Archive for the ‘Contemporary’ Category

The Cowboy State

Thursday, July 22nd, 2010

After reenergizing for a little more than a week in the sunshine and drying ourselves out in Denver’s low humidity, we went to the International Rally in Gillette, Wyoming.

If you’ve ever been to a WBCCI rally, then you know about the “bullpen” and parking. For years now, we’ve rolled into the rally, more than a little flustered by traffic and from driving in an unfamiliar town, only to be greeted by a sour, impatient and inflexible parking committee person. Of course, this type of welcome has been, to some small degree at least, responsible for the continuing loss of members and money, BUT I must say, something has changed, and that something is BIG. The change is attitude.

We arrived at the CAM-PLEX rally site at 4:02 p.m. fully prepared, mentally, to spend the night in the bullpen because parking is from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. and in the past, those were the hours to the exact minute. To our surprise, we were greeted by friendly, welcoming volunteers who, despite their shift being over, insisted on taking us to our parking area. Being greeted by friendly and patient fellow Airstreamers after a long drive sets a positive tone for the entire rally. As a result, we really enjoyed ourselves.

Windmill
The Windmill campground is aptly named.

In fact, I didn’t hear one complaint from anyone, not even about the wind – which is a Wyoming constant – or the location. The people in Gillette were also warm and welcoming. We’d been warned that the ambiance of Gillette was just a grade above what you might find at a truck stop, but that is a gross misrepresentation, and again, attitude makes the difference.

Gillette was excited to have us and the CAM-PLEX officials knocked themselves out to accommodate us. Here’s a few of our recommendations if you visit:

Breanna’s Bakery, 208 South Gillette Avenue, has the biggest, most humongous good tasting donuts I’ve ever seen anywhere, and take it from me, a retired cop, I know my donuts! These whoppers are as big around as a dinner plate and are surprisingly inexpensive. When I brought a large box of them back to the trailer for breakfast, Patrice questioned why I’d buy so many for just us. I teased her by saying there were only two and that the shop only had boxes to put them in. Then I opened the box to show her. If only I’d had my camera ready to catch her expression.

Humphrey’s Bar and Grill, 408 West Juniper, we split the “Belly Bustin’ Ribeye” dinner simply because one portion is enough for two. Yes, Wyoming does know how to cook beef, but the side of rice and red beans was a surprise. It was a thick Jambalaya served on rice. Who’d guess that there’s good Cajun here? Great food and atmosphere, we highly recommend it.

Black Thunder Coal Mine. This mine is the largest open pit coal mine in the United States. If you think Breanna’s donuts are big, wait until you see the truck tires used here.

Devil’s Tower
I wonder how many pictures have been taken of Bear Lodge (aka Devil’s Tower)? Here’s one of my own.

Devils Tower National Monument near Sundance, WY. Be sure to take the time to at least walk around the base of the tower. Do look away from the tower every now and then, because there is wildlife living in the area.

Butterscotch Lodgepole
The bark of the Lodgepole Pine smells like butterscotch!
Deer
Look behind you while exploring… you never know what you might see.

Finally, the last night of the rally is July 4th and the CAM-PLEX was ground zero for the county fireworks display. This was simply the best seat we’ve ever had in our lives. It was positively BRILLIANT and a perfect end to a very nice rally.

Fireworks
The night of the 4th was actually cold and we bundled up under blankets to bask under the thunder of a continuous one hour show.

Determining Ideal Tire Pressure

Thursday, June 3rd, 2010

Today, I gave my Tire Tech seminar at Alumapalooza and afterward, several people asked if I would publish the method I described to determine ideal tire pressure. I didn’t originally author the procedure – that belongs to “AccessMaster” from his post on Airforums way back in April of 2003. He claimed to have worked for Michelin Tire Corporation for 7 years and Yokohama Tire Corporation for 11 years and had given numerous seminars on tire maintenance and correct tire pressures. Since then, I’ve used this method myself and can say that it has worked well for me. I’ve not had an on the road flat or blow out or tread seperation incident (I hope that doesn’t jinx me).

At any rate, use the following procedure with your best judgement as I’m not an expert on tires. I do believe the following makes a lot of sense though.

