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June 30, 2006

Gang's All Here

It's only 4:30 as I write this (Pacific Time) and I'm already feeling the weight of the day. What a day it has been. The politics are behind us, thank goodness. Here's a rundown of the other events of the day:

Salem Colin flagpole.jpg

Brett and I hit the local hardware store to get the remaining bits to mount my new flagpole holder. When Colin Hyde and Steve Hingtgen arrived mid-morning, Colin helped us drill and mount it to the power hitch. Now I've got my two flags flying: one USA, one "illegal" Airstream Life flag.

Salem flags.jpg

Steve, Brett, Colin and I hung back in the trailer for a few hours, waiting for cell phone updates from the delegates meeting. At noon, we transferred to the Vintage Open House, which was spectacular -- one of the best I've attended.

Salem blondes.jpg

We saw some really good examples of rare Airstreams, including a 16-foot 1953 Trailwind (not Tradewind!), a 1977 Caravanner (huge living space, no bedroom!), a 1958 Pacer, several beautifully restored Flying Clouds, etc.

Salem Caravanner pink layd.jpg

The vintage open house was a slightly marred by a poor decision by the management to pump out the trailer tanks at the same time. The odor of black tank wafted over the trailers from time to time ... but we were still happy to be there and see the cool rigs. The local press showed up to conduct interviews and Colin reports that he was photographed with his latest project, a 1965 Caravel, wearing his Airstream Life t-shirt.

We departed from that at 2 pm to the ice cream social at the new Airstream display area. There we found Carol moving into her new 27FB Classic, which is a beautiful trailer. Eleanor and Emma caught up with us there too. Emma had been playing with friends all morning. I guess free ice cream will do that.

Adam and Susan called at 3:00 to say they were heading in, so Brett and I pedalled over to meet them in the bullpen. They ran into another parking SNAFU: the parkers, thinking things were quiet, had quit for the day. We found our friend Robert Trent there waiting as well. Fortunately, someone showed up and found a few recruits, and everyone was eventually parked.

Now we are 1/2 an hour late for the Vintage happy hour, and I just got a call from Wendimere, the "Health Chic". I'll tell you about her later -- if she ever gets parked. We're heading out for the happy hour to meet everyone, and then a group of us are going out for dinner. It never stops here...

New Name Rejected!

The vote came up ... and the proposed name "Wally Byam Airstream Club International" has been rejected. It got 56% of the vote, but it needed a 2/3 majority. At this point, we are still WBCCI and the issue is now dead. The meeting is continuing and they are discussing other issues now.

We're heading off to the Vintage Open House now, which goes to 3 pm. Rich C just called about it and says it's very busy over there.

Wally Byam Airstream Club International?

Another update from the floor: an amendment was introduced to change the name under consideration from Airstream Owners Association International (AOAI) to Wally Byam Airstream Club International (WBACI). This vote needed a 2/3 majority to pass, which was 84 votes. The amendment passed with 85 votes!

This is NOT the new name of the club. It is the name that is being voted on right now. We'll know soon if it has been accepted or rejected. More soon ...

The Base Camp is In!

I just got a call from the delegate meeting: 4,557 votes in favor of accepting owners of the new "Base Camp" trailer into the WBCCI. 1,835 votes against, and 242 abstentions.

Base Camp.jpg

Congrats to all new and future owners of the Base Camp! Welcome!

International Rally, Day Five, Part I

Well, I heard the "Save Wally" crowd had a big party last night. I'm not sure what happened there, but I'm going to get reports later today for sure. I called Colin this morning at his hotel and he was still sleeping, despite supposedly being on Eastern Time. Correlation? I'll find out.

I hope not all of them oversleep. The delegates meeting starts at 8:30 a.m. Pacific Time, which is 30 minutes from this post. The smart people I've spoken to expect two things: (1) endless and tedious debate, with considerable input from the well-organized "Save Wally" people. (2) no name change will pass, since it would require a 2/3 approval from the delegates. It is unlikely there is enough consensus on any particular name for that.

Still, I have people in the audience who will call me by cell phone as events warrant. So you can expect information here today, regardless of the outcome of the meeting. Check back again later today ...

Salem rasta girl.jpg

June 29, 2006

International Rally, Day Four, Part II

OK, a quickie update this evening because I have to go pick up Brett at the airport in Portland soon. I have heard people at Airstreamforums are wondering who is here and what's up, so here's a run-down of the forums people who I know:

wheel interested (Carol B)
Maxwell (Shari)
chyde (Colin Hyde, GSM Vehicles)
gadgetat (Rich C)
65GT (but I haven't seen him yet)

and several others whose handles I don't know ...

As to why there isn't much news coming back from those folks: we're having too darned much fun. Internet access at this rally is the best we've ever had, which is not saying much, but still an improvement. There's wi-fi in one of the buildings, and cellular coverage is rock-solid here. I've seen Sprint, Verizon, and Cingular setups rolling along very well. But who wants to sit in front of the computer when the sun is shining and there's a party at every fifth trailer?

Salem vintage 50s butts.jpg

Vintage happy hour was tremendous today, probably the biggest turnout yet. I think nearly a hundred people were there, spilling out from the edges of the tent. There's a lot of talk about the name change, the state of the vintage club (there's some political issues there), the Vintage Advantage newsletter (which will have a new editorial team soon), and all the cool trailers here.

We're all looking forward to the vintage open house tomorrow from 11 to 4. The delegates meeting is scheduled for 8 to 12, which is causing some grief for vintage owners who have a strong interest in attending the meeting. I'll be in touch with some people who will be attending, via cell phone, to get updates.

International Rally, Day Four, Part I

Everyone is starting to hit the wall now... and yesterday was only the first official rally day! The problem with these rallies is that if you try to see everyone and do everything you want, you'll wear yourself out. I've alluded to this problem before. I usually come out of one of these things needing a vacation.

The schedule is brutal, albeit self-imposed. We're all like a bunch of 5-year-olds who don't want to go to bed because we might miss something. So we get up early and immediately start socializing, run around all day attending seminars, meeting friends, attending happy hours, catching up on gossip, eating out, buying stuff, and then of course eating ice cream. By the end of the day, we're all beat.

I had warned Rich C about this before he came, and last night we were commiserating on it. He ended up doing a bunch of free consulting to people with computer problems, and at one point his voice started to go. I had impromptu meetings with at least half a dozen people, and ended up missing a couple of events entirely because my schedule was completely whacked. Then I had to get back to the computer to respond to email and put up the blog. At 9:30 pm I was hiding in Rich's trailer trying to unwind with one of his recorded episodes of "Futurama" but there was no escape: people kept dropping by to chat.

Salem night shot.jpg

Eleanor and Emma were similarly tired. I hardly saw them all day, since they kids' program kept them busy until nearly 3 pm, and then we split up again later in the afternoon. Just when I was dragging myself, Eleanor, and Emma back to our trailer at 10 pm for bed, I spotted a beautiful crescent moon rising over the Airstreams. So I grabbed Rich C's tripod again and took a few pictures. The moon didn't come out well, but I did get some halfway decent night shots. We finally got to bed around 11 ... and this morning it begins again.

Today will be busier! Rich C and his neighbor were asking if I was going to enter the photo contest, but I feel I should exclude myself. Being a semi-pro (since I shoot for the magazine all the time), I think I have a bit of an unfair advantage. I have shot probably over 10,000 photos of our Airstream and our adventures in the past nine months and kept over 4,000. As a result, I've got a few good ones and they sometimes appear in the magazine (such as the redwoods photos in the upcoming Summer 2006 issue, which you'll see in July). I wouldn't feel right entering photos that I shoot partially for professional purposes in this type of contest. But Rich C is off entering his photos right now, and I wish him luck!

Colin Hyde of GSM Vehicles is on his way over right now. He and Steve Hingtgen of Vintage Trailer Supply flew in last night and are coming down from Portland. I'll meet up with them later this morning.

