The inactivity of this blog is directly related to my life on the road – simple as that! Living and traveling thousands of kilometers from home and inhabiting a series of hotels, hostels, pensións, and friend’s homes, coupled with the intensity of both my work and travel schedule do not facilitate writing. Since my last real post (not including a minor update) I have worked a couple of months in Connecticut – Hurricane (i.e., Super-Storm) Sandy response and recovery for FEMA – came back to Colorado (and to the Airstream Mother-ship – Ms. Bertha) briefly (literally only a day) and spent the Christmas holiday in Winter Park, Colorado with good friends (my extended Colorado familia), then headed back East to pick up my wife and to fly to Istanbul – about a week thereabouts, then off to Jordan where I presented a couple of papers at the World Archaeological Congress, then to Israel and home to Denver – Phew, this Gypsy / Bedouin lad is just a wee bit tired.
I left Colorado with only about eight hours notice to head to New England in anticipation of the big hurricane strike. I packed and tried to get Ms. Bertha prepped for what was proposed to be a 60-day deployment. I was fearful of not buttoning her up properly – but did manage to shut off water and leave notes for neighbors, friends and colleagues about my hurried departure. I also sort of went through the refrigerator and removed things I thought would spoil. I turned down the temp on the fridge and freezer (as a good environmental steward). I left the freezer full thinking there would be no issue with frozen food. As I was rushing to leave at 0-dark hundred hours the next day, literally greeting the taxi cab driver taking me to the airport when I remembered all the fancy beer I had stashed at various locations both within and outside of Bertha. With the assistance of the taxi driver (who has become a pal of mine) and in the darkness of the very early morning we threw the precious and expensive beer into the semi-empty fridge and wrapped the rest in a sleeping bag and wool blankets to prevent freezing. I did not leave the heat on in my absence. Off I then went to Connecticut to fight the good disaster fight.
I had been thinking and fretting about the visitation of Old Man Winter to where I live along the Front Range of the Rockies ever since I purchased the Airstream in April. I like to think that I knew what to do in advance of cold temps and snow. The problem is that I had to bug out in a heartbeat – and it was not cold or snowy when I left the week before Halloween. I did not buy antifreeze for the plumbing, nor did I blow out the lines before I left. I also did not install the various types of insulation that I had been gathering. I did have a plan and like all things related to Airstreaming – was looking forward to the tasks of winterization.
I did managed to get a neighbor, the RV park super, and friends/colleagues to check on Bertha and to run my truck while I was gone. There were no apparent problems during my absence (& the beer did not freeze).
My work in Connecticut came and went and I eventually came back home the day before Christmas – to very cold temps and snow. And, the temps in Colorado were low and there was a fair amount of snow mostly through my entire deployment. Bertha was on my mind a lot, but so too was my upcoming trip to the Middle East with my wife – who I have not been spending much time with since starting to work on the road for the Feds 4+ years ago.
When I returned to Bertha I only had a few days before I had to leave for the East Coast and thence to Turkey, etc. All seemed well in the initial few hours whilst I was aboard the Mother-ship. I immediately cranked the heat and opened the outside water valve. The roof of my outside ramada caved a bit from the snow load, but that was easily fixed by reattaching and re-rigging a series of bungee cords and tension rods. I checked the fridge and all was good, but when I opened the freezer I immediately got a whiff of something wrong – the deer meat went bad. How could that be I pondered until I realized that because the temperature outside and inside the rig were lower than the thermostat setting of the fridge/freezer, this temperature differential tricked the compressor into not working correctly (similar to the problems one will have with a refrigerator placed in an unheated garage in winter) – so the delicious venison steaks were tossed and I quickly washed the interior and put a box of baking soda in to absorb the odor. After this excitement and while I was prepping to head to Winter Park for Christmas eve, I quickly turned on each water source and immediately noticed water leaking at three (inside) locations – toilet, kitchen sink and shower. It was painfully clear that there was ice in various portions of the PVC plumbing and that when I connected to and turned on the (fairly high-pressure, but regulated) city water source it met the ice dams and blew seals / joints at three locations. I flew into action by once again undoing a section of Bertha’s winter skirting and climbing under her belly pan to shut off the outside water valve. I spent the next hour or so mopping up the water that had quickly shot all over – and unfortunately in a couple of virtually inaccessible areas. Knowing full well that there was not much I could do to remedy the situation on Christmas eve, I packed up and made my merry way to the mountains over icy and snowy roads.
