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Alan and Susan's Trailmanor page

Trailmanor pictures, how to, mods

 

 

Welcome to our Trailmanor page. The intent of this page is to document our new Trailmanor camper (mods, upgrades, fixes, etc) and to capture its use as we camp all over the state of Colorado, some in Tennessee*, and maybe even Oklahoma* and Texas*. (We just might get to the Grand Canyon and Yellowstone in there somewhere as well!)

(*Our son and his wife and our grandson live in Tennessee just south of Nashville. Our daughter and her husband live Texas and my folks and brothers are in Oklahoma!)

This site is also designed to be accessed by other Trailmanor owners and wanna-be owners to see why we chose a TM, the modifications we've made to ours, and why and how we did them. The Trailmanor Owners Forum is still the best resource for all things Trailmanor, and I will post links there to this page where appropriate. The Trailmanor Yahoo Group is also a good source of information. We hope you enjoy journeying along with us as much as we enjoy the journey ourselves. We'll document our actual camping trips on our home page but this page will show the TM on some of our trips, as well as any changes and upgrades we make.

If you are camping in Colorado, let us know. Maybe we'll be camping where you are!

Here are some of our favorite camping links.

 

 

   
   

 

The Dream Begins.

In spring 2008 we were fortunate enough to finally see our dream of owning a Trailmanor camping trailer come true. Our salesman at The Car Show found out that the dealer was taking a 2003 3124KB in trade and he called me the next day. We made a deposit before the trailer was even at the dealer - knowing that the dealer had sold it new to the original owner, and resold it to the second owner. We knew it would be gone before the week was over if we didn't take it. This page follows not only the story of our Trailmanor, but also chronicles our past history of camping, all of which contributed in no small part to our decision to buy the Trailmanor.

Our Trailmanor Journey - links to the stories of our love of camping and how we got here through, as Liminy Snicket would say, "a series of unfortunate incidents!" Click on the links below for the various stages of our journey, or just scroll down and read them all.

The Early Years

Susan and I both grew up camping. She was a Girl Scout and camped at Scout camps for many years, working as a counselor in later years. My family loved water skiing so we regularly went to one of the many lakes in Oklahoma to ski and camp. I've camped with everything from an Army surplus tarp thrown over a piece of pipe between two trees, to a home-made tent camper (canvas from Sears, trailer bed from a pickup!). We bought a Coleman cabin tent after we married and moved to Texas. Add a table canopy (heavy canvas with center pole for a picnic table, and lots of guy ropes!), the then new Coleman propane camp stove and propane lantern (no messy white gas for this guy!), and we were ready for a life of pulling a boat to one of the many lakes in Texas and enjoying a life of camping. Unfortunately, we never really got a boat. And our first tent camping trip to Colorado proved to be a major milestone in the change to our camping perspective.

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The Trip That Changed It All

In the summer of 1976, our girls were about 4 1/2 and almost 2. We decided to take a tent camping trip to Durango, CO. We had a new Plymouth Volare station wagon, big enough (we thought) to carry our tent, canopy, and all our cooking and camping gear - and pull a boat for those wonderful camping and water ski trips that I dreamed of growing up. I remember a couple of days before we were to leave on Friday night, I was checking everything to be sure it was ready to pack and that it would fit in the car. The short answer is it didn't! When I finally gave in to the idea that it was not all going to fit in the wagon, I called a friend who had a small utility trailer I could borrow, and proceeded to fill it as well. One of the thoughts I had as we were driving to Colorado, exhausted from the last minute rush to pack and get on the road, was, "if I'm going to have to pull a trailer, I might as well get a camping trailer!" Our first stop was Red River, NM, and it had been raining all day. I checked the "campground" where we planned to spend the night in our tent and it was a basic gravel parking lot, with lots of water standing around. We decided not to camp in the rain since we were only spending the night and I did not want to fold up a wet tent. We got a room and headed to Colorado the next day with a dry tent!