June 28, 2006

International Rally, Day Three, Part II

Between one thing and another this day disappeared and I didn't get to have nearly as much fun as everyone else. The best part was the happy hour we hosted at the trailer, except that Eleanor and Emma were still off at the kid program and missed the party

I was delighted to see Ray and Terri Hodges drop by. They are camphosts near the coast of Oregon who have their own blog. They came over today to check out the rally and (apparently) kiss Carol's puppy.

Salem dog kiss.jpg
Ray holds the puppy while Terri gives a kiss

I was less enchanted with the visit from a local person who crashed our event and started grabbing magazines and CDs to take with her. I relieved her of the magazine and had to keep an eye on her thereafter. She seemed to be someone with mental disabilities, who just wandered through looking for stuff. She was harmless enough other than her apparent bent toward kleptomania, so I let her stay and play with Carol's puppy.

This was my first encounter with the local population, but the rally in general has had several security problems. Last week five motorhomes were broken into. This week there have been reports of items stolen, and everyone has been on guard and locking up, which is something we don't normally have to do at a big rally. This town has quite a population of street people, especially downtown, and I've been hearing a lot of comments about panhandling, groups of shady-looking teenagers cruising the rally, etc. There were no such problems at Springfield MO last year, or Lansing MI the year before.

Salem Dicky Larry.jpg
Dicky and Larry giving out door prizes

Dicky Riegel and Larry Huttle spoke this afternoon about the new products, the decision to kill the Class A motorhomes, and other subjects. The Westfalia has been discontinued. The new 27 Front Bedroom floorplan is available in Safari, International, and Classic lines, and looks like a winner. (Carol bought one today!)

Joe was cruising the rally today with his Jamaican hat with fake dredlocks. Everytime he spotted someone notable (or not), he got them to pose in the hat. Thus, he has a collection including Dicky and Larry, Hunter Hampton, Bryan Leipper, me, Rich C, Emma, Dave Schumann, and many others. Rich C and I have promised to mutually withhold the photos of each other ... but I bet he'll cheat.

Finally, this evening Rich C and I decided to use his blue boy to dump our gray tank. The dump station at this rally is well hidden, and we needed about fifteen minutes to find it, with help from other folks. Rich has decided that he doesn't use the blue tank often enough to justify carting it around in his truck, so he's going to try to sell it at the Flea Market. Hmmm... can you find a willing buyer for a used blue tank?

Mark asked about our numbers. They are the standard-issue numbers on a sheet of clear Lexan, just lying above our rock guard. I have suction cups to mount them higher but haven't gotten around to it yet. This way, we can remove the numbers when we don't need them and transfer them from trailer to trailer. Since we own 2-3 at all times, this is more convenient for us.

Renee Ettline reports that the new Heart of Texas Camping Unit (HOTC) was formally raised from provisional to regular status at the IBT meeting on Monday. Congratulations to David Tidmore and his crew!

International Rally, Day Three, Part I

OK, no more complaints about heat. About 9 last night the temperature plummeted and I ran for my trailer to grab a fleece. The wind picked up enough to force me to bring in the awning, too. This morning has dawned with a thin overcast and it is only expected to reach 80, which is practically freezing now that we're acclimated to the heat.

Salem ladder view.jpg
View from our trailer of some of the Blue section

Today the schedule is packed with vendor seminars and such. Eleanor and Emma are heading to an amusement park with other kids, and I'll be holding the 2 pm open house at our trailer (Blue sec 1, Row 8, trailer #9990) without them, unless they get back early. So between one thing and another it will be a very busy day.

Already the Airstream guys have shown up to finish adjusting the door. They had it done in five minutes, with a combination of adjusting (using a sledgehammer on the door striker!) and lubrication. Now the door opens and closes easily. That's good because Emma couldn't open it herself before and I felt that was a safety issue. She can open it now!

Rich C is off to Best Buy to get a wi-fi repeater like mine, and he's also been sent on the hunt for ice pops for the Open House. All the stores in town got cleaned out of frozen stuff during the heat wave.

We have figured out the always-mysterious dump schedule. This year they put a little sticker on each trailer that shows the date of arrival. Our says "26", for example. Five days after that, we will get pumped out by the truck that roams around every day. So we'll get pumped out on Saturday, at least in theory.

We can easily make our black tank last for five days. But because of the need to make our 30-gallon gray tank last five days, we are being very careful with water in the sinks and shower. We are strictly rationing showers, and we are using minimal dishes and occasionally paper plates.

A member of the club was ejected last week for dumping gray water on the site -- he was made into a public example of What Happens When You Break The Rule About Graywater. So if the tank gets full before your pump-out date, you've got to hitch up and haul over to dump station across the street, or use a "blue boy" tank to haul your gray away. Since I want a shower today, I may be one of those people towing a blue boy behind the truck tomorrow. Not a high price to pay.

There are also public showers hidden in some of the Fairground buildings. I spoke to a couple of people yesterday who discovered them. Apparently they are available but you need to be discreet about it. I'm not sure what the official policy is, but everyone is whispering about them as if they were secrets of the pharaohs. Given the choice of shlepping across the street with my shower gear, or possibly hauling a blue tank of gray water tomorrow, I guess I'll use our shower and take a chance.

June 27, 2006

International Rally, Day Two, Part II

It's still hot but tolerable. 90 or so is a lot better than 102 ...

Salem row.jpg

Dave wrote: did the airstream folks repair your door latch as scheduled this morning?

Nope, we never heard from them. I knew this was a possibility, since I know they are working on emergencies first. Originally I was not expecting them until later this week, so I was surprised to see them yesterday. They have my cell phone # and I'm sure eventually we'll connect.

Dave also asked: any idea when we will hear about the biggest descision to hit the club since it's inception?

He's referring to the name change vote. That will be decided by the delegates on Friday. I was originally led to believe that it was up to the IBT (International Board of Trustees) but in fact it is up to the delegates. I'll try to be there when the vote occurs.

The new trailer area and the Airstream store were hopping today. It's very nice to be able to browse the new units indoors. They have several new 25FB's out, in addition to the new 27FB, and several Classics. I bought a few latches in the Airstream store to replace ones that broke, but otherwise restrained myself.

Salem new trailers.jpg

Rich got parked this morning and registered this afternoon, so he's legal now. While waiting in line to get Emma signed up for the kids' program, we met up with our friends Terry and Mike Scherkenbach. Mike (in the blue shirt) posed in front of the board that shows how many registrations there are. As of 4 pm Monday there were 833 units registered.

Salem registrations.jpg

After registration time, Rich, Mike, and a friend named Sam parked themselves in our trailer for a couple of hours, talking. Carol came by today with her new puppy, which Emma and her friend promptly wore out. He crawled under the Nissan and fell asleep.

Salem puppy.jpg

And at 5 pm we headed over to Vintage happy hour and met up with a lot of friends. I was too busy catching up with people and (later) selling back issues of the magazine to take pictures, but I did catch one shot of Rich Charpentier talking to Joe in front of Dr Norman Holman, Jr's 1935 Airstream Torpedo. By the way, in about ten minutes among the vintage owners, I sold all of my last six sets of back issues. Those were the last full sets we had. From now on, the Summer 04 and Summer 05 issues are collector's items.

Tonight they are having some opening event but I'm skipping it to catch up on work. Tomorrow the official program really kicks off, with a lot of seminars and events. Eleanor and Emma may take the morning to attend a kid event. We'll be having an open house at 2pm and Bob Wheeler and Larry Huttle will be speaking at 3 pm. Other than that, I plan to wing it.

International Rally, Day Two, Part I

Given that things happen quickly here at the rally, I'm probably going to post more than once a day during the next week if I have a chance. I'll try to post photos at least once a day.

Last night it was still sunny and over very warm at 9 p.m. We are in the western portion of the Pacific Time Zone, and somewhat north, near the longest day of the year, so sunset is quite late for us. We dared to leave the air conditioning of the trailer for a walk-about, and found that many other people had the same idea. I ran into Jim and Paula Maddox, who I had last seen at the Region 3 Rally in Myrtle Beach. Eleanor and Emma found a 9-year-old girl doing cartwheels on the grass, so Emma quickly made a new friend and stayed out till after 10 p.m. with her, when it was finally dark.