First, check the pressure when tires are cold. Run them for several miles at normal driving speed (on a day with average temperature). Stop and immediately check the air pressure (or the pressure indicated by your Tire Pressure Monitoring System). It should be higher than when cold but no more than 10% higher.

This may seem counterintuitive, but if the pressure is more than 10% higher you must ADD AIR and test again. For example if you start with 50 psi cold and the pressure builds to 60 when hot, you have exceeded the (10%) since 55 psi should be the maximum safe heat build up pressure. You must ADD AIR – start with 5 psi which would take the tire to 65 psi when hot.

After you run the tire again, the pressure should actually drop slightly because the tire will run cooler. The heat build up causes the tire pressure to increase when under inflated.

On the other hand, if the cold pressure does not change after being driven, then you have more air than needed. Remove 5 psi, BUT ONLY AFTER the tires have returned to cold, then repeat the test, such as the next morning prior to driving again or at the start of your next trip.

Always err on the side of higher inflation, but DO NOT exceed the maximum pressure indicated on the sidewall of the tire.

A Tire Pressure Monitor System, such as Pressure Pro, makes this process fairly easy, but if you are on the road when you do this, you will need a compressor or air pump with you.

How about this weather?

Saturday, May 29th, 2010

I am a poor blogger. One post a month just doesn’t cut it. I have my list of excuses of course. I was busy getting the trailer and car ready for the trip, or I haven’t had good internet connections.

All excuses are lame aren’t they?

I had hoped to take the old clear coat off our Excella in the first week or so of May, but the weather was so unpredictable that I never started on it. Really, the clear coat remover I bought needs at least 60 degree days, but not more than 80 or so. I figured I needed at least three good days to take the clear coat off, but it was either too cold, too hot, too windy, or rainy. We even had two storms that rained mud.

Apparently, a dust storm carried dirt up into a rain cloud and came down as mud. Covered the entire city in a fine brown paste. That’s my excuse anyway and so we’re on the road with a shabby looking exterior. Oh, well!

Our first stop was a rally in Fort Collins, CO. It was cool and wet there until Sunday when we left. Then on to Sidney, Nebraska at Cabella’s and continued east on I-80. We spent one night at a road side rest somewhere in Iowa, then broke down on a hill just east of Moline, IL. Got towed to Green chevy dealership and spent the night camped in their back lot.

Back lot camping
Free back lot camping while we waited for our Suburban to get fixed.

I didn’t sleep all that well. Greens assured us we’d be okay, even though they don’t have gate to lock at night, and that the only problem they’d been having was with some “radio thefts,” but that no-one would pay any attention to us. Well, not really. There was more traffic in that back lot at night than there was during the entire afternoon! One car even circled us repeatedly, nearly doing donuts. But, other than that we were left alone.

And Green Chevrolet did take good care of us. The mechanical problem turned out to be a minor one (only $156 + $112 for the tow) and so only lost a half day of travel. Then we were back onto I-80 and spent another night at a roadside rest somewhere in Indiana and finally rolled into the Tin Can Tourist rally at Camp Dearborn in Milford, MI.

Woody
Cool cars and trailers at the Tin Can Tourist Rally, Camp Dearborn, MI
Bowlus
Diane Flis-Schnieder and her 1935 Bowlus and 1936 Packard

Great rally! Learned some interesting things from author John Long about Bowlus trailers, had wonderful food, met with some really easy going campers. The only downside was a little too much rain (man did it pour!), but the good is that we didn’t have any leaks.

Pontiac
Love this Pontiac with its Spartan Manor in the background – the Airstream looks pretty good too, doesn’t it?

On Sunday (the 23rd), we left MI and did about 225 miles and arrived in Jackson Center, OH at about 3 p.m. with the temperature about 92 degrees. Too much heat, too soon! We were wearing sweaters in MI.

So, we’re now in the “Terraport” at the Airstream factory and it’s our basecamp until Alumapalooza starts June 1st. Even then we’ll just be moving to a grassy field behind the factory to camp with Rich and over a hundred others.

In the mean time, I’ll try to catch up on my writing and other projects – need to finish putting together my presentation on tire safety for this rally and start my presentation on 80’s Airstream trailers for the International rally in Gilette, WY.

Basilica
Basilica & National Shrine of
Our Lady of Consolation

We did get out for one day of sight seeing. We went to Carey, OH to visit a Catholic shrine, Our Lady of Consolation. It’s a beautiful church built in Italian Romanesque architecture. From there we went to Tiffin, OH to see one of the glass museums there.

