Friday, October 30, 2009

Lessons Learned

Ever since we bought the Airstream this Fall, I've been concerned about tire failures -- mainly because of the stories I've read on blogs and the damage to the wheel well on our A/S from an incident several years ago. The tires were about six years old and in spite of their good tread, there were a few small cracks in the sidewalls. I replaced all four, learning how to hoist the trailer (using 2 x 6 planks) and getting ready for trouble on the road. Little did I know that my tow vehicle tires would cause me grief first.

The truck is a 2007 and there are only 16,000 miles on it and the tires so I've been pretty confident of having good rubber for the winter and for our upcoming trip. Well, not so fast. Last week, I was driving down to Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center for a routine appointment with my cardiologist. It is about a 1 + 20 trip and about 45 minutes into the trip down I-89, the tire warning light came on in the truck. I noticed it right away -- but because my previous Honda had many false warnings of the tire light, kept going. I passed the Bethel rest stop which is closed for budget reasons (thanks Gov. Douglas) and one exit where I knew there was no service stations. I was hoping to make it to a rest area in New Hampshire and the truck felt fine.

Just as I crossed the Connecticut River and approached busy Exit 20 for West Lebanon, a tire blew. I was in the left lane and managed to veer through the stream of traffic to the right breakdown lane and hobbled to a stop just before the exit. The traffic streaming by shook the truck and I had to wait to even open the door and get out to check the damage. I was so close to the guard rail that I couldn't fully open the right door.

The right rear tire had shredded after blowing. I looked underneath at the spare tire hanging there, as the traffic zipped by -- and realized I had no idea how to extract the tire or even find the jack. (I had the truck about five months but figured I was good for a while tire-wise.)

Fortunately, I had good cell coverage and called the doc and cancelled and then called AAA. They said about 30 minutes and that's about what it took. I remembered that I had some road flares so after fiddling with the instructions, got them going up the breakdown lane as a warning.

My dog, who was in the jump seat, needed a walk and I needed to get us away from the truck and traffic so I extricated her, got her underneath the guardrail, and we walked back and forth on the steep embankment until the wrecker arrived. Tieing her to convenient post, I watched the young man use the long rod to lower the spare tire down and then change the tire. The spare, fortunately, was a full-size tire and brand-new. In ten minutes we were all set, and after thanks and a tip, he found a break in traffic and ran interference with his well-lit truck while I got going and off at the exit.

Of course, the spare tire has no sensor so the tire light was on the whole way home. It was a good lesson to me to believe the warning light and stop and inspect things right away. It also showed me how to use the spare tire system so if I need to in some remote area out west, I can do it. And the final lesson is to keep renewing our AAA membership - you never know.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Getting Out of Dodge

We've had our first snowfall, which melted right away, and the Airstream is perched on the side of our front yard headed toward warmer climes. Even though it will be several months, and several feet of snow to move beforehand, our trip to the Southwest is in our minds. We've got travel guides, vacation material from Texas, Arizona, and New Mexico tourist offices, and the trailer is winterized and waiting.

One of the big concerns is timing our departure and getting south of the snow/slush zone with dry roads and no blizzards to fight. I know too well how tricky winter driving can be -- and as a pilot, also know how unreliable long range weather forecasts are. However, my brother has done it for years -- picking a window of decent weather, and driving long distances until he gets out of snow country.

Getting out of Vermont is not easy hauling a trailer. Getting down our driveway isn't either -- summer or winter. However, if we avoid the passes in the Green Mountains, we can hit Route 7 and take our normal cut-over to the Glens Falls and then take the Northway (I-87) south to Albany.

My thinking at this point is to take I-88 over to Binghampton and head south on I-81, which can be terrible in winter heading down toward Wilkes-Barre. We'll have to stop somewhere north of Harrisburg I suspect, and then head south toward Knoxville. Haven't thought too much about beyond there -- since I may have an airplane to look at in the Knoxville area. (I'm in the market for an old Luscombe)

I've done some online research on Flying J and Walmart locations along the way and need to gameplan as to how and when to activate the winterized systems. As I sit in front of our woodstove, it's fun to think about heading into warm dry desert territory in early 2010. We just have to make sure we get out of Vermont unscathed -- easier said than done in January.

photo from skidrd

If you enjoyed this article, then please subscribe to our RSS feed or via email to receive all new posts

Monday, October 12, 2009

Time to winterize

Yikes! The Airstream is covered with frost this morning - it's 31 degrees outside- and I'm just starting to read up on winterizing.

