Fernando’s Maiden Voyage!

I grew up camping with my family for 2-3 weeks every summer. We covered the entire west coast from top to bottom in that green and white Wilderness. I’ve been to some incredible places that most people will never get the opportunity to see. I’ve been to Yellowstone, Mount Rushmore and the Grand Canyon, just to name a few. Now, it’s my turn to give the same gifts to our children! We may not be able to visit all of those places but our plan is certainly to try.

We had our maiden voyage with our new camper Fernando (meet him here) this past weekend at Taylor’s Beach Campground in Howell on Cook Lake, which is about an hour north of us. We decided to try out a new local campground for our first trip out and found Taylor’s advertised on Facebook. It had a BOGO special for the month of April so we chose to book it and risk the chance of cold weather.

Taylor’s Beach is a gated campground with mostly seasonal campers and has some great amenities. They have a small beach with swimming, fishing, frog pond, horseback riding, boat rentals, large playground with a basketball court, game room, kids outdoor movies and weekly/monthly/seasonal sites. I was told that a covered pavilion and mini-golf was being added soon too. It was a great place overall even though the office wasn’t open for the season and a lot of the amenities weren’t available yet. We could see how fun it’d be once it was warmer out and wondered how crazy it’d be with a full house.

It seems every time we camp we forget something, and being the first time in the new camper I knew there would be something. I just never in my wildest dreams would have thought it would be Nolan’s shoe (though it happened once before, so I shouldn’t have been that surprised!) We left late Friday night after the school fair and the kids were on the trampoline as we were hooking up. We told the kids to get ready to go, they hopped in the car and off we went. Two out of three fell asleep during the drive and Nolan was pretty out of it when we went to get him out of the car. That’s when we realized he hadn’t put his shoes on. He’d left them in the backyard by the trampoline. Off to Walmart we went to get him another pair, oh and bacon. We forgot that too. I was more upset about the bacon honestly.

It was very cold over the weekend with temps down into the low 30’s at night and only about 50 during the day. The kids didn’t seem to mind at all. The spot we got was a lakefront site right next to the beach and across from the playground. It was awesome sitting around our fire and being able to watch the kids while they played. They spent more time at the beach and playground than at our site which was pretty rare. They only came over for boo-boos, food and sleep all weekend!

Our friends the Vincents came Saturday night with their 2 kiddos and we grilled, ate s’mores (I know, I know… not paleo or healthy AT ALL but I had to give in for this special occasion!) and talked around the campfire all evening.

We laughed at a few of the firsts in the new camper, I was the first to use the toilet. It’s pretty much like using the airplane bathroom but less scary. First tank dumping was also exciting!

First meal in it was pretty special too! I cooked the homemade pork sausage I prepped ahead of time, and scrambled some eggs for the perfect paleo breakfast.

We’re still getting used to our beds and the little noises. We feel so spoiled with all the amenities Fernando has, we stayed warm at night with the furnace, we had plenty of space for everyone and we are so in love. We can’t wait to go again!

Are you a camper and want to join us on our adventures? We’d love to find other families to camp with. Contact me at jillannclark@gmail.com if so!

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Meet Fernando!

Meet the newest member of our family, Fernando (means brave traveler)! He’s our new (to us) travel trailer that we have had for exactly a month and finally got to take him out on his maiden voyage this weekend (more on that adventure this week)! We love camping as a family and have been in a 1996 pop-up trailer since 2010 and were beyond ready for an upgrade now that the kids are older. Fernando was a MUCH bigger upgrade than we ever could have dreamed of!

We have a crossover vehicle with a tow capacity of 5200lbs (including the camper, our bodies and belongings) so we were very limited to what we could pull to begin with and we had other specific needs. OK, some of those in the “need” list were most likely “wants” (this was a very valuable lesson my father taught me at a young age). We have 3 kids so we needed 3 beds for the kids that didn’t have to be setup every night (like a couch, or the dinette) for sure, air conditioning (let’s be honest, this mama does NOT do camping without it!), decent storage and we needed a large dinette that could hold all 5 of us. On the want list was a slide out for more interior space, an outdoor kitchen and more privacy for the adults. All while being under our weight restrictions.

We shopped for new and used campers day and night online, on craigslist and at local RV dealers (including General RV, which was a complete joke. We don’t recommend them at all. EVER). We found a few that would have worked, but weren’t the most ideal. Lots of double bunks that were so narrow that we knew that the kids would grow out of them in a few years and we’d be back to square one all over again. We needed a layout that would last for years to come.

We were at an RV show in Mason, Michigan and were checking out the used units before heading home when we spotted Fernando, a 2012 Forest River Surveyor Eco Lite SP260 (it’s certified green!). I saw the 3 stacked windows in the back and knew it had triple bunks, which are extremely rare to come by for some reason, so you can imagine my excitement. I ran in and jumped for joy!

It also has a nice big bathroom, something that our pop-up didn’t have at all. Walking to the campground bathroom late at night or in the early chilly mornings were not a favorite task. Especially when the bathroom is not close or you have a potty training toddler in tow that just can’t hold it. The shower is kind of pointless because it’s so small, but the camper also only has a 6 gallon water heater, so you’d really have to make it a quick one!

The slideout kitchen gives an RV a lot more room inside such a simple concept! This unit also has a ton of storage,something our old pop-up seriously lacked. I had to construct shelves out of shower curtain rods and wire shelving that acted as our pantry (and frequently fell down) to get storage overhead. It has a nice pantry, full fridge and a freezer!

The HUGE dinette fits us perfectly (no more eating on our bed!), and the storage is so nice!

It also has a bonus entertainment center that acts as a wall between our bed and the rest of the camper for privacy (and a tv that flips around to face the bed!), wardrobes on either side of the bed so we don’t have to live out of suitcases, and AC (so mama can chill!).

The other bonus was the power awning which doesn’t sound like much, but the awning on our pop-up was always a source of frustration for both of us. We nearly divorced over it several times. Seriously. So when I saw this awning was so magically easy to use on top of everything else, I had to have it. We had to forgo the outdoor kitchen because of the bunks but overall it had everything we needed and so much more!

Kitsmiller RV was so amazing to work with during our whole purchasing process and continue to be helpful with our questions. We just called them Saturday to ask why water was shooting out everywhere when we tried connecting the water and they walked us through it all. We highly recommend them if you’re in the market for an RV!

We really look forward to making family memories with Fernando, just like we did in our old pop-up (which we hope another family will enjoy as much as we did!). With one weekend already under our belt we hope to have hundreds more with our family! Wanna camp with us? We’d love to get a group of families to camp together. Email me at jillannclark@gmail.com and we can chat about it!