We pulled back into the parking lot of our apartment on Saturday, around 3PM, and had the camper tucked away in the garage within half an hour. We spent the rest of the afternoon putting things away, starting a load of laundry, and laboriously dialing New Hunan for some moo shu pork. And that was pretty much it for the Tumlinsons until this Monday morning around 5 AM, when life got back to its regular schedule.
Of course, a lot happened just prior to that.
Let me start by saying it turned out to be impossible to set aside time to write on this trip. Or, if not impossible, so dang hard I didn't bother. The one or two days I did get to sit with keyboard at the ready, hacking away at something, were bitter cold days that made me wonder what it was all about, what it was all for.
I did write every day. I at least held to that. It might have been a sentence or two here and there—"Cold today. Heading to the park a bit late. Can't feel feet." But those are words, by God, and they count. And on one or two of those days, there were a lot more words—whole sentences even!
I don't look at this as indicative of what it will be like to write from the road. Far from it, actually. Because this trip was a vacation, while our future plans are for a lifestyle. And, as with any lifestyle, there's a requirement in there to work. Somehow you have to juggle it all and make things happen as they should. Somehow you have to make room for the career.
This trip, though, was about having fun, relaxing, and feeling out the camper.
The Aliner performed beautifully the whole trip. I'm just going to put that out there right now. On those frigid nights in the low 30s, we had a very nice (and effective) electric space heater that took over for the furnace, and kept us nice and toasty. On those warmer high-70s, high-humidity nights we had the Aliner's very impressive and very effective air conditioner and the "Fantastifan" to keep us nice and cool. And with the memory foam mattress topper under us and the 20*F sleeping bags on top of us, sleeping was as comfortable as we could get without being home. I've never slept in a hotel that had a finer mattress.
The wet bath was a God-send, too. It was a little awkward at first, but once we got used to it the thing worked like a charm. The new shower curtain hung beautifully, and didn't cling to us as we showered. The hot water heater, though only six gallons, was plenty for both of us, and had fantastic temperature—Kara even had to turn it down. And the toilet was hands-down the best investment we made in this thing. We limited it to "non solids," if you catch my drift, but I imagine that even with that it wouldn't have been so bad. The cartridge system is pretty easy to work with, and fairly clean, if you're careful.
In fact, there were hardly any issues directly related to the camper at all, save for one 20A fuse blowing out inexplicably, causing me to have to buy a multimeter and dig around in the power converter to find the culprit. Once that was replaced we were back to good, and I now have a multimeter dedicated to the camper. Win-win.
The Tumble Inn worked like a dream for the whole trip, and despite being somewhat cramped with two active adults trying to move around in there, we really weren't on top of each other the whole time. It was a good run. The only thing that made the trip hectic at all, in fact, was the layovers.
We had decided that once we left Disney on Wednesday morning we would make several stops at campgrounds across Alabama and Louisiana. We skipped Mississippi, since it took all of a couple of hours to cross anyway.
The first campground we stayed in was in Florida, and it was about four hours from Universal Studios in Orlando, where we spent a few hours after leaving Fort Wilderness at Disney.
Side note—I actually enjoyed Universal Studios more than the Disney Parks this time around. There were hardly any crowds, and we could walk onto any ride we wanted. That may have been a fluke, thanks to the timing and all the rain, but it made for a fun day.
That first campground was out in the middle of nowhere. It was in the middle of the woods, and there wasn't so much as a street light to be seen for miles. We set up the camper quickly, without even unhitching from the truck, and tucked ourselves in for the night. The temperature dropped into the low 40s that night, but we stayed warm and comfy. And the next morning we rolled out.
Seeing the site in the daylight, I regret that we couldn't spend more time there. I think we would have had plenty of hiking and exploring to do. But as it was, this was a quick stopover—just a place to rest our heads before another five-hour road trip the next day.
