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Tent economics

Back in the old days, way before we owned an Airstream or produced a child, Eleanor and I were backpackers and frequent tent travelers. We had a well-honed system for cheap national travel. We’d find a discount air fare to some place with good weather, and fly there with a giant six-foot duffel bag stuffed with camping equipment. The black duffel bag always looked like we were transporting a dead body, but in those pre-9/11 days nobody really took much notice of it.

Once we landed, we’d rent an economy car and drive to the nearest national park for a few days of tent camping. We visited the Everglades, Big Bend, Death Valley, and Great Smokies national parks this way, plus Anza-Borrego Desert State Park. We also drove to northeast destinations for tent camping, including many trips to New Hampshire, plus a few to Acadia National Park in Maine and one really memorable trip to Gros Morne National Park in Newfoundland.

In recent times I’ve pulled the tent out of storage and used it, on average, once a year. Last year I used it three times: to attend the Region 1 Rally in Bondville VT, on the way back from the International Rally in Perry GA, and once here in Vermont on the lawn. Each time I set up the tent I’m filled with nostalgia for all those great trips we took in the 1990s. I love the gear that goes with tenting like sleeping bags and camp stoves; the gas lantern hissing and the sounds of the nighttime forest; even the smells of slightly musty tent, burned-out campfire, and leftover bug spray.

When we travel in the Airstream we travel luxuriously by any standard. We sleep on comfortable beds, cook in a full kitchen, shower in hot water, and have everything with us that we ever need. With all those luxuries it’s a novelty to get back to the basics — a novelty I know a lot of RV’ers never want to experience again. But I do.

What a paradox it is that when we have very little we want more, and when we have it all we seek the simplicity of having less. In our 30-foot home we have parked in every conceivable environment in North America (desert, rain forest, beach, tall mountains, low valleys, urban parking lots, rural fields, etc), and usually the aluminum walls keep us appropriately insulated from the environment in a way designed to ensure our comfort. Yet there are times when I want to hear the rustle of trees whispering in a light summer breeze at night, and when I want nothing more than a few microns of coated nylon taffeta and a screen between me and the morning dew.

Last year we traveled around the mid-section of Arizona, and I was struck by the beauty of the national forests in the higher altitudes around there. It was then that I started to think about keeping a minimal set of tent camping gear in the Airstream, so that on occasion we could hike off into the woods and spend a night or two far from any campground.

The spike in fuel prices lately has given me cause to get more serious about that mission. We are revising our travel plans, as are many other people. This fall we plan to take a few weekend trips with tents only, in the little Honda, and save the Airstream for the longer trips. This should allow us to travel as much as we want around the southwest, while cutting our fuel expense.

I also have some plans to tent camp around the northeast while we are parked at home base. I’d like to revisit some of the places Eleanor and I traveled ten or fifteen years ago. But we have faced two practical problems. First, our storage space in the Airstream is completely taken up with other things, and second, neither of the two tents we own are large enough for a family of three. So I’ve been shopping for a family tent that isn’t enormous when packed, and I’ve been reconsidering some of the things I carry around in our storage compartments.

There are some things that are sacred in any RV. In our case, Eleanor’s kitchen is untouchable, as is my office (not that it takes up much space), my ukulele, and our snorkel gear. Still, that leaves a considerable number of bulky things that might get jettisoned, including various spare parts, boxes of magazines, and extra clothing that never seems to get worn. If I repack the side storage compartment I think I can scrape up just enough space for a tent, sleeping bags, and a couple of toys like the camp stove.

So on Sunday I took a trip over the local outdoor sporting goods store, and got a good case of sticker shock. At today’s prices, the camping gear we left in our storage unit (“house”) in Tucson is worth nearly as much as the house. I may have to go back and move it to a bank vault for safekeeping. The short list of equipment I had in mind added up to nearly $1,000 at this specialty store. True, this stuff is of higher quality than the Wal-Mart variety, and if my other gear is any guide, it will last for many years with proper care, but still I had to go home for an iced tea and a good think before proceeding.

When in doubt, head to the Internet for extra info. I dug up my ancient REI member card, checked online at REI-OUTLET.COM and found a good tent on clearance. It’s the same quality as the high-priced stuff but “last year’s model,” and reasonably priced at $99 after all the discounts piled upon discounts. Plus it will fit easily in the side compartment, just behind the water heater.

I also ordered a few other things, such as a pair of Therma-a-rest sleeping pads for Eleanor and I. The rest of the camping gear will come from our storage unit in Arizona, and in the meantime we can cobble enough together from family to go on a car camping trip here in the northeast.

