Thursday, March 29, 2018

Marble Beach 09.29.17

The Okoboji area in northwest Iowa is quite a popular place to visit in the summer. We have avoided camping there during the peak season, and decided to do a last minute trip to Marble Beach at the end of September. Wow, did we ever time that right! There were very few other campers in the entire campground, and we had tons of space to ourselves.

The campsites are Marble Beach are not my favorite. There's no parking pad, and it's hard to tell where one site ends and another begins. Good thing we didn't have neighbors. Like, at all.

Darn close to empty! During the peak season, this place is packed with lots of big rig campers, and I don't think it's the kind of experience I'd enjoy. But for this weekend, it was private and quiet, and we took liberty with the space and spread out a bit.

Without a gravel parking pad, we thought the best use of the rug would be in the kitchen area. That way if it got wet or muddy, we wouldn't be standing in something gross. We did not count on the flies being as horrible as they were.

A close up of all the flies in one area of the rug. Multiply this by about 30, and you can guess how many there were...and that's just on the rug! We hung a couple of fly strips, which helped, but they were ridiculous.

As is our usual behavior, we went to a brewery, one we frequent often, West-O. Here's my artsy shot of my beer and my husband.

The beer disappeared quickly, but Andy stayed. 😆

For those of you who aren't beer drinkers, West-O and our favorite winery, Little Swan Lake Winery, have teamed up and offer each other's beverages to their customers. Love some local biz cooperation!

Back at camp, we spent the evening doing something else we normally do:

Knowing we were running out of good camping weather for the season, this fire sitting was important stuff, and we didn't miss a minute of it.

We had visitors two mornings in a row. No humans, just turkeys!

It was a sizable group, they made a lot of noise, and I think they made Fred and Lucy nervous.

Heh. Anyway, short and sweet visit to Marble Beach brings you this short and sweet blog post. Don't worry. I've got more trips to post about soon.

Happy camping!

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Camper Essentials for Security and Stability

This post contains some affiliate links. If you click the link and make a purchase, I receive a small commission at no cost to you. You can read my full disclosure here.

I belong to a few camping groups on Facebook, specifically ones for T@bs, and one of the most often asked questions of new owners is, "What are your camping must-haves?" I thought it might be a good idea to compile a list of what we use regularly and recommend to new owners.

Starting with safety and security seems appropriate, doesn't it? Once you've bought your tiny camper, you want to make sure you get to keep your tiny camper. As I'm sure you know, though, if someone wants to steal it badly enough, they'll find a way. You don't have to make it easy for them! Here are a couple of items that help deter theft of our trailer:

1. A locking wheel chock. We bought the Trimax Wheel Chock Lock. This serves two purposes, keep the wheel from rolling when your T@b is parked, and keep the wheel from rolling if someone tries to move it! You can see it here on the right side of the wheel. It reminds me of the "boot" that law enforcement uses on a car that's illegally parked.

2. A Coupler Lock. Once you unhook from your tow vehicle, you can lock your hitch so it makes it hard for someone else to hitch up and haul it away. We chose the Reese Towpower Lock Kit because it also included a locking hitch pin for the receiver. (It also included a lock to keep the coupler from lowering, but it didn't fit our unit.)

3. Locking lug nuts so tires can't be removed/replaced. Thieves are creative, and here's one more way you can keep them from getting their hands on your trailer. Something like these Gorilla Guard Wheel Locks might do the trick. Just make sure you have the right size for your tires.

My next category would be Setting Up. There are a few products that we always make sure to bring to keep the camper level and secure, no matter what the campsite looks like.

1. The BAL leveler. Do NOT leave home without this brilliant piece of equipment! Whoever designed this has my respect. What it does is act both as a wheel chock and a leveler. We use a hammer drill to raise and lower the device which fits snuggly around one tire. We put it on the side that's sitting lower than the other, and raise it up until the trailer is level.

2. The Jack-E-Up. This is a wonderful device that allows you to quickly remove your jack, jockey wheel, and handle when you're hooked up to your tow vehicle. No need to raise up the jack and hope that a big bump won't damage the jack or wheel!

3. Extension cord. We chose one that matched the T@b (of course) but also rolled up and stored quickly and compactly. One like this give us an extra 25 feet. It has come in so handy when we're just a few feet too far from the electric post at the campsite.

4. Power Adapters. Electricity is not one size fits all. Our camper is set up to run on 30 amp, and sometimes when we camp, there is a 30 amp outlet, but sometimes, there's a 50 amp, and sometimes there's a 15 amp outlet. SO...we need power adapters. It's important to look for male or female connections when buying your adapter. Our camper has a male connection, so our power cord has a female connection on one end to plug into the camper, and a male connection on the other end to plug into the outlet. If we need to adapt to either 15 or 50 amp, we buy an adapter that has female 30 amp to male 15 or 50, depending on the adapter. We use this adapter for F30-M50, and this adapter for F30-M15

5. Jack Pads. Love these! We have four stabilizers on the camper that lower to the ground. On occasion (lots of times!) we have a wet campsite. We put one of the Jack Pads down and lower the stabilizer onto it. This gives it a big footprint and makes it more secure in less than ideal conditions.