Because we started out early for once, we actually got to the next campground—an HOA in Lillian, LA—while there was still daylight. That was cause for celebration, actually. We had dinner reservations for a place nearby, and for once we would have time to get the trailer set up, get cleaned up a bit, and even enjoy the sights.
This would be the first time we unhitched the camper on this trip. At Disney there just seemed to be no point, since we weren't taking the the truck anywhere. And at the Florida middle-of-nowhere campground we wanted to be able to make a quick exit the next morning. So at Lillian, this was to be the first time we actually unhitched and took the truck out unfettered.
Except there was a problem.
Somewhere along the way we must have bottomed out or hit something hard, because the post that connects to the jack wheel of the trailer got bent and misshapen. This meant that I had a hell of a time trying to get the jack wheel on, so that I could detach the trailer from the truck.
I didn't have a hammer in my tool box, for some stupid reason. Nor did I have a pry bar or anything else. Huge oversight on my part, because either of those things would have come in real handy at that moment.
I dug around in my tools and under the seat of my truck, and eventually found the lug handle for my truck's jack. It wasn't ideal, but it was all I had. And for the next hour I laid into the bent side of that tire jack until it was back to (something like) it's original shape. I was able to get the wheel on then, with a bit of coaxing, and get the cotter pin in place.
Unfortunately, all that banging and all the accompanying cursing that went with it ate into our plans. We ended up cancelling our reservation, and instead (once the truck was freed) we slipped to a local grocery store and bought some burgers to grill.
I think, on the whole, that turned out better anyway. Meal-wise. But it also taught me a few lessons. For one ... get a hammer, stupid. And a pry bar. I own a dozen or so of each, so it's just stupid to not have them in the truck.
We ended up turning in pretty early that night. There was one failed attempt to stream the X-files from Hulu over the campground's wifi, but when it dropped out early on I didn't even bother trying again. I was tired. All that driving can take it out of ya.
Early the next morning we got to it again, and another five hour drive later we found ourselves outside of Baton Rouge. Again, we got to the campground early. And, after replacing the above-mentioned 20A fuse, we go the camper set up and detached from the truck with no trouble. We even tried out the new awning, which we had never set up before. And even with that, we still got the whole thing set up in under half an hour. Maybe 20 minutes, tops.
We're getting good at this.
That night, we had another reservation. And this time, without the interference of the fates, we were able to make it. We drove from the KOA to a plantation home, the Houmas House, and paid to take the tour.
It was somewhat inspirational to me, hearing not only about the history of the place but also about the guy who bought it just a few years ago, moved into it as his home, and turned some of the buildings on the grounds into restaurants and exhibits of museum quality. It was homey feeling to me, actually, and cool. Kara thought it felt creepy, though, so we didn't spend quite as much time there as we might have. We had dinner in one of the restaurants, and then got back to the camper to settle in for our last night on the road.
In all our traveling, I never once felt uncomfortable, which was a relief. But on that very last night, I started getting a cold, which ate my lunch for the drive back. In fact, it pretty much kept me down through Sunday evening. I'm feeling the residual effects this morning as I get back to my regularly scheduled life. Plenty of tissue paper has been used in this house.
But I'd say that's an almost perfect way to wrap up the trip. Not ideal to be sick, mind you, but it forced me to rest yesterday. I muscled through and did some of the chores that needed doing, but mostly I kicked back in my recliner, drank tea and coffee and orange juice, got up to pee a lot, and watched TV until it was time to go to bed.
The vacation was over.
But there was a lot learned from it. Not just about the camper and the travel, but about myself and my perspective, my goals, and the things I want out of life. A lot of this will come out in what I write over the next few weeks or months, and on my podcasts. There were observations and insights that I value highly—and that is exactly why Kara and I wanted to start taking trips like these. Travel opens up all the channels of my brain, and gets me thinking about things from new angles and perspectives. That's the point of this.
We'll be taking more trips. We'll be camping more often. And we'll be growing because of it. And I'm going to share all of it. So keep watching.