New posts are planned for Saturdays and otherwise randomly as something of interest happens. I maintain an author page at Facebook. If you are interested in more on the writing, it's at https://www.facebook.com/RainTrueax/.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

trailering on a vacation


Traveling with a vacation trailer is not for everyone. It had been over a year since we bought our 26 footer, and we'd put off taking it out even though we knew a lot about trailering as we bought our first 15' one when our kids were tiny as a way to camp most week-ends without dragging along all that baby gear. We had pulled that one a lot of places during their growing up years, taking it to Arizona more than once usually in May with no air conditioning. It enabled secure camping but had no real luxuries including no bathroom.

This trailer has the luxuries with a nice sized bathroom, shower with tiny tub you could sit in with knees up anyway, queen sized bed, nice refrigerator with a freezer that can run off propane or electric, gas stove and oven, table and chairs and a sofa-- the latter in a  pop-out that makes the trailer more spacious than it would otherwise appear. It came with a radio, DVD and CD player. We bought it a small flat-screen TV.

At 26', it's larger than we originally wanted but it would let us live comfortably for a month. It's like pulling your vacation cabin with you... and that is one of its drawbacks as it does require a big truck to take it anywhere. But then hauling in a year's supply of hay or taking steers to market requires that also.


Pulling such a trailer requires a good hitch, making sure electric is properly working, brakes with a box by the driver to adjust as needed when going down steep hills, and Eastern Oregon is full of steep hills. The older models used to have jacks that you stored and brought out but today's have a jack that you crank down but need to bring extra blocks to level the trailer if you don't plan to stay in fancy RV parks. Pulling such a rig does require some expertise and willingness to learn but for the passenger, you rarely even know it's back there-- exceptions being really rough roads.

hooking up and ready to leave Steens. This is the pop-out side with it in

One thing that makes trailering perfect for me is I like to go on trips where nothing has been planned. I want to vagabond it, stopping wherever it seems good, open to anything that comes along and especially open to surprises along the route. We took four cameras and kept three at the ready almost everywhere we were whether in the truck or walking to something we wanted to see.


We started out this trip intending to go to Pendleton first, changed our minds and delivered boxes of beef and lamb to our daughter in Medford, headed over the Cascades and spent the first night at a KOA in Klamath Falls. We didn't consider that the beginning of our trip, that came the next day and from that time on we winged it, deciding where to go sometimes that morning, deciding how long to stay somewhere only once we were there. We both dry camped (which means no hook-ups and stayed in state parks and city parks (they are in many small towns east of the Cascades and provide full hook-ups minus the internet or cable, of course-- although one small town where we didn't stay had a city park that offered wireless internet.

After we'd been out a few days, we got to thinking about turning Farm Boss's Droid phone into a hot spot. We knew it could be done if you can get cell phone coverage ( some places we could not), but we didn't know how much it would cost. It turned out to be reasonable and whenever cell phone coverage was fast, our internet was also.

The hotspot had one drawback as no way to watch videos without eating up the GBs. We bought 4, upped it to 10 after we watched Bill Maher and saw our time disappearing. We were more careful after that and 4 a month would be enough-- if we resisted our addiction to Maher once a week. We have HBO at home and it would have let us watch movies from them also-- except we'd have needed a lot more than 10 GB if we wanted to do that. In the future we would just have to save watching anything live for when at home or in a place that provides wireless-- and some of the professional parks do but then they run $40 or more a night for the full deal. Those small city and beautiful state parks usually were under $30.

We learned a few things that will make the next trip better with the trailer. One is to consider carefully how to use the available storage cupboards. Thinking that through ahead of time would have been better. Also we are buying it a new mattress before we go out again as this one was okay but not what we are used to at home-- that and higher quality sheets as I had brought the kind we used to use thinking I'd get value from them. Not worth it as sleeping well is a big deal.

So it was a fantastic trip and I will have at least four blogs here about some aspects of Oregon's back country that many people may not know. We couldn't get into the fossil beds, of course, due to the government shut down and likewise national forest campgrounds were generally closed (many would be soon anyway as winter sets in) but BLM generally was open and of course anything run by the state of Oregon or Washington.

We saw museums and so many wonderful things that it'll take awhile to find the right words to describe it all. Some I'd seen before and some not. Everywhere I got new insights that will help with the fourth Oregon historical book. I think a trip to the Oregon Historical Society in Portland might be helpful also as some of my kind of questions docents don't generally have to know.

