Tuesday, December 29, 2009


Every convenience brings its own inconveniences along with it
- Proverb

By my own choosing, much of my life is consumed with doing things the hard way. In addition to lighting pilot lights in my vintage travel trailer and winding clocks at home, I prefer to make my own Cream-of-[fill in the blank] sauces and yeast bread. So one would think that pulling a cord or twisting a wand to open or close a window shade would be right up my alley. But the push-button convenience of the motorized shade over Big Tub has spoiled me – Push UP, and the shade goes up. Push DOWN and no more neighbors’ yard lights. Cool.

Although I tried to resist, this Siren Song of convenience proved so strong that a similar shade was just installed in “Tom’s room” on a ridiculously easy-to-get-to window.

Heeding the song was not without consequences, though. While I escaped with my life, the sheetrock above the window suffered greatly while I tried repeatedly to drill an 18-inch long hole through the 40 year-old header behind it.

The first hole was drilling great until the bit encountered a nail. After sharpening the bit, the second hole was going well until the sheetrock started to bulge. Hole number three appeared to be the ticket right up to the point of when the ¾” diameter drill bit poked all the way through the sheetrock. Sixteen inches of hole number four were drilled before my Milwaukee ½-inch drive drill motor all but stopped drilling, and started to smoke. Old wood can be a real drag to drill.

After letting the drill bit and motor cool, the drill bit was waxed with Johnson’s paste wax to cut down on the drag. Success – The new shade now had wiring access to the attic.

Cutting the hole for the new switch and wiring everything went smoothly. Watching the shade go down the first time the button was pushed put a smile on my face…until the shade got to the bottom of the window & stopped uneven with the window sill. If the shade had had a cord on it, I would have just adjusted it for evenness. But with no cord, I ended up having to pull the motor out and re-clock one of the “winder-uppers” on the motor shaft. All is now well.

From now on, I’ll stick with doing things the hard way – It’s easier!

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Don’t Forget to Adjust Your Trailer Brakes


My first car, a ’68 VW Beetle, had fairly short maintenance intervals. The oil had to be changed every 3,000 miles, and the valves adjusted every other oil change. The manual-adjust brakes were adjusted somewhere in that mileage range, but the call was usually made when the brake pedal got low or had to be pumped up.

Nowadays, every vehicle in our driveway has self-adjusting brakes. In the back of my mind, I knew the Airstream’s brakes are manual adjust, but since the axles were new, the thought of adjusting the brakes never made it to the front of my mind. It did after our last camping trip though after the Mighty Burb ended up having to do all the braking on a few wet mountain grades.

Sure enough, every backing plate needed several clicks of the adjusting wheel. An immediate & significant improvement in braking was noticed in the subsequent test ride down a mountain grade.

Checking the maintenance log, I was surprised to see that the Overlander’s axles turned three years old in September, and had 14,514 miles of trips on them. Since the owner’s manual lists a 10,000 mile/6-month maintenance interval, I’m surprised a problem did not pop up until now.

If you have a travel trailer, don't forget to adjust your brakes!

Gotta go – according to the list, it’s also time to paraffin the Strike pocket on the Main Door…

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Windows 95 has left the building

…along with my first real PC – A full-tower, Micron computer with a cat’s-meow-for-its-day, 90 MHz Pentium processor. Its 1.3 gig hard disk decided to throw in the towel this past weekend after 14 years of continuous operation, the last ten of which were spent in my unheated shop running a train-whistle-on-the-quarter-hour program.

But I knew this day would eventually come, and had prepared for it by having not one, but two old Windows 98 computers sitting in the unheated garage waiting to fill the void. The first choice of the two for restoring the sound of live steam to the shop was a computer custom built for me at the local Gigaparts store in 2000 to replace the Micron as “house computer”. But since it was missing its hard drive, Dad’s old Acer computer got carried into “Tom’s Room” for prep.

Old Acers apparently do not like sitting around in an unheated garage as the computer did no more than beep a lot before shutting itself off. Hoping the Gigaparts PC would fare better, I rummaged around my toy box, and found a hard disk that looked like it would work. Years ago, I used to keep up with the difference between IDE, EIDE, etc. but everything kept changing so fast that the fun got sucked out of it, and I stopped. Fortunately, Google makes it really easy to research topics quickly.

