Kayaking the Dan River

Today we kayaked the Dan River, through Hanging Rock State Park.  It was a 6.5 mile paddle, supposed to take 3 hours but somehow it took us 4 1/2 hrs.  Maybe because we kept getting hung up on rocks!  I think the river levels were low and there were really a lot of places where we had to really read the river to figure out how to get through the rocks. My old whitewater experience came in handy but we still all ended up stuck on rocks at times, and Marilyn even took an unscheduled swim!  It was supposed to be a nice calm, easy paddle but it was more technical than that, and even had some standing waves that came close to being Class 2!  It was a fun day anyway, and we are all pleasantly worn out.

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And now we are back for our last night at the campground, and there’s a lot of activity here!  We no longer have the campground all to ourselves; there are people everywhere, lots of ROTC kids tent-camping, fire trucks bringing water to flood more mud-pits for the race, people yelling & horns honking.  We have a bird-eye view of all the excitement but I hope the kids quiet down at some point tonight.  Well I think we are so tired out from our river adventures, it might not matter if it’s quiet or not!


Day One

My first day on the road!  At first it was like I’d never pulled a trailer before, I was really nervous that I’d hooked it up wrong, or I’d do something really stupid and get in an accident, etc.  After an hour or so I relaxed and was just driving along when….something DID happen, just 8 miles from my destination! I had a blowout on one of the camper tires!

DSCN1115 I was able to pull off the road right away, into the start of a farm drive. The tire has a HUGE hole in it, but luckily it did not destroy the flimsy wheel well, which often happens.  I called for the Good Sam service and was told it’d be 90 minutes before he would arrive.

An old guy pulled up behind me and got out and asked if I needed help, so I told him I had help on the way but he didn’t leave!  Weird.  Finally I figured out that it was the farmer who owned that field, and my rig was blocking it. He was nice about it & said he didn’t really need to drive in.  Someone had broken the padlock off the gate and there was an abandoned yellow ATV at the edge of the woods in there, probably stolen.  He called the police and apparently that was the most exciting thing going on, because soon there were 4 police cars and 7 officers milling around.  Several of them asked if I needed help and seemed really glad that I didn’t.   Finally the guy came and had the spare tire on in a jiffy and I was on my way again.  What a way to start my epic new journey!


Got to our little campground in Damascus, VA.  And I do mean little!  There are only 6 sites here! (Creek Side RV Park) It’s right across the road from the bike rental/shuttle place and on a really pretty river that runs through town.  So tomorrow we bike  the Virginia Creeper Trail…17 miles, all downhill!  I’m worried about the bike seat being uncomfortable so we’ll see how it goes.


The Countdown Is On!

Only 4 more days til I leave here, and surprise surprise, I’m not ready!  I got a new Group 31 AGM battery that has more capacity than my old one, plus doesn’t need any maintenance or venting.  Jenni wired the quick-connect for the 100 watt solar panel and even installed a special little hatch through the wall for the cords, where the battery vent exhaust used to be!  I’ve ordered some memory foam to make the bed more comfortable and am in the process of making a new canopy and a little wire storage shelf for over the kitchen.

I dropped the camper off at the trailer place last week to get the wheel bearings repacked and two new tail lights installed.  (I thought I could do the lights but I couldn’t figure out how to access & remove the wiring on the old ones)  Then went back yesterday and waited while they wired the new car for the 7-way plug and mounted the brake controller.  Yay, brakes!  I haven’t been able to use the brakes in about 3 years because of some weird electrical problem.  Got all hooked up but when I got on the road, the brakes were not working. So I drove back and they found a wire broken at the magnet, and had to order a part.  I left it there again and hopefully the part will come in as planned, and I can pick it up on Friday.  That’s cutting it really close, it leaves me just 2 days to finish fitting the new canopy to the camper, cut the foam for the bed, and do the final packing, etc. I am pretty sure I still have too much stuff but I don’t quite know what to do about it.  I think it’ll fit, but the car will be crammed full, and I was hoping to avoid that with the larger vehicle.

I even have my cute scooter back now, and it’s looking VERY huge!  It’s an E-Zip 400, little battery-powered scooter that can go up to 15 mph for 8 miles on a charge.  When I moved to Ecuador I sold it to a friend, who sold it to another friend, and now I was able to buy it back.  It’ll come in handy since I am not able to walk very much.  This is just like mine except mine’s blue. It’s a really fun toy!


On Monday I leave here and meet 3 other WACS (Women A-Frame Campers) at Creek Side RV Park in Damascus, VA for a biking adventure on the Virginia Creeper Trail, which is probably the ONLY bike trail I’ll ever do!  It is 17 miles, all downhill!  I think I can handle going downhill but I hope the rented bike has a good cushy seat.  After that we’re moving to Pinnacle, NC and will kayak the Dan River through Hanging Rock State Park and maybe do a calm stretch of the New River too.  Then on to Michigan!

