Epic Fails

I said I would follow up on some of the recent tent failures. I sure hope some of these manufacturers are paying attention.
First the ColemanOzark Trails tent…

Tony Tent
Coleman

This tent could not withstand the 30 mph winds. First thing that failed was the door zipper. The owner used safety pins to shut it. Then, in the middle of the night when the winds picked up again, the owner went to sleep in his car and this is what he found in the morning. Two busted poles and the entire rain fly had ripped in half horizontally right across one of the windows.

Tony Tent 3
Coleman

Luckily no one was hurt although many of his belongings were damaged.

Then to the brand we originally thought was better…
The Bushnell tent…

Jim Tent 2
Bushnell

A pole snapped and his rain fly shredded into little strips. (You can’t see the damage to the rainfly in this photo, its on the back side). We all know that poles can break. This tent was only two months old though and it had only been set up on this site…so it had not been taken down and put back up repeatedly. It should have held up better. When he inquired into getting a replacement rainfly, the cost was $45.oo which is half the price of the tent originally. He opted to go for a different model of the Bushnell series. We wish him well.

The model he upgraded too was the same one we had. During the same time period, our main door zipper failed. To be fair, our tent was already 5 months old. I bought a hand held sewing machine and my husband helped me sew a different zipper that we had salvaged from another tent enclosure right over the old one. It lasted another 6 weeks. The day that zipper failed, a friend purchased a Kodiak Canvas tent for us so we were not even impacted by that failure.

Now, we have had the Kodiak for a few weeks. So far we love it. I already tripped on the door and ripped the corner of the zipper loose but it is fixable.
We have had rain already and it appears the tent is seasoned well. We found one tiny drip, wouldn’t you know it, right over my computer key board. You can’t see where it comes from and its so infrequent that you can stare and stare but it won’t drip when your looking. I can live with that.

The Kodiak does have a design flaw of sorts. You have to hand tighten the thumb screws on the support poles when you put them up. Several days of wind will work them loose and the tent starts to sag. No huge deal, you just go out and lift them up again.

What we really like is that canvas is so much quieter than the other tents. The wind may whip it around but its a fabric sound so its easy to bear. The flooring is heavy duty too which most tents seem to not even worry about and therefore they end up with holes in them. We did get the enclosure addition but unfortunately, the site we are in is not level enough to use it. (The tent pad is raised above a patio area by a good foot). Soon we hope to move on and set the entire tent up and enjoy the extra space.

So here I am guarding our current mansion. Gotta run for today…More soon.

Guard Peggy

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March 3, 2016 -Plan for the travel bug

No matter how far you travel from your original starting point, most people discover that there is never enough time to see everything and do everything that you want to do.  No matter how often you talk about wanting to visit a new place, it seems like something always gets in the way of your plans.  Travelers learn that no matter how well thought out your travel plans are, there is always going to be something that you missed or forgot about somewhere along the way.

During our journey to arrive at this destination, we saw many things that were interesting, informative, and even some things that were scary (like many rattle snake and falling rock warning signs).  And along the way, we made stops where we learned of even more places we would have loved to have had the opportunity, time, and money to have explored.  It doesn’t matter where you end up, there will always be another place you would like to be.  That doesn’t mean we haven’t found joy where we are at, it simply means we realize that the opportunities to learn and see more are limitless.  Once you start on the road to traveling, you soon find that you want to see and do more than you ever imagined.  Inevitably, someone will ask if we stopped at this spot or that spot and when our reply is “no”, then we end up listening to all the reasons why we should have went there along the way.  That would be great if you had an endless amount of time and money but most of us don’t.  What is great though is meeting people who have been to all these other places that can give you a good run down of what you might find so that you can make an informed decision as to whether it is something to add to your future travel plans.

Sometimes, we hear of places that sound intriguing only to find out that they are total tourist traps and not all the worthwhile to put a lot of effort into getting to.  It doesn’t mean we have totally crossed them off our future to-do list, it just means they drop in priority.  The best advice I can offer is to really research your travel paths and make sure you plan on stopping at the really major sites along the way and hopefully you will find out about some of the minor places that are truly worth spending time to find and visit.  Don’t be afraid to ask the locals about the history of the areas you travel through because you will learn things that are never taught in any schools.

Also be aware that you have to plan for the unexpected when you travel.  You can have the best laid out travel plans but if you’re not flexible, you will create a huge amount of stress for yourself unnecessarily.  Life is really short, take advantage of opportunities as they arise and you will live a much fuller life and most likely find happiness along the way.

