Last year my husband and I began what we hope to make a yearly tradition – a road trip to visit parts of the country we have yet to see. It was also supposed to be our first long-term trip with our camper but that changed due to concerns over rising gas prices. (My husband’s truck only gets 8-9 mpg when towing so that’s always something to take into consideration.) Our ultimate destination was Glacier National Park. It was when we began researching and mapping out our route that we realized we were thinking like Southerners.
What do I mean by “thinking like a Southerner”? We initially planned our trip to coincide with Memorial Day weekend to reduce the number of vacation days my husband would need to take. (I had retired at the end of April.) However, when I began doing some research on Glacier I discovered that the Going To The Sun road through the park may not open until late June/early July depending on the amount of snow to be cleared. Snow? In July? As a life-long native of the South the thought of snow on the ground in July is unfathomable. Heck, we barely get snow in January and February. But, with that useful tidbit in mind, we rescheduled our trip for July.
Honestly, I’m glad we decided against taking the camper. We travel slower when towing so we wouldn’t have been able to see as much as we did if we had. Not to mention the fact that towing a camper through some of the mountain ranges we traveled would have probably made me hyperventilate. So, instead of taking my husband’s Toyota Tacoma, we made the trip in my then 14-year-old Toyota Highlander in order to take advantage of the better mileage.
Was it a good trip? Absolutely. Did we learn a few things to implement in future trips? Definitely. In 17 days we covered 6048.5 miles, 13 states, and 6 national parks/monuments.
Badlands Mount Rushmore Devil’s Tower Glacier Yellowstone Grand Tetons
I’ll go into more detail regarding lessons learned in a later post but the biggest lesson we learned was to build more downtime into our schedule. We kept to a pretty grueling pace and only had a couple of days where we didn’t have anything planned. As enjoyable as the trip was, we were exhausted by the time we got home.
I meant to post this earlier but I got lazy after our summer
road trip. What can I say? The fact that this series even has a Part 3 is
evidence that my husband and I cannot be trusted to simply “look” at travel
We had Gypsy, our RPOD 180, and everything was fine. There was only one minor inconvenience we felt might need to be addressed in a few years. Like many smaller travel trailers both our RPOD 177 and the 180 had east/west beds meaning that the head of the bed touched one wall, the foot the other, and the third side pressed against the front wall of the camper. This caused two problems: First, if the person sleeping on the inside (me) had to get up in the middle of the night I either had to crawl over my husband sleeping peacefully on the outside or wake him up, neither of which were ideal situations. Second, making the bed in a small travel trailer with an east/west oriented mattress is nothing short of an Olympic event. We discussed the eventual need to upgrade to a travel trailer with a north/south bed as we aged; a north/south bed would allow access from both sides, negating the whole crawling over/waking up scenario. But, I assumed that decision was still several years away. Silly me.
One day my husband announced that he had been looking online
at campers with a north/south bed and had found one he thought we should check
out: a Flagstaff Micro Lite 21FBRS. (The Rockwood Mini Lite equivalent is the 2109s.
Rockwoods and Flagstaffs are manufactured at the same plant. The 2109s and
21FBRS floorplans are identical; only the decals and fabrics are different.)
One of the local RV dealers had a couple in stock so, we stopped by to take a
look and the rest is history.
The 21FBRS had everything we had talked about wanting in our
future travel trailer and more. Instead of a dinette it has a love seat with a
free-standing table that stores when not in use freeing up valuable floor space.
The table can also be used outside. (Removing the dinette and replacing it with
a loveseat/freestanding table is one of the frequent modifications made by RPOD
owners.) It had the north/south bed described above, the shower has an actual
sliding door instead of a shower curtain, a full-sized RV refrigerator/freezer
(instead of the college dorm sized unit in our RPOD), a three-burner stove, an
oven, a microwave, a double-sink and more storage than we ever dreamed
When we made the move from our RPOD 177 to our 180, we didn’t
do the sort of due diligence we should have. We only looked at the 180 before
making our purchase. We were determined to not make the same “mistake” again.
