Getting closer to lift-off

We spent a day tackling the endless list of things to do to get the trailer ready for our cross-country adventure. I’ve actually felt pretty intimidated by the list, but we knocked out a lot of chores today. We purchased a new battery, and we fired up the propane frig and range to see if they work. We installed a roller shade and a set of curtains, and took some more precise measurements for other curtains.

I have to install new curtain track for the front window bank. The two side windows are curved, so the track needs to curve. I bought an aluminum curtain track from an online store that specializes in vintage trailers, and the item description indicated that the track was bendable up to a 12 inch radius. So imagine my surprise when I received the item and it was completely rigid. I had a very unproductive conversation with someone from the store, who was manhandling the product and telling me how it was no problem in a fairly unhelpful way. But what I got out of it was that I need to bend it myself, with tools. Specialized aluminum tube-bending tools which I do not own. Might have been nice if I knew that before.

Fortunately, we can do it anyway. I shot an email to a friend with the appropriate tools, and he’s going to bend the track for me. One of my tasks today was to cut a template for the curve. I bought some curtains from Ikea that I can cut down to the right height. I will need to get some alternate hardware bits for hanging some of them. In fact, I have a list of miscellaneous hardware bits that I need. So much hardware bits!

We have also installed a new receiver hitch which will resolve the problem of the trailer riding too high.

We still don’t have a place to transport the spare tire. We’re working on that next. Also, although the previous owner told us that the bearings had been packed “recently,” the documents he gave us show that being done in 2002. Not so recent. So we’re mulling over whether to take it in for full axle servicing (with brake inspection), or whether to pack the bearings ourselves and call it good. I expect we’ll take it in for the servicing, but we’re getting money-pending fatigue, so it will probably be a few days before we surrender to this inevitability.

I’ve also begun packing the trailer for a trip. I have a loooong packing list, and I am working through it, taking a load of items over each time we visit.

Some bad news today was that we noticed some water damage on some of the interior wood work. Neither of us remember seeing it before, but it’s small, so it might have been there all along. On the other hand, this might be new damage from the recent torrential rain. It is near the location of one of the attachment points for the awning, so we may have a leak on our hands. Ugh!

When we get to the end of the packing, prep, and repair lists, we’ll drop the cats off at the kennel and head out. It looks like that will probably happen next Sunday or Monday. (The first leg of our trip is only 100 miles, to the in-law’s place.)

Another blow to the wallet

Brent went over to the Secretary of State to register the Airstream. How much? You guessed it. $575. That price includes sales tax and a one-time, permanent registration, plus a permanent license plate. We won’t have to renew it every year like we do our vehicle. But still! *moaning*

In the nickel and dime category, I managed to locate window coverings for about $150. That includes six cut-to-size roller shades and two pairs of 25 inch cafe tiers to provide coverage for the two curved windows on the front.

We also realized we need a place to store the spare tire. Airstreams come with a spare tire carrier on the front underside of the coach, so we are crossing our fingers that it is still there. Otherwise, it’s another expense. Still working on new battery and hitch.

After perusing the instruction manuals and other documentation that comes with the trailer, we realized the awning was not secured as we drove it home. Luckily, it did not unroll, rip itself off the vehicle, and kill us all.

Airstream Across America!

Plans are coming together for our big cross-country trip next month. A couple of people have suggested I blog the trip, and I am absolutely on board with that. Because planning the trip is part of the trip, this will be the inaugural blog post.

We’ve bought the trailer (and I’ll post pictures soon). There are lots of little detaily things that need to be done, like registering it and getting plates, then taking the registration over to the storage facility to prove it’s not stolen, then taking the whole trailer to our insurance agent to prove it’s not junk.

There is a three-day grace period in Michigan for hauling home a trailer that you’ve bought before you must register it. And we were able to buy insurance over the phone from a Panera that we stopped at in Troy after we had driven about half a mile, and realized we were hot and thirsty, and then realized we were about to hit I-75 with an untested, uninsured trailer.

The trailer itself needs a few odds and ends. One thing I’ve learned with this venture is that there’s a lot of stuff in the “miscellaneous” category to take care of, and each item seems to cost $500. The trailer came with a perfectly serviceable hitch. However, the hitch height on our 2003 Suburban is about 5 inches too high. That caused some awkwardness in hauling it home, with the rear bumper of the trailer rather uncomfortably close to the concrete.

Even with the high hitch, the trailer pulls nice, and tracks well behind the vehicle.

We’ll need a new, lower hitch to pull it across country. The cost? About $500. Yeah, everything is like that.

We also need a new trailer battery for it. The one it came with is kaput. I expect that will cost $500, too. At this point I will be pleased if we can get one for $200 or whatever. We already had a brake controller installed for a bit under $300.

The last must-have item before we leave is additional curtains/blinds for the inside. Most of them were removed with the previous owner’s renovation. He replaced some with miniblinds, which are not working out. The miniblinds dangle from the curved sides of the airstream, causing the bottoms to flap back and forth and getting in the way of other stuff. I am going to reinstall what roller shades we have, and buy some additional for the unshaded windows. I hope it doesn’t cost $500. If so, we will cover the windows with very fashionable old pillow cases.