So if the travel bug is nipping at your heels, do not wait until your too old to enjoy what this world has to offer.  Look closely at your life, decide what is truly important to you, then make your travel plans and go enjoy the trip.  After all, if you’re not enjoying your life, chances are, your spending your life energy so that someone else can enjoy their life at your expense.  That was what set our journey into motion and caused us to be living in a tent in a campground thousands of miles away from the former life we felt we had been trapped in.  I know it sounds very radical, but hasn’t freedom always been a radical thought?

 

March 01, 2016 – Travel and Campground Hygiene

When you think of hygiene the first thing most people think of is personal body hygiene. And while that is extremely important if you don’t wish to become offensive and smell like a goat, it is also important to consider hygiene of your vehicle, tent, camp site, and any area you may spend any amount of time at.

Personal hygiene can be attended to any time you have access to water. But remember it is more important to have water to drink than it is to bathe with. If water is hard to come by, plan on picking up unscented baby wipes which are reasonably priced at most major grocery stores and do a great job of a quick freshen up in any restroom stall. Its amazing what you can do with one gallon of water if you carefully use it for bathing, tooth brushing, and hair washing. Of course if your lucky enough to have a shower available, by all means make use of it.

Vehicle hygiene is about keeping your vehicle free of debris that can get underfoot when your driving (bottles are the worst), food wrappers and half eaten food items that can attract wildlife to your vehicle in rural areas, dirty clothing that makes your vehicle smell like the dead goat, or even worse, those loose pieces of paper that end up flying out the window as you drive down the road and which end up on the road side (if your lucky) or on someone else’s windshield (if you’re not so lucky) which could cause an accident. Use trash cans when you stop to take a break to make sure your vehicle is safe and clean.

Campground hygiene is also more than just personal hygiene. Whether you are sleeping under the stars, inside a tent, or using an RV of some sort, the area you are spending time in needs to be kept reasonably clean for your own health and safety. Food that is left lying around can encourage a lot of unwanted visitors from the animal kingdom. Food containers, wrappers, and half eaten foods can not only cause health issues but it can look very unsightly. Clothing and towels draped all over the place looks just plain trashy and most campgrounds have a policy against it. It’s not just what is outside your sleeping area either. Having clutter inside of a tent causes stress and the possibility of trip and fall problems. Leaving clothing laying on the floor or ground makes it hard to move around in the darkness of night even with a flashlight. Most tents have little net pockets which are great for all those little things that you would struggle and stress about if you had to spend your time searching for them every single day.

A good idea is to find ways to keep items organized into boxes or totes for easy access. The less time you spend searching for things, the more time you have to enjoy your day. We all know that we need to do this and yet it seems to be the biggest struggle for most people to make it a habit and to stick with it. I found it best to go a step further and use different colored totes so I didn’t need to spend time opening a half-dozen totes of the same color. It did not take long for me to remember which items were in which colored totes. Of course clear totes are a bonus as you get a sneak peek of what’s inside.

The interesting thing about giving hygiene consideration in advance is that it also provides a sort of mental hygiene as well. When you have an organizational plan, your mind has less clutter and you will feel better. It’s a form of having less stress in your life. Less stress leads to greater peace of mind, gives you more energy to focus on other more pleasant activities, and can actually make you feel younger. Sounds like a great game plan to me! Alternative living in a tent in a campground can have enough stress of its own, anything I can do to reduce or remove stress is worth thinking twice about.

Feb. 26, 2016 – Strange things we’ve learned

We have run into many interesting people and situations both on our travels and now that we have settled down into a campground. People always like to give advice and not all of it is usable or advisable. But I am sure they mean well when they give it. Some advice has been very useful and we wish we had known the information a lot sooner.

Our first day in this campground, we were setting up our tent in blistering sun. No one told us that it only takes a half hour to get seriously burned. I spent the next week with huge water blisters on my shoulders and arms. Because I have a strong belief in not putting chemicals on my skin, and have never had too many problems with mild sunburns, I never thought about the difference in the suns abilities in different regions of the world. Everyone kept telling us we needed to drink lots of water but no one warned us about the intensity of the suns rays. I learned quickly to keep my skin covered or to limit the time I am exposed during the middle of the day.

