Friday, March 4, 2016

Shakedown Cruise of the Mobile Duck (Trailer Trials!)

In January while attending the RV show in KC we purchased a Forest River Vibe trailer.  For the maiden voyage we selected Oklahoma as a destination because it was far enough south to be warmer than Kansas but not so far away that if there were problems we'd be too far from home.  So we made campsite reservations for the week of February 29th and began preparing for our first RV trip.

Prior to Day 1:
The first TT (trailer trial) happened before we left when Bobby flushed the antifreeze from the water tank, when he turned on the pump, water began pouring out from under the trailer! He discovered that there were no caps on the hoses. Off he went to Home Depot and the problem was fixed soon afterwards.

Day 1:
Packed up a few last minute items and headed out about 10:00 AM for Lake Eufaula State Park. We didn't get far up the road before realizing that the stabilizer bars would be needed, we stopped about three miles from home and put them on. A young man stopped and asked if we needed any help, we waved him with on with a big ‘thanks anyway.  It was nice to see that people were so quick to help. After we had been on the road for awhile we stopped at the city lake in Garnett, KS to let Griffy stretch her legs and potty. The geese were not even disturbed that she was there.  

To map a route to Lake Eufaula we had used the Good Sam trip app which includes an option to include different points of interst enroute / or at the destination. Using that feature we had decided to stop and see the world’s largest gas can a.k.a. a water tower painted red in Gas, KS. ‘Gas-Kan’. Hmmmm….not sure if we’ll continue to use that option of the Good Sam trip planner! 

TT (trailer trial) number 2; at a gas station stop somewhere in Kansas Bobby notices a long narrow spring hanging down from under the trailer, that doesn't look good!  Onward we go.

We arrived at the Dogwood campground around 5:00 PM and found our campground host Dee sprucing up the campsites by cutting wayward limbs and blowing the pine needles off of the parking pads and picnic table pads. He directed us to a nice pull through spot that included electricity, water, and a sewer connection, deluxe accommodations! Nice guy! Once we got settled in a bit he came and sat with us for awhile and he and Bobby talked racing and fishing. His sons and grandsons race midget cars and modified cars. His son even had an offer of sponsorship from Coors years ago but had turned them down because he had two young daughters. Interesting stories. Besides the campground host we are the only campers here! 

We took a nice walk around the campground and spotted a trail to explore tomorrow. Dee had told us there were wild pigs in the area so we kept a close eye on Griffy.  There are lots of oak trees and thus acorns everywhere around the campground.

TT 3 occurred when trying to get the hot water heater up and running. The owner's manual provided little to no help, luckily Bobby is a very handy guy and figured it all out and got it running once he discovered that the anode was not installed. BONUS he found the two caps that had been left off of the water pump hoses, keep in mind though that there was no logical reason for them to be in the hot water heater compartment at the back of the trailer when they were needed on the hoses that are on the side of the trailer!

I fixed tacos for dinner and they were very tasty, of course it may have been because we were starving by that point! It was an interesting few minutes while we figured out how to light the pilot light in the oven to warm up the taco shells, but we’ll classify that one as OE Operator Error on my part not a Trailer Trial! The smoke alarm went off while cooking and we later found out that this would become a regular occurrence! 

Griffy wasn’t quite sure what to think about this trailer life and paced and panted for a bit before settling down. We spent the evening reading and learning more about the the trailer operations, i.e. radio, outside lights, furnace, unlocking the blinds, etc.

Thunderstorms were forecast for 1:00 AM and they rolled in right on schedule. It was nice listening to the storm and hearing the rain on the trailer roof. Luckily Bobby had remembered to close the bathroom roof vent or we would have had TT4 because the rain came down for hours.

Day 2: 
After the stormy night we woke up to a nice sunny day! We sat outside for a bit and enjoyed the morning and then I went in and had some instant oatmeal. When it came time to get ready for the day I opted to use the campground showers while Bobby used the shower in the trailer, we were both happy with our choices!

We packed up some fruit for snacks and headed out to explore Lake Eufaula. This is a huge lake, even larger than the Lake of the Ozarks (surface area 102,000 acres vs. 54,000 acres). 

There is at least one other State Park on the lake named Arrowhead, and it also had several campgrounds that we explored and made notes on the map of the best sites in case we ever return. This 
is a very muddy lake at this time of year.  At one campground we came around the corner and caught a glimpse through the trees of what I thought was a farm field but it was the lake!
We stopped at an overlook of the Lake and were curious about a large compound we could see in the distance that included a large building and approximately 10-15 cabins all with shiny roofs that were glinting in the sun. When we wound our way down to that area we could see from the signage that it was a drug and alcohol rehabilitation facility. A quick Google search revealed that it is run by the church of Scientology and has controversial operating practices.

We found a nice picnic area to explore. This part of the lake has rocky shores and I enjoyed the sunshine by the edge of the lake while Bobby talked to Teresa on the phone further up the hill.  This looks like a picture of a nice blue lake but it is really a picture looking up the hill with the blue sky in the background.

