Friday, July 24, 2015

Overnight at I-75 RV Park in Tifton, GA - recommended!

I-75 RV Park in Tifton, GA
Our Site at I-75 RV Park
I last left off that we were on our way from the Escapees SmartWeigh and were on our way to Stone Mountain, GA. The plan was for 2 short days of driving vs. 1 long day because my mother-in-law was with us. Being in the backseat between a big honking carseat and a pre-teen is "cozy", at best. I knew that the I-75 RV Park was right about where we wanted- it was close to the highway and priced right, so it fit the bill. The only major downside is that it didn't have a pool. If we stop early enough, I like having a pool at our overnight stops to sort of wash the stress and grime of travel away.

First and foremost, Brian and his wife are the managers of the campground. They are some of the nicest folks. Mandie spoke with the wife on the phone to make sure that they had space for us. And Brian met us as we pulled in. He followed me to the site, made sure I was settled in and then hung back until we were hooked up and had electric going for the air conditioner to start cooling the rig down. Standing in the hot hot sun, we laughed through our check-in process.

Friendly manager, easy parking (nice and level), and inexpensive ($27/night for a full hook-up site with cable) - it was a win. We had no issues with electric or water, but didn't use the cable or sewer- I'm WAY too lazy for an overnight stop for them!

While we didn't use them, we did take a walk and checked out the facilities. For a place this small, as expected, they were basic but looked clean and functional. They had laundry (washer + dryer) and bathrooms with showers. Garbage was a handful of home-style garbage cans around the park. Simple, but functional.

I-75 RV Park in Tifton, GA
Laundry & Bathhouse
The only negatives-

First, it is generally big rig accessible- we didn't have any issues getting around. All of spots are pull-throughs but only maybe just shy 55' long. At our 60' in length, we overhung on the front and rear. However, the manager let me stay hitched up. Chuckling, he told me that if someone hits me, they shouldn't be driving and that I was his last expected arrival of the day. With that, it was good enough for me.
I-75 RV Park in Tifton, GA
Truck Poking Out the Front
Second, to say it is literally right off of the highway is an understatement. I could have literally stood in my site and thrown stones onto an exit ramp. My mother-in-law is a light sleeper and said she was pretty certain that some of the cars, trucks, and motorcycles were coming for her. Up front in our bedroom, our noisy A/C worked as a sound machine and Mandie and I didn't hear a thing.


I-75 RV Park in Tifton, GA I-75 RV Park I-75 RV Park in Tifton, GA I-75 RV Park I-75 RV Park in Tifton, GA I-75 RV Park in Tifton, GA I-75 RV Park in Tifton, GA

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Getting Weighed- Escapees SmartWeigh

For those who follow my other blog (now terribly neglected), you'll know that I'm an advocate for weighing your camper and tow vehicle. Trucks, SUVs, (even cars), and campers all come with a handful of weight ratings that are specified by manufacturers. I find it useful to know my weights as I like to stick within a manufacturer's published ratings. As I have weighed, each time I was surprised at how much our stuff really weighed. I've even built a website for people to plug in the resulting numbers to "crunch" them and make sense.

I typically just stop at a truck stop and am weighed at what is called a CAT Scale. This is what big rigs do to verify that they are road legal. There are 3 scales and you get weights for your truck's steering axle (aka front wheels), it's drive axle (aka rear wheels), and then the camper's axles combined. This is good because you can verify overall numbers, but it can be better.
Graphic showing a truck and camper on 3 separate scales like found at truck stops
Graphic Showing Truck on Scales

How can it be better you ask? I'm glad that you did. Or you didn't and you're still reading. Sucker.

Most RVs aren't perfectly balanced. If you have 2 or 3 axles, you'll find that one side carries more than another or the front carries more than the rear. You can't easily tell this at CAT scales without some fancy footwork which may or may not be possible or even against the scale's rules. To find this out, you need to have a set of scales that can be placed under each wheel and get individual weights.

There are a few providers of weightings like this. The challenge is that these locations usually aren't convenient to wherever I happen to be. But, I found that Escapees SmartWeight has a location that was about an hour away from the Thousand Trails Orlando campground. Even better, my membership to Fulltimes Families also got me 1 year free included in Escapees. Winning!

The website reported that they only do weightings on M-F and limited hours. Fortunately, Al (the scalemaster) told me it was no problem to do a weighing on a Sunday outside of the established hours. Woohoo!

