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RV/Trailer Astronomy Fact and Fiction

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#126 Jon Isaacs

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Posted 03 February 2018 - 09:16 AM

WOW- 100 nights/year observing in a dark place

Hard to beat=we all envy you

 

An RV just for astronomy/star parties

is a poor and/or expensive investment

 

As a life style and family trips also   waytogo.gif waytogo.gif

 

edj

 

That did not include the trips in the motor home so that would add another 15 or so.  

 

Being retired, our family trips always are planned around the new moon.  Our vacations are always to some place where the skies are dark and clear.  That's because my wife loves the red rock country of the Navajo reservation and the expansiveness of the deserts.  

 

Now one might think that our vacationing to these dark skies would be a sign that Jon "wears the pants in this family."  But that's not the case.  My interest in astronomy began more than 30 years ago when I met my wife and we spent our vacations traveling the back roads of southwest.  That's her passion.  

 

At some point I thought to myself, "Hey Jon, you ought to buy a telescope, it'd be something to do at night."  So when I saw at telescope I could afford at a garage sale ($5), I jumped on it.  I probably got taken but after washing the dirt off it and cleaning it the best I could, discarding the broken down mount and strapping it to a worn out department store tripod, I had myself a 60mm refractor with one eyepiece and no finder.  

 

I just wanted to look around and see what I could see. Early one morning out on the Arizona desert I stumbled a faint, tiny bit of nebulosity. I didn't know what it was but I knew I had to see more.  Of course it turned out it was the Orion nebula.. that was the beginning... These days, I'm pretty much doing the same thing, just going and seeing what I can see.  

 

Jon


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#127 Stardust Dave

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Posted 03 February 2018 - 11:04 AM

Looking thru the topic , some pull a trailer behind a minivan. Some considering whether to get an RV at all.
So many options ,depending on budget.

 

I consider the minivan an RV of sorts by itself - Heres what we've been doing, wife and I . Removed the seats. Padded sleeping area ,cooler on front seat. Beats the tent in warm or cold IMO.  Nice sightseeing day trips, big scope and gear goes on the ground at night. the big scope back in the van late morning and off to recreate. 

 

We have done GSSP and countless other 4-5 days outings in the minivan with great sleeping and living.
- the telescope is outside at night anyways. The trips are based on observing , with the attractions during the day.

Being physically quite small (and having a spouse with thick hide)  makes the minivan an option if you are not ready to invest in a trailer ,or do not like the tent  and want to avoid hotel room costs A cooler , bedding ect.  How you handle sanitary needs is up to you.

 

Vacation and observe for only the cost of gas and food. Protection from elements ,heavily insulated ,darkened windows and some protection from wildlife .The minivan loves the gravel road and gets good traction - many of our outings are off-highway aways. 

 

 I still use a pull trailer with a pick-up ,depends on distance and number of days.


Edited by Stardust Dave, 03 February 2018 - 11:07 AM.

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#128 dr.who

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Posted 03 February 2018 - 03:34 PM

Jon how do you handle security there when you’re not there? Aren’t you worried about break ins? Does it snow?

#129 Jon Isaacs

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Posted 03 February 2018 - 04:09 PM

Jon how do you handle security there when you’re not there? Aren’t you worried about break ins? Does it snow?

 

Security:

 

- Neighbors. Especially my neighbor Rollie, he watches the place like a hawk.. 

 

- INS. Wikipedia lists the population of this area as 315 people. We're about 4 miles from the border and there's a couple of hundred border patrol agents working out of a station a couple of miles up the road.  They're all over.

 

It does snow, sometimes maybe 4 inches. It snowed a tiny bit in January.

 

Jon

 

5171321-Francis in the snow reduced and cropped.jpg

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#130 Daniel Guzas

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Posted 18 February 2018 - 10:29 AM

hi all

 

Here's my traveling 'observatory': a Tab Teardrop. (clamshell)

It's tall enough to stand up in, has a bed ready to go, and room to sit indoors when it rains on week long trips.

