Tag Archives: camping

A look at the Bowlus Road Chief

The Bowlus Road Chief. In the history of travel trailers, the Road Chief might possibly be one of the most iconic trailers ever built. Built by Charles Lindbergh’s “Spirit of St. Louis” Superintendent of Construction, Hawley Bowlus, the Road Chief had much of the same construction methods of airplanes of the early part of the 20th century when it first debuted in 1934. However, it took Wally Byam to take control of Bowlus’ struggling company, and in 1936 rename the Road Chief the Airstream Clipper, which ultimately put Byam’s Airstream on the map for generations to come.

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Now in 2013, a new version of the Road Chief is back in production. Owner and designer John Long started building the Road Chief in 2013 after a 10 year restoration of his own 1935 Road Chief.  The new Road Chief looks as vintage as it gets on the outside, but the interior is anything but that. Creature comforts on the inside include a private “stateroom” in the rear of the trailer that features a king bed that converts to two twin beds, a full size 6 foot sofa with storage drawers underneath, birch interior, 120 watt portable solar panel, separate dinette, 3′ X 5′ bathroom with shower & cassette toilet, 2-burner stove, 3 cubic foot refrigerator, microwave, and as they say “much, much more”.

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However, the exterior is as close to the original version as it could get. Like the original Road Chiefs, the 2013 version also boasts aircraft grade aluminum that is riveted and bonded. And of course it wouldn’t be a Road Chief if it didn’t have its distinctive front entry door (with screen door) on the front of the trailer.

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The 2013 Road Chief checks in at 2800 lbs and just over 23′ long. However, the hitch and bumper are removable, which makes it possible to store one in a 20′ garage, although the 7’10″ height would require a minimum 8′ door. The 6’4″ interior head room also makes it comfortable for most.

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Built in Ventura County, California, the Road Chief isn’t for every pocketbook. There is no dealer network and the $1500 reserve is just a fraction of the $100,000 price tag. However, for those with the means, the Bowlus Road Chief is a trailer that will garner the attention of everyone at the campground, and one that will send you back in time.

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To find out more about the Road Chief, visit their website at http://bowlusroadchief.com, or their Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/BowlusRoadChief

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IndyCar manufacturer and RV innovator collaborate on carbon fiber RV line

RV innovator Global Caravan Technologies and IndyCar chassis manufacturer Dallara have announced a collaboration to build the first carbon fiber-constructed line of recreational vehicles. The collaboration includes Dallara’s expertise and advice, which include their decades of building chassis that have been crossing the finish line at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway since 1997. dallara-indycar-conc-19w                                                                                            (photo courtesy trackforum.com)

Called the “CR-1 Carbon”, the line will first include travel trailers and fifth wheels, and then motorhomes and specialty vehicles, according to a press release. The first models will be unveiled in December at the Dallara IndyCar Factory in Speedway, Indiana as part of the Performance Racing Industry’s annual trade show held in Indianapolis that week.

GCT promises new floorplans and options new to the RV industry. The CR-1 Carbon lines will be meant with the luxury minded and long term camper in mind, boasting full height closets, large walk through master baths with oversize showers, washer & dryer, and high end flooring and paneling.

The exterior will apparently open some eyes with patent-pending designs and body lines that will be new to the RV industry. Unique systems will include DryCamp, which is an off-grid power system, and MyControl, a power management system that completely controls the RV’s system wirelessly via an iPad. Due to the light weight of carbon fiber, fuel mileage is expected to improve up to 100% compared to similar sized units.

523a6908e4b002193858945fGCT’s braintrust has a wealth of experience in the RV industry and the business world with CEO Charles Hoefer and President Harrison Ding. Hoefer’s family history includes his father, who was a co-founder of Dutchmen RV and Four Winds RV. Ding’s business experience includes management positions at both Cisco and IBM.

Says Ding, “Our product strategy is tailored for market acceptance in North America, Europe, and Australia, and also capitalizes on the high growth opportunity in China, where RV sales may approach the US in the coming decade.”

Says Hoefer, “Our products meet specific needs, such as remote camping, tailgating, full-timing, high security, and connectivity. We know consumer interests vary, and we can build one-of- a-kind and specific-use products with automotive-level testing and validation.”
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Aside from Dallara, GCT has also partnered with other companies, both from the automotive and aerospace industry.

