Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Arrival at Alumapalooza

We pulled out of Newburgh, NY at 6:30 AM bound for Gettysburg. We were a little delayed because of a thunderstorm just when we were starting to attach the tow vehicle (TV) to the Airstream (AS). Upon arrival at Codorus State Park in Hanover, PA at noon-time we learned that check out time for the campers was 3 PM. However, Rita the gate keeper allowed us to drive through the campground to find a spot that was vacant and that met our needs. We found a nice spot, got the trailer set up and Scout (the canine mascot) settled. We then went to Gettysburg and did the 'Auto Tour'. The battle of Gettysburg occurred over a period of three days and many miles. The Auto Tour allowed us to learn about the how, what and why of this important historical event. From the farm where the Confederate  army first encountered Union forces to the National Cemetery where Lincoln gave his dedication address, we walked (drove) on hallowed ground. Standing on the spot where Lincoln spoke, and looking at the graves, half of which were unidentified was a solemn experience. I don't dare speak here of lessons not learned.

We arrived at about the same time as Sarah Palin did. We saw the media doing post shoot commentaries but not the star herself.

On the way back to the campground, we listened to a news report about a pole that asked Americans what Memorial Day was meant to celebrate. According to the survey, less than 30% knew that the holiday was meant to honor those that died defending this country.

Back at the campground, we had salmon fillets  marinated in ginger, garlic, balsamic vinegar, lemon juice and olive oil cooked on the grill. We had Israeli coos-coos and summer vegetables as accompaniments

After a restful night on the wonderful new mattress and air-conditioning, we were on the road at 7:30 AM bound for Alumapalooza, the second Airtsream rally at the factory in Jackson Center, OH. Unfortunately, whenever we talked with people that were knowledgeable about the rally, they talked about the rally in Jackson, OH which is about 150 miles south east of Jackson Center. We only realized that we were going to the wrong Jackson when we were just 45 minutes away from Jackson. We put the right city into the GPS and found we had another 3 hours to drive. The good news is that we got to see the Cumberland Gap, an incredible pass through the Appalachian Mountains.

The program of events, seminars, demonstrations and tours begins tomorrow. Here is the link to see what it's all about: http://alumapalooza.com/

Stay tuned

Sunday, May 29, 2011

We're on the road

We were hoping to be on the road by 10 AM. But, making final preparations pushed that back to almost 2 PM. It would have been much later had my mother not joined in yesterday. She is a veteran of trailer prep and worked all day with us.

Starting our trip on Memorial Day Weekend was a mixed blessing. By traveling today we avoided the usual traffic bottlenecks at the Mass Pike and I-84 but, we get to pay premium prices for camping and fuel. We are spending the night at a KOA campground just outside Newburgh, NY. The price for one night is exorbitant due to its proximity to NYC and this being Memorial Day Weekend.

We plan to get an early start tomorrow with Gettysburg, PA as our destination. We will explore the National Park there and spend one night allowing all the holiday traffic to pass us by. Then, on Tuesday, we will put in a long day and push for Jackson, OH. Jackson is the home of the Airstream factory. We will join about 200 plus other Airstream owners for Alumapalooza, the Airstream rally. This will last for five days and will include factory tours, entertainment and seminars relating to Airstream ownership.

First dinner in the Tin Wheeler was Shrimp in tomato and feta cheese sauce over pasta. Recipe to follow.

Stay tuned

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Down to the wire

We thought we were doing well with our preparations to leave on Sunday morning. Our relaxed attitude, however, quickly morphed into an adrenalin infused flurry of activity today. We had help though. My mother is a veteran of preparing a trailer for the road and she was more than willing to pitch in .

I brought the new mattress back from the Mattress Makers yesterday. It fits perfectly, and should be a dream (pardon the pun) to sleep on. Today was mostly loading food and linens into the trailer and all the other stuff like inflatable boat, motor, tools, etc into the truck.

All that's left to do tonight before we collapse is to pack our clothes, gather up all of our maps and guide books then get ready to hit the road tomorrow morning. Oh, and to clean the house so that my nephew and his wife won't have to clean up after us. They are going to take care of the house and cat until we return. Thanks Duncan and Michelle.

We have a short drive tomorrow. Will stop in Newburgh, N:Y for the night then have a short drive on Monday to Gettysburg, PA.

The adventure finally begins.

Stay Tuned

Friday, May 20, 2011

New Window Treatments

The Tin Wheeler came with plain white curtains that were somewhat worn. They were yellowing and had rust spots on them. They had no ties to hold them open so that all the windows were partially obscured at all times.

Some of the newer Airstreams have aluminum blinds that we felt looked much better. Sarah found a shop in Stoughton, MA, Blinds to Go (http://www.blindstogo.com/) that would custom make blinds with an amazing turn around time of just 48 hours. She ordered them on Monday and picked them up yesterday (just 3 days later).

