The joy of a travel trailer

Travel trailer being towedJoy is always a relative term so what we are talking about here is my personal experience.  My wife and I have been looking at various RVs for years and finally took the plunge.  All kidding aside it has really been a good experience so far.  I am by far not an expert and we have yet to take a big trip but so far so good.

Why a travel trailer?

If you start reviewing the various RV sites and forums online you’ll see all kinds of advice on RVs.  An RV can mean anything from a tent camper to a million-dollar touring bus and everything in between.  Even among the category of travel trailers there is a great variety, from pop ups and teardrops that be towed by a Prius to giant mansions on wheels requiring a locomotive to tow.

For us a travel trailer made sense because we have a place to keep it for use in the summer months.  It costs much less than powered RVs, and even though we bought a pickup to tow it, that could be replaced when the truck got old without throwing out the trailer.  (And a pickup is so useful!)

Do you need a new vehicle?

Of course, the answer is “it depends.”  We looked at some of the teardrop trailers that can be towed behind anything, but decided a full size made more sense for us.  Even though we ended up buying a pickup that purchase will have all the advantages of owning a truck.  You do have to watch your weight ratings.  We almost took the plunge on a really big and heavy trailer but backed out when we figured out we would need a really big truck that probably got about 9 mpg.

About maintenance and costs

I did quite a bit of research on the Web regarding maintenance costs before making a purchase.  One thing I quickly learned is that things do go wrong.  Most travel trailers are built for occasional use and as a result the construction and components are sometimes less than ideal.

The first maintenance cost is where you keep the trailer.  Unless you are lucky enough to have enough space at your home to keep it you will need to rent a space.  This is especially true for northern climates where the trailer needs to be winterized during the colder months.  Inside storage is quite expensive.  Outside is less.  We were fortunate enough to have a piece of ground to keep the trailer and I dealt with winterization myself, a reasonable process if you do your research.

The Achilles heal of RVs is the roof, and they need to be resealed annually to minimize the chance of expensive leaks.  This winter I tried putting a big tarp over the roof to protect it from the ice and snow in Pennsylvania.  We’ll see how that works.

And other things do go wrong.  We had a water pump go bad after about a year, and others report things like refrigerators, water heaters and air conditioners giving occasional problems.  An extended warranty can help with these, just review carefully what the warranty covers.

Future plans

We haven’t taken any long trips with our trailer yet.  However we have thoroughly enjoyed having our little home away from home sitting on a beautiful piece of eastern Pennsylvania.  I’ll have to do an update after some trips…

10 Ideas for map lovers

Street mapI’ll admit it. I love old maps. When I was a kid I studied road maps on family trips. (I’ll show my age when I say that back then road maps were free at gas stations!) I still love maps. I much prefer reviewing a road atlas rather than relying on the GPS, although a GPS is a great assistant.

So how can you feed your map addiction?

Below are some ideas to get you started:

Collect old maps

Collecting old maps is popular but they can be expensive. An alternative might be collecting reprints or scanning your own from books and magazines.

Paper a room with maps

I’ve often considered collecting all the old maps from my National Geographic magazines and papering a room with them. Haven’t done it yet, but someday! If you are clever you might come up with a way to hang up lots of maps and change them occasionally without destroying your walls.

Find cool destinations within 50 miles

Make this your challenge. Find cool places on a map not more than 50 miles from home that you never heard of. Maybe somewhere historical or a weird place name. Maybe a geological feature that you never knew existed. How about an unknown little museum or roadside attraction?

Plan a road trip

Why not plan a real road trip? Make it a minimum of three days and the max is limited only by your schedule and budget. Early in our marriage my wife and I started taking road trips and we never really stopped. We didn’t have a lot of money so we mostly car camped staying at national parks and forests. These trips remain some of our most cherished memories.

Take a road trip using maps and no interstates

If making good time isn’t the priority try a trip without using any interstates or turnpikes. This gives a completely different perspective. Check out the book “Blue Highways” by William Least Heat-Moon for inspiration. I loved it!

