Archive for the ‘Alumafandango’ Category

Someone to blog over me

Tuesday, August 13th, 2013

Hmm.. another long absence from the blog.  I can only plead guilty.  Life has interfered with blogging in so many ways I can’t begin to count.  But here’s a synopsis of what’s been going on.

The virus I mentioned earlier dogged me right through the week when I was supposed to be getting ready for Alumafandango, and then into the event itself.  The Saturday prior to the event I dragged my pathetic self out of bed, drove to Phoenix, caught a plane to Portland, and then rode four hours with Brett down to Canyonville to do pre-event work.  Sadly, I was in no shape to do any of those things, and so upon arriving at the hotel I collapsed into bed and proceeded to be fairly useless all weekend.  Brett did the heavy lifting, demonstrating once again that we could only do this as a partnership.

It was looking like I might even miss a few days of Alumafandango, but then on Monday things began to improve and by Tuesday when our first guests appeared I was able to approximate a smile and help kick off the event.  From there it was a marvelous week.  I didn’t have time to blog at all from the event, but you can probably read more about it from Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and various blogs (Casarodante, TinCanz, Notes From The Cabin) than I could ever say.  (If you Google it, be sure you’re looking at comments about Alumafandango Seven Feathers, not the 2012 Alumafandango in Denver.)

What I really need these days is someone to read my mind and blog for me.  That’s not likely, so I recommend following my Twitter feed (“airstreamlife”) as a way to keep abreast of events.  These days I’m much more likely to get a quick tweet and a photo out, than a full blog entry.  I am, however, in active talks with a few folks who each want to become Editor of Airstream Life, and I have high hopes that one of them will work out and thus free up some time.  And I doubt I will ever stop blogging entirely, as it is a very useful outlet for thoughts.  As fellow Airstream blogger Ramona Creel says, “There’s too much stuff to keep in my head!”

Where were we?  Ah yes, Alumafandango.  We had about 65 Airstreams on site, and people just raved about everything: the campground, the seminars, the activities, entertainment, meals … Even the wildfires in the area were blowing away from us, so we had virtually no smoke.  The weather was great except toward the end where we had some pretty exciting thunderstorms.  Three awnings were damaged in the first round of storms, which the Sutton guys fixed on the spot using parts scavenged from their new display Airstreams.  After that everyone knew to pull in the their awnings when they were away.

Brett and I ran a seminar in which we accepted written questions on any subject related to Airstreaming, which we called “Airstreaming for Newbies” but really got into some advanced topics.  Nobody stumped us, and I got a few good ideas of topics to cover in the upcoming Maintenance book, from the questions people asked. We will definitely do that one again sometime in the future.

The highlights of the week were many: Randy Grubb’s “Decopod,” Antsy McClain & Edgar Cruz performing on stage, the frankly awesome seminars by Thom the service manager at George M Sutton RV, the Saturday night banquet, the on-site wine tasting and off-site winery tour, several really fun Happy Hours, Indian drumming … I knew we had a hit when people kept smiling at us and saying things like, “Wow, it just keeps going!”  About 1/3 of our attendees told us they were already planning to come again in 2014, and we haven’t even announced where or when we’re doing it again!

Now I’m back in Tucson, picking up where I left off two weeks ago, and thinking about what’s coming up.  There’s a lot of work ahead.  Our event planning team (Brett, me, Alice) is already working on the programs for our February 2014 events: Alumafiesta in Tucson and Alumaflamingo in Sarasota.  We want to have the tentative programs released in October.  Alumaflamingo already has 100 trailers signed up, so it looks like it will be a big one and we want to respond to that vote of confidence with a truly amazing program of activities.  It’s pressure, but the good kind.

I’ve also got to get the Winter 2013 issue in some sort of shape for publication this month, even though it’s not due to layout until later.  It’s looking like a good issue but there’s about 20 hours of editing work ahead.  And lately I’ve been consulting to the organizers of Tucson’s new Modernism Week event (now in its second year) on how to put together a vintage trailer show this year.  They are trying to get about ten nice vintage rigs for their show in the first week of October this year.  I may do a presentation there on the history of vintage trailers as well, if they need it. It will be a great event to attend, in any case, with lots of architectural tours.

Back in Vermont, Eleanor has managed some repairs to the trusty Mercedes GL320.  It had some minor body damage from two separate incidents (one dating back a couple of years), and we finally took it to the body shop to get all of that cleaned up.  Little dings can add up: the insurance claim was over $3,000 thanks to a ridiculously expensive front bumper part.  It’s the sort of stuff that could be—and was—easily ignored but I hate to see it accumulate and make the car look junky before its time.  The GL has about 74,000 miles on it so far, mostly towing, and I certainly intend to keep it for a few more years, so it was time to bite the bullet and pay the deductible to keep the car looking good.

In two weeks I need to head back to Vermont and then set out with the Airstream (and once again, E&E) on our voyage west.  We don’t have the slightest plan yet what route we are taking.  All we know is that we need to be back in Tucson by Oct 1, which gives us about a month to travel roughly 2,500-3,000 miles (depending on route).  I’m looking for little things along the way to fill up our itinerary so we won’t go too fast.

This is a nice problem to have, after last year’s mad dash over the concrete Interstates. Slow travel is the best.  It won’t be a vacation, but at least it will be an opportunity to take in some fresh new scenery in the Airstream before we settle back into home base for the winter.  And there will be plenty to blog about!

2013 trip plan

Thursday, May 9th, 2013

It’s that time of year again, when I finally start writing about the trip plan for the summer.  Every winter I plot and obsess about where we’ll go in the summer, because (a) planning is a way to get through the boring parts of the winter; (b) summer is our big opportunity to go places, since we are “forced” to travel east for Alumapalooza anyway.

This year’s plan is especially exciting to us.  Late next week we’ll hit the road toward Alumapalooza.  This is a long slog, something north of 2,000 miles to Ohio, and lots of tedious Interstate travel, but we try to mix it up a little each year with new stops or routes.  After doing this trip from Tucson at least five?  six? times, I think we’ve exhausted every possible route so now we are going a little off the concrete path and adding unnecessary miles just to see something new.