Thankfully, both computer & hard disk whirred to action without beeping. But the hard disk had Windows XP on it, and XP didn’t seem to care much for the Windows 98 box it was now in. A couple of hours were spent trying to get computer & hard drive to play together before deciding it was not worth the effort. The Windows 98 operating system would have to be installed on the computer.

Windows 98 was the last Microsoft OS which used a floppy drive for the initial part of the install, and the floppy drive on the Gigaparts computer was found to have something stuck in it. Between idle curiosity, and remembering the computer had spent time in my then-six-year-old son’s room before its retirement, exploratory surgery was performed on the drive. Now we finally know what happened to Daniel’s library card, Toys-R-Us birthday club card, and penny.

But after getting everything ready for a floppy disk, the right floppy disk could not be found. It appeared the project was dead until another copy of the magic floppy could be located.

Then, it dawned on me to see if the entire Acer computer, hard disk and all, was dead. So, after dual hard disk ectomies, the Gigagparts PC was powered up with the Acer’s hard disk. Success! It wasn’t pretty at first, but it worked.

If the computer could have talked at that point, it probably would have said, “Whoa! I’ve got to cut back on the mushrooms. It feels like my head’s on a different body”. But after feeding the computer a few sobering disks of device drivers, I was finally rewarded with another icon of Microsoft’s past.

Now that I had working Windows 98 box, a magic floppy was immediately made should I ever need to install Windows 98 from scratch.

Since this PC will not be hooked to the Internet while in the shop, there’s no worry about computer viruses & such. But for nothing more than hoot value, I decided to check for Windows updates while it was still in the house. In spite of a message advising me that Microsoft stopped supporting this operating system on July 11, 2006, there were six critical updates ready for download.

After installing the updates, and verifying through headphones that the train whistle program still worked okay, the computer was considered ready for shop duty.

The computer sits on a shelf in the boat bay where there is a lot less dust. The speakers, one from a 1957 Heathkit Radio, and one from the Micron’s early days, are in the main shop.

After hooking everything up, and standing around drinking beer for 14 minutes, I was rewarded with the first train whistle produced by the Gigaparts computer, and it was so soft I had trouble hearing it. It then dawned on me that this computer had always been used with an Audigy Sound Blaster card instead of the onboard sound port. The trouble was that the card formerly used is now installed in the current House Computer.

Luckily, I had a second dawning where I remembered the Micron came with a forerunner of the same card.

After a successful transplant, and at least 14 more minutes of Natural Lite, a single blast from the 604 loudly announced quarter-past the hour.

And so ends the Micron era. But I do have the monitor, keyboard, and mouse to remember it by *sniff*. The Acer ought to join it by the side of the road, but it still has a few usable parts remaining.

The Gigaparts PC should have years of life left in it. Hopefully, by the time it quits, the house’s computers will have been rotated, and Daniel’s current computer will be sitting in the garage waiting to take its place. But to preclude premature rotation, I don’t think I will let Daniel in on the plan…

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Death by Clorox

Certainly sounds more ominous than, "I cleaned a bunch of biological fouling off my fresh-water tank's filter by immersing it in a solution of Clorox & water".

During the effort chronicled in my last post, I totally forgot about checking the filter. I did that today, and sure enough it was partially clogged with bugs/microbes.

Everthing's clean now.

As in the past, a weak solution of Clorox & water will be run through the system before the start of next season's warm-weather camping. But I'm still surprised at what can accumulate on the strainer over the course of one season


Monday, November 30, 2009

Getting Ready for Winter

I still remember the angst of winterizing my Overlander for the first time. Even though RVing was new to me, common sense was not, and the owner’s manual recommendation of simply opening the low-point drains and raising & lowering the trailer via the tongue jack seemed fraught with peril. While the topic was never discussed with the previous owner, the discovery of three, patched areas on the Airstream’s copper plumbing leads me to think he may have started & ended with the owner’s manual.

Luckily, the Internet is full of everyone else’s thoughts on the matter, and many good ideas were found. After seven uneventful de-winterizations over five years, the time seems right to add my approach to the archives.

The 15 gallons or so of fresh water we travel with for emergency potty stops had to be emptied first.

Shop air @45 psig was then connected to the shore water fitting to blow the water out of the lines.

I am surprised my original, 1967 water heater is still cookin’ up hot water. They don’t make ‘em like that anymore.

I only expected to get a season or two out of the water heater after the refurb, and planned to add a bypass valve (for easier winterization) when the unit was replaced. Five years later, I’m still plumbing in a bypass pipe every time as part of the effort.

