The Adventures of Airstream Mikie

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Service notes

I finally got a free day to take the Airstream in for some warranty work.
1.  The monitor panel was replaced and now my black water tank level indicates correctly.
2.  The incredibly loud water pump was a simple matter of the hoses banging against each other, and all is now much quieter.  What a relief, and a pleasant surprise that it was so simple to fix.
3.  A couple of fit-and-finish issues with weatherstripping were taken care of, but one became un-fixed almost immediately.  So I get to put it on the list for next time.
4.  After several attempts, it is now fixed: the screw that was missing and could not stay in to the support for the dump hose storage tube.

Not bad, really.  Except for:
1.  Still need hole drilled to accept the removable tongue wheel.   The next time will be the 3rd request.

It's interesting to me that there is no formal document created when you bring your Airstream in for service.  There is nothing to sign to say this is what you want done, no estimate of costs, and nothing to sign to say you have received your Airstream back.  Nothing at all to say who did the work, how long it took, and of course, no records that would show how many times something was requested and not done, or had to be redone.  Without this information, there can be no measurable quality control.  And, in business, if it can not be measured, it can not be managed.  It's a completely different experience when I bring my Toyota FJ Cruiser in for service!

But, on balance, I was in and out of there in no time at all, and time passed very quickly as I toured the other Airstreams on the lot, looking for my next upgrade, feeding my aluminum lust.  It was interesting seeing how much nicer the new ones are than my bare-bones model.  For now, I've got plenty to keep me busy...

For example, the Yamaha inverter arrived and, with help, gave it a try, and it ran the TV and the microwave, but it couldn't start the Air Conditioner.  It was a hot day, maybe 85 degrees, and it takes extra power to start an AC unit, but at least 6 tries it gave a power overload reset on the inverter.  Disappointing.  This is the inverter that was recommended for this model by Airstream...

The inverter is huge and heavy (79 lbs.).  There is no way I'm going to schlep that critter around.   So that means mounting it in the rear of the Toyota, and running it with the hatch door open.  Seems like it will be necessary to do some custom work to make it work right in that space.

My concern is that it is too small a unit to be satisfactory.  If it can't run all the appliances simultaneously, it is sub-optimal.
On the plus side, a larger unit would have an option for wireless starting, which certainly seems much more civilized than the raw work of this lower rated model.  But it's going to cost a lot more money, be lots heavier, take up more space, noisier...

And the beat goes on...

Monday, August 24, 2009

Electric Avenue

I just want to turn stuff on, and off.

Why is it so complicated with AC and DC and volts and amps and watts and generators and inverters and some things use one kind but not the other and some things go both ways. Some devices need a generator (not supplied). Some devices can get by with a smaller generator, but to use the AC you need a bigger generator. And even then you might blow a fuse if you wanted to use the AC and the microwave at the same time.

We put a man on the moon 40 years ago, but today I can't charge my iPhone in the Airstream unless I had the engine running in the tow vehicle, or a separate generator running? Even then I could do it only with a non-Airstream add-on inverter.

Why present buyers with all these variables, doubts, concerns, etc. Offer a complete power solution that is simple.

If you plug into "shore power" you can run all your stuff without worry of overload. However, the very design and purpose of the vehicle is to be able to go places and be off the grid. It seems that a simple, complete solution would sell more than a product that does not address the many power issues. Maybe it's just me, but I think there's a big market waiting.

I feel like I need a degree in physics to deal with this stuff. It would be a lot easier for me if I could buy a complete and integrated power solution that included a generator that will run anything in the trailer, including air conditioning, and charge the batteries. run an iPod and charge my iPhone, and run my laptop computer, etc. That just doesn't seem to be asking too much.

And then there's the whole subject of propane and solar! Make it simple, people will buy.

This is an opportunity for Airstream to offer a complete solution, so more people buy and use their products, and be happier customers.

