Thursday, December 30, 2010

Bringing a Boat Along This Time

On the trip last year to the Southwest, we were surprised at how many times we were next to bodies of water: the Gulf of Mexico, Falcon Reservoir, Choke Canyon Reservoir just to name a few. It made us wish that we had our kayaks along. I have been thinking about the drag of two kayaks plus the Airstream and asked my brother Barry, a seasoned Airstreamer, what he and Mica did for a boat since I knew that they had paddled in Florida and along the Gulf Coast in their travels.

He told me that they often carry a small canoe -- that they would worry too much about the expensive kayaks during a trip -- but then said, "Why don't you take our folding kayak - it'll just be sitting down cellar this winter?" I thought about it, did some research on Folbots, and took him up on the offer.

So yesterday, he drove over and dropped off the big bags of equipment and gave me a tutorial in our living room. (I had pulled an operations/assembly manual off the internet and done some reading, knowing my struggles in the past in putting together tents.)

He walked me through the process and I took some photos of specific steps but we will see. Everything is marked and it seems straight-forward but I am going to assemble it one more time by myself downstairs before we load up. Even then, I suspect my language will attract a crowd at the campground down south when I first lay out the parts and hope to end up with a boat. It also will be the first time that Mary and I have paddled a kayak together. Stay tuned.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Getting The Airstream Home

After a Thanksgiving trip to Maryland sans Airstream, we returned for a week in Massachusetts to do some child care and retrieve the trailer.

Not surprisingly, mice had taken up residence in the 'Stream, leaving little piles of insulation and droppings here and there. I had set traps but they weren't tripped - in fact one had the peanut butter licked off and mouse "calling cards" all around. The dog was very interested in a wall where undoubtedly the culprit(s) resided.

With sub-freezing temperatures, staying in the trailer was more of a challenge but the new propane heater did a nice job. The dog and I stayed comfortable, especially at the end with the heating unit, but we were going through propane pretty fast.

I did a little birding (see my new vtbirder blog) and celebrated Mary's 70th birthday with Jen and family. Watching the weather, we left for home a day early since snow was forecast for our original travel day.

It was cold and windy hooking up and of course, the trailer had not moved in several months. I noted that the right turn signal on the trailer was not working but decided to press on -- it was daytime and the weather was clear.

Monday mid-day is a good time to travel. It seems like the trucks are still loading and there is mainly local traffic. We made good time up through New Hampshire in spite of pretty stiff winds. The Airstream handles wind quite well.

I noted a warning signal on the trailer brake controller - "H05" - but had no idea what it meant. (The manual was back home.) It would flit back to .C. for connected and then back but everything was handling ok so we pressed on. It was too bitterly cold to troubleshoot along the highway.

As we descended the final hill into Montpelier, the brakes started acting a little strange - grabbing a bit. I cautiously wove my way the last eight miles, wondering what condition our driveway would be in. Our road was rutted (from early thaws) and the driveway had several inches of snow, but there's no way to pause -- you make the sharp turn and start climbing. Saying "hang on" to Mary and the dog, I gunned it up in 4 wheel drive and while it was a little exciting, we made it up and around the large rock and were home.

With snow on the way, I got the Airstream blocked and unhitched and settled in place until we leave in mid-January for Southwest.

I believe that I have some shorting issues again in the pigtail connector. It's way to cold (0 degrees this AM) to work on it right now but I need to pick a day where the temperatures moderate a bit and check it out. We don't need failures like we had last year.

Friday, October 22, 2010

'Nother Cold Rainy Trip to MA

Yesterday, after an early morning lending committee meeting at the community land trust, I came home to finish packing and hook up the Airstream for a trip to Massachusetts. It's our grandson's tenth birthday and our daughter's was the day before.

I had tried to take a short nap after an early lunch since we had a long trip ahead but all I could do was think of the trick of getting backed into Jen's driveway off a relatively busy road. It's more than a 90 degree turn and rather tricky -- and having several cars waiting in line and watching is never helpful. I decided to get up and get going.

The light rain started just as I got ready to maneuver the truck to hook up. It's been a while and I was taking my time but with several layers and a raincoat, finished up relatively dry. Still always get grease on my hands from either the ball or the sway bars.

We got the gear and the dog loaded and negotiated our steep driveway. At the bottom, the rear bumper always gets hung up and scraps dirt for a bit -- adding a few swear words to the start of the trip.

The drive down was rather easy -- traffic light but steady -- with some low clouds and fog hanging over the high parts of I-89. The weather got better into New Hampshire, as did the foliage. The photo was taken at the Sutton, NH rest area.

With five miles go go, I started visualizing the backup process -- where I would stop the truck, which way the wheel went first, etc. I briefed Mary on her role as observer, director, traffic cop but we both decided to stay cool. Well, either I'm getting better, or getting lucky, but the trailer was angled in off the road right away, letting traffic move -- and with just a little geeing & hawing, I got the Airstream situated in the wooded parking place. Voila.

So, we've got the catalytic heater going and the inside temperature is manageable. I've got a little water in the system but I'm not using it. I'll winterize either this weekend or next trip down. We are going to leave the Airstream here in MA since we have several trips more in the coming months.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Planning The Winter Trip

As the trees lose their leaves here in Vermont, we start thinking about heading out once again this winter to the Southwest. So it's time to crank up Google and Mapquest and lay out some options.

This year, I want to head toward Pensacola first to revisit the place I started my flight training decades ago. The Naval Air Museum, which I visited briefly many years ago, is high on our list of must-see places. I was in the NAS Cubi Point Officers' Club in the Philippines during several Vietnam deployments and the Cafe at the museum has a replica of the bar and many of the hundreds of squadron plaques.

The start of the trip, now planned for early January, is probably the toughest part of the journey. Not only will the Airstream be winterized with anti-freeze in the systems, the weather is often dicey. There are some high spots on I-88 between Albany and Binghamton and the stretches of I-81 until you drop into the Harrisburg area can get a lot of wind and snow. We're planning to watch for a weather opening and drive to Harrisburg the first day -- perhaps the longest drive.

Right now, I've got stops planned at state parks at Warrior's Path State Park in Tennessee and Oak Mountain State Park in Alabama. We're planning to stay for a while at Fort Pickens campground on the Gulf Islands National Seashore. Weather and conditions permitting, we'll use that as a base for visiting Pensacola sites. With a wood fire going behind me, it's kind of nice to think about -- three months from now.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Boondocking in an oak grove

The hurricane flamed out and our trip to Massachusetts was easy -- light traffic and Will Lange's CD of wonderful Vermont stories. We wedged the Airstream into our parking spot at Jennifer's and got out the solar panel - why I'm not sure. We get a random ray or two now and then through the leaves but it's moral support, electrically speaking.

