Monthly Archives: July 2016

photo of Road Atlas with Stickies

Planning Our Latest Adventure on the Teardrop Trail

Marilyn, July 25:

We got a jump start on this year’s trip as we pulled out of the Missouri State Fairgrounds in June of 2015. Someone mentioned that camping spaces would be very limited for the 2016 Red Power Round Up, so upon our return to Roy Creek Ranch, I got online and booked reservations for one of the coveted campsites.

I love planning trips and I’ve never been one to wing it. It is inspiring, like putting together a multi-dimensional puzzle. Making dreams reality. I started by making list of places we might want to visit on the route from Roy Creek Ranch to Red Power Round Up in Union Grove Wisconsin and the adventure home. I used Google Maps to get the distances between points of interest, inviting restaurants and camping possibilities. Then we have an idea of how long it will take to get to the next stop and the possible route. This list helps to answer the question, “Are we there yet?” Yes, adults still ask this time-honored question.

The next step was to create a list of optional activities in the states we’d be driving through. I’d put out an inquiry on Facebook to get recommendations from friends for must-see attractions. An extensive Internet search followed, investigating possibilities along the route. I compiled a list of activities and points of interest. The list included Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds, Taliesin, House on the Rock, Pullman National Monument and more.

photo of Road atlas detail

Road atlas detail

In the past, we used Jim’s well-loved 2004 Road Master Atlas to plan our trips on the Teardrop Trail, but this year, he got us a New National Geographic Road Atlas, Adventure Edition. We sat down with the with the new atlas and sticky notes to mark the points of interest along our route.

I revisited many of the check lists I found online to make sure that we had everything for this trip. On the trip to West Texas, someone had forgotten a pair of flip flops. Some of our other treks have taken us off the retail track, making replacing forgotten items a challenge if not impossible.

As the departure date approached, details came into focus and reservations were made for the first two legs of our trip, but this would be a different kind of excursion down the Teardrop Trail – one without a complete itinerary. Another travel blogger ascribed luck as an important aspect of the trip. After our stop in Kansas City, we would be planning as we traveled. Each stop at a visitors’ center or tourism office could bring a wealth of new maps, magazines and opportunities. It would now be plan-as-you-go with a dash of serendipity thrown in.

photo of Travel brochures

Travel brochures

photo of The Atwood Stabilizer Jack in use

Easy Leveling with an Atwood Stabilizer Jack

Jim, July 31:

The new storage box and galley table would certainly improve our setup and strike time, but I was sure it could be improved a little more. When we drive into a campsite, one of the first jobs is to level the trailer. Up to now, I used two scissor jacks (one under each rear corner of the trailer) and that worked well enough. Scissor jacks are fiddly and can be hard to use. They certainly aren’t quick. The light-weight jacks had to be extended by hand until they could be wedged under the trailer because they would “dance around” while turning the adjustment screw. They couldn’t be stored under the trailer. I thought we could do better.

photo of Atwood Stabilizer Jack -- Deployed

Atwood Stabilizer Jack — Deployed

Looking around at other RVs, I learned about a “stabilizer jack”. Intended for leveling a trailer and designed to store under it, they seemed to fit the bill. A quick cruise on Amazon, and we had a candidate — the Atwood 82301stabilizer jack. I ordered a set of three. One for the tongue and one for each rear corner.

The Atwood stabilizer jacks can be either bolted or welded onto the trailer. My friend Jason at Vintage Motor Car agreed that welding would be best. A day or two later, they were installed. A little black spray paint, and the job was done.

photo of Atwood Stabilizer Jack -- Retracted

Atwood Stabilizer Jack — Retracted

The jacks hide under the trailer when not in use, and only take a couple inches of ground clearance. Deployment is easy. Pull into the site, swing the two rear jacks down into the locked position and then deploy the front stabilizer jack the same way. The trailer sits pretty low to the ground, so occasionally I dig a little ground out from under the jack before it swings into place.

photo of Jack handle in use

Jack handle in use

The final step is using the steel handle to adjust each jack’s height while watching a bubble level. The recommended jack handle (purchased separately) is rather short and will only install in the jack if all the holes are perfectly aligned — not always the case. A “heel” pry bar with a tapered end is both longer and will work with less perfectly aligned holes. The 16-inch pry bar (purchased in a set of four for $12 from a Red Power Roundup tool vendor) was the perfect size. Amazon has a similar product from about $25.

photo of Pry Bar Set

Pry Bar Set

Each stabilizer jack has a 650-pound work capacity and a 1000-pound support capacity. They measure 11 1/2-inches retracted and extend to 17 3/4-inches. I carry an assortment of wood blocks from 1/2-inch to 3 1/2-inches in thickness to account for sloping campsites. Also, I carry one scissors jack for unforeseen circumstances from pulling a stuck trailer hitch to changing a tire. That satisfies my “belt and suspenders (and belt)” approach. So far, we’ve been able to meet every camping challenge!

photo of Pry Bar vs. Atwood jack handle

Pry Bar vs. Atwood jack handle

photo showing Marilyn Cooking with the new galley table

New Countertop for the Galley

Jim, July 24:

Trailer kitchen in the living room.

Trailer kitchen in the living room.

The Problem

Over the last several trips, I realized we were spending a lot of time setting up and striking each campsite. The lack of storage was corrected with the tongue box, but the Timber Creek Camp Kitchen took too long to set up. We needed another surface for the stove. I began to think about a counter that would hang on the galley edge.

There were several criteria. It had to attach with little modification and compliment the style of the teardrop. It had to store easily and be strong enough to support a two-burner stove with pans and skillets. And of course, it had to set up quickly. The raised lip at the back end of the galley could be used as an attachment point, but without legs supporting the other end because of the trip hazard. The best solution was to cantilever the counter with support from the underside of the trailer. Time’s a wastin’!

