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Archive for June, 2008

A six month plan to tour the USA

A blog reader from the United Kingdom wrote to me this week with a question that I often get asked:

My wife & I were wondering how much it would cost to tour the US for 6 months or so when we retire.

People from both the US and Europe often figure that although they can’t quit their jobs and wander forever, they can budget six months or a year for a grand tour of America and then return to their previous lives. Our friends Bobby & Danine are in the final months of doing exactly that.

It’s a good concept, because many people can break away from their careers for a while than can take their careers on the road with them. And as I can attest, it is quite a juggling act to manage a job while trying to get the full travel experience.

Having toured around for three years now (our anniversary is later this month), I’ve gotten a feel for how long it takes to really see something in the USA. Six months is a reasonable amount of time. You won’t see “everything” by any stretch, but you can enjoy quite a few of the highlights of this country.

With six months you can easily drive from coast to coast and back, and have some quality time at perhaps two dozen major stops. Three or four days is enough to enjoy a major national park, and if you really want to dig in for a couple of weeks the option is available just by trading off against some other place. You can also make lesser visits for a day or two to many more places.

The real problem is that many people get out for a six month tour and find they want more. That’s what happened to us. Four months into our six month trip we decided to extend for another full year. Then we did it again, and now here we are 36 months later still living in an Airstream.

In my opinion, a year is much more appealing than a shorter trip. Frankly, if you’re going to take a leave of absence just once in your career, you might as well make it a good one. Will it really make much difference to your career if it is 12 months versus six? With a full year you can experience the northern and southern portions of the country, even Canada, and stay in reasonably warm weather all the time.

Money is the real variable. Our correspondent recognized this, saying:

… we appreciate that there are literally dozens of options that would change one man’s experience from another.

That’s true, of course, but we can offer some generalities to help with the budgeting process. First off, the largest cost may not be fuel. If you buy an RV for the trip and then sell it at the end of the trip, your biggest expense may be depreciation (the difference between what you buy it for and what you sell it for). You can minimize this expense in a few ways.

  • Start with a used RV. It will already have the heaviest depreciation years behind it.
  • Take a longer trip. The longer you own the rig, the cheaper the depreciation cost becomes on a per-day basis, because the depreciation curve tends to flatten over time.
  • Keep the RV and continue to enjoy it on weekend after your trip is over. Then the depreciation cost is factored over your entire ownership period, which could be many years.

Renting is not a financially viable option for long trips. The RV rentals are structured to people going on limited vacations, not full-timing for months at a time.

Fuel is a major expense, but even today it is not a huge one if you don’t drive maniacally around the country. In our first year and in Bobby & Danine’s first year we both hit around 18,000 miles. It was more than we had both estimated, too. It turns out that this country has a lot of nooks and crannies, and so if you just figure 3,000 miles across each way plus a “fudge factor” you’ll greatly underestimate the trip.

18,000 miles over a year is not an enormous amount of driving. The typical American commuter manages 15,000 just going back-and-forth to work and running errands. Yes, at $4 per gallon (and figuring 10 MPG), you’ll spend $7,200 on fuel. But consider all the other expenses you won’t have, that offset it: you won’t spend a penny on commuting to work, you can close up your apartment or house and reduce your costs there, you can reduce to one vehicle (saving insurance and maintenance expense), and you’ll probably buy less “stuff” because you won’t have a place to put things you don’t absolutely need.

After that you’ve got campground expense (very budgetable because you know you’ll need one almost every night), and then you get into personal choices like eating out, going to theme parks, or indulging hobbies.   Maintenance and repairs play a role in the budget but needn’t be huge unless you have a disaster.   The rest is normal things you’d face if you were home: medical care, food, insurance, clothing, cell phone, etc.

Excluding depreciation expense, I would bet most people could take a six month tour of the country for less than $18,000 without any trouble at all.   Consider what a package tour anywhere will cost you, especially on a per-day basis, and suddenly you can see that even with higher fuel costs, a six-month tour of the country might be less of a dream than you thought.

Low voltage

I mentioned last week that the temperature in Vermont in June is unpredictable.   Case in point: last week we had several days of days so cold that I had to run the furnace to keep the trailer warm enough for me to type, and now for the past four days it has been between 85 and 90 degrees at the lake. It’s the temperature equivalent of “feast or famine,” except it’s “roast or freeze.”

