RV Cooking: Half a Dozen Steps to Dozens of Cookies

The problem: our RV oven contains one rack, which can hold only one 9″ x 13″ pan at a time. (By comparison, “we still live in a house” cookie sheets are 11″ x 17″. Those don’t fit here.)

The solution: I silenced my inner Grinch and figured that shit out.

Not only is it tiny, but it runs on propane, with a typically recalcitrant pilot light.

Step 1: Grant the request of a person you can’t refuse

Our younger son is visiting us on his holiday break from the University of Texas. On day 2, I got, “Mom? Can we bake Christmas cookies?”

D’awwwww. Now how am I gonna turn that down?

Step 2: Choose no more than 2 recipes

You’re gonna be moving that cookie sheet in and out of the oven a lot. I counted 8 times for our 9 dozen cookies.

When we downsized to the RV, I got rid of an entire shelf of cookbooks.
Now I do this.

Step 3: Organize the effort with designated areas for everything

I placed utensils, bowls and pans on one part of the countertop, ingredients on another, and kept my prep area right next to the sink and garbage can. Putting items away as you go is an essential! You’ll know at a glance when you’re done with an ingredient, and it won’t continue to clutter up your space — you know, the space where you’re gonna have to put the actual cookies when they’re done?

I knew you’d see things my way.

Ingredients on my left… (This area later became the Cookie Cooling surface, because by then all this stuff had been used and put back in the pantry.)

Bowls, pans and utensils behind me…

… and prep area in front of me.
I like to leave out a paper plate for used measuring cups and spoons, to help keep the countertop clean. Anything I’ve used for dry ingredients gets placed upright. Cups and spoons used for liquid ingredients go face down. Reduces the chance I’ll stick an oil-covered spoon into a canister full of flour, doncha know?

Step 4: Block off your afternoon

It took me just shy of three hours to make two batches of cookies, from the time I started setting up to the time I pulled the last round out of the oven. Since I’d been cleaning as I went along, it took only another five minutes to wash off the spatula and the last cookie sheet.

Step 5: Share your cookies and your recipes

There are three of us in here. We do not need 9 dozen cookies sitting around. We have neither the kitchen space nor the waistband capacity. One plate went to RV park neighbors; another will go to the front office.

… and Snickerdoodles.
(Hint: Chill the dough longer than recommended. I went with the specified 15 minutes, and my cookies spread all the hell over the place. The first two batches were christened fuckerdoodles.)

Step 6: If you really, really don’t want to mess with your RV oven…

Parks with a clubhouse may have an oven (the standard household size! electric!) available for guest use. Mix up your dough at home, chill it if required, and call the office to make sure nobody’s using the oven before you schlep over there with your dough, pans, pot holders, cooling racks, plastic containers, etc. Clean up after yourself, and don’t forget to leave a plate of your delicious homemade cookies for the office staff!

Disappointment: “We own a new kingpin!” has nothing to do with the mafia. At all.

When Tim said, “Honey, I’m gonna order a new kingpin,” my mind went to drug lords and crime bosses.

I should have known. He meant something RV-related. I swear sometimes it feels like that’s all we buy.

For those who are unfamiliar with fifth wheels, the pin box and kingpin assembly are located on the “nose” of the trailer. The pin then locks into a hitch located in the bed of the truck used for towing.

We’d been wanting to upgrade to a smoother ride for The Toad, and after the usual massive amount of online research, Tim ordered the Flex Air Pin Box Long Jaw by Lippert Components, model 328492. Its integrated shock absorber and air bag should give us a lot less shake, rattle and roll than we’re used to, in both trailer and truck.

It weighs 240 pounds, and arrived strapped to a pallet.
How’s that for excitement?

Unwrapped, all shiny and new and hella sexy

If you’re gonna give this a go: as with any upgrade that is expensive and/or heavy, you’ll want to consult with both the item’s and your RV’s manufacturer before ordering, and make triple sure of all measurements to avoid costly returns. As you can see from the photos above, we definitely didn’t want to risk the hassle of sending this sucker back.

After opening the box came the fun part: off with the old, on with the new. We knew we were going to need a few more sets of hands for that.

Luckily, when it comes to living around other RV’ers, help is there when you need it, and sometimes you don’t even have to ask. Just put up the hood of your car or truck, and within a minute or two, help will arrive. Might work even faster if you are actually leaning over the engine, looking a little perplexed. “Hey, man, what’s going on?” “Oh, you got a busted thingamajig? I’ve got a tool for that.” “Let me tell you about the time this happened to me…” and so on.

I call it the Batman Beacon of the RV Park. Just lift the hood, and you’ll bring all the heroes to the yard!

