Monday, January 16, 2017

Happy 2017!!

Here we are, in another winter just after the New Year.  This year wasn't going to have a lot of camping, as we were planning to be on a Disney Cruise to the Bahamas with the kids in August,... but, as life would have it, our roof on our house just kept getting worse.  So, we cancelled our cruise (got the refund back in full too since we had the time and travel insurance) and selected a contractor to replace our aging and failing roof on the house.  After the past 3 years of work on the house renovating and cleaning things up, to much risk involved in trying to get through another year with the leaking we have had increasing.

So,... instead of this,.....

We got this,......

A cruise will happen in the future when we can save back up for the trip.  Projecting Summer of 2019, so we can go with some friends.

So, while that took place, we emailed and called friends about camping opportunities and calendar openings to try and coordinate some fun times this year. I hope to fill the calendar with a few more dates and possibly a Passport 217 Rally Weekend if we can get schedules to align.  I know of two other 217 owners just in our local area.

So far, we have the following scheduled.  (no particular order, just how I remember them at the moment)

  • Little Red Barn, Quakertown, PA (2 nights)
  • Lake In Wood, Narvon, PA (4 nights) ** Near Shady Maple :-)
  • Assateague State Park, Maryland (6 nights - Dry Camping)
  • Lake Glory Campground @ Knoebels, Elysburg, PA (3 Nights - Summer) (3 Nights - Fall)
  • Mountain Springs Campground, Shartlesville, PA (2 Nights)

So, that's a total of 20 Nights camping, with still lots of multiple week gaps in our schedule.

Also, another winter season gets us thinking about a few minor things we want to add or fix up on the camper.  Besides regular maintenance items that we will have to check in the spring (roof seals, windows, screens, etc.)  we would like to add an LED light strip below our awning.  The newer productions of our model year did away with the amber porch light and have an LED strip, which is nice, but also we like our porch light.  So if we add a LED strip it will give us the best of both worlds for our camping experience.

That's it for now,... back to work.  Counting the days till April!

Friday, December 30, 2016

Winterized.... Again.

So, the 2016 camping season here in Southeastern PA and it was time again to winterize our home away from home,... while parked at home in our backyard.  Ha!

You can go back to last winters posting about our winterizing of our camper to see the how-to, but it was a pretty easy task yet again until I had to put the over over it.  Took me extra long this year as there was a little breeze to fight and I was a little to far forward when I began opening the cover so I had to take some iterations to pull and push it back on the camper.  What a workout!

So, everything is in hibernation mode and we are tending to the battery occasionally to keep it in good shape.  Also, we have been messaging some people that we have met at various camping locations and trying to organize some combined camping trips in 2017.

October Knoebels Craft Fair Weekend

Another annual excursion to Knoebels for the fall craft fair and covered bridge festival.  Typically the weekend of Columbus Day in October it is always a good time and the campgrounds get sold out again for this late season event.  We leave early Thursday morning to drive up and get ahead of the weekend crowds which also makes for easy site setup.  We really like this location in the woods but in the fall you have to remember to bring your leaf blower!  After clearing our site and the one next to us where Bob and his family will be coming, we are ready to go hit the park early and see the good deals at the craft fair.

Yes, I bring a leaf blower to the campsite
 While the ladies like to take in the craft fair on Thursday and Friday, it is also nice to get on some of the classic rides like the Giant Wheel to see the craft fair from above.  It is quite impressive to see how expansive the show is.

Madie and I seeing the sites from above.
 The girls are now getting old enough to do some new rides on their own and the separation between them and Madie is becoming more apparent.  Ally enjoyed chasing others around in the Bumper Cars, although, she didn't like getting bumped!  I think it was the opportunity to drive around on her own that she enjoyed the most.

Ally on the bumper cars
Something that you don't get to see to often during the summer is the Knoebels characters.  Typically, if you do see them they are part of a birthday party and are going past and you don't have time to get a photo with them.  But, at this weekend, they are all over the park and craft area and you can take photos with them easily.  Here is Kosmo and Kreeper with the girls near the main entry gates.

And,... after a little sugar, you can always count on Bella to get a little silly at the campfire!

Monday, November 21, 2016

2016 Assateague Island Camping Trip

Another exciting year to head to Assateague Island State Park in Maryland, this being our first trip here with our hybrid instead of the popup camper.  Travel down was smooth this year with little traffic and it wasn't long till we were at the entry to the ranger station.  While I went in to check in, I hooked up the camper hose to have Becky fill the on board water tank so we could have the bathroom and kitchen facilities at our campsite.  We were on D loop again this year, directly across from our normal location.  There are no hookups in this loop.