As we drove around one of the loops at another campground we saw that someone with a sense of humor had staged a giant metal cutout shaped like Big Foot up on a hill in a clearing between two wooded areas, funny but creepy!

After a day of exploring we headed back to the RV for a late lunch of ham and cheese sandwiches.  I tried making some break and bake chocolate chip cookies for dessert but both batches turned out burnt on the bottom and the smoke detector went off again!  

After the cookie failure we hiked down the trail to the beach at our campground. Found a cool old weathered log to take home to put in the flower bed. 

Today’s Trailer Trial happened when Bobby was under the trailer investigating that spring that was hanging down, he did not figure out what the spring was supposed to be hooked to, it was just hanging there attached by a random zip tie, spare parts! BUT, he did discover that there was a bundle of wires that were hanging down and getting cut by the slide each time we brought it in or put it out. Duct tape to the rescue! 

A late lunch meant a late dinner of frozen individual pizzas, they were tasty but pretty burnt on the bottom, I'm having a tough time getting the hang of this gas oven!

Too windy for a campfire so we spent the evening playing Yahtzee, Boggle, and building different versions of this shape puzzle that the kids had when they were kids.

Day 3:
We both are sleeping well on the trailer bed even though our feet hang off of the end of the ‘short queen size’. There is a nice shelf above the bed with room for books and it has plugins for cell phones etc. and a light switch to turn off the reading lights. The furnace keeps the chill out of the air at night and makes for good sleeping.

For breakfast I fried up some sausage and scrambled eggs, still wary of the oven burning food so we ate them with toasted sandwich rolls rather than biscuits!

Today’s destination was the Honey Springs Civil War battlefield which is located a few miles back up the highway in Checotah, OK. The visitor center is still being built but there was a small trailer that served as the interpretive center and included a mockup of the battlefield showing troop positions and a 20 minute video. The battlefield includes six trails to hike marked with information stations along the way. The first trail we explored was for the Union bivouac area. Unfortunately many of the information stations were unreadable because of the weather cracked plexiglass coverings. 

There were also trails for the Union line of battle, the Confederate line of battle, the battle of the bridge over Elk Creek, the final action, and the Confederate supply depot. We spent some time hiking to the site of the battle of the bridge where the stone pillars are still standing. 

After visiting the battlefield we stopped in Checotah and shopped at a couple of their antique stores. One, The Dusty Attic was maybe the best antique mall I’ve ever visited, a large variety of items, everything was clean, well organized and fairly priced. Not sure how I got out of there without buying anything!

Once back at the RV we had another really late lunch of ham sandwiches and sat outside for a bit. The wind made it too chilly to be comfortable so we moved inside to the recliners and read instead! No dinner tonight since we had such a late lunch.

Day 4 a.k.a. in search of the dam. 
Today we had a mission to find the dam! Before setting off to find the dam we gave the oven one more shot and cooked some cinnamon rolls. They turned out only slightly burn only because while they were cooking Bobby figured out that there was a vent on the back of the trailer that needed to be opened to vent the oven. Well, that explains all of the burnt food and setting off the smoke detector. Of course there was nothing in the owner's manual about the vent. Sigh…Trailer Trial #5!

Armed with a map that had limited road names but contained numbers corresponding to a directory of developments and points of interest it was a bit tougher than anticipated to find the road that led to the dam since it was only marked with a small handmade sign that someone had put up. Luckily we ran across a mailman who told us how to find the road. Persistence paid off and we enjoyed visiting the dam from both sides of the river. Bobby talked to some of the fishermen but they were not having any luck this day. While searching for the dam we enjoyed exploring many of the nicer shorefront neighborhoods. The neighborhoods on this lake range from RV trailer neighborhoods to really large houses with expansive yards and everything in between. Today’s travels also took us through some rocky hilly terrain with lots of big oaks and pine trees.

On the way back to the trailer we stopped in Eufaula to pick up a pizza at a place that had a good Yelp review, the pizza was a winner. We selected a combo pizza that they named the Twister, it had canadian bacon, pineapple, bacon, and ghost pepper cheese! Who knew that cheese could be so spicy hot? The heat was nicely offset with the sweet pineapple, unique and very good! 

After pizza we took a hike on a different trail in the campground, instead of heading to the lakeshore this trail wound through the woods and included signs pointing out objects of interest. A majority of our hike was actually off the trail but the woods here are easy to walk through. This would be a great campground for tent campers also because at all of the tent sites there are many oak trees where the leaves make a nice soft spot to pitch a tent.  Picked up a few ticks along the way, surprised to see them out so early!

We were too full from pizza to have dinner, but later in the evening I did bake some more of the cookies and finally had perfect results from the gas oven!

Day 5: 
Departure morning.  We worked out a process for getting everything packed up, picked up, dumped out, shut down, and ready to go and were on the road by 10:00 AM even after spending time visiting with some other retired RV'ers that arrived yesterday.  We were home by 3:45 PM.  

We had a great time at Lake Eufaula and learned a lot about the RV and now have a list of items to add to the packing list for next time.  All in all a successful first trip in the mobile Duck!