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The Plains states turn out to be less plain

Monday, August 18th, 2014

I have to admit that while we were in Jackson Center I was feeling a little dismay at the prospects for the rest of our trip toward home base in Arizona. We’ve covered this route so many times, heading both northeast and southwest, that it seems that there is little left for us to see. As blog stalker “insightout” commented, “How many times can you do it before you go insane?”

It is true that we have visited most of the major tourist stops along the way, but it’s perhaps a conceit to think that we have seen it all. Of course we haven’t. Nobody has seen everything in Illinois, Indiana, Missouri, and Kansas, even people who live there.

The real trick for most people seems to be the flattish plains states, which form an unavoidable barrier from North Dakota through West Texas. Kansas and Nebraska particularly have a reputation for dull driving, but really they are all exercises in patience and opportunities for creative distraction. The latter is probably why Kansas boasts many things reputed to be the largest in the world, including a ball of twine, sunflower, and hand dug well. (Not to be outdone, Missouri has the largest golf tee and wind chimes.)

Our solution has been to wander a little off course and seek out state parks that we haven’t previously visited, which usually leads to a local attraction or other sort of tourist site. This idea led us off I-70 to Illinois’ Fox Ridge State Park, which is conveniently near the Lincoln Cabin State Historic Site, which is itself a fine destination for a few hours thanks to an excellent visitors center and a living history farm. I picked up a little knowledge about Dutch Oven cooking from talking to the historical re-enactors there. (It was particularly interesting to me because I’m currently reading “Team of Rivals” by Doris Kearns Goodwin, which is a great biography of Lincoln and his cabinet.)

From there we decided to wander further off the beaten path and meander through soybean farms up toward Springfield. There is a lot more “Lincoln” stuff to be seen in that region (reminds me of the Anne of Green Gables obsession in Prince Edward Island, but at least Lincoln is real). Our goal for the day wasn’t Lincoln but Wright—Frank Lloyd Wright, specifically his masterpiece Dana-Thomas House in downtown Springfield. If you are an FLW fan, this is definitely one to see.

Our camp in that area was Sangchris Lake State Park, about 30 minutes out of town. Like many state parks and Army Corps parks, the one was formed the damming of a river, and then development of a green and tranquil campground and other public facilities. We often are far from the action when we go to places like this, and cellular connectivity is a problem even with the booster and external antenna, but it’s worth the minor inconvenience for a quiet and scenic place to stay.

I was starting to get concerned about the amount of time we had been spending in Illinois, since Arizona remained 1,500 miles away and I do have deadlines that will force me back to home base soon. This wandering path was fun but I could hear the clock ticking. At the end of the month I have to have the Winter 2014 issue of the magazine at least mostly in the hands of my Art Director, and also head to Oregon to run Alumafandango. I’ve been working on both as we go, but it’s hard to stay ahead of ahead of the deadlines when you are also constantly on the move.

So after a half day in Springfield we pressed onward along I-72 through Illinois and into Missouri. This road eventually becomes Rt 36, a straight and quiet divided highway that parallels I-70 at a safe distance from major cities and Ferguson riots. We didn’t choose it because we were afraid to drive through St Louis, we were just trying to find a new path across Missouri. Alas, there’s little of interest along this route and most of the way we had very limited data service (Verizon “extended” network) so it wasn’t a huge hit with any of us, until we pulled into Pershing State Park that night.

Pershing, as you might guess, is in the middle of a hometown region of historical sites honoring General Pershing. I will admit I know next to nothing about the man, but we were all filled up with historical information from the Lincoln region and I was still anxious to make up some time, so the general’s legacy was lost on us this trip. Perhaps another time.

We surrendered to another inevitability however, dropping south to the tedium of I-70 through Kansas, just to speed up the trip a little. This brought us through Topeka and past signs for the Brown vs. Board of Education National Historic Site. This isn’t nearly as compelling a name as “Sea World,” but in the grand scheme of I-70 it was enough to bring us to a halt. I’m glad we did.