We were lucky to have park hosts Ed and George, and our neighbor, Dave, show up right on time to help us get the job done that morning. Or maybe they just caught a whiff of the second best way to bring the boys to the yard: set out food and drinks. In this case, it was fresh pumpkin muffins and piping hot coffee. Feed them, and they will come.

Muffins from scratch, and strong coffee for the win!

The process took about three hours spread out over the whole day (you know how it goes), but included only one trip to a hardware store. The new assembly didn’t come with bolts, and the ones from our old unit were too short, so off Tim went.

Another thing that didn’t come with the new pin box? Instructions! Be prepared to spend some time on the phone or online with Lippert if you decide to buy one of these.

Off with the old…

Can you believe I got 18 seconds of video of men working, and not one of them swore? Again with the disappointment!

Take I
Its top edge should not be up against the nose of the 5th wheel like that, so there was a Take II.

Much better.
After a couple of adjustments, we got it into the correct position. Note gap between top of pinbox and bottom of RV nose.

Backing the BFT up to the The Toad to make sure the kingpin is at the proper height to fit correctly into our hitch

Bingo! Kingpin in hitch.
That’s exactly how it should look.

Adjusting the air bag (it’s that black rubber part that looks like a tire) to the recommended 40psi

Tim ended up moving the RV without me for the kingpin’s maiden voyage, and he assured me that the ride was indeed smoother. But he also noticed after the first trip under real conditions, that the thing needs to be adjusted one bolt hole lower for a better fit with the truck hitch.

Looks like we’ll be making use of the Batman Beacon again!

(Author’s note: a version of this post appears at Heartland RVs. It is printed here with permission.)

From Hell on Wheels to competence — but still kind of working on that whole backing up thing

Driving an RV is not for the faint-hearted. Driving next to someone who is driving an RV really isn’t either.

Just over two years ago, I survived my very first turn in the driver’s seat — and to my great relief, so did everybody with me, including my husband, our younger son, and our dog.

I’m doing it! I’m doing it!
And OMG get out of my waaaaaaayyyyy!

Severe white-knuckling and breath-holding were involved, but nobody lost their life, lunch, or side-view mirror. Not even that one guy who probably had to change his pants after I merged in front of his teensy little car at a regrettably close distance.

He may have required several sessions with a therapist.

If that guy is reading this: I extend my sincerest apologies to you, sir. I had never towed so much as a utility trailer before, and was made doubly nervous by a heavy traffic back-up we’d unexpectedly encountered at that complicated highway interchange in Dallas. I’m so thankful I didn’t actually hit you! Bet you are too.

I had been hesitant and fearful of taking the wheel of even just our truck, a 2012 Chevy Silverado 3500 we call the BFT (B is for Big, T is for truck, and you know the F), as it was the largest vehicle, and only second truck, I’d ever had reason to drive. It had six tires for cryin’ out loud! The first time I finally drove it solo was more than a month after we’d bought it, but I’d already done some practicing with my very patient husband in the passenger seat.

I knew I could do it, but I really didn’t want to do it, and then we sold our other two vehicles, so I absolutely had to do it. The good news? All went well on that first solo journey, but we got a lot of laughs out of the fact that my destination that day just happened to be… a hospital.

When it came to the idea of driving the truck with The Toad, our 38-foot 5th wheel, attached to it, I was even more apprehensive. That’s ten tires, nearly 13 tons, and about 55 feet of potential mayhem.

But Tim and I were in this for a long-term, full-time adventure, and I knew it was unfair of me to rely on him to do all the driving for us. Plus, I’d been a military wife for more than 20 years, and knew a thing or two about the importance of putting fears aside to learn how to do “scary” things for myself. So…

  • Tim, who had towing experience, explained to me verbally how to pull the fifth wheel.
  • I read instructions and tips on how to do it.
  • I practiced, but only briefly, from the safety of a camping loop in a state park.
  • I even dug out some of our sons’ old toy trucks, taped an intersection on the guest room floor, and pushed those things around corners over and over again, so that I could understand from a bird’s eye view how a trailer takes a turn.

Good ol’ Legos and Hot Wheels provided valuable visual learning.

And all those things came together in November 2014, on our return to Texas from a camping trip in Oklahoma. I climbed into the driver’s seat, adjusted the mirrors, and took a 2-hour shift behind the wheel, ending just south of Dallas.

I definitely learned my lesson during that drive: I should have practiced maneuvering our tow vehicle/RV combo a lot more, in uncrowded areas, before I hit the road for real.

But hey. When I was done? I pulled smoothly off I-35, and parked us right. next. to a starship.

Ta-daaaaaaa!

Starship Pegasus was once a restaurant in Italy, TX, just south of Dallas. Based on this report at Roadside America, it was open from 2004-2006. Obviously, you can still park there!

(Author’s note: a version of this post appears at Heartland RVs. It is printed here with permission.)