The bottom line is that Airstream would enjoy a steady flow of new profits from this business opportunity.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Checklist Version 1.0

I have already screwed up in ways too embarrassing to say, and it only confirms to me that if I had taken the time to prepare (and use) some basic checklists, I might have saved myself some grief. So today I took a first pass at it:

Pre-Departure Checklist

Tow Vehicle checkout
Refuel tow vehicle, check fluids
Tires - check pressure, also spare

Trailer checkout
Tires - check pressure
Dump black and gray water
Fresh water fill
Propane - check levels
Refrigerator - start

Recharge electronics:

Food Inventory
Coffee Filters
Trail Mix bars
V8 juice

Supplies Checklist
TP, soap, shampoo, toothpaste
Black water additives
Trash bags
Baggies, small, large
Paper towels
Towels - kitchen, bath (large & small), beach
Batteries - D, C, AA, AAA, 9-volt

Pre-Departure Shopping
Water Bottles, 6 per day, minimum
Fruit, bananas, oranges
Fruit Juices (mango and blueberry)
Maple Syrup
Half and Half
Prepared meals, sauces

Pre-Tow Checklist

Load all supplies, food, water, clothes, etc.
Load all campground items (chairs, etc) into T.V. and Airstream

Interior Lock-Down
Window, close
Shower door closed and snapped secure
Shower items secure
Blinds, secure, close
Counter top, stow or secure loose items
Lights, off

Countertop - stow loose items
Sink - water off, lid closed, drain open
Window - close, blinds secure and closed
Upper Storage - secure, closed
Lower Storage - secure, closed
Ceiling Fan - turn off
Ceiling Vent - close tight
Refrigerator - close door, stow/secure items on top
Gas Stove - check gas off, lower lid
TV - secure
TV antenna - lower and secure
Lights off

Side Window - close, secure and close blinds
Upper Storage - secure contents, turn off radio, remove iPod charger, close covers
Skylight cover - close
Electrical Master Switch - turn ON to recharge batteries during tow
Lights off, overhead and switches by the door
Under bed storage area, secure

Slide lock left
Close the door firmly
Check it is locked
Stow the step

Exterior Walk-around Inspection
Door closed, locked secure
Entry step stowed
RF stabilizer raised
Awning secure
Fresh water door secure
Kitchen window closed
Sewer hose storage tube cover, secure
RR stabilizer raised
Rear Window secure
LR stabilizer raised
Sewer and Gray water valve pulls closed securely
Water Outlet cover secure
Outside Shower door secure
City Water inlet secure
Sewer Flush inlet secure
Refrigerator Vents, upper and lower, secure
Shore Power door secure
Cable TV cover secure
Hot Water Heater door secure
LF stabilizer raised
Side Window closed
Front (Pano) window cover secure
Propane cover secure
Battery secure

Hitch Checklist
Starting at Right Rear of Tow Vehicle (T.V.)
Raise Tongue to 18"
Hitch lever - slide forward and flip up
Remove ball cover on tow vehicle, stow it in T.V.
Grease ball
Back tow vehicle into position
Lower Tongue over ball completely
Hitch lever - flip down securely
Raise tongue again to 18"
Load Equalizer Bar - Install Left and Right
Lower tongue completely, raising post fully
Safety chains, crossed and hook to T.V.
Breakaway cable, hook to safety chain clevis hook
Electric connection - hook securely to T.V.

Final Walk-Around Checklist
T.V. headlights on
T.V. rear hatch window and door closed secure
T.V. rear lights on
Trailer door closed secure,
Step stowed
Check lights on T.V. and trailer
Check hitch
T.V. mirrors
GPS set destination
iPhone, mount on dashboard, bluetooth hookup, power hookup
Pull out slowly, listen for problems
Check brakes
Equalize trailer and T.V. brakes

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Day Trip 2: Torrey Pines State Beach, Torrey Pines, CA

At 5:30 AM, I showed up just in time to get the last parallel parking spot along Highway 101.  I love these handful of spots because the Airstream door opens out onto the sand, or at most  2-3 steps from the sand.  And it's free.  

Park all day from 6AM to 11AM, but no overnight stays allowed. 

This is a no-brainer for me.  The Airstream storage is maybe 2 miles away, and the beach is about 3 miles from there, so I can be there with a minimum of effort.  The effort/reward ratio is very high.

Kendra and Debbie were featured guests for the first pancake breakfast in the Airstream.  Forgot the flipper.  Duh.

Feeling the need for a generator.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Dixie Dancy saved my life!

It all started when I was at the Airstream dealer, the only Airstream dealer in Southern California, looking to learn more about the different models. It was really just a scouting mission, to see them in real life instead of the brochure and website.