Getting ready for winter now includes pulling out & starting my generator collection to give them a better chance of starting when actually needed. Each generator was started, and allowed to idle for a few minutes before being hooked up to a load. The Honda ran a 1500 watt space heater and the Generac a 3000 watt wall heater for around 15 minutes.

I screwed up on the generators’ starting order. For whatever reason, the Generac was started before the Honda. THE GENERAC WAS SO DOGGONE LOUD THAT I COULDN’T TELL IF THE HONDA WAS RUNNING. I had to switch the Generac off, start the Honda, and then re-start the Generac. I sure hope Marcus trades me soon – my ears are still ringing.

Other details got in the way of finishing the afternoon’s effort, and the anti-freeze flush was postponed until the next day.

Our very first camping season was short, and enjoyed without the benefit of a fresh water tank. The Airstream’s original PAR water pump was used to pump the anti-freeze through the lines via the shore water inlet. All subsequent winterizations have seen the 2-1/2 gallons of propylene glycol poured into the empty fresh water tank. The faucets, spray nozzles, and toilet are then individually turned on in short intervals until the tank runs dry. The used anti-freeze is not collected, but allowed to run down the drain to protect the P-traps. Some people like to recycle anti-freeze for next year’s effort. I’m not fond of the idea primarily because the anti-freeze gets diluted while collecting pockets of water. Dilution negatively impacts the freezing point. Biological fouling of the used stuff while it sits on the shelf for a year is another consideration.

Afterwards, shop air is again used to blow the remaining anti-freeze out since I figure there’s no good reason to let it sit there flavoring the lines.

We noticed some sugar ants on the last two outings, and now seemed like the perfect time to do a thorough spraying.

So now the Airstream’s good until next season. It will be a short wait though – We’re headed to Snow Mountain at Stone Mountain Park January 2. I’m glad the furnace was checked out on this year’s season finale at Cheaha State Park!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Cheaha State Park


After returning from Disney World last month, I mentioned to my wife that I wanted to get one last camping trip in for 2009 before winterizing the Airstream, and it needed to be a cool-weather outing for various reasons. Our discussion, due to her lack of enthusiasm, was brief. Enjoying autumn’s colors is one thing; standing out in the cold is another. But, she didn’t say no.

A few days later, Number 1 son asked me what I wanted to do for my upcoming birthday. The Boyz' birthdays, at their request, are usually celebrated by staying overnight in a nice hotel, and eating at the hotel's restaurant. With this in mind, I told Daniel that I wanted to go camping at a never-before-visited State Park at, oh let’s say within a 100 miles or so of home. If he wanted to get involved, he could map out a destination for us. His eyes lit up, and he ran off to his computer to see what Google suggested. Kim pleasantly got onboard after finding out I had designated the outing a birthday celebration, and she & Daniel mapped out Cheaha State Park. Her serenity makes me wonder what we’ll do for her birthday.

The mighty Burb seems happiest when hauling a lot of stuff. So, for the two-night & one-day trip, the Weber grill, turkey cooker (for the 14-inch iron skillet), 20-lb bottle of propane, and a wheelbarrow load of firewood were loaded in addition to the normal camping gear.

Even with all that, I could still see out the rear window. Not that I could see anything but the Airstream, though.

As expected, since there weren’t many campers there, we had a lot of nice sites to choose from. The one directly across from the playground appealed to everyone.

The Boyz lucked out on this trip because another family with kids around their age pulled into another playground-accessible site shortly after we did. Everyone seemed to enjoy playing together.

Dinner that night was chicken roll-ups cooked outside in the 14-inch skillet. This meal is getting so popular that I need to think about getting a big skillet just for the Airstream to preclude me from forgetting to pack the house’s big skillet.

Cheaha Mountain is the highest point in the state of Alabama, and as such is home to several antennas. Oddly, none of them belong to cell phone companies. As a result, Kim had to go on patrol in the Suburban in search of cell phone coverage to make a phone call to her mom. Even though we have had the truck for 14 years, I still find it odd to see it moving without me at the wheel. It’s cool to listen to, though, with its factory dual-exhaust with no cross-over pipe.

After she returned, Jared and I went on foot patrol to see who else was enjoying camping in the cool weather. Seeing pitched tents reminded me of how much Kim & I used to enjoy tent camping many years ago. Ah, the days of the Coleman stove.

