Page 2 of 4

Week Forty-Two: Memoirs from the fifth level of h-e-double hockey sticks.

Hola and heidy-ho, my friends.  Welcome back.  I’m glad you stopped by.  At present, I’m like a gushing teenage girl who just saw her BFF’s boyfriend making out with a cheerleader.  I’ve just got to tell someone or I’ll burst!

A very productive weekend, this one.  Currently, I am in a gooey, gelatinous form, (not unlike most New Year’s Eve’s), striving to re-hydrate after a day under a welding hood on an over 100 degree day.  Mom always said I wasn’t her brightest child.  However, this weekend, rain or shine, heat or freezing temperatures, I was motivated by the fact that I should have been making new friends, stealing TTT ideas and swapping stories around the campfire with the great folks from the local Tear Jerker’s chapter but, alas, such was not my lot.  After getting a submariner’s view of the underside of Das Nook on Friday, I realized that my decision to bow out of this weekend’s festivities, however heartbreaking, was a good one.  Had I chanced pulling Das Nook up that steep mountain, last week’s blog might have been my epitaph.  By now, it should be pretty obvious that I’m not one to go out with so few words.  Chalk one up for me.  The damage to the tongue supports was considerably worse than I first thought.

Let me start by admitting, (and this is no excuse), that I have not had a welder in my hand in fifteen years.  I was quite the man with the stick welder back in another life.  However, life and career changes have negated my need to do much welding lo these many years.  To top that off, my new welder is of the MIG variety.  Not an alligator I’ve ever tried to make a suitcase out of  before, but convenience guided my hand in selecting my new toy.  The thought of my having to add a 50 amp, 220VAC circuit/receptacle to an, already overburdened, breaker panel, not to mention the additional expense of some 6-3 SO cable and plug ends to make an extension cord to get from said receptacle to the aforementioned stick welder put the icing on the cake.  The MIG runs on plain old 120VAC /20amp.  I did trip the breaker a couple of times, but I know from experience that the length of extension cord I was using played a part in that.    After a day of familiarizing myself with my new Lincoln Weld Pak 125 HD MIG welder, I can foresee a long and happy relationship together.  It got the 1/4″ thick steel on the original tongue flowing like tears at a wedding.

My point is that the welds I created to form the new tongue frame are a lot like the girl I took to the Happy Acres Cotillion:  butt ugly, but functional as hell: stout and solid.

Since they got her meds right, she never writes?

In my defense, after some selective grinding, (two grinding wheels worth). and much restarting, re-doing and retouching, (once I got the hang of, and fine tuned, Das MIG),  not to mention copious amounts of primer, they look downright snazzy.  Add to that the fact that the box will cover the debauchery and I’m Mr. Wizard!  That’s my story and I sticking to it.

Friday morning:  Finally dragged my night-shift-working, sorry butt out of bed and fit a length of steel under the points where it needed to fit, marked the angles and, after a lot of cussing and pinched fingers, moved the length of 2x3x1/8th to the saw horses and cut them with a steel cutting blade fitted to an old circular saw.  A steel cutting miter saw would have been a Godsend here but, if I were rich, I’d probably lose all of my boyish charm and desire for backyard projects and buy a fifth-wheel camper and a new Dodge Ram truck.  Nah, I’ll never lose my boyish charm and, if I were rich, I’d just have a lot nicer collection of toys to build my dreams with…….Not to mention a garage!  As the majority of you ladies endlessly gripe:  “Men are just full sized little boys.”  To which most men answer, “Neener, neener, neener.  I prefer, “So’s your mama!.”  I grew up in a tough neighborhood.

I managed to get the pieces cut and ground down to fit precisely, then took the rest of the night, and Saturday, off to contemplate the meaning of life.  I’m a very deep thinker so that took until this morning.  Still no answers.  I’ll get back to you when I have my epiphany.

The submariner's view.Sunday Morning:  I finally dragged my, didn’t-work-night-shift-last- night, sorry butt out of bed and walked outside into an oven at nine AM.  Hence this week’s title:  Memoirs from the fifth level of h-e-double hockey sticks.  I ground down all the areas on the original tongue and frame where welds were supposed to go.  I say supposed to go because I’d forgotten how dark the world becomes under a #10 welding hood.  Reminds me of fumbling to find bra strap hooks in the back seat of my 1968 Rambler Ambassador at the drive in………..well, you get the picture.   *brief pause for a moment of retrospective bliss*

I welded the original tongue to the frame brackets so the bolts, originally the only thing holding the tongue to the trailer, are now just an added precaution.  The main tongue is completely welded, top, sides and bottom, to the frame brackets.

Everything tacked into place.

I got everything finagled into place, again amid a chorus of words that would have had my mother washing my mouth out with soap, all while my buddy Manny sat there laughing at me, drawing deeply from a bottle of beer which I had, up til that point, avoided. I usually make it a point not to mix power tools, flames and large amounts of electrical current with intoxicating beverages, regardless of how desert hot it is.  Having Manny around is like having a comedian on retainer.  No matter how disgruntled a situation can get me, one look at his goofy mug and I start laughing.  Thanks for all the laughs, Manny.  And this time he even brought his own beer!  *looking around for the four horsemen*

First coat of primer.

And after a whole lot of sweating, numerous first and second degree burns from flying weld spatter and grinder “renderings,” not to mention a tan three or four shades deeper than my natural, Italian heartthrob, complexion, I give you some tongue.  Get your mind out of the gutter.  That’s Das Tongue.  Let’s keep this blog within the PG rating, please.

This pictorial coming out party is with a first coat of primer on all the bare steel.  I’ll be adding a second coat before the evening’s over and, if it cools off a little, possibly a first coat of the Rustoleum glossy black that is the patina du jour for the entire undercarriage.

Next weekend, that being Memorial Day Weekend, will be spent mounting the box directly onto the new tongue frame:  not to the front of the camper.  There should now be minimal flex in the tongue, but I’m not taking any further chances.  If there’s one thing I’ve learned over my many, many, many………..years as a student of all things in the manly art of tools and the things we cobble together with them, it’s that you learn from your mistakes and do your level best to never make them again.

And, as if to represent the creamy head on the tastiest beer I’ve had in a long time, since the addition of the new framework, getting Das Nook to sit down on her front wheel is as easy as a fat kid bringing down his end of the seesaw with Nerdy Melvin on the other end.  Once I add the box, the weight distribution and tongue weight should be back to where it should be, eliminating the need for that 80 lb. bag of concrete and, consequentially, my shame.  Another wrong righted by that goofy thing we all call kismet.  I’ll take luck over skill any day.

Well my dear friends, it is at this time that I must bid you adieu, but only for now.  I just heard a beer popping in the kitchen which can only mean one thing:  It’s Sunday night and the gang’s all here.  I must admit that my chest is swelling, just a bit, mind you, over the premise of showing off this weekend’s handy work to these Bohemians I’m proud to call my friends.  Now if I could just get them trained to show up when the work is actually in progress, bring their own beer, and lift the seat when they dispose of my beer in my guest bathroom, (that is, when they’re not using the big pine tree behind the Big Top), I’d be selling that story to every woman’s magazine out there as the miracle of the twenty-first century.  While somewhat refined, (trained, if you will), I’m still a guy so, should I manage that miracle, I’d have to take that secret with me to my grave.  It’s a guy thing.

May this week be the best week you’ve ever had, may something truly wonderful come your way and may you never have reason to frown for all the rest of your days.

Until next week, I wish you all the best life has to offer.



All new for 2011!

And, should you be so inclined, The Tenderfoot’s Guide to Family Camping has been completely revised for 2011 and is now available as an ebook!  Every ebook dealer from Sony’s iPhone store to Amazon and Barnes and Noble are carrying it.  However, we’re offering a 20% discount for all the loyal readers of Brian’s blog through   Just add the coupon code CM84R at checkout and you’ll receive the discount.  Picture this:  Wilderness 2011.  You just bought a new tent and figured it’d be a cinch to set up.  You got out of work late and arrived at the campground after dark.  Ominous dark clouds are looming over your campsite.  You unpack your tent only to realize that you haven’t got a clue about how it goes together.  What do you do?  Well, if you had a copy of this informative book on your phone, you could simply thumb through a few chapters and be roasting marshmallows within the hour.  Don’t have a copy?  Well, there’s a lot to be said for sleeping in the car.  Oh, you have bucket seats?   The kids will be voicing their displeasure over sleeping in the back seat…..all night long?   Save yourself the headache.  Order your copy today.

Week Forty: Ahhhhhhhhh!!!!

Important information

Buono Pomeriggio! (Good Afternoon), my friends.  I hope you’ve all had as wonderful a weekend as I’ve had.

Believe it or not, this sign was posted on the road leading to the boat ramp at Watsadler, on beautiful Lake Hartwell in Hartwell, GA, where I de-stressed this weekend.  Considering that the road leads to a boat ramp that is amply marked as such, this sign would seem redundant.  Apparently not, or they wouldn’t have wasted the money on such expensive signage; especially considering the dire financial situation all state and national parks are in these days.  Doesn’t say much for our local driving populace, does it?

The latest evidence of the recreational area’s financial hardship to come to my attention was that the individual trash cans that were once a staple at all the campsites have been removed.  It is now the responsibility of the camper to tote their trash to the dumpsters at the dump station by the exit.  Apparently, a cut in head count and the need to further cut costs at all costs, (trash pick-up, trash can maintenance and replacement, etc.), has further affected the amenities at recreation areas throughout the country.  Not that I’m complaining about having to haul trash.  That’s a minor inconvenience.  It’s the deeper ramifications behind those cuts that bother me.

