Twenty-five TCM interviewees report on their favorite 2014 truck camping destinations and experiences. Pull-out your 2015 truck camper plans, and get ready to take notes.
A wise man from Iowa once told me that truck campers are just portable boxes with a place to sleep, eat, and use the bathroom. Some truck camper manufacturers keep the boxes utilitarian and simple, while other manufacturers make them incredibly complex and adorn them with every conceivable feature and luxury. Either way, they’re still just portable boxes with a place to sleep, eat, and use to the bathroom.
The wise man from Iowa was making a point about how he believed truck campers have become too complex, but I saw another ounce of wisdom in his message. If truck campers are essentially just portable boxes to sleep, eat, and use the bathroom, what is it that makes them so much fun? The answer can only be the people who use them and their experiences on the road.
It’s these folks and their truck camping stories that forge the heart and soul of Truck Camper Magazine. Our community, and what we do as truck campers to enrich our lives is what this magazine is all about. Yes, we debut our fair share of new truck campers here in TCM. That is, and will always be, a core function of this publication. That said, it’s the community that motivates our work.
Speaking of our awesome community, we once again reached out to our TCM interviewees to get caught up on everywhere they went and everything they did in 2014. What follows are some of their favorite destinations and photographs that are sure to get you thinking about next year’s truck camping plans.
For Part 1 of our 2014 Road Tracks & Flash Backs, we connect with…
Tracy and Steve Schuster
Zoom Zooming, Jeep Jeeping, Truck Camping Away
2012 Chevy Silverado
2012 Lance 992
We went to Moab, Utah a couple of times and a number of places in Colorado; Rabbit Valley near Grand Junction, Taylor Reservoir near Almont, and Summer Racing Camp in Palisades. We also sat in our new camper in our driveway and took it often to the Container Store to get everything just right for years of fun! Is it wrong to want to sleep in it in the driveway of your house because you love it so much? We loved all of the places we visited, but Taylor Reservoir was new to us and it was our first trip far from the grid in our new camper and with our new RZR. We drove to the top of the continental divide each day on a different road and the scenery was amazing!
The other amazing thing was the rain. The mountains of Colorado are famous for afternoon showers, but the rain each day came in downpours while we were there. What better way to test out a new camper than to go out in the RZR (no windows or windshield so you are as wet as the road) and return home to our warm, dry, roomy camper to enjoy an afternoon of rain “plinking” on the roof, and books or movies on the iPad. We’re so ready to go back just thinking about it!
The ability to camp anywhere we wanted (we did have to move the second day to get away from a group of loud people who arrived late the first night) was perfect and takes the stress of finding the right place to camp out of the equation. If we don’t like where we are at for some reason, it takes thirty minutes or less to get everything ready to drive away, unlike our pop-up truck camper which could take up to ninety minutes. Get to Taylor Reservoir by early afternoon on a weekday and the area is wide open for camping basically anywhere you’d like. I’d stay away from the campground unless you need power. The one nearest the trading post is extremely crowded and uninspiring. There is an RV campground further north of the reservoir, but I’m not sure what it has to offer. Be ready for rain, especially in any summer month. And know that the temperature stays cool as well.
There are many people who go there year after year so it definitely has a lot to offer the outdoor enthusiast. You can Jeep or ride ATVs/RZRs and they even rent them if you’d like to try it. Be careful; we tried a RZR once, and then sold our Jeep and bought a RZR after being serious Jeepers for over fifteen years. It takes a while to get there from the nearest town, but the scenery cannot be beat! On our first boondocking trip out, we went to Rabbit Valley for some mountain biking and RZR riding (they have a ton of trails!). We knew we wanted to be away from anyone so we headed down the dirt roads (following some RV camping signs) in search of a campsite we had seen on Google Earth.
Well, the road got narrower and narrower until it finally became an ATV trail. The campsite had filled in with water and was now a watering hole. The biggest problem was that, with a trailer in tow, we were not going to be able to turn around very easily (there was no where to back the trailer). We unhitched everything and got to work doing fifteen K-turns to get the truck and camper turned around. Never having been off-road in such a top-heavy rig it was scary enough, but seeing that the only way too get turned around was to get deliberately off-camber freaked me out (and I’ve watched as my husband drove our Jeep practically on its side with the passenger tire going over a five foot tall rock while the driver’s side was in a hole, so I’ve had my fair share of opportunities to get scared!). The rig got pretty tippy but we were at the point of no return. Obviously, we made it out and I didn’t have a heart attack so it all worked out. That, and we learned that it is always worth taking the RZR off the trailer and scouting for a campsite when off-road in new areas.
Having given up owning a camper for a year to save up for the perfect camper was the best move we made. That, and finding exactly what we wanted for retirement, heading out on a gloomy October day to see it again before buying something we could afford right now, and finding that it was our day to win the camper lottery as someone had just traded in an almost-not-used 992 (our dream camper) for a bigger one a few days before. We showed up right as it hit the lot. How can you say no to the perfect camper at a price you expected to pay for a placeholder camper? I love fate! And we love our truck camper and where it can take us!”