It is Princess Roxie’s 8th birthday today; Happy Birthday Roxie!


Home At Last

Ahhh, it’s good to be back in my little camper.  I am Luxury Camping at friends’ house in Asheville, NC; parked under their carport so completely out of the weather, with use of the laundry & shower facilities and frequent invitations to dinner!  Yesterday Jenni helped me with some much-needed repairs.  And when I say she helped me, I mean that she did all the work while I stood by looking helpful (I’m sure).   I thought my battery was dead so we (she) removed it and then noticed the fuse & fuse holder were completely melted!  Yikes!  I went to the auto parts place and got 2 new ones and she installed one, then put my battery back in thinking maybe that was the  problem.  It charged for several hours, then the stupid CO2 alarm kept going off.  Why is it that when that happens, we automatically think it’s a false alarm?  I placed a fan right in front of it so it stopped screeching for a while, but then I couldn’t make it stop.  Then I noticed, there WAS a strange smell.  I opened up the compartment where the battery is and it was SUPER hot, and sending off toxic fumes!  So we (Jenni) removed it and put in a spare battery they have.  That one did not get hot but I’m not sure it’s a viable battery either.  I unplugged the electricity this morning, turned on the Fantastic Vent and watched the battery amperage decrease fairly quickly. Is that normal when using the fan?  I’m not sure. Next time I’ll just unplug the electricity with no load on the battery and see if it holds up.

We also tackled the Fantastic Vent problem.  Last spring when I was towing the camper, a deer came out from the side of the road and leaped completely over the camper, but it’s back feet touched down and broke the vent lid, then the wind grabbed it and broke it off completely.  I taped a generic lid down to keep it out of the weather and now have a new vent lid.  Turns out the deer bent the arm that opens & closes the lid too, and it wouldn’t straighten so this morning I ordered a new lift arm assembly.

And the third thing was changing the defective Fastec door locks.  I got one lock cylinder changed out with no problems at all but the other one just wouldn’t stay in place.  Jenni figured out the problem and fixed that!  So we’re batting 1 out of 3 project completions so far.  I still have the solar panel to do; need to wire in a quick-connect for it.

And today I need to empty the new car and go get everything out of the old Subaru.  I’ve sold it to the folks who were storing it for me; yayy!  That sure was easier than advertising it & dealing with “lookers” who might possibly be ax murderers!

I have WAY too much stuff.  I’m trying to pare down but it’s really a tiny trailer. I knew that…..but living with the reality is hard.  More paring down to come when I get all the stuff out of my old car.


Back In The U.S.A.!

The last of the furniture was toted out of the Ecuador house around 2 pm on April 15 but I had to wait until 4:30 to be picked up & taken to a friend’s house for my last night in Ecuador.  There was nothing to sit on except the toilet or a cement ledge out in the front patio!  Strangely enough, the cement ledge was more comfortable.  We spent a nice night back at Jani’s place in Paute and then left for the Quito airport at 10 a.m. on the morning of April 16, arriving at Charleston, SC airport at about 10 a.m. the following morning.  UGH!  Hope to never have to  have another long long travel day like that one. It was pretty uneventful though except that I accidentally left my carry-on bag at Customs in Atlanta. Turns out they really hate when that happens, LOL!   I had to  wait about 15-20 min. for a Delta employee to escort me back to Customs to retrieve it.

We’ve been staying in a big borrowed tent at Hunting Island State Park in SC for 2 weeks….the weather has been pretty good overall, and it’s great to be among my camping friends again.  We spend time at the beach reading and chatting, eating in restaurants, going to town.  . I have a one burner electric hot plate that’s been named “Christine” (after the famous unruly car) because she’s so unpredictable and diabolical!!  She pays no attention to what temperature her knobs are set, she heats madly or not at all, and one time I set her on top of my ice chest and she leaped off onto the ground, all on her own!!  Sometimes it takes 5 minutes to heat water for morning coffee, sometimes 15.  In order to get her to turn off completely, I have to unplug her; I can’t just turn the knob to “off”.

We are leaving here on Saturday to spend 3 nights at a campground in Asheville, then I’ll be parked at two friends’ house in Asheville for the rest of May.  I will be house-and-dog-sitting for them from May 16-31, and then I’ll be starting my Summer Adventures!   Can’t wait.  I am picking up my dear little camper on the way to Asheville…with my NEW CAR!!  I bought a 2006 Toyota Highlander which will be a much more appropriate tow vehicle, with more engine power (6 cylinders instead of 4) and better braking power, not to mention a whole lot more cargo space than my little Subaru.  I’m going to need it if I’m to live full time in the little camper.  The prospect of having car payments again is a little daunting but it’ll be fine once I get used to it.   It seems to be a great car that looks & drives like new! I guess I’ll have to TRY to be better about keeping it clean than I did the poor Subaru.


