Airstream Basecamp Trips Part 1, with Training Wheels!

On January 5 of this year we found an RV dealership with a new 2022 Basecamp 16x on the lot. Basecamp trailers are not easy to find these days, new or used, so we were thrilled to find this one after only a few weeks of searching. We picked up our new travel trailer on February 2 and took it out on it’s first trip immediately.

To be clear we weren’t focused 100% on camping when we bought the trailer. We were thinking about our time as international nomads, hunkering down during the Covid pandemic, and spending all of last year taking responsibility for our compound. The logical next thing for us was to change direction again and create a new travel lifestyle that would get us away from home and away from Airbnb’s. We wanted our own tiny house on wheels!

And since we haven’t been into camping as adults it will take us a while to figure out how to use our trailer. We’re excited to learn how the trailer functions in different locations, all kinds of weather, with and without hookups. We’re still newbies but now that we have our trailer packing list completed we can be organized and efficient with this new style of tiny living.

We have a goal to travel away from home every month this year, and Bessie the trailer will help us reach that goal! Our first six stays with Bessie are recapped below, and each one is proof that we are still newbies!!


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Stay #1 (February) – Tucson KOA

On our first trip we weren’t anywhere near ready to take the training wheels off. We wanted our first couple of nights to be as easy as possible so we towed our new Basecamp trailer around the corner from the dealership to the Tucson Lazydays KOA Resort.

Only driving a couple blocks for our first towing experience was as easy as we hoped it would be. And setting up in a KOA with all the amenities was the right move since we ended up needing to walk over to the store to pick up something very important, a sewer hose! We also had a maintenance guy at our site answering some of our questions about hookups the first time we set things up. There are definitely good things about staying at a resort style campground!

We loved having full hookups and thought it was interesting that they provided all sorts of things we don’t need like resort wifi, a full cable TV package, and a restaurant that delivers to your site.

When we bought the sewer hose I decided to replace the plush 3-ply toilet paper we brought from home so I bought the 1-ply RV TP in the store. Though I think we really can use regular TP when we’re camping with Bessie since 3-ply has been tested and proven to settle and biodegrade in a black tank.

And when people took their daily walks it almost seemed like a dance with the purpose of meeting people. We had our first experience there with strangers asking if they could check out the inside of our trailer – nope!

We enjoyed the KOA experience more than we expected to. They had a very strong cell signal and full hookups, which is what we wanted. They also had maintenance people all over the place ready to help. Our KOA experience was great and definitely the right move for our first few nights. But I doubt we’ll return or spend much time in places like that in the future.

The Oops: No sewer hose! We assumed we’d find a sewer hose in the storage tube and realized we were wrong when we were setting up. But that’s exactly why we were staying in that KOA for our first couple nights!

The Bonus: We got help when we had questions and we were able to walk to the campsite store and buy what we were missing quickly and easily. We were only there for a few minutes before other RV’ers were offering to help us, and other Airstream owners were introducing themselves and complimenting Bessie.

The Cost: We paid $75.95 per night for 2 nights, which is expensive for camping! But I guess that’s what you pay for resort camping in a full a full-service KOA campground with an RV dealership and service center next door.

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We took our first photo with the trailer as soon as we arrived at the KOA. It didn’t seem real yet!

Stay #2 (February) – Gilbert Ray Campground

After a couple of nights at the KOA we were ready to move on to a more independent style of camping in a more natural setting. Since we were in Tucson where we have friends we took their advice on where to go next and ended up at Gilbert Ray Campground.

Getting there felt like the first time we towed since we only went around the block before that. We towed Bessie across Tucson on city streets and the freeway as well, and then on through a more rural area to reach the campground. The drive was only 16 miles and Alison did all of the driving which is normal for us. It was great to get a feel for the trailer weight on flat roads and while driving up or down hills, to see what our turning radius was like, and what it felt like to use the brakes.

We only had shore power (love that term) at our site, which is the one thing we really want to have as a hookup since we don’t have a very big fresh water tank (21 gallons). We had access to a fresh water spigot pretty close by so we were able to fill up our water bags for drinking water. We also had access to a dump station within the campground and had our first experience emptying our gray/black tank there, thankfully with no issues!

At the end of our reserved stay we decided to try getting a first come, first served site for one more night. I started cleaning and packing in case we had to leave while Alison stood in line outside the registration office. Alison had a great time chatting with other campers and I loved how easy it was to clean our tiny home! Eventually Alison got a site and then we hooked up and moved the trailer to a different loop and set up again.

The Oops: Surprisingly, we didn’t have a real oops that time!

The Bonus: We visited Saguaro National Park and I got a new stamp in my National Park Passport.

The Second Bonus: Our Tucson friends stopped by our campsite for a little visit on our first night at the campground. We took a hike together and then we enjoyed some local food for dinner which they brought. That night we all sat outside in camp chairs and watched the sun set and though it was cold and windy we loved being able to hang out with our friends!

