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Archive for September, 2006

Alternative magazine covers

If you subscribe to Airstream Life magazine, you may have noticed that we strive to make every magazine cover “different” and beautiful. It’s one of the hardest jobs in the magazine.

Each quarter, our Art Director, Jim Burns, reviews numerous images to select one worthy of the cover. It’s harder than it looks. A cover photo has to be technically perfect, high-resolution, colorful, and indicative of the Airstream lifestyle or interest area. For the upcoming Fall issue, we have an article on “gypsy caravans, the first RVs” and so Jim wanted to use an image of one of these colorful wagons.

Here’s cover test #1

scaled.Fall 2006 cover test 1.jpg

This reduced JPG is blurry, but you can see it’s a nice colorful image. We almost went with it, but when Jim got the proof back from the printer he felt it didn’t have the quality we needed. The image was scanned from a print we got out of England, and often scans don’t hold up when reprinted.

Here’s cover test #2

scaled.Fall 2006 cover test 2.jpg

This is also a nice image, but the composition is flawed. On the right side, which you can’t see because it is clipped off on this image, there’s half a man. He’s a distraction from an otherwise great photo. So this one was dropped from consideration as well. But both of these images are good enough to be used inside the magazine, and you may see them there.

So what image did make the cut? Our friend David Michael Kennedy contributed a really great photo of himself taken by his girlfriend Heather Howard. They live in a 1960 Airstream full-time and roam the country taking pictures professionally. I can’t reveal it here, but you’ll see it soon enough when the Fall/Winter issue comes out in mid-October!


We’re back to “Cat in the Hat” weather here. I am reading blogs from friends in California, Colorado, and Florida, and all of them are enjoying wonderful warm — even hot — weather. Yesterday it never broke 61 here and rained most of the day. My instincts tell me to flee for the south, because the freedom to seek out better weather is a privilege of Airstreaming. But Eleanor says otherwise. We still have a lot to do here.

Eleanor is starting a curtain project. We’ve never been fond of the curtains that came with our trailer, so she has found something funky to replace them. She’s going to back the fabric with light-blocking material so we can get real darkness in the bedroom when we want to.

She’s also come up with a better solution to our bath mat problem. We bought a small standard rubber-backed bath mat some months ago. But when it got dirty, we found it was very difficult to get cleaned on the road. When we stop for laundry we don’t want to toss it in with the clothes, and yet running a separate wash for it wastes time and resources. Worse, it can’t be dried in the dryer due to the rubber backing, so it ends up wet for days before we can use it again.

Instead, she bought two small towels that match our bathroom decor, and she’s simply sewing them together back to back. This makes them thick enough to serve as a mat and it’s easily washable. I’ll show you a picture when it’s done.

Emma is working on a project today too: making a suncatcher out of glass beads.

Charlotte Emma suncatcher.jpg

One of my projects is to search for things in the trailer we can dump in storage or give away, to lighten our load and free up storage space. The latest thing is my Windows laptop, an elderly Pentium III running Win 98. I kept it only because there was one program I needed to run once every three months for the magazine. I’ve since found a better version that runs on Mac, so the Windows laptop is history, saving us about 6 lbs.

That may seem like a ridiculous economy in an 8000 lb trailer, but every ounce counts. It’s the little things that add up surreptitiously. I like to keep the trailer light. We can carry up to about 2000 lbs (including optionally installed equipment like solar panels and extra batteries, plus fresh water and propane). In reality, by weighing our rig at truck scales every few months, we’ve found that our typical load is only about 1600 lbs, and that’s as a full-timing family of three, running a business!

That’s largely due to scrupulous attention to what we carry. I see people with chainsaws, cinder blocks, hatchets, hundreds of feet of hose, cast iron cookware, solid wood flooring (added in after-market), heavy custom furniture, giant air compressors, full mechanic’s chests of tools, and racks of canned goods. No wonder so many people are driving around with overweight rigs.

Even if you don’t haul a lot of obviously heavy stuff, culling down the excess quantities of lightweight stuff is still important. We don’t carry five pairs of shoes when we only need three. Tools are kept to a basic kit suitable for most situations, not every possible situation. Paper is culled out often — recycling magazines and scanning almost everything else. Even Emma’s rock collection is limited to samples < 1″ in size, and the collection is reduced by half every time she flies back to Vermont. My goal is to take at least 100 lbs out of the trailer while we are here. I think we are probably halfway there.

Solar report: with gloom and rain all day, we captured only about 10 amps all day. Our battery bank is down to about about 57% (reported). In fact, we have more power than that. We initially set the TriMetric monitor to report only about 60% of our actual capacity, so it reads conservatively. That way, we don’t overdraw the batteries. If it hits 50% reported, I’ll probably plug the trailer in for a full charge. If so, it would be the first time we’ve gotten that low since we installed the solar panels and four batteries in May.


Yesterday was one of those fabulous late-summer days in Vermont. We took the boat out for what will probably be the last trip of the year, and my brother Steve went waterskiing.

Charlotte waterskiing.jpg

Steve’s a pretty handy waterskiier, and the lake was almost glassy calm at sunset, so I had the opportunity to shoot some nice photos. I’ll post a few on Flickr. All were taken with the new 55-200 mm zoom lens, using ISO 400 for better stop-action on the water.

These days I’m usually alternating between Program mode on the camera and Aperture priority. Instead of Shutter priority I stuck with Program mode and occasionally spun the command wheel on the Nikon to get a higher shutter speed. (If you don’t have a Nikon digital SLR none of this probably makes sense.)

