Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Lil Rocker's first real trip

Wife and I took our first trip with Lil Rocker in late April. He was well-mannered, cooperative, and we enjoyed having him along.

We left Little Rock late in the a.m. Thursday. A sign of things to come, we gave four people the nickel teardrop "tour" before we even got away from the pumps. (Lesson #1: If you don't enjoy meeting folks, don't buy a teardrop.)

By the time we got to Decatur, AL, we were plenty ready for bedtime. Pointe Mallard Park Campground there is publicly owned, and the City of Decatur has made it into quite an attraction: golf course, fishing and boating, ice park, water park, batting cages, etc. A bit crowded, but well-kept and clean, and in April, relatively quiet. Check it out at www.pointmallardpark.com/campground/index.shtml.

As in the rest of the South this year, Decatur got plenty of rain this spring, so the 'skeeters were a bit of a problem. But nothing Off couldn't handle. The temperature, though a bit warmer than we usually like for sleep, wasn't bad. Lil Rocker has no A/C, but we didn't need it. Our TD has AC outlets in the cabin, and with the side windows and the skylight open, a little AC-powered clip-on fan kept the air moving comfortably.

The next day, Friday, we visited my aunt and cousins, some of whom I hadn't seen since 1978. Then, we headed for Huntsville, only about 25 miles up the road, where we stopped at the U.S Space & Rocket Center. The traffic wasn't too bad, but we had to move along at a good pace. Lil Rocker gave us no problems, so we kept up well.

The center, though, really wasn't that great. I expected it to rival the National Aerospace Museum in Washington, DC, but it fell short considerably. Given the area's history in U.S. rocketry and space exploration, that really is unfortunate.

That night, we camped at Monte Sano State Park above Huntsville. The ranger who showed us to our campsite was very enthusiastic about how well-maintained and clean his park was. So we backed the Lil Rocker in. (Lesson #2: It's true that small trailers are harder to back than larger. So, TD novices just should expect to have a bit of trouble early on with backing up. But it gets easier quickly, I promise.)

We leveled, chocked and unloaded the Lil Rocker; then, last thing, I plugged into the AC power. There wasn't any.

For most teardroppers, that ain't no beeg thang. However, apnea means I need a C-PAP machine to get a good night's sleep, and it runs on electricity. So, when we found we had no power, we had to put everything away and moved over one space. (Lesson #3: Check out the hookups - power, water, etc. - before anything else; then, set up.)

Saturday, we continued east, stopping off to tour Cathedral Caverns State Park (http://www.alapark.com/CathedralCaverns), between Greater Woodville and Metropolitan Grant, AL. It's a relatively new state park, I believe, and its main attraction, the cave, is HUGE and very impressive -- lots of formations, large rooms and even a "stalagmite forest." Well worth the $10 per adult admission.

DeSoto State Park on Lookout Mountain at Fort Payne, AL, was our Saturday night stop. The ranger there noted with pride that the park had been renovated recently, and he just knew we would enjoy our stay. I'd laughingly mentioned our electricity experience the previous night. He'd just driven off, we'd barely backed into the newly graveled level site (with its brand new concrete slab-based hookups and nice roomy green spaces), and Wife had just unlatched her car door when the man in the adjacent RV welcomed us.

"Y'all got any power?? he asked. "Mine just quit."

Simultaneously, campers from across the road came to tell us that their electricity, too, had failed. They began asking questions, and we gave them the nickel TD "tour" of Lil Rocker. A couple minutes later, the ranger was back, apologizing all over himself for the power outage after having bragged on his park.

"No problem," we told him.

The seven or eight who'd gathered at our site finished their NTDT and left, and we set up as dusk settled. By this, the third night out, my main hope for our TD had materialized: I could now set it up in five-10 minutes. Beats the yellouttaahtent.

Incidentally, The power company did get things going again by midnight, just about the time my apnea was kicking in. So, I just fired up my C-Pap and went back to sleep.

We enjoyed DeSoto. A night-long cool breeze ensured we were well-rested when we rose Sunday morning. After breakfast, we took a 45-minute walk, then hit the road.

More on our Lil Rocker's maiden voyage later. Until then, if you see us on down the road, be sure to wave big.

And remember: Keep the rubber to the road and the shiny side up!