Getting Ready

Well things are just skipping along here and things seem to be falling into place… weird is that!  (Any of my friends could tell you I am NOT a lucky person)

As of yesterday I’ve sold nearly everything in the house here in Gualaceo, Ecuador. And the really nice thing is, people have agreed to wait until April 15, the day before I leave, to pick it up. So right up until the day I leave I’ll still get to use my stove, fridge, beds, etc.  What a relief to have all this stuff taken care of!!

I will be moving back to the States with just 2 large suitcases and a carry-on. And of course Princess Roxie, in her little Sherpa travel bag!   I’ve run into a little snag in the plans; I bought a ticket from Cuenca to Quito on LAN airlines, since they do allow dogs in the cabin.  I wouldn’t fly Princess Roxie any other way!  Well I’ve flown with her a number of times and her travel bag fits nicely under the seat in front of me, so I neglected to look at LAN’s requirements.  Turns out she’s too big; only teeny-tiny dogs can fly on LAN.  So now I have to find someone to drive us to the Quito airport, which is about a 7-8 hour trip and will cost around $250.  I could take a bus but that takes about 9 hours with no possibility of stopping to let the dog pee, and that just sounds too mean.  So I’ll get someone to drive us there and then we can stop whenever we like to eat or go potty.   I am looking forward to seeing the scenery between here and there, it should be gorgeous.


I’m A Camper From Way Back

I’m a camper.  I have been a camper since I was a little girl, happily spending most of the day with picture books in my cozy “tent” made of a blanket thrown over a card table in the living room.  I graduated from that to a big canvas tent in the back yard, camping out with my big brother until he’d make things too scary and I had to run back to the house.  And then camping in a huge tent in my friend Cindy’s back yard, knowing the boys would come to throw little green apples at it and make us scream with delicious fear.  Sometimes the tent would be crammed full of neighborhood kids.

On it went….I loved camping, and I loved going away to summer camps, so much that I even saved up my own money to spend an extra week at camp a few times. (I think it cost a whopping $50 a week!)  I was a girl scout for as long as they’d let me…all the way through high school, when it DEFINITELY was not cool! After high school I backpacked and car camped on vacations by myself. For awhile I had a converted Ford van that took me all over out West.   I moved to NC when I was 30 and lived in an 8×10 canvas tent for 4 months while building a small cabin with hand tools (no electricity), and did some backpacking there too.

I eventually bought an ALiner hard-sided popup camper and met a bunch of fantastic women A-frame campers (WACS) and started camping pretty regularly with them; that was way more fun than my solitary camping!  Our little bunch in the southeast would camp nearly every month.

All I ever wanted to do after I retired was travel.  Well things happened, plans changed; savings had to be used for day to day living.  I couldn’t afford to live in the U.S. so I moved to Ecuador and have spent two pretty contented years there. I don’t travel here in Ecuador because I don’t feel I speak Spanish well enough and it’s very hard to travel with a dog on the buses. And a lot of hotels here don’t accept dogs.  That’s not the way I want to travel; I want to do Road Trips!  In a car!

So one day it just wasn’t working for me any more, and I realized that I really missed camping, and my camping friends.  I pinched and prodded the budget until I made it work (I think) and got an offer of a free place to park my camper! The only way I could move back was to live in my camper which, on the inside, is 6.5’ wide and 9’ long.  Can I do it?  I think so.  I hope so.

My ALiner Sport has a narrow bunk with room for a couple plastic storage bins under it, a little kitchen with 2-burner gas cooktop, 1.9 cu ft. refrigerator (no freezer) and a microwave.  It has a little A/C and a porta-potty which serves double-duty as a dining chair (the drop-down microwave cabinet door is my table) What more could I need?!

Most everything I own is going to be either in my car or camper.  It feels very freeing to not have any specific place to live, and no ongoing bills left behind. The world is my oyster! Well, the continental U.S. anyway.  My plans are to spend this summer in Michigan (mostly the Upper Peninsula where it’s nice and cool) and next winter-spring-summer in AZ-CA-NV-NM. Oh BIG plans indeed!  And after that, who knows?


A Little About Us

I am a retired lady living  with a cutie-pie Havanese named Princess Roxie in an ALiner Sport camper….a hard-sided popup that is just 6.5’x 9′ long!  We are moving back to the U.S. from two years in Ecuador and hope to have lots of fun adventures to write about soon.