Monthly Archives: September 2012

Hmmm, Noticed a very funny thing this morning…

Yes, a very funny thing to me.  Its cloudy, drizzling and nice to be comfy in our little Tramper.  Tin roof, rain tink-tinking at times.  The funny thing unique to this trip is Orientation.  At home my house ALWAYS faces the same way.  the street is always out front, patio and garage out back.  I can call out directions by neighbor names (Rick and Nancy’s vs Joe and Kyra’s).  Here I get “almost dizzy” when the curtains are drawn because every day we face a different way.

I believe there are cultures where people always orient their bed in a cardinal direction.  Maybe now I know why?

– David


When last I wrote of people, I mentioned being fortunate enough that Jane didn’t “leave me” upon seeing the large aluminum box in our driveway (our wonderful neighbors never complained either).   My next tasks were planning and starting the notebook that accompanies all my bigger projects.  I had to start somewhere, preservation began with recoating the silver tar roof, getting good tires/wheels.  I found Hubcap City (which a guy was operating from his cell phone), he asked what I needed (6 lug, 15″ wheels), then agreed to meet me at a diner on Route 40 to exchange cash for them. (Nice guy, guaranteed the quality and fit, wish I could remember his name).

Next, on to Frank at Interstate tire.  He suggests cheap, but quality tires for a trailer because they invariably dry rot before you wear them out.  Maybe I’ll wear these out though?  Very, very nice guy, dry humor, reliable and NOT mercenary.  Funny how many people know of him whenever I mention his shop. Then I used “Service Tire” shop out Route 40 for my Maryland State Inspection.  I knew I wouldn’t be finished within 30 days for a re-inspection, but the guy was very helpful and suggested I could patch and repair the frame using welds and “fish plates” on both sides of defects. In my earlier post I described that I cut the bolts holding the camper onto the trailer frame and then moved into the unknown.  Somehow the wooden body stayed together as I raised it above the rotted steel. When I towed the newly welded bare steel frame home, my neighbor Ray was ready and willing to help push it into my garage and watch as I washed off the road salt and dirt in preparation for Rustoleum.  I skipped the high-tech suggestions of powder coating to shave a few $ from the project, and rolled on primer and satin black figuring the first one lasted >50 years. Freshly rolled frame waiting for the next step: can I really get this back under the body

...yeah, just take off the wheels, plop the springs on some casters and shove it back under...(all on someone else's property because he has a level concrete pad and a little faith that I finish something I started)

Perhaps the biggest contribution came from a long time friend and mentor: Lynn.  He had previously scrapped out a camper and offered the systems to me for a price I would have to name.  Dometic fridge (propane/electric), water heater (propane), a big Inverter/electric distribution system (that I later abandoned for solar and two parallel but separate systems) and a pump.  I gave some sorry low amount  of cash and a full bottle of Freon R 12 that I saved from going into the Cockeysville landfill.  (later estimated to be worth about 8-12 hundred dollars).  He saved me thousands and provided phone consults freely.

His friend Matt came by and unwound one of my many electrical conundrums.  Trailer lights should be a very finite problem; 4 wires, just a few functions, but they keep giving me fits at various times (once again today in Maine, I have no R turn or brake….crap, I’ll fix it soon, but it gets pissy).  Matt was also involved in helping Lynn get a Jeep for mail delivery, then sending a blue and red tank my way.  You’ll likely see them on the back of the 4Runner in some pic or another.  One day I’ll be pouring 5 gallons of gas into my truck thinking of how Matt saved me on a road with no open gas stations.  (tanks are empty now in the busy east).

John (of Melanie and John, pickup truck loan fame), emailed me a link to the cutest avocado Holiday stove on Craigslist.  I drove over to Gilman School to buy it for some $40-ish dollars.  Another very nice guy who was making a camper of his own and parted out a broken down 1960’s Shasta.  Into my garage it went to wait about a year before I tested and installed it.

