Archive for the ‘Alumafiesta’ Category

Shore excursions

Friday, September 14th, 2012

It’s fun to be in “project mode” as long as there aren’t too many projects.  Last week I got much of the Winter 2012 magazine in viable condition, enough to at least ship big chunks of it off to my Art Director.  I thought it was going to be harder than it was, but surprised myself by having completed a lot of the initial work back in July and early August before we hit the road for Colorado.  So things went smoothly. After eight years of being Editor I might actually be getting competent at it.

Having wrestled that job into partial submission, it was time to look at the next round of events.  I’m really focused on Alumafiesta, which will be next February, here in Tucson.  That event is looking like serious fun.  We are doing almost everything differently at this one: full hookup RV resort with all the luxe amenities, numerous off-site excursions and tours, and lots of planned meals (some included, some optional).  It will be sort of like being on a cruise ship, except you don’t have to tip anybody.

My job this week has been to research all the events and attractions we want to visit, and make group reservations, plus get all our leaders lined up.  So far we are confirmed for two bike rides, one hike and one historical walk, two photo safaris, three visits to Gem Show venues, two breakfasts, one dinner, one concert by Antsy McClain, four exercise sessions, four evening presentations, a swap meet, a guided scenic drive through Saguaro National Park, the Aluminum Chef competition, and three guided tours (Franklin Auto Museum, Tucson Museum of Art, San Xavier Mission).  All of that is included in the base price. Of course our usual Happy Hours with lots of door prizes will happen daily too.

We’ve also got optional “shore excursions” (at extra cost) to the Pima Air & Space Museum, Tohono Chul Park, Sonoran Desert Museum, Tin Town, three optional lunches around town, and a chance to blow your own glass at the Sonoran Glass School.  My job is to get it all nailed down in the next couple of weeks so participants can make their reservations for those activities that can take only a limited number of people.  It’s not easy, but it’s a heck of lot more fun than fighting with electrical infrastructure …

One of my tasks this week is to go over to Lazydays (the venue for Alumafiesta) and verify a few things, like the temperature of the heated pools.  (We’re planning an Aqua Fitness program on one of the days.)  I’ve got to check out the doggie area, verify that we can get a trailer indoors if we need to (for demos), talk to the front desk staff, etc.  I can handle this sort of assignment.

Things went so well the past two weeks that I even found a little time to work on a book project.  That’s a long term one for sure, but it’s a great feeling to put even a few hours into a book, and see it advance by increments toward completion.  Plus, it’s good to have some variety at work, to keep from getting stale.

At home, we’re still raising orphan kittens for the Humane Society, and that is going well despite numerous feline output-related messes and some initial worry about whether they were gaining weight appropriately.  The beasties have gained a few ounces and have warmed to our attention, to the point that they will cuddle in the evening rather than hissing at us.  Our house is slowly being kitten-proofed, which is a lot like the change we went through when Emma was a toddler.  Except that kittens can get under the couch.

Another project: I have come to face the fact that I really miss my old Mercedes 300D and would like to someday get a similar car.  Financially I’ll have to sacrifice something in order to be able to fund another project car, but it seems worth it if I can find the right starting point, meaning a vehicle of proper vintage, condition, and style.  You will undoubtedly read more from me on this later.  For now, know that The Hunt is back on.  I’m simultaneously chasing W123, W124, and W201 chassis diesels all over the USA. Of course, it would be best to find something right here in southern Arizona or southern California, where old cars are plentiful and rust is unknown, so that’s the focus area.

We are still contemplating the Airstream Safari makeover.  To spread out the cost, we are considering just re-upholstering the dinette for now (easily removed and replaced) and replacing the floor covering later, or replacing only the bedroom carpet.  My elaborate plans to add fancy new electronics, countertops, etc. are likely to be scratched until next year.  Upholstery and flooring are terrifyingly expensive, either in terms of cash or labor hours.  Slow and steady may be a better approach for us than a full-blown gut & refurb project.

Travel-wise, this is our season to recoup and plan ahead.  The GL320 now has been serviced and is sporting a fresh set of Bridgestone tires, for which I have high hopes.  The spare is on order.  The Airstream could use a few tweaks here and there but is basically ready to go.  The fuel bill from the last trip (2,400 miles) has been paid.  We could zip out right now, but better to stay put for a while and enjoy home life, take care of business, take a few local “shore excursions”, practice with the Dutch Oven, raise cats, and perhaps even gain some perspective on our travels.  There will be new travel coming soon enough.

