Thanks Phyliss for letting me know it was WVBassmistress who engineered those M&Ms. And it was a pleasure to meet everyone at the rally. Whazoo, the perfect thing would be for you and Mrs. Whazoo to have joined us. We'll be headed out West at some point for the first annual Avion camper rally at Muley Point. You're invited there. I plan to have timed quarter mile truck camper drag races and the fastest climb up the Moki Dugway.
So, my truck camping friend John Patterson (Exhaustipated) wrote to say that Jane and I should travel to the South East Truck Camper Rally this year. We had intended to head for Kenner, Texas, but John convinced me this would be different.
John was right.
Before I get this report jerked out of here, Reddog, I am not going to write about the rally as such. Going My Way (Phyliss) the co-host of the rally along with Eric (Kohldad) will be writing the details in the Rally thread. I am trying to stay within the Forum rules. Trust me. Besides, it involves a Suzuki Samurai.
So, as I was saying, we were driving along I 24 on the way to the rally and I said to Jane, "seems like the truck is pulling a bit to the left". Jane said to me, "maybe there is wind". We're always worrying about the truck pulling this way and that. It's probably the wind. We forgot about it.
Then a fellow pulled in front of me and I hit the brakes. I heard a crash in the back. We pulled over. My flat towed Suzuki had lost a pin in the right-side attachment to the tow bar....and as long as I went straight down the highway there was no problem. But, when I hit the brakes the whole towbar collapsed smashing the Sammy into the back of my 1967 Avion.
My first problem was physically separating the towbar, the tow ball, and the truck. Everything was bent together. I took out a hammer, a big screwdriver and channel locks and went to work. I had semis passing within a few feet as I laid under the wreckage beating and plying. Finally, like a miracle, it all came apart. I checked the Sammy and it started fine. I saw the dents in the hood and grill and I couldn't open the hood. My Avion didn't suffer any damage that I could see. But, then, it has lots of "character' from all the years on the road.
We were faced with a challenge: (1) drive on to the rally for 4 hours separately in the truck and Sammy. (2)Turn around and go home. (3) Try to get it fixed.
We were passing near Ft Campbell and Clarksville, Tn. I said to Jane, lets take a look and see if I can get a welding shop to fix the tow bar...if its fixable. I drove into a Goodyear shop for truckers. I told these two big guys the story. They nodded and said, "we have a real big hammer".
This is the honest to God truth. Those guys beat that towbar, stretched that towbar and straightened that towbar. They used the hammer, their legs and feet, and whipped that thing into total submission. It was in better shape after they finished than it had been before the accident.
So, I tried to pay them. "No, indeed, we're paid plenty here. We're glad to help." Of course, I later learned, they were vets of the 101st Airbourne at Ft.Campbell.
But there is more to this. We got back in our truck and headed on to the Smoky Bear Campground near Gatlinburg where the South East Truck Camper rally was happening. We disconnected the Sammy at the campground and discovered that the headlights wouldn't go off because of a short. The hood wouldn't open or fasten correctly. It was a mess. Several of the campers came over to look at my Sammy including Eric Kohl (Kohldad).
We met everyone and went to bed. It had been a very hard day.
The next morning Eric stopped by. He leaned over and studied the hood and grill. He went away and brought back two small come-a-longs. Hooked them up between my Ford truck and the grill of the Sammy, and very carefully began to apply pressure. The Sammy's grill moved slightly. He shifted the pressure to here, then to there. Folks it was like watching an artist. When he finished the hood shut perfectly and the damage was totally minimized.
Nope, Eric didn't want anything for his work either.
The next day we went to The Smoky Mountain National Park and Cade's Cove in our Suzuki. It was a beautiful warm day. The trees, grass and foliage proved that there were more shades of green than words to describe them.
We went along Little Creek and marveled at the mosses and wildflowers that were watered by springs tumbling down the mountains.
Photographers were dotted all along the creek
But, to be honest, there were too many cars passing on this beautiful day. So, we took the Suzuki up and over the mountain on an unimproved road. That's why we pull that car - and because of the guys in Tennesse and Kohldad - we found this quiet trail. Flowers were everywhere.
Celedon poppies and bluebells
We got so wrapped up in the wildflowers that I almost called Brian Appleby for a consult.
OK, Reddog, this is the rally part.
We got back and they were having the pot luck dinner. Phyliss had thought to get custom M&Ms made. Who knew that you could do that?
And we posed for the rally photo. Actually, I shot the picture, so I'm not in it. But Jane is up there near the top of the slide.
If it were not for John Patterson (Exhaustipated), our truck camping friend, we wouldn't have known about the rally. If it weren't for Phyliss and Eric we wouldn't have had a rally. If it weren't for the fellows from the 101st Airbourne we wouldn't have made it. And if it weren't for Eric (Kohldad) we wouldn't have seen the wildflowers.
Our truck camping community is full of skilled, friendly people who help each other. In fact America is truly blessed to have such a culture of giving and helping. Thanks to you all.