I also have a fascination with photographing wild life. I’ve taken pictures of a Colorado River Bull Frog (which have poison glands all over them), Tarantulas (no one told me they could jump), and Scorpions (which can move very quickly when they want to). Contrary to what most people think, scorpions are normally really tiny, about two inches fully grown, and here in the United States they are not deadly unless you are allergic. If you get stung, it hurts like a bee sting, you take Benadryl, go lay down for a few hours and the pain goes away.
Anyways, my fascination has let me get right up on top of these little critters and snap all kinds of pictures without a second thought. Then one day I’m walking around in sandals and this little scorpion runs over my foot and I about have a heart attack on the spot. I never thought about the types of shoes I was wearing and no one bothered to point it out to me either. I now wear moccasins almost all the time. Of course I should be wearing hiking boots because I have yet to see the elusive diamond back rattle snake and the Gila monster that lives somewhere close to the campground.

Some of the better advice we have been given has been about our tent and our air mattress. I never thought about it but an air mattress on the ground draws the temperature of the ground straight up to your body when you sleep. A new friend of ours was nice enough to give us a large piece of foam to put over the air mattress which made a huge difference when the nights were really cold. We were also warned about how fast the sun would break down the cheaper tents. Sure enough, a month after the warning, our tent started to shred around the zippers. We ended up upgrading to a better brand of tent with a different zippered door design. We were told canvas would hold up a lot longer but our research has proven it is too far out of our price range at this time.

Before we left for this journey, we spoke with our doctor who gave us some very useful information as well. Always make time to get out and stretch your legs so you don’t develop blood clots and other circulation issues in your legs from setting too long. If your going to sleep in your vehicle, make sure you can lay flat (again its a circulation issue). Make sure you eat a balanced diet. Junk foods will not sustain you very well and after a very short amount of time, it can actually impair your judgement. And make sure you do not drive when you are tired no matter how pressed for time you are. You can’t get to your destination if you died in the process. We discovered that it is okay to grab cat naps in rest areas during the day but not a wise idea for overnight stays. If you really must travel and need to sleep somewhere at night, find a truck stop and get permission; its much safer and people will watch out for you.

And last of all, never judge a person by how they look. We have met some very kind and friendly people that are certainly not main stream people. Just because they looked a little different did not stop us from offering a helping hand or a cup of coffee. The rewards of meeting new people from different walks of life can be very rewarding. Yes, use care, just don’t over judge people just because they are not exactly like you. We live in a society where the media already slants things so that you only hear and see what someone else wants you to see. When you chose this type of alternative living, you have to learn to see with you own eyes, hear with your own ears, and feel with your own heart without someone else bias opinion shaping your thoughts and actions.

Feb. 25, 2016 – Employment Choices and more

Another beautiful sunny day. I spent the morning trying to straighten out auto insurance issues over the phone. Because I do not own a printer or a fax machine both businesses I have to deal with are required to snail mail documents to me which is really slowing down the process. Very annoying but sometimes that is just how technology has to be. I asked if I could attach a digital signature to an emailed document but was told that was not acceptable. In my mind I want to know how that is any different than a faxed document. Of well, I’ll just spend the next week watching for something to show up in the mail.

That process reminded me about finances and the type of work I do. When we first hit the road, I was at a loss of how I could generate extra income. My husband receives a small monthly income but it is not quite enough to met our needs. I have always had small businesses throughout my life so I figured I would find some way to make that work. I had been creating and selling jewelry both at a local flea market and on line on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/OriginalPoetryJewels) for the past few years anyways so I figured I would continue to do that. Then I studied the craft show laws for the new state I am in only to discover that it was never going to work due to huge fees that this state imposes. SO I had to set back and rethink my strategy. So First I decided to open an Etsy store (https://www.etsy.com/shop/OriginalPoetryJewels) and see how that went. It is okay but with current shipping rates its not a steady income by any means. SO I decided to do a little research and find out what people do that live in RV’s and travel a lot. I wish I could remember which blog I stumbled across because I would love to thank the writer but I remember he had all kinds of advice for things like photo sites that pay for nature pictures, travel companies that pay for articles about travel locations, and about 20 other really useful ideas that I would never have thought of on my own. What really stood out though was a recommendation to check out a company called Upwork (Https://www.Upwork.com) which allows clients to hire freelancers for a wide variety of online work. Because I have a varied background and love to write, I signed up with this company and started applying for writing jobs. It did not take long for me to find I had almost too much work to handle. I have become a ghost writer for several different people. I wrote a novel and many self-help books over the past few months. I’m not getting rich by any means and my husband thinks I should focus on writing for myself since I have self published some children’s books on amazon.com (As Gabe Grows Series by Peggy Sue Florka). For now I am enjoying working for people around the world and getting paid to research and develop books for others. I can see his point though and have started several projects of my own that I will eventually self publish.