The current “roast” phase means the people inland, and especially up in Vermont’s “Queen City” of Burlington, where pavement abounds, are really suffering.   It’s always hotter away from the lake.   We’ve got 55-degree heat sink about three miles wide and 400 feet deep right in front of the house, and it takes a bit of the edge off.   Lots of cool green lawns help too, but the humidity is horrible.   People talk about Florida humidity, and I agree it’s intense, but try a summer in northern Vermont sometime.   I have to be careful not to inhale too deeply, lest I drown.

So today I finally broke down and tried to fire up the air conditioner.   (I’m working in the Airstream all day because it is quiet and free from distractions.) The problem is that we are on the end of a 50-foot extension cord from the garage, and that garage outlet is probably at the end of a long line of electrical code violations.

The Dometic air conditioner installed in our Airstream, and most other late-model Airstreams, requires a minimum of 103.5 volts.   Any lower than that and you’ll burn out the compressor motor, and that’s an expensive mistake.   Last summer I bought a digital voltage meter which stays plugged into an outlet on the wall, specifically so I can watch suspicious campground voltage and find problems before they cost me money.

You might be surprised how often campgrounds have inadequate electrical service, but far worse are the courtesy parking situations.   After all, most people don’t build their homes to with dedicated electrical circuits for visiting RVs, and that means low voltage is often a problem.   Since homeowners rarely have a clue what sort of power they can supply, it’s sort of a “moocher beware” situation.

The problem with the voltage meter is that it can only tell you what the voltage is at that exact moment.   It can’t predict what the voltage will drop to when you put a load on it, like an air conditioner.   Think of voltage like water pressure from a hose.   There might be lots of pressure in the hose when the faucet is closed, but when you open the faucet, the pressure could quickly bleed off and leave you with barely a trickle. Turning on an appliance that uses electrical energy is just like opening that faucet.

So my technique to avoid expensive problems is to switch the air conditioner on and watch the volt meter carefully.   When the A/C compressor fires up, the voltage will drop.   If it drops to no less than 104 volts, you’re theoretically OK (although I am always leery of getting even close to that number; my personal limit is 109 volts to allow for variations in line voltage).     If the voltage is unacceptable, I snap off the A/C switch immediately.

No surprise that today the voltage was ridiculously poor, in fact the worst I’ve ever seen.   The moment the compressor started the voltage dropped to 89 volts, struggled up to about 95 volts after a second or two, and then I shut it off.   No air conditioning for me!

Considering that we are coming here annually and staying for weeks at a time, I could see installing a 30-amp dedicated plug for the Airstream, as we did in Arizona.   But the location of the power meter would require us to bury a new line under the driveway and install a subpanel on a post.   Beside the mess and expense, it would be a big psychological step for our fiercely independent family, since having our own power outlet would almost akin to moving back into my parents’ house. It’s probably asking enough that we are leaving an antique Honda next to their garage for the winter.

And really, all that trouble for air conditioning just for a few days each summer?   Maybe I should just go jump in the lake to cool off.   I’m sure that’s what Dad would say.   He’s probably right.

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.

Whiffleball by the lake

039_12800jack-nicholson-posters.jpgAfter spending all week virtually a prisoner in the Airstream, chained to my computer, I really wanted to get out today. There’s a real danger in being back at our northeast home base. Because I know the area so well, I tend to assume I’ve seen everything and so don’t get out as much as I should. Then I spend too much time working, and by the end of the week craziness starts to set in, and pretty soon I’m wielding an axe like Jack Nicholson in “The Shining.”

Problem is, I had nowhere to go today. So I made up an errand, which was to go the Burlington Farmer’s Market (held every Saturday in the summer) and see if Rookie’s Root Beer was there. Last year I ran into this fabulous home-brewed root beer and bought a cup for $2. I consider myself to be something of a root beer connoisseur, and this was the best I’d ever tasted. Well worth every penny for the cup.

burlington-rookies-root-beer.jpgI pined all winter because Rookie’s has no distribution outside Vermont. In fact, there are only about half a dozen places you can get it: the Saturday Farmer’s Market, and a handful of local restaurants that have it on tap. So today I hunted down Dave Rooke, half of the husband-and-wife team that makes the root beer in their Burlington VT home, and talked to him about getting a supply.