2013 trip leg 1The big goal for this leg is the Great Smokies National Park (“B” on the map).  We have never visited with the Airstream, and yet it’s reputedly the most visited National Park in the entire NPS system.  Eleanor and I went once, back in the 1990s, pre-child, pre-Airstream, and we didn’t get a chance to do any hiking, so this visit will probably be entirely different.  Should be a nice chance to chill out before we jump into the long days of running Alumapalooza.

To get there on our schedule, we must bear up to once again traversing the I-10 and I-20 route through Texas.  It’s not the most exciting drive, but I prefer it slightly to I-40 through Oklahoma, or I-70 through Kansas, or I-80 through Nebraska.  No matter which way you cross the Plains, you are going to see a lot of flatness and emptiness, so all you can do is pick the type of emptiness you prefer.  I like the kind with more desert in it than grass.

2013 trip leg 2In Ohio we’ll be running Alumapalooza for a week (including prep time).  After that, and a mandatory decompression session with Airstream friends in eastern Ohio, we’ll head east along a well-trodden path of I-90 with only one or two quick stops in New York.

Why the rush?  Well, there are only ten days between Alumapalooza and our next major travel leg, and in that short time I’ve got to tow the Airstream 800 miles and catch up/get ahead on work.  I also have a quick overnight motorcycle tour to Americade planned with my brother and some of his friends.  It’s a lot to pack into a short time.

A few days later, Eleanor and I will head to New York City to catch a plan to Germany.  Eleanor and I are going to camp with the European Airstreamers at their annual gathering, just north of Frankfurt.  We’ll be staying for three nights in a new Euro-spec Airstream provided courtesy of Roka Werk AG, the German Airstream dealership.  Very cool, and I can’t wait.

Of course, I have to sing for my supper; in this case, doing a presentation about “America’s National Parks” for the assembled Europeans.  In the process of researching it I was amazed at what I didn’t know about the National Parks.  We’ve visited close to 200 of them now (Emma has over 60 Junior Ranger badges) and still there’s so much more to see and learn.  I’ve spent several nights picking out the best photos we have for the slide show, which has brought back a lot of great memories.

After the 3-day Gathering, we’re going to plan hookey for a while, touring around Europe in a rental car.  What will we do?  I’m not sure, but don’t expect me to return calls for a while.   I’m not even bringing my laptop, just an iPad.  It will be a wonderful opportunity to disconnect.

Then it’s back to Vermont for a week or so with family, and then I’ll fly back to Tucson for July, reverting into my alter-ego personality of Temporary Bachelor Man for four weeks.  I can’t tell you what to expect from that either. You never know what TBM will do.  Probably he’ll be buried in work from all the time I was offline in June, but I’m certain he’ll do his best to make a small roadtrip in the time available.

In August I’m flying up to Oregon to run Alumafandango.  Being the first time in that location, it should be a lot of fun with a lot of new faces.  We’re going to release the Preliminary Event Program in June (most likely), and it will be typically packed with stuff to do all day.  The setting up there in Canyonville is just beautiful, too.

Mid-August?  I dunno.  Probably a little more TBM, then flying to Vermont to retrieve the family (remember them?) and the Airstream.  After that we are kind of open on the plan, including the return timing.  We might leave in August and take a long trip across the northern tier before heading home, or we might hang in New England until early September and then bolt home (out of necessity due to appointments).

In prior years our annual round-robin has run anywhere from 8,000 to 14,000 miles total (including side trips not towing).  I’m expecting about the same this year.  Fuel prices are about the same as last year so I don’t expect a major change in the budget.  We’ll spend the same amount for the Airstream portion of the trip as we would have taking the family on a two week cruise.  Not cheap, but to my mind a bargain for an entire summer of fun.

Mobile Internet, part II

Monday, April 15th, 2013

OK.  I’m sitting here looking at my fingers as I type.  I see three small cuts (nicks from sharp aluminum edges), three broken nails, and one knuckle scuff.  I have been fighting the mobile Internet installation, and finally won.

When I started on the project Saturday I figured it was a two or three hour job:  pull out all the old gear, run a new antenna cable, mount the new antenna, and then install the new gear.  No big deal.  But every step of the way, I was tested.  This was an exercise in beating frustration, which is part of why it took two and a half days to complete.

Nothing would go right the first time.  Now, I can admit that some of the trouble was the result of my inexperience with some things, but I’m not a total noob, so there’s a piece I can attribute to some other force:  bad karma, juju, luck, biorhythyms, alien influence, whatever.  Nothing was as easy as it was supposed to be, and when I realized how things were going to be, I decided I would stick it out even if it took all week.

The big problem was the antenna.  The old antenna was something called an NMO Mount, which means that the installer made a 3/4″ hole in the Airstream’s roof that I would have to plug.  The new antenna requires a side mount (it was designed for buildings rather than RVs) and so I had a very limited range of places I could put it, unless I wanted to fabricate a custom aluminum bracket. I very nearly did, but then found that the bracket upon which the TV antenna rests made a perfect mount.

[NOTE added 5/14/2013:  I’m an idiot.  I should have just returned this antenna and done some more looking.  Since I went through this nightmare install, I discovered a replacement that would have just screwed right onto the existing NMO mount, avoiding the need to run a new antenna cable and seal up the old hole.  I would recommend this antenna to anyone who wants the same 4G performance but with a much lower profile:  Laird Phantom.]

Airstream antennaThis location was ideal:  away from metal objects on the roof that might block the signal (such as the solar panel and air conditioner), low enough that the antenna will clear the carport entryway, and right where I can easily inspect it.  I had to run the coaxial antenna cable through the base mounts that hold up the front solar panel.  That was actually one of the easy problems, solved with the purchase of a 1/2″ drill bit and two rubber grommets.

Antenna closeup

The simplest path to the electronics cabinet was through the existing 3/4″hole in the roof.  I thought I was being clever to use the old antenna wire to pull through the new one, but the old line kept snagging.  So I used the old antenna wire to pull through a few feet of slick & smooth plastic vacuum line (left over from the Mercedes 300D renovation), and then used that to pull the new antenna line through–and discovered that the new one wouldn’t quite fit through an internal brace inside the Airstream’s ceiling.