It was great seeing Rich and Bronson from Ohio as well as Mac, Jen, and Ben . Yesterday we had a big reunion with Jack and Susan Russell and their kids and grandkids. Perfect weather and dear friends we don't see often enough.

I've been doing some birding here, seeing a lot of warblers which are still tough to ID, especially with a Viszla pulling on the leash. Saw six flickers today high in a tree eating some sort of fruit.

I also had an encounter with a grumpy old guy on a back road here in Merrimac -- a place I'd seen some birds while running yesterday. This morning, I drove the truck down there, parked it beside the narrow road, and was watching some chestnut-sided warblers when the door to the nearby house opened and an old guy stood there staring at me. I said, "Hi, I'm doing a little birding" and got no reply. I kept scanning the trees when I soon heard a pellet gun type noise, cocking and firing. I just kept birding and didn't hear any pellets my way but just figured he was being a jerk. I was very tempted to tell him so and still marvel at my restraint. I finished up and as I returned to the truck, I glanced up and saw the air rifle at his side. It took real will power not to flip him the bird as I drove off but I don't need more dents in the Ford.

Jennifer, who runs on that route, decided to call the police and report the incident. As she says, "It bothers me when someone's first instinct when angry is to go for a gun."

So in addition to catbirds, warblers, flickers, cardinals, I've found a red-neck flatlander. May add it to my life list.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Waiting Out Earl

We were planning to take the Airstream to MA yesterday to see Rich and Bronson who just flew in from Ohio. The prospects of camping in the oak forest at Jennifer's -- known for dropping branches in windstorms -- was not appealing even if Earl stays out by Cape Cod. Forty to fifty miles an hour winds tonight still could make the aluminum habitat interesting -- so we'll wait a day.

We've charged the battery, filled up the propane, loaded some fresh water, and put the brand new foam mattresses on the beds. I'll hook up tonight and we'll be off first thing in the morning -- along with many others delaying their trips because of the hurricane. Better safe than sorry.

Here are the grandsons [Bronson (left) Mac (right)] that we can't wait to see tomorrow.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Trip to Jennifer's

We took the Airstream down to Merrimac, MA for a three day visit to see Jennifer, Ben, and Mac and to help a bit with painting the house. It's been a while since we've hooked up and moved so it was a good summer excursion. Leaving on a Monday and returning later in the week avoids some of the weekend travel -- the trips down and back on I-89 were pretty uneventful.

The parking site at Jen's is tricky to get into. You have to stop on a busy road, back in with about a 90 degree turn and then navigate a ways down a narrow driveway before angling off into the woods where we've cleared out a spot to set up. I had just stopped and started to back up when a car came -- so I pulled ahead to let him pass. I then started the tough process when Mary's voice was replaced by a guy's, who gave me pretty detailed instructions. "Got a boulder here, pull ahead and cut it more. No, the other way." He guided me down and into the spot and it turned out, it was the guy who had passed in the car. When I thanked him and complimented him on staying in view in my mirrors and giving great directions, he told me that he had worked for carnivals for years and backed up all sorts of trucks. He saved my bacon -- I'd probably still be there fighting with the stonewall and the oak trees.

The visit was wonderful. Got a lot of work done but also had time with our grandson and just hung out some with the family. The weather was very sunny and warm but the oak trees blocked nearly all the solar rays where the Airstream was situated. I had to monitor electrical usage closely but was able to run the overhead fan to cool things off at night.

We've pretty much decided to forget trying to camp at campgrounds during the summer -- too crowded and too much hassle. For example, the big state park at Salisbury, where we stayed last October, is completely filled every day until Labor Day. We'll wait until then for Vermont parks as well. In the meantime, it's nice to use the 'Stream as a bedroom for family visits -- both here and away. Here we are back home.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Searching For Muffler Men

"In 1984, a ten-year-old boy encountered a mysterious 20-foot-tall fiberglass statue named Louie in Flagstaff, Arizona.
Eight years later, he spotted an identical statue in Tucson. A third sighting outside a run-down convenience store in California made it a trend. Thus began a scavenger hunt to discover the origins of Louie and his brethren. Only one rule applied: No searching for them on the Internet! Read More"

Author Gabriel Aldaz is an email acquaintance of mine. I've followed with interest the development and publication of his book and blogged about it last year. You can now order it here from Amazon.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Lake Carmi State Park

We just spent several days at Lake Carmi State Park in northern Vermont and got to experience summer camping - with all the warts as well as the positives. We had reserved site 16, one of the nicest ones along the lake, and found it a challenge to enter with our 25' Airstream. We ended up heading down the one-way road the wrong way so that we could angle into the lot.

The weather was muggy and the first day/night was pretty noisy and smoky. Of course, everyone has to have a fire and the combination of charcoal lighter and wood smoke and country music made me wonder why folks bother to come to a beautiful site -- but to each his own.

The lake is shallow and has a mucky bottom so the swimming areas are great for kids but not much for adults who swim. This was the first days after school let out so kids were everywhere -- and enjoying themselves. It's a good park for kids -- very light traffic and safe swimming sans lifeguards.

Vermont state parks are not set up for rvs with lots of leanto sites and many tent arrangements. There were a few dozen rigs but many of the sites could handle only small units. No Vermont parks have hookups. In the case of Lake Carmi, even the dump station seems like an afterthought. It's on the right side of the road which means, when leaving, you have to turn around and back up to use it.

There were a number of sites with a conglomeration of tents and popups and three of four carloads of people -- generating a lot of noise and seemingly there for the summer. It was a lot different from camping in the winter in warmer climes where you tend to get quieter couples (such as us.) The kids amused themselves at night by shiny flashlights on our silver Airstream, stirring up the dog big time. It reminded us of the stuff we'd be likely to do when we were kids.

The birding was great -- lots of yellow warblers, American redstarts, and other warblers. The park has some lovely features and has one pet-free camping area (what's up with that?) and many forested sites that are hardly used and thus pretty private.

We plan to go back -- probably in the Fall after school starts. With less activity, it will be a great place to kayak and bird.

photo courtesy of Vermont State Parks

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Renovation Project About There

After pulling off the mouse fur, ripping up the carpet, removing the couch for recovering, cleaning off the glue from the walls, polishing the interior wall (for what seemed like ages, and cleaning up all the dirt and powder from polishing, I have spent the last week laying the new floor, installing the fittings for the curtains, installing the couch and side table, and hanging the curtains. The project is nearly done -- and looks pretty nice. Here's a shot of the couch area:
We hooked up a flat screen TV to replace the decade-old unit that came with the Airstream.