The first one I looked at was the Sport 17 model, and the special price was marked in big numbers on the front pano window. However, since I am the son of a car dealer, I am quite familiar with the ways of some dealers, and a healthy dose of skepticism can save a person some real nasty mistakes. So I asked to see the MSRP (Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price) which is a document that by federal law must be shown. In the car trade the document is known as the Monroney sticker because it was Senator Monroney who sponsored the bill which mandated the disclosure of such prices in a standard format. All that aside, many people are not aware of the federal law, or the MSRP, or the window (Monroney) sticker, and if they see a big number written on the window, they just assume that's the price. Not me, I know better. And I've seen those special prices on the window that are actually HIGHER than the MSRP, but you wouldn't know that without checking the MSRP.

(click the photo to see the detail)

So far, so good. The dealer shows me the Monroney sticker price document, and my first reaction is that this thing is Bogus! Totally bogus. The first thing I notice is that the name Airstream is nowhere on the document! How can that be? Is this an Airstream or not? It shows that it's a Sport 17, but not an Airstream? Weird. Very suspicious. I look around the lot, and there are plenty of Airstreams. Very well stocked. I figure they just MUST be an Airstream dealer because of the research on the internet I've been doing, and all paths point to this place being the only authorized dealer in SoCal.

So I call their bluff. I mention the obvious missing name of Airstream on the document, and ask the sales rep, Jerry Handley, very directly if he is sure that this is the official MSRP document, and he assures me, very earnestly that it is in fact the proper document. I am not convinced.

While we are discussing the missing manufacturer name (not even a logo!) I take a closer look and... what the heck is that: the word "gray" is spelled GREAY! And the word "height" is spelled "HIEIGHT" and to add insult to injury, on the line right below that, the same word "height" is spelled HGITH. What the heck is this about? Don't these people use computers? How can such things get through a spell-checker? Or, was this thing typed by hand, on a bad day when the computers were down, and it was the last day of the month, and they needed to ship a few units in order to get their bonuses, and the lights were off so they couldn't see what they were typing, and they ran out of the official forms with the company name and logo? Sure, I can buy that scenario. Stuff happens! A once in a lifetime comedy of errors and I'm standing there looking at the evidence. I'm thinking that maybe I have an instant collector's item here that's going to be worth a few bucks in another hundred years or so. Yeah, right, says my car dealer's son's skeptical brain. This thing was typed locally, and poorly, to bogus up the numbers so they could make a few extra bucks from any rube who is naive enough to believe it.

But my mother always brought me up to be nice, so I didn't say all that to Jerry Handley, who may really not have known that the boss was cranking out bogus MSRPs in the dead of night. Jerry, by the way, was really very helpful, patient, and informative... the ideal sort of person you would want to help you on an exploratory mission. Certainly not the kind of guy you would expect to be in on a con.

The mystery was not solved that day, and I went home to consider my anticipated purchase of the Sport 17, and to do some more research on the price. And I'll be darned... the numbers seemed legit, so what the heck was the reason for the very strange Monroney sticker?

I let that question go for later, put a down payment on the Airstream the next day, spent a few more days buying a tow vehicle, and then went back to do the deal and take delivery and tow it home and start learning all about the magical mysteries of Airstreaming.

Until this morning, when I finally ran out of plausible scenarios that could produce such a document from a company with a reputation for quality. My curiosity finally got the best of me and put me over the edge of caution and fear and launched me into one of modern life's most dreaded experiences: Calling a big business customer service department.

Let me explain... I've been in the business world, computers to be specific, for the last 45 years, and I know that dealing with customer service people can be some of the most challenging events in a person's life. I dread calling customer service departments at ANY company, even the best are bad. Now when you also consider the fact that I will soon be 67 years old, and I do not suffer fools lightly, I treat all customer service interactions as potentially life-threatening (to me). I avoid these situations like the plague. But as I mentioned, curiosity got the best of me.

In Fear of The Hammer of Thor

So I picked up the phone and called the Airstream company, division of Thor Industries, which owns several makes of RVs. "Thor"? Really? Viking God of Thunder and excellent customer service? No Way, right?