I tried everything to get that wire through, wiggling it, greasing it, pushing it and pulling it, but it just wouldn’t go. I even drilled little holes behind the overhead cabinet to try to locate the problem.  By the time I had exhausted every possible approach, the entire overhead cabinet and doors were completely removed along with one of the ceiling mounted JVC speakers, the curtains, one power outlet, a 12 volt outlet, the coaxial cable outlet, part of the white vinyl wall covering, and (just for good measure) the obsolete DVD changer.  With the tools burying the dinette table and bits of fiberglass insulation, sawdust, and aluminum shavings everywhere, the Airstream looked like it was still on the assembly line.

Airstream wire chaseIn the end, there was nothing to do about it.  The new antenna cable was just too large to fit through that hidden constriction. After sleeping on it, and consideration of the idea of relocating the entire electronics cabinet, there was really only one practical solution left.  We drilled a fresh hole in the ceiling and ran the wire down the ceiling about four inches to a point where it could disappear again.  A plastic wire chase helps minimize the visual impact.

There were many more challenges, but I won’t bore you with the details. Suffice to say that nothing could be taken for granted.  Every splice was suspect, every hole was in the wrong place, every trick I tried was confounded, and in the end the job took about eight hours, not counting three stops at the hardware store.

Airstream Internet install completeBut finally, it works.  The picture shows the install. It’s a little cluttered looking in the photo.  In reality we have more useful space in the closet than we had before, because I neatened up a lot of the DC wiring and tied up the excess.  That little plastic bag at the bottom contains a 12vDC + wire that is leftover from two installations ago and is still hot.  I’m keeping it in case I need more power in this cabinet later.

There’s a little more work to be done on the roof.  I still have to seal up the rest of the 3/4″ hole from the old antenna, where the new antenna line emerges. I never did find the right caulk locally, so I’ve got a tube on order from an eBay seller.

I’m in the Airstream now, using the new wireless Internet system to write this blog.  The reception is fantastic even in the brick carport (router reports -53 dBm).  I can’t wait to try it out in a remote place during our next trip east.

Since I started this project, I noticed that Kyle and Kevin both went with similar equipment.  Since Kevin is an engineer/publisher who must get online daily when he’s traveling, and Kyle is a full-timer who does Internet consulting, I figure we are in good company.  The transition to 4G technology is raising a lot of questions for people, so I may do a seminar at Alumafandango (Oregon, Aug 6-10) on that subject.  (By the way, if you’re planning to come to Alumafandango, now’s the time to register.  Spaces are filling up quickly!)

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.

2013 travel plans

Monday, December 24th, 2012

2013 is right around the corner, and as with every year I’m considering our options for travel.  It’s looking like it will be a very interesting year.

Our first big trip will likely be in late March or April.  Normally we take a week around New Year’s to go camping in southern California, but this year we are going to hang around Tucson over the holidays, and take a longer trip to California in the spring after we’re done with Alumafiesta in Tucson.  The general idea is to meander up the California coast for a few weeks, stringing together a lot of visits along the way.

We haven’t made that trip since 2005, when we started at Florence OR in mid November and worked our way down the coast all the way for Christmas at the San Diego Zoo.  It was a very memorable trip, and I can’t believe that it was seven years ago—until I look at the pictures of Emma, age 5.

This time we’ll do the trip heading north, starting in Anza-Borrego and then working up the coast.  I don’t know how far north we’ll get, but at the very least we will see some redwood trees.

These days none of our travel is arbitrary.  Time seems to be more scarce for us, so the multi-week trip that we would just throw together on a whim in the past now requires major planning sessions.  I have to justify the time in the Airstream more carefully than ever before, because every departure from home base disrupts projects and goals for all three of us.

A good travel route comes together like a string of pearls, and right now I’m collecting those pearls along the 1,200 mile string between San Diego and Oregon.  We’ll stop in to see friends in the major cities, visit Airstream Life clients and prospects, camp in a few beauty spots, and replenish our resources of Airstream stock photography and future contributors that we meet along the way.  So far I’ve got about eight or nine stops in mind, and by the time the trip dates come we’ll probably have a dozen or more things that we need/want to do. The real trick will be getting it all done in three to five weeks, before we’re required to come back to Tucson for something.

This summer looks even more challenging, in the sense that we have to figure out some complicated travel.  As with the previous three years, everything starts with Alumapalooza in Jackson Center OH.  I love doing Alumapalooza but it forces us into more or less the same travel pattern every year, which is boring.  Once again we will hit the road some time in May and work northeast toward Ohio, then continue east to Vermont.  Fortunately, after that the program will likely change, and I can’t say how much until we get further along our planning cycle.  Most likely the Airstream will stay in Vermont most of the summer, but Eleanor and I may fly off a couple of times to attend events far away.

I’d really like to make this the year of our long-awaited Airstream trip to Newfoundland.  It’s a tough trip to make, because the miles are long, the costs are high, and connectivity (for a working person) is difficult.  Even from Vermont it’s a long trip, over 1,500 miles to St. John’s NFL, which is like driving from New York City to Dallas TX.  Diesel in Newfoundland today is the equivalent of $5.19 per gallon (US), and the ferry for all three of us plus the Airstream would run about $830 round-trip.  Still cheaper than Alaska, which is sort of the “white whale” of RV’ing in North America, but Newfoundland is definitely not easy.

Eleanor and I went there in 1995 via car, tent camping and staying in local inns across Maine, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Newfoundland, and Prince Edward Island, traveling 2,000 miles, and all in nine days.  It was beautiful, memorable, and exciting.  This time we’d like to go more slowly and explore more.  Each year I look at it and wonder if this will be the optimal year to go.  The only thing that has improved over the past few years has been Internet connectivity, and it’s still pretty spotty compared to US standards.  So I’d have to disconnect for much of the trip, which is simultaneously a wonderful and horrifying thought.

Another “wish list” trip is Europe.  For the past couple of years I’ve been investigating the realities of European travel by American Airstreamers, and unfortunately it’s pretty hard to do.  You have two basic options:  (1) ship your suitably small Airstream over and do a quickie conversion to make it legal and compatible with EU standards, then ship it back; or (2) buy an Airstream in Europe.  Both options are expensive and would only worthwhile for an extended trip of several months, which is not possible for us right now.  We’re looking at a third option for this summer, which is basically hanging out with European Airstreamers while we travel conventionally by car & hotel.  Not ideal but at least feasible, and if the stars align it might yet happen.

