Saturday, January 31, 2015

Canopener 2015 - Topsail Hill Preserve State Park

We first heard about the Canopener while attending our local WBCCI (Wally Byam Caravan Club International) meeting. One of the group's members said he made reservations to attend something called the Canopener. That sounded interesting and I wanted to know more about this Airstream rally.

At that time, our problem with the Canopener was that it was in January and my work schedule made it impossible for us to attend. We knew that the Canopener would have to wait until another day.

Fast forward to 2015, our first real opportunity to attend and we made our reservations.

The Canopener is held at the Topsail Hill Preserve State Park in Florida. Our previous trip to this park did not end on a positive note, so we were curious to see how this trip to the park would turn out.
Topsail Hill State Park in Florida

We were unable to reserve a site in the main loop housing the rally. Using the knowledge gained from our first visit, we booked a site that backed up to one of the small ponds in the park. This turned out to be a much better site than the one we had during our first visit.
Our site at Topsail

View of Rosie from the pond
Our first day at the Canopener was marked by some very cold temperatures. The heating systems in Rosie, our 25 foot Airstream trailer, kept us nice and warm and we enjoyed our evening together and played Mexican Train Dominoes.

As we walked through the park the next morning, we were able to see what was taking place that weekend. More than 100 Airstream trailers and motorhomes were there. You saw aluminum everywhere you looked and Airstreamers outside talking to one another. It turned out that the event was very similar to the mental picture I created for it.

Some of the Airstream trailers at the 2015 Canopener

We quickly learned that this was a great place to learn more about our trailer. I had a question about Rosie's hot water heater. I simply asked our neighbor and he shared his knowledge about that subject with me and answered my questions.

We tested Rosie's new bicycle rack we recently installed on this trip. We learned that we needed to make a few adjustments to make it easier to load our bikes. We didn't unload the bikes until the last day because it was too cold to ride them.

Bike rack on Rosie

Topsail park is near the beach, but not on it. You have to hike, ride a tram or your bikes to get to the water. On our last day in the park, we rode our bikes and discovered that Topsail has a great beach area. Be sure you don't miss it.

The beach at Topsail

Selfie at the beach

Saturday was the big day for the Canopener. It started with breakfast with the Ranger and the Airstream open house was next. We enjoyed looking at the different Airstreams and talking with their owners.
People talking with each other at the Canopener

The potluck dinner was later that afternoon followed by dancing in the street. We fared well with the potluck because Airstreamers know how to prepare great food while on the road.
The potluck dinner
At the potluck dinner

We didn't fare as well in the street dance. It seems that a public display of my questionable abilities to move in sync with musical rhythms was a bad idea. Thus, the time spent making a fool of myself was short. We moved to the sidelines to allow real dancers unimpeded access to the road, which was the dance floor.

The evening was lots of fun and the Canopener turned out to be a great way to start the new year of camping.

Some specifics about Topsail Hill Preserve State Park:
  • There are two main camping loops for RVs in this park. The central loop is where the Canopener events took place and where most people tried to get their site reservations. The other loop is everything outside that primary loop.
  • Some of the sites were very shallow and would not support big rigs.
  • There are two bath houses in this park. The one supporting the center loop is better maintained and appears to have been updated more recently than the other bath house.
  • There is a nice laundry facility at Topsail.
  • You will want to bring your bicycles to get to the park's beach area. While you can ride the tram, it is more fun to ride your bikes along that path.
  • Most sites have 20, 30 and 50 amp electrical service.
  • The park has sewer connections for all RV sites.
  • There is a dump station at the park, but you probably will not need to use it since each site has sewer connections.
  • There is a camp store in the park. It contains minimal supplies.
  • There is a Publix grocery store a couple of miles down the road from Topsail.
  • AT&T covered the park with a good 4G signal.
  • Wifi service was available in this park. We didn't have any trouble connecting to the Internet through the park's wifi.
  • The sites come with cable TV connections. Our connection didn't work. (Our cable connection didn't work on our first visit, either.) Our neighbor said that he complained to a ranger and the park's staff quickly fixed his cable connection. Maybe we need to complain more to the right people.
  • We were able to watch CBS, NBC and ME-TV from Rosie's antenna.
The Canopener turned out to be lots of fun and informative. We plan to add the Canopener to our "must do" list for next year. Maybe we can get in the main loop next time.

Friday, January 9, 2015

Boondocking at a truck stop on I-65 near the Kentucky/Tennessee state line

After four days in the service center at Airstream's headquarters in Jackson Center, Ohio, our camper was ready and we got on the road around 5 p.m. We wanted to get a few hours down the road so that we could reach home before sunset the following day. (See the previous posting to learn about our adventures at Airstream's factory service center.) That meant we needed to be south of Cincinnati and Louisville before stopping for the night. Our goal was to find a place to camp before 10 p.m. and to be back on the road early the following morning.
We use the AllStays app on our iPhones to find potential places to camp for the night. As we were heading south on I-65 in Kentucky, we were running out of options and decided to stop at the Flying J Travel Plaza at Exit 2.

Rosie spot for the night
This turned out to be a huge truck stop with spaces for more than 170 trucks. Since we were arriving late that night, it appeared that most of the truck parking spots were full.
One of the things we learned from our first night boondocking at a truck stop was to get as far away from the trucks as possible. That way you don't have to listen to their desel engines and air breaks all night. We found a place to park next to the curb in front of the Denny's restaurant and figured we found our spot for the night.
The temperature was in the teens and the memory foam on Rosie's bed (our 25 foot Airstream trailer) was hard as a rock. We fired up the furnace and went inside the truck stop while the heater took the chill off inside Rosie.
The cold may have been responsible for the LED lights in the main cabin area not working. We would turn them on and they would quickly dim. The LED lights in the bedroom area worked fine. The main cabin LED lights are on a dimmer while the bedroom lights are not. Now that we are home and Rosie is in her inside storage space, we have been unable to replicate that problem.
After hanging out inside the store for a while, we ventured back out to Rosie. The furnace was working hard and we doubt that it turned off during the night. The memory foam on the bed didn't have time to thaw out and continued to be stiff, but we were warm enough inside Rosie.
The lessons we learned from our first camping experience at a truck stop paid off. By not parking in the middle of the trucks, we didn't hear their constant loud noises.
We were glad we decided to start heading home when Rosie was released from Airstream's service center. Once we were on the road that morning, we realized that we would be home in time to pick up our dog, who we boarded at her vet.
We have to classify our trip to Ohio as a success. We were able to make some improvements to Rosie, fix several nagging problems and learned many new things about camping in an Airstream trailer. In addition, we found the farm that Becky's father grew up on and that led us to many pleasant memories.
We are already planning the next round of improvements for our next trip to Jackson Center, Ohio.