“For Dallara, helping GCT to design RVs applies our strengths in composites, learned from decades of experience in
racing car competition,” says Dallara USA CEO Stefano DePonti said. “It is fitting that Dallara is lending our advice and expertise to such a transformative project.”
GCT appears to be taking their collaboration with Dallara seriously.  GCT has opened a temporary office directly across the street from the Dallara factory. With my home base being literally just a couple of minutes from the Dallara factory, I hope to be able to view the CR-1 Carbon after it debuts in December.
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Where the actual units will be built is not yet known, as the sign on the GTC door states “temporary”. With the hub of the RV industry being just 3 hours to the north in the Elkhart, Indiana region, that would seem to be the logical location, but I hope to find out that info soon. And although I don’t know what size their trailers will be and thus might not even fit into our theme of 20′ or less, I found this to be some interesting news since 1) I’m a mile away from Dallara, and 2) this very well could be the future of construction methods for RVs of all types.
Oh, and for price? MSRP for all lines will range anywhere from $160,000 to customized units to the tune of half a million dollars. I look to have future posts on this topic, so as always, stay tuned, and as always, thanks for reading.

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Camping along Missouri’s Route 66

In late July and early August, my wife & I had the opportunity to attend the International Route 66 Festival in Joplin, Missouri. Although it was some 525 miles from our home base in Indiana, we decided to blend two of our loves for this trip: Route 66 and camping.

We camped four nights in our Serro Scotty on this trip at three different campgrounds, all in Missouri. This was also the first time we ever had camped anywhere on Route 66, so we had some research to do in regards to where to camp on those particular nights.

For the first night, we chose the Lady Bug RV Park just west of Cuba, Missouri. The Lady Bug is a small, privately owned park consisting of a mere 30 sites. However, they had excellent amenities there, including clean shower facilities, a fully stocked store, swimming pool, and friendly service from owner Charlotte. The Wednesday night rate of $23 gave us a full hook-up pull-thru site with wi-fi (although it was down).

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While the Lady Bug is at an interchange just north of I-44 with no other services, there is some fun to be had within 6 miles east along State Highway ZZ, which is also the path of old US Route 66. Just a mile east on Route 66 from the I-44 exit where the Lady Bug is located stands the World’s Largest Rocker, located at the Fanning Route 66 Outpost. Standing 42′ 1″ tall, the rocker is quickly becoming one of the more photographed tourist attractions along Route 66, with the help of billboards along I-44 luring travelers off the interstate and on to Route 66 for a picture and a cold drink and souvenir at the outpost.

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Less than 5 miles east of Fanning is the town of Cuba. If you’re a fan of barbeque, one of the best you’ll find is Missouri Hick Bar-B-Q, located on the east side of Cuba on 66, next to the historic Wagon Wheel Motel. Route 66 through downtown Cuba is a great stretch to park the car…or your tow vehicle…and take a stroll and view some of the murals dotted throughout town, depicting the town’s history dating back to 1857: http://cubamurals.com

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Our second night we found ourselves at our campsite for the following two nights: The Big Red Barn RV Park in Carthage, Missouri. While it may not suit some campers because of a lack of a swimming pool, it suited us just fine and gave us the things we value in our camping experience: peace and quiet. The Big Red Barn is nestled east of US 71/I-49, just off a country road, just far enough away from the noise of the highway, but close enough to Carthage (less than 5 minutes) if you need something a larger town has to offer.

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The Big Red Barn was also an excellent stay for us. With our Good Sam Club discount, our total bill for two nights was $63, consisting of another full hook-up site, but with this one also offering cable TV hook-up. Restroom and shower facilities were fine and our escort to our site after checking in is always a nice touch no matter where you’re staying. Whether you’re visiting nearby Joplin or Carthage, there are plenty of things to take advantage of in the area, including a drive-in movie at the 66 Drive-In, the Precious Moments Chapel, or a photo opp at the historic Boots Motel, all in Carthage.  For more things to see & do in Carthage, visit the Carthage Convention & Visitors Bureau at http://visit-carthage.com

Following our visit to Joplin and the International Route 66 Festival (check out the full details on that here on our road trips blog: http://roadtripmemories.com/2013/08/02/july-31-august-4-2013-international-route-66-festival-joplin-missouri/), we made our way back east through the Missouri Ozarks for our final night of camping just outside of St. Louis at the KOA in Eureka, along the shoulders of Route 66. We had stayed at a KOA only one time prior, and the service at the Eureka KOA was just as top notch. As anyone will tell you, yes, you do spend more at a KOA, as our water & electric-only pull thru site for $39 would indicate. However, the service by the entire staff was exceptional. You pretty much know what you’re going to get with a KOA, and for some, that peace of mind goes a long way.