Some people see having a tent as a contradiction to the mission of the Airstream, but I see it as an extension of the mission. To me, having tenting gear in the Airstream makes it a stronger platform for adventure. People carry kayaks, bikes, watersports gear, camera equipment, hiking boots, etc., because they want to experience the world beyond the campground. Having a tent is like carrying around a mini-sub on a cruise ship: now you can see the rest of the ocean. I can’t wait to launch it for the first time.

Farewell, OBX

We’ll be leaving the Outer Banks tomorrow.   I have a pretty satisfied feeling about our visit here.   We ended up spending eight nights, which gave us time to see a lot of the area, and yet we’ve left a lot of exploration for the next time.   Most of the people I’ve talked to about the Outer Banks tell me they come again and again, and never seem to get tired of it.   So we can look forward to another visit someday.


Almost definitely we will camp in the National Seashore again, and we will also be likely to come in the ‘shoulder season’ before Memorial Day or after Labor Day.   The mosquitoes began to arrive with the humidity yesterday, which convinced us that we don’t want to be here with either of those things if we can avoid them.

The Outer Banks have also been good for our budget.   Our eight nights at the seashore cost us a grand total of $160, or about the cost of one night in a local inn. This is one of the reasons why most full-timers come to realize that being “on the road” is cheaper than staying home.   With some courtesy parking next week, and a few inexpensive state and national park campsites, we should be able to offset higher fuel costs and continue to save money.

Interestingly, I keep running into surveys and other indications that RV owners are not shying away from travel this summer.   State parks seem to be as busy as ever.     People I talk to say they are going shorter distances, and in some cases, driving more slowly, but they aren’t staying home.   It’s still a lot cheaper for a family of three or more to travel by RV for their vacation than to fly and get a hotel, as long as they aren’t going thousands of miles.

We would have continued on today but for two reasons.   The weather   forecast indicated a strong likelihood of thunderstorms during the day along our route of travel, and I had a lot of work to do.   We took the day to get caught up, which included Eleanor doing heaps of laundry up in Manteo. Now we are ready to hit the road on Wednesday, and complete the final twelve days of this phase of our travel with clean clothes, sheets, and towels.

As I write this, thunderstorms are rumbling overhead and huge bolts of lightning are striking nearby.   We’ve often talked about what thunderstorms mean to us, in the Airstream.   Mostly our concerns are tornadoes and hail, both of which are spawned from severe thunderstorms.   The current thunderstorms are producing neither, which means we can relax and watch the light show.   If a bolt of lightning were to strike the trailer, we would be well protected by the “skin effect,” which causes the energy to travel on the outside of the metal shell down to the ground.   Because of its aluminum construction, an Airstream is an excellent lightning shelter, much safer than many other structures.

So mild thunderstorms like we are having at the moment are no big deal.   We don’t even have to worry about power outages. It’s a nice change from last week when we were wondering if the trailer was going to fly to Oz without us.

Tomorrow these storms will be only a memory, and we’ll hitch up for points north.   In the next twelve days we have six stops planned, so we’ll be hopping most of the time.   A lot of details are still unresolved, but that’s part of the fun of it, isn’t it?

Why blogs are better sometimes

We are still parked in Frisco campground, National Seashore, town of Frisco, on Cape Hatteras, Outer Banks, North Carolina. Still enjoying the fresh breezes and dramatic view down to the pounding surf. But today was a work day and we didn’t go anywhere so I can’t talk of adventure.

It started off rainy as we expected, and for a while I was a little bit concerned about our power status since I knew I’d be on the laptop all day. But the weather here changes frequently, and the only constant seems to be wind. The rain gave way to overcast, the sun popped out right around midday to pump as much 12 amps into our solar panels, and in a few hours we were again in no danger of running out of power. Then clouds, sun, clouds, less wind, more wind, and now we are looking at overcast again.

Since our only outing was an hour-long walk at the end of the work day, I want to take this momentary pause in our travels to talk about something else entirely. Faithful blog reader and un-indicted co-conspirator Dr. C sent me a link to an interesting article about the declining quality of travel guides. Travel book publishers and authors are facing a challenge to remain relevant in the age of Internet-based information, and this is manifesting itself as increasingly poorer quality information in those books.

The good doctor suggested that our travels would be best presented in book form as a series of trip segments which bridge the gap between guide and travelogue, not attempting to be definitive in any way, but providing value through honest perspective. In other words, refuse to be pedantic or pre-judgmental, and let the reader be the judge of the experience. That’s what I’ve attempted to do here, but I haven’t been absolutely strict about that.

