A simple trip

It’s a bit unusual that, in preparation for our next Airstream trip, we are mostly unloading the trailer.  That’s because we haven’t fully finished reconfiguring our Airstream from its former role as full-time home, to its new role as escape pod. The compartments are somewhat unloaded, but many things still remain tucked away in the corners that really should come out.

I want to travel a lot lighter than we have in the past.  Not because this will improve our fuel economy, and not because we were overweight, but simply because life is easier in the trailer when there’s less stuff to dig past in order to get to what you need.  It will be nice to have storage areas that have free space, instead of being packed to the absolute limit.  We’re not going to be needing that snorkel gear in the southern California desert anyway.

defrosting-the-refrigerator.jpgI’ll appreciate being able to get to the bed without stepping over my ukulele.  Finding the beef jerky for a hike will be nicer when there’s no heap of summer clothing stored on top of it.  And on and on it goes … every space in the trailer is getting overhauled, and all of the “we might need this” stuff is coming out in favor of the “I plan to use this next week” stuff.

This is fun.  Instead of packing food for every contingency and having to cut package down in size to fit, Eleanor is just tossing in the full size packages of the things we plan to eat in the week-long trip that is planned.  We’re bringing only the games we want to play, the clothes we want to wear this week, the books we are currently reading, and we’re putting the rest into storage bins in the house.

For example, this time of year it’s hard to find reliably warm weather anywhere, and the southwestern desert is certainly not immune to cold. No snowstorms are expected in the low desert that we travel, but nights will be near freezing.  A rapid 35 degree drop in temperature after sunset is not unusual, so our clothes for this trip have been chosen with layering in mind.

The upside of the winnowing process is not the hundreds of pounds of stuff we have removed, but more rather that we’ve simplified life yet again.  Simple is good when you are going on vacation, and that’s the mental mode I want to capture with this trip.  Usually it’s work and play combined.  This time the work will be kept to a minimum while the play stuff takes over.  Eliminating the unnecessary has made room for a few bulky luxuries that we haven’t traveled with in years: the Weber grill, the folding bicycles, folding chairs, and the waffle iron.

I know for most people who have Airstreams, this perspective on packing is not very new.  Most folks pack the trailer for each trip, and they are usually packing for less than a week.  But we haven’t had that experience since 2005. I am enjoying the novelty of being “weekenders.”

Part of the fun is the anticipation of the trip, and the anticipation can be strengthened by the process of picking out the things you’ll need for the things you’ll do.  I can already see us hiking up a canyon in search of a palm oasis and bighorn sheep (note to self: remember hiking boots, backpacks, trail snacks, water reservoirs).  I’ll have fun snapping pictures (remember to pack all the camera gear) as we discover interesting bits of geology, history, and botany along the trails.  In the evening we’ll grill out by the awning (pick up portobello mushrooms and peppers at the grocery), and watch the bright stars as the coyotes howl (binoculars, tripod, headlamps, folding chairs, warm sweaters).  In the morning we’re going to experiment with a new waffle mix and serve ‘em with real Vermont maple syrup.

We are fortunate to have a full hookup in our carport.  This makes pre-trip prep a lot easier.  The trailer has been sitting since we got back, and there’s some cleaning to be done.  Eleanor defrosted the refrigerator quickly before we started repacking it, and I did a little mopping up of the desert dust that always accumulates even in closed spaces.  (In the photo above, she’s chucking a piece of ice from the refrigerator into the sink.) A quick check around the Airstream shows that everything is still operational except for a single bulb that burned out, so the prep is minimal this time.

The last simplicity accruing from this change in perspective is the ease with which this trip has come together.  Focusing solely on a closed-ended and brief trip, we have had to put less brainpower into the planning and packing.  Preparing for our last seven month voyage took weeks of prep, shopping, packing, and planning. It’s so much easier for this trip.  We need only pack for one season, one place, one week, and one intent:  have fun and relax.  Although I can’t wait to get going, these days leading up to departure are fine too.

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Editor & Publisher of Airstream Life magazine