Tug Pug And Truck Camper
2007 Toyota Tundra
2012 Four Wheel Raven
This year I mostly went back to many of the usual places I mentioned in my Truck Camper Magazine interview. I went up to the Sacramento/San Joaquin Delta a few times, once in the spring and once in the fall. It tends to be very crowded in mid-summer. I lake camped at Woodward Reservoir and sailed my sailboat from the shore. I went down to Monterey during the summer, staying on my boat and using the camper as a support vehicle. I went up to Tomales Bay and the Point Reyes National Seashore in the Fall. I also went up to Lick Observatory to volunteer for a weekend and camp in my truck camper.
One of my favorite places for truck camping and sailing is Woodward Reservoir in Stanislaus County near Oakdale, California. It is a county park with campgrounds right on the shore of the lake. There are several boat launch ramps close to the campgrounds and small boats can be pulled up on shore right at your campsite. There are campsites with hook-ups as well as basic ones with no hook-ups. This year the water was a bit lower due to the California drought, but still very sail-able.
The campsites at Woodward Reservoir are first come, first serve, so it is good to get there on a Thursday or Friday before the weekend for the best campsites. Bring water-toys and/or boats to maximize the lakeside experience.
Dreams On the Oregon Trail
2005 Chevy Silverado
As usual, I traveled whenever I had a break from school. In the spring, I drove down to the Outer Banks in North Carolina. The National Park Campgrounds didn’t open until the next weekend, so I had to stay in one that was open, but not really. That night a near hurricane force wind hit. The wind and rain were so heavy that I was afraid pieces were going to be blown off. I got soaking wet unplugging and getting to the truck. I pulled up next to the building for some shelter from the wind. The rest of the week-long trip was fine except for a separated belt on a front tire!
In summer, I made a fast trip to Colorado and back, going across when it was actually comfortable temperatures. I explored a few more places in Iowa and Nebraska that I usually raced through due to the heat. I stopped at little Kalona Village in Iowa and at Stuhr Museum in Nebraska on the Fourth of July. I love to explore. I was totally delighted with the Kalona Museum, seeing the town, the Amish carriages going by, the wonderful quilt display, and the delightful ladies working there. The Stuhr museum in Nebraska was celebrating Independence Day. I’ve discovered the country parks of Iowa and other states.
For the second half of summer, after I returned from an awesome trip to Kenya (during which I was without my beloved truck camper). I went up Ontario’s Bruce Peninsula and took the ferry over to Manitoulin Island in Georgian Bay. I’d spent several wonderful summers sailing out of a marina there with a friend who has since passed away. I went down memory lane there visiting his marina and other favorite sites. My greatest excitement is finding new places, talking with people in different areas, seeing the beauty of our country and Canada, and exploring our history.
The free moments ensconced in my traveling home were spent editing my latest book about the dogs I’ve had. I was amazed how many of those stories involved traveling and going all over with my mom, our dogs, and our truck camper.”
Bill and Deane Uthman
Rough Roads to Boondock Fox
2011 Ford F350
2003 Arctic Fox 1080
Our favorite places this year were Kashua-Tent Rocks National Monument in New Mexico and Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument in Arizona.
Tent Rocks National Monument has unique rock structures through which there is a slot canyon trail leading to a scenic overlook. Although there is no campground, the nearby Cochiti Reservoir Recreation Area, administered by the Army Corps of Engineers, has a large campground with paved sites, shelters, water, an RV dump, and a boat launch. We hiked to the overlook and took photographs.
Tent Rocks National Monument does not permit pets. Unload your truck camper at Cochiti Reservoir campground and leave your pet in the camper. Then go explore the scenery at Tent Rocks. You will be impressed. The adventure requires one-half day and a four-mile drive back to the Cochiti campground.
Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument is located in a remote, pristine part of southern Arizona in the heart of the Sonoran Desert. The monument offers the 19-mile long Ajo Mountain Drive through dense concentrations of organ pipe and saguaro cactus. The monument has a large, attractive campground near the main road and visitor center. Scenic campground sites are semi-isolated from adjacent campsites with a variety of cacti and other native desert flora. We drove the Ajo Mountain Drive and took photographs.
Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument is more enjoyable in the spring and later in the fall when the sun and heat are less intense. Although we had no problems while visiting, be aware that this area is a travel corridor for drug smugglers and illegal aliens. However, the area is heavily patrolled by the U.S. Border Patrol.
Make sure your tires are in good condition if you plan to drive the scenic Ajo Mountain Drive. It is a one-way unpaved gravel/dirt road. We completed the drive without any problem carrying a large truck camper, but it might be easier by unloading the camper at the campground before attempting the drive.
We prefer boondock camping and can easily find places to park for the night but, while touring some mid-western states, we discovered that boondocking is more difficult near the more populated areas. Thus, we resorted to state forest campgrounds (where we could find them), state forests, and state parks. We also parked at fairgrounds, church and medical center parking lots, small-town municipal parks, and waysides. If attempting to boondock, avoid densely populated larger metropolitan areas and search for out-of-the-way quieter places where there are fewer people, less traffic, and less late-evening disturbances.