I can either plug in to an electrical 110v outlet if available, or go solar & battery. Has a oil-based radiator heater powered by either electric or gas propane. (came with a small A/C unit, but I removed that for more internal storage space).

My model is a clamshell, with a small kitchen in the back hatch. (built-in propane stove, frig, sink with hot water, storage for food & dishes). While I do use the stove for basic cooking, for the most part, the hatch contains my video monitors and reference library for doing Video-astronomy. It's only about 1600 lbs and makes for an easy tow with a small SUV. When I get to a dark-sky site, about all I have to do to prepare 'camp' is to turn on the propane tank and setup the solar panel.

(for longer stays, I do setup an easy-up tent canopy for shade). I can then spend more time setting up the telescope and video-cameras, and getting my observing books and notes ready. In addition to red-filters on all the monitors, I also use heavy black-out curtains that velcro to the hatch and hang down to the ground.

Hey Larry! I love that sunshade you have up at your teardrop camper door.. what is is and where can I get one? Do you take it down when it rains? How stable is it?



#131 dr.who

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Posted 18 February 2018 - 02:28 PM

Jon that is excellent! How much do properties go for in that area? Is renting it out an option? Thinking about retirement and that seems a good place to have a getaway house...



#132 Jon Isaacs

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Posted 18 February 2018 - 05:57 PM

Jon that is excellent! How much do properties go for in that area? Is renting it out an option? Thinking about retirement and that seems a good place to have a getaway house...

 

Properties go for a wide range of prices .  Renting something out is possible but there's also a wide range of inhabitants ..

 

Jon


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#133 dr.who

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Posted 18 February 2018 - 08:36 PM

Cheers Jon. 



#134 Larry Mc

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Posted 19 February 2018 - 09:55 PM

hi Dan,

It's called a "Tab Visor". Here's a link to it at the Teardrop shop: https://teardropshop...ducts/t-b-visor

I have the smaller version. Overall, it's held-up good. I leave it up rain or shine while camping. The base end of it attaches to the camper by a kedder rope, which the Tab campers come with the kedder rail already installed. Occasionally, a big gust of wind might flap it down across the door, but it generally bounces right back up. I have had to replace a couple of the shock-cord tent poles, but you can use regular tent shock-cord rod repair kits that you can find at various stores.

 

Most of my camping mishaps involve flimsy easy-up canopy's. I've lost a few of those over the years. 

Glad my telescope wasn't under that!! smile.gif

 

 

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#135 StarmanDan

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Posted 20 February 2018 - 04:11 PM

After my family was forced to evacuate our tent and the campsite due to a tornado warning, the wife demanded we get an RV.  We started out with a 20' trailer but it was very cramped as it only had one slide out for the dinette and in the bathroom the toilet was so close to the door that you had to leave the door open to sit down.  We traded it in for a 32' model with bunkbeds in the back for the kids with a media cabinet for their tv and games and it can be closed off from the rest of the living space.  The dinette/sofa slide opens up the living area, and a queen bed in the front that you can walk all the way around so no more crawling over each other to get out of bed. The bathroom is very roomy too.  Ample storage for everything we can think of bringing.  All the slides, jacks, and awning are wirelessly controlled with a remote so no more breaking my back hunched over cranking away.  We keep it stocked with non perishable items (clothes, kitchen ware, blankets, towels, etc.) so all we need to do is stock it with food and go.  Setup usually takes me about 30 min from the time I unhitch to being ready to live in.  

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#136 Aleko

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Posted 30 March 2018 - 08:30 PM

sometimes I wonder about the impact of CN threads

 

has this thread changed anyone's decision to either get an RV  or to not get one   question.gif

 

edj

Apologies for reviving this thread. But it really did inspire me to take some action. I felt it was a matter of time before my luck ran out while driving home late after observing.  