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.

 

Announcing Alumafiesta!

Sunday, July 29th, 2012

A few weeks ago I grumbled that the workload of all the events was reaching my personal saturation point, and soon Brett and I would need to either find some help or start reining in our ambitions.  That was probably because we’ve been simultaneously working on four events, and now I’m finally able to unveil them.

First off, we have Alumafandango in Denver, which is coming up in just a few weeks.  This one has been a real bear to organize, because the logistics of our unusual camping location have been tricky, but it’s coming together at last and I do expect it will be a big success.  We just released an email to all the people on our “Alumapalooza/Alumafandango Updates” list, letting them know some of the cool stuff we’ll be doing in Denver (which you can see here).  Meanwhile, I’m working on the Survival Guide (program) and Pre-Event Info, which will all be released to the registered participants in a few days.

Then there’s Alumapalooza in Jackson Center.  You’d think that going into our fourth year we’d have this thing all wrapped up, but long ago Brett and I decided we weren’t going to do it that way.  If it’s always the same, then why come back?  So we mix it up a little every year to keep things interesting.  That means a new logo design, t-shirts, new seminars, new contests, etc.  We just finished the Alumapalooza 4 logo design and opened registration last week—phew!

But that’s far from all we’ve been doing.  In the background I spent some time over the last winter scouting out a venue here in Tucson for a new event to be held next February (2013).  We finally nailed it down and signed the contracts last week, so I’m here to tell you that we now have a third event each year! This one will be called “Alumafiesta.”

Alumafiesta will be completely different from the other two.  We’ll be staying at a premium RV campground in central Tucson.  Every attendee gets full hookups plus cable TV on a 40-foot site, and most of them have a citrus tree.  There are two swimming pools, great facilities, an on-site restaurant, and all of our events will be held in a 10,000 square foot indoor event center.

The dates (Feb 5-10) are in the midst of the peak season, right in the middle of the world-famous Tucson gem show season.  Over 70 separate events happen in the first two weeks of February, covering gems, minerals, fossils, Native American crafts, and what-have-you—virtually taking over the city.  It’s very difficult to get accommodations in Tucson this time of year, but we’ll have a reserved block of premium campsites right in the center of the action.

Plus, it’s the middle of the winter, and I can’t think of many places I’d rather be than Tucson in February.  No snow here (we never even winterize our trailer).  Typically days are mostly sunny with daytime highs in the 60s and 70s, although a cool break happens occasionally.

Alumafiesta is designed to show you the best of Tucson.  Every day we’ll lead a couple of excursions, and you can choose one major excursion to join each day. We’ll take scenic drives to the top of Mt Lemmon and Kitt Peak, walk the historical and cultural sites of downtown, roam the Tucson Botanical Gardens and Tohono Chul Park, and there will be numerous self-guided opportunities such as Pima Air & Space Museum and the Sonoran Desert Museum.  We’re working on organizing special lunches at some of the more eclectic restaurants in town, too.  In the evenings we’ll have our traditional Happy Hour with door prizes and fun, followed by local speakers.  One talk will be about the ancient native petroglyphs and pictographs that can be found in this area.  Another talk will be about gems & minerals and things you’ll see at the gem show venues.  More talks are in the planning stages now.

The event will also include two full breakfasts, one dinner, discounts at the on-site restaurant, and on Saturday, a special performance by Antsy McClain (of the Trailer Park Troubadours).

We just launched online registration for Alumafiesta last night.  Right now we don’t have a lot of information up about the event, but we will be updating the website all week.  Since the event will be during February when all campgrounds are full, we expect a sell-out.  So if your plans include coming to the warm desert southwest next winter, I suggest you register early.

If you are in the local area and want to come just for the Antsy concert, we have extra seats and tickets are available for $20 per person online. (The ticket sales site accepts PayPal, and credit cards via PayPal.)  There will be a cash bar set up during the concert, and plenty of parking.  It should be a great show!

 

 

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Editor & Publisher of Airstream Life magazine