I only had 5 days back in the bosom of Ms. Bertha between Christmas and the New Year – after which I was to leave again for about three weeks. My work schedule was crammed with duties after being away for eight weeks – so, I could not tend to the broken plumbing. I buttoned up the rig once again (in exceedingly cold temps and snow) and headed to the Middle East.
So, this is the tale of my adventures away from and returning to my aluminum womb. More posts on the plumbing misadventures and the continuance of winter living will follow shortly now that I am back into a somewhat “normal” routine. I thank those friends and colleagues and fellow Airstreamers who have subscribed to or otherwise read this blog. Anyone with plumbing tips to pass on – I am all ears!
Lordy, Lordy, this Colorado cowboy has been away from the Rocky Mountains and his lovely Airstream for six weeks and is sorely missing both! I have been posted to Connecticut to work response and recovery for Super Storm Sandy. It has been an interesting deployment – long hours, great colleagues, and a very fast pace. However, I am short-timing – heading back home in a fortnight. But, I will only be back for about a week – then turn-around and head back to the east coast to pick up my wife and to head for Istanbul for a week, then Jordan for another week or so (giving a couple of papers at an archaeological conference). I return to Denver third week in January and will likely get posted back to the east coast right away to continue recovery work on Hurricane Sandy.
I am sorry to report that I have not seen a single Airstream in Connecticut so far. I really do miss the western U.S. – land of the Airstreams.
Here is a general chronicle of things that have occurred in my life over the past two weeks that are more or less related to living full-time in my 30-foot International model Airstream (Ms. Bertha) in Denver, Colorado. The snippets are taken mostly from my Facebook posts – which are easy and quick to send out.
Yipping and howling coyotes kept me awake last night – this morning I heard church bells ringing and a train whistle blowing. Perhaps I should have gone out with the coyotes and celebrated the autumn equinox. Or, maybe I should go to church or take a train somewhere – maybe a train to church?
Day off from work today and the start of a long weekend! Up early and cooked delicioso desayuno de huevos, tomates (cortesía de bellas damas), el ajo, la cebolla y las aceitunas. Now writing a couple of Airstream blog entries and preparing a lecture that needs to be ready ASAP. Big party 2night and the rest of the weekend devoted to getting Ms. Bertha ready for the big move at the end of the month and winterizing. Today marks the end of summer and I am sad to see this season go, but am digging the autumnal equinox (& will celebrate at the party 2night with many like-minded individuals).
51 degrees Fahrenheit (Celsius 10) this morning – left windows open and did not tarry getting dressed upon rising – process of wintering-up Ms. Bertha has taken on some urgency. I am now looking for the flannel sheets my wife claims are somewhere on board & trying to decide which wool blanket goes over/under the down comforter (probably the cowboy blanket and changed bi-weekly with Navajo pattern) – baby steps to face Old Man Winter – say I on the Autumnal Equinox.
I am eating a home-made Insalata Caprese under Bertha’s main awning on a beautiful night after work – buffalo mozz, Mexican tomatoes, fresh basil, wondrous olive oil and an assortment of Italian olives. Also having a Scotch and thinking about my upcoming trip to the Dakotas and then the big move of Ms. Bertha, and then fieldwork in southern Colorado, and then the Great American Beer Festival, and then future skiing and a trip to the Middle East – maybe I will have another Scotch.
Packing frantically for a short trip to North/South Dakota. Will return to DIA at the precise time that major roads are closed for the presidential debate.
Great to be back in North Dakota – listening to cowboy music and hearing cattle/crop reports on the radio, and the fall colors are most excellent – makes me wanna go pheasant hunting.
It got down to 37 degrees last night (Denver) – gonna go down to 29 tomorrow night – snowed in North Dakota yesterday as I left – looks like winter is on its way.
Tomorrow = day off to move Ms. Bertha, maneuver her into a position to absorb the most solar heat, insulate her, wrap pipes with heat tape, lay down some more rugs, put a heat lamp under her belly, tuck in her skirts, think about getting some antifreeze into her water tanks, and give the furnace a couple of trial runs (with programmable thermostat). Will also find flannel bed sheets, fluff up the down comforter, figure out where to buy a pair of flannel pajamas, and organize sweaters, wool socks, and warm shirts. Finally, I will have a couple of bottles of Scotch handy. I love Colorado – and do look forward to the wintertime – bring it on.