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This last night on our trip was especially nice because of the three campgrounds, the Eureka KOA was the only one of them actually along the shoulders of Route 66. This also meant this was the first time we ever got to camp along Route 66, which is something we’ve been waiting & wanting to do for several years.

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St. Louis has a long list of things to do for tourists, from the Gateway Arch to Six Flags to The Hill, St. Louis’ Italian District. However, the lone night we stayed at the KOA, we met up with a couple of friends who live nearby who camp at our house during the Indianapolis 500. We had a great dinner at the Big Chief Roadhouse, a bustling eatery that dates back to 1929 on the old Manchester Road alignment of 66. From there it was on to a spot that is as famous to St. Louis as Stan Musial and the Mississippi River: Ted Drewes Frozen Custard, located on Chippewa Street in the St. Louis city limits.

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This camping trip along Missouri’s 300+ miles of Route 66 was a good test to see how well a small trailerite would do traveling an historic highway where having to stop for photos is a “must do”, as my wife is quite adept when it comes to roadside photography. It’s easy when you’re just in a car and can pull off to the side of the road for a picture or can just pull into the location. However, when you have a 16′ trailer behind you, that can pose some challenges. My advice if you’re on an historic highway trip and hauling a trailer is to BE PATIENT. Know your surroundings, be cautious of where you want to turn around, and just use good judgement. You can still get that cool shot of that old abandoned gas station, but you have to put some careful thought into making it happen.

If you’re a novice Route 66 traveler, I highly recommend getting your hands on Jerry McClanahan’s EZ Guide to Route 66, available here. Also, when planning your Route 66 camping trip, Route 66 News has a comprehensive list of campgrounds on or near Route 66, which you can find here.

Safe travels…

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Trekker Trailers to host build-your-own camper class

Eustis, Florida based Trekker Trailers will be conducting a class in late June where the students build their own trailer under the supervision of professionals. The first class is scheduled for June 21-30, 2013. The model used will be their entry level Simple Sleeper, which is a teardrop trailer without a rear kitchen.

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The Simple Sleeper features an air conditioner, rear cargo rack, drop floor, 2 doors, and a mattress. It measures 7 1/2′ long and 4′ wide, which, along with its 650 lbs weight, makes it easy to tow with a large motorcycle or small car.

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In the class, students will be cutting out the shapes using templates, assembling the wood structures, sheet metal, installing windows and doors, and the finishing touches. Some of the work will be done for you so everyone stays on schedule.

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The cost of the class is $3900 ($2500 deposit), which is a $1,000 savings on a Simple Sleeper had you just bought one from Trekker Trailers. Currently there are spots for only 3 students.

For more information, contact Andrew Bennett at 352-409-4005 or email campers@trekkertrailers.com

You can visit the Trekker Trailers web site at: http://trekkertrailers.com

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New “Events” page added

As camping season is upon us, so too are plans for various rallies, campouts, and other events for the coming year. I’ve started a new section on The Small Trailer Enthusiast called “Events”. This is accessible at the top of any section your in: http://smalltrailerenthusiast.com/events/

As I hear about them, I’ll be posting information on rallies and other events geared towards the small trailer brotherhood. I’ve posted three up there so you can get a feel for what this new section will look like.

If you have an event that you’d like to get some exposure for, contact me at: pat@smalltrailerenthusiast.com. If the event has a website, send me the link. If not, please give me as many details as possible, including location, dates, event highlights, contact info, etc.

Hopefully the new section will help notify you of what’s going on in your region so you’re able to plan your camping travels accordingly. As always, thanks for reading, and remember: 7 days without camping makes one weak. ;-)

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Gulf Stream changes Visa travel trailer name

Between 1964 and 1977, there weren’t many station wagons on the market that exceeded the memorable styling of the Oldsmobile Vista Cruiser. It had a look that just screamed family vacations.