This time we spent a ridiculous amount of time researching a variety of travel
trailers by a number of manufacturers and traveled to several different dealers
(one in another state) to make absolutely sure we would be getting everything
we wanted. The only model other than the 21FBRS that we considered was the
Flagstaff 21DS. I loved this model. It had a U-shaped dinette where I could
spread out with my laptop while my hubby lounged on the loveseat. (The bed is a
murphy bed.) As much as I loved the 21DS, it had a few significant drawbacks.
First, due to the murphy bed it was heavier than the 21FBRS and it didn’t have
the pass-through meaning the loss of a lot of exterior storage. There was also
less interior storage. However, the deciding factor was that, with the slide
in, the 21DS is not a functional camper, the 21FBRS is. With the slide in, the
bed, loveseat, and bathroom in the 21FBRS are still accessible, a definite plus
In spite of all of the research, and as much as we loved the
21FBRS we didn’t think we would be able to make the move simply because of the
weight – we didn’t want to have to upgrade to a larger tow vehicle. Then, we
discovered that my husband’s 2006 Toyota Tacoma (bought used in 2015) came with
a tow package capable of hauling over 6000 pounds, a good 2000 more than
needed. So, earlier this year we sold our RPOD 180 and purchased a new
Flagstaff 21FBRS which we named Serenity after the ship in the short-lived
sci-fi series Firefly.
We both love Serenity but it has been a big adjustment. Towing a larger (22 foot), heavier trailer has been a little nerve-wracking for both of us. (My hat is off to those of you who tow fifth wheels around like it’s no big deal. You have my utmost respect.) However, after a recent trip to the mountains and a few steep, winding roads we now know beyond the shadow of a doubt that Paco (the Tacoma) is more than up to the task. We also had to invest in new mirrors for the truck in order to be able to see around the wider camper.
We’re looking forward to many years of adventure with this
travel trailer – and I’ve told my husband he’s not allowed to look at any more.
We obviously have no willpower and I don’t want to go through this process
again anytime soon. It’s exhausting, LOL!
In my last post I introduced you to Hope, an RPOD 177 and our first travel trailer. As we were in the thick of elder care, our ability to travel was limited but we did make trips as our schedule allowed – mostly to state parks within a 3-4 hour drive from home. We were complete newbies but with each trip we became a little more comfortable with the process of towing, setting up, etc. Backing the camper? Not so much. Backing a travel trailer into a camp site is a test for even the strongest of marriages. (I’m only sort of joking.)
We knew going in that Hope would not be our “forever” camper. We knew that as we age and get to travel more and for longer periods of time that we would want to upgrade to something a little larger. So, we used our time with Hope to determine what changes/improvements we would like to have on our next travel trailer.
First on the list was more storage. It’s a given that storage in a small travel trailer is going to be at a premium. But, all travel trailers are not created equal. It’s worth taking the time to check out models made by different manufacturers before making your final selection. Hope had a full pass-through on the exterior for storage of chocks, chairs, etc. but interior storage was pretty much non-existent. Trips more than 2-3 days in length required a lot of creativity and more than a little frustration for the storage of food and clothing.
Second was a dry bath. The wet bath on a 177 is tiny and there is a pretty healthy step up/down to get in and out. My husband was already starting to have problems with his knees so we knew there was a good chance that that step was going to cause problems over time. Yes, most campgrounds have bath houses but if you are boondocking where there are no facilities (or if the campground facilities are just nasty) a decent bath is nice to have.
In late 2016 my husband said that he thought we should check out the RPOD 180 – it was slightly larger and had a dry bath. So, we made the trek to one of our local dealers to do a walk-through and it was basically love at first sight. The 180 was a couple of feet longer than our 177 and had more storage for both food and clothes. It also had a three piece dry bath (vanity/sink, toilet, and an actual shower). So, we put the 180 on our wish list. Several months later when the price dropped prior to the release of the 2018 models we took the plunge. My only regret is that we decided to trade-in our 177 instead of selling it outright. Yes, the trade-in was a lot less hassle but we would have gotten much more for it had we sold it. Ah, hindsight!
