Sunday, November 1, 2020

THE COMMON COURTESIES OF CAMPING

Nothing puts a damper on a camping trip faster than misbehaving neighbors. You've planned for months and just as you sit down to enjoy your dinner, campfire, or sleepy time... someone (or something) decides to tempt fate and aggravate your very last nerve! Your own flesh and blood should get the message with a cold stare and a flash of a parental hand gesture.  However, a complete stranger who may/may not have overindulged in adult beverages or believes they hold rights over the entire campground, is an entirely different story. There is nothing worse than paying good money only to endure bad manners by fellow campers. Well, maybe getting attacked and eaten by a bear...but there's a fine line there!


So, let's take a refresher course on how to act when camping at your chosen campground:

  • Minimize generator noise.  First of all, there is no such thing as a super quiet generator when the next campsite is 10ft. away... even if you paid $3,000 for it.  We do want to say thank you for actually obeying the official quiet time rule. Unfortunately, I'm aggravated by my neighbor on the other side who runs their generator from 7am until 10pm every day. Certainly they don't hear it because they are inside the RV with the stereo/tv on. Meanwhile, I'm contemplating forcibly planting a tent stake in their behind. Maybe I'll heat it in the campfire first too. So, if you have to ask yourself "I wonder if I should shut off my generator for a while?" Yes... and thank you. FYI- If you are a newbie RVer, "primitive" campgrounds will be 90% tenters who frown upon generators. Research campsite locations and distancing so everyone enjoys their stay. 
  • Set up camp quietly.  Many people work Monday through Friday nine to five. Add an hour or two drive time and there's a pretty good chance that it may be dark when you arrive at camp. Have a plan in place on everyone's responsibilities. No one should be relaxing and watching while others work.  Small jobs like collecting twigs to start the fire keep youngsters engaged and out from under foot. Insults and name calling seem to escalate pretty quickly during campsite setups, and trust me...your voice is traveling far and wide. Thus leading to the next suggestion. (And maybe you should apologize to the neighbors in the morning.)
  • Watch the language. Just when I think I've heard everything, people manage to create a new slang, swear, or suggestive term that baffles my mind. If you spew garbage, keep your tone down, especially in front of children. Or visit adult only establishments. You are going to rub someone the wrong way with your graphic language. Be warned... if you get knocked upside the head with a bar of soap flying through your campsite, chances are someone is on their way over to cram it down your throat and wash your mouth out. And by the way, soap is a laxative. Shines new light on the term "shitty neighbor", doesn't it?
  • Respect space. Campsites come in all shapes/sizes, but maybe you made a wrong choice in picking your site. This doesn't mean you can infringe on another camper's paid space. Know the boundaries between campsites and stick to yours.  Do not allow campers or pets from your site to play, walk through...or relieve themselves on neighboring sites. Also, I know its a public bathroom, but if you can help it, please don't stand directly outside the bathroom stall door when I'm trying to go #2.  Come back in five minutes please. Don't you think I'm stressed out enough in there having to poop in a public place? 
  • Turn down the speakers. Not everyone enjoys the same music genre as you. Especially if the lyrics are 75% profanity. Just because you and I are both wearing flannel, doesn't mean I'm into country music. Your disco tunes are giving me a Saturday night fever.  That feverish pitch resonating from your favorite operatic performer is attracting every coyote and bigfoot within a 25 mile radius. So, I'll tell you what I want...what I really really want... and that is for you to invest in some ear buds.  Campgrounds are not concert venues and very very few campers are impressed with the size of your woofers and tweeters.

  • Clean up after yourself (and your kids/pets). Don't leave trash in campfire pits or scattered on campsite.  Don't leave your toilet paper and poo piles (human or pet) where others will be camping. Soap wrappers, shampoo containers and even "un"sanitary products get left behind in campground showers. Sinks/showers often look like someone lost an entire head of hair in them.  It takes minimal effort to clean up after yourself and take trash to the dumpster. Please check bathroom stalls your child has used.  If they have unrolled the toilet paper and scattered it, pick it up! Flush the toilet if they forgot! Smokers, dispose of your butts somewhere else besides all over the ground. Pet owners should pick up and discard their pet's waste properly.  Yes, the elements and insects will eventually break it down, but not overnight....and probably not in a week since you brought your two Saint Bernard dogs. Now I gotta move my tent :-(
  • Follow the basic rules. Campgrounds put rules in place to protect themselves, and to safeguard the campground visitors. Washing dishes at public spigots leave behind food remnants which attract wildlife. Wildlife may carry rabies. Capeesh?  Common sense would tell you not to drain black water tanks on a campsite, but it happens...a lot. Invasive insects can be carried from state to state on firewood, so buy local. Register all campers/visitors. In an emergency situation, management needs to have everyone accounted for. Respect the property you are on.  Speak up to management if something alarms you. Most campers are seeking relaxation, so abide the quiet times rule. Know where your kids are. Don't allow dogs to bark excessively. Leashes are a must. 
  • Porta-jons/spring loaded bathroom doors.  And for god's sake people...STOP allowing the door to slam shut behind you in the wee hours of the morning when you do a bathroom trip! I personally thank you for this courtesy!

