All the same, but different
Every voyage is different. Even though we are once again in the Airstream that has been our second home for six years (and our first home for three years before that), and we are once again traveling to the Airstream factory in Jackson Center OH, there is a mental aspect of each trip that is unique.
I used to think that this was by design, a result of my effort to find new things to see and do along routes we had previously traveled, but during preparation for this trip my adventure-planning stalled out and we were left with nothing but the same old route that we had done before. Neither Eleanor nor I were particularly excited about the 2,000 mile drive that faced us, and we delayed our departure a couple of days. We spent the extra time finalizing things at home and enjoying the last few gorgeous dry warm days in Tucson before the summer heat attacked.
Delaying, of course, put more time pressure on us to get to Ohio, and it seemed we were faced with nothing but a tedious slog along the Interstates, lacking time even for a few small detours on the “blue highways” where America keeps its most interesting diversions.
And that has turned out to be true for the most part, but yet something odd has occurred: the trip is unique. There’s a mental aspect I hadn’t anticipated. We are all a year older than the last time we drove this route (and in Emma’s teenage world a year is a huge difference), we have new ideas and views of our travel, different concerns, changing attitudes. The Airstream is the same, the road is the same, but we are just a little bit different—and that changes the flavor of the trip. The Airstream once again shows us that it is a vehicle in more ways that one.
All this is part of the inner view we each carry; often unspoken, but which colors our attitude toward what we experience and how we interact. Practically speaking, we drove from Tucson to a point just west of Albuquerque on Sunday, a total of 480 miles, and on Monday covered about 525 miles Oklahoma City, and then Tuesday a shorter drive of about 200 miles to a quiet state park in the northeastern corner of Oklahoma.
This puts us 1,200 miles closer to Jackson Center, so with 60% of the traveling done, we can slow down and explore a little. Last night in Twin Bridges State Park was an antidote to endless concrete roadways and truck traffic: peaceful, green, shady, and it smells like summer here. We opened all the windows on the Airstream and let the fans blow the warm summer air around. I took a nap and tried to recover a little. Eleanor and Emma took an exploratory walk, and then Eleanor made dinner (with extra for a future night when we might not have a full hookup), and we ate ice cream and generally got comfortable. No high-concept entertainment here, just a little of the relaxation that you can’t often find at home.
I say “you can’t find at home” because we are conveniently cut off from modern distractions. Our location in the state park is shadowed somewhat from radio waves, so we can’t place calls and Internet access is nearly impossible. My phone will send and receive text messages (very slowly, sometimes taking a few hours to send a single message) but that’s enough to keep in touch with the rest of the Alumapalooza team as they work on final details before the event. Otherwise I’ve got no communications with the outside world, and that’s fine after three days of juggling steering wheel and cell phone while dodging trucks. We will be back in the connected world all too soon anyway.
I know someone will ask, so here’s a report: The Airstream is behaving very well. A couple of things are on our bug list, but nothing substantial. The toilet bowl seal has been slowly leaking for the past few months (causing the water in the bowl to drip into the tank), and so we are going to replace it at Airstream. It’s an unpleasant job and the seals are moderately expensive, so I had put it off until a convenient moment. With Super Terry on site, it should be much quicker and easier than if I had attempted it myself at home.
I also have a replacement bath vent fan to install. The handle broke on that part last year, and I’ve been carrying around the replacement since October but in the carport at home there’s no room to get on the roof for a job like that, so it’s actually easier to do while on the road.
Other than that, we just have a single cabinet latch that broke. I’m going to replace it with a magnetic latch because this particular location has always been a problem. That’s easily done with just a shopping trip to a good hardware store—and the tool kit that we always carry.
What’s remarkable is how many things haven’t gone wrong. I did a rough calculation yesterday during my copious hours of freeway driving and it seems that the Airstream has traveled over 120,000 miles at this point. It’s a well-traveled 9-year-old. Of course, we’ve replaced or upgraded almost everything except the body itself at this point.
Likewise, the Mercedes GL320 is purring along. It is about to pass 90,000 miles on the odometer. When I bought it my plan was to accumulate at least 250,000 miles before getting a replacement tow vehicle and now I’m thinking I might bump that up to 300,000.
Today’s trip plan calls for another short drive, into Missouri. After that, well, we’ll see how the experience unfolds and decide as we go.