Archive for March, 2011

Winter into spring in Southern California

Wednesday, March 16th, 2011

Snow had fallen on all of San Diego’s mountain ranges just the day before we departed on our spring wildflower trip and I was tempted to engage the trailer’s flux capacitor once again to facilitate passage over the mountains, but I thought it would be more scenic to carefully weave our way around the mountains to our destination, Palm Canyon Campground in the Southern California desert. This amount of winter snow does not happen often here and when it does, people pour out of the city in bumper-to-bumper traffic just to romp in the snow and throw snowballs.  Indeed, traffic slowed enough for Larry to take this snowy winter scene as we slowly approached Santa Ysabel.

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(This is as close as our trailer ever gets to snow.)

Sun, warmth and colorful wildflowers greeted us at our campsite in the Anza-Borrego Desert.  See the current wildflower report for this area here.

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(Wild Heliotrope is seen in foreground.)

We camped during part of the festive season of Mardi Gras.  Seen on our camp table are Mardi Gras beads in the three symbolic colors of Mardi Gras, purple (justice), gold (power), and green (faith).  Also seen on the table are freshly cut flowers from our home garden and Larry’s delicious, homemade Craisin oatmeal cookies (my favorite breakfast treat with coffee).

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Larry turned them into Mardi Gras cookies by carefully topping them with crystallized sugar in the appropriate colors and adding silver dragées.  Also seen below is the Commedia dell’arte mask of Arlecchino.

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Mardi Gras is also celebrated by wearing masks.

According to the Wikipedia article, “New Orleans Mardi Gras“, processions and wearing of masks in the streets took place in the 1700s.

Larry is seen here wearing the Commedia dell’arte mask of Il Capitano, a character that Larry once portrayed at the Renaissance Pleasure Faire.  Wearing this mask, he surprised the rangers at the Ranger Station as he delivered these cookies!

This year the Original Renaissance Pleasure Faire in Irwindale, Ca is open Sundays and Saturdays, April 9 – May 22, 2011.

The Annual Arizona Renaissance Festival & Artisan Marketplace is currently open every Saturday and Sunday through April 3, 2011.

Although it was sunny and springtime-warm during our five days of camping, it had recently been on the chilly side and the wildflowers had yet to peak.  But due to recent rains here, the vegetation was green and lush.

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When we were there, there were more flowers near the campground and along the .6 mile cement sidewalk to the Visitors Center than on the Borrego Palm Canyon Nature Trail, including:

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Sand Verbena (above) and Barrel Cactus (below).

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For many, it has been a thorny winter.  But now that the snow is melting and the weather is warming and the trees are budding and the flowers are blooming and the bees are buzzing and the birds are singing and nesting we are grateful to be here and happy to be moving gently from winter into spring.

Fans of the Airstream Interstate

Wednesday, March 9th, 2011

The Spring 2011 issue of Airstream Life magazine arrived just in time before we departed with our Airstream Safari for a trip to celebrate the festive season of Mardi Gras and see the beginning of the spring wildflowers in Anza-Borrego Desert State Park.  Seen on the cover of this issue are Tim and Margaret Frazier with their dog Lucy and their Airstream Westfalia.  Zach Woods writes in the cover story, “Big Fans of the Small (Airstream) Westfalia”, “By most estimates, there were 192 Airstream Sprinter Westfalias imported into the United States [for only two years, 2005-2006], all based on the Mercedes Sprinter diesel van… The number of owners is small, but their passion for these very efficient and effectively designed campers is huge.”

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Passion also runs high for owners of the Airstream Interstate Sprinter,  first produced in 2003, a Class B van based on the Mercedes-Benz Sprinter chassis and inline-five cylinder diesel engine.  While we were camping at Borrego Palm Canyon, we spotted an Airstream Interstate and had an opportunity to chat with its avid owners, David and Ann, from Oregon.  They are very private people, but are passionate about their 2007 Airstream Interstate and graciously shared information about it, even though they had just got back from a long hike up Palm Canyon.

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According to David and Ann, ever since they bought it in May 2008, it’s been a head-turner.  Some have followed them down highways and into gas stations just to see it up close and to chat with them.  Streams of people have visited them while in campgrounds.  Indeed, while I was interviewing them, another couple in an RV stopped nearby and walked over to ask questions such as, “Is this really an Airstream?”