I need to get some RV anti-freeze and get serious about getting things ready for winter. I need to get my hands on an air-compressor to blow the lines dry and find out which valves isolate the water heater.

The previous owner left a number of cryptic notes on fittings he changed and tips on draining sumps -- and reviewing them, I'm getting a better sense of the process.

RV anti-freeze is about $4.00/gallon and as it turns out, my neighbor has a small air compressor. Now he just has to find the fitting for tire valves (nothing like being a picky borrower.)

So, I'm draining the drinking water tank through the spigot on the bottom and will read once more all the guidance I'm finding online and with the materials that came with the Airstream.

This isn't rocket science -- and once I've done it - I'll have it down for future winters. I'll tackle it in the next day or so and report back. Meanwhile, I'm checking the forecast - 32 tonight but getting down to 26 later in the week. Tomorrow is winterization day!

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

A Sad Homecoming

A beautiful oceanside morning greeted us as we began our preparations to return to Vermont. One last walk on the beach to check out the seals and it was time to hook up the Airstream and head on out. Last minute checklist to make sure the TV antenna is withdrawn and the footpads retracted, and a smooth dumping of wastewater, and we were on our way to I-95 north.

Traffic was light and the foliage color improved as we headed up I-89. Stopping at a favorite New Hampshire rest stop (Springfield), we had lunch in the Airstream, with the heater going, while the Vizsla munched on a couple of biscuits. Here’s a picture of Mary with the pretty view in the background (and the foreground.)

We wanted to get home mid-afternoon since I had a land trust meeting in the early evening. We made it through the tourist-laden streets of Montpelier and up our steep driveway. The house was as we left it and after starting up the water system, I unhooked the trailer and parked the truck. Then I glanced up at the bee yard. Chaos! A bear had broken through the electric fence.

I ran up to encounter a picture of destruction with parts of beehives scattered every which way, fences down and posts leaning, and a few clusters of bees trying to stay warm. One hive was simply ruined, with no bees left at all. Three out of the five hives were destroyed and one other had been moved off its base but not toppled.

It’s tough to see bees, who worked so hard all year to construct wonderful vibrant communities, uprooted by a bear. I don’t hunt -- and intellectually know that beehives are an attractive nuisance to wild bruins -- yet, it really torques me off.

I had about an hour to put the pieces back together, put up new wire and insulators, and shower before leaving for my meeting. I got one hive back together with the hope that it will survive since there were quite a few bees left. However, if the queen was killed, they’ll never make it. The other hive with a few bees has little hope -- but I put it together and will probably try to combine it with one of the two hives that were untouched.

We’d had a wonderful trip, a great time with our daughter and her family, an inaugural overnight by our grandson, and some wonderful scenery of the ocean and river and fall foliage. This loss ruined the end but it’s important to keep things in perspective. We’ll restock the bee colonies next spring and buy a new battery for electric fence. For the short run, we’ll check each evening for revisits by our black furry friends and hope that our newly strengthened fence will keep them at bay. Stay tuned.

If you enjoyed this article, then please subscribe to our RSS feed or via email to receive all new posts

Sunday, October 4, 2009

A Night Visitor

We had our first overnight visitor to the Airstream last night. Our eight-year-old grandson, Mac, stayed with me last night as Mary stayed with his parents in Merrimac.

Penny, our Vizsla, was pretty interested in the new addition to our camping family but we got her settled. After some initial homesickness (solved by a nice cell phone talk with Jen), we had a good night’s rest and were up early.

After breakfast, we took a nice early morning walk on the beach to watch the seals and exercise the dog. Mac got in a lot of running as the dog raced after sea gulls and barked at sea ducks. With the exercise and sea air, they’ll both sleep tonight.
Then it was time to clean up and head to church down in Newburyport. It was a nice first visit of a grandchild and hopefully the start of many more. Next time we’ll figure how to have Mary be part of the overnight.