The site interprets the importance of a Supreme Court decision regarding racial equality and also manages to explore some sensitive racial history and issues in this country without being preachy. We found it to be fascinating, and it also counted as a good piece of homeschooling for Emma. We spent an hour there and would have stayed longer if we had the time. The final stop on our self-guided tour was a pair of headphones, through which Emma was introduced to the music of Marvin Gaye, playing “What’s Goin’ On.” I think she liked it.

I think what I’ve learned is that the mid western plains states are actually less boring the more time you spend in them. It’s racing through that causes the fatigue, because then all you see are the billboards and plains. There are plenty of small things to explore if we can take the time, and I’ll be thinking about that next May when we do this trip again.

Aluma-zooma day seven

Saturday, February 15th, 2014

We all knew that driving from Tucson to Sarasota in a week would be a long slog, but it’s not until we really got into it that we recognized the full impact. Now we are in Archer, FL, courtesy-parked in a quiet place in the woods, trying to recover from this immense odyssey.

It would have been much easier if we didn’t all have colds, and if the weather wasn’t a challenge, and if the water fill hadn’t started leaking … and, and, and … But there are few long voyages without adversity of some sort. Those that are completely without adversity are probably cruises (and even those feature norovirus and seasickness sometimes).

Our “Aluma-zooma” road trip has required our best rapid-travel skills, because there hasn’t been time to waste. We have been sleeping in noisy parking lots near the Interstate because campgrounds take too much time. Every other day we have dumped tanks and picked up water wherever it was convenient (sometimes a rest area, sometimes a truck stop). Meals have mostly been quick and simple, except for one night when Eleanor cooked for everyone.

Everyone has been doing their best to “keep the shiny side up” despite the tedium of the long drive, and I have to say that I really appreciate the endless patience and good humor of our friends Alex & Charon as they traveled with us.

The last couple of days have been the most challenging for me, at least. My cold really started to hit hard, and we were trying to cover 380 miles on Thursday, and then 360 miles on Friday. In the middle of the night I’d wake up because of the cold and be at my computer for an hour or two trying to catch up on work, which didn’t help things.

I reached my limit on Friday, which was obvious to all when I nearly fell asleep during dinner. I was considering declaring myself medically unable to drive for a day. We would have gotten into Sarasota a day late, which wouldn’t have been a catastrophe really.

And then last night I managed to sleep for almost ten hours, which made everything seem much better. So we mounted up again and drove 300 miles to our current spot, and even with some leisurely breaks during the day we got here around 4:30 pm.

We are parked in the woods at the home of a friend who has a small collection of vintage trailers in various states of repair. It is quiet and peaceful here—a real antidote to seven days of Interstate highway. The two Airstreams in our caravan are resting on the sandy circle driveway next to the house and shop, surrounded by pine trees dripping with Spanish Moss.

I wish I could say it’s smooth sailing from here but we have much to do before and after we drive the final 180-mile leg to Sarasota tomorrow. Eleanor spent this evening cooking some things that would otherwise spoil in the refrigerator, thus giving us dinners for the coming event week when time will be short. More groceries are needed, our laundry has piled up, and the Airstream appears to need another on-the-road repair.

The repair will probably be replacement of the power converter. Our batteries weren’t charging when the trailer was plugged into shore power. (They are charging on solar.) I noticed the problem this evening, thanks to the Tri-Metric battery monitor. It’s a fairly easy problem to diagnose if you carry a voltmeter. Our main power converter failed the voltage check prescribed by Parallax Power, but then it started to work again after we’d “reset” the unit by disconnecting shore power and re-connecting.

The fix is not particularly difficult, but I’m a little frustrated because I already have a replacement power converter in Tucson. I carried it around in the Airstream for a couple of years (just because I bought it during a long trip and forgot to take it out). Then a few weeks ago I put it in the storage shed, and now of course I need it. The same thing happened with the city water fill that failed: I had two of them in the storage shed.

