| November 2005 »
I have been struggling between the obligations of work and the attractions of Denver. On Friday, I weakened and took most of the day off to join Eleanor and Emma at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science. They had an exhibit called "Grossology" that Emma desperately wanted to see. As you can imagine, it was all about snot, burping, farting, and other fun stuff. Here I am standing explaining the function of intestines, by a sign that says, "Why does my body make pee?" Gee, why didn't they have this sort of fun when I was a kid?
The Museum has much more to offer, and we found ourselves entranced by terrific exhibits of Coloradoan wildlife, as well as creatures from other parts of the world, a Native American exhibit, a gemstone exhibit, and a space exhibit. Well worth the visit!
Unfortunately taking the day off meant working all evening, and again this morning in a desperate effort to get ahead before we take off next week for more travel. We'll be in Utah and Nevada most of the week and I won't be taking a lot of time to work. My next catch-up period will be when we arrive at Velocity7 in Nevada City, CA (see the Schedule page for details).
Forrest McClure dropped by this morning to deliver an article and pictures for the Winter magazine, and then it was time to head out to pick up Fred Coldwell and head over to Boulder. Our first stop was the Celestial Seasonings factory for their tour. That was a HUGE hit with Eleanor. Fred, Emma, and I all enjoyed the free samples in their entrance area. You haven't lived until you've visited the notorious MINT ROOM. Another recommended place to visit, and free!
Then we headed to Patti Raimondo's house in Boulder CO for a party the local Airstreamers had organized in our honor. Shari & Rob Davis were there, and another couple -- all vintage trailer owners from the local WBCCI unit in Denver. That went until 10 pm (lots of laughs!)
...and so here we are at midnight catching up on blogging.
I'm really glad we came to Denver. It's a great area to visit, we have lots of good Airstreaming friends here, and the weather and scenery have been spectacular. Our departure on Tuesday is coming all too fast, but we've got other places to go...
The best laid plans… We have been trying to go to the Denver Zoo for a week and it looks like we just won’t make it. The first time I intended to take Emma to the zoo, traffic was so awful, we would not have been able to arrive at the zoo with enough time to see much of anything. I bagged the idea of going to the zoo and opted for Hammond’s Candies factory tour instead. That was a mistake too. It took us 70 minutes to travel less than 15 miles. We missed the last tour by 10 minutes. However, we managed to spend an hour in the candy shop. ;-)
Tuesday was slotted for the aquarium. We went and had a great time. We got to pet Sting Rays!! I’ll ask Emma to blog that one.
Wednesday seemed like a good day for the zoo, but we had car conflicts. Rich needed to use the car. We all went out with Rich. (Thursday had better weather in the forecast and I needed to catch up on things anyway.)
Thursday, Emma slept until 11AM – when I finally woke her up. She has been battling a bit of a cold and the sleep was well needed. However, the zoo closes at 4PM. Taking the time we need to get out the door and traffic conditions into consideration, once again, we wouldn’t have had much time to spend at the zoo.
Today, I promised to take her to the Denver Museum of Nature & Science for the Grossology exhibit, and our weekend is already booked.
“que sera, sesa”
Thursday was one of those off-schedule days where I end up working early in the morning and late at night to make up for doing other things all day. Fred Coldwell called to say the Fall 05 issues of Airstream Life had arrived FedEx at his house, and after we finally got Emma out of bed at about 11 (!) we headed over.
Fred is a collector of Jeep, Airstream and related memorabilia and historical items, so the tour of his house and garages took a couple of hours. He's got an incredible collection of stuff, including a '48 Wee Wind, a 62? Globetrotter, a '51 Clipper, and several rare wartime Jeeps. He also collects a certain type of wool blanket with national park emblems on them. Meanwhile, Eleanor and Emma headed off to a nearby laundromat to catch up on that chore, and later Fred and I showed up with lunch. So we all had lunch at the laundromat to the background of 70's disco blasting out of the loudspeakers.
With various other errands (post office, hardware store) we ended up getting back home around 6 pm, and that's when my working day started again -- until about 11 pm. It was one of those unconventional but full days that we seem to have frequently when on the road.