Charles and Jeannie Coushaine
Truck Campers Can Fly
2001 Ford F350
2012 Chalet DS116RB
We continued our 2013 to 2015 USA Retirement Tour around the country. Starting in early March (when the cold subsided) we left Florida and headed to New Orleans and Mardis Gras.
We stayed for five days and caught over 100 pounds of beads thrown off of the spectacular parade floats! From there we headed west through Texas stopping in Houston for its Famous Rodeo, then to San Antonio and its famous River Walk, and finally to Lukenbach for it famous guitar picking.
We then traveled through New Mexico stopping at Carlsbad Cavern and White Sands National Park. White Sands was spectacular and gave the exact feeling as driving through a snow storm with huge piles of snow all around – even though they were white sand piles!
We then stopped at Circus Circus on the Las Vegas strip for a week and visited all the attractions there, including a visit to where they film Pawn Stars and Rick’s Restorations.
Our next scenic venture was up the California coast along the Highway Pacific Coast highway stopping in Los Angeles, Big Sur, Ventura Beach, Pismo Beach, and ending in Yosemite National Park. Leaving California we went through Oregon and climbed Beacon Rock on the Colombia River. We then spent a week in Portland, Seattle, and ventured up into Canada and Vancouver. We then headed north to Hazelton, British Columbia to meet our Alaska RV tour that lasted for about two months.
The most favorite place we visited was Alaska. Starting in Hazelton, we traveled with the Alaska RV tour through the Yukon and into Alaska. In Alaska we visited Anchorage, Tok, Chicken, Dawson Creek, Homer, Kenai, Skagway, Fairbanks, Hyder, Denali, Juneau, and Valdez. This tour, which gathered twenty RVs together, was fully guided and narrated along the way with walkie-talkies. They also had a full-time mechanic come to check your rig and make any necessary repairs. If you plan on going to Alaska with your rig, I highly recommend you take a caravan since the roads are so rough, and so remote, and without cell phone reception. We used Alaska RV Tours. Tell them Charlie sent you!
Some of the most fun things we did were going to Bryce Canyon; hiking amongst some of the most breathtaking scenery from out of this world. We also enjoyed Mardis Gras; staying at the French Quarter RV resort and watching the huge parades and catching over 100 pounds of beads which we sent to our friends. Halibut Fishing in Homer, Alaska was fun. We went on a deep sea fishing trip and caught our limit of very tasty Halibut. We have been on the road of over fourteen months now, and have traveled about 30,000 miles. We have camped in many campgrounds, and have boondocked in many Walmarts. Much to the surprise of our friends, we are still happily married and having fun in our truck camper!
Nancy and Eric Williams
Roadmaster InvisiBrake: Explained, Installed, and Tested
2002 Ford F-350
2003 Alaskan 8 foot extended cabover
We went to several baseball tournaments with the truck and camper around Washington state (keeps hotel costs down), as well as grouse hunting at Blewett Pass in Washington, and duck hunting in Okanogan, Washington.
As always, duck camp, on the Colville Indian Reservation outside of Okanogan, Washington, remains the favorite place. Cool, crisp October mornings, bright sunshine days, and chilly nights.
Our duck camp is on forty-two acres of private property but, if you are in the area, give us a shout! Just make sure you have a four-wheel drive truck as it’s pretty muddy getting in and out, with lots of hills too.
We tend to go to the same places each year. It’s hard adding new destinations to the calendar when we have such a tight schedule with our son’s select baseball tournament. But it’s always good to go grouse hunting at Blewett Pass and duck hunting on the Colville.
Stu and Karla Dekkenga
Ziplines, Grizzlies, and Glacier
2008 Chevy 2500HD
2011 Northstar TC650
Our big trip this year was a two week circuit from Iowa, through Colorado, Utah, back to Colorado, and home again. Our first real stop was in Boulder for our sons beautiful outdoor wedding in the mountains. We would be hard-pressed to pick one favorite place. The Moab area was beautiful and fun (mountain biking and zip-lining), but I’d say we are more drawn to the mountains (hiking, mountain biking, and horseback riding). The most beautiful drive was probably from Durango through Ouray on the Million Dollar Highway.
We would highly recommend Raven’s Rim Zipline Adventures in Moab. It’s a great course with a thrilling off-road rock climber vehicle to get to the course, and great customer service!
Rapp Corrals just north of Durango was also great. The horses were well cared for, and the guide and owner very personable and friendly. Stu’s mount, Bear, was a movie celebrity. He was used in the new Johnny Depp make of The Lone Ranger! We’d have to say that hiking our first 14-er was probably the most unique experience we had this year. We camped at Fourmile Campground inside of the Pike National Forest just outside of Fairplay, Colorado. We were the only ones camping, so were able to use our external shower for the first time. Worked great! My (Karla’s) brother, Kurt, met is un the morning and we hiked up Mt. Sherman. It was much harder than we anticipated due to the thin air in the higher altitude, but me made it.