 

As mentioned earlier in the thread, I thought I wanted a class B, because I don't really care to tow a trailer.  But comments by several made me see the light. There is something to be said for being able to leave a camper at the sight and driving off, whether to sight see or just head into town for a meal. But again, I don't like towing.

 

The Casitas looked appealing, but push the tow limits of my minivan. But the solutions that Jim Mo and Daniel Guzas came up with sounded like a great compromise.  A teardrop trailer is easy enough to tow with the minivan, so no new vehicle required. Actually, it's easy to forget it's back there, that's how easy it is.  It also fits in my garage, thus avoiding storage fees or the vicious wrath of my HOA.  

 

As luck would have it, this 2003 Camp-Inn (a much older sibling of Daniel's teardrop) came available locally. I'm not just the third owner now, but the third astronomer to own it. The last couple of weeks were spent getting it caught up on maintenance, and now it's ready to go. NO more driving home late at night. NO more having to set up and tear down a tent if I want to stay overnight, or over several nights. A very easy hitch and go. Not for everyone, but it works for me!...

 

EDIT: Also pictured is the CFO, who was happy I saved $145k over my initial choice. :-)

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Edited by Aleko, 30 March 2018 - 08:36 PM.

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#137 starcanoe

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Posted 30 March 2018 - 10:03 PM

Sweet looking rig there !

 

Congrats and enjoy !

 

PS....I finally decided late night/ very early morning driving was out after the time I woke up in a field a fair distance from the road with the car engine still running (and I had plowed through some barb wire fencing in the process).


Edited by starcanoe, 30 March 2018 - 10:04 PM.

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#138 Aleko

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Posted 30 March 2018 - 10:35 PM

Sweet looking rig there !

 

Congrats and enjoy !

 

PS....I finally decided late night/ very early morning driving was out after the time I woke up in a field a fair distance from the road with the car engine still running (and I had plowed through some barb wire fencing in the process).

Starcanoe,

 

Thanks!   Glad your "side trip" wasn't worse. I've been lucky so far, but way too many close calls. Even drifted off once a block from the house.  With the camper, not only do I not have to drive home late, but I can wake up in the predawn hours, fully dark adapted, and do more observing!



#139 Mike E.

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Posted 31 March 2018 - 09:31 AM

I've always liked to travel, and at one time or another have had vans, a 10' truck camper, a trailer, motor home, and a fifth wheel. Each had had its good points at different times in our life. When we retired, my Wife and I wanted to do something completely different, so we bought a second home, or should I say a crumbling old stone cottage overseas as a retirement project; which we are still working on.

 

The urge for adventure and to explore caught up with us again, so for travel here in the UK we have a van and the smallest travel trailer we could find that had all of the comforts including a bathroom with shower. The weather here is not the best for observing, but we always take a telescope along on our trips. This is where the van reigns supreme, as it has enough room to transport everything we want without cluttering up the trailer, which are called Caravans over here. We have an enclosed awning for the trailer and also a waterproof tent which can protect our scopes from the weather.

 

What I especially like about a van at our age is that unlike a bigger rig, you can park it just about anywhere, so if you don't have to stay in a designated campground ( perish the thought ), then that will cover the cost of your next tank of fuel. Occasionally we just take the van if we decide to visit somewhere not too far away, and then check into a Hotel or Bed & Breakfast for the night. If we can't get a place to stay, we have all that's necessary in the van to sleep in comfort.

 

Here are some photos of our set up when we travel to a star party or dark site. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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#140 Jon Isaacs

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Posted 31 March 2018 - 09:51 AM

Mike:

 

Nice looking rig.  Small trailers pulled by vans or small pickups are becoming more popular on this side of the Atlantic . We had a small trailer for a couple of years but it was just too small for comfort so we returned to our motor home. 

 

I think everyones situation is so different that we each have to find our own solution.  Where we live , there are vast areas of open land where one can camp for free with any sort of vehicle.  Fuel is less expensive here as well. 