The Build

photo of Initial mockup

Initial mockup

I cut a 21-inch by 26-inch piece of birch plywood. This was the largest surface that would mount in the hatch opening without interfering with the galley storage.  It was long enough to support our camp stove with a propane bottle. Next, I cut 9-inch pieces of 3/4-inch steel strap and bent one end to form an “L”. These fit into the gap between the galley countertop and hatch lid while attaching to the plywood. Using a couple of clamps, I mocked up the proof of concept. Success!

photo of Trial fit of support pattern

Trial fit of support pattern

Now for the cantilever supports. I wanted a design that would fit our teardrop. I drew a shape on a scrap of masonite and cut it with a saber saw. A trial fit with the table mockup looked promising, but I would have to match the curving shape of the trailer exactly. Several rounds of cut and fit were needed. Houston, we have a pattern.

I used the pattern to cut two pieces of plywood. Time for an edge treatment. I routed a 1/2 by 3/8-inch rebate in a piece of birch 1 by 2. This would cover the plywood laminations on the edge of the table, flush with the top. A table saw and a 45º sled made quick work of cutting the birch edges to length. A quick glue-up and I was done for the night.

Let’s Finish This

The interior of our teardrop is varnished, and the wood and polished aluminum go well together. I sanded all the table parts and coated them with boiled linseed oil. We were running short of time before our trip, and the oil would protect the wood. I’ll add a more durable finish later.

Linseed oil dried, I mounted the supports to the table with piano hinges. Another trial fit, and all was well. Folded, the table fits flat on top of the galley storage for transport. Finally, I drilled holes through the steel straps into the galley edge and threaded them for thumb screws. This prevents the table from detaching while in use. Level and plumb, the galley was ready!

photo of Jim with the new galley table

Ready for camping!

photo of Marine-style USB power and battery monitor

Marine-Style 12 Volt Outlets in Our Teardrop

Jim, July 23:

One thing we learned on our trip to Big Bend, we needed more power outlets! With two smart phones, an iPad, a laptop, two cameras and other low-voltage doodads and geegaws, the two 12-volt and two 120-volt outlets that came with the trailer were simply not enough. Multi-outlet USB chargers helped, but added to the clutter in the cabin — especially at night. Also, the existing outlets were located on the aft interior and galley walls. Not convenient for charging while reading in bed.

photo of Galley outlets

Galley outlets

We had been working on a friend’s tiny house, and learned that the universe of 12-volt equipment has greatly expanded in the last couple of years. The tiny house was equipped with a marine power center, and offered 120/240-volt and 12-volt service. Just what was needed while at shore or underway. We equipped the tiny house entirely with 12-volt lighting, and easily found fixtures, light bulbs and other 12-volt outlets. With all the interest in solar power the number and quality of such devices is rapidly improving, and a trip to the Amazon store yielded several marine-style USB, cigar lighter and battery monitor fixtures.

photo of USB power outlet detail

USB power outlet detail

Fortunately, the Ambassador has hollow wood-paneled walls, so expanding the existing 12-volt wiring wasn’t too difficult. I simply replaced the two 12-volt cigar outlets with double and triple-gang devices on the back wall of the cabin and galley, while adding a pair of USB outlets on the forward wall under the cabin light. The marine system is nice because the 2 or 3 position panels can accept any combination of outlets and monitoring.

Now we can read in bed while charging our iPhones and other USB and cigar-lighter-based devices. Perfect!

Photo of tree swing over the swimmin' hole

A Trip to Krause Springs

photo of Marilyn


Jim, July 22:

Marilyn was eager to connect with teardrop trailer enthusiasts and looked for groups we might join. The Southwest Teardrop & Vintage Trailers had a scheduled meetup in May and we decided to go. The three-day event was more than our time allowed, so we drove up for the day on Saturday. That way, we could make some new friends and check out Krause Springs at the same time.

Krause Springs

Located in the Texas Hill Country off Highway 71 on the way to Llano, the privately-owned, 115 acre park has been in operation since 1955. It’s on the National Registry of Historic Sites and has been owned by the Krause family for over 50 years. We happen to be on the right side of Austin, so it’s very close to our home, Roy Creek Ranch, northwest of Dripping Springs. We were there in less than an hour. It’s a beautiful park with camping, hiking trails, a butterfly garden and or course, the springs! One of the best swimmin’ holes in Texas, the springs ultimately empties into Lake Travis. With both natural and man-made pools, it’s easy to cool off on a hot summer day.

A tour of Teardrops

Marilyn had already contacted the group, and they were expecting us. They quickly found us a spot in the impressive line of teardrop trailers, and we spent the next couple of hours visiting with our new friends. Most of the trailers are custom crafted, and The Ambassador fit right in. There were a wide range of sizes an looks, and it was clear that everyone took teardrop camping very seriously. Our solar-powered beer cooler was a hit, and I was glad we had a special feature to show off.

Hiking the Springs

The initial flurry of introductions and tours completed, we had bite of lunch and decided to look around the park. We spent the next couple of hours exploring.

An Evening Potluck

Hikes, swims, naps and other afternoon activities completed, it was time for cocktails and a potluck. Marilyn had prepared some potato salad, and the overachievers in the group insured no-one left hungry. It was amazing to see what was produced in the tiny teardrop galleys: chips and dips, casseroles, slow-cooked pulled pork and a variety of desserts and more. An amazing day — lots of unique trailers and new friends!

photo of Krause Springs Pool

Krause Springs Pool