Wednesday, July 30, 2014

A. H. Stephens State Park in our U-haul Fiberglass Camper

Uhaul CT-13 Fiberglass Camper at A. H. Stephens State Park
This past weekend, we decided to take a quick camping getaway to a state park that's about an hour from our house. We wanted to go somewhere close and just relax. We're fortunate enough to live in the middle of four state parks that are within an hour of us. You can actually draw an almost square box between the four parks and we'd be right smack in the middle. So we picked one of those parks to take advantage of the ability to get there quick. Less time on the road means more time for relaxing! We decided to go to  A. H. Stephens State Park in Crawfordville, Georgia.

We had never been to A. H Stephens State Park before but I had some friends who live about 30 mins from it say they like to go there. One of the perks that I heard was that it's not crowded. I can say that proved to be true while we were there. The campground has about 25 RV/Camper/Tent sites with 30/20 amp electric and water. There are a fair number of pull-through sites for those who don't like to back up. Most of the pads are large and would fit any fiberglass rig easily. I had enough room on our pad that I could have put the screen room behind the camper or next to it. Including the camp hosts and us, there were 6 campers in the campground this past weekend. We settled into site 4. The bathhouse was clean and it's on the outside of the loop. The inside of the loop has an old tower built by the CCC to be used as a fire tire and a water tower to hold water pumped up from one of the springs. There's also a large lawn area on the inside of the loop perfect for kids or playing games that includes a playground, horseshoe pits (w/horseshoes), sand volleyball area, and a public water spigot and dishwater disposal area. There are a lot of tall pines in the campground and I found a couple next to our site that were the perfect width for my hammock. In retrospect, I should have picked the site next to us (6) which was a pull-through just for the reason that it had better shade.

Camping in Georgia in July is not for the faint of heart. It's HOT! We hit the 90s this past weekend and combine that with the high humidity down here and it's like living in a sauna. The mornings and evenings were fine. But the middle of the day was scorching. Our camper doesn't have air conditioning. So we're left with the Fantastic Fan and a tower fan that I take when it's hot. Tower fans are great for campers. They may be a bit more expensive than a box fan but when space is a premium like it is in our little Uhaul fiberglass camper, they fit the bill. I strongly recommend them. The nice thing about the tower fan was that I could also move it outside with extension cord and set it up under our screen room for some airflow. We found some water balloons at the camp store for the afternoons to cool us down. I discovered that the little faucet in our camper is a perfect size for filling water balloons!

Liberty Hall at A. H. Stephens State Park
On Saturday afternoon, we decided to do a tour of Liberty Hall to do something out of the heat. For those who may not know, Liberty Hall in Crawfordville, Georgia was the home of Alexander Hamilton Stephens. Stephens was a politician for Georgia back before the Civil War. He was against secession but once Georgia and the other states seceded, he became the Vice President of the Confederacy. Stephens always wanted a peaceful end to the war whereas Jefferson Davis didn't. The two men did not get along. Stephens was also a good friend to Lincoln. Later after the war, Stephens ended up becoming governor of Georgia for about 4 months before he died. We enjoyed the tour and the air conditioning for the afternoon.

Heavy's BBQ
Crawfordville sits in Taliaferro County in Georgia. It's a tiny county and the least populous one in the state. So there's not much there to do except relax around the campsite. I had a great time talking with Ranger Michael who grew up there and is probably one of the most personable rangers I've ever met. The county has so few people that they only have one school K-12. Interestingly, they do year round school. We did find one bright spot just outside of town south of I-20 on Hwy 22. A BBQ joint called Heavy's. It's only open Friday - Sunday but the food is good and the plates are huge. My kids are now referring to it as the restaurant with the loaves of bread on the table. True southern BBQ hospitality with loves of Sunbeam just sitting on every table is a kids dream. The place has a lot of character between old trucks and farm equipment outside, to a hunter's lodge feel inside. (I swear there were more animals on the wall than at the zoo in Athens.) (EDIT: Come to find out, they filmed the bar scene in Sweet Home Alabama at Heavy's.)

We had a wonderful time. And even though I didn't get the opportunity this time to fish at any of the 3 lakes, Ranger Michael assures me the fishing is good. And he has 3 large bass mounted on the wall in the station that he's personally caught to prove it. So if you want a quiet place to camp along I-20/US-278 and like a bit of history, you might give this place a try for a night or two.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Tornadoes and Campers Don't Mix

storme clouds
Many of you may have seen the news last Thursday that a campground in Virginia was hit with a devastating tornado. It was so bad that many people were injured and a few people died. Here's the link to an article about it (Confirmed Tornado: 2 dead, 36 hurt at campground along Va.'s Eastern Shore).

Midland HH54 Portable Weather RadioIt's a good reminder that you always need to be aware of the weather specially when camping or hiking. One of the best ways to be informed is to always have a weather radio with you. One thing you want to do if you do have a weather radio, is make sure that the weather radio you take camping isn't set like the one at your house for your home area. Weather radios operate by allowing you to program SAME (Specific Area Message Encoding) codes for your county/region. When NOAA issues an alert, it's sent out as a digital signal that includes the alert type, duration, and SAME codes for the areas it covers. At home, you typically set it to filter alerts to just SAME code for your county. If you are going to be camping in a place for an extended period of time, then you may want to set SAME codes for the area you are in. Otherwise, I wouldn't bother. Just leave it with no codes so you'll get all alerts. You should be aware of the area you are so when it does alert you'll know if they're talking about somewhere 20 miles away or the area you are in. I like Midland radios. I have 2 of them. One I keep at home which could also be a base station in an RV/camper and, one portable that I take camping/hiking. The base station types will run on 120v with a battery backup. The portables run on either rechargeable packs or AA's (though you could use rechargeable AA's). No matter which one you get, make sure you carry one with you. 