Another mostly sunny day in dry Denver. The humidity continues to linger below 30%, sometimes as low as 17%, so we are sucking up water at a tremendous rate, despite the cool air. I went for a bike ride the other day (and was reminded about how the altitude makes little hills into big ones), and wiped out 16 oz of water in a short 10-mile ride around the Cherry Creek Dam.
My advance copies of the Airstream Life Fall 2005 issue have arrived, so yours should be in the mail now. I hope you like the new 80-page format and "perfect bound" spine! I'm heading over to Fred Coldwell's house today to pick mine up. They came in FedEx and I couldn't receive a FedEx shipment here at the campground.
Another bit of good news for vintage Airstream nuts: The VAP, Episode 4 is now available for download at www.thevap.com. I'm not on this episode but go ahead and listen to it anyway! ;-)
Something's up with Emma. She was clearing her throat all last night and she's still sleeping now -- 13 hours after she went to bed. I'm holding out hope that she'll fight it off. But she might have picked up a bug at the Aquarium on Tuesday.
We've made our plans for the next week. Check the Schedule page to see where we are planning to be. If you live along our route, let me know so we can meet up. If you can meet us in Eugene OR that would be great, because we'll have free stuff to give away there, including some cool Airstream stickers, free samples of Airstream Life magazine, and other goodies. Plus, Eleanor and I want to meet you!
Home schooling doesn’t only happen on a schedule. It’s whenever you and your child are tuned in to each other and your surroundings. This morning Emma and I were sitting on her bed, playing tic-tac-toe on her white board. The markers were drying out and I suggested we make a list of the colors we needed to replace. I wrote the colors on the board and then asked Emma to sound out the letters to figure out the names of the colors: bl + ack, gr + een, br + ow + n, etc. (You get the idea.)
It’s been like this all along. Yesterday, I pointed out to Emma that being able to do the connect the dots in her coloring book meant that she was able to count consecutively up to 64 (the number of dots in that picture) and she was able to recognize the numbers when she saw them. (Now she doesn’t want to do the connect the dots anymore. Oh well.)
Home-schooling while on the road gives a whole new meaning to the term live and learn.
Wherever we are, Rich and I try to make it a learning experience for Emma and ourselves. We visit local attractions and learn about local customs and people. We go to museums and parks, attend fairs and flea markets, visit the local library for different books, a story hour, and great people interaction. We always search out farmers markets and the local eateries – not the chains – to get the best of the local flavors.
Sunday, for lunch, we went to a Mexican restaurant and had a wonderful meal. We were very obviously the tourists in this eatery. It was packed with locals, the children of the owners and staff were there, playing among the tables. Not a word of English was heard except from our table. It was great.
After lunch, we went to the Children’s Museum of Denver. It’s completely hands on. Emma got to be a fireman and learn about fire safety, she and Rich were carpenters and learned something new about recycling in the process. There was a stage area where Emma dressed up, did a dance and played a toy drum.
The nature area was set up in a way to discover different animal habitats. She also got to play basketball and be a line cook. I posted a bunch of photos from the museum in the photo album. (You can take a look.)
After the museum, we played outside at the playground and Emma made a new friend for an hour. Then it was off to a friend’s house for a homemade lasagna dinner and some great company.
(Editor's note: the following is a posting dicated by Emma, age 5.)
Yesterday, we went to a candy shop and there was candy shaped and look like ornaments for your tree. And also there was a taste testing place where you could taste a piece of candy. And there was hundreds of candies.
It was so awesome. Mom even found some candies for her coffee. We missed the tour to see how they make candy.
It is a learned skill to instantly be at home wherever you go. Even for experienced travelers, it can take a day or two to get comfortable with a new place. We're pretty well set now, and Denver is starting to feel like home. Emma says, "We're having fun here!" which is about the highest praise you can get out of a five-year-old. (She went to tour a candy factory today, so little wonder ...)
Rather than go on about the nice day I had, I'm going to try to get Emma to do a little blogging tonight or tomorrow. Suffice to say I had a lovely walk after work, watching the sun set over the Rockies, and I took a lot of photos which may appear on our photo album tomorrow.
By the way, you may notice down on the left side of this page we've added a "Subscribe" link. If you subscribe I believe you will receive notifications when I post. It won't add you to any spam lists. Give it a try!
