A stinky mystery

When you are on the road and just zooming along the highway, the little events sometimes become the big events.  That’s something to be grateful for.  It means that your wheels are still rolling, your engine is still running, and life is good.

Our trip from Ohio yesterday was completely ordinary.  Concrete highway beneath the wheels, broken up by the occasional toll booth on I-90, a few rest stops (they have Tim Horton’s along the tollway rest areas, so Eleanor bought some coffee), a slight pattering of rain on the windshield, and lots of farms and fields flying by.  By dinnertime we were settled in a parking lot, and by 10 p.m. we were video-streaming an episode of The Tonight Show on the laptop (via Hulu).

Around this time Eleanor noticed a smell like propane gas. We started sniffing around in the bedroom, but it was elusive; sometimes we could smell it, sometimes we couldn’t. To me, it was reminiscent of the odorant in propane, but not quite the same.  I tried to reassure Eleanor that whatever it was, it wasn’t dangerous, but she was nervous.

Now, I wasn’t concerned because I know a few things about propane.  First, all the propane lines in an Airstream run outside and beneath the trailer.  So there are no lines in the bedroom to leak.  Second, propane is heavier than air,  so a leak in any of the outside lines would settle to the ground or blow away, not float up inside the bedroom.  The only real concern would be the few points at which propane lines come into the trailer and those are all in the kitchen area (where our stove/oven, water heater, and refrigerator are located).

Since the mystery odor was in the bedroom only — very close to the bed — I was sure we didn’t have an explosive situation and was prepared to go to sleep, but sometimes logic is trumped by wifely concern.  Eventually I found myself standing outside the trailer in the light rain, wearing pajamas, and sniffing around the propane tanks to show her that we didn’t have a leak outside.  Nor was there any smell whatsoever on the breeze.

But that left us with a stinky mystery.  When I came back inside the trailer I could still get occasional whiffs of …. something … and so could Eleanor.  It was like propane, but it wasn’t.  We turned over pillows, slid the mattress to the side, checked each other’s clothing and even our own breath.  Nothing.  And yet, there it was again.

Suddenly Eleanor broke up laughing.  “I know what it is!” she exclaimed as she leapt from the bed.  She dug around in that heap of “overflow” groceries that she stores by her side of the bed during travel, and came up with two bags of garlic naan that she’d bought from Trader Joe’s the day before.

Well, let me tell you, even in a plastic bag, garlic naan can put out quite a stink. So that’s your Airstreaming tip for the day: don’t store the garlic naan in your bedroom.  You probably didn’t need that tip, but there it is anyway.

And knowing that the worst thing to happen to us all day was the Mystery Smell made me feel good, and we went to sleep.

About the Author

Editor & Publisher of Airstream Life magazine