Necessity Is the Mother of Buying Tools. T-8 days.

At about a week before the road trip begins, a trip prep topic about gaining a new love. Of tools.



It takes tools to do this.

I have never been much of a tool guy. Garages have not been my sanctuaries, but simply where I kept my stuff and my cars. (If there was room for them with all the stuff). And a love of tools, regarded in some quarters as an obligation of my gender, eluded the top ten of my affections. They were a mere utility, not found in a gleaming Craftsman tool armoire, but scattered in the kitchen junk-drawer or strewn on the workbench I never used. My first step in any household repair project began with honey have you seen the pliers?

Any conversation that included the word “torque” would not engage me for long. If that’s a genetic issue, then I got shorted a chromosome along the way.

Well not forever, it seems. If the garage-tools gene is recessive in me, the gadget-gizmo one is not.  And camping can be a wonderful gadgeteering pastime, from waterproof match containers to those magical lanterns (with the ashy mantles that glow).  There’s something nifty about all the accouterments you collect in order to set up housekeeping in the woods.  The REI camping checklist shows 215 items.


The parking lot of Home Depot

Then we buy a camping trailer, and the camping-gadget gene ignites my inner Tim Allen. The pop-up invites all kinds of fussing with tools, and can even be regarded as a gadget in its own right. (As discussed in a prior post, it’s like a Transformer toy, with mutating beds and doors). Now I find an ancient irresistible force pulling me, like Eloi drawn by sirens to the temple, to stand inexplicably at bins of bolts at Home Depot.

Now I have a tool box, yep, a real one, about the size of a fisherman’s tackle box.


Where the rivets used to be that held up the doorstep; beyond is a new trailer tire, held fast by a BAL locking chock. A BAL leveling chock is holding the trailer up above the ground at the other wheel to get the trailer level side-to-side. Camping trailer fix-it geeks rule!

What’s happening to me?  Now I go online to find other camper owners who, rather helpfully, can tell me how to repair a fallen doorstep on my 2007 Fleetwood-Coleman Cheyenne. (See pic at right: steel rivet-type bolts from Ace did the trick). I can find and purchase a 2-direction T-level (to get the trailer bubble-center-flat in camp) and mount it to our hitch, learn about repairing the retracting bed rails, or how to deal with preserving battery power when running the refrigerator. I can learn about BAL levelers, wonderful contraptions for leveling side-to-side by hoisting one tire above the ground.

The internet has replaced good ol’ Hank at the hardware store; now I can get advice through crowd-sourcing the input of thousands. My sense of nostalgia might wish for the 1950’s hardware store clerk, but today’s mega-store part-timer cannot hold a screwdriver to the searchable advice of people with exactly my same problem.

Other things have happened more old-school:  Trailer needs new tires, I go to the tire store. How quaint of me.  A store, a salesperson and a product not ordered online.  Or consider that our tow vehicle, a Hyundai Santa Fe, blew a valve gasket and leaked oil on the alternator.  The check engine light prompted my trip to the dealership, and quite providentially the car coasted to its death in the service lane at the dealership, where it would overnight gain its expensive resurrection.  I’m glad that happened now, and not next month in the middle of South Dakota.

Something else could happen, not seen now, and if it does, I have my AAA card (with enhanced towing privileges), and my battery charger (the kind with outlets to re-charge other things! And an air compressor!).  Oh, yes, and I have my tool box.


Pre-history of a camping gadget geek: My brother Greg (L) and I are on the trail in Yosemite in 2002. Backpacking is the ultra form of gadget-geekishness: note the GPS in my left hand, and unseen are the ounces-light stove and other toys. A lover of camping gadgetry who is not normally a tool guy will be driven to become one when camping moves to a pop-up trailer.


About Cal Stevens

Learning professional, a training manager, speaker, writer; two careers in helping others succeed. Travel writer for the common road trip.
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