Swagman Bumper Mount Bike Rack

How do you carry your bikes for a family of 5 when towing a 5th wheel? I thought it would be pretty easy to find a bumper mounted bike rack for the 5th wheel. At least in my search I couldn’t find one that was designed for 5 bikes. After much searching and reading owner reviews I found the Swagman bumper mounted rack. It’s designed for 4 bikes, but I figured I could hang a kid’s bike on the ladder if I needed.

A couple of reviewers said they couldn’t carry more than 3 bikes because their spare tire was also mounted on the bumper. That made me nervous, because mine is bumper mounted too but I ordered it anyway.

The swagman bike rack is designed for 4 – 30lbs bikes. This rack requires that your trailer bumper be made from strong material and mounted solidly. Some lower end trailers won’t have a strong enough bumper. I am impressed with the design of this rack. It was pretty simple to install, It took me about 20min. to open the box and have it completely installed. The design makes it easy to take the bikes on and off the rack. I added a bike lock, and a couple of bungee cords to keep the tires from bouncing out while we drive.

I’m sure I have voided any warranty on this rack, but I was able to mount 5 bikes comfortably on the rack. The 5th bike is basically resting on the bumper of the trailer; the rack isn’t holding much more weight. I did have to make a couple of adjustments. I removed one pedal and twisted the handle bars of the bike closest to the trailer back wall (avoiding scratches and gouging to the trailer), and I twisted the handle bars of the second bike too. I have to say I was impressed, I got 5 bikes mounted and my spare tire too. You can still see my tail lights too.

So far we have driven 2500 miles and I haven’t had any issues with the rack, and the bikes have stayed put.

Looking at Travel Trailer Floor Plans

If you’ve been following us at all you know that in 9 months we plan to travel the US with our three boys for one year serving in different non-profit organizations along the way. We still have a lot to do to get ready. Things like sell existing vehicles, and purchase ones that will function best on a long journey. We also need to map out our travels. Keep following and you will see us reveal and put plans into place.
To involve our boys in the process we thought it would be fun to go look at some new travel trailers to see what floor plans we like and think would work to actually live in for a year. The reality is the majority of travel trailers are not intended to live in as a primary dwelling. There are some, but they are designed with the retired couple in mind. So we walked to B.Young RV, it’s not too far from where we live, and it was a nice day for a walk. Some of the features that are important to us are storage, room for individual space, and functional kitchen and bathroom.
The first trailer we looked at pushed the upper limits of our budget At 31 feet my wife said “I’m not sure this is big enough, I’ve seen trailer floor plans with more floor space in the bedroom.” Our two older boys were impressed that there was space for 2 TV’s and immediately commented how this would work great with the Xbox. They were ready to buy, not caring about how their belongings would fit, as long as the Xbox fit.
We toured several other models and floor plans, in fact we looked at every model they had available. We found one that that we all saw the potential. It met all the requirements we have in a year long road trip, except it is not even close to our budget. It was a 39 foot toy hauler starting at $90K.

This trailer has 4 queen size beds. Perfect for a family of 5. Because it’s a toy hauler there is lots of open space, well and it’s nearly 40 feet long.

Besides the fact that we would need to sell our house, which is not part of our plan, and purchase a semi-truck to pull it, it was perfect. I have to admit the the trim, the space, and the design were impressive.

The kitchen isn’t quite a full size, but it definitely rivals a apartment size kitchen. Yeah, this would work for a year.

The bedroom had lots of closet space compared to many travel trailers I’ve seen.

It’s tough to see the top of the line trailer, and then work your way down to reality.

First Aid App

We all know that it’s important to have a first aid kit located in our truck and travel trailer. It’s a best practice to be prepared, because who knows when an accident will happen. It’s not like we plan on slipping, tripping, or not paying attention, then a injury happens.

If you’re like me you probably have your cell phone with you most places you go. If it’s a smart phone (android or iphone) there is a app that I think is worthwhile, it’s called itriage. The following video by healthagen will give you a good overview of what itriage can do.

This app could be very helpful when you are away from home and not familiar with the community you’re visiting. It can help you find medical facilities in situations where you need medical help, but it’s not necessary to dial 911. It can help you figure out if you should call 911, or visit your family doctor when you get back home. This is a great app not only for a vacation or camping trip, but while you are home too.

Do you use this app? Do you use any other app like it?

New Concept Camping

I was surfing the net looking for RV & camping information when I bumped into some cool discoveries that I thought worth sharing. On the Blue Nose RV Trails site I saw two tiny RV options. The first one didn’t seem that appealing to me, but the second one caught my attention. It’s called the Swiss Room Box. You have to see it in action to appreciate the invention & design.