Tiffin museum
Tiffin Glass Museum, 25 S. Washington St., Tiffin, OH

Patrice inherited June Night crystalware from her grandmother and wanted to know more about where it was made and its history. We had a personal tour guide and learned some facinating things. One that interested me was that the yellow glassware called “canary” glows intense green under ultraviolet light. This is because the mineral that gives the yellow color (in nomal light) is a Uranium salt. The UV light excites the mineral making it glow or fluoresce. It’s not radioactive though, or at least not enough for concern.

Canary, a
Canary in normal light
Canary, b
Under blacklight

Update on Colorado I-25 between mile mark 230 and 231

Friday, March 19th, 2010

We drove south on I-25 last weekend and that undulating section of road is still there. This time I noted the mile markers. It is just north of mile marker 230. CDOT has not fixed it yet and it is as bad as ever. What’s more, I noticed skid marks along its entire length, indicating that a number of motorists have had a scary time there.

There are three lanes southbound in that location, but the problem appears to be confined to just the one lane on the far right side of the roadway (or lane #3). I think I’ve found a name for the effect – it’s called “porpoising” – and apparently all kinds of RVs are susceptible to loss of control when it happens, even motorhomes.

Anyway, just to repeat my earlier warning, southbound CO I-25 between marker 230 and 231 slow down and stay in the middle lane.

Stairs and SOB’s

Saturday, March 6th, 2010

Part of my agreement in writing this blog is that it would stay close to the topic of vintage Airstream trailering. That limitation does make it a challenge though, especially in the winter when I’m not traveling.

Still, I’ve been to a couple of RV shows and yes, I do look at other brands and makes of RVs. Each time I do I come away with the conviction that Airstream is the best RV for my wife and me. One of the things I like about Airstream travel trailers is that they are relatively close to the ground. Two steps up and you’re in.

I read somewhere, not too long ago, that the number one cause of injury in RVing are falls. This is a big concern for me since my wife is handicapped. Getting in and out of our trailer has to be something she can do without my help. Airstreams are about the only travel trailer or RV she is comfortable with.

Some examples of other manufacturer’s stairs prove my point I think.

View from the bottom
This is what you might see after falling out.
For kids only
Too narrow and steep for adults, these stairs leading to a shallow sleeping loft are obviously for kids only.

With that in mind, it is easy for me to eliminate 90 percent of the RV’s out there. It’s astounding how many steps and stairs some of the other makes have, and some are just plain ridiculous. Miss a step with some of these rigs and you’ll likely find yourself in hospital.

Spindly stairs
They’ve got to be kidding! I wouldn’t attempt these stairs even if I was drunk.

I’m always disappointed with the small turnout of Airstreams at the RV shows, but it is understandable. I’m told that for the shows to be profitable an Airstream dealer ought to sell around six trailers, but consider themselves lucky to just sell one. Shows are just not good from the sales perspective. I think it’s worthwhile from a showcase perspective though, and maybe the salesmen, who often are not exclusively Airstream, just don’t do a good job.

There seems to be a lot of apologetics when it comes to price. While I was standing around, I noticed a couple of men commenting on the price of the Flying Cloud. The salesman wasn’t around and so I mentioned to them that they were looking at the price the wrong way. “It’s a long term investment, versus a short term one,” I said.

“How’s that?” One of them asked.

“Look at all the RV’s on display here – hundreds of them. This Airstream will outlive all them. Twenty or thirty years down the road every RV on the floor will be junk, but this Flying Cloud will still be on the road, looking as good as it does now.”

I could see their attitude change as I said that. Then I told them to watch the movie running on the TV inside. “Watch this slalom test, wait for it, wait for it… here it comes.” As I said that, the SOB being tested head to head with the Airstream nearly tipped over. “That’s why you want an Airstream.” The men stayed and watched the movie again from beginning to end.

I ought to be a salesman. Airstream is a product I can get behind. Oh, wait, I guess I am a salesman, I just don’t get a commission.