It's not all fun and games. Today the morning has started cold (40s) and the sky is cloudy, which puts a damper on my plans to go for an extended bike ride. Plus, there's work to be done. We are burning a 30-lb propane bottle every five or six days due to the overnight lows in the 30s, so I've got an empty bottle to fill, and I might as well do that errand on a day when the weather is not great.
But what I want to talk about is the computers. We travel with a pair of Mac laptops, which are the nerve center of our work and communication. Most of the time they require no maintenance, but the reality of computing life today is that a 30 or 40-megabyte system update or "security update" arrives every few weeks. Try downloading that over a cell phone. Even my Internet in Motion system would take hours to download something like that.
Also, occasionally friends or magazine contributors email me files which are just enormous. To protect myself against hour-long downloads, I have set my email program to tell me when an email is greater than 500 kb (half a megabyte). It gives me the option whether to download it, delete it, or save it for later. Most email software will do this for you.
At this point I've got two huge emails sitting in the box, awaiting downloading, and a few system updates, so ...
Off to the local cybercafe! Most of the time we use Panera Bread for their free wifi, but today there is a place called The Daily Grind just three miles down the road. I brought both laptops, bought a Spiced Chai Latte ($2.60), and settled in with the newspaper while the laptops downloaded their updates and mega-emails.
This is one of the reasons I recommend that anyone who wants to travel with a computer, buy a laptop. I see many Airstreamers with full desktop systems set up in front, and I know why: they are cheaper, have bigger screens and keyboards, and are more expandable. But I couldn't live without a laptop. You can't haul that big tower into the cybercafe to download a system update! And I like to work outside under the awning when the weather is nice.
And finally, I should acknowledge that some people should never have a computer in their RV. If you work on a computer all day, and want to get away for just a few days to relax, my advice is to leave the computer at home. Sometimes you just have to unplug, and leaving the temptation behind might be the best strategy.
Since we full-time and I have no choice about bringing my computer, I make a point of putting it away in a closet when I'm taking time off. Out of sight, out of mind. Another small advantage of the laptop, if you care to look at it that way.
A lot of people have been visiting this weblog in the past couple of days, so let me give you some tips on how to get the most out of it.
First off, we're still developing the site, so a few features are not fully operational. Our Gather essays are just getting started, for example. The Store is not running yet, but will be soon.
We plan to add a webcam in the next month or two, which will show current pictures of where we are, and sometimes what's going on at the trailer.
We also are trying to figure out how to add a map so you can see where we've been.
Of course, I'll be adding a lot more pictures and blog entries as we travel. Bookmark this page: http://tour.airstreamlife.com/weblog and check it every day or two. That's how often we will be updating it. Eleanor plans to start contributing blog entries soon, so you'll hear from her as well.
If you have a question for either of us, just click the "Comments" link at the bottom of any daily blog entry. Fill out the form and I'll get an email with your comments. After I read your comments, they will show up on the weblog for other people to see. If you want to comment privately, just tell me in your note and I'll make sure it doesn't get posted on the web.
Enjoy! Feel free to ask questions anytime, and let us know if we might cross paths. We love to hear from you!
I like this place. Cherry Creek State Park is an oasis right next to Denver, in Aurora. It's a few thousand acres of land and reservoir with bike trails, camping, wildlife, and yet very convenient to everything that the Denver area offers. Beautiful landscape. This is sort of Denver's version of Central Park in Manhattan.
It's odd to be able to hear the I-225 highway just outside the park, but in here see mule deer and great horned owls. We spotted both last night on our half-hour walk before sunset. I've never seen a great horned owl before, and its gentle hooting reminded me that I heard one in the pre-dawn hours the night before when we were camped in Nebraska. For me, that's the best possible sound to hear outside my window in the night. I love owls.
Mule deer, on the other hand, strike me as sort of ugly. But they were thrillling to Eleanor and Emma anyway. And in this park, they are nearly tame. You can see them everywhere, and they don't run away at the sight of humans.
It's also peculiar to me to encounter a state park with full-hookup campsites. In Vermont, none of the state parks even have electricity. Here, the campsites are paved with pink concrete pull-throughs, and as a result it attracts the biggest of the big 5th wheels and Class A motorhomes. With our 30-foot Airstream we look positively tiny.