I was greeted nicely by a pleasant voice who asked me how they could help. Of course, being the skeptic, and having dealt with more than one person whose job it is to "help" customers, I was expecting to be transferred several times to the wrong people, and then having my call dropped, and calling back several more times, more transfers, leaving messages, etc, etc, etc... BUT NO! I said I had an MSRP document that seemed strange, but then figured that she probably didn't know what an MSRP is, so I asked her, and I'll be darned if she didn't come right out with "sure, it's the Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price"!

Oh, I've got a real, live, thinking human being here! She sounds like she knows what she's talking about AND she seems to care. What are the odds of that?

She asks me for the last 5 digits of the serial number, on the upper right of the document, and almost instantly she retrieves it from her computer. I continue with my story, and mention that the name Airstream is nowhere on the document, and I'll be darned, after a brief look-see on her part, she agrees with me, and also agrees that it is strange, but hadn't noticed that before. She does say that there is a faint graphic showing a guy pulling an Airstream with a bicycle, but that doesn't show on my copy, which was scanned and emailed to me by the dealer. And I don't remember seeing it on the document that was shown to me by the dealer, but maybe that was a copy, and some copiers don't pick up light blue, so we move on to the typos. I directed her to the first one, told her how many lines up from the bottom of the right column, and before I could be more specific, she spots it herself and says "the word gray is wrong". This girl is sharp, seriously on the ball. So I direct her to look two lines down and Bingo! Again she spots the extra letter "I" in the word "HIEIGHT". I am really impressed now, so I wasn't so surprised when she spotted the other error on the following line too.

This person is truly a ray of sunshine in the cold, dark world of customer service. She is extremely polite, and helpful, and very much on my side with all this. She verifies all the prices on the document, and our paperwork is in agreement, perfectly. So that's the end of the mystery to me, but she goes on to assure me that she will take these things up with the top guy in the sales department right away, and be sure these things are handled, and because of her tone, and her on-the-ball awareness, intelligence, and courtesy, I actually believe her! You can't get better than that.

One in a Million?

So we hang up and I'm feeling like I just had one of those one in a million customer service experiences. And then I call back and just had to know her name because I'm going to let the president of Airstream know he's got one very, very good person working there.

Dixie is her name. Dixie Dancy. What a fun name! ("and I'm not a dancer" she says with a fun spirit in her voice)

If there are any Airstream competitors out there who need to upgrade their customer service department, you should call Dixie and pay her a lot of money. But if your name is Bob Wheeler, president of Airstream, I suggest you call Dixie into your office and give her a big fat raise and tell her what a great job she is doing as an ambassador of goodwill for Airstream, and give her every promotion she can handle, and I'm thinking that's big.

Thanks, Dixie, and all the best to you!

ps: Bob Wheeler, President of Airstream... they have things called spell-checking software nowadays, usually free. All you need to do is use it. And, putting the name Airstream on the MSRP would be nice! Probably wouldn't cost 20 cents in ink over the next hundred years to make that addition.

So, how did Dixie Dancy save my life? Well, the story continues...

After hanging up the phone, I was feeling pretty good. My faith in human nature was refreshed for the first time in a long time. Some people (in addition to me) really are excellent. And today I had the good fortune to meet up with one of them. I had my faith restored in human decency, even some humans in the vehicle business. Wow!'

Customer Service Call-From-Hell

So, while riding this euphoria, I decided to go visit my Airstream, sitting lonely in storage, and fiddle around with it to prepare it for a day trip this weekend. I went downstairs to the garage, hopped in my daily driver (2006 Corvette convertible) and poked at the start button. Click. Nothing. WTF? I just gave it a good ride yesterday, what's the problem? Poke the start button again. Click. Nothing. Damn. Can't be the battery, the lights are on strong. Instruments look weird when the power comes on, strange messages, engine light is on. I'm thinking the computer is FUBAR. Bugger All. I go to open the door, to get out to call the dealer on the cell phone....