I’m not sure what is worse: having to buy parts on the road that I already have in storage, or rolling around the country with a rolling parts bin of things I may not need. I think I’m going to stop buying parts until I need them, even if they are “great deals”. So far the great deals I have gotten on spare parts haven’t saved me anything.

Well, all of this will have to fall away in the coming days, because we’ve got work to do. On Tuesday and Wednesday we are expecting about 250 Airstreams to show up in Sarasota, and Job #1 is to make sure that things go as smoothly as possible. Aluma-zooma is just about over. Time to switch gears. In the next two days we’ll get ourselves set, so we can spend the rest of the week taking care of our guests.

A day on the road

Thursday, February 13th, 2014

Driving the Interstate hundreds of miles can be dull, but it gives me plenty of time to think, and I like that. With the weather cleared and mechanical problems gone, it was a fairly peaceful experience (except for Houston) driving I-10. We covered the concrete from Seguin TX to Lafayette LA, 370 miles, so I got to air out a lot of cobwebs in the brain pan.

The plan was to get up early and hit the road around 8 or 9 a.m., but that hasn’t worked out even once on this trip. Each day we have something that needs doing in the morning (like shopping for a new power cord for the GPS today, or waiting for the frost to melt yesterday), and we also seem to kill a fair bit of time bantering with Alex & Charon in their trailer.

That’s because Alex is recording about 10 minutes of ad hoc discussion each morning, when we talk about the day before. His plan is to edit it down into a short podcast series, so you might be able to hear that on the Internet later. We have a lot of fun doing the recording each day.

We finally got on the road at about 10 a.m., which was not great but still early enough to make it to Lafayette before dark. When you’re traveling as we are, covering lots of miles and boondocking occasionally, you also have to allow time for stops to replenish supplies (mostly diesel, propane and water), and dump the tanks. Even with a big pause at a Love’s truck stop, we made fairly good time.

Propane has been a big thing for us on this trip. The cold weather means lots of furnace use, and we have already stopped twice to fill 30# tanks. Electrically we are doing pretty well. The furnace has chewed up a lot of battery power each night but we are getting enough sun on the solar panels to keep us afloat since we left Sonora TX on Wednesday morning. In the summer we wouldn’t even think about it because we never run out of power when the sun is high and no furnace is needed, but this time of year it’s something that I watch closely.

In addition to the re-supply stops, this trip has reminded me of the necessity of on-the-road maintenance. This is a habit from our full-timing days, but just as relevant now. For example, every 500 miles I have to grease the Hensley hitch. Two days before we left, while camped at Lazydays, I had to replace a worn-out grease fitting on the hitch, too. When you are moving fast there’s always something that needs attention: cleaning, lubing, tightening, adjusting, inspecting, or airing.

Things don’t break in the driveway (usually)—they break on the road, as our city water fill did just two days ago. So you have to be ready with a tool kit and some knowledge, or face the prospect of stopping at a repair shop for every little thing. I don’t like on-the-road breakdowns any more than you do, so I do what I can to maintain everything at home, but I’m realistic: stuff happens.

The other big maintenance item is personal mental health. Driving like this isn’t really fun, and without much exercise day after day, the entire body starts to rebel—at least mine does. A walk at the end of the day is helpful if we have time (even if it’s just a stroll inside the Wal-Mart), and taking time to tell jokes to our caravan-mates (Alex & Charon) on the radio is nice, and decompressing at the end of the day over a movie or dinner is very comforting. We are trying to find the little things in each day that make it less boring to be in the car. There are a lot of such things if you look for them.

We still have 800 miles or so ahead of us, so our pace isn’t going to slow yet, and we won’t be doing a lot of sightseeing. Eleanor and I are noting things to check out on the way back, instead. It’s a sort of small consolation for the tedious nature of our travel eastbound. For now, Florida beckons, and we want to make it to Sarasota by Sunday if we can, in time to help with Alumaflamingo setup.