Meet our RPOD 180, eventually named Gypsy. (It was a lot harder to name this one.)
In addition to the increased storage and dry bath, there were a few other improvements as well. The interior colors of our 180 were much lighter than those on our 177. Entering the 177 was like entering a cave. The walls, floors, and upholstery were all varying shades of brown. Even with all of the blinds open and lights on it was just dark. Gypsy also had awning as opposed to the “rdome” that came with Hope. A lot of Podders love the rdome because it adds a screened-in room to the exterior of the pod. However, the set-up/tear-down process is not for the faint of heart. The push-button awning is more our style. I was also excited about the blue exterior on Gypsy. (The older models were green, which is my least favorite color.)
The 180 was a couple of feet longer than our 177 and weighed about 400 pounds more which meant we could no longer tow with our Toyota Highlander. Fortunately, my husband had replaced his clunker truck with a 2006 Toyota Tacoma which had more than enough power to tow the 180.
Of course, our adventures don’t end there. Stay tuned for Part 3!
My husband and I come from vastly different backgrounds. One of the biggest differences was that his family traveled, mine didn’t. His parents owned an RV and would hit the road for two or three weeks every summer and my husband frequently expressed a desire to do the same. Initially, I wasn’t sold on the plan. In my mind, the cost of an RV plus the insurance, etc. would more than offset any savings achieved. But, over time, I gradually came around to his way of thinking and we began dreaming of “someday” owning a small travel trailer – the RPOD by Forest River seemed a perfect fit for our needs.
Our someday arrived much earlier than expected when we found an RPOD 177 for sale by owner in the parking lot of a local pawn shop in 2014. After much discussion (spontaneity is not a strong point for either of us) we contacted the owner and set up a meeting to tour the camper. Honestly, it was almost too good to be true – it was the travel trailer version of the little old lady who only drove it on Sundays. The owner, an elderly man, bought the camper for he and his wife to stay in on his trips to his hunting club. However, his wife developed Alzheimer’s and passed away. No longer having a need for the trailer, he decided to sell – they had never even used it. It still wrenches my heart when I think about it. We agreed to a price and the camper became ours.
The 177 was the perfect size for two people with all of the necessities and none of the frills. And, for those rare occasions in which we might have guests, the dinette converted to an extra bed. What more could we need? Its small size also meant we could tow it with our existing Toyota Highlander – a definite plus as neither of us was interested in upgrading to a larger tow vehicle.
Once the purchase was complete, the next step was to name our camper. (Yes, we name our vehicles.) We named her Hope. At that point in our lives we were overwhelmed with full-time jobs and taking care of three elderly parents. We knew we might not get to travel much for a while but we needed some hope in our lives and Hope the RPOD became the physical embodiment of that much needed trait. She was quite forgiving of our newbie mistakes as we began our forays into the camping world. (We bounced the trailer off the hitch THREE times before learning to quadruple-check to make sure the hitch was properly secured.)
We also discovered a wonderful community of other RPOD owners when we joined the R-Pod Owners Facebook group. The group members have been a tremendous source of information and encouragement. If you own an RPOD and aren’t a member of the group, I highly encourage you to join ASAP. Oh, and we also learned that naming your RPOD is a Really Big Deal not to be taken lightly.
Stay tuned for The Evolution of a Couple’s Camper – Part 2.
What was I thinking? I already have a blog at isabellanorse.com. (I’m a romance writer and Isabella Norse is my not-so-secret pen name.) But, I wanted a place to write about the random things that catch my interest. So, this is where I will post random musings such as video game reviews, my impressions of the various campgrounds we visit, and things that make me smile (such as pictures of kitty toes).
After all, life is about the journey and not the destination. I hope you’ll join me for the trip – after all, we shouldn’t do life alone!