Today I must be realistic and work a full day, and probably also Saturday. Fortunately, we have excellent Internet and cell phone service here, and the post office is just 5 miles away. It's a good spot to catch up on work.
If the weather holds (meaning, no snowstorms) we will stay through Halloween. We have friends all over this area and relatives in Colorado Springs. The time will pass quickly.
Where should we make our next stop? We need to be in Eugene OR by Nov 10, but between Nov 1 and Nov 10 our time is our own. We need a nice place to stop, with electricity, and relatively safe from snowstorms, between here and Eugene. Any suggestions?
This morning, Emma wanted to take her camera out as well (she has my old digicam, a Kodak DC280), so we both dressed up warmly and went out at sunrise. It felt like low 30s outside. Everything was steaming: the lake, the exhalations of the cattle, even the cowpatties … To the west, a nearly full moon was still high in the sky above our Airstream. To the east, the sun was rising over a huge open prairie scattered with cattle.
They are more skittish than the friendly eastern dairy cows I’m familiar with. One spotted me with my camera and gave the alarm, and they gathered up their calves and trotted away, mooing to each other all the while.
I’m not sure what was better – the wonderful scenery, or the fact that Emma (and later Eleanor) was out there at dawn, in the cold, enthusiastically snapping pictures with me. This morning makes the trip worth it, and we’re just getting started.
This post reaches you from our home for the next nine days, Cherry Creek State Park in Denver CO. I'll post about it tomorrow. By the way, since we crossing time zones occasionally, my posts will always reflect local time.
It’s easy to say that Nebraska and Iowa are just big cornfields, boring to drive, nothing to see. If you are in a hurry and rushing down I-80 at the posted speed limit of 75, that could seem true. The GPS shows nothing but a single red stripe pointing straight ahead, hour after hour. The same cornfield seems to appear after every small rise. In the backseat, the kids are fidgeting, in the passenger seat the spouse is re-reading the road atlas in hope of finding a short cut to something interesting.
But in truth, this area is loaded with fascinating western stories. From mid-state to the western border with Colorado, I-80 follows the Mormon Trail, the Oregon Trail, and other pioneer routes to the west. It is also a bastion of railroad history: stories of the Union Pacific are predominant, with numerous museums and exhibits honoring this famous railway strewn along the long straight highway.
Just north of our route was the Sandy Hills region, which I would have liked to explore. Early settlers noted the sparse prairie and sandy soil, and moved on. They wanted cropland. But later settlers realized it was prime country for raising beef cattle, with grasses everywhere and plentiful water on the surface and below ground. Sandy Hills is now the center of Nebraska’s famed beef production, and a (reputedly) a scenic area in its own right.
As we drove west, the sky was mostly overcast, which made for dull windshield time. But in the last hours of our drive, the sky broke up and the setting sun began to create incredible landscapes of light. Black cattle became startling contrasts to illuminated corn and prairie. Golden aspens flecked the grassy plains, and the little hillocks everywhere started to take on richer dimensions than they had just a few minutes before. For the first time, we started to see that we are now in the West.
We turned off the interstate to head to Lake Ogallala State Recreation Area (SRA), and Lake McConaughy SRA in western Nebraska. This pair of lakes was formed by a long dam, which we are now parked directly below. The sun was setting as we arrived, so our view was limited but still fantastic. You drive over the dam, with a reservoir of water less than 100 feet below to the left, and to the right a sheer drop of perhaps 300 feet.
I could only imagine the sight our Airstream made as it glided along this strip atop the dam, all the clearance lights glowing, reflections of the dramatic blue-orange twilight sky along its sides. This is “big sky” country. It’s beautiful.
I would like to stay here for a couple of days to take photos. Ten feet behind our site is a small lake below the dam. Across the fence from the campground is a yellow field with black cattle roaming. The huge stone dam looms over us less than a half-mile away, and there are tall mature trees overhead. Best of all, there’s hardly anyone here, so it’s quiet and peaceful.
But practical issues intrude: one cell phone works, the other is “roaming.” The Internet in Motion box is roaming too, so we can’t get online. And unfortunately I do need to do quite a bit of work. So we must move on. I’ll post this from the road later this morning, as we drive the final leg to Denver.