Out side of those work opportunities, the campground manager approached us in November and asked us if we would like to work for him in exchange for our site rent. We thought about it for a few days and then accepted his offer which was really quite generous. So for one day a week we provide campground services which range from desk duties to bathroom cleaning and lots of things in between. It seems to working out very well for both him and us. We get to meet a lot of very interesting people and it gives us something to focus on rather than just being fully retired. Of course my writing never lets me be fully retired but I like being challenged and with the campground job, the book writing, the jewelry making and selling, and the everyday normal tasks that everyone does, I stay very busy.

The hardest thing I think we face is that living in a tent and using a screen room for an office tends to put us at the mercy of the weather. When the winds are strong, sand blows around and is not a good environment for my computer. If it rains we have to store most of our items either in the tent or in the back of our truck and again the computer is at risk. If the temperature drops too low, we have two small heaters we can use but even that is not always enough and sometimes we are forced to huddle in the truck. And of course we also have the days when it gets so hot that my computer shuts down even with a cooling fan operating underneath it. The sun comes up at seven in the morning and is totally set by seven at night so when I decide to work into the late hours of the evening, which I often do, I end up working by the light of a lantern. Its takes some adjustment but we seem to have gotten it down pat after seven months.

Campground tent living is a unique experience and requires a lot of patience and perseverance. Some days my husband and I look across the table at each other and shake our heads in disbelief that we are really doing this and are doing it so well. He tells me I am tenacious and not like most woman. I tell him that he is wonderful for putting up with me and my strange ways of looking at our reality. Our choice for alternative housing is not a matter that should be taken lightly and is not for everyone.

Feb. 24, 2016

After another night of howling winds and very little sleep, the sun comes up and starts another beautiful day.  I have been following the weather reports of the tornados on the east coast and am glad we did not decide to live in that vicinity of the world.  Those families will be in my thoughts and prayers for a long time to come.  Its hits hard when you see an RV park flattened by the forces of nature.  Thankfully there were not more people killed.  I feel lucky to have such minor complaints as wind, chilly nights, and hot afternoons.

People often ask why anyone would want to live in a tent.  I am not sure I can totally explain the amount of freedom that is granted when you give up everything and start over with next to nothing.  First off, the less you own, the less you have to worry about fixing, replacing, repairing, maintaining, breaking, storing, or having stolen.  You learn to truly appreciate what you do have and you learn not to take things for granted.  Then there is the financial side of things.  My house (tent) costs about $150.00 and lasts anywhere from six to twelve months.  My air mattress runs $20.00 and last about the same length of time.  A typical tent site in a campground runs between $300 and $400 a month and includes a lot of amenities depending on the campground.  Currently our site includes water, electric, Wi-Fi, a picnic table, a fire ring for campfires, a campground hot tub and pool, a campground bathroom with showers, access to a laundromat 24 hours a day, an on site camp store for basic supplies, games and books that can be borrowed for free, on site mail delivery and pick-up, a large flat screen television in the store if I chose to watch it during business hours, and free trash removal.   A small town is less than two miles away and a bigger town is only twelve miles away.  The only difference between living in a tent and living in an apartment is that I have to walk a lot further to get to the restroom than you would in an apartment or house.  I consider that part of my exercise for the day.  I breathe fresh air everyday, I get plenty of sunshine, I hear the birds sing all day long, I see the stars shine brightly every night, and I feel healthier because of it.

Living in a tent in a campground or anywhere else for that matter has a lot less stress than trying to maintain a house.  I don’t need to own a vacuum cleaner nor do I have to mop floors.  I’ve learned I don’t need a closet full of clothing and can survive very nicely with about five different changes of clothing.  Make-up and perfumes are for a younger crowd that is dissatisfied with who they are so that was no big issue to leave it all in a trash can when I was deciding what was essential for this journey.  I have no one to impress but myself because my husband loves the real me and not something that comes out of a container or off a shelf  in a department store.  My husband downsized from several large tool boxes to one small travel tool box and has managed very nicely.  An 18 gallon plastic tote houses all of our cooking utensils and dishes, not several cupboards full of extra items that rarely get used.  Food storage has been our biggest struggle for space and we could probably do better.  We have three 18 gallons totes and two 5 gallon buckets just for food, besides the small Styrofoam cooler.  One tote for beverage and beverage related items such as coffee, creamer, teas, hot chocolate, water drink mixes, and bouillon. One tote is for dry goods like pasta, crackers, oatmeal, instant potatoes, soup mixes, and cornmeal. The other tote is for anything that comes in cans including tuna, chicken, soups, vegetables, and gravy’s.  One bucket is full of white and brown rice and the other bucket if full of dry beans and peas.  I doubt we will go hungry anytime soon.

