Camper Flippin Momma – An Interview with Karla Bradley

Camping is such a fun thing to do as a family. The kids look forward to the next camping trip right after we get home from the last one!

Karla Bradley
Gypsy Rambler camper

Kelly: Karla, I met you through sorority life back in college, but since then a lot has changed in both our lives. I know through social media updates that you are a mom of 8 kids, you and your husband are building your dream farmhouse in Arkansas, you flip campers, and now you are writing about all your big adventures on a new blog, www.thebradleybunch.blog . What can readers expect?

Karla: Yes, just a little has changed since our years in Alpha Delta Pi! Haha! I did just start a blog and am tying it in to an Instagram page where followers can come along on our daily adventures, because with 8 kiddos there is never a boring moment! 

I have been told for years that I need to write a book or have a show or a YouTube channel and this just fell into place and we are having a lot of fun with it. The blog will have posts about large family logistics, tips and tricks I have learned over the years that may help other mommas, home decor posts once our new house is built, some camper flipping, and any other random topic I fee like writing about! I want the blog to be a place where moms can go for encouragement and other people can go for lighthearted entertainment and not a place where there is negativity.

Karla uses camper flipping as a fun, creative outlet
One of the nine campers she has restored in the past 5 years.

Kelly: I’m very intrigued by camper flipping. The pictures you’ve posted of the vintage campers that you restored are adorable! How did you get started?

Karla: Thank you! Camper flipping is such a fun hobby. I got started about 5 years ago when we decided to take our family camping and I liked the idea of ‘glamping’ a little more than tent camping. We found a camper that was solid, but ugly and I went to work to make it more aesthetically pleasing before our first camping trip! I had so much fun working on that one that I wanted to try working on an Airstream. Then we moved to northern Arkansas and I became a stay at home mom and decided to pick up camper flipping again as my creative outlet. I have remodeled nine campers- some old and some new, some large and some small. Each one unique, but all have been so much fun to bring back to ‘life’ again. 

Before and after picture of ‘Sweet Caroline’ camper

Kelly: How would someone buy one from you? Do you work with future owners on design/how do you get design inspiration?

When I get done with a camper I sell them on camping groups on facebook and right now my last one that I will be working on before I focus all my time on the new house is pending pickup for this weekend. I have been asked by buyers if they could reserve a camper and have input into the remodel or if I would work on their existing camper to remodel it with them, but I would not have free reign of the creative part of decorating and that is the most fun for me. I complete the design scheme and then I sell the camper. It is so fun to think of the design and how it will all come together. It is a happy place for me to just sit and think about. 

‘Lily’ camper

I get design inspiration just from seeing the camper and then picturing so many ideas in my head! I have looked at Pinterest and Instagram for a few ideas and YouTube has been great to teach me how to do electrical work and various other things. I usually start with one design element- like a fabric that I love or a picture that I want to hang and then I develop the rest of the design around that. 

Playroom airstream
Kids and puppies!

Kelly: Does your family take them camping? If so, where are some of your favorite places to camp?

Karla: We don’t take the vintage campers camping just because we would not be able to fit 10 people in them! I have let a few friends use the campers when I get done working on them to test them out and let me know anything that I could make better before I sell it. 

My family goes camping in a new Grand Design Transcend 29TBS camper that sleeps 10. We usually go camping at Norfork or Bull Shoals which are both about 40 minutes away. Camping is such a fun thing to do as a family. The kids look forward to the next camping trip right after we get home from the last one! I also remodeled the new camper that we use, because even though it was new it was still boring. It is now more cozy and we love camping in it!

Kelly: What other outdoor activities does your family enjoy? Since you live on (160!?) acres, do you still find the need to explore other nature areas when you travel, or are you planning different types of vacation destinations? 

Karla: My husband is a tournament fisherman and will fish any chance he can when he is not seeing patients at the hospital. We enjoy anything outdoors. The kids love when we travel anywhere where there is sand and water. Since we do have a large property with a pond we don’t feel like leaving on a vacation that often. The kids spend almost all the daytime outside when it is nice only to come in to sleep and go back outside the next day! Right now the boys are building a teepee in the woods- there are endless things for them to do. This year we plan on making a vacation out of my husband’s fishing tournament schedule, so we will be in Alabama, Oklahoma, and Texas a few times. When we are on vacation we usually stay in a VRBO house rather than take the camper mainly because my husband will tow the boat and I will have our big van with the kids and to add a 34′ camper to that is a bit tricky!

Kelly: When I travel with my two kids, I feel like I’m packing up half my house with toys, clothes, etc. Do you have any expert packing tips for families who love to travel? 