The campground was, as always, in stellar shape.  The grass was manicured, the restrooms were clean, (although not cleaned as often as they used to be), and the sites were clean, roomy and beautiful.   I just fear for the fate of our state and national parks as I see the small amenities going by the wayside.  Camping has always been an affordable and truly special and worthwhile pursuit for families wanting to spend time together in the outdoors; far away from the boob tube and the Xbox.  I’m afraid that, given the current budget cut trends, what few state parks manage to survive those budget cuts will have to charge as much per night as a night in a luxury hotel just to stay afloat and will become inaccessible to the very people who benefit most from them.  The current rate for most of the state parks in my area is around $22 per night, (tax included), with water and electricity.  That’s $44 per weekend.  That rate has more than doubled since my children were younger and we were camping, at least, two weekends a month.  Now $44 for a weekend doesn’t seem at all bad considering that you have to buy groceries whether you’re home or camping, (and once you have all your gear), so, while your grocery bill might be just a wee bit more, (adding marshmallows, graham crackers and Hershey bars for the requisite smores), the added expenses are minimal and $44 is still, pretty much, do-able for most of us.  But what if that doubles again, to $88 for a weekend, within the next few years because funding for these parks is cut further?  Will it still be a viable, affordable way for the average, working class family to spend a weekend together enjoying our natural resources?  What’s going to happen when the budget is cut so deeply that state and national parks start closing their gates completely?  Surprise, surprise:  it’s happening daily and at an alarming rate.  Will our grandchildren still be able to take their children camping for a weekend, or will they have to read about it in the history books?  Everyone’s politics are their own business, but please consider this when you decide on your candidates at the polls in the next election.  When free senate haircuts and the myriad of other freebies and perks for our elected officials remain in play, yet our state and national treasures suffer and may even become inaccessible to “We the People,” it’s time for a change.  Elected officials do still work for us, don’t they?

*stepping off the soap box* Sorry about the influx of politics, but this situation rocks me to my very core.  I’ll be writing a few letters to my representatives in Washington and if I don’t get the answers I’m looking for, I’ll do my part as a registered voter to insure their ride on my tax dollar funded gravy train is over.

Better than Prozac!

Anyway, this picture pretty much sums up my weekend.  The weather was about as nice as you could ask for; high 70’s with the occasional passing cloud during the day and low 50’s at night.  No heat or AC were needed this weekend.  Sleeping with the windows and roof vent open, smelling the pines on the lake breeze and the occasional whiff of frying bacon in the morning  just added additional fluff to an already perfect weekend.  Throw in the sesame-ginger marinated London Broil, roasted over the coals, and the baked potato Friday night, and the grilled Italian sausage, onion and pepper hoagies with Provolone cheese and potato salad Saturday night, (and a few malty beverages), and I reiterate this weekend’s title, “Ahhhhhhhh!”

I did have one technical difficulty this weekend but I’m hoping that’ll be easily corrected next weekend.  Sometime during the trip to the campground, (probably after I momentarily lost sight of the Das Nook in the rearview as it plummeted into one of the many, ever-present, man-eating potholes that have become an epidemic around here), a crack started along one of the box mounts between the front of the camper and the tongue storage box.  I’m presently rethinking the addition of the brackets from the tongue to the box that I bolted on last weekend, but the problem would still persist whether the brackets are there or not.  The tongue itself is mounted to the trailer frame by one huge bolt through a bracket under the camper.  This allows some flex and presents a bit of a pivot point.  The minor flex experienced along a normal road is of no significance, but hitting pot holes and bouncing down a lot of the rugged, rutty, back roads leading to some campgrounds will allow the tongue to pivot and flex enough to overpower the added strength the brackets added and flex the box as well.  I’m either going to have to permanently weld the tongue to that bracket, or drill and tap a couple of additional holes through the tongue and bracket and add some graded bolts to take all the pivot out of the tongue.  I’m hashing the situation out as I write this and I’m pretty sure I’ll have the answer before next weekend.  If not, I may have to skip the four hour drive to Jefferson, NC for the Tear Jerker’s camping trip on the 20th.  I certainly don’t want to miss that, but I don’t want to find myself four hours from home, on the semi-deserted Skyline Parkway, with something broken that can’t be fixed on the road.  I have some great friends, but asking one of them to make a four hour drive, one way, to rescue my stupid, stranded butt would probably be pushing the envelope a little.

Das Ambiance. Mamba, anyone?

The Coleman canopy was definitely a worthwhile buy.  I read and re-read numerous reviews on the pros and cons of the various easy-up canopies on the market these days, then checked out quite a few before I decided on the Coleman.  One thing that really caught my eye was the fact that the fly is UV protected.  If you’ve ever seen a sun-rotted tarp, (the Big Top, home to Das Nook in my back yard is a great example), you’d agree.  As has always been my experience with anything Coleman, this canopy is a winner; and the fact that I found it on clearance over the winter just makes it that much sweeter.  The entire mechanism is really stout and it almost sets itself up.  You basically take the frame out of the wheeled, heavy duty, zippered storage case it came in, pull the frame open, drape the fly over the frame and extend the legs.  I’m the village idiot and I had no problems whatsoever getting it up in about five minutes.  If I can do it, anyone can.  Once you have it up, there are stout, Velcro-lined, tabs to secure the fly along the frame and there is even Velcro at the top on all four corner posts that mate with Velcro patches sewn into the fly itself.  For added wind protection, each corner has a tie-down rope extending from the flap on the fly.  For true anchoring, there are stake holes in each, heavy gauge, metal foot.  What made it even more versatile this weekend was when I attached a tarp across the frame with bungee cords to act as a shower/privacy curtain behind the galley doors and had a nice warm shower to test the efficacy of Das Shower.  I must admit that it felt a little strange, (yet somewhat exhilarating),  standing there naked with campers on either side of me, but there were no screams of horror, ladies fainting or villagers showing up with pitchforks to slay the monster so, apparently, the test was a complete success.  I’m still working on some of the intricacies to fine-tune the shower process but, for all intents and purposes, it was a worthwhile addition which, I’m certain, will get a lot of use in the years to come.

Das Schnaps lights

They don’t make beer bottle string lights…… least not that I’ve found……..yet.  Martini glasses just kind of give the impression that we’re high brow nose-wavers; not the message I care to send, but these were the only lights ABC Distributing had on their clearance page so this is what I’ll have to light my area with until I can find some Beck’s or Newscastle lights.  Of course, one glimpse of me in my aviator’s helmet and goggles would dispel any thought of my being snooty or upper crust: and there’s always Lulu!  She just reeks of middle class: especially in the Walmart bikini bottom she was wearing this weekend.   You can take the mannequin out of Walmart, (Lulu literally was an underwear mannequin, or so I was told, in Walmart before they retired her), but you can’t take Walmart out of the mannequin.  Such is life.

Well, my friends, I have coolers to clean and smoke-scented laundry to wash, so that’s all for this week.

As a parting thought, I’d just like to mention again that there is no better stress reliever than a weekend in the woods.  With downsizing and fewer people to do even more work than before for, at least, forty hours per week; not to mention bills and the myriad of problems that everyone faces in their day to day existence, stress is like a visit from your mother-in-law:  It’s coming whether you want it to or not and it ain’t going to be pretty.  If you don’t find a way to alleviate that stress, it’ll eat away at your very core.  Borrow a tent from Uncle Claud.  Rent a camper for a weekend.  Whatever it takes, jump off life’s expressway for a weekend and find out how relaxing a weekend in the mountains or by the beach can be.  You won’t regret it.

Until next weekend, I wish you peace, good luck and every happiness.

Per la buona vita! (To the good life).


All new for 2011!

And, should you be so inclined, The Tenderfoot’s Guide to Family Camping has been completely revised for 2011 and is now available as an ebook!  Every ebook dealer from Sony’s iPhone store to Amazon and Barnes and Noble are carrying it.  However, we’re offering a 20% discount for all the loyal readers of Brian’s blog through   Just add the coupon code CM84R at checkout and you’ll receive the discount.  Picture this:  Wilderness 2011.  You just bought a new tent and figured it’d be a cinch to set up.  You got out of work late and arrived at the campground after dark.  Ominous dark clouds are looming over your campsite.  You unpack your tent only to realize that you haven’t got a clue about how it goes together.  What do you do?  Well, if you had a copy of this informative book on your phone, you could simply thumb through a few chapters and be roasting marshmallows within the hour.  Don’t have a copy?  Well, there’s a lot to be said for sleeping in the car.  Oh, you have bucket seats?   The kids will be voicing their displeasure over sleeping in the back seat…..all night long?   Save yourself the headache.  Order your copy today.

Week Thirty-Nine: We’re doing just fine.

Das Pollen-mobile

Heidy-ho, friends and neighbors!  Welcome back.

No, that fine yellow coating isn’t an artistic touch.  The pollen is unrelenting here in the south.  Those of you with pollen allergies have my deepest sympathies.  I’m leaving Das Nook out in the yard this week in hopes of making her first bath a little easier on me later this week after the predicted Tuesday and Wednesday rains pass through.

Once again I must apologize for the late post, but yesterday was a glorious day in SC and I took full advantage of the fine weather.  It was so nice outside that I continued tweaking and playing until almost 11PM.  When I realized what time it was, (after looking at my watch during a pass with the circular saw), I figured I had better quit before one of my kind and patient neighbors decided to call the local constabulary to complain about the noise.  Thankfully, no one did.  Of course, a couple of them were standing there chewing the fat with me so, in reality, I could have probably continued for a while longer, but I didn’t want to press my luck.  Besides, if there’s one thing I’ve realized during this build, I’m not 25 any more.  I’m sure I’ll suffer some this week for the acts of contortion and the weird positions I usually find myself in, but it’ll all be worth it.  Bring on the Tylenol!

Once again, all that was accomplished this weekend is not visible, but necessary.  I managed to run a new 3/4″ gray plastic conduit underneath for a separate, 20 amp, receptacle for the hot water heater.  That’ll also leave one plug-in for the audio power amp that now rests under the shelf in the galley.

