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Happy Place

Saturday, May 26th, 2012


This Memorial Day weekend is not a good time to go camping in Colorado. Every tent and RV site in the state is booked. That is why we did our camping last weekend instead.

We took along Patrice’s best friend, Paula, to Mueller State Park. It’s a special place for Patrice and she wanted to share it with her. When Patrice was recovering from her stroke and consequent pneumonia and other problems, she had to undergo some unpleasant, even painful, “procedures.” To endure these, the nurses told her to imagine a place that was peaceful and pleasant and go there in her mind. She always went to Mueller. She calls it her “happy place.”

The trip was uneventful until we got to Woodland Park. From there all the way to Mueller we towed our Airstream through gropple – a hail-like snow. It quickly piled up to around six inches south of Divide, elevation 9,165’, and traffic slowed to a crawl. However, with the added tongue weight, our 2-wheel drive Suburban never lost traction.


Site #67 in Mueller State Park

Back when I was a boy, hardly anyone had four-wheel drive vehicles. I’ve never owned one and the times I thought I should I can count on one hand. So, I only want two wheel drive. It sits lower, has a lower center of gravity, is easier to get in and out of, and cargo is easier to load. I remember when pickup truck manufacturers touted those features as selling points. But today, you almost cannot buy a pickup or SUV in Colorado that isn’t four wheel drive. Dealerships tell me if I don’t want that feature I’d have to shop in Texas or Arizona.

It’s said that if you don’t like the weather in Colorado, wait five minutes and it will change. No sooner did we arrive at Mueller the gropple became a light rain. Not long after that, the sky cleared.

The next day was glorious, partly cloudy, highs in the low seventies and crystal clear air. Patrice took Paula to her favorite viewing point, with Pikes Peak to the east of the campground and a long ninety-mile view south to the 14,000’ mountains in the Sangre de Cristo Range.

Paula & Pat self-portrait


Around 5:30 p.m., I scouted in vain for a clear view of the eclipse. The sky was too cloudy. But I saw a funny phenomenon. The clouds on the horizons all turned pink. Not just to the west, but south and north as well.

After two relaxing nights at Mueller we headed back to Denver, but I was reluctant to go home. We dropped Paula off at her house and spent two nights in Cherry Creek State Park, a couple of miles from our home. I pretended we were camped somewhere else, far, far away.

When we pulled in, I spotted Rich and Eleanor’s Airstream. As luck would have it, being Monday, we got a site across the road from them. It was nice to visit, even though too short as they had a lot of work to do, meeting with Brett Hall of Timeless Trailers and checking out the venue for Alumafandango. It will be a great rally. We are really looking forward to it.

At Cherry Creek SP with


New Axles

Tuesday, May 17th, 2011

Last Monday night (the 9th) at 9 PM, I drove to Fort Collins. I pulled into Luke’s driveway at about 10:30 PM and camped there overnight.

Customer's axles lined up for installation.

About 8 AM Tuesday morning, one of Luke’s men, Dave, arrived. Luke repositioned my trailer. I unhitched and got a folding chair out and watched the two of them work. To get the trailer up high enough they added wood blocks to their floor jacks. If ever you decide to do this yourself, make sure you use a good grade of hard wood. They used some pine and it split, letting the trailer down abruptly. Fortunately, no one was under the trailer when that happened, and it was the only mishap.

Once up in the air, they had the front axle off in fifteen minutes. The rear axle was more involved because of a gas line.

Here you can see the difference between the old and new axles.

When both old axles were off, we made an interesting discovery. They were not the same. The rear was rated 4,000 lbs. and the front rated 3,200. The tube on the 4,000 was 3”, the 3,200 was 2.5”. Together, they do not provide the factory rated GVWR of 8,300 lbs. (even with the tongue weight subtracted) and may be the explanation as to why my rear tires had more wear on the outer edge and the front tires slightly more wear on the inner edge.

The axles never matched the stated GVWR

This difference in axle capacities was a surprise because I was not able to see the manufacturing plate on the rear axle. It was buried behind a holding tank. I am not sure how I feel about mixing axle capacities.