For sure, the RV traveler community deserves better than what it has for guidebooks. On the bookshelves today are an embarrassing heap of seriously outdated titles that purport to tell you how to become full-timers, how to work from the road, and how to camp. Some were written two decades ago and still (despite “updates”) have completely ludicrous advice in them.

I picked up a book about full-timing a few weeks ago which had several pages describing how to have a landline telephone connected to your RV at a campground, which is something few people do anymore. In an update, the book had a couple of paragraphs grudgingly acknowledging that since the book was written, cell phones have been invented and could be used if you were willing to try one of those newfangled “expensive” devices.

That reminds me of the full-timing seminar I went to last year. A speaker was set to talk to a roomful of wannabee full-timers about cell phones. I thought perhaps he was going to help potential full-timers choose the best calling plan? Identify how to use the cell phone to connect to the Internet? Talk about ways to charge the phone when boondocking? Nope, he very carefully explained how cell phones work as if we’d never heard of them before. I looked around the room: every man had a cell phone strapped to his belt already and half of them were texting each other to say, “OMG is this guy killing U?”

Sadly, this is not the exception. It’s the same with mobile technology topics of all types (the exception being Rich Charpentier’s radically different book on mobile technology), but that’s not the only gap. The RV industry has some of the worst guidebooks ever. Most are written as if the only people to read them are retirees, which is ridiculous. (Most of the readers of Airstream Life magazine are still working, so why are so many books pretending that only retirees own RVs?)

I like Mike & Terri Church’s “Traveler’s Guide” series, which is why I carry them in our online store, and the Woodalls/Trailer Life catalogs are good when used as RV yellow pages for finding commercial campgrounds. But other than that, the rest of the bunch really seem to stink. If anyone knows of some good RV travel books, post a comment below so we can all know.

What’s happening to the travel guide industry can be summed up in two words: The Internet. There are now tons of free information to be had, and for all their flaws, blogs like this are giving people a more realistic, more focused, and more relevant view of the travel experience. It’s not about providing great literature or comprehensive listings, but it is about honesty. Even if my experience will not be your experience (and it won’t be, I guarantee), the value is that I gave you a perspective on what lies ahead and let you be the judge of what it means to you.

Paradoxically, by not attempting to be a guidebook, and making no claims to accuracy or completeness, a blog is more useful because it focuses solely on the reality of what happened and what was seen. I won’t tell you the sands are dazzling white if I haven’t walked on them, but I will tell you if I see raw sewage draining into the harbor. Perhaps I can be more useful if I give out less advice and the more impressions. You can compare my impressions to others, and use Woodall’s and the Internet to find the phone numbers.

OK, now two completely unrelated anecdotes to wrap up this blog. First, when you have an Airstream, it’s always open house, and when you have one with big colorful graphics all over it announcing you’re on a TOUR OF AMERICA, it’s even more so. Today I was still in my pajamas at 11 a.m., in fact I was wearing my emergency backup pajamas with the holes in them because we haven’t done laundry in a while. I hadn’t brushed my teeth and was sitting at the laptop intensely multi-tasking while talking to Colin on the phone about Matthew McConaughey’s trailer. Eleanor is drinking coffee in her pajamas and reading an Agatha Christie novel, and Emma is doing who-knows-what. Got the picture?

Now add a “knock-knock” on the door, and the smiling faces of two people we’ve never met (Ann and Fim) saying, “Hi! We’re Airstreamers!”

Fortunately, they really were Airstreamers, evidenced by the fact that they were not at all put off by my attire or the disarray of the trailer interior, and soon were sitting down at the dinette drinking coffee with Eleanor. It’s a commonality to the breed that we are all very comfortable with each other right off the bat. We had a nice visit and gave them the interior Grand Tour, advised Ann on her next Airstream purchase, and exchanged business cards. More new friends!

Second anecdote. I have long wanted to write down all the “Eleanor-isms” that my wife utters. Some of them are just priceless but I never have a notepad when I need one. Yesterday we drove past the American flag here at the campground and noticed it was at half-mast. Eleanor gasped and said, “Why is that? Who died?” I didn’t know. (Turned out it was Peace Officers Memorial Day.) After racking her brain for former presidents who might have died, Eleanor turned to me and asked, “Is Reagan still dead?”

