Tuesday, December 9, 2014

What DO you do with a travel blog...

What do you do with a travel blog when you aren't traveling?  Or more to the point, what does an Airstreamer do when the beautiful shiny thing is PARKED?  I've had a couple months to ponder that.  I'm guessing that if you ARE an Airstreamer (or other interested wanderer) your answer is much like Rhett Butler's.  There are, however, a few recipients of the the annual Christmas letter who, like lapsed church goers, will check in here around Christmas...So a full accounting follows. 

Airstreamers (and Neighborhood Watch)  know that you can only waste so much time tidying up, cleaning and winterizing your trailer in front of the house before it must go to storage, and only so many extra trips out to the storage yard to ferry items back and forth before everything is in its proper place. 

                 Picture of Lotti and her stable mate 6868

The Airstream was "inspection-ready" when we heard the call.  "The landlords are coming."  We had nine days, so we did Spring Cleaning.  We moved every piece of furniture, shampooed every rug, washed every curtain and cleaned every window.  In the process, we discovered the breeding ground of several species of dust bunny and the semi-mythical graveyard of all cockroaches.  We also discovered vast quantities of of unneeded clothing including "snow clothes" we are somehow hoarding here in mid Alabama.  When the Polar Vortex arrived a month before the scheduled Coat Drive for the Homeless, we were heroes.   I wonder who would want the huge box of freeze dried backpacking food (some nearly 20 years old)?  We considered sending it along to college with a grandchild, or perhaps cashing it in for a tuition payment, maybe a science experiment?

We are delighted to be home when the first of the Snowbirds -- our friends, grad school landlords and RV mentors -- appear without an RV for the first time in 28 years.  Jim is also without a boat for the first time in 83 years, but he's hanging on to the Model T and the show quality muscle car just to keep his hand in.  We talk about the places we have been,  many memories beginning with  "... I went down there to look at a boat once..."  We spent a Veterans Day afternoon cruising the town looking for places that offered to feed us free, Jim's WWII cap garnering lots of attention.

In the meantime, we helped a friend with her annual Christmas craft show.  In 30 years, we probably setup/ took down nearly 900 of these;  we hadn't lost our edge and everything went exceptionally well with the help of some powerful anti-inflammatories. 

Now it was time for the annual pre-Thanksgiving cookie baking and the 2000 mile trek to the frozen North.  Joyfully, we were joined by the younger 
Grand Girl, Cassie, age 15. 

We plugged in multiple electronic devices, plucked her off the street the last day of school and lit up the road.  At fifteen, it is hard to pull off the traditional Meme's Surprise Birthday Party, but wait a couple months, transplant her a thousand miles and sprinkle a little fairy dust and voila -- Peter Pan Party complete with a little snowfall for the southern belle.

Back home,we break out the Christmas shirts. Al is reading everyone else's Blog posts while the Whirling Dervish is makin lists and checkin them twice and filling the house with the fragrance of the holidays --  Cookies!   (Really, it's hard to maintain this "poor pitiful me" tone...)

Yesterday was Pizzelle Day.  I get to help make these lacy waffle cookies on a two place griddle  (and get to eat all the mistakes.) We choose the non traditional Chocolate (with little chocolate bits) because they look great with powdered sugar and taste like heaven.

So today is present packing day.  After 35 years in the ceramics trade, we are accustomed to "makin' and bakin',  packin' and shippin".  What we may not be prepared for is taking the packages apart to find which little girly toy is giggling deep in the box.

Presents on the conveyor ...Amazon has nothing on us.

Sadly, travel blogging will have to wait awhile, those plans and destinations not even in the planning stages.   A Christmas trip, a significant anniversary and an easily  overlooked birthday loom on the horizon. 

So an early Holiday greeting to all.  See 'ya down the road.  
Patty and Al  


Friday, October 24, 2014

Fall Tour 2014: Musings and Mumblings

 We are sometimes asked (and often wonder) WHY all our Airstreaming has been East of the Mississippi. Comfort? surely. Distance to Grands? probably.  Lack of adventure?   I hope not.