On a dual axle trailer, proper towing alignment is for the front to be slightly lower than the rear. Never tow with the rear lower than the front. That being the case, why put the lesser axle on the front? Would it not make more sense to put the axle bearing the most stress on the front and make the lighter one the trailing axle?

Regardless, I now have matching 4,000 lb. axles and new self-adjusting brakes. It might have been my imagination, but I thought I could feel the difference on the trip home that afternoon. The trailer now sits about 2 inches taller and that is a good thing in that it provides a little more clearance for that long tail to clear dips in the road.

It was money well spent to have this done. This was definitely a two-man job, and at times, I even jumped in to help. That, and there is no substitute for experience. I’ve only changed one axle on my own, whereas Luke has done many. As an added benefit, he diagnosed and corrected an electrical problem I’d created. He and his company do quality work and take their time doing it so that they get it right the first time. He doesn’t advertise, but instead relies on word of mouth. You can Google, “Luke’s Maintenance & Repair,” for more information.

Luke's own '65 Caravel.

It Was A Dark and Rainy Night

Friday, August 20th, 2010

It’s a cliche, I know, but you’ll read why in a minute.

Earlier this week I had a little scare. I was sitting quietly reading (okay, I was browsing through a new Northern Tool and Equipment catalog), when without warning something looking a little like smoke appeared. When I tried to look directly at it, it moved and there was a flash. Then I thought it better resembled a large piece of dark colored lint floating by, so I grabbed for it, but my hand went right through it. I grabbed at it again and nothing. I starting waving my hand back and forth to disperse it, or catch it, but nothing.

By now my wife, Patrice, asked me what was going on. I didn’t answer her. I kept grasping at the air. She asked again, this time a little more emphatically, “What’s wrong? Talk to me.”

I couldn’t think of what to tell her, but then I asked, “Do you see some smoke or lint or something about where my hand is?”

She told me there was nothing there, “Are you alright? Should I call 911?” Apparently, she thought I was having a stroke.

I closed my right eye, and the smoke disappeared. When I opened my right eye there it was again! I only then realized I had a “floater.” Quite soon, the flashing increased and more floaters started to appear, except these were very tiny ones that looked like bubbles.

Floaters generally occur as one gets older, and are more common with those who are nearsighted – yep, that’s me. Typically they, “appear when tiny pieces of the eye’s gel-like vitreous break loose within the inner back portion of the eye.” Usually this is simply an annoyance, but when accompanied with flashing it can indicate a retinal tear or detachment. “Immediate” medical attention is recommended with those symptoms.

The next morning I was able to get an appointment and had an exam in the afternoon. My doctor assured me that aside from the floaters my eyes were healthy. Still, I now have somewhat diminished vision in my right eye, especially, I discovered, at night.

We were driving Patrice’s folks home from dinner on a dark and rainy evening tonight. Ahead, I saw a shadow moving back and forth across the road. I asked everyone in the car with me, “Do you see anyone in the road ahead?” I slowed down, looking hard, but neither Patrice or her parents saw anything. Of course, Patrice is night blind and her folks are in their Eighties (which is why I’m the driver).

I turned on the high beams, but in the rain it didn’t help. Finally, Patrice said she thought she could see white shorts on someone ahead. I could too. We caught up to him, skateboarding down the middle of the road, being pulled by a large black dog running furiously. The skateboarder was wearing black boots, white running shorts over sweat pants, and a dark hooded sweatshirt.

I honked furiously at him, and his dog turned a corner pulling him down a side street like a skier slaloming behind a speedboat . I was seriously not amused at such a stupid stunt.

Ironically, because I was worried about my vision, I was concentrating on the wet road ahead, and only because of that did I see him. Otherwise, I might have run him and his pooch over.

