I Hate Spending Money On Sunglasses

Every time we need a new pair of sunglasses, it annoys me.  Instantly. It seems that someone is needing a pair all the time.

We generally buy pretty cheap sunglasses.  So, you can tell me that we get what we pay for, and I’m not going to argue, but it’s still dreadfully annoying when you are faced with:

  • A screw falling out of them for no apparent reason meaning that something is likely ready to fall off.
  • The pads that cover the thingies that rest on the bridge of your nose start falling to pieces, leaving exposed metal.  Which hurts.
  • The top of the glasses just randomly develops a crack, meaning that of the lenses is able to pop loose.

These are all things that have happened to sunglasses owned by either me or my wife, just this summer alone!

One answer is to buy more expensive sunglasses.

Sorry, not going to happen.

Not when we’ve also encountered these situations:

  • A one-year old girl who loves sunglasses and will find any that are sitting out and will do what one-year olds do to things that they play with, leaving them bent or broken.
  • Get dropped and scratched.  I always drop sunglasses on the cement at least once a year.  This doesn’t seem like a lot, but it does usually result in the lenses getting scratched (since sunglasses always work on their own version of the ‘buttered side of toast landing face down’ theory) to where it would really annoy me if I had a $100+ pair.
  • Ditto for sitting on them accidentally.
  • Spending lots of time in sandy campgrounds and beaches simply doesn’t lend itself to being able to keep sunglasses in tip-top shape.
  • Or dropping them in a lake.  True story.  A couple of years ago my wife and I were swimming at a nearby lake.  Somehow, my glasses fell off and ended up on the bottom of the lake.  I called her over and we started searching for them.  Miraculously, she hit it with her foot.  She went under to grab them, and was successful in doing so, only to have hers fall off in the process.  We couldn’t find hers.  I’m not making this story up, I swear.
  • I once dropped them in the street where they stayed for an entire day without getting scratched.

I’m smart enough to realize that spending more than $20 on sunglasses is foolish.  I’m also wise enough to realize that we do get our use out of them.  But, I wish I could buy the darn things in bulk or something, because every time we plop down that money, it’s almost as if we should start planning on exactly when we’ll need to buy the next pair.

Guaranteed, it won’t be long!

What kind of sunglasses do you own?  How often do you replace yours?

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Camping Misadventures 2012 Part 2

The first installment of Camping Misadventures saw me deal with a whole host of items which are probably new to someone dealing with a camper for the first time:  Hooking Up, Backing In, and selecting the proper campsite were the first orders of business.

As I suspected, there would be others.

And so we start the second installment of 2012 Camping Misadventures.

Ghosts

This one actually goes back to our first trip, but an experience which had slipped my mind.  For our first trip, we visited a campground that was only an hour or so away, so that I could get used to driving it and wouldn’t be far away if any issues happened.  This was a good idea, and it also allowed that our families could come visit, and that worked out really good since we went on Father’s Day weekend.  This let us celebrate together as well as let everybody see the new campers in action.

Our parents visited for the day and left after dinner and s’mores.  My sister-in-law and her boyfriend spent the night, setting up their own tent on a corner of the campsite.

After the kids went to bed, the four of us sat by the fire for awhile, but it wasn’t long before Mrs. Beagle and I (tired out from setting up plus camping with the kids) were ready for bed.  Sister-in-law and boyfriend wanted to stay out for awhile.

It wasn’t long before Mrs. Beagle and I fell asleep.  After a few hours I woke up to pay the bathroom a quick visit.  I got out of the bed and, on my way, noticed that a couple of the cabinet doors were open.  Which was weird, because they were where Mrs. Beagle kept her clothes, and she’s usually really good about keeping things neat and organized.  I closed them up, went about my business and went back to bed, never giving it a second look.

I found out the next morning that with darkness and being sleepy, I’d only noticed a couple of cabinet doors open.  My wife found out the next morning that they were ALL open.

Yikes.  Did we have a ghost?

Nope.  Turns out we just had a sister-in-law who was looking for a deck of cards.  Not wanting to wake us, she snuck in and started looking through the cabinets.  She realized that the cabinet doors make a very loud click when they close (they have a big latch so that they stay closed during travel), so she just left them all open.

