Vacation. It finally arrived. Most years we spend a week at the Outer Banks, but this year, we spent a few days in Orlando, Florida at Walt Disney World. It was a surprise for the kids, and a surprise to us that we were actually able to keep the surprise!
My in-laws rented a 15 passenger Ford van for us to drive. This was the smallest “large vehicle” I’ve ever ridden in. Really, for as big as these are you should be able to fold seats or remove seats. We had to cram our luggage in, and we were not happy with the ride quality, AT ALL. But, after leaving our home at 6am and stopping for breakfast, lunch, gas, and bathrooms, we rolled under the WDW sign around 4:30 pm on Saturday.
It was a fun trip for sure, and the pics speak for themselves. You can certainly set your watch by the rain in Florida. We’ll be back for sure… even if its just to find that one wicked Tacoma I waived to as I was driving that annoying van.28.392782 -81.570667
If you own a Toyota Tacoma, you have probably seen, heard of, or drooled over a Prinsu rack for the roof of your truck. The Prinsu isn’t cheap. Coming in the mid to upper $600 dollar range for the standard rack is raised even further by UPS ground shipping. Want the light bar mount or noise reducing trim? Yep, those are extra too. Lucky me though as I had a connection that had a brand new Prinsu rack. $500 later, I saved nearly 50% of what I would have spent.
Three years later when the package finally arrived (it was 2 days, but i’m very impatient with shipping), I ripped the box open and was impressed with the packaging and the quality of what was in the box. Having watched a few videos, I felt prepared to start the install. I started the install with attaching the wind deflector to the silver bar provided by Prinsu. I’m not sure why Prinsu didn’t make this black, but it’s a cheap move in my initial impression. Installing was easy when I decided to go against their tip; instead I went ahead and lightly attached all screws and sliders to the deflector, and then fed the deflector onto the silver cross bar. One tip I saw was to only attach a couple of the crossbars to make the rack lighter for install. Having set up the rack with two crossbars, it was time to mark the black molding, cut and trip to section the pieces in place. You’ll want a sharp knife and good snips to break the metal banding in the molding.
Fast forward a bit and with the help of my wife, the rack was on top of the truck. I used silicone around the bolt holes, placed the spacers, and we lowered the rack on the spacers. Bolts went in easy and quick with the extra clearance afforded by not fully assembling the rack. It was a pretty easy and straightforward install.
I let the truck sit for 24 hours to allow the silicone to dry fully (and because I didn’t need to drive my truck as we have a 4Runner as well). When I took the truck out for it’s first ride, I did notice the roof rack creates a lot of wind noise. I have come to expect this with all of the vehicles I’ve had a roof rack, but the Prinsu is just plain loud. If the Noise Reducing Trim (an extra $15 option) truly helps, it should be included as standard – really a cheap move by Prinsu. I looked online to order the trim, but frankly the UPS Ground shipping (the only option they provide), costs more than the stupid trim. Based on the fact that my awning mounts have already been delayed twice since shipping from Prinsu, I will just wait to order anything else or see if I can find another option to use.
- Design quality is top notch
- Fit and Finish is great
- Value for Dollars Spent could GREATLY be improved on
Would I purchase this again? Probably not. In my opinion, Prinsu skimped on two areas they didn’t need to. The silver bar just looks ridiculous, and not including a $15 trim (which in all honesty is likely less than a dollar per application in their world) was just a low blow. Until Prinsu comes up with better and faster shipping options (or more hubs throughout the country to ship from), I just dont see myself supporting this company again. What about you? Feel free to leave a comment below… we’re all adults 🙂
One of Ray’s favorite hobbies (besides camping and fishing) is finding and collecting Shark Teeth. One of his greatest in his collection is a large Megladon tooth. So when my wife remembered she took a field trip in school to Aurora, North Carolina to visit the Aurora Fossil Museum, she knew that Ray needed to visit.
The museum is about an hour and 40 minutes from where we live, so we jumped in the truck on Friday morning and started on our way. When we arrived, the area was pretty desolate as Aurora is no booming metropolis. But as we got closer, one thing was certain – there were two giant digging pits and this Museum is a hit with locals and tourists alike.