The door doesn't open! I AM LOCKED IN MY CAR! The other door doesn't open. OK, just breathe easy, there's got to be a way out of this. But how? I call the dealer on my cell. Push one for sales, two for service, three for parts, four for... No selection to push for LOCKED IN MY CAR and getting freaked out about it, so I hit zero and try to explain to the operator and she says she never heard of anyone getting locked inside a car before, and transfers me to an "advisor" who never answers the phone and I get a voicemail, which could take days to get a reply, and by then I'll be dead of an apoplectic fit, if not hunger. So I call back and tell her this is an emergency (what if it was 3AM and the dealer was closed?) and please don't transfer me, but sure enough she does, but this time I get an advisor who tells me to rip up the carpet behind the seat I'm sitting in (Corvette, right? There is NO room to even change your mind in there, let alone do the gymnastics to pull up the carpet behind the seat to find a lever to open the door). In any case, I manage to pull up the carpet... no lever! He asks if there is anyone else around who can help? Yes, several, and aren't they enjoying this little freak show! Give them my key so they can open the trunk and in there is another lever to open... but wait, he says, another "advisor" has told him about a lever (invisible in the dark) inside the car, next to my seat that will open the door, and I find it and I'm FREE AT LAST! I breathe the fresh air of Freedom and thank God I'm alive and I don't have to talk with these people any more.

But, of course, I now have to deal with getting the car towed to the dealer, and that took two different people from Triple A to come out and look and poke things and test and tell me it's the battery, but then of course it's not, and how are we gonna get this car out of the garage, and so on and so on until finally it's on the flat-bed truck and down the road

and I'm back in my easy chair thanking my lucky stars I haven't gone purple and insane with rage at the mediocrity of all Mankind, until I remember Dixie Dancy who just one hour before had put me in such a good mood that if it were not for her I would surely have popped a brain artery, or my whole heart would have exploded, and I would be dead as possum on Highway 101.

Thank you Dixie Dancy, you saved my life!

So I'm sitting here in my easy chair enjoying a pint of the good stuff, with a shot of Bushmills Irish whiskey cradled in an Airstream shot glass, and itself dropped into the good stuff. Some people call it an Irish Car Bomb, but in my youth we called it a boilermaker. Call it what you will, it's good to be alive, sometimes!

(click the photo to see the detail)

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Mikie Gets a Juice Box

I couldn't take it any longer, so I finally splurged and ordered the Yamaha EF2400IS generator (inverter) with mods to run on propane or gas. In a discussion this morning with the technical support guy Bill Nutter, I learned that only the next size up allows a remote start, and that is twice the weight, so I'm going to have to use the pull start. I'm not looking forward to that in nasty weather!

This generator will need to have a custom made housing to protect it from the weather. Additional mods will be needed to tap into the propane line on the Airstream. This will eliminate the need for a separate propane tank to supply the generator.

Continuing in the spirit of shopping, I dropped in to Camping World and got myself some jack pads and a couple of shopping bags of cheap stuff you can't live without but will probably break or not work almost immediately.

Monday, August 10, 2009

More Systems Checkout

The Tow-yota FJ Cruiser has a built-in 120 Volt outlet in the rear hatch area, so I checked it out this afternoon with an air compressor and used it to inflate the Airstream tires to 45 lbs. (they were at only 34). Good to know I can use it in case of emergency, but still looking forward to a pro generator (see 3 posts back).

Best Airstream Interior, Ever

I had been wanting an Airstream for many years, and never made the move until I saw a vintage Airstream done by David Winick who created what I consider to be the best looking interior ever. I had no idea an Airstream could look so good inside.

David Winick is a true artist. Check out his website and I'm sure you'll agree.

I immediately wanted him to do one for me, but I really had no idea what I wanted, or needed, or should have. It would have taken me ages to figure it all out, and meanwhile I was itching to jump right in. I felt that if I didn't get an Airstream soon, the window might close, and it would never happen. So I got the most basic Airstream possible, chalking it all up to a learning experience. And when I learn what I really want/need/should have, I hope to go back to David Winick for a real work of art that will last me a lifetime.

Meanwhile, I have David Winick to thank for giving me the inspiration to jump in and get started. Thank you, David!

Wally Byam Caravan Club International

Emailed the application for membership in the
Wally Byam Caravan Club International this morning, San Diego Unit. Hopefully, I'll learn some good stuff that will save me some pain and/or expense later.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Continuous Improvements

I finally secured the spare tire to the roof rack with some ratcheting straps I picked up at Pep Boys. Now there's room to open the rear hatch wide enough to be useful.

Still working on a solution to where to put the bike, but I'm thinking it can go on the front of the Tow-yota. I might have to mount some 'roo bars first, and then hang the bike rack on the 'roo bars, and then that might block the headlights, but eventually I'll figure it out.

