The Adventures of Airstream Mikie

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

FAQ: Frequently Asked Questions

Frequently Asked Questions

When I am traveling with the Airstream, some people are fascinated by the size, shape, color of the trailer, or the concept of a home on wheels, or the tow vehicle, the generator, etc, etc... This document is intended to help passers-by who want to know more but who also want to respect the owner's privacy.

Q: The trailer, what is it?
A: It's an "Airstream". One of many thousands which have been built over the last 75+ years. This one was manufactured by Airstream, Inc. in Jackson Center, Ohio in 2009. The model designation is Sport 17 and is 16 feet 8 inches in length, overall. Cost: $32,282 plus tax, license, etc. Weight 3,500 lbs, GWVR. For a tour of the inside, the way it was originally at delivery, see this YouTube video. Continuing improvements have been made to the Airstream since new, including doubling the battery capacity, a solar panel, larger propane tanks, etc. For more information on this Airstream, see the blog at this link.

Q: The tow vehicle, what is it, and what have you done to it?
A: 2010 Toyota Tundra Double Cab. Some major improvements to this tow vehicle include a BedSlide and SnugTop camper shell as well as a Yamaha EF6300iSDE generator which has been modified to use propane as well as gasoline to power the A.C. appliances such as air conditioning, microwave, and other devices, as well as to recharge the batteries which are used for fans, lights, etc. Many other improvements continue to be made to the tow vehicle and are documented at this link.

Q: Where have you travelled with it?
A: All the travels have been documented at the blog "The Adventures of Airstream Mikie".

Q: Favorite places visited?
A: Big Sur, CA and Torrey Pines Beach, CA

Q: Where do they sell Airstreams?
A: Dealers can be located at the Airstream website.

Q: I have a question that's not on this list!
A: Please visit the blog "The Adventures of Airstream Mikie" to find your answer, or email the owner at this email address:

Monday, May 3, 2010

Pancakes at the beach, a major milestone!

Yesterday was a major milestone in the Airstream adventure: pancakes and sausages (veggie, of course) at the beach, for about some friends, using the generator to power the electric griddle. It was a great day, on balance, but there were several things I would improve for next time:

1. Set the party time for later in the day. 10AM is just too early because it is not reliably sunny and warm enough to be pleasant. Next time it will be a pancake brunch at noon or 1PM, instead of breakfast.

2. Only one cook in the kitchen! Can you imagine having 3+ people working in that tiny kitchen all at once? It was madness, of course, but it seems that they wanted to volunteer, and I was certainly not organized enough to be efficient, and I guess they noticed that, but that leads to improvement...

3. Invite fewer people. (There were 10 of us yesterday: Alex & Joni, Sean, Alexis, Peter, Joey & Carolina, Mark, Samm, me!) I'm thinking that 4 people is ideal, 6 people maximum.

4. Have the guests bring something. Chairs, beer, dessert, dishes, silverware, whatever.

5. Assign duties (photographer, "potty training", etc) and activities (hike, Frisbee, etc)

6. Checklist for various tasks. (I forgot the electric kettle because of no checklist.)

7. Handouts for the curious. Some people are captivated by the Airstream but I'm really not too excited about answering lots of questions ("How much does it weigh?" Really?) I'd like to create a printed handout to give to people who feel compelled to interrupt my solitude.

Overall, it was a great day, an auspicious beginning to a fine Airstream summer season...

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Generator Working Using Trailer Propane

Yesterday I picked up the 30# propane tank from Ferrellgas, the propane source, who properly purged the tank (see post below) and refilled it. Now, at long, long last, it's working with the generator. This is significant because now I can use the trailer-mounted propane tanks and not need to haul around the smaller 20# tank inside the tow vehicle to be used as the fuel source for the generator. This gives the advantages of being safer as well as offering greater fuel reserves for longer use and simplifies the system with fewer parts.

With the two 30# tanks containing about 14 gallons of propane, and the generator able to run about 4 hours per gallon, it could run a total of 56 hours before running out of fuel. Of course it is unlikely to be needed continuously, so it could easily support several weeks electricity needs, especially when considering the solar panel would supplement electrical power generation.

