September 2005

We’ve spent the past 30 or so summers cruising Chesapeake Bay to the exclusion of much other travel.  So, we decided that our next adventure would be to spend the warm months of 2006 touring US National Parks and portions of Mexico and Canada. We’ll do it in a camper so we can keep our plans flexible and keep expenses in line.

We plan to leave home in mid-April, following our winter xc-skiing season activities and giving us a chance to get the yard and our affairs in order. Hopefully, we won’t feel a need to return home before mid-November, in time for the holidays.

The Camper:

Since we didn’t own a camper, we needed to do something about that. We purchased a light-weight Aliner solid-wall folding trailer. I researched all kinds of units ranging from fancy motor homes to 5th wheel rigs and slide-ins. My selection was made on the basis of simplicity, cost and flexibility.  We can easily tow the Aliner with Sandy’s Lexus RX-300.  The unit is equipped with a 3-way fridge, pressure water and propane hot water heater, three-burner stove and furnace. It only weighs about 1,000 pounds and I can set it up in about 30 seconds, literally! Although it folds, there is no canvas so we can break camp on a dewy or rainy morning without making the bedding soggy.

There didn’t seem to be many used units around. However, I was on E-Bay one day and wondered if there might be any for sale.  Sure enough, there was … a 2003 unit located in New Hampshire.  It was even exactly the floor plan I was most interested in. (Yes, you actually get to choose from among 19 distinct floor plans for this tiny 12 x 6 1/2 foot boxes.) I called my brother-in-law, who does lots of E-Bay business for bidding strategies and won the auction! A few day later I drove up to see the unit and towed it home the following day. It was barely used and was just what I’d hoped to find at a fair price.

We’ll make a few changes before we leave, to be sure. Major projects include an awning with a screen room to provide an outside refuge from sun, rain and bugs. We decided that air-conditioning is a must. Although we don’t have it on the boat the camper simply isn’t as well ventilated and it doesn’t automatically line up with the breeze like the boat does at anchor. We’ll “dry camp” quite a bit (meaning no electricity or water) so I’ll install an oversize battery and a good fan because we can’t run AC without 110 volt electricity. Then there are storage considerations for both the camper and the car (lots of stuff will remain in the car).  We also plan to take along our bikes on roof racks.

Our Route:

We’ll work that out over the winter and along the way. Our intentions, though, are to avoid the Interstate highway system and stay with the traditional routes and scenic highways. With seven months to spend, we shouldn’t need to be in too much of a hurry. I expect we’ll first head south, making our way down the Blue Ridge parkway and end up exploring the Everglades and the Keys.  Then, we’ll start heading west. I’ve begun purchasing guide books to the parks and old roads.  I’m highlighting road maps and taking notes from friends who have particular destinations to recommend.

Even with a route mapped out, we’ll still follow our noses when we see an unplanned stop that sounds interesting.