The generator is getting close to being solved. I'm thinking of getting a hybrid Yamaha EF2400IS from US Carburetion who convert the standard unit to allow using propane/LNG/gasoline, and mounting it on the roof of the Tow-yota. The alternative fuels and roof mount will solve all kinds of problems for me. There are a few more details to deal with before I commit to this approach. It's a big ticket item, so I need to be sure it will work.

I spent some time today to start work on some checklists.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Maiden Voyage / Shakedown Cruise

Torrey Pines beach. There's a half-mile section of Historic Highway 101 between Del Mar and Torrey Pines that runs at sea-level, right next to the sand. And of that scrap of prime real estate, there's a very small section that allows parallel parking, which, if you have an RV, you can pull up right along the beach and have sand at your front door, from 6AM to 11PM.

This is Fantasy-Sand for me. I've lived in Del Mar for 25+ years, and have always wanted to have an Airstream I could park there during the day to fully enjoy the beach scene (Frisbee, walk, bike, swim, etc), in the comforts of my own home.

On the pro side, the Airstream is WAY less expensive than a beachfront home, but the con is that you can't stay overnight. That's ok with me. If I can be there for 17 hours, I don't really need the other 7.

Yesterday I finally had the chance to play out my dream. I set the alarm for 4:30AM, but the alarm in my head woke me at 4:24AM and by 5 o'clock I was pulling the Airstream out of storage and on my way in plenty of time to be there before anyone else slipped in and took the primo parking spot.

On my arrival I was treated to a Full Moon setting into the Pacific, with Jupiter following along. Here's the photo (Canon PowerShot 950IS, handheld):

I walked out to the surf line, turned around and took this shot of my rig silhouetted against the rising sun (iPhone 3GS, handheld):

For some reason, I really like that photo, maybe because it has the least amount of detail to get the message across. Minimalism in photo and subject!

The first order of business was to ready the rig for use, including removing the bike from the interior, setting up the stuff I put away to keep from getting knocked over by the road bumps on the short trip, opening some windows, etc. In no time at all it was light enough to take one of my favorite walks south to Flat Rock, along the high cliffs below Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve. But I didn't get that far because I was noticing how sweet and clean the beach was, all smoothed out by the fully receded high tide from the Full Moon. It was perfect for a bike ride, so I walked back to the Airstream and unlocked the Electra Sparker Special and headed out to do what that bike was designed to do: Beach Cruisin'... Why walk when you can ride?

After the ride it was time to get down to the business of checking out the systems in the Airstream.

1. Hot water for a shower? Check. Nowhere near the amount of water I use at home, but enough to get the major dirt off. The hot/cold control is very sensitive! Must remember that or face the consequences...

2. Propane stove? Check. Of course oatmeal is not very complex, but it's enough to survive.

3. Toilet? Check. Weird, but workable.

4. Music? Check. My iPod touch is plugged in to the Airstream stereo system AUX port and gets power from the DC plug.

5. Reading material? Check. My Kindle2 is loaded with good stuff, fully charged and worked like a charm. Currently reading Mark Twain's takedown of Christian Science. He's America's Favorite Author for good reason.

6. Ventilation? Check. Even as the temperatures hit 79 and the sun beat down without mercy on the aluminum skin, it never got too hot inside, and in fact I never felt the need to lower the awning. The electric ceiling exhaust fan draws plenty of cooling air up and out. In fact, with all the windows open and the light ocean breeze, it was almost too cool even at 73 degrees.

7. Refrigeration? Check. I started it up the afternoon before, so it would be at operating temperature when I needed it. Worked like a charm using propane all day.

8. Nappable? Check. I can fully stretch out and sleep without touching the walls, but there's not a lot of extra room without pulling out the extension to make it wider, and even then I wouldn't want to spend the night with... well, maybe I would, but that's another story!

So far, so good. Of course I learned a few things I wasn't expecting:

1. Generator. If the Airstream is not hooked up to outside 120 volt service, then you will not be able to operate the microwave, or air conditioner without a generator. Everything else works off the DC (battery) and/or propane, but there's only one 12 volt battery, so it can go fast. The tow vehicle can recharge the battery, but using a 6-cylinder engine to recharge the battery is overkill, and it still will not run the microwave or A/C.