Nowadays, the allure of the Airstream with its heater and indoor potty is too strong to escape. One gets spoiled very easily. We still have all of our tent-camping gear, and will never get rid of it. From now on, though, the only use it will probably see is when the Boyz and I go on Boy Scouting functions. Preferably in warmer weather.

Yes, there was a pool. But as expected, it had already been covered for the season. Built on the side of the mountain, the pool’s view of Cleburne County is spectacular.

The campfire was one of the reasons I wanted to visit in cool weather. There is nothing like sitting next to one contemplating nothing. Unless you’re Daniel, and have gotten tired of constantly moving away from the smoke. Or you’re Kim, who found the Crimson Tide rolling over UTC on television had a higher appeal for that part of the afternoon.

No complaints, though – everyone appeared to be enjoying themselves.

Between playing on the playground and riding bikes, the Boyz definitely got their fair share of exercise & fresh mountain air during our visit.

After a wonderful day, and a great meal of grilled burgers and s’ mores, we all turned in just before it started to rain. For the most part, it was a gentle rain, and was quite pleasant to listen to inside the Airstream.

Unfortunately, the rain continued past breakfast on departure day, and we had to break camp with umbrellas. Luckily, though, it was not that cold. The drive home was a bit more eventful than I really wanted because my trailer brake controller appeared to occasionally malfunction leaving the mighty Burb to do all the braking work. Good thing this was the last trip of the season – There’s plenty of time to diagnose & correct the problem before the next trip.

Our visit to Cheaha State Park was, I think enjoyed by all, and was a great end to the 2009 camping season. The End.

But wait – you guessed it: There’s more!

After we had unloaded the Airstream & all the wet stuff from the Suburban, there was a knock at the door. My parents were in town to do some unannounced shopping, and had gambled that we might be home for a post birthday gift bestowment. I’m really happy we were at home because I’m simultaneously thrilled & dumbfounded with what they brought. With absolutely no pre-coordination of any sort, my mom presented me with a 16-inch cast iron skillet for the Airstream. Here she is with both the house’s puny 14-inch skillet, and the Airstream’s new 16-incher.

Never underestimate the ability of mothers to sense what will make their kids happy. Thanks, Mom.

This past week has certainly been “Happy Birthday to ME”.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

You take the Wi-Fi, and I’ll take the No-Fi


Many years ago, my wife’s office assigned her a laptop computer to allow her to get some of her work done at home. As the laptop was Wi-Fi enabled, they also came over and set up a wireless router so that she could work from anywhere in the house and not interfere with our home’s desktop PC. Later, when the Boyz wanted a computer in their end of the house, a USB Wi-Fi adapter was purchased for their computer to save me the hassle of running an Ethernet cable from one end of the house to the other. The signal was weak, but it worked.

Last year, my wife’s office, apparently worried about commies sitting in our driveway sniffing Wi-Fi signals, disabled her laptop’s Wi-Fi capability which meant she now could now only access the Internet via hardwire connection. This put us in a bind because there is only one desk (located in “Tom’s room”) she could sit at and plug into the Internet. Faced with either building/buying another desk or running Ethernet cable under the house, the latter course was chosen primarily because I was curious about what the task entailed.

Fortunately, new, cool tools & parts were justified.

Two, new Ethernet wall jacks, one in “Kim’s room” (where her scrap-booking table is located), and the other in the master bedroom, were added. While not enjoying as much freedom as a wireless connection offers, Kim now had connectivity in both functional & comfortable rooms of the house. All was now well, and other than having to crawl around under the house (which by the way was dry), wiring Ethernet connections was kind of fun.

A couple of weeks ago, Number 1 son complained that the Internet was not working at his computer. Hoping it was a moon phase issue, I successfully blew off the issue until he kept showing up at my computer to get his schoolwork done. Investigating, his wireless Ethernet adapter was found to be rattling. Both Boyz were grilled as to what may have happened to cause this formerly rattle-free device to now rattle to no avail. While I’m sure Ward Cleaver would have found out the truth, I just lectured the Boyz sternly about being careful around the computer, and bought a new Wi-Fi Ethernet adapter.

Connectivity bliss was restored for a few days before it was determined that the new, N+, Wi-Fi adapter was not getting along well with the existing [old] wireless router. And, as luck would have it, Daniel had a sanctioned computer task that absolutely needed Internet access. So, as an immediate fix, I ran an Ethernet cable across the hall from “Kim’s room” to where the Boyz’ computer is. It was a simple, yet elegant… trip hazard; what to do next? New router? Different adapter?

