Uh-Oh. How The Cold And Snowy Winter May Cost Us

It’s been a pretty crazy winter here in Michigan.  We’re in the top three in terms of seasonal snowfall record.  Between January 14th and February 17th, we had one day where it went above freezing.  By exactly one degree.  We had the snowiest January on record, and February has been no slouch.

This combination has led to snow piles growing and growing.  Certainly not melting.

And, this could potentially have very negative consequences as it turns out.

As many long time readers know, we enjoy camping, and we have a trailer type RV that we pull around.  It’s lightweight, which works out well since we have a mid-size SUV.

A few weeks ago, after one big snowfall, I wondered aloud whether I should go over to my in-laws (where we store it for the winter), and clean off any snow from the roof.  This was probably closer to mid-January when we had no idea the cold spell we’d see.  My wife didn’t think it was necessary.  My father-in-law didn’t seem to think it would be an issue.  Other things came up.  I kind of forgot about it.  And that was that.

Turns out, I probably should have trusted my gut.

Last weekend we were going to my in-laws and I decided I wanted to poke my head inside and make sure everything looked good.  I also wanted to grab a couple of things from inside.

It’s stored on the side of the house, and there isn’t any traffic.  Nor is there much sun.

I trudged through the snowpile to the door, and noted, wow, that’s covered with a lot of snow.

I went inside and took a look around.  The first thing I wanted to make sure was that there wasn’t evidence of any pests.  It all looked good.

The next thing I wanted to make sure was that there was no evidence of leaking.  I looked all around the places where I know would be water entry points, and it looked solid.  I gave everything a once over, grabbed the couple of items I was looking for, when I happened to look down the center of the unit.

And noticed that it looked a bit stretched in the middle.

It turns out that the weight of all that snow, for such a long period of time, may not have been such a great idea.  I should have trusted my gut.

I did some non-scientific measurements to show that it did indeed look like things had gotten a little saggy.  I did this by taking a knife from the silverware drawer, and putting it atop my head.  I measured the remaining distance between the top of the knife and the ceiling, and there does appear to be 1 – 1.5″ variation between what I think is the low point and the area along the sides.


This is not good.

I went out and immediately got to work on clearing as much snow from the roof as I could.  I left about 4-6 inches on there, only because that was pretty packed down.  You don’t want to rub the shovel (or in this case, the roof rake) against the rubber membrane as that can cause a breach.

The question at this point is whether there is a breach.

I know that the area in the center had sunk a little anyways based on something that happened a couple of years ago.  When the units are built, they are pretty flat with maybe a slight slope from the center down.  Our repair dealer noted that the air conditioner had caused some sag due to some improper bolting practices during the manufacture of the unit.  This was, unfortunately, something that many other owners of similar units reported, but because of the age of the unit (it was built in 2004), Jayco was not acknowledging or assisting in any way.

At that point, they took care of the necessary repairs, but they pointed out that it did cause some shift in the roof angles due to the weight not being distributed properly.

So, my guess is that there was already somewhat of a weak point in this area, which may have led to the snow pack causing some sag.

The question is what will the impact be.

Best case scenario – None.  As I said above, the roof angle was changed since the A/C was sitting there incorrectly for roughly eight years.  During that time, it didn’t cause any leaks.  We also had all of the seals re-done as a preventative measure.  The roof is rubber and the seals are made of flexible material, so there’s a chance that the materials would keep the seals intact.

Worst case scenario – If the seals didn’t hold, there will be leaks once the snow starts to melt.  Which could start as soon as today, as we are finally due for a few days of above freezing temperatures.  I’ve asked my father-in-law to poke his head in and check things out.  If it looks dry, we may have dodged a bullet, but if not, we could be in for a heap of trouble.  After doing some research, it looks like it could leak not only at the weak spot, but there’s also a risk that it could leak around the perimeter.  Since the weight is pulling it down at the center of the roof, this means that it could also be pulling it slightly upward along the edge.  If that were to happen, this could cause leaks within the walls, down to the floor, and would be a major mess.

Lucky it’s insured, but honestly, this would not be a claim I want to make.  Who knows what the repair process would entail, not to mention when it would be repaired?  Based on how it’s stored, could it even be removed from it’s present location?  If it did damage the walls and flooring, who knows if it would ever be the same?  Or how long it would take?

So, I’m hoping for the best.

Actually, the best is that maybe it’s just my imagination.  Maybe the entire problem with the bolts and such caused it to sag and what I’m seeing now is no change from that time.

Actually, let’s hope for that scenario.

I’ll keep you posted.