Here we find ourselves at the end of a Fall tour (20 days -- 1200 miles towing ---115 gallons) This year's tour was nearly identical to the last couple of years with the exception of the government "shutstorm" which forced a little scrambling last year (Try to remember that episode when you go to the polls next month)

Alumalina Fall 2014:
We began at the South Carolina Airstream Rally called Alumalina (Links Fall 2013  Sping 2014) where old friendships were strengthened and new ones formed. Yes, there was EATING, some very helpful maintenance, and side-splitting stories from Wendy and David. We very nearly filled Lake Waterlee State Park with Aluminum and the afternoon Open House gave us a chance to compare features, decorating and storage tips.  Did I mention non-stop dutch oven cooking?  

The walk around Open House at Alumalina gave us a couple of insights. One, We Got Nothin. We have an an 18 year old trailer in good working order, nearly stock, but distressingly free of those personal decorator touches. Our dinnerware is plastic, our silverware castoffs and don't even ask about candelabra. Style we haven't. (We did however provide generous servings of sister Joan's "Crack Caramel Corn", which earned us a few return visits.) Secondly, We found (by popular acclaim) Patty is evidently a wizard at organizing. 

Some Arcane Airstream stuff:

So, with greatest humility, we present our ingenious and Cheap solutions to packing our kitchen.  (This is also in answer to a couple of comments we heard about the two bikes + an Airstream blog.)
"We read about the bikes, what about the Airstream?"

It was a dark and stormy afternoon in Middle Maine in our first Airstream year.  We took tape measure  and a list of storage compartment dimensions to the local big box store -- we were a long way from anything resembling a Container Store. Problem #1.  the upper storage compartments on Airstreams are curved in back to follow the graceful curves of the aluminum, but too high for a single stack of dinnerware; a tower of dinnerware would be reduced  to rubble as we traveled.  We needed lateral stability and better use of the vertical space.  

Solution:  the chrome "shelf" fits nicely in the wide bottom of the cabinet and is adjustable laterally. On the narrower upper shelf, two standard plastic boxes hold a variety of plastic storage containers nested. Most of the ones we carry are recycled food containers --soups, dips, cream cheese -- that we accumulate along the road and discard when necessary. The square plastic dinner plates we bought at Walmart the night we acquired an Airstream have served us faithfully and stack vertically. Supplemental paper plates fit in the space nearby and paper bowls with the plastic storage. The matching plastic bowls are on the bottom shelf flanked by a collection of ceramic mugs for drinks and soups. These ride well in sleeves cut from worn out socks. A stack of disposable cups finds a home here as well.  A couple of ceramic ramekins nest in the bowls or with the coffee  mugs.  The other galley compartment is similarly arranged, the tall space filled with a french coffee press.  Plenty of room for root vegetables in trays, cookies in plastic containers (It's cooler here than the storage over the fridge.)

One  galley cabinet in our 25' Safari

Problem #2 was the large space over the fridge. It's big, it's also curved in back and it gets warm.  Our Solution was to utilize those lightweight clear plastic containers used to package snacks from the wholesale clubs.  (If you can't accumulate them fast enough, they are available at dollar stores.) The label adhesive comes off easily with Goo Gone; you can relabel if you like. Our basic load includes: Flour, sugar, cereal, pasta, raisins, dried fruit, nuts, rice, tea bags...

 Above, we loose fit a shelf of plastic louver we had left over.  The largest containers support it. Sometimes a little game of Rubik's Cube is required to find the desired container, but it remains stable in the process.  The small shelf above contains hot mitts, paper towels in transit, open bags of crunchies and the all important cafeteria trays for Pot luck dinners.  