The Third Bonus: On our last night we enjoyed a happy hour visit with a solo traveler camped near our site. Our neighbor made us gin and tonic’s and we shared some snacks and watched the sun set. It was pretty awesome!

The Cost: We paid $20 per night for 3 nights, which seemed very reasonable. We would love to return for another stay there in the future!


Stay #3 (March) – Grand Canyon South Rim

We booked a week at the Trailer Village RV Park at Grand Canyon National Park, with full hook-ups!

Getting to this campground involved more hours of towing and more steep grades as well. It was good practice for Alison and I was happy to be the passenger, though I know I have to start practicing towing myself soon. Alison is our primary driver so in theory I won’t be doing much or any towing on my own. But I have to learn so I can be comfortable taking over in case of an emergency.

It was cold and snowy while we were there and that was fine because our trailer is awesome! On one night the temperature dropped to only 3’F (-16’C) but we were toasty warm in our trailer. But the campground water pipes were all frozen so we couldn’t just arrive and hookup to water and leave it at that. Alison had a great idea that we could boil water in the trailer and pour hot water over the spicket. So every day we could melt the ice in the spicket so the pressure could push water through, then fill our fresh water tank and unhook again. One of our neighbors was able to take advantage of this solution as well since we saw him struggling and Alison went over with a thermos of hot water to save the day. We’re learning new tricks!

We tried to organize ourselves differently on this trip since we had a new cubby to use where we the microwave oven used to be. Bessie has very limited storage space and that seems to be the trickiest thing for us.

We loved camping at the Grand Canyon, and the trailer handled the cold perfectly. We definitely plan to return to that area again with our trailer but I think we’ll try boondocking for free in a dispersed camping area next time.

The Oops: I reserved a 50 amp site instead of a 30 amp site. But that was easily fixed since the park ranger in the booth had a converter we could borrow, and then it was fixed again when we got to our site and found a converter left in the outlet by the previous occupant. We know own our own converter…

The Bonus: We’ve been to the Grand Canyon before and we’ll return again, but it was a treat to be there with the trailer for the first time and get another stamp in our National Park Passport.

The Second Bonus: Some of our financial coaching friends were visiting the Grand Canyon from Minnesota at the same time as us on a whirlwind family trip so we randomly got to enjoy a very quick hello in real life. That was awesome!

The Cost: We paid $64.25 per night for 6 nights with full hookups inside the national park. And yes that was expensive, but it was worth it!


Stay #4 (April) – Moochdocking

The term moochdocking says it all! Moochdocking is basically camping for free on your friends’ or family’s property.

We used to sleep in a trailer in the driveway when we visited one of my sisters and her family, and we always loved having that little bit of independence and quiet space outside of the house when we were there. We were excited to try moochdocking with our own trailer for the first time!

We parked Bessie on the curb instead of the driveway because the street was flat and the driveway was sloped. We didn’t unhook the trailer since we were only staying one night, and that was also our first time sleeping in the trailer while it was still hooked up.

We did need a little help with our connections to their system. We didn’t hook up to the sewer line but we did hook up to their shore power. We also hooked up to their water system so we could flush our toilet at night. Our next stop after moochdocking was a campground with no hookups so we wanted to make sure we drove away from our moochdocking night with fully charged batteries and a full tank of fresh water.

We also wanted to avoid annoying the neighbors and make sure we weren’t a nuisance. My hunch is that just means keeping our stay short and making sure we don’t create a tripping hazard on the sidewalk.

We arrived with a pie to share and helped with dishes after dinner. And then we went out to our bedroom on wheels for the night. We also helped ourselves to their shower in the morning before leaving. Our first time moochdocking was a success!

We don’t want to overdo it with moochdocking but it is a great option for short stays. Being able to visit friends and family without sleeping inside is a great way to visit while maintaining some independence. It’s also nice to leaving our hosts with less to clean up after we’re gone.

The Oops: In the future we need to come prepared with something to put on the sidewalk so there’s no tripping hazard for people walking or running in the neighborhood. We at least need heavy duty tape to keep the hose or power line flat but maybe it would also be nice to bring a little popup sign or something more visible for next time?

The Bonus: We had dinner inside with family and then slept in our own bed. It was the perfect combo of spending time with others and also feeling like we were on our own.

The Cost: A fresh baked apple pie and a tour inside the trailer. It would be convenient if we could keep the bed made but it has to be put away to use the dinette space. This was a fun chance to see what it feels like to have more than 2 people sitting around the dinette!

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Our first time moochdocking for a night in front of someone else’s house was fun and easy!

Stay #5 (April) – Schoolhouse Campground

We booked a week at Schoolhouse Campground without really knowing anything about it, other than the fact that it’s at the east end of Lake Roosevelt just east of Phoenix. We love being near water!