We like to stop in Arthur, Nebraska, on our way to and from Colorado. It’s definitely off the beaten path and off the interstate. Arthur is the only town in the entire county, and is a very charming and quaint place. They have a restaurant/bar called the Bunkhouse that serves delicious hamburgers. We put on 2,654 miles, and are blessed to say that we did not have any mechanical problems! We stayed in a variety of places from RV parks to backwoods isolation. We much prefer the backwoods locations!
Eagle Cap to the Track
2011 Ram 5500
2010 Eagle Cap 1160
This fall we have been blessed with more work than we can say grace over. I had several nice camper trips lined up, but we just couldn’t take the time to take them.
We have been to a couple of state parks with the family and a track weekend in Memphis. Maybe with all this extra work, I can buy enough solar panels to run Gordon’s arc welder!
Russ and Donna Miller
Take Two Hits The Road
2007 Dodge Ram 3500
2011 Lance 1191
We spent two weeks in February in Florida. We needed a way to bring our music equipment with us, so we bought a 2010 Honda Element to pull behind our camper. In 2014, we have continued our Take Two Variety Band travels.
We first headed to West Palm Beach where we stayed at the KOA Safari Campground for several days. While there, we played our first gig at a retirement complex beside the PGA National.
Our next stop was to Fort Myers, where we stayed at our friend’s home and also played our second gig at another retirement complex. From there, we headed north to Bradenton Beach and parked at our friend’s condo in a retirement community. We played a gig for the community get-together. Our last gig was in Frostproof at another retirement complex, where more of our great friends live. Our truck camper also made two trips to Atlantic Beach, North Carolina, which is one of our favorite places. The next beach trip was to Virginia Beach, another favorite spot due to the music there on the beach front every evening. There we stayed at another KOA. Our second trip back from Virginia Beach brought us to Captain George’s in Williamsburg – quite the buffet!
August found us in Wheeling, West Virginia, where we were booked for two gigs. From Wheeling, we traveled to Akron, Ohio, to visit with family. Once again, equipment was set up to entertain cousins and their neighbors. What a blast!
The September trip took us to Rochester, New York, to hear our good friend play some jazz on the piano and then east to Vermont to view the autumn leaves from the gondola ride of Mount Stowe. Our adventure to Florida was probably our most favorite because it was our first musical tour of the state. Everyone enjoyed our music and asked us back. So, we’re headed back to the warm sunshine again in February with music equipment in tow. If you are a northerner, choose one of the winter months to escape the snow and the cold. For us, being able to take our music on the road in Florida is the best!
Jack and Joann Purdy
Thirty Five Years, One Truck, One Camper
1969 Ford F-250 Camper Special
1970 Roll-A-Long Sportster 9.5
We took one trip this year to the Rand Mining District of California and boondocked in the area. The old mining towns of Randsburg and Johannesburg are located there along Route 395 (the Inland Passage Route of California). Randsburg has an old mining museum with information and artifacts dating back to the turn of the century. Other places of interest in the area are the Trona Pinnacles National Natural Landmark and Red Rock Canyon State Park.
The Pinnacles is BLM land and you can camp there free. There are no services, and we have boondocked there. It is awesome, especially at sunrise and sunset. Red Rock Canyon State Park is cool at sunrise. You drive around, find a site you like, and then go to the Ranger station and pay. The sites in the back below the cliffs are the best.
I spent much of the summer on camper and truck projects, installing frame mounted tie-downs, and replacing my original obsolete hydraulic jacks. The front tie-downs are Torklift adjustable front tie-downs. For the rear, I fabricated tie-downs that would work with my old truck frame and step bumper. For turnbuckles, I used Torklift’s Original Basic Springload Kit.
My old original hydraulic jacks were in need of repair and I wanted to up-grade to Rieco-Titans. I located a used set and reconditioned them. They work better than my original ones ever did. Deb Klir, from Rieco-Titan’s Customer Service, even sent me their decals to top them off.
From Emergency To Adventure
Dodge Ram 3500
2014 Arctic Fox 990
In April, we caravanned to the Princess Craft Rally in Kerrville, Texas with our friends, John and Phyliss Patterson. We camped at Red Rock Canyon in Oklahoma and Possom Kingdom in Texas on the way down.
One of the highlights of the Rally was meeting and chatting with Angela and Gordon from Truck Camper Magazine. We also drove a special route through the countryside to see all the wild flowers in bloom, attended the events put on by Princes Craft in the club house, and enjoyed the pot lucks with all our friends. After the Rally, we traveled to Galveston, ate seafood, and collected shells on the beach before heading home via the Piney Woods of East Texas.
Shortly after arriving home, I sold our Lance 920 and ordered a new 2015 Arctic Fox 990.
We picked up the Arctic Fox in Maple Grove, Minnesota and headed back home. A couple days later we headed back up to Iowa to Doug and Tammie Baughman’s farm and met two other couples there before heading to the Midwest Camper Rally in Amana, Iowa.