 

We just returned from 5 days camping with 8, 10 and 12 year old grandchildren.  The motor home was about perfect. .

 

Joshua Tree March 2017 1.jpg
 
The second small home is also very nice.  Here,  relatively dark skies that are most often clear are less than 100 miles away so that hideaway can be close by .
 
Jon

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#141 Mike E.

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Posted 31 March 2018 - 02:45 PM

I've always liked vans Jon, and converted my 1971 Econoline to four wheel drive with a Pathfinder kit back in the early 80's. Spent a lot of weekends roaming the desert and around the Salton Sea back in those days; rough camping for sure, but we were young and loved it. Times and personal requirements do change, but the adventure of getting out and being under the stars doesn't seem to. smile.png


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#142 Ohmless

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Posted 02 April 2018 - 10:26 AM

I currently have a 2 ton pickup that needs brake lines, but after that is remedied I want to get a bigger scope(10" dob) that will be able to take full advantage of the dark skies!  After that I will be ready to get my travel trailer.  I am looking at prices to try to find a used one that is 23' or less that have bathrooms and no pop-out beds.  I will be boondocking and living off propane in the desert.  That is the dream anyways.  I am currently 42y/o but already on disability so I have plenty of time to find one on the cheap to fix up.

 

Are generators a must for having power?  Do any of them run off propane or are they better off running off gasoline?

 

This has been a great thread!



#143 Jim4321

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Posted 02 April 2018 - 11:30 AM

Propane vs gasoline fuel for generator: Gas usually requires regular running to keep the carb from gumming/varnishing up, which the LP units don't require.  But LP contains less power, so LP units are de-rated relative to their gas brethren; for instance, my 2.8 gas Onan is rated at 2800 watts, while the same unit in LP is rated at 2500 watts.

 

Fuel availability, gas probably wins. Safe spare fuel storage, probably LP wins.

 

If you have a built-in generator, it'll be gas, drawing from the vehicle's tank unless the chassis is diesel. Then it'll be LP until you get into the higher priced rigs like class A's.

 

Solar panels + batteries are an option, tho' debatable if you really need air conditioning or some other high-draw load.

 

 Some small new rigs come with an 'engine generator'; fast idle the vehicle's main power plant to turn a big alternator.  May be problematic in some areas where prolonged idling is prohibited.

 

A general note on RV appliances:  There are not many companies making RV appliances.  Similar price-point, similar sized RV's will likely have the same appliances.  All three of my 19' RV's (2 B's, 1 C) have had the same model of generator and furnace (brown Suburban box-o'-noise battery killer).  The reefers have been similar models, tho' the last was more evolved.  An acquaintance had a different brand of class B, but it had the same appliances.

 

Jim H.


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#144 Daniel Guzas

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Posted 12 April 2018 - 09:29 PM

Apologies for reviving this thread. But it really did inspire me to take some action. I felt it was a matter of time before my luck ran out while driving home late after observing.  

 

As mentioned earlier in the thread, I thought I wanted a class B, because I don't really care to tow a trailer.  But comments by several made me see the light. There is something to be said for being able to leave a camper at the sight and driving off, whether to sight see or just head into town for a meal. But again, I don't like towing.

 

The Casitas looked appealing, but push the tow limits of my minivan. But the solutions that Jim Mo and Daniel Guzas came up with sounded like a great compromise.  A teardrop trailer is easy enough to tow with the minivan, so no new vehicle required. Actually, it's easy to forget it's back there, that's how easy it is.  It also fits in my garage, thus avoiding storage fees or the vicious wrath of my HOA.  

 

As luck would have it, this 2003 Camp-Inn (a much older sibling of Daniel's teardrop) came available locally. I'm not just the third owner now, but the third astronomer to own it. The last couple of weeks were spent getting it caught up on maintenance, and now it's ready to go. NO more driving home late at night. NO more having to set up and tear down a tent if I want to stay overnight, or over several nights. A very easy hitch and go. Not for everyone, but it works for me!...