Land Yachts and Catamarans

Tuesday, December 1st, 2009

Every time we trailer to the coast or the Great Lakes, I get to thinking about the similarities between RV’ing and boating. Truly, a boat is a recreational vehicle, and even the lifestyles are quite similar. I just read a blog written by a full-time live aboard couple. They describe their “way of life” on the water and its advantages and disadvantages. The parallels are remarkable. Seamanship is much more demanding though, in my opinion. Taking a wrong turn with your Airstream is no emergency. Getting lost out in the vastness of the ocean is an entirely different matter.

There was a time when I thought I wanted a life at sea, but it only took a couple of summer cruises with the USN as a cadet to convince me that I was a landlubber for life. I never got so seasick that I was at the rail and green at the gills though. Instead of nausea, I had a constant dull headache 24/7.

I still think a life at sea is wonderful, for those who can adapt to it. Patrice and I were in Bar Harbor, Maine about five years ago. We were traveling in our new-to-us 1966 Airstream Overlander. We toured Acadia National Park and enjoyed the area so much that we hope to return someday. Though there was one attraction, we won’t do again.

Bar Harbor Campground
Our 1966 Overlander parked in beautiful Bar Harbor Campground.

Somehow, Patrice got it in her head that we should go on a whale watching tour. She had been on ferries and riverboats and thought that since she handled those all right she would be okay on the Atlantic. Keep in mind that she is born and bred, fourth generation, on the Colorado high desert plains. “Are you sure?” I asked, but she had made up her mind to see the whales up close.

Our first definitive hint that this was a bad decision was when we learned that the ocean swells were “down” to fourteen feet. The previous three days the action was too great for the tour boats to go out. That’s three days of no income for that business and I think they were getting hungry. The boats were going out despite the marginal conditions.

Our second hint came as we watched passengers from the morning tour disembark. No one was smiling. No one was happy. Someone in our crowd called out, “did you see any whales?”

A particularly disgruntled old man answered, “Yes, we saw five whales and five hundred barf bags.”

That should have been our clue to ask for a refund, but no, Patrice wanted to soldier through. “It can’t be that bad,” she said, “look how calm the water is now.”

The Cat
The catamaran in Bar Harbor’s calm water.

I reminded her that the harbor is supposed to be calmer and that the sea will change dramatically once the boat clears the breakwater. About then, the crowd we were hemmed into began to board and it was too late to change our minds.

The seed of nausea had already been planted though, and the catamaran tour boat didn’t help. Unlike a boat with a single deep draft hull, catamarans have two hulls fixed together to provide a shallow draft that will also resist capsizing. As a result, they ride the wave crest, unlike a conventional boat that will plow into a wave. In other words, if the waves are at fourteen feet, the Cat will ride the full distance up the peaks and down into the troughs just like a roller coaster.

But unlike an amusement park ride this one lasted for hours, not minutes. Patrice quickly realized that she would need the plastic lined paper bags. She leaned close and told me, as a matter of pride I suppose, that she only hoped she wouldn’t be the first to let loose.

I tried to encourage her by telling her that if she kept her eyes on the horizon it wouldn’t be that bad. She held out right up until the person across from us lost it. Well, she wasn’t the first, but she wasn’t the last either. A chain reaction of sickening gurgles and moans enveloped the boat. Few among the hundred or so passengers were spared.

I was fine until Patrice asked me to get some paper towels from the galley. This meant going below to an area of the boat where I couldn’t watch the horizon. Imagine also standing up in the first roller coaster car and scrambling over the passengers to the last car, and back. I was lucky; the trip only gave me that same spinning headache I’d experienced so many years earlier.

The captain announced that we would see some whales, if only he could find them, but not to worry, he’d stay out until he did. An hour into this, Patrice complained, “Just where are those damn whales?”

Finally, a passenger cried out, “There’s one. There he is at ten o’clock.”

Thar she blows
A whale at 10 o’clock!

Patrice let out a sigh, “Finally! Enough already, we’ve seen a whale now let’s head in.”

The captain announced over the PA that another boat reported a pod a couple of miles away and that he’d head that direction. Patrice looked at me in desperation, her face an ashen grey, “go give him a thousand dollars to take us home. I’m serious.”

“I know you are. Aren’t you glad you didn’t buy us tickets to see the puffins as well?”

“I don’t think I can take it anymore,” she cried. “Give me another bag… quick!”