From time to time I read about campsites in the West where the pictographs and dwellings are stunning. Or sites along the Great Lakes that are breathtaking. Many times, however, the posters are reluctant to give directions to these sites. The reasons stated are that the sites are fragile, or they shouldn't be over run by campers. Oftentimes that makes sense.
But, what about favorite campsites that are tucked away and seldom visited by the larger RV community?
This photo shows our campsite at Devil's Backbone Park in Grand Tower, Illinois. It is located directly on the Mississippi River, in a dramatic bend that includes Tower Rock on the opposite shore in Missouri. Being that close to the Father of Waters means that almost always there is a Spring clean-up after the floods of winter. This year is no different.
Tower Rock was ascended by Lewis and Clark and their Corps of Discovery as they set out for the West on their famed expedition. Here it is as viewed from the Missouri side of the River.
Nearby on the Ohio are the remains of mussel fishermen who boiled mussel meat out on the riverbank...and drilled out mother of pearl buttons for the garment trade. There are one or two musselmen left, but most activity stopped after the introduction of plastic buttons in the 1930s. The piles of mussel blanks are revealed by one flood and then buried by another.
Or if its a good day for fishing you can see the men struggling on the river with carp or river catfish.
Please write up the Best Little Campsite that no one knows, except you.
Thanks Mike for this first rate write up. I appreciate that you take the time to go into detail about the challenges of the WRT. I now plan on next Spring for my attempt with my trusty 67Avion and F350.
We're at the Southeast Truck Camper rally in the Smoky Mountains. Good to learn we have another Avionista. Trout should explain the meaning of Muley Point where we hope to gather soon.
BTW who had the Avion at Tall Pines rally last week? Was that Silver?
Thanks for the reply, this is helpful knowing that 300watts solar should handle it. We don't stay in one place long so the engine would be adding to the charge also.
We originally had 3 AGM series 31 batteries until a mishap last year. In the ensuing repairs we didn't replace one of the batteries - leaving just 2. I thought I'd be in trouble with our Nova Kool installation. As it turned out we had no problems at all during a Florida trip this late winter. Now, we tend to move almost everyday on the road...so that might be part of the answer. And it was unseasonalby cool when we visited, so that might explain something.
But the 200 watt solar panels kept the batteries charged and our draw down during the evening was quickly replaced by late morning.
We do have an opening for exhausting any heat from the fridge, but it is very small and not noticeable either way.
We use a triangular canvas that is attached to the camper on two points and attached to a pole on the third point. I believe it's around 14' on a side so it covers quite a bit of space. We place our table and chairs under the canvas. Its very easy to erect and quick to take down. It folds into an easily storable package. On the occasions when high winds have blown it around, there has been no damage.
You're certainly looking at good products with Engel and Nova Kool. We just found a great deal more storage and convenience with our Nova Kool over the Engel. But Engel is one of those products that literally is used to save lives by transporting blood and organs for transplant. That's quite an endorsement for quality and dependability.
I put in the Nova Kool 4.3 cu ft AC/DC fridge this past year. It is surprisingly spacious, with a layout that works extremely well for us. We chose the AC/DC model since we only have 200 watts of solar. However, it has turned out to be a non issue.
Oddly, I was warned by the dealer for Nova Kool that they had issues on occasion with getting the machine into a RV. As it turned out, ours was no problem, but you may take a careful look at the measurements.
Our fridge has been sensational.... drawing less power than I had anticipated....cooling to beat the band...and quiet.
If there is one thing that I've done to insure that my wife looks forward to going on the road in our TC - its the Nova Kool. I really don't see any drawbacks to your potential installation.
Best of luck!
Thanks for this post. As a young fellow I read all of Steinbeck's - and Robert Louis Stevenson's work. The other guy that should be part of this triumvirate is Jack London. They're among a number of great writers on my TC bookshelf.
Getting 6 weeks total paid holiday (once you have been at the same company many years) is one thing - being allowed to use all that in one 6-week trip is something else - not something I would like to request. I can get away with just over 2 weeks at a time. In exceptional cases I might be able to take 3 weeks. Maybe things are different in Germany.
Hey Steve. Many thanks for all your help on the European trip. As to the vacation time in Germany, I looked back at my notes and I have "5 to 6 weeks". It surprised me so I asked Rolf Soujan and he affirmed it. I didn't write it all down, but I recall that he mentioned the influence of Hamburg on the region. It is one of the busiest ports in the world and is one of the centers of German manufacturing. Rolf said that it is heavily unionized and they have very good benefits.
It may be that the vacation time is different in the far west and north of Germany than in other areas. Or it could be that camping appeals far more to working class families who gather up time for their summer vacations - and perhaps take turns with the children.
I really don't know the price of the Tonke. It is built to order, I understand, and its subject to currency shifts. However, I think its in the US$60 - $75K without the Mercedes Sprinter. The only truck camper that comes close in price is the XP V2 that retailed around $42K. It may be that the Tonke is the most expensive truck camper in existence if you don't include the big Expo vehicles.
And you're right. Many of the Avions will be around for their 100th anniversaries, I suspect.