Doug gave us a tour of the farm buildings and we also enjoyed a wonderful dinner that included fresh corn on the cob. I plugged my camper into an outlet by the diesel tanks, Doug and JoAnn plugged-in by the machine shed, and Gus and Marcie plugged-in by the grain bin. The next day we all caravanned to Amana. We had a great time there meeting folks from last year and also some new folks.
We chartered a bus from Amana to the Northstar Factory for a tour. We broke up into small groups for the tour and then feasted on a fried chicken lunch graciously provided by Northstar.
My wife and I left one day early to head to a family reunion at my cousin’s home at the Lake of the Ozarks. We had a great time with all the cousins, their kids, and grandkids. Nothing like visiting and talking old times with your family and still being at home in the truck camper.
The next trip was to Yellowstone with my stepson. We stopped at Thermopolis to see the hot springs on the way to Cody. We camped at Buffalo Bill State Park before entering Yellowstone. We had a great view of the water from our campsite.
The Upper and Lower Falls in Yellowstone were very picturesque. I wish I had a home with that view. At one hot spring we saw a beautiful yellow color made by bacteria and certain minerals. The bacteria are called Thermophiles, because they can live in hot water.
On the first night, the Mammoth Springs campground was full so we went to a campground two miles north of Gardner, Montana where we found parking by the horse corrals. There was a newbie truck camper couple parked next to us. I answered a lot of his questions and told him about Truck Camper Magazine.
One night at a Yellowstone campground a guy next to us loaned us some firewood and we enjoyed sitting by the campfire. We saw lots of elk and bison, and were warned by the rangers to keep a safe distance. After leaving Yellowstone, we stopped at Sinks Canyon near Landers, Wyoming. We crossed over a stream on a swinging bridge to walk a trail through the woods on the side of the mountain. We saw a variety of different vegetation that seemed dependent on the slope of land. Leaving the Landers area, we made our way back home to Kansas.
It has been a great year traveling in the camper. The Mid-West Campers have a Christmas Rally in Branson December 3rd through 7th. This will be a test of the cold weather capability of our Fox.
How To Run A Truck Camper Rally
2002 Ford F350
2014 Lance 1172
It all started in 1979 when Cathie and I decided to try this Walt Disney World thing in Florida. Well, twenty plus trips later to the Mouse House, we now consider ourselves veterans of Walt Disney World. In January of 2014 we joined fourteen other North-East Truck Camping Jamboree campers at the Fort Wilderness Campground in Walt Disney World for twelve days of fun. Being with a group was a blast and I hope to do it again.
If you are going to Walt Disney World in Florida, just email me and I can share many tips that I have learned over the years. Please, please, please do not give your children or grandchildren a surprise trip to Walt Disney World over the Christmas/New year holidays. It is brutally packed with other vacationers and you will not enjoy the experience. I sold my beloved Lance 1121 to a couple in Maine and pulled the trigger on a 2014 Lance 1172. If you were to ask me in March or April if I was buying a new truck camper, I would have shouted out, “Heck no!”.
I have been very busy doing many modifications to the Lance 1172. Just check out the pictures. In the spring of 2015, I plan to add 280 watts of solar panels, a pure sign wave 2000 watt inverter with dedicated plugs, and a few goodies I want to keep under wraps at this time.
Matthew, Jennifer, Rhys, and Ryker Bernier
Hallmark Mountain High
2004 Ford F250
2008 Hallmark Milner
We made our yearly journey to Ouray, Colorado this year. Actually, this year we made it down three times. We went Memorial Day weekend for four days, a ten day trip in August and, as we always do, an anniversary Labor Day weekend trip. We went four-wheeling in the Land Cruiser each time and made some new friends that where hosts at the Ampitheater Campground.
Ouray was the place to be. Great friends and good wheeling up on the Alpine Loop! Make sure to get up on the Alpine Loop for the beautiful back country and down to the hot springs. It’s an amazing quaint little town. It’s never a problem making new friends and cementing long lasting relationships. We will make it down again next year to do the same. A family that camps together stays together!
Ramblin’ Ralph’s RV Roamings
2006 GMC 2500HD
2001 Lance 845
I did my usual six-months and about 9,000 miles of travel all over the United States West, eight states in total. I traveled up the Oregon and Washington coast to stay cooler, and then traveled into British Columbia for a couple of weeks. From there I went down into Montana for my annual two week visit with my cousin. I left after Labor Day and headed to meet a friend at a bluegrass festival (my third of my trip) in Flagstaff, Arizona. From there I backtracked to the Moab, Utah area to Arches and Canyon Lands National Parks. I wrapped things up by heading nearly due West through Utah and Nevada to see my kids in the San Francisco area. As usual, I stayed mostly in USFS campgrounds, except for when in British Columbia, of course.
It’s hard to pick a favorite place from this year, but I really liked the Hoh Rain Forest in Olympic National Park in Washington. There’s a nice campground there and some very interesting hiking trails through the mossy trees and heavy vegetation. I also visited Bryce Canyon National Park for the second time. What colorful scenery!