Das Greasers

And not everything I finished this weekend is “sexy,” but serves a  purpose.  I installed a set of bearing protectors to, I hope, help prevent any bearing failures on the road.  Bearing protectors are, basically, a round plate with a grease fitting sticking out of it within a tube, and a strong spring behind the plate.  You pump the protector full of high-speed bearing grease and the spring keeps a constant pressure on the plate, constantly forcing grease into the bearings.  Now if I can just remember to keep them packed with grease, and pack the bearings once a year, I should be able to get a few good years out of the wheel bearings.   Being anal retentive does, sometimes, have its’ benefits.   Things like packing bearings rarely evade this steel trap of a mind of mine.  Remembering to put on pants before I leave for work every day is a bit of a crap shoot, though.

Das Shower.

The shower plumbing offered up a bit of a surprise this weekend.  When I first pressurized the system last weekend, there were no issues.  Everything seemed fine and the taps and shower nozzle worked without a hitch.  This weekend, however, while pressurizing the system to test the longevity of a tank full of hot water, my groin was assaulted with a fine spray of hot water from a crack in an elbow joint in one of the cpvc fittings.  I was sitting behind it on an overturned 5 gallon bucket, (my preferred method of slacking while I’m working at lower levels), when I began to think that the third flying-monkey-rider of the menopausal apocalypse had come for a visit and I was becoming incontinent.  That’s a scary feeling, believe me.  I’ve already lost my mind and my hair.  A loss of bladder control would be just too much for my age addled gray matter to handle.  Thankfully, it was just a cracked pipe and no one was around when it happened so, once I shut off the water and replaced the fitting, (and that spot on my shorts dried), there was no evidence to offer my friends further fodder to ride me about. I’m still working out the finer details for the shower curtain and floor but, as of yesterday,  the shower is fully functional and, in a pinch, (and at the risk of being arrested for indecent exposure), it can be used.  There just aren’t enough hours in the day to finish all the things I go into the weekend with racing through my mind.

Das galley

We’re still lacking the cabinet doors, but Das Galley is now sporting a new, 3/4″ shelf for the vessels that create those mouth-watering meals that can only be cooked outdoors.  My original plans held up throughout all the changes and tweaks I’ve done over the course of the build and I can slide my six-quart cast iron dutch oven, 12″ cast iron skillet, (both Lodge, of course), and Coleman collapsible oven  in the bottom, leaving the top shelf for utensils and all the other goodies.  I haven’t hung the spice rack or the mirror yet, but those will come in the weeks ahead.  I bought one of those mirrors on an arm that folds into the wall when not in use, then extends for those days when company’s coming and you need to get those pesky nose and ear hairs that become a blight on those of us over the age of 40.  The back side of the mirror is a 5X magnifying mirror.  I don’t think I’ll be using that side.  I have to sneak up on a regular mirror as it is.  Seeing this mug magnified 5 times might be more than my heart, (and stomach), can take.  Especially on those mornings after a few too many toddies were consumed around the campfire the night before.  Yeeesh!

I was paid the ultimate compliment last night.  In keeping with my Italian roots, I always cook dinner on Sunday.  It serves two purposes:  One, that I get a nice meal at least once a week and, two, I’ve got left overs so I don’t have to cook on Monday and Tuesday.  Have I mentioned that I have become a little lazy since taking up the bachelor’s life?  Anyway, last night, after finishing work on Das Nook, I realized that it was definitely too late to prepare that fantastic rigatoni and meatball dinner I’d planned to fix.  My need for my bi-weekly tomato sauce fix needed to be quenched, however, so…………… guessed it:  “Hello, Dominos?!  When the delivery guy arrived, he was in awe over Das Nook.  We stood there talking long enough for the pizza to cool.  Thankfully, I like cold pizza.  He’d never seen one of the little guys and wanted the chef’s tour.  I gave it gladly.  One of the reasons I built Das Nook was to give people something to talk about and stop them from asking me which circus I escaped from.  “I am not an animal!” (Unless you ask one of my ex’s, that is. *laughing*)

Next weekend will be the latest shakedown cruise for Das Nook.  I’ve got reservations at a local campground so I can set everything up and make sure we’re ready for the four hour drive to Raccoon Holler for the Spring Fling at the Holler 2011 in Jefferson, NC May 20-22.  I’ve been looking forward to this trip since I started collecting all the pieces that now make up Das Nook.  This will be the first gathering of the teardrops and tiny travel trailers I’ve been able to attend and the first of the camping season for them.  I’m really looking forward to meeting some of these great folks whose work and assistance have both inspired and helped me throughout the build.  Chatting with them on the forums has been a true pleasure and it’s really going to be nice to put faces to, and shake hands with, all of them.

Das Nook is now, as far as I can tell, completely road-ready.  There will be numerous additions, changes, etc, to come, but that’s the nature of the beast.  After a weekend surrounded by TTT’s, I’m sure I’m going to come home with a myriad of new projects that’ll keep me out there in the back yard making sawdust for years to come.  I am, however, thinking toward the future and about a next project.  Idle hands are the devil’s workshop; or so they say.  I’ve considered building another TTT from the ground up, (my own trailer design welded and fabricated in my own back yard), incorporating all the things I’ve learned during this build, (and none of the Oops! I’ve come across building Das Nook).  I’m also considering building a houseboat.  I have a perfectly good camper and, because of this build, no longer fear working with fiberglass.  Why not a houseboat?  Time will tell.  Stay tuned.

That’s about it for this week, my friends.  Next weekend’s blog will probably be brought to you from the deep woods where I will be, hopefully, kicked back in my new lounger, watching life pass by slowly.  That’s what weekends were created for.

Have a wonderful week.

As always, I wish you peace, happiness and prosperity all the days of your life.

Happy trails,


All new for 2011!

And, should you be so inclined, The Tenderfoot’s Guide to Family Camping has been completely revised for 2011 and is now available as an ebook!  Every ebook dealer from Sony’s iPhone store to Amazon and Barnes and Noble are carrying it.  However, we’re offering a 20% discount for all the loyal readers of Brian’s blog through   Just add the coupon code CM84R at checkout and you’ll receive the discount.  Picture this:  Wilderness 2011.  You just bought a new tent and figured it’d be a cinch to set up.  You got out of work late and arrived at the campground after dark.  Ominous dark clouds are looming over your campsite.  You unpack your tent only to realize that you haven’t got a clue about how it goes together.  What do you do?  Well, if you had a copy of this informative book on your phone, you could simply thumb through a few chapters and be roasting marshmallows within the hour.  Don’t have a copy?  Well, there’s a lot to be said for sleeping in the car.  Oh, you have bucket seats?   The kids will be voicing their displeasure over sleeping in the back seat…..all night long?   Save yourself the headache.  Order your copy today.

Week Thirty Eight: Mehhhh!!….We made a little progress.

Hello, my friends.  Welcome back.  It’s great to have you here.

I’d like to apologize for the lack of a blog last weekend but, as you all know, things come up, life goes on and, sometimes, (if you can believe this), some life-events take precedence over Das Nook.  I know, that sounds like sacrilege coming from me, but tis true.  All I managed to accomplish last weekend was to ruin a well-aged knotty pine plank I had coveted for the galley cabinet doors.  Thankfully, there’s enough left to complete the task but, after the events of the camping trip a couple of weekends ago, I’m learning to read the signs and back off when things aren’t going the way they should.  “When things go awry, pop a cold one, light a good cigar and wait for a more opportune time.”  You can quote me on that.  Just more fodder for that epitaph I mentioned a few weeks ago.

And I’d like to thank those of you who took advantage of the coupon offer, (which is still valid), and purchased a copy of The Tenderfoot’s Guide to Family Camping.  Please feel free to offer up any feedback you might have regarding the book, good or bad.  I hope it helps you avoid a lot of the pratfalls experienced by the beginning camper and gives you a laugh or two.

Well, no stellar accomplishments this weekend, Das Nook wise, but a great weekend nonetheless and a few, much anticipated,  advances were made toward the goals I’ve set for the upcoming Spring Fling at the Holler with the Southern Appalachian Tear Jerkers next month.  My reservations are made and I’m raring to go.  Life is grand!

Das Brackets

I finally made the box and the frame unified.  I tried a chunk of rubber between the two, originally, but one hair-raising trip over the pot holes and railroad tracks on an ill directed, GPS guided, trip through downtown Anderson told me that permanence was needed.  Das Nook was bucking up and down, pivoting on the tongue mount like a drunken hula dancer in a tsunami and I wanted to insure nothing like that ever happened again.  Getting a trailer without a tongue back to the shop for repairs is a nightmare I don’t want to have to endure.  There are two, stout, brackets, one on each side, to keep things aligned and solid.

Das Shame

And, the coup de grace, an 80 pound hitchhiker to counterbalance the additional weight of the hot water heater.  Yes, friends and neighbors, that’s a hardened, 80 lb. bag of pure D, Portland cement guaranteed to take up needed space and remind me of my engineering failure for as long as Das Nook endures.  I haven’t road tested her yet, but lifting the tongue is definitely more difficult than it used to be.  We’ll know for sure next weekend.  I will, most likely, lay the bag down and build a wooden top over it to minimize the lost space the addition of the weight brought about.   Thanks for the email and the suggestion about moving the axle back, Pat, but it’s too late for that.  I considered that when the camper was just a metal frame, but dismissed the idea because, I thought, the weight would he evenly distributed the way it was.  I had it nailed until I added the hot water heater.  Now that the wheel wells are formed, moving the axle back would be next to impossible.  I am, however, working on an idea for draining the hot water heater after each outing.  I’ve got a few ideas.  Seeing this picture is certainly going to keep the incentive flowing.