When stopped for the night, on my Kindle, I read George Custer's, My Life on the Plains. Although I was traveling different country, it was useful for my future book for the mindset of a cavalry officer of that time period. Custer has been a hero and a villain depending on who you read. I enjoyed having his own words regarding the winter 1868 campaign as he described his motivations and experiences.

I am giving the trip a little time to sink in before I begin writing again on that book; and while I do that, I'll try to write some future blogs about Oregon's high desert and ranching country, some of its little known history and a few of the places we visited in the Gorge. I have so many photos that it overloaded one folder. Eventually I'll try to put a selection together into a slideshow.



28 comments:

Tabor said...

We borrowed a small RV and went on a trip in Texas with the little kids once. But, we always think we would like to do it with a better RV. The cost of buying one would mean we'd have to use it at least twice a year or feel very guilty. I am also not sure that cost of gas doesn't override the lack of paying for a hotel room or cabin.

Kay Dennison said...

Sounds & looks great!! My ex used to say that my idea of roughing it was a Holiday Inn with a black & white which wasn't quite true. I think a rig like yours would be great!

Rain Trueax said...

We got about 11 miles to the gallon which is 7 less than usual for that diesel truck. Farm Boss will build an air deflector for the truck which will improve that some.

The thing is you cannot stay all the places we did and have your own bathroom and kitchen. Not having to unpack every night is a huge plus. Some places you simply couldn't stay at all. You'd have to drive out from there to what you wanted to see; so it's not all it appears for cost.

When we made the side trip to Pendleton to visit the cultural center we left the trailer at Maryhill State Park. Our trailer set right on the Columbia River with a grassy yard around it and its own little patio with a picnic table, a few feet from the river.

We did take it down to Sherar's Bridge because we decided we'd rather stay in Sisters than farther from home. That's a windy and narrow road, not somewhere I'd chose to take it but Farm Boss is used to pulling hay trailers; so he did fine with it even with my nervousness.

Dry camping means no hookups and no cost but the state or city parks were all under $30 a night. It's definitely cheaper unless you stay in the cheapest motels in any town and that can lead to some interesting experiences (I say this from experience *s*), but you do have to have a big enough truck for whatever size unit you buy. In our case we had to have this truck anyway for the farm. It's got 172,000 miles and this is the first time it got to pull an RV :). It might have felt it was beneath it considering the load it usually carries involves tons of hay.

We also think we will have to factor in more frequent maintenance when we take it a lot of miles. My real goal for it was to take it say to southern Utah and stay somewhere a week or two. Eventually maybe buy some land east of the Cascades and leave it there like a vacation home. It has a nice awning but we didn't use it this time with only two nights in any one place and a lot we wanted to see out from it.

Kay Dennison said...

Sounds good! I keep thinking that I need to re-think what I want to be doing in the next few years.

Rain Trueax said...

We met a lot of people while out there and a few were full-timers. There are also tiny little trailers that a person could use to sleep safely in areas where frankly a tent wouldn't be so good

Celia said...

Sorry I never tried a trailer or RV but it's not too late to rent an RV at least. My retirement vehicle of my dreams these days is a camped out VW Vanagon. Not as roomy but good for 1 and a friend and I did do that but carried a tent for extra space when with friends. I loved the flexibility and not many motels can provide those kind of views.

Rain Trueax said...

My favorite way to camp used to be the Astro van where we had the back set flat and a bed with curtains. The drawback was no inside bathroom in the middle of the night in grizzly and moose country. This one is so secure at night and they have improved how they pull. What I love about whichever way a person does it is the flexibility of staying where you want. The drawback is you do have that anchor on behind you and it does require a safe place to spend the night. We used to sleep in rest areas when we were younger. I don't know if the world has changed or we're just older but I'd be more reluctant to do it today.

