Friday, May 29, 2015

The Badlands to Cody

Today was a driving day and man was it long (but not as long as some of the other drives so something to look forward to).  But we made it and arriving at Buffalo Bill State Park was well worth it.  No rain here and just a great camp site with the snow capped mountains in the background. 

Update on the family truckster:
Total miles driven: 774
Total gallons of gas: 91
It made it over our first mountain pass taking HWY 16 over the big horn mountains.  The truckster only managed 35mph on a few uphill climbs but for the most part it handled it well.  The first climb in complete fog cloud cover was the worst but once it cleared up and we were heading down it was smooth sailing. 

Here's some photo's I took today:

Scenic Overlook Big Horn Mountains.

We all enjoyed the snow.

Luke walking the line at our campsite.  He also walked the line with my patience a good portion of the ride.

Frozen pizza never tasted so good.

View from our campsite looking out over the lake and snow capped mountains, oh yeah and a rainbow thrown in for good measure.  Just amazing scenery and this isn't even supposed to be the good stuff yet.

Day 2-driving from 8 am to 6:30 pm

Today's post will likely be a bit random. I jotted down weird things in my journal to cover in tonight's post. And it was a random sort of day. Except for the constant of driving. All ever loving day. It doesn't even seem like the same day now as it was this morning. 

We woke up to rain. And to a blinker that was out (but then magically fixed itself). Then we drove in rain and wind forever. 

First thing this morning I thought I'd try out one of my pre-trip plans. I dreamed about how nice it would be to listen to a book series as a family. I envisioned mutual laughter and suspense and hours of listening. Today we made it through approximately 35 minutes of Narnia. I think if I can persuade the boys to listen some more, that they'll really enjoy it. Heck, if we listened to an hour a day we could be done by the time we get home. I'll keep you posted on how that goes. 

After Narnia, Jason and I made it our personal mission to find the best XM radio station (rest assured we did not pay for this service, but signed up for the free sixty day trial). Anyway, with all those stations we thought we'd have a tough time choosing. But in reality, there are like six stations we could tolerate. All we really wanted was Mix 97.3 without commercials and across the country. We ended up with The Blend, Hits 1, The 90's, 2k, Radio Disney, and Alt Rock. We were really hoping the Alt Rock thing would stick, but we kept flipping back to The Blend. Old habits die hard. 

Meanwhile, in the back of the bus the boys were enthralled with Mary Poppins. They were completely quiet for three hours. THREE HOURS. None of that 90 minute Pixar stuff. What a great movie. 

For lunch we pulled off I-90 at a "parking spot" and ate cold sandwiches in the camper. So, apparently there are not rest areas in Wyoming. At least not where we were at. And let me describe a "parking spot" to you. It has no amenities. Unless you consider pavement an amenity. No garbage cans. Nothing. Ours didn't even have a solid division between the interstate and the location. It was really just a little jut out on the interstate with a couple of lines dividing the two. Seemed legit. And super safe. 

While we're on the subject of legit things on the interstate, I'd like to touch on "exits". There were some bizarre things going on. Like exits that could only be reached from one side of the interstate, veered sharply to the right, then turned into a dirt road ten feet later. Wha? Or exits that where just ninety degree turns into someone's yard. Convienent. Except you could only come into your driveway from the east and leave to the west. Weeiirrdd. 

While I was not studying the exits I noticed several unfamiliar things. There were a lot of sheep. South Dakota does t have sheep like Wyoming. South Dakota also doesnt have a lot of permanent snow fence. Wyoming has miles and miles and miles of it. Who's maintaining this stuff? 

Sometimes I would look up from a map or book and think, "are we even moving? I think I can run faster than this." It was a long day. But just when you thought you couldn't stand one more second something new or unusual would appear and suddenly the wind in your sail was restored. This renewal would also happen every time you ate something. Snacks really are magical. 

You know what I thought would be magical and is really sort of terrifying? Driving in the clouds. Yikes. 

Well, I'm exhausted from sitting on my butt all day. I really wish I had a bed outside, because that's where I want to be: in a bed and outside. We arrived at our campsite just in the nick of time-people were getting hangry. And by people I mean me. We had frozen pizza for supper and all is right with the world. It is amazingly beautiful at our campground. 

Somewhere in the Big Horn Mountains

At our campsite


Campsite (can you see the snow capped mountains?) there was a double rainbow too. No joke!

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Water water everywhere

The day started with water so it's only fitting that the day ended with water. Lots and lots of water. 

This morning, right before we left, we discovered our bathroom flooding. We cleaned up as quickly as we could, left the dog sitter a text and were on our way to the Badlands.  

We've been to the Badlands several times so the drive was nothing new. Actually it felt longer than normal. That's right it was longer, because our top speed now is 55. Sixty if we're lucky. Cars were passing is like we were standing still. And the trailer-she was swaying. Not only from the passing cars but also from the moderate winds. At one point Jason said, "I think I'm getting car sick. And I'm driving." I agreed. 

Meanwhile, the boys played and got their toys taken away and ate a quart of orange melon. And we all had ring pops. I gave them all a sheet of aluminum foil to play with. I have no clue where I got this idea. 

As we ventured further west river. The rain came. The sky's turned dark gray and ominous blue. We drove in and out of rain as we waited for the Badlands. 

