The Adventures of Airstream Mikie

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...


  1. loved it.

    Im about to buy an airstream 17sport. But in my country, the temperature is very high. Hot sunny days all year round.

    is the platinum exterior the same interior walls?. I mean, it doesn;t have a protection from the hot sun from outside?.. cause it looks like it will get very hot inside...


  2. Yes, the Airstream does have a double wall and insulated between the exterior and interior walls.

    When I was at the beach, parked in the hot sun, the interior walls were not hot at all.