Six States in 24 Hours

We bought a new truck camper!

A couple of years ago exactly to the day, we purchased our first slide-in pop-up truck camper. After deciding that we wanted to go the truck camper route, my husband found a 2008 Palomino Bronco for sale through Craig’s List, and the best part was that it was located less than a mile from the auction. After two visits, we decided to make it ours.

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our first truck camper, a 2008 Palomino Bronco

Stephen took me camping for the first time in September 2011 at Monagahela National Forest in West Virginia. It was the start of what would be a three-week road trip throughout the country, with our final destination being Jackson, WY, where we putting down some temporary routes. I’ve been hooked ever since.

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tofu stir fry – my first camp meal!

Since then, we’ve spent quite a bit of time in our tents. We even flew our gear out to Colorado (twice!) so that we could camp in Rocky Mountain National Park after we had moved back to the east coast.

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sunset in RMNP

We came to a crossroad when we welcomed Bridger into our home (and our hearts). For one, our three-person car-camping tent and two-person backcountry tent weren’t going to fit two adults and a 90lb dog. On top of that, Stephen traded in his hatchback for a truck and I was still driving a Honda Civic. As you can imagine, it had become pretty difficult to camp out of a truck cab or a tiny car with all of the gear – and now we were trying to add a dog to the mix!

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Bridger’s first “hike” at 10 weeks old

I originally wanted a tow-behind trailer, which is a camper that we would tow with the truck. Stephen argued that not only would be a lot to maintain, but it would be a pain to haul for long distances. I, of course, was deep into Pinterest at this point and planning for a glamorous and photo-ready tin can that people would snap photos of when we stopped at rest stops. Yeah, Stephen reeled that in pretty quick.

Now that we’ve gotten a ton of use out of it, I can safely say that getting a truck camper was the best decision for our family. It allows us to take the camper anywhere that the truck would go, meaning that we can park in a normal parking spot without worrying about if we’ll fit (which comes in handy when you’re passing through a city and want to stop at a local brewery!) We also didn’t lose the capability of four-wheel drive, which was something that we realized would be really important. It’s also easy to maneuver (to both setup and drive) so Stephen has been able to easily take it on solo fishing trips.

Above all else, the truck camper looks badass as heck.

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pulled right up on the beach in Camden, Maine 

We’ve used it for weekend trips in Pennsylvania, Vermont and Ohio, and have taken it on two major road trips that lasted for over two weeks. This fall, we decided we were ready for an upgrade: We wanted a Four Wheel.

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the last night of our summer 2018 road trip (16 days) 

Four Wheel is what I would consider the leader in truck campers, and because we are gear-heads who like shiny new things, we set a goal for ourselves that we’d get one “one day.” They are pretty expensive to buy brand new, so Stephen has always periodically checked for used listings. A couple of weeks ago, he found the exact model that we were look at – the Hawk – for sale in South Carolina. You NEVER see them for sale on the east coast, and we had always assumed we would have to drive out west to pick one up if we ever found it. We waited a little bit and talked about it, knowing that someone could scoop it out from under us if we waited too long. After a few missed ski-weekends, cabin fever set in and we were already longing for spring camping and fly fishing trips. Stephen messaged the seller who confirmed that it was still for sale, and at 3pm on Friday, Stephen said, “Looks like we’re going to South Carolina tomorrow, baby!”

Normally this would stress me out – and don’t worry, to an extent, it did make me a little anxious – but we didn’t have any weekend plans except for running and [hopefully] skiing, so I was excited for a change of scenery. Because it’s so expensive to board Bridger, we decided to bring him with us – yes, we brought Bridger to his first hotel! We also had the opportunity to visit Richmond for work, so we decided to combine the trip into one.

We arrived in Charlotte around 2pm on Saturday, choosing to stay there since it was the closest major city to where the camper was in South Carolina. We immediately went to Birdsong Brewing Company at the recommendation of one of our good friends who used to live in North Carolina. Her suggestion was a total winner, especially because dogs were allowed on the patio and it gave us a chance to soak up some much-needed sunshine and let Bridger socialize after being stuck in the car for eight hours. We had a couple of beers and helped ourselves to shelling some peanuts, and then went to Little Sugar Creek Greenway to walk Bridger. I’m so impressed at the Greenway System that North Carolina offers – it’s a beautiful park system that runs through various neighborhoods. It was lovely and scenic and gave us a chance to stretch out and enjoy the beautiful weather. (Sorry, PA friends, but it was 60 and perfect.)