Of course it snows the day I haul Ms. Bertha to her new spot ! Took of skirting, lowered jacks and unhooked utilities this morning in snow – not so bad but it was melting fast and things were wet. But now I am in an unexpected hurry to get the gal moved – tomorrow is a conference of the Colorado Council of Professional Archaeologists (which I am a member, but was not aware of the event) – day will be filled with talks and fun happy hour and dinner speaker – in Boulder – really gonna try to make it – great networking opportunity.
Mission accomplished for the moving of Ms. Bertha – lots of outside work yesterday in the cold – now, off to Boulder early this morning for the Colorado Archaeological Society meeting – it is cold (30s) and a bit snowy/sleety, but it is supposed to be in the 70s on Monday/Tuesday – for the arrival of the Mrs in Denver for fun and biz.
Starting to snow in Boulder – what happened to Fall? Going down to the low 20s tonight in Denver. Looking forward to warmer temps next week.
I have been permanently settled at a perfectly nice pad site for just about five months (see plenty of previous posts), but as fall/winter draws nigh fellow Gypsies are moving onto warmer and sunnier climes. Ergo, nice spots are coming available in my RV park. Coincidentally, one of the best spots is occupied by a 26-foot vintage International. I have become a good friend of the lady who owns this classic. She is moving to parts north and west and I jumped at the chance to grab her site.
Not only did I get the pad but I was also able to negotiate to obtain her lovely hand-made ramada (shelter with arbor). I am totally stoked to move in. But alas, I leave today for a couple of short projects in North and South Dakota. Cannot wait to return at the end of the week and shift my baby to her new spot in a secluded part of the park with nice tall and thick evergreen trees/shrubs to protect us from the fierce Colorado Front Range winds.
I will have a long weekend coming up to make things right, and the Mrs is a-visiting the following week – we should be ready for a 6-month anniversary fiesta long around Día de los Muertos - y’all are invited.
Autumnal (Vernal) Equinox is here and I sense a change. Call it what you will – I celebrate it greatly as Autumnus, Feallan, Sukkot, or Samhain. Practically speaking, it was 51 degrees Fahrenheit (Celsius 10) this morning – I left windows open and did not tarry getting dressed upon rising. The process of wintering-up Ms. Bertha is about to take on some urgency. I am looking for the flannel sheets my wife claims are somewhere on board, and am trying to decide which wool blanket goes over/under the down comforter (probably the cowboy blanket and changed with the Navajo pattern) – baby steps to face Old Man Winter – say I on the Autumnal Equinox.
As the temps gradually diminish and the hours of light decrease, I now take the short walk to the community shower (& a great one!) in darkness and with a sweater on. I also only have a few hours after returning from work to have a pre-dinner cocktail, make something yummy to eat and enjoy my patio before darkness falls and I sense it is time to go to bed (or actually to read for a few hours before nodding off). Gone are the days of trying to cool off Bertha’s interior resulting from months of very high temps (& many triple-degree (F) days). I now am deciding on how to keep my gal warm and protected from what is certain to come our way. Thankfully, skirting the rig is accomplished and I think the floor is, in fact, warmer that it was this past spring with similar temps (or perhaps I simply want it to be so!!!!!!!!!). I am developing a plan for heavy curtains, insulating here and there, snow removal, etc., etc. – most of which will be talked about in future blog segments.
I want to mention that I revel in decorating Ms. Bertha (inside and out) – the ambiance and coolness of our home is muy importante y significativa! One of my colleagues refers to my lifestyle as “Margaritaville.” I initially brought out a lot of decorative pieces to Colorado from my many years of travel – my wife brings more every time she comes out. I had the opportunity to be back on the East Coast last week on business – and made a quick stop at my house to bring out even more. Since I have not been “home” for half a year and have been living in Ms. Bertha for almost five months – I had a good vision of what additional cool mementos I wanted to bring back. The following photos show a milk gourd from Kenya, Rastafarian belt, British pub towels, Russian saints with long, long beards (that I think resemble me) – wooden icons from St. Petersburg, brass bells from Malaysia and Burma, eagle feathers from the Aleutian Islands, beer bag from Laos, Samoan palm hand fan, Cambodian scarf, a beer cap musical instrument (shaker) from St Croix, USVI, and misc. Guatemalan woven pack straps – all of which will soon have a special place with Ms. Bertha! I particularly like the Samoan palm fan – use it to stoke the coals in my small charcoal grill – sure beats the cutting board or other things that I have used all summer!!