One day at a time

Wednesday, February 12th, 2014

The skies this morning were foreboding when we awoke in Sonora, TX. The icy fog that motivated us to leave the Interstate had only deepened overnight, and the temperature had plummeted to 21 degrees. While we were warm inside the Airstream, I could see small deer foraging just a few feet away on frosty ground under a deep gray sky. It felt like winter in Vermont.

The Airstream was showing signs of the harsh weather. Splatters of road grime (and dare I say it? road salt from the bridges), and icicles hanging from the belly plan where the leaking water had escaped gave it a “rode hard and put away wet” look.

But the forecast from the weather service—and my own personal forecast for the day—were both positive. We had a list of challenges ahead, all of which I felt we could accomplish with just a little luck.

First, we needed the sun to break through and bring us temperatures above freezing so that the roads would be clear of ice. This happened by 10 a.m., right as predicted by the weather service. We waited a little longer to be sure the ice was melted, so our actual departure was about 11 a.m.

Next, we needed to drive 160 miles uneventfully to the nearest RV dealer with a parts shop, in Boerne TX, to find a new Shurflo city water fill (in chrome) to replace the leaking one on the Airstream. There was no guarantee that any of the white-box RV dealerships would have the part, so the night before I found three places that we could check.

Third, we needed to install the part in the Airstream without any “surprises” in the process. If my diagnosis were wrong, replacing the part would do no good. I was pretty sure the leak was from the water fill, but not 100% sure.

Fourth, we needed to find a place to spend the night, and we couldn’t know that until we finished the repair. I estimated the repair time at 30 minutes but who really knew what it would take until we got into it?

Fifth, we needed more propane. The cold air has really challenged our furnace and water heater. We filled one bottle of propane in Lordsburg NM on Monday, and now we had killed the other one.

Finally, atop all the other things was the cold virus I picked up last weekend. This morning I felt it more than any other day so far, and I was starting to wonder if I was going to lose steam early in the day.

All of these things were weighing on my mind as we prepared to go this morning, and I was trying not to be apprehensive. This trip is supposed to be fun (and it HAS been fun) so I didn’t want the little worries to overshadow the bigger picture: caravanning with friends across the country to a five-day party in Florida.

It all worked out. We drove in pure sunshine and dry roads all the way to Boerne. The first two dealers we checked didn’t stock the part (but one of them did have propane) and when it looked like nobody in town would carry a Shurflo water fill we pushed onward 40 miles to New Braunfels to Camping World. They had located what we needed and put it on hold at the parts desk for me. When we arrived they also said it would be no problem for us to do the replacement in their parking lot.

Replacing the water fill was dead easy. Four screws on the outside, one threaded swivel fitting on the inside, and a bit of prying to break the thing free of the caulk bedding. We had the new one in place in less than ten minutes, and it solved the leaking problem entirely. (Of course, it was easier because I already had some plumber’s tape and Par-Bond sealant in my tool bag. If I hadn’t, we would have had to do some more shopping.)

With a careful look at the old part, we could see that the threads had been bollixed by someone. There was a distinct flat spot, suggestive of cross-threading, which was prevented from leaking by some plumber’s tape. I think a bit of freezing was the catalyst to allow this marginal installation to finally let loose. It doesn’t leak a drop now that we’ve installed a new fill.

It was about 4 p.m. when we finished, so we decided to do some grocery shopping and overnight park at the Super Wal-Mart in Seguin. After dinner in our separate Airstreams, we met up for a movie here in our trailer. Alex brought some Betty Boop cartoons from 1932 for the pre-show. It’s our form of civilization.

We’ll hit the road again early in the morning. Our plan is to get well into Louisiana tomorrow, and —assuming no misadventures—arrive in Sarasota by Sunday night. But we’ll have to take it one day at a time, just as we have done so far.

Patagonia bound

Sunday, March 20th, 2011

I’m not talking about Patagonia, the region of South America — although I’d like to explore that area someday too.  We’ve got our own little Patagonia here in Arizona, a funky and stubborn village sitting just a few miles north of Mexico and adjacent to some of the best birding in the North America.