This was my ninth year of six months of travel in my truck camper. I now have almost 90,000 miles on my camper and 129,000 miles on my truck. I frequently think about how generally trouble free things have gone during all those miles; hope Murphy isn’t listening. I keep a detailed website for my travels with plenty of pictures at www.RamblinRalph.com and have attracted a few faithful followers.
Keith and Nancy Rivers
Discovering Road Magic
2004 Ford F250
2012 Northern Lite, 9’6″ Queen Special Edition
In January, we spent a month going to Florida traveling to Saint Augustine, the Everglades, Siesta Key, and Fort Wilderness at Disney for the North-East Truck Camping Jamboree. In August, we spent two weeks in New Brunswick, Canada at the Bay of Fundy, Kouchibouguac National Park, and Fredrickton.
In September, we went for a long weekend in northern Maine at Jo-Mary Lake, trying to see the northern lights. October and November we spent a month in Orlando, Florida, the Great Smoky Mountains, Tennessee, and the Shenandoahs in Virginia.
Who can possibly choose a favorite place? In Florida, it was awesome to bike fifteen miles at Shark Valley in Everglades National Park, alongside hundreds of apathetic alligators. Seeing all the other truck campers, and meeting new ones at Disney was so much fun.
In New Brunswick, more road magic happened when we stumbled on a scallop festival, and then a big Scottish games festival in Fredrickton. In the fall, we had a family get-together at my brother’s condo to say goodbye to Mom who died in May. It was fun to see our rig pulled up to the fancy condos.
In the Smokies we got surprised by a big snowstorm, opted to stay put, and were rewarded by a quiet walk in the snow through Cades Cove, usually packed with bumper to bumper traffic.
My job in the Shenandoahs was to deliver some ashes of my parents to one of their favorite places. Emotional, but a good thing. And Luray Caverns was the most amazing caverns I have ever seen!
Our advice is to ask locals about their favorite places and read those ad riddled tourist booklets. And listen to your spouse when he/she tells you to bring the generator.
Our best experience was the quiet walk in the snow for four miles in Cades Cove, Great Smoky Mountains National Park. As many tenters and RV rigs were lining up to be escorted down the mountain (as the park roads were closed due to the snow storm), we walked over the roads (and downed trees) in the beauty of a fall snow. The horses in the pasture were enjoying the day off, the sights were gorgeous, and the quiet was very unusual. This loop road is the most popular place in the park. When we drove it two days prior, it was very slow and crowded. Truly more road magic!
Even if you just have a weekend, or a week, or a month, just get out there. Local sights can be the fun things you overlook.
Sally Stomberg’s Pastime Passion
2006 Ford F-550
2006 Lance 1191
George and I kicked off our camping season Memorial Day weekend by driving a whole eight miles to Winthrop, Washington. Once again, our Lance camper was the base unit for the Methow Valley Snowmobile Association’s concession stand at the Memorial Day Rodeo. We spent two nights camping out under the stars with the cowboys and cowgirls whooping it up late into the night, and the sounds of bulls bellowing at 4:00 am. It is never a dull time at the rodeo.
At the end of June, we took a much longer trip over to Banks Lake near Grand Coulee to attend the Washington State Truck Camper Rally. We had a terrific time there meeting up with fellow truck campers. The first highlight of the weekend was the downpour during Adventurer’s Taste of Yakima Valley hour, which resulted in jamming a gazillion people under their E-Z up canopy and in their truck camper. The second highlight was the six-hour golf game with a few of our fellow truck campers. Good thing there weren’t many golfers out that day. Then again, the highlight could have been the dog chase to recapture Bowie, the fastest dog in the West!
In July, we were in smack dab in the middle of Washington State’s largest wildfire. While we were fortunate to have escaped the unbelievable damage the fires wrought on our community and valley, there were a few days where it was a nerve-wracking experience. We were under a Level 2 evacuation notice, meaning be prepared to leave.
We had the truck camper and cargo trailer loaded and ready to go if the evacuation level was raised. We were without power and phone service for over a week due to fires burning our electrical transmission and phone lines. We had generators to keep us powered up, but the camper came in handy for hot showers.
It was a challenging time for our community, and there was a tremendous amount of loss to property and animals but, thankfully, only one fatality. It was an experience I do not wish to repeat any time soon.
For Labor Day, we traveled to Schweitzer Mountain Resort outside of Sandpoint, Idaho and camped for three days in their parking lot. We were there for Fall Fest 2014 and definitely will be going back next year. We definitely will not be taking the chair lift up to the top of the mountain, however. The lift broke while we were up there and our group had to be driven down off the mountain by the resort. The trip to Schweitzer was by far my favorite place we went this year. After leaving the mountain, we spent a couple of days in Deer Park, Washington getting in a round of golf and just relaxing.
Our final trip of the year was the Fall Colors Caravan across the North Cascade Highway in Washington state. We filled in as hosts this year. It is a little bit of work hosting a rally, but the rewards are well worth it! Every year we always have a good time at Fall Colors.