Charlotte waterskiing splash.jpg

The sunset light made for some fine lighting on the splashing water. I wish we could go out again today but some weather has arrived … rain and gloom. Summer is over up here in the northeast.

It has been cool enough at night (40s) so that we are using the furnace now. We still haven’t plugged the trailer in, and with the gray skies today it will be a test of our battery bank and solar panels to stay charged. So far we have been unplugged for three and a half weeks, a record — but of course one week of that we were not in the trailer. I’ll be interested to see how much solar we can capture today and tomorrow. We may plug in tomorrow if the batteries go as low as 50% of capacity.

Cribstone bridge

I took a couple of days off from the blog, only because we were in that sublime space between being busy and being relaxed. On Sunday, Adam and I took a long walk around the island and stopped off by the famous cribstone bridge that connects Bailey Island to Orr’s Island.

Bailey Island cribstone bridge.jpg

This bridge takes the stress of tides, ice, wind, and vehicles without any fasteners. It’s basically a big pile of stacked granite — the only such bridge in the world.

Bailey Island bridge construction.jpg

It’s quite narrow, and a real experience if you’re towing a trailer over it, as we did two years ago. It’s also the only way to get to Cook’s Restaurant, which is a worthwhile destination for lobster.

Bailey Island Cooks.jpg

Now we are back in Vermont and back in the Airstream. Trip planning is underway for the next six months. Bert & Janie are still planning to meet us in Pennsylvania in a few weeks (right now they are in Maine near Mt Katahdin). Before we leave we will probably go to Colin Hyde’s restoration shop in Plattsburgh to look at the ’52 Cruiser, and Montreal. We’ve also got stops in southern Vermont, Massachusetts, and Maryland, but everything is still fluid right now.

Tin Can Tourists & Tearjerkers

This weekend the Tin Can Tourists, a vintage trailer club of which we are members, and the Tearjerkers, a club of teardrop trailer owners, had a small rally in Scarborough. We headed down there to visit our friends Zach and Deb, who were staying in the rally campground in their Airstream Westfalia.

Scarborough Shasta.jpg
A vintage Shasta trailer

There were probably a dozen teardrop trailers in attendance, plus two Argosies, a 1969 GM bus with over 2 million miles on it, three Serro Scotties, a couple of Bolers (fiberglass trailers), and a few Shastas.

Scarborough Serro Scotty.jpg
1965 Serro Scotty “Sportsman” 15 footer

I was particularly interested in the Serro Scotties, since we have one in storage in New York. This one is similar to ours, but ours is unpainted (called a “silverside”). This one belongs to the couple that runs a Serro Scotty discussion group on Yahoo. If we can get ours fixed up, we can take it to some local rallies next summer.

Camping in a vintage 50s or 60s “canned ham” trailer like this is more primitive than in the Airstream: no bathroom, no air conditioning, limited water, no holding tanks, and very very small spaces. It’s fun because it’s a nostalgic experience, and the vintage canned hams are rolling art. It’s not about creature comforts when you take one of these tiny trailers on the road.

Who knows, perhaps they will see a revival sometime soon. Many of the little Shastas or Serro Scotties (or other trailers made by one of a hundred other manufacturers who thrived back then) are so light and towable they can easily be hauled by a small car.

Bailey Island lobster rolls.jpg

This evening Susan made lobster rolls for everyone from the lobster collected yesterday. Fabulous! Dessert was Eleanor’s classic Tiramisu. We’re eating awfully well this week, and the best part is that we have plenty of leftover lobster for tomorrow. Hmmm…. lobster omelettes, or another round of lobster rolls for lunch?


Going down to the dock to buy lobsters off the boat is just about as classic a Maine experience as you can have.

Bailey Island harbor.jpg

We headed down to the tiny harbor 1/2 mile from here, where the boats come in to Glen’s Lobsters every day after checking their traps all around the island.

Bailey Island lobsters uncooked.jpg

We bought six 1-1/4 lb lobsters right off the boat for $42. The guy who sold them to us wasn’t sure if we had five or six in the bag, so we let them out in the bed of his pickup truck to re-count.

Bailey Island steaming lobsters.jpg

Adam has an outdoor lobster cooker, powered by propane. We steamed them in a stainless basket. This looks like a good accessory for our Airstream … if I could find a place to store it!

Bailey Island lobsters cooked.jpg

Then Adam placed them all on the deck to cool, like fresh-baked pies …

Bailey Island cleaning lobsters.jpg

… and not long after, Eleanor and Emma helped pick out all the meat. We’ll save it until tomorrow, for a special dinner. This weekend both Adam & Susan and Eleanor & I will be celebrating our anniversaries. We’ve been married 13 years.

Bailey Island moonrise

Remember last night when I mentioned the moon rising over the Atlantic? Tonight I got a picture of it.

Bailey Island moonrise.jpg
Click for larger.

Little of note has happened today, but Bailey Island continues to delight the senses. In the evening I always notice the sound of the waves on the rocky shore. Every morning I open the sliding glass door and smell the sea air. During the day the seagulls screech overhead, the sun warms our little cottage, and a slightly damp sea breeze ventilates.

This cottage has no insulation, so we feel the change of temperature through the day. It reminds me of old Adirondack camps that I’ve visited — creaky floors in the morning, and the outdoors just a thin board away as we sleep. The sensations are a lot like camping, which is probably why we like it.

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