While there may not be a lot of these classic Oldsmobiles taking a car load of kids on summer vacations these days, Gulf Stream has made a change to one of their lines of travel trailers that will let you get into your own Vista Cruiser. Starting in 2013, Gulf Stream has revamped the Visa travel trailer and along with it gave it a new name: The Vista Cruiser.

According to Tim Dennig, national sales manager of Gulf Stream’s ultra lite division, the name change from Visa to Vista Cruiser came about due to several changes made to the Visa. “The primary reason we have changed the name is that we have made so many changes to the product in the last ten months that we felt the product deserved to have a brand new start and that a new name was warranted.”

Included among  the more than 25 changes are  new graphics, increased exterior storage space, a radial tire option, an electric tongue jack option, a rear bumper-mounted grill option, larger axles on the 17′ and 19′ floor plans, and a larger exterior storage door.

Says Dennig, “We have really designed a brand new product that is worthy of a new introduction to the RV community.”

I’ve been a fan of the styling of the Visa since its debut a few years ago. As someone fond of all things classic & retro, it’s refreshing to see a manufacturer utilizing an iconic name from the old days of leisure travel. You can check out more on the Vista Cruiser, including floor plans and specs, at the Gulf Stream web site at: http://gulfstreamrvtrailers.com/visa/overview

 

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Campground Review: Silver Creek RV Resort

How many times have you planned a camping trip, looked online at various RV parks or campgrounds and thought they look great, only to find that once you got there you would’ve preferred staying in a Walmart parking lot? Chances are, if the RV park you picked was the Silver Creek RV Resort in Mears, Michigan, you would probably think like I did: The website didn’t do this place justice.

Opened in 2001, the Silver Creek RV Resort is one of several RV parks near the Silver Lake sand dunes, about halfway up the “mitten” of Michigan on the Lake Michigan coast. Boasting over 250 (with more to come) seasonal and nightly sites, Silver Lake RV Resort is hands-down the nicest park I’ve ever stayed in. All of the sites offer level, concrete pads measuring 20′ X 60′, full hook-ups, cable TV access, free WiFi throughout the park, a fire ring, and picnic table.

We passed through the Silver Lake area earlier in September and we were so impressed we decided to make a camping weekend there before the end of the year. This weekend was it, and the Michigan weather behaved quite well with sunny skies and temps in the mid-60′s. We chose Silver Creek after looking online at Silver Lake State Park and a handful of RV parks in the area. The off-season rate of $30/night at Silver Creek and the amenities they offered is what made us decide to go with them. Really glad we did too. The check-in was fast, and our site was basic, but clean. We couldn’t have asked for a better experience.

The park was home base for many of those who come to the area for the dunes. All sorts of ATVs, dune buggies, and other 4-wheel drives dotted the campsites throughout the park.

The main office houses all those basic camping needs from firewood to propane, and all sorts of snacks and clothes, as well as an ample laundry facility.

The comfort station near our site was the best I’ve ever seen at a campground or RV park.  It housed five separate and private showers (NOTE: I didn’t go into the ladies side to count the showers), one with handicapped access. The rest of the facility was well-kept and clean.

The grounds of Silver Creek RV Resort were very well manicured. Each site had a built-in sprinkler system, and the grass was free of any weeds. I wish my own front yard looked that good! Although the pool was closed, it was one of the larger ones I’ve seen at an RV park, and the playground equipment was top notch.

If you’re not into riding the dunes, there’s still plenty of other things to do in the area. The spectacular Little Sable Point Lighthouse on the south edge of town is a must see. Built in 1874, the lighthouse is open to visitors. For a mere $2.00, you can climb the 130+ steps to the top and gaze out over the beautiful Lake Michigan scenery.

(photo courtesy Jennifer Bremer)

There are a couple of go-kart tracks, miniature golf, and a handful of souvenir shops in the main district near the dunes and Silver Lake. If you feel adventurous, there are also places in town to rent dune buggies, Jeeps, and ATVs to take to the state park and ride the dunes. If you’re not feeling that brave, there are also places that will do the driving for you.

While we were there for less than 48 hours, it was worth it just to get away for the weekend and explore a new area. If you too find yourself spending time at Silver Lake, by all means give Silver Creek RV Resort a try. We’d be hard pressed to stay anywhere else the next time (and there WILL be a next time!) we’re up there. Rates vary anywhere from $20-$65 a night, depending on the time of the year. Silver Creek is open from April 1 through October 31.