This morning it is much nicer, only in the low 70s. We have all three Fantastic Vents running to bring the cool air from the north side of the trailer in, and it is comfortable without the air conditioning. Today is only supposed to peak in the upper 80s. With all three Fantastic Vents running on low, we've got an solid indoor breeze and it feels great.

Since we are parked on a grassy field that was cut apparently a few weeks ago (in the Blue section), we are surrounded by dry hay everywhere. It tracks into the trailer all the time. Many people have raked their areas to try to control it, so there are hay piles around. With all this dry hay around, and a nice breeze, we can't risk a barbecue, unfortunately.

Rich C just called. He's in the bullpen awaiting a second chance at getting parked in the 30-amp section. Already he's getting a bit of a run-around, even though he has a paid receipt for parking in 30-amp. I think we can expect another ranting blog entry from him ...

Today should be fairly quiet. There's nothing of significance on the program, since the rally officially starts on Wednesday. But the vendor areas are open and George M Sutton RV has a huge indoor (air conditioned) display of the new rigs, and I expect to find a lot of people over there. I'll take pics of the area for posting later tonight.

June 26, 2006

International Rally, Day One

We're parked at the big rally. As usual there was a good share of SNAFUs and confusion, but not for us this time. Rich C got here and was told he couldn't get 30-amp power (on a 100-degree day), so he turned around and went back to the commercial campground. That information was bogus, and we told him so. He returned later to register and he'll park tomorrow, hopefully. You can read his account here.

We got parked pretty quickly, and about 15 minutes after we arrived we had 30-amp power, too. So we got the A/C cranking right away and our trailer is comfortable. We are parked in a grassy field across the street from the fairground's main buildings: Blue section, Row 8. I'll have my flags up later this week, when my new flagpole holder arrives in the mail.

I zipped over to the vendor area and got Fantastic Vent and Airstream to schedule us for service. At 2 pm, the Fantastic Vent guys arrived to install our third and final vent in the trailer. We are putting in a Fantastic Vent 6600.

Salem Fantastic Vent inside.jpg

Dave Pierce and Jim Wood work as a team to install these vents, and they really know what they are doing. They had the vent in place in 32 minutes, including a few minutes to chat and wait for us to write a check. It was quick partly because the vent opening was pre-cut and pre-wired by the factory, but still I was impressed. Service fee: $70.

Salem Fantastic Vent outside.jpg

Airstream's service techs showed up about the same time to check out our hard-to-open door. After a bit of consultation, they took off to get some materials. We failed to link up again because we had to go to registration, but they called and we agreed to meet tomorrow morning.

Salem Airstream service.jpg

We've been busy saying hi to people and meeting new ones. We've already met up with numerous Airstream friends, including Renee and Fred Ettline, Herb and Sidra Spies, Linda Amme (of South Jersey RV), Bill and Beth Kerfoot, Dave Pierce, and several magazine and blog readers who are parked near us.

The Board of Trustees did their business today, but the club name change vote will be done by the delegates on Friday ... I'll report on that.

Salem whale tal.jpg

I noticed a SNAFU when walking around in the 100+ degree furnace this afternoon. A large section of the vintage 30-amp section is without power. Apparently one of the big diesel generators overheated and so everyone in that area, about 40 trailers, is melting in the heat. Nobody knows for sure when they will get power, which has led to more a few grumpy comments over there.

Everywhere this rally goes, the temperature inevitably reaches record-breaking temperatures. Salem set a record at 102 today. As one person noted, the International Rally "curse" continues...

June 25, 2006

Prepped for International

We are getting ready for the rally now. Today was scorchingly hot for Oregon -- 100 degrees and sunny -- and that slowed things down a bit, but we needed to get ready for the long rally and that's what we worked on today.

Most of it was routine stuff: laundry, cleaning the trailer, washing the exterior, and taking care of last-minute business stuff... We also sanitized the fresh water system, which I mention because it seems to be a big mystery for many people. Unlike many RV'ers, we do sometimes drink the water from our fresh water system. (It depends on how good the local water tastes.) So it's important to occasionally sanitize the system.

This is easy: we just add some bleach to the fresh tank, let sit, and flush. (I posted more detailed directions here last October.)

At the International rallies we are supplied with water and electricity. The fresh water is daisy-chained from one trailer to another, so technically your water is only as good as the next guy's water hose. For this reason, many people avoid drinking the water at big rallies. We haven't had a problem in the past, but this year we'll mostly drink stuff we've prepped ourselves. Eleanor made some terrific raspberry lemonade that I think I'll be consuming gallons of tomorrow ..

Parking at an International Rally is another mystery for people. The procedure seems complicated, but it's really easy once you know how it works: Follow "WBCCI" signs to the rally site, stop at an area marked "BULLPEN" and wait for a parker to come get you. The parker will have you follow them to a particular spot. They park from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m most days with lunch breaks. If nobody's there, just wait. If you arrive after hours, you'll be there overnight.

Our plan was to arrive as early as possible in the morning but given that it's 10:45 p.m. now and Emma's still up, I doubt she'll be ready early. We'll still try to get there as early as we can to avoid the worst of the 100-degree temperatures that are forecast again. Tomorrow will be a busy day.

Tonight I went over to Gunny's again to try some more dusky shots of his trailer, but couldn't really get anything spectacular. Here's one of the out-takes.

Gunnys trailer 2.jpg

June 24, 2006

Salem, OR

We arrived in Salem yesterday afternoon and immediately were greeted by Rich C and Gunny, both of whom seemed more than ready for some new faces in the RV Resort. That pretty much took care of the afternoon and evening, because there was a lot to catch up on.

This place is loaded with features. Continental breakfast in the morning, movies every evening, ice cream social from 6 to 8 pm on weekends, daily newspaper on the doorstep, game room, hot tub & pool, etc. All free for us, for the price of $33 per night with Good Sam discount. We're going to try to take full advantage of everything ... but today I spent the entire day in the trailer processing subscription renewals and other paperwork.

It was absolutely gorgeous yesterday and this morning, but the heat is building now. We're expecting 98 degrees on Sunday and 100 on Monday. Remember two weeks ago, when we couldn't break out of the 60s? That's a distant memory. This is more like Death Valley, with humidity. Fortunately, the temps are expected to slide down all week. That's the way Oregon is. Huge swings are commonplace -- at night our temps are supposed to plummet 50 degrees. I suspect we'll be happy we elected to get the 30-amp power option, once we are at the official rally site on Monday.

Gunnys trailer.jpg
Had to borrow Rich C's tripod for this shot: f4.5, 4 seconds at ISO 800 (exp bias +1.7)

Gunny is parked down the row from us. Tonight he demonstrated his trailer lighting system for us at dusk. It's pretty fun to watch, especially since it's under a very cool new Safari 25FB Special Edition. He's a rebel at 60+ ...

A couple of administrative notes: I was finally able to upload some Crater Lake pictures to the Flickr site, after several days of trying. Apparently Flickr doesn't the intermittency of my cellular connection. Usually I go to a coffeehouse to do big uploads like this, but haven't had the chance lately. I'll get more photos up from Lava Lands and Salem next week.

Also, I've added an open house to our Schedule page, on Wednesday June 28 at 2 pm. If you'll be at the International Rally, drop by for a cold popsicle and some chat under our awning. Once I know where we are parked in the maze of trailers at the rally, I'll post our location. Or, check the locator board for #9990.

June 23, 2006

Happy Anniversary To Us

Today is a significant date, to us. June 23 is the day we sold our house in Vermont and began living in our 1977 Argosy 24 full-time! We bought the current Airstream in October, and began documenting our travels at that time.

So we've been full-timers for a year now. (Feel free to send anniversary cards with checks, or valuable pieces of jewelry to PO Box 74, Ferrisburg VT 05456.) ;-)

So, a status report: In case it wasn't obvious, everyone continues to do well. We still have no firm date for discontinuing our travels. What began as a "six or seven month" trip has evolved into a lifestyle that we all really enjoy. Homeschooling has gone very well. We have weathered several minor crises and figured out how to make everything work for everyone, emotionally, physically, financially, and logistically -- most of the time.