C) – None of the above. I still had enough wiring & connectors left over from securing Kim’s work Internet traffic from prying eyes to run a new Ethernet connection to the Boyz’ playroom. Overhearing me talk about wiring new Internet connections with his mom, Daniel perked up, and started talking about the virtues of having his Wii, which is currently connected to the den’s television, connected to the Internet. The boy appears to be a natural salesman and his mother & I both agreed that connecting his Wii to the Internet was not necessarily a bad thing. Plus, a 52-inch computer monitor does have a certain ‘cool’ factor to it.

All this new wiring was accomplished this past weekend while Kim was out of town scrap-booking with her girlfriends. Not that he needed much time to figure out how to get the Internet to work with the Wii, Daniel took extra time to master reporting the weather, one of his mom’s favorite subjects, on the big screen.

I predict he will grow up to do well with the ladies.

Stay tuned – It looks like Cheaha State Park will wrap up our camping season. Trip report to follow.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

The Mighty Burb gets some TLC

My vintage ¾-ton Chevrolet Suburban works hard during the camping months hauling our Airstream and us anywhere we want to go. Whether it be the slow, steady grades of the Smoky Mountains or the humid heat of Florida, this workhorse meets all comers, and always gets us safely gets us to our destination with no problem. But even workhorses need a little attention every now & then, and after a few “that’s odd” experiences over our last two camping trips, it appeared to be time to take a look under the ‘Burb’s hood.

An under-hood exhaust noise, which used to go away after warm-up had been getting noticeable under moderate acceleration. This noise had been ignored because, without looking, I assumed worst case - a cracked exhaust manifold. 454 cid engines are notoriously tough on exhaust manifolds, and I had personally installed a new RH manifold on this truck several years ago. From the noise’s location, there appeared to be a problem with the LH manifold.

But after all that worry, the noise went away after the installation of a new manifold gasket.

Heartened by a cheap & easy fix, my attention shifted to figuring out why the brakes occasionally pulled to one side during a sudden stop. When that happened, the steering wheel would sometimes shake back & forth slowly like there was a bad steering damper in the system (my C20 doesn’t have a steering damper).

Although the front brake pads had just been replaced less than 20,000 miles ago & still had plenty of meat left, the LH pair was found to be wearing at an angle. Also, the caliper on this side had a big blob of what appeared to be ball joint grease sitting on top of it just ahead of the inboard pad. My working theory is that heat from the pads would occasionally melt the grease, and the grease would get on the pad and make it more susceptible to wear. Keeping in mind that it may have also been due in part to inferior pads, new Wagner-brand pads were installed.

While checking steering linkages for relative play, the LH tie-rod assembly was found to have looseness at the inboard tie-rod end’s turnbuckle, even though the pinch-clamp appeared tight. Luck was on my side again as the fix was as simple as cleaning the works & repositioning the pinch-clamp.

Although none of the odd things which had happened lately appeared to have anything to do with the front sway bar, judging by the shape of its rubber bushings, the sway bar had not been correcting for much sway lately. So four new neoprene bushing were installed

During the subsequent test drive of these repairs, I thought I was a in a different truck. The under-hood exhaust noise was gone, and the new sway bar bushings’ contribution was immediately noticed in the two curves encountered leaving the neighborhood (and I wasn’t even going that fast). The brakes appeared to work fine, but it’s best to get a hundred miles or so of wear on the new pads before seeing if the ‘sudden stop’ issue has been remedied.

Inspired, I decided to tackle the last thing on my list – new front door hinge pin bushings. Both doors had been getting hard to shut over the last couple of seasons, and a wiggle test showed play in the hinges. Play in the hinges would allow the doors to sag & not line up with the striker bolt. The actual work of re-bushing the hinges is not that tough. Removing & reinstalling the doors, due to their deadweight, is the kicker.

My solution to supporting the doors’ deadweight was to place a ¾-inch black iron pipe between a ladder and a wood box placed on top of the Suburban. A ratcheting motorcycle tie-down was then wrapped around both the pipe, and the door. After pin removal, the door just dangled in the breeze until the new bushings were installed.

Oddly, while the bushings were worn, they weren’t worn as bad as I thought they were going to be. And, to my great annoyance, the doors did not shut that much easier after the new pins & bushings were installed. After looking the “repaired” state over, apparently, the doors had just sagged from old age. So the hinges were adjusted to compensate. All is now well; the doors now shut like they’re supposed to.