When we arrived, we walked in to a small gift shop at the entrance/exit of the Museum. The Museum itself is small, and offers free admission, which is great after I just burned an hour and a half worth of gas in my truck. We started walking through and the very first thing my son see’s are Megalodon teeth, which happens to be his favorite shark. Ray knows just about everything you could care to ask about sharks. He even is able to closely identify the types of shark based on teeth, tail, and fins.
After checking out all of the teeth on display, we stepped into another room with dirt layers showing where fossils are likely found. It was neat, but not as neat as all the teeth we just saw. We left this room pretty quickly and entered another room that contained a bunch of shells and marine vertebrae. Ray took a picture inside a Shark’s mouth while we were in this room. In the very back was a small room with Native American arrowheads, spearheads, and artwork. I thought this was pretty neat and shows how resourceful the Native American’s were in history.
On our way out, Ray asked if he could get a “shifter” … also known as a sifter. They were only $12 for a large 12″ sifter which I thought was fair given the free admission, so we made a purchase and went outside to the pits.
To start with, Ray went to the pit right in front of the Museum. Within seconds he was running to me (I was sitting in a covered gazebo in the shade, doing some work) with a Great White Shark Tooth! After sending a picture to his mother, he went back to work in the pit. After a while, he asked if we could move to the other pit that was more shaded. We made our way around the corner and as there was nowhere I could sit and work, I put my iPad up and sat on the wall with him. Eventually, I was digging right along with him, helping load the “shifter” and “shifting” the debris.
We dug for a couple hours and Ray accumulated a heaping handful of shark teeth, before we agreed it was time to head home. The plan was to stop somewhere for some food, but as soon as his head hit the seat in my truck it was lights out for this 7 year old paleontologist. It was a great first trip to the Aurora Fossil Museum, and I know we will definitely visit again.
If you want to visit the Aurora Fossil Museum, the address is:
400 Main Street
Aurora, North Carolina
Tell them, CampWithDad.com sent you!
June 1st is the start of the Scout year, and with my recent promotion to Cubmaster and my sons promotion to the Wolf Den, we had some new items we could work on towards his badge. After finishing up with his sister’s driveway-camping expedition, Ray wanted some Dad-time. We settled on taking a hike together at nearby Medoc Mountain State Park.
To satisfy some of Ray’s requirements for an Adventure, I made Ray gather up the Six Cubscout Essentials: Water Bottle, Sun block, Flashlight, First Aid, a Whistle, and trail food. We placed all of this in my Camelbak Hydration backpack (along with 3L of water for myself) and jumped in the Dadmobile to head on our way. It was only a 30 minute drive, but the temperature was steadily climbing and by the time we reached the trail head, it was already 90 degrees outside.
We chose to take Stream Loop first. I set the hiking mode on my Apple Watch on, and we started walking. As we walked, Ray read some of the signs like the one for Ticks and Poison Ivy. I quizzed Ray on what to do if we had an emergency and repeatedly asked him what trail we were on and what would he do “if.” I was very proud of his mature and sensible answers.
We took a detour on to Discovery Loop and extended our hike to over 2.5 miles and an hour and 10 minutes. The gnats and bugs were annoying on Discovery Loop, but we saw some amazing things on our hike. Ray found some “rapids” on Fishing Creek, caused by some rock formations in the water.
After the Rapids, we saw a Bullfrog jump in front of us. Being a good Scout, Ray watched it but didn’t mess with it. We let the little frog continue on it’s path into the brush. A short while later, we saw wood that had been chewed by Beavers, and once I finally got Ray to quit talking about Frog Legs from some show he watches (gross), we saw not one, not two, but three deer running through the woods. A Doe with her baby, and another young deer a few seconds later on our other side. It was interesting at least.
We checked out a small bridge, looking for fish but none were found before we started the remainder of our trip back to the truck (and the AIR CONDITIONING). The gnats were ridiculous today, as they generally always are in North Carolina. But we made it back to the truck and started our slow trip back home. As we drove out of the park, Ray followed where we were on the map, using landmarks like the bridge over the river and the curves in the road to point out where we were. After our drive home, we stopped at a local gas station that has great ice cream to cool off, before heading home to change for the pool. All in all, it was an amazing trip and I’m so glad this little guy wanted to go for a hike!