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Our First Popup

Around 1978 we decided to get a popup so we could camp with many of our friends at church, who were regular campers. We bought a nice used Bethany camper. It was pretty heavy (they were VERY well made) but we pulled it with a Ford Econoline 250 Van with a 460 cu in engine so it never knew the camper was there. The Bethany had a queen bed, 3 dresser drawers, a porta potti, and an oven! We were always the hit of our church campouts when Susan made biscuits from scratch (well, ok, scratch from Bisquik). It served us well on many camping trips in east and south Texas and easily handled our little family of 5. But alas, kids grow up and get busy and decide they don't want to camp with the old folks anymore, and our lives were busy too, so we eventually sold it and got out of the camping life. Bethany was actually a pioneer in the "popup" camper business because their roofs truly did "pop-up." It was mounted on a cross braced and counterbalanced cantilever system. The front raised up with two supports that were hinged in the middle with a side-to-side axis. Once they were up and secured, the back raised up on a pair of supports that were hinged in the fore-aft position. All of the support poles were INSIDE the walls of the trailer, so it had a very clean appearance when upright. The supports were very stable when locked and with the canvas in place. We endured some pretty wild spring weather in Texas in this camper. And we found that we really did enjoy camping in a trailer!

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Colorado and New Camping Challenges.

We came to Colorado in 1997 after sending our youngest son off to Texas A&M. After we had been here a few years, we connected with a few couples in our church who liked to camp, and in 2001 we arranged to rent a popup and go with them to Mueller State Park for a weekend. Although we ran out of propane from running the heater all night, the camping bug came back in spades! We knew we loved camping - but camping in the Colorado mountains was something special for us flat landers! The next year we arranged a Memorial Day weekend trip to Golden Gate Canyon State Park with some of the same couples. Since we still didn't have a camper, we stayed in a "camper cabin" - an enclosed structure with a propane heater and beds. One of the couples that went with us had just purchased a Trailmanor - a 2002 3023 - and we were intrigued. This was the beginning of the long journey to a Trailmanor. Again we had a great time, despite 8 inches of snow on the ground when we arrived! (Yes, Memorial Day and snow - only in Colorado!)

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Finally - our own Colorado camper.

In 2003 we got serious about camping. We attended both of the big RV shows in Denver, and even a smaller one here in Colorado Springs. We found the trailer we wanted - a Starcraft Antigua, a 21 foot lightweight travel trailer hybrid. It had a slide out couch and dinette, fold out bunks on each end (one queen sized), and typical TT amenities inside. It was great - except for the price. And the weight. Even though advertised as a lightweight under 5000 lbs towing weight, I thought that it might be a little marginal for my 5650 lb rated Durango. And it was pricey - close to $20000. We decided we couldn't afford it then, but we didn't want to wait to dive into camping again, so after looking at new (i.e. expensive) popups, we decided to look for a used popup to get us started. That is when we found our 1998 Starcraft Constellation. It was well cared for and had every Starcraft option except A/C and a screen room. We thoroughly enjoyed camping in it for the 5 seasons we had it. We weathered sub-freezing temperatures with no electricity and a dead battery, a weekend with no water due to a freeze-cracked water heater, a cold night in Durango when we ran out of propane - thinking that the other tank was full, and two blowouts on the same trip - 10 year old tires will do that! Each one was a learning experience and each time we had friends with us for help and support.

The picture at left is of our last campout with the Starcraft. It was taken at Chalk Creek Campground near Buena Vista - one of our favorites - in September 2007. It was actually the first camping trip that Susan and I had taken by ourselves in 5 years! Our very first camping trip with this camper was also at this campground, July 4th weekend in 2003. If you will look on our personal page you will see some photos of our 5 years with this very functional little camper. We had a lot of good camping experiences with this little trailer and it's idiosyncrasies.

This era of our camping lives came to an end when we sold the Starcraft to a young couple with 2 little boys who were moving up from tent camping. We know they will enjoy it as much as we have. The next day we signed the papers on a new (to us) TM.

