Monday, September 28, 2009

South Dakota

Well, we made it! Our first night was spent in Sioux City in a funny little park named after Yogi Bear. I guess it was geared for children but it worked out fine for us as well. Nice showers, and we’re finding that to be an important part of our camping across America. And it is camping, no matter how you want to couch it. We like camping though. The showers. Remember I mentioned that having a shower in the trailer was an important feature? We haven’t used it yet though, I guess it’s good to know we can. You’d have to straddle the toilet and wrap yourself in the shower curtain but it’s good to know we have it.

A quick toilet paper story, if I may. I discovered a clever device left in the shower/toilet closet, I think it may have been left by the previous owners. It looked like a miniature version of something we found in our little barn when we restored it, and we believe that one involved the hanging of something. I know that sounds vague, but it had some kind of purpose and I believe the miniature version in our “bathroom” was to slip through the toilet paper tube and then the stick on the end would hold the paper in the air. There are no shelves or holders of any other kind in the “bathroom”. So, it became a toilet paper holder. I didn’t account for the spiral effect. Traveling along, with everything else in the trailer buttoned down and safe, the toilet paper became a swiftly moving, unimpeded, spinning cyclone releasing all of its perfectly wrapped squares into a cushy heap on the “bathroom” floor.
When discovered, Shawn carefully and methodically rewrapped the roll. It was worth a giggle or two and we both told ourselves that we needed to remember not to leave the toilet paper on the holder when we packed up camp. The next day I left it on the holder. Shawn rewrapped it. It wasn’t as funny as the first time. I’m trying very hard not to let the brand new roll end up on the floor again. So far, so good.

South Dakota....awesome, beautiful and so different from Maine. We loved it! We stood where Lewis and Clark journeyed along the Missouri River, discovering and cataloging new animals and plants. Mount Rushmore made our hearts beat a little faster, as the countryside unveiled this magnificent work of art. We camped on the White River in the Badlands and watched the sun go down, sending long shadows through this fierce landscape. We watched the sky glow red as the sun finally dropped behind the hills. Another evening was spent in Spearfish, but no Passion Play for us on this trip as the summer season had ended. We took a jaw dropping route through the canyon to spend the evening in Deadwood. Our quest was to see the town that is steeped in gold rush history, and have a nice meal out. Huge fans of the HBO series Deadwood, we enjoyed checking out the town., Deadwood, which is now a casino destination,.is very small, compared to Vegas, but charming in a touristy, western kind of way.

The following proves the point of “you’ll never know what you’’re going to find”. At our last campsite in Spearfish, South Dakota, the registration office was also home to a very nice scrapbook/altered arts store. I was indeed a happy camper!

Saturday, September 26, 2009

The Wal Mart Experience

Did you know that you can spend the night in a Wal Mart parking lot? They are very hospitable to RVs and in return they expect you to be responsible and a good guest - quiet and respectful. You should ask a manager's permission and they will also tell you where to park.
All this having been said, it is still another world. Our first experience was in Massachusetts. After buying some stuff that we'd forgotten, including the extra toilet paper, we got back into the car to drive to the area which was alright for overnight parking. Do I admit that I made Shawn circle the spot at least 6 or 7 times, trying to perfect the exact spot where we should spend our first night sleeping in the little trailer? We finally parked under a big light, kept the long, heavy flashlight (we forgot to bring the base ball bat) at the ready, locked the door and hoped for the best. Even in this public spotlight, we managed to drink a margarita, cook a hot meal, listen to some music on the ipod and have a decent night's sleep.
Night #2 was spent at a lovely campground in Ohio. Yea! We were finally out of New England and on to the west!
Night #3 was not our best. It rained all day and that's OK except we missed our route and didn't end up skirting Chicago as we'd hoped. We spent about 2 hours getting through Chicago in heavy evening commuter traffic. At this point, I still hadn't had a chance to publish any blogs as we couldn't get a strong enough internet connection. Because of the rain, missed route, and traffic delay, we decided to drive late and stay the night at another Wal Mart. We stopped at a travel station to use the rest area and get a bite to eat and voila a wireless connection. So I posted.
I wish the Wal Mart Experience later that evening would have been as fast and easy as my posting turned out be. The first time we got off the interstate we couldn't find the Wal Mart that was supposed to be there. Our GPS kept saying "You have reached your destination." "No, this is a Hobby Lobby and a Pet Store". Where was the Wal Mart?" we asked each other. Back on the highway and there it is! On the other side and we'd passed the exit. The next one was about 15 minutes away. OK, that's not so bad. We were tired but not exhausted.
In the next Wal Mart we were told that they didn't mind if we overnighted but the city police might ticket us. We moved on.
The next Wal Mart was 45 minutes away. OK, we can do it. Yes, we can and we did. We set up camp and crawled into bed. Safety in numbers and there were 4 or 5 RVs in the parking lot. At 3:00 a.m. Shawn woke me up because he'd heard something he didn't like, so armed with the heavy flashlight and me at the door with my phone ready to dial 911, he went outside to see what he'd heard. A young guy on his way to stock the Wal Mart shelves was parking his car and had loud music playing. We were safe and ready to climb back into our warm nest. That's our Wisconsin experience. On to South Dakota!

