Project Vintage Thunder

The latest on Project Vintage Thunder, by Airstream Life magazine. Sponsored by George M Sutton RV, Reese hitch, Dometic USA, PPG Paint, Axis Products, GSM Vehicles, and Zip-Dee. Vintage Thunder is an "honest" RV refurbishment and travelogue. We tell you what really happens ...

Saturday, June 11, 2005

Home again (briefly)

Ah, the bittersweet pleasure of coming home. Familiar surroundings,
predictable days, old friends, the big kitchen ... and piles of mail to
open, dead flies in the windowsills, dental appointments looming, and
bills to pay.

V.T. is parked outside with the A/C running, since it's still over 90
degrees here and quite humid. We get a week or two of this weather
every year, but usually it arrives closer to Independence Day. We'll
just leave it plugged in for the next couple of weeks. We didn't even
unload the refrigerator or any clothes (other than what was destined
for the washer), since we'll be heading back out on June 24.

It would be nice to come back to nothing at all to worry about, but it
seems there's always something to deal with upon returning home.
Whether a lawn that needs mowing or a strange smell in the kitchen,
life is full of little tasks that pile up while you're away pretending
they don't exist. The Airstream, being simpler and smaller, is less
work than a house, even though it requires a bit of maintenance itself.

We seem to be doing well with Vintage Thunder. The bug list has not
gotten longer. There are about half a dozen things to do before we set
off again, and none of them (except the A/C rain leak) are new to the
list since our previous trip. Mostly it is a matter of buttoning up
little things that didn't get done before. I'll talk about those as we
deal with them in the next couple of weeks.

Thursday, June 09, 2005

Moreau, NY

The last few days of a big family vacation are often anti-climatic. The fun is over and there’s nothing left to do but rush back to home, back to obligations and appointments, back to work and school. For a lot of people, this is the inevitable conclusion.

I hate to do that, so we always try to block out some time for adventures along the route home. Today was mostly a driving day, but we did decide to stop a few hours short of home, in Moreau, NY at the Moreau Lake State Park. The idea was to enjoy a quiet state park setting and do a little swimming, since the weather is still abominably hot and humid. (I stepped out of the car at a rest area and it felt like my shoes were going to melt on the asphalt.)

When we arrived, the interior of Vintage Thunder was 103 degrees. And it turned out that the park had no electric sites, which meant no air conditioning. We turned both Fantastic Vents up to “3” (the highest setting) and hoped for the best.

By the way, the big Dometic refrigerator was maintaining a steady 41 degrees in that temperature. We had it on setting “4” (max was “5”) most of the day. In retrospect we should have pushed it to “5” since it’s best to keep food below 40 degrees to avoid the risk of bacterial growth. (Yes, we tow with the fridge on gas, and if we hadn’t the food would have been 80 degrees.)

While we were waiting for the trailer to cool down, we checked out the brochure to find the lake so we could take a nice swim. No luck – the lake was off-limits when a lifeguard was not on duty, which meant anytime after 6 pm. (We’ve got to get this country over the fear of liability!)

So we headed over to the “shower house” to chill out. We arrived to a sign that said, “NO ELECTRICITY. NO HOT WATER.” Well, the lack of hot water was not a problem – we wanted to cool off anyway. But at 7:45 pm, it was getting a bit dark amongst the trees and we had not brought flashlights along. Desperate, we hopped in the showers and bore up bravely as the ice-cold water hit our hot skins in the dark.

I’ll grant this: it did feel good, especially when we got out. But I can’t grant Moreau Lake SP “recommended” status.

When we got back the interior of Vintage Thunder was 88 degrees. With everything in the interior heat-soaked from a day of towing, it was remarkable we got it even that low in an hour. Now, we’ve got a thunderstorm overhead and with luck it will cool things off even more before bedtime. We’re comfortable enough thanks to the showers.

I think tonight is movie night – a DVD in the laptop. Probably some classic “Three Stooges” episodes … and maybe some popcorn …

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Darien, NY

The Baidingers' courtesy parking gets 5 stars on our rating scheme, same as the Bakers' and the Woodruffs'. Why? Well, they are great people who provided us with much more than just a spot to park. And the breakfast she laid out for us today, complete with silver service and white tablecloth, had something to do with it, too!

I should mention that normally courtesy parking extends to a spot to park and perhaps a water or electric hookup. Hosts are under no obligation to provide more, but often they do! And when they do, well, how can you say "no" to a nice meal with the family? :-) It's hard not to make new friends when they roll out the red carpet for you like that.

After an enormous brunch with Carol, we packed up and headed out across Ontario, from Port Huron MI to Buffalo NY. A stop at the Bluewater Bridge (crossing from Pt Huron to Sarnia) was well worth the time. The Bluewater Bridge is actually two bridges, one built in 1937 and a parallel span built in 1997.

The water is so clear and gorgeous that it gives the bridge its name. I could not stop taking photographs -- it was like the Caribbean. Just as I was thinking, "This would be a cool spot to snorkel," we met up with a pair of fellows who were doing just that. The water was a bracing 55 degrees, but they were diving in and swimming around (briefly) in nothing more than swimsuits.

The drive through Ontario is flat and relatively featureless, and this time we decided not to stop much, since we need to get back home this week. It's a pretty easy drive, about 4-5 hours end to end. Tonight we are in Darien Lakes State Park in western NY, just crashing for the night before we hit the road again.