It was funny in one of our camping spots as it was totally dry camping with hundreds of vehicles (didn't count but it seemed a LOT) at a site set up for loose parking. It turned out we were at Summer Lake for duck hunting opening day. It was great although we weren't there to hunt, the ones there were nice folks and often family units. One guy asked Farm Boss-- so you came out here without a gun, when he was told we weren't there to shoot ducks. Farm Boss said, I didn't say that! The guy laughed. We had two handguns with us-- both loaded ;) Reality is if you are going to sleep away from professionally run campgrounds, probably you need to closely observe who else is there. In the case of the duck hunters, they were nice folks. That morning though we woke up to hear a lot of pops as they went after the 30,000 ducks that were supposedly out there on the lake. I felt a kind of sadness about that but also felt the family and friends who had come for the food they wanted and the hunt, that wasn't a bad thing. I guess that's where I am separated from lefties and more like righties-- hunter or not. I can't be hypocritical about it since we do raise beef and lamb and it's not cuz they are so pretty that we sell them.

Hattie said...

This is so fascinating. Another blogger friend is floating the idea of caravaning up to Alaska, and we are really tempted, having never done that sort of thing before.

Rain Trueax said...

A friend of mine took a trailer up there on the AlCan highway, Hattie and loved it. They sold it in Alaska for a lot more than it cost. I've thought of doing it one way and taking one of the ferries that transports autos back down but not sure what that would run if we had the trailer also. There are motels on the way up also, but I have to say to not have to unpack every night, to be able to cook your own meals, have a bed you know you will like, that's the major plus to the trailer or motor coach. Friends of ours have one of those and it looks very nice. They pull a small car behind it on long trips. Across Eastern Oregon we saw a lot of both. Not all gray hairs like us.

Mark said...

We just got back from our own two-week trailering trip from Georgia to Colorado. The worst part of the trip is that it takes so long to get from Georgia to Colorado.

Dick said...

Oh, how I envy you! You know from my blog history that I used to RV a lot and I really miss it. I had a motor coach and a tow car but it works either way. We used to call dry camping "boondocking" and there are many places all over the West where you can do that. There are about a quarter million RVs that visit the Quartzsite, AZ area every winter and I think the majority of them are boondocking.

But, things change and different people like different things. The one I married after losing Annie doesn't much like to travel, nor does she like RVing, so we don't.

But I still miss it, especially when I get up here in the NW on a January morning to 37 degree temps with cold rain and think that I could be in Arizona where it may start out cold at sunrise but will soon be comfortable. I can still enjoy it though vicariously through others. I'll look forward to your next posts.

Diane Widler Wenzel said...

Your trailer agenda is just what I would like to do with our motorcoach but it is mostly suited to driving a little and staying put. At least for us! I am jealous but happy for you.
Glad the trip had only a few things about the use of cabinets and sleeping details to improve upon for the next trip.

Diane Widler Wenzel said...

BLM camping doesn't cost anything and the city parks were under $30.00. But the gas mileage did add an extra expense. Gas costs far less than $80/night motels and so much pleasanter in your trailer.

Rain Trueax said...

I don't know that a person saves a lot of money by trailering unless you stay in one place longer. It's mostly that you can stay where you want and be comfortable. It's certainly not more costly than motels or renting a house. Diesel prices weren't too bad but a gasoline powered vehicle would have been cheaper.

There is a kind of adventure aspect to it-- like a gypsy caravan. Doing it a second time we'd probably have more destinations in mind where this time we really didn't know where we'd spend a night. That is kind of exciting but also can leave you wondering as it gets closer to dark. When we were younger we took a lot more risks by staying in rest areas overnight. Sometimes that had some scary moments though also.

OldLady Of The Hills said...

I loved reading about your trailer and the things you discovered could make it better---ALSO, I loved that you just went with "the moment"...wherever and whenever....What a GREAT way to travel. Staying however long felt right---leaving whenever it felt like the time to go....You and Farm Boss must get along so wonderfully---that is a confined space for an extended time, but cozy too, it seems....
I am looking forward to reading and seeing much more, my dear Rain.

Rain Trueax said...

Because of the interest in what this cost, I went looking for facts. We ate out at zero restaurants; so that was the same as at home. Eleven nights in RV parks ran us $239 with one that would always be free and the other where we could have stayed in a BLM park and spent $18. We had found a nicer more convenient site that ended up free.

Propane ran $25 which was what kept the refrigerator/freezer cold, did the cooking, and gave us heat some mornings. Diesel for the truck (we looked it up) ran $320 for the whole vacation (more than if we had had a gas engine although diesel gets better mileage so it might be a wash). There is increased maintenance though for pulling a trailer; so that's not the total cost on the truck.