Our setup on D Loop, Beach in the background
The week was looking good weather wise so we spent some time at the beach, at Ocean City, and just hanging around the campground area.  We brought the bikes down this year so everyone was out riding around to get ice, see the horses, or just burn off some energy.

Being that we don't have a hook up, I had the solar panels setup that we used with the Popup.  I noticed on Day 1 that it didn't seem we were getting a good charge back from the panels based on our load and our battery voltage was not being replenished that well.  It was getting charge, but not enough to really hold the battery in a good condition by sunset to make it through the night.  I was all over the camper, manuals, etc to try and find this draw, and I found that the electronics in the refridgerator along with the CO detector were the two items drawing on the battery through the night.  If we ran the bunk fans, we woke up to a battery in the 10.5-11 V range,.... another words, Dead.  I ended up having to make the decision to get a generator.  I had priced some online earlier this year (Briggs and Stratton, Generac, Yamaha, and Honda), but was now in a pinch.  Without a generator, we couldn't keep our food cold in the fridge and would have to resort to ice runs and a full cooler.  Doable, but we chose to go for a generator.

Took a few hours to call around, search HomeDepot, and ended up driving about 45 minutes away to a farm tractor supply place that had only 2 Honda 2000W gens, so we purchased one and a small gas can and were on our way back.  I really love how quiet and easy to use the Honda is.  What everyone says about them is true.  We would typically run for about 4-5 hours (Dinner to Dark) and that would get us in good shape for the night.  Then in the morning we would run a little bit too.  Some people ran all day, but since ours was new I didn't want to leave it unattended.

2016 Boardwalk Ice Cream
The kids like to go up to the Ocean City Boardwalk one evening, I found the benches close to where we typically try to get ice cream and tried to get the kids in the same location as they were a few years ago, it is amazing how much they have changed!
2013 Boardwalk Ice Cream
Some of the sights around the camp and at the beach!

Well,.. Good morning horses!
I wanted to go out and enjoy an activity as a family, so we chose to head over to Ayers Creek Adventures for another kayak rental and short paddle.  They are very good people and the prices are very reasonable with good equipment.  Becky and I each got tandem kayaks so we could take the younger two kids who haven't kayaked solo much before while Bella was able to paddle herself.  The weather was great and the water was pretty calm which made for a nice paddle for about an hour.  Becky had so much fun she though we should consider getting a tandem kayak!  Wow!

Becky's true reason for a tandem!

Madison and her single paddle helping out.  She did good.

Bella having a blast.

We have been camping at Assateague now for a few years and it isn't very often that you see large groups of horses out on the beach.  Sometimes you can catch one or two in the early morning, but this was the first year they were trying to excape some of the biting flies one humid afternoon and they made their way to the waterfront.  Quite a sight and some photos are nearly post card worthy!

So another good trip to Assateague in the books.  We have become regulars now on Loop D, but unfortunately, weren't able to keep it for next year cause I missed the chance while we were there to book next year.  So, we will be in C Loop next year and a little earlier in July, hopefully we will have good neighbors and a good time there too.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Campbell Field Airport - Weirwood Virginia

Some of you readers may know that I've always had my head in the clouds with regards to aviation and flying things.  From a young age I have always been facinated with flight or things that fly.  Building model aircraft, rockets, gliders, and eventually getting my private pilot certificate.  Well, I can't fly General Aviation anymore due to the rising costs of raising kids,... and the rising costs of airplanes too, so I took a good look at an ultralight known as a powered paraglider.  This is an efficient glider that many people would fly off the mountains with and search for thermals, however, I strap on a 125cc weed eater style motor onto my back to propel me into the air and I can fly around.

Since getting into this sport I have had the opportunity to fly with some local guys here and there, but a lot of flying is out there by myself on a calm evening or early dawn patrol morning.  The opportunity came to drive down to Virginia for a fly-in / camp-in weekend with these guys and a few others, so I went.

Since this is a grass airport that is away from things, camping at the airport is allowed but is also 'dry camping', meaning there are no hook ups, electric, or water facilities that we could.  Most guys pack bottles of water and walk across the airport to the bathroom that the owner graciously let open for us.  I stopped north of the airport by about an hour to a public state park campground and was able to fill my fresh water tank for the last hour of driving.  This way, I wasn't toting 40 gallons of fresh water for the full 5 1/2 hr drive.  Also, I would need to have power for the few days, so I took the Honda 2000 and a small gas can.  Since it was only me and all I really needed was the fridge, I didn't have to run it that often.

