Friday, August 14, 2009

The Shakedown Cruise – Day 1

I bought our 25’ 1999 Airstream Safari rapidly, right after it came up on Craigslist for Syracuse. I’d been watching a number of sites around the Northeast, having lost a couple of units to quick sales earlier. Looks like the 25’ model is popular for those, like us, who are retired and want a unit that fits into most state and national parks. So, right after this unit was posted, I called, lined up tentative financing, and the following morning began a quick round trip out to Syracuse, New York – the Vizsla and I – made a less than thorough inspection, and a purchase – then started the long drive home in the truck. I wanted to get plates and get organized for actually towing the rig.

I was working on some time constraints because the seller was undergoing tests for some lung issues and probable surgery (the reason for selling) and I wanted his help in hitching things up. So about a week later, after loading the truck with all sorts of provisions for the Airstream, we headed out early for central New York. We had decided to camp our way home and make it a test cruise – and it sure was.

We arrived mid-day after a trip of about six hours – a trip I’ve made many times. But this time it was different – I visualized hauling a travel trailer behind me and noted that the turns needed to be wider, the traffic changes fewer and smoother, and all in all, just a slower pace. I have never towed a trailer any distance so I was a bit apprehensive but the weather was good and the roads were, although busy, ones that I know.

The former owner directed the hookup of the ball, the sway systems, etc and loaded us up with the gear needed to operate the rig. After some last minute directions about the TV antenna and the awning (instructions I’ve forgotten) and a quick walk for the dog, we were off – testing the new brake controller on the side street. The tow system squawked loudly with every turn but soon we were launched on 7 North and just ahead, trying to blend our way onto to I-81, the major highway heading north.

I got up to speed and generally was comfortable – the Ford 150 handled things well and once I got into the right lane and settled, we cruised north. I’d picked a close-by state campground, Selkirk Shores State Park – since I didn’t want to tow very far before checking things. The access road of the interstate was lovely and aside from the clanking and squawking we made, it was a pretty drive.

New York state campgrounds vary greatly in quality and I was not too impressed with Selkirk Shores. The site I had reserved was pretty low and very close to the neighboring trailer, whose occupants had sort of taken over the vacant spot. Fortunately, I could pull far enough ahead so the backing up for the first time was fairly routine (little did I know what the future held).

We got going on transferring most of our gear from the truck to the trailer. We’d gotten water on the way in and there was 20-amp service so we were ready to relax. I took the dog for a walk and we found every barking dog on the circle but I could get off the road and head down the path toward the beach. It was Thursday night and the beach is only open on weekends (budget crunch?) but the structures and pier were impressive. One of the many CCC projects from the 1930’s, the park has some beautiful buildings and areas for outings and day use.

Back at the trailer, I started to learn that the previous owners really had never “camped” with it. They told me that they drove to Florida, hooked up and lived there during the winter, and drove home. They did not know that the refrigerator could use gas and never used the gas stove. Well, I found out that they also never used the fresh water tank – I could not get the pump to run. It would turn on but nothing would happen and in spite of taking the water pump apart, we had no water that first night. Great! Fortunately, the rest room and showers were right down the path.

I always have to chuckle at the propensity of campers to make roaring campfires every night and this place was no exception. Our neighbors, who were very helpful, were no exception. We had a light supper, turned the fans on and slept pretty well. The state parks seem to quiet down nicely – it’s kids and families and not many partying types – at least near us. The Airstream is a nice sound barrier with the fans on.

The next morning, I took the dog on a walk up the path to the north along the lake and we saw a couple of deer out for a browse. It was quiet, the lake was clear, and only the ever-present image of the big Oswego nuke plant disturbed the tranquility.

After breakfast, it was water system time again. I removed a length of piping connected to the pump to see if it was clear to the tank, and it was. Then I spotted a tiny valve on the underside of the pipe, turned it with a screwdriver, and after hitching things up, had water flowing through the water pump. Yahoo! The valve was impossible to see and the manual for the Airstream is so limited that it shows no helpful schematic information.

Now, wouldn’t hot water be nice? I tried to turn on the heater with little success. Then, a knock on the door and my neighbor said, “Do you know you have water pouring out of your trailer?” Sure enough, the drain plug was missing. I thought I might have to wait and visit a plumbing store for one but rummaging around in the box of spare parts in the back, I found one and soon we were cranking. So two successes in a day – now to navigate the dump station for the first time.

I’d done a lot of reading and things went well, items got stowed and we were off for Day 2, heading north to Higley Flow State Park on the Racquette River.


RG Coleman said...

Welcome to the club! I'll enjoy reading your adventures. Where does Penny sleep? We have two dogs in a 16-footer and we trip over them at night unless they sleep under the kitchenette table.

RG Coleman
2007 DWR

Dick Mansfield said...

Penny is eyeing the couch but for now, we put her in her crate and it works ok since the bathroom is midships and the beds are in back.