Yes, “Be Prepared” – the Scouting mantra. Well, I never made it very far in the Boy Scouts – something about having nuns as “den mothers” and priests/businessmen as outdoors leaders did not cut it for me – plus, after passing through Tenderfoot and getting heavily fixated on knots, I decided that girls were far more interesting. However, as I cruised through life (literally traveling around and a lot of archaeology in remote settings) I quickly realized the importance of being prepared and of safety and planning.
I have been a WEMT (Wilderness Emergency Medical Technician) for quite some time, achieved status to teach a variety of Red Cross First Aid courses, was the health and safety officer for a company I worked at for 20+ years and also on many archaeology projects in Alaska, and gave heaps of safety talks, etc., etc. Plus, I work for FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency), whose motto is: “to support our citizens and first responders to ensure that as a nation we work together to build, sustain, and improve our capability to prepare for, protect against, respond to, recover from, and mitigate all hazards.”
In any event, I do, in fact, feel safe and sound residing in my Colorado aluminum womb – Bertha, a 30-foot Airstream International (of very recent vintage). But, the vagaries of natural and man-influenced disasters/emergencies keep me on my toes. Colorado is susceptible to tornadoes, wild fires, earthquakes (with the presence of the Rio Grande Rift and other active faults), floods, high winds, and severe rain/lightning/hail.
I sited Ms. Bertha off the floodplain and away from any areas of potential suburban flooding for starters. I am also pretty secure from wild fires and am more or less buffered from high winds. I cannot control the path of a tornado or hail/lightning or whether some chemical plant relatively close by will blow – but I am prepared to deal with any of these issues if the occasion arises – to protect myself, my wife, Ms. Bertha, neighbors, and anyone else who may need assistance.
To begin, the RV lifestyle attunes one to the weather – you sense and feel it in all ways – a lot more than in a regular stick-built home. Crazy weather can impact you a lot more in an RV – so, I pay attention to what’s happening and what is forecast or looks like may come my way. I had the opportunity to visit the RV park where I now live a bunch of times before selecting a spot. I wanted to be near trees but not underneath them (for fear of branches coming down and hurting Ms. Bertha). I got a spot with two big juniper trees that provide nice late afternoon shade and buffer the winds coming off the Front Range. I positioned my rig so the morning sun warms the port (i.e., window side) and the afternoon sun can be shaded on the opposing side by the main awning (& also the side with fewer windows to transmit solar radiation in the heat of the Colorado summer).
I make routine safety inspections of the following: propane tanks and the appliances working off of propane (I have two 7-gal. on-board tanks and a big tank (120-gal.) just outside the aft section – the hot water heater, refrigerator, and furnace run off of this gas – I look for loose connections, check the lines, and sniff for fumes / listen for hissing; the shore power plug gets inspected for overheating, burn marks, and loose connection; the electrical distribution panel is checked for tripped circuit breakers, etc.; the plumbing get a close look for leaks – both interior and exterior.
I look under Bertha’s belly for signs of rodent/small mammal (including coyotes) and insect activity – don’t want them burrowing, sleeping, dropping scat, having babies, etc. below deck. All alarms/detectors (smoke/propane/carbon monoxide) get inspected and tested often and I have a plan for battery changing. I examine the cooking vent for signs of grease build-up and the same for the motor compartments and exhausts of the refrigerator, hot water heater and furnace.
Since I pay attention to the weather and the news and receive Blackberry / phone alerts for anything else jeopardizing health and safety, the next responsible thing to do is to be prepared to take action. There are many simple things once can do to act efficiently to help yourself, your family, neighbors and those officially charged with protecting and aiding the public in times when the shit hits the fan.