I also suggest getting a mobile weather app on your phone or tablet if you don't have one. I prefer ones with radar images so I can view the area and get a better idea of what's coming and what direction the bad weather is headed. Another feature available to some phones is NOAA's WEA (Wireless Emergency Alerts). These are sent out like text messages to your phone if you're in an area where an alert is. Unfortunately, not all carriers or phones are supporting this yet. They just started rolling it out in 2012 so I think many people may not have newer phones that this will work with yet. Hopefully over the next couple of years most people will have phones that will work with this. If you want to find out more information and what your carrier supports, go to this page at the CTIA site.

The other thing that you want to keep in mind is where to go to be safe when the weather is bad. A camper is not a safe place and neither is a car. You want to know where the closest structure is like the bathhouse. You are safer in the bathhouse than your camper. Most bathhouses at parks are cinder block construction made to last for years. Huddling in the shower stall may just save your life. If you're not sure where to go or what structure might be the safest, ask the campground hosts or park rangers. If you're staying in a state or national park, it's a good idea to ask the rangers about what weather conditions to look out for or be aware of. 

No matter what bad weather brings (tornado, hail, flash flooding, high winds, etc), you can be prepared and give yourself an edge by arming yourself with the correct technology and knowledge. Do you have a favorite weather app or other tips? Help your camping neighbors and leave a comment below! Share the knowledge; save a life.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Rock Guards on Fiberglass Campers

Rock Guard on Uhaul Fiberglass Camper
So the Uhaul, like many other fiberglass campers with front windows, came with a rock guard. My thoughts on this are that Uhaul wanted to make sure that the glass didn't get shattered either from a truck towing it and throwing up rocks behind or a car towing it and rocks from the road coming over the roof of the car. In any event, it's a great thing to have in my opinion.

The front window is a solid glass window. Unlike the door, rear and two side windows, which slide open and have a screen, the front has no way to open and therefore no screen. There are two types of rock guards on fiberglass campers that I've seen: a solid plastic/fiberglass piece that clamps to the front window (Scamps seem to have this style) and a hinged piece with shocks. The Uhaul comes with the later. I suppose having a hinged guard vs a removable piece that could get lost is better in a rental environment.

The nice thing about the Uhaul rock guard is that I can open and close it as needed. I tend to close it at night since it's right at the top bunk and it blocks out the sun in the morning to let my son sleep a little later. Granted that's a benefit only applicable to those with kids on the top bunk but for us it's a big one. I also like that when open it provides some shade over the window. You can even use the shocks to hang towels on to dry if you're at the beach or anywhere that you may be swimming. The one downside I can see is that since it shades the window so much it does block out some of the vistas you could view out the front. That's minor for me as I tend to have the car parked in front of it most of the time. (Some folks have said they don't like having the rock guard at all so they can see all the way through the camper and out the back window when towing.

When we first got the Uhaul I noticed a couple of issues with our rock guard. (Which I must say from the folks I've talked with and those I've seen for sale since, not all of them still have theirs.) It's made of plastic so like with anything plastic it's a bit brittle after so many decades. It's hinged at the top. Ours had apparently been broken at the hinge point on one side and the PO had moved the hinge over toward the middle and re-riveted it. So we do have a "hole" in the top side when it's closed which does allow for rain, leaves etc to come through. I do have to clean out the leaves before a trip since it's parked under a tree at home. I may try to patch it at some point.

Shocks for rock guard on Uhaul Fiberglass Camper
Shocks for rock guard on Uhaul Fiberglass CamperThe other thing I noticed with ours was that there were issues with the shocks. The original shocks were lightweight and after a few decades had worn out. I took the original shocks to an auto parts store and I matched them for length and bolt size. The pressure in my replacements is likely higher than the original ones when they were new. But I don't see any undo stress. If you have issues with yours, then I recommend replacing them.

On a side note, if you do not own a rivet gun, I'd invest the few bucks in one with a fiberglass camper. They're really useful; especially with the double hull of the Uhaul. They will allow you to attach things to the outside without having to drill through both hulls and using bolts on the inside. The hardware that connects the shock to the camper had snapped a rivet and the other one was close behind. So I ended up re-riveting it and it was quick and simple. Here's a link to a video on how to use a rivet gun ( It's pretty simple once you get the hang of it. Just make sure you use the right size rivets for the job.

Feel free to comment with any questions.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Uhaul buys back a CT-13

So I know it's been a while since I've posted. Unfortunately, June is the busiest time of the year for my job and it requires long hours and not much free time. Add to that the kids running around with no school to keep them occupied and you see where I've been.

So an interesting thing happened earlier this week, a guy from U-haul bought a U-haul Fiberglass CT-13 camper in Minnesota and is driving it back to their headquarters in Phoenix. I think it's pretty cool and I'm looking forward to following their journey. I hope they decide to take it other places too, would be neat to run into them on the road sometime. Interestingly they're route is taking them through Mount Rushmore and SD where we took ours last year. Makes me wonder how frequently a Uhaul camper shows up in SD.

If you're interested to follow their journey, you can follow along at Who knows, maybe you'll see them roll through your town.

More updates to come as my busy season winds back some...