When Other People Make It Look Easy

Fairly soon, we’ll be heading on our third camping trip of the season.  I’m a little bit nervous because we are going to the same campground where the big awning blowoff of 2012 took place, and I’m definitely a little skittish about returning to the scene of the crime.   But, it’s a great campground and I’m hoping this time is a little less adventuresome.  We’ll see.

I had to share a story about our last trip, which took place earlier this month.  We stayed at another one of our favorite campgrounds, this being our fourth visit (two before we bought the camper, and one last year).  We had a great time but what stuck out were the people on either side of me.

They both blew me away!  So much so that after the trip was done, I commented to Mrs. Beagle that I was sure glad that these people hadn’t been my neighbors on my first trip, for they made things look amazing easy!

On our left

The people to the left of us arrived a day or so after we did.  We were out so we didn’t see the setup, but we returned to our campsite to find that they were all setup, with a big camper and a boat on top of it.  As the week unfolded, I was absolutely astonished.  The campers consisted of a dad and his three young children (7,5, and 3).  I had a conversation with him and he did reference his wife, but she wasn’t there.

These kids were so well behaved you barely heard a peep out of them (the 3 year old got picked on a few times and would cry, but that was it!).

He took the kids out on the boat for the entire day multiple times, and would return to take care of dinner.  The kids would sleep in (or at least stay in the camper) until past 10 in the morning.

For us, we had two adults and we only had two kids, yet it always feels a little more frantic….and there’s no way I could have handled a boat on top of everything.  This guy made it look easy.

On the right

Around the same time, our neighbors on the other side came in.  They were a family of four, and set up rather quickly.  Two of the four were teenage boys, and we were amazed that they all fit in the little pop up camper that they had.

Even more amazing was all the wood that they started unloading.  Both kids and the dad were pulling wood and making a pile that kept getting bigger and bigger and bigger.  It was astonishing.

And, it was good wood, too, as they soon lit some and it lit easy and crackled away.

We soon found out why they had all that wood.  Because they kept their fire going all day, and cooked every meal over the fire.  And, we’re not talking plain old hot dogs over the fire.  They made meals that I would struggle with in a full kitchen.  Chicken that you could tell was just perfectly tender and seasoned to perfection.  Bacon and eggs.  Tacos.  Fish wrapped in foil.  It all smelled delicious, and it got to the point that when it was mealtime, my wife and I would both peek out the windows to see what was being served, and they never disappointed.

Again, had this been my first trip and I pulled up between them, I would have thought that camping was a cinch.  At least now I know that this is definitely not the norm, at least for a novice.

It’s All About Time

I talked with the people on both sides, and as I suspected, they were pretty expert campers.  The people who did all the cooking said that they’d been doing it for a number of years, and they have definitely built a routine.

That hit home, because it’s easy to see this type of setup and think that this should be your standard, where in reality, that’s not the case.  Assume that they’ve been camping for five years.  Will we be in this position in five years?

I’d like to think we’ll be a lot closer than we are now, and that others will look at us and make it look easy.

Set Priorities

I also realized that they’re good at this because they ‘going boating’ or ‘cooking by the fire’ as their priorities.  We like doing other things like going to the beach or park or even local attractions.  So, cooking is secondary, where for them, their primary focus is sitting around the fire and cooking or going on the boat.  That’s important to differentiate, and I’d like to think that they saw the way we pack for the beach and spend the day there, and think that we maybe made that look a little easy 🙂

It’s Probably Not Always That Easy

We had great weather the week we were there, so we got to see both of these ‘experts’ at their best.  As my wife and I were talking about them, I pointed out that, especially for the people that cooked everything over the fire, things would have been much tougher had we had a cold, rainy week.  It’s probably harder (and a lot less enjoyable) to make a perfect piece of chicken if is pouring rain and you’re soaking to the bone.  I’d have to think that the law of averages has made this situation a reality for them a time or two.

Set Your Own Standard

Last year, when I was just getting started on the whole ‘camper’ business, I got frustrated a lot more often.  Now, I basically reserve my frustrations exclusively for when I’m backing the camper into the campsite, which I still have not gotten the knack for.  Other than that, I’ve realized that we’re pretty good at this…for being relative novices.  I try to keep that perspective and realize that every trip means we learn more and more, and that we also find new ways to enjoy ourselves.

Wish Me Luck

As I said before, the trip we’re headed toward has a great campground with amazing things to do, but I’ve told my wife that if I get ‘bit’ again, whether it be another awning incident, a major problem with the camper, a flat tire or some other big deal, I’m going to consider the place cursed.

But, I’m sure we’ll have a great time.  We always do!

