Trip to Wonderful

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

More camping resources

At some point, I will address private campgrounds and RV "resorts", but since we don't plan on spending much time ourselves in such accomodations, much of my current focus is on public recreational lands.

I mentioned the Reserve America site a while back, namely as the means of reserving sites at National Park campgrounds. However, I found a wonderful resource on the site, it's "Browse Maps" feature, which provides information on thousands of state and federal campgrounds, including those, like Army Corps of Engineer lands, which are often more "developed", e.g., provide water and electric hookups, but are often overlooked by camping guides and websites. The only limitation is that only sites which are in fact reservable are listed on the website; "first-come, first served" campgrounds are not.

A second resource I happened upon which begins to fill that gap is unofficial US National Forest Campground Guide. The authors have now reviewed over 100 Forest Service campgrounds, with the expectation to eventually hit all USDA sites.

I just mentioned to Eric this morning that I need to come up with a more "accessible" means of organizing campgrounds which may or may not fit our own perimeters, so that when it's late in the evening and we're looking for a good spot to set up camp, that information is as close as my laptop. I'll let you all know what I come up with.

Sunday, April 24, 2005

Step 1 complete

Sold the house yesterday. Well, I should say, we accepted an offer (actually, a counter-counter-counter-counter offer (we won the bidding war)) and signed the papers last night. We close May 31st, vacate the premises June 7th.

Now the real fun begins. While the stress will probably decrease on some levels and increase on others, I should have more time to document the process, as I won't be constantly cleaning and leaving the house for showings. Thus, TtW will return to it's previous relatively prolific status.

En vacances

Right now the Honda odyssey is sounding pretty good--we're off for an entire week, courtesy of the district not using up its alloted snow days. We need structure chez nous. I'm thinking we should probably plan a couple of day trips for this week, or things will get ugly: my daughter is already starting to get ornery. Right now it's taking the form of wanting stuff, like why aren't we on vacation to Disney, and why can't I have a hamster (I don't want hamsters: they eat their young). I have a couple of ideas for trips: I'll write about the results if anything instructive happens.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Getting off "The Grid"

As I posted over on Wampum yesterday, I've spent the last week immersed in the workings of alternative energy sources for camping in areas without convenience hookups, electricity in particular.

So why would families with neurologically exceptional children choose to forgo such ammenities on their vacations? For one, as I mentioned in an earlier post, National Parks and other US government lands offer deep discounts in entrance and camping fees for disabled individuals and their families. That means that most campsites are $10 or less per night. Compare that with $40-$50 per night for many private campgrounds.

In addition to lower cost, public land campgrounds offer larger, more private campsites. This provides not only room to expend the extra energy a lot of our kids have, but is welcome in the middle of the night when children like our Jonah decide it's time to get up and play - loudly. Not having to deal with angry neighbors in the morning greatly increases the chance of an enjoyable camping experience.

While our needs will be a bit more extensive than the average camping family, there are requirements for all families who choose to "rough" it in more primitive campgrounds, whether in a tent or a 40' motorhome. For us, it means that our electric needs, mostly limited computer, lights and TV/DVD use in the evenings and coffee maker and toaster in the morning, must be handled by energy stored in the house batteries (DC) or produced for immediate use via a gas-powered generator.

Many national and state parks prohibit the use of generators for long periods, even the new "super-quiet" models, due to noise concerns. So while recharging the batteries every few days is a possibility, depending upon full-time generator power isn't feasible, or even environmentally friendly, as generators burn gasoline and produce emissions.

While not an inexpensive initial outlay, we've decided to replenish most of our energy usage with a solar-electric set-up consisting of 2 125W solar panels mounted on the trailer's roof and a medium-sized bank of deep-cell batteries for energy storage. We'll convert from DC 12volt to AC 110volt, as we can then use most of our own appliances, rather than purchase new 12volt substitutes. On days with little sunshine, we'll supplement recharging with a small generator (2KW), rather than having to invest in a large (4.5KW+), expensive model.

Of course, all of this is hypothetical, as we still haven't purchased our trailer yet. In addition, the question is whether I can install the system myself, or have to turn everything over to an RV electrician. Stay tuned.

Monday, April 11, 2005

TtW back online!

My laptop returned last week from HP, for the third time in a month. This time, however, it actually booted up. My wireless connection is still on the fritz, but I can now surf, write and post on the same machine.

Lots of developments in the planning. Eric decided about a month ago that his adolescent dream of wandering the globe in an Airstream actually fit into our plan, so I spent a couple of weeks attempting to figure out if we could in fact all fit into, and then tow, a Silver Bullet. The answer, sadly for him, was eventually "no". In order to tow the 30' model which could sleep six comfortably, we needed a tow capacity of at least 9000 pounds. While a number of pick-up trucks have that rating, few vehicles which seat seven (2 adults, 4 kids and a large dog) do. Essentially, only the Chevy Suburban 2500, which, surprisingly, is very difficult to find here in Maine.

So we compromised. I still wanted the feel of "camping", i.e., canvass, and Eric wanted more of the permanent feeling of a trailer. So we started looking at "hybrids" (and if any for PUP readers are still watching, feel free to knock me upside the head, as this was recommended when I started planning this whole affair.)

We've decided upon a Jayco 25G, a combination queen pop-out bunk in the front, with quad bunk bed in the rear. Weighs about 4000 dry, with a total GVWR of 5800. Can thus be towed by almost any of the larger SUVs, including the Dodge Durangos and Toyota Sequoias we're now test driving.

The house went onto the market this morning. We've already begun moving much of our smaller stuff, books, toys, books, books, (did I mention books?) into storage.

We sell the Odyssey on Wednesday. Found a buyer, and since we have the 88 Volvo working, figure we can survive until the house closes, as long as we all don't have to go anywhere together. Besides, it gives us the extra cash to finish some house projects, put a down payment on the trailer, buy the generator, etc., etc. Inspection and registration were up this month, and didn't want to pay another $600 for only a month or two (excise taxes aren't rolled-over onto new vehicles, so it appears.)

We still hope to be on the road in early June. Cross your fingers that we find a buyer this week.