Dave apparently has dealt with requests like mine before, because he didn’t hesitate to invite me to come by his house and bring my own container. He’ll fill whatever I bring, which immediately brought to mind visions of enormous kegs that I would somehow carry across the country with us. Problem is, the root beer has to be chilled at all times, so I can still only get as much as will fit in the refrigerator. Still, I’ll go get at least a couple of gallons, and maybe if I’m feeling generous I’ll bring some to the Trailer Jam for my close friends who also appreciate the fine blending of sassafras, wintergreen, and licorice.

burlington-discover-jazz-fest1.jpgAfter the market, we wandered over to the Church Street Marketplace, only a block away, to take in a few minutes of the Discover Jazz Festival going on all week. That’s quite an event, with bands both big and small, great and not-so-great, playing in the open air for anyone who cares to listen.   Right   up the street we ran into Dave’s wife Jenny, who mans a cart on Church Street seven days a week selling Rookie’s Root Beer (and brownies).   They’re darned serious about their root beer, and Jenny was a treat to talk to.

burlington-color.jpgI should also mention that the Church Street Marketplace is one of the highlights of Burlington VT, well worth a visit in the summer if you happen to be passing through.   It’s colorful, lively, and full of interesting people.   When we were residents of the area, we of course took it for granted, but having been around a few older downtown in the past couple of years, I’ve come to realize how rare it is.   The downtown hasn’t been thoroughly homogenized by The Gap, Old Navy, Barnes & Noble, Starbucks, etc (although some of those stores certainly are noticeable), it retains a lot of local flavor, it is still alive even though big malls have set up shop in the suburbs, and with a four-block brick marketplace instead of the old Church Street, it’s very pedestrian-friendly.

Finally some warm weather has arrived.   The entire week was cloudy, humid, and sub-70 degrees, which is not unusual for northern Vermont in June, but it was the coldest we’ve   been since February.   Grudgingly the cold air has given way to some real heat from the west, and today we got a typical summer day, the “three H’s” as they say here: Hazy, Hot, and Humid.


When that happens, friends tend to gather here, because the lakeside runs cooler and my brother’s Tiki Bar on the beach is open for the season.   After dinner we organized a game of whiffleball on the lawn with two four-person teams.   Emma had never played baseball of any type in her life, so we gave her a quick rundown and she did fairly well, with coaching from Eleanor.

Not that there were a lot of rules to learn — our whiffleball games tend to resemble a combination of rugby and the French Revolution.   Chaos is part of the fun.   One rule we use in short-staffed games (which is all of them) is that you can throw the whiffleball at a runner to tag them out.   In the process of the game we broke one plastic bat and three whiffleballs, two “bases” (upside-down terracotta planters), and had to pause the game for cleanup after Allie the dog left a land mine near first base.   It was a great time.

I think between root beer, jazz, and whiffleball we have officially opened up summer in northern Vermont. The lake is still pretty chilly even by Vermont standards, running about mid-fifties at the moment, but the boat is standing by for deployment and it won’t be long before the watersports begin.   More importantly, today’s activities have driven the “Jack Nicholson” out of me, so I can put away my axe for another week.

“To serve you better”

To serve you better, we are changing the terms of this blog. From now on, all entries will be written in Esperanto, and upside down. This will help you learn a second language, and improve your brain’s ability to process spatial relationships. We trust you’ll continue to enjoy the blog as we continue to improve service to you …

Now, if I really did that, would you continue to read this blog or would you tune out? (That’s a rhetorical question.) Yet many businesses pull that sort of shenanigan all the time. I always cringe when I get a letter from a bank with the dreaded phrase “to serve you better” because that inevitably means “raise your fees,” or “discontinue a service you’ve been using.” I have yet to get a letter from a financial institution with the phrase “to serve you better” that didn’t have some very significant asterisks attached to it.

The latest in a long line of bonehead customer service maneuvers comes from Discover Card. Over the past year Discover seems to have been trying as hard as possible to drive us away as customers, and they’ve finally succeeded.

The first “improvement” in service to us was last year, when Discover announced that they were discontinuing e-billing. For people who are busy, who travel a lot, or who use their computers a lot (and all three of those apply to us), e-billing is a godsend. It means that instead of waiting for paper to catch up with us in the mail, we can use online bill pay service to receive our bills and click-click-click pay them.

Everyone offers e-billing these days. We only have one routine business relationship that doesn’t offer e-bills (the City of Tucson, for water/sewer bills). We get e-bills for our mobile phones, utilities, mortgage, insurance, credit cards, and all sorts of other things. But for some unexplained reason, after providing us with convenient e-bills for years, Discover suspended the service. It was, as they explained at the time, an opportunity for them to improve service to us.

