Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Day 1: Our Introduction to Camping

After purchasing Harvey, the RV, on Memorial Day weekend back in 2007, and then spending the next several weeks cleaning, polishing, preparing, and repairing it for our trip to Alaska, we were at last ready to begin our trip.

It was August 8, 2007, when we set out. Doug was nervous about the whole camping thing. I was excited about the adventure. It was a beautiful day, but very hot. The air conditioner in Harvey didn't seem to be cooling as well as it should have, but it was still more comfortable inside the RV than outside.

We were having problems with the newly installed radio, too. I was reading the manual and trying to tweak it as we drove, but we just couldn't get good sound out of it.

As evening approached, we used our cell phone and our Passport America campground directory to call ahead and reserve a campsite at the Fox Hill RV Park and Campground near Baraboo, Wisconsin.

We were pretty nervous on this first real camping experience. We'd slept in Harvey a couple of times in our driveway at home; and we had gone to a real campground once, about 25 miles from home, just to practice the hookups and work out any kinks.

On this first night of our Alaska trip, we chose a site with water and electric hookups. But our nervousness about the whole experience wasn't helped any by the discovery that our electric cable wasn't long enough to reach from Harvey to the source of electricity. Doug had to go to the office and explain our problem, and the the campground kindly loaned us an extension to reach the electric hookup.

Then we found that our water hose wouldn't reach the water hookup, either. Fortunately, on the advice of some camping friends, we had brought a six-gallon container for water. Doug used that to fill our "potable" water tank.

For those who aren't familiar with that term, "potable" means "drinkable." So why don't they just use the word "drinkable?" To first-time campers like us, "potable" sounds like something related to "potty."

After Doug filled our potable water tank, we saw water running out of it. Our first reaction was more frustration over what we perceived as a leak. After awhile, though, the "leak" stopped; and we realized that we had just overfilled the tank. What we at first thought was a leak was just the excess water draining from the overflow.

We used the campground showers on that first night out and didn't find that much to our liking. Bedtime preparations were a little rough on that first night, too. But we got through it and found that we were gaining some camping confidence through the experience.

100_0056-Fox Hill RV Park in Baraboo, WI
Our first night of camping on our way to Alaska, 2007 

Those blocks under the tires are leveling blocks. Leveling Harvey every night became the bane of Doug's existence for the weeks of our vacation. We had been advised of the importance of leveling, with warnings that the refrigerator could cease to work properly if we didn't level the RV when we camped. Doug tends to be a perfectionist, and he wanted that bubble on the level to be smack in the middle. It was always a challenge, no matter how level the camping site looked when we arrived.

The Alaska trip included many challenges, but there were some great experiences, too. More to come.


  1. I don't know if I could do it! It sounds like quite an adventure. Love that phrase "bane of his existence." Eddie says that all the time and it always makes me laugh for some reason.

  2. There's good and bad about having a perfectionist in the family!!!!! ha ha .... I have never camped in an RV... I was always a tent and tarp camper.... You all were camping in style...


  3. Your camping adventures make a good read.I do hope that over all it was a good experience.

  4. Elizabeth - I had to check myself, to be sure I was using that phrase correctly. I do hope Eddie doesn't use it in reference to you. :)

    Betsy - Doug is a retired tool and die maker, and precision is what he's all about. Maybe "perfectionist" wasn't totally accurate. "Precise" might have been a better choice of words. But you're right...there's good and bad to living with a precise perfectionist.

    Ruth - I'm glad you've enjoyed it so far. I thoroughly enjoyed the experience. Doug, not so much. But the dirty work of camping fell to him.

  5. It is always a danger sign when we start naming our vehicles – with that in mind I am expecting trouble to be coming in future tales. BTW Baraboo, Wisconsin seems like a might far piece from Alaska. (Is that proper Indiana speak?)

  6. The nice thing is they can always be packed. I have a van full and just add clothes, but would hate to have someone need a ride, I only have 3 seats up.

  7. GQ - Ah, I wish you'd told us about that "naming your vehicle" thing when we first bought Harvey. :) It's true that Baraboo, Wisconsin is a "fer piece" from Alaska, but it's closer than Indiana.

    Steve - Motorhomes, or any other RV, for that matter, do have that nice feature of being ready to go at the drop of a hat. I've heard of some folks that even keep a set of clothes in them so that they're always ready to hit the road.

  8. Ah...I read these two posts in reverse order, as I've been away for a while and am just catching up on my blog reading! Anyway, glad I went back to catch this one...We have been looking at campers, and are true greenhorns!

  9. Deb - The five weeks of our Alaska trip are the extent of our camping experience. But, if you think I can answer any of your questions, I'd be glad to try. We would be a lot smarter about purchasing an RV now that we've lived in one for awhile.

  10. As with many of your stories, even though I've heard it before, it's truly fun to get to read it and see pictures. :)

  11. Thanks, Sandra. Your encouragement is always appreciated.

  12. While potable does sound like potty, it means suitable for drinking, more so than the word drinkable. Anyway, it's always fun, that first camping experience. It's an exciting and a one of a kind moment, since all preparations made will be put to the test.

    It's a bit hectic, but it's the defining moment that will make or break your views on camping.


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