6. Leveling blocks. Sometimes, campsites are not level. Like, at all. For instance, this spot in Colorado where the camper was at such an angle, the kitchen counter was almost at my shoulder! At 5'8", I usually don't have this problem.

When the site is this steep, sometimes you can't lower the stabilizers far enough to keep the trailer level. That's where these friends come in really handy! You can stack them up on the ground and lower the stabilizers down to them and keep the trailer secure and level. Bonus use: You can also use them as a shower tile if the campground showers aren't clean enough for your taste! We have found this pack of 10 is more than enough, and easy to bring and store in the camper.

Those are my main recommendations for new campers and glampers. In my next essentials post, we will get into some of the day to day items we use while camping.

Happy setup and camping!

Thursday, March 8, 2018

T@b Rally! 08.07.17

Our first rally! We were so excited!

We belong to a Facebook group for Midwest T@bs. In that group, people share stories and pictures, help each other with problems and questions, recommend different campgrounds and hacks, and they coordinate multiple rallies each year where the T@bbers meet up and camp together.

We had been looking forward to meeting people and sharing in some of our obsessions with the T@b. This rally was held at Sugar Bottom Campground on Coralville Lake in Iowa. We hadn't camped there before, but apparently it was a favorite of the group, so we knew it would be good!

We made a quick stop at the theatre on Thursday before we left to pick up some stuff we had left there, then off to the rally!

All hitched up and ready for fun! We arrived just as the sun was setting. To let you know how helpful and friendly this group was, one of the guys came over, walking his doggos, introduced himself, and asked if we needed any help setting up since it was getting dark, and it's much harder in the dark. We thanked him and said we were just going to get level and stable and call it good for the night. He then invited us to bring our chairs to the campfire at their site where many of them were already gathered. Awesome!

I bought some special wine, just for this trip called "Happy Camper Wine." I poured myself a glass and we joined the group.

I chose the chardonnay, and I would buy it again. I thought it was pretty good, and certainly added to the camping experience.

We enjoyed a short visit with everyone, promptly forgetting names as we went around the circle. By the end of the weekend, we had most of them down, and most people remembered ours, too!

The next day, I began snapping pics of our setup as well as some of the others. I got almost everyone's, but I know I missed a few. You can see, people love setting up their campers and accessories!

Our weekend setup. We made sure to use our fancy awnings to make sure The B@r T@b was at its cutest.

Notice all the stickers? Those are from parks he's visited. What a fun way to keep track of your travels!

This unit was super sleek in all silver! Isn't that visor awesome? It's like a hat for the T@b!

She also had a visor to match her T@b. Love the red and white. Also, we noted where her spare tire was mounted and thought it was a really good idea to move ours there as well, and we put it on our 2018 to do list.

Another yellow/silver combo, set up with their matching awning for more outdoor space.

Another visor, but they added cool Edison-style clip on lights! Very attractive!

Lots of flags and fun welcoming us to this site!

I lost the picture I took of  her T@b, but this is a gift made by one of her friends for her T@b she named "Sputnik." You'll have to take my word for it that her T@b looks just like this cool string art!

Another cool add-on, a fully enclosed tent! This keeps the bugs away, gives you almost twice the space, and adds quite a bit of privacy. I love the pennant banner adorning the front. Fun touch!

One last pic. His blue and white T@b was decked out in Hawaiian themed decor, as it was the theme of the rally. Bright and fun!

When I wasn't busy walking around gawking at all the awesome setups, people did come over to check out ours. As we were new, and nobody had seen ours yet, it made sense. A couple of things that stood out at our site were the Lagun table that attaches outside the T@b, and my insanely organized cabinets! It's good to be good at something, I guess. 😊

I took a little "me time" and walked around the absolutely huge campground. I knew it was located on Coralville Lake, so I explored.

What a lovely spot!

Lots of time spent sitting, reading, and chatting with our fellow campers. It was fun to get to know people who have a passion similar to ours. We especially enjoyed campfires at night with the big group.

Very relaxing, and lots of "early to bed" kind of people. We were usually the last ones in for the night!

On Saturday, we enjoyed a group breakfast with camper-themed pajamas, hosted by one of the Midwest T@bbers.

If you're looking past all of our goofy camping jammies to their camper, you will notice it's not even a T@b! Turns out, a few folks used to own T@bs, but ended up switching to some other brand, naming themselves SOBs. HA! Since they're such fun people and T@b fans, they keep coming to the rallies, even if their campers don't match anymore.

It was a lovely breakfast, and lots of layering over the cute pajamas as it was a little chilly!

That evening, we all participated in a potluck luau. I cooked a pork roast all day on the table outside The B@r T@b, using liquid smoke and salt to make Kalua pork, Hawaiian style. There were lots of amazing dishes, and some Spam dishes, and a few people even dressed for the event!

