Wednesday, May 21, 2014

The Importance of Camping as a Family (Camping with Kids)

Kids Camping
There are so many things I can say about why I feel it's important to get outside and camp/hike/explore with your kids. It's the entire reason I bought the Uhaul Camper. While I still love tent camping, it was a logistics based decision to get the camper. Something I could leave packed and ready to go. Just add food, clothes, and family and then hit the road. Even if you don't like to camp, many state parks and campgrounds like KOA have cabins. The important thing to me is getting myself and kids out from in front of the TV/Computer and getting outside. I want my kids to grow up and learn problem solving skills and that it's not the end of the world if it rains or a tent pole breaks. You can always make it work and find another way. .

Amelia Meyer has a great guest post over at Sierra Trading Company's blog with a pretty all inclusive list of reasons why you should get out there: A Bunch of (Really Great) Reasons to Take Kids Camping.

For those of you in Georgia, the state parks offer a First Time Campers program where they will provide the gear and help/advice from rangers for a 2 night stay. Besides playgrounds, hiking/biking trails, boat rentals, most state and national parks also offer programs like the Jr Ranger programs. While camping at FDR State Park last year they happened to be having a reptile program on Saturday morning. We took the kids over and they loved it. We also have camped at Hard Labor Creek State Park and they often do wagon rides around the park with a ranger telling about the history of it and stopping at various buildings. These are just a few examples of the things we've stumbled on while camping.

So get out there and see the real world!

Monday, May 19, 2014

Uhaul in the Smokies

Camping at KOA in Townsend, TN with our Fiberglass Uhaul Camper
Campsite 120 at KOA Townsend, TN
So there is a fiberglass rally in Townsend, TN (right outside the Cades Cove side of Great Smoky Mountains National Park) every year called the Eggscursion put on by the Egg Camping Club. (If you don't know, molded fiberglass campers are referred to as "eggs" sometimes. There are lots of rally's around the nation and it's a great place to meet other owners and see other types/brands of fiberglass campers. We went to our first rally last year in Townsend and had a blast and got lots of great ideas. We were the only Uhaul Camper there. We went ahead last year and booked our reservations for this year. Then my best friend picked that date to get married so we bumped our reservations a few weeks. We're looking forward to the rally next year but we had a blast camping this past weekend up there.

Cades Cove in Great Smoky Mountain National Park
Cades Cove in GSMNP
The temperature was milder than I anticipated for this time of year. It actually sleeted up at Newfound Gap when we were going through on our way up. I heard they closed the road for a bit later that night due to ice. The park was beautiful and it wasn't too crowded yet which was nice. We did the Cades Cove loop again hoping to spot some bears, but it wasn't till after we'd left the cove that we spotted a mother and 3 babies off the side of the road. It was great for the kids to get to see them. We didn't find time to do any hiking this trip. I was hoping to get a short day hike in with the kids. But we did get to relax and I did get to kick back and read some at the campsite (which I rarely have time to do during my weekly grind). One think I love about being so close to the Smokies is that they have such beauty and nature combined with a rich history. I always learn something new every time I visit.

We stayed at the KOA in Townsend. This was our first time staying at a KOA. Honestly, they aren't really on my radar normally due to price and being crowded. I usually choose state parks when camping with the camper and the family. I like to support the state park programs in states we visit. When I'm soloing I go backcountry or tent camp at National Forest campgrounds that don't have hook-ups. We did have a wonderful time at the KOA though and it's right outside the park. We ended up in site 120 (water/electric site) which had a nice patio, table and chairs (as compared to a normal picnic table), and a fire pit. The staff was very friendly and very helpful. We didn't use the free cable TV and the free wifi was a bit spotty (don't try streaming videos on it). The kids enjoyed the playground, basketball court, and riding their bikes around the campground. The fenced dog park was a nice feature too for our dogs to run around off leash. While I probably won't seek out a KOA everywhere we go, we're planning to go back to this one again next year. I can definitely see their benefits if we do another long (10-day) trip in the future.

We've been up to the Smokies a lot before we bought the camper. We did try something new this time and it was a blast. The Smoky Mountain Alpine Coaster is a sled on a track basically. You get pulled to the top of a mountain and ride down with gravity. You do have a brake lever to slow down if you get going too fast for your comfort, but they say the max speed is 27 mph. It's a mile track down the mountain with loops and turns. While ticket prices aren't exactly cheap for adults and older kids. Young kids (3-6) are only $5 to ride with adult. Our little ones (4 and 5) loved it and can't wait to do it next time we go back.

It was a nice, refreshing trip. I can't wait for our next adventure.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Bunk Bed Stability

Rubber cone-shaped bumpers for bunk bed support in Uhaul Fiberglass Camper
Rubber Cone-shaped Bumpers
So as I mentioned in a previous post, I've gotten around to resolving one of the issues with the top bunk. The poles from the top bunk do rest in these little indentions and rely on gravity/weight to keep them in there. The problem with this for me is if the lower kid kicks the pole or the upper kid jumps up and down, it feels like they could slip out. Many folks have tried and suggested various options. I want to keep the ability to break down the bunk (so I didn't want to make it permanent). I ordered some conical bumpers that measure 21mm x 12mm. I then picked up some #10 x 3/4 in. wide head screws at the local hardware store. (If you don't have the wood braces under the fiberglass, you should put some in.) I then screwed these right into the wood braces and they worked perfectly. The poles slide on and off easily but the diameter and height of the bumpers is enough to keep them from bouncing off should they be kicked accidentally. Also, the rubber bumpers are low enough to leave there with the cushions down. So no need to take them off when not using the top bunk and there are no sharp or protruding screws/bolts/etc that some folks have used. All in all I'm happy with it and we'll try them out on the next trip. I'll definitely post an update if they don't work as good as I imagine.
adding cone-shaped bumpers to hold bunk bed legs in a fiberglass Uhaul Camper

See my post on replacement poles for the bunk bed if you're looking for those.