Sunday, June 07, 2020

Christening the new camper

Our New Camper

I've been fascinated by RVs since middle school. I used to get RV mags and read them when we were on family trips each summer. More recently, I've enjoyed going to the RV show each Februry at the Boston Convention Center. Until this year - the car show has been at the same venue at the same time for ages, but not this time for some reason. I chose the car show this year, I guess figuring that I was more likely to actually buy a new car long before I'd even consider a camper.

Until the pandemic hit, anyway. By the beginning of May, all of our travels and summer camps were cancelled, and we figured this would be the ideal time to think about a camper. I was reluctant (could we afford it? where would we put it? how much would we really use it? will our car pull it?) but relented after finding the brand new Coleman Lantern 17b. It was a total bargain, relatively speaking. For around $10k, we got everything we need, weighing in at around 3100 lbs dry, well below our supposed capacity of 5000 lbs.

It's got bunks for the girls, a mini-queen for Kim and me, a little dinette that converts to another bed, a bathroom with shower, AC, electric fireplace, and a bluetooth stereo with speakers in the ceiling. It sat in our driveway for three weeks or so, while we waited for campgrounds to open.

Our Weekend in Littleton

So campgrounds in state parks won't open until July, but private campgrounds could open this weekend (June 6-7). Since we really had no idea what we were doing, we wanted to do something as close to home as possible, and it really couldn't be much closer than the Boston Minuteman Campground in Littleton Mass. 31 minutes away, in fact - straight out Rt 2.

We reserved a pull-thru site (no. 14) with 30 amp electric, water, sewer, and cable (we didn't use the cable) to arrive on Friday and leave on Sunday. Kim and I both had super busy weeks at work, so our packing was a little haphazard. We got all the basics in the car though, including food and drink for three days - the highlight being a pound of lobster salad from Fresh Pond Seafood for lobster rolls on Saturday nite. Mmnmmm!

Day One

The staff were super nice and super duper helpful! On arrival somebody escorted us to our site and showed us how to hook everything up. It's complicated! We spent the next few hours unpacking provisions and implements into the cabinets, making our beds, and setting up our camp kitchen and Coleman stove.

Dinner our first night was going to be hot dogs and hamburgers (with veggie facsimiles for Gem) but stuck to hamburgers instead since it was getting late and we'd been snacking. Of course we topped off the night with a couple rounds of s'mores, then everybody slept well.

Day Two

I was up early the next morning (as usual) and had a cup of coffee in our camper-size Keurig. (Our little kitchen even has a handy place to store the pods!)

Finding a good route to run in a strange area can be a little nerve-wracking, and it was this time. I was just going by a Google map of the area, so my route the first day ended up taking me through a quiet-on-the-weekend industrial area and a long gravel road through forest and some wetlands. Fine, but nothing breathtaking. Here's the route. 4 miles at a pretty good clip.

The girls (and I, to be honest) were a little anxious about how we'd spend our time, since the clubhouse and the pool were closed. That turned out to be not an issue at all. We spent a good part of the day on Saturday making and eating breakfast, walking around the campground gawking at other campers and their rigs, and reading or whatever. (I went thru a 6-inch stack of back-issues of Bicycling from the early 1980s.) Also had a nice time playing Taboo and Bob's Burgers Clue (which I won, for a change). We had dinner around 6, consisting of sandwiches for the girls and lobster rolls with cole slaw for Kim and Me.

Then more s'mores, and inside just as it started to rain hard.

Our movie night (thanks to Amazon Prime Video streaming on a laptop) consisted of the classic RV film RV. It was no good of course, and we lost the girls halfway through and ended up watching a classic ep of Bob's Burgers.

Day Three

Our last day started a lot like the second one - coffee and a run. This time I stuck to this side of the tracks - both literally and metaphorically. No more factories or fallouts - it was all beautiful houses with big lawns, horses, and cows. I ended running a good way into Harvard Mass before turning around and heading back for about 5.4 miles at a great pace - 9:29 / mile. It was another out-and-back, but I figured out later that I could have done a circuit, which only would have added another 0.4. Next time!

We had some nice scrambled eggs and veggie sausages for breakfast, loaded everything up, and were home in a half hour!

The Ins and Outs

One of the more daunting aspects of RV life is all the technical ins and outs. Apparently, you're supposed to figure everything out based on one flimsy user manual and a 45-minute walkthru when you drive off the sales lot. Good thing we have YouTube and Facebook! There's an active FB group for Coleman owners, and I posted lots of questions over the weekend, from how to turn on the water heater to how to undo the hitch. It's complicated because there are so many manufactures and models, that they're all a little different. Answers to the water heater question were all over the place until somebody chimed in who has the same exact model. (Turns out you just have to run the water, then turn on the heater. And voila!)

The really scary thing is all the hookups and hoses. But the sewage dumping thing was awesome! Gross, but awesome! No spills or leaks, and I think we got everything cleaned and emptied just fine, no issues.

The thing that really stymied us was the fact that we couldn't figure out how to unhitch it from the car easily. It was a big rigmarole, with cajoling and scootching back and forth. Then Kim figured out that there's a little locking tab on top of the ball, and we hadn't been pulling it out all the way. Fine, we'll get it right next time.

The shower and toilet worked really great too.

The biggest worry had been how it would get along with our car. And it went just fine. Gas mileage was much better than it had been on the way home from the dealership - right around 21mpg. I think it's because this time I pushed the "Tow" button and a little corresponding light came on in the car. I have no idea what the difference would be, since I think the lights and brakes work regardless (as long as the electrical cable is plugged in.)

We're hitching straight up to a ball connected to the 2in receiver that came with the tow package on the car. There's lots of talk out there about getting extra stabilizer and load balance bars installed, but I really don't see any point in doing that at this point. (There were lots of people at the campsite with bigger trailers and similar tow vehicles.)

Next Time

We're already looking for a campground for Father's Day weekend. Can't wait!