Monthly Archives: February 2009

HamCation 2009

We’ve just returned from the 63rd Anniversary HamCation, a huge honkin’ convention of ham radio operators and electronics vendors from all over the U.S. We camped on the Central Florida Fairgrounds (Orlando, FL) with more than 45 other members of the RV Service Net and hundreds of other amateur radio operators and vendors.

The RV Service Net, sponsored by WBCCI Amateur Radio Club, is a North American organization of amateur radio operators dedicated to (1) service to the public, (2) furtherance of public welfare by relaying messages via ham radio in time of need and emergency, (3) promotion of education and interest in the sciences of amateur radio, (4) promotion of fellowship and goodwill among all radio amateurs and the public. And we get to put a face with a callsign at the RV Service Net Ham-a-Rally preceding the HamCation and at really great afternoon socials.

Members of the RV Service Net meet several times annually at regional events across the continent, and can meet on the radio every morning and afternoon on scheduled nets to check in with each other. We’ve made good friends with this bunch of hams and enjoy face time at the conventions and other times we see them.

People are still shopping

People are still shopping

This is our second Orlando HamCation and our fourth ham convention in the past three years. We saw no evidence of a recession in the interest and purchases at this hamfest. Vendors we talked to said they had a good show and people were spending. Attendance seemed strong on the grounds and in the exhibit halls. We saw a lot of hams and vendors (most of them seem to be hams, too) parked their RVs on the grounds.

The convention vendor booths opened Friday at noon. We were glad we had browsed all the vendors’ booths Friday while we still had elbow room. The greatest attendance occurred on Saturday, and the exhibit halls were completely crowded. Since our campsite was only 400 yards from the exhibit hall we opted to dine and relax during the busy times. We could purchase a part, take it back and try it out in our ham shack (in our Airstream) and walk back and discuss any questions or comments we had with the vendor.

The proximity to the vendors was instrumental in working out several issues I had with my antennas. My rooftop motorized antenna can receive and send on eight amateur radio bands (80m, 60m, 40m, 30m, 20m, 17m, 15m, 12m). I must manually retune the antenna to resonance as I switch bands so I’ll get proper receive and transmit performance. I have been having problems with retuning. Thanks to John Bee N1GNV at Quicksilver Radio Products I am now much faster and more accurate at tuning. John gave me exactly the help I needed.

John has been at every hamfest I have and has unfailingly given me helpful tips and good direction. John, over the past three years, sold me most of my Anderson power pole connectors, my Rig Runner 12v outlet strip, wire, and an antenna tuning switch. Most importantly, he has sold me on his credentials as an experienced amateur radio operator who humbly and capably represents his products and how to use them.

And John has a lot of peers who, like him, are experienced ham radio operators who vend at the hamfests. I suppose any good vendor exhibit will have a lot of experienced people representing their companies’ wares. A defining difference between hamfests and some product shows/conventions, I think, is because amateur radio is a hobby. The vendors, almost to the last man and woman, are licensed amateur radio operators.

Any accounting of a hamfest would be vastly incomplete without mentioning the flea markets and tail-gaters. I think at least three hundred booths were set up inside and outside with the tables full of old computer keyboards, wireless phones, headsets, oscilloscopes, military surplus electronics gear, and whatever else you can name.

These tubes have been through a LOT of shows

These tubes have been through a LOT of shows

We spent most of our time amongst the vendors representing new parts and equipment. But, by far, most of the people selling at hamfests are those selling used or salvage parts and equipment. Every hamfest we’ve attended has just over a bizillion vacuum tubes for sale. Here too, at HamCation, we encountered the old collections.

Did this event stimulate the economy? Our impact on the stimulation of the US economy is suppressed by the size of our small home on wheels. We just don’t have a lot of room to store stuff and, without incomes, we really want to choose carefully how we spend. Still, we probably had more effect on the economy than the Federal stimulus plan will.