In short, life "on the road" agrees with us. The major change we expect will be a slowing-down of our travels next winter. Part of our mission has been to explore new places we'd like to live, or at least spend more time. Having crossed the country three times so far, we now have a short list of places we'd like to re-visit and spend weeks or months next winter. But we'll still continue to go back to Vermont regularly, and maintain it as our home base.

Terry posted a comment on our "Bend, OR" blog entry a couple of days ago, asking about the rumor regarding Project Vintage Lightning. The word is out on the Internet that Matthew McConaughey will be our client on this project. He already owns one Airstream, an International CCD 28, but he has purchased our 1952 Airstream Cruiser and the rebuilding and customizing process will be documented in Airstream Life magazine over the next several issues. We are all looking forward to it, as Matthew is a great guy and looks to be a lot of fun to work with.

Eugene George Eleanor.jpg
George Sutton giving Eleanor a tour of the new service building

Last night we camped in the dealer lot at George M Sutton RV in Eugene. George gave us a tour of his new service center, opening across the street. The new service center isn't ready yet but it's definitely a huge upgrade, with lots of indoor service area, courtesy parking, staging areas, a retail store, etc. Then we met up with our friend Dan Patch for dinner. He'll be catching up with us at the International Rally on Monday.

It's been too long since I posted a Sign of the Week, so here's one for you. Spotted on the ferry near Little Talbot Island State Park, in Jacksonville FL.

Motorcycle sign.jpg

June 22, 2006

Lava tubes and vintage trailers

As we approach the big rally, we are seeing more and more Airstreamers, and as a result our days become odd hybrids of tourism, work, and parties. Today was an example.

After a few hours of work on the computer (while Emma was sleeping), our first stop was the Lava Lands Visitor Center at the Newberry Crater National Volcanic Monument. This site is adjacent to the Deschutes National Forest, where we visited a waterfall the day before, and hence it is under the $5/day access fee program that I ranted about yesterday -- even for the Visitor Center. It's not a "National Park" in the sense of being under the jurisdiction of the National Park Service like Crater Lake, but we collected a stamp for our National Parks Passport book anyway.

Lava Lands.jpg
Lava Lands, looking west. Click for larger.

At Lava Lands you can hike a short paved trail up and around a 6,000 year-old lava flow that covers hundreds of acres along the Deschutes River. The views of the nearby mountains (Mt Bachelor, North Sister, Broken Top, Middle Sister, and South Sister) are very good. Those mountains top out around 9,000-10,000 feet.

We are big fans of caves, so we wanted to check out the Lava River Cave, which is a nearby "lava tube" about 3,000 feet long. This is one of the longest in the world. They are formed by lava flows that cool at the top and leave a river of lava flowing underground. As the lava level drops, an empty tube is left behind.

Lava River Cave.jpg
Eleanor and Emma following a few people out of Lava River Cave.

If you go, be aware of a few things: the hike is tricky due to a very uneven floor, the interior temperature is about 40 degrees, and there is no lighting at all. You can rent a lantern at the entrance, which I highly recommend. We used headlamps and they turned out to be inadequate to really see most of the features of the cave, even though we've successfully used the same headlamps in smaller caves back east. The hike all the way to the end of the cave and back takes about an hour or more. We were pretty cold and tired by the time we got out!

Sisters vintage rigs.jpg

But in the busy world of Airstream society there is no rest. We had just enough time to get some groceries before heading 20 miles east to Sisters, where a large group of Vintage Airstream Club members were gathered for a "rendezvous." (They called it a rendezvous instead of a rally because, they said, "We only want two rules: (1) Have fun; (2) Cold beer.") We were introduced and spent the rest of the afternoon talking to very enthusiastic people about Airstream stuff, over sandwiches and soup.

Roger Marion Emma.jpg

In the evening we hooked up with two new friends, Roger and Marion, who have a brand-new Safari Special Edition 28 and are out on a 3-4 month trip in it. We hit a local restaurant in the quaint downtown of Sisters for ice cream sundaes and shakes all around.

This is how it goes during rally time. The trick is to pace onesself, otherwise you end up need a vacation after the rally is over. At our first few major rallies we ran around trying to see everyone and do everything, and ended completely exhausted after a week. There are a lot of people to meet and plenty to do if you use your imagination (and don't rely on the official program).

June 20, 2006

Bend, OR

Everyone said, "Oh, Bend is great!" so here we are ... and so far it has been a nice place for us. Today's trip just south of town brought us to the National Forest and a short hike along the Deschutes River to Benham Falls. The hike was great except for a few mosquitoes, and the scenery was superb so I think tomorrow we may hit a few other spots along the river as well.

Deschutes River.jpg

Like a lot of other National Forest sites these days, there is an access fee required now. In this area they sell something called the "Northwest Pass" for $30 or you can buy daily passes for $5, which is highway robbery in my opinion. It is not nearly as well advertised at the forest sites that the good old National Parks pass will work just fine if you have the "Golden Eagle Hologram" on the back. The hologram is only $15 more than the basic National Park pass and it gets you unlimited access to any National Forest site that charges an access fee, for a year. You just leave it on the dashboard, hologram side facing up.

After the waterfall hike, we checked out the High Desert Museum ($12 adults, $7 kids). This is a good one, comparable to the Sonoran Desert Museum in Tucson, but with more emphasis on western life than on wildlife. Gordon, one of the volunteers, met us at the entrance to their "Western Life" exhibit and gave us a complete tour of the entire wing, just because he likes to. It was a great experience and extremely educational. That alone was worth the price of admission.

The museum says to allow 3 hours to see everything but we were there for over four hours and had to rush at closing time to see the raptors before they kicked us out. Fortunately, admissions are good for two days.

Our campground, Tumalo State Park, is a pleasant enough setting, but overly popular because it is so convenient to Bend. Even mid-week the place is full and during the afternoon and evening it's a zoo with kids, trucks wandering through, and parents yelling at kids. The sites are fairly close and competition for a space is fierce. Non-hookup sites are $17 and full hookups are $20 -- the sort of weird pricing we often see in State Parks. Of course, everyone wants a hookup site, and of course they are all reserved until approximately the end of time.

Their policy is also that we aren't allowed to renew our non-hookup for more than one day at a time. We've had good sunshine and so our solar system is providing us plenty of electricity to stay for a few more days, but after tomorrow I think we'll have done what we wanted to do in Bend. We'll spend one more night and then head west.

June 19, 2006

Crater Lake National Park

Crater Lake reflections.jpg
Crater Lake. Click for larger

I'll preface this blog entry by saying that I simply can't do justice to Crater Lake in words or pictures. As soon as I post this I will start uploading selected photos to Flickr, so you can see more. But in short, it is spectacular.

The entire central Oregon area is great: wild rivers and lakes stocked with trout, rafting, hiking, huge forests of lodgepole pine, ancient lava flows, and cheap National Forest campsites everywhere. On the drive up from the Rogue Valley we stopped at waterfalls and gorges, even a spot where the Rogue River goes underground and then re-emerges downstream.

But the crown jewel is undoubtedly Crater Lake. The most convenient campgrounds to Crater Lake are the park's Mazama campground or, just north, Diamond Lake. We stayed at Diamond Lake, which has both a cheap National Forest campground ($10, no hookups), and a full-hookup RV park. Both feature views of Diamond Lake, and a few very large mosquitoes. The RV park has free wi-fi near the entry building, but I didn't realize that until it was too late.

Since Diamond Lake is about 5,100 feet, the temperatures are cool and comfortable. Up at Crater Lake, nearly 2,000 feet higher, there's still a lot of snow left. The park gets an average of 44 feet of snow, so some of the roads were still closed. The park won't fully open until July. It was in the 50s and 60s while we visited -- a nice day for Crater Lake in June.

The short season of the park (unless you are into winter sports) was a small problem for us, since all the hiking trails were closed, some of the facilities were undergoing renovation, and the Rim Drive that circles the crater was definitely off-limits. With few things to do, our visit was basically a couple of hours on Saturday afternoon, and a few hours mid-Sunday. Mostly, we gaped at the view and took pictures.