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The Trailmanor Decision

In 5 years of camping with the "pup" (i.e. popup) - and with our friends who have Trailmanors - now numbering 3 - we've discovered a number of obvious advantages of the Trailmanor. The additional ACCESSIBLE space for storage is a BIG deal since our popup had virtually none. Sure, it had storage under the seats, but it was difficult to get to and we stored the more permanent things there, so there was no room for things that were just for "this" trip. The bath is nice - even though we had a shower and cassette toilet in the pup, it was still a bit of a chore to set up the drain for the shower and dump the cassette toilet. And the size of the shower made it a bit of a chore and necessitated "Navy showers." The extra seating around the dining table in our TM is nice - it was almost impossible for more than two to eat in the popup - it was just too tight. But the two primary features we wanted in our next camper were towability and hard sides. Bears are the main reason for hard sides. We got so tired of putting our food in the Durango every night, and then getting it back out the next morning. (Required in bear country!) That requirement eliminated all of the light weight hybrids that we had looked at - including the Antigua we loved when we first started looking - because they all have canvas sided bunks! The A-Liner/Chalet, Hi-Lo, Trailmanor, and a few small travel trailers were all that fit the hard side requirement. Towability (i.e. low profile and light weight) eliminates the Hi-Lo (they are a little heavy for the same size floor space) and the travel trailers (they are also typically too heavy, and their height creates lots of wind drag affecting towability.) And the bed in most small TT takes up most of the floor space, or you have to make it up each evening and take it down the next day. The A-Liner and Chalet are well made, light, towable, and easy to set up. But like a small Travel Trailer, there is very little floor space and no potty/shower except in the largest models, and the bed has to be made out each night and put up each morning - just not much living space.

So, the winner is......

That leaves the Trailmanor! It didn't take us 5 years to come to this conclusion, however. We pretty much had it figured out by our second year of camping with our Trailmanor friends. It just took us till now to be in a position to do it. (And that is a long story by itself!) Although there are lots of reasons to buy a Trailmanor, everyone has their own hot buttons. Many people on the Trailmanor forum love to "boondock," so battery life, solar chargers, and generators are an almost obsessive topic. We camp with electricity almost everywhere so battery power is not a big issue with us. (How can you use that electric blanket on those cold Colorado nights without electricity?) Fresh water and waste water capacity are big issues to the same dry campers but we seldom camped long enough in the pup to fill our 15 gallon blue waste tank or use anywhere close to the 20 gallons of fresh water we carried. Some people are looking at a Trailmanor as a long term residence, so floor plan, useable space, and many convenience upgrades are important. So everyone has their own issues. If you don't believe me, spend a few hours reading the Trailmanor forum or the TM Yahoo group. If you are looking at a Trailmanor, determine what your "issues" are and see if the Trailmanor fits. We discovered it fit us very well!

We had decided over the years that the 3023 model was the optimal size for us, but decided after our friends got a 3124 that it was better suited - primarily because of the king size bed. In TM speak, the model numbers indicate the size of the trailer folded for travel and open for camping. A 3124 has the floor space of a 31 foot travel trailer when open, and is 24 feet long when folded for travel. The extra foot in the 3124 (over the 3023) is in the bed and storage under the bed.

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Our Trailmanor Adventure Begins

When we went to pick up the trailer, The Car Show had it setup and ready to go through the details of lowering, raising, and demo-ing all the accessories. They took over 2 hours and did a very complete job of showing us everything about the trailer, including all the little hints and tricks that they had learned over the years - they are also TM owners and camp regularly. When we saw the trailer after the dealer prep, it looked almost new. The dealer did a wonderful job of preparing it. We saw it the day it came in, dusty, unadjusted, with stuff stacked in the trailer. It was quite a transformation. I know a few major things the dealer did and it was obvious. Dave, the owner, was not happy with the torsion bars and the way the trailer opened and closed. It was in the shop several days while the mechanics got that part all straightened out. I think they installed a new torsion bar or two. They did a lot of touch up painting - the torsion bars and the A-frame hitch all look newly painted. The interior was clean and the curtains and upholstery looked almost new. They added a new shower curtain. They hosed it down and checked for any leaks and washed it thoroughly. The sink faucet had been replaced by a previous owner with a single handle type, but it was obviously not working correctly because the dealer replaced it with a new standard sink faucet. The propane tanks were full and the two 6 volt batteries were charged. We asked the dealer to add an over the stove cabinet and the new camber lock for the dutch doors, which they did at no additional cost. We asked to have purchase some of the new "velcro dots" that are used in the newer models to hold the vinyl seals up for travel. They went ahead and installed them for us - at no extra charge! As we went through our pre-delivery training and inspection, we also discovered a number of things the previous owners had done that were nice additions.

