The “snake killers” are on the job

One of the important aspects of planning the Alumapalooza prep schedule is to leave in lots of time for “contingencies.”  You never know what will crop up, but it’s virtually guaranteed that several things will.  The other key is to be surrounded by people who are really capable, so when a problem does pop up, they just jump on it without even having to be asked to do it.

I’m reminded of a quote from Ross Perot, the billionaire founder of EDS, after he got involved with General Motors:  “At EDS, the first person who sees a snake kills it.  At GM, they form a committee on snakes.”  Our core team members are all snake-killers, figuratively speaking.

So when I awoke in the morning to one of the worst sounds you can hear in an Airstream—drip drip drip—I was dismayed but knew I was surrounded by people who could help.  The air conditioner had run most of the night to beat the incessant heat and intense humidity, and apparently the condensate drain tube was clogged. This caused an overflow of water in the drain pan, and when that happens you get a light rain shower in your trailer.

One of the many handy folks parked in the Terra Port with us is Super Terry.  I threw a couple of salad bowls beneath the air conditioner and went to get him out of bed.  This took over  an hour since he had slept poorly and had his own water problem to deal with as well.  A water line had sprung a leak right underneath his bed, which needed to be fixed immediately.  S.T. put a temporary patch on his leak and then came over to help me, a gauge of his Super-helpful character.

The problem was readily remedied by blowing out the drain tube, but as we were in there S.T. spotted daylight coming through.  The air conditioner, when replaced last fall, didn’t get a layer of double-sided tape between it and the drain pan. This is not a serious issue, as rainwater won’t normally get through the gap, but in wind-driven rain or while towing we could have a minor leak.

By this time it was 9 a.m. and time for me to join all the volunteers are our little appreciation breakfast at the Verandah.  Normally we just treat the volunteers like rented mules, with nary a thank-you card for their efforts sweating in the field all week.  This year our hearts softened enough to buy them breakfast at the best restaurant in town, which happens to be a short walk from Airstream.  Eleanor and Emma even dressed up a little for the occasion.

Once back, we had to do some prep for the new Backup Derby event.  We ran the course several times (with plenty of onlookers) and worked out a nice little routine that took “the Stig” 59.6 seconds.  We expect most people will take about 90 seconds to complete it.  You can get full details about it by going to the Alumapalooza website.  This is going to be a seriously fun event.

Meanwhile, our crack team of volunteers was inside the Service Center stuffing 200 goody bags.  We have a rented Gator to shuttle all the stuff around this year, from our U-Haul trailer to the Service Center, back to the trailer, and then eventually to the field.  In previous years we used our car, but the Gator is a lot more convenient.

This year we have a nice black zipper bag that even had a little iPod pocket in it.  It’s a great souvenir of the event, and it will (as always) be filled with treats and coupons and the all-important Survival Guide.

As predicted, the heat and humidity were brutal on Sunday, but we were ready for it. Brett kept a large ice chest filled with water for all the volunteers, and everyone had their sun hats and sunscreen on.  It was only really bad for us because in the middle of the day Super Terry returned (with some of the special double-sided tape) and removed our air conditioner in order to apply the tape.  I got up on the roof with him and we managed to get it done in about half an hour.

Of course now the heat was nearing peak and the trailer had become completely heat-soaked, so it would take two hours to cool off again.  I say “would” because then Eleanor began cooking an elaborate dinner of beef tenderloin, orcchiette pasta with a smoky mushroom tomato cream sauce, white bean & roasted garlic puree for the bread, and sfogliatelle (an Italian stuffed flaky pastry, courtesy of Elsa) for dessert.   All of this meant all three burners of the stove and the oven running for two hours, which completely overwhelmed any good the air conditioner could do.  We ended up turning it off and running fans despite the 91 degree temperatures outside.  It was actually cooler that way.

Well, dinner was worth it.  I mean, really, it was.  And since we suffered in a trailer that was hotter than the outside (where the “heat index” was 100 degrees), you know it had to be good chow.  But we won’t be eating like that again this week.  Too much time involved, too much work.  This week we’ll be mostly cooking on the Open Grill with the rest of the people who are coming this week.

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Editor & Publisher of Airstream Life magazine