As if that wasn’t enough, after we dropped off the folks and headed home on Parker Road (Rich will appreciate this since he’s been on it – a multiple lane roadway with heavy traffic) a man in dreadlocks, wearing blue jeans and a dark colored jacket jay-walked out in front of us. I braked hard, and once again, laid on the horn, but he seemed oblivious and simply sauntered across the remaining four lanes of southbound traffic, all while not looking up, or to one side or the other. How all the other cars managed to miss him is a mystery. But then, perhaps he was just a floater, and not really there – that’s as good an explanation as any.

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.

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!
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.

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.

It’s Nice To Have Options

Wednesday, June 16th, 2010

We’ve returned home to Colorado early. We were on the road for a month and I believe in that whole time we only saw four sunny days. Rain, rain, rain, or gloomy hot stuffy days. We really don’t know how people live with that. Patrice thinks they are, “water breathers.” I think, once a person becomes acclimated though, they grow gills.

But it wasn’t just the weather that drove us home. After Alumapalooza, we went to Elkhart, Indiana. The rain that dogged us all the way from Wyoming followed us there too, but I spent some time in the library at the RV Museum. Great place, just wish I could get in for $8 per week instead of $8 per day. At least I was feeling productive.

Then disaster, my computer was working okay, but when I shut down for the night, MS Windows XP SP3 automatically installed 11 “updates.“ The next morning, it wouldn’t boot. Couldn’t even get a BSOD. I didn’t have any of my diagnostic software with me – all back home. So, I took it to a local computer repair. Their diagnosis was that the hard drive was bad. Really, is that their best shot? I guess they also thought the crash following the updates was just a coincidence.

They were going to charge me $50 for the diagnostic and a precautionary backup. The tech told me they couldn’t get the hard drive out though because I’d forgotten to give them a key to unlock it. That’s when I asked how they were able to do the precautionary backup. If the computer wouldn’t boot and they couldn’t get the HD out, then there was no way to back up the data. “Oh,“ he said, “let me ask the tech who worked on it.“ I got out of there for $25, but it was still a rip.

Since then, I’ve determined that the updates corrupted the boot sector. I’ll need to buy some special software to recover. The bigger and immediate problem for us though was how to pay bills on the road. I do it all over the Internet, but my passwords and Quicken files are on the computer. I guess I should occasionally make a hard copy of some of that stuff.

While we were still in Indiana we drove over to South Bend to poke around Notre Dame University and link up with my cousin Diane. We really enjoyed the campus. There was some sort of alumni reunion going on, and I think that might be why all the young students and faculty smiled at us and were so friendly. Maybe, they thought we were part of that, but we weren’t.

Then heartbreak, I telephoned my cousin Diane to see if we could get together for dinner. A woman answered the phone, sounded just like Diane. It was her daughter. She just happened to be there to check on her dad, who is still grieving badly. Diane died April 8th she said, “We thought all the cousins knew.” She died suddenly from a brain aneurism.

She was about my age, a little less than a year younger. We had great fun when we were kids during summer vacations, swimming and water skiing in Hudson Lake, playing pick-up-sticks, and other games. I had a crush on her. Is that okay, for a cousin to have a crush? She was pretty, full of energy, smart and talented. And a hard worker, a good mother, a wonderful grandmother. She and her husband farmed over thirty years together, and like a lot of farmers held other jobs to make a go of it. I can only imagine his grief.

I know mine. I feel so guilty for not getting together with them last year when we were up in that part of the country. Seize the day, don’t put off today what you think you might do tomorrow. Tomorrow might not be there.

Still, my initial apprehensions that I had at the beginning of our road trip became impossible to ignore. My instincts told me to exercise the option to go back home. There is no point in staying on the road just for spite. Car and trailer problems, computer problems, depressing weather, sadness all became overwhelming. We don’t have to punish ourselves. We exercised the option that all RV’ers have. We moved on, and have been back home now for three days and each has been ridiculously sunny and beautiful. Flowers blooming everywhere, a gentle breeze rustles the leaves and Monarch butterflies and Humming birds swoop by our third floor windows. What’s more, there is no humidity. The gills are disappearing.


Sunday, July 12th, 2009

I’m always a little melancholy at the end of a rally. We are, after all, travelers, not settlers. Our destination is the journey. Still, seeing the occupants of “Silver City” evacuate is sobering.