Alan (of flat driveway fame, glad to have finally on Mother’s day be unburdened of my big aluminum box) came to my rescue again.  He gave me all of the Formica counter coverings seen gracing the dinette table and sink counters.  He had rescued this from disposal at work as they rebuilt the laminate rack and restocked the shop.

I called and emailed several different suppliers of solar equipment.  The single most helpful contact turned out to be right in Baltimore.  Brent at Mr Solar answered all of my usual and unusual questions promptly by phone and email as I learned as much as I could about a new topic.  (I wrote a blog about this equipment experience on my Good Old RV’s home page under Solar Newbies). Jane received a nice tutorial introduction to upholstery from Julia, my boss at Sinai.  She came by one evening and helped out with the confidence Jane would need as she created the dinette cushions using 20-some pages of internet step-by-steps, where we also learned about cutting on the bias to create your own binding, edging and finished work.

Jane’s cushions…I sit on this one right now as I write

Our great friend Jeff from the Aquarium rescued not a dolphin, but some sheets of 1/4 inch plexiglas that save me 40 bucks as I made double layered windows for the door that “may fend off a bear”.  I knew clearly that my temporary single layer of 1/8 stuff had NO CHANCE as just pushing it in hard enough flexed it to allow pulling it out of the tracks.

Another ongoing and invaluable source of info has been Custom Coach.  When I find great info and answers anywhere I am happy.  When these answers come from a woman in what could be a male-dominated setting, I have admit it adds something.  That Jane too ended up saying “she’s the one we really like” was very nice as Jenn answered most questions from her own font of knowledge, happily looked stuff up online and in catalogs and knew the difference between metric or US fasteners readily.  Her “Happy Camper” t-shirt and smile made it a pleasure to stop in and add to my knowledge and stockpile of parts that gradually became our Tramper.  (not unlike Chitty-Chitty-Bang-Bang)

– David

I glanced back at this post and remember a Very Fond Morning.  I wanted to replace the floor with something nicer than grey-brown chip like peels that once were tiles.  I made a paper pattern and was greeted in the sunny driveway by our neighbor CHARLIE.  He was about 3 1/2 at the time, but was happy to hold down the paper and linoleum  as the wind and bright sun made my tracing a bit harder.  He put down a toy and moved freely to help out.  After about an hour(!), I could see his attention waning, but I couldn’t have laid that nice checkerboard floor without Charlie’s help.  We miss him and wish he could drop in to play with Miss Jane and I.

DAY 15 – 09/29/2012 The Maine-ahs

That’s “Mainers” with a down east accent!

After a pleasant travel day, we arrived in the Augusta area to visit with family in Sidney (brother Bob, nieces Rachel and Amanda) and Farmingdale (nephew Andrew, his wife Hannah and our little adorable grand-niece, Grace).

Darling Gracie having her fav snack – Cheerios!

At the Harvest Fest, looking at silly Mommy in the rabbit cage

On the way to Augusta, we put in the Connecticut River for a short kayak. (see David’s description, below) Actually, a short paddle is about it for us. We stay close to shoreline to observe the animal and plant life and enjoy the scenery. Biking and hiking are long, strenuous and glorious but kayaking is relaxing and slow.

In Sidney with my brother Bob, we visited and played a fast game of Beatles Monopoly. Fast, because the Ravens game was on! Funny how our Maine relatives are much, much bigger fans of the Ravens than we, the Baltimoreans are.

Rachel, David, Bob (hmmm, he’s not really insane. Just poses that way for a pic!) and Amanda

I so love visiting family. It’s so warm and nice. Feels like home. I find myself wondering why we aren’t up here 3 or 4 times a year. Life is happening, that’s why and as David would remind you, it’s a busy sport. That’s what’s so great about the Tramper Voyage. We can travel and do fun things but also we can spend time with people we love.

Hannah gives David a much needed haircut

Hannah and Rachel at the Harvest Fest

Grace’s grandma, Marty, with David. I think she looks quite happy holding the baby!

