Our first camping trip – Jellystone PA

Well, we finally made it!!!  All of the hard work has finally paid off and we headed out on our first family camping trip.  We decided to stay local and we couldn’t have made a better choice than Jellystone.

Long before we ever thought about a trailer (or kids for that matter), we passed the Jellystone campground when we lived in the area.  Now 13 or so years later our family of 6 was out spending the weekend at this same campground.

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The trip started with the kids getting out of school a bit early to make the hour drive out to Jellystone.  My daughter got out of geography class which is apparently a good thing in her book.  By the time we arrived and got setup it was dinner time and Fridays are always pizza night, so I headed out to pickup food while the kids hit the park with Sandie.  After dinner we roasted some marshmallows, the kids played for a while and we all passed out.

On Saturday we all woke up early and ate breakfast.  After that we headed over to the park and waited for the bounce pillow to open at 10am.  The pillow was amazing and the kids had a blast.  In between bouncing they ventured back and forth from the pedal car track to the park and we just tried to keep up.  After a few hours of playing we headed back to the site to eat lunch, finish decorating the site and get costumes on.  The afternoon was busy with a costume contest, trick or treating, and a dance party.  By the time we got back to the site on Saturday night the kids quickly passed out and it was grown up time by the fire pit.

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When we woke up Sunday I started packing up while the kids ate.  When it was time to checkout Sandie brought the kids over to the Ranger Station for a souvenir and to play at the park for a bit.  They got back just as I finished hooking up the trailer and triple checking everything and we headed home around lunch time

All in all, this couldn’t have gone better for our first trip.  Everyone had a blast and we learned a lot about getting setup and what we really need and don’t need.  Before we got home we decided we’ll be going back next Halloween and my son now wants to spend his birthday at Jellystone when the water park is open.

T-minus 1:30hrs until our first trip

Well, the day is finally here.  We’re leaving for our first trip in our travel trailer this afternoon!!!

We spent all day doing last-minute stuff.  I washed the awning and the rest of the trailer, hung curtains & blinds, filled propane, tested all the appliances, and packed Halloween decorations.  My while loaded the trailer and did some food shopping.  I think we’re as ready as we’re going to be.

Here are some photos of the trailer before our maiden voyage.

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A frustrating and wet day

Well, I had another frustrating day today.  It rained all day and I’ve been rushing around to get all the little stuff finished before this weekends trip.

I started the day by washing 1/2 of the trailer and the awning in the rain.  It was dirty enough that washing it in the rain was a huge improvement.  Unfortunately, this might have been the best part of the day.

I finally got around to cleaning the glue off the floor from laying the new floor.  I then mopped up and proceeded to drag mud through the trailer.

While trying to put the finishing touches on the dinette, I cut my only 1×4 about 3/4″ too short.  I made a trip to Lowes to grab another and cut that one short again.  I finally found out what I was doing…the wood and tape measure were hanging up on a piece of 3/4″ trim against the wall.  I finally gave up on this because I didn’t want to go out and get another piece of lumber.

Next, I started on a piece of trim above the door.  This should be easy, right?  It’s just a 1/4″x 4″ piece of wood that needs to match the curve at the top of the door.  Well, it turns out I need a 5″ wide piece.  I decided to try to make it work and planned to fill the extra 1″ with scraps since they were just slivers that would barely be noticeable.  It’s no surprise, but I botched that cut too.  I made a template for this piece and will be back at Lowes in the morning for another piece of wood.

I ended the night by starting on new vinyl for the nose of the trailer.  I thought I had red vinyl lying around, but was wrong again.  I finished cutting the blue vinyl and will install it tomorrow when the rain stops.  Here’s a sneak peek of what it’ll look like when finished.

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I should have the red vinyl next week and will finish up the front.  I’m still not sure if I’ll be putting RVcircus.com on there…we’ll see.  I still also need to decide what we’ll be doing on the sides.

 

Propane cover finished

I finally got around to finishing up the cover that was missing.  I had a sheet of 1/8″ white PVC sitting in the garage from an old sign job that I never expected to use.  I was able to cut out supports and melted them together with a soldering iron and reinforces the joints with plastic weld epoxy.  The bend was made using a heat gun to soften the area and tried to match the curve on the trailer.  I wasn’t really sure how I was going to attach the cover until today and decided to go with thumb screws into 1/4″ threaded clips.  It didn’t turn out perfect and I still need to do some finishing work on it, but it’s better than the hole that was there.

Before

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After

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Trailers out of the driveway at last

So, today I cleaned out the trailer a bit to get it ready for inspection tomorrow. I also found a bad ground in one of the running lights that I needed to fix.