Packing Up

There is an art to packing a travel trailer It involves thoughtful planning and good counting skills. I am happy to admit that I was a Girl Scout so “Be Prepared” is part of my vocabulary. My husband prepares, as well, for almost any and all situations. At any given time, he will have at least 3 coats in the car - one for wearing day to day, one for rain, and his under the car coat. If you read my earlier entry, you’ll remember that I said I was pretty sure he’d never been under a car. But, in any case, he is prepared.

This is how we prepared our little travel trailer to carry all our stuff, and still leave room for us...
We bought some little DVD crates that just fit above the front window on a ledge that was perfectly proportioned for them. Tied with orange ribbons woven through the holes in them and outfitted with shipping tags, they made a perfect and secure holding space for vitamins, bread, cookies and toiletries, each group in their own small crate. Two crates are dedicated to toilet paper. Remember, Shawn likes to be prepared and if I could deviate from the story just a bit...with toilet paper being a major player. He talked me into picking up a few extra rolls at our first Wal Mart overnight stop. Just in case.
The other set of bins that we purchased to hold our stuff, included some good sized bins that fit on a shelf over our bed. I think it was supposed to be an extra bunk, but even our little monkey grandson Robbie, had trouble being convinced that it was a bed. So, we made it into a shelf with a lip and a padded fabric edge that holds the bins in nicely. Our folded clothes, towels etc. are stored up there. Each of us could have two bins, leaving one for towels and one for sweaters and sheets. Shawn had his filled to the brim and was worried that he wouldn’t be able to fit all of his clothes. This bins were in addition to the hanging clothes area which was pretty ample. I pointed out to him that we would be stopping to do laundry at several intervals during our trip but he was still looking worried. Being the good wife and knowing that men don’t always make the best choices when it comes to packing clothes for a trip which includes functions, I offered to assist. He was grateful.
We counted through the t-shirts - an important clothing element, the jeans, the dress pants, the dress shirts, the under things and then we came to socks. Not wanting to discriminate, and aware that he needed some dress socks as well as sneaker socks, he had filled a bin with socks. I wanted to smile and be sweet and just tell him he might not need that many considering we would be doing some laundry but I laughed so hard tears rolled down my face as he counted out the 37 pairs that he had packed. We share the same sense of humor so he soon joined me in laughing.

Just before we left, a package arrived containing a trailer warming gift from our dear friends. It included an RV touring handbook with bookmarks in place as suggestions of interesting stops and a big notebook entitled “Robin and Shawn’s Excellent Adventure”. It couldn’t have been a more perfect gift! Car packed with show stock and trailer packed with provisions and clothes we set off for our “excellent adventure”.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

In the Beginning

Yes, I’s been a long time.
I’m full of “I meant to make an entry every week, or at the very least, every month”.
If I could offer a very good excuse it would be that life got in the way.
More about that later...

My husband Shawn and I are off on a grand adventure!
For years we have talked about getting an RV or a travel trailer and hitting the road when we have to travel to a miniature show. We’ve spent hours chitchatting about buying a vintage trailer and doing “our thing” to it. But when we actually started to look, we each had a very different idea about what we wanted.
This is the best way to describe our difference of opinion. When a salesman would approach us to ask if he could help, I would begin the conversation, with a half grin saying “I’m looking for a vintage trailer, smallish, but in good condition. My husband is looking for a new trailer, bigger and in great condition.”
The salesman knew at once that he was not going to be able to satisfy these clients.

Now, to be honest, while I’m pretty good at making things look cute, and I had a file of ideas and pictures of really cute trailers and made over train cabooses, refurbished school buses and tiny camps, that I’d been collecting for years, I didn’t know anything about RVing or hauling a trailer around the country. And, while my husband is pretty good at carpentry and miniature making, I’m also pretty sure that he’s never seen the underside of a car, let alone the underpinnings and workings of a travel trailer. I’d already fixated on a vintage travel trailer, even though I kept telling Shawn I was open to what we might find. Should you ever find yourself in this position? Wanting to buy a vintage travel or to RV around the country? Don’t let your partner watch Robin William’s movie RV. It just puts too many bad images in their heads.

