, two snakes, one box turtle, and wild turkeys.

We ended up enjoying a relaxing time at James H. (“Sloppy”) Floyd State Park. The campground had a narrow twisty road through the 25 campsites. Sites were roomy and well-equipped.

Tire Jack Chock

Securing Lily the Vistabule Teardrop Trailer

The park was clean, maintained by friendly hosts. Phone reception averaged zero to one bar, with an occasional two bars hiccup in the evenings. It was just enough coverage to track the weather and check news headlines. There was a fishing lake that could not be seen from the campground, but was accessible by taking a short path. Separate picnic areas around the lake were heavily used by the locals on the weekend.

The camp was not far from home and it suited the main purpose of our trip; we got more experience with equipment and organization skills. While we enjoyed our stay, there was nothing in the area that would entice us to return.

Dine

We probably differ from a lot of people in that I decided not to have a propane tank or cookstove installed in our Vistabule. We also do not plan to cook over a regular campfire.

That leaves us using four other ways to cook while traveling: 1) 110 electricity, 2) solar alone or stored as 12 volt power, 3) thermal, and 4) small amounts of wood.

110v Electricity

We live in the deep South and (until Earl retires) will normally be hooked up to campsite electricity to use our Vistabule’s air conditioner during the region’s extended season of hot weather. So, the use of electricity for a single burner induction cooktop and an electric pot for boiling water will not add additional expense.

[Also, both appliances are used at home.]

Another advantage to having the induction cooktop is that it is safe to use indoors. In dire need, should bad weather require it, there is an electrical outlet in the pass through of the Vistabule.

Thermal

Combined with the two 110v appliances, a 5.5 liter Saratoga Jacks thermal cooker adds an additional option for preparing meals. It can sit in the car cooking dinner while driving down the road or be placed on the galley countertop when we are in camp.

[Plus, it is handy at home and for Earl to carry on the train to work for pot luck dishes.]

The thermal cooker is similar to a crockpot, yet adds the efficient qualities of a thermos. Food is heated to boiling for a short time then placed in the thermal cooker to finish cooking – without being hooked up to any power source. It also holds the food at temperatures safe to eat, and without burning, for hours until ready to serve.

The electrical and thermal combination allows us to quickly prepare all of the day’s meals during the (relative) cool of the morning. Though, the thermal cooker can also be set up to cook breakfast overnight, a hot meal waiting for us in the morning.

[At home, the thermal “cooker” can also be used to retain cold temperatures by first cooling the large inner pot in a refrigerator or freezer. That makes it great for carrying ice cream or cold salad to a gathering.]

Solar / 12v

We also opted to get solar panels which provide additional stored battery power for the Teardrop’s 12 volt system. So, we can go off grid.

For “cooking”, right now we only have a little Roadpro 12 volt Beverage Heater – an immersion element to warm soup, tea or coffee.

There is a 12v outlet in the pass through, so we could also use this while seated inside the Vistabule.

Wood

As a backup or extra cook surface, I splurged for a BioLite CampStove2 that uses small amounts of wood. Our model is lightweight and sized for two people. It will take a good long while for the savings in wood to equal the BioLite price, that’s for certain. (Fingers crossed for a long life!) Meanwhile, the BioLite gives us a quick, easy way to grill and cook off grid and it has additional features.

We will use it in combination with the thermal cooker.

Kitchen to Galley

This all adds up to learning slightly different techniques and routines for cooking. Remember what it felt like when first learning how to get a full meal completed, timing the sides and main dish to be ready for serving at the same time? Moving from a full kitchen to a small galley will also take some experimentation. It will be a fun challenge!

Miles 975 – 1451

Heading out of Lake Poinsett State Park into a beautiful morning we continued on the Interstate through Memphis.

Half way to Nashville, TN there was an exit for the Natchez Trace State Park, so we veered off the Interstate to drive into the park. We found the park’s Pin Oak Lodge open for lunch.

Pin Oak Lodage, Tennessee

Pin Oak Lodge at Natchez Trace State Park, Tennessee

I had once driven along a section of the Natchez Trace Parkway in Mississippi, but Earl had never heard of it. I explained it to him as an old Indian Trail stretching from Tennessee to Mississippi that was a significant route during the Civil War.