Patagonia is one of those places that makes you wonder “Why is this town here?”  There’s no industry and not a lot of tourism.  It is about a one hour drive south of Tucson along scenic Route 83, which winds through foothills and between mountain ranges all the way down to Nogales. The secret of the town is the long park that forms a greenbelt between the commercial center of town and the highway; this is where the railroad used to run.  Patagonia was once a mining town.  Now it’s an enclave for eccentrics and people who want small town life in a warm climate.

In 2006, when we were full-timing, we paused in Patagonia at the behest of our friends Charlie and Lynn, who winter there.  The next year we bought the house in Tucson and so we’ve managed to drop in on Charlie & Lynn in Patagonia again every year.  The centerpiece of this year’s visit was a picnic lunch orchestrated by Eleanor yesterday, served in the dining room of the little adobe casita that our friends rent.

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Since Charlie is a Mercedes enthusiast, and primarily responsible for my interest in the older cars, it was mandatory to take the 1984 Mercedes 300D down for the trip.  It was a good choice anyway, as the sedan is a lovely cruising car for open and winding roads like Route 83, and the trunk was big enough for the two coolers and one large wicker picnic basket that Eleanor had packed.

Of course, driving old cars is always a chancy game, and I have always known that there would come a day when a roadside repair would be needed.  This was that day (perhaps the first of many).  I’ve been running pure biodiesel in the car for a couple of months now, and biodiesel is an effective solvent, so it tends to loosen up all the old crud in the fuel tank.  That means eventually the fuel filters will clog up.  Sure enough, about eight miles into our trip I noticed a distinct lack of power on acceleration which felt exactly like fuel starvation.

We put up with it for about 30 miles but finally I pulled over along a dusty stretch of Rt 82 near Sahuarita and with Eleanor’s help quickly swapped out the primary fuel filter for a fresh one.  This is a simple job, involving merely loosening two hose clamps, removing the in-line filter, and then installing the new one.  The filter was pretty dirty, but unfortunately this didn’t solve the issue.  Along Rt 82 the road climbs to 5,000 feet of elevation, and the locals who traverse the road are not particularly patient with old cars that can’t break 40 MPH on the hills due to fuel problems.  We got aggressively passed a lot more than we deserved.

But all ended well, since I was also carrying a spare secondary fuel filter.  With Charlie’s assistance after lunch, I swapped that filter out and the 300D was happily returned to its normal fire-breathing 120-horsepower self, capable of zero to sixty in a leisurely 14.5 seconds.  OK, so that’s not really fast.  At least now we could get to 60 MPH.

Lunch, for those who are curious, consisted of a cold multi-bean soup with greek yogurt,  mushroom-and-onion quiche, French baguette and croissants from the local bakery, Eleanor’s homemade apple butter, apricot preserves, artichoke antipasto, slices of roast beef, fresh giant strawberries, black grapes, yellow cherry tomatoes, celery sticks, baba ghanoush, and apple and strawberry pastry puffs for dessert. After all that, dinner was popcorn.

It’s a good thing I like Patagonia, and the roads leading there, because I’ve got to go twice more in the next couple of weeks.  I am expecting to be on call to assist a friend who is going to be acquiring his first Airstream, and I’ve got to lead a group of local car guys down for a day trip.  This is a lot of driving but well worth it.  Being mostly flat, southern Arizona is not as abundant in twisty & fun drives as the northeast, an aspect of life that I will admit I miss.  The ride to P’gia is one of the good ones, and I recommend it to anyone who is down here to explore.

