We took the trailer for a (disastrous) trial run

Last fall we took the trailer out camping for the first time. We knew we would be telling people about our plans for the coming summer, and before we quit our jobs and sold our house, we figured it would be wise to actually go camping in! The first night ended with us stuffing our faces with uncooked s’mores as seen here:

How did we get to this moment? Last summer we put in hundreds of hours and worked like crazy to finish the trailer so we could take it out camping before winter arrived. We (mostly ) finished in September and then made plans to camp up in Wisconsin the first weekend in October.

From the beginning, things started going wrong:

The trailer was too heavy – A couple days before our camping trip, we took the trailer to a weigh station to see how much weight we would be pulling. We had spent a bunch of time and money outfitting our van with a tow package – adding a hitch, transmission and power steering cooler, and new wiring for a brake controller. Only when we finally weighed the trailer, it turned out to be much heavier than we expected! The van could handle it for a weekend trip, but wouldn’t be able to safely tow it once it was fully loaded. So for this weekend we just moved the batteries out of the tongue box to reduce the tongue weight and waited to fill up the water tank at the camp.

No trailer lights – We had everything hooked up in our driveway, kids in their car seats, and we were ready to go! The only problem was that none of the running lights seemed to be working on the trailer. We finally discovered it was just a loose connection between the trailer and the tow vehicle. Okay, that’s an easy enough fix! We were off!

Quintin is distracted. Eliza is skeptical.

Something doesn’t feel right – As we drove along, we began noticing a bounce in our van as we towed the trailer. We pulled over and realized that the trailer was not level. Our hitch was too high. So we made a stop at Harbor Freight to buy a different sized ball mount. At this point it began raining. I came back out only to realize I didn’t have the right wrench. Back into Harbor Freight. Then the ball was stuck so I needed a second wrench. Back into Harbor Freight. That didn’t work, so I finally decided to just buy a second ball (what Kimberlee suggested in the first place). Back into Harbor Freight. The guy knew me pretty well at this point. Eventually, soaking wet and with darkness upon us, we finally got the trailer leveled and we continued our drive. (You’re welcome for the free ad, HF)

The rain and lights – We finally arrived at the camp – only by then it was a total downpour. The kids were crying from the thunder, so we pulled into our campsite and made a mad dash into the trailer. We flicked the light switch. Darkness. Oh right – we took the batteries out! I ran back out into the rain – the kids now screaming  afraid of the thunder AND darkness – and lugged the heavy batteries to the trailer tongue to attempt to connect them to the trailer. After several failed attempts with the battery connections coming undone, Kimberlee finally came out managed to get them connected (you’ll notice an ongoing theme in our stories of Kimberlee always fixing my mistakes). After her battery magic, we had lights! We huddled together in the trailer and ate our chocolate and marshmallows (nobody seemed to want the graham crackers), and eventually all settled in to sleep.

Eliza wasn’t too sure at first, but eventually had fun!

BEEP BEEP BEEP – In the morning, Kimberlee got up first to make everyone breakfast. After 10-15 minutes of cooking, we were startled with a VERY loud beeping sound! It was the propane detector. Oh great, now we’re all going to explode. We quickly got the kids out and turned off the propane tanks. After letting the trailer air out (and hoping we hadn’t woken any of the other campers in the park), we realized that we had accidentally turned on the valve for the oven in addition to the stove top. So propane was just filling up the oven and slowly leaking out. We were able to turn off that valve and continue cooking without issue. At least we learned the propane detector does its job!

Eventually we all sat down for breakfast – gas free!

Fortunately, none of these problems were unmanageable and made for a memorable first camping trip. The rest of the weekend turned out great. The rain held off, we went on some lovely hikes, and enjoyed an second much more delightful evening around the campfire.