This is a major milestone in the evolution of the rig (truck and Airstream) so that it can be used "off the grid" in such places as the beach where no plug-in power is available.

The propane supply is split between two tanks, only one of which is in use at any given time. This allows the use of one tank until it is empty, whereupon a switch is made to the full tank, and the empty tank is driven to the nearest propane station to be refilled and put back into service. This method allows uninterrupted operation of refrigerator, hot water heater, space heater, all of which are propane-fueled.

The big advantage of using propane as the fuel to power the generator is that it uses a fuel that is already being stored on the front of the trailer. Most generators are gasoline fueled and therefore require a tank of gas to be stored inside the tow vehicle, and since it is an enclosed space, it is a safety concern. Another safety concern is in refilling the generator's gas tank when the generator is already hot. These are not issues when using the propane solution.

This makes the most perfect sense to me, but I have not seen any other rig set up this way.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Interior Project

Some t-shirts with designs that are being considered to be used for throw pillows:

Some posters for the walls:

Friday, April 9, 2010

12 volt tutorial

While enduring the learning curve of all things electrical (in the Airstream), I ran across this excellent tutorial on all things 12 volt:

What I found extremely informative is the chart above.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

On a brighter note...

1. The GPS software from Tom-Tom for the iPhone is much improved with the latest update. Now it speaks the names of streets, and exits, which is so much better. It works great without even using the car kit!

2. I found an apparently secret spot for the Airstream where I can hang out by the beach during the day and it looks like there will be NO problem with parking being full, even in the summer! This means I don't have to get up at oh-dark-thirty and be there before sunrise in order to snag a spot. I'll be able to roll in anytime, so I can sleep in. My favorite thing to do!

So, on balance, two steps forward, one step back. At least I'm going in the right direction...

Monday, March 15, 2010

And Now, For Something Completely Different

The generator is now online.

This means I can make flapjacks in the boondocks using an electric griddle while running the air conditioning and the microwave all at the same time, and running the heater fan, and refrigerator and all the lights. Not that I would ever do that, but with this honkin' generator, I could. But back to the point, which is the flapjacks, or pancakes, if you prefer that term.

I tried making pancakes on a propane-fired griddle, but it was awful because of the uneven distribution of the heat. But with an electric griddle, it will be perfect. The problem for the last several months is that I have not had a generator which is needed for the honkin' electricity used by the griddle.

This now puts the Airstream/Tundra into a whole new realm of vehicle. With electricity-generation capabilities, the rig adds survival to recreation.

The generator is a Yamaha 6300, with a gas/propane mod done by US Carburetion in West Virginia. It is fitted with a wireless start for the ultimate in camping convenience.

The generator is bolted to the BedSlide, which, when closed distributes the weight over the rear axle. When the BedSlide is fully extended, the generator can be operated in place from curb-side, or wirelessly.

And today is the New Moon. It is a propitious sign.

Monday, February 22, 2010

FJ Cruiser vs. Tundra for Tow Vehicle?

Today I received an email asking to compare the Toyota FJ Cruiser (my previous tow vehicle) with the Toyota Tundra (current tow vehicle) when used with the Airstream Sport 17.

I would have answered the email directly, but the message was deleted because of a bug in Google's Tasks (no undelete option!), so I hope answering it here will help.

I got the FJ Cruiser because that's what was recommended to me by the Airstream sales rep. It is not an optimal solution, for several reasons...

1. The rear hatch on the FJ Cruiser can not be opened very far at all when still hitched up. The spare tire inhibits the opening to only about 8". I removed the spare and put it on the roof rack, but the hatch still can not be fully opened when hitched up. The door hits the tongue jack. I think the Airstream rep could not have been aware of this or he would not have made the recommendation.

2. The power of the FJ Cruiser is ok, but not great. Same for the brakes. So it's acceptable for towing the Sport 17, but if you are thinking of upgrading to a bigger Airstream, the FJ Cruiser will need to be replaced with a vehicle with a greater towing capacity.

3. The capacity of the FJ Cruiser is somewhat limited for hauling all the "stuff" you'll probably accumulate. If you want to carry a generator, it will take up a lot of the space in the cargo area. Check the GVWR of the FJ Cruiser. Then subtract the fully wet and stocked trailer weight (max 3500 lbs for the Sport 17) and there's not a lot of carrying capacity left especially when you consider margin for safety, occupants, etc.

