Ready to go

The Airstream still feels like home to us, even though it is sitting in the carport with half of our possessions taken out of it.  But it isn’t home anymore, and so we have been systematically reducing its contents to only what we envision we’ll need for specific trips.  It’s an awkward process, full of questions and uncertainties.  Everything has to be re-examined.  The key criterion is simply whether we will need it if we’re out for a month or two.

Before we were full-timers, we did what most people did.  We kept a minimum complement of equipment and supplies in the trailer during the summer season, and reloaded many other things in the days leading up to departure.  Now I’d like to keep this trailer ready for immediate travel without a lot of reloading.  That means duplication of many things that we use in both the house and trailer.

Most of it is easy: toothbrushes, shampoo, dishes, bedding, some clothes.  Anything in the house that is needed on the road and is reasonably cheap will have a permanent counterpart in the trailer.  We have enough clothes to leave a four-season supply in the trailer and still have what we need in the house.  Toys that we only use during travel will stay in the Airstream too, like our snorkel gear and wetsuits.  A few things like my office equipment (laptop, printer, cellular router) and Eleanor’s perishable spices will have to be loaded at the last minute.

That means we’re organizing the house to suit the trailer. All of my office gear stays in one cabinet in the house. All of Eleanor’s key spices are in a simple plastic bin in the kitchen.  When it’s time to go, we grab the contents of the office cabinet and the spice box and we’re ready.

Of course, it’s not quite that simple, but the goal is to be able to take off on impromptu trips without agonizing over packing.  I hate the question, “Did we remember to pack the ______?”  With a well-designed system, I hope we can get the Airstream ready to go for a week-long trip in less than an hour.

It’s also nice to have the Airstream ready for habitation in the unlikely event of a natural disaster or other event that might require evacuation.  That’s unlikely here in Tucson, where the chance of forest fires, hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes, tsunami, mudslides, and floods are minimal.  All we get are severe thunderstorms during summer and the occasional dust storm. But maybe someday they’ll have a problem at the Palo Verde Nuclear Generating Station.  I think with a little more prep, we could get out of here in 10 minutes and not miss anything important for weeks.

For a lot of people, the amount of travel we still plan to do is formidable.  We’ll be gone much of the year, including all the summer months.  I was talking to a neighbor today about our plans and I could see his startled reaction as I said, “Well, of course we’ll be gone all summer.”  I have to remind myself that while it seems like nothing to us to be living in the Airstream for a few months, it’s a very big deal to most people.  So we will still carry things that weekenders wouldn’t bother with.  We’ve got extensive laundry and cleaning supplies, extra tools, spare parts, reference books, dishware for guests, and a lot of food.

The next major trip is scheduled for after Christmas, although we are likely to go out for a few days here and there in November.  The post-Christmas trip has no definite end planned to it; we may be out for as little as eight days or as much as a month.

I’ve never thought much before about what it takes to store the trailer for long periods.  It needs a certain amount of TLC to stay ready for the road.  For example, the water system needs sanitizing.  Bleach is the usual method, mixed with a full tank of water and run through all the faucets.  A measured amount in the system for a few hours will kill all the bugs.  I’ve put a smaller amount of bleach in the system for storage, to keep it from growing bacterial slime while the trailer sits.

The tires slowly lose air (about one pound per month), too.  Desert dust accumulates inside because we have the windows open for ventilation.  We’re trying to combat such things by treating the Airstream as if we were still living in i, so I’ll be out there next week doing some cleaning and checking tire pressures.  We’ve left the refrigerator on, with a few basics still in it, so there’s less to reload later.  (As a side benefit, I can grab a cold drink out of it when I’m in there working.)

Mostly, this is compensation for not traveling as much.  I like the idea of the Airstream staying “live” and ready, just like it was during our full-timing days.  We are living as homeowners now, and it’s a big change, but the shock is mitigated a little by the knowledge that our escape pod is right there, ready to go.  We may do just fine in suburbia and not need it, but it’s nice to have.

About the Author

Editor & Publisher of Airstream Life magazine