Here at Truck Camper Magazine, we bought our first truck camper from a private seller about two hours from our house. About three weeks prior we had bought a brand new 2005 Chevy Silverado 3500. It was a bare bones work truck with dual rear wheels, extended cab, two wheel drive, and the smallest gas engine available; a real payload champion. I guess we were the weight police, in training.
I remember the feeling driving home with that truck. We were actually going to do this. We were actually going to hit the road and go truck camping. We were both excited beyond measure. It was like a whole new world had opened up, and we couldn’t wait to explore it.
Steve Cilenti’s story brought us right back to that moment. The feeling of anticipation and excitement in Steve’s words is palpable and something most of us can probably relate to. Thank you for emailing us your story Steve. And congratulations on your new truck camper. We hope to hear about many truck camping adventures down the road.
Arctic Fox Anticipation
by Steve Cilenti
As I begin to write this story, I am in my brand new, never been used, my very own, 2012 Arctic Fox 990 camper. I picked it up on March 29th, from Thunder RV in La Grande, Oregon. But this is actually where the story of buying my new camper ended. The story actually began in Idaho in 2011.
Every year, a group of us trek to Idaho for a month to enjoy the high desert, fishing, sight seeing, and mule deer hunting.
Each of us brings our campers that we essentially use only for sleeping. Most days and evenings are spent around the campfire. Then we each retire to our respective campers as the evening wears on.
Each year I have admired the two Arctic Fox truck campers that were a part of our group. This past year I decided that I would like to replace my 1996 camper and get a few new features including dual batteries and a slide-out.
My decision was made for me when my daughter, Rebecca, sent me an email stating she was considering buying a camper to go on the F-250 truck that I had given to her a few years ago. As the saying goes, I made her an offer she could not refuse on my 1996 camper. Now I was definitely in the market for a new camper.
My 1996 camper had served me well in the mountains of Northern California and throughout Nevada, Oregon, and Idaho. I really enjoyed finding a place in among the trees and spending the weekend in solitude, hiking, and fishing in the mountain streams. I love to do weekend boondocking. I always brought along the boat for fishing in nearby lakes every chance I get.
The path to my new camper started with an email to Ray Melson, a member of our hunting group. I remembered Ray talking about a dealer he had worked with when he bought his Arctic Fox. I got the information from Ray but still looked online at various truck campers to see what was on the market. Throughout my research, I kept going back to the Arctic Fox.
In November 2011, I sent an email to Thunder RV in La Grande, Oregon inquiring about an Arctic Fox 990. Ray had given me Caleb’s name at the dealership. I told Caleb I was interested in the 990 and asked him about the available options. I also sent a couple of emails to Ray asking for his input about the options. Of course, I studied the Northwood Manufacturing website page (www.northwoodmfg.com) for every tiny detail.
For the next couple of months, I was consumed with reviewing and re-reviewing the options and considerations for my 990 to the point of weariness; not mine of course, just everybody else that I talked to.
In January 2012, I finally emailed Caleb and told him that I was ready to place my order. I gave him my list of camper options. My extras included thermal-pane windows, upgrading to group 31 batteries, air conditioning, solar panels, generator, and, of course, the new Fox Landing. I had read about the Fox landing in the December 16th 2011 issue of Truck Camper Magazine and was impressed.
With the mailing of a deposit check, and a confirmation call to Caleb to make sure the check arrived, I knew that I was going to get a new camper. I’ve had a couple of truck campers over the years but this would be my first factory new camper. Naturally, I checked my email every day to hear back from Caleb. It seemed longer, but a few days later Caleb sent me an email saying that the camper would be delivered to Thunder RV around March 20, 2012.
My camper was being built for me from the frame up. It wasn’t off the dealer lot. I knew that it would take a bit of time to start and complete the build. Now that I had a target delivery date, I emailed Caleb that I would anticipate arriving at Thunder RV on March 30, 2012 to take delivery. I picked that day because the courts would be closed that Friday and my office would be closed as well. Yes, I’m an attorney and retired law enforcement, but I’m still a nice guy.
Over the next couple of months, I continued re-read everything I could find about the Arctic Fox 990. From time to time, I would look up things such as external generators since I had ordered my camper without a mounted generator. I had put a lot of thought into this before I had placed my 990 order and I was confident of my decision to buy a pair of linked 2 KW Honda generators. These generators would produce more power than the factory 2.5KW generator and I would not be packing a built-in generator around as extra weight when I didn’t plan on using a generator. Although I had a built-in generator on the S&S, I rarely used it favoring my small 1KW Honda Generator. I always brought the Honda with me on my boondocking weekends and to Idaho.
Over the following weeks, I mostly just waited for the email from Caleb letting me know the camper had arrived at Thunder RV. I had already mapped out my travel route to La Grande. While I waited, I occupied my non-working time going back to the Northwood website a few more times to take a look at the 990 advertisements. I also watched a YouTube video on the new Arctic Fox Landing, and everything else I could find.
At long last, the email arrived from Caleb saying my camper had arrived. Up to this point, I hadn’t been anxious about the camper at all. Just doing my daily work and going on with life. But Caleb’s email changed that. Just knowing that my camper was sitting there waiting for me to arrive. I tried hard not to think about the camper every second of the day and night. The nights were the worst.
As the date of my departure approached, it became more difficult for me not to be distracted at the office and at home. On March 26th, it finally hit me with full force that the date was finally here. I didn’t sleep but 2 hours that night. I think I must have mentally re-run all of the videos I had seen and re-read all of the brochures through my mind that night. Fortunately, I was so tired on the 27th from the lack of sleep that I was able to sleep that night. When I woke up on the morning of the 28th, I was ready to go.