Crater Lake lunch.jpg
Our lunch stop. Click for larger.

The water of the lake is exactly as blue as it appears in the pictures. Photo notes: you'll want a circular polarizer, and this is the place to set your camera on Aperture Priority mode. I tried to get F13-22 for most of the long shots.

The Lodge at Crater Lake looks like a great place to stay if you don't have an RV. It's really a completely rebuilt replica of the original lodge, which was a structural disaster. This one retains the lodge feel with great stone fireplaces and exposed wood everywhere, but with more modern conveniences. Even if you're not a guest, you can sit out by the lake and admire the view for the price of any drink from the restaurant's bar.

Crater Lake lodge lakeside.jpg

Sunday we met a few Airstreamers who, like us, are headed to Salem for the big rally. One couple, Rickie and Yank, are in a Safari 28 formerly owned by John Ratzenberger (of Cheers fame). We'll try to meet up with them again in the nearby town of Sisters later this week.

I also just heard from Colin Hyde of GSM Vehicles. He worked on Vintage Thunder last year and will be working on Vintage Lightning this year. He's planning to come to the International Rally for a few days to help show off a 65 Caravel he just restored for a client.

Tonight we are in a state park in Bend. Our plan is to use this as a base for most of the week, since there's a lot to see and do in this area.

Back in touch

Just a quick note: we're heading back to the cell phone zone, this time in Bend. I'll be updating the blog tonight (Pacific Time) with a big entry about Crater Lake.

For, let it suffice to say: Crater Lake National Park is indescribably beautiful! We could not stop taking pictures. I have about 200 to download to my laptop and sort through. Put this one on your "must-see" list -- with a few caveats that I'll describe in the next blog entry.

From a roadside stop along the Cascade Lakes Highway, 30 miles south of Bend...

June 17, 2006

Building momentum

As I mentioned in yesterday's blog, we are heading to Crater Lake National Park this morning. It looks like we will spend a night or two just outside the park at Diamond Lake and then head up to Bend for a few days. There's a lot to do in Bend that we are looking forward to.

The really cool part about our travels the past couple of weeks has been the momentum we can feel building toward the International Rally gathering. The rally events are not what we go for -- we go to see friends who will be attending. And as I've mentioned before, some of those friends are going to join us for a caravan from Salem OR to Montana.

Carol B just emailed this morning: she's leaving from her home in Michigan this morning. Rich C called this morning from the road 10 miles south of Salem OR. Brett is flying out on the 29th to stay with us a few days. Adam and Susan are still at work in Boston but they'll be coming out around July 1. And Rich C has two friends who are flying into Seattle and renting a car so they can follow along (they'll sleep in Rich's trailer).

All of us (except Brett) are going to depart the International Rally together on July 4 or 5 to begin the caravan to Glacier National Park. When we get there, we'll meet Bert & Janie Gildart, too. We are really looking forward to that. Airstreaming is much more fun when we can share the experience with good friends.

June 16, 2006

Culinary tours

OK, the Summer magazine is almost off to the printer and after a few hours of work this morning I was able to slip away between layout reviews. I had heard of a local creamery that specializes in blue cheese, down in Central Point, and we all love blue cheese, so ...

Rogue Creamery.jpg

The creamery store is small and there's no tour, which was disappointing, but the blues are very interesting. If you don't like blue cheese there's some cheddar and muenster, but nothing worth driving out of your way for. Blue is what this place is about. We tried them all and settled on the Oregonzola and a little of the Pesto Curds. We liked the Smokey Blue too but decided one blue was enough for now. They also have Oregon Blue, which is somewhat like a Stilton, and very sharp.

Rogue Creamery Oregon Blue.jpg

Thus primed for culinary adventure, we headed over to Harry & David's headquarters to take the tour ($5 per adult, applicable to purchases over $35 after the tour.) They shuttle you from the Harry & David Country Store a couple of miles down to the facility. The tour is pretty good, especially since they hand out boxes of cookies and chocolate. It includes some of the bakery facilities (baclava, cookies, cakes, popcorn, etc), chocolate facility, call center, and their demonstration rose garden.

Harry David cookie line.jpg
The cookie line. Click for larger

The way they identify different classes of workers is by the colored hair nets. The lady pictured below is a supervisor. Supervisors have to be able to speak Spanish.

Harry David chocolate inspector.jpg

Of course, the tour ends back at the store and then it's mandatory to buy a whole bunch of stuff ... isn't it? Eleanor had no trouble filling her basket with enough goodies to surpass the $35 minimum (to apply the $5 discount).

Harry David roses.jpg

Tomorrow we'll pack up and head to Crater Lake. I am pretty sure we can't get online from where we'll be, but I'll update as soon as possible afterward.

June 15, 2006

Valley of the Rogue State Park

At last, the weather has cleared, the temperatures have risen, it has become a gorgeous day, and I've taken advantage of it by .... working at my computer all day.

You see, I made the mistake of drinking a glass of Coca-Cola last night at 6 pm and then taking pseudoephedrine (12 hour Sudafed) for the congestion around 9 p.m. The combination kept me up until 1 a.m. Got a lot of work done but sleep was fitful and I popped up again at 6:30 a.m. There wasn't anything to be done for it except get back to work, but Eleanor and Emma were still sleeping and so I needed to be quiet.

The upshot was that a few of my early-rising neighbors here in the state park were treated to the sight of me wandering around the trailer in my pajamas, gibbering distractedly on the cell phone to people back east. There goes the neighborhood.

Valley of the Rogue State Park.jpg

Such is the trailer life, sometimes. I've wandered around in my pajamas in more parks that I can count. I think all modesty about such things was lost about 18 states back, somewhere in Nebraska last October. I am only glad that the button-down people sitting in their cubicles that I am occasionally chatting with can't see me.

So although today was a miraculously beautiful day, calm and temperate, I spent most of it inside the Airstream. Eleanor and Emma went out to re-provision the trailer, and of course then it all caught up with me and I got a blissful nap. There's nothing better than a nice sunny afternoon nap in the Airstream with beautiful views all around.

June 14, 2006

Oregon Caves National Monument

We've bought our last tank of gas at $3.47 per gallon, I hope. We're in Oregon now, and things are cheaper here. Now, if we could only improve the weather....

The drive on Rt 199 from Crescent City CA was as scenic as I expected, at least through the first 35 miles or so. During that time you are in the northernmost part of the Redwood National Park, and the road winds through the big trees and along a river. Then you move seamlessly into National Forest, which is also terrific. It wasn't as nice as Rt 299 in California, but it was majestic and cool in the fog, and worth the drive.

Once the road crosses into Oregon it is markedly less scenic, since the National Forest ends there and various signs of rural life appear along the roadside. Ten miles later, the tiny tourist town of Cave Junction appears, and the dead-end 17 mile Route 46 that leads up to Oregon Caves National Monument.

Oregon Caves is not a convenient stop, but then, few of the good national parks are. The nearest camping is where we spent the night, at Grayback Campground ($16, no hookups, no dump) in the Siskiyou National Forest. This is 10 miles up Rt 46. Trailers and motorhomes are discouraged from going any further, and taking a 30-foot trailer such as ours up the rest of the road would have been downright crazy.

Grayback river.jpg

Grayback is a very nice place, bordered by a wild river, filled with tall pines and mushrooms, damp and primeval and shady, and normally we would love a place like this. But we've all had enough of shade lately, and so it was hard to get excited about another day in the gloom and cool. Especially since all of us still have colds.

Roth Snail.jpg

Still, it presented me with numerous easy photo opps. There's a particular type of snail that was visible in several places: the Roth Snail. These big guys (about 2" long) leach calcium from the local marble as they march slowly along. They use the calcium to build colorful red shells of calcite for their homes. We were fascinated to see how they can completely retract their stalks and faces when they are scared.