Meanwhile back at in the states we have things to do too.  The big one is Alumafandango, which is our August event.  Last summer we held it in Denver.  After much consideration, we have decided to hold it in central Oregon, so I’ve got to get there for that at a time when the Airstream is going to be almost as far away as it can be.  The answer will be a plane ticket and a hotel room, unless I can borrow an Airstream in Oregon for a week.  Still working on that.

Officially we haven’t announced Alumafandango 2013, so you’re the first to hear about it, but the registration form is open now if you want to check it out.  Dates will be August 6-11, 2013, at the wonderful Seven Feathers RV Resort in Canyonville, OR.  That’s right on I-5, about 200 miles south of Portland.  Like Alumafiesta in Tucson, it will be a first-class event with all full hookups in a really nice campground, indoor displays of Airstreams, lots of activities, etc. Pricing is the same as Alumafiesta.  There’s more updated info on the website, even though the graphics still show last year’s event.

After Alumafandango I’ll have to fly back to Vermont, retrieve the Airstream and family, and then begin the long trek back west to home base.  All told, the Airstream will probably log about 9,000 miles this summer (plus 3,000 if we manage to get to Newfoundland), the Mercedes will probably cover more like 12,000 miles, and by September I’ll be really glad to just park myself back at the desk again … and think about 2014.

Rt 40, Colorado

Wednesday, August 29th, 2012

It was a late start for us yesterday morning; between the mouse hunt and general post-fandango fatigue we ended up not awakening until well after 9 a.m.  Then Eleanor decided to make scrambled eggs with a little of the leftover gravlax that she made in her “no cook” demonstration.  All told, it was nearly noon when we were finally hitched up and ready to move.

After looking at the calendar we decided it would be better to cut short our visit to the Grand Lake area and move onward to Dinosaur National Monument, about 200 miles west.  First of course we had to go to the RMNP visitor center to see the rangers so Emma could get her Junior Ranger badge, which Eleanor estimates is number 68.  (She already has one from the east side of RMNP; now she has one from the west side.)

The drive west from Granby CO on Route 40 is another one of the great scenic opportunities of Colorado.  For a while, west of Hot Sulphur Springs, the road winds down a steep and narrow canyon with a river and railway.  With the white cumulus popping up overhead, and gray streaks of virga in the sky, it was a fantastic visual experience.

Later the clouds turned to bands of rain, which surrounded us and lent even more drama to the sky.  We stopped at Rabbit Ears Pass for a roadside lunch (9,500 feet elevation), and then, now west of the Rockies, gradually descended for a few hours all the way back into the desert.

Our arrival at Dinosaur National Monument was perfect to catch the setting sun lighting up the park in fiery orange.   A few miles past the visitor center (closed when we arrived at nearly 7 p.m.) we came to our destination: Green River campground.  This is a very pleasant place right at the banks of the Green River, with lots of large trees for shade and paved level campsites.  However, it has no hookups, which is probably part of the reason it never fills.  We debated a few minutes whether we wanted shade for coolness during the day, or sun for solar power.  We ended up with site #59, which offers sun most of the day and shade in the late afternoon.  Hopefully this will be a good compromise, as the temperature when we arrived was about 91 degrees.

I’m surprised to have a weak but usable cell phone signal here.  We are in a valley, at least 7 miles from the highway and any semblance of a town.  I had expected to go fully on vacation for a couple of days.  The campground has a payphone, connected by satellite, which is usually a tip-off that cellular signals do not penetrate.  But since I can make contact with the outside world, I’ll at least check email once a day and try to post a blog.

Our mouse may have bailed out.  There’s no sign of him today, despite Eleanor deliberately leaving out a few champagne grapes as temptation.  He could not had have an enjoyable trip across Colorado, since Route 40 has plenty of bumps & rolls.  In our experience, mice don’t like towing.  Tonight we may have to try leaving out a little chocolate, just to be sure.  He definitely preferred Special Dark over the Mr. Goodbar.

The comments keep coming in about Alumafandango. Apparently my public venting about the staff experience encouraged attendees to offer their point of view, and they have been uniformly positive. I got a call from Joe P yesterday, signing up for Alumafiesta in Tucson, and he said that he was signing up for Tucson specifically because he’d had such a great time in Lakeside.  Many other people emailed to say they had a wonderful time too.  I have to remember the duck theory:  Remain placid above the water, and beneath the water keep paddling furiously.

During our drive along Route 40, Eleanor and I were talking about this, and about some of our favorite attendees.  There were some people who really embraced the philosophy of the Wally Byam way of Airstreaming, and among those were the Finnesgards.  Merlin, Maxine, Joe and Beverly came in two Airstreams parked side by side at Alumafandango, and they were such wonderful people that I want to give them a little “shout out” from the blog.  Being Minnesotans, they are people who take care of themselves.

One of their group is on oxygen, and they are all seniors, so you might think that they had justification to really complain when the power went out on the first two hot days of the event.  But far from it.  Those Finnesgards were endlessly cheerful.  I never saw them without a smile on their faces, and they went out of their way to tell us what a great time they were having.  They knew that whatever happened, they had their Airstreams, which meant they had everything they needed, and so why complain?  That’s how Wally would have done it.  Thanks for coming.

Today our plan is to explore this side of Dinosaur National Monument, with a series of small hikes and perhaps a Ranger talk.  This is a big park, so tomorrow we’ll relocate the Airstream nearer to the Canyon area (25+ miles away) and explore over there next.

Fortunately, everything got better

Monday, August 27th, 2012

I  promised you that the second half of the story would be better than the first, so hopefully you can read this blog entry without wincing.

When we left off, things were finally starting to turn in our favor.  By Thursday we had the electrical problems mostly worked out, water was extending to all of the campground, most of the trailers were parked, and our seminars were purring along.  But we weren’t in the clear by any measure.  One of the legs of my 30-amp power cord had melted (due to corrosion and heavy use in Tucson) which caused it to fuse to the surge protector device and melt part of it as well.  This meant we could not connect to the power at all.  Adam went out to Camping World and bought a new pair of plug ends, so I could fix the cords while working registration in the Event Trailer.  The borrowed Caravel that Brett G and Lisa were using had a plumbing problem that caused their black tank to fill up with shower water, and they could not get 30-amp power all week (due to their location).  Their refrigerator didn’t work either, so they carted their groceries over to a nearby display trailer and used its refrigerator instead.

