Dollar Lake: Testing our choice of truck camper (by Carl)

Dollar Lake: Test of our Choice of Truck Camper

When Linda and I first became interested in recreational vehicles [RVs] while living in the Musquodoboit Valley, we wanted the flexibility to go off road without too much planning.  As a result, we purchased our first truck camper in 2002; a light weight pop-up that fit into a short bed half ton pickup.  We had many adventures including a trip to Red Bay Labrador where the Basques whalers made their presence  well before Cabot; they were smart to not tell anyone where they were going!

After selling our camper and moving to the City in 2005, we often got away on vacations to national parks where we would enjoy the ease of a rented cabin; Fundy Highlands Chalets in Fundy National Park being one of our favorite places to visit to replenish our souls.  We enjoyed this for some time but decided it was time to get back to the mobility and enjoyment of an RV.  At this stage our family was growing with both of our boys married and the potential for grandchildren which meant a search for an RV that would fit us all.  We bought a 29 foot Cougar Lite fifth wheel trailer in 2014 that could be towed by a half ton pickup  truck with no problem.  Although we had many enjoyable trips with the fifth wheel including a family outing in the summer of 2016 [a trip to Fundy National Park] where we were joined by our boys and their spouses [Shane and Enrique, Matthew and Sarah, and our grandchild Ellie], there were limitations.  A fifth wheel adventure requires a flight plan [your brain should always be fifteen minutes ahead of your destination] and getting off the beaten path was not easy.  The only practical approach was to find a decent campground as a base of operation and then unhitch and conduct day trips or excursions in the pickup truck.  Something was missing.  The ability to do spur of the moment and off road trips was limited.cropped-img_20160914_142632.jpg

After our 2016 summer camping was over, we decided to take another hard look at truck campers to capture the flexibility we were looking for.  As the quest continued, we decided we wanted a large camper that could accommodate both of us, two dogs and facilitate a sleepover with a grandchild.  Our search continued until we stumbled upon the Livin’ Lite Camplite series which seemed to have a good track record and the specs we were looking for; light weight, spacious and durable.  We settled on the 11.0 model which comes in at 20 feet long, 3400 lbs dry weight and features a dinette slide.  The dinette slide was important because I like to cook and I didn’t want to be bumping into things as I prepared a meal.  It also gave a nice open feel to the camper.  The deal was made with Jerry’s RV in New Minas with the trade of the fifth wheel included.  Now, as you can appreciate, a half ton truck cannot carry 3400 lbs so we also traded the Dodge Ram 1500 for a Dodge Ram 3500 to ensure we had payload capacity.  We picked up the camper in September, 2016.  When I drove away, all appeared to be in order.  Unfortunately, it was immediately evident that there was a problem.  One of the tie down anchor plates at the rear of the camper was fastened by ordinary screws and not the proper structural bolts.  The local dealer also recognized this shortfall and contacted me to make things right.  During the repair procedure, it became evident that the quality assurance program at the manufacturer’s plant was woefully lacking as this defect had to be noticed in the factory and sent along the assembly line anyway.  Although a gallant effort was made to realign the anchor plate and install the proper bolts, the repairs were not successful and another visit to the shop was scheduled for April, ahead of the 2017 camping season.  In addition, we received a recall notice from the manufacturer about the propane tubing in the stovetop burner which also needed replacement.

After getting all the defects fixed inApril, we were ready to go and booked our first outing at Dollar Lake provincial park for the Canada Day weekend on July 1st.  We chose Dollar Lake as it is a good park and the closet to home; Linda had to preach that weekend.  Although the original defects were repaired in good order, we discovered a new problem with a leaking hot water tap on the outside shower connection and made arrangements to get that fixed.  The good news is the camper does not leak from the external elements as we found out during the July 1st weekend as the rain was extensive and drove most of the campers home.  Although the rain came down hard, it did not dampen our spirits; we enjoyed the comfort of the camper and managed to get a hike in on Saturday afternoon with dogs in tow.  Hopefully, we will get things straightened out with the outside tap so we can get back to our first love of truck camping adventure. We intend to visit three national parks this summer, compliments of a free Discovery Pass from our federal government.

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Rain, rain, go away

Dollar Lake Park: blue water and blue language

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A warm welcome

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Just 30 minutes from Halifax

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Rain, rain, go away

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Pax looks wistfully into the cab of the truck.

As we might say in the Maritimes, we got the bugs out of ‘er on the Canada Day weekend. It was our first use of the truck camper. We were prevented from using it last year because of structural problems with the camper itself.

Carl talks to himself. He is an off the scale extravert so he processes his thoughts externally. Some days almost all of them, it would seem. He is a brilliant and kind man so clearly this works for him. It used to be a problem when we were first married. I come from a home in which people are silent a great deal of the time. When anyone looked up from a book or television screen to say something, it was very important to listen. It could be a momentous, even life-changing announcement. Not so much in Carl’s family. Carl’s day often takes the form of a running external narrative which I felt I had to listen to and respond to at all times. It was exhausting and, in the beginning, very aggravating. After a time, we worked out a system whereby he would tell me when he wanted to converse, after which I look up from my book or computer screen, listen and respond.

The rain poured on this first inaugural trip to Dollar Lake.  We hope someday this camper will be our home for a year or so. There is a lot at stake in it being comfortable and serviceable enough to house us all.  Nova Scotia can have some pretty substantial deluges, but this was a sustained tempted-to-build-an-ark kind of rain. There was water pooling everywhere. Unwanted, pooling water, it would turn out, was a theme for our Canada Day weekend adventure.

On Friday night Carl was making his final evening campsite rounds with the rain-phobic dogs. He was talking to himself, which was not unusual. I presumed the self-conversation concerned the puzzling problem of the intermittent but continuous running of the water pump. Then the language turned blue. That made me sit up and take notice. He doesn’t often do that. Let me just say at this point, that no one can creatively curse as flamboyantly and enthusiastically as a Newfoundlander. There were the usual words everyone is familiar with and then appeared the ancient Newfoundland Elizabethan English curse words. The problem must be substantial, I thought. There was some jiggling of outer kinds of gear and more cursing.   When he came in he revealed that the camper outdoor shower hot water faucet was seriously leaking. This is a disappointment since we could not camp all last summer because of a construction error. It also meant we had to shut the whole hot water system down.

Carl removed some panels below the sink. No blue language was involved, perhaps because indoor problem-solving external narrative is different. He rummaged around with tools and various things and managed to shut off some valves. The camper will go back, yet again, to the dealer for repairs before we take off for the Gaspe. We went old-school by heating up the water on the stove. We had heat, food, drinking water, dogs and each other. Camping is all about getting away from computers, cell-phone screens and getting back to basics. I guess running hot water is not a basic need after all. We had a fine time.

Next post: About Dollar Lake Campground