Oregon Caves Lodge.jpg

Seven miles up a very twisty and and narrow road, and a couple thousand feet up, are the Oregon Caves. It's a good tour (free with the National Parks pass, by the way, otherwise $8.50 per adult). But the real gems of the place are the 1930s Chateau and Chalet buildings. These are real architectural masterpieces, made of huge douglas fir timbers and sided with redwood bark. The Chateau, six stories tall, seems to rise right out of the canyon as if it were planted there, and the river that exits the caves runs right through it.

Oregon Caves Chateau.jpg

You can stay in the Chateau overnight. It has more than a dozen hotel rooms, plus an elegant restaurant and a lunchroom. After our 90 minute cave tour, we were hungry and stopped in. (The tour includes 500 stairs, and it's 42 degrees inside, so we had worked up an appetite.) It's a great old-fashioned place to eat.

Oregon Caves Chateau lunchroom.jpg

During lunch, Joe the maintenance guy responded to Eleanor's question about the famous mudslide that nearly destroyed the hotel in 1964. He got into the whole dramatic story, pointing out parts of the Chateau that were damaged. (The building was nearly pushed off its foundation.) It's a great story.

Oregon Caves Joe.jpg

By this time it was 2 pm and the fog had turned to rain. The temperatures never got above 48, so we sloshed back to the truck and drove back down the National Forest campground to fetch the Airstream.

You'll notice we aren't driving the long distances lately. Our longest tow since Reno has been about 100 miles. We don't need to be in Salem until the 26th, so we are meandering a bit. This saves gas money and it's also a lot nicer. Why rush if you don't have to?

So our tow today was only 40 miles or so, to Valley of the Rogue State Park near Grant's Pass, OR. This is a grassy, manicured park with full hookups near I-5 ($20/night). We've selected a quieter site toward the back with just water & electric, and prepaid for three nights. We chose this park because it is convenient to services and along our route to Crater Lake. We need to re-stock a few things, plus I want to give everyone a couple of days to get rid of these darned colds.

I also need to get some work done. We are in the final stages of the Summer magazine issue, and everything goes to the printer on Friday. Once that's done, we'll head up to Crater Lake for the weekend and then up to Eugene on Monday.

June 13, 2006

Rt 199

We are heading off this morning to Oregon Caves National Monument. The route takes us up 101 to Crescent City, where we were stuck last November for a few days when our kitchen faucet began leaking. Then we'll cut northeast on Rt 199 into the lower end of the Klamath Mountains and then into Oregon. It should be very scenic. Route 199 even has its own website (although it seems to be down today).

We had considered going up 101 into Oregon along the coast, but decided against it for a few reasons. (1) The weather along the coast is going to stay cool (60s) and cloudy for a while. (2) We know from going south on 101 last November that there's very little Sprint coverage along the coast and that means no Internet, for us. (3) The inland route along 199 brings us to stuff we haven't seen before, and sets the stage for Crater Lake National Park, which has been on our "to-do" list for a while.

Pronunciation lesson: Being from the northeast US, we say "ORE-uh-gone" but the locals harass us for it. The local pronunciation is "ORE-ee-gun". Everybody practice -- we'll be there for nearly a month.

I can see from the network coverage maps we won't have Internet tonight. So this is all the blog entry I can do until we drive out tomorrow and cross I-5 around Grant's Pass. Stand by. There should be some good pictures coming out of this overnight stop.

June 12, 2006

Under the weather

Klamath coast.jpg
The foggy coast near Klamath, CA

Yesterday had patches of sunshine amidst the fog, but today has to be one of the most blah days we've had in months. Predictably, the north coast of California is foggy, but today it has been rainy too. Normally that would be no big deal for us, but everyone is feeling some degree of illness today. The cold Emma caught has affected everyone to a certain extent.

Klamath view.jpg
A sunny moment from the 4-mile "Seaside Drive".

Rich C and I went out this morning in the cool rain to scrub the bugs off the trucks and the front of the trailers. Looking at the bugs smashed on the front, the word "carnage" came to mind. Plus the trucks were still coated with green pollen from Lake Almanor. We got the rigs clean but both came away feeling unusually tired. I stayed in the rest of the day catching up on desk work while the rain dripped down.

However, you need a "down day" in this life once in a while. In addition to getting some work done, this has given us a chance to do some trip planning. We've worked out several alternate routes through Oregon, which we can choose according to how everyone feels from day to day. If we're congested and having trouble equalizing, we can take the coastal route. If people are feeling good and the weather is right, we'll head inland to Crater Lake. Either way, we'll end up at George M Sutton RV in Eugene in a week or so for some service and a visit.

We are planning to arrive at the International Rally on the 26th. During the rally, we will be reporting on certain events at the rally that blog readers have asked about. This includes the vote on the club's name change, and any action on the Base Camp debate.

Tomorrow we plan to start heading north again, and hopefully into some nicer weather. The next anticipated stop is Oregon Caves National Monument.

June 11, 2006

Klamath, CA

Our Internet connection (via Rich C) was not available most of the time due to a very poor signal, so I couldn't update the blog until we pulled into this campground about 80 miles north of the state park. We've got wi-fi here, although as usual I wouldn't be able to access it without the range extender in place.

Saturday was a nice day in hobbit-land, among the giant trees. Waking in the morning I had to check the clock to know if it was even daytime, since so little light filtered down through the tree at 7 a.m. it might as well have been night. The photos don't really do it justice, since the camera automatically compensated for the general dimness. But it was very neat to be waking up in the redwood forest. The temperatures were very steady (in the 60s) and I never saw any bugs at all. That's a big plus compared to most other forests we've camped in.

Emma slept 13 hours (a direct result of having a cold) and woke up saying she wanted to just hang out at the trailer. That's pretty unusual for her, so we took her seriously and let her have a quiet morning with Mom. Rich C and I headed out to Fortuna to satisfy Rich's endless craving for Jelly Bellies.

Fortuna Rich candy.jpg

Fortified by Jelly Bellies, we then we hiked an easy 2.5 mile trail in the park, near the town of Pepperwood. There's more than redwoods to be seen. Ever spotted a banana slug?

Redwoods hike Rich.jpg

Redwoods banana slug.jpg
This guy was about 7 inches long.

Emma was the only kid at the 3 pm "Junior Ranger" field trip. She used binoculars and a magnifying glass to learn how to look for animal signs. By this time, I was feeling the effects of the cold (yes, I've got it too now), and headed back to camp for a big nap.

Redwoods jr ranger.jpg

It was starting to get depressing in the constant darkness. It felt like wintertime. Rich C came by and said, "I miss sunshine," so we decided we weren't going to take a third night in the park. But I'm not saying it's a bad place to go -- quite the contrary. It's a spectacular park and well worth the visit. Just don't expect any solar power!

Speaking of which, we arrived at Humboldt showing a deficit of 10 amp-hours on the Tri-Metric (we had regained most of the power we used the night before, during the towing, thanks to plentiful sunshine). By the time we left this morning, we were showing a deficit of 95 amp-hours. We used a lot of power and replenished none of it in the dark forest. But I was interested to see that as soon as we pulled out and into the foggy, overcast sky, we started generating 6 amps. That's not bad for a cloudy day.

101 beach.jpg

Rich C followed us up Rt 101 today, and we made a group lunch stop at the coast. The wind was picking up so Rich ran to get his kite out. Emma helped him.

101 prepping kite.jpg

And now, we are camped in Klamath, only about 50 miles south of the Oregon border. We'll stay here a night or two to catch up on work and see some local sights, then head into Oregon.

101 kite flying.jpg

June 10, 2006

Humboldt Redwoods State Park, CA

I have to say that choose the twisting, roller-coaster road that is SR 299 through California was a great decision. (Rich C says it's a better decision for people with disc brakes, which he doesn't have -- yet.) The road follows the Trinity River past dozens of beautiful campgrounds, river rafting companies, fishing spots, and generally fantastic scenery.

Trinity River.jpg

The water is dam-controlled, and the release schedule called for lots of water last week and this, so river rafters were having a great time. We really wanted to stop and catch a rafting trip, but with our reservations at Humboldt in place, we decided to press on. That's the problem with firm plans. That's why we generally avoid making reservations!

