Archive for January, 2013

Memories of a rainy morning

Saturday, January 26th, 2013

It rained last night.  We woke up to a steady pouring rain, the kind I associate with northeastern autumns, where calm windless showers wash the streets clean, gurgle in the gutters, and drag the yellow maple leaves off their branches to cover the lawn.

Here in southern Arizona that’s a much more rare occurrence.  This is a “winter storm,” in local parlance, but using the word storm seems far too harsh for what we experience.  It’s just a nice steady rain that rinses the dust off, not even enough to fill the dry washes with brown floods like the summer thunderstorms will do.

I laid in bed for a while because the sound of rain on the roof seemed so novel, and it took my mind back to many times in the Airstream when I lay in its bed and listened to the patter of rain on aluminum.  I remembered lovely quiet mornings in the Florida panhandle where the sand hisses as the rain hits it, cold deluges in June in Vermont, and days in the dark green rainforest of the Olympic peninsula. We’ve had great rainy days all over the country, everywhere except in the desert southwest.

The rainforest sticks with me the most. We visited the Hoh Valley five years ago in October, a particularly rainy month even by rainforest standards, when thirty inches of rain will settle on the moss and keep the wild-looking Salt Creek rushing gray and chilly.  I remember that it never stopped raining in the campground, not even for a second, over two days.  But strangely the rain was inoffensive; it was a constant “pink noise” that reminded me of a pleasant humming.  The air was still, the rain fell straight to the earth and dripped off the Airstream’s awning, and the sound of each little droplet splashing down was muted by the grass and the omnipresent thick moss.  The effect was to make the quiet campground into a sort of Zen Garden where you almost could not raise your voice or tread heavily or think angry thoughts.  It invited contemplation.

And it invited homey thoughts.  After hiking around the mossy trails and visiting the National Park rangers, we checked out the creek, hunted for animal signs, and eventually settled into the Airstream for Eleanor and Emma to bake apple pie.  We had apples that needing eating or cooking, but I believe that the steady cool rain had something to do with the inspiration too.

At the time I wrote in our blog about the events of the days, but when it rains now I think back to those places and times with a different perspective.  If I close my eyes and just listen to the light drumbeat of rain on the roof I can travel back to those places and experience them again.  It’s different, as if I have been able to actually go there and feel the same magic of the first discovery with our 7-year-old child, but reflect on things that didn’t occur to me the first time.

I find I am doing more of this lately, reliving the highlights of those three glorious years when we were free to travel North America as much as we wanted, and revisiting places with the perspective of today.  It’s a cheap way to travel.  But it also reminds me that we need to do a little more of that in the near future, just to build up the cask of memories and keep us from only reliving the past.  I don’t like the thought that our biggest and best life experience might be behind us, and I’ve got plenty of friends who are much older than us who are continuing to have spectacular adventures.  They prove that even though circumstances will change, you can get out there and experience the real world anytime you can hitch up the Airstream.

The rain has stopped now and puffy cumulus clouds are now drifting through a deep blue sky.  The breeze is up.  That’s Arizona for you.  It’s as if the rain never happened.  It’s time to go outside and check that the Caravel is still dry inside.  Perhaps we’ll go for a walk too.  But even though the storm is long gone, the memories of rain will stick with me for the rest of the day and give me ideas, and maybe even wish that tonight it rains a little again.

It’s as easy as bungee jumping

Tuesday, January 15th, 2013

Quiet blog?  Only above the surface.  Back here at Airstream Life World Headquarters, things have been pleasantly busy.

These days my work as Editor of Airstream Life has been almost a backdrop to putting together events.  Financially this makes no sense, as the magazine pays the bills and the events are more of a hobby business, but I can’t stop myself.  Either Brett or I will come up with an idea for “something cool” and then suddenly we are spending far too many hours to make it come off.  I think we are both just compulsive about building new things, and we enjoy that more than our day jobs.

Back in late October we flew out to Oregon to do a site visit to the Seven Feather Casino/Hotel/RV Resort, wondering if we could put on an event there.  (By the way, I think that I spent more nights in hotel rooms last year with Brett than I did with my wife, and that’s slightly disturbing.)  Once on-site, we found a charming and well designed campground and a staff of extremely nice people who convinced us that it was the place to go next, and that’s how Alumafandango Seven Feathers was born.  We announced it a few weeks ago, for August 6-11, 2013, and now we are hustling to get seminars, entertainers, and tours put together so that everyone who comes will have a great time.

