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Stories from the road!
The Robertson's at Lake Powell
by George Robertson
This image was taken at Lake Powell, about 2500 miles and about three weeks into our shakedown tour of the Southwest, after picking up the Teardrop at your shop in Auburn. We are back in Seattle now and our 1999 Volvo V70 XC which started this trip with 201,000 miles on the odometer, has traveled over 5000 more miles on this our first Teardrop shakedown trip. Our new American Teardrop Merlin trailer, traveled a little under 4000 milesand we have camped with it for a month, less a few days when we visited Pat’s sister in Phoenix. Everything about the teardrop exceeded our expectations. The car got home with ten new exhaust valves, a new master control for the electric windows, and four brand new tires. So I guess we can say, it arrived home a considerably better car than it was when it left. The teardrop needed nothing.
The learning curve for us was steep at first, and we rapidly discovered that we had brought about twice the clothing, shoes, boots and bedding that was needed, and not nearly enough paper maps and travel reference books. Relying on a smartphone for navigation turned out to be totally inadequate, even with two laptops with us it was much easier to plan and to navigate while driving using paper maps and reference books.
We also concluded that using ice for refrigeration was greatly superior to the thermo/electric cooler we had brought. Ice you can get everywhere. Electricity though is not available in many if not most of the national park and forest campgrounds we wanted to stay in. And thermo/electric cooling can suck a battery to zero in a short time. The expensive thermo electric cooler we brought from home was relegated to being an expensive thick-walled box for dry un-refrigerated foods after about the third day out. It was the morning of the second day in Yosemite. when I bought a basic ice block cooler and it was just perfect for the rest of our month long tour.
I also discovered that freezing ice in plastic bottles with a little room for expansion, seems to make the ice last a little longer in the cooler, and it eliminates the business of draining the water from the melting ice. So if you have the opportunity to stop for a day or two someplace where there is a freezer you can use, you can freeze a couple of gallon bottles with about three quarts of water in each bottle and the ice in them will last about four days maybe five in an ordinary igloo cooler.
The stretched frame configuration of this Merlin with the 60” by 16” front platform and the storage box and battery, is perfect. We had two folding bikes on the platform for the whole trip and used them constantly in Yosemite.
I was really surprised how much storage there was inside the trailer sleeping compartment. I brought my clothing in four large fabric grocery store shopping bags all soft sided and squishy. It all easily went into the one compartment on my side of the bed, including a pair of hiking boots a pair of walking shoes and some flip-flops. My wife packed even more, but she got it in her side minus about four extra pairs of shoes that ended up living on the floor in the back seat of the car for the remainder of the trip.
My triangular rain/sun fly with three ten foot sectional aluminum poles and six tent pegs for anchorage to tie back the poles. worked perfectly to add shade/rain protection over our folding table and chairs. I erected it with one side perpendicular to the axis of the trailer, with rain fly edge over lapping the trunk lid over the kitchen by about a foot. The third point of the triangle was stretched out straight behind the trailer. We set up the folding table parallel to the counter in the kitchen compartment and in that arrangement the fly seemed to protect just the right amount of space. for us to cook and for one person to sit on each side in shelter when it was time to sit down and eat. We did not see a drop of rain for a month but it snowed on us twice.
We had a couple of nights when it was 22deg and 24deg F in Flagstaff AZ. It was damned cold to get out and walk to the park toilet, but we were inside on your optional 4” foam mattress, with one down quilt over us and a stocking cap to keep our heads warm (we had the top magic vent open about an inch and both windows open about half an inch to allow moisture from our breath to ventilate out), and we were not ever cold. I admit we did buy a heating pad about 16 inches wide by maybe 2 feet long, because I thought it would probably heat up the whole cab when we had electricity, but they don’t really radiate all that much heat. We were happy we had it though, when we’d get back from a midnight walk to the park toilet in 20 deg weather, and it had helped keep our spot toasty warm while we were gone.
Bud, you build a terrific Teardrop. Whatever else you do in this life, I am 100% sure a lot of people will remember you very fondly for doing this.