Now it's time to hook up and head out for a short stay up at Lake Carmi State Park this weekend.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Renovation Going Slowly

Having removed the carpet and much of the "mouse fur" from the walls in the dining/living area, I fried a few brain cells removing the glue backing with a solvent. Then, I began polishing the interior aluminum with mixed results. Have to get some more aggressive Nuvite polishing cream to work on the roughest areas but getting there slowly. Here's a progress photo.

I took a break from polishing and worked on tapping into the propane system and connecting up a catalytic heater to use when we are boondocking. My brother Barry had advised me on fittings and a general scheme and with patience and some "measure twice/cut once" technique, I got it installed on the front of the gas stove with a swinging door so that we can aim it rearward as well. Leak checks with soapy water and we're good to go.

The couch has been delivered to an upholsterer for recovering and should be ready by late June. Camping season is here -- time to get these projects buttoned up.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Running light wiring problem identified

Yesterday we did some trouble-shooting on the Airstream problems -- focusing on why we did not have running lights. With the couch removed and the wiring exposed, it made life a lot simpler -- and having my knowledgeable brother leading the effort was the key.

We had known that the power off the tow vehicle was fine and that we had power to the running lights inside the trailer. However, as Barry had suspected back in Texas, the circuit seemed to die in a little black box under the trailer. Sure enough, when he bypassed the box, there was power to the lights -- and in fact, all the lights were working! So now it is a process of finding a replacement for the fried box. (I fried a lead on the box at some point with all the problems of loose leads in the 7-pin connector).

So here's what I've posted and sent to a couple of potential suppliers:
I have a 1999 Safari and have had trouble with the running lights. I just found out that I fried a breaker or relay that is between the battery and the lights. It is a small black box with four paddle connections -- one for a hot wire, one for ground, and two for the blue trailer light wiring. It says SC-906 on it and is 12v, 30 amp. The connection points are marked 85, 86, 87, and 30.
It's nice to get an answer to this nagging problem -- now to find the part. And here's the answer I just got from the Airstream Forum:
It's a generic auto relay, should be able to find one at any auto parts store. You can see that one of the pins is burnt, with all the black plastic around it. Curious why it would fail but I would get a new one and see what happens.
What a resource the Internet can be. Off to Advance Auto Parts.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Mouse Fur Be Gone

Having removed the Airstream couch, I've started a project to remove the carpet and replace it with some sort of wood laminate flooring. Of course, the more you open things up, the more "projects" reveal themselves.

The cream-colored covering on the Airstream walls, affectionately called "mouse fur" because of its fuzzy nature, is pretty dingy. A dozen or more years of wear and tear shows -- and I'm thinking seriously of removing it in the front half of the trailer and getting down to the aluminum walls. We'll see how that additionally work feels in the next few days.

Meanwhile, I've started ripping out the old carpet (which looks better than it is in the photos). It's grubby work and I'm going through razor knife blades fast. From the debris I'm finding underneath it, I think this trailer was built on a Friday afternoon. Loose nails, aluminum scraps from drilling, you name it. The staples holding the padding in place are hard to pull and all in all, it's slow going.

One bright spot was the uncovering of a channel through which many wires pass. Hopefully, that will allow us to identify the problem circuit for the trailer running lights which still are out of service.

My brother Barry is coming by in the next day or two to give some guidance on floor materials and the wiring. Next week, we hope to get a line on some fabric to recover the couch.

I've got half a trailer floor of exposed plywood so I guess I'm committed. Stay tuned.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Portable Solar

After a lot of discussion with Airstream owners, we decided not to mount the solar panel on the unit but rather, set it up manually so as to better capture the sun's rays. So far, so good.

Installing the controller involved disconnecting and removing the refrigerator (to be able to snake wires alongside it) and cutting an opening in the wall. Everything went well until I went to close the cupboard over the refrigerator, and the arm hit the controller unit. Too late to move things so I moved the arm to the other side of the door.

I put on a quick disconnect near the hitch and ran enough wire to be able to move the unit around to either side of the trailer. When I first tried everything, I got nothing, even though the controller was reading battery voltage. After reading the instructions again (what a concept!), I realized that the leads to the solar panel were on the wrong contacts -- a quick switch and we were in business.

It's a great feeling to see that controller registering 4 amps of current or so in full sun. It's almost easy to feel smug -- sort of "take that, power company" feeling. The unit topped off the battery, shut down, and came on periodically as I used a little power for things.

The setting, with trees and intermittent clouds (as you can see in the photo), was not ideal but it was a great start to getting more independent energy-wise.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Off To Massachusetts

Having worked some on installing the solar controller and wiring up the solar panel, I tested it yesterday and it was great to see the meter registering 3 to 4 amps as the sun came out from behind the clouds. For now, I'm planning to use the panel up against a sawhorse, positioned to catch the sun -- and not mount it on the roof. Several friends (and my brother) set it up that way and like the versatility.

We packed up and headed out today -- still winterized -- to visit our daughter and family in Merrimac, MA. We've set up a nice little parking area off their long driveway so Penny (the Vizsla) and I boondock out there. It saves a lot of hassle since Jen has an old cat and Penny is terrible with felines.

The trip down was uneventful -- aside from the fact that our running lights still do not work. It was rainy and foggy the first hour and while not dark enough to require lights -- they would have helped from a safety factor. Next week's project.

The site here, as you can see in the photo, is pretty wooded so the use of solar is going to be iffy. Right now, the leaves are not out so there's hope -- but the forecast is for rain. I'm on a limited electrical budget and monitoring the battery with the new controller. I ran the old furnace with the blower for just a bit and saw an immediate drain. Fortunately, the catalytic heater is cranking and should take the chill off. Penny plants herself about a foot from it.

Being further south, the birds are more plentiful and active. On a walk with the dog just before dark, I saw about a dozen or more species including a lovely pileated woodpecker. Hope to do some serious birding tomorrow or Saturday at Plum Island.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

No Smiley Face from McDonald's

Throughout our trip to the Southwest, we were careful about cornering and getting caught in tight spaces with the Airstream. Many a time, we passed up a gas station because it looked too tight to get in and out of the pumps. Anyone who pulls a trailer or drives a big rig knows: you've got select your food and gas stops a little more carefully.