After my son had his opportunity to sleep in our roof top tent, my daughter who is turning 9 soon was anxious to get her turn. Between trips to the beach, horse shows, and unexpected 98 degree weather, it seemed as though she had lost out on her chance to catch some elevated camping time with dear old Dad. But never give up hope, because as luck would have it a cold front came through and dropped the nightly temperature drastically, and we knew that we were going to get our night in the tent!
On June 1st, my son had his Cub Scout End of Year party. After we celebrated the boy’s advancements, we went outside for bounce houses and icee’s. Everyone I chatted with brought up the roof top tent which was sitting on top of my truck nearby. After the third “I wish you had it set up,” I decided I needed to give the people what they asked for, so I quickly set the tent up for all to see. Everyone really liked how easy the setup was, and was equally impressed with how quickly it was put back away. A few hours later we were back home and I set the tent up again for my daughter and I to sleep in. My son, Ray, decided he was going to take advantage of the vacancy in my bed to share some time with his mom (and sleep in our super cool bed that inclines/declines)
As the temperature broke 70* and falling, Abbie and I went outside and set up our “room” for the night. We had all of the vents open as we watched the sun set. As soon as it was dark, I asked her if she would like to watch a movie with me (a sure fire way to laugh and bond and ease any anxiety of her second night camping and first night being 7 feet off the ground. We chose Despicable Me 3 and had a great time laughing. As 11pm drew near, we decided to shut everything down. I closed one of the entryways (the one without the ladder where our heads were) so that it would be a little darker. As the night went on, I shut the two ceiling panels as well, and early in the morning I woke to shut the entryway where the ladder was. Ultimately as the temperature dropped we stayed very comfortable with me waking to adjust as needed to keep Abbie resting peacefully. I woke around 6ish and it was still nice and dark in our tent. The sun was coming up but it wasn’t too bright inside. As Abbie started to wake we smiled and I asked how her night was. She said she slept great and had a lot of fun!
Being Sunday morning, the plan was to head to church so we had to get up early so that I had time to pack the tent up. As we gathered our things, I noticed that the tent had some moisture on it. Not wanting to fold it up while it was wet, we decided to skip church today and just enjoy some good old fashioned family time together.
Camping has been a really fun way to bond with my kids and I’m excited and ready to camp again!
I’m curious if you’ve ever camped in your driveway? We picked up our tent a few weeks ago, and had plans to use our tent last weekend but some parenting had to be done, and unfortunately the tent camping had to be pulled as a consequence of growing up. But, after a really great week, I felt like I should offer it back to Ray as a reward for his good behavior. Since we had an appointment to get the tires rotated and oil changed at our local Toyota dealership at 8 AM, a horse show all day in a neighboring county 45 minutes away, and a Soccer game at noon, we couldn’t venture away from home for a night under the stars.
What do you do when it’s humid, warm, and sunlit until 9 PM, but you still want to sleep in a Roof Top Tent? You open that sucker up in the driveway! And when your neighbor offers to come by at 10:30 PM and make monster noises? You offer to throw a bullet his way (LOL – JK).
Setup was a breeze as expected. If you don’t have a Roof Top Tent, I’ll briefly walk you through the process. After releasing the four straps, and unzipping the cover, it is lifted over the tent and I usually tuck it into the truck bed to keep it off the paint. There are 4 Velcro straps (one on each corner) that are released before grabbing the ladder and using it as leverage to open the tent. Now, all that remains is taking the 8 wire rods to prop open any of the awnings that you’d like open. Done. Seriously. That’s it!
Inside the tent is an anti-condensation mat, and a plush Summit level sleeping mat. The tent is very comfortable, and because of the model we chose, it’s very spacious as well. Inside are storage pockets, 4 vents, and 6 mesh openings which can be sealed in inclement weather. Last night, the temperature ranged from 74* to a low of 66* and we were very comfortable. As we fell asleep, the moon was behind our house, but I did wake up in the middle of the night with the moon beaming in through one of the stargazer panels on the top of the tent – SO cool! I did end up closing this window so that the light wouldn’t keep us from sleeping, and it was a simple process. After a few more hours of listening to nature around us, we woke up at 6 AM to watch the sun slowly rise over the treeline in the distance.
