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Saturday, September 28, 2019 No comments

At last… breaking in our new old camper

Beats camping in a tent, says my 60 year old back.
Not quite everything came together last weekend, but good enough: Mason had fall break, I finally got a plate for the Starflyer, we have M.O. the B.B. (Massive Overkill, the Big Butt, aka The Boy’s moving truck)—and most important, we got a brief break in the constant 90F+ weather. Time to go camping, dangit!

There were a couple of maintenance items I wanted to deal with on the Starflyer before we left, so I opened it up in the driveway Thursday evening. I poked at things, and Mason figured since we had it set up, we might as well sleep in it.

Why not? Of course, that meant Charlie would be sleeping with us, but he thinks the camper is really fun to hang out in. So that’s what we did Friday night.

I’m not ready to go to sleep just yet!
I was worried about Charlie’s sleeping arrangements—he’s a flip-flopper in bed—but then I looked under the dining table. A little experimenting found that two of the seatback cushions fit perfectly in the space where the table (usually) goes, and a crib sheet fits perfectly over them. I put the table outside, and had Charlie’s sleep cave set up in no time.

Of course, when Mason got in bed (back-side bunk), Charlie decided that was the perfect place for him to sack out as well. Mason protested, but Charlie didn’t give him too much hassle and both the boys were asleep before too long. I scooped up Charlie and put him in his sleep cave, adding a cushion at his feet in case he decided to migrate. He woke up in the 3 a.m. hour, which isn’t unusual, but I understood his motivation. The low that night was around 58F, and there’s not a furnace in the camper, and one blanket wasn’t sufficient. Charlie likes his feet cold, but not that cold. I put him in bed with me, made sure he was covered, and tried to warm his feet up. He pulled up close until he got slightly warm, then rolled away.

Saturday morning rolled around, and Mason was itching to get on the ROAD. I had a similar itch, but knew there were a couple things I needed to take care of first. One was easier than expected, one was close to estimated effort, and one was beyond ridiculous.

The easy one turned out to be the weatherstrip under the front (large) bunk. It's basically a plastic angle bracket, and all but about 6 inches had detached and was laying loose. The previous owner just stuffed 2" A/C foam in the gap and called it good. At first, I thought I might have to push the bunk in a couple feet, lay on the floor, and staple it up—instead, pushing it in about a foot was enough to kneel on a cushion and do the job.

Next up was the sink faucet. Starcraft cut too much wood out of the countertop for the faucet, leaving the screws in the back trying to grab air. Someone came up with the “clever” idea of turning it backwards, allowing the hand pump to function… but with any torque in the opposite direction, the faucet lifted off the countertop. My clever idea was to use longer screws, because there was some wood for them to bite into down below, but it didn’t work. My solution was to replace the wood screws with long machine screws, using a washer and nut to hold it in place. It worked! Longer-term, I’m going to replace that countertop.

The hard one was the tires. They want 80PSI(!), and my air compressor had a cracked hose. Try as I might, I could not get more than 50PSI into the tires. Fortunately, I was trying this part on Friday evening, so I knew I needed to get a new air hose on Saturday. But then I had to find a connector that the air chucks would snap into, and find an air chuck that would actually push air into the tires. Fortunately, I had them here at the manor. The spare needs to be replaced, because it has cracks in the sidewalls, but the primary tires were fine and I was only going 40 miles.

Time for the main event! I backed M.O. the B.B. into position. A few years ago, I was coming home from work and found a drawbar with a 3-1/2" drop on the road… with a 2" ball, which just happens to be the Starflyer’s size. In a way, someone’s loss was part of what got me serious about finding a camper. I really need a 6" drop drawbar with this behemoth, but it got us there and back.

Now let me tell you about M.O. the B.B. Earlier this year, The Boy needed a truck to pull the 26' moving trailers he was using for his new business. Due to a number of circumstances, mostly having to do with my employer getting acquired, I had a large pool of cash in a brokerage account. I figured that (assuming the business worked out) I could get a better return on investing in Let’s Get Movin’ than any CD and most stocks. So we bought him this gigantic TPC: a Ram 3500 diesel dualie. I’m not exactly sure what the tow capacity is on this thing, but it’s measured in tons. The Starflyer’s empty weight is 1700 pounds, and I would have to pack lots of junk to get it to a single ton.

The other thing: I had hoped The Boy would come with us on this trip. I had planned to give him and Mason the big bunk up front, and I’d go to the back of the camper. It would have been worth it.

But I digress. As expected, the truck was going “Trailer? I’m pulling a trailer? Really?” all the way to the campground, LOL. The dualie’s big butt is wider than the 7-foot camper; so I knew if I could see stripes in the side-view mirrors, the Starflyer was on the road. It inspired confidence… which evaporated as soon as I tried to back into the site we selected. I need lots of practice backing a trailer. This was something I was hoping The Boy would help me learn. But I figure he was having a good laugh at my expense, as Mason kept going “You’re about to hit the TREE!” and similar sentiments. Eventually, I got it backed in, detached, and we got set up. I had a leveler and extreme-heavy-duty extension cord, but neither were needed. There was some drama associated with the water hookup, most of which was debris in the threads, but I think a new washer will fix it. The A/C was less easy to deal with: it spun up, but I didn’t feel any air coming out the vents (cold or otherwise). After about 15 minutes, it shut down and would not start again. I think something froze up and blew a fuse.

Otherwise, I think the spot I selected was perfect: right across from the bath house (the Starflyer has a Porta-Potti, but that’s for late-night needs), almost across from the playground, and a short walk to the lake. Of course, the lakeside sites were occupied, but we had plenty of space. Mason spent a lot of time fishing (no luck) and meeting other kids more or less his age (better luck). I cooked meals, rode my bike around a little, and had some quality time with my Kindle. If you’ve never been camping, and have kids, you’re missing out on a huge opportunity. The kids take off, and leave you with lots of quiet time. I remember this from the camping trips we took when I was a kid… thankfully, some things don’t change.

Sunday had us going to Newnan for Zoey’s birthday party. That ran longer than I expected (and Mason hoped), but we still had lots of fun and I let Mason stay up late to compensate. He rode his bike around the dark campground until 10:30 or so, then he was ready to pack it in for the night.

Breakfast, anyone?
Each morning. I used the inside stove to heat water for my French press, and poured the excess into a pump pot for washing and the like. For everything else, I have this three-burner Coleman white-gas stove that the father in law gave me. It must be close to 50 years old, at a minimum. I replaced the pump seals a year or two ago, and there was still pressure in the tank when I opened it Saturday morning to add fuel! Bacon and eggs in the morning… breakfast of champions.

As expected, Mason made himself scarce for the breaking-camp part on Monday morning, despite me telling him we had a pretty tight schedule (I had a work call at noon). I got him to chuck a couple things into the truck, but that was about it. Fortunately, I had planned for that. I got camp broke down, and we got on the road in good order.

The big question now is: how soon can we get out again? The way things are going this year, we should have good camping opportunities (weather-wise) well into November and maybe later.


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