That means the out of pocket cost, totally related to our 11 days out, was $584. Plus maybe $50 for our admissions to four museums although I am guessing on that. If we had been pulling the trailer every day, the cost for fuel would have been higher.

Rain Trueax said...

I should have added we had put 2000 miles onto the truck when we got home.

Ingineer66 said...

That looks like a really nice tour and a perfect size trailer. I would not want one any larger because it would limit some of the places it would fit. But I would not want one any smaller as I would want a queen size bed. If you venture into Canada check the gun laws. I have heard that you cannot legally take handguns across the border, only shotguns as bear protection for your camper or trailer.

Rain Trueax said...

That is what I've always been told, ingineer, about guns and Canada. I didn't know about the shotgun. Also you cannot take even bear pepper spray. Maybe you can then buy it over there only to not be able to bring it back ;) If we drove the AlCan with it, maybe we'd mail our guns to friends in Alaska ;)

Rain Trueax said...

And on its length, that's what we felt. The popouts make them so much nicer inside and keeping them under 30' means you can get in most forest campgrounds. We had one place where we would've driven in just to look (White River Falls) but it said no rigs over 22'. Otherwise 26' worked everywhere and was easy to use in either pull-throughs or back-in sites.

Mark said...

I have actually done some calculations on the cost of trailering versus staying in hotels. Even with a car that gets 40 mpg versus the truck-trailer combination that gets around 11 mpg, it's very close to a wash. As you note, if you stay one place longer, the scales tip towards the RV. If you do a whole lot of driving, the mpg advantage of the car starts to add up. But hotels can be pretty expensive, especially near popular destinations like national parks.

Rain Trueax said...

They can be but even in a small town to stay in a cheaper motel can lead to some scary experiences. I think even if trailering is the same cost, it has the advantage of letting you have your own cottage every night wherever you are. That's hard to measure for its value. No unpacking. Cooking your own meals if restaurants aren't your deal.

If you stay though in KOAs or professional trailer parks, the costs get closer to what a cheap motel would be. Those city parks are the big help for keeping the costs per night down. You also, if you own it, have to factor in upkeep on the trailer and there is some and of course, on the towing vehicle. I think it comes down to being able to stay where you want. One reason I wanted ours was BLM camping in areas that charge nothing but offer no hookups either. You can't stay in those places without a trailer. I also remember some wonderful times in Montana in small forest service campgrounds with our van which is why we wanted a trailer that could fit in such places.

Rain Trueax said...

Actually you could stay there with a tent but the trailer has so many conveniences not the least of which is an inside bathroom ;)

bev said...

Interesting information. I have thought a little about a trailer, but have stuck with the Dodge conversion van. If I were to keep doing this nomad thing, I might consider something like a SportTrek type van. I don't mind roughing it with the two big dogs and they are something of a security system when camping in the back country. Not a lifestyle for everyone though! (bev from Journey to the Center)

Rain Trueax said...

We loved the Astro van which wasn't converted at all but just a bed and often using a sterno stove. The drawback was the middle of the night and our need for a foray in areas that often had grizzlies or other wild animals. The advantage was how easy it was to stop anywhere and take off again immediately if we got uneasy about any aspect of where we were.

However you make your trips, I love reading about them, Bev ;)

robin andrea said...

I have often thought about getting a travel trailer, or some kind of converted van. I like traveling that way. I had a homemade camper that I traveled in in the 1970s. This post reminds me so much of why it's important to get out and see the country again. So beautiful.

Rain Trueax said...

We met more people this way also. Something about camping tends to do that where motels do not.

Rain Trueax said...

I was surprised to see how many big rigs were in Eastern Oregon. Some were empty-nesters like us but there were also families, maybe some home schoolers. The advantage of a rig the size of ours is how long you could stay out and feel like it was home. I missed my cats. They hate travel but this might be better for them. Next trip, they come. They'll like it better than motels! I wanted 25' but this was cheaper and that won out. It takes some shopping to find the right RV. I love the idea of motor homes or coaches, but not the idea of carrying along an extra car. This trailer was easy to unhook and when we were in Maryhill and Columbia Hills, we did just that and did day trips out from it back to Pendleton and to museums in The Dalles. I liked it even more than I expected and look forward to our next trip with our second home.. make that third since we have that place in Tucson also