We have wonderful socials

We have wonderful socials

Was this hamfest worth it for us? From our esteemed vendors we bought an antenna tuning switch, a few coax connectors, an antenna whip, a roll of tape, four fuses, and a small ferrite bead. We paid the Central Florida Regional Fairgrounds four nights for camping. We had already paid for site rental in Okeechobee so the extra site rental cost is lost money unless we found some great benefits. Number One Benefit? With our RV Service Net friends we gained deeper friendships, great contacts from all over the U.S., and had a lot of fun.

Recap our first year experiences, continued

We’re still celebrating the anniversary of beginning our full-time adventure. We’ve recounted in two previous articles our costs and experiences with equipment reliability, and how livable is our 25′ trailer for full-timing. I thought, early this morning, of how it feels to have full-timed one year.

Yes, we have to get rid of all this

Yes, we have to get rid of all this

I could try to describe the nervousness we felt about shedding our lifetime’s collections of vinyl, books, electronics, furniture, and all the other trappings of a full-size home. We were so giddy with excitement for the prospects of our impending adventure and all it signified to us.

You might understand our relief at having a smooth closing on our house. We weren’t really finished with the house, though. Despite very long days the three weeks before, we still lacked a couple of hours getting the last things out of the house. Luckily, we were blessed with wonderful friends as buyers. And we didn’t even know it would be a few short months before the housing market and stock market imploded.

Heavenly Drive in Paradise Park, Punta Gorda

Heavenly Drive in Paradise Park, Punta Gorda

How did we feel as we arrived in Punta Gorda, FL for a two week stay the week after closing on the house? I was almost frantic, energetically playing golf every day and reading and sightseeing. And the golf wasn’t even very good — but for the price (free or a $5 donation to the “Golf Club”) it was worth it.

Our full-timing plan, conceived over two years of anticipation, was to spend two weeks at a time in each venue. From the location we could visit everything within one hundred miles radius. We would relocate two hundred miles away. We could then visit everything within one hundred miles radius. Then repeat. Very simple, right?

Dumb idea, this vacation mentality, but we fell for it hook, line, and sinker. This is exactly what all veteran full-timers warn about, this vacation mentality, in which you are so excited to be away from home. So you try to maximize your time away, forgetting you aren’t away. Oh no, not us, we won’t fall for it. We thought we were so organized we would resist running ourselves ragged. Didn’t work out the way we thought.

We drove twice the miles we planned. We drove up to 780 miles in a day more than once and drove many days back-to-back without enjoying any local sites. And we wore ourselves out completely.

Grinnell Lake from trail 900 feet above

Grinnell Lake from trail 900 feet above

On the other hand, we toured part of Alaska, a whole lot of Northwest U.S., Victoria B.C. during their 150th year celebration, Vancouver B.C.’s Chinatown, Eugene, Crater Lake, and the coast of Oregon, the northern California majestic redwoods, and Arcata, California.

How do you balance the desire to see our beautiful continent, unlimited time to spend on it, against our capacity to sustain this level of activity? It’s simple — pace ourselves better.

Vacationers compress driving, sightseeing, eating out and shopping into compact timeframes. They’re often relieved when they return home. They can then relax and recover and enjoy reminiscing. And in a few months or a year later they can go for another burst.

We enjoyed 2008 a LOT. We plan, for 2009, to stay longer, rush less, spend less, and enjoy more.

We will try, in 2009, to live as if we aren’t on vacation. We aren’t away, we’re here. This is our mode of living all the time. (Yeah, and people call it “full-time”) And we know we are fortunate to be able to live like this. It’s wonderful.

Learning Code, for real this time

I spent our first two weeks of 2009 in Okeechobee FL studying to upgrade my Amateur Radio license to Amateur Extra. This wasn’t an impulse, I studied the material more than 100 hours between August and January. Why leave the outcome to any chance, if I could guarantee it?

Mission Accomplished — I took the test in Moore Haven, FL on January 15, 2009. Tested, passed, and upgraded on FCC’s database. Now what? My next challenge seems diminutive in comparison, to relearn Morse Code and then learn to transmit and receive it.

I learned all the Morse Code alphabet in sixth grade for BSA Second Class rank. I relearned the alphabet and numbers two years ago for my General class upgrade, but FCC dropped the Morse Code requirement immediately before I tested. The test administrator wouldn’t allow testing on Morse Code since FCC no longer required Code.