This campground is pretty basic. We saw a couple of honey buckets and one water spicket, but no hookups or dump station. I was grateful to have our own clean bathroom!

When we arrived the campground appeared to be empty other than one site right next to ours that was occupied by two women and a very sweet dog. The dog was the same breed as our housemate’s dog Zoey (Vizsla) so we were excited to see him roaming around. He must have been at least twice Zoey’s size and was very mellow and sweet. Our neighbors were only staying one more night after we arrived, and we found out why pretty quickly.

I had gotten an email a couple of weeks before we arrived letting us know they would be doing some maintenance in the region in April, which I didn’t think much about since it didn’t mention exact dates or reference our campground specifically. And we arrived on a Monday during the off season so it didn’t seem odd that the campground was practically empty when we arrived.

While we were setting up a park ranger arrived to tell us they were ready to repave the roads in the campground that week, which our neighbors had been told the night before. The ranger said we could move to an open site at another campground on the lake with our existing reservation since they’re all in the same park system, or we could stay where we were until the roads were cured and ready to drive on again if we didn’t mind that the paving process would be stinky.

The chance to stay there with a lake view for more nights than we paid for and no one camping around us sounded fun. But it also sounded problematic since we’d have to wait at least three days after they finished paving our loop and the access road, and they couldn’t tell us exactly when that would be. We enjoyed four nights there with the place all to ourselves before the paving started and then we moved on.

The Oops: There were a lot of tiny flying bugs of the no-see-um variety at the campground and we had quite a thick cloud of them inside one night. We weren’t as careful as we could have been about keeping the screen door closed so I assume they got in that way. Alison thought the bugs were small enough to get through the screen and got in that way. Either way, we solved that problem by closing the door and turning on only one ceiling light so we could squash the little cloud of moving specks while they swarmed the light. Done!

The Second Oops: The daytime temps were over 90’F during this trip so we were determined to set up our new canopy off the side of the trailer as soon as we arrived. But it was so windy we couldn’t get it done. We tried three times to get the canopy up before we gave up, and since I found this canopy online and it was less than half the price of the one we kept getting recommendations for, I was worried that I was too cheap with this purchase.

The Third Oops: After giving up on the canopy we tried to set up our new tiny Coleman BBQ for the first time so we could cook dinner. We wanted to do all of our cooking outside on this trip but it only took a few minutes to realize the hose we bought to connect one of Bessie’s full size 20 lb propane tanks to our tiny Coleman BBQ wasn’t going to work. So I cooked inside that night and in the morning we hopped in the car and drove to the closest store to find a 16 oz propane tank. After that I found the correct adapter hose online so we can run that little BBQ off Bessie’s propane tank on the next trip.

The Bonus: We got to move to another campground and check out a different area of Lake Roosevelt, and we ended up liking that place more!

The Cost: We paid $20 per night for a total 7 nights at Schoolhouse, but we only stayed for 4 nights. We enjoyed the Lake Roosevelt area but we might not stay at Schoolhouse again.


Stay #6 (April) – Cholla Campground

Lake Roosevelt is around 22 miles long, and Cholla Campground is only 17 miles west-ish along the lake from Schoolhouse Campground. How different could they be?

We drove over to Cholla and checked out every loop in the campground to see what was available and pick an empty first come first served site. Once we chose our spot we drove back to Schoolhouse and hooked up the trailer. Kind of a lot of driving but worth it! The few sites directly on the lake were all taken so we picked one that felt more secluded with no one close to us, a five minute walk from the lake.

Thankfully we put the canopy up on our first try this time! We were thrilled with how easy it was to set up and how much shade it provided. We didn’t see any of those little bugs at all and we also didn’t see any Desert Globemallow, the gorgeous wildflower that was all over the place at Schoolhouse.

We still had no hookups, just like at Schoolhouse. But Cholla Campground had nice clean bathrooms, a few water stations, and a dump station. There was even a shower area in a different loop. Who cares since we have our own toilet and shower right? But it is nice to have those options, especially when you have a smaller water tank and no hookups.

Alison had been trying to convince me that it made sense to use campground bathrooms during the day at least, especially if we didn’t have full hookups. Alison was just being logical since it doesn’t take long to empty our water tank if we’re washing our hands, washing dishes, flushing the toilet, and we both take a shower every few days.

Alison had been using the public restrooms starting with our first trip during the day and at night as well, even if there was only a honey bucket on site. I get the creeps from even the best public restrooms so I wasn’t willing to play along until we got to this campground. I finally walked over to have a look and acknowledged Alison was making sense. I decided if I took my own bottle of soap and hand towel to the restroom during the day that did make sense. But I’m not doing that at night!