We rewarded that bit of customer dis-service by suspending use of the card. I suggested closing the account at that point, but Eleanor kept it for an emergency.

Now, several months later, they have taken further steps to improve service to us, by changing our account number without prior notice. We received the following blather via snail mail and email today:

We’re now able to offer you enhanced features and benefits as part of a systems upgrade. As a result, your account number has changed and we’ve mailed you a new card that replaces the card you currently carry. If you haven’t received it already, your new Discover Card will arrive soon.

To understand our frustration, you need to appreciate a little bit of how we (and millions of other people) manage their finances. We routinely ask vendors who send us small monthly bills (like Sprint, and Verizon) to bill the charges automatically to our credit cards. This consolidates the bills into one convenient statement, which we pay in full monthly. When the credit card number changes, all of those billing relationships break.

I do this on the business side too. For example, if Bank of America spontaneously changed my business VISA card number, I would have to contact over twenty vendors to update their billing records — or watch all those invoices go unpaid, with the ensuing mayhem. Have you ever tried to contact twenty businesses to update your billing information? I did it in March and it took almost two full days to reach them all. I logged a lot of time listening to Muzak on hold, let me tell you.

(Discover’s letter to us says “we’ll attempt to update your account information with those merchants.”   [emphasis mine]   Will they guarantee we won’t pay late fees if their attempts fail?)

If Eleanor had trusted Discover in the last six months, we might have been facing that exact scenario as a result of this “systems upgrade.” Fortunately, Discover already showed us the color of their stripes last year. We had entrusted them with nothing, thus our loss in this case is zero — and Discover’s loss will be a customer.

I rant about this because there are implications here for those who travel a lot. Traveling means a more complicated life in some ways, and so you need to look for other ways to simplify the routine stuff. In other words, if you are going to be busy enjoying your travel experience, it helps to eliminate the mundane things (like writing checks and fighting with banks). So you need to find relationships with companies you can trust, ones that manage their systems with your interests in mind, not just their own.

By the way, if you’re wondering what improved services we may be missing out on by canceling our Discover Card, here’s another quote from the letter:

Enhanced security monitoring will help detect fraud earlier on your account. And with personal concierge services, you can get reservations to your favorite restaurants, score tickets to exclusive events and more “” all at no cost to you.

Oh joy, just what I wanted … more services I won’t use. And enhanced security monitoring is mostly to their benefit, since by Federal law my liability for unauthorized misuse is limited to $50. But wait, there’s more!

Finally, start managing your account online.
“¢ View your current account balance, rewards account balance, and past 12 months
of transactions by date, amount or category.
“¢ Make online payments, set e-mail reminders, and more.

Uh, Discover … just one question. With all these great new services, will you finally resume providing the one service I really needed — e-bills — again?

Northeast home base

We are back at our northeastern home base, the house where I grew up, lakeside in Vermont.   We are nearly 3,000 miles and two months of travel from our southwestern home base, the way we drove it.

Of course, more lies between the two points than miles and camping nights.   The voyage from one place to another is an experience, different every time we have it, full of people, rich with events.   We could have hopped an airplane from Tucson to Burlington VT.   In a day of travel and one change of plans in New York or Chicago we’d be back, and we would have “saved” two months of our lives.   But what for?   I can’t think of anything I would have rather done with the past two months than exactly what we did.

Our plan is to stay here for two months, more or less.   I mention this as fair warning to those who prefer to tune out when we are parked.   But despite the fact that the Airstream is wedged into the driveway, I don’t think we’ll be just sitting here.   If you’ve read this blog for any length of time, you already know: I’ve got plans …   and even when we aren’t taking the Airstream places we will be exploring something.

I’ve said before that when we see saguaro cactus, we know we are close to home base in Arizona,.   Here in Vermont, it was the distinct and familiar smell of liquid cow manure spread over fields.   There’s nothing quite like it.   Not glamorous, that’s for sure.   Even before the classic view of green tree-covered hills and white wood farmhouses appeared in the windshield, that perennial springtime Vermont smell told us we were home.

A lot of people have never been here, so I’ll tell you a little about it.   In Tucson a couple of weeks ago, the first one hundred degree day arrived, an event the locals refer to as the day “the ice melted in the Santa Cruz River.”   It will keep hitting the triple digits for several months.   In contrast, here in Vermont in early June, the Airstream’s furnace is running to keep the interior at 68 degrees.   The weather is unpredictable: we might get anything from frost to upper 90s, but mostly it is cool. This is a special part of the country with its own climate, not just “New England,” but “northern New England.”

