17 Feet o’ Fun

Wednesday was National Chocolate Covered Anything Day, which is a major holiday among women who recently discovered it, like the two who inhabit my house.  This led to chocolate fondue Thursday, a day late but when you’re dealing with a serious topic like chocolate, some leeway is apparently allowed.  And hey, if you’re doing fondue, might as well have cheese fondue for dinner,too!  That balances things, nutritionally.

fairy_godmother.jpgWe don’t normally eat like this.  Yesterday’s dinner was the sort of dietary faux pas that will turn us into manatees if we keep it up.  So now we are waddling around the house in a post-cheese & chocolate trance and wondering exactly what sort of conspiracy comes up with ideas like “National Chocolate Covered Anything Day.”  I suspect Fairy Godmother involvement:  “Get me something deep fried and smothered in chocolate.”

I have been spending the past three days rushing around, trying to simultaneously prep the Caravel for travel while completing major work on the Spring 2010 issue of Airstream Life.  The magazine is now 90% in the hands of the Art Department, which means that unlike the past two weeks, if I drop out of sight for 24 hours the world will not come to an end. Lately I have felt like one of those guys spinning plates on tall poles — it all looks great as long as you’re there to keep the plates spinning, but step away for a second …

I would not be rushing to prep the Caravel except that I have an opportunity to go to Quartzsite this weekend and visit some friends who are boondocking out in one of the BLM’s desert Long Term Visitor Areas. It’s the last such chance I’ll have for at least six weeks, and I really want to do it. So I ran down the list of the most urgent things to make the trailer fully functional: plug it in for charging, fill the water tank, lubricate the stubborn locks, test all the systems, vacuum out the sawdust inside and the broken glass outside, etc.  Of course that also included loading up with food, utensils, dishes, clothes, tools, and all the other accessories of fine trailer living.

In the process I discovered a few more things for the “bug list.”  The fresh tank water drain leaked at the shutoff valve. Over the years somebody replaced the water drain line but kept the original 40-year-old shutoff valve.  I don’t quite get the logic of that.  40-year-old valves leak, and a complete replacement costs just a few dollars. Eleanor and I rebuilt that little bit of plumbing this morning, with new water line, brass fittings, hose clamps, and a little Rescue Tape for extra insurance.  (Silicone tape is a new thing to me, but it’s turning out to be extremely useful, so now it’s a permanent item in my traveling toolbox.)

dsc_0620.jpgWhile testing the water heater I discovered an old paper wasp nest attached to the exhaust vent.  This was easily removed, and provided a nice bonus:  a little homeschool lesson for Emma about insect homes and honeycomb construction. But I also found that the bathroom faucet seems to be clogged or defective (no water comes out), and a switch to the Fantastic Vent seems intermittent. Plus I need a new 12v reading light, clips for the Magic Chef stove grates, some replacement clips for the 1968-style windows, etc.  I’ve already placed a hefty order at Vintage Trailer Supply this week and I can see another order needed in January for the vintage stoneguard and a few other pricey goodies. Having an Airstream and a “Sparestream” means double your pleasure, double your cost.

I got a new Reese drawbar for the Caravel, eliminating the need for the heavy equalizing hitch head I was using.  It also raises the ball two inches, so now the Caravel rides level.

68caravelbrochure.jpgI’m afraid to test the air conditioner — it is too expensive to have to deal with if (after five years of sitting) it no longer works.  Frankly, if it needs expensive repair I might be inclined to remove it altogether and put in a skylight instead.  Our Caravel was a “base” model when it was ordered, having none of the factory options then available, and certainly not air conditioning.  Over the years it has gained modern accessories like a TV antenna, air conditioner, patio light, and spare tire, but given the way we intend to use it, we would never miss the TV antenna or AC, and they ruin the vintage lines of the roof.

Now with some of our stuff back in it, the trailer is starting to feel like “ours” again.  During its five year absence it was like an old memory.  But our house was filled with children yesterday afternoon, so I took the laptop into the Caravel and made it my office, and bonded with the trailer.  I like the feel of the new dinette table.  The edges have soft radiuses, easy on the forearms when I type.  The Marmoleum top is neither cold nor warm, and yields slightly, making it nicer to the touch than hard Formica.  The trailer has good light and the foam of the new cushions is just perfect.

I love old magazine ads, and the brochure (pictured above) for the 1968 Caravel is a treasured addition to my collection.  I particularly like the fact that Airstream claimed the Caravel had “luxurious accommodations for six.”  Six what?  Elves? Trust me, with three people inside and both beds set up, it’s plenty tight in there, with no room to stand.  Sleeping six would require two people in each “double” bed, plus one in each of two optional bunks.  We’d be like snakes in a woodpile. Heaven help you if someone needed to go to the bathroom.  That probably explains why I’ve never seen a Caravel with the optional bunk beds.

Today I will head over to “Q” and field-test everything for two days and nights.  I have yet to use the shower, or dump the holding tanks, or just be in the trailer in an actual camping situation. You don’t really know how things work in a camper until you really go camping.  That’s when you discover where things need to be stored, where a hook is needed, where your hat goes, how long the battery lasts, etc.  As always, I’ll blog daily while I’m traveling, with thoughts about the roadtrip, Quartzsite, and life in 17 feet.

About the Author

Editor & Publisher of Airstream Life magazine