International Storytelling Festival

It is no surprise to any of you that we are big fans of this event held in Jonesborough Tennessee the first weekend in October. This is our fourth year and the fourth year we have been telling everyone we meet to add this to their bucket list.
(For details,see this link. To see our experiences, look back at October of past years. ) 

We were excited to see a bunch of friends have joined the audience.  Welcome! Sorry we only saw some of you passing in the crowd.  Despite Patty's new smart phone, we weren't smart enough to keep up with everyone. 

We continued our interaction with law enforcement. As repeat offenders, we barely escaped incarceration.  Our friend Gerald sprung us and also sprung for lunch. 

Gerald Dowling, Author and Airstreamer

 Gerald has three books in the publisher's pipeline and we spent a fast paced afternoon listening to bits from each. We would start off trading neat places we had visited and then "Hootie" --the main character in all three books -- would intervene and the adventure would get hysterical, convoluted  and just a little bizarre.  (Gerald's editor compares his writing style to a paint ball fight.) Finally, we asked him to raise his right hand when facts were being presented. He was pretty well trained by sundown.

"I met this Artist down near Warm Springs. She has her studio in an old jail with a big glass window. You can still see a hangman's noose and a trap door between the first and second floors.  They used to do hangings inside..." 

That was the factual part; it got interesting when Hootie appeared.  When that first book is published, we'll post a link.

In the days before the storytelling began in earnest, we found the newly opened Tweetsie Railroad bike trail. 

Nice trail and new friends.

Patty's own modest contribution to literature:

Besides the 20 best professional storytellers they can find, the Festival has a number of venues for newcomers. At "Storyslam" the Emcee was killing time between tellers by reminding us of Hemingway's six word story..."For sale. Baby shoes. Never worn."
Yeah, I know. Downer. But this set Patty off. Every half hour through the weekend she had a story to whisper in my ear. My favorite came one morning as she returned from the campground shower house.

 Saving shower for my friend: NOT!



Barely Relevant News from Science: or Why Resistance is Futile in the face of a determined enemy (posted from a Tennessee Campground near you...)

Last fall we found ourselves plagued by small malodorous trapezoidal creatures creeping in through window openings, vents, and doorways. They reappeared sporadically through the winter on warm days and daily in spring when the sun warmed the windows. They are STINK BUGS. They are a recent addition to the growing list of Asian pests wrecking havoc in our environs. They have no natural enemies except septuagenarians who pursue them with small cups of soapy water.  That's what I am watching today; all around the campground as the little buzzers land on the sides of trailers and creep unerringly toward crevices, little grey  haired people (at least one closely related to me) circle the vehicle with soapy water vessels in outstretched arms (when alarmed, stink bugs drop, hopefully to drown in soapy water.)
 Stink bugs entered the country in a shipment of Asian greenery to Allentown Pennsylvania and have swept across the country far faster than earlier foreign invaders. Our campfire entomological conclave concluded that RVs are the primary vector.  Our Texan friends report a serious infestation at their wintering grounds in Arizona. 

"We thought we got them there, but watching this, I now think we brought them with us ." 

 ( This followed a series of anecdotes too graphic for the uninitiated.) I see a doctoral thesis here with little micro-chipped Stink Bugs being tracked cross country as they luxuriate in Winnebagos.

One genius researcher on the internets assures us that last year's winter killed 94% and this season we will see few...  That clown has seriously underestimated Asian fecundity!  And these little buzzers have seriously underestimated the zeal of one geriatric assassin currently peeking into every Airstream crevice, headlight on, LED torch and little paper cup full of soapy water in hand.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

The Untold Story

We're home after a busy and eventful 75 days on the road (6700 miles -- 4440 towing --  600 gallons). Reviewing pictures and logs,  the number of little details, adventures and misadventures that aren't recorded here amazes us.  Since Patty will shortly slip into septuagenarian status  (70 years --  50 married to ole what's his name -- countless adventures already dimming in memory) it seems useful to capture here a few of those. 