For more information, visit the Silver Creek RV Resort website at: http://www.silvercreekrv.com

For information on Silver Lake and Mears, visit the Silver Lake Sand Dunes Area Chamber of Commerce website at: http://www.thinkdunes.com

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Winnebago Reintroduces the Minnie

Dating back to the early 1970′s, the Winnebago Minnie Class C motorhome traversed America’s highways, bound for camping destinations near & far. It was a basic, minimal frills motorhome that lasted until the 2006 model year.

Winnebago Industries has dusted off the name, but this time it’s on one of their new towables. The Minnie travel trailer offers floor plans ranging from 19-26 feet in length, all but one having a slide out. The colors offered are white, bright lemon, and lime fiberglass exterior. These appear to be sister trailers to Winnebago’s SunnyBrook Harmony division, as the styling and floorplans are nearly identical, with the exception of the Minnie’s bold color schemes.

Currently the Winnebago website has not been updated to include the Minnie. However, RV Business reports the MSRP of the Minnie to be just under $16,000 for the entry level model. There are a few popping up for sale on rvtrader.com as well.

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Expanding our reach

Since I started this blog back in September, I’ve focused writing about hard sided trailers less than 20′ in length. The reason behind that is because that is mainly where my interest lies. Yes, I’ve excluded pop-up trailers from the discussion simply because I’ve never had any experience and interest in them.

However, I’m going to work on expanding the field of discussion on the blog and include pop-ups in the mix. Hopefully in the process, I can educate myself on them while creating a better appreciation for them. I’ve had some inquiries from some pop-up manufacturers about talking about their particular brand. After thinking it over, I decided why not?

So in the weeks to come, I’ll be adding some pop-ups to the “Manufacturers” page of this site. I may end up categorizing them separately, or may even create separate categories for travel trailers, teardrops, and pop-ups for ease of use.

Bear with me as I wade through the unknown. And if you’re a pop-up devotee and have a brand that’s a favorite of yours, let me know and I’ll be sure to put it on the list as well.

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Campground Review: Louisville South KOA

We generally make it a habit of supporting state parks when it comes to our camping adventures. Generally the sites are are more spread out and the scenery is a little nicer compared to most RV parks. However, recently we had the opportunity to meet up with some fellow small trailerites at the Louisville South KOA in Louisville, Kentucky, organized by two former T@B owners, Ken & Bonnie Pleat. The Pleats are in their second season of workamping, and the Louisville South KOA is their summer “job” for 2012.

Up until our stay at the Louisville South KOA, we had stayed in just one RV park. We typically wouldn’t stay at a KOA due to their higher cost and close campsites, but since this was a special circumstance, we gladly decided to attend.

After checking in at the office, I was rather surprised to find a gentleman was waiting in a golf cart next to my truck & trailer waiting to escort me to my site. THAT was a first! Sure, I could’ve found my site on my own, but it was still a nice little perk.

As predicted, the sites were close together, but since we were among friends, I had no complaints. And any time I get a site that’s level from side to side, it’s worthy of praise.

The Louisville South KOA offers sites for just about any camping need, from tents through 40′-plus motorhomes. Don’t have a tent, camper, or motorhome? No worries, they also offer a nice selection of Kamping Kabins.

Other amenities include hiking trails, a heated swimming pool, miniature golf, a well-stocked store (with reasonable prices as well), and outdoor movies during the summer months. While we were there, the popular attraction for the kids camping there was the Jumping Pillow. These can be found at an increasing number of KOAs throughout the U.S., and the one at the Louisville South KOA was getting a pretty good workout.

And if your “kids” happen to be of the four-legged variety, there’s even a playground for them too:

After our experience at the Louisville South KOA, we plan on giving some more KOAs a try. With us camping with our 14 month old grandson on a somewhat regular basis, we like the family-oriented activities KOAs…and other RV parks for that matter…have to offer compared to camping at state parks. And to help offset the higher costs at KOAs, they offer a discount card where you save 10% off your campsite fees and accumulate points at the same time which you can use for credit on future campsite fees.

Overall, our experience at the Louisville South KOA was a good one. The employees there treated us well, the facilities were well kept, the comfort stations were clean, and there was enough to do to keep us occupied. It was everything I expected a KOA to provide and more. Hope your experience there gives you the same.

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