Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Hillsborough River State Park & Tampa RV Show 1/12-15/2016

This was our first RV trip of 2016 and was scheduled months ago.  We hooked up with friends from Georgia we had not seen for around twenty years.  They brought their thirty foot Class A motorhome down and will be spending about a month at various Florida State Parks before heading back home to Georgia.

Jeri and I brought the trailer home on Sunday and I put on the new spare tire mount and tire, as well as prepping the trailer for the trip.  I won't go into all the details of this, but it included things like checking tire air pressures, wheel lug torques, making sure all systems were working properly, etc..  We also loaded up clothes and food for the trip on Monday in preparation for a Tuesday morning departure.

Tuesday, 1/12/2016
Before hooking the trailer up to the truck we ran our beloved pup, Sugar Belle, over to my wife's sister's house, so she could visit them while we were gone.  This would be our first RV trip without her along, but since we were planning to spend the day at the huge Tampa RV Supershow on Wednesday, we did not want to leave her in the trailer alone for that long a time and while pets are allowed at the show, we did not want to subject her to the huge crowds, etc. [We missed her a lot!!]

We hooked up the truck and trailer and if I remember correctly pulled out of the driveway around 11:40 AM.  We took scenic two-lane highways all the way down to the Hillsborough River SP and enjoyed the trip.  We took one break for lunch in our trailer at a parking area in a Shell gas station.  We think it's pretty cool to be able to pull over just about anywhere and go have lunch in the trailer while on the road; plus, it's cheaper and healthier than getting fast food all the time.  We've stopped in some truly scenic spots, too.

We arrived at the park a bit after 3:00 PM, checked in, which only took minutes since I had reserved and prepaid for the site a few months ago.  In fact, I didn't even have to get out of the truck.  She did ask to see my driver's license to verify I was over 65, since Florida residents 65 and over get 50% off when camping at Florida State Parks!!  Good deal!!

While on our way to find our campsite (# 113) and set the trailer up we rounded a corner and spotted two people stopped--it was Rich and Dianne!  We stopped for a brief chat before locating our spot.  We then backed the trailer in and did all the set up.  

We used the new Andersen levelers for the first time and they were great!  So easy to use, only took seconds to get the trailer nice and level (side-to-side).  After just the one use I have to say I am impressed.  All the positive reviews I read seem to be true, but time and more usage will tell.  But, as I said, they were easy to use and when it was time to leave it was just as easy to drive off them.

Rich and Dianne stopped by and chatted for a few minutes and we made our plans with them for attending the show the next day.  I would drive and Rich would pay for the parking.  We would pick them up at their campsite (#27) around 10:00 AM and tour their rig before heading out to the show.

After they left around dark to head back to their motorhome Jeri and I grilled a couple of small Omaha sirloin steaks (we were not impressed with them) and had those, cheese sauce broccoli and some leftover shrimp fried rice for dinner.  We enjoyed sitting around our nice campfire for a few hours after dinner, but Jeri was bummed that she had forgotten to bring her normal campfire treat of roasting marshmallows.

Grilled Steak Dinner

We did use the new little electric heater and it did a great job of keeping the trailer warm, even on the low setting.  It wasn't real cold out, though, maybe down in the 40's.

Wednesday, 1/13/2016:

The morning was overcast and since the light was so dim coming into the trailer we overslept and did not get up until a bit after eight o'clock.  We had to scramble around a bit to get some coffee, breakfast, etc., to get over to Rich and Dianne's at ten, but we pulled into their campsite at 9:59 AM.  LOL

They took us on a tour of their rig, both inside and out.  Rich & Dianne Lang are very experienced RV'ers and have traveled extensively, sometimes months at a time, all over the USA.  They have done many improvements to their RV, customizing it to fit their own style and needs.  All the work was done flawlessly!!  Excellent job, guys!!  Dianne gave Jeri a couple of scarves she had made as well as a wonderful framed artwork she had created.  Thank you, Dianne!!

We drove into the Florida State fairgrounds, taking a shortcut route Rich and Dianne had found.  They come to this show every year, so were well versed in what to do, etc.  It was nice having them as tour guides!

This show was MASSIVE!!!!  Unbelievably MASSIVE!!!  

Rich and Dianne wanted to focus on Class C units because they are thinking of downsizing in the future, so that Dianne is more comfortable sharing the driving duties.  Jeri and I wanted to focus on a travel trailers in the 25-28 foot range and smaller 5'er, so we went our separate ways.  Wednesday was "Seniors" day ($1 off) and the place was packed.