Vintage Thunder has performed well on this trip. There have been no glitches since my posting a week ago about the mystery leak. Someone cut us off viciously on the highway today, and I was forced to swerve in response, but the rig remained stable and it turned out to be a non-event.

Tonight, we have cranked up the air conditioning for the first time. (I wish we could have used it in Jackson Center.) The trailer was about 90 degrees inside when we arrived, but that old Armstrong is cooling it right down. It's noisy when the compressor first starts, but it sure does work. I'll be thankful for that when we get to Missouri later this month.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Frankenmuth MI

It's one little adventure after another in an Airstream. Today I spent a few hours in the pleasant company of Roger Johnson, who writes "eBay Watch" for the magazine. Roger is parting out a very beat '68 Ambassador only about 25 miles from where we are courtesy parking.

Three hours of drilling in the sun later, I had two curved roof segments, a couple of Airstream nameplates, and a big sunburn to show for my effort. It wasn't really worth the trip just for the parts, but meeting Roger in person (for the first time) made it worthwhile. He's another example of an interesting person I would never have met if it weren't for our common interest in Airstreams.

Later, Carol, Eleanor, and Emma joined up and we headed off to the quaint tourist town of Frankenmuth. Imagine the Germany portion of EPCOT Center dropped in Michigan, if you can. Shopping, restaurants, a pastel pedestrian bridge, a paddle-wheel boat tour, and all the chicken you can eat, with fudge for dessert. It's "South of the Border" with class. Don't miss the extremely kitschy tale of the Pied Piper of Hamelin, as enacted by the big clock at the Bavarian Inn.

The heat (90s again) kept the rest of the tourists away, so we were able to wander the park-like setting virtually alone. Frankenmuth has nightly laser shows, but with the sun setting so late this time of year, the show didn't start until 10 pm. We bailed out before then and headed back to Lapeer, where Emma caught a toad in the driveway and everyone played flashlight tag until 11 pm. Summer is great, isn't it?

Monday, June 06, 2005

Lapeer, MI

We're once again taking advantage of courtesy parking, in a quiet driveway just north of I-69. We pulled in about 11 pm last night and quickly plugged in before sacking out.

Now that the thunderstorms and cold front have passed through, the weather is absolutely the peak of June perfection. Sunny, crystal clear, dry, breezy and about 78 degrees. It was a pleasure to sit on the front bed and catch up on email and other business, while enjoying the panoramic view through Vintage Thunder's front windows.

Our courtesy parking hosts, Carol and Bradley, have taken the day off to show us around town. There's a beautiful little lake near here, Lake Nippissing (?), and we had dinner at its edge. Now I am back in the trailer posting to you.

A few stats from the recent Homecoming event:

1000: miles traveled so far on this trip
10: days on the road so far
5: nights spent courtesy parking
40+: "I saw Vintage Thunder" badges handed out at Homecoming
2: interviews we gave at Homecoming (to other media)
3: interviews we conducted at Homecoming
350+: photos taken so far
94: highest daytime temperature reached so far
48: cold drinks served to guests from our big refrigerator
6: new friends made

Sunday, June 05, 2005

Last Day in Jackson Center

We're on our way back, slowly. Saturday afternoon was such a blur of activity that I can't even remember all the stuff we did, all the people we talked to, etc. I do recall that we spent most of the early part of the afternoon interviewing people, Alex and Charon the sword swallowers dropped by, and I think we spent the rest of the day just sweating. It was hot & humid!

Last night Brett and David Winick disappeared in downtown JC, I think checking out the classic car exhibit that blocked off most of Pike Street, and hunting for good bratwurst. I cooled off in Vintage Thunder's shower and then walked over to the "drive-in" movie that Airstream was screening on the outside of the assembly building. (The movie was "National Treasure" with Nicholas Cage -- not bad.) We finally wrapped up around 12:30 a.m. and got started again this morning at 7:30.

It started off pretty warm today, so we ran both of the Fantastic Vents on high and for the first time we opened all of the Argosy's windows. The awning was put to good use, too. Winick dropped by for a final chat, as did Dave Schumann, Tim Champ, Fred Coldwell, and a few others. Here's a picture of me getting a bit of work done under the shade of our new awning with Fred visiting in the background.

Later in the morning, we hit the "gospel brunch" under the big tent (which was really just bluegrass music and quite good), and then caught up on work on the dinette for a couple of hours, while the mercury rose to 94.

About 6 pm we hit the road to our next destination, Lapeer MI, where we will courtesy park at Carol Baidinger's (Photo Editor) for a couple of nights while meeting up with Airstream Life contributor Roger Johnson ("eBay Watch"). Along the way, we heard about a severe thunderstorm watch so we took the opportunity to fire up the Internet In Motion system. With that running, Eleanor has been able to check the NOAA weather radar on the web every few minutes and watch the progress of the thunderstorms. Pretty cool!

Right before the thunderstorm line was set to hit us, we exited the highway and stopped for dinner. Just in time, too. A huge gust front preceding the thunderstorms slammed us at the gas station, swirling dust everywhere. I parked the Argosy in the lee of a gas station so the winds hopefully won't tip the trailer over. Carol's Classic 25 is parked right behind us.

We're sitting in the restaurant now, watching the rain start through the windows, and using the wireless Internet In Motion signal being broadcast from Vintage Thunder to post this blog. I just love this thing ...

We'll pull in tonight pretty late, so I'll post an update tomorrow sometime.