We did very well until the last day of the trip. We'd found that McDonald's for coffee often worked well -- the coffee is passable and there is usually room to park the truck trailer. Well, we pulled of I-81 north of Scranton at a little burg called Clarks Summit, which has a strip with many of the ubiquitous service and food outfits. We saw a McDonald's and after a tough left turn, pulled in. We parked and I could see right away that it was a mistake -- there was no exit on the "drive-around" side.

To cut to the chase -- after getting some breakfast, we carefully circumnavigated around the facility and made a sharp turn out to the access road. Too sharp, as it turned out. When we got home, we noticed paint down the right side of the Airstream. We never heard a thing but Mary remembered seeing a pole over there as we left.

So, once the weather is warmer, it will be time to take out the lacquer thinner (which seems to work) and get the blemish removed, or at least looking better. It sort of matches a crease the former owner put on the other side. I'm glad it is a 1999 Airstream and not a 2009 model. It's a little road rash but we'll see how it turns out when cleaned up, washed, and polished. Just another item on the "to do" list for this Spring.
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Friday, March 19, 2010

Wal*Mart -- Tough Love

As a Vermonter and a “buy local” advocate, I’ve always had a dislike of Wal*Mart. Their politics are too red, their treatment of employees is less than stellar, and their gaffes (firing a guy for medical marijuana - telling all “black people” to leave the store) just don’t seem to stop. The company, worth more than many smaller nations of the world, has centers and stores in virtually any city of size in the U.S. That’s bad news for downtowns and small merchants -- it’s good news for travelers.

Yes, having spent two months on the road, I have a new appreciation of the attractiveness of this giant corporation. I’ve blown dust off cans of vegetables in small groceries, been appalled at the lack of healthy food -- even whole wheat bread -- and struggled to find spare parts in local hardware stores. On the other hand, with Wal*Mart, which is everywhere, we can get Cabot Cheese and Stonyfield yogurt in Texas or Louisiana, find Ben & Jerry’s ice cream and fresh produce, and use clean restrooms. They layouts are fairly standard so you know right away where the auto parts are, where the pet food is, and don’t have to orient yourself each time just to find skim milk.
Another big issue is parking -- when you are pulling an Airstream, the expansive parking lots are welcome. Wal*Mart, to their credit, allows RV’s to park overnight. This is a big deal when you are traveling and just needing a safe place to rest for a bit. Sure, you deal with bright lights and traffic noise but it’s safe, free, and available all over the country.

It is depressing to see roadsides and fields littered with white plastic bags -- many of them from Wal*Mart. As a birdwatcher, more than once I’ve spotted a white object in a tree, on a cactus, on a body of water -- and of course, it’s not a cattle egret or snowy egret -- it’s trash. Wal*Mart adds to the problem through their "bag everything that isn't walking" approach although one could argue that people who litter will toss whatever container/bag they have.

So, back in Vermont, we will buy our coffee from Capitol Grounds in Montpelier, our meat from the local co-op, and shop locally for essentially everything. But we now have a new appreciation, whether we like to admit it or not, for the cleanliness, the lower prices, and the good inventory of the ubiquitous Wal*Mart network. They will likely be key elements of our future road travel -- outside Vermont.
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Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Come On Baby - Don't Light My Fire

Stepping out of the Airstream at seven this morning to walk the dog, I noticed a neighbor at the nearly-deserted Tennessee campground stirring his campfire and adding wood. What's with this fascination with wood fires? Last night, several groups sat around in lawn chairs, wearing parkas, staring at their campfires. It was 45 degrees out.

I've studied the fire habits of folks in campgrounds throughout the Southwest -- and am still amazed at the efforts folks go to. The state campgrounds in Texas are denuded of firewood and camp hosts sell bundles. Lots of folks bring it with them, even though it's prohibited. I saw a big motor home the other day with a half-cord of split wood in a side compartment.

The Texas bass fisherman at Choke Canyon probably win the prize. They put their money into big bass boats so most of them tent camp. They have roaring bonfires and laugh and drink half the night -- and aren't the best neighbors.

The Louisiana fisherman we saw a few days ago are also pretty avid. They camp in clusters of motorhomes/trailers and between the lights hanging up and the roaring fires, it looks like broadway. Country music wailing and loud talk complete the scene -- fortunately we were parked far away.

A Louisiana guy told me that he'd camped at our site earlier -- and had left me some firewood. I told him, "I heat with wood all winter -- so we don't do campfires." He understood.

So, no smoky clothes in the Airstream. I suspect, once we get the grandkids to come along, we'll be back at the fire, 'smores, and scary story scene again. Till then, we'll leave the firewood for others and admire their work ... from afar.

Photo by wili_hybrid

Friday, March 12, 2010

On Turning 70

One of the reasons for this Southwest adventure was to celebrate the fact that we were both turning 70 this year -- and sure enough, like clockwork, I did so on March 9th. (MRM has months & months to go.) It was a wonderful day -- perhaps the best we’ve had climate-wise and relaxation-wise.

We’re at the Sam Houston National Forest, about 40 miles north of Houston, surrounded by tall pine trees. After the onslaught of kids last weekend at our last site, it’s nice to have peace and quiet and few campers. We leave tomorrow for a couple of state parks in Louisiana as we start the trek northeastward.

Frankly, I’m still a bit surprised to be seventy. I remember years ago in Syracuse, when I was doing a lot of road racing in my early forties, knowing some of the “ old farts” who plodded along toward the end of the pack. I admired them, wrote a couple of magazine articles about one of them -- and now find that I’m one of them. It is a new age group -- always one perk of turning a new decade for runners, skiers, paddlers, etc.

I got a nice early birthday present here: I added the red-cockaded woodpecker, an endangered bird, to my life list. This forest is one of a few in the south that supports this bird, which needs specially-managed pine habitats to survive. They nest in living pine trees and are rather rare. I knew they were around here, but scarce -- and was advised that early morning and dusk were the best times to try to see them.

There’s a place with some known nests about a mile from here so I went up on Monday night to take a look. It was showery and I had the Vizsla with me -- not exactly great birding conditions. After spending some time traipsing around and dodging showers, and seeing nothing, I decided to try a bird call from my iPhone. (I don’t like to do this because I’ve heard that it can confuse the birds but thought -- this is probably the only time I’ll be here...) Well, no sooner had I played the call from the iBird app when two woodpeckers repeated it. I was astounded -- and saw one fly by and then saw another one land on a pine tree not far away. I got a great look -- the bird is sort of like a downy woodpecker without the white on the back. It matched the drawings I’d studied and of course, the call was also the same. I was psyched. I’d stepped on the dog’s leash and she was patient as I watched the woodpecker for 10 minutes or more.

