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Archive for February, 2007


Last night I flew into Tampa and drove down the highway to Sarasota for the Florida State Rally. Pulled in around 12:30 a.m. local time to a fairground packed full of sleeping Airstreams, all gleaming in the dim moonlight.

Salem Airstreams night.jpg

I’ve been told that over 400 trailers are here so far, but that’s not the official count yet. All I know is that they are now parking them outside the fence in an overflow area. It’s a big rally. Surprisingly there’s not much vintage participation this year (maybe 20 rigs so far?), but I expect more to arrive tomorrow.

This is a quiet, relaxing rally, and I really like the mellowness of it. Soft sandy grass underfoot, sunshine above, comfortable temperatures in the 70s, and not much on the schedule. Well, technically there is, but I’d rather sit in Brett’s motorhome with the windows open and the awnings out, feeling the warm breeze and sipping a cold tea. Once in a while I put the laptop away and rode around the grounds on a bicycle to meet up with people.

With that technique, I missed the Opening Ceremonies and a lot of vendor seminars today. Ah well, I’ve seen them all before. I’m here to reconnect with people: friends, Airstream personnel, potential advertisers, and future interviewees. That’s best done at a relaxed pace, dropping in on Happy Hours and sidling by vendor booths.

I have another reason for laying low today, too. Despite not having a cold, I had some trouble on the airplane (equalization again) and now have a left ear full of fluid. It is clearing on its own but in the meantime I can’t hear much on that side. That made it a good day to park myself and do some work. I am going to have to restrict my flying in the future, which will make the Airstream (and occasionally Amtrak) more important as my primary modes of travel.

Vt Emma sledding.jpg

Emma is still having the time of her life up in Vermont: Disney On Ice, sledding on a Hammerhead sled, skating, and visiting friends. I’m glad she’s getting winter activities … and I’m glad I’m not! It’s a good deal for both of us for the moment and I’m sure we’ll be happy to re-connect next week. PS: Eleanor, I miss you too!

Las Vegas layover

Here I am with a two-hour layover in Las Vegas. There’s free wi-fi here so I was able to check my email and get this picture from Emma’s morning.

Vt Emma skating.JPG

Quite a contrast to sitting in the desert. I’m glad she’s having fun with her grandparents.

The pig-out & the close-out

I mentioned I was left with the tough job of cleaning up and putting things away …

OK, so cleaning up isn’t that hard. But Eleanor left me with a pile of perishable food and orders to consume it all before I go — or die trying. That included a large bag of lettuce, two quarts of milk (skim and 2%), a loaf of bread, cold cuts, a pineapple empenada, a bag of grapes, four single-serving cottage cheese cups, a package of large tortillas, and a half pint of heavy cream.

Combining everything into the classic bachelor meal wasn’t appealing. Well, maybe with peanut butter, but I didn’t try it. So each day I have eaten a seemingly random mish-mash of whatever appeared it was going to mold first. Reminds me of college days.

I wasn’t fast enough for the tortillas. They turned to something resembling blue cheese in the past few days, and even I wouldn’t eat them. Besides, something microscopic was obviously eating them already.

It has been an interesting challenge to come up with ways to use up food when I have no known cooking skills. Combine the cream with the skim milk (isn’t that just like whole milk then?) and add some chocolate syrup — voila! A way to drink a quart of milk in one day! And I’ve discovered that cottage cheese can be a side dish to almost any meal. (I’ve eaten so much dairy in the past few days that I may get a kidney stone from the calcium.) And there were other clever solutions that I probably should spare you.

Tucson sunset 3.jpg

People were reporting in today from all corners of the Airstream world. Brett says the Florida State Rally is getting underway. Colin Hyde and his family pulled into the rally today. Bert Gildart called from Tampa and says we’ll see him and Janie out west in a few weeks. Rich C says he’s going to stay here in Tucson another week, but I wonder if I’ll see him when I get back from Florida.

Dr. C emailed from his hideaway 50 miles south of here, and threatened to come up for a visit tomorrow before I catch the plane. Mike Young IM’d me about his plans with Rosemary to move to Phoenix. Leigh & Brian emailed that they would like to have joined us in Mexico but have prior commitments. I also heard from Mike & Terri Church, authors of the Mexico book I bought a few weeks ago. We’re going to start carrying their great RV travel books in our store in a few weeks.

And so on … I love keeping in contact with all my friends and acquaintances.

Tomorrow I need to do the final things to make the trailer ready for vacancy. Since we are on a monthly rental in the park, we pay for our electricity separately. So I’ll unplug the trailer and let it stay charged on solar power. I’ll set the furnace at 45 degrees just to ensure that the holding tanks won’t freeze in the event of an exceptionally cold night, check the propane, toss out anything perishable that I didn’t manage to eat, crack a vent slightly, and lock up. Not much to it.

There may not be a blog entry on Tuesday because I’ll be flying until late. The blog will pick up again on Wednesday from the Florida State Rally.

Titan Missile Museum

Down I-19 from Tucson you’ll find the town of Green Valley, a peaceful and sprawling development area that seems to be a mecca for retirees. As peaceful as it is now, it was once the site of weapons of unimaginable destruction — two Titan Missile silos buried in the hills.

These were two of 54 Titans deployed across the US. Holding 9-megaton warheads, always armed and ready to launch, they were the core of the United States’ cold war-era strategic deterrent. With the proper authorization, they could be launched within 30 seconds of the turn of two keys. They were the tools of Mutually Assured Destruction.

