Civilized life in aluminum
My plans for the past few days included a little more than just catching up on work and packing for our next trip. But that’s all I can do, since the weather here has been pretty poor. The northeast gets enough rain in June without the remnants of a tropical storm wafting up the coastline, and this time we got both, which translates to five or six days of rain. That is enough to quash any hope of a nice motorcycle tour through the region.
So here I am, in the Airstream listening to the splatter of accumulated raindrops from the trees. I can’t hear the actual rain. It’s really more of a gentle mist that never stops. It reminds me of the days we spent in the Olympic rain forest in Washington. Emma is off having fun with her grandparents, and Eleanor is shopping, so I’m alone here and free to do whatever I want … as long as it doesn’t involve outside activities or using the car.
Ah well, I’m certainly not suffering, just a little bored. On a day like this the Airstream is a pretty nice refuge. The key, I’ve discovered, is warmth. If it’s cold in the trailer, it just doesn’t feel like home. The high temperature outside will not break the upper 50s and it is chillingly damp. Even indoors with the furnace cycling occasionally, I worked rather uncomfortably for a few hours this morning, until I remembered that we have a catalytic heater.
That’s the ticket on a cold and rainy day. The catalytic heater hisses quietly and produces a nice, bone-warming heat that gradually pervades every corner of the Airstream. Somehow it feels much more even and comfortable than the furnace, which blows around hot air that quickly dissipates. I cleared a few things away from the face of the catalytic heater and fired it up. It was a little reluctant to start at first, or maybe I’m just out of practice. We haven’t needed it since … uh … last June when we were in exactly the same spot in Vermont.
Before she headed out, Eleanor put a hot cup of decaf coffee with Torani hazelnut and cream by my computer (I don’t drink regular coffee, and I only like decaf when it’s abnormally sweet). That was a bit of civilization, and it reminded me that I am, after all, in an Airstream. I began rummaging through the DVDs for a good spy movie to watch. If I’m going to make a rainy day into a nice day, I might as well go all the way.
I remember a day back in 2004, when we were still fairly new to Airstreaming but already completely under the magic spell of these trailers. I was at a rally where someone was holding an open house of their 1968 Airstream Overlander. The trailer was magnificent, all original, with cherry cabinetry that had mellowed over the decades to a rich brown. At the time I was still reeling with the concept that it was a complete home that you could take anywhere. Plop it down in the middle of a desert or a green rally field with 1,000 other trailers—it didn’t matter. No matter where it was, you could open the kitchen faucet and water would run out. You could cook dinner, take a shower, watch a movie, play games on the living room table, anywhere. For some reason, this floored me, and the impression remains with me to this day, even after living in our Airstream for years.
In years past we tended to just drop the Airstream in the driveway with a basic 10-amp power cord and try to survive the summer without any real hookups. This forced us into the house for the bathroom, showers, to escape very hot days, for cooking, and even to get decent Internet for work. We basically just slept in the Airstream. For a short visit this is fine, but during a month or two of visiting it felt very limiting. Eventually I realized that without using the Airstream the way it was intended was only a little better than sleeping in a tent on the lawn, so we began to arrange things to be more comfortable. Now we have a 30-amp power line that reaches the trailer so we can air condition when needed, and I’ve got cellular Internet that actually works, and a few other details have been arranged to make the Airstream the home that it should be.
On a day like today I really appreciate that. There’s no need to be uncomfortable. I can reach into my closet and pull out my warm socks and sweatshirt. I can slowly toast the interior with heat, and mix up tasty beverages and snacks from the refrigerator. I can stream a movie from Netflix or Hulu, communicate with the entire world, bake some cookies, or take a nap. And at anytime I can hitch it up and do all this again anywhere that I can reach with a car. It’s still amazing to me.
Thoughts like this make a dull day in the Airstream more appreciable. Having time on my hands today turns out to be a nice thing. I’ll plan future trips, write blog entries, talk to friends on the phone, watch movies … It sure isn’t “camping,” but today I make no apologies for that. With rain in the forecast for another couple of days, camping isn’t really what feels best right now. My Airstream life does.