If you enjoyed this article, then please subscribe to our RSS feed or via email to receive all new posts

Seal Spotting

Every fall and winter, harbor seals come into the Merrimack River. They congregate just opposite our camping site so every day, we walked through the dunes down to the beach to observe them. (Those are seals "resting" in the photo to the left. They are very much a local attraction -- to campers and day visitors to Salisbury State Park Reservation.
Named common seal throughout Europe, this seal frequently observed around Long Island lives along the shores of eastern Canada, New England and in the winter, as far south as the Carolinas in a variety of habitats. Their scientific name loosely means "sea calf" or "sea dog." This latter nickname is well suited as these seals closely resemble a dog when their head is viewed at the surface of the water.
They were in the middle of the river -- and I’m sure that the fishing boat owners coming and going were not as pleased to see them as we were.

When they were out on the rocks, they lie with their heads and hind flippers elevated in a "banana-like" position. We saw them in the channel, in what is called the "bottling" position, with heads tilted straight back and perpendicular to the surface; thus assuming the appearance of a floating bottle.

While they didn’t do the tricks of the seals at Sea World, it was delightful to see them in their natural habitat, feeding, playing, and resting. Nice images to take back to a pending Vermont winter.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Not Exactly Swimming Weather

Loaded and hooked up, we maneuvered our way through Montpelier and launched down I-89 toward New Hampshire. It always takes me a while to get used to the effort the haul the Airstream -- the movement tugging at the truck, the extra power needed, the need for careful turns. Vermont and New Hampshire interstates have some pretty serious climbs on them so the Ford works pretty hard. The override for the overdrive helps even out the effort and after fifteen minutes or so, I’m back in the hauling attitude. I ease the speed up to about 60 and watch others whiz by us.

The traffic is light in the middle of the day, and week, but the colors are peaking fast and the leaf-peepers will clog things up for the next several weeks. As we head into New Hampshire, the trees seem even further along with some brilliant patches from the maples. We stop outside Lebanon to walk the dog and check the trailer -- the bearings I packed, the newly-mounted tires, the connections. Everything looks good.

Salisbury Beach State Reservation
is a gem tucked into the over-developed Atlantic coast. With 484 camping sites, it is fully booked all summer. With an immense day use area for the beach and an active boat launching facility, it is a busy spot. This time of year it’s about 20% full -- it that. I’ve reserved a site online that was near the water and as I check in, the young woman says, “That’s a neat site by the river. At low tide the seals should be coming in.”

As we drive to the site, past scores of empty pads, we’re amazed at how closely they are spaced -- “cheek to jowl” as Vermonters say. Our site requires a 45 degree back-in, which I manage fairly easily (I’m getting better finally) and we’re set up in no time flat. First time on a paved pad with 30 amp power and park water. We’re in “ high cotton” as they say south of here. The only snag is our 50’ of water hose is too short but we’ll remedy that later.

It’s time for a beach walk with the Vizsla who has been a good passenger once she knew she was going along. There are trails through rugosa roses and beach grass to the Merrimack River which runs into the Atlantic right here. Gulls and terns excite Penny who strains at her long leash. Sport fishing boats zoom up the channel (red right returning) as we walked down the wet hard sand filled with smells and tracks.

Merrimack, where Jen, Ben, & Mac live, is about a half-hour away and we pack up, go over for a nice visit and supper, and make plans for the days ahead. Returning to Salisbury, we spot two skunks crossing the roadway and make a note to walk carefully with the dog at night. Hooking up the water with our new hose, we marvel at the ease -- no noisy water pump -- pressure and quality like home. The temperature is dropping outside but the Airstream heater cranks things up nicely.

After a good night, and morning coffee and NPR news, Penny and I take an early morning walk on the beach. It’s in the 40’s with a north wind but we’re dressed for it. No one is around -- we’ve got the whole river beach to ourselves as the fishing boats head out before sunrise. We walk the long Salisbury beach with the sun just coming up over the eastern clouds.
Today calls for a breakfast at the Hampton airport, and then some wandering around looking at airplanes tucked into the open hangars. Tough work but somebody’s got to do it.

If you enjoyed this article, then please subscribe to our RSS feed or via email to receive all new posts

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Off to Salisbury

Packing and hooking up (where's the EZ pass for the trailer?) for a trip to Salisbury Beach State Park. Cold and damp in Vermont but the forecast looks good for few days. Time to load the bikes in the truck and get the Airstream hooked up and ready to navigate down our driveway. Gas furnace is running already -- we'll need that the next few nights.

Looking forward to seeing Jen and Ben and our grandson, Mac. Got a "genius bar" appointment for a sick iPhone while we're down there -- at the NH Apple store. Plan to look for old airplanes tomorrow. Arrivederci