First we must record the absolute Joy it is to have "Our Sister Beth" along for part of the trip.  She joined us at Letchworth State Park for a quick tour of the Waterfalls, then on to Pine Creek for biking.  Perhaps the presence of a professional editor on board inhibited blog production, but somehow our visit to Watkins Glen State Park went unrecorded.

 Watkins Glen IS spectacular, even breathtaking. It is also a little like Disneyland with its engineered walkways and crowds.  We decided these were advantages, since it would be hard to concentrate on the treadway when each step reveals a new wonder (and it is nice to have someone nearby to share a gasp of appreciation with.)  The walk is less than two miles, but we took our time to study each nuance.

Beth left us in New York on an AMTRAK headed for Milwaukee. (400 passengers, nearly two days with delays and NO WATER or toilet facilities).  The algae bloom that closed water supplies along the great lakes left the train travelers with no resupply.  It's a horror story that deserves a minimum of retelling. 

But we have no shortage of toilet stories.  Prologue: We enjoy retelling the first advice we heard about RV maintenance on the road. 

 " If you have a problem, stand in front of the RV and scratch your head.  In minutes a crowd of at least 10 will appear. Half will have heard of this problem, at least three will have a solution and ONE will have the tools." 

Our friend Doug (who routinely disassembles Airstreams in campgrounds all over North America) added.  "If you really want to draw a crowd, toss your toilet out on the lawn." 

We tested this at Lakeside State Park in New York after a sixty mile trek to Camper World for a replacement, and a 120 mile return trip to actually get the right size.  Sadly, there was less interest in helping with this project than expected.  

Then there is the tale of the old man who carried replacement headlight bulbs around for two weeks. (Thanks to all who pointed that burned out bulb to us). He studied videos of the rather detailed dis-assembly required,  priced the required fender bolt removal device, vowed to do it himself (in the grass, after he replaced the damm tongue jack). Then, on his third trip into town for tongue jack whizzits, he approached the Elsworth Maine Pep Boys. The bright young mechanic wanted to see what was involved (having spent a couple hours lately on another GM bulb replacement.)  The ole man dutifully, but humbly, showed him what he had learned from the videos and sought an estimate.  The cheerful young man didn't open a ticket, whipped it into a bay and before the ole man could mutter "young whippersnappers", he was back in the waiting room asking what to do with the old bulbs.  He would not make a charge for his work. The ole man emptied his cash poor wallet and told him it was worth far more to him.  The mechanic just smiled the smile of a young man on the top of his game. "See you next time."

Whenever sister Beth is aboard there is the requisite "milling and muttering" also known as a visit to the Museum.  Any museum will do, just so it is cluttered, crowded and in close proximity to some adequate eats. 
Corning New York made this easy on us.  The parking was simple with the 'stream in tow; shuttle bus runs to the Corning Museum of Glass, the Rockwell Museum of Western Art and the Gaffer District of galleries and eateries.

The Glass museum features work both ancient and modern,

and demonstrations

I liked the craft and imagination displayed in this Chess Set with Jewish and Christian pieces. 

 Fortunately, we all got hungry before Chihuly overload overtook us and we found sustenance in the Gaffer District. 

Patty hung back from the ice cream ordering then scored BIG.

We returned a second day to visit the Rockwell.  There you can see a large collection of the art that spurred our leaders to fund the first National Parks.  

Huge canvases
and a really well presented collection of ancient and modern Southwestern Pottery with notes that were coherent without all the usual pomposity. 

The traveling exhibit was really a treat. Who knew that the Inuit and other circumpolar peoples had contact with the Viking-Norse settlements? How might their traditions and stories intermingled? 
Sculptures in Brazilian soapstone that you want to touch (Don't) and study from every angle...


Sunday, August 24, 2014


  overheard on our recent visit...

Well, Junior Rangers, we are just winding up our study of the beautiful Carriage Roads here at Acadia National Park. We have been hiking and biking and seeing each of the beautiful stone bridges and Gatehouses. Remember there are well over 45 miles of roads… and what are those large rocks at the edge of the roads called? 