But it is still dark out as I write this. We have crossed into Mountain Time and we all woke up early. We have a few hours to enjoy the sunrise and walk around with the camera. Before we go, I’ll to capture a few good pictures for you. I want you to get a sense of the inspiration the western landscapes give me.
A friend of mine wrote me to say how lucky we were to be in Council Bluffs. Apparently the Union Pacific Railroad Museum is a mecca of sorts for railfans. We didn't have time today to drop in, because of errands, but we did have time to drop in on the local Airstream dealer (Outdoor Recreation Center).
Don Bowerman was a great host for us, while we waited for some systems checks on the new trailer. A long-time Airstreamer and lifetime WBCCI member, Don has retired from a long career in police work and now sells Airstreams. Needless to say, he's got a few stories to share.
Being an Airstreamer, Don naturally invited us to his house for pizza. And being Airstreamers, we of course accepted. (We can't turn down hospitality.)
We'll be sorry to leave Council Bluffs tomorrow, but we need to get out to Denver soon, so we'll be hitting the road tomorrow morning. There's still a chance to see the UP Railroad Museum, but I don't know yet. We'll wing it.
Plans are always fluid when you are mixing business and pleasure. We didn't find the Frank Lloyd Wright house I had heard about -- I think we missed it in the dark the night before. That's a drag but we will be back in the spring, I think, so we'll try harder to get it into the schedule.
Rather than double back for the house tour, we pressed on to Council Bluffs to try to get some work done for a couple of days. I've been working every day when I get a chance, but really that's not enough and it's time to sit still and catch up. So now we are camped in Lake Minawa SP, which is a nice spot near everything but isolated by a pretty little lake. Hardly anyone here, either, despite wonderful temperatures and great fall foliage. Business requires that we stop in at the local Airstream dealer (a pleasure, really), and while we are here we need to take care of some maintenance on the Nissan Armada.
The process of settling into a site for more than one night is complex but with each time we find it easier. The GPS tells us where to find the local post office, grocery, and other necessities. The campground hosts are usually helpful with other hints, such as nice places to visit and eat. Setting up the trailer for a stop takes no more than 15 minutes (and that's if we go to the extra step of setting the stabilizers). It's amazing how simple things please us. A full tank of propane and a place to plug in, and we are happy.
We have also discovered that Indiana and Iowa also make it easy on RV'ers by having dump stations at every highway rest area. They never seem to have lines, either. This is a huge improvement over the northeast, where dump stations are hard to find except at campgrounds, and they usually cost money to use. The highway stops are free! Who would have thought I'd get excited about something like that?
There's a bike trail right next to this campground. Tomorrow, since we are expecting unseasonably warm temperatures (low 80s) we will try to break away for a couple of hours to try it out. Emma will be ready to ditch her training wheels in a few months if we can keep getting opportunities to practice. Another simple pleasure ...
It was a beautiful night, quiet, peaceful, and cool. I got up just after dawn and shot a few photos of our private little spot. We didn't hear a sound all night except for the night wildlife in the trees.
This is "Bridges of Madison County" country. Failing to find a convenient place to park overnight, I took a page from George & Tioga's book and just took a random turn off I-80 to find a quiet spot. We queried the Garmin GPS for a local park and it came up with a County Park just five miles away. A dark bumpy ride down dusty gravel roads later, we pulled into a beautiful and private county park where no one else is, and the nearest house is a couple of cornfields away.
What a reward! The night is balmy, the moon is full, there are no bugs and the forest is filled with interesting night creatures calling to each other. We are utterly alone. I can't even see a house or combine running from here. (They are harvesting corn all night long at some of the farms.)
That's just the sort of day it's been. Let me back up to this morning. After Emma woke up, we met our Airstream neighbors at the Cracker Barrel, and they turned out to be faithful subscribers to Airstream Life. They had also just finished the Golden Caravan through Eastern Canada in the company of our last host, Dr. C -- a funny coincidence.
Driving through western Illinois and Iowa on I-80 is an unremarkable experience, but we started off right, with a visit to Starved Rock State Park in Utica, IL. This is a great hiking park, with terrific canyons and views of the Illinois River everywhere. Highly recommended.
This weekend was a scheduled foliage event, so the park was mobbed and the campground was full, but since Emma had a cold we only wanted to stay long enough to hike a couple of miles and fill our water tank. We'll have to go again sometime and hike the other 11 miles of trails!