“They’re out,” I said, alarmed, “you’ll have to use the old one.” It was self-preservation; I turned away and watched the horizon. An hour later, the boat began the return trip. I fell asleep. I was exhausted from the constant movement.

When we disembarked, someone from the herd of fresh passengers waiting on the dock cried out, “did you see any whales?”
“Yes,” a fellow traveler answered, “we saw five of them and five hundred barf bags.”

As for me, I woke from my nap refreshed, with a clear head, and an empty stomach. I was surprisingly hungry, and to add insult to Patrice’s injury, I took her to the nearest restaurant where I devoured a Maine lobster in front of her. She had tea.

Lobster fest
“Hon, you sure you don’t want some?”

LOOK OUT! Bad Highway, Great Park

Saturday, October 3rd, 2009

Driving south on I-25 between Loveland and Denver I nearly lost control of my rig. We were returning from a rally. The weather was perfect. The road was straight and dry. Traffic was heavy as it always is in that area. I was towing at my normal highway speed of sixty mph when the road surface in the number two lane (farthest to the right) pitched up and down in a series lasting about a quarter mile. This wave like surface created an unsettling oscillation and sway, so much so that I was only able to regain control by using the trailer brake controller to activate the trailer brakes. I’d already taken my foot off the gas pedal and so we were slowing, but the trailer was pushing our Suburban around. By activating only the trailer brakes, we were able to slow down and stop sway.

Some of you may think that if I had a Hensley hitch, instead of the Reese dual cam, that this wouldn’t have been a problem, but you’d be wrong. Later that day, Rich Luhr and his family drove the same route and encountered the same problem. Rich even anticipated it because he noticed the undulating surface and slowed down somewhat prior to driving into it. His rig has the latest and best equipment – Hensley hitch, Kodiak disk brakes and of course his tow vehicle is a Mercedes – can’t get much better than that. My rig is all circa 1985 technology.

When we later compared notes, we came to the same conclusion. The only solution to that bad patch of road is to drive through it more slowly, perhaps at forty mph (the speed limit there is seventy-five). What we believe happened was that our trailers began seesawing and when the rear of the trailers went down the fronts went up, taking the rear of our tow vehicles with it. This effectively un-weighted the rear axles of our tow vehicles, causing the trailer to push instead of be pulled. Even with his Mercedes and its all wheel drive, the front wheels alone can’t control a thirty-foot trailer (mine is thirty-two feet, but a little lighter).

Our rigOur ’86 Excella and ’85 Suburban are in the foreground. Rich’s Tour of America bunk house is in the background.

Tour of AmericaThe leaves are turning for autumn and nicely frame Rich’s Airstream.

Fortunately, we both arrived at Cherry Creek State Park no worse for wear. The park is still Five Star, even though the staff there was on furlough the day we arrived (the Governor recently mandated four furlough days for all State employees due to a budget crisis). Both Rich and I have commented in past postings about this park, but it deserves repeating. The RV sites all have level concrete pads, full hookups, and graveled picnic table and fire pit areas. The overall scenic appeal I’d rate at least an eight and in the fall perhaps a nine.

Back-in SiteAll the RV sites, whether they are back-in, such as this one, or pull through are excellent.

There is a lake for swimming, boating and fishing. The bike paths are simply the best in the world and can take you into downtown Denver and Aurora, or out into the country if you’re so inclined. There are excellent nature trails and even a remote controlled model airplane airport, complete with paved runways and spectator stands. Outside the park is all the shopping you could hope for, in any direction. Access into and out of the park is straightforward because it borders I-225. Rates continue to go up though. That is the only downside, but it is still a better deal than any private RV park in the area.

Mt EvansMt Evans (14,240 ft), in the background, and Cherry Creek Dam are visible from much of the park.

Safe Travels

Friday, July 10th, 2009

Our one-month summer road trip is over. We’ve returned reluctantly, but quickly. The irony of this always puzzles me. We don’t want the journey to end, yet when it is indeed coming to a close we rush home. We covered a little over a thousand miles in two days.