Modernism Week Vintage Trailer Show

Saturday, February 26th, 2011

When we last left off in the blog, there was some drama surrounding Brett’s lost luggage.  I am glad to report that it arrived at Palm Springs Airport on Friday morning, intact after a small tour of the southern United States. While we were glad to finally get it (and the important items it contained for Modernism Week’s Vintage Trailer Show), it was a small hassle because Brett had to take off with the car while we were in the middle of shoe-horning 19 trailers into a small space.  This was far more logistically complex that you might think, since we had to juggle trailer spaces and vendors based on access, preference, electrical needs, and parking skills.  Our parking plan had gone through six revisions before the show, and there were still several last-minute swaps required to squeeze everyone in there.

In the midst of this, I got tapped by a videographer to talk about the trailers, so I quickly winged a few comments and they spliced them together later. You can see the video here on YouTube.

palm-springs-mw2011-reception.jpgStill, it all got done by 2 p.m., and we got a short break to deal with our sunburns and hunger before meeting up with everyone at the Riviera’s “Bikini Bar.” We grabbed three of the curtained cabanas poolside and got a chance to chill out with the group.  In the photo:  Doug and Mona Heath, Kristiana Spaulding, me, Rob Super (with his homemade POP-rivet cap), and Kristiana’s husband Greg with his back to the camera. This was to be just one of the many socializing events, since Palm Springs is all about socializing.

I had been feeling pretty ragged from lack of full sleep the previous few days, and combined with the hectic schedule and a sunburn, it was really starting to heap up on me.  I managed to stay awake for Charles Phoenix’s show at 8:30, and it was worth it, but as soon as it was over I grabbed my chance and slept for nine hours.

palm-springs-mw2011-hawaii.jpgThe weather forecast for Saturday was dismal: 90% chance of rain, and temperatures only in the upper 40s.  In Palm Springs, that’s parka weather, and indeed we saw a few people in poofy down parkas and fur-lined hoods.  In the morning things were wet with fresh rain and the low clouds made the desert mountains look like Hawaii.  We figured it could be a washout, but by 10:00 the rain was over and we started seeing patches of sunshine, then more and more until finally it was a fairly decent day.  And the Californians started to arrive, hundreds of them.

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The trailer owners were in their element, talking restoration technique and historical details to everyone who came by.  I spent the morning shooting interiors (many of which you can see on my Flickr album), which was great in the morning with nice even light and few people crowding the trailers.

By afternoon there wasn’t much for us organizers to do, so Brett, Alison Turner, and I snuck off for a leisurely lunch in the hotel.  This was the first time we’ve ever been able to leave a trailer event that we’ve been organizing.  Usually we don’t get a chance to breathe, much less eat, so this was a huge treat. It felt like skipping class.

The show was scheduled to end by 2 p.m., but of course nobody wanted to leave, so it was well past 3 p.m. before the doors started closing.  We recruited some help from David Winick (pictured above with John Long in front of John’s fabulous 1935 Bowlus) and his daughter Rebecca to count the ballots for the evening’s presentation of the Airstream Life “Wally” awards.

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By 5 p.m. we were at the hotel’s Starlite Lounge for the next private reception (again, it’s all about the socializing here), complete with saxophone player/singer Johnny Reno and a four-piece band.  The big screen was playing a slideshow of the day’s events, and between sets of the band we presented the awards:

“Excellence in Modernism” went to Marty Snortum and Neveena Christi for their incredible 1960 Holiday House.

modernism-week-award.jpg“People’s Choice” went to Doug and Mona Heath for their beautifully redone 1969 Airstream Tradewind.

“Owner’s Choice” went to Eric Bescoby for his amazingly restored 1948 Spartan Manor.

All of the trailers were incredible, well-received, and well worth seeing. Congratulations to the winners for their exceptional trailers!

And this evening we went out for dinner with our friends the Fabers, in downtown Palm Springs, with a stop at Lappert’s for ice cream.  Not a bad day at all, and the best part is that we get to do much of it again tomorrow.

Padre Island National Seashore

Thursday, November 18th, 2010

You’d think it wouldn’t be a surprise that Texas is really big, but for some reason I keep getting whacked over the head with that fact.  Our drive from Austin to Corpus Christi took five hours through endless flat terrain, with only a few small towns along the way to break up the scenery.