Storage space is very limited when you live in a tent.  Our space is limited by the fact that everything needs to fit into the back of our S-10 pick-up should we decide to up and relocate anytime soon.  Which is another reason we chose this style of living; if you don’t like the neighborhood, you move on easily.  There is no long term lease that forces us to stay in any one place for any length of time.  We are truly free to travel and see whatever sights we can afford to travel to.  Free to be who we are, go where we want when we want, free to do just about anything we want whenever we feel like it.  Its that freedom that enticed us to give campground tent living a try and what has kept us here for so long.  I don’t see us moving back into what is considered regular housing anytime soon.

Feb 23, 2016

Another bright and sunny day.  Windy but there is nothing that can be done about that other than to wait it out.

Still working on figuring out how this blogging process works.  Not sure I have a firm grip on it yet so for the person that actually gets out here and finds this site, please leave me a message and let me know what I am lacking or what I may have missed.  I spent some time updating the “About” section today.  That will give you some history of who I am and how I ended up not only as a tent camper but also out here telling you about the journey.

There are so many topics to cover about tent camping and campground tent camping that I am not sure where to begin without boring a person to tears.  It really helps if you have some survival skills to begin with before you undertake a journey of this nature.  It also helps if you have some good equipment to begin with and have half an idea how to use that equipment.  Too many times we have seen people show up with a brand new tent, still in the box, just as the sun is setting, and we watch as they struggle to figure it out as it gets darker and darker.  Of course we normally offer to help, but often people are too proud to admit that they have no clue about what they are doing and they refuse any help that is offered.  Its fairly easy to spot a newbie as soon as they step out of their vehicle.  They stretch, look around their site like their measuring it out for its limited space, they kick a few rocks around, they look back at their vehicle, and then they wander away for a soda or a beer before they even attempt to unload any equipment.  When they return they look up at the sky like its some kind of enemy attack and then they start rapidly hauling boxes of new equipment out and dumping things on the ground looking for instructions.  We tend to wait until they have that glazed look in their eyes before we intrude with an offer of assistance.  Maybe we wait too long, I don’t know, but it seems the newer a person is to tent camping, the quicker they are to refuse help.  A seasoned tent camper will chime in with “sure, grab that pole over there will you” and within ten minutes were all kicking back enjoying the evening.  The newbies crawl into their tents about an hour later looking like they’ve just come home from a war.  So a word of advise, accept the help when its offered and you’ll get to enjoy more of your evening.

Food is another big issue that has many tent campers confused.  Bread molds, bananas get brown and mushy, can openers always break at the worst of times, and those little propane cylinders always run out half way through cooking your dinner.  It never fails that someone shows up with a great big cooler and no way to get ice to keep their chicken cold over night.  Canned food is okay but its bulky and not very nutritional.  Sure people buy the new coolers that plug into their cigarette lighters.  Next morning they get up to a dead battery in their vehicle.  Camping requires that you plan ahead, way ahead.  Rice lasts a long time and is a great filler, but unless you have a pressure cooker and a way to utilize electricity with a camp stove, your going to burn through your propane way too quickly.  Of course every person has their own dietary needs.  We have found that we can shop by the month for our canned items or dry goods but have to shop every three days or so for anything fresh like produce, dairy, deli, or meats.  Because we moved to a warm area, nothing stays cold long.  Luckily for us, electricity is available at our site and someone recently gave us an ice maker so we could stop spending $2.25 a day for a ten pound bag of frozen water cubes.   Not everyone can get that lucky though.  Prior to that we had to be very selective in what we tried to keep cold in a tiny Styrofoam cooler.

We also had to learn that food of any kind can not be left setting around.  Our first month here we made a big mistake of leaving a pan that we had cooked a tuna casserole in filled with water (but not washed out) out side our tent by our water source.  In the middle of the night I heard strange sounds outside.  I unzipped the tent window and looked out to find a large wild cat from the puma family staring back at me as he lapped away at the water.  Luckily he drank his fill and wandered away.  It could have been much worse.  We learned and have never done that again.  Not only did we endanger ourselves with our carelessness, we also endangered others staying at the campground, especially dog owners that might have chosen that time to walk their furry little children.  Tent campers have to be respectful of not only their own environment, but also of the environment of those around them.

Well, enough for today.  The wind has died down now and its time to get back to some of my other work.  Have a great day everyone.