Draw your own map of anywhere

Kids love doing this and there is no reason you can’t do it too. Do you have a local area or maybe a state park nearby? Try making a map outlining special places or features that aren’t shown on other maps. Maybe highlight nice views or rock formations for example.

Collect globes

Globes are cool, and I’ve always wanted a really big one. But there are lots of others that don’t cost a mint and would make a cool collection.

Mark everywhere you have visited on a map

This works for any map, from a world map to a country map, to more local. Maybe mount the map on cork and use pins to mark where you have been. Or maybe use little flags with the date of your visit.

Mark everywhere you want to visit on a map

This is like the above except it becomes a “bucket list” of places you would like to visit. Don’t worry about the practicality of getting to the places, just mark them. This has the effect of making you start to think about the possibilities.

Pick a spot randomly on a map and Google or visit

You could do this using the dart board method where you just randomly pick a spot and see what looks interesting around it. Google the area to learn about it. You might even start planning a road trip based on what you find!

So how do you indulge in your map habit?

10 Long Road Trips

Deserted long roadAh, the great American road trip.  Lots of fun has been poked at them but I have to confess that I love them.  My wife and I have been doing them all our lives, even when we were young and money was very tight.  Anything can happen and does but that makes for great stories years later.

So, let’s throw out some ideas to get you thinking…

Cross Country and Back

Just pull out an atlas (you have your Rand McNally atlas, right?) and pick a spot you always wanted to visit.  That can mean all the way across the country or just a few hundred miles.  Then start researching and planning and just go!

Alaska

Did you know that you can drive to Alaska and that people do it every day?  This is one I definitely haven’t tried yet but may someday.  You need a good vehicle and you’ll put an insane number of miles on it but you’ll be talking about it forever.

Pacific Northwest

The Pacific Northwest is another destination I haven’t tried yet but can’t wait to try.  The area is beautiful with incredible national parks and scenery.  And the whole world wants to move to Portland and I want to see why for myself!

Florida Keys

Everybody raves about the Keys and it is supposed to be a great road trip.  Just watch out for hurricanes!

Up the west coast

This one is supposed to be incredible and you could do the whole thing or just a portion.  California really is like a whole country and the variety of possible stops and activities is endless

Giant Circle around outline of US

Anybody can drive across the country, right?  Well how about tracing the outline of the United States?  This is one for people with a lot of time obviously but I can picture a whole blog devoted to this adventure.

Yellowstone and surrounds

This is what people think of when they mention national parks.  The place really is unbelievable. Wildlife, incredible scenery, hot springs and geysers, there is something for everybody.  This one is somewhat crowded in prime season and takes a little planning for accommodations but it is worth the effort.  Having been there a few times my suggestion is to make a point to get 100 yards off the road.  The crowds disappear and you really begin to appreciate the park.

Southwest

We love the Southwest.  Wide open spaces, more great scenery, nice people.  The climate varies greatly with the altitude.  Last year we left blistering heat near Tucson and climbed into the mountains a few hours later to a snowstorm.  To me the desert is beautiful, but the mountains can be green and lush.  Give it a try!

Texas

Texas is another one of those states that can be its own country.  The place is huge and diverse.  While I’ve been through the state a few times the state can support numerous road trips on its own.  Do your research, and go for it…

Sante Fe and North

This is one of my favorites and I know “and North” is kind of vague.  Sante Fe is a great little city.  It is easy to visit and easily walk-able.  There is a huge downtown historic square dating back hundreds of years.  This place was active before the Pilgrims even landed!  If you like art the place is heaven, with hundreds of galleries and the world famous Canyon Road, which houses some of the most exclusive galleries in the US.  You can stroll along and see all kinds of art, even if you don’t have a spare $100,000 to bring home a souvenir.   The “and North” can take you up to Taos (another artist mecca,) or into Colorado, or even west into the Four Corners area (Look it up!)

Hopefully this list has got your wanderlust working overtime.  Go for it and let me know how it goes!