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David laughs when he says, “It’s like a VW bus on steroids!”  Their 2007 Airstream Interstate is similar to the one shown here on Airstream Forums with specs detailed by Colonial Airstream here.  It features a Buff Ultraleather sofa bed that opens in the rear dinette area.  “It’s more comfortable than the one we sleep on at home,” David says.

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The galley area features a flush-mounted round stainless steel sink with folding faucet and a 2-burner recessed cook-top with covers.

David loves to cook and has brought the Wolfgang Puck Induction Burner into their galley.  David says that induction cooking is a faster and more efficient method of cooking.

According to Wikipedia, “An induction cooker uses induction heating for cooking. Unlike other forms of cooking, heat is generated directly in the pot or pan (cooking vessel), as opposed to being generated in the stovetop by electrical coils or burning gas. To be used on an induction cooker, a cooking vessel must be made of a ferromagnetic metal.”

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The galley area also features a 3-cubic foot refrigerator and microwave oven.

David says that fuel economy and affordability were two big selling points for them.  He says that he averages 21.8 mpg, which is important to them in light of the rising fuel prices and the fact that they live in Oregon and have to travel long distances to get to warmer climes when doing winter camping.  David says that they only had a few minor problems with their rig and says, “George M. Sutton RV provided excellent service, just as if we had purchased the Airstream Interstate from him.”

The 2011 Airstream Interstate 3500 is now available and is based on the Mercedes Sprinter Van Unibody Construction with a Mercedes 3.0 liter BlueEfficiency V-6 diesel engine.  According to Airstreamer (Official News and Articles from Airstream), “The partnership between Airstream and Mercedes-Benz has yielded a Touring Coach that fuses the legendary quality and design of the Airstream brand with the comfort, control, and luxury of Mercedes-Benz.”

And that makes this fan just want to whistlewhile his heart races!

TPMS – Update

Saturday, March 5th, 2011

A tire losing air and going flat can often be felt in the primary vehicle, but if this happens while towing a trailer you might not become aware of it until expensive and possibly catastrophic damage occurs to the trailer tire, rim and trailer.  I purchased the Doran Tire Pressure Monitoring System and began using it in November, 2008.  See my comprehensive article, “Tire pressure monitoring system“, which shows how I set up the monitor in our F-250 Super Duty truck.

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The system has performed flawlessly for over two years.  A few months ago, I began to notice an occasional loss of signal from one of the sensors.  I contacted Doran Mfg., LLC and received excellent customer service.  Per their instructions, I sent back the sensor for evaluation.  I was told the processing time would be about three weeks.  In the meantime, we already had camping reservations for an upcoming Agua Caliente Park trip and would not think of leaving home without a TPMS, which gave me an opportunity to purchase and try another popular brand, Pressure Pro, during the interim.  The Pressure Pro monitor and 4 sensors arrived quickly, were easy to program and install, and performed well.

Shortly after I returned from this trip, I received a new sensor from Doran.  See their YouTube video, “Doran Mfg. WTS Outdoor Adventure“.  Additional sensors can be purchased so that both the truck and trailer tire sensors can be monitored on one monitor.  But since I now have two separate monitoring systems (one for the truck tires and one for the trailer tires), I have the peace of mind knowing that should one fail, I can always use the other for those crucial trailer tires.  The two systems mount nicely in the truck as seen below.

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Earlier this week, I used both systems for our return to Borrego Springs, California, for camping during the beginning of the desert wildflower displays.  Whether we go over or around the mountains to this location, there are often few turnouts, so it is important to know if a tire is losing air before damage occurs.

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Over the phone, Doran Sales Representative, Debbi Gerdes (seen in the video mentioned above), told me that people tend to over-tighten the sensors when screwing them on the tire valve stem, which can cause the inner O-ring to bulge out or become loose and can lead to failure of the unit.  Debbie advised to just get them barely tight enough to seal.  She also said that the seal is not normally visible on the sensor, but if it is seen, it could be gently pressed back in place with a dental pick.

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So even if a trailer tire blows out, I’ll know about it immediately. Both monitors emit an audible alert if tire pressure goes out of normal range, so I can keep my eyes on the road and my hands on the wheel and enjoy getting there.

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.