The Mighty Suburban is now ready for the last camping trip of this season. I’m still trying to decide the exact location, but somewhere there is a State Park we have never been to waiting for us to come and enjoy building a campfire every night.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Sealand Toilet Repair...and more!

Over the course of the past few camping trips, Kim repeatedly noticed liquid collecting around the base of the toilet. Initially, I thought it was due to either my modified way of showering, or poor aim on the part of the Boyz. So the Boyz got another lecture on the importance of giving full attention to their aim, and I resolved to keep shower water in the shower. But the puddle kept reappearing.

So after the last camping trip, I started troubleshooting, and found the “dripping gun”. The culprit was the vacuum breaker mounted on the back of the toilet.

The vacuum breaker’s purpose in life is to keep toilet water from being sucked back into the fresh water line. It does this by using flush pressure to force a piston to seal an air hole. When there’s no flush pressure, the piston moves away from the hole to let air in to preclude the possibility of siphoning.

These devices usually go bad when something happens to the rubber seal around the piston. Flush water then leaks past the seal, and onto the floor. But in my case, the device went bad because it was made of the wrong type of plastic, and had cracked itself to death. Before you say, “or it froze & cracked because you did not winterize properly”, I have high confidence that I did not fall asleep at the helm of last year’s winterization effort. Plus, the problem popped up in the middle of the season, and not at the beginning.

But the kicker is that this device only holds water when the toilet is being flushed. Other than a residual drop or two of water, it is dry most of the time. This vacuum breaker failed because a poor choice of materials was made at the factory.

Fortunately, the replacement part appears to be made of a different type of plastic. Here’s a picture of the new and old parts together

Initially, it appeared the toilet would have to be removed to gain access to the vacuum breaker. I really did not want to remove the toilet because, in addition to the two closet flange fasteners, there are two lag bolts holding the back of the toilet to the floor itself. My preference is to NOT remove bolts lagged into wood unless I really have to. Fortunately, my toilet is of a two-part construction. Loosening one big radiator-style hose clamp allowed the bowl to be removed to gain access to the work area.

Installation was quick & easy with the bowl out of the way. The work was done before I knew it.

In other news, while waiting for the replacement part to come in, I took a look at the pantry to see what could be done about getting more light into it so we could find stuff without having to use a flashlight.

Ground-rules were simple – Nothing battery powered or florescent. The one RV parts supply catalog I have had nothing that really inspired me so a trip was made to the local Big Box store. Kitchen lighting has come a long way since I last looked. What ended up catching my eye were the 2-1/2 D xenon lights. Both 12 vdc & 120 vac models were available, and each had touch switches.

Reasoning that I did not want to run into dead battery issues if/when someone forgot to turn off the lights, the 120 vac model was chosen. Mounting was easy enough, and the lights were wired to the converter outlet underneath the bathroom sink.

The touch switch is located on the door near the top light. The additional lighting is great, and is something I wish I had done many seasons ago.

Now that I think about it, these two projects are the only substantial work (other than starting the season with a new battery) which has been done on the Airstream this year. While one more small task remains (repairing a light fixture), that’s no big shakes. Pretty low maintenance for this year’s seven trips which covered 6123 miles!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Return to Fort Wilderness

The Mighty Suburban guided our Overlander back to Disney World’s Fort Wilderness campground a few weeks ago just in time for the Boyz to attend Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party.

This makes our fourth voyage to the Walt Disney World Resort, and each trip has its own special memories. Although we usually make the trip with only one overnight stop, two stops were planned for this trip due to the Boyz’ school schedule. The first stop at Ozark Travel Park went without incident. They have improved the place since we were there last year, and it didn’t look bad then. As always, the Boyz thought their pool was great.

The next morning, it was on to Ocala Florida where Kim had booked us at a local RV park for that night. Finding no one at the office after our arrival somewhat annoyed Kim because they had never responded to her email where she asked for a site number. The park was apparently an extension of a RV store next door, and it too was closed…on a Saturday; Go figure. But the park had plenty of nice, open spaces available so we just found one we liked, and backed in. As the temperature was in the lower nineties, the first thing done was to hook up the Airstream’s 30-amp power cord to get the air conditioner online. Or try to. Lo and behold, the service was 50-amp only. I had heard this connection dilemma could occur, but had decided that if or when it did, I would buy a power cord adapter at the camp store. But with everything in sight closed, and every site having the same 50-amp service, we had no choice but to move on.