Later I read that this Natchez Trace State Park in Tennessee is on an alternate route of the Old Natchez Trail.

Natchez State Park Wildersville, Tennessee

Back on the Interstate, a light state of doldrums seemed to hit both of us as we realized our trip was coming to an end. We were back into familiar territory with work and home crowding into our thoughts.

At a reststop in the afternoon, we gave two more couples tours of the Vistabule before getting back on the road.

As the Interstate curved northeast to Nashville we decided on another night at a hotel. We figured the break would leave us rested and we could arrive home the next day with plenty of time and energy to unpack and secure Lily in her storage unit.

Early on the final day we were on the last stretch of Interstate heading southeast homeward bound. We made a beeline from Nashville to our Georgia destination.

It really was bittersweet to have to end our first journey with Lily.

I was a bit sad that it had not felt wise to take the more northern route as previously planned, due to areas of flooding and additional storms along the way.

We had missed out on campgrounds I had planned for us to visit, like Big Spring, Missouri, Land Between the Lakes, and Mammoth Caves, KY. They were places I had been to as a child and wanted Earl to experience.

Earl was more philosophical, He reminded me that with Lily we could go to the places we missed at another time, and we had already made great memories on the trip as it was. He reassured me that we fulfilled the objective of the trip; we picked-up our new Vistabule, got broken in with towing her, and brought her home.

So, our take away lesson from traveling to pick up Lily our Vistabule Teardrop Trailer has been:
Part of the fun of a trip is in the anticipation of planning for it.
Part of the fun of a trip is in enjoying it as it happens.
Part of the fun of a trip is in reliving the memories of it.

Miles 717 – 974

The Lake Fort Smith park ranger had given Earl a tip about where to locate a more sturdy permanent coupler lock than the one we were using.

We easily found Crabtree RV Center in Alma, Arkansas and bought a couple of items. They have a well organized set up of services and seem to handle just about anything that pertains to RVs.

The sales clerk was interested to see our Teardrop, plus he had the excuse of coming out to check that the lock fit properly. So, he had a tour. As he and Earl headed back into the store to complete the purchase, a lady drove up and started asking questions. She said she had a year old Casita that bounced all over the road when towed, so she wanted to replace it. I was happy to show her our amenities and explain how well the Vistabule behaved while towed.

Near Alma, Arkansas we switched to Interstate 40 heading east.

Northwest of Memphis, we camped at Lake Poinsett State Park, Arkansas.

Lake Poinsett State Park

Lake Poinsett State Park, Arkansas

It was a lovely wooded campground. We decided to stay a couple of nights as a break from driving. The slightly higher priced lakeside campsites seemed to have mere glimpses of the lake due to so many trees. On a walk around the campground loop, I was delighted to see a Little Free Library.

Little Free Library

Little Free Library – Lake Poinsett State Park Campground

Our site was just a bit of a walk from the restrooms. It was an excuse to try out erecting the changing room tent and placing a portable toilet in it.

Lake Poinsett SP Campsite

Campsite – Lake Poinsett State Park, Arkansas

We angled the little rectangular changing room tent to give us a bit of privacy from the other campsites.

Campsite Set Up

Campsite Set Up at Lake Poinsett

Later we found that it was too close to the teardrop. When we propped open the Vistabule’s door, the corners almost touched and did not leave room to walk between the two. Another mistake was placing down an outdoor rug as an afterthought. We just folded it to fit the space as well as possible. Live and learn.

Teardrop Traveling: Camp Set Up Tips

For two nights, we were parked next to a gleaming restored vintage Airstream. I would have loved to see inside, and kicked myself later for not chatting up the owners. Shiny silver Lily was like a mini-me to the Airstream.

Open Galley

Open Galley at Lake Poinsett State Park

Meanwhile, the Vistabule was a minor celebrity at the campground. We had three groups come through to tour and ask lots of questions during our stay.

NEWS UPDATE: Lake Poinsett is scheduled to be drained during late summer 2017 for structural repairs and projects to revitalize the habitat. After work is completed, the lake is expected to refill naturally by 2020 or 2021.

Region 8 ABC News: Fishing lake to be drained this summer, remain closed for years