Das Shower

And, in keeping with the “Cleanliness is next to Godliness,” theme, the advent of, (drum roll, please……), Das Shower!  I’ll be posting some better pictures to better define how, exactly, this system is going to work once it’s completed but, in general, the two back galley doors will work as shower sides.  Standing within the open doors, my chin barely makes the top of the door and, at the bottom, my ankles are exposed.  Sling a shower curtain and rod across the top on the tops of the doors and you have a really nice, private, shower enclosure.  Lord knows, if the curtain ever fell down when I was performing my personal hygiene regimen, there’d be Sasquatch sightings reported for a 100 mile radius.  I have waterproofed almost everything in the galley, (outdoor speakers, sealed receptacles and switches and, once the cabinet doors are installed, everything within will be fairly watertight.  Of course, good aim with the shower nozzle will be a big help.  The handle holder will be pointing away from the galley.   I’m working on a drainage system for a plastic freight pallet that will slide under the camper when not in use, then slide out as a shower floor when the shower is in use.  I’ll let you know how that turns out. *laughing*

Das Awning

It doesn’t look like much here, but what you’re seeing is the new front window rock guard/awning.  I’ve formed some fiberglass cloth and matting around a 1×2 frame to fit over the window with some space on either side.  I’ll be cutting two pieces of conduit, mounting one on either side on a pivot, (on the inside of the frame), so that when I’m in camp, the awning will hinge up, the conduit supports will fold down and any severe sun will be defused.  Can’t have those hand crafted curtains fading now, can we?  I mean, I invented a whole new spectrum of cuss words just from the finger pricks I took from pulling a needle through that fabric.  A seamstress I’ll never be.  Father would be so proud. *laughing*

Another good note this week was the arrival of my new “entertainment center” for rainy days in Das Nook.  My 7″ TV/DVD player arrived and, frankly, so far, we are very pleased.  It’s got an LCD screen so the picture is very crisp.  It came with a digital antenna for free to air channels and, by golly, it works.  I’ve been told that a better quality antenna will pick up dozens more channels so that may be an option sometime down the road, but for now, it’s nothing more than a last resort on a rainy day.  Besides, I’ve collected so many DVD’s over the last few years that I’ve never sat down long enough to watch that I could watch them, non-stop, for a month or more and still probably not see them all.  I can’t sit still long enough to watch an entire movie…….unless Sandra Bullock’s in it.  Ahhhhhhhh.

Well, as I mentioned, not a whole lot to report this week, but a lot of groundwork was laid for next weekend.  Surprisingly, there’s very little to show for the amount of time I spent out there toiling, but the multitude of “little stuff” I managed to knock out; the,  “not really interesting but necessary,” things were legion.

That’s all for this week, my friends.  I’m sorry we’re a day late this week but I was on a roll last night and decided to work under the lights until the things I was working on were at a good stopping point.  By the time I put everything away and came inside, I almost fell asleep in the shower.  Tune in next week where you’ll hear Brian say: “@&^$*#((&%#$!!!!”  I’m going to wind up getting my mouth washed out with soap yet.

As always, please feel free to contact me anytime with your anecdotes, suggestions, or just to say hi.

Può essere la vostra pace e felicità anni,” (May peace and happiness be your copilot).

Have a wonderful week.


And, should you be so inclined, The Tenderfoot’s Guide to Family Camping has been completely revised for 2011 and is now available as an ebook!  Every ebook dealer from Sony’s iPhone store to Amazon and Barnes and Noble are carrying it.  However, we’re offering a 20% discount for all the loyal readers of Brian’s blog through .  Just add the coupon code CM84R at checkout and you’ll receive the discount.  Picture this:  Wilderness 2011.  You just bought a new tent and figured it’d be a cinch to set up.  You got out of work late and arrived at the campground after dark.  Ominous dark clouds are looming over your campsite.  You unpack your tent only to realize that you haven’t got a clue about how it goes together.  What do you do?  Well, if you had a copy of this informative book on your phone, you could simply thumb through a few chapters and be roasting marshmallows within the hour.  Don’t have a copy?  Well, there’s a lot to be said for sleeping in the car.  Oh, you have bucket seats?   The kids are voicing their displeasure over sleeping in the back seat?   Save yourself the headache.  Order your copy today.

Week Thirty-Seven: Let’s keep this on track.

Hello my friends, camper’s and interested parties.  Welcome back.  It’s so nice to have you here.

For chronological correctness in my epitaph, (which is, hopefully, many years off), I’ve decided that, regardless of the winter downtime, I’m going to count each week since the beginning of the build to keep things in perspective.  In actuality, very little was accomplished over the last sixteen weeks of winter, but I was plotting, scheming, going to camper shows and drooling over catalogs so I guess those weeks qualify as time spent on Das Nook.

Seems like forever, doesn’t it?

But the fruits of my labors are, without question, paying off.  The three camping trips to date have been extremely successful:  with the possible exception of that ugly hot water heater/swaying problem after last weekend’s fiasco, but any “oh shit” you can walk away from is a learning experience and I’ve heeded that lesson and, hopefully, corrected that problem this weekend.  More tongue weight!

Yet again, the weather wasn’t totally conducive to work outside.  Temps this weekend have been balmy, but Friday and Saturday were precarious.  One minute it was bright, sunny and in the mid 80’s; and the next it was cloudy with a noticeable drop in temperature.  Unless you’ve had the experience of hauling a table saw, miter saw and various and sundry tools, extension cords, etc. in during a sudden South Carolina deluge, you can’t fully understand the need to be diligent concerning how much you pull out on days like that.  Unfortunately, the work I needed to do this weekend required almost every tool in my arsenal, so I  worked accordingly Friday and Saturday.

Sunday, however, was an entirely different scenario.  My backyard thermometer said 94 at 2PM today and I believe I got my first sunburn of the season.  Who’d a thunk it?  We’ve gone right from a terrible winter to mid summer without benefit of spring.  I’m sure it’s global something.

Anyway, this weekend brought about the advent of the cabinet faces for the lower galley cabinets.

Raw cabinet faces As you can see, they’re still raw.  I fit them in to insure my blind ass could still read a tape measure correctly after all these weeks of inactivity, then took them out to sand and urethane them.  I’ve been scouring the woodshed, searching for some nice 1×8’s I have somewhere in there amid the mess for the doors; both here and over the bunk inside the cabin.  Once I find them, I’ll join them with Kreig screws and Gorilla glue, which is how the faces are assembled, cut them to the proper size on the table saw and rout a nice pattern around the door edges.  I have always had a soft spot for knotty pine.  I know it is a soft wood and not nearly as durable as oak, cherry or poplar, but I just love the look of it with a nice satin urethane coating on it.  Every time I walk into my sister’s log home in the NC mountains I have a moment of complete euphoria from the wonderful, all consuming, smell of raw wood.

I’ll also be hunting through Lowes and The Home Depot this week, searching for just the right cabinet door hinges, pulls and door catches to keep the doors from opening on the road and spilling all my worldly possessions all over the place.  I can’t imagine going to court over a pair of my drawers flying out of an open cabinet, totally blocking someone’s windshield and causing an accident.

This week was also a good week for perusing the web and finding all the little knick-knacks that you don’t really need, but just have to have.

I ordered three sets of martini glass string lights for around the 12×12 Easy Up awning I bought a few months ago.  Those are certain to be a beacon to any roving  teetotalers or prohibitionists that there are probably a few malty beverages being consumed at my campsite.  Enter at your own peril! *laughing*

I also ordered a 7″ portable TV/DVD player for those rainy days, (or the nights when the Bruins are playing).  I’m not a big fan of TV’s while camping, but there are always those nights when you’ve read all you can and you just can’t sleep.  The one I ordered comes with an external antenna, (another hole in Das Nook), that, they claim, picks up scads of free-to-air channels.  We shall see.

Das Tunes!

And, in keeping with the entertainment theme, I now have the waterproof, boom-boom, speakers installed.  The booster won’t remain on the counter top, of course.  I’ve got a few sparse inches reserved for it inside the cabinets, but these suckers can really crank out some bass!  Loves me some bass.  I’ve set it up so I can just plug my small MP3 player into it and I’ve got hours of what my friends call, “old fart music,” at the touch of a finger.  Bohemians, the lot of them.  Fleetwood Mac Rules!!  Once everything’s situated, I’ll run a small wood molding along the corners to hide the speaker wires.

It seems that the more I accomplish, the longer my “to-do” list gets.  Structurally, she’s completed.  Nosty’s Nook’s camp-ability is currently at about 98%.  It’s all the little, “but I want this!” (picture a large, 50 year old man, rolling around on the ground having a hissy-tantrum for effect), things that keep me out in the back yard every weekend, drinking beer with my friends and trading insults as I fit this piece or cut that one.  It’s a tough job, but someone has to do it.  *laughing*  And, as always, I’m so glad it’s me.  There hasn’t been a moment of this build that I haven’t thoroughly enjoyed.  Don’t let the tantrums and blue clouds of curse words occasionally emanating from my back yard fool you.  I tend to be a bit of a perfectionist…………Ok, I may have OCD; so when something doesn’t fit “just right,” I may let loose a string of expletives, (especially when I cut something too short.  Have you priced lumber lately?), but I haven’t once actually gotten mad, disgusted or thoroughly discouraged since the start of this project.   They say careful planning pays off and I’m here to give that statement credence to the nth degree.  I’ve always been a “shoot from the hip” kind of guy where projects are concerned.  Truth be told, a lot of Nosty’s Nook was built that way.  However, the brass tacks were drawn up, worried over, re-worried over, changed, modified and completely discarded numerous times before I ever took a saw to a plank.  As of today, Nosty’s Nook has pulled $3028.66 into the vortex that now stands in the Big Top.  Knowing that this wasn’t going to be a cheap project going in, I made certain that I’d crossed all my T’s and dotted all my I’s before I started slinging lumber.  On the other hand, where can you get something that’s certain to give me years of pleasure and enjoyment, (on top of the thirty-seven weeks of sheer pleasure I’ve already derived from creating it from nothing more than a metal frame trailer), for slightly over three grand?  You can hardly spend a weekend in the Bahama’s for that.