 

EDIT: Also pictured is the CFO, who was happy I saved $145k over my initial choice. :-)

Oh man Aleko! I’m so glad to see another Camp inn being used for astronomy! I think you and I are in the same boat. Just want to detach the camper and whizz off to a nice hot dinner to “fuel” up for the cold damp astronomy night ahead. So far it’s been a great choice for us and year 2 will confirm this. And your right. You really don’t know it’s there...well for me with a Mini as a tow vehicle I DO know it’s there while towing but not so much that it makes me nervous. So if I can do it with my small car then I’d say most would be just fine. Something to be said for the freedom the camper gives you when exploring a new place. I see it like the Apollo missions... why send the whole Saturn V if you just need the Lunar Module to explore. “Staging” is the way to go!


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#145 Aleko

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Posted 12 April 2018 - 10:12 PM

Oh man Aleko! I’m so glad to see another Camp inn being used for astronomy! I think you and I are in the same boat. Just want to detach the camper and whizz off to a nice hot dinner to “fuel” up for the cold damp astronomy night ahead. So far it’s been a great choice for us and year 2 will confirm this. And your right. You really don’t know it’s there...well for me with a Mini as a tow vehicle I DO know it’s there while towing but not so much that it makes me nervous. So if I can do it with my small car then I’d say most would be just fine. Something to be said for the freedom the camper gives you when exploring a new place. I see it like the Apollo missions... why send the whole Saturn V if you just need the Lunar Module to explore. “Staging” is the way to go!

 

Heading to the mountains this coming week for my first observing/camping run in the teardrop. Can't wait!  Instead of worrying about hitting Bambi on the way home, I just need to watch for bears at the campsite. :-).  Supposed to hit freezing on the thermometer while I'm up there. But the camper has heat, which is more than my tent had!  Dark crisp skies, with a warm bed waiting when I'm done observing. Life is good. 

 

Alex



#146 Daniel Guzas

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Posted 12 April 2018 - 11:43 PM

You can say that again!

 

As as for me It’s been over 2 months since I’ve been out with my scope (solid clouds at every opportunity grrr...) and my trailer is still snowed in...  come to think of it I Alex I’ll blame you.. that trailer is quite an astronomy purchase and is sure to generate the cloud curse! I just think your curse was so powerful that you are in the eye of the storm and I’m in the cloud shield.. thanks man!

 

Seriously though....enjoy your trip and the cozy warmth and security of that Camp Inn! Ohhh so comfy!!

 

Dan


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#147 edwincjones

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Posted 13 April 2018 - 06:40 AM

Jon how do you handle security there when you’re not there? Aren’t you worried about break ins? ...........



Keep it bare bones so there is nothing valuable to take

edj

#148 Jon Isaacs

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Posted 13 April 2018 - 07:22 AM

Keep it bare bones so there is nothing valuable to take

edj

:waytogo:

 

Edwin:

 

I believe this question was in regards to a second home in the high desert.  In our case,  it just pure,  unadulterated blind luck:  A retired full time neighbor who watches the place like a hawk. 

 

Rollie on the roof 1.jpg
 
That's him fixing a roof .  Our roof after a strong wind took some shingles off .
 
When camping. . Security does come from camping in remote regions and as Edwin said , not leaving valuables easily accessible.  With a motor home and no tow vehicle its not much of problem because your pretty much stuck to the vehicle. 


#149 Daniel Guzas

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Posted 13 April 2018 - 12:31 PM

Can I get some of that clear sky! Please!!!


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#150 Jon Isaacs

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Posted 14 April 2018 - 07:17 AM

Can I get some of that clear sky! Please!!!

 

Daniel:

 

Maybe we can work out a trade, some clear skies for some water.. :)

 

Jon




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