I mean, how often do you get the chance to wear a pineapple headpiece?  The ladies in their dresses looked lovely, and added to the fun of the luau.

Even Gracie joined the fun with her tiny lei around her neck! Sweet little puppy.

Sunday morning arrived, and since we had a pretty long drive, we were the first ones to leave. Lots of hugs, Facebook friend requests, laughs, and promises to stay connected were exchanged, and we headed home.

We did make one quick stop though, purely for a photo op!

This is what happens when a tiny trailer meets a huge frying pan! Iowa's largest frying pan was impressive next to The B@r T@b.

Thanks for a great weekend of memories, Midwest T@bs. See you at Sugar Bottom in 2018 if not sooner!

Happy camping!

Monday, March 5, 2018

Finger Lakes State Park Columbia, MO 08.18.17

Finger Lakes State Park is located just north of Columbia, MO, and has a lovely small campground. It also happened to be in the path of totality for the full Solar Eclipse! We booked months in  advanced and got the last two campsites!

A view of our campsite. As you can see, the campground had lots of mature trees, so plenty of shade. Good thing too, because summers in Missouri are hot and muggy, and while the T@b's air conditioning did great at night, we like to spend our days outside!

A couple more views of our set up:

Lots of privacy, and a fairly big campsite. Fred and Lucy take their posts by the road to greet visitors. Next door, Jeff and Kathy set up the Scamp.

We used this huge area between the two sites to set up their canopy where we spent lots of time, sitting and watching the world go by. This is something we've become very good at doing.

This trip was about the solar eclipse, but we were excited for a whole different reason!

Time for a new state sticker on the map! Andy did the honors.

We can't believe it took us a year to get to Missouri to camp, but here we are, filling in that hole in the Midwest states.

Missouri became our 12th state! Yay, us!

Now, about this eclipse thing. We may have gone a little overboard. I named it "eclipsalypse" since it was such a big deal nationwide. We even had a news crew come interview us, we bought lots of eclipse type things, and made eclipse jokes. Let's see what we've got.

First of all, we have our super awesome eclipse glasses, made from a PopTart wrapper and Jeff's regular glasses.

Nah, just teasing. Was funny though...

Jeff had purchased us legitimate solar eclipse watching glasses so we wouldn't go blind. That was nice of him.

We made sure to have the proper gum to chew while watching the eclipse. Jeff even tried to do tricks with it!

Also didn't go well, but at least his breath was minty fresh!

So, seriously, local news stopped by reaaaaallly early in the morning, and Andy was the only one up when they came through, so they asked if they could interview him. He had bed head and was still in the process of making coffee, so he said if they'd come back later, one of our group, at least, would be up for an interview.

We chose Jeff. Jeff was really into the eclipsalypse, so we decided he should be group spokesperson. I took a screenshot of the video I took of him being interviewed. I couldn't show you the video because Jeff was fine with the TV interview, but didn't much care for me documenting it, and there may have been an off-camera gesture to let me know. 😀

We had one more goofy idea that actually turned out really cool. Watch the video below to see how we taught people all over the world about what happens during a solar eclipse:

Hahahahahaaaa! Don't worry. All beer was consumed by the end of our trip.

One of our biggest concerns about Eclipse Day was cloud cover. We couldn't control the weather, we had planned to be in this spot for at least six months, so it's not like we were going anywhere, we just had to hope for the best.

The day was cloudy, but several campers gathered in a grassy spot at the center of the campground to try to see as much of the eclipse as we could. News sites around the globe predicted tons and tons of people and traffic jams and crowds and other eclipsalypse type problems, but here's what we experienced.

Not too scary, was it? Ha! We socialized with our camping neighbors and enjoyed our setup as we waiting for the event. The excitement building up to it was all part of the fun!

I'm testing my eclipse glasses here, and couldn't see a darn thing! Guess they work!

Some of the kids from the campground lit up these cool neon spheres. As the day got darker, (it was like the sun was setting) these would glow brightly, and they even spun in the breeze. I took video:

We were getting close to the main event, and the crowd gathered voiced their concerns that the cloud cover had thickened, and we wouldn't be able to see the corona. The moment we had been waiting for suddenly looked anticlimactic. Bummer!

But wait! Remember, since we were in the path of totality, there was over two minutes where we would be able to see the total eclipse. At the last thirty seconds or so, the clouds moved and WE SAW THE CORONA!!

Hahaha! Just kidding. I joke. It's what I do. We really did get to see it though, look!

It's not the best picture, certainly, but it was taken with my phone as I stared up at this cool moment of science! The crowd cheered! It was like we all were connected by something, if just for one brief moment. The whole experience was wonderful, and I would absolutely do it again!

When the main event was over, most campers hopped in their rigs and joined the eclipsalypse traffic to go home. Not us! We planned ahead and had the whole day to ourselves at the campground. Unfortunately, it rained on and off that night, so we spent a lot of time in our separate campers, but we enjoyed wrapping up the trip with Jeff and Kathy.

Happy camping!