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Archive for October, 2006

Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel

Well, not quite as much progress as I expected yesterday, but in keeping with our new “go slower” philosophy, that’s OK.

Before we even left Onley I got a couple of calls with urgent business that mandated me finding an Internet connection right away. Sprint had no coverage at the house, so we pulled out and started war-driving. That means Eleanor had the laptop open while I drove, and when we spotted a likely location for open wi-fi, I slowed down while she monitored signal strengths.

Eventually we settled at the clam shack (mentioned in my previous post). Unfortunately, there were programming problems on some of our new back-office software and other delays that kept me there for hours, working with our programmer in California. Eleanor said she didn’t mind and Emma stayed busy, so I sat until I got as much done as I could, and then we headed out again. At that point it was nearly 4 pm, so our plan to drive to Kitty Hawk NC yesterday was blown.

We decided to just cross the bay and then camp in Virginia Beach at First Landing State Park, where we are now. This shorter trip gave us time to enjoy the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel, which is really amazing. Driving it with an Airstream is no big deal, except that the winds were blowing fiercely today. Our rig handles very well with a cross wind, fortunately. I have to give the Hensley hitch most of the credit for that.

The route goes like this: bridge – natural island – bridge – tunnel – bridge – tunnel -bridge. It’s about 17.6 miles in total.

Chesapeake islands.jpg
Looking from one island to the next. Between is one of the two tunnels.

We stopped on one of the man-made islands that connect the tunnels and bridges for a few photos, but the wind was unbelievable. The Airstream was getting hit broadside and rocking like the top car on a Ferris wheel. I would have been tempted to park overnight with stabilizers down, just for the experience, but parking is limited to 7 a.m. -7 p.m.

Chesapeake parking.jpg
The trailer got coated with salt spray even this far from the water!

I’ve got business calls all day today, so we’ll be parked here in the state park two nights. We are waaaay behind the schedule I thought we’d keep, but so what? Our only real deadline is to be in St Augustine FL for Halloween (so Emma has a place to trick-or-treat) and Orlando by Nov 2. Eleanor and Emma will explore the beach.

Solar-wise, we didn’t do very well yesterday. It was partly cloudy all day, and combined with the low sun angle this time of year, and my hours of work on the laptop, we netted only about 25 amp-hours in the batteries. That would be fine to extend us a bit, but not sustainable over more than a few days. It doesn’t matter today because the state park has electric, but in the future it seems we need to get our furnace use under control.

I’m thinking we will need to install a catalytic heater, which uses no electricity. I’ve owned two of them (in our Caravel and in Vintage Thunder) and they are great. The only problem is finding the right place to mount it.

Finally, a shameless promotion. Check out this video on, entitled ” ‘Dog’ Sledding”. It comes from my brother’s company that makes the Hammerhead sled. (I co-founded the company with him in 2003.)

The sled has been picked up by Hammacher-Schlemmer, LL Bean, REI, and many others but still nobody seems to know about it. So he made a video of the Hammerhead in action, which is pretty fun to watch. Check it out if you’ve got broadband. We’d like to sell more sleds this Christmas!

Onley, VA

From the congested and complex highways surrounding our nation’s capitol, the road has given way gradually to the smooth and quiet Route 13, which beelines down the Delmarva peninsula. Escaping the frantic and seemingly endless suburbia of the Baltimore-Washington corridor has also yielded other benefits: the road is more scenic, we are less tense about driving, and gas prices are lower. Yesterday we filled up for $1.98, the lowest price we’ve paid since we started our Tour in October 2005.

In short, while we’ve all loved the visiting we’ve done over the past weeks, it’s nice to be out in the more rural areas on our own again. Now the little things feel like adventures: the long toll bridge to the eastern shore of Maryland ($7.50 with our Airstream), passing through the small towns (every one of which has an “historic downtown”), even the indescribable stink of the Tyson and Perdue chicken processing plants further down the peninsula.

Last night we enjoyed one of those most sublime boondocking situations. We are parked behind a very old empty house in a rural part of town, bordering nothing except open fields and forests. It is wonderfully quiet here, with not a sound except the breeze in the trees and a few birds talking about the coming winter. Because the house and trees completely hide the Airstream, no one knows we are here except the owner, who lives in New Jersey, and a hunter who happened to be parked on the land when we arrived.

Onley VA.jpg

We are here to check out an Airstream, a rather old one that I am going to buy. It’s a 1953 Flying Cloud. The 80-year-old owner has had it stored here for 20 years, and it has not moved in at least seven or eight years. This means two things: it is still in remarkably original condition, and it is definitely going to be a challenge to get on the road again.

