December 29, 2007

California Christmas

We spent this week camping on the bluffs over South Carlsbad Beach. This is the classic California beach, with surfers, pelicans, beach combing, and sunshine.

Andy brought his two buddies Kyle and Caleb, who had a blast playing football in the surf. On the first night, my folks and my brother came down for a not-so traditional Christmas campfire, dinner and gift exchange.

The beach is very rocky, and the sand has taken a black cast from the cobbles. This provides the perfect habitat for stingrays, so the boys had to learn how to do the stingray-shuffle to keep from getting stung as they walked in the water.

Sherry spent a lot of time combing through the surf and came home with pockets full of cool shells and stones.

We brought along the dogs, but they never got to go down to the surf. We'll have to save that for one of the beaches that allow dogs.

The extension cord I made for the caboose worked like a charm. After running the heater all night, I only needed to idle the truck for a half-hour to top off the battery. The LED lights helped too, but now that I know the extension works, I would probably put the bright light back over the stove.

December 25, 2007

Merry Christmas Campers!

Thanks to Popup Portal for this fun image. This past year of camping wouldn't have been half as fun without those guys. They have some cool stuff in their gift shop too.

We had some pretty severe winds at home Christmas Eve. Our neighbor's tree blew over and totaled his work trailer. Even the axles are bent on this piece of scrap metal. We usually do alright in the windstorms. We're on the end of a long block and the wind blows down the street and over our house. We usually score a tarp or two, and this storm was no exception. I have a slightly wind-damaged 10x10 tarp to add to my collection. I wonder if all these tarps belong to the same guy upwind of us?

December 23, 2007

Putting the Ed in Edison

Our Caboose is probably one of the smallest popups made. There is no room for a bathroom, and there is certainly no room for an on-board generator. As we plan for longer trips, battery concerns have led me to investigate solar panels, extra batteries, and portable generators. There are some great tiny, low-noise generators out there, but their price could buy a lot of full hook-up campsites. The next lowest priced option is a second battery, but that is a heavy, lead and acid-filled anchor.

I'd considered just hooking the trailer up to the truck and idling for a while to charge the battery, but I have to disconnect the truck in order to setup the Caboose. Even if I could leave it hooked up, that is a lot of exhaust on the canvas. It was a guest at a Christmas party we went to last night that suggested building an extension cord to go between the truck and the Caboose. For just $16 in parts and about fifteen minutes in the garage, I now can have the truck twelve feet away from the Caboose. Sixteen bucks is a lot better than a $900 generator or even a $120 second battery that could still go dead. It worked in the driveway, and we'll give it a field test soon.

December 22, 2007

Modding Weekend

I finally had some time to putter around on the Caboose. We're planning on taking the dogs on our next trip, and Polly here is pretty arthritic. She had a tough time with the folding step at the door, so I built her this ramp out of a piece of 3/4" plywood and scrap carpet. I added some 2x2 lumber to the edges to cut down on the sagging. I milled the lumber into an El shape and gave it several coats of spray paint to match the trim on the Caboose.

I also added a kill switch for the heater next to our bed. Sherry likes to have things toasty when she goes to bed, and then cool while we sleep. Now I don't have to get out of bed to turn the heater off. Having this switch also helps me out in conserving propane. I disabled the red lamp in the switch because it was too distracting for sleeping. It was very simple to wire, I simply spliced into the thermostat leads and ran some wire through the cabinets and to the switch.

Lastly, I bought some larger LED replacements for the dome lights. I had tried some that just had nine LEDs and it was like working in a gold mine with a single candle. These are 36 LEDs per unit, so theoretically it should be like working in a gold mine with four candles. The units have a standard 1156 base so I can swap them out with a standard bulb when we have a site with full hook-ups. When we're going for a longer stay, these should substantially stretch the battery life. I'm thinking that I might get a double lens fixture and wire one side up with the LEDs and the other side with an incandescent bulb.

December 9, 2007

Not Exactly Camping, But...

We just got back from a road trip to Arizona with my mom and brother. On the way back, we stopped by the General George S. Patton Memorial Museum at the site of Camp Young, which was a training center for desert warfare in WWII. They have several tanks out in the desert surrounding the museum. As roadside museums go, this one was pretty good, and I didn't feel my $4 admission was wasted.

Andy has bugged me to take a couple of his buddies camping out in the desert so they can play airsoft wars. The museum is just twelve miles from Cottonwood Springs campground at Joshua Tree National Park. I'm betting we'll be out there sometime this spring. The campground is one of only two at Joshua Tree with running water and flush toilets. I can't let them shoot airsoft guns in the monument, but we can easily find a place in the BLM desert that will fit their simulated warfare quest.

December 1, 2007

Adios San Elijo

Reluctantly, we had to cancel our reservations for San Elijo State Beach in two weeks - just too many things going on this month. Jeff, one of the railfans that hangs out at the Fullerton Depot, has raved about the campground. There are great ocean views; a Starbucks and a gourmet market across the tracks; and a local breakfast spot is known for its large portions, good prices, surf movies, and the motto: "No Shoes, No Shirt... No Problem !!" We'll get there soon.