Exhibition Neighborhood

This part of Silver City was just the little neighborhood parked in front of Exhibition Hall. Around 900 Airstream trailers made up the city in total.

Every time we go on a road trip, or attend a rally I tell myself not to do so much. It’s not possible to see everything, or do everything, and can be frustrating to try. I much as I realize this, I always fail. I never give myself the opportunity to do absolutely nothing.

Every moment is filled with activity and priorities. Patrice makes her list of to do’s, as if that would actually help, but then I always end up running around like a chicken with its head cut off. It’s not a pretty sight.

Yet, we both managed to have a good time and I have quite a few highlights to remember and backup onto the computer in case I forget.

In the next few posts I’ll mention some of them, but will start with a big thanks to Dave Schumann, General Manager Customer Relations of Airstream in Jackson Center. He made Wally Byam’s gold-anodized trailer available to me to photograph, measure and generally poke, prod, and crawl over and under. I was told that this was the first time in the last two years that it has even been opened. Airstream has kept it parked in a fenced lot south of the main factory. This kind of access was a real privilege. I proposed a floor plan review of it. Unfortunately, the interior was refurbished, not restored, and is not how Wally and Stella had it. Still, it was exciting and a real privilege to have that kind of access.

Simonton Lake Drive-In, when I was a boy, my grandfather treated me to ice cold root beer here. It is little changed and is a genuine blast from the past. The root beer and hamburgers are just the way I remember them.
Drive In
Mackinac Bridge and Mackinaw Island – the bridge is easily one of the most beautiful and elegant in the world.
The bridge
Mackinaw Island blew me away with its lilac bushes. Never in my life have I seen bushes of such size and bloom. They were everywhere. I often tell Patrice that lilac is what Heaven must smell like. It is intoxicating. The flowers on the island ranged from white to royal deep purple and each color had its own subtle, but distinctive sweet scent.

The scent of lilac is heavenly.

Things To Do In and Around the Village of Jackson Center, Ohio

Thursday, June 25th, 2009

Let’s face it, if you are not interested in Airstream history, then likely you’ll find Jackson Center, Ohio a dull place. Certainly, there are even Airstream owners who only want to go there for the service center and perhaps the factory tour. Past that, the area has little appeal for them.

As for me, I could easily spend an entire season there. You would find me either camped at the Terraport (free Wi-Fi), or at the east end of the village, in the back lot of the Wally Byam Caravan Club International headquarters. There alone I could spend considerable time just going through the history archive.

There are other things of interest in and around JC though. Directly across the street from WBCCI HQ is the Wally Byam Memorial Park, at the corner of State Route 274 (Pike Street) and Parkwood Drive. The park features a municipal pool with a spray park, sheltered patios, restrooms, picnic areas, lighted tennis courts, basketball courts, and playground equipment.

The sheltered patios are available for a mere $25. Each has picnic tables, power and can accommodate 50 to 60 people.

There is GKN, manufacturer of the Henschen Axle on the north side of the village at, 522 N Main St. It is a non-descript long metal sided building. Tours have been available in the past, but right now, with the slow down in the economy, the factory looked inactive. If you want to see how the rubber torsion axle is assembled, call first, (937) 596-6125.

Bike Museum

The Bicycle Museum of America

About fifteen miles west of JC, is New Bremen, Ohio, where you can find the highest point of the Erie Canal and the most excellent Bicycle Museum of America (419-629-9249). The museum is at 7 West Monroe St. (ST RT 274), which is nearly dead center of the town. So, it can’t be missed. Every stage of bicycle development is represented, including one of the unicycles used in the opening ceremony of the 2008 Summer Olympics, held in China. Be sure to go to the third floor and look at the replica of Alfred LeTourner’s Schwinn Paramount. He set a land speed record of 108 mph on it, and he is the bicyclist Wally Byam hired to photograph pulling an Airstream trailer in 1947. That photo is the iconic image Airstream Inc. still uses today to identify its product.

