Archive for July, 2009

Trailer awnings

Saturday, July 25th, 2009

When we first placed our custom order for an Airstream factory-installed solar power system at the time of the build of our Safari trailer, we were glad that we also ordered their Full Awning Package, which consists of awnings on all three sides.  This enabled us to stay cooler and more comfortable while camping, especially in our desert heat.  Our awnings have performed flawlessly and we expect that they will continue to do so for a long time, provided that they are properly used, maintained and cared for.

Awning operation

Opening and closing the patio awning can be a bit tricky, so we were glad that we videotaped the tech as he opened and closed our awnings during the initial walk-through when we picked up our trailer at the dealer.  See Zip Dee’s instructional video, “How To Operate Your Zip Dee Patio Awning“, made earlier this year in conjunction with Airstream.  This video is a good review and has useful tips, even if you have been using your awnings for years.

Awning cleaning

Each year we are scrupulous in doing our annual wash and wax job of our trailer, especially after camping next to the ocean, but I have not cleaned and lubricated our awnings, until now.  Our awnings are individually handcrafted by Zip Dee using Sunbrella acrylic fabric treated with a fluorocarbon finish that makes it water repellent and stain resistant.  See “Zip Dee… Maintenance – What You Should Know About Your Awning“.  Over time, dirt can get embedded in the fibers, which can lead to mildew, stains and decreased life of the awning.  Zip Dee recommends a thorough cleaning every two to three years using a mild soap solution in cold or lukewarm water, followed by thorough rinsing.  See Zip Dee’s instructional video, “Cleaning Your Zip Dee Awning Fabric“, made earlier this year in conjunction with Airstream.  Before I began, I also reviewed the detailed instructions, “Awnings care & cleaning“, from Sunbrella.

Last weekend’s heat wave in San Diego was a perfect time to clean our awnings.  After selecting the appropriate straw hat and yellow Hawaiian shirt, I pulled out the awning and hosed it off.

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I then scrubbed the awnings with an extended-handled, soft bristle brush and a solution of one quarter cup of liquid Ivory Snow in two gallons of cool water.  Ivory soap was invented in 1879 by James Norris Gamble, and the phrase, “99 44/100% pure” first appeared in its advertising in 1882.  Last week I went shopping for the Ivory Snow Flakes that I grew up with (as seen in this vintage Ivory Snow Flakes commercial) and I was disappointed to learn that Procter & Gamble had stopped making Ivory Snow Flakes in 1978.

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I then rolled up the soapy awning, allowing it to soak for about 15 minutes.  Then I re-opened the awning and thoroughly rinsed it off on both sides (It was necessary to get on a step ladder to rinse off the dirt and soap on the very top where the awning attaches to the trailer).  I then left the awning fully extended to thoroughly air dry (which only took about two hours on this hot summer day).

Awning lubrication

After the cleaned awning was dry, I lubricated the hardware with silicone lubricant spray (I avoided WD-40, oil or grease which could attract dirt).  See Zip Dee’s instructional video, “How To Lubricate Your Zip Dee Awning“, made in conjunction with Airstream.  As shown in the video, I slid the tube off of the rafter arm bar and I lubricated the ratchet stud (knob) and the slot exposing the spring and worked the lubricant in by pushing the tube on the ground several times.  (Refer to Zip Dee’s Parts List for hardware terminology).

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I then used a tooth brush to clean the dirt off of the teeth on the rafter arm bar, which was then sprayed with silicone lubricant and the excess was wiped off with a clean cloth.

43-rafter-arm-teeth.jpgI then slid the tube back onto the rafter arm bar and reattached the rafter arm to the awning roller shaft and extended the main arm fully for cleaning.  I sprayed the main arm with silicone and wiped off the excess with a clean cloth.

The roller shaft was then sprayed and worked back and forth several times as seen in the video.

This was then repeated on the arm on the other side of the awning.

Other instructional videos are also available from Zip Dee such as:

Straightening a Bent Main Arm Bar

Adjusting the Main Arm Bars (to fit the Clamp Wheel)

Ratchet Stud Replacement

Awning safety

We learned early on how quickly weather conditions can change, especially when camping in the desert, and that it is a good idea to not leave an awning extended during windy or rainy conditions.  We also learned that one good precaution to take when there is possible rain nearby, is to leave one side of the awning lower than the other to prevent accumulation of water which could weigh down and bend the supporting arms.