A lot of life events subsequently took precedence over continuing learning Code. We determined, and started working toward, our retirement date. Our exit plan included, necessarily, developing disposition lists for our household effects. And we needed thorough planning on migrating from home-based accounting, record-keeping, storage, bill payments, mail handling, and telephonic and email communications.

One year later we have learned the basics of full-timing, installed the radio into the Airstream and very good antennae on the roof. I’ve always been interested in the special capabilities of Code. Code is readable across far longer distances than voice. And Code takes us back to the origins of wireless radio.

I’m on this new project. A pair of 5 minute sessions daily I listen to “Just Learn Morse Code” on my laptop. While listening, I type the characters I hear. The program compares my keystrokes to the emitted sounds and grades my accuracy. If I add two characters weekly, I’ll have all 44 characters by end of Summer. Then what?

I can only imagine, since I’ve never received nor sent Code. I imagine making contacts with stations in every state, every country, every continent. I imagine trying to pick out weak signals from background noise, and understand the messages. I imagine the capability to reliably send emergency messages, even with low power. And I imagine enjoying continuing my adult learning and hobbies.

Why? Because I’m a Ham.

For more information about Debbie’s and Jim’s introduction to amateur radio visit here

A very cool story here shows how an amateur radio operator in Bozeman, MT, 600 miles away helps a stranded hiker in Everett, Washington.

See this surprising YouTube video clip on the contest between text messaging and morse code here. Who do you think wins?

This link will show you the morse code learning program I’m using.

For more information about amateur radio, visit American Radio Relay League, ARRL, here

What’s the next big project?

I’ve said, perhaps incorrectly, there’s a limit to how much one can do to an Airstream trailer only 25 feet long. I’m a tinkerer or, as Deb and I think of our fathers, a piddler. Few things suit me as well as piddlin’ with some piece of aluminum or wood to see if I can make it into what I want. Sometimes it works out, nice surprise.

The Airstream gets much of my attention as you know if you’ve read our Home Improvements Page. We’ve enjoyed identifying ways to improve convenience and utility of our Airstream. All the projects have been successful. And I think I’ve figured out my next undertaking — a through-floor fresh air inlet.

Did you know Wally Byam, Airstream’s creator and the father of WBCCI (the Airstream owners’ association) had floor air inlets in his personal Airstreams? We’ve seen pictures and read he improved ventilation in his trailers by allowing the air from under the trailer to flow through the trailer and out the roof vents.

According to PeeWee Schwamborn, Wally Byam’s second cousin, “Most, but not all, of Wally’s trailers had a 12 x 12 (or there abouts) vent in the floor of his trailers. This allowed him to open his roof vents, the floor vent and allow a flow of air without opening the windows. Allowed sleeping without all of the “extra” noise.” [sources: http://www.airforums.com/forums/showpost.php?p=559149&postcount=16, and http://sierranevadaairstreams.org/memories/history/peewee/index.html%5D

Why wouldn’t this be a good idea for us to do? We use a propane-fired catalytic heater which consumes oxygen. We use a three burner propane-fired cooking stove which consumes oxygen. We are warned to provide at least twenty-four square inches (24 si) of fresh air intake and the equal amount of exhaust outlet for the catalytic heater.

And the appliance labels warn to provide at least another two square inches for ever 1,000 btuh of input for any additional fuel burning appliances. Our Amana RV propane cooktop is rated approximately 23,000 btuh input, so we’d be considering another 46 square inches inlet if we used all three burners and the heater at once! I guess we could just open a window whenever we are using the cooktop or oven. Or, just put in the equal to a 12″ X 12″ fresh air vent and capitalize on fresh air flow any time we want?

I think I have a space below the catalytic heater to install a 10″ X 14″ through-floor fresh air vent. I’ve started looking around for the floor register we want to use in the camper. And I’m working on Debbie, to get her used to the idea of me cutting a big hole in her flooring. Some things take a little longer to sell than others. This may take a while.