– Jane

Bridge over the Connecticut River

We hear the Connecticut River is tidal, but had yet to confirm that from where we were at the VT/NH border along Route 2.  The bridge was a steel truss, a character laden and rusty old thing.  We parked at a Valero gas station where long, empty logging trucks sat.  A dirty grey gravel lot, but we saw it dip in one corner toward the river.  Sure enough there was a boat ramp, not paved until the last 30 feet into the river.  Of course all we want for a kayak is the sandy beach found next to the ramp.  Dark and clear the river was smooth with a just-detectible current Southward.

Almost mirror-smooth Connecticut River in New Hampshire

We paddled North for 20 minutes or so.  It was cloudy.  We felt guilty just driving so we were happy to get out and “do something”.  Odd that today we saw no birds, no fish jumping or any other sign of life.  The road crew onshore barely gave a glance as we finished tying the boat on the roof of our hard-working 4Runner to get back on the road.

– David

Barriers: The truck

I would “normally” have driven and tested a vehicle for months before an adventure like this.  The new 4Runner got about 150 local miles only.  They tend to look “front high” even at rest (rear fenders are cut 3″ lower), but ours, loaded and under the tongue of the Tramper looks so tired.  I always test “emergent” capabilities of vehicles in non-emergent places (like snow handling in a parking lot).  So it was some surprise that the front wheels will skid in hard braking.  I hope to re-weigh the loaded rig soon, but I want to get the truck to sit more level.  I have ordered new rear coil springs (to go with the already installed new brakes, shocks, muffler, rear wheel bearings, wheel cylinders, plugs, wires, hoses and belts that comprise my faith in this 1995 beast with somewhat unknown 150,000 miles on it).

The biggest safety feature, of course is thought and forethought, but the second biggest is the “low speeds” we are traveling.  40-50 mph offers far more reaction time and stopping ability than what many people use “on the Interstate”.

Meanwhile we roll slowly, remembering “You could fall off a cliff and die but you could also stay home, fall off the couch and die”.

DAYs 10 and 11 – 09/24-25/2012 – East Burke Vermont

Travel, by nature, means we have to leave places to get to new ones.  Leaving family in Stowe was not easy.  Although each person or family we visit, will in some way, sigh some amount of relief as they get to go back to their rhythm and get things done again, or get a little more sleep.  We do get interesting quotes:  I’m jealous, or, I want to do that trip-I can homeschool and come along!

As we contain our “leaving” sadness there always seems a sight or prospect of future fun.

Leaving a high Vermont pass in early morning, blue sky above, but headed into a Valley full of clouds (we promised everyone a “Pretty day was coming” as the fog burned off)


Map highlighted by someone with a little more stamina in her “2 hour ride” than we Southerners

The name seems to come from the Northeast Kingdom.  This cooperative Mountain Bike Area gets rights from private property owners and “snowmobile clubs”.  The map boasts >100 miles, but what I found is Something for Everyone.   Imagine you like to ride your bike in the woods.  What would you look for?  Some would want gentle, smooth trails meandering near a brook throu

This one is smooth and inviting

gh meadows near farms.  Some would want a MountainDew commercial with berms, jumps, gaps, walls, and features abounding from the top of a ski mountain to the wrist-pounding bottom.  While others would seek classic twisty-turny single track leading along topographical features with a few bridges, roots and rocks mixed into interesting spots along the way….

WOW, my two favorites were “Burnham Down” and “Tap and Die”.  I took no pictures of either because all I could do was say WEEE,  WEEEEE,  like the little Geico pig.  (I know, You either love him or hate him).

Suffice to say, once we start working again, we will vacation in the Kingdom Trails.

Perhaps the highlight of each place is the stories and people we meet.  Tom and Berryl are a couple we hope to see again.  Their Ellsworth Tandem has enough technology I’m sure we can talk about as long as we oogled the tramper this morning.  Tim and Maggie were gracious hosts as they let me tag along on trails like “Coronary” and “Coronary Bypass”.  Both plied uphill with the ease you might expect from veterans of this place.  We hope to see them in Maine…

– David