Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Revisiting old friends (and old camping ways!)

Six years ago, I signed up for my very first T@B Trailer camping rally unaware of the long-lasting friendships that would result.  That 2007 rally in Minden, Nebraska was a heck of a fun time, and it lead me and a fellow T@B owner, Judi, to host two of our own T@B rallies in the Midwest during the next year where we met and formed even more cherished camping friendships.

While some of us have long-since traded our T@Bs for different camping vehicles, and others have taken over the duties of planning and hosting these camping rallies, the group continues to grow and and welcome everyone who loves to share good food at a potluck or good laughs around the evening campfire.

T@Bbers enjoy the insides of their tiny campers, but enjoy spending time outside of them even more—whether it be reading a book or playing cards beneath their awning, cooking outdoors, going for a hike or a paddle, or chatting with friends around the campfire.  This group isn’t into catered dinners, guided tourbus excursions, or annual board member elections.  We’re casual, come as you are, do as you like…everyone is welcome and accepted.

But, even so, I still thought I’d better bring my T@B if I was coming to a T@B rally!

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It fit in nicely with the real T@Bs at Rock Creek State Park (in central Iowa).
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While I could have easily taken the View, I decided to push hard to get the Lynnebago van ready for its first campout.  Accommodations were pretty minimal, but were surprisingly comfortable (the LynnieViews blog has full details on my initial Lynnebago camping gear).  There wasn’t a whole lot from the View that I missed (other than the bathroom with hot shower!), but then again, the weather was absolutely ideal for camping—low 70’s during the day and upper 50’s at night.

It took me much longer to sort through all my camping gear and pack the van for the first time, but by 5:00pm, we were finally on the road and headed to Iowa!

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I stopped to get some dinner to bring back to eat in the van and realized I had forgotten to bring a Table-Mate tray table.  But my new AC/DC cooler fridge was tall enough to serve as a handy side table when my driver’s seat was swiveled around.  The passenger seat also made a nice footstool!

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We arrived to the campground just before 11pm.  Fortunately (or not), there were still some loud campers partying so my Sprinter diesel did not wake up the neighborhood. The van was easy enough to level with just one of my Tri-level ramps set beneath the rear wheel.

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For my fancy electrical needs, I simply threw a long extension cord out the back door of the van and plugged it into the standard household socket on the campsite’s electric post.  On the other end of the cord inside the van, I plugged in a basic multi-outlet power strip.  Pretty simple!

Most of my stuff could run either off the AGM battery except for a ceramic heater (which I only needed to use one morning for a few minutes), and this lovely rope light that I ran around the ceiling line of the van to give the Hillbilly Hilton a more upscale look!
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Outside, the next morning, I put up my new PahaQue screenroom to add another 100 square-feet of living space.  Millie considered it her new dog house and enjoyed napping in there all day long.

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Once camp was set up, I took Millie down to the lake to do what she loves to do best….swim!
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Our nice garden flag post from my camper friend, Judi, made a nice place to hang Millie’s water toy to dry out!
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On Saturday morning, the camp rally’s host, David, wanted to take me paddling to the northern section of Rock Creek.  We had talked about doing this for a few years but I had never managed to make it to the Rock Creek rally until now.  But this time I was ready and brought my inflatable Sea Eagle in the back of the van.  I proudly got it out and ready to start pumping up when I realized I had forgotten to bring one critical element-- my paddle.  ARGH!!! 

Not to worry, though.  David ran up to the concession stand, and the the gal that runs it scoured the storage room to find one lone, neglected kayak paddle in the back.  That’ll do!  We finally got onto the water around 9 am and had a wonderful 3-hour paddle across a beaver dam and up into the far narrows of the creek seeing lots of birds, raptors, and water fowl along the way.

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Back at camp, it was time to prepare for the evening potluck dinner.  Skies were threatening all afternoon, and my little Weber grill cooked my grilled veggies a bit slower than anticipated, but we managed to get the dish delivered as the first few raindrops started falling.  The rain then stopped long enough for us to all enjoy our dinner and share a few laughs.

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While crowded with lots of “weekend warrior” campers, the park was delightful and relaxing, especially in the early morning for Millie’s first walk of the day.
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I left the rally on Sunday to head back towards the Quad Cities to camp overnight with my good T@B friend, Judi.  On the way, I stopped to take a quick drive through the Grinnell College campus in Grinnell, IA where my grandfather had once taught back in the 1940’s and preached at their nice chapel.  What a pretty little campus!  It reminded me a lot of my alma matter, Stephens College.