Alfred Did It

Alfred LeTourneur towing Airstream Liner, courtesy WBCCI Archive

Just up the Interstate from JC is the Neil Armstrong Air & Space Museum in Wapakoneta, Ohio. It is also easy to find, being just a few hundred yards northwest of Interstate 75 exit 111 (SR 33). Obviously, named to honor Astronaut, Neil Armstrong, for being the first man to set foot on the moon, but it also chronicles Ohio’s contributions to space flight. Among the items on display are an F5D Sky Lancer, the Gemini VIII spacecraft, Apollo 11 artifacts and a moon rock. The museum’s Astro-theater runs multimedia presentations.

There are numerous other attractions within an afternoon drive of JC, such as glass museums, and the fabulous Air Force Museum in Dayton, OH, but the surprise for me was that Airstream Inc. has not worked these connections more to its favor. That is, the LeTourner exhibit ought to have at least a photograph of Alfred pulling an Airstream with a bicycle, but it doesn’t. He was among the most famous of bicyclists in his era and one would think that, being practically neighbors, Airstream Inc. and the bicycle museum would want to make that connection. The Neil Armstrong museum likewise has a photograph of the Apollo 11 astronauts talking to President Nixon through the window of the Airstream built Mobile Quarantine Facility. Would it not make sense for both the museum and Airstream Inc. to make the connection with just a note that the MQF was another of Ohio’s contributions to the space program and was built just down the road?


President Nixon talks to Astronauts housed in the MQF

It’s just nuts. Sure, I know Airstream Inc. touts these accomplishments in its sales brochures, but I think they also need to get together with their neighbors so that the general, non-RVing, public can appreciate the connection when they tour the museums.


Monday, April 27th, 2009

The harshness of Denver weather isn’t its severity, but its wild fluctuations. Yesterday, Sunday, was mild and pleasant in the morning, but cool and rainy in the afternoon. By ten o’clock it was snowing heavily. The forecast for today is heavy snow. Last Friday, the high was 75 and I was sure that we wouldn’t see any more snow. I was wrong, but I’m in good company. No one can accurately predict Colorado weather more than three days ahead.

This same pattern was repeated earlier this month. On the 15th the high was 71 with beautifully clear blue sky, but on the 18th we had a blizzard. The following day, it reached 50 and most of the snow melted.

This is pattern is often referred to as, “the warm before the storm.” We live in a high desert plain. January and February are often dry and mild. Our heaviest snowfall traditionally comes in March and April. What is cruel about this is that our mild winter weather lulls us into thinking that we should be camping. When spring arrives, we are chopping at the bit to do just that, but just when we think we will, the hammer drops. It’s frustrating.

There are benefits to this kind of weather though. I believe the fluctuation between warm and dry, to wet and cold, and back again, helps keep the insect population in check. Also, our weather here isn’t boring. I lived in Hawaii for a year. The weather there was so predictably the same that I tired of it. I remember how much I looked forward to my return to Colorado where there are seasons.

Heather Gardens snow
View from my window.

Especially now that I live in a condominium where I don’t have to shovel sidewalks, I’m able to appreciate the snow. Right now as I write this, it is beautiful out. There are still a few snowflakes falling and yet it is sunny with some blue-sky showing. The streets are wet, but clear. The trees are draped in white. Certainly, our farmers appreciate the moisture and it will green everything up nicely. It does make camping difficult though.Snow covered Airstream

Where In the World?

Thursday, April 16th, 2009

I’ve just recently bought a GPS navigation device. I suppose I’ve been slow to adapt, but for a long time it just seemed a little extravagant. My wife has been my navigator for years, but after she had her stroke, I realized a GPS might be a good thing. She didn’t become dyslexic, but for some reason she sometimes says left when she means right, or vice versa. This has caused some tension and stress, for both of us.

On one trip my wife told me to turn left. I asked her, “Are you sure?”

“Yes,” she said, “turn left. I know where we’re going.”

I let up on the gas pedal and we begin to slow. “What are you doing?” She asks.

“I think we’re supposed to go right.”