Anyway, soap box properly secured, I’d like to, yet again, thank all of you loyal readers for visiting weekly, for your great emails and for your support.  Writing this blog and sharing the week’s accomplishments with you has been as enjoyable as the build itself.  Thank you all, from the bottom of my heart.

You can contact me anytime, via email, at  I always enjoy hearing from you.

And, should you have the chance, don’t forget to check out the Teardrop and Tiny Travel Trailer’s Forum.  Some pretty amazing people have created some totally amazing campers in very little space.

Until next week, I wish you all peace, happiness and every good fortune life has to offer.

Adio,  Brian

And now a word from our sponsors:

All new for 2011!

And, should you be so inclined, The Tenderfoot’s Guide to Family Camping has been completely revised for 2011 and is now available as an ebook!  Every ebook dealer from Sony’s iPhone store to Amazon and Barnes and Noble are carrying it.  However, we’re offering a 20% discount for all the loyal readers of Brian’s blog through .  Just add the coupon code CM84R at checkout and you’ll receive the discount.  Picture this:  Wilderness 2011.  You bought a new tent and figured it’d be a cinch to set up.  You got out of work late and arrived at the campground after dark.  Ominous dark clouds are parked over your campsite.  You unpack your tent only to realize that you haven’t got a clue about how it goes together.  What do you do?  Well, if you had a copy of this informative book on your phone, you could simply thumb through a few chapters and be roasting marshmallows within the hour.  There’s a lot to be said for sleeping in the car.  Oh, you have bucket seats?   The kids are voicing their displeasure over sleeping in the back seat?   Order your copy today.

Weekend: “Aw Sh*t!”

Hello my friends.  Welcome back.

Have you ever had one of those weekends where you knew you should have just stayed in bed?  Such was my weekend. *insert strong emotion, followed by a heavy sigh*

For starters, my friend and neighbor, Manny, wanted to camp this weekend.  He and his wife, Graciela, and their four young children don’t get the opportunity to get away for the weekend very often and we all thought this weekend would be a great weekend for it.  The weather folks called for a weekend in the 70’s with nighttime lows in the high forties.  Perfect, right?


I’m presently scouring the internet in search of a correspondence course on omen interpretation.  Either that, or a way to boost some of my waning IQ points so I can see the signs when they’re plastered right in front of my face.  It is only now, a day later, with a cold, dark lager and a rather nice double maduro cigar and some good tunes on the stereo that I can relay the details of this weekend without weeping uncontrollably.

For starters, wishing to get a head start on the preparations, I decided to pull Das Nook out of the Big Top on Thursday morning to start loading it up for our Friday departure.  We were planning on going to a nearby campground I had never been to, (or even heard of for that matter.  I found out why I’d never heard of it once we arrived).  Manny and family had rented a cabin at this campground, along with a pontoon boat, earlier this year and had a good time and wanted to try it again, sans the cabin.    While pulling Das Nook out of the Big Top, a crackling pop filled the hallowed enclosure; a dreaded, yet not totally unfamiliar, sound, usually followed by loud screams and my crying like a woman and walking like Groucho Marx.  I zigged when I should have zagged and an old hockey injury to my sacroiliac, (the result of a minor disagreement between myself and a rather large gorilla from the opposing ship’s team), revisited me with a vengeance.

I spent the remainder of Thursday and part of Friday alternating between the heating pad and ice, partaking of some much appreciated muscle relaxers.  There was a lot of whimpering, (not unlike that of a whiny Chihuahua pup), and very little movement on my part.

Friday morning, I hobbled over to Manny’s to explain my current bout of paralysis and the need to postpone our trip.

Manny can make this face that makes you think you had just stolen the food from his plate and, in unison with the equally saddened expressions on his two oldest boys faces, (he’s trained them well), he had me convinced that he’d handle any of the heavy stuff and I could just relax and enjoy the weekend.

Or so we thought.

I left a little earlier than they did on Friday afternoon due to my not having to pack for a pair of, not-quite-two, twins, a four year old and an eight year old, (not to mention Manny who I call Graciela’s fifth, and biggest,  child.  You’re amazing, Graciela. *laughing*)  Manny, I love ya, Man!

Let me state here that I never bash a campground.  I have never been to one where I couldn’t find something good to say about it and, believe me, in my many years I have been to hundreds of different campgrounds.  They say there’s a first time for everything and such was the case with Lake Hartwell Camping and Cabins.

For starters, checking in was like pulling teeth.  The person behind the counter didn’t have a clue.  Granted, we didn’t make reservations ahead of time, but this time of year, at any of the other campgrounds in the area, open sites are as common as the pollen covering all of our vehicles here in SC.  I checked my, almost non-existent, temper on numerous occasions, attributing my ire to my aching back, but the process of finding two sites together reminded me of Abbott and Costello’s, Who’s on First? routine.

An hour later, (I swear!), I had two sites beside each other, both of which the clerk assured me were perfect for our needs.  One was an “RV” site and the other a tent site.  The rate for these sites was $27.50 per night, each, plus tax, off season, with water and electric.  That’s about five dollars more, per night, than any of the Corps of Engineer’s sites all over Lake Hartwell which are, by far, far superior to what we got this weekend. 

When I got to the sites, I was appalled.  The “tent” site was in a gully that, had it rained, the deluge would have washed my dear friends out into the lake; and without a level spot on it.  Had they pitched their tent on that site, the six of them would have rolled right out the back side of the tent and into the lake.

The “RV” site was equally unimpressive.  One of those huge sissy wagons with the automatic levelers may have stood a chance of sleeping on a level plane, but Das Nook, lacking such amenities, was going to take a lot of maneuvering and “shimming” to get it “almost” level.

I immediately went back to the office to complain and ask for different sites, preparing myself mentally for a replay of the shtick,  bouncing wildly over the unpaved roads, only to find the office closed.

I was not a happy camper.

Manny and crew still hadn’t arrived so I went back to our assigned sites and brainstormed a little.  I angled Das Nook in between a couple of precarious looking dead trees that were swaying like the Sword of Damocles in the unusually brisk wind.  That left a semi-level patch for a tent on the same site.  I lit a cigar and surveyed our surroundings and our situation, (the smell of a good cigar helps me think, calms my nerves and, at a distance, in just the right sunlight, standing on your left foot, wearing 3-D glasses, makes me look a little like James Gandolfini from The Sopranos).  The fire pit consisted of a few rocks around a small hole in the ground; no grate.  One of those rocks exploded later that evening.  Now that’s entertainment!

Meanwhile, back at the ranch:  Manny had arrived and agreed with my decision to pitch the tent on my site and thought, as I did, that we’d remain that way for the weekend and go to the office in the morning to see what we could work out regarding the unused site and a refund for it.

Let me state here that the company, as always, was excellent.  That’s about all I can say good about this weekend.

Once we’d resigned ourselves to out situation, we got Manny’s tent up and I went about frying up some of Papa Brian’s World Famous, (again, I’m a legend in my own mind), sausage, peppers and onions on the old Coleman stove.  The ceremonial first beers were popped and the evening’s festivities began in earnest.  Manny and the older boys went down to the lake to do a little fishing while I tended the stove which was now bringing about the smell of Italian ambrosia that was pleasantly permeating the air.  Shortly thereafter, we had a fine supper, cleaned up and settled around the fire for marshmallows and chat.

Unfortunately, the twins weren’t having quite as much fun as the rest of us were and were rather vocal about their displeasure at their unfamiliar surroundings……………all night.  *laughing*  I laugh only because it brings back memories of my kids and my son’s cholic as an infant during a Disney camp out.  That seems like a hundred years ago.

Somewhere around eleven, the babies were amusing themselves in the tent, plotting world domination, and the two older boys had conked out.  We enjoyed a few more toddies around the fire and retired to our respective berths.

High forties my butt!

I heard the heater in Das Nook kick on a few times but didn’t think much of it.  Manny had a heater in the tent and, at last bed check before we turned in, the kids were warm and toasty, snuggled under their blankets.

The night temps Friday night/Saturday morning dropped down to just above freezing with a cutting wind coming off the lake like a freight train.

Manny’s heater gave up the ghost somewhere in the middle of the night.  When I rolled out of bed Saturday morning, guiltily rested, warm and refreshed after a night on my new nine-inch memory foam mattress, I found a gang of war-ravaged refugees looking like the crew of the Titanic sitting at the picnic table.  These were not happy campers.

Manny spent the night, awake, trying to get the heater working while Graciela, also sleepless, spent the night keeping the kids warm, all snuggled together on one thin air mattress, tapping their numb feet to the chattering teeth chorus, accompanied by the twins’ non-stop, rendition of,  “I wanna go home!”  Again, guilt addled, I missed the entertainment due to Das Nook’s ample insulation.

Needless to say, my fellow campers were done in and decided, unanimously, to return home.  Finally able to read an omen, I agreed and started packing up: all before the campground’s check-out time.

Manny took his weary family home while I went to the office to see what could be worked out regarding the unused site and the additional night which we’d paid for, up front, but wouldn’t be using.  Again, over the pot-holed, unpaved roads, I reasoned that the second night’s rental for my site should be sacrificed.  I was leaving for my own reasons.  Fair is fair, right?


Manny called me on his way out and told me that he’d talked to the owner, whom he’d seen outside as he passed, and that the owner would make things right when I went in to check out.

When I went in to the office, cool and collected, I was informed by the same person who I’d gone rounds with the night before, not the owner, in no uncertain terms, that there were no refunds:………… but she liked Das Nook.