Meanwhile, Lucy the bathroom trailer was functional but didn’t have any toilet paper, soap, towels, or hand sanitizer.  We managed to get some TP in there but I don’t know if the rest of the supplies ever arrived.  (I never had time to go look.)  Our dump station still wasn’t done, and so gray water was undoubtedly being disposed by “creative” means.  The vendors in the Showcase area were still operating on very limited electricity, and the Event Trailer itself (our headquarters and home of several laptops and all our walkie-talkie chargers) had no power at all.  Periodically we’d steal the cord from Chris Cooper’s trailer to recharge all our stuff.  He was nearby selling iPad cleaners, and was very good natured about sharing the power.

Amidst all this we had many heroes.  From Timeless Travel Trailers, Brett Hall was literally tireless.  The man never seemed to sleep.  He stayed calm throughout every mishap and always had a plan to overcome.  He also ran fantastic historical tours of Lakeside Amusement Park on Wednesday and Friday that helped people appreciate the unique setting we were in.  From his team, Paul stood out as an incredible worker, always with a good attitude and quick to solve a problem.  Frank, Dick, and John were there most of the week too, running the Bobcat and fixing the power—all great guys who put in a lot of hours to get our sites ready. Lori G, who helped us at the last two Alumapaloozas, helped again with parking and running errands, including fetching pizza for all the staff on Tuesday.

Scott V was there every day to help with parking despite the sun and heat, and his wife Denise came in as well to staff the Event Trailer when the rest of us were running around crazy.  Mary and Kyle helped us tremendously just by bringing their daughter Kathryn, because Katheryn and Emma stuck together the entire week and mostly kept themselves entertained. The two sleep-overs were really helpful too.  Mary pitched in at registration for a couple of days, even through she was a paying participant in the event.  Kevin and Laura volunteered their extremely cool hexcopter to shoot aerial video and the photo you see above.

So if it all worked, it was not because of our core team (Rich/Brett/Eleanor/Lisa) but because of the dozen or so people who jumped in and worked overtime to do their very best.  And we’re incredibly grateful.

Now, all of this narrative has been solely my perspective.  I was in the trenches, and rarely got a chance to stick my head up and find out what was really happening.  As it turned out, the event wasn’t half the disaster that I thought it was.  Most of our attendees were very understanding of the glitches and appreciative of the program we’d put together for them.  We had tours of Lakeside and Timeless, many seminars, vendors, contests (Aluminum Chef, Backup Derby), dozens of door prizes, some great entertainment, Happy Hours, Open Grill on three nights, Swap Meet, Blogger’s Roundtable, and Luke Bernander’s one-of-a-kind “BarStream” (a.k.a. the “rat trailer”) was hosting evening parties until midnight with free New Belgium beer and popcorn).  I gradually began to notice that people were actually having a lot of fun.  It was just us workers who thought everything was a disaster.

To some extent, this happens at every first-time event.  We set a high standard for ourselves and our events.  Our goals are to keep everyone preoccupied with fun things, and have lots of surprises (in this case: free beer, popcorn, Hi-Chew candy), and have everything work smoothly.  Well, nothing ever goes perfectly smoothly the first time, but nonetheless by Friday I was being inundated by people saying that they were really enjoying what we’d put together.  And when the park opened on Friday night, and everyone saw all the gorgeous lights and rode the rides, they started saying, “I get it now.”  They could see why we went through the trouble to build a campground right on the edge of Lakeside Amusement Park.  It started to get magical.

In fact, things were running so smoothly by Friday that we all took a break for the evening and rode the rides too.  Eleanor and I started with the Ferris Wheel, then the Cyclone roller coaster  (the best ride in the park), the Wild Chipmunk, Merry-Go-Round, and the Spider.  I joined Adam, Susan, Brett and Lisa for a race in the little “Sports Cars” that go putt-putt around a track, and then the bumper cars (called “AutoSkooter”).  We rode until nearly 11 p.m. and then collapsed into the Airstream, wiped out by five days of sleep deprivation.  Emma and Kathryn rode the Spider eight times.

There were some other hassles that occurred as late as Saturday afternoon, but overall we felt like we’d managed to work around all the problems and everyone I talked to said they had felt it was a marvelous week.  Most of them said they’d like to come back, despite everything.  I don’t know if that will happen yet.  We are going to look for a number of important improvements before we commit to a repeat, including things like a grass surface and our own entry gate and tent. A few people even signed up on the spot for Alumafiesta in Tucson (Feb 5-10, 2013), so I guess they were really pleased.

After dinner (which was good and ran smoothly, thank goodness), I spent Saturday evening unwinding with some new and old friends among the bloggers.  They have documented Alumafandango far better than I could, with photos and video, so I encourage you to read their version of events.

Riveted
Mali Mish
Channel Surfing With Gas

Normally I would have blogged this event daily, but I think you can appreciate why I was silent all week.  There just wasn’t enough time for anything, including photos. I have virtually no pictures of my own.  But now that it is over, and we have caught up on sleep, I’m able to reflect on everything and read the comments of those who were there.  The horrible week I had is starting to look not quite so bad.  We survived.  We conquered.  We learned a lot.  And we’re still married.  Overall, it was a success.

Now for a little vacation.  We’re heading out today for points west.   Dinosaur National Monument is at the top of our list.  After that, we’ll meander down through Utah.

Alumafandango post-mortem

Sunday, August 26th, 2012

*sigh*  Like most stories, it all turned out well in the end. But I’ve just had a week I’d rather not repeat.

You might have detected some hints of trepidation in my pre-event posts.  Over the past few months the amusement park we’d selected had suffered from a serious thunderstorm that washed away much of the area where we’d planned to camp.  The management of the park didn’t give the site crew access until the event date was imminent, and that—more than anything else—put us squarely behind the eight-ball.

The site work that was started on Saturday continued through the weekend.  I made a short movie documenting some of what happened, because it was just unbelievable.  The Caterpillar scrapers hauled dirt all weekend and into Monday, moving hundreds of cubic yards.  On Sunday a water leak sprang up from the ground (an old subsurface pipe leak probably forced to the surface by the 55-ton weight of the machines), and Brett Hall spent much of the day digging with a backhoe to find it.  Sunday night the leak became a 15-foot fountain, and water to much of the park had to be shut off.