When we arrived I spent the last two hours of the daylight carefully photographing the trailer inside and out. It has been unfortunately modified with modern clearance lights on the outside, meaning a few holes will have to be filled with rivets later, and there is a partially crumpled rear dome, and some deep gouges along the curbside affecting the door. Other than that, the body is very nice.

Inside, it is amazingly original, including the floor, cabinetry, and kitchen. The ceiling has been repainted white (over the original Zolatone “splatter” paint), but that’s not unusual. The layout is a very unusual rear bedroom with a narrow side bath & shower arrangement that I’ve never seen before. The bath and shower are separate and only about 2 feet wide, placed longitudinally along the streetside, one in front of the other. They are separated from the bed only by curtains. The front is the typical Flying Cloud layout with a center table that folds down to create a wide-open living area.

The trailer has been used to store things, so the interior is cluttered to the point that I can barely stand inside to take photos. Every closet and cabinet is packed to the brim, making close inspection difficult. But from what I can see, the trailer is in good condition ““ for 53 years old! It will need considerable renovation to be useable, but I can see the potential.

Being the first night we haven’t been able to plug into house power in many weeks, we are now testing our solar electric system under Fall/Winter conditions. Last night we were flagrant with the power use, watching three movies (Emma watched Disney’s “Return of Jafar” and Eleanor & I used a laptop to watch “Double Indemnity,” the classic film noir directed and co-written by Billy Wilder, then after Emma was in bed we stayed up late to watch “The Fifth Element”), using lights and water pump extensively, and running the furnace to chase off the 50-degree temperatures outside.

As a result, at 8:30 a.m. the Tri-Metric shows we have consumed an incredible 83.7 amp-hours! That’s about 1/3 of our total capacity with four batteries, and about half of our maximum useful capacity. I doubt we will be able to recover that amount of power in one day. This time of year, in the east, there are more clouds than sun. I will be satisfied with regaining about 40 amp-hours today, and even that will be a challenge.

Part of the reason is that I expect to be underground part of the day. We are only about 30 miles from the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel, one of the most fascinating pieces of engineering in the world. We’ll drive through that, and then come down through Virginia along a scenic parkway, and stop for a seafood dinner or lunch. With luck, we’ll end up tonight on the Outer Banks of North Carolina near Kitty Hawk. Today will be a really fun driving day.

VA clamshack.jpg

This blog entry is posted courtesy of The Great Machipongo Clam Shack, right along Rt 13 in Nassawadox VA (26 miles north of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel). Colin Hyde tipped me off to this place. Free wi-fi in the parking lot, plenty of RV parking, and great food! I had the “lump crab cake sandwich,” Emma had steamed shrimp with apple sauce and a granola bar, and Eleanor had flounder stuffed with shrimp and crab on a sandwich roll. We also got a corn and shrimp chowder with roasted red peppers and spicy seasoning, to share. Mmmmmmm…. we’re planning to order some seafood frozen for later, too.

Museum of Natural History

We took the morning slowly, to catch up with things before heading out to be tourists again. I caught up on some work items, Eleanor did the laundry, and Emma slept in until 10 a.m. At noon, we met up with Bobby, Danine, and Elisa for another trip into Washington DC. This time our goal was the Museum of Natural History, located on The Mall.

Wash DC Smithsonian.jpg
The Smithsonian visitor center

The Museum of Natural History is filled with things kids like: animals, dinosaurs, insects, colorful stones, and skeletons. So we had no trouble keeping the two girls entertained for hours.

Wash DC Natural History.jpg

This is our last day in the area. Tomorrow we’re heading down to Cape Charles, south of the eastern shore of Maryland. We had one last dinner with our new friends and said goodbye. But I’m sure we’ll be seeing them again, hopefully in their own Airstream next year!

Smithsonian National Zoo

Our trailer has been invaded by little girls lately.

Falls Church girls.jpg

These are all local girls playing with Emma in her bedroom area in the Airstream. They seem to really like the cozy little space in the back, with all of Emma’s toys, white board, the bunk bed, and her various collections. After school on Friday they all showed up and piled in. It’s interesting to see how readily kids take to the trailer. I’ve never seen a kid who didn’t love it.

I think Emma would say that a day at the zoo with another six-year-old girl is the best way to go.
It was pretty fun for us adults too. The National Zoo is, like all Smithsonian museums, free. It’s pretty good, with an extensive new exhibit area called the Asian Trail, and enough creatures to see and learn about to absorb most of a day.

Falls Church metro girls.jpg

For Emma, a big part of the fun was riding the Metro rail system. She doesn’t have a lot of experience with subways, since we usually avoid major cities when we travel.