We installed them this morning. We are very pleased with the results. They are very sturdy and seem well constructed. They give a much more modern look and are in keeping with the Airstream aluminum theme. Here are a couple picture of the newly installed blinds:

Stay tuned

Monday, May 16, 2011

Shake Down

Sarah and I joined the Cape Cod Massachusetts unit of the WBCCI (Wally Byam Caravan Club International) and participated in their rally at Marlborough, CT this past weekend. We received a very warm welcome from Dan, Tom, Tye, Rich and Dot, Rich and Kathy, John and Rose, and Mary. It was everything we expected. These people are adventuresome and have a love of traveling.

We learned a lot from these experienced Airstream owners that will be of great value on our voyage to Alaska. The opportunity to talk to others who have made the journey before was invaluable.

While we believe our Mary Joan to be very beautiful, after touring some of our comrade's 'land yacht' we were reminded that there is always one that is a step above.

The weather cooperated despite the threat of rain. The rain began just as we were connecting the trailer to the truck. The rain became a deluge once we were on the highway. Visibility was very limited but the truck and trailer behaved well despite the flooded roadway.

With our shake down trip behind us, we are making preparations to begin our big Alaska adventure.

Stay tuned.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Monster Mud Flaps

Today I installed the Enkay Rock Tamers on the tow vehicle (TV). Everything I've read about the Alaska highway suggests that it's not like the 'old' days any longer. Most of it is paved. But, the Alaska winters wreak havoc on it and therefore it is in a constant state of repair. Translate that to many miles of unpaved gravel. The thought of slinging rocks against a polished aluminum Airstream is enough to keep the owners of these beauties awake at night. So, the rock guards are an essential accessory. I was going to make my own, but at some point you just don't have the time. The Enkay Rock Guards have received consistently great reviews from others.

The installation was very straightforward. I had some trepidation when I had to cut the very hefty flap material. But, a new blade in the knife made it a snap. The instructions say to leave 3 - 4" of clearance and others on the Airstream Forum say 2 - 3". So, I cut them for 3" and I can always shorten them. It will be a few thousand miles before I really test them, but I will give a report as we go.

Here's a picture of the installed Rock Tamers

These should do a good job protecting the soft aluminum skin of our Tin Wheel.

Stay tuned, Sarah is out researching new window treatments to replace the old and somewhat dingy window curtains.

Monday, May 9, 2011

In Pursuit Of A New Mattress

When we bought the Tin Wheeler we didn't have much time to really test one of the most important fixtures of the trailer, the bed. After all, you can't just ask the salesman to disappear for a few hours while you and your wife take a nap. Well, with the trailer in the driveway, we slept these past two nights in Mary Joan (a.k.a. Tin Wheeler). What we found was very uncomfortable. While Airstream makes a quality product, they do try to maximize profits. This means putting in foam mattresses that last only a few years. At six years old, our mattress has seen better days. Suffice to say that the experience of sleeping on that mattress was much like sleeping on an air mattress while the air slowly leaked out.

After an extended internet search, I found a mattress company in Brockton, MA that will make custom mattresses. Emphasis on the word custom. As any observer can immediately detect, there are no squares corners on an Airstream. The corners of our mattress have a pronounced curve, hence the need for custom design.

We took the mattress from the Tin Wheeler to Mattress Makers in Brockton where the very knowledgeable salesperson, Leah, showed us all the options available. We decided on a coil spring overlay-ed with urethane foam. She has to check this design with her boss, but thinks it can be made. Best of all the cost was very reasonable.

If the coil spring cannot work due to the curves, they can make a foam mattress that will be nearly as comfortable.

Stay tuned for updates on our sleeping arrangements.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Home made fizzy water, made easy

We enjoy drinking flavored sparkling water, such as from Polar or Adirondak. But, these calorie free fizzy waters are not readily available outside of the Northeast. Complete systems for making your own carbonated beverages are available, but they are expensive and use CO2 tanks that can be difficult to get refilled. There are many web sites that show how to make your own carbonation system, but they require some moderate mechanical skill to make the cap that allows pressurizing the bottle However, there is now a company that makes this crucial component and sells it at most beer making supply stores.

So, as promised, here is all you need to start making your own sparkling water.

The materials needed are:

  1. CO2 tank (I used a 15 lb tank, choose the size of tank that best fits your installation)
  2. Regulator 
  3. 1/4 inch tubing
  4. small hose clamps
  5. Carbonator Cap
  6. Ball Lock fitting
  7. Ball cock

All of the above are available from a well stocked brewing supply shop, however you will probably find the CO2 tank and regulator at a lower price from a welding supply shop. I purchased the ball cock valve at Home Depot.This picture shows all the materials:

(left to right in foreground: Carbonator cap, ball cock valve, ball lock fitting)

