Last year I wrote a few posts about our camping ‘misadventures'. There were three in total (parts one, two and three), and there were certainly a lot of different things that happened. I figured that the first year would be rough as it was my first time ever owning a camper, and I was hoping for a better Year Two, and after finishing up the season, I'm happy to say that it was definitely a lot less stressful and a lot more enjoyable.
Here are a few highlights:
We took a total of seven trips this year, compared to six last year. All of our trips were at Michigan State parks, so we have a pretty good idea of what to expect. In total:
- We stayed at six different parks (we stayed at one park twice as our last two trips)
- Two of the parks were parks at which we had never stayed before
- Our shortest trip was about 40 minutes away (the one we stayed at twice), and our longest was about 4.5 hours.
- Of the four parks that were not new to us, we stayed at all four last year as well! A couple of those we'd gone to even before that as tent campers.
- For the second year, my wife and I took one trip with just the two of us, leaving the kids with grandparents. Not only did we stay at the same campground at which we did this last year, we even picked out the same campsite!
Tricks of the Trade
Last year, the low point of the season came when, after having come back from seeing 4th of July Fireworks over Lake Michigan, a storm blew in overnight and ripped half the awning from the camper. Since then, I've learned a lot about this, and am happy to report that we were damage free as far as the awning goes. We invested in a set of de-flappers, which basically attach to each side of the awning and keep the canvas tight. I think if I would have had these last season, the damage would have been avoidable, as it would have likely given me more time so that I could have taken the awning down.
More Things Become Ordinary
One of the things I've noticed is that I am now familiar with so many things to do with our camper that setting up and taking down is a lot more routine. I still follow a checklist just so that I don't miss any steps, but I now know just how long each task should take, what will come next, and things I need to look out for. A lot of time last year was spent worrying and being overly cautious simply because of the unknown. Now that I've gone through it over a dozen times, it's not as intimidating as it used to be.
The In-Law Factor
My wife was the one that introduced me to camping, and it's because she grew up having done it, as her parents owned a camper for much of her childhood. They haven't had one for years, but after seeing us with ours, my in-laws got the camping itch, and they'd always mentioned in passing that they might get another camper after they retired. This spring, even though they are still a year or so away, they decided to get a camper. So, several of our trips had us camping together, which was fun and gave more adults to watch the kids, which is always great. Now, if I could just talk my parents into giving it a shot!
When we started booking trips, I said to my wife that I thought that this year would be tougher than last year when it came to the kids, but predicted that it would start getting easier. At 4 and 2, I knew that they were of the age where they'd still get tired out very easy, get impacted by missing out on sleep, and would require constant supervision. Not that I plan on ignoring my kids anytime soon, but I know that as they get older, they can handle doing more and more things by themselves. I just didn't see that being the case this year. Last year, our daughter wasn't really walking, so I thought that this year would be a little tougher, especially since she's an explorer and doesn't really abide by set boundaries as much as we'd like.
It kind of worked out as I'd predicted. The upside is that they had exponentially more fun than they did last year, as they are both older and know the routines and what to expect and what they like. But, they did get crabby pretty easy, they still needed naps at least every other day, and after longer rides, my wife was typically dealing with two cranky kids versus getting things setup for camp.
The good news:As I mentioned before, I think this will start getting easier moving forward.
Nine Years Old and Counting
Last year, we spent about $700 on new roof joints, as well as the repairs to the awning and other such things. This year was relatively maintenence free. The biggest ‘problem' that I had with it was a minor leak at one of the windows, though I think I may have left it unlocked as I've not been able to duplicate it since. We also had the A/C start dripping one time, but I replaced the very dirty filter and so far it never happened again.
Next year we may invest in new tires as I think the tires on the camper are original, and even though they are in visibly good shape and I now keep them covered during times when the camper is in storage, nine year old tires make me nervous.
I also know that the camper is getting older. My biggest fear is a leak in the roof, as water damage can be killer, though hopefully the roof job we had done last year holds up for a few more years.
It'll be sad to put the camper away for the season, but we had a lot of great times this year, and more important for me, a lot less stress!