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Brantley Lake State Park

My first two trips this year were just down the road to Brantley Lake State Park. The park is about 10 miles north of Carlsbad. It’s very cheap to camp there with the NM State Parks Pass but the experience is very rich with paved sites spread well apart, covered picnic tables at each site, tent pads at some sites, good utilities, dump site, hiking trails, playground, boating, picnicking, and volleyball. The views of the lake which curves around the campground are lovely! The bathrooms are currently being remodeled while nice trailers are onsite to provide bathroom and shower facilities until finished.

I found the camp hosts and rangers to be very nice and accommodating. The ranger station has displays about the area and brochures.

The hiking trails are easy. I was able to hike from the campground to the day use area and back no problem. I also hiked part of the lake trail. Bring a hiking stick or cane because it is not flat.

Brantley playgroundBrantley Lake and damBrantley Lake sites

Shake Down

I managed to get two shake down adventures in at the nearby state park before Covid19 shut everything down then one more here at the RV park I live in. Some things went bad of course so I made a list of those and the things I want to keep in the van always to make loading for a trip easier.

Fixed the water pump myself by installing a new diaphragm. The toilet water valve started sticking open so I replaced that and the floor gasket also myself. Neither job was very difficult.

I didn’t like how much sway there was in the van’s front end and steering so I had a mechanic replace the steering gear box, idler arms, and drag link. It’s nice and tight now!

Had RV techs replace the black and gray water valves due to it being so low under the van and though I have changed those before on my trailer, it’s not my favorite job.

Finally figured out what the extra curtain in the driver seat pocket was for. I was supposed to open up the closet doors on both sides of the center aisle and attach that curtain to the Velcro™ across the bottom of them to form the missing bathroom wall when needed. I took the curtain I added for that down then realized it could still be used to block off the AC to keep it in the bedroom area when sleeping. The AC is mounted above the bed and works fine for cooling the rest of the RV but misses the bed area if not redirected.

While at the state park, I met another Roadtrekker and had a nice long chat about upgrades they had done. Very nice and had great ideas. It turned out they read this blog. I have fans! Hi, Stacie and Barry!

Finally, I made some more upgrades on it this week. I bought the sink insert from another Roadtrekker. Insert was very cheap but postage cost a small fortune. Worth it to separate my hand washing from my dish washing. It pops in and out as needed.

  Single sink in Roadtrek van   Roadtrek sink insert

Added a Harbor Freight LED independent light switch beneath the furnace control and close at hand in bed so I don’t have to fumble around in the dark for the small light in the ceiling corner.

LED light switch

Added 3″ concave mirrors from American Hardware via Ebay to my van mirrors so that when I am backing into a site I can see the cement patio on one side and the utilities on the other. I was backing blind without those.

3" round concave mirror

I also added a 10″×8″ plastic wide angle lens by Cipa, USA to my inside rear window in the center. Just wet it and apply. It makes a HUGE difference in what I can see behind me and doesn’t block too much or bother me when driving. We’ll see if it stays on in the heat of the day.


Wide angle lens view

Back In The Game!

For the past year, I have been off the road and settled in to semi-retirement on my own lot in an Escapees park. Age has caught up to both my trailer and myself. The days of traveling 400 miles once a week are long over and gate guarding has changed considerably, especially for single gate guards. When I retired, I could swear I heard a sigh of relief and a “Me too!” from my 5th wheel. I still work part time in (Ugh!) retail. However, I still get itchy feet now and then to get out there and see what is over the next hill or see something new. What to do? Buy a new (to me) RV and move up to the next level, a motorhome, of course! Yep, I’m done with hitching up and towing. While I am still keeping my trailer to live in and truck for daily travel, I just bought a very sweet little Roadtrek Class B camper van for weekends and vacations. Hooray! It looks like a van, drives like a van, parks like a van in a single parking spot but it has almost all the amenities of home! It can also be used for daily travel when my truck breaks down and is being fixed not to mention it actually gets better gas mileage than my truck.

Meet Mariah, the new wind beneath my wings.