By now we’re almost to the intersection. “Go left, go left, or we’ll miss our turn.” She said.

“Okay, don’t get excited.” I start a left turn.

“What are you doing?” She gasps, “You’re going the wrong way!”

Now I start weaving down the lane line like a drunk driver. “You told me to turn left.”

“No, I told you to go that way,” she says, pointing to the right.

“Jesus, Mary and Joseph!” I exclaim, “We can’t go both ways!”

“Don’t yell at me!” Her eyes start to tear, “I’m doing the best I can.”

So, when Circuit City announced it was going out of business I waited until the last week of their closeout sale to shop for a GPS. There weren’t many left by that time, but I was able to get a Garmin Nuvi 260 at half price. I’m impressed with what it does. It has replaced my vintage Airguide dash compass and altimeter.

To be fair, it’s easy for me to be absent-minded and miss a turn while I’m talking to someone in the car, but I can also do that even when I’m by myself (I daydream). With the Garmin though, it interrupts and reminds me.

It’s still new enough for me to find it entertaining and I’ll turn it on to listen to it’s directions even if I’m only going to the grocery store. The female voice sounds unemotional to me, but I know some people think their GPS gets angry when it says it’s, “recalculating.” I think they’re imagining that.

This isn’t to say the text to speech software doesn’t have its quirks. It will tell me to turn on, “Sym Aaron street,” when the name of the street is, “Cimarron.” That tickles me every time.

I think many people are naturally inclined to give their GPS a name. It’s understandable to name something that seems to have a personality, talks, and gives instructions. A friend of mine named his Magellan GPS, “Maggie.” That’s a cute abbreviation. Some users name their GPS after an ex-wife, for obvious reasons.

Remember the computer game; Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego? The game taught geography and history by having the player chase clues around the world to catch the thief, Carmen. I’ve chosen that name. Carmen Garmin might be an annoying alliteration, but I like her even more now that she has a name. What do you call your GPS?

Carmen Sandiego

Diving In

Tuesday, February 17th, 2009

I’ve taken the plunge. I bought a digital SLR camera setup several days ago. I searched eBay, Craig’s List and local stores, but the prices scared me. It’s not the camera and one lens. That kind of package deal is readily available at what seems like an acceptable price. It’s the accessories that make the price tag go through the roof. I knew I’d have to buy used and I’m reluctant to do that over the internet. I’d rather have the camera in my hands to examine before buying.

So, I went to a pawnshop and found what I was looking for. It was almost a complete setup: Nikon D70 with strap and two batteries; an AF Nikkor 18-70mm 1:3.5-45G ED zoom lens; an AF Nikkor 85mm 1:1.8 D portrait lens; Nikon Speedlight SB-800 flash unit; 62mm UV filter; a LowePro Micro Trekker 200 camera backpack; and assorted cables, instruction manuals, and misc items. All are only lightly used. There are no scratches, or even wear marks. Everything looks to be in pristine condition and (so far) functions perfectly. I got it all for $680.
Loaded LowPro bag
The only things missing are the Nikon Picture Project CD’s and a battery charger. It looks like I can pick the CD’s up for around $15 and a charger from $10 to $25 off eBay. Other than a few filters, there is only one other item I want (for now) and that is a wide-angle lens. I’m looking at a Nikon Nikkor 28mm f2.8 D AF for around $150.

That should be all I need for quite some time to come. Whew! Just learning all the nomenclature and acronyms that goes with Nikon cameras and lenses should keep me on a steep learning curve for the next couple of years.

I’ve always been a bit leery of buying things from pawnshops though. I suppose it’s because of the poor reputation they’ve inherited from the past when so many of them were nothing more than a fence for stolen goods. Today though, there are laws in place, at least here in Colorado, that keep such illegal activity on a pretty short leash. Still, I was suspicious enough to give all the serial numbers and previous owner’s name to my son, a police detective, to check on. Everything came back clear. I suppose this extra measure of caution was due to finding the previous owner’s U.S. Passport secreted away in the camera backpack! I can’t imagine leaving that behind, can you?

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.