Choose a place for the tank. I placed mine in a closet located just a few feet from the sink and ran the hose (be sure to run the hose before attaching the ball lock and ball cock fitting).  Bring the free end of the hose to a convenient spot near a kitchen or bar sink, make splice near the end of the tube with the ball lock fitting and insert the ball cock valve. The rest is pretty straight forward, attach the other end of the hose to regulator and connect the regulator to the tank. And, you're set to go.
Here is the tank in the closet: I have yet to attach straps to prevent the tank from tipping over IT IS CRITICAL TO KEEP THE TANK UPRIGHT AND SECURED TO PREVENT IT FROM FALLING OVER. 
Turn the screw on the center of the regulator to bring the pressure on the low pressure outlet to 40 PSI. 
Here is the Carbonator connected to a one liter bottle:
It is essential to have your water as cold as possible to achieve the best carbonation. CO2 stays in solution much better at cold temperature. Anyone who has ever opened a warm bottle of soda knows this well. The easiest way to do this is to have a few bottles with about a cup of water set on their side in the freezer ready to go when you are ready to make carbonated water. Add cold tap water just to the level of the shoulder of the bottle. Squeeze out as much air as possible while tightening the carbonator cap onto the bottle. Pressurize the bottle by slowly opening the ball cock valve. Close the ball cock valve and vigorously shake the bottle, open and close the ball cock valve again and shake again. Repeat this step a couple more times, remove the ball lock fitting from the carbonator then the carbonator from the bottle. That's all there is to it. 

We like to add freshly squeezed lemon and lime to our seltzer. I am told there are flavored syrups available on line. 

While the initial cost seems high (about $175), the system will start paying for itself in less than 6 months. After that, instead of paying fifty to seventy five cents a liter, the cost to carbonate that same amount will only be a couple pennies.

Enjoy and stay tuned

Making preperations

Getting the Tin Wheeler ready for a cross country trip is not unlike getting a sailboat ready for an extended cruise. One of the most striking, and surprising, aspects is that the Airstream doesn't have as much storage space. That should not have been a surprise, though. Unlike cruising to distant and often remote places on a boat where it can be difficult to get provisions, with the trailer we can pull into any grocery store almost any day we choose and just wheel our purchases out to be placed 'aboard'. When sailing, the process is much more difficult. Most of the best sailing destinations are far distant from stores, so having ample room for weeks and even months of provisions is essential.

Another reason for reduced storage space is that the trailer is much more limited in the amount of weight it can safely carry. On the sailboat we could put a couple thousand pounds of food, water, fuel and equipment on board. The trailer can't accommodate that much additional weight.  Aboard the trailer we are also unburdened with the amount of safety equipment we need to carry. Things like radar, life raft and man overboard equipment are unnecessary.

All of this makes the trailer's interior volume more available for people. After living for months last summer in what can only be described as extremely close quarters on the sailboat, the living space in the Tin Wheeler seems expansive.

In my next post, I will describe the installation of a nifty luxury, a seltzer water maker, stay tuned.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Return from Pacific Sailing

Sarah and I left the winter behind us on February 17 with our flight to Quito Ecuador. We enjoyed our time in that historic city. The churches and museums could have held our attention for weeks. We then traveled to Banos, high in the mountains and at the base of the active volcano, Tungurahua. We hiked about 1/3 of the way up this volcano, but could never see the summit. 

Transportation by bus is easy in Ecuador, if you don't count the treachery of the bus drivers. We purchased tickets for the bus from Banos to Quayaquill departing at 7:00 AM. We arrived a half hour early to ensure we would not miss our bus. The bus driver's assistant looked at our ticket and said that this bus, 15 minutes early, was our bus. It was going to Chimborazo, a town that was on the way to Quayaquill so, at his insistence, we boarded the bus. 

When we arrived at Chimborazo the driver's assistant took us to another bus with its destination being Quayaquill. I assumed it was just a transfer, until I saw him give a few dollars to the driver's assistant of this bus. All was well until we neered the end of the trip when the assistant, now ticket taker, demanded we pay more. In my broken Spanish I told him we would not pay any more and that he knew why. We were left alone after that. 

Despite the duplicity of the people running the bus system, it was a beautiful trip. The mountains and vistas were breath-taking. The other passengers on the bus were friendly and watched out for each other. At each stop we watched each others belongings when one or the other got off the bus to stretch their legs and warm goodbyes were exchanged even though our only connection was sharing a bus for the day.

We joined sailing vessel Downtime on February 24 in Salinas Ecuador. The weather was great, good food and cheep beer at the restaurants lining the harbor. We sailed to the Galapagos Islands where we spent three weeks enjoying the visual splendors and zoological curiosities. Then we were off to the Marqueses Islands of French Polynesia, 3,000 nautical miles to the west southwest. We made the passage in 19 days under fair trade winds and following seas, the perfect conditions for crossing the widest part of any ocean on earth. 

After visiting four islands and swimming with massive manta rays, we left Downtime for Tahiti. We stayed at the Manava Hotel for a few days waiting for our flight to Hawaii. The Manava is one of the most beautiful hotels we have ever stayed at.

We flew to the big island of Hawaii and spent 3 days visiting the Volcano National Park and meeting Randy, KH6RC, the ham radio operator who kept us in contact while we were at sea. Finally, we flew to Los Angeles and spent a few days visiting Sarah's sister, Mary, in Camarillo before returning home. While there, Mary's significant other allowed me to fly with him aboard the 1951 Albatross sea plane. On the return to Camarillo from Burbank, we flew over the ocean west of Malibu, 180mph and only 20 feet above the water. An exhilarating experience viewed from the nose cone bubble. Thanks Dave.  

It's great to be home, but looking forward to our next adventure.