4. The Tundra is more powerful and has better brakes, and a much higher towing capacity, and you'll feel much more comfortable towing compared to the FJ Cruiser.

5. If you are carrying a generator in the FJ Cruiser, you will have to carry a gasoline can (or propane tank) inside the vehicle, exposing yourself and occupants to the fumes. Not safe! With the Tundra, the generator fuel can be stored in the bed of the pickup, away from the passenger area.

Hope that helps!

Monday, February 15, 2010

Day at the Beach

Yesterday, Valentine's Day, was a shakedown cruise to test some recently upgraded systems, and a learning experience, overall.

After hooking up at o-dark-thirty in the dimly lit storage facility, I made the very short drive to the beach and started the process of getting squared away. That's when I noticed my half-hearted attempt to connect the cord which goes from tow vehicle to trailer (controls brakes/lights/power). I didn't do a very good job at all, because the cord dragged on the ground and rubbed through the outer coating, and completely through one of the wires inside. Luckily, the lights/brakes still worked, but if the trip had been a few miles longer, it would have severed these lines and possibly caused all manner of catastrophe.

And it's all my fault, too. I knew about this potential problem for months, and have always been wanting to get around to rigging up some sort of spring device to keep the cord up off the ground, yet pay out whatever is needed for turns. Well, I got around to it now, after the fact. A bungee cord is all that I needed. Duh.

But that's what these shakedown cruises are for, to test all the systems. In this case I learned that the geometry is different between the new tow vehicle (Tundra) and old one (FJ Cruiser) which changes how much of the control cord is needed. Less on the Tundra, that's why it dragged.

All the other stuff worked great. The solar panel kept me with electricity all day, as did the extra battery. The new propane tanks worked flawlessly. And the new touchless lid trash bin was excellent.

Good friends Peter and Joey & Carolina stopped by around noon and we had a great time.

The only negative was the beach! There was no sand -- victim of the recent storms. And where sand should have been was all stones. So I didn't get the chance to ride my beach cruiser, or play any Frisbee. But the sand situation is only temporary. It has been doing this for probably billions of years. The sand will be back again soon enough.

And so will I...

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Shower improvements

After a couple of experiments with prototypes, a major step forward has been taken today in upgrading the showering experience.

The truly trailer-trash plastic accordion door which comes standard in the Airstream Sport 17 has been removed and replaced with a see-through shower curtain. The stock door, when fully opened, narrowed the opening by at about 6 inches. Without this ugly, cheap shower door, the shower looks HUGE, and with the transparent shower curtain, it feels so much more spacious inside.

Next, I'm looking forward to installing a separate control for water temperature, and a much improved flow valve and shower head, and move the placement of the shower head mount to be less intrusive.

If I'm going to be roughing it, I may as well do it first class!


Monday, January 25, 2010

Stock Photo of Tow Vehicle

Here's a stock photo of the Toyota Tundra with the SnugTop SuperSport camper shell.

Bike Mods

The beach cruiser is in the shop getting a quick-release front wheel so that I can keep the bike inside the shell, front wheel removed, and fork secured to the BedSlide. (Finally!)

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Cap and Slide are now installed

Moving along at glacial speed, I have now upgraded the tow vehicle (Toyota Tundra) with a camper shell cap from SnugTop (Super Sport model) and a BedSlide. The generator is now securely bolted to the BedSlide, on the street side. This allows full use of the generator without lifting it out of the truck.

Next up:
1. organizers for all the stuff (hoses, tools, electrical cords, etc).
2. method/device to keep the bike secured on the BedSlide.
3. bed deck rail system and tie-downs (link)
4. lower the truck overall, install air bag suspension assist

Friday, January 1, 2010

Sun Power!

Another major goal has been achieved with the installation of a solar panel on the top of the Sport, so now I can stay out longer "off the grid". Abe Hernandez did a first class job with everything from researching and recommending the proper solar system and doing a custom installation. What a guy!

If you're looking for an RV mechanic,

Abe is the man to call (760-802-3238).