We are already looking forward to the Wine Tour Rally next Spring in Prosser, Washington, and then the big NATCOA rally in Colorado Springs. Of course there will be the 10th Annual Fall Colors Caravan in October. Is it 2015 yet?
Doris and Mark Bluth
Work Camping In a Truck Camper
2013 Ford F550
2012 Northern Lite 10-2RR Dry Bath
We began in April and ended in October at Fort Whaley Campground in Whaleyville, Maryland, ten miles from Ocean City, Maryland. In October the campground decorated for Halloween with trick-or-treating on Saturday. Mid-April through mid-June we were camp hosts for the Corps of Engineers (COE) at Outflow Campground, Confluence, Pennsylvania, a quaint town in the Laurel Highlands of Southwestern, Pennsylvania situated on a 385 mile bike trail running from Pittsburgh to Washington DC.
Next was a one day stop at Bulltown campground in central West Virginia. It’s a COE facility with 300+ campsites. However, there is no internet or phone within the facility. It’s located on Burnsville Lake, an extensive day-use facility. The next three months were spent in Pella, Iowa at Lake Red Rock, a COE facility comprised of five campgrounds situated on the largest lake in Iowa. We worked in a fee booth at Whitebreast Campground.
The last five days in September we spent at Castaways Resort in Berlin, Maryland attending the Bluegrass By the Bay music festival as we have done the past four years. Our favorite destination had to be Pella, Iowa. It’s a predominantly Dutch town with an operating Dutch windmill with the nicest, most polite people. We were able to attend the Midwest Truck Camper Rally at Amana, take a day trip to the Northstar factory at Cedar Falls, enjoy a day trip to the Winnebago factory in Forest City, Iowa, attend the Iowa State Fair in Des Moines, go to the National Sprint Car races in Knoxville, and so many other wonderful events.
If you visit Pella, plan to spend at least a week and bring a bike as there is a twenty-five mile paved bike trail. From three of the campgrounds, you can actually bike into Pella. If you can, tow a boat as the fishing is excellent. We do not fish, but know people who have caught 100 fish per day, either on the Des Moines River or Lake Red Rock.
One of the most impressive parts of this year was seeing the tremendous water pressure created when the Corps of Engineers opened the sluice gate at the Outflow Campground dam into the Youghiogheny River in Pennsylvania. The gate was kept open for a week due to all the rainfall in the Allegheny Mountains. The amount of water being discharged was breathtaking.
We had a wonderful six months of camping in 2014 with no issues of any urgency. This was our third season of living six months in a truck camper and we’re looking forward to next year. We begin April 5th.
Equine Truck Camping in California
2011 Ford F350
2010 Lance 850
This year we traveled to Point Reyes National Seashore, Humboldt State Redwoods Park, Wilder Ranch State Park and Santa Cruz Horsemen’s (Santa Cruz, Woodside Horse Park, Sequoia Arena), Oakland Hills, and Stone Cellar near Lake Tahoe. Humboldt Redwoods State Park at the Cuneo Creek Horse Camp is our favorite. We love the gorgeous campground, the setting, the trails, everything. It’s a horse campers’ dream campground.
We dry camp, but they have running potable water, horse corrals, plus a real bathroom so we don’t have to keep refilling and emptying our tanks. Be warned there are bears so keep any attractive food items in the bear boxes. We just love our cozy truck camper and can’t believe we’re sleeping in our truck bed when we’re in there.
Retire Young and Have Fun
2003 Chevrolet 2500
I left the third week of April to go volunteer two months at the Gates of Lodore in Dinosaur National Monument. Then I drove to Olympic National Park where I spent three months before driving back to Indiana by way of Northern Wisconsin. I only go to favorite places as I have been doing this type of traveling since 1990. I was able to do well this year bartering for Elk and Halibut. Since I barter with my home brew, a lot happens over a few brewskis. Usually the six-pack is demolished on site.
Truck Camping the Alaskan Wilderness
2006 Ford F-350
2008 Okanagan UDB 106
We had the wettest summer on record here in Fairbanks this year; and they’ve been keeping records since 1915.
Alongside the Richardson Highway just south of Delta Junction is a hill called Donnelly Dome. For those of us who have driven by it over and over, it stands as a challenge to be climbed someday. I first saw it in 1962 and, finally, this summer Margaret and I climbed it.
The pictures show us camped near the bottom of it, standing on top, and our camper, the little white spot from the top. The cow moose face was taken through the dinette window in our camper and the cow and the calf were taken out the back door. The caribou picture was taken while we were ATVing nearby.
The hiking and sheep pictures were in the White Mountain National Recreation Area on the Steese Highway about 60 miles from Fairbanks. We camp at Nome Creek, an old mining area, and ride our ATVs to where we go hiking in the mountains.
The other photos are from trips down the Parks Highway to the Anchorage area and then return via the Glen and Richardson Highway. The picture of the Alaska Veterans Memorial show the statue of the Alaska Eskimo Scouts from World War Two.
The picture of gassing up the sleds was this past April on the Richardson Highway.