I lost count of how many trailers we went through, but it was a LOT of them! :-)  It was fun seeing all the different layouts, discussing amenities, options, weights, tank sizes, etc., with the reps.  We saw a lot of the really huge motorhomes, i.e., over $1 Million and there were lines of people waiting to go through them, so we did not bother with even trying.

At one point, while in a trailer scoping it out, Jeri got a text from her sister, Claudia, back in Palm Coast, saying our Sugar Belle had dug under their fence and was gone.  Talk about going into a panic!  I called Claudia because Jeri was too upset to talk and was immediately told that another message had been sent three minutes after the first, that Sugar was back in the house and fine.  She had not run off.  Whew!  What a relief!!

We got lots of brochures and did find a couple of trailers that we really liked.  I think we've pretty much ruled out any 5'er since the pin weight would be very close to, if not exceeding our truck's weight limits.  But at the end of the day, and since we've put so many additions into our trailer, I think we both decided we would just prefer to keep it a while and enjoy it.

I did stop in at the Dometic booth and talked to one of their technical guys about using our a/c unit on the 2400 W Yamaha inverter generator we bought recently.  He said the unit I have does not come with a start capacitor and that I could buy just about any hard start capacitor and put it on and that should enable our generator to run it okay. [Since returning from this trip I did install a hard start capacitor and the generator does seem to handle it okay now, or at least much better than it did.]

We left the show around four if I remember right and since it was Lotto drawing day and the Powerball was up to $1.5 Billion Jeri and Rich decided they needed more tickets, so after just arriving at the campground we headed back out an into Zephyrhills to get Powerball tickets and maybe get Jeri some marshmallows.  I filled the truck up with gas while we were at it.

Back at the campground Jeri and I grilled some cheeseburgers for dinner, had another campfire and watched a movie on the TV before turning in.

Thursday, 1/14/2015:
We took some pictures and did some park exploration today.
Our rig in campsite 113

You can see the red Andersen levelers under the tires.  They worked great!

The old suspension bridge across the river--closed for restoration.

While hiking along the Hillsborough River look who we ran into; Rich & Dianne in their kayak.
Rich & Dianne Lang in their kayak on the Hillsborough River

Jeri and I also ran into town to pick up a couple of things, especially a card and gift bottle of wine for Dianne because today was her birthday.  So glad we got to help her celebrate it!  Happy Birthday, Dianne!  We wish you many, many more!

We enjoyed another nice campfire, of course and I have to say that the two bags of firewood we purchased at Publix turned out to be good burning firewood.  We got three evening campfires out of the two bags and even had one piece left over.  :-)

Checking the weather still indicated that rain was on the way tonight and tomorrow.  It's not a lot of fun breaking camp in the rain, so we decided to hook the trailer up to the truck and do as much as possible to break camp tonight instead of waiting until tomorrow morning.  We also realized our campsite had a big low spot that was going to collect water.  It's a good thing we did!  As the pictures below will show.  A lake developed!

Friday, 1/15/2016:
In the wee hours of the morning it started raining and kept on raining; sometimes hard and sometimes slacking up.  We had coffee and some breakfast and during a lull in the rain (I was watching the radar on my iPhone) we broke camp while trying to stay out of the lake that had developed just outside our trailer's steps.  If you stay at Hillsborough River SP and the weather has even a slight chance of rain you want to avoid campsite #113!  Jeri stayed in the trailer while I donned my waterproof boots that I always carry and did all the remaining outside stuff, then I pulled the trailer about 100' over to a parking area so she could get out without stepping in the lake in our campsite.  

Jeri having coffee and checking out our campsite lake.  :-)

The lake in campsite #113

We drove over to the dump and emptied and flushed out our tanks during another lull (well at least it was down to a sprinkle) in the rain, then headed for home.  We drove through a few miles of hard rain and some wind and standing water, but the truck and trailer handled it all just fine.  We arrived home safely and without incident around 2:00 PM after stopping once to have a bite of lunch in the trailer.

Here are some pictures Rich sent me.

Jeri & Dianne (left to right)

Bill & Rich (left to right)

Bill & Jeri

We will leave you with a nice evening campfire video as we log this trip into the books and start getting ready for a big Western adventure next month to TX, NM and AZ. 

  • Hillsborough River State Park is a beautiful place to camp and explore.  There is lots to do there.  They have a very nice, large swimming pool (closed while we were there, of course), a small store and even serve food in a small restaurant.  There is a nice playground for the kids and a large, very nice picnic area with shelters.  We would definitely recommend this park!  
  • The Tampa RV Supershow is awesome and a definite must see if you are into RVs of any kind and are close enough to attend.  You can easily spend two full days at the show if you want to see everything. (We didn't.)
  • Seeing old friends after around 20 years was simply awesome!  We all vowed to RV together again, sooner than later!!