By the end of the weighing, you get a sheet of paper that tells you individual weights for each wheel location for both the truck and RV. It also records those weights against what your manufacturer's ratings are. This helps you to know if you are under, at, or over any specific ratings.

My Weighing

We pulled up to the campground and the scalemaster got me arranged on the pad, lined up the scales, and recorded each weight. He would zero out the scale, have me pull on top of it, and then have me move onto the next position. All told, it didn't take all that long to do.
Escapees SmartWeigh

Escapees SmartWeigh

Sadly, I had to be the bad guy and throw Lisa out of the truck for the weightings. They want your vehicle as close to how you normally travel as possible.
Escapees SmartWeigh

After weighing the truck and camper while they were hooked up, Al had me unhitch the camper and pull around for another set of weights for just the truck.

By the end of it, they gave me a rather comprehensive form filled with my weights.
Escapees SmartWeigh
Escapees SmartWeigh
Escapees SmartWeigh

What Do Those Numbers Mean?

The longest story shortest, I'm withing all ratings on my truck and over on my "total" weight of the camper. I have one tire that's over its rating on the camper, but all others are at or under (which, I'm realizing as I write this now- that's not something that this form specifically called out- I had to go to my tire manufacturer's web page for that information; specifically the max load for the tire in my size)

Here are my numbers:

Truck's Total Weight Rating:12,300 lbs. (found on a sticker on the truck's doorjamb)
Truck's Weight without Camper:9,270 lbs. (total of all truck's wheel weights- without trailer)
Truck's Weight (with camper):12,110 lbs. (total of all truck's wheel weights- with trailer)
Camper's Pin Weight:2,840 lbs. (difference between loaded and unloaded weight)
Camper's Weight on all Axles/Tires:13,230 lbs. (total of all individual wheel weights)
Camper's Total Weight Rating:15,825 lbs. (found on a sticker on the side of the camper)
Camper's Total Weight:16,070 lbs. (camper's pin weight + camper's weight on axles)
Truck's Total Combined Weight Rating:28,000 lbs.
Total Combined Weight:25,340 lbs.

So now the question is- what do I do with this information? Well, the total camper weight comes with a few caveats:

  1. We had about 70 pounds of stuff that Lisa brought with her. While I threw her out of the truck, I didn't also throw her stuff to the curb. (I'm not that cruel!)
  2. We were carrying almost a full tank of freshwater (42 gallons) and a full water heater (10 gallons). Combined, this was 50 gallons of water at 8.3 lbs. per gallon (so, 415 pounds was simply water); I'll definitely carry less. Basically 10 gallons in the water heater and maybe another 10-20 gallons in the fresh water tank.
  3. Those alone will put me within my ratings. But I'd still like to be further under- I do still want/need to pickup a grill (either a Weber Q2000 or O-Grill). And, while fun, I don't really want to have to keep shouting across stores- "no you can't buy that, the camper is already overweight!". And yes, I really have been doing that.
The one rating that I'm most bothered by is being right at (and even over on one) my tire maximum loading capacity. Tire damage is bad. Wrecks caused by a blowout is worse. To combat that, I'm already running a tire pressure monitoring system on most of my tires (I still need to sort out my truck rear tires due to the dually).

Happy Fourth of July & SSDD

(Sigh, blog backlog. This was written last week while we were still in Clermont. We've now moved onto Stone Mountain, GA and are even preparing to head out of here for Cincinnati!)

As before, this is only a smattering of photos. There are a TON more on Flickr.


It's kind of nice to not really know what to write other than, "SSDD" (aka same stuff, different day). We're still in the Disney area at the Thousand Trails Orlando (TTO) campground. For the next bunch of months, this will be the longest that we are at one spot. I have to admit, I'm about ready to get some road under our wheels and get moving!

However, being right outside of Disney means that we have gone on quite the Disney overload. We have spent a fair number of evenings and weekends at the parks. And, a first for us- we even went to one of their waterparks called Typhoon Lagoon.

Let me try to recap what has happened since we've been at TTO:

We had an evening visit to the Magic Kingdom. It was kind of nice to just go in for a couple of hours- do our Fast Passes and roll out.

It looks like I had a coworker for a while.
Working like Daddy

And, I can't forget dinner at T-Rex. This is usually a family favorite, but this evening- the wait for our table was a while, the service was slow and not very fun, and the food just meh. Kind of makes it easy to not be back for a while!