My birthday started, as most of our days do, early. We had coffee and yogurt in our separate beds reading email, blogs, and news feeds on our iPhones. (I wonder how many 70-year-olds start their day that way -- perhaps more than we think.)

I took Penny for a nice walk on the woods loop where she can run freely and then decided to take a birthday run. I wanted to do 7 miles for 70 but since I haven’t been running much this trip, opted for an hour. It wasn’t pretty but felt pretty good -- and a nice start to the day.

Our daughter Jen, unbeknownst to me, had arranged an email blitz and I got many emails and Facebook greetings. Several cellphone calls and messages and a text message or two. It was great hearing from folks and it made me realize once again why the Post Office is losing money. One package (which was wonderful) and one note but the rest all electronic.

We had an easy day, enjoying the wonderful weather, and opted to cook out rather than drive 20 miles to a restaurant. (Mary took me for a birthday lunch -- which was delightful -- the next day.)

It’s wonderful to celebrate this milestone with Mary, my friend and partner ... and Penny, who with her constant need for exercise and attention, keeps me moving.

Monday, March 8, 2010

5 Pounds of Possum

Last night, when we were listening to a local bluegrass band playing at a chilly outdoor amphitheater at Brazos Bend State Park, they did a number titled “5 Pounds of Possum in my Headlights Tonight.” It’s a cute song about a working mom with no money, an empty refrigerator, and a supper opportunity -- as the title says. I suspect PETA has not approved the song. It reminded me that we are in Texas .. a long way .. in many ways, from Vermont.

you know you’re in Texas:

.. when a bluegrass band plays Five Pounds of Possum in my Headlights Tonight.

.. when empty plastic bottles rattle around the back of the pickup since no one recycles. We’ve only found one Texas State Park with containers and all there seems to be are out-of-the-way municipal sites .. not easy to reach when hauling an Airstream.

.. when 12-foot-long alligators snooze on the bike path bank. Now that gets a Vermonter’s attention. (There are 300 adult alligators in Brazos Bend State Park ... but who's counting?)

.. when you check out groceries and the register beeps and refuses to sell you beer -- because it’s Sunday and you can’t buy beer until 1:00 P.M.

.. when all you can get on the truck radio is country/western music and religious broadcasting.

-- when barbecue is not what you do, but what you eat

-- when only the state flag is flying over the visitors center (we decided not to ask why)

We’ve enjoyed Texas: the weather, the people, the birds and the wildlife. The Texas State Park system is excellent with better facilities than Vermont parks. Yet the reports of early spring days back home are starting to tug at us and I can sense how the robins and redwing blackbirds might feel -- it’s time to start making plans to head north.

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Monday, March 1, 2010

Northern Wheatear

I've been reading on the Texas birdlist about the daily sightings of the Northern Wheatear in Beeville, Texas. This caught my eye because as I noted in a past posting, we have ties to Beeville.

This bird, a resident of the far north, should be wintering in Africa with the rest of its buddies. How it arrived at John's (an Amish farmer) field is Texas is anyone's guess but fortunately, he's an amateur birder and identified it -- and soon experts from all over were coming and verifying it. It's been seen about every day right out behind his house.

We were planning to go right by the site on our way to Goliad State Park so I decided to take the six mile detour and see if I could spot it -- figuring it's definitely the only chance I'll ever have.

We parked the truck and Airstream by the road and I walked in the ramshackle farm operation. A young birder from Central Texas was there and as I signed the book, I saw addresses from all over the country. He had a big telephoto but had not yet seen the bird.

We watched dozens of meadowlarks (eastern or western -- not sure) and other birds and I was getting discouraged -- the breeze was stiff and Mary and Penny were waiting.

Then I saw an Amish buggy coming down the road toward the truck and thought, "Oh no, Penny!" It was too far to run to the truck to warn Mary and I didn't have my iPhone and soon I heard Penny go ballistic, saw the horse shy away from the truck, and thought, "Oh great, what a nice introduction." The buggy turned in the lane and soon I was apologizing but John and the two women he was training to drive, were fine.

Just then, the guy with the camera said, "Did you see it?" And of course, I hadn't. The bird had popped up on a tank - he'd snapped one shot -- and off it went into the weeds. About five or ten minutes went by and I was getting bummed when up it came, perching about 10 feet from me on an old tank. I got a wonderful view with the binoculars as the guy shot dozens of shots. The bird sort of posed, moving around the tank, giving us side views, front views, until it got sick of it and moved off. We were psyched.

As you can see, the bird is not spectactular except in its rarity. It was a great experience for an amateur birder. So with the Roadside hawk, the Jacana, the groove-billed Ana, and the Wheatear, I've added some pretty rare birds to my list. The total list, modest at the start, has grown by over 100 birds this trip.

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photo by seabarium

Friday, February 26, 2010

Texas Haircut

I’ve always enjoyed small town barber shops -- usually the price is right and it’s fun to go through the “who are you, stranger?” grilling. Yesterday, feeling a bit shaggy, I asked the operator of the laundromat in Three Rivers, Texas where I could get a haircut -- and was not looking for a “foo-foo styling outfit.” She gave me directions to a little one-room operation not far away -- where a retired barber (over 80 years old) cuts hair in a little annex off his house.

I drove into his narrow drive, parked behind a Texas pickup, and walked into a museum of Texas artifacts -- and attitudes. The guy in the chair was over 80 as well and they were talking “Obamacare” and how their Medicare was going go get cut to pay for abortions, etc. You get the picture: right out of Rush, Glen Beck, and the rest of the wing-nuts. They went on for a bit and I just glanced at a year-old magazine and bit my tongue. Bubba, a local pipeline guy, came in with his pressed jeans and clean shirt -- dressed for town. He joined right in but pretty soon, at one point saying, “I don’t know anyone who voted for him -- it’s all those kids and Easterners.” I decided that a political debate would get nowhere and kept quiet; soon the subject changed to some local writer who wrote about the area.

The shop was amazing in decor -- if you are into stuffed animals. Several big deer heads, a javelina, a bobcat, and a few other critters lined the little space. A Colt 45 was in a case, with a Bowie knife, and all sorts of old posters and paraphernalia. The background music was country/western (big surprise) and the old boy did a good job cutting hair. We talked a little about gas/oil leases, winter Texans (which is what they call snowbirds down here), and where I could get an oil change for the truck.He did the whole nine yards: shave around the edges, lotion, powder, and all for seven bucks.