Packing up everything was just as easy as setup. We packed our small assortment in the tent (two sleeping bags, two pillows, his blankets, my laptop since we watched Guardians of the Galaxy until he fell asleep, and a solar lantern). Within minutes, we were ready to exit the tent and pack things up to start our Saturday morning. Closing the tent is super simple as well. Removing the wire rods, and strapping the tent down, is as simple as using the same ladder to leverage the tent closed.
So in closing, while we may not have been able to explore the forest, wake up in view of the ocean, or explore some new and exciting place we did get to explore our very own front yard and to us, that is better than a night in a bedroom any day of the week!
A few years ago, I owned a 2014 Hydro Blue Jeep Wrangler Sahara Unlimited Altitude Edition. The Sahara has the option for dual tops, with the hardtop being color matched. I loved this Jeep and while owning it decided that I enjoyed taking the hard top on and off more than I enjoyed dealing with the insecurity of a soft top, and the frustration involved with raising and lowering it. While owning this vehicle, I installed a Harken hard top hoist system in my garage. A few years later, the Jeep left us, and as you all know, we now own a Toyota 4Runner Limited, and our Tacoma TRD Off Road.
The CVT Tent we own is a Mount Rainier. It’s shipping weight is around 236 pounds. Part of that weight is the annex, which I keep stored in a bag on the garage floor. The tent however, is just too heavy for one person to maneuver, and frankly, it’s even heavy with two men trying to raise it over our heads onto the 18″ tall bed rack I have (a KBVooDoo rack that is no longer in production). To combat this, I wanted to re-purpose my lift to accommodate lifting the tent off the truck.
I only have about 1″ of clearance coming into my garage currently when I have the tent on board. Future plans involve a shorter bed rack, but for now I wanted to get this tent off the truck as it kills my gas mileage. I currently have a 110 mile round trip commute for work, so those MPG’s are important to me. I started to think about lifting the tent off, and how easy that would be, but if you’ve ever seen a Tacoma with a barren bed rack, you know it’s not the most impressive sight…that bed rack needs to come off also.
After borrowing a 10 foot ladder from my neighbor, I took down all the hardware for my existing hoist. The hooks could remain, as I was basically flipping the system 180* the other direction so that I’d have more distance for the pulley’s to work in my favor. My goal was to be able to lift the tent and rack off the truck by 8-10″ and then be able to lower the whole unit safely to the ground after moving the truck. My first attempt at this was comical, as I missed a joist in the ceiling and the whole thing failed (good thing was, I was only putting the weight on the system, and not actually lifting it more than an inch above the bed).
Once I addressed the issue with the pulleys, it was time to dial in the straps. My second attempt made me realize that I could lift the tent all the way to the ceiling, but could only lower it a few inches. Some readjustment was done, and my next attempt (3rd time?) got me to within a few inches of the ground (face-palm).
Trial number 432 however, was what it took, and like a pro I lifted the tent and rack off the truck and safely to the garage floor. For what it is worth, I currently weigh about 195 lbs fully dressed and with a nice heavy lunch. I hung off the straps and did some pull ups (those were SO hard) to make sure that the hoist system could accommodate the weight and strain I would be putting on them. Feeling comfortable with the setup, I proceeded to start the endeavor I just shared with you all.
If I were to share some pointers:
- Have safety glasses when drilling into your ceiling. Drywall dust does amazing things for clear eyes, like making them not clear anymore.
- Make sure you know where the ceiling joists are located when screwing things into the ceiling. Nothing is sexier than making your garage ceiling look like a cheese grater.
- Always start a project like this when you are rushed, have 16 other things going on, and it’s 98% humidity outside.
- Never, ever, listen to that last tip I just gave you. Start this early before it’s humid and when you can pay attention to what you’re doing without distraction.