Mariah1     Mariah2

I found Mariah on Facebook local classifieds. A friend drove me over to check her out. She’s a 1992 Roadtrek Popular 190. She’s old but the price was very good, she’s in pretty good shape, she has all new tires, and she drives great! I went into the deal expecting some major expenses for repairs and counted those costs in when deciding to buy her. The main issues were a cracked windshield (now fixed) and the 3 way fridge only works on gas (but oh it works really well on gas!). On my first overnight trip, I also discovered leaking sewer valves (new replacements came with her though) and a leaky water pump (part is on the way). The awning looks to be in good shape, all curtains are there, toilet works fine, stove and microwave work, furnace and AC work wonderfully, all manuals are onboard, mileage is low. This model does not have the optional shower and water heater but the previous owner rigged up a sort of shower and I already have a solar shower bag. I heat up water in the microwave or on the stove to do dishes which won’t be necessary once it heats up here. I found an empty compartment with drawings for an exterior door and a cable going to the battery compartment. This is where the optional generator would have gone if installed. I will be looking into that possibility as well as solar. I did replace the stereo myself with a modern one which is the same model as what I installed in my truck. I also added a backup camera on the back.

The more I tear into Mariah, the more impressed I am with the company’s innovation. They used the available space very well and designed it for both plenty of storage inside and less drag outside. I love the trunk in the floor to store stuff and the table up front that uses the passenger chair turned around. The rear passenger seat makes up into a clever bed in conjunction with the front passenger seat and it does fit an adult just fine. I found several hidden storage areas and a hidden but handy power plug up front. The walls have 3-4 inches of insulation and the ceiling is padded. The bathroom door folds out to form a privacy wall both to create a bigger bathroom area and to provide privacy between the two sleeping areas. I added a long curtain nearby for further, faster bathroom privacy. The air conditioner and TV antenna are both built into the roof rather than sticking up outside. The 3 windows in the roof provide lots of light and star gazing. The sewer connection hose is built in! It is housed in a pipe and pulls out easily and already connected to empty the tanks. They even included a bar to pull the gray water tank valve open without reaching underneath. I wondered why they didn’t include a latch to hold the electrical/propane door open but then I found a bar that pulls out for that too. Awesome! It’s nice to have a built-in propane tank too so no more bottle hauling.

I was hoping to be able to keep the big table in back up to use but while all 3 twin beds are suitable, they don’t work for me in a single sleeping bag with a bad back. I finally gave in and put it down to make two twins into one big queen bed with two identical sleeping bags zipped together. That is sooo comfortable! Luckily, they thought to add that second table up front which while smaller is still large enough and comfortable enough for computer work or eating.

20200221_143405     20200221_143419_HDR

All in all I am very happy with it and so glad I found it. I look forward to many happy trips in it. My neighbors are jealous!

Dang Improvements

One thing I didn’t know before buying into an RV park in the Southwest is the incredible amount of wind that blows through here. I found out the hard way this past Spring when the winds kicked up and nearly blew my 30 foot 10,000 pound 5th wheel RV off it’s foot pads. I was having to put my full length slideout in constantly and couldn’t sleep due to the creaking of the bedroom wall and the constant rocking motion of the bedroom. I spent a few nights sleeping in my truck instead. I am now in the process of converting my large garage building into a comfortable she shed with a foldable cot, sleeping bag, outdoor carpeting, porta potti, dorm refrigerator, and TV. I am looking at possibly insulating it and installing permanent AC along with a portable heater.

I am also working on stabilizing the trailer further. I already had X-chocks on it which I highly recommend to anyone. Recently I added a stabilizer tripod to the hitch up front. I hadn’t thought that would help much before and didn’t want to add more to my setup routine but decided to give it a shot now that I am spending much more time in one place. I bought it from Amazon and found it easy to put together. Installation was also easy. Oh my gosh! It works! We had more wind here right after I installed it but my trailer is much more stable and I was able to sleep through it just fine. I don’t know yet if it will be able to also handle the Spring winds but it has given me hope. In any case, I will also have my she shed ready.

5th Wheel hitch stabilizer

Another improvement I am adding this week is a very large propane tank with regular onsite service from a local company. The genius who designed the location for the on board tanks on my trailer made it very difficult to get the tanks out to refill them and well, I’m not forty anymore. I’m really looking forward to using it though I heat mostly with electric in the winter. The water heater uses a lot when it is cold outside and I occasionally use the on board furnace to quickly bring the trailer temperature up in the morning.

Giant propane tank

Last winter I bought a Camco heated water hose and can now say the expensive item is well worth it. I haven’t frozen up once since then. I unplugged it when the temps started staying in normal ranges and only plugged it back in recently when they plunged again.