I told them that our daughter was born over in Beeville, Texas. I didn’t bother to tell them that she’s a MA liberal who works for the American Friends Service. They knew I was from Vermont -- it would be fun to have a tape of the conversation once I left the place. Texas is a red state -- and man, from everything I’ve heard down here, won’t be changin’ anytime soon.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Hunkered Down

A cold front with cold rain and wind is hitting us -- after a stretch of nice weather. This is a day to find some wifi at the local library and pay some bills. We drove yesterday from the border up to Choke Canyon State Park -- which is a big reservoir which provides water for Corpus Christi.
This place is teeming with wildlife -- as you can see from the 8-pointer who just stared at us as we drove by. It’s an iPhone photo so we were close.

I had a chance to see the rare Northern Jacana which has been hanging around for a few weeks -- and used the spotting scope of a fellow birder to get a good look. I had the glasses on him when he flew with a wonderful flashing of yellow flight feathers. (Mary & I saw him up close this morning)

The interior of the Airstream stays toasty but the condensation builds up on windows and doors on days like this. Penny is sacked out on the couch beside me, snoring away. She has a bunny out back which has caught her interest and I think she’s chasing it as her legs move in doggy dreams.

We’re back in the land of TV in English, having only had two Spanish stations down at Falcon. However, whether in Spanish or English, it’s all pretty mindless. We are fortunate to get a public broadcasting station for our Newshour fix. Between blogs and Huffpost, we keep up to speed on the iPhones. I read the Times-Argus and Brattleboro Reformer online to stay up with VT issues.

Off to the big town of Three Rivers which doesn’t have much but does have a library and laundromat -- the essentials of life for Airstream (and other RV) owners.

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Saturday, February 20, 2010

Toto, I have a feeling we’re not in Vermont anymore

 Going to bed, listening to coyotes and the constant humming of oil/gas extraction nearby.  The lights of Mexican towns glitter across the reservoir.  What a contrast to Vermont -- although we’ve had a couple of rainy days, the prickly pear and yucca cactus and many other thorny plants let us know we are in deep Texas.

Thursday we went down to the Roma library to use their wifi connection.  The room was abuzz in Spanish, making it feel like we were across the border - just a mile away.  Later, at a Walmart in Rio Grande City, we were about the only two anglos out of the hundreds of patrons.  No big deal - and we marvel, as we do in Montreal, of the adroit switching from language to language.  Mary overheard a cellphone discussion by the person next in line who interrupted a steady chatter of Spanish to say, “and you got the shrimp, right?” then switching right back to Spanish.

Yesterday, while out on a walk with Penny, four javelinas sauntered across the road in a line, starting from momma to the youngest.  Then a sharp-shinned hawk wove through the thickets in search of a bird to eat.  And hundreds of grackles and red-winged blackbirds (pests here right now) are hopefully thinking about heading north.

We awoke to a screech owl, cardinals, and mockingbirds.  The forecast today is for mid-seventies.  We can only imagine what August must be like down here.  It’s a foreign land in many ways to us native Vermonters.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

The Rare Roadside Hawk

As part of my preparation for our SW trip, I joined birder email groups in Tennessee, Louisiana, and Texas. One of the big deals for the last ten days has been the roadside hawk, a rare species from Mexico, that showed up at Falcon State Park.

I’m not that serious a birder, but getting more serious, and that sort of locked in our next destination from Goose Island. This place is right on the Mexico border, next to a big international reservoir, and full of birds and birders. People drive here just to try to see the hawk.

Yesterday was our first day here (it’s a nicely laid-out park filled with Canadians and folks from Wisconsin, Minnesota, and elsewhere north. Very few New Englanders.

I was out walking Penny just after dawn (which comes here late so far west in the Central time zone) when a car stopped and asked me if I knew where the roadside hawk was. I passed on some news I’d heard about possible locations and returned for breakfast. Later that morning, they drove slowly by again -- still no hawk.

A little later, I was talking with our Oklahoma neighbors (who have been coming here for 23 years) when the same car stopped, rolled down the window and reported, “He’s down by the recreation area in the top of a tree.”

I grabbed my binoculars and walked down in that direction. Passing the recreation hall, a young man asked me if I had heard of any hawk sightings and soon he and his parents were walking with me down the road, where up ahead, we saw a small group of birders set up. (It turns out that my companions had driven over from Louisiana just to get to see the bird -- every day a bunch more show up.) Sure enough, the young hawk was sitting in full view in a big bare tree, easily visible by binoculars. I could make out the striping and coloration but when I had a chance to look through a spotting scope, it was even more remarkable. He posed for ten minutes or so and then flew off, not to be seen the rest of the day.Later, while watching birds at a feeding location, Penny suddenly bristled and growled and lo and behold, a javelina sauntered out and started eating dropped bird seed. The iPhone picture doesn’t really capture how close he was.

We are seeing some amazing birds -- most of whom never get up our way. Green jays are spectacular as is the vermillion flycatcher. Today we saw all three orioles resident here: altimira oriole, Audobon oriole, and the hooded oriole. Visiting a sanctuary filled with golden-fronted woodpeckers, Great Kiskadoos, and orioles reminded me of the first time I snorkeled in tropical water. It was sensory overload.

So, Mary and I have given up snow for Lent. But we are reveling in the wonders of this part of our country.

Roadside hawk photo by Wagner Machado Carlos Lemes
Green jay photo by JunCTio

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Sunday, February 14, 2010

‘Gators & Wild Pigs

South Texas has a little bit of everything. We’ve been taking short trips from our Goose Island base -- the other day we went up to Port Aransas to pick up our forwarded mail. It was a rainy blustery day as we lined up to ride the free ferry across the channel. There was a slight delay in leaving and then a long string of barges crossed in front of us. It’s hard to get used to the scale of things here: freight trains are often miles long and barges likewise are long and slow.

Yesterday we visited Aransas National Wildlife Area which is about a 35 mile drive. I don’t think we changed elevation more than ten feet the whole way - that to cross streams - and most of it was straight as an arrow. It was a little like driving from Burlington, VT to Rutland with nothing but flat land all the way. Massive black dirt field lie in wait of spring planting -- and way across them, you could see cars and trucks moving like mirages. I remember these roads from flying here -- it was easy to pick a straight road and line up for a maneuver over it, be it a loop or a simulated landing pattern.

Aransas NWA is internationally-known for wintering Whooping Cranes and all sorts of wildlife. We took one of the drives and part way through it, two deer were beside the road. An Iowa SUV filled with people, stopped dead in the road and just sat there -- seemingly for ever -- taking pictures. Mary & I were fuming. “This isn’t an African safari, folks, we said in the car -- heck, we’ve got deer in the back yard at home.” After a long time, the deer moved, the SUV started crawling along, and I was able to pass. It wasn’t a great start -- but things did get better.

