Cold Camping

Getting ready for Trick-or-treat!

Michael used to love winter. He loved the soup, the sweaters, the snow... all of it. As it turns out what he really loved was the idea of coming home to see his family. As we spend more and more time away from the cold, we realize that we don't really miss it. Yes, it is nice to take the kids sledding once a year. That is what ski resorts are for. Now that we have the Airstream, we have shifted our goal : beaches! Warm, sunny beaches. 

For now, we will have to put that on hold. It is time for us to head North for a while. Our hope is to go fast and work hard and get back home for some time off around Thanksgiving and Christmas. Possibly we could miss the snow and cold...not so much. As we checked the weather forecast along our route, we began to see temperatures as cold as 18 degrees! We loaded the Airstream with sweaters and winter coats and hoped for the best. 

Our first stop was outside of Chicago. We stayed with a lovely couple who had purchased and remodeled an Airstream almost exactly the same time as us. We shared our remodel stories and took some time to go to the local park with the kids while Michael spent most of his weekend playing music. 

From then we went to Iowa, where we ran into freezing weather. Our Airstream has a gas furnace and and electric heater, but the trouble that we ran into was that all of the campgrounds shut down for the winter. I flipped through all the parks in my camping app, only to find "Apr 15-Oct 15" or "closed Oct 15".  Usually, when it comes to winter and camping, people choose one of two things. One - they winterize the RV by putting antifreeze in the water lines and pack it away for the winter. Two - they head south where the temperatures are above freezing. (There may also be a small third group of rouge RVers who embrace the wilderness and hide in the woods with their catalytic heaters and go ice fishing.)  We fit in none of those categories. 

Towing in Iowa.

We drove until midnight, stopping just for a bit of sleep, before continuing on to Wisconsin. I knew their state parks at least left the electricity on, had a well for water, and some outhouses (the glamour of it all). The trouble with this plan was that when we pulled off to sleep, our Airstream was about 38 degrees inside. Since we did not have electric hook-ups, we could only use the gas furnace - which I am pretty sure is the original one from 1984. It ran all night. We wrapped the kids in fleece,  tossed, turned and woke up early. 

 When we arrived in Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin, I had much of the same trouble. We did manage to find one legit campground that we still open. They allowed the high school to host their haunted house at the campground, so they kept open until October 27th! Score! This was the last weekend they were open, but that was enough for us! We were excited and settled in. We would have Thursday, Friday, and Saturday before Michael was due at the parish.  Our plans were to get some work done, listen to the Cardinals play in the World Series, and relax. 

The first thing that ruined that plan was the fact that the Wi-Fi was down. Normally we would revert to our cell phones for e-mail and such. Michael even has the MLB app so he can listen to the game. Unfortunately, no cell service. At least we could listen to the game on the radio... except that no local station was playing it. We settled for watching a DVD and had to wait until the next morning to go into town so that we could find out who won the World Series!

The next day, however, was Friday and  the campground started filling up! This is a foreign concept for us since we are normally at churches on the weekends. The haunted house was an attraction that brought in campers from all over. Gabriella made quick friends of the 10 year old girls that moved in next door. Saturday morning, the campground organized pumpkin decorating, hayrides and barrel rides, trick-or-treat, and of course, the haunted house. We threw together some quick costumes and joined in the festivities. This was a welcome distraction. The kids had been asking about trick-or-treat and we were scheduled to play a concert in South Dakota on Halloween, so I thought they would miss it altogether. We made some soup, warmed up at our neighbors' campfire, and tried to enjoy fall. 

(The Haunted House) tried to scare you... it wasn’t scary.
— Gabby

What we have learned about winter traveling is this: 

1 - It takes the Airstream a while to warm up from cold. This means that it is to our benefit to stay in one place as long as possible. When we do have to drive, it is better for it to be a short drive. If it is a long drive, we will consider turning our propane on for the last 45 min in order to pre-warm the trailer before we enter it. (we generally avoid running propane while on the road). Another option would be to hook up, then go out to dinner before settling in for the night.  

2 - Keep your fresh water tanks filled. Many campgrounds turn their water off. Some will have one water station open off a heated building. If you do find water available at sight, it could be frozen. 

3 - Watch your propane levels. The forced air heater runs through propane quickly. In the summer we could get away with letting the both empty before filling them. In the winter we will want to fill the spare tank as soon as it empties so we don't get stuck a night without heat. When electric is available, use an electric heater. It is cheaper and works faster. 

4 - Watch the outside temp and monitor the temp of the trailer. You don't want your trailer freezing. Simply keeping inside temp around 60 degrees should prevent warm your tanks and pipes enough to keep them from freezing in the belly. Use your tanks instead of running a water hose outside. 

5 - Our vents started dripping from condensation. Things we like to help keep warm (Hot Tea and Coffee, Soups) also produce a lot of moisture in the air.  We recently learned of dehumidifier pellets that we will try these in the future.