Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Woodring Campgound: The Learning Curve

Woodring Campground, Carter Lake, Georgia

A good friend asked us ”Are you travelers or campers? Realizing we enjoy the serenity and solitude of a quiet, isolated campsite rather than standing elbow-to-elbow in highly advertised, media-manufactured marketing environments looking at local jellies and handicrafts, we decided we are more campers than travelers.

Our first experience with trailer camping was a small, used 13 foot Cikira that we bought because we could tow it with our small SUV. The little camper was light enough to be towed by our 1999 GMC Jimmy and still roomy enough for our basic, albeit naive, camping needs. Only when seen from the side does the 13 FD Cikira look tiny. People call it “cute.” It is as wide as a standard camping trailer, and just as tall with ample headroom for just about anyone who isn't a professional basketball player. It had all the amenities we needed, from stove, microwave, heater, refrigerator, and a full shower and toilet, and a dining area that seated four that became a queen size bed when dropped flat. That was the part we finally outgrew: we wanted space for one to lie down and a place for the other to sit at the same time.

We happily towed our little rig for our first four trips with just the basic trailer hook-up; the two-inch ball and the required safety chains, but for our first sojourn into the Georgia mountains, I installed a 1000lb load equalizer bar system and an anti-sway bar. The trailer has electric brakes as well, a must-have item when towing even a trailer that weighs only 1800 pounds. I installed the extra hardware because we were also taking our two 14 foot Pungo kayaks, carried on top in a roof rack, as well as both of our bicycles on a carrier mounted on the receiver hitch and I didn't want our tow vehicle to look like the proverbial donkey-cart. The road manners were much better with the equalizer bars, and I'm sure the anti-sway bar saved me more than once when avoiding what seemed to be imminent collision from merging traffic on the Interstate entrance ramps. With a little practice, I soon mastered the proper sequence to load and unload bicycles, kayaks, and unhook the trailer in a minimum of time.

We decided during this first, long trip, our first really extended camping trip, that we need a bigger camper. The 13 foot long unit sufficed for weekend, or even week-long trips, but for extended stays, especially with our two family pets, more room was needed. We decided also that when we go to a bigger trailer, we'll also need a new tow vehicle to replace our six cylinder, 190 horsepower GMC Jimmy. We decided to make the jump from “entry level” RV'ers, to the mid-range, middle class of recreational vehicle owners.

We have started developing our list, picking items we have decided to be mandatory, or just desirable. There are also several no's in our list, such as any vehicle that has to be dedicated to simply towing the trailer, so the big diesel pickup trucks required to haul a fifth wheel camping trailer are off the list. Also off the list is any vehicle I have to break camp to use. Once I have everything set up, I don't want to pack away the awnings, chairs, water hoses, electrical and television cables, and crank up the landing gear (the levelers) just for a milk run to the nearest grocery store. So, since I can't afford a “life boat” to tow along behind a self-contained camper, I'll stick with a tow-along camper. Park it, set it up, and leave it alone is my goal. The regal, cruise-ship style Class “A”s are out, so are the intermediate Class “C”s and “B”s, the ones I might actually afford.

I am unimpressed with today's bloated, overly style-conscious SUV's that don't carry as much inside as my Dad's 1953 Ford station wagon. The older, small to mid-size SUV's were actually built on pickup truck chassis, but many of today's mid-size units are built on uni-body sedan style chassis and are not as suitable for towing as the older units.   It seems fewer of today's SUV's are rated as tow vehicles that will tow a 5000 pound trailer.  I find the aerodynamics of today's SUV's and pickup trucks absolutely preposterous.

Back in the late 70's, I drove a Dodge B-100 van with a 318 cubic inch V-8. I used it to tow my sailboat back and forth from Miami to the Florida Keys. It would be the perfect tow vehicle for me today! Plenty of interior room to store tool boxes and supplies that you simply don't need to carry in the trailer. Power to spare and yet the engine was small enough to be economical on the road. The search for my new tow vehicle is under way, but it might take a while. I wonder whatever happened to my old Dodge?

Next: On to near-by Amicalola at

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