At the observation tower, we saw some pretty spoonbills and white egrets. Mary noted some black things moving in the scrub brush. I at first thought they were bears -- they were the same color and size of black bears -- but when I saw their ears, I knew they were javelinas. First we’ve ever seen -- and it was great to be 100’ above them with Penny asleep in the car.

Returning to the center, we saw some interesting birds: common moorhen, common yellowthroat, coot, etc. Then Mary said, “There are two alligators right there.” And sure enough, as advertised, a couple of pretty good-size gators were just lying there in the swamp -- not moving -- nearly invisible.

Last night, on a long walk with Penny, I watched grey pelicans line up for fish scraps from a guy cleaning fish at the boat ramp. They sat there until he finished a fish and they leaned foreward with a “pick me” attitude as he tossed the goodies to them. A couple of heron gulls hung around looking for extra parts.
The weather is better today -- it’s been a little chilly by South Texas standards. We’ve leaving in the morning for Falcon State park down by the border. Supposed to have some real interesting birds found nowhere else in U.S. It’s forecast in the high seventies down there late next week. We’ll see.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Trailer light gremlins

Our ongoing saga of blown fuses and battery draining continues. My brother Barry and his spouse Mica hooked up with us at Goose Island the other day before they headed west (we have decided to hang around this area for now rather than heading to Big Bend.) Barry is an Airstream whiz, having renovated two old trailers from scratch and working on all the electrical, plumbing, and gas systems. He brought his tools and we spent the afternoon poking, testing, and drawing blanks for solutions.

The trailer running lights come on for about five seconds and then go off when the trailer is hooked up to the truck. We have power from the truck for the lights and traced the line into the trailer into some sort of relay/splitter under the couch. Barry is slim and crawled under the couch with his test light and found that the line going out of the splitter seemed dead. We sort of gave up, buttoned up, and had a nice dinner together. Here's his followup guidance to me:
Just a recap, the green wire into the trailer stays hot to a small box of 4 wires, green out, black, and red. Black wire on box is ground. Red wire is hot, don't know what it is. Green wire out may go to a junction of wires to various running lights. If you can find that junction unhook all wires and start hooking up one at a time to see if you can find the problem. Good luck.
So, for now we don't drive at night. All other lights are working. And the project of sorting out the malfunctions continue. Fortunately, the days are getting longer.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Beeville’s changed -- have we?

We took a magically memory trip yesterday up to Beeville, Texas where we lived during flight training. The trip up from Aransas Pass was flat and fast -- 70 mph four-lane with direct access and suddenly-appearing stop signs. We saw fields of elegant windmills slowly turning in the stiff Texas wind.

We spent about nine months in Beeville while I took advanced naval flight training in the F9F Cougar and then a short finish course in the then-hot F-11 Tiger. We carrier-qualified in the F9 and had a blast dog-fighting in the afterburner-equipped Tiger. The goal of this visit was to see if we could find our old residence, the hospital where our daughter Jennifer was born, and the air station. One out of three accomplished!

Beeville is a city of about 15,000 just north of Corpus Christi. We used our GPS mapping on the iPhone to find Rosewood Avenue where we rented during our stay there. We found the street, which seems a little seeder four decades later and took this photo of the house we think we lived in - we weren’t sure of the address.
The hospital was tougher. It was a little adobe-faced country hospital when Jennifer was born. I decided to ask at the big local hospital about it and after a few questions, I found a person in the gift shop who had had a child there a year or two after we left. She told me that it was demolished a while back and that a vacant lot now marked the spot. We talked about how progressive the hospital had been -- Dr. Miller let me observe the delivery of our baby -- and she then led me down the hall to a photo gallery where a picture of that wonderful doctor hung. I took a picture as a memory and it tugged at Mary’s heart when she saw it.

Mary & I found the spot, took a picture of the lot, and then asked at a gas station about directions to the air station. “Oh, that’s a prison system now,” the clerk said. “The Navy pulled out about ten years ago.” Oh well, I was wondering why I hadn’t seen any Navy jets around.

It was a nice trip -- and we weren’t really surprised to see all the changes. We saw a bunch of Crested Cara Caras on the way home and made plans to visit Corpus Christi in the days ahead. It’s pretty cold for this area and good weather to sightsee.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Birder Heaven

Leaving Lake Charles, LA, we joined the trucks and RVs on I-10 heading toward Beaumont, Texas. We had decided not to tackle the Houston traffic, given our trailer’s propensity to blow turn signal fuses, and went north on a series of state roads, seeing some of the not-so-touristy side of the Gulf Coast.

Hardscrabble farms and tired towns, with some bright spots. We stopped to pick up some barbecue at a newly-opened restaurant in Conroe, ate it in the trailer at a vacant store parking lot (while the Vizsla napped in the truck), and motored on to Navasota where we camped at a small municipal site near the airport. A rainy, gusty night, a grubby washateria where Mary did laundry, and an impending flu bug made it a less-than-wonderful experience.

The drive to Goose Island State Park, in Rockport, Texas was easy with lots of straight Texas roads with 70 mph limits. We started to see lots of birds as we approached Aransas Wildlife Refuge and soon were searching for a site at the park - where we had made reservations. (Texas has an interesting process in their state parks -- you can reserve a slot for a date or period but not a site -- so you have to decide once you are there which available site you want.)

We found a nice isolated site surrounded by oaks and thickets and right next to a little bird sanctuary and the showers. We set up on the level site and I promptly got sick for two days -- pretty severe stomach bug. Lots of rest, fluids, and good care from Mary and I made a nice recovery yesterday.

I felt up to participating in Saturday's bird walk -- having missed the two earlier ones -- and was astounded at the variety as well as the knowledge of the volunteer guides. We saw about 45 species including willets, gulls, pelicans, ravens, vultures, ducks, and a white ibis. I don't know birds around the sea very well so it was very informative and just spectacular birding.

We really like this place -- it's a wonderful area. We decided to extend for another week rather than keep traveling. Seems nice to settle for a bit and enjoy the weather and the birding. Yesterday afternoon, we drove over to a field where two whooping cranes are living. There were a half-dozen other birders there -- some armed with monstrous lenses for their cameras. The birds were just regal, standing on one leg, preening themselves, ignoring their watchers. It's hard to believe that they fly down from upper Canada and that there are still only a little over 300 of them alive.

