Wednesday, June 4, 2008

First Vacation in the Camper - or so we thought

On May 17th we head up to a campground in the mountains called Raccoon Holler in Glendale Springs, North Carolina. We are staying for a total of 9 nights. We got there and the weather was a clear, beautiful 65 degrees, Finally! We check in and only pay $190 for those 9 nights - that's practically 2 nights in a hotel. Now the diesel gas to get there and back is a whole different story. We set up and meet a few young neighbors that are Bryce's age and they play until bedtime. So far so good. The one thing we are learning about camping is that everyone is so open and friendly. In hotels we pass our neighbors without saying hello and quickly enter our rooms. Camping puts everyone outdoors and so we are able to meet all kinds of different people. Bryce even walked up to a girl and asked her to play with him which is great for his social skills.

The next morning is Bryce's 4th Birthday. We make cinnamon twists for breakfast which are his favorite and decided to visit a church nearby. Church was great then we come back to eat lunch and it starts raining. One of the deacons at the church had prayed for more rain and David and I looked at each other like - no fear, the Corbetts are here. The rest of the day we just relaxed and enjoyed hearing the rain. Night time came and it cleared off enough to have a fire so we introduced Bryce to roasted Marshmallows - the moment I've been waiting for. Bryce liked them hot, Stacy liked them straight from the bag. They went down for bed and then mommy broke out the chocolate and graham crackers to finish the complete Smore product. I'm not messing with melted chocolate and kids yet - sticky marshmallow was enough.

Monday morning we woke up to clear skies. David and Bryce made Pancakes and eggs on my fancy new electric griddle that I got for Mother's day. Last year I got an ice cream maker. David disregards the whole gift with a cord rule and that's okay, I have really enjoyed both gifts. We decide to go for a bike ride along the New River railroad grade road. Its flat enough for Bryce to ride which he did for a little ways. We then headed back to eat lunch and take a nap. David decides he wants to do a 2 hour bicycle ride while the weather is good, so off he goes.

The kids both fall fast asleep and I was able to rest for about 30 minutes until I hear a knock on our camper door. It was a volunteer fireman who asked if I was Laura Corbett and said my husband is okay but had an accident on his bike and had to be rushed by ambulance to Ashe Memorial Hospital otherwise known as the "band-aid station". He didn't give very many details just reassured me he was okay and said he had to be checked out to make sure nothing was broken. So I wake the kids up, load them in the truck and head to the hospital to find my husband in his tight spandex strapped head to toe on one of those Emergency boards. Scared me, but I was just glad to see him breathing. Luckily he was alert and could tell me what happened. So now I know why the Volunteer Fireman didn't tell me the story. He was riding his bike, descending a mountain and his back tire blew out. This threw him off the bike across the road where a commercial dump truck with a full load was coming. Everything happened so quick that the only thing that got hit was his right leg from knee to toes. PRAISE GOD! We've had plenty of time to think of what could have happened and not only was his life spared, but not even a broken bone in his leg or foot. His cycling shoe was so hard that it must have protected his foot from being crushed. The swelling was severe and had to be monitored so we packed up what we could, left our camper and drove home to be in Raleigh. When I went to pick him up under the concrete awning of the emergency room I had forgotten that our Mountain bikes were on the roof rack on top of the truck so - WHAM! went the rack into the bed of the truck taking everything off the roof. David was in too much pain to be mad, but there were some nice by- standers who saw how helpless we were and placed the bikes in a safe position to ride home in.

When we got back to Raleigh we went to see an orthopedist who admitted him to the hospital to make sure the swelling didn't cut off circulation to the muscles and tissues which could lead to amputation. Gratefully it didn't swell to that point. The pain was tremendous as you can imagine. We believe God still has a purpose for him here and I'm so glad he does. David obviously is sure of his salvation and where he will go when he leaves this earth, but didn't want to leave us behind - NEITHER DID I!

We stayed a couple days back in Raleigh and Bryce actually got to attend his last day of Preschool. I figured David could either lay around here and be taken care of or be in the mountains for Memorial Day weekend so I let him pick the scenery. I'm glad he chose the mountains, so back up we go. It was a little extra work for me but was worth it. We had friends, actually Daddy D and his wife were coming up and their daughter and friend helped us with the kids. It was a beautiful weekend too.