Humboldt campsite.jpg

We swung through Eureka to pick up our mail (a familiar post office, since we got mail there last November, the day before Thanksgiving), and then headed straight down Rt 101, "The Redwood Highway" to the park. It is just as amazing and beautiful as we remembered it.

Humboldt solar panels.jpg

One thing we forgot, however, was how dark it gets in the redwood forests. Rich C arrived ahead of us and scouted out a nice spot for us. (The campground has very few sites that will comfortably accommodate a 30-foot trailer.) As you can see from the picture above, we won't be getting much solar power.

Rich C was shocked at how little sunlight reached the ground. Inside the Airstreams, with the tinted windows, it is so dark we need lights all day long. But just a few hundred feet away in a clearing, brilliant bright sunlight is pouring down. It's strange.

We feel like hobbits in here. It is quiet and primeval in the forest, but also a tiny bit spooky. The scale of the trees and even the stumps dwarf us.

Humboldt Emma tree.jpg

We are pretty sure we are going to reserve a third night (Sunday) so we have plenty of time to hike and explore the area. But that's going to be the limit. Rich C came over this morning to say, "I like it here, but if we spend too many days here I'm going to get depressed [from the dark]!" which is pretty much what we all were thinking.

Last night we did a short nature trail hike (0.6 miles) and checked out the excellent Visitor Center, and today we have a couple of hikes in mind. Rich C wants to go get a re-supply of his Jelly Bellys (jelly beans) today, and we might even go check out a light house. We're winging it.

This blog entry comes to your courtesy of Rich C, which spent half an hour last night wandering around the campground with his cell phone to find the best signal. He lucked out and got online, and I'm stealing his wifi signal from 200 feet away, with my Linksys repeater running off an inverter in the Nissan. That means I should be able to update the blog again tomorrow.

Humboldt redwoods.jpg

June 08, 2006

Douglas City Campground, CA

Our travels have taken us west down the twisting forest roads from Chester, CA, past the still-snowbound Lassen Volcanic National Park, and descending eventually down to the Sacramento Valley. We would have loved to stop at Lassen, but the roads are not expected to be plowed until July. At last report, there was still 15 feet of snow in one of the parking areas.

Poor Emma has caught a cold, apparently from her days of kid interactions on the inflatable slide in Reno. It showed up yesterday, and caused her plenty of grief on the way down from 4,500 feet to the valley floor, since her ears were slow to equalize. We had to take 20 minute breaks at 2,000 feet and 1,000 feet to let her catch up.

But eventually we arrived in the Sacramento Valley. Instead of spending a couple of nights at Lake Shasta, per the original plan, we’ve to go directly to the pacific coast via scenic and exciting route 299 from Redding. This route brought us past the Whiskeytown-Shasta National Recreation Area, and Whiskeytown Lake. It looks like a fantastic lake for boating and quiet recreation, at least mid-week. It is locked in by mountains, like Lake Almanor, and there are numerous quiet coves to explore.

Our destination was further west, past the tiny mis-named village of Douglas City. We’ve found a nice BLM campground for $10 per night (water, no hookups, no dump, scenic river access). The water is high on the river due to planned water releases – part of a program to restore native spawning fish to the river.

Douglas City cg river.jpg

All the campsites are deep in a valley and shaded by 200-foot ponderosa pines, so our solar panels are not very useful, and there is no cellular service at the campground to speak of. But for one night it’s a great stopover.

Douglas City cg.jpg

Coming here reminded me once again how glad I am to have upgraded to disc brakes. Every road we drove today except I-5 was either twisty, steep, or both. The descent into the campground is probably an 8% downhill grade. Unlike last year, I didn’t have to work to manage our limited brake capacity. Now, I just tap the brakes and the trailer stops the truck. It’s a huge convenience when driving in these mountainous areas.

Our next stop will be Humboldt Redwoods State Park for the weekend. On Saturday we will probably do some hiking in the damp, cool, redwood forests. Internet access in the state park is iffy, so don’t be surprised if I can’t update the blog until Monday.

June 07, 2006

Chester, CA

Almanor campsite.jpg

We're all glad we decided to stay another night here. Rich C and I had lighter work days, and we all took off to the tiny town of Chester to explore. It's a cute little town, populated with people who work for the National Forest Service and people supporting the influx of campers who occupy this place seasonally. But other than getting a haircut, dropping the mail and picking up some groceries, our visit to town was pretty quiet.

Almanor rails.jpg

Walking along the abandoned railroad tracks that pass the campground was more fun, in a way. The tracks lead past a place where eagles and turkey vultures circle overhead all afternoon, looking for dead carp by the shoreline. Then the view opens up to the expansive Lake Almanor, with fly fisherman and mountains in the distance.

Lake Almanor.jpg

Lake Almanor feels like the northeast forests of home. We can imagine being in the Adirondacks, except that the pines are much bigger (ponderosa pines), towering over us like redwoods. It's a pleasant place to be, except for the thick yellow pollen that has coated everything. (Fortunately it doesn't seem to be bothering Eleanor unduly.)

We'll be leaving tomorrow, to start heading west to the coast. We've decided to make an overnight stop at a National Forest campground about 100 miles from here, and then spend the weekend at Humboldt Redwoods State Park. We may be out of touch again due to limited cellular coverage, but I'll update as soon as possible.

Almanor library.jpg

June 06, 2006

Lake Almanor, Chester CA

It is beautiful here, but I hardly saw any of it today. Neither did Rich C. We spent the day hunkered down in front of our laptops, working on various projects. My major breaks were taken when I had phone calls; then I was free to wander around the campground while talking.

Emma was working too. She was practicing reading with Eleanor, and around lunchtime she came and read me a short silly story about ducks in a tub. So we all made progress on something.

We did get a nice family walk (with Rich C) along the shore around 7 pm, after grilling some dinner outside. We saw eagles soaring in slow circles above the shoreline, and watched the beginning of the sunset over the water. This really is a great and peaceful place to camp.

Given that (a) it is gorgeous here by the shore of Lake Almanor; (b) we're having great weather (dry, sunny, 70s); (c) we aren't in any hurry, we have decided to stay one more night. Tomorrow I hope my phone won't ring much and there won't be any problems with the website or store ... so I can take a day off to explore the nearby town of Chester and get you some photos of this really great spot.

June 05, 2006

From Reno to Lassen National Forest

We pulled out of Mountain Family RV this morning. Staying with the crew there was fun but we are heading northwest toward our eventual rendezvous with friends at the International Rally. So it was time to start moving again.

I forgot to mention that practically next door to Mountain Family RV is a famous old hot springs resort, called Steamboat Springs. This part of Nevada is riddled with hot springs, and this resort is a great example of the old-time style that went with "taking the waters." I can imagine dropping off an Airstream for service at the dealership and then riding over to the mineral baths for a relaxing soak. We didn't do it only because we were busy ... although I have to admit a $16 bath seemed a bit expensive.

A blog reader asked today to tell a bit more about our wi-fi range extender. I'm using the Linksys WRE54G. It's about $90, and I've seen them at Staples, OfficeMax, and Wal-Mart. It needs AC power, which is a shame, but otherwise I love it. You just take it within range of the wi-fi hotspot you want to extend, press one button, and it locks onto that network. Blue lights on the top tell you when it is locked on. That's it. The wi-fi hotspot will appear exactly as it should, only with a strong signal. With this, I can easily get onto networks that would otherwise be out of range in my trailer.

The only catch other than the need for AC power is that it doesn't work very well with encrypted networks. It can be done, but it's a pain. I recommend it only for extending networks that are "open" (unencrypted). I'm using the repeater today, since my Sprint cellular Internet system doesn't work here, and Rich's Verizon Internet system is working.

Lassen North Shore CG.jpg

Where is "here", you ask? We are in a very nice campground at about 5,000 feet on the north shore of Lake Almanor, under towering ponderosa pine trees. The lake is a striking blue (from a distance), ringed by green mountains with snowy caps. The water in the lake is frigid, of course, but who cares? It's beautiful. We were going to stay one night, but since we have Internet and phone, we'll probably stay longer. I've got work to do but at least Eleanor, Emma, and Rich C can have fun. Right now they are at the water launching boats made of driftwood. I'll join up tonight for the cookout.