How bad it would be to cut through then realize the wiring, plumbing, gas piping, and trailer chassis are in this same spot? I’ll sniff around under the camper and confirm there’s nothing conflicting with the vent coming through the sheet aluminum of the belly pan. And I’ll need to configure a water/mud/bug deflector and bird screen and insect screen and a damper mechanism. Otherwise, just a piece of cake!

Have you done this project in your camper? I’d love to hear how it turned out and what you’d do differently. See, there may always be one more project in front of me.

Recap 2008, Livability of our Airstream CCD 25

This is a second article reviewing our first year full-timing experience. Our first article provided an overview of scheduling, financial expenses, and emotional costs of our traveling for 2008. This article discusses the selection of a 25 feet long Airstream trailer for full-timing and how the Airstream worked out.

Debbie and I shopped hard for our second trailer, another Airstream trailer. Our first two years owning an Airstream trailer we worked full-time. We camped weekends and one week to ten days annually. We met a couple of long-term full-timers, Tom and Mary Deeney, while we visited Virginia Highland Haven Airstream Park. We’d never heard or thought of full-timing before meeting them. “You can live full-time in an RV?” we said aloud. Who knew?

The idea of full-timing in an Airstream absolutely ruled us. Friends in our WBCCI Unit, Carolinas Unit of NC, advised us, “Go ahead and buy the longest Airstream trailer, a 34 feet long model. Nothing else will suit you and you can avoid the pitfall of buying and selling three or four times as you work your way up to the length you should have.”

Our CCD 25 living room

Our CCD 25 living room

We stubbornly resolved to remain with the Airstream International CCD line, featuring very clean and crisp interior lines. We like the brightness and the simple interior color schemes. The walls and ceiling are clear-coat Alcoa aluminum and the floor is light colored seamless wood-grain vinyl. Easy to look at, easy to clean, the International’s appearance appealed most to us.

Airstream’s International line, in 2005, consisted of 16′, 19′, 22′, 25′, and 28′ front-door models. All the models except the 22′ were rear-bed. (In 2008-2009 it seems Airstream manufactures almost all “front-bed” models.) All, in 2005, were available in basically similar interior color schemes and finishes. All shared the same recessed halogen lighting, white and ebony laminate finishes, and a very open interior layout.

But we decided only one model would work for our full-timing. The three shorter models were (and still are) six inches narrower, at eight feet exterior width than the “wide-body” trailers. The longest International CCD, the 28, didn’t seem suited to full-time living. Only the Airstream International CCD 25 offered all the amenities we wanted and sufficient storage.

The one longer model, the CCD 28, artfully provides over the dinette vista view windows but sacrifices the six feet long overhead storage bin in that location. The CCD 28, while more open and roomier, offers half the wardrobe space of the CCD 25. And the CCD 28 does not allow both a gas oven and a microwave oven — the buyer must choose between the two, similar to many trailers, fifth wheels, and motor homes manufactured today. How would we bake muffins or cookies or cornbread or casseroles when we are camping without electricity? The best option for us is to have both appliances, a microwave and a gas oven. Our CCD 25 has both and we are so glad.

Floorplan of the Airstream CCD 25 SS

Floorplan of the Airstream CCD 25 SS

The Airstream International CCD 25, while not the largest Airstream trailer (or largest other brand, by any means), is the best match to our sense of function and aesthetics. The interior is neatly arranged, sharp and clean, and spare. The storage area generally exceeds our needs and the weight rating of our trailer’s axles. We have room for more bins than we can load (yes, we tried) without exceeding our trailer’s gross vehicle weight rating (gvwr) of 6,300 pounds. Everything we want to have with us is in either the trailer or the truck.

Our two wardrobes are less than two feet wide each and don’t quite hold all the hanging clothes we wanted to carry. We could have used another two or three feet of closet rod, but worked around it. We carried with us a few extra hanging things folded over and bagged in the truck bed.

And, we store one cardboard wardrobe box in our storage unit. The stored clothes include a tuxedo, a pair of my dark wool suits, two dress shirts, two casual shirts, a formal dress and a couple of cocktail dresses and Deb’s two wool business suits. Our CCD 25 does not have space to expand the wardrobes and we haven’t needed these clothes items often.