Saturday, April 25, 2020

KIDS, CAMPING AND METAL DETECTORS...STRIKING IT RICH!


If you've camped with children of any age, you've probably been faced with the dilemma of finding outdoor activities that are fun, easy, entertaining, and inexpensive.  What makes a family trip attractive, adventurous, or potentially memorable for one, doesn't hold true for the next; especially when you are battling age gaps.  Bikes are great if you have the packing space and a safe place to ride.  Board games and puzzles usually don't survive the great outdoors. Getting everyone to put down their phones is a chore in itself! Stop fighting the fight!  The solution has been found...and its called a metal detector. Who wants to sit around the campfire and tell their own real life tale of discovering treasure? I DO!

Based on my own experience, you are probably thinking to yourself, "How much are those things anyways? Expensive right?"  Wrong! You can find plenty of detectors that work just fine for $40-$100. The first detectors my own children owned were about $15 each. They were so basic, emitting the same beep whether the treasure was a quarter or a soda can.  But they really worked, and my kids were ecstatic. Many hours were spent beach combing for coins and jewelry left behind in the easy to dig sand. They were compact enough to travel with and even accompanied us to the Dominican Republic. The locals watched in amazement as my then 7 year old found more money in an hour, then many of them regularly earned for a day of manual labor. Whether it was a gesture of compassion, or the opportunity for financial gain, my son actually sold his "toy" detector to one very old gentleman on our last day of vacation. Valued by one, but invaluable to another. If I remember right, he used his profit on an upgraded detector.

1805 draped large cent found within 5 minutes in a corn field
Again, speaking from experience... never discount the appeal of treasure hunting to any age. In fact, do yourself the favor and acquire multiple affordable units from the get go.  After a person experiences their "first find", sharing ceases to exist. Don't subject yourself to watching a 5 year old and a 50 year old throwing similar hissy fits after treasure is found when it was supposed to be their turn five minutes ago.

Searching independently, but within earshot of each other promotes a sort of friendly competition.... and eliminates pushing/shoving.... I immediately want to retract this knowing that by the 20th time I've dropped everything and ran over to the area of someone wailing "GOT SOMETHING" only to discover they've unearthed another old bottle cap; well, someone may need a swift kick in the rear.

Young children delight in finding absolutely anything, so whether you secretly pre-plant some pennies or a matchbox car, its all as good to them. Preteens/teens know the value of money, so cold hard coin is always cool to find. Watches, sunglasses and jewelry can convince them quickly to continue. Before they know it, they are hooked... and then they get their friends hooked. And they are outside!! I do recommend finding a trusted pawn/jewelry shop that will provide fair trades/sales. Adults? I've found more jewelry that I could wear on ten hands, but I never can bring myself to get rid of it.  I have returned many items to owners and given a few as gifts once cleaned up, but usually I just spend the usable change and hoard the rest to show it off to interested parties.

The good news is that hobbyist metal detectors are now pretty affordable, built lightweight, with easy features and factory settings which target items like coins and jewelry. National Geographic has a very popular junior model and This Bounty Hunter model is one of the most popular on Amazon.

After some experience, you may want to experiment with other features which discriminate against junk. Normally, detectors give off different tones for different metals like gold, iron, tin etc. and you learn what is what quickly.  I'm too paranoid, so I still dig 99% of tones up if it sounds even remotely like a good hit. What is worth noting is that I've compared finds that I've made with a $75 metal detector against a $500 detector, and they were very much the same. I don't really want to dig 5 feet down, or wear a scuba suit to detect. So, despite the fact I could at any time use my own treasures to invest in a bigger/better unit, there's no need.  I find plenty with what I have. Don't waste money on features you won't use.


Purchase a set of headphones (especially for use at beach), an apron (for treasures AND garbage), and a digging apparatus or two (depending on soil type).  I prefer some DIY tools to store bought. When I first started, I used a small planting shovel and a colander both from the Dollar Store...and it worked fine. Later, I made a hand held sand scoop (pictured, or look here to purchase similar) by drilling holes into a grain scoop. Some people glue a magnet to the bottom inside as well.  Many people invest in a pinpoint locator, but I don't own one. If you enjoy the hobby, invest in what makes it easier for you to enjoy. Search tag sales and Facebook marketplace for your items. You can get some unbelievable deals.