And here I had visions of Paranormal Activity: The Camper .

Happy Camper, Not So Much Traveler

Our longest trip was for a week.  It was also the furthest trip away of the summer.  We wanted to camp at Ludington State Park, which is the most popular campground in Michigan.  It’s right on Lake Michigan, has lots of biking trails, has great activities around, a beautiful campground, and books quickly.  Michigan lets you book six months in advance.  Last winter, six months from when we wanted to go we were armed with the sites we wanted.  At 8am they became available.  At 8:01 we were disappointed as we had nothing.   My wife spent every morning looking until something opened up, and she nabbed it (she actually had to call in).

It was a long drive, about 240 miles, only half of which was expressway, the rest was country roads.  So it was a long drive.  We thought we’d be fine by starting off when Baby Girl Beagle normally napped.  We had it all planned out: She’d nap.  Little Boy Beagle would watch a DVD.  It would knock off a big chunk of the trip.

But things never work like they should.  She refused to sleep.  She cried.  She wailed.  She didn’t want a bottle.  Finally she dozed on and off.

Until she woke up, looked around, and threw up.  And then did it again.

Luckily, we were only half a mile from a rest stop we were planning on stopping at anyways for lunch, so we were able to get her out, do our best to clean up, and hit the road (nobody felt like lunch after that).   The great thing, after that she was great.  She went right to sleep, and when we did find somewhere to pull off a bit later down the road, she was a perfect angel.  She ate everything in site.

Just wasn’t much fun cleaning that car seat!

Awning

This one stung.

On the same trip, it was hot.  As I mentioned above, we had the very last site available, and unfortunately, it was in full sun.  The Air Conditioning was running non-stop.  Still, we did lots of outdoor things and even went to see the fireworks on the night of the 4th.  It was a good show right over the harbor in Lake Michigan.

With that hot weather, we had no breeze.  For four days, there was barely a breeze and this kept up.  Until about 12:30am.  We were just getting ready to drift off when, out of nowhere, a gust rocked the camper, shaking it from side to side.  I went outside to see what was happening, and noticed that the wind had come out of nowhere, likely a storm blowing in off the lake.

Our awning was down and I was just getting ready to go put it back up, when suddenly an even stronger gust came through, and I watched helplessly as one side of the awning ripped completely away from the camper.  My wife stuck her head out, she had no idea what had just happened when I pointed up and yelled that the awning had just ripped off.

Camping gives you many things, and you’ll find that one of them is that fellow campers are generally a friendly and helpful bunch.  This was proven to me when a large group of people, having heard the banging and yelling, ran over, and helped me out.  The wind was picking up even stronger, and without their help, the other half of the awning would have likely ripped off.  Four or five people were holding on for dear life to hold it down, while I went across, got the bars and support systems loosened up, and we put it back the best we could against the awning.

I was sickened.  My wife was just happy that I hadn’t gotten hit when the awning came loose.

The next morning, I went out and talked to one of the rangers.  He gave me the name of a place in town that did RV repairs, and I was there the moment that the store opened.  Turns out they had a mobile repair unit, and they were hopeful that they could get out that afternoon to repair the unit.  I bought the necessary parts and headed back to the campsite.

It was another scorcher and now we had no awning.  I was dismayed when the afternoon came and went and they never showed up.  I called right after five and she said that they were running behind and that they’d likely be out the next morning.  At this point, we only had a couple of days left, and I was starting to worry about what we’d do if they didn’t make it, because the awning was in no position to make a 250 mile ride home.

The next morning came and went, still no repair people.  I called back, and luckily I did, because they’d lost my service order.  I wasn’t even on the docket.

I explained what had happened, and the service manager agreed to get me on, even if he had to do it personally, whether it be that afternoon or the following morning.

Good thing I called.

A couple of hours later, a van showed up and the repair guy did his magic.

I learned that I probably should have had additional re-inforcements.  Subsequent to that trip, I bought a set of awning de-flappers, which prevents the canvas from flapping around when it’s windy, which, having witnessed the problem, definitely occurred moments before it came loose.  We went camping a couple of weeks later, and there was a day where it was sustained wind of over 20MPH, and the canvas barely moved.