They have two versions of the commercial on you tube. This one is not directed at families, but I didn’t want to post the same thing that Mike Porter from Blue Nose did.

I’d love to see this thing up close. It appears to be 4 cubes, and a couple additional pieces. You mix and match some of them to create combinations like a table, or bed. Some of the others are dedicated for the stove, shower/sink, and food storage.  Unfortunately it is not being sold outside of Europe at this time, while they figure out some electrical conversions. It’s not cheap either it cost roughly $9,000.00. These portable boxes could revolutionize how people camp. For the price you could buy a pretty nice used RV or a couple cubes that you could store easily in a closet and take in you minivan. Would you consider buying the “Room Box”?

Long Trip w/ Kids

When I was a kid we went on long trips as a family that after awhile led to comments from siblings like, “don’t cross this line” or a dad who said, “Do you want me to stop this car?”. Once those comments were said you were pretty sure the family excitement about a fun vacation was over.

Today many vehicles are equipped with DVD players, or families can bring along a portable DVD player. They are great tools for long trips, but do you want your kids to miss all the sites along the way? We took a road trip from Portland, OR to Phoenix, AZ. There are many of those miles that are just boring and plain, but there are several places that you just need to take in the view. We planned our trip around some significant landmarks and mapped out reasonable drive distances for us (8-10 hrs per day). We took the standard fuel/meal breaks too.

We limited DVD/electronic gadget time to evening hours or long boring stretches of highway. We did allow some texting to friends and family, but the remainder of the time we tried to engage their minds with questions about our surroundings or state facts. We would pull up state trivia pages on the cell phone and and award points that would lead to a prize at the end of the day. Our kids got into this I’m not sure if it was the competitive nature of boys or just a fun way to pass the time. We also played the standard alphabet games using signs along the road. Besides that we had car seat totes equipped with travel versions of games like Othello, battleship, and decks of cards. We even through in math and spelling card too. Of course answers to these also counted toward the end of the day prize, which ended up being a special dessert or candy.  These totes were changed around each day to keep the games fresh and fun for the kids. I never once heard the comments I did when I was growing up, and I never threatened  to stop the car. A little pre-trip prep can help your kids engage in their surrounding, and make for some great memories later.

What have you done that has worked on a long trip with kids besides movies?

Game: Cornhole Toss

Cornhole toss or corn toss as it’s called is another simple game that can provide hours of friendly competition for the family. It’s a perfect camp activity because it doesn’t require  a lot of space to bring along. The basic rules ask for a level rectangular area between 21′ to 30′. The simple objective is to toss a bag (filled with corn) into a hole in a board roughly 30′ away. Learning the skill to toss and slide the bag into the hole can take awhile to master, but a novice can enjoy the game too.

A friend of mine, and his buddy make custom sets. Sno-Kent Custom Cornhol’n they’re in the Seattle area, but I’m sure they would ship a set if you ask. They make the cornhole sets as a hobby. P.S. I don’t get any kickbacks, or ad fees, just giving a friend some air time.

Cell Phones & Electronics

Dad is sitting by the campfire…checking email from work, Mom is next to him talking to friends back home, oldest son is there too, but texting 5 friends at the same time, middle son is playing Angry Birds close by, and youngest son is watching a movie. Is this what we call family time?

Digital devices are a part of our lives. They provide all kinds of conveniences. In fact, I’m not sure if my phone is a camera, or my GPS is a phone. This one device (cell phone)  provides many helpful services and entertainment. However, it can also provide a disservice that needs to be addressed…. it isolates. We can be physically present, but mentally absent. I’m not anti-technology…I like it too much sometimes. But what would happen if we set boundaries on the use of electronics, especially while on vacation? In our family we strive to have electronic black out times, so we can focus on conversation, and enjoy the adventures outdoors. How do you handle the use of electronics while on vacation?

 

Easy Camping Game

I was introduced to the game of washers last year. Since then, I have found out that there are several variations to this simple game. The version I played had three holes varying in size. Each hole was  assigned a different point value based on difficulty. The smaller the hole, the more points it’s worth.

It’s one of those games that doesn’t require tons of skill to play, but has potential to require lots of skill to master. We played for a couple hours and it provided plenty of fun and funny moments. It’s comparable to horseshoes. I found a site that shows you how to build a board of your own. It can be pretty inexpensive to build and some of the other designs make it really compact.

Anyone ever played before?  What’s your favorite configuration? Do you add any rules to make it more difficult, or easier for younger kids?