Even though my Airstream is relatively small – I thought it a good idea to formulate an evacuation plan. The aft (bedroom) window is an intentionally designed emergency exit and it is nice to know that it is there and that I understand how it works. But I nevertheless also know how many steps it takes from the foot of my bed to the front door. I also make sure that this path is clear of obstacles (fan, heater, clothing). I am familiar with the layout of my RV park at night and know how to get around to the manager’s office, brick shelter building, and neighbors in case the power goes out in an emergency. I think about the concept of “defensible space” around my rig and act accordingly to tie-down/secure tables and chairs, etc., clear the site of flammables (leaves, etc.), and to have water and a long hose ready.
The EMT world dictates that one be able to quickly and precisely state your location when requesting help. My pad site has a # (mostly for the mailman and maintenance staff), but it ain’t a good marker for police, fire, or ambulance. I have memorized distances and directions to my site from major x-roads in my community – replete with recognizable landmarks as way points. I can also supply global positioning system points (lat/long) if requested. My neighbors and the RV park managers know me and have a complete set of contact information – they also know where the keys to Bertha and my truck are stashed. Our park is patrolled by police and I have made it a point to introduce myself and to let the coppers know I am available to assist if called upon.
Is this missive verging on craziness or revealing obsessive traits of my personality? Not really – I am conditioned to be prepared and I am just recording my world view. In the interest of wrapping this particular blog up (no doubt I will touch on this topic again) I want to offer a few more observations (in no real priority): get a good first aid kit and understand a bit about emergency medicine; get a battery or crank-powered (NOAA) weather radio and flashlights; be ready to evacuate your rig and take refuge in a public shelter in case of an emergency – to this end, assemble a disaster supplies kit (lots of advice on the internet on what to include); know how to shut off the utilities; be aware of any special needs of your neighbors; and have a plan and be aware of your safety – a su salud (y la seguridad).
A little over four months of full-time living in my 9.1-meter Airstream International. This has been a wild Spring/Summer for Colorado weather – an unusually hot and early Spring and a long, hot (many triple-digit Fahrenheit days / high 30s C.) and bone dry Summer. However, two weeks left until the Fall Solstice – temps are already cooling off nicely and I am giving a lot of thought to winterization of Ms. Bertha (more about this in an upcoming post(s). The Farmers Almanac says that in the little spot of this beautiful state that I occupy, Winter days will be above normal and precipitation will be below normal (but I will not be lulled into a false sense of well-being!). While temps have still been high over the past fortnight since I returned from working in Alaska, it is beginning to cool off nicely in the evenings with many spectacular sunsets. I am truly loving sitting under my main awning, reading, having a cocktail, firing up the barbie, chit-chatting with my friendly neighbors, and watching the evening colorization of the Front Range skyline. I intend to spend as much time as I can over the next month outside after work and weekends – night time is falling noticeably earlier every week.
What a dang great end to the week – terrific weather and buena productividad en la oficina y éxitos! Thursday, late morning at work attended a presentation on the Fed Center’s recycling program – Yawn, a lot of you might say, but NO, fascinating state-of-the-art eco-cycling, single-stream concepts of ZERO waste. I especially liked the techniques employed for hard to recycle materials, NAKED packaging, and a host of other Green initiatives. Boo-yah – would not expect anything less from this great state!
Lunch taken at the Fed Center’s farmer’s market – with a yummy egg, green chili, chorizo burrito hand made by my amigo Ramon. I took time to talk to a lovely gal who made the totally delicious Vegan sweets basket I won at last week’s market (Le Blossoms, Highlands Ranch, Colorado). My treats included handmade (in a home kitchen), organic sea salt caramels, toffee brownies, caramel popcorn, Vegan Snickerdoodle cookies, green tea cookies, and more!!! I told her I loved the product – implying that I ate most of the big basket, but in reality have (mostly) saved it for my wife’s next visitation.
I mentioned in my last post that we are in the process skirting Ms. Bertha. Why are we dressing our baby up like this? Easy, I will be living in our lovely aluminum womb in Colorado over the winter – probably enough said! But I want to relay that my hope with this expenditure (and it ain’t inexpensive) will be to allow Bertha to be warmer in the winter and cooler in the summer. The 18 oz., polyester reinforced vinyl skirt ought to help prevent fresh/gray and sewer water pipes from freezing, improve refrigerator efficiency, keep the young lady from rocking in the wind, warm the floor, and deter critters from taking up residence under her belly.
