New camper passes first test

We finally had a chance to roll out our camper during spring break. We purchased the travel trailer last fall, but it was already winterized, so we kept it in storage until a few weeks ago. A friend and veteran camper told me my wife and I would learn a lot about our camper the first time out. He was right.

I discovered how much I had missed camping. We owned a trailer in the 1980s, but we sold it when we realized we didn’t have time to make adequate use of the 22-foot Hi-Lo. Our children weren’t particularly excited about spending time in the great outdoors, and their mother worked most Satur­days, so weekend outings were few and far between.

My friend was in a sense cautioning me that there might be a bit of a learning curve in discovering the ins and outs of a modern RV. But this is where our Internet connection earns its keep. In the days leading up to our trip to eastern Oklahoma, I watched a few videos with tips about gray water and black water tank management and de-winterizing the fresh water system.

I found useful information on firing up my water heater, and I worked late into one evening before we left trying to make all the systems operational.

I became reacquainted with how the wind can affect a vehicle towing a camper. The advantage of the Hi-Lo was its squatty profile when on the road, but though it was five feet shorter than our newest trailer, it weighed in excess of 500 pounds more. I could certainly tell our new-to-us camper was behind us, especially when we turned east and were being buffeted by a crosswind. I quickly adapted, however, and we arrived at our destination without incident.

Though there were no leaves on the trees at the time of our trip, the temperature reached 90 degrees one afternoon. It quickly became obvious why an air conditioner is a summer camping necessity in our neck of the woods. Though we were plugged in, I was not sure if we were allowed to draw the power needed to cool us. So, we just opened all the vents and windows and waited for the spring evening to lower the temperature.

Another lesson I learned was that it takes a bit of time to set up the campsite. It takes at least as long to pick up and get ready to leave the campground. Once everything is in place and the stabilizing jacks are down, an RV can be downright cozy and relaxing.

We used our base in Natural Falls State Park to explore the area after taking a day to check out the canyon trails directly behind our camper. The campground was just a few miles outside Siloam Springs, Ark. That put us about 45 minutes from Bentonville, the corporate headquarters for Wal-Mart.

We toured the Peel Mansion, which is literally located on the edge of a Supercenter parking lot. Then, to get my testosterone level back up, we traveled to the Pea Ridge Military Park, where a Civil War battle took place in early March 1862. Pea Ridge, also known as the Battle of the Elkhorn Tavern, was the first sizable Civil War battle to involve Native American troops.

Believe it or not, a few wealthy Cherokees actually owned African American slaves, so I guess it made some sense for them to fight on the Confederate side of the war.

We also meandered down to Devil’s Den State Park in Arkansas. Despite the fact that it was a Monday, the park was quite crowded, thanks to spring break. We found a few more hiking trails and explored a few caves, though they were mostly closed to protect the bat population from white-nose syndrome, a fungus that results in a 90 to 100 percent mortality rate in affected bats. It is believed that humans help spread the disease from cave to cave, though bats also infect each other.

All in all, we agreed the first outing was everything we could have hoped for. The equipment all seemed to function properly, and we were comfortable at night, at least once we remembered to close all the vents when we went to bed. We have a two-week trek to the mountains planned for the summer, so this little test run was a good way for us to get back into the swing of camping. We can hardly wait to hit the road again.

Update: Last weekend we towed the trailer to Hutchin­son for the annual MCC sale. My education continued. I learned that pulling an RV in a 35-mph cross wind in Kansas is a whole new level in driver concentration. My daughter, riding in the back seat, said she was becoming seasick.

I think the combination of gusty winds and roads that are less than flat can pose some problems. Anything over 65 mph increased the challenge. So, that summer trip through southwest Kansas is going to be a bit of a workout if the typical prevailing wind is blowing.