On Sunday we also found out that repair work to the Merry-Go-Round would prevent us from running the QR Code Hunt through the park, so I quickly revised the Survival Guide and Brett picked up the corrected copies at the nearest Staples.  The we learned that the blackout curtains we had expected for the Royal Grove pavilion, where we were to hold all of our seminars, weren’t going to arrive.  Our stage turned out to be a no-show too.  Brett G got busy on his phone and managed to arrange new stuff within a few hours. This was typical; we kept finding things weren’t as we had expected, and we just had to jump on every problem and find a solution as quickly as possible.

Monday the guys were still building the 30-amp power system while Brett H continued to dig with the backhoe.  Some handwritten records from fifty years ago were located, but they might have just as well been hieroglyphics.  Our excavation turned up a maze of undocumented water lines, sewer lines, valves, and telephone lines.  Brett G and I ended up in the five-foot deep pit at one point, digging with a shovel to uncover a valve and a series of ridiculous pipe connections.  Then, since the Timeless Travel Trailer guys were all busy working on the site, Brett and I hitched up all the display trailers to my car and towed them, one by one, into their display spaces.  You should have seen me moving the 40-foot “Western Pacific” railway crew Airstream.  It’s worth about $170,000 and I had to maneuver it very carefully into a space next to a telephone pole, guy wire, and a metal pipe railing, without denting anything.  I pity the guy who has to get it out of there.

Meanwhile, sitework continued in the southern park of our camping area, and the electricians continued to hustle.  I bailed out of the site at about 9:30 pm, sunburnt and exhausted, but some of the Timeless guys worked until well past 1:30 a.m. and got back at it by 6:30 a.m. the same morning.

Tuesday dawned and we still had no water, no power, and our attendees began to arrive.  We brought our Airstream over early in the morning and came face to face with the hideous reality that nothing was ready. Parking was a total nightmare.  The west gate we had planned to use was unavailable because construction at the Wal-Mart next door was ongoing.  We had to post a person all day, every day, at the published arrival location to redirect trailers to the main entrance of the park (halfway around the city block).  Lisa and Eleanor shared this job.   Worse, we had been told over the weekend that the main gate would be locked nightly at 10 p.m., and anyone who was on the outside after that would just be out of luck.

Because we had no water to the campsites and no idea when we’d have water, we set up a “water fill” location and stopped everyone who didn’t arrive with full water tanks there, so they could fill up before being parked.  Then we discovered that the site map we’d been provided with was drastically inaccurate, and in fact the net campground space would accommodate only about 2/3 of the trailers we had planned.  So we quickly came up with a plan for a new camping space west of the abandoned racetrack, although we had not the slightest clue yet how we were going to get power to them.

The bathroom trailer, named “Lucy,” was on site but nobody had time to connect her to the sewer tanks, so she was unusable.  We had a Port-A-Potty brought in as an emergency backup.  Likewise, the dump station was not ready, so anyone who showed up with full black/gray water holding tanks had to leave and dump elsewhere, but fortunately only one trailer had that problem.

All of this had us hopping around like kernels in a popper. It was in the upper 80s and we were doused in sweat, guzzling bottled water whenever we could.  We set up the pavilion, checked in dozens of guests, answered endless questions about the lack of utilities, parked trailers, and even dealt with an upset dentist (he didn’t like the trailers lining up in front of his storefront office).  The event trailer still wasn’t on site, so registration was set up in the pavilion instead. I got chewed out badly by a woman who was extremely upset about our state of confusion.  She demanded a refund, which I agreed to give her if she chose to leave.  She walked away without saying anything else, and I later discovered she wasn’t even registered, only her husband was!

Our ice cream social ran out of ice cream in 15 minutes because the supplier brought 2 gallons instead of the 5 gallons we had requested.  Nothing seemed to be going right, and it continued well into the evening.  Our 4 p.m. “Happy Hour” was probably the least happy hour I’ve spent in years, since Brett and I could do little more than stand there before a hot and irritated crowd and make weak apologies for the lack of 30-amp power to run their air conditioners.  Showing the 3-minute movie of the weekend’s dirt work helped people appreciate the situation a little, and I asked everyone to think of “how Wally would do it,” so that they’d keep perspective.  I think almost everyone got it, and they were much more patient with the situation than we probably deserved.

I collapsed into bed that night feeling like I had a total disaster on my hand.  One or two participants were already calling it “Alumafiasco,” although fortunately I didn’t know this at the time.  We were all already sleep-deprived from the crazy weekend, and I think if I’d heard that I might have been tempted to just go home.  I awoke at 4 a.m. from the sheer anxiety and sat at the dinette to write up a list of emergency measures we had to take to save our event.  Brett and I compared notes the next day and found we’d both been kicking ourselves for everything that had gone wrong.  Text messages were flying around day and night between us and Brett Hall, trying to keep after everything.

Wednesday morning the excavators were chasing another leak at the entrance to the park.  A commercial plumbing crew was on the job now, but they couldn’t find the leak.  Now water was shut off to the entire park, including our backup water fill.  We discussed bringing in a water truck if they couldn’t fix it by Thursday.  But the good news was that the 30-amp power was finally ready, so we flipped the switch Wednesday afternoon to the delight of most.

I say “most” because the power promptly fried the converters of four trailers.  It turned out that one of three legs coming from the transformer was not working right, and gave those trailers a dose of 208 volts.  The power went off again for everyone, and we dispatched electricians to get on the problem again.  So our second day came and went with only a few hours of usable power.  Timeless Travel Trailers sent Paul—one of the big heros of the week—to meet with each affected owner and replace their power converters with upgraded units with 3-stage charging, at no cost to the owners of course.  They also ended up replacing a microwave oven too.

I had a seminar to deliver in the midst of all this, which went well.  But our Happy Hour that afternoon wasn’t much better than Tuesday’s, and now we had at least four people whose trailers had burned out converters to boot. Things seemed to be getting worse.  One trailer pulled out, and I was afraid things were about to get ugly, so we begged for more forgiveness and, behind the scenes, continued chasing down problems and shooting off increasingly tense text messages to the poor guys who were killing themselves trying to get everything fixed.