The RV specialist who is doing the installation measured the nine sections of the durable and pliable fabric (tractor trailer cargo protection material) last Friday and spent part of the weekend cutting, sewing, and putting on snap buttons, zippers, Velcro strips, and turn-button attachments. The color we selected is charcoal gray – a nice contrast to the silver aluminum.
The family crew arrived Labor Day a little before noon and finished attaching the many turn-buttons (70) and snaps/Velcro to the rig – carefully making sure that the various sections fitted together nicely and hung straight. Tubes were sewn onto the bottom of the fabric in order to slide in 1.25-inch diameter PVC pipes to stabilize the skirt. For added efficiency I will fill these pipes with sand.
I asked that the fabric be trimmed out with zippers around the wheels of Bertha – so when traveling we could simply use these 6-foot segments for sun protection – the craftsmen had no problem making this modification.
The crew spent 2.5 hrs. measuring and fitting on Friday; 8 hrs. pinning, hemming and sewing the setup at their shop in Loveland; and then a little under 2 hrs. for the onsite installation today. The sections were cut no more than 14 feet in length and I was shown the correct method for removal, packing (storage bags included), and reassembly. Their product, design, and installation is perfect. I am most happy to give them the highest recommendation. Kudos to Kurt, Matt, Courtney, and Josie.
I am currently at the top of a long weekend off from work. As I write this entry I have an RV specialist over to my site to begin installation of a “skirt” for Ms. Bertha. The company has a great reputation and does quality work (www.rvskirting.com) – the owner (Kurt) and some of his children have been here for a couple of hours in the hot Colorado sun measuring and otherwise custom fitting the 18-ounce charcoal gray vinyl. They return in a few days with the finished product – and the skirting experience will be the subject of a blog next week.
The long weekend gives me a chance to catch up on the blog. Before going on about my recent archaeological project on the west coast of Alaska, the “winter weatherization” of Ms. Bertha, various new recipes I have dreamed up or remembered from past travels, new Colorado brewpubs and restaurants, Et cetera+, I want to say some more things about the Airstream rally – Alumafandango, held a week ago at the Lakeside Amusement Park, Colorado.
As stated before, this was a terrific event: muy impresionante! Not only were the caravans fun to ogle (so too were the tow vehicles and hitches), the event was also a great learning experience – technical details of operating and repairs. The fact that there were about 80+ caravans present (of all makes and models and sizes & many open for inspection) presented my wife and me with loads of ideas for organizing, decorating, modifying, living, and hosting parties in Ms. Bertha. Airstreaming and Airstreamers Gypsies are close to a cult .
The camaraderie was infectious and not only during the “roving” happy hours! We made a lot of friends – our Face Book amigo list has certainly spiked.
There was tons of fun touring a local vintage Airstream renovation, rebuilding, restoration & re-manufacturing facility – Timeless Travel Trailers (www.timelesstraveltrailers.com) and the historic amusement park. Riding the old-school coasters, Ferris wheels, bumper cars, carousel, and others was a blast. The Lakeside Amusement Park was a very appropriate venue for the rally & thanks to those who organized it and made it happen.
My wife entered the Aluminum Chef competition whipping up a tremendously unique desert – but alas, technical difficulties did not allow Sebbie to proceed as an Aluminum Chef finalist . However, next year at the rally in Tucson we shall both participate and be much better prepared.
A hurt and sore back (from working way too hard in Alaska only a few day ago) prevented me from entering the trailer “back-up derby.” Once again, next year in Tucson, but I must practice with the Mrs. in order to come in with a respectable time and no faults.
I was also unable to attend the workshop on solar power and other technical / historical presentations – due to work schedule – but I heard that they were all well done, entertaining and useful. We did attend the parts flea market and the swap meet – and had a good time.
Finally (at least for this particular post), it was very good to meet fellow Airstream bloggers on Saturday afternoon: Deke & Tiffany (www.weaselmouth.com), Laura & Kevin (www.riveted-blog.com), Kyle (www.whereiskylenow.com), Rich (www.airstreamlife.com/maze), Ana (www.glamperanairstreamdiary.com), and another Kyle (www.channelsurfingwithgas.com).