Saturday, September 30, 2006

New Toy

When I was just out of high school I got a tent and a backpack and did some camping. Years later a bunch of my friends started a tradition of going to Camp Barakel for family camp over the Labor Day weekend. That meant I had to get something to go with them. I was unwilling to pay for anything more than a tent. I got one and we went. Dan was 3, we've gone back every year since. Dan is now a senior in high school.

Each year we expanded the operation. I got a 10' by 20' canopy (that works well for graduation open houses, as all our friends' graduated kids know) and we set that up in addition to the tent. The kids got big enough and they wanted their own tents, too.

Three or four years ago, a friend told me about a popup camper for sale cheap. It was a 1969 Apache. If you're unfamiliar with the design, it's basically a trailer with a couple of slide out platforms for foam matresses and a framework of metal pipes overhead that a canvas tent slides over. Definately minimalist, but we were sleeping off the ground.

The net result of all this was that preparations for camping took all of August and setup at the beginning of Labor Day weekend took nigh unto 90 minutes to two hours. And tear-down consumed the entire morning (except for chapel) on Monday.

The last two years I've gone from feeling that this was a lot of fun to thinking that this was an unnecessary hassle. What I want is a way to "get away from it all" that isn't a major production. And I want that extra four hours at camp that I'm now spending frogging around setting up and tearing down.

Thus, a few years ago, I found out about a popup trailer company called Aliner. The big appeal is that this popup trailer can set up and tear down in less than 30 seconds. Thus I was surprised and pleased when my wife, Mary, showed me an ad on the internet for a two-year-old Aliner with a "Sofa Dinette" floorplan. The price was right. Last week we drove to Three Rivers to inspect the unit. It had some problems with the weatherstripping, but the seller was willing to fix them so we agreed to buy it. We did so yesterday.

We found that pulling the unit with our van is only slightly harder than pulling the old Apache. I figure its about 900 pounds or so. There's a campground about halfway to church from my house and we stayed there last night to test it out.

It was a good test since there have been off-and-on rain showers all weekend and the temperatures are between the mid 50s and low 40s. The propane furnace keeps the inside nice and toasty. The walls and ceiling are all solid, insulated to something like an R7 factor, so there were no drafts.

We haven't quite figured out how to use the storage spaces in this unit. Because things seemed cluttered, I couldn't quite get as relaxed as I'd like. The sofa that pulls out for a bed isn't particularly comfortable as either. I intend to do some customizing. What I WANT is a wing-back chair and a reading lamp.

It's in the garage now, drying out. If I don't get dragged off to do some plumbing at the apartments, I'll see if I can set it up inside there without hitting the garage door opener.

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