In the past, I’ve said I wouldn’t do that. It’s particularly hard on Patrice, but we’ve discovered something that many of you probably already know – naps in the afternoon. By pulling over when we get groggy, just about when lunch has digested, when the day is warmest, and fatigue sets in, pull over for a nap in the trailer. We’ve found, well I’ve found – since Patrice isn’t quite as convinced – that when I wake I’m refreshed enough to drive until it is good and dark. In the summer that is around 9:30 p.m. Then we pull over for the night; get a good sleep and an early start the following morning. I think this can be repeated for quite some time and seems to me to be a safe way to cover 500 or 600 miles each day.

Or so I think, after we left Madison and were driving southwest on Highway 151, about 30 miles from Dubuque, where we came upon the aftermath of an accident. At the bottom of a long steep hill, a tow truck was pulling a trailer up onto its wheels. The mangled shiny mess wasn’t immediately recognizable, but as we went by, we saw that it was an Airstream. It had rolled like Kick the Can down the embankment. A sobering reminder that safety can’t be taken for granted.

NE Roadside Rest
Out of all the roadside rests we used our vote for the best were Nebraska’s. They were often well off the Interstate and usually segregated RV parking away from trucks. They were also well kept and as pretty as the ones in Missouri which we gave second place to.

What Can Go Wrong – Will

Sunday, June 14th, 2009

We’ve been camped in Jackson Center, at the Airstream Terraport, since last Thursday. What a great place! I could stay here for a month.

Terraport
Airstream Terraport

We left Denver Monday evening, about 6:30 p.m. My original plan was for us to leave on Tuesday morning, but I wanted to get to JC before 2:00 p.m., Thursday, so that I could tour the plant while some trailers were being made. With the recession, Airstream has cut production to around eight trailers a week. Their workforce and workdays have also been reduced. There are factory tours on Friday but nothing is up and running.

To get here we took I-70 all the way to Dayton. When we stopped for the night, we utilized roadside rest stops. The one at Arriba, CO was level and clean, but very windy. Missouri’s rest stop was equally level, and attractive, but very busy with truck traffic. Indiana’s rest stop was the best though. It was park like, with a separate RV area (although that didn’t stop some truckers from parking there).

Arriba Reststop
The Roadside Rest at Arriba, CO

Road condition was excellent everywhere but in Indiana. Illinois had the very best. It always amazes me how different a road surface becomes just crossing from one state into another. I-70 was terrible all through Indiana except for where it goes through the capital, Indianapolis.

Denver to Jackson Center is nearly 1,300 miles. To get there in time required 400 plus mile driving days. That isn’t something I like to do nor do I like putting Patrice through it. As it was, we lost an entire morning due to a breakdown.

Prior to leaving, I took our Suburban into my local Chevy dealership to check the brakes and earlier they replaced the harmonic balancer.

In Kansas, I noticed the parking brake pedal traveled all the way to the floor. Not a good thing if we need to park with the trailer on a grade somewhere. I’ve crawled under to check the cable and it looks okay. The problem, I think, is that it has come loose in one or both brake drums. This particular design requires pulling a drive axle to remove the brake drum and make adjustments. It isn’t something I want to do on the road. In fact, that’s why I had Chevy check it. It’s a hassle. It looks like that is what will need to be done though. For now, we’ll do without. The hydraulic brakes work fine, and the shoes are adjusted properly (that can be worked on through a small service port on the backplate).

In Missouri, I began hearing a “clickity, clickity, clickity.” I thought it was the air conditioner compressor at first, but it was off. Then, without any other warning, we suddenly heard a thud and lost power steering. Red lights came on. The temperature gauge immediately went up to 200 degrees, then 210, then 230, and before I could get to the top of an exit ramp, it was into the red (around 260). We coasted into Gribit-N-Go Convenience Store and gas station at Boonville with the engine boiling over.

We were fortunate this all happened within a quarter mile of the exit ramp. We’d lost the bolts holding the main pulley onto the harmonic balancer. The pulley itself nearly fell out of the engine compartment, but the radiator fan shroud caught it. That was a good thing, and again I consider it a lucky break. If it had fallen out completely, it would have banged up the underside of the truck and likely done the same to our Airstream. Who knows what it might have then done to any vehicle following us.

Then we got another lucky break. Just a block from the gas station, and down hill from there at that, was Terry‘s Auto Service Center & NAPA store. I gathered the pulley and two bolts out of the engine compartment, hosed it down (thanks to the store manager), and with it cooled off a bit restarted it just enough to coast down the drive, into the street, and down the hill to park in front of NAPA.