You Never Know What Memories Will Become Long Lasting

The other day, I was listening to some music, and rather than listen to Pandora, I decided to flip through some of my MP3 files that I have on a thumb drive.  I decided to listen to listen to an album I haven’t heard in awhile, Facing Future by Israel Kamakawiwo’ole.   As soon as I heard the first notes of track 1, it instantly brought back memories to that trip because it was the CD we played in the camper while the kids napped.  This always associate it with that ‘first trip.

But as I listened this time, I became nostalgic for that trip.

Which surprised me.  A lot.

If you read my post a few months back of our first camping misadventure, you’d know that the first few weeks of having our camper the past season were a bit tumultuous.  It wasn’t an awful trip but it was stressful.  Consider:

  • Driving it the first time – Although we purposefully picked a campground less than an hour away, it was the first time I’d driven it for more than a few miles without my father-in-law.  It was completely nerve racking.
  • The fridge wasn’t working – We never realized until we hit the road that the fridge wasn’t going to work while traveling.  It had worked the entire time we had it in our driveway, getting it ready for the season, but as soon as we unplugged and expected it to switch over to propane, it didn’t.  Being a short trip, we didn’t take the time to troubleshoot, but it was still stressful.
  • Backing in – I’d never really backed in before, and although we had a large spot, it was still stressful because we didn’t have a clear spot in which to back in that would also allow our camper to be plugged in, so it ended up taking too long and we ended up facing the wrong way anyways (in terms of getting sun at the right tiime)
  • That dang fridge again – Once we got there and got plugged in, the fridge still wouldn’t stay cold.  I kept turning it colder and it wouldn’t get colder, making for mushy ice cream.
  • Our baby girl – Our daughter turned one year old on the trip.  Her first year, including the camping trip, was a struggle.  While there were plenty of wonderful moments that first year, there were many bumps along the way.  It was always a struggle for her to eat.  She didn’t sleep that good (5:30 was her usual wake up time and napping never really got into a groove). Plus, she was very shy about strangers, which extended to anybody outside of Mrs. Beagle and I.  She often screamed anytime our parents tried to hold her.   These struggles were ever present during that first camping trip.
  • The campground – Many of the other campgrounds we went to last summer were awesome.  Some had great beaches.  Some had great sites.  Some had great trails for bike riding.  This had none of those things.  It wasn’t an awful campground, it was just…a campground.

While it wasn’t an awful trip by any means, many of the memories I have of this summer came from other trips and such.  So, when I started to get nostalgic, I actually sat down and thought about why.

Here’s what I came up with:

  • It was our first time – Everybody remembers their first time, right?  While first times of any new experience aren’t often fantastic, they are always remembered vividly.
  • We did have a lot of things to smile about – The problem with the fridge not staying cold is that I was pushing the temperature to the higher number, which in our camper meant warmer.  I was actually making it warmer!  Once I realized that, the problem was solved.  As I look back on that, it’s actually funny.
  • The human brain – That goes to the point that time fades bad memories.  Many of the things that caused stress and such have already faded away, but the good memories remain.  I think the human brain is amazing at doing this, and I’ve heard it said that this is inherent in us, because the brain didn’t push aside painful memories, no woman would ever go through carrying and delivering a child more than once!
  • Our baby girl – All of the issues that plagued our baby girl that first year and that first trip started to turn around her first birthday.  It’s one of those things where you don’t really notice the change until you can step back and take a look, but at a certain point later in the summer, when she was happier, friendly toward strangers, on a good schedule, and eating like a champ (she eats better than her older brother now), we realized that the trip was when she turned the corner and she started shedding her ‘baby troubles’ skin.
  • Everything else got better too – Every drive after that was a little less stressful.  Every time backing it was a little easier (mostly).  Every cleanup and trip was less stressful than the last, which took away a lot of the lasting negative impressions from that first one.  At the time it didn’t seem like I would ever get the hang of many of the things, but once I did, it made me realize that all of those troubles were awfully less troublesome than I’d first thought.

Apply this principle to your daily life.

Everybody looks to make lasting memories out of occasions that are easy to pinpoint: Weddings. Birthdays.  Anniversaries.  Vacations.  Many of these things are rightfully planned with the idea to have fun, make memories and create experiences that will last forever.

The thing is that those aren’t the only times that memories will get created.  You never know what moment will come back and give you longing in your heart to be able to live it again.  So, try to live as many moments as you can to their fullest.  Don’t just plod through your work week, through your day at the job, through the chores around the house without looking around and trying to take in that moment.

Many would discount the idea that you could have a great memory at work, or that you should really try to live life while sweeping out the garage, and I’m not saying that you should be someone that looks to find everlasting happiness in every moment, but what I’m trying to say is don’t shut yourself out of the experiences you’re part of so that you might miss out on something later.

Readers, have you ever had a memory or an experience come back as a warm memory or nostalgic moment that surprised you as such?


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.


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!


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!

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?