Karla: I do! I have a blog post on that. I pack one suitcase for my husband and I and then another one for all the kids. Depending on where we are going I sometimes use big storage containers instead of suitcases because they are easier to take along and store. I roll outfits and set the rolled up clothes in the bin for each child for how many days we will be gone (plus a few extra outfits). The kids don’t bring any toys because the camper has dedicated camper toys in it. We bring a few scooters and bikes for the campground and I bring a stroller. We usually get a Walmart grocery pickup the same day we leave to go camping and just keep the camper stocked with plates and silverware and water. If we forget something we just improvise and figure it out because that is what camping is all about!

Less Waste Lent 2020

This week we are heading into Ash Wednesday and the beginning of Lent. I appreciate the tradition. It’s helpful to take a step back and remove things from my life like sweets, soda or social media. They seem insignificant, but help me build patience and self control. Others might choose to add practices like community service or daily prayer.

Last Lent we challenged ourselves to reduce the amount of waste our family was putting out into the environment. We learned a lot from the challenge, and we are excited to expand our efforts this year.

Lent starts Wednesday, February 26 and lasts until Easter Sunday, April 12, 2020.

7 ways to reduce waste

  1. Reduce glass by cutting out drinking alcohol during the week
  2. No drive-thru restaurants or to-go drinks. Giving up the Starbucks drive-thru is the hardest on me!
  3. No plastic shopping bags. This means no grocery pick-up for this mom
  4. Drive less, use less gas
  5. Reduce paper
  6. Save electricity
  7. Avoid single serve packaging

You can read more about our goals from last Lent here. Beyond our original ideas, we were lucky to plant a dozen free trees in our backyard through a local native tree program. I also discovered a new appreciation for thrift store clothing. And, I signed a petition to bring carton recycling to our area. All of this felt empowering.

In 2020, we are excited that our neighborhood started weekly recycling pickup. To continue this positive momentum, we are going to push ourselves to do a little more. The goal isn’t to be perfect because I’m far from perfect, but to make progress towards mindful habits.

more ways to cut out Waste in 2020:

  1. Eating less meat – cutting back on meat (especially beef) helps the environment and it fits in well with our church’s no-meat Friday Lent traditions. Here is more information about choosing sustainable seafood.
  2. Research local election issues that have an impact on the environment.
  3. Attempt food composting. Our city has a food waste program and it feels intimidating, but I’m going to try it. Here is an example of a compost container I’m thinking about buying.

    Finally, I think it’s important to donate to organizations that protect our environment like the National Park Service and organizations dedicated to inspiring action to tackle climate change like DearTomorrow where I wrote this note to my daughter back in 2015. In the letter, I told Cecy that ‘God gave us a wonderful home, we must take care of it.’

#lesswastelent

Just like last year, I will keep you updated with the hashtag #lesswastelent. I’d love feedback, more ideas to reduce waste, and meat-free recipes. I hope you join us!

Hiking Arkansas: Yellow Rock Trail in Devil’s Den State Park

This weekend we celebrated Valentine’s Day with candy, flowers, a nice dinner, and an adventurous family hike in Devil’s Den State Park. The park is located in West Fork, Arkansas which is a 30 to 40 minute drive from our new hometown of Fayetteville, Arkansas.

This was our second visit to Devil’s Den. On our first trip, we enjoyed the Devil’s Den Self Guided trail. This time we decided to try the Yellow Rock trail.

Family hike in Devil's Den State Park
The sun was out and the temperature was in the mid-40’s when we began our winter hike.

We recently purchased a helpful guidebook, Arkansas Dayhikes for Kids & Families – 105 Easy Trails in the “Natural State”. The book points out that there are a couple options where you can start on the Yellow Rock trail. You can start in Camp Area A, or at the CCC overlook. Following the advice of author Pam Ernst, we chose to start at the CCC overlook shelter.

CCC Overlook in Devil's Den State Park
CCC Overlook in Devil’s Den State Park

The Civilian Conservation Corps built this impressive rock structure in 1934. From this spot, we enjoyed expansive views of the Lee Creek Valley below.

Great views of Ozark Mountains
Views from shelter area

The Yellow Rock trail is marked with white diamonds.

Yellow Rock Trail

On our trip, there were several spots along the trail that were wet and muddy.

Yellow Rock trail with kids
Yellow Rock Trail. Arkansas State Park
Crossing over a wooden bridge
Hiking in Arkansas
Climbing uphill
Winter hiking in Arkansas
Stepping on stones over water
Hiking with kids in Northwest Arkansas
Taking it nice and slow on a steep downhill section of the hike
Winter hiking in Devil's Den State Park
Icicles glistening in the winter sunshine

The views from the Yellow Rock overlook were impressive.

Best Views. Yellow Rock. Arkansas

Yellow Rock Trail is designated as a National Recreation Trail.

Ozark Mountain views. Yellow Rock. Arkansas. Devil's Den
Views of Lee Creek Valley

The drop offs are very steep from the top of Yellow Rock, so it was important to be extra cautious, but I was happy to find that there was enough space for the girls to safely eat a snack and rest.