The camp setup, with the generator tucked behind.
The first night was likely the best flying weather I would have for the few days there.  The sunset was very nice across the bay facing Baltimore and the air down low was very smooth.  With such a large flying area, we could easily cruise around the airport and surrounding farm fields without having to venture anywhere or worry about power lines.
Cruising low one evening.
Flight #1 in the book for the weekend
But, as mentioned above, the flight weather was variable each day with the wind was steady throughout the day and actually smooth for the first 800 feet or so.  Then the wind gradient would increase the winds and park most of us till we retreated down low.  When exploring the airport I came across this astonishingly accurate weather sign.
Weather meter at the airport
So, what does this flying contraption look like?  Here are some shots of me in the air cruising in the sunlight in my flying lawn chair.  :-)  The wing above me is 28 sq. meters of nylon fabric just like those stunt kites you see at the shore, and I'm being pushed thru the air with a 125cc Weed Eater engine behind me.

So, there was a lot of good flying that weekend good commeraderie amongst other pilots.  Food was plentiful and some of those guys really know how to throw a fly-in.  I have some video up on my YouTube channel of my paragliding and I'm still trying to get this video from this weekend of flying edited.  Sometimes my GoPro acts up,... might be time for an upgrade from the Hero2 to something more current.

Sunday morning came fast and it was time to pack up.  About an hour drive back up route 13 to the campground at Shad Landing and I was able to dump tanks there with a few minutes to even use my tank flush to get a good rinse of the tanks since our camping trip wasn't going to be for a few more weeks to go up to Knoebels for the fall craft fair.

Monday, August 22, 2016

August Trip to Knoebels Amusement Park

Our annual before school trip to Knoebels Amusement Park came upon us quickly this year.  Due to the leap year, we were unable to keep our spot in the shade trees by the lake but were able to get a full hookup site (which the other wasn't) and up near the front.  It is a very spacious site that have the kids plenty of room to play and run.

The only draw back to this site was that the daily travel of the people in the campground was going right past us, in and out,.... in and out,...
A very spacious site with tall trees
Since we were coming up, we arranged to bring one of Bella's friends Courtney, with us as a surprise.  After we were setup we could go over to the park for an evening when it was less crowded on a Thursday evening rather than the Family Bargan night on Friday.  This gave us and the kids the chance to ride some of the things we typically don't get to as the lines are usually long, like Flying Turns and Impulse, we were in the coaster in less than 15 minutes!
Rob and Ally rocking it out on the Flying-Turns coaster
The girls on the Impulse for the first time!!  They liked it!

Another night at the park with the Ciotti family who is camping with us and we could take in the evening lights and sounds.  The Giant Wheel is always a family favorite so we can see the whole park.

Bella and Lyndsey cruising on the Flying Tiger Ride

Everyone on the train ride

Madison by the Covered bridge at the campground

Bella and Madie on the Paratroopers
Knoebels is always a great way to end the summer and get ready for school.  The kids really enjoy it and this time was made special by having a day with their friends as well.  We will be back in October for the craft fair and back in our normal spot in the comfort of the shade trees.

Sorry so short,.... but lots of fun was had!

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Adding Flush Kits to our Tanks

Today I spent some time planning and finally putting in the flush kits I have had lying around for most of the summer.  Since we don't have a direct way to access and flush the tanks from the bathroom or a pre-installed system, I purchased two rinse kits off Amazon.

For the grey tank, just a standard sprayer to help clean it out, and for the black tank, the Tornado spinning sprayer to try and keep the tank clean and loosen up anything that may have gotten stuck.... yuck!

I didn't like the simple clear hoses that they provide in the kit.  These seemed a little less durable for the length and I'd rather take a few extra minutes to use the PEX plumbing piping.  Another thing, I wanted to have just one point of hook up to flush both tanks, rather than undoing the hose and switching to the other while at the dump station.  The last thing I want to do is take extra time when in the conga line on a holiday weekend to switch systems.

Clean holes drilled for the kit and pilot holes for the mounting screws (grey tank)
Grey tank (direct sprayer) attached and sealed
Black tank tornado flush kit with a second coat of sealant
Installation is pretty simple.  Clean the side of the tank where you are going to install the flush kit and lay out the template that is provided.  Using a hole saw, a simple clean drill into the tank for each of the kits.  Then, clean the edges up to remove any burrs and wipe down the tank wall again.  100% silicone caulk is used to seal up the kit to the side wall of the tank and the screw holes.

Then came time to figure out my valve system.  I decided to have a single drop-ear mount for the hose connection that goes to a brass "T" and feed each side of the flush system as I need.  Being OCD,.... yes,... I used Red PEX for the black tank and then Blue PEX for the grey tank.  Nice 1/2" ball valves to control each side.  Simple, and effective.  Some rubber coated clamps and self tapping screws and everything is secure and ready to hold up to the traveling vibrations and regular use.  I'll try to test them on this next trip when I have a site with full hook up.

Valve system fit up and aligned
Mounted to the frame
The business end where the "Master of the Stinky Slinky" works.  Oh,... don't forget to wash your hands :-)
Final product