T-Rex at Downtown Disney
T-Rex at T-Rex

It was nice that Friday, July 3rd was a holiday. We took full advantage of it and went to Epcot for the day. Right out of the gate, we rode "the big ball" as Logan puts it, visited with some characters, and generally meandered around for the rest of the day. Dinner was back in the France part of the World Showcase at La Frenchy French Place. Dinner was OK. Not great, not bad. Poor Logan slept straight through it! But, while inside- it went from a little dark of a sky to a full-out rage of a storm. So we beat feet out of there.

Misc Disney Pictures

Misc Disney Pictures

And got back to the camper to a sad confirmation. A few nights earlier after a bad storm, I thought my CPAP mask strap was kind of wet. Tonight, I verified it- I had quite the steady dribble of water into the camper. Drat! I have video, but nothing good for photos. Oh well, it's fun to keep it interesting!

For July 4th, we decided on going to Hollywood Studios. Mandie and Karen worked out another visit between our two fulltime families. We had lunch, watched the Frozen Sing-a-long, and the kids + Steve rode Star Tours, We parted ways and the 4 of us went back to the Art of Animation drawing class. I'm sad that it's closing- that was kind of neat.

Misc Disney Pictures

By Sunday, we were BEAT. We wanted to go to the waterpark but decided that a restful day at the pool was a better idea. The wild beast of a camper kept talking to us and we knew that we needed to sort out some organization, so we made a trip to IKEA. We got some much needed shelves, a rack for the kitchen, and some miscellaneous stuff. My rants about weight must have sunk in for Mandie because when choosing between white and wood-colored, she had us look up which weighed less (wood/pine won by a good 20 lbs.).

It was also a rough but lucky day for truck keys. First I jumped into the pool with my key fob in my pocket. That dried out and continued to work. Then at IKEA, I sat down on a chair and apparently my keys fell out of my pocket. We learned of it after the store closed as we were headed to take stuff to the truck. Mandie had to be escorted back through the store to find them. Otherwise, we were STUCK! (When she texted me that she found the keys, I was already on the phone with Good Sam's roadside assistance to figure out what to do.)

And finally, on Monday- we went to Disney's Typhoon Lagoon. I learned an important lesson about not sunscreening the day before. I don't need it on the parts that are used to getting sun; but the part of me that is typically covered by a shirt... yeah, sunscreen it! I was burnt heading into a day at the waterpark. We used the liquid blanket on all of us and, in a shocking twist for my family, even reapplied!

Typhoon Lagoon was fun. Their "wave pool" is really a surf pool. The wave comes out crashing at you with an amazing amount of force. Logan and I got creamed and he loved it. Unfortunately Mandie did too and skinned up her knee pretty painfully bad. We road a variety of raft rides and Logan thoroughly enjoyed the kid area because it gave him some freedom.

The next few days sort of run together. I know that Mandie assembled some of the IKEA furniture and started taming the beast that is our bunkhouse. (My "doomsday"-level prepping when it came to what tools and garage stuff to bring was vindicated when we needed the construction adhesive to fix a piece of trim. WIN!)

We had a RV repairman come visit us at Thousand Trails Orlando to fix the leak in the corner of the slide. Of course while he was there, he offered, "what else do you have for me?" and I had a whole list. He happily attacked each one. I'd hire Patrick Monahan again.

Paige and Mandie went on a date night to see Cirque du Soleil. Logan and I had some guy time- dinner, a walk to the playground and dumpster, and then some snuggles in bed watching TV.
Paige and I went on a date night to go to Disney Quest.
And GRANDMA got here! We had a busy weekend with Grandma - first up was dinner at Chef Mickey's and then watched fireworks from a balcony at the Contemporary.

(Don't judge- yes, I did go get a big plate and attempted to get one of every dessert item available.)

Saturday was a day at Blizzard Beach and that evening, Mandie and I took advantage of a sitter and went for our own date night (to Narcoossee's at the Grand Floridian- expensive but man-o-day was it good again!).

I caught the most beautiful picture of a sunset after dinner while we were catching up with Grandma and the kids.

Walt Disney Monorail at Sunset
And then it was packup and move day on Sunday. I want to blog separately about it, but we stopped for a weighing called an "individual wheel weights" weighing. It's done by Escapees and they call it their SmartWeigh. I'll explain more later.