A Change in Plan(ner)s

I didn’t get to travel much when I was young so Kenn and I wanted to make sure our boys had a chance to see a little more of the world. We couldn’t afford to take them on cruises or jet off to international locations but we could at least get them out of the house and introduce them to the sort of places that we love. (They would probably say we took them hiking far too many times, LOL.)

Time and money management were always important on our trips so I planned everything down to the nth degree. I researched the locations we were planning to visit, booked the hotel rooms/cabins, and planned out our activities for each day. Looking back, I may have occasionally over-planned, but it was a labor of love.

Keeping up with details, planning, and organizing are just a part of me and have served me well both at home and at work. However, I think the last four years of my day job sort of burned me out. I enjoyed what I did but it required an extreme amount of organization; my days were ruled by a schedule that was usually booked at least a week in advance. Now that I’m retired, I’m enjoying having flexible days without having to account for every minute of my time.

Somehow, without our even discussing it, Kenn came to my rescue because he is now the one doing most of the planning for our trips. We decide together where we are planning to go and when and he handles making the reservations. I’m still the money manager but I’m happy not having to deal with all of the details.

We cancelled our road trip plans last year due to the pandemic but this year we are fully vaccinated and ready to hit the road. We’ll be taking a trip up the east coast this fall. This will be our first time traveling long distances with our travel trailer so I’m sure we’ll be learning many lessons along the way which, of course, I’ll share here. 🙂 As proof of his new role as Chief Trip Organizer, we already have reservations at a campground in Maine. Go, Kenn!

Until next time, happy trails!

Review: Fort Clinch State Park

Fort Clinch State Park is located at Fernandina Beach, Florida. (Fernandina Beach is located on Amelia Island, a barrier island off the eastern coast of Florida.) Fernandina Beach is a special place to Kenn; he and his family spent a week there every summer when he was growing up. I learned to love it as well when we took our sons a few times over the years. (Well, as much as I love any beach.) When we visited with our boys in tow we stayed in a hotel or rented a house. Once we became empty nesters and bought a travel trailer, we decided to visit Fort Clinch State Park; it became an instant favorite.

Fort Clinch has two campgrounds: riverside and beach-side. We prefer the riverside. The riverside sites are well shaded by old growth trees dripping with Spanish moss. While there are a few palm trees scattered around the beach-side sites, none of them are actually shaded. The bath houses at both campgrounds are clean and well-maintained and there are washers and dryers available for use.

Sunset at the riverside campground

Fort Clinch is perfect for both nature and history lovers. Nature is everywhere and the beach is an easy walk from the campground as is Fort Clinch, which dates back to the Civil War. If you are a fossil-hunter like me, the beaches around Fort Clinch are great for hunting shark’s teeth – especially if you happen to be there just after the channel has been dredged. (All of the teeth, etc. pictured in my recent post about fossiling were found at Fernandina Beach.)

There are a couple of things to keep in mind when planning a stay at Fort Clinch State Park. The first is that it is hard to get reservations at this park. Reservations open up eleven months in advance and are gone almost immediately. Our last trip to Fort Clinch took place in April 2021. It took Kenn a couple of weeks of stalking the reservation site in May 2020 to get our reservations. Second is that you need to be prepared to take your time when entering (and exiting) the park while towing. The entrance road is covered by a beautiful canopy of old growth live oaks; the bigger your rig, the more “exciting” your drive may be. However, if you take your time (and occasionally drive in the middle of the road) you’ll be fine.

Sign at the entrance to the park

We’ve talked about making a trip to Fort Clinch every year but the verdict is still out. We love the park but there are just so many places to see!

Until next time, happy trails!

The Evolution of a Couple’s Camper – Part 3

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 trailers.

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 possible.

Image from http://www.campersinn.com

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 when traveling.

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!