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.