Even though summer won’t arrive for a few more weeks, the good camping season has begun.   In this part of the country, we can’t wait for the peak of summer before getting out to do things.   The summer is just too short.   So campgrounds open up in mid-May when the black flies are also open for business, and close in mid-October when the nights are almost always freezing.   In between, northern New Englanders rush around to get as much done as they can.

July marks the middle of that season, which is part of the reason why we chose July 11-14 for the Vintage Trailer Jam.   I finished my pre-rally work this morning at the Saratoga Spa State Park. Colin Hyde drove down for the morning to join me in meetings with the park’s manager and the director of the Automobile Museum.   Things are looking good.

That park keeps getting better and better.   We’re only the third group ever allowed to camp on the premises (the first was the Boy Scouts).   In addition to all the stuff I discovered yesterday, it turns out the park has a second Olympic-sized swimming pool with a zero-depth entry (“beach”), a water slide, and a kid’s “mushroom fountain” wading pool.   It’s all free to us.   We also picked up a schedule for the Saratoga Performing Arts Center and discovered that the New York City Ballet will be performing.   I’m starting to think that a week in Saratoga Springs this summer won’t be enough time.

One thing I know we won’t be doing this summer, fortunately.   We won’t be spending weeks at our storage unit disposing of possessions.   We finished that job last summer and no longer have a Vermont storage unit. (We do, however, have an Arizona storage unit — it’s called a house.)   I only have one major thing to find a home for: a 1963 Serro Scotty “Sportsman” 15-foot trailer.   It’s darned cute, light as fluffy pancake, and more or less usable, but I just don’t have time to fix it up the way it should be.   I’m going to look for someone who wants it. In this age of $5/gallon diesel, maybe someone will want to tow it behind a compact car.

Saratoga Spa State Park, NY

After a morning of heavy writing and editing for the Fall 2008 issue of the magazine, I broke out of the trailer with Eleanor and we rode over to Saratoga Spa State Park to check out the facilities.   As I mentioned yesterday, this is part of the prep work for the Vintage Trailer Jam 2008.   We’re trying to camp up to 100 trailers, many without holding tanks, in a place that is not designed for camping, and so there are many logistical challenges.

But driving and walking around the park, I was seriously impressed — it is a beautiful park, full of shady picnic spots, handsome brick buildings from the romantic age of mineral water health spas, and lots to do.   It will be worth the effort, I think.

The Saratoga Automobile Museum is just a couple hundred feet from where we’ll be camped, just a hop across a park road.   We’ll be holding our seminars inside that building, so everyone attending the Jam or paying the “walk in” fee will get free unlimited admission.   In fact, they’ll get a year’s membership at the museum.

saratoga-spa-water-filling.jpgAlso right next door to the Jam site a free filling station for spring water.   The filling station has both the “state seal” water that was sold for many years, and mineral water.   That mineral water is definitely an acquired taste, quite strong, but the spring water is delicious. It’s free for the taking, as much as you want, as long as you bring a jug.   (There aren’t any hose connections for filling your trailer.)

The SPAC (Saratoga Performing Arts Center) is a short walk away. There are multi-use trails for cycling and walking, and dozens of acres of open green lawns for picnicking and hanging out. There are two major spas on site, plus a luxury hotel, the Victoria Pool, beautiful and free clay tennis courts, and more.

Just outside the park, about a mile away, is downtown Saratoga. The downtown is exceptionally full of preserved historic architecture, but most of the really good stuff is a block or two off the main street.   We spent a couple of hours walking the area and I was really amazed with the incredible buildings that managed to survive 50’s “urban renewal.”   They are now the cornerstones of a lively downtown, which has great shopping, dozens of restaurants and cafes, free wifi all over, museums, etc. It is a really fun place and worth a couple of days by itself.

The whole city is impressive, really. It has much more in the way of entertainment, attractions, and history than older and bigger towns.   It’s surprising to me that I never discovered it all before, since I’ve driven past Saratoga Springs dozens of times on I-87.   But at least we’ve found it now.


After mapping out routes in and around the park, and other details necessary for people coming to the Trailer Jam, we joined our courtesy parking hosts at a local pizzeria   and then finished off the last of Eleanor’s key lime pie.   It has been a full and productive day, the kind I like, and now that I’ve had a chance to see a little of Saratoga Springs, I’m looking forward to coming back in July.

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