  • Replaced round doorknob with a lever type
  • Put a radiant barrier type insulation under both beds
  • Replaced several lights with fluorescent fixtures
  • Added a Pioneer AM/FM/CD player with additional remote speakers in the rear bed area (and separate power switch so it does not drain the battery when stored)
  • Rigid plastic propane tank cover (not vinyl)
  • MaxxAir covers on all the roof vents
  • Medicine cabinet in the bathroom - it hangs on the outside wall with standard TM hangers
  • Small mirror on the inside of the wardrobe door
  • Each key and matching lock are etched with matching codes
  • Step pads that tie to the steps and can be removed for cleaning
  • A bracket on the door side to hang a small table (which I promptly broke off on the first trip)
  • A new ADCO cover (although the dealer misplaced the original while the trailer was being prepped. They are buying a new one for us)
  • A Carefree of Colorado awning over the street side window. (see pictures in "First Look" above)

We also received a "new owner's pack" from the dealer containing a new sewer hose with attachments, a fresh water hose, a water pressure regulator, a 30 amp to 110 volt plug converter, and packs of chemicals for the toilet. Altogether we are VERY pleased with our dealer. They do an outstanding job for their customers!

Towing the TM for the first time, I could tell that the trailer was there, but I had no problems maintaining highway speeds on the way home. Although the Durango has a strong rear suspension, the tongue weight is a bit high so a WDH was needed. I had a Pilot brake controller installed prior to delivery and it appeared to work well on the drive home. The dealer recommended Tow-N-See mirrors which I used on the way home and to the storage lot. I decided that they vibrated too much and they were too small. I bought a set of Eagle Vision mirrors from Camping World and they work much better. They are similar to the Hensley McKesh mirrors that are popular on the TMOF. I kept the Tow-n-See to use for short trips since they are so quick to install and uninstall. I added a Draw-Tite WDH and an Atwood 3000# electric tongue jack. The TM tows much better with the WDH and set up, leveling, and hook-up are all much easier with the electric jack.

New information and trips will be documented above and on our home page.

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The Great Secret

When we bought our TM, we decided to keep it a secret from our camping friends, all of whom knew we wanted a TM and kept asking us when we would get one. Our salesman, who knew our TM friends, thought it would be a fun thing to do. He agreed to help us keep the secret. We were able to carry out the deception for over 2 months. It was particularly tricky since one of our TM friends used the same salesman, stored his TM at the same storage lot, and actually lived not too far from us. If we parked our trailer on the flatter part of the street (near a green belt) they could see it from the street they took to go to work, so we had to park on a bit of a hill just in front of our house to be sure it was not visible from the other street. We had a couple of close calls - my friend had gone by the dealer to pick up some parts, and I happened to come by just a little later to get some toilet chemicals. The salesman told me he almost called me to warn me because he had a feeling I might come by! I almost went to pick up the trailer on a Saturday before our shakedown trip, but decided not too. I found out that my friend was at the storage lot doing some work, so it was a good thing I didn't go. But it was a lot of fun to "unveil" our TM at our yearly shakedown camping trip. One friend pulled in and saw our camper and just matter of factly said "Cavin's got a Trialmanor!" Another friend came in and we met them at their car. They looked at the sites we were supposed to be in and said "Where are you camped?" I nonchalantly said "I'm in that Trailmanor next to my Durango." Both TM friends as well as the rest of our camping group agreed that for a 5 year old camper it was in excellent shape!

Now that the secret is out, we plan to do a lot of camping!