It wouldn’t have been a problem except that we were delayed in departure by a missing piece of mail.  I asked my assistant/office manager to forward some important mail from Tucson via FedEx to arrive Tuesday, but she took my instruction to mean any overnight service, and she chose USPS Express Mail.  The mail was “guaranteed” to arrive Tuesday by noon, but it disappeared from the radar on Tuesday and did not show up until five minutes before noon on Wednesday.

Departing at noon meant we pulled into Corpus Christi at 5 p.m.  Even this far south, that’s approximately sunset.  This changed our plan to camp on a deserted section of the Padre Island National Seashore.  I didn’t want to be driving the beach in the dark.

Padre Island is very long.  You first drive about 12 miles from the causeway bridge, heading southwest on Rt 22 into the national parkland.  That’s where Malaquite Campground and the Visitor Center can be found.  A little further down, the road ends at the beach and from there you can drive on the hard-packed sand for many miles.  In Texas, beaches are considered roads, so all the usual traffic laws apply plus a few especially for this beach.  Northbound traffic has the right of way, for example.

padre-island-high-surf.jpgThe first five miles are open to camping, and we had visions of parking the Airstream on the sand and having a spot to ourselves to watch the waves crash on the shore.  But  arriving late meant we needed to take a spot at Malaquite instead.

That turned out to be a good move.  The winds are high right now, which means lots of salt spray.  After our experience at Horseneck Beach in Massachusetts, where three days of salt spray resulted in a lot of damage, I didn’t want to subject the Airstream or the car to that again.  The sites at Malaquite are about 300-400 feet from the water’s edge, and partially protected by a low set of dunes with vegetation.

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Malaquite is not much more than a strip of parking lot with shade ramadas and bathrooms.  There are no hookups, but a dump station is nearby.  The showers are cold water, although I suppose you could technically say they are heated to about 70 degrees.  This may all sound very primitive, but keep in mind three things: (1) We are in an Airstream with all the comforts of home; (2) the campground costs just $8 per night; and (3) we’re camped right at the beach.

padre-island-oil-rigs.jpgIf we really wanted to camp directly on the beach — a rare thing these days — we could relocate today or tomorrow, but I think we will stay here.  The surf is very high and completely unswimmable, plus there are Portuguese Man O’Wars washing up.  It is only going to reach the upper 60s today, and with the fierce wind it feels kind of cold.  So we feel that we’re close enough to the water for now.  We can see the gulf oil rigs from our bedroom.

Along the road to Corpus Christi we paused in the town of Lockhart, another stop on the informal Texas Barbecue Trail, and bought a pound of brisket from Chisholm Trail BBQ.  This is for scientific purposes.  You see, we had dinner on Tuesday night at Rudy’s in Austin with our friend Gunny and tried their brisket (also their pork ribs and sausage).  Despite being a local chain, Rudy’s was really good, and so the next day when we saw from Rt 181 that we could fit into the parking lot of Chisholm Trail it seemed incumbent upon us to try their brisket for comparison.  I’ll let you know the results of that test soon.

I’ll also be reporting on solar again.  Being a no-hookup situation, we are back on solar power.  The forecast for the week is nothing but sunshine, so even being late in the year I expect we will have all the electrical power we will need.

However, the big downside to Malaquite Campground (other than the rattlesnakes that live in the dune vegetation) and beach camping on Padre Island is that cell phone service is close to non-existent.  Our phones do not work at all, and my Verizon data card is deeply troubled.  I managed to get my email last night after a few attempts, but file attachments and web browsing are out of the question.

So to post the blog, I have to drive for about 30 minutes to the public library for their free wifi, or at least to a point along the park entry road where Verizon’s signal penetrates.  This would be no good for serious work, but for Thursday and Friday this week I can make do.  We drove 250 miles to get here, and I’m not about to rush away from the beach even if it’s a little inconvenient.

About the Author

Editor & Publisher of Airstream Life magazine