The Oops: We got a Verizon Jetpack to make sure we have a signal when we’re out camping, and it worked great at the Schoolhouse Campground since we were close enough to a tower over there. When we moved to Cholla Campground the device had no signal so I couldn’t figure out what the problem was and I had no way to reload it. We were in the sweet spot at the end of a 30 day cycle while staying in a dead zone, but we were enjoying being offline for a little digital detox time so it wasn’t a problem.

The Bonus: We visited Tonto National Monument and I got a new stamp in my National Park Passport.

The Cost: We didn’t pay to camp at Cholla Campground, we used our reservation from Schoolhouse to stay 3 nights at Cholla. But if we had booked Cholla it would have cost $25 per night. We really liked it there and we definitely want to return!


That’s it for now!

We were excited to take Bessie out on these first few camping trips and we learned something new at each location.

Our most important victory is that we managed to empty our gray/black water combo tank each time (using medical grade gloves to keep me from freaking out) without creating a stinky mess, crying, arguing, or any other drama. Hooray! That’s a routine of success we plan to continue with in the future.

I used to think cleaning a toilet was a real test of my germaphobe issues. Emptying a black tank takes things to a new level. Eek! Stay clean!

14 comments

  1. All I can think of with black water hoses is Cousin Eddie in Christmas Vacation…

    Those trips sound like fun and a very smart way to do the crawl/walk/run approach to learning how to maximize your fun with Bessie.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Jason you always have such a fun perspective! I think we have graduated from the crawl phase to the walk phase now and the walk phase could last a long time. We just have to avoid Cousin Eddie moments, in every way possible!!!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. We’ve been looking forward to camping season but we just use our old minivan outfitted. Low tech and simple. I love hearing about your trips. I’m not sure I would want to mess with dealing with a black tank either. Looking forward to hearing more about your trips.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks liberrygrrl! Having an outfitted minivan sounds pretty cool! How long have you been using that? Did you outfit the van yourself?

      When we were getting ready to buy the trailer I was imagining wearing a plastic body suit to clean the blank tank because it made me nervous. But it has gotten much easier. We connect and disconnect the hose together so we can be extra careful and move slowly, which is how we keep the whole process simple and as clean as possible. The plastic suit was an anxiety dream – but the surgical gloves are awesome. We’re super excited about our next trip so stay tuned!

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  3. Oh how fun! I love these adventure stories! I’ve always speculated that the blackwater tank would be pretty icky, so good to know you can tolerate it. I think I would do everything possible to use other bathrooms, though, to limit the number of times it had to be emptied. But, different germ-tolerance levels for different people 🙂

    I’m doing some cabin and tent camping in June – I’m excited to check out Lassen Volcanic National Park in Northern California, and then the redwoods. Sounds like I should get a passport and get to stamping!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Beth!

      I’ve heard so many crazy stories and seen so many videos about people and their black tank drama – but I think we are careful enough to stay away from the drama. Fingers crossed! Alison was thinking just like you – limit the use of the bathroom in the trailer so we can limit the amount of time we have to spend emptying the black tank. Kind of funny that I wasn’t thinking that way at all for those first few trips. I love our clean private bathroom – but I’m with you all now! Though I’m still avoiding honey buckets if I can… 🫣

      And yes you should get a passport! Collecting stamps at national parks and monuments is so much fun! We haven’t been to the redwoods or Lassen since we were kids – we should add those to our list!!

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  4. I’m overwhelmed with the awesomeness of your endeavor and your wonderful reports on it. I would love to see more detail on how you cope with your limited storage (with pics!), especially when you need to pick up all those random things along the way. Also, I assume you’ll later tell us more about how you’re working the airstream life into your budget.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Pixie!

      This does seem like an awesome endeavor to us! It’s funny how often we try something new that feels like a big change, and Bessie is a big one. Your questions are great so I’ll be sure to work those topics into the next post about Bessie. Storage will always an issue but we are getting our system pretty well figured out!

      Like

  5. So odd – I left a comment on this post yesterday, and I don’t see it. I also commented on your I-bonds article and it never came through. Not sure if there’s a problem or if I’m getting caught for moderation and you’re busy gallivanting!

    Anyway, these camping adventures are super fun to read!

    Like

    • I found your orig post in Spam. Not sure why. But you should find it now. Sadly I did not see the one you posted on the I-Bonds. Would you please repost? We would love to hear what you think. Best, Alison

      Like

      • Okay, I commented on the I-bond post! I don’t see it right away – it may be because I’ve changed my display name and WP/your blog doesn’t know what to do with me. But I’ll be posting travel pics under this name on instagram, and will have a blogspot blog by this name too (if I’m motivated to blog in my year off) so I want to start using this newer identity!

        Liked by 1 person

        • Hey I searched the spam folder and found the new comment – yay! And thanks for the heads up about where you’ll be posting your info during your year off because we’re excited to follow!

          Like

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