About an hour out Marcus asked a simple question, "what number is our spot?". I looked. It was spot 22. Then I noticed it was spot 22 for the 29th. Today is the 28th. Craptastic. I called the hotline, got transferred, and explained the situation. They couldn't book anything for tonight so we'd have to chance it with first come first serve. Now to get the charge from the 29th refunded (we would have to pay for tonight's stay in the morning). We hung up. She called back. There seemed to be a problem getting the charge back on the card. Ohh. Yeah. That's because that card was comprised last week and we had to get new ones. Well she did not know how to handle this one. Not something you have to do everyday. We'd have to stop at the lodge and get this squared away. The gray clouds were now a special shade of angry. And I was beginning to get hangry (only I didn't know because that's how the hanger gets you). 

At the lodge I suggested maybe we just slide the charge for tomorrow to today and call it good. She cheerfully agreed. We just needed to go find a spot and let her know the number so she could put it on the invoice. Okee-dokee. 

Round the loop we drove. I was worried we wouldn't find a spot so we grabbed the first one available. It was a side pull off type of deal. We scribbled our name on an old grocery list and hung it on the clip. Back to the lodge, camper in tow.  This is when the deluge began. 

I told the nice young lady at the lodge that we had picked number 17. "Oh I'm sorry but that's a tent only site." I told her we fit just fine, but she could not would not with a fox. Back to the loop. It was raining so hard we could barely make out the badlands right in front of our faces. 

Ah-ha. There's a site! Get out the notebook paper and let's visit Jody at the lodge again. 

This time we had stuck gold. The site was paid for. Now we just. Had to go setup in the pouring rain. 

Even though it was a side pull in thingy, I still had to get out and help back. My hanger had now reached a fever-pitch as I stood in the rain. 

We were parked. I got the inside set up while Jason worked outside. I ate some cookies. Right after I poured a jar of sauce in a pot, Jason declared that we were too far away from the water and would have to put everything back to pull forward 15 feet, then back up 15 feet and reset everything. I blew a gasket (my cookies had not yet entered my bloodstream). I slammed everything back into place and told the kids to hang on. We got the water, backed up (again) and set everything up (again). 

My cookies had finally reached my brain and I was behaving better. That's when Jason swung open the door and demanded a picture. He was soaked from head to toe. 

I also lit a post it note on fire while I was cooking. So there's day one. 

nobody in my family ever overreacts: The Great Expectations

nobody in my family ever overreacts: The Great Expectations

On our way

Finally on the road. I am simply in awe of the adventure that is before us. First stop, this evening, Badlands National Park. 

Oh. In true Munsch style, Jason discovered that the second floor bathroom was actively flooding moments before we were about to leave. Somebody failed to snake the drain which had been blocked for months and then somebody else left the water running. I was in no way Involved. Awesomeness. These are the types of things that happen to us. We also almost hit the mailbox on the way out. I'd say we're off to a perfect start.

Here comes the sun

One of my pet projects on our trailer was installing a solar battery charging system. We'll be dry docking it (camping lingo for staying at a campsite without power or water hookups) for 10 days on our trip west so wanted to make sure we'd have enough battery power for lights, water pump, refrigerator (even on propane it uses some juice), and maybe even run the heater for a bit.

So I installed a Renogy 100 Watt Solar Panel. I started with one panel and after practice camping a few times seemed like we'd probably be ok with one if we had decent sun but with two we should be good even if its cloudy out.  Also all the hard work was already done so just plugging in another panel and screwing it down was a piece of cake.

Here's a couple of shots of the panels on top of the trailer.  I screwed them down with 1 inch multi material screws and lots of Dicor Sealant.

Overall project wasn't very hard just a pain to find a way to get the wires down to the controller and the battery.  But there was tons to learn about the electrical system and batteries of the camper.

Charge controller for the system took some time to decide which one to get,. I ended up getting a Renogy 30 amp charge controller. Deciding factor was a decent price and it had a digital display. Looks like there are a lot of different brands that all probably come from the same factory so went with Renogy brand to keep it in the family with the panels.  

The trailer has two 12 volt Interstate SRM-24 batteries. They were new when we bought the camper so we're sticking with them even though the marine/rv deep cycle batteries aren't all that highly recommended. They are 84 amp hour batteries so with 2 of them we can, in theory, get 84 amp hours (shouldn't ever take the batteries down below a 50% charge to avoid damaging them). But like most things in reality it'll likely be quite a bit less than the 84. We thought about adding another battery but with the solar system (especially adding two panels) I think we should be fine. Guess we'll find out soon. is a good site I ran across that walks through most of what you need to know if you're interested in learning more about rv solar systems.


Tuesday, May 26, 2015

The paper house

Our camper has affectionately been nicknamed the paper house. I don't recall who coined it but it was used to describe to the boys to tread lightly on our new travel trailer. We tend to be hard on things.

Here's a quick tour of the paper house we'll be calling home for 33 days.

She's a 22 foot travel trailer with a rear slide out (the Master Bedroom)

Each of the Boys has their own bunk. There is also a spare bunk which
 holds all Jason and Becky's clothes.

Becky made window curtains and bunk curtains for each of the boys.
The bottom of the bunk curtains are glow in the dark Star Wars material.

Becky also made bunk ladders (none came with the camper) and book caddys for each bunk.

We added a magnetic knife strip, utensil bar (both from IKEA),  and a wall mounted paper towel holder (not pictured).

Dinette area. Storage under each bench.

Couch, with storage and could sleep two, pantry, and frig/freezer.

 We installed a TV, and in the background you can see all the coat hooks we installed.

We bought a new mattress and hung a book caddy.