There are a couple seasonal sites at Raccoon Holler where folks can leave their campers and stay March through October. Every one of those folks knew who David was. He is now a celebrity there and call him "Dump Truck Dave". They were so nice they even offered to drive him around in their golf carts to get from our site to where he wanted to go. They are mostly older folks like grandparents and they loved the kids and the kids loved their golf carts. Can't wait to go back, under better circumstances of course.

Daddy D was kind enough to leave his camper up there since he will be back soon and drove ours back to Raleigh since Dave couldn't drive and I had no clue how to drive it. That would be a scary and nerve racking sight on Memorial Day. What would we ever do without Daddy D.

This vacation was interesting and not how we thought it would be. I'm glad we planned a few other short ones for the summer so I'm not totally bummed. I would post a picture of David's foot but I'm afraid you might get grossed out.

Rain, Rain, and More Rain

One of the many advantages of the camper is that whenever we feel the need to just get away we can take it close by to our nearest state park and feel like we've escaped Raleigh for $20 a night. We've taken at least 3 trips since our first one to Falls lake and all 3 times it rained almost the entire time we were there. That's another advantage, the camper keeps us dry. North Carolina has been in a bad drought, 9 to 10 inches below normal rainfall numbers, but the Corbetts have changed all of that. Not only has it rained the 3 times we've been, but it has been such a heavy rain that it has filled up Falls lake to normal levels again. We figure if there is ever a drought again the Governor of North Carolina can call and pay us to go camping so it can rain.

We tried to make the best of it. Don't get me wrong, I love rainy days and in the camper it was cozy, but not with two kids that need to run around and get energy out. They are not old enough to play Monopoly or read their own books so it was up to us to entertain. Plus I didn't want them to think that indoors was camping, they might not want to go next time. They were able to watch a movie, but finally I decided we needed to either head home or go to the mall to let them run around. We headed to the mall which helped tremendously.

We can't control the weather, but at least we have a dry place to stay and be very comfortable. I just want some Smores over a campfire - but its been too wet to have one. Guess that's what the microwave is for.

I've posted some pictures of the inside so you can kind of picture what it looks like. The first one is of the kids room. Bryce sleeps up in the loft above and Stacy sleeps in a pack n' play in a corner on the left. There is also a slide out wardrobe in their room giving them a little more space. Hopefully I'll be better at taking more of us in and around it.

First Test Run Weekend Trip

Campgrounds have started opening for the season and our camper is pretty well stocked with everything we need so lets go try it out. Its still a little chilly out but that's why the camper is so great - its got heat. I was a little apprehensive about our first trip because all of us had the stomach flu two days before, but Dave said it would be a good time to test out our toilet and septic system to make sure everything worked.

We head to Falls Lake Campgrounds which is about 20 minutes from our house so we are close by if we forget anything or something happens. As 1 of maybe 4 people total in the campground we have our choice of sites. We were getting set up and I realized I forgot several essential items back at the house. I head back to pick them up while Dave watches ACC Basketball with the kids. Yes, our camper came with a Flat Screen TV and Antenna that picks up HD so he was able to watch a clearer picture in the campgrounds than at home. Life is tough. We grill up some hamburgers all bundled up and put the kids down for their first nights sleep in the camper. This is better than a hotel because they have their own room with a door and then we can stay up in the living area for as long as we like.

I'm cleaning up dinner and realize the lights are really dim. Dave finds out that we had a bad converter which means the lights and heat will eventually stop working all together. I'm thinking we bought this thing new everything should work, but its why we take it for a test run local before heading out of town. Good thing we did. Luckily we had flashlights and Dave bought some ceramic heaters on clearance that can heat the camper in case we needed it and I'm glad he did. We all sleep pretty well, but are still not feeling the best so we head home the next afternoon in time for the kids to take a nap.

When packing up to leave the campgrounds, we need to stop at the dump station to empty our tanks. There is a reason they call it this. It was the first time Dave had to do this and its usually a spectator sport when crowded so he got lucky that nobody was there. He realized one of the valves was partially open which means when he goes to hook up the hose to let everything out it will basically explode in his face. If you've ever seen RV with Robin Williams you'll know exactly what could happen. So he calls up our friend who has a similar camper for advice- we'll call him Daddy "D". We would probably be clueless without all of Daddy "D's" help and this was not the first call we made to him this weekend. He walks Dave through it and everything goes better than expected just not as good as it could have been. Don't worry David wears latex gloves when doing this job.