Ozark Mountain views. Yellow Rock. Arkansas. Devil's Den
Snack on Yellow Rock trail overlook

Although the overlook was the clear highlight of the hike, the rest of the trail is filled with gorgeous scenery from glimpses into the valley to little waterfalls spilling down rugged bluffs.

Small waterfall and pretty pool
Yellow Rock trail in Devil's Den State Park. Northwest Arkansas hiking
Looking back at Yellow Rock

Further along the trail, we could look back and see people enjoying the views on the Yellow Rock overlook. This was a popular spot. We saw some big groups hiking together, a couple young families like ours, and several people with their dogs.

Yellow Rock overlook
Trail signage points to overlook and trailhead

We took a right, heading back up towards our car instead of following the trail to the main trailhead that the signage points to.

Family hiking Devils Den State Park
Cedar trees

After our climb uphill, we enjoyed a nice flat section of the hike where large cedars towered on both sides of the trail. I would buy a candle that smelled like this.

My husband mapped our hike with his Garmin watch. According to GPS, we hiked a total of 2.3 miles.

Devil's Den State Park

Our girls did great on the hike walking uphills, getting muddy, feeling a little cold, and altogether staying tough. We encouraged them with snacks waiting for them when we reached the overlook and also back at the car.

They also did a good job listening. There were definitely sections that we held on tight to their hands to help them across slippery wet rocks or to ensure they staid far away from steep drop-offs. Our three-year-old needed us to give her rest and so she was carried for big sections. I feel comfortable recommending this hike for young families, but just want to point out that the trail is rated as moderate and it’s not one where kids can run ahead of you on their own.

Family hiking devil's den state park
We made it! Happy little hiker

7 of the Most Romantic Things to do in Estes Park, Colorado

Happy Valentine’s Day week! Last February, I wrote a post about 7 Romantic Things to Do in Estes Park. This post was one of our most popular last year, so I wanted to add 7 additional ideas for everyone planning romantic trips out to Estes Park.

Watch the sunrise over the mountains – On Valentine’s Day, the sunrise should take place right at 7:00 am. Kind Coffee, one of our favorite local coffee shops, opens at 6:30 am. Grab a warm cup of your favorite caffeinated beverage, and take a quick stroll in the Centennial Open Space at Knoll-Willows which is located across the street from the historic Stanley Hotel. The space overlooks downtown Estes Park and Rocky Mountain National Park.

Not a morning person? This is a great spot in the evening too. Read more…

The Centennial Open Space is a great spot to enjoy an inspiring sunrise or breathtaking sunset in Estes Park, Colorado

Hike to a frozen waterfall (or climb over a waterfall in the summer) – Taking a break from our hectic lives and spending time out in nature always brings us close as a couple. We recently took a winter hike to Alberta Falls which was frozen over. Sitting in the quiet, we could still hear the water rushing beneath the layers of snow and ice.

Alberta Falls in the snow

If you are looking for a thrilling waterfall hike, I loved our adventure to Sky Pond last summer. My husband and I had to climb through a waterfall together to make it to this dreamy destination. If you think waterfalls are as romantic as I do, here are some more of our favorite waterfall hikes in Rocky Mountain National Park.

Timberline Falls in Rocky Mountain National Park

Try out a new (to you) restaurant – there is comfort in returning to our favorite places. (Here is a list we compiled of our top restaurants in Estes Park.) However, this Valentine’s Day I’m craving novel experiences. A few restaurants we are hoping to try this year include Bird & Jim, Clair’s Restaurant and Bar, and Nicky’s Steakhouse.

Play a board game at a local brewery – We have been thrilled to see the number of breweries expand in Estes Park over the last few years. One of our favorites is Rock Cut. This place feels cozy in the winter and inviting in the summer months. It’s a great place to challenge your significant other to a board game over a pint of local brew.

Go indoor rock climbing – Estes Park Mountain Shop has an indoor rock climbing gym that would make a fun and active winter date. You can find out more details about times and pricing on their website.

Star gaze – One of my favorite romantic times during our vacations in Estes Park, is when we put the kids to bed and sneak out to the back deck where we can enjoy a glass of wine, have a moment to talk, and gaze up at the star-filled night sky. For a closer look at the stars above, Estes Park also has an observatory. Book your spot in advance through angelsabove.org.

Sleep in – The thought of snuggling into a warm, cozy bed and sleeping in without an alarm or children to wake us up, sounds amazing to this mom of two little kids + fur baby. If you are looking for a great place to sleep-in, I hope you check out our place at Solitude Cabins for your next trip to the mountains.

Plus: VisitEstesPark.com recently posted ‘3 Ways to Celebrate Valentine’s Day in Estes Park.’