Those de-flappers cost $18.  I wish I would have known about them beforehand, as it might have saved me the $220 that the repairs cost.  Though that wind was so strong, I’m really not sure it would have mattered.

It could have been worse, I can’t imagine what would have happened had those great and kind people not come and prevented the entire awning from coming down.    Not only that, they even left me their leftover firewood after they broke camp a day before we did!

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Camping Misadventures 2012 Part One

We bought ourselves a camper last fall, but didn’t use it until this year, as it was past the time where camping usually takes place.  Still, getting it in the fall allowed us to get it a little cheaper and also meant we didn’t fight with others interested in purchasing it since demand was low in the off-season.

It’s been an adventure learning all the ins and outs of our camper (or technically, a trailer, since it’s a 23′ travel trailer).

Hooking Up

I remember when we were purchasing the camper, my father-in-law was helping (in other words, doing everything) and I was watching all the steps involved with hooking it up and thought I’ll never be able to do this.  Well, after a couple of tries with everything I got it right.  Now, I have a checklist that I work from but from hitch to hooking up the brakes, it works.

Bonus cool: The first few times I hooked it up to the SUV, I had my wife help guide the SUV to the camper so that everything lined up, but I’ve actually been able to accomplish this by myself the last few times!

Backing In

Attaching something to the back of your automobile and then backing it in is terrifying if you’ve never done it before.  My father-in-law had helped season me to many of the ins and outs, but for whatever reason, I never actually practiced backing the thing in anywhere.  So the first time I brought it home and tried to get it into our driveway, it was a colossal nightmare.  For those who aren’t familiar with the process, you have to essentially point your car the opposite way you want to go in order for the camper to go where you want it, then pinpoint the right time to have your car start going the right way without screwing up the path you’re on and without jackknifing the trailer.

As mentioned, the first time I did this was into my driveway.  It was late in the evening so I didn’t have much time with daylight left.  I was nervous. Well, there’s a kid around 13 years old or so down that lives down the end of the street.  He’s developmentally disabled, but for the five years we lived in the house prior to ‘Backing In For The First Time’ day, I just saw him and his family from time to time.  But on this day, he was having some sort of issue, and was essentially on the front yard of the next door neighbor screaming and resisting his parents, who just wanted to get him back home.  I stayed in our house for awhile, hoping the issue would resolve itself, but when it was clear that this was going to drag out, I had to go out and try the camper back-in.  I tried to be respectful (i.e. no staring or looking) but all the yelling and such was definitely increasing my nervousness and I’m sure my presence with the big trailer wasn’t helping.  For about 20 minutes I tried backing in, but would either go the wrong way, jackknife, end up on my lawn or be aimed completely wrong.  Finally, it just clicked and I got it on the slab.

After that, i took it out once to a deserted church parking lot and spent about an hour with my wife getting the hang of it.  Why I didn’t do that in the first place, I don’t know.

Battery

Hooking up the battery for the season turned out to be a big whoops.  The battery is there so that you can run the lights and such at times while you’re plugged in, and it also serves to run a few things while you travel.  Like helping the fridge.

I hooked the battery up not really knowing that it wasn’t working.  The lights never came on when it was unhooked from A/C power (the garage) but I didn’t think anything of it.  We went on our first trip and were planning on running the fridge via propane during the trip.  I had tested this while we had it plugged in, but as soon as I pulled the plug, everything stopped working. Everybody was already in the car, so it was too late to troubleshoot.  We ended up driving the trip without the fridge.  Which wasn’t so bad.  But, as it turns out, when I got back, I had hooked up the battery the wrong way.  There was a fuse right next to one of the wires that was designed to protect against such idiocy and protect all of your more expensive stuff.  And it did a great job.

One new fuse and a cable swap later, and it became obvious what a working battery actually will do for a camper.  The lights and most of the electrical stuff worked!  As did the fridge.  Turns out the fridge cools on propane but it needs some electricity (from the battery) to run the control panel and thermometer.

Shade and Cords

The first trip we went on was sort of a trial run. It was only about an hour and a half away and was designed so that I could get used to driving it, and that we wouldn’t be far away if there were any issues.  Driving actually went well, but without the working fridge, we hoped to get right in and situated so that we could plug in and get the fridge working.  We found the perfect spot on the irregular shape campsite, but the problem: the cord wasn’t long enough to reach.  We tried a few other spots (taking valuable time) but the fire pit was in the way of the next couple spots that would have worked, so we ended up with the camper in a position that we weren’t happy with, and that blared down the afternoon sun right on us, even with the awning extended.