The real fun came when we were backing the trailer out of the driveway. Our driveway is very narrow and steep and comes out onto a narrow street in a valley (15′ dirt hills on both sides of the street). This was my wife’s first time spotting & my walkie broke, so it was pretty stressful on her. This all led to me mushing my bumper into the hill on the other side of the street…twice.

This certainly would have been unusual if all went as planned. I don’t think I did any real damage, so I got lucky.

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I told my wife the good news is our driveway is the most difficult place we’ll be backing the trailer. If we can get this down we’ll be able to put it anywhere.

Our trailer is all grown UP

This past weekend I started and finished the spring over lift on our trailer.  I was able to do the prep work on Friday by cutting the old U-bolts off and loosening the leaf spring bolts, so I was able to blast through the lift in a few hours on Sunday.  It was a pretty simple swap to get the axles mounted under the springs and I used the Dexter kit designed for this purpose.

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Once the axles were loose, it was just a matter of pulling them one at a time and welding the new brackets on.  The kit comes with the new brackets with attached spacers that helped get them parallel with he originals.  I also used this as an opportunity to cleanup the rusted axles and paint them.

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Reinstalling the axles was just the reverse of removing them.  I balanced each axle on a floor jack and rolled them in place under the leaf springs.  This is the only place I needed an extra hand, so my wife balanced the axle upright while I got the new u-bolts installed on one side.  Just make sure you re-torque all bolts to spec and reattach your electric brakes when you’re done.

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The most time-consuming part of the install was jacking the trailer high enough.  It seemed like I was constantly fighting to get extra height.  I needed to jack onto stands, add 2×6’s under the jack to get additional height and keep going with that method and needed to do it in reverse to get it back on the ground.

I never did a before and after measurement, but I think I gained about 6 1/2″ of clearance with the spring over lift.  Here’s a before and after shot of the wheel well to see the height.  Sorry, the trailer isn’t leveled in the after shot and the angles aren’t the same, but you can see the drastic height difference

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Finished the brakes & bearings and starting on the lift

Yesterday I finished the brake adjustments, new breakaway switch and packed the bearings.  I also installed some Reese bearing protectors while I was at it.

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In preparation for our first trip I replaced both batteries in the truck and installed tow mirrors.  I’m looking forward to testing the mirrors once I get the wheels back on.  My guess is that seeing the trailer in my mirrors will make backing up easier.

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When I get home from work this afternoon I’ll be starting the lift.  I have the electric brake wires cut and have been hitting all the bolts with PB Blaster for a few days.  The U-bolts are pretty rusted, so I’ll cut them off if they give me any trouble since I have all new U-bolts ready to go.  The weather is showing rain this afternoon and early tomorrow, so there’s a chance this will become a Sunday project.

Working on the underbelly of the beast

I finally started work on the brakes, bearings, and lift.  The trailer is now sitting in the driveway in the air with the wheels off.  I have the brakes off, cleaned and inspected on one side and will be picking up bearing seals today.  My goal is to have the brakes & bearings done tonight or tomorrow and then will start on the lift.

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Picking away at the small stuff

It’s been a few weeks since our last update and over that time we’ve been working on a lot of finishing touches on the trailer.  There haven’t been many huge projects, but there have been many smaller ones.

I finally received the parts for the toilet and have it installed.  The bathroom now looks like a bathroom.

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I have the trim back around the slide, caulked, and new plastic inserts in.  It hasn’t been washed yet, but it now looks finished.

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I’m almost done my work on the nose of the trailer.  The hole at the top has been repaired , but there’s a small spot that needs a little Bondo to level out.  I painted it but will need to touch-up and wet sand before calling it complete.

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There are also many cracks in the plastic fenders and the lower part of the nose.  I’ve tried to decide whether to plastic weld these cracks or use epoxy.  I gave up thinking and decided to use a soldering iron to weld these cracks.  They’re not finished and I still need to tidy these areas up, but it’ll work.

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I’ve also started to make a new cover for the propane compartment out of a PVC sheet I had lying around.  I just started this yesterday and don’t expect it to be perfect, but much better than a hole.  The pieces are going together by melting the joints with a soldering iron and I may reinforce with epoxy, but they’re pretty solid as-is.  I’ll be using a heat gun to help bend the curve before welding the last few inches.  There’s still a lot of fitting to do and still haven’t decided on how it’ll be attached, but at least I’ve started it.  Who knew I’d finally have a use for this sheet of PVC I’ve saved for years.

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Next up is to check the brakes, pack bearings, and complete the lift.  I drug the family out to Harbor Freight last night to pickup a new jack and jack stands because I didn’t trust the 3 ton jack and stands I  have now.  I’ll be inspecting what I have there during the week and plan to complete the lift by the end of this weekend.  Be on the lookout for details and maybe a video.

Finally, a parting shot of the trailer.  It’s not pretty, but it’s ours.

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