- Be PATIENT! This process took a lot of pulling the truck in, pulling the truck out, measuring once, measuring 14 more times, adjusting knots, tightening things and loosening them seconds later. Patience is a virtue they say.
Get your Harken Hoist here: https://amzn.to/2HpxVPM
This past weekend was so busy! It started Friday after work. When I got home, I picked Ray up from a neighbors house and we started mounting our CVT Tent to our KBVoodoo bed rack. I realized the bolts I had were a little too short to attach the tent the way I wanted, so we attached it sideways, and left for a quick trip to the hardware store. About $16 in bolts later, we had what we needed to return home.
Late that night, I finished installing the roof top tent and went ahead and opened it up to see how ridiculous the Mt. Rainier really is. This thing is a HOTEL, not a tent! The quality of the CVT Tents is amongst the best in the market, and we’ll share more on this tent in a future post. For now, I would pack it back up as we were expecting storms and had a really early start to our Saturday.
After getting one dog to the boarder, and packing the truck, we went off to my son’s team soccer pictures. At this point, they are 3-1, and in second place in the division. Once the pictures were taken, we were east bound with hound and tent. A couple of hours later, the map turned blue and we stopped at one of the three ORV permit offices at the NC Cape Hatteras National Seashore.
With our permit paid for ($120 for yearly), we met up with my wife and daughter out on the coast. My wife’s 4Runner is AWD and we’ve never had a problem letting the truck manage the traction controls – it keeps life simple for her. For me, the Tacoma is a traditional 4WD so shift-on-the-fly was all that was needed. All the looks we got as we drove on the sand with the tent and rack were worth the frustration of the night before. But, not everyone can handle the soft OBX sands; we watched one person with a Ford Escape attempt the sand and get stuck merely feet into the beach access (I believe his was FWD).
The rest of the weekend was devoted to Mother’s Day and my wife. There was fishing, and eating, and ice cream, and laughter. I hope this weekend was good to you and yours, and that you were able to make some memories.
It was an amazing Friday in May when I received the email that we had a tent available for pick up. The awesome folks at Cascadia Vehicle Tents (@CVTTents) had set aside a Mt. Rainier Summit tent for us to pick up. So, after a very late night of working, I fell asleep at 11 pm only to wake at 12 am and get our trip started.
I woke my son, who is 7 years old, and walked him out to the truck with his blankets. As soon as his head hit the headrest and reclined in the Tacoma, he was out cold yet again. We started our journey around 12:30 am on Saturday May 4th. What would be a 1,000+ mile round trip journey, would not be his first bout at a truck-ride with Dad. Nope, this 7 year old was accustomed to the journey, as our destination was only 30 minutes past where his puppy, Biscuit, was born.
It was an uneventful ride out. We stopped once in the middle of the night to grab an energy drink (insert sponsorship here) and to use the bathroom. He came inside the store with me, and once he was in his seat again, he was out cold again…. lucky guy. As we crossed from North Carolina into Tennessee, the sun started coming up around 6:30. I was able to snag a few photos while he remained unconscious in my passenger seat, but soon he would rouse and was shocked to hear we were one state west!
The only traffic on the whole journey was in Knoxville. There was a terrible accident involving two vehicles that I hate to say were indistinguishable. My professional background involves 5+ years of EMS and 5 years of Law Enforcement. It didn’t look good. I hope all are well but I fear that there may have been casualty involved. An hour later though, and we were arriving at our destination, Cascadia Vehicle Tents in Chattanooga Tennessee around 10 am.
Nick welcomed us into the shop. I was impressed with what I saw. Inside the showroom were 5+ Roof Top Tents on display amidst some merchandise and some awnings. Nick allowed us into the warehouse portion of the shop, and we were impressed to see not one, but two, old Model T Fords! Apparently one of the guys that works at this location is a bit of an aficionado with these. We really appreciated being able to gawk and gaze at these beautiful pieces of automotive history – but as Dad said to son… look and take pictures, but DO NOT TOUCH!
After a call with Bobby, the owner of CVT, we were able to locate our tent. Nick fired up the forklift while my son and I perused the showroom. We climbed up inside different tents, and I drooled over the awnings and the trailer inside the showroom. I hope to return to Chattanooga to camp sometime soon and pick up a nice awning in the process.