Virtually there


We have left Florida in search of something. Trouble is, we don’t know what. I was hoping that we’d figure it out as we drove, and so far that theory is working. There’s nothing like the threat of having to park by the side of the road overnight to inspire those gray cells that make the plans.

The first brainstorm was to swing by Green Cove Springs, where our “virtual address” is located. We are now, and permanently at 411 Walnut Street in Green Cove Springs. So we towed the Airstream downtown and parked it on this brick paved street to see where we live now.

Except that it doesn’t exist. Somewhere behind the orange car in the photo was 411, but now only 409 and 415 can be found. The left pane of glass of the storefront is where 411 should be. In white vinyl letters on this window appears a message, telling all who come by and gape (as we were doing) that St Brendan’s Isle, our mail forwarding service, is now located 2.7 miles up the highway.

So as it turns out, our virtual address is more virtual than we thought. We pulled the Airstream the requisite 2.7 miles and parked it at the Winn-Dixie next door to a featureless steel office building, where St Brendan’s Isle now processes all the mail of their customers.


So we met three of the staff, and they met us, and they showed us our virtual home. It’s a box with the number 4468, amid the hundreds of other little boxes in the room, but it contained something particularly special for me: advance copies of the Summer 2008 issue of Airstream Life. (Copies went in the mail this week to all subscribers as well.)

This may seem to be a minor event, but it felt sort of important to me. We’ve put faces with the names, which is always nice when you work across cyberspace with people. We’ve made an appearance. We may never get to Green Cove Springs again, but at least now we know what it looks like, and somehow that feels good. It was always a tiny bit uncomfortable having an address in a place we’ve never been.

Having accomplished that first step of our east coast tour, we started thinking about where to head next. (These brainstorming sessions were held over walkie-talkie, since Eleanor was driving behind me with Emma in the Honda.) All of the beachfront sites are booked solid this weekend, and we didn’t want to fight crowds. We also realized that boondocking or overnight parking outside of campgrounds would be much more comfortable once we got further north. Florida is running 90 degrees every day now, and the southeast in general is experiencing the usual humidity. So we decided to put some miles behind us in order to get into some cooler weather sooner, and open up our options.

Tonight we are parked at a Cracker Barrel in Georgia, just for convenience. Keeping the speed down to 60 MPH all the way boosted our fuel economy by more than 10%, but with that and all the stops, we ended up driving until 7 pm. Hopefully this will be our only such stop on this leg of the trip. We are planning to spend the bulk of the trip in state and national park sites. I’ll lay out that plan over the next few days as it unfolds.

Terror in Typhoon Lagoon

It is always hard for me to write about a day at a theme park (not that we visit them all that often), because the inherent design of theme parks is to give a uniform experience. One day is very much like another in a theme park: same sights, same sounds, same surprises, same friendly staff as the previous visit.

It’s not a bad thing at all, but it is very different from what we encounter in the “real world.” Out there, somewhere beyond the boundaries of Disney property, are people who don’t smile when they see you. Some of them have visible tattoos, beards, and opinions. They are the diverse group who make our daily experiences so interesting, and they make good blog fodder for a guy looking for something to write at 11 o’clock at night.

Hence my writing challenge. I could write about the personal impressions I have of this particular theme park, but I was having too much fun splashing around to make many notes, and besides, where would I keep my pen? It was hard enough keeping my sunglasses and sandals on (in fact, I lost the sunglasses twice despite Croakies and was lucky to retrieve them both times).

I could tell you about the very interesting display of bikinis and other assorted swimwear that we spotted, on a widely varied set of bodies, but you wouldn’t be interested in that, I’m sure. Suffice to say that you can’t appreciate the diversity of human beings until you see a few thousand of them parading by virtually naked. The people-watching at a water park rivals The Strip in Las Vegas.

typhoon-lagoon1.jpgA day in Typhoon Lagoon, like we spent today, is designed to be within a very narrow set of specifications. The water is always warm in the slides of Humunga Kowabunga, and the waves in the Lagoon are always six feet high. So our day today was just like the last time we visited that park (three years ago?) except last time we didn’t have an 8-year-old with us.

Which, as it turns out, makes a small difference. The child shrieks with joy after every ride: “That was AWESOME!” And she begs to go on a ride again, thus saving us from admitting ourselves that we’d like to as well. “Oh, you want to go again? Well … OK.”

Fortunately the park was lightly attended today and there were no lines. We rode every water slide two or three times, even the dreaded Humunga Kowabunga, the feared Crushin’ Gusher, the terrifying Keelhaul Creek, and … well, you get the picture. All of the rides were fearsome to Emma before we rode them the first time, then they were old favorites.