At the end of Wednesday Brett & I decided we needed to make a bold gesture to the people who had paid for 30-amp power and not gotten it.  We ended up writing 21 pro-rated refund checks and hand-delivering them to all those people who had arrived Tuesday or Wednesday.  This helped ameliorate some feelings and we started to get compliments from people who noticed how hard everyone was trying to make things right.

The 30-amp power seemed fixed by Wednesday night, but on Thursday afternoon I noticed only 110 volts at my trailer and a distinct smell coming from the campground’s main transformer, which soon turned to smoke.  Off went the power  again.  A new transformer connection was made and a few hours later we were able to announce reliable power again.  This time it stayed on.

Later on Thursday the water was finally turned back on and we managed to run water to about half the campsites.  Word spread and soon everyone began putting hoses out.  By that evening most trailers had water, which was very welcome to a few who were running low.  This was our day to run tours to Timeless too, so many of their guys were back at the shop, and we were able to slow down and breathe a little while the shuttle bus did the work for the day.  Things seemed to be finally going our way.  Of course, we still had about 20 trailers to park in the heat, with minimal staff, and we had the Aluminum Chef contest to run, so it wasn’t exactly a vacation.  But since Eleanor, Brett, and I were judges for the Aluminum Chef entries, at least it was a picnic.

I’ll tell the rest of the story in tomorrow’s blog entry.  Trust me, it does end happily.

Almost ready for guests

Sunday, August 19th, 2012

We are in Denver and things are hectic, as the final preparations for Alumafandango are completed.  I knew that we were walking into a minefield of last-minute problems and there was going to be little I could do to affect things, but even with that foreknowledge it was still a shock to see what lay ahead.

My last inspection of the site was in May, and at that point not much had been done to improve the site where we were scheduled to camp for five days.  There were grandiose plans to bring in big loaders, dumpsters, and heaps of fill, along with water lines, electric lines, and a dump station.  In June, not much happened, and that actually turned out to be a good thing, because in mid-July the big thunderstorm came through and wiped out the area.  If a lot of earth-moving had been done it probably would have washed out to the lake.

And so, in late July when you’d think we would be all set, the real task of building a campground at Lakeside began.  It has been ongoing ever since, starting with clearing of old vehicles and dead trees, and hauling of debris and saturated soil.  At least 32 twenty-cubic-yard dumpsters were filled with junk. Screening was set up to hide what couldn’t be moved.  Four abandoned mobile homes were hauled off, the living trees were pruned, fresh concrete was poured for new lamp posts, and electrical wires were buried.

But that was only the beginning.  When I showed up yesterday to see the progress, there were two huge Caterpillar scrapers running around, moving fill from the nearby Wal-Mart construction site to our site.  Each load of those machines moved up to 31 cubic yards of dirt, and they were in constant motion.  Over the weekend they will have moved enough dirt to raise the level of the campground and surrounding area by eighteen inches.   A road grader chased them around, leveling and compacting the soil.  It was amazing to watch the place transform from junkyard to the beginnings of a rally field.

Unfortunately, things are behind schedule, and many problems have cropped up.  Yesterday the weight of the machines (about 55 tons when loaded) revealed a soft spot in the ground.  A few hours later the cause became clear when a fresh water spring popped up in the ground.  There’s a broken water line somewhere, and tomorrow a backhoe will be on the site to dig it up.  Being so late, we won’t have time to put a final covering on the campsites, so the plan is to bring in chopped hay instead.

The Wal-Mart construction next door has been a boon because we got hundreds of yards of free fill (and their excavation company to spread it), but the downside is that the construction gate we were going to use for access is not going to be available, so we had to come up with a new access plan and make up some signs to redirect traffic.  The Merry-Go-Round suffered structural damage as a result of the big July thunderstorm, and that means we’ve had to cancel our QR Code Hunt because all week a contractor will be in the park to build it a new support structure.  And I can list off half a dozen more things like that …

So this has been a test of our ability to be flexible.  As late as Sunday afternoon I was revising the official program once again to accommodate last-minute changes.  The amazing thing (to me) is that despite everything that has happened, we are still going to have a great week.  Except for noticing the packed-dirt campground, the attendees won’t be aware of everything we’ve gone through to hold this event. I am making a little movie of the weekend’s construction so that they can see what the place looked like just three days before they arrived.

Although the site looks rough now (better today than when the photo above was taken), Brett and I have learned that you can make almost any place look good once you decorate it up with a bunch of cool trailers.  Our site for Modernism Week 2012 was an ugly dirt parking lot surrounded by the concrete blocks of a dead mall.  The sidewalks were broken and there were the remains of shattered bottles in the dirt.  We brought in 22 trailers and about ten vendors and suddenly the place was festive with color and decorations. Over 1,200 people paid admission to walk around there.  That’s the power of aluminum.

Speaking of which, our official event trailer is ready to go.  We checked it out yesterday at Timeless Travel Trailers.  It’s a 1962 Globe Trotter converted to a coffee shop, and subsequently converted to be our registration booth.  It’s just one of about eight trailers that the guys at Timeless will be bringing over to show and use during the event.

I was on the site today and I’ll be there again tonight with Brett to check on things and see what we can do to help. We’ll be loading in the show trailers this evening, and tomorrow the electrical boxes should be in place, and the final cleanup and grading can be completed.  The Airstream Life trailer will go in early Tuesday morning.  We are still far from being able to relax but at this point I think we’ll be ready—just barely—for our guests to arrive on Tuesday.

Somewhere in this pile …

Thursday, August 2nd, 2012

At one point we had thought we might be leaving for Colorado today … but it became very apparent last week that I had absolutely no chance of being ready to hit the road anytime soon.  Everything is happening at once, and I’m locked down in Tucson until I can get it under control.

For years I advocated how you can work from the road, and that’s still true.  In fact it’s even more true today than ever before, because the Internet-based software tools and connectivity options have improved dramatically.  But “from the road” doesn’t really mean from the road, it means “while parked somewhere in your RV.”

To really get serious work done, you have to stop driving, stop sightseeing, and just do the job.  The fantasy of working from your Airstream while the scent of pine trees wafts in your open window, and the Grand Canyon looms just a few feet away, is replaced by the reality that the best place to get work done is often an RV park in a city, with the doors & windows shut.  And if you’ve got to get somewhere in a hurry, it’s pretty hard to get much of anything done.  I’ve never mastered the technique of driving and typing on my laptop at the same time.