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We have also learned that it is best to retract the awning whenever leaving the trailer unattended or when going to bed for the evening.  By the way, it is easy to bump into the opened awning support arms (especially when entertaining), so we periodically hang festive decorative items on them, such as these Chinese flutes, for increased visibility.  Finally, prior to towing, we make sure that the patio awning is secured by the top travel lock (hook) and the two side clamp locks, the street-side awning’s top hook is secured, and the rear awning is rolled up.

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Now it’s time to cool off, relax, and watch this video of snowy scenes as Airstream Professionals visit the Airstream Service Center in Jackson Center, Ohio.

Stepping into summer

Friday, July 3rd, 2009

Summer for us is actually our off season for camping, which may surprise some because we live in San Diego, which has many great, nearby camping spots and where people come from places such as Arizona to cool off and enjoy our beaches.  That is precisely why we stay at home during the summer.  It is now too hot for us to camp in our favorite mountain and desert places without full hook-ups and air conditioning.  As mentioned in my “Desert heat” article, the 100-degree desert heat while we were camping in Anza-Borrego Desert State Park last May motivated us to turn our trailer into a cave and enjoy the air conditioning while reading, doing projects or just napping.  We don’t need to go to the desert to enjoy air conditioning that we have at home.  Our nearby state beach campgrounds are now booked for the summer and we prefer to do most of our camping in quiet peaceful settings.  So we step into summer by staying home.

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We enjoy stepping into the tropical garden oasis in our own backyard with its pond and plants (flourishing due to Larry’s TLC)…

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Bougainvillea above (surrounded by Red Trumpet Vine and Delicate Asparagus Fern) and Epidendrum below.

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And of course we enjoy stepping onto the patio and barbecuing chicken and rib eye steaks.

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Hear “How To Make The Perfect Burger“, and learn the recipe in this Morning Edition, NPR program of July 3, 2009.

I also enjoy stepping into the world of reading books and I have them stockpiled for summer reading.  I’ll have time to read each time I step out of the courtroom of Superior Court – County of San Diego during my current jury duty, which is expected to last two to three more weeks.

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My latest addition to my library is Miles Gone By – A Literary Autobiography, William F. Buckley Jr., Regnery Publishing Inc., 2004.  Years ago I was fascinated by his debating style and sense of humor, and my interest in him was rekindled after watching his son Christopher’s interview on Book on C-SPAN2. (He also has an interesting blog on The Daily Beast and new book out, Losing Mum and Pup – A Memoir, Twelve, 2009.)

Another literary addition to my summer reading is Reading Lolita in Tehran – A Memoir in Books, Azar Nafisi, Random House Trade Paperbacks, 2008.  I first heard about this author while listening to the NPR program, Azar Nafisi Discusses ‘Things I’ve Been Silent About, February 10, 2009.

My favorite author became Ernest Hemingway after I read his first African safari book, Green Hills of Africa, Scribner, 1935, 1963.

Summer is also a good time to savor good radio programs outside or while getting ready to begin the day.  Just before stepping out the door last Wednesday morning on my way to jury duty, I was listening to Morning Edition on National Pubic Radio (NPR), on our local public broadcasting station.  My ears perked up as I heard the sound of diesel power and I delighted in their story, “Diesel Cars Attempt Comeback with Clean Diesel“, by Chris Arnold (NPR, Morning Edition, July 1, 2009).

View “The Great American Summer“, a gallery of classic images from a bygone era, presented by The Daily Beast contributor, Rachel Hulin.

So in these lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer, I might even dust off the ukulele and start strumming…

Or take my boogie board to the beach for a celebration of summer with an afternoon of surfin’ followed by “a cool one” at Miller Time and chilling out.

Addendum: In memory of just some of the many notables who have sadly stepped out of this world this summer, including Ed McMahon, Michael Jackson, Farrah Fawcett, Billy Mays, Robert McNamara, and Walter Cronkite:

Never dreamed you’d leave in summer“, performed by Stevie Wonder…

And as ‘Uncle Walter’ would say, “And that’s the way it is.”

About the Author

BILL, along with partner, Larry, were first-time RV'ers when they purchased their custom-ordered 23' 2007 Airstream Safari SE. Bill (a retired RN) and Larry (a retired pediatric Occupational Therapist) enjoy bringing history alive in the area of San Diego, CA.