2. Hammock. I really want to rig up a hammock. Star-gazing is so much better with a hammock. So are naps.

3. The Curious. Some people feel compelled to interrupt whatever you are doing (I was in a meeting with a Protégé at the time) and fire an interminable barrage of questions about the Airstream. I'm going to print up a brochure with all the questions and answers, so I can save myself a lot of grief with these people. I don't want to be rude, but I don't want to get sucked into hearing about everyone else's brother-in-law's trailer they had when they were a kid. thank you!

4. Perimeter. I'm learning that it is desirable to stake out a claim of space in front of the entry to the Airstream, otherwise people will be getting up in my face without warning. I should have parked in such a way that the tow vehicle and the trailer formed a V with the open end of the V along the beach, but I left enough space so that some runners, walkers, curiosity seekers, and general ne'er do wells could easily choose to pass by on either side of my rig. I've seen some bamboo fences that would work great for this purpose and offer some extra privacy.

5. Checklists. As a pilot, I am fully aware of the importance of checklists, but I haven't taken the time to make them up for this new adventure. The are especially important at 4:30AM when trying to get on the road. This time I only forgot my iPhone and camera and had to cruise past home to pick them up on the way to the beach. And I still forgot the GPS system (not that I needed it for this trip, of course, but it could have been ugly without it on a major trip). I also forgot to stow the vent cover, and a few other items. Even the small things can escalate into major problems. Checklists are essential.

In summary: It was a great day at the beach, far surpassing my expectations. I'm planning a lot more days at Torrey Pines, and lots of other beaches nearby, and then moving up the coast toward Big Sur and beyond...

Monday, August 3, 2009

Love at First Sight?

The date: June 30, 2009. High noon.
The place: Southwest Coaches in Irvine, CA,
the only Airstream dealer in Southern California. This little gem was sitting right next to the office. The door was open, the ceiling fan drawing cool, fresh air through the open windows. I could feel a strange fascination. I wanted to remember the details, so I took this little video with my new iPhone 3GS.

Jerry Handley is the salesman who allowed me to buy this new home on wheels. It followed me home a few days later; first I had to get a tow vehicle and a place to put it.

They say love is a madness.

So I guess this is Mikie's Mini-Madness.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

California Parks

Ordered the annual day-use pass for California parks.
Hopefully it is $125 well spent.

Looking forward to visiting a lot of them!

A step back

The bike rack mounted on the spare tire is just not going to work.

1. When hitched up, and the Tow-yota is in a tight turn, the bike rubs against the propane housing.
2. The bike severely limits the opening to the rear cargo area when hitched up.
3. The rear window opens only a crack before it hits the bike rack.

Three strikes and you're out, rack!

So for now, the bike will have to be stored inside the Airstream. I'm going to look for a rack for the FRONT bumper!

Another improvement will be to store the spare tire on the roof rack, so I can open the cargo hatch a lot more. As it is now, the spare hits the automatic jack on the trailer. Stowing the spare on the roof will allow mounting the backup video camera in a perfect location to assist with hitching up.

I think I'm zero-ing in on the right setup.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Progress continues, one small step at a time...

Yesterday I made some progress in several important areas:

1. Backup lessons from good buddy David. G. who has plenty of experience with his 40' motor-home towing a 27' trailer with his NASCAR racer inside. After an hour of lessons, we calmed our frustration with a couple of shots of tequila! Here's a summary of the lessons:

a. keep hands on bottom of the wheel, use mirrors only.
b. point thumb in direction you want the back of the trailer to go.
c.. make small corrections.
d. pull forward a little bit when it gets FUBAR.
e. patience, sense of humor

2. Storage containers, clear plastic, in several sizes and used to organize the tools, sprays, and miscellaneous stuff. I feel a lot better now!

3. Coffee! I made my first cup of coffee in the Airstream, so now I know I can survive. This was an essential test of the propane stove to be able to boil water, and proof that I have the essential pan, drinking water, coffee, sugar, and Mini-Moos for half and half (do not require refrigeration). I'll check refrigeration in a subsequent test.

4. Reconnoissance mission at midnight last night to check out the parking hours for Torrey Pines Beach (no parking from 11pm to 6am).

I'm getting real close to rolling it out. Maybe on the Full Moon!