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Further RV Purchases and Improvements 1/7/2016

I have been quite busy (and spending quite a bit of money) the past couple of weeks getting several items to enhance our RV camping experiences.  We are meeting up with some friends of ours from Lilburn, GA (Rich and Dianne Lang) at Hillsborough River State Park near Tampa next week for a few days and we will be attending the huge Tampa RV show at the Florida State Fairgrounds with them.  Should be a lot of fun.  Next month we plan to take a few weeks trip out to TX, NM and AZ and we want to boondocks (aka dry camp without any hookups) most of the time.  We did this one night on our big September 2015 trip and really enjoyed it.  There is a real sense of freedom when you don't have to pay to camp or use water, electricity and sewer hookups.  It really gives RV'ers a lot of options to be able to boondock.

So, here are the more major purchases I made.

1.  Yamaha EF2400ISHC inverter generator--this was the single most expensive item, 
     but at 2,400 Watts it is supposed to be able to not only charge the trailer battery, but
     also run the 13,500 btu air conditioner in the trailer, the reefer, microwave and 
     everything else that requires 120 vac to run.  It won't be able to run the entire trailer 
     at the same time as the A/C, but close.   A secondary reason is for use here at home
     if needed during a power shortage.  It won't run the whole house, but will be enough
     to run the two refrigerators and some lights, TV, etc. 

The new 2,400 Watt "genny"  Purrs like a kitten and starts first pull every time!
2.  Renogy 100 Watt Solar panel and controller kit--This will be used to charge the 
     trailer battery and hopefully be enough to keep it charged so we don't have to run
     the generator a lot (unless we need to run the a/c).  Yep, we'll go green when we can.

3.  Spare Tire, Wheel, Cover and Carrier--I've definitely worried, even with new tires, 
     about having a flat tire on the trailer out in the middle of nowhere and not have a spare,
     so this solves that worry and provides better peace of mind when we're on the road.

4.  Andersen Trailer Levelers--These should make leveling the trailer side-to-side much
     easier and faster.  Since the trailer has twin axles I needed two sets.  We will try them
     for the first time on our trip next week.
Red Andersen levelers in actual use on our travel trailer--they worked great!  Very easy!

[Followup 1/18/2016:  We used these for the first time and they worked great, making leveling the trailer side-to-side very quick and easy.]

5.  30 Amp 25' RV Extension Cord--This is another item RV'ers should always carry.  I
     wanted one for two reasons:  1)  for use when the shore power cord on the trailer will
     not reach an electric outlet in a park; and 2)  I plan to strap (and secure) the new genny 
     in the front of the bed of the truck and run it there when we camp, so I plan to just 
     keep the new extension cord plugged into the genny and use it to plug into the trailer's
     shore power cord when we need to use the genny.

6.  Five Gallon Gas Container & Two Five Gallon Water Containers--Gas for the genny
     and a way for us to get more water for the trailer if needed and/or carry more fresh 
     water with us.

St. George's Island State Park Trip 11/30/2015-12/3/2015

We left on Monday for St. George's Island SP, taking our four year-old grandson Max with us and came home on Thursday.  We had a good time although the mosquitos were really bad at the park.  A lady walking by warned us they were bad even as we were backing the trailer into our campsite!   Unfortunately we didn't take the big screen room (my fault and poor Jeri was eaten alive, although for some reason they didn't bother me much (because she is so much sweeter than me, I guess)), but we did buy every citronella candle we could find and kept them burning outside.  :-)  The park does contract with a private company to spray twice a week to keep down the mosquitoes.

We also had a bit of rain, but this did not dampen our spirits a bit.  One disappointment was that Eddy Teach's Raw Bar was closed and gone out of business.  Max had a great time, too, but was missing Mommy and Jack by the time we headed back home.  He was quite the little trooper on the trip.

This is a very beautiful state park (mosquitoes aside) with nice, clean facilities.

This was our first longer distance pull of the trailer with the new Ford F150 pickup and I felt so much better pulling the trailer with it instead of the old Grand Cherokee we had.  Hardly knew the trailer was back there.

Here are some pictures from the trip.

Jeri, Max and Sugar enjoying a campfire

Grandma and Max enjoying the beautiful beach

Hand-in-Hand back to the truck

The dunes


A bit about the oystering in Appalachicola Bay
Oyster boat--they still use them

About the oyster skiff

Jeri getting her raw oyster fix (best in the world come from Appalachicola Bay they say)

The Rig (what a pleasure to use)

Of course we stopped to buy some fresh seafood to take home with us!!