But before we can pull that off, we need to get Alumapalooza 4 on track.  I got tired of some of the repeat seminars, so we’ve basically started over with a list of new ideas—which of course means a lot of work.  Only a few favorites will repeat, and they will all have interesting twists.  Alex & Charon are coming back but instead of vacuum-sealing Alex in a bag they are going to do something else horrible.  We’ll do the Backup Derby again but this year I think the windows of the tow vehicle will be blacked out.  We’ll have yoga again, but this time it will be in the nude.

Just kidding about that last item.

And before we can pull off Alumapalooza 4, we need to get past Alumafiesta in Tucson.  That’s coming up in two weeks.  Registration closes today, so soon I’ll be putting together all the attendee lists and various other things we need, and then Eleanor and I have to finalize our trailers.  Yes, I said “trailers” plural.  Because Brett & Lisa are flying in, we have to supply them with our 1968 Airstream Caravel for housing, completely furnished & equipped.  We have never loaned out this trailer before so it has meant a lot of extra prep work to turn it into a “rental”: lots of cleaning, re-packing, testing, and counting the silverware…  I may have to ask Brett for a security deposit.

Ah, kidding again.  I’ll just replace the silver with flatware from Home Goods.

Things have been complicated lately by two factors:  (1) This is the season for all good snowbirds to arrive in Tucson.  A few friends have popped by already, and in a week or so we will be inundated.  I wouldn’t dare complain about this, since we look forward to our friends coming to town, but it means that all our prep has to be done well in advance.  (2) It has been unbelievably cold (for Tucson) lately.  To put that into perspective, keep in mind that here we never have to winterize the trailers.  We just leave them parked and turn on the furnace for a night or two.

Since New Year’s Eve we’ve had at least five freezing nights and more are forecast through Thursday (then we get back to the normal stuff for this time of year, 68 by day and 45 by night).  Our propane ran low very quickly, so I popped an electric space heater in each trailer instead and went off to the local LP supplier to get four 30# LP tanks filled plus a 20# for the gas grill.  This is what we call “winter” in Tucson.

In the process I discovered that one of the propane “pigtails” on the Safari was leaking.  These are the flexible hoses that run from the propane tank to the regulator (see video explanation from last year).  They’re stupidly unreliable lately.  I don’t know if the quality of construction is dropping or I’m just buying the wrong brand, but lately it seems I can only get a year out of them before they start leaking at the crimped metal connections.  The current pair date from last summer.

I called Super Terry for a consultation on this, and he recommended going from 12″ to 15″ lines so that there’d be less stress on them.  I ordered four new ones (about $11 each), being quite sure not to get the same brand as before, and will just keep a pair in the Airstream from now on as spares, along with the wrenches needed to remove and install them, and my soapy-water spray bottle and plumber’s tape.  You know yours have gone bad when you smell gas around the propane bottles, and your furnace quits.  Usually this happens in the middle of the night.  Once you have the pigtails in hand they take only a few minutes to swap, but sometimes finding the right type and length is harder than you’d think, so I’d recommend everyone carry at least one spare with them.

I had a nice meeting with the people at Lazydays last week to finalize details about our event and the food & beverage.  They are really rolling out the red carpet for us, including an open bar & appetizers at our first Happy Hour, and generally first-class service all around.  I had a pre-event dream last night, which always happens to me a few weeks before we do an event, and for the first time it wasn’t a nightmare.

We must be getting better at this event business.  At least I should hope to have learned a few things, after all the ones we’ve done: Two Vintage Trailer Jams, two Modernism Weeks, three Alumapaloozas, one Alumafandango, and in 2013 three more events.  That’s eight behind us and three ahead, plus two on the drawing board.  I guess people are taking notice, because in the past month we’ve had two inquiries about running events for other people.  Probably only one of those will actually pan out.  It’s flattering to be asked in any case.  I don’t know if it makes business sense since (like bungee-jumpers) we are mostly in it for the thrill, but you never know where an opportunity might lead.  I’ve learned to check out every opportunity that pops up, as sometimes even things that look hopeless will take an unexpected turn for the better.  Except at a Bourbon Street bar, looking is usually free.

About the Author

Editor & Publisher of Airstream Life magazine