This is a nostalgic area for us. Last night out walking the dog, I was watching the sky full of stars and remembering night flying here, decades ago. I happened to remember a night cross-country where I was returning in a F-9 trainer with an instructor high over Houston and we just went inverted and watched the lights of the streets, parking lots, ball field for a while. I did my advanced flight training here, got my Navy wings here, and our daughter was born in this area. Our son got his USMC wings here as well.

So, we've got more whooping cranes to see at the wildlife center, a visit up to Beeville to find our old house and the hospital and the air station, and hope to meet up with my brother Barry and his wife Mica before they head further west. But the schedule is a vacation schedule -- and all plans are flexible. It's nice. Now I need to find those black-bottomed ducks.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Finally, 60's and WiFi

A week after our start, we finally got 60 degree temperatures and a state park with WiFi. The Louisiana park systems rock -- not only are they wired, they also honor the Golden Passport and charge seniors half price.

We are in Lake Charles, LA after an easy trip from Natchez, MS state park -- which was ok but nothing special. It did give us a chance, in spite of cold temperatures, to de-winterize and get the water system going. We continue to fight nagging electrical problems and drove down to Lake Charles with a dead tailight and turn signal on the Airstream. A fuse change solved that.

We met some serious Airstreams, George & Ruth McNinch of Mississippi, who have a cool 05 with a slide. George helped me troubleshoot our battery charging problem - finding that there is no power to the 12V lead on the plug. I did some research on a Ford F-150 forum and learned that sometimes the factory doesn't include a trailer battery relay (05) plug. After checking with an RV dealer and UHaul, I bought the part this morning, plugged it in, and things seem to work. I don't think the truck ever had the $13 plug -- so stay tuned.

Sam Houston Jones State Park is overrun with deer, racoons, and other critters. Our Vizsla met an armadillo yesterday and went nuts -- nearly dragging me across the road to see it. This morning, eight deer were right out behind the Airstream.

The birding is great although there are almost too many for a novice birder like me. I have added about five to my lifelist but will never, without help, figure out the dozens of warblers. We took a short hike today with the dog and Mary really enjoyed seeing her first red-headed woodpecker. Lots of them around here along with sapsuckers.

I took the mountain bike out today with the Springer attachment and gave Penny a good run on the park roads. She's snoring away on the couch as I type -- tuckered her out.

I ran today in shorts and singlet for the first time in many months. Tomorrow, we leave for a small city park in Navasota, TX enroute to Goose Island, then Mustang Island, then Padre Island.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Sleeping on the Median Strip

Last night in Carlisle, PA, we stopped at a Flying J truck stop since they have spaces for rvs for overnight camping. Being right next to I-81 and a major on/off ramp, the roar of downshifting diesel trucks was our bedtime lullaby. It felt like we were camping out on the median of I-81. Quite different from the stillness of our Vermont home where a distant dog barking seems an annoyance.

The day started well with a safe descent of our icy driveway and a departure up over Mendon Mountain on dry roads. The trip over to the Northway and down to Albany was easy but I-88 to Binghamton was challenging. First of all, the hills. I’d forgotten that the road, built and named for Warren Anderson, had so many long climbs and descents. Snow showers, rather heavy at times, added to the drama. Soon, we were on I-81 heading south into Pennsylvania. Aside from the many trucks and hitting Harrisburg at rush hour, things went well.

It was cold and windy and the Airstream was icy cold inside. We got the furnace going but have no water because we’re still winterized. We’re running everything off the battery.

Well, we were. We awoke, after a good night’s sleep in spite of truck noise -- we were bushed from the long drive -- and found the trailer cool. I went to crank up the heat and realized that the battery was low, with not enough juice to light the furnace.

This made us decide to get dressed and packed quick-like, get some Flying J coffee to go, and head on out and warm up in the truck. After a quick run with Penny, off we went. It was early and very dark but truck traffic on I-81 was already heavy. I checked my mirrors after a few miles and realized that the trailer lights were not on. We’d been running without them.

I pulled over to the side of the road, got out and with traffic racing by, checked connections with a flashlight. I checked fuses inside and was at a loss. We sat in the truck as tractor-trailers rocked it with the sidewash.

I decided to see if the blinkers worked, and yes they did. So did the brake lights. I thought we’d have to wait an hour there until it got light enough -- and as we drank coffee I realized that the lights had been on when I first started the truck. It hit me -- the running lights must need power from the battery.

So out in the dark and cold behind the truck, with Mary holding the flashlight and me dropping tools with half-frozen hands, we got the spare battery in place and voila! lights!

The day was rather uneventful after that start. It was great to see once again the gaggles of hawks riding thermals -- something I’ve seen a lot in the south. As a sailplane pilot, it is a sight that always make me think of circling in lift, riding the rising air upward.

Another thing that was fun to see was the water tanks in Virginia. Several were painted beautifully -- one had a mural that made it look like a hot air balloon. I used to run a federal program for rural water systems and so I wondered, “ Did we pay for that fancy paint job.”

A small town along the way had two plain water tanks on a hill behind the community -- one marked “hot” and the other “cold.”

The day ended with rush hour in Knoxville heading into a setting sun. Nothing like fighting stop and go traffic after a long day on the road but I must say, Tennessee drivers are generally pretty sane. Even with a trailer in tow, I felt much calmer that I do in Massachusetts traffic. So we are settled at another Flying J and head tomorrow for the Natchez Trace Parkway where we can drive more leisurely, without trucks to deal with, and start settling into a tourist mode.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Recycling on the Road

The truck and airstream are nearly loaded for our SW trip. As I moved recycling materials to be picked up yesterday, I got thinking more about where our paper, cans, bottles will go while traveling. I know Vermont and New York have recycling at their state campgrounds, but beyond that, I don't have a clue. Anyone got any tips on good ways to recycle on the road?

I know that you can use Google Maps to find recycling centers in the area your in - but driving around with a travel trailer looking for a center is just not going to happen.

Here's some information I found on a Utah state website:

While you're on the road, pack drinks, sandwiches, and snacks in reusable thermoses and containers. If you dine at carry-out restaurants, take only the condiments, napkins, and utensils you need. If you are at a visitors' center, take only the brochures you need and recycle the ones you don't keep. And above all, don't litter-carry your trash or recyclables with you until you find an appropriate waste or recycling container.

So hopefully, we won't have an Airstream filled with paper bags of newspapers and cans when we return to Vermont in six weeks. Recycling options is something I'll start checking more closely as we plan our stops.

Got any ideas for us?

photos by recyclethis