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We arrived to Scott County Park and found Judi waiting with her terrific little white stealthy Sportsmobile in a peaceful camping loop called Pine Grove.  We did not let a few rain drops or a few thousand buffalo gnats deter us from a fun visit.  We each took turns sitting in each other’s new van, and by evening, the rain and gnats had subsided and we were able to sit around my little LP campfire to talk the night away.

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The next morning, Millie and I awoke to a magical fog that had settled into our cozy camp.

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We said our goodbyes mid-morning and by the time we headed across the Mississippi river at Clinton, Iowa and back into Illinois, the sun was shining on a beautiful day.

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My master naturalist class has recently been studying tall grass prairies, so I decided to stop at Nachusa Grasslands near Dixon, Illinois, a restored prairie run by The Nature Conservancy.  No “prairie dogs” allowed, so Millie had to stay in the van.

It’s still a bit early in the season for the prairie flowers to bloom of grasses to get super tall, so I hope to return later this summer to do more exploration and photography.  A lovely place, that gives one a real sense of what Illinois must have looked like before John Deere’s steel plow got a hold of it!

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We meandered along the back roads all the way home (getting well over 20 mpg to boot!).  A restorative long weekend for both Lynne and Millie, and successful maiden voyage for the Lynnebago!

7 comments:

  1. There are a few Tab trailers with those screen room attachments at the KOA here. Do you find it difficult to make something for potlucks or to have enough to eat (vegetarian) at potlucks?

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  2. I kept it simple this time around-- just some chopped up veggies on the grill doused with a bit of balsamic vinaigrette. Eating vegan would have been a real challenge for this particular potluck (my dish was the only one!). But, there were a few vegetarian options, so between giving myself a large serving from my own dish, I was able to make a decent meal. The main dessert was strawberry shortcake, so I felt perfectly guiltless about eating that too!

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  3. Do you ever yearn to go back and have a T@b camper again? Just asking, because we have a montrously large 5th wheel, and sometimes I just feel like exchanging it for a simple A-liner. Fewer comforts of home, yet much simpler to maneuver, park, and sightsee.

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    1. The Lynnebago really feels like T@B camping-- super small and super simple, but even better because I don't have to hitch up and tow anything, and when I want to go day-touring, I have everything with me just like the View (potty, kitchen, etc) except in a smaller, stealthy, better-MPG vehicle. Not sure how I'll feel in extreme heat or cold, or when having to boondock for an extended time (a bigger motorhome will likely be a lot more appreciated), but for weekend camping with ideal weather temps, the van was awesome!

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  4. Hi Lynne,
    Thank you for sharing your solo camping experiences. I am 49 and have rv camped in the past, but never solo. for two years, I've been wanting to plow through my fears and venture out on a solo trip - however, I don't own my own Rv so I would have to rent one. What advice can you offer to help me decide if this would be a wise decision, and how best can I prepare ?
    Thanks, Cindy

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  5. Buy a tent and try some weekend car camping trips. What you learn from tent camping will always serve you well when RVing later. As you can see from my Lynnebago experience, I'm now re-using lots of my old tent camping gear (i.e. using a tent camping cot/mattress, stove, porta potti, etc). Tent camping doesn't have to be that "rough"!

    My first solo RV experience was renting an RV in Alaska for a week. I flew into Anchorage and the RV rental place was right near the airport and provided the class C Winnebago RV with everything I'd need except food! Nothing to be fearful about up there as practically everyone else up there was a tourist in a rental RV as well! That confirmed for me that I wanted to RV and as soon as I got home I bought a pop-up trailer.

    The only drawback to renting an RV is the expense. I'd only recommend it for a short period of time, or if you're going far away and can't really drive there (i.e. New Zealand, Iceland, etc). But once you confirm that you really like RVing, time to start looking for one you can afford (used models will usually give you a much better bang for the buck).

    Don't let irrational fears keep you from your dreams! Except for that a few minutes one night in Kentucky, I've never had any other time in the past 10 years when I've felt the least bit fearful. RVers are great people and you'll usually be safer in a campground than in the city!

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    Replies
    1. Thank you for your wisdom and invaluable advice!
      camp on!!
      :-)

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