All winter I kept an eagle eye on the internet, looking at vintage trailers. All the good ones that I’d find for sale would be in California or Florida. I found myself lusting for a 1970’s Shasta, which originally came with wings. I’m all about the wings! We live on WING St., my name is Robin, my blog is Star Feather Farm. I wanted wings. I learned that it was almost impossible to find one in good condition with the wings intact. I also knew that I didn’t want one that was already restored because I thought that would be part of the fun. Somewhere along the way I convinced my husband that if we could find a small vintage trailer, in the right price range, that was road worthy, we should do it. Find the trailer, buy the trailer, take it to a trailer place to make sure that it was road worthy and then drive from Maine to California for NAME’s Small Scale show in Salt Lake City and then San Jose for the Good Sam show. Oh, and teach a workshop in between. Did I mention that another criteria (his) was a shower and toilet? Not that I minded those particular creature comforts, I just knew that it added another layer to the hunt. And, after all, it was all about the wings.

I envisioned a stress free summer of leisurely puttering on my vintage trailer, adding pretty little curtains, paint, art, fun little touches to make it comfy and homey and cute. Cute is a word that I’ll keep coming back to.

Can you believe that I did NOT have a stress free summer? I did not find the trailer of my dreams. I encountered some crazy issue with my right hand, my painting hand, my gardening hand, that made everything I tried to do impossible and painful. So, I couldn’t garden, or sew if it meant cutting anything with scissors, as my thumb wouldn’t open properly. I could paint and draw for a few hours a day, so I did what I could. Meanwhile the Salt Lake City and San Jose show were drawing ever closer. Because of the the amount of stock that we HOPED we’d be bringing, the plan had always been that we would drive with or without our little travel trailer. August was drawing to an end and the elusive quest for the dream trailer was slipping away.

I have always been a believer in things happening when they are supposed to happen. I repeat this to myself and anyone who’ll listen, plenty often. Two weeks before we pack ourselves and all our stock into our Suburban, we found the trailer of my dreams. Shawn had decided that all the stars were aligned and that he would do a search for the “home on wheels” that would carry us cross country. With an Uncle Henry’s in hand, (Uncle Henry’s is the weekly paperback based in Maine, that anyone who wants to sell anything, uses to get the word out about their special something) he began calling about the trailers that he thought might be worth looking into. Maybe I slipped the number into his pile of papers, I really don’t remember, but when I saw a listing for a 1972 Shasta, in the right price range, only 3 hours away, I had to make a stab at getting him to check it out. It did have the bathroom after all!

He called. The folks who owned it gave him some additional information about it. When he told me that it still had the original wings, I was beside myself! We went to look at it the next day and I made sure the checkbook was in my purse.

OK, it’s 30 something years old, you expect some wear. I fell in love and I think Shawn knew there was no going back from there. We think it’s a 1972 and that’s the year we were married, so it was karma!

So, now we had a week and a half to have our little Shasta all checked out by the people who do that sort of thing. $2100.00 of parts and labor and 3 days before we’re supposed to leave, we have a road worthy, shower and toilet equipped, bare bones vintage travel trailer. I forgot to mention that the Suburban that is to do the hauling, needed to have an inspection and oil change. $1900.00 later, the suburban has new brake lines etc., etc. We picked up the Suburban from the shop and then picked up the trailer from the trailer guys. 2 days left to get everything ready. The next morning, with cleaning buckets in hand, we came outside to find that one of the windows on the Suburban had been broken. Off to the window replacement guys.....

Now, I only mention this series of events to explain the minute amount of time in which I had to “cute up” my little travel trailer. All the grandiose ideas were replaced with “What can I do in one day?” Well, in one day I bought sheets to use as fabric for curtains and cushions, tore them to size because I can’t use scissors, safety pinned them together, and completely revamped the interior of the trailer. I will sew the curtains and cushions on the road. We decided to use the 70’s color palette of golds and oranges, dictated by the counter top and floor color. It scares me to realize how many things, that I already owned, worked perfectly in that color scheme, and, that the colors of the 70’s are in again with a fresh appeal.

I am planning to blog my way across this wonderful country of ours. The next entry will include the packing up and our first night boondocking in a WalMart parking lot. Do not let your life go by you without that experience under your belt........