Serious trip prep

You can tell we’re serious about a trip when the checklists come out.  Long ago we began compiling checklists to make our packing easier, and each spring we pull those lists out and start checking off items and updating them for current circumstances.  I don’t know how else to do it, since there are way too many things to remember to do when we’re anticipating being away from home base for months.

Our checklists have been in play for a couple of weeks now. In addition to the normal things needed for daily life in an Airstream, Eleanor is going to be doing two cooking demonstrations at Alumapalooza this year, and that means she needs to carry a lot of food ingredients.  She also has to do two separate rehearsals before we depart.

Her first presentation will be about sauces.  She will make ten different and delicious multi-purpose sauces in about 40 minutes, right in front of everyone at Alumapalooza, using an actual Airstream stove & oven.  Afterward, everyone in the audience will get a chance to taste each sauce.  I’ll have the recipes posted on the Alumapalooza website on the days of her presentations.

So we did a run-through last night in our kitchen and worked out a few small issues with the sauces, and today she’ll do another run-through in the Airstream of her second demonstration.  That one will be a full meal featuring salmon and risotto.

Meanwhile, I’m trying to wrap up projects and loose ends so that I can be on the road without too much work pressure.  The Fall issue would normally have an editorial deadline of June 1, but since I’m always at Alumapalooza at that time I ask all the writers to get me their Fall articles by May 15 or sooner.  That helps me get the bulk of the issue in hand before I’m on the road. Most of the writers have been very cooperative with that, which I appreciate.

Once we start traveling, it’s much harder to carve out enough hours to get serious work done.  On driving days I’m lucky to get three useful hours of time in front of the computer, which is sometimes just enough to keep the fires stoked at work, but at that rate I’ll gradually fall behind.  When we were full-timing it was easier; I’d just declare a “destination” and spend a few days in the Airstream getting work done. But now we’re on a schedule to get to Denver and Jackson Center, and I can’t just pull over for a few days when things get busy.

Our route is partially set, at least as far as Denver.  This time, to make the drive more interesting we’ll go up through Arizona to Flagstaff, then cut through the Navajo Nation and possibly stop at Navajo National Monument.  Our next stop is undetermined but will be somewhere between Moab UT and Grand Junction CO, I’d guess.  Our destination for this leg of the trip is Denver CO, where we will inspect the site of this year’s Alumafandango and do a little advance work.  After that we’ll continue on to Jackson Center OH with probably 3-4 short stops along the way.  As is normal for us, we aren’t making any reservations.

I’ll have to return to Tucson fairly soon after Alumapalooza is over.  I’ve got some appointments here, and I’ll need to get back to work in a serious way.  My time in the Airstream will be almost exactly one month, then probably about another month from August to September when we go to Alumafandango. But the Airstream won’t be back to home base for close to four months.

The Airstream is nearly ready for its voyage.  Most of our clothes are packed, Eleanor has worked out the food arrangements, and I’ve verified that all of the systems are in good operating condition. I need to check for a possible propane leak around the flexible hose that connects the propane bottles to the regulator (called a pigtail), which I’ll do today with a spray bottle and some soapy water. Those hoses don’t last forever, but replacing one is a simple task if needed.  [Update:  I found the leak and will be replacing both of the pigtail lines today.]  I also need to check the tires.  I’m not expecting any problems from the Michelins just because they’ve been so bulletproof over the past couple of years, so at worst I expect I might need to add a little air.

Our tow vehicle has been getting more attention lately than the Airstream.  I’ve been driving it around town to confirm that the recent repair to the urea injection system has really done the job, and it seems to be fine.  It’ll be due for an oil change and tire rotation in 2,000 miles, which means I’ll have to do it somewhere around Indiana or Ohio. I don’t really want to make that stop because the timing will be inconvenient, so I may just take it in before we leave Tucson.  (The oil change interval is every 10,000 miles on this car.)

My neighbor Mike came over Sunday morning to finally force me to do an exterior detail on the GL320.  It really needed it.  Together we washed the car, then hand-dried it, then used clay bars to pull all the contaminants out of the paint, and finally used Mike’s buffer to wax the body.  The result was fantastic, better than new.  The paint is so glossy and slick that it feels like glass.  In the process I found two dings on the body that I hadn’t noticed before.  Oh well.

The Airstream, on the other hand, is filthy on the outside.  It’s covered with dust from a winter of storage—and we have a lot of dust here.  I’m sure the solar panels won’t be generating much power until I can wash them off, but cleaning will have to wait until I can get the trailer out of the carport and over to a truck wash.  I’ve tried cleaning the trailer by hand with brushes and ladders, and since it’s 30 feet long and 10 feet tall, it takes hours.  Long ago I decided that paying $38 at the Blue Beacon was definitely my choice.

One of the more pleasant tasks of our annual departure is putting things in “vacation mode.”  That’s because it’s a huge money-saving opportunity.  It turns out that a lot of things have some form of vacation mode.  The water heater has one, or we can just shut it off completely ($10/month saved).  The local water/sewer authority allows us to put our sewer bill on vacation mode, which amazes me ($20/month saved). USAA allows us to put our other cars in “storage” while we’re gone, which reduces the insurance coverages we won’t need (about $120 per month saved).  (They even provide a little warning sheet to print out and place on the driver’s seat so that we remember to “un-store” the car before driving it.)  CenturyLink allows us to put our household DSL service on hold too (about $50/month).  Between all of that and turning off the air conditioning (up to $250 per month in the summer), we can save $350-450 per month while we are gone, which of course can go directly to our travel expenses.   If only we could put our real estate taxes on hold too.

About the Author

Editor & Publisher of Airstream Life magazine