I’m a fair and reasonable man.  I was willing to concede the second night on my site, but the unusable site rental should have been refunded.  I have been in similar situations at different campgrounds in different states and usually find the owners to be fair and friendly people who will go out of their way to please their guests.  Such was not the case and hence the negative publicity here.  I believe I’d rather camp in the Walmart parking lot then to ever darken that patch of woods again and I will be sure to mention my experience to anyone who asks about Lake Hartwell Camping and Cabins.

To further darken my weekend, the trip home was fraught with unwanted excitement and a lot of disappointment.

My careful calculations in regard to weight and balance were thwarted when I realized that the addition of the hot water heater to the rear-most portion of the camper was fine when it was empty.  However, this particular hot water heater doesn’t have a drain so once it has it’s capacity four gallons inside, that four gallons remains inside unless you remove it from the camper and tip it upside down.  Apparently, the weight of four gallons of water is sufficient to offset the entire balance of the camper and make it hell to pull over 40mph.  And the wind was whipping yesterday.

To all of you who may have been behind me on 24 yesterday, I offer my most humble apologies for my 35mph in a 55mph zone.  It wasn’t intentional.  However, I’d like to state emphatically to the rather unreasonable guy in the Miata who blew by me, finger waving, that my mother was no such thing!

I came home, unpacked, got a shower, had a bite to eat and, in total disgust, fell asleep in my office chair listening to some blues. *laughing*

Today was a new day and, after some wound licking and intense recalculations, I realized that, without question, I’m screwed.  There’s no place forward where the hot water heater will fit.  I contemplated putting it in the storage box up front, but I lack an inch clearance for that.  I tried under the bunk where the fresh water tank will eventually go.  No go.  So, after a few choice curse words, I finally conceded and decided that an 80 lb. bag of cement, strategically placed in the front storage box, should balance the load and get Das Nook back to pulling like the dream it pulled like before the addition of the hot water heater.  It’ll probably do wonders for my gas mileage, (that was sarcasm), but I am learning that there is a price to be paid to have all the comforts of home.

So, how was your weekend? *laughing*  They say a bad day of camping beats a great day at work and truer words were never spoken.  If nothing else, my friends and I will have something to laugh about over campfires at other campgrounds, (other than Lake Hartwell Camping and Cabins!), for years to come.

I’m undaunted.  I’m a lot of things, but never a quitter.  The first camping trip of the season for the Southern Appalachian Tear Jerker’s, “Spring Fling at the Holler,” is coming up May 20-22 in Jefferson, NC, and Das Nook and I will be there with bells on.  That’s a four-hour drive so I’ve got to make certain that Das Nook is in peak operating condition.  Team Nook, (that being me, myself and I), are up to the task and will have Das Nook looking like a million bucks, and have all the bugs worked out, when we finally meet all those great folks that I’ve been conversing with and getting ideas and information from throughout the build.

Onward and upward!

Until next week, I wish you all peace, happiness and every good fortune life has to offer.

Adio,  Brian

All new!  Revised for 2011!

All new for 2011!

To order your ebook copy, and receive a 20% discount off the already low $5.99 price, follow this link to Smashwords.  Unfortunately, the coupon code isn’t valid at any of the other ebook retailers.  When prompted, enter coupon code CM84R.  Your 20% will be discounted at the checkout.  Thank you.

Week? I haven’t decided whether the break counts?

Weeeeeee’rrrrrreeeeeeee Baaaaaaaaaaack!

And, as always, I want to thank you all for stopping by, reading, emailing and commenting on the blog.  Your feedback, comments and criticisms have really made the build, and this blog, an enjoyable adventure for me and I greatly appreciate it.  I hope y’all had a wonderful Christmas and your New Year is starting off with all your wishes coming true.  I have truly missed sharing the weekly build news with you.

Spring has sprung and, here in South Carolina, Mother Nature awoke with a vengeance.  We’ve gone from shivering through the 30’s last week to a record high 92 on Friday.  I prefer to ease into the 90’s, but I’m not going to complain.  It was a rather terse winter for SC and, frankly, most of my Yankee blood has thinned over the thirty years I’ve spent in the south.  We old fellers don’t handle the cold very well.  It’s the rumatiz.

Before I “WOW” you with the advances I’ve made on Das Nook this weekend, I’d like to mention that, over the winter break, I managed to revise and republish my first book, The Tenderfoot’s Guide to Family Camping.  I only hope that my grammar, tense and overall verbalistic, (yup, that’s a word), skills have improved greatly since 1998.  As of now, The Tenderfoot’s Guide to Family Camping, revised and updated for 2011, is available as an ebook through almost all the major ebook dealers.  What could be more convenient?  Download a free e-reader app to your phone and take a copy along with you on your next adventure in the wild.  That way you’re covered should you, oh, I don’t know, encounter poison ivy, snakes, bears or just need a laugh while you’re off communing with nature.  Not to worry: for a paltry $5.99, ole Brian’s got you covered. *wink*  If you’re interested in downloading a copy, I’ll be including a 20% discount code for you loyal blog readers at the end of this week’s blog.  Follow the link to Smashwords and insert the code for your discount.

Ok, enough of the shameless plugs.  Time to mamba!

As you know, via my colorful commentary lo these many weeks, Das Nook has been off into the wild on three occasions thus far; and without foul incident.  They say God looks out for Fools and children, (I’m frequently referred to as one or both of the aforementioned), so I guess He had my back on those three, thoroughly enjoyable, trips.  I slept warm, dry and comfortable on all three occasions.  However, my galley was nothing more than my Coleman stove on the picnic table and the grate on the fire pit.  Not that I have any intention of making any changes to my culinary methods, (nothing beats a steak over an open wood fire), but I’m working towards applying those methods with a lot more of my legendary, (I’m a legend in my own mind), flair and elan.  Actually, my biggest complaint about the unfinished galley was the lack of a sink and shower.  Two of the campsites I reserved over the break were a day-hike away from the restrooms.  I thought I had that beat on the third trip, New Year’s Eve, when I went online and specifically reserved a site directly across from the restroom.   Imagine my chagrin when I found out that the particular restroom I’d been parked a few mere steps away from was only open during the regular camping season and the open restroom, on the other side of the campground, was a car ride away.  Kinda makes brushing your teeth in the morning a bit of a chore, let me tell you.  I realize camping is considered a “rustic” endeavor, but I refuse to sacrifice personal hygiene under any circumstances.  Hence my enthusiastic praise for the spring weather and my being able to get back to work on Das Nook.  Santa didn’t bring me the six-car, heated, garage I asked for this Christmas, so I’m destined for a future as a fair weather genius.  Forty-some years and I’m still on Santa’s darned naughty list for that highly overblown incident concerning a quasi-doctor’s office I supposedly opened in the back yard.  I was just concerned for the health of all the neighborhood girls, Santa!  Get over it!

For starters, I bought a small hot water heater over the break.  Trying to find an electric hot water heater that would fit in a TTT was an experience, but perseverance finally paid off.  I opted to avoid all propane when I started the build because, frankly, it scares the hell out of me.  Most of you with campers will call me foolish for that fear, but I lived in my older, twenty-one foot, camper for a couple of years while I was between ex-wives and a cracked thread on a cast iron gas line in that camper almost made this blog, and me, non-entities.  Were it not for a weak bladder, I’d be playing rhythm guitar in God’s all-star Elvis review, doing weekday matinees in some, waaaaaay off Broadway, dive cloud right now.  Fittings, couplings and connections have improved greatly over the years but, given my penchant for bad luck, I’m sticking to my mantra, Murphy’s Law, and opting for the lesser of the two evils.  I’ve worked with electricity all my life and have a pretty good knowledge of its associated perils.  Had I opted for gas, the supply of tiny hot water heaters would have been endless, (yet much more expensive).  To add insult to injury, an eleventh-hour plan change in the overall layout of Das Nook caused me to make the galley six inches shorter than I had originally planned.  Because of that questionable change, I needed an electric hot water heater that would fit in a clown car with all the clowns in attendance.  Even with the added six inches in the main cabin, you still don’t have enough room to slide on a pair of pants with any great ease, but now your legs can twist into a more relaxed pretzel-shape before you stub your toe on the AC unit and start spewing expletives.  I’ve since mastered the art of changing clothes inside, even while wearing long johns, and have actually turned it into an art form, but I wish I’d had my video camera on that first trip.  Of course, the video wouldn’t be suited for a “G” rated blog, or even an MP-17 blog due to my, ever improving, verbalistic skills,  but I’m sure it would have provided hours of laughs for me and others with a strong, stoic constitution in years to come.

Anyway, Das Nook is now sporting a rather snazzy Ariston, 4 gallon, 120 volt hot water heater.  Navy showers will still be the norm, but this is camping we’re doing here, not jet-setting with the rich and famous.   With a low-flow, hand-held shower nozzle, those in the know claim that a five-minute hot shower is not an unreasonable expectation.  We shall see.

Hot water heater plumbed in.

The hot water heater is sitting below an equally snazzy faux, (it’s a camper, not a villa in Tuscany), granite counter top with the, “sneer”, camper sink that I purchased for a song on ebay a few years ago.  Did I mention that it was a blues song?