Tucson Titan blast door.jpg
Blast door #6

All the Titan silos are gone, stripped of their parts, de-commissioned, and blasted shut forever. Except this one. For $8.50 you can take a guided tour of this “dinosaur of the ICBM fleet”, right down into the silo and into the control room, which is exactly as it was. The guide even demonstrates the procedure required to launch the missiles, which is really chilling when you think about it.

Tucson Titan control rm.jpg

There is much more about the tour than I can tell here. The 8-foot thick walls, proof against blasts and electromagnetic pulses; the rooms suspended on giant springs; the incredibly finicky rocket fuels that required massive air conditioning in the Arizona desert; the strict rules against being alone anywhere near the command center. It’s a fascinating place.

I’ve published about 11 photos on Flickr from the museum.

Tucson AS door sunset.jpg

This evening yielded yet another spectacular desert sunset. I don’t think I’ll ever get tired of seeing them.

A time for perspective

Well, the female 2/3 of this family did manage to fly back to Vermont today.

Tucson airport departure.jpg

It’s hard to reconcile the reports I hear of weather in the northeast. Big snowfall, cold weather, Lake Champlain frozen … while here Rich C and I were out exploring the cactus-covered Catalina Foothills in the hot sun at nearly 80 degrees. Is one of these scenarios just a special effect?

Emma had trouble understanding that it was two hours earlier here when I was talking to her on the phone tonight. In her end of the country it was dark and cold, while I was pacing around outside the Airstream in shirt-sleeve temperatures and watching the sun set slowly over Mexico.

I think I can relate to her confusion. Sometimes I’ll reflect on the incredible diversity of this world. While I am occupying just one tiny pinprick on its surface, billions of little dramas are playing out in infinite climates and infinite settings. It both staggers and inspires my imagination.

Tucson Catalina.jpg

The next two days are a chance for that sort of thinking. I find it useful. Time alone, whether here in the Airstream or out in the Foothills, is an opportunity to get a new perspective on things. It’s also a great chance to work utterly undisturbed, so I’m getting a lot of editing done for the Summer magazine.

I have also been left a few tasks, since I’ll be the last person out: eat the leftovers, put away the bikes, fill the propane tank, pick up the forwarded mail, and clean up the trailer. It feels a little sad to be sealing up the Airstream, perhaps because I hate to leave it behind for even a few days. It’s like a glimpse into the future, to the end of our odyssey. Fortunately, we’ve got months to go — even if we find a house — before we’ll move out of the Airstream.

Our sunset ritual

Amidst the house-hunting and work, I am also making some of the final arrangements for our trip into Mexico. I heard from Bert & Janie and Adam & Susan today but unfortunately none of them can make it. On the bright side, Ken & Petey Faber have asked to join our little caravan, so that makes three Airstreams going now. The Fabers will be a welcome addition because they’ve been to Mexico before, on a Vintage Airstream Club caravan all the way to Belize.

One of the things I needed was a notarized document from my corporation certifying me as a bona fide employee and authorizing me to take the company vehicles into Mexico. This would be a minor nuisance but for the fact that we happen to have a resident notary here in the park. I just walked down to his site last night and got him to witness my signature while sitting at the picnic table. It’s amazing what services you can find among the residents of these places.

Tomorrow we shall try again to get E&E into the sky. Vermont hasn’t warmed up any (still brutally cold with mounds of snow everywhere) but they seem to be looking forward to the visit. Personally, I am still enjoying the warm sunny days of Arizona and don’t have any desire to leave.

Tucson Emma sunset photo.jpg

The sunset bike rides have become a regular feature for Emma and I. Right around that time all the residents seem to come out and walk their dogs or chat with their neighbors before dinner, and everyone appreciates the gorgeous sunsets along the Santa Catalinas and the Rincons.

Once in a while Emma takes out her camera to capture it. This evening we went over by Rich C’s trailer and he followed along on his skateboard as we looped around the paved roads of the park. Whatever we do, this little sunset ritual puts a nice cap on the day and I’ve come to appreciate it.

Time to spare

I dropped Eleanor and Emma off at the airport this morning, and 10 minutes later I was swinging back to pick them up. Snowstorms in the northeast wrought havoc on flight schedules, and the end result was that their flight was impossible today. So they’re going to fly on Saturday instead.

That made today and the next few days into bonus days. That’s a gift. We took the hint and went out for breakfast to discuss whether we really wanted to buy a house.

See, from one point of view, not buying a house would be a financially responsible thing to do. Our living costs are lowest when we live in the Airstream and travel moderately. Having a home base means obligatory payments: taxes, insurance, upkeep, utilities. It’s a luxury. It’s nice if you can afford it, but for many full-timers having a house, even a small one, doesn’t make financial sense.

But we also recognize the investment potential in real estate. Wouldn’t it be nice to have a home base that is also a good long-term investment? So we’re looking in that direction.

The other bonus of the flight delays is that Eleanor and I have a few days to ensure the last vestiges of our colds are gone. We’re both pretty well at this point, but a couple more days of rest wouldn’t hurt. And I could use some time to work on the Summer 2007 magazine. People are getting the Spring 2007 issue in their mailboxes right now, but I’m deep into editing the next one and need to have it wrapped up by March 8, which is right around the corner.

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