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Final report from Tucson

We are just about ready to launch, and it feels strange. The house is at last usable, mostly. We finally got running water in the sinks just two days ago. We have window shades, working plumbing, beds, reading lamps, and a couch — things that make a house habitable. We have friendly relationships with our neighbors, paid-up real estate taxes, and flowers on the grapefruit tree. So why are we leaving?

Because life is calling. Because we can. There are things out there that we haven’t seen, people we haven’t met, and experiences we can’t even imagine, if we just break away from the status quo, the comfortable house, and the safe backyard, to find them. At any moment something might change to prevent us from being able to get away (school, health, money). We’ve got this opportunity and who knows how long it will last?

But I have to admit that I am sorry to leave this soon. This is one of the perfect seasons in Tucson, and will continue to be for another couple of weeks, at least. The weather has been spectacular, the hiking is prime, everyone’s in a great mood, and there are dozens of great things to do all over the area. I’d like to stay and enjoy it all, and the house, for just a little longer, but choices had to be made and we have already stayed much longer than we had originally planned.

The delay in departure has meant a few things have fallen off our travel itinerary. Padre Island in Texas got dropped. Our service stop in Weatherford TX at Roger Williams Airstream got dropped. We cut a week out of our Florida stopover, and shortened Big Bend National Park from 7-8 days to just 4-5 days. We’ll probably skip right through GA and SC to get to NC’s Outer Banks. You can never escape the imperative of compromise.

Today I completed 90% of my departure checklist and found a little time to do some trip planning. I use Mapquest to rough out the route, then pick out spots we want to visit and people we want to see. I was surprised that I had the temptation to make reservations at various state parks along the way. In the south, it is still high season at many places (through mid-April or even mid-May depending on location), and so reservations aren’t a bad idea. But as I’ve written before, we find that reservations tend to force into an overly-rigid schedule. So I didn’t make any reservations at all.

I think my temptation stemmed from having been off the road so long. Sitting still for a long time, confidence begins to erode and the creeping demon of “What If” begins to invade my brain. What if we get somewhere and the campground is full? What if we are 80 miles from the next decent spot (a distinct possibility in west Texas)? Then I remember, we’ve dealt with those things many times in the past. No matter where we go, we’ll still have our home and everything we need right behind us. We don’t need a campground, we just need somewhere to park. Everything else just adds to the adventure …

… although I wouldn’t mind if our next few adventures involved cool stuff, rather than mechanical problems. I am really hoping for a few months of no tire problems, and no expensive failures. To that end, one of my tasks in the morning will be a very careful undercarriage, tire, and hitch check.

Since I’m on the subject of maintenance, I will toss in an update on our tow vehicle. I get a lot of questions about it from blog readers, and I don’t mention it much because there’s little to say. The Nissan Armada has been highly reliable. We have 63,000 miles on it, of which I estimate about 55,000 miles are towing, and it is still happy. We had the in-depth 60K service done last December and it got a clean bill of health from the dealership. I wish it got better fuel economy (9-10 MPG towing, 15 MPG not towing), but in all other respects it has proven to be a reliable and competent tow vehicle.

However, I should say that for a longer trailer like ours, I think the Hensley Arrow hitch is essential because of the short wheelbase of the Armada (23″ shorter than the similar Nissan Titan pickup). Without the Hensley the handling of the 30-foot trailer was not nearly as secure at highway speeds. I mention this because I also get a lot of queries about our hitch. It has definitely saved us from a few “adventures” of the negative kind over the past couple of years.

Interestingly, Ron Estrada of Hensley Manufacturing told me last December that 14% of Hensley owners had Airstreams. Considering that Airstream is only about 2% of the overall travel trailer market, that’s a pretty heavy endorsement by Airstream owners. Maybe we just like to spend money, but I think it’s because people who appreciate Airstreams also appreciate good design in other things.

If you want one but don’t like the new price, check the bulletin board at a major regional or national Airstream rally and you may find a used one cheap. In Perry GA at the WBCCI International Rally last summer I spotted two with asking prices around $500. That’s a steal for a Hensley.   Of course, at that price I’d expect it to need refurbishing, which I believe the factory will do.

If all goes well in the morning, we will be off around 10 or 11 a.m. Our plan is to keep our drive under 250 miles on travel days, so it will take us two and a half days just to get to Big Bend National Park in Texas. I’ll start providing coordinates of our camping locations again starting tomorrow. Wish us luck.

5 Responses to “Final report from Tucson”

  1. Peter Nault Says:

    Bon voyage and safe travel!

  2. terrie Says:

    wishing you all awesome adventure….hope that you will find lots of music out there….

  3. Lou Woodruff Says:

    Have Fun!!! Leave the stress behind and enjoy the ride together!

  4. John Says:

    Hi Rich, I was told if you leave your home a long period of time,add olive oil or vegetable oil to your traps,aka sinks bathroom prevents your traps from drying out in the hot climate.little critters can come into your home.just a thought, John.

  5. jim Says:

    Hi Richl It also helps if you close the drains off. Just in the rare case if a little creature bypasses the trap. Jim