There's really no limit to where you can detect. Respect private properties and prohibited lands.  It only takes a minute to ask permission if you are unsure. Start at your campsites and the areas around them (Unfortunately, you'll find trash irresponsible campers have left behind). State parks, recreation fields, forests, beaches, fields, ski areas, golf courses, farmland are all great spaces. Starting young children off in areas that is easier to detect/dig items (like a beach) will give you a far better chance that they will like/continue the hobby.  Trudging through the woods to an old abandoned property should be left to adults. **TIP** When treasure hunting in the woods, move your detector along the base of stone walls and around the very large trees that surround the property.  Early settlers often hid valuables in these places.

I hope you find metal detecting as enjoyable as I have through the years.  It gets the family outdoors and you really never know what you may find.  Its the perfect compliment to camping and honestly, I've spent much more money on items that I use far less.  I have been fortunate to find enough treasures that my machines have paid for themselves many times over.  Wouldn't you like to sit around a campfire showing each other the treasures you've each unearthed that day?  ...And actually have the proof of your adventure!

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Great metal detecting finds:

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Thursday, July 18, 2019

ONE CAMPER'S INGENUITY


I admit, I have a few faults... probably more than a few... but who's counting!? Some of them (not in any particular order):

1.) I get bored easily
2.) I think I can make things better, faster, stronger (or just more functional)
3.) I frequent the $1.04 clearance wood at HD. 

Known affectionately by my friends as "Ms. MacGyver", I've pretty much perfected the whole "making something outta nothing" thing. Challenge accepted! Some ideas work out better than others, and I've headed back to the drawing board more times than people have questioned Mona Lisa's smile. But when the creative juices get to workin' and the end result is pure genius (even if just to me), it's just so freaking satisfying!

I've always said that campers, as a whole, are the most ingenious, creative, resourceful and clever group of people on the planet. Adapting to changing surroundings whilst subjecting yourself to the wrath of mother nature (and other campers) is a challenge onto itself. Before long, the words "what if we try this?", "do you think this would work?", "I wish there was a solution to that.", "ya know what would work?", "when we get home..." cross every camper's lips. Of course, doing a web search on a product that might aid in the problem at hand would work, if you could come up with the correct keys words to punch in. Unfortunately, its already too late, the monster has been poked.


Problem:
I want to be able to go camping by myself, without a lot of effort, in a moments notice. I want to feel safe, be portable, be comfortable, and be functional (even better, multi-functional). I want to utilize things I already have, and oh yeah, I don't want to spend any money creating it. TA-DA!


Up for MacGyvering is my PT Cruiser. Standard 4-Door hatchback with folding/removable seats. I bought it used and never noticed those molded plastic things sticking out in the hatch. Seats fold down and also flip forward for cargo space. 


Turns out when purchasing new, there was an option for a plastic hatch cover that fit there. I cut a pieces of 3/4" plywood for shelves. I notched the bottom layer and followed the curve of the hatch when its closed. The bottom layer sits about 7" off the cargo bottom and is the perfect spot for air mattresses, lawn chairs, small tent bags, jumper cables, camp stoves etc. 


By notching the plywood, it also allows the larger shelf to be moved to top and offset to extend outside the hatch to be used for prepping area or daily activity use. Large shelf in lower position is same level height as seats folded down.


Positioning seats forward and using the top shelf across headrest and center console, provides a level space to fit my air mattress. Inflator plugs into my cigarette lighter, so mattress can be blown up while in place. Cooler & backpack fit into front seats for easy access. Battery operated lights can be hung from clothes carrier hooks/handles. Back up to the campfire.


When the fire dies down and its time for bed, I simply pull the hatch down and lock myself in. I bought these neat screens for my windows so I can leave them partially open for air circulation. The shelves are purr-fect when organizing camping supplies when its more than just me who wants to go on an adventure!




I've also done some modifications on our small cargo work trailer. Hotel bills add up when traveling/staying at distant job sites for extended periods. By adding a platform bed area, and removable back flap, we are able to utilize area campgrounds while still using underneath space for storage and tools. Adding a table onto the front hitch frame makes for the perfect cooking/eating/card playing area. A canopy/screen room easily fits around this area too doubling your camping space. It also can be setup on job sites to use as tool/work space. Breaks down and sets up in under a minute, and is plenty sturdy.  
I've done plenty of other modifications to the cargo trailer, but never think to photograph the progress or the before/after. Another nice add was a laptop shelf/tray attached to a swivel and extendable TV wall mount arm. Attached to the right hand wall, it allows using/watching from both outside and inside locations.  Its great for movie watching while in bed. If you have an idea for a modification or a creation, I might suggest to other campers to photograph the steps as they move along.  Post your projects on social media and help out your fellow campers. 



Lots of great creative ideas can be found on our Pinterest Boards.  Follow one or all!