I had already brought the S&S to Rebecca, which I had mounted on her truck. Being a Dad, I had Rebecca’s truck safety checked so I would have comfort that Rebecca and my two granddaughters would be safe.
As I prepared for my trip, I packed a few things that I would bring with me such as a few towels, RV toilet paper, paper towels, sleeping bag, and other miscellaneous items. It was my plan to stay in the La Grande area for a day or so before heading back home. I had no plans of doing any cooking, so cooking utensils, food, and condiments wouldn’t be necessary.
I couldn’t leave first thing in the morning on the 28th because I had one court appearance and one office appointment that I had to get through first. By noon, I was through for the day. One trip to the bank to get a cashier’s check, a stop to get some air taken out of my truck tires, three-hundred pounds of sand bags for the back of the truck, and I was on the road to Oregon. Why the sand bags? Well, the weather was not being overly cooperative as it had snowed for the last couple of days. I didn’t want to drive over the Sierra’s with no weight in the back of my truck. I later donated the sand bags to Thunder RV.
As it turned out, the trip was uneventful. The Sierra roadways were completely clear with only a bit of snow. Then it was just a matter of how far I could get to minimize my drive on the 29th. I made it to Jordan Valley, Oregon just before 9:00 pm that night and found a motel room for the night. The only problem was that I was hungry and there were no restaurants open. I had to survive the night on a couple of microwaved burritos and a soda from a mini-market.
I woke up at 5:30 in the morning wide awake. I got up, ran through the shower, shaved, dressed, and headed out of the motel door. I saw no open restaurant in town so I kept driving. I think that it was Meridian, Idaho before I found a place to eat. A hearty breakfast of biscuits and gravy and a couple of eggs with lots nice hot coffee and I was ready to resume my trip. Only a couple of more hours to La Grande.
Finally I saw a sign which said La Grande. My cell phone map app had done a good job of getting me this far. The app isn’t as good as my Garmin GPS, but that was my mistake for not bringing the GPS with me for the trip. Before long I pulled into the parking lot of Thunder RV and my long wait was over. I was here!
I entered through the front door, took a quick look around, and saw no one. Then a young man approached me and said “You must be Steve. I’m Caleb”. Caleb had been in the shop wiping down my 990 and he brought me into the shop for a quick tour of my new camper. It was beautiful and all that I knew that it would be.
For the next few hours, we would complete the necessary paperwork, outfit my truck with new air bag controls in the cab, and go over all the features of the 990. I must admit that Caleb and I also spent a lot of time talking about hunting. He had some great stories of his hunts.
Later Dan, the owner, arrived and Caleb introduced me. Like Caleb, Dan was easy going and easy to talk to.
Caleb and I entered the shop as Wayne, the service manager, had completed the installation of my air bag controller. Wayne had also carefully leveled the camper and expertly attached the linear leveling bubbles exactly where I had requested. It was almost time to back the truck under the camper.
I mentioned to Dan that I was interested to see where the trailer hitch would be in relation to the camper so I could see how long of a hitch extension I would need. My current extension is 36 inches, too long for the 990. Dan told me that he had an over supply of hitch extensions and would make me a good deal. After checking the inventory, Dan told me his ‘special’ price and there was no way I could say no.
At last, the 990 was comfortably resting on my truck. Caleb and Wayne then began the process of adjusting the Torklift Fastgun tie-downs. Once everything was completed, I was ready for my first drive with my new camper.
I headed for Joseph, Oregon about an hour or so away. On the way there was strong wind and driving rain. I was not surprised that the wind pushed the truck and camper around some. Darkness was falling as I entered into Joseph and stopped for some dinner; a nice rib eye steak. The sun had set as I began my final drive to Wallowa Lake with the hope of finding a campground. I did find a campground and, dodging the rain, I registered and settled in for the night. It had been a long day.
The next morning I tried to see Wallowa Lake, but the weather was so bad it was nearly impossible. Not one photograph to share. So I returned to Thunder RV and then headed over to the Northwood plant not too far away in La Grande. I got a tour of the factory and I was impressed with the care and detail of the Arctic Fox construction. There were only three of us on the tour and we were right down on the factory floor. This was definitely a tour worth doing for those in the market for a new camper. I also learned that the front logo on my camper was actually a 2013 logo. Apparently Northwood ran out of the 2012 logos so they began to use the new logos early.
After the factory tour, I returned back to Thunder RV to say goodbye to my new friends Dan and Caleb. I promised to return in the future when I’m in the area, and I will.
Over the next two days I drove past Alkali Lake, where the wind was kicking up the salt, and then to Burns, Oregon where I spent the night. The next morning I drove through more high winds and horizontal snow to a KOA in Boomtown, Nevada, very close to a Cabellas.
The snow had stopped the following morning and melted from much of the camp ground. In the photo the new Arctic Fox shows through the morning’s dim light.
I then started my trek over the snow packed roads of the Sierra’s and home without incident. It’s been a long couple of months waiting for my new 990, but I know that I’ll be a happy camper, as the saying goes.
What about my old S&S? My daughter is really happy with it and excited that she and her family can experience what I have over the years of enjoying a truck camper. I’ve told her all about Truck Camper Magazine so that she can see all of the good times that can be had with truck camping. Rebecca is ready to do some boondocking as well since she loves the outdoors.
Thank you Gordon and Angela for a great e-magazine and the opportunity to share my story about the trials of purchasing a new camper.