I realized that with all the things I need to get done, it was pointless to hitch up the trailer.  We’d just end up driving 300 or 400 miles and then sitting there while I pounded away at the laptop keys and raved about lousy Internet connections.  Eleanor and Emma would have to find something to do, perhaps not in an ideal location, and all told we’d probably be less productive than if we just stayed here a few more days.  So we are.

The Fall 2012 magazine got done last week, and is off to the printer, but that didn’t end my work on it.  A few other things have to be checked off the list before I can forget about it, such as cutting a postage check (a painful moment; postage is my second-highest expense), invoicing the advertisers, invoicing subscribers, updating the online store, updating the website, building the Online Edition, cutting mailing lists, and a few other jobs.  Most of that is now done.  I’m working on the Winter 2012 and Spring 2013 issues when I have time.  Fall should be in the mail by late next week.

We launched Alumafiesta last weekend and that is going well.  People are signing up quickly, which is great to see.  I think we’ve got a winner there.  I’m working on the schedule now and hope to have something to release in draft in about two weeks.

We’re going to have a Track A/B/C system for Alumafiesta.  Track A events will be “active”, meaning hiking, bicycling, and walking. Brett and I will lead most of these personally.  Track B events will be physically easier stuff, mostly museums (like Pima Air & Space) and parks (like Tohono Chul) with guided tours by docents and volunteers.  Track C will be “self guided” suggestions for each day, including driving tours, tourist attractions, and gem show venues.

This will all be in addition to the usual daily get-togethers, evening seminars, meals, and entertainment on-site.  I’m having fun picking out and researching the activities.  Today we are going out for lunch to see if a particular 4th Avenue restaurant will be suitable for an optional lunch get-together for our group, and this weekend we will go check out a park or two and inquire about guided tours.  In September or October, when the weather is cooler, I’ll ride some of the local bike paths to scout out a route we can do, with lunch stop built-in.

The Airstream renovation project is plodding along when I have time to think about it.  The upholstery shop came by for an interior tour, and their quote on re-doing the dinette came in at $1,728 (with new foam, and fabric assumed at $37/yd).  It turns out that the dinette will use about 14 yards of material, which is more than I had thought.  So upholstery is going to be a huge part of the budget. We will probably try to cut that by shopping fabrics carefully, and getting a competitive bid.  Tom M tipped us off to NewToto.com, where we can get Ultraleather at about $21 per yard.  That alone would save us $224.  But no question, it’s going to be tough staying inside of $6k for the whole project.  The Marmoleum floor is looking like about $900 for the material, and I haven’t yet got a quote on the installation.

Alumafandango is in the final stages, with far too much happening at the 11th hour, but the bulk of the details are now complete.  Over at Lakeside they’re racing to finish clearing up the site and installing the power system.  Of about 91 trailers slated to arrive (as of today), more than half need/want 30-amp power, which caught us by surprise.   The hot summer in Denver has really freaked people out.  So the local electrical shops are  being cleaned out of connection boxes by our electrical crew.  Brett & I bought the old power distribution system that was owned by the Vintage Trailer Jam partnership (2008-2009) and that’s being cannibalized to distribute power at Alumafandango too.

We had a serious monkey wrench tossed in the works a few weeks ago.  A micro-burst thunderstorm hit Lakeside Amusement Park and washed out our camping area.  An estimated 300 cubic yards of material was relocated from the main parking area, through our campsites, and into the lake.  It also washed out the track for the steam train that circles the lake.  Brett H of Timeless Travel Trailers led the heroic effort to recover the park as quickly as possible.  They’ve brought in several 4-yard front end loaders, various other machines, and 90 cubic yards of crushed concrete.  There was a lot of stored old park “stuff” that got flooded, and as a result over 30 dumpsters full of soggy material have been hauled away.

All in all this has turned out to be a good thing for us.  The campground will have little grass this year, but we will have a fresh new surface, graded with a swale to prevent future wash-outs.  A lot of eyesore debris is gone, many dead trees have been removed, and overall the camping area will be considerably nicer than it might have been.  Work is still ongoing and things are a bit messy at this point but it should be done well before the event starts on August 21. We’re in daily contact with our people at the park, and revising the parking map & schedule of events a couple of times a day just to keep up with all the new information.  I would rather this was all done months ago, but who can tell a thunderstorm when to hit?

And then there’s the “miscellaneous”. I’m supposed to be giving a presentation on “my favorite mobile apps and tools,” which I have yet to begin writing.  We’re still recruiting volunteers.  The t-shirts need to be shipped tomorrow.  We need to build the geocaches, confirm the ice cream vendor, publish the Survival Guide, pick up the awards, build a temporary dump station, finalize some catering details, order the volunteer shirts, …. At times it does seem endless.

So life is temporarily a little crazy.  We’re trying to do the work of two dozen people with a skeleton crew.  It’s all I can do to keep my desk functional. I have lists upon lists, just to keep all the ideas and tasks straight.  Somewhere in the pile of data that is my computer’s desktop I actually have a list of lists.  There are photos and maps, spreadsheets and layouts, online registration systems (two separate systems covering four events), custom reports, and all sorts of shared documents in the cloud.  If I lost my laptop this week I might as well just move to a country with no extradition treaty because there would be several dozen people looking to kill and/or sue me.  (Which reminds me, I need to do a hard drive backup today.)

This would be depressing except that I live for challenges like this.  Brett and I wouldn’t kill ourselves putting together these events if we didn’t really enjoy it.  The standard we set for ourselves is high, but when it comes together at the end and people say “You guys did a great job!”, it all seems worthwhile—and then we start planning for the next year.

In the meantime there are sacrifices, and the primary one right now is that we will not be able to get into the Airstream until at least sometime late next week.  I haven’t begun packing yet, although Eleanor has done much of the household stuff.  My packing should be simple, since I didn’t take much out of the trailer when we got home a few weeks ago.  I’ve got a small pile of clothes to add from the laundry and then my office stuff (laptop, cameras, etc).  Over the years I’ve gradually accumulated separate “Airstream clothes,” and “Airstream equipment,” so for example I don’t have to load in my flatbed scanner or printer because the Airstream has its own that never get unloaded.  This saves a lot of time. And that’s a good thing, because time is definitely something that is a bit scarce right now.

 

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Editor & Publisher of Airstream Life magazine