Another promise I made to myself when I started sketching Das Nook was that, wherever possible, I wouldn’t use any “camper” accessories because all the accessories that go with “camper” accessories have to be “camper” accessories.  When you use a camper sink, you need a camper faucet, camper drain basket and all variety and variation of “camper” stuff.  Why I never listen to myself, I’ll never know?  Lord knows I talk to myself enough to have established a certain credibility among all the voices in my head, but I have an addiction to what I, oft foolishly, consider snatching up a great deal.  I think I paid five dollars for the sink, but once it became one with the counter top, it became a rather expensive accessory.  If I screwed up now, I’d have to find another, exact same sized, sink to fit in the odd shaped hole I cut in the counter top.   I managed to make the faucet fit, (sans the stopper lever), but finding a drain basket that would fit was a nightmare.  In desperation, after all other attempts at finding a “camper” drain basket failed, on Saturday, I jumped in lil truck and made a trip to the camper supply store in the next town:  only to find out that they were closed on Saturday’s, (go figure?).  After returning home, thinking, rethinking and becoming thoroughly frustrated, I’d finally had enough, (frustration and beer), to make me consider getting creative, (I think they call it beer bravado?).   I summoned my side kick and neighbor, Manny, for a second opinion and, after he’d had enough beer, he encouraged, (teased, cajoled and razzed), my creative whim and double-dog-dared me to take the Dremel to the undersized drain basket hole in the sink and make the standard bar sink drain basket I originally purchased, fit.   Let me state emphatically here that I have never walked away from a double-dog-dare.   Thankfully, my hand is still fairly steady after a few dark lagers, (as any sucker who ever played pool with me while I was under the influence will attest), and, with tongue in cheek and everything crossed, I successfully made the hole big enough for the standard plumbing fittings to fit into.  The rest was kind of anticlimactic after that.  Yes, my friends, God truly does look out for us fools.

Das Nook's cursed sink!

The install went fairly well, all things considered.  Of course, the cabinet face and doors have yet to be installed.  Surprisingly, the first day of Spring was a bomb.  It’s 62 degrees and raining outside today so any work outside was put on hold til next weekend.  Having a mass of stored up energy for all the finishing touches I was going to dazzle myself with today, I had to turn my pursuits inside.  What a better day for spring cleaning than the first day of spring?

On top of the hot water heater purchase, I also squeezed my tax refund enough to pick up a 12’X12′ Easy-Up portable awning for those rainy weekends; as well as to serve as a topper over the back half of Das Nook for shade, weather protection and privacy during showers, etc.  My plan is to drill two holes, one in the top of each of the galley doors, and fit a removable pipe into those holes that will support a shower curtain.  Once the cabinet faces are installed, the shower mixing valve will be mounted under the counter top in the hot water heater area with a hand held shower nozzle stored in there, too.  When you want to shower, you just slide the hand held head into the fixture on the door, close the curtain and, unless you’re modest about the appearance of your ankles showing under the doors, (I’m not the modest type), you’ll be enclosed in privacy with enough room to move around and even undress and dress within the confines.  I’m installing a dry tub, (drawer), under the other cabinet to store your clothes and towel and keep them dry until you shut off the water and get ready to reenter the world.  That’s also the reason for the weatherproof covers on the receptacles and switches over the sink.  Splash away.

For a finishing touch, I’m working on a recycled, corrugated, plastic freight pallet I have that will make a perfect shower floor.  It’ll store under the camper when not in use and it will keep your feet out of the mud while you shower.  I’m “engineering” a drain valve and hose adapter for it that’ll carry the water out of the bottom of the pallet, into the camper’s main drain and off to the park’s septic system.  It’s not the full body, thirteen-head, showers at the Ritz, but it’ll be a little touch of civilization after a day of hiking or a night of semi-wet wood smoke thoroughly permeating your person before you slip between the sheets.  I ask again: “Who ever said camping had to be uncivilized?”

Well, I had hoped to have a lot more to show this week but, as we all know, the weather is out of our control.  It’ll just leave that much more for next weekend.  I’m truly hoping to have the galley almost finished after next weekend because I’m ready to take Das Nook out again, hopefully the following weekend, and enjoy the fruits of my labor.  This is camping weather and I’m not planning on missing any opportunities to take full advantage before the sizzling summer sun sets in and camping, at least for me, is a little less desirable.

As always, feel free to post comments here, or email me any time at

Until next week, I wish you all peace, happiness and every good fortune life has to offer.

Adio,  Brian

All new for 2011!

To order your ebook copy, and receive a 20% discount off the already low $5.99 price, follow this link to Smashwords.  Unfortunately, the coupon code isn’t valid at any of the other ebook retailers.  When prompted, enter coupon code RS58H.  Your 20% will be discounted at the checkout.  Thank you.

Merry Christmas!

From Lulu and I, A Very Merry Christmas....(Yes, that's one of the remaining bullet holes in the wall).

Ho Ho holy wilted mistletoe, Batman!  This year has just, thankfully, flown by!

Welcome back, my friends!

Merry Christmas!  And I did say Merry Christmas, as in; The celebration of the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ.  The reason for the season for the last two-thousand and ten years.  I didn’t say Happy Holidays, although I wish you those, too.  “Political correctness,” by its’ current definition, has become blatantly ridiculous and, left unchecked, will be the ruination of American society.  That, however, is another blog for a less festive time of the year.

Well, yet another weekend has come to pass and Old Man Winter still has his teeth sunk deeply into South Carolina, (and winter hasn’t even, officially, arrived yet!).  Between the weather, work and the many wonderful holiday gatherings I’ve been fortunate enough to be invited to this year, Das Nook has skulked in the Big Top, untended but not forgotten, for the last three weeks.  It’s definitely going to be after the holidays before I have the opportunity to do any further work on the camper.  Then it’ll be hit-or-miss until the weather improves.  It will, however, be fully functional for spring camping.  This I vow!  Unfortunately, some of the work I still have left to do requires fiberglass.  Temperatures below 60 degrees are not conducive to curing resin.  The galley, however, will probably require enough work and time to get me through until the warmer days return and fiberglassing is more practical.

Aside from the obvious benefit of the last twenty-one weeks: a comfortable, fun, versatile, and, if I do say so myself, pretty darn snazzy camper, not to mention the many new friends I’ve made in the process; the last twenty-one weeks have also been better therapy for me than a lifetime of expensive naps on a shrink’s couch.  2010 will go down in the annals of Brian Greenleaf history, (and probably in the sequel to Born Bent Over),  as, I pray, the worst year of my life, (any worse and I wouldn’t be drawing breath).  2010 started off with my getting shot in the right gluteus maximus, (butt cheek for those of you unfamiliar with medical terminology), twice!  It happened during an exchange of lead, as they say in the cop shows, in my home, compliments of some whacked-out crack head who thought he had the right to come into my house and help himself to the things I’ve worked and scraped for all my life.  The year went spiraling down hill from there.  For those of you who’ve read my latest book, you know now what I meant when I titled it, “Born Bent Over.”

I’ve heard, “That which does not kill us makes us stronger,” (although I never thought I’d have to test that theory so literally).  I believe no truer words were ever spoken.  This last half of the year has revitalized my, first-half-of-the-year-diminished, eternal optimism.  It was either that, or go on Prozac; an option that the myriad of voices in my head voted unanimously against.  I always listen to the voices in my head, for they are wise, (some of them, anyway).  I now look at the two slugs remaining in my butt as carte blanche to drop trow and moon anyone I choose to under the guise of showing off my battle scars.  Should you see the “full moon,” shining in your direction, you might want to ask yourself, “Is he showing me his souvenir slugs, or have I done something to offend him?”  Probably the former:  I don’t offend easily.  I do, however, dread my next stroll through the metal detectors at the airport.

Major projects, like Das Nook;  projects that you truly and thoroughly enjoy, are a perfect opportunity to clear your mind as you happily work along, listening to some great tunes, and think through and rationalize life events.  All the thoughts and problems that you’d otherwise put in mothballs in the furthest, cobweb infested, recesses of your cranium where they’re allowed to fester to biblical proportions while you worry about all the other, more immediate, trials and tribulations that are part of every day life can be examined and either poo-poo’ed or dealt with.  It’s amazing how much easier it is to deal with the “biggies” when you’ve had a chance to put all your problems in perspective, (and to avoid mood altering drugs!).  Take on a major project that you’ve been dreaming of, or putting off, in 2011.  Your mental health will thank you for it. *maniacal laughter*

Aside from the St. Murray’s Day Massacre, the name by which I now refer to the home invasion, (named for my current, infinitely shiftless, drunken sot, guardian angel, Murray; did I mention that he has a penchant for wearing frilly lady’s undergarments?), I’ve also had a few people who were formerly a major part of my life who’ve decided to take a vacation from me.  Some have even taken a permanent leave of absence!  To those good people I send my warmest regards, wish you all a Merry Christmas, eternal peace and happiness.  To those who have come into my life this year, welcome to the insanity!  Enter at your own risk and, please, read thoroughly, (especially the fine print), and sign the indemnity waiver at the door.

More to the point, the fact that I’m writing this with my own two healthy hands, on my own laptop, under my own warm roof, contemplating a wonderful Christmas with my family, (and rigatoni and meatballs for Christmas dinner, right, Shell?), speaks to the fact that as long as you’re still on this side of the sod, and healthy, even those of us Born Bent Over have a few silver linings left to search for in those constant dark clouds that follow us constantly.  For those sparse few silver linings, I am truly thankful.

So, I’ve decided that I have, pretty much, all I need this Christmas.  I have my health, my family and friends, my new weekend home on wheels and a much, much healthier outlook on life.  Therefore, I’d prefer to spread my share of the Christmas Magic around in the form of a few wishes for some people who are truly in need of a little Christmas Magic.

First and foremost, I’d like to wish a very Merry Christmas and a safe, healthy and happy New Year to all the men and woman in the armed forces who are laying their lives on the line every day to insure that those of us reaping the rewards of their sacrifices here in the most wonderful country on earth can continue to live, love, laugh, worship and think as we please.  May war, one day soon, become something you only read about in the history books.  May each and every one of you brave souls be sharing an egg nog with your loved ones on American soil next Christmas.  I, for one, wish to thank you from the bottom of my heart for all you do.  God Bless you.

May this year be the year the cure for cancer is finally discovered.  May medical science, once and for all, eradicate this vile plague upon society, and may the cure come in time to return all those currently living with cancer to normal, happy, healthy lives.

May every living soul have a warm place to sleep, a warm meal and a true friend this Christmas Season and forever thereafter.

May there be a toy under the tree for every child in the world this Christmas.