We go home and order a new converter and start making a packing list so we are better prepared for our next trip.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Trip to pick up the camper

We plan a weekend in the beginning of March to go and pick up our camper. Our loving parents were willing to watch our kids while we made the long trip in less than 36 hours. The weekend approaches and Ohio is calling for 8-10 inches of snow with times of zero visibility due to high winds. David assured me that Ohio could handle it so we go anyway. We get there late Friday night luckily before most of the storm started and stayed in a hotel where we could hear the wind howling out our window.

When we wake up in the morning we couldn't even see the parking lot of our hotel much less the road we were suppose to drive out on. We grab some breakfast at a McDonalds that was luckily open and head to RV Wholesalers. They were expecting 20 people to come and pick up campers that day, but we were the only ones that were brave enough to show up. That should tell you something about how serious the storm was. Everyone there was anxious to get us through to make sure everything looked okay. As we were signing paperwork they were calling for a code 3 where they shut down all the roads and highways. We hook up and head out, but now carrying the big 5th wheel we need to drive slow. The road wasn't even visible (as you see by the picture), but we were about the only ones out there so we didn't have to worry about running into much. At least we had somewhere to sleep if we got stranded :) Finally pass Columbus which has shut down for the day, but luckily find somewhere to eat a quick lunch. We now have to look for places with big parking lots in order to park both the truck and the camper. Cracker Barrels will soon become our best friend or so I've heard. When we stop there is at least a half a foot of snow on the ground and without realizing it David drops his cell phone as he gets out of the truck. We get back from lunch and there is a note on our window to come to the drugstore to pick up his phone. He talks to the drugstore guy and apparently someone was walking by as his phone was ringing and they answer it. David's friend who was calling was smart enough to realize it wasn't Dave and told the person who answered it to take it to an open store and leave a note on the truck that its there for him to pick it up. We never would have found it if all that hadn't happened and there wasn't even that many people out that day. We were one of maybe 3 cars in the parking lot.

We keep driving about 35 miles per hour and the weather didn't stop until we were out of West Virginia. The 8-10 hour trip took about 14-16 hours.

Thank goodness we didn't have the kids or all of us would have been bald by the time we got home. I put up the picture of our new camper too. Oh and Ohio pretty much had a blizzard leaving 21 inches of snow which set a record for them.

The decision to start camping

I guess this all started with my husband growing up camping in a family of 6. They had a pop-up camper and the 3 boys of the family slept outside in tents. Some of the best memories he has from growing up are the trips he took camping.

David and I have been married for about 8 years now. When we first got married, the only way we could afford to get away was to go tent camping. Our favorite vacation spot is pretty much anywhere in the mountains. Luckily living in Raleigh the mountains can be as close as 2 1/2 hours away to 4 or 5 depending on where you go. It was a very relaxing time for us and we thoroughly enjoyed it, not to mention it was cheap. Then in 2004 we had our first child, Bryce, and camping mainly came to a hault. I wasn't willing to put up with the stress of trying to appease my child just so he wouldn't cry and make others mad. Not to mention fires and walking babies do not mix in my opinion.

So this past year my husband started thinking about going camping again but now we have two children, Bryce is now 4 and Stacy will be 2 in August. If you know David at all, he has many hobbies and loves to do lots of different things. So after going through motorcycles, 4-wheelers, dirt bikes, a boat, cycling, hunting, some of which he still enjoys, he now wanted to buy a camper so that we could enjoy it with the kids and make family memories of our own. I was on board as I thought camping would be a great way to spend time together and be able to have an affordable vacation. Plus our kids behave so much better when they are outside.

One of his friends whom he met working back in college was selling his Ford F250 diesel truck, one that can pull a pretty large camper so David bought it with the hopes of one day being able to buy a camper of our own. So now we have a truck, but nothing to pull. For about one year we start the journey of looking for exactly what we want. We could start with a pop-up, but we knew it wouldn't be long before we would want something different. We went to a couple RV shows, looked on Craigslist for used ones and ended up deciding on a 5th wheel trailer because it would be the best fit for our family. The best layout and price was a new one and RV Wholesalers in Ohio had the best deal for us even with the gas prices being so high to drive there. So off we go to Lakeview, Ohio in March.