The only remarkable thing about driving I-80 is the unusually low price for 89 octane ("Plus") fuel. They put 10% Ethanol in that blend, and the Ethanol is subsidized, with the result that you can buy 89 octane for ten cents less than 87 octane. Some gas stations don't even bother with 87 -- why buy it? The price for 89 octane was just $2.35 per gallon, the cheapest we've seen since we left home.
So here we are, alone in a gorgeous spot, with all the comforts of home, and everyone is happy. Emma is watching classic Popeye cartoons on DVD, I'm catching up on email & blog, and Eleanor is puttering around. We'll have a nice night and try to go see a Frank Lloyd Wright house tomorrow.
I think yesterday should count as our first official day of the Tour of America. We headed out from South Bend in the morning and (after a harrowing ride through Chicago on I-90), stopped in Rolling Meadows IL to visit with a few folks. Tom King and Joyce Cutsforth of Internet-in-Motion dropped in to see our trailer and catch up a bit. Tom has some great ideas for a mobile webcam that we may integrate into the upcoming Tour website.
Brad Cornelius also dropped in. He designed the great graphics you see on the exterior of the trailer. (Brad also painted the Fall 2005 cover of Airstream Life, which should be in the mail to you in about a week.)
While we were giving these tours, we happened to be parked at a Wal-Mart. People kept coming by and taking photos of the trailer, so we invited a few in. We met some nice guys from Holland who have a "mobile bakery" that they run out of an Airstream there. They were excited to see the Tour trailer and promised to email photos of theirs as soon as they get back home.
After that visit we hit a local IKEA to shop for some trailer accessories. Eleanor found a fine aluminum wine rack that we plan to mount on the wall. It looks like it belongs there. This is an accessory every Airstream should have, if only because it looks so right.
Our next stop was 90 minutes west, somewhere along I-80 in the plains of Illinois. We hit a Cracker Barrel for dinner (our friend Gary was right, you CAN eat every meal at Cracker Barrel if you stick to the highways), and then parked overnight. Our neighbors happen to be in an Airstream Classic with the WBCCI # 5883. We haven't seen them yet but perhaps we will before we go.
There's an axiom I was taught by the fellow who sold us our first Airstream: The propane always runs out in the middle of the night. For some reason I was up at 4:30 this morning when I heard the furnace cycle on and off a bit too quickly. Sure enough, we'd just run out of gas. That's why we have two bottles and an auto-switching regulator, but of course I forgot to open the second bottle, and so I had to get out there in my bare feet in the dark to flip the switch. At least it wasn't too cold...
Speaking of which, poor Emma is really down with a cold. She's a trouper about it but there's no question it has taken her down a peg. I expect she'll sleep late and so it will be hard to reach our next goal today. But that's the nice thing about traveling this way. She can stay in bed while we catch up on work and phone calls, have breakfast, etc. When she wakes up, we'll be all set to go.
Our philosophy is that you take advantage of what each local area offers. So today we headed off to meet our friends Henry and Danean for a tour of the RV industry -- past and present.
Elkhart is the center of the RV universe, and it's only about 15 miles down the Indiana tollway from South Bend. Our first stop was the factory that Henry works at, which makes RV parts. Riding around in a golf cart, we got a great tour from Henry of robotic welding machines and manufacturing processes. Even Emma was interested. And at the end of the tour, everyone got a company baseball cap!
Next stop was the RV/MH Heritage Museum in downtown Elkhart. This place is basically a collection of really special antique RVs from the 1920s through 1970s. You can walk right into most of the units, and they are mostly in superb condition. The only Airstream in the collection is a early 60s Bambi. My 1968 Caravel and 1963 Serro Scotty would have fit right in.
In the front hall is the Hall of Fame. Wally Byam is there, of course. If you've ever wondered what Theodore Bargman (manufacturer of the infamous Bargman locks and lights) looked like, or Art Costello (Airstream's president of the Los Angeles factory in the 1960s), you'll find them too.