There I unhitched and drove the Suburban into the service bay. By 1 p.m., Terry had located and retrieved a salvaged pulley out of a local junk yard, and his wonderful mechanic retapped the threads in the harmonic balancer and installed the salvage pulley and old belts. This time the pulley was put on with the proper sized bolts. The ones the Chevy dealership used were too short. With only a few threads engaged, they hadn’t held.

When we get back home, I’m giving the dealership the bill, and a piece of my mind. They simply have no excuse.

Product Review – Organic Batter Blaster!

Tuesday, March 17th, 2009

One way I keep abreast of what is going on in the Airstream Universe is by using Google Alerts. By entering a search term Google will monitor the Internet and send me an Email with links to blogs, stories and articles that pertain to a search term. I’ve been monitoring “Airstream,” “Wally Byam,” and a few other items for several years. I’m surprised that Google still has Alerts listed as a BETA feature, but perhaps not enough customers use it to merit placing it on the main menu. To get to Google Alerts go to: http://www.google.com/alerts?hl=en

A month or so past, I got a Google Alert on a story about Organic Batter Blaster. At first, I couldn’t figure out what Batter Blaster had to do with Airstream. It turned out that the inventors promoted their product by traveling to state fairs in an Airstream trailer. Batter Blaster immediately intrigued me. I’m always looking for a convenient and tidy way to cook in the trailer. This is especially important when boon docking. The fewer kitchen utensils and bowls used to prepare a meal means that less water is needed for clean up. Batter Blaster is pancake and waffle batter in an aerosol can. Simply shake it, turn it upside down and nozzle batter onto the frying pan. Voila! Nearly instant “scratch” pancakes.Batter BlasterWell, almost. As a pancake, Batter Blaster falls a little flat. No pun intended. Okay, maybe that was a wisecrack, but that is my criticism of the product. For it to work a thin batter is required and as a result the moment it hits the pan it starts to spread out. I made my first pancake by dispensing the batter in a spiral. The result was a crepe, not a fluffy pancake. On the positive side, it was a good crepe. It was slightly sweet, firm but not spongy and could be served rolled up with a filling.

On my subsequent attempts, I dispensed a mound of batter by holding the can in one place. Still, the batter tended to spread out a little too much. To get a thicker pancake I found that if I waited for it to spread out I could then release a little more batter on top and it would double up somewhat.

The texture of these pancakes was perhaps a little too uniform. When I make pancakes from scratch or out of a box I don’t over blend the ingredients. The result is a fluffier pancake.
Not that I’m a great cook, but one of the few things I do well as a househusband is make pancakes. I make mine plate size and that requires being able to flip the pancake accurately without breaking it or making a mess. Batter Blaster is a little thin to do that easily. Each can makes about 28 four-inch pancakes.

The other down side to Batter Blaster, from a camping standpoint, is that it must be kept refrigerated. It isn’t supposed to be stored below 40 degrees Fahrenheit. This isn’t necessarily a problem, but it is a consideration. In my opinion, other products make better pancakes with almost the same convenience, don’t require refrigeration and can be stored dry until needed. For instance, there is Bisquick’s Shake’N Pour Pancake Mix. It comes in a bottle with all the ingredients but water. Add water to the contents in the bottle, shake and pour onto a hot skillet (375 degrees). It is an easy, no fuss, and no mess way to make pancakes. The disadvantage is that Shake’N Pour must be entirely used once water is added and any remaining batter must be thrown away. The batter can’t be kept (at least not for very long), and that is the big advantage of Organic Batter Blaster. The aerosol can allows the cook to use only what is needed. There is no waste. The remaining batter stays in the can and can be returned to the refrigerator for future use.

All in all, Organic Batter Blaster is a decent product and entirely convenient. It gets my recommendation. It isn’t yet widely available though. Apparently, there are marketing problems with the big chain grocery stores. I found the product at COSTCO. If you’ve ever been to COSTCO you know what that means. You can’t just buy one can. However, the three can package is economical at $4.77. Three cans, at 28 cakes per can, equal a lot of breakfasts.

About the Author

Hi, my name is Forrest McClure. I've been writing for the magazine since its inception. My wife and I travel with our 1966 20' Globe Trotter or our 1986 32' Excella. So, my primary interest is vintage travel trailers.