Mr. Rockefeller’s Teeth..Giggles
That’s right little Timmy, but I’m sure it was meant respectfully.  We are all very thankful to the Rockefellers for the gift of these roads to our park. 

Any other questions from you Junior Rangers?

What are those piles of sticks lying between the "teeth" way up on the high parts of the Roads?

You mean the bushy ones with the trimmed ends all piled neatly between the “teeth”?  Well, that’s going to take a little explaining…

You know, of course, that Mr. Rockefeller took an active interest in designing and building these roads.  He was out with his engineers and workmen picking just the right slopes for the horses and making sure that the passengers got a good view of all the mountains, the waterfalls and especially the lovely beaver ponds.  The roads pass close to the ponds at low altitudes and the vistas high up the roads nearly always look down on a pond or stream. 

Now as time went on and the Acadia NP was formed, what do you think happened to the trees in front of the scenic vista?

Chorus:  THEY GREW..

Yes, indeed they did grow.  How quickly you recognized that!  The trees and brush grew and might have obscured the vista.  This happened in other places managed by the Park Service …like the Blue Ridge Parkway and Great Smoky Mountains National Park and others. There they couldn’t just trim the bushes (now trees), they had to form an Intragovernmental Committee with representatives from all over, and take public comments and Study..
And what were the trees (now 80 years old) doing?

Chorus: GROWING! giggles,

Well, they did finally cut the brush and trees back.  They got out the original drawings and marked the lines of sight and prepared to cut the trees (which by now were huge and some quite attractive themselves.)   Contracts had to be let because this was now a job way too large for a few park employees with a brush hook.  Objections were raised by those who wanted the vistas to look “just like they always did” – a leafy green wall apparently. One suggestion by a well-meaning  “holistic environmentalist” to airlift the largest trees out to Wyoming to provide shade for the wild horses that were being “saved” was tabled for future study.

FORTUNATELY, we didn’t have that problem here in Acadia because we have BULL BEAVERS.

What are Bull Beavers you ask?  Bull Beavers are just regular beavers, but they are HUGE. 

 beaver clipart  

A beaver lodge. 

They live in those well-appointed lodges you see along the carriage roads in the lowlands. 

  They have no enemies here, so they grow large and somewhat indolent.  But in late summer, as the bike traffic on the carriage roads peaks, their summer work begins.  They must work at night to avoid the bikes, but you can often see the drag marks their tails make in the loose gravel as they climb the roads to the high places.  There they trim the likely brush, usually branches with a 1-2” diameter, about 6-12 feet long.  (You can tell the work of a Bull Beaver because this brush is cut in a single clean stroke, not those little baby nibbles of lesser beavers.) 
After a hard nights work, they hide out in the little streams during the heat if the day.  If you ever see a beaver high up in the hills, splashing in a pool, you’re a lucky ranger; few people ever sight them. 

When this summer work is complete and the brush neatly stacked, it’s easy to look down and see the ponds far below.  Then, all there is to do is wait.

  Come November the park is nearly empty, and the first big snow falls. It is also the time of the full winter moon. It is now that all the little baby beavers scamper up the carriage trails. (They may mess up the grooves that nice volunteers “groom” for the cross country skiers. And the Park Service folks will issue stern warnings to keep “horses and dogs” out of the grooves.)


Each baby beaver grasps a long brushy bough between its front paws, climbs astride it with its broad tail pressing down on the leaves and slides down the steep, clear vista to the icy pond below. The ride is far superior to anything the cross country skiers experience.  It is wonderful! And it provides both a break from midwinter “Lodge Fever” and a big load of tasty snacks (since the Park Service” frowns on cutting too much brush around the ponds).

 And, oh yes, the vistas from the high points on the carriage roads once again peek down on the ponds and streams below, just as Mr. Rockefeller intended