Then we headed off to Henry and Danean's house. Henry has an interesting race car, which happens to be more or less street legal. It's a 1978 Chevrolet Monte Carlo with a 454 engine. So we took it out for a spin around the block. When I was putting the five-point seat belts on, I started to sense that this might be a mistake, but it was too late to back out. Sure enough, Henry demonstrated the car's ability to run the quarter-mile. Uh, 110 MPH in 12 seconds. A bit better than the Nissan Armada/Airstream combo I'm driving these days.
Emma got a chance to drive, too, but not the race car. She steered a golf cart while Danean worked the pedals and Eleanor hung on for her life. It made for an interesting ride around their front yard. The dog raced around in circles while Emma careened around, narrowly missing shrubs and ditches. She wants to tow the Airstream now, but I sense she's not quite ready.
The day started with a little spin in one of Dr. C's collector cars, a 1950s Mercedes 190. He took me for a top-down ride through the quiet cornfields and suburbs of West South Bend. A very pleasant touring car, that Mercedes, and as the doctor told me this morning, "It's great for picking up chicks."
That's Elkhart/South Bend for us. Tomorrow morning, we head over to the northern Chicago suburbs to meet more friends.
We've got the graphics on! Man, it looks great. This picture doesn't show the other side, but I'll get one of those up soon. Already as we drive around, I see people giving us long looks. I think that's a good thing.
Two developments today:
1) Episode 3 of The VAP is available for download at www.thevap.com. If you have iTunes and you've previously subscribed to it, just launch it and choose "Update podcast". It features the second part of an interview with me.
2) We are heading off to get our cool new "Tour of America" decals put on today. I'll post a picture tonight of the result.
One of my favorite blogs right now is "The Adventures of Tioga and George" at www.vagabonders-supreme.net . George is a hard-core RV traveler who, with his trusty class C (Ms. Tioga) and a "team" of other equipment, roams the western states. George's major claim is that he never stays in campgrounds (well, hardly ever). Instead, he makes camp at roadside parking lots, hidden turn-outs, industrial parks, repair shops, and virtually anywhere else that he thinks he can park overnight.
For all his quirkiness, George has captured the spirit of the way Airstreaming used to be, back in the 1950s. Airstream manuals from the 1960s to present day contain some variation on this statement:
"You'll learn the knack of finding wonderful out-of-the-way parking spots in fields, filling stations and just about anywhere that the ground is level and firm." Back in the 1950s, campgrounds were scarce and it was common practice to find a parking spot in any convenient spot, for overnight stays.
Today we live in a more crowded world and it is correspondingly more difficult to find quiet, safe spots to sleep. We are supposed to stay in commercial campgrounds. But a lot of us who are traveling through find the campground experience to be annoying, with lengthy and invasive check-in procedures ("names and ages of everyone in your party, please, also make and model of your car").
Besides, we have no interest in "camping" when are staying for one night -- we're just PARKING. I don't use the mini golf, the swimming pool, the fire ring, or even the water hookup when I'm just passing through. Little wonder Wal-Mart, Camping World, K-Mart, Flying J, and other businesses who welcome overnight RV parkers are finding such popularity.
In our more complex world, George still manages to find his free night camping spots and enjoy them, by staying below the radar of society. His blog tells it all. He calls it "vagabonding."
As we have matured in our traveling sophistication, we too have started to learn how to skirt the traditional and often irritating campground infrastructure. Our version of vagabonding is to courtesy-park wherever we can. Fortunately with an Airstream (and a certain amount of gregariousness), that's not so hard.
Basically, we are opportunistic. Our friend Dr. C made it known for some time that we were welcome to visit his driveway in South Bend. When we found a vinyl graphics shop (to put decals on the new trailer) in nearby Mishawaka, a trip was born. We'll stay for free here in the driveway until our mission is complete.
It just so happens that Brad Cornelius, who works on the magazine from time to time, and Comprehensive Communications (distributors of the Internet-in-Motion box I'm using to connect to the Internet right now) are both in the Chicago area. Chicago is only about 90 miles west from here, so guess where we are heading next? Brad can't offer us courtesy parking, but he has researched a Wal-Mart nearby that will welcome us. We'll spend a night or two and move on.
Our next destination is probably Denver. This is not a random choice, either. We have friends and relatives in the Denver area. That means plenty of options for courtesy parking, or at least local tour guides and meals out. It also means money saved for all those night we don't spend in campgrounds, more entertainment, and a better look at the local area. These are some of the things that make full-timing great.