May all those who’ve lost someone they loved this year remember that someone lovingly this season, and may those memories be warm and happy enough to help them get through the pain and to move on with the business of living.

And last, but certainly not least, to all of you who have suffered through this blog every Sunday for the last twenty-one weeks, I wish you a heartfelt, Very Merry Christmas and a safe, healthy and prosperous New Year.  May 2011 be the first in a successive string of better years, and may true love and happiness follow you all throughout your days.

I only hope I’ve been deserving enough to warrant a healthy enough share of Christmas Magic for all these wishes come true.

Until Next Year,

Potere lo spirito di Natale e vivo nel suo cuore tutto in ogni parte l’anno. ………..(May the spirit of Christmas be alive in your heart throughout the year.)



A load of laughs on every page.
Born Bent Over: Flashing the Vertical Smile at Middle Age.

And, if you’re looking for a great read for the cold weekends ahead, order a copy of my latest book, Born Bent Over: Flashing the Vertical Smile at Middle Age.  I guarantee a laugh in every chapter.  You can find it at,, or through my website, where you can also read some of my short stories or hear the, quickly becoming famous, Born Bent Over Theme Song.

Week Eighteen: The Dream Becomes Reality.

My new credo.
My new trademark.

Hi, and welcome back.

If you’re reading this, I survived!   That’s one for me!

I was writing this week’s blog as the weekend at Watsadler Campground in Hartwell, GA, progressed, but the bears have very little use for Wi-Fi, so I had to wait til I got home safely to post.

I made it!  Whoo Hoo!

Actually, the weekend far exceeded my wildest dreams.  Nosty’s Nook performed beyond my expectations and, with the exception of two very frigid nights, the weekend was a dream.

Outdoor heating system

Picture if you will:  A four-cylinder Toyota pick-up with this sizable, heavy load of oak wood in the back, a cooler filled with sodas, food and a weekend supply of malty beverages, (loaded to the lid with ice), not to mention a box full of dry supplies, tool box and floor jack with an approximately 950 pound TTT hitched on the back.  A fool’s errand, you say?  Hardly.  Das Nook pulled like a dream.  The only time I knew she was back there was when we were coming off of a stop light or, thankfully, when I checked the side-view mirror and saw the right side door swinging in the breeze coming out of the supermarket parking lot, (in the pouring rain!).  I was in such a rush to get on the road Friday morning that I didn’t close the door tightly.  Better close to home, before I hit the highway, than at 60mph.  The bunk was made and my clothes were back there.  I was laughing at the thought of a pair of my drawers plastered to someone’s windshield as I pulled over to secure the door.   None of the firewood made it back home.  As a matter of fact, the folks in the site next to mine gave me an additional few logs last night as I sat out there with my feet up, well into the wee hours, relaxing and enjoying the solitude, (and amusing my nutty friends on Facebook via my phone).

It has been a very long time since I did any camping.  As a matter of fact, at about the time my first book, The Tenderfoot’s Guide to Family Camping, came out, circumstances made it such that camping  just wasn’t possible.  The first thing I noticed after all these years is that camping people are still, without question, the nicest, friendliest and most generous people you’ll ever meet.  From the greeter’s at the check-in gate, (campers who volunteer to keep an eye on the park at most places), to everyone else you’re going to meet whenever you enter a campground, you’re guaranteed lively conversation and a helping hand if you need one.  This weekend alone I was offered some starter kindling when I was fighting to get the fire started in the pouring rain Friday night, additional firewood Saturday night when it was obvious that my pile was running low, a pumpkin pie and an offer to watch the Clemson game with the great folks from Spartanburg, SC in the site beside mine.  On top of that, it is very apparent that TTT’s are not overly common here in SC/GA.  I gave more tours, (*chest swelling with pride*), and answered more questions than you could imagine, and loved every minute of it.

Das Nook dressed out.

I had to get a shot of the bunk made up Friday morning before I left because I knew that this was the last time this weekend it would look tidy. *laughing*  I have sectioned the interior off so, if you’ll look toward the foot of the bed, you’ll see the living room/office.  I sat there and worked a little on this blog after trying to see the laptop screen outside became an exercise in futility.   No, there’s not a lot of room, but sleeping inside, warm and cozy, was almost as nice as sleeping in my bed at home.  The added insulation was definitely worth the added work.  The heater barely ran throughout the below 30º nights and kept the inside at a nice 68º, where I had it set.  That’s also a pretty good indicator that I’ll have similar results from the AC unit when the hotter days come back to roost.  Considering that the camper was rocking from the intense winds blowing off the lake, both nights, I’d say I got the desired result.

As I mentioned in previous blogs, this weekend was what we used to call in the Navy, a “Shakedown Cruise.”  Obviously, choosing a near-winter weekend to go camping would not be everyone’s cup of tea, (although I always loved winter camping),  but I wanted to go through all the motions with Das Nook to see what I was lacking and what might need to be changed before the spring camping season hits.  I had a pad and pen in my pocket at all times, keeping a list of things I needed to do or wanted to do, additional gear I might need, etc.  Thankfully, there were no major issues, although I wished continuously that I’d gotten the galley completed to the point where the sink was installed and functioning.  The bath house was quite a hike from my site and I was going through waterless hand cleaner, hand sanitizer and disinfecting hand cloths like crazy.  Mr. Clean and camping don’t always play well together.

And it was great!

There’s no better outside meal, in my opinion, than steak and a baked potato cooked over a wood fire.  As part of the many deals and promises I made with myself throughout the build, to keep my motivation flowing, I promised myself that when I finally got Das Nook out into the woods, I’d eat steak at every meal that weekend, with dark lager to accompany the feast.  I learned a long time ago to never break a promise to yourself, so I followed through and ate like royalty this weekend.  It was a celebration and there was lots to celebrate, so I did it up in style.  I think God looked down upon the earth one day and said, “Hm?  The middle-class are bearing all the burden down there.  I think I’ll give them rib-eye steak to grill over an open fire to make their weekends that much more enjoyable.”  For this and oh so many other blessings, I thank Him regularly.

  A few shots from the weekend.

Well, the fun and R&R are over for a while.  Next weekend it’s back to work on Das Nook.  I’ve got to fashion an awning for the front window to keep the rocks and road debris from flying up and breaking the glass while we’re on the road, and as a sunscreen on those days when the camper’s parked into the sun.

Then it’s on to the galley.  That’s the part I’ve been looking forward to.  The cabinetry in the main cabin was a testing ground for the ones that will, eventually, adorn the galley.  I’ll need to get the doors built for those, too, but I plan on doing all the doors at once when the galley cabinet faces are installed.  I’ve been measuring my coffee pot, dutch oven, etc, to insure I customize the galley to accommodate various mainstays that will be permanent requirements for all camping trips.  These are the projects that I truly enjoy.  I’ve got a new toy in my toolbox for inserting pocket holes in cabinetry to make good strong joints with no hardware showing.  I used it on the main cabin cabinets and I was amazed at how well it worked.

This weekend’s trip was the first for a lot of things for me.  It was, with the exception of the door coming open at the supermarket, an catastrophically uneventful weekend which, if you’d ever camped with me before, you’d know that the odds of some catastrophe befalling me are very real.  I can still see the looks on my kids’s faces when they were little, and hear their cute little conversations: “Shelby, ten to one odds dad cuts something off this weekend!”  “Naw, Danny, this weekend he’s going to blow something up.  I just feel it.”  And they weren’t wrong.  Our trips went the gambit from my severing a finger when the tongue on the camper came down on it while I was hitching up in a rainstorm to leave, to my daughter chasing after a rabid squirrel to “pet him cause he’s cute.”  This was the same camper, our first, a pop-up, that I bought when these old bones were starting to rebel against sleeping in a sleeping bag on the cold ground.  I was young and naive where campers were concerned and believed the guy when he told me the thing was a “real gem” and “a steal” at the ridiculous price I paid for it.  We no sooner got it up when we realized that the previous owners had dogs.  Both my wife and my son were terribly allergic to dog fur.  As they were taking their Benedryl , I was trying to plug the myriad of leaks that sprung up everywhere in the camper.  Everything inside was soaked.  In desperation, I put the family in the van and started hitching up to leave.  I slipped in the mud hole that was to be our site while hitching up, my finger went under the tongue and, wham, I drew back a nub.  My van was a three-on-the-tree which my ex couldn’t drive so, finger in a cup of ice, I drove us to the hospital where we spent the next 11 hours waiting to get out of there.

And then there was the weekend where we were infested with fire ants that came in through the electric cable hatch, or the weekend my mother-in-law fell in the parking lot and had to have stitches in her head and we had to head home at 3AM.  And then there was the weekend……………well, you get the idea.  It’s amazing, but for all the catastrophes, I will always love camping and, amid the hundreds of trips we took when the kids were little, and throughout my life, we always managed a lot of laughter and fun on all of them.  Even the catastrophes are a laughing memory now, years later.  The real beauty of camping is that this weekend I had a house at the lake.  Next time out, I may have a house on a mountain peak or seaside; something I’d never be able to afford otherwise.  The possibility for adventure for a camping enthusiast is as close as the keys to the car.

Well my friends, I’ve got some unpacking left to do.  It has been a wonderful weekend and I hope you’ve enjoyed reading about it as much as I enjoyed experiencing it.

And if you get a chance, don’t forget to check out some of the work of some true craftspeople on the teardrop and tiny travel trailer forums.  It’s well worth the visit.

Until next week, may the wind always be at your back and your fortune be good fortune.



A load of laughs on every page.
Born Bent Over: Flashing the Vertical Smile at Middle Age.

And, if you’re looking for a great read for the cold weekends ahead, order a copy of my latest book, Born Bent Over: Flashing the Vertical Smile at Middle Age.  I guarantee a chuckle in every chapter.  You can find it at,, or through my website, where you can also read some of my short stories or hear the, quickly becoming famous, Born Bent Over Theme Song.