Lassen lakeshore.jpg

June 04, 2006

Happy Campers

Two of our favorite things are meeting happy new Airstream owners and meeting blog readers. Today we had the pleasure of both. Blog reader Ned came by to talk about his plans and ideas for post-retirement travel. He's already got an Airstream (Safari 25) but not enough time yet to go where he wants to go. Still, he had a few good ideas for us, which we will check out along our route tomorrow.

Reno Ned Hartpence.jpg
Ned signs the guest book

Emma spent much of the day bouncing down the giant inflatable slide with a bunch of other kids. Running up the steps to the top is serious work (I know, I did it a few times myself). So while she had a great time, she came back completely wiped out.

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Then we met this happy family, who just bought a new Airstream Safari Special Edition 25FB at Mountain Family RV this weekend! They'll be taking delivery on Wednesday. We spent an hour talking to them about everything Airstream related. (I'm embarassed to say we never got their last name -- so when you guys read this, be sure to send me an email, OK?)

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Thus winds down our visit to Mountain Family RV, and to Reno. We'll be heading into California tomorrow, with Rich C leading the way. We've discussed a few campgrounds we'd like to visit, and he'll pick one out as he drives through the Plumas County area, since he will be hours ahead of us. We'll try to rendezvous at the end of the day.

June 03, 2006

Sale Day at Mountain Family RV

We've had a great day here at the dealership. Early this morning a group from the local WBCCI unit (Sierra Nevada) showed up to help out with Mountain Family RV's sales event this weekend, and they brought all kinds of stuff: photo albums of old rallies, cookies shaped like Airstreams, and even a diorama featuring little Airstream models.

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They were set up on tables in the center of a circle of Airstreams for sale, right next to where we and Rich C have parked for the weekend.

The Sierra Nevada Airstreamers proved to be an interesting group, and ready to talk. Most of them eventually migrated over to our trailer to see our floorplan and the upgrades we've done on the trailer. Nobody had seen the Safari 30 "bunkhouse" model before, and several people were surprised to see a two-bedroom Airstream. They also liked the new window we installed a few weeks ago, especially on this 86-degree day.

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Rich holding court with the other Airstreamers. Click for larger

Rich C was kept busy all day. Once people found out he had written a book about mobile technology for RVs, they peppered him with questions. I think he sold half a dozen copies of his book, too. He mentioned that talking all day was exhausting him, and I warned him this was just a warm-up for the International Rally we'll be at in a few weeks.

Emma and Eleanor were gone most of the day, unfortunately. Eleanor needed to go pick up her new glasses at the mall, and with a few fitting problems, it ended up taking hours. Rich and I scooted off to the local Apple store to buy me a new "backup hard drive" (A.K.A. a new iPod), but for the most part we were here to chat up the Airstreamers. We'll be doing more of the same tomorrow.

By the way, since I know some people will ask: I bought the iPod 60 gb model. I immediately loaded it up with a full backup of all my laptop's documents, email, over 500 contacts, my calendar, over 1,000 songs, and about 3,700 photos from our Tour of America. It's a very useful device, providing both backup and easy access to a lot of data that I use daily.

Our trip planning for the next three weeks is roughed out now. On Monday or Tuesday we'll be heading to Nevada City CA, then Lake Shasta, then Eureka (Humboldt County, by the redwoods), and then north along the coastline to Oregon. We also want to go to Lassen Volcanic National Park and Crater Lake National Park, but both of those destinations are still largely snow-bound and both roads and campgrounds aren't yet open. We'll have to take it day by day -- if the snow melts earlier than expected, one or both of those parks may be added to the schedule.

June 02, 2006

Mountain Family RV, Reno NV

Camping at a dealership is always an interesting experience. Today everyone was setting up for a big sale they are having this weekend, so I went out this morning and lent a hand with chairs and giant balloons. I also "tested" the enormous inflatable slide they have set up for the kids.

Rich Charpentier arrived this afternoon and we parked him right next to us. We're sharing a 15-amp power circuit. Neither of us have a water hookup because the water here is not potable. Fortunately, we always arrive with a full fresh water tank.

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Dr. Leary and his new license plate

I met this happy new Airstream owner today: Dr Leary. I bet you can't tell what model Airstream he just bought...

Rich was busy drooling over the new Safari Special 25FB that the guys parked right in front of our trailers. He even went to the point of asking Jon Whipple, the owner, about it, but less than an hour later it was sold to someone else. Sorry Rich, gotta move faster next time!

The wind here is fierce. The people at the dealership say it is typical. South of us is the Washoe Valley, and the winds are funnelled up the valley regularly. When we came in yesterday, there was a sign saying "Strong crosswinds: Campers and Trailers Not Advised". We had no trouble, but since then we've been told that often the road is closed to high-profile vehicles due to wind. In any case, we've had to keep our awning in the short "rally" position, and close it at night.

Eleanor and Emma went out shopping for a while. Eleanor needs new glasses and Emma needs new shoes. I hung back to do some work. We've got wi-fi here courtesy of the dealership, and I want to make the most of it. I'm using the wireless repeater that I bought in Myrtle Beach, to extend the signal from the main building, and it is working well.

Tonight's movie: Chicken Little. I made the popcorn. We also spent some time planning the next few weeks of our trip, and I hope to have that nailed down tomorrow. I'm emailing people along our route tonight to get suggestions and courtesy parking. With all that, the great Uno re-match that Emma and Rich C have been waiting for has been postponed to Saturday.

New photos!

I'll do a more comprehensive blog of our day later, but for now I just want to mention that I have had a chance to update our photo album with dozens of new photos. We've got images from Zion National Park, Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, Sedona, and other western spots. See

June 01, 2006

Reno, NV

Our stop in Mammoth Lakes, CA was short but marvelous. The National Forest campground is right off the main road, and it was peaceful last night among the giant ponderosa pine trees. The sites are a little small for a truck and 30-foot trailer, but in the group camping area the camp host pointed us to a spot that was just fine.

The heat of Death Valley finally left our trailer and possessions by about 4 a.m., and the furnace, which I had set at 65, kicked in. This morning we awoke to glorious Sierra Nevada views, and since we weren't in any hurry to get up to Reno, we took the time to have pancakes for breakfast. I got a little work done and Emma did some homeschool work too.

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The National Forest campground in Mammoth Lakes, CA. Click for larger.

I met some local folks at the dump station -- of all places -- and they told me the snow usually melts by August. Skiing is possible right up to the fourth of July. Even now many roads west are closed because they haven't been plowed yet. This winter the Sierra Nevadas saw a record snowfall that may make the closures longer than usual: 52 feet of snow! No wonder it takes a while to melt.

Route 395 north continues to be amazing, in terms of scenic splendor, isolation, and gas prices. We successfully bypassed a few stations charging up to $4.00 per gallon for regular unleaded, until we found a casino near Topaz Lake selling gas at $3.09.

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Mono Lake, in California. Click for larger.

Along this route you'll pass in and out of the Toiyabe National Forest. There are many campgrounds to try if you have time, several of which are along the river. We stopped to dip our hands in the water and it was frigid from the snowmelt.

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Click for larger

And now, here we are at our stop for the weekend, Mountain Family RV. Jon Whipple owns this Airstream dealership, and extended the invitation for us to courtesy park, several weeks ago. I finally met him and his wife for the first time last week in Las Vegas at the dealer meeting. Apparently we are the first people ever to courtesy park at the dealership, which thrilled some of the staff. So they've rolled out the red carpet and we have a spot right up front with electric and wi-fi next to six of the Airstreams for sale.

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Our spot at Mountain Family RV. Click for larger

Tonight we are just settling in, with a couple of steaks on the barbecue and a nice sunset view. We'll be here through Sunday. Rich Charpentier is going to meet us here on Friday or Saturday, and then we'll be caravanning together into California and Oregon for a few weeks. If you live in the area, be sure to come by and meet us before we head out on Monday. Our doors will be open all weekend, and we are looking forward to meeting some local Airstreamers.

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