So when we get to California, do you know who we'll look up? George and Ms. Tioga!
We fled Jackson Center this afternoon. We had a final bug on the new trailer (water heater shutting off), which was simply a matter of adjusting the air mixture, and then we spent the rest of the morning getting organized. We were finally ready to hit the road by 4 pm.
Normally I'd hang back and go the next morning, but let's face it, there's not much going on in Jackson Center. The factory closes up at 3:30 and I think they roll up the sidewalks at 9 pm. On Mondays "JC Pizza" (one of the three restaurants) is closed, and that leaves a pair of greasy spoons and the local movie theater. We went to see Wallace & Gromit in the old single-screen theater Monday night, so we'd pretty much blown through the local entertainment scene.
So it was with great eagerness that I hitched up the new 30-footer and hauled it outta there. Nice trailer, no problems. Tows as well as you'd expect an Airstream to tow. We had a pleasant four-hour tour through cornfields of Ohio and Indiana and then arrived at the home of our notorious cohort "Dr. C" in South Bend. We'll be here a couple of days.
Today things went nuts. I ran out at 7:30 a.m. to tell Service about a few bugs in the new trailer. They said they could get on it right away, despite the fact that Monday is their busy day. So I made a quick run over to Marketing to schedule the signing of paperwork relating to the loan of the new trailer, and then back to the trailer to tell Eleanor that Service was coming for the trailer RIGHT NOW. We had 10 minutes to grab everything we needed including a sleeping child, and stuff it all in Vintage Thunder.
It went downhill from there. I had to do a last-minute fix on the Argosy's water pump, then run over to Service to get more stuff out of our trailer, and when I got back Vintage Thunder's new owner was standing there waiting for me. Of course the Argosy was a mess -- littered with our junk, and not cleaned yet. I took the buyer and Emma for a walk around the campus so Eleanor could work on the Argosy in peace. Every 20 minutes we swung back by the trailer and Eleanor would tell me of yet another item she needed from the new trailer, so we made lots of trips back-and-forth between the Terraport and the Service department.
At noon we took a break to start some laundry at the local place, and have lunch at "Hobo's" restaurant. (Not the most promising name, but it's either that or JC Pizza and JC Pizza is closed on Monday.) Then the Service guys needed me (and the truck, to get the hitch adjusted) so Eleanor had to walk three blocks to the laundromat to put stuff in the dryer, and later make a second trip on foot to get all the laundry out.
At 3:30 the trailer finally came out of Service, the buyer had done the factory tour, and the laundry was done, so we all converged on the Argosy and tried to simultaneously (a) entertain Emma; (b) clean up the Argosy; (c) get the new owner hitched up to go. Of course, the hitch on the Argosy needed adjustment to fit his truck, and the tools required included two enormous wrenches which we didn't have. Amazingly, right then one of the Service guys walked up to bring us our power cord, and he volunteered his personal tools to get the job done!
We finally got a chance to walk the buyer through the Argosy about 4:30 pm. Then we had to take our Bill of Sale over to the corporate offices for notarizing and also sign some paperwork related to the new trailer. A SNAFU ensued regarding my insurance company's failure to fax a declaration page, and by 5:30 pm we gave up on that process and headed back to get Vintage Thunder on the road. The new owner was headed off to the KOA in Dayton by 6:30 pm, with a grin on his face, and then I had fifteen minutes to check voicemail & email, and then walk downtown once more to see "Wallace & Gromit's Curse of the Were-Rabbit" at 7 pm -- something we promised Emma we'd do tonight.
So here we are, sorting out the mess in the trailer we made today, having eaten only popcorn since Hobo's, and a bit stressed out all around. Thank goodness for Wallace & Gromit, otherwise Eleanor and I would have exploded.
I need to resolve the insurance paperwork tomorrow, find the Owner's Manuals that go with the new trailer, return Dan The Service Guy's tools, get the interior set up for traveling, and do a few hours of real work too. With all that I don't know if we will get out tomorrow, and at this point we are all thinking a day to catch up might be a good idea.
So we are re-thinking whether we will head to South Bend IN. We might just head southwest toward Denver instead. I need to settle in somewhere for at least two weeks to catch up on work. What a life! We all hope it gets easier after this.