Nick and I loaded the tent in the back of my 2019 Toyota Tacoma TRD Off Road, and I strapped it in for safety. Nick was a great guy, and I found out he doesn’t even work for CVT. He offered to help Bobby out when Nick overheard CVT was in need of some extra assistance – what a cool guy! (Follow him on Instagram @OverlandNashville)
We started our 8 hour trek back to our home and thanked Nick (repeatedly) for covering so we could pick up our tent. While we drove in the rain for nearly 60% of our trip, we were able to stop for gas around Pittsboro and to pick up a TRD Shift Knob for my truck off Facebook Marketplace (Thanks CW!) for only $60! It was a nice addition to my interior since I have the reddish orange accents on the dash and stitching.
A short while later we stopped in Apex for some Five Guys burgers and finished our last 1 hour trip home. It was rewarding to get home and be done with a very long day. We are really excited to be able to share our adventures with everyone as we learn and improve our camping skills.
One of the most important things you can learn with regards to camping, is how to safely start a fire. A fire can offer warmth in the cold, a heat for cooking, light in the dark, and most importantly – is a key ingredient in the making of S’Mores!
I’ve started my fair share of campfires as a Boy Scout growing up. My son, a raising 2nd grade, would not have the opportunity to start building camp fires until he crosses into the Boy Scouts mid-way through 5th grade. But, he was shocked when he found out that he was going to be learning how to start a campfire with Dad in the backyard.
To start with, we needed to learn the parts of a campfire. Tinder (not the app!) is the smallest and easiest burning material that is used to start a campfire. Tinder can be made up of many different things including wood shavings, wax, cardboard and even dryer lint (now you know why Firemen tell you to check this). You can also purchase commercial tinder or fire-starter kits, but one simple one to make involves cardboard egg cartons, wood shavings, melted candles or crayons and a small wick to get it started.
The next thing we need to understand is Kindling. Twigs or small branches are considered Kindling. These can usually be collected around the camp site.
The most iconic, and last to be put in the firepit, is the actual Firewood. Firewood is usually 1″ to 5″ in diameter, can be whole or split logs, and must be dry in order to stay lit. I generally err on the side of caution and bring firewood with me, so that I know it’s dry, and more importantly – so that I know I have it!
Now that we know what we need, we need to learn what to do with it. If your campsite has a firepit, you’re one step closer. If it does not, we’ll need to construct a safe place for a fire. Remember to leave no trace – if there has already been a firepit at your site, use the same pit. You’ll want to make sure there is no dead vegetation within 8-10 feet as this could ignite easily. You’ll want to have bare dirt around the fire, and then dig a small area and set the dirt around to be used in case of an emergency (i.e., you need to throw it on the fire to smother it). You can line the firepit with rocks for insulation, but in the center you’ll want enough space to construct your fire.
There are many different types of fires we will learn about but the one I generally go to with camping is the traditional TeePee fire. This type of fire starts with Tinder on the ground in the center of the pit. In TeePee fashion, Kindling is placed over the Tinder. I will light the Tinder and once the Kindling is catching, I’ll start placing Firewood around the Kindling in TeePee fashion. This type of fire can be used for cooking if using a tripod with a hanging bucket, but I typically wont use this for cooking.
Now we are ready to light the campfire. using a lighter or matches, it’s best to light the Tinder from many sides. NEVER USE GASOLINE ON A CAMP FIRE. Once we have the fire going, you can feed additional firewood as needed to keep the fire going at the height and consistency that you want. Remember to keep supplies nearby to extinguish the fire, or control it if it should get too big.
When it is time to go, you’ll want plenty of time to extinguish the fire. We start by sprinkling water on the fire to die-down the flames. We don’t want to flood the firepit because the next campers will likely want to use it. Once the steam has died down from sprinkling water on the fire, and we don’t hear any more hissing, the fire is out. Place the back of your hand near the ashes and if no heat is felt, you can feel good that you’ve done your job to put out the camp fire.
Want to see how Ray did with his first ever Fire? Check out our YouTube channel and see for yourself!