I am actually incredibly pleased with the condition and appearance of the trailer. It is in much better shape than I dared hope. It looks utterly gorgeous, too. From the outside you would never suspect that it’s 38 years old.

I have a long list of things I want to pack, things we need to buy, and chores we need to do before we can leave. Much of it is pet-related. I am going to get our dogs vaccinated for bordatella, which is a stupid, unnecessary vaccination, but we plan on using boarding kennels and dog day care on the road, and I don’t want it to be an obstacle.

(Our vet says bordatella is equivalent to the common cold, that the vaccine isn’t effective, and the illness isn’t dangerous, so there’s no point in vaccinating.) I need to get new tags for both dogs with our cell phone numbers on them, not our home phone. It won’t do any good if someone finds our lost dog and calls our home phone.

I need to arrange kenneling for the cats. Lots of people travel with cats, but our cats are awful travelers, and they are indoor outdoor cats. I can only imagine that they would escape at the first opportunity and be lost forever in Death Valley or something. Plus, four people, two dogs, AND two cats in a trailer would truly be insane. If anyone semi-local wants to borrow a pair of very lovable, friendly kitties for a month, let me know. (They are super clean in the house, probably because they do all their scratching and pooping outdoors.)

I’m more than a little nervous about camping with the dogs. We tried tent camping with them once, and that was kind of a disaster. The dogs were both very nervous sleeping in the tent, and the awkwardness of getting them out of the tent to pee in the morning was really bad. Plus, Courage was so scared he had to sleep on TOP of someone all night, resulting in a sort of toothpaste tube effect, whereby the person inside the bag ended up squeezed out the top end.

The Airstream should have space for the two dogs to sleep on the floor. I am still nervous about them barking too much, getting away from us, crying constantly, or generally just being a 300 pound albatross weighing us down and preventing us from doing fun stuff. But we like our dogs, and we’re going to try to make this work. I got some advice from my sister on training them to stop barking on command, and to my shock it seems to be working already.

We have a collaspable pen that works well for containing the dogs outdoors. The Airstream’s front awning is intact, and it has a zip-on screen room (another REALLY nice original feature), and we’ll be setting up the pen inside the screen room. That should be a nice place for the dogs to hang out in camp when they’re not having walkies or something.

We’re also bringing Brent’s Mom along. I expect she’ll be really helpful, and will be a great companion for Glen. But it’s going to be close quarters for three adults and an adolescent. I’m planning to rig up some privacy curtains for the bunks to help everyone not kill each other.

We’re still working out the schedule and itinerary, which will be pretty flexible, anyway, because part of the point of the trip is not having to be somewhere at a particular time.

I’ll be using my Sprint hotspot and laptop to work while traveling. Unfortunately, I suffer from car sickness when I try to read or work on a computer on the road, so I can’t do that. But it should be fine to do the driving before/after work, and then let the others relax while I do the day job. We’re not going to push for huge mileage every day.

I checked Sprint coverage on our planned route, and we should have signal through almost the whole trip. The Grand Canyon and mountains may not be so good, and I’ll be aiming to hit those locations on my days off.

We’re still negotiating bringing the bikes. Neither of our bike rack will work with the trailer/vehicle configuration, but we could carry them inside the trailer. I think it would be awful nice to be able to do bike rides while we travel, and Brent’s Mom does not do bike riding, so she could stay back at camp with the dogs.

We don’t have an ETD, yet. I tried checking with my sister, who is the first person on the route that we are visiting. She’s not sure of her work schedule, so departure will probably depend on getting all of the chores, repairs, and shopping done and fulfilling obligations at home.

O Airstream Driver!

We’ve been very busy this week, pursuing and purchasing a vintage airstream trailer. The title is not signed yet, so I’m crossing all my fingers. But if all goes well, by this time next week, we’ll be Airstream owners. It’s a 27 foot trailer made in 1973 that has been partially refurbished. The mechanicals have all been repaired or replaced, and the previous owner replaced a bunch of the interior woodwork, too, so it’s in good condition all around.

The ultimate plan is to spend the month of August traveling between Michigan and San Diego, where we have a cousin that needs visiting. We’ll see some other people in between, too.

For now it’s a frenzy of getting ready and minutia such as renting an RV parking spot, getting work done on our tow vehicle, purchasing needed equipment like the dock Brent just bought that will give a readout of vehicle data like oil and transmission temperature–always helpful when you’re towing two tons of metal through the Rocky Mountains and would rather not end up splattered all over the side of them.

We’re going to take her for a little shakedown tour semi-locally. Because if it’s going to break down, we’d rather that happen in Hell, Michigan than Hell, Nebraska, where REAL ZOMBIES will rape you, eat your brains, and then leave you to slowly reanimate alone.

I’m crossing all my fingers that this venture doesn’t become a total disaster. I’m not a traveler by nature, but I think I can convince myself that this trailer is an EXTENSION of my home, and avoid all of that “I need to be home now” anxiety. I’ll also be bringing 5/7 of the mammals that live with me. (Oh, yes, we’re going to travel with 333 lbs of dog.)

Any advice on RVing, Airstreams, or places to go West of the Mississippi are