I talked with a neighbor last week who told me, “We eat out five nights a week. My wife deserves it after all she did raising our children.” I cannot imagine. We ate out very infrequently. You’d have to beat us with a stick to make us like eating out even one night a week. While we enjoyed dining out occasionally, we preferred the intimacy of dining together and the enjoyment (and economy) of eating our own lovingly prepared food. Debbie cooked almost every supper we ate. I’m grateful and we’re both happy this Airstream’s kitchen has worked out so well for us.

Our CCD 25's galley

Our CCD 25's galley

The six feet long galley (including extension), while not huge, was plenty for our cooking. This Airstream’s pantry is superb in size and layout, and the kitchen’s overhead bins for dishes and pans have been ample. We have four drawers and a drawer-slide knife rack in the kitchen. Everything we needed was within short reach and very convenient to the kitchen (and to everywhere within the Airstream).

The six cubic feet Dometic refrigerator had enough space for us and keeps the cold food fresh. Our freezer holds four ice trays, a gallon of ice cream, enough chicken, fish and steak for a week, and several frozen vegetables and prepared entrees. The three-burner stove permitted preparing any meals we’ve wanted, the oven is large enough for baking breads, cookies, and entrees, and the microwave is perfectly located in the kitchen to support any heating or cooking. The large (17″ diameter) and deep stainless steel sink worked out well for vegetable washing as well as dishwashing.

We found a place for everything inside our trailer. We made many small changes to accomodate our wants/needs. We put into use some spaces Airstream apparently did not intend. Although Airstream equipped three lower cabinet doors with hinges and latches, Airstream did not provide door pulls. We examined the spaces and found much very useable space. In these spaces we stored spare water filters, bottles of wine and liquor, and a few other dry goods. We also added, in unused space under the kitchen counter, a drawer and the knife rack. You can read about these and other home improvements here: link to our home improvements page.

How much indoor space do two adults need? We comfortably sat six to eight adults (in the living room plus one side of the dinette) for conversation and drinks, but they had little room to jump about and wouldn’t have space to dance. Conversely, our cubic space required very little energy to heat. Propane provides our space heat, water heating, and cooking energy. In 2008 our propane cost was approximately $150.

Julie and Richard Hunt

Julie and Richard Hunt

We didn’t often have people dine in with us. So how did we dine together when our home is a cozy travel trailer? Two choices, make do in the trailer or go out. As an example, we dined out two weeks ago with Richard and Julie Hunt when they were in town overnight on their way from Melbourne, FL, to Punta Gorda, FL. It was nice to sample a local Mexican food restaurant and spend the evening visiting with friends from the 2008 WBCCI Landmarks Caravan. Mostly though, Debbie and I dined together in our camper.

Debbie, as I type this, is knitting in the dining room leaning back on a bolster against the wall. I’m sitting in the living room. I’m six feet from her, just out of reach and usually not close enough for us. I can practice morse code and work the amateur radio with headphones without distracting her. We read a lot, write sometimes. And rarely watch t.v. except together she and I’ll watch movies or some old episodes of MASH, I Love Lucy, or Andy Griffith.

This Airstream’s layout provides ample space for all these activities and more. Kinda makes us wonder, why do two people still build or buy 4,500 square feet houses? We’re living in an Airstream trailer with interior dimensions of approximately 8′ X 23′, or 184 square feet heated space. Small has worked great for us throughout 2008.

No, we don’t have a surplus of space. We have enough space for over eighty percent of our activities of daily living. The other twenty percent involve outdoor or other venue activities including walking, tennis, golf, line dancing, aerobics, and swimming. Our favorite place to sit is on the L-sofa, followed closely by the benches of our dinette. The sofa is not as comfortable as we want due to the soft and relatively thin cushions. But the sofa is a great space upon which we can relax, read, write, listen to music, or watch the UNC Tarheels win another basketball game. Go Heels!

Sometimes the Tarheels’ games aren’t televised. No problem, they’re always broadcast on XM radio. We have XM Radio in the Airstream, can play our