Lesson learned: Take the shade more into consideration.  And have an extension cord (which I now do….a very heavy duty, very expensive but well worth it extension cord).

These are just a few of the things I’ve learned so far.  As much as it seems I don’t know what I’m doing, I actually know that I’ve learned a ton.  I remember back when I was buying it looking at all the connections and hookups on the side and thinking I’ll never know what all of this stuff does.  Before putting it back in storage after our last trip, I looked over the side and realized that I know exactly what every plug, drain, valve, or otherwise on the side of the camper does.

I’m getting there.

But stay tuned, as I’m sure there will be more parts to this series!  As you read this, we’re out on a weeklong trip to the other side of Michigan that’s about 240 miles away. I suspect that ‘Dealing With a Screaming 3 Year Old And/Or 1 Year Old on a Long Car Ride’ will be first and foremost on the list for the next (mis)adventure!

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We Did It! We Bought A Camper!

Last month (I can’t believe it’s been almost a month already) I revealed that we were thinking about buying a camper.

I’m proud to say that we finally did!

Unfortunately, I don’t have any pictures because we basically got it and parked it for the winter, but I am sure that I’ll have lots of pictures to share once we start going on trips next year.

We had initially considered purchasing a pop-up camper simply because it looked like it would afford us a good camper at a good price.  One of those was definitely in our price range, but when we started thinking about it, we ended up going a different direction.

We ended up going with a travel trailer.  It’s a 23 foot Jayco Feather, from 2004.  The camper itself was in impeccible condition.  Everything looked new and the mechanics all seemed to be in order.  Jayco is built very sturdy so we had pretty much narrowed it down to wanting one of those.

My wife happened to find the listing on Craigslist.  I was a little nervous, but when we went to look at it, we were very impressed.  The seller had it parked in his driveway, with his kids around, in a nice neighborhood, and he was very personable.  My gut instincts gave me no bad signs about him (I did do as much Internet research as I could after we made the offer…just in case).

We made an offer on the spot. We actually went full price on the offer, actually going a little higher because we negotiated the hitch as part of the deal (at the recommendation of my father-in-law who has experience with campers and thus came along to give his input).

We put a down payment that day and it took about three weeks to complete the deal.  He had a shared title that he needed to get fully in his name, which he did.  We needed to meet at his credit union since he had an outstanding loan that needed to be paid off with my funds (we paid cash!).  Afterward, I took care of the title transfer and plates, then it took a couple of more days before I was able to go pick it up, but we now have everything and we couldn’t be happier!

It was a little more than I was originally intending on spending, but we had the money available and the extra payment seemed worth it to us because we got:

  • A good deal – We researched comparative campers and this was priced pretty low.  The fact that he was selling in the fall, when demand was low, worked to our advantage since he didn’t have too many other lookers.
  • Extra time – One of the things I hate about camping is having to load everything in and out of the car every time we go.  A pop-up would have changed where we loaded things in and out of, but we still would have been doing that every time.
  • Storage – Along with that, pop-ups just don’t have that much storage.  The camper we got has tons of cupboard space plus storage space under the seats.
  • Comfort – The camper we got has a slide out to give us extra floor space, plus both beds pop out at the ends.  This means that virtually all 23 feet of space is available to us for when we need to be inside.

The SUV that we own is more than equipped for towing the size camper that we bought, and my parents (who sold us the SUV a couple of years ago) happened to get one that already had a towing package, so it was pretty much good to go!

I’m nervous about driving it and all that, but like my father-in-law said, there are many people that make it work and many of them are far less intelligent than I am.  I’ve been reading a ‘general RV handbook’ that I rented from the library and taking notes.  I’m planning on spending a few days next spring with it parked in my driveway, and taking it to local parking lots where I can practice, practice, practice.

It’s an exciting purchase and we couldn’t be more thrilled. I think this will give us lots of great memories for our family.  I never camped growing up but my wife did and she got me into the experience.

Any great camping memories or horror stories that you have?

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