National Zoo red panda.jpg

The red pandas were only one of the many beautiful animals living in the zoo. I’ll be posting a new album on Flickr with many more pictures, as soon as I can get access to broadband Internet. I haven’t been able to find any wifi from the houses in this cul-de-sac! 😉

National Zoo kids.jpg

The only sour note of the Zoo is the food … I guess they make up the free admission with the food markup. A soda from the machine is $2.50. A hamburger (lacking lettuce, pickles, condiments, cheese, etc.) is $3.25. Movie theater prices.

National Zoo food.jpg

A talk with the scammer

Big things happening on the scam front today. Our scammer started calling Rob around noon. Unfortunately for the scammer, Rob was unreachable until about 6 pm, so the scammer wasted the afternoon calling again and again … eight times in total! No caller ID was available, and we think he may have been using a VoIP (Internet) phone.

Our scammer is a man with a strong foreign accent. He is quite perturbed that he hasn’t received the money yet. Acting as Ayres, Rob told him he was unwilling to send the money via Western Union because he had a police record. Then he said he had lost the transmittal information, and asked him to re-send it.

Then he said the car had been wrecked and asked if the scammer still wanted it. The scammer did assure “Ayres” that he wanted the car. (Let’s keep in mind that we are talking about a 15-year old Honda Prelude with 145,000 miles, which failed inspection due to rust perforation, and now has been reportedly “wrecked.”)

He also didn’t explain how he got “Ayres” phone number. We sent it via email to the “shipping clerk” and somehow “Richard Williams” got the number. Gee, you’d think they were one person!

All told, the conversation took about 10 minutes, and I don’t think our scammer was very happy about it! But the hook is still set deep, and I think we have a shot at occupying his attention for another week or more. So far we’ve wasted nearly four weeks of his time. This started back on September 25.

“Ayres” also mentioned that he was still sick. We think the next step is for him to enter the hospital, before he gets a chance to visit Western Union. Ayres mother, or perhaps his Aunt Abe, will pick up the conversation on Ayres’ behalf.

A new alias

Our scammer is apparently going to emerge in yet a new persona, “Richard Williams”, the husband of “Dr. Lilian Williams”. At 5:31 pm he/she wrote:


Nine minutes later, we heard from the shipping clerk:




And at 10:31 pm last, well past deadline, Ayres got this from Richard Williams:

i am still waiting for the information used to send the money.

Oops, missed the deadline. I guess Ayres can be expecting a call soon. I’d be really impressed if the scammer called up and tried to bluff Ayres further by pretending to be the police, but more likely he’ll call as Richard Williams. Rob will let us know as soon as he gets the call. He’s all ready with excuses for why he hasn’t sent it (he’s worried that the FBI will think he’s a terrorist because he knows they watch money orders, etc.).

Today we are heading into Washington DC with Bobby, Danine, and the girls, to see either the National Zoo or a museum.


Once in a while we meet up with people through the blog or in person, and they give us neat things to take along on our trip. I have been remiss in acknowledging them lately, so I’ll catch up today.

Back in August, I met fellow Airstreamer Robert Stephan (of California) and commented on his cool Airstream belt. I’d never seen one before. Turns out he makes them himself — they aren’t available in stores. A few weeks later, I found in my mail a custom-made Airstream Life belt! Thanks, Robert! What a cool thing to do.

A few weeks ago I heard from blog reader Justin Belmont. He works for a company called Gnu Foods that has come out with a line of fiber bars. Justin sent us a package of these bars, and we all sampled them while driving down from New Jersey to Maryland last week. (It was the most interesting part of the entire trip!)

I’m sure Justin would like me to mention that Gnu Foods’ Flavor and Fiber Bars have about half your daily requirement of fiber, etc. But what the heck — they just taste good. I liked the cinnamon raisin, and Eleanor and Emma liked the chocolate. We’ll probably pick up some more next time we drive by Whole Foods, because they are a very good car snack.

Falls Church popcorn.jpg

Yesterday, when we met Bobby & Danine, the deal was that we were going to have lunch and they would pick our brains about traveling full-time, Airstreams, etc. We didn’t expect them to repay us in any way for this, because we just like helping other people get started on their travel dreams. But they brought a few small gifts that were very well suited to Airstream life: homemade sugar popcorn, kid’s stories on CD, and homemade sugared pecans. More great car munchies!

What impressed me was that even though they weren’t yet Airstream owners, they immediately appreciated what we can and can’t use. See, being in a small space we can’t store much. So portable, lightweight consumables (especially homemade treats!) are really nice gifts for that Airstreamer in your life. I haven’t met the Airstream owner yet who didn’t like to eat.

Today we are all working or schooling, but in a couple of hours we’ll all regroup for some evening fun. Last night we had dinner at Bobby & Danine’s house and it was great. The girls gave us a fashion show right before dinner, which was an amusing bonus. Tonight I have no idea what’s on the agenda but there’s no doubt we’ll have a wonderful time. Perhaps we’ll do some planning for this weekend’s activities.

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