The Adventures of Barbara Hartman
2005 GMC 2500
2006 Travel Lite 890SBRX
I left New York early in May towing a lightweight trailer with a kayak, a bike, a scooter, and a cargo box. On the three-week trip west, I stopped to visit family and friends in Ohio and Colorado, traveled some new routes, and made first time visits to Great Basin National Park and Lava Beds National Monument.
I arrived at Diamond Lake for Memorial Weekend to find out the opening of my campground would be delayed seven to ten days. I left the trailer there and headed to Redwoods National Park and then the southern Oregon Coast. I only made it thirty miles into Crater Lake National Park when, at Discovery Point, the truck would not start. I got towed sixty miles to Klamath and was fortunate to get it fixed and back on the road by noon the next day.
During my ten weeks at Diamond Lake, I enjoyed kayaking on the lake, hiking the two mountains on either side of the lake, biking, and scootering with my two sled dogs on the eleven-mile bike trail around the lake.
The nearest town and grocery being at least sixty miles in three different directions meant ample opportunity to explore the spectacular Cascades. The Rouge and Umpqua Rivers, the mountains and volcanic sites north toward Bend, and my favorite Crater Lake were all visited multiple times. There were lots of breweries, wineries, and creameries to stop and sample along the way. This area is now on my top ten list of most scenic areas of the lower forty-eight. I have traveled to most areas of the United States and had always just passed through this area. Never again. I’ll be back to spend more time exploring this area.
The trip home meant first heading west to the coast then north to Mount Saint Helens and Mount Rainier before turning east and a new route home.
It was a great three-month adventure and the first road trip for my two sled dog pups. Being a campground host was a great experience and I hope I will have the opportunity to do it again soon.
Truck Camper On A Gooseneck
2011 Dodge Ram 2500
2012 Travel Lite 890RX
Since the TCM article ran in June, we have been to Barnwell Mountian in Gilmer, Texas a few times, Arbuckle Off-Road Park in Troy, Oklahoma, Bridgeport OHV Park in Bridgeport, Texas, and Hot Springs Off-Road Park in Hot Springs, Arkansas.
My favorite would be Off-Road Park in Hot Springs, Arkansas. We were up there the first week of November. The leaves were changing and it was absolutely beautiful. We did take the Jeep and do a little rock crawling. Hot Spring OHV Park has some of the most exciting trails around. I had some work done to the Jeep at CK Customs in Ennis, Texas and just had to see how it preformed. It was flawless. Now if I can talk Brenda into letting me get bigger tires.
Since last time we talked, Brenda and I thought we were missing something. And we were. We got a puppy that goes everywhere with us. Abby is the newest little addition to our family. She is now five months old and into everything. She has turned into the Little Jeeper. I hook-up the camper and load the Jeep and she’s ready. Anytime we go, she ready.
If this past summer is any indication of what’s to come, we’ll be doing this for many years.
Right Fit For A Phoenix
2007 Toyota Tacoma
Phoenix Custom Camper
Our big trip this year was a three week, 4,000 mile loop, from our home in Tucson, Arizona, to Wyoming, Montana, and South Dakota.
There were many highlights on this trip. The most scenic part was the road from Cody, Wyoming, to Red Lodge, Montana, across Beartooth Pass. This 135 mile route can be driven in less than four hours, but you could spend much longer exploring the area. There are plenty of organized and remote campgrounds and miles of four-wheel drive gravel roads. Journalist Charles Kuralt once called this “the most beautiful drive in America”, and that description seems accurate to me.
After this high-mountain drive, we visited the Little Bighorn Battlefield, several restored ghost towns, the Bighorn Mountains, restored Fort Laramie, the Black Hills of South Dakota, and Buffalo, Wyoming. Buffalo is the home of Longmire author Craig Johnson and the historic Occidental Hotel. It was one of our best trips ever, and we learned a lot of Western history, especially at the Buffalo Bill Museum in Cody. I am not sure how we will top this trip next year, but I’m working on it.
Our map route can be viewed at: www.scribblemaps.com/maps/view/Wyoming_Trip/TGGtv3MHDM, and the map (+) and (-) symbols can be used to zoom in and out for details.
Dick and Karen Parsons
Putting Together a Flatbed Truck Camper
Chevy 3500 flatbed
Northstar American Hero
We had a very busy year attending jamborees and rallies in Virginia, Connecticut, Iowa, Pennsylvania, and New Hampshire. Our most exciting trip was to the Mid-West Truck Camper Rally in Iowa. The rally included a tour of the Northstar factory. We were able to meet up again with Northstar’s President, Rex Willett, who was instrumental in putting together our Northstar American Hero flatbed camper with our Chevy Silverado flatbed truck. Rex and his staff gave a very interesting and informative tour as well as providing a fabulous lunch.
After leaving Iowa, we proceeded north through Minnesota along the north shore of Lake Superior and crossing into Ontario, Canada. By attending the many rallies and jamborees in a number of different states, we were able to make many new acquaintances. Also, through the seminars and talking with other campers at these gatherings, we have learned so much. We are looking forward to the 2015 camping season.