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we love dog-friendly breweries!
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Little Sugar Creek Greenway

After our walk Stephen and I stopped at Amelie’s Bakery at the recommendation of a Oiselle Volée member who had been to the area before. Another winner! It was a cute café decorated with French-style antiques, which obviously is a way to intrigue Stephen and I. We each had espresso and Stephen ordered the iced cinnamon pull-apart bread which they served warm. It was gone before I took my first sip of espresso, but from what I understand, it was delicious.

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gilt, gilt, gilt!
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mid-day espresso

After that we went to Heist Brewing Company, where we had more beer and finally some food. We shared the Brussels sprouts and Stephen got the chicken and waffle tacos. Yes, the taco was the waffle.

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Still hungry and accepting that we would eat our way through Charlotte, we then went to Mac’s Speed Shop to try out the local barbeque scene. We’ve had some pretty good barbeque this past year with trips to both Dallas and St. Louis, so we wanted to see how North Carolina stacked up. It was good, but it wasn’t Texas or Missouri good – sorry! Hush puppies were served instead of bread, and we decided to split a combo platter. We got brisket, pulled pork, ribs, and chicken as well as Mac n’ Cheese and collard greens. The collard greens were a little too sweet for me, and the chicken was best part of the platter. Full and exhausted, we headed to the hotel.

We stayed at the La Quinta by the airport because they were the only pet-friendly location within our budget. I’ve never stayed at a La Quinta before so I wasn’t sure what to expect, but was pleasantly surprised with how clean the hotel was. For some reason I was worried that by accepting pets it wouldn’t be up to my standards (used to work in hotels, after all), but it makes more sense that they are extra-diligent because they welcome pets.

Bridger, on the other hand, hated the hotel. He could not wrap his head around the fact that we were staying in a room and didn’t have free roam over the entire property. He also couldn’t figure out that the door led to a hallway, so when he needed to go out he would stand by the full-length mirror and swat at that. The airport La Quinta was also quite the happening spot on a Saturday night in Charlotte because people were partying on our floor until 5am. Imagine a protective lab hearing people outside of the room banging on doors and playing music and using their outdoor voices; Yes, he barked several times. I was so upset at the time, but honestly, it really wasn’t our fault. He was definitely confused and rightfully so. It was fun for the night, but big dogs don’t belong in hotel rooms!

Running on just a few hours of sleep, we loaded ourselves in the car and drove the thirty minutes to South Carolina to pick up our new toy. The previous owner, Scott, was incredibly helpful and helped us figure out how the new camper would fit on the truck with the old system in place. I hung out with Bridger and Scott’s dog, Copper.

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Time to run! I needed to get a long run in, so after the camper was set on the truck we went to McAlpine Greenway so that I could get 75 minutes in. Bridger got a nice long walk and I got to explore new views. I liked this greenway even better as it ran through marshland and had wooden boardwalks connecting the paved paths over the waterways. It started to drizzle at the end, but I got over 7 miles in while listening to the Devon Yanko interview on The Morning Shakeout podcast – highly recommend.

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My post-long run fuel was courtesy of Cowfish, a fusion restaurant blending the All-American cheeseburger with… sushi. Yes, sushi. Don’t knock it ‘til you try it! I didn’t dive in since my cravings are very specific post-running, but Stephen got their bento box which has a mini burger, friends, sushi, edamame, and cucumber salad. I had a yellowfin tuna sushi sandwich. I wanted to try more food, but I was already so full.

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After a family nap and watching The Office in bed, we went to our last restaurant in Charlotte. Bakersfield was an industrial style restaurant with Edison bulbs shining and old western movies playing. We had margaritas, chips+salsa, and tacos. We eat out together all of the time but this definitely felt like the ‘date night’ of our trip. This may have been my favorite stop!

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Bridger was a champ for night two. He slept through the whole night and never stirred once – probably because the hotel was nice and quiet. We woke up bright and early and headed back out on the road with our Starbucks and new camper in tow. (Well, not in tow. Ha!)

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I’m so happy that we have our new truck camper and I can’t wait to plan our first adventure with it. Our next step will be getting our old truck camper cleaned up and for sale so that we can pass it on to someone new for new trips and trails. It still has quite a bit of life left in it, and even with our new setup I’m going to be sad to see it go! It’s got a ton of stickers on the back and I’m pretty sure that I’m going to miss them the most. But don’t worry – I already have a new sticker layout in mind.

happy trails and miles,
Stephanie