We had noticed another campground near the interstate on our way in, so we set course for it. What a dump! It was ¾-full of mostly full-timers whose avocation appeared to be junk collection. We almost bit the bullet for one night until we noticed the wasps continually circling the Overlander. Checking her notes, Kim found a KOA around 30 miles away. Confirming they had a vacancy, we left Ocala behind us.

Although the Wildwood KOA is an older park, the owner obviously takes great pride in maintaining the bathhouse & pool. And we got to park right next to both.

Dinner that night had been pre-planned to be Tom’s famous chicken rollups. A fajita-like meal in general, it one of only a few entrees which pleases the entire family. Made best in my 14-inch, cast-iron skillet, the turkey cooker burner had been brought along specifically for the effort. As luck would have it, one of the campground’s amenities was special turkey burner concrete pads conveniently located nearby (at least when no when is camping next to you).

Everyone ended up glad that we had left Ocala behind us. And, the next morning, we were but a few hours from Disney World.

Fort Wilderness consistently ranks high in magazine write-ups, and is the best campground we personally have ever visited. Kim told me that many of the campground’s sites had been widened & lengthened over the course of this year, and our Loop 400 site had been one of them.

The extra width was nice, but the added length was wasted on our 26 foot Airstream.

If I had to guess, I would say that Fort Wilderness is trying to accommodate more humongous, class-A RVs. Space-wise, the goal was met. Power-wise, there is room for improvement as my voltmeter only read ~110 vac with the AC on. The voltage was enough within my comfort zone to run the AC, but this is the first time I have had low voltage at Fort Wilderness. And with the temperature in the upper 90s most days, we needed AC. Everything else about the campground, though, was great.

Dinner at the Rainforest CafĂ© that night was memorable as it was the first time Daniel had ever tasted what “makes beef sing”

The first time we visited Fort Wilderness, a couple of peacocks graced our site every now & then. I thought it was pretty cool. The pair of armadillos who visited this time just did not have the same allure.

This visit was the first time Daniel could “drive” a Speedway car all by himself. Jared still needed his mom as copilot. Here’s the family just when Daniel figured out I had just stopped my car.

The campground modified its pool since we last visited. There is no more “deep end”, and a very nice water slide had been added.

Kim liked the new enhancement, but found it tough to slide and hold on to her RayBans at the same time.

While Kim & the Boyz swam, I took our rented golf cart out on patrol to see other trailers at the campground, and what other vacationers were towing with. Safety wise, I am very comfortable with my big, heavy, ¾-ton Suburban towing my ~5000 pound Overlander coupled together with a Reese Dual-Cam Weight-distributing hitch. Hensley is, from what I read, the cat’s meow in hitches, but after research, I decided my Airstream was not heavy enough to benefit from this extremely high-dollar hitch. This pop-up trailer’s owner decided differently, and his tow vehicle is an F-150.

I saw another, similarly-sized pop-up being towed by a new, 8.1 liter Silverado with the Allison transmission. No Hensley hitch, though. My Safety Hat is off to these two families.

Another great thing about visiting the Magic Kingdom is that the characters hug the old guys as well as the kids

The only thing Fort Wilderness does not offer is maid service.

Bonus Brownie points if you can name the non-Disney DVD playing above.

We had Park Hopper passes for the week we spent at Disney, and thoroughly enjoyed repeating our favorite rides & attractions across the Disney complex. One attraction we had never visited was Disney’s Water Park. Somehow, though, we did not end up with a lot of pictures of it. But it was not because we did not enjoy the visit.

But all great vacations must eventually end, and the Mighty Burb was finally pointed toward the Chattahoochee KOA remotely located in the Florida Panhandle. It was raining when we got there, and Kim was kinda glum. Although she wasn’t complaining, I knew that between being tired, and missing her college alma mater play football (no cable at this KOA), she was just ready to get home. The rain kept the Boyz out of the pool, so they weren’t too happy either.

I ran up the Airstream’s digital-ready bow-tie antenna, and used my compass to point it towards civilization, and guess what I found?

All was now well with Kim. The Boyz then cheered up after seeing their mom happy. The rain eventually slacked up enough for Jared & me to grill hamburgers.

The next day saw us arriving safely back home. It was another great trip to Disney World. If you camp, and have never visited Fort Wilderness, I highly recommend planning a trip.