In the photo above you’ll note my calm, cool expression, while the two females of the party are engaged in full-blown panic. Emma has frozen with terror, clenching her teeth almost as tightly as the grip on her mother’s legs. Eleanor is screaming (“WHOOOOOOOOA!!!”) either because of Emma’s death grip on her or because we are entering the final chute, preparatory to splash-down in a 84 degree pool. It’s a good thing they have me to Captain the ship and steer it safely to the pool.

Our friends Brett, Lori, Adam and Susan were all elsewhere today. We last saw them at the bus transfer station at Ft Wilderness, and since then I think they’ve been park-hopping. At 5:30 they called and said they were about to watch Arlo Guthrie performing somewhere. I’m sure they will drag themselves in later tonight, completely wiped out and looking forward to tomorrow. I know we are.

Back at the Airstream this evening, we were treated to a visit by new friends Krista and Frank Stanley, who arrived in Ft Wilderness today. Like us, they are traveling in a 30-foot Airstream Safari “bunkhouse” with their daughter Maya. They are two weeks out on their first big trip, and already they’ve figured out that this is the way to go.

Frank is obliged to work at various locations as they travel, so their route is somewhat confusing, but they are making the best of the opportunity and enjoying themselves hugely. We gave them some tips on Airstreams and traveling, and then they went off to the Princess and Pirate Party at the Magic Kingdom. We may see them again before we leave. I hope so. The theme parks are great fun but still the lasting reward — and the part we remember the longest — is the friends we meet along the way.


An “Elfstream” at the Winter Summerland Miniature Golf at Blizzard Beach. Photo by Alice Wymer.

News from the Airstream blogosphere

Our past couple of days in Tampa have not been filled with photogenic events, and frankly I’ve been working at one thing dull thing or another.   As a result we have little to report.   So instead of me telling you what cereal I had for breakfast this morning, let’s hear from a few friends in the Airstream “blogosphere” who we’ve encountered lately:

Bobby & Danine, who we last saw in Tucson a couple of months ago, are up in Oregon after a snowy time in the Olympic Peninsula of Washington.   We were in the same area last October and got lots of rain but nice temperatures.   It seems they got the tail end of winter on their visit, but they survived and I think had a good adventure.

John Irwin, who we saw in Austin just a couple of weeks ago, is back from a Chili Fest rally in Texas, and has filed a report on that.

Bert and Janie Gildart, who we hosted at our home in Tucson last month, were recently at the Outdoor Writer’s Conference in Oregon.   I think they’re heading home to Montana now, but with them you never can be sure.

Rich Charpentier, who accompanied us for several months on the road in 2006, is still settled in Prescott AZ, still living in his Airstream, and seems to be doing well overall despite the occasional health setback.   We’re happy for him and talk on the phone often.

Mary and   Rick Dotson, who we saw in New Orleans a couple of weeks ago when we visited with photographer Rick Olivier, gives her report of that visit here.

Jill Smith-Mott and her husband, who came over to the trailer in Austin for a cookout, are apparently still feeling the aftereffects of having met us.

Jim Breitinger is now off the road after a year of full-timing, and living in Phoenix in his Airstream.   He’s building up a bank account so he can go out again someday, and in the meantime musing on what he’s learned.   I last saw him in Quartzsite in January, and I bet we’ll see him again in 2009.

Bill Doyle and Larry Ko, friends from San Diego who we have met at Anza-Borrego Desert State Park twice, are still roaming in their Airstream regularly.   They have some of the best and most diverse country in their area to enjoy, and they are starting to realize how lucky they are. Their latest report has to do with Earth Day.

Sharon Pienak, who we met in South Llano River State Park in Texas not long ago, is still there awaiting repair of her “Silver Snail” so she can get out on the road again soon.   I have a feeling we’ll encounter her again this summer sometime.

Charon Henning and Alex Kensington, our swordswallowing and fire-eating friends, wrote in last week but neglected to tell us where they are.   I think they are on the east coast somewhere.   We hope to see them   in July at the Vintage Trailer Jam in Saratoga Springs NY.

Rick and Judy Vastine, our Tucson friends and fellow homeschoolers, recently announced that we infected them completely, and they are now owners of a used Airstream trailer!   We are surprised, excited, and flattered that we were able to have such an affect on them.   When we get back west this fall, you can be sure that one of our first trips out of Tucson will be with them.

Terry and Greg, another set of Tucson friends and fellow Airstream owners, are making very good use of their trailer.   They recently visited Rich Charpentier up in Prescott, but that’s only a fraction of their recent travel.   Their goal seems to be to visit every state park that has camping in the state of Arizona and I think they are nearly there.

Roger and Roxie, who courtesy-parked us in Visalia CA last December, just got back from a good trip to San Francisco with their Airstream.   Roger had to mention that he managed to avoid denting his Airstream on his first solo voyage … something I was unable to do!

(Did I miss anyone who has a blog?   Put in a comment if so!)

Here we are sitting in Tampa, taking care of business, and everyone else is out there having what seems to be a more glamorous time, but I’m not jealous.   Sometimes we need some time to “just be“, and this is it.   It’s a nice feeling to read the reports of our friends who are all over the country, enjoying life, and doing well.   I hope they get the same enjoyment out of reading our travels as we do from keeping up with theirs.

Unexpected expenses

When we stop in urban areas for a few days, it’s usually to catch up on errands, maintenance, and practical things like work. Tampa has been a favorite stopping point for us over the years because we have so many friends here, including my associate Brett (I like calling him “associate” because it seems mysterious, like he’s mobbed up). Our friends help us get things done in a hurry so we can get back on the road, kind of like having a pit crew.

This time the major task was to get the “new” old Honda ready for a 1500-mile trek up to its retirement life in Vermont. I thought it was all set today but we got zapped by bad luck. I took it into a tire shop to get two new tires put on the rear axle, and once the car was on the hydraulic life they discovered that the right front wheel bearing was very loose and needed immediate replacement.

Not being born yesterday, I took the car back and did some research of my own, but it soon became clear that they were giving me the straight poop, so back it went to a different shop for the wheel bearing replacement. Once the car was disassembled, they discovered why the bearings were bad: a prior owner had replaced the right axle (half-shaft) with a new one that was slightly too long. They forced it to “fit”, which bent parts of it, and caused the bearings to fail. The cheap car got a lot less cheap today.

Without local friends this process would have taken a lot longer, been much more worrisome, and probably cost me more than it did. Full-timing doesn’t really mean you’re utterly independent of everything and everyone; on the contrary, you’re more dependent than ever, or at least more aware of your dependence. We do get by on the kindness of strangers and friends sometimes.

That, and credit cards. Our expenses are usually moderate, but when problems crop up, there’s nothing like a high-limit credit card and a zero starting balance to smooth out the bumps. I have known a few people who went out on the road without first resolving their financials, and they’ve all discovered that it is a serious mistake. You want plenty of credit handy and as little debt as possible when you drive out the driveway, because like anything else, you need a safety margin.

The unusually high expenses we’ve had lately (tires, car repairs, higher fuel costs) are definitely hurting our budget. When that happens, our answer is to slow down, or pause for a while in an inexpensive place. We can reduce our traveling budget dramatically when we want to. We aren’t forced to drive around at 41 cents per mile.

Still, we have promised to get to Vermont by June. Since we have three weeks to do it, we have some options which will cut our budget painlessly. First, we can look for courtesy parking opportunities along our route, and stay for 1-3 days at each one. Courtesy parking each night is like getting a half-tank of gas free (or at least it used to be, now it’s more like 1/3 of a tank).

Second, we can drive more slowly. At 60 MPH we can cut our fuel budget by 10% or more. I talked about this a few days ago.

Third, we can get to Vermont earlier and start courtesy parking there. If we drive with the minimum number of stops along the way, we can cut a week or two out of the travel plan, potentially saving hundreds of dollars. Eleanor and I will be talking about this over the next few days to develop a strategy.

We could even go nuts and cut out a splurge from our trip plan. The obvious thing here is our upcoming stop at Disney World. But instead of deleting too much fun, we’ll probably take one of the less painful options. Courtesy parking with new friends is always fun. And driving slower is hardly a big sacrifice when riding around in a big comfortable car with the iPod playing and the scenery of America going by.


Trip update: Today Susan and Adam broke off to get to Disney World a couple of nights early. They haven’t been there in ten years and were really looking forward to going. We had taken them to Tarpon Springs a few nights earlier (above), and last night had a big group dinner with all our local friends, so they had some fun in the Tampa area before they left. We’ll catch up with them on Thursday.

I’ve just been working (and wrestling with car #3) for the past few days, so we’ve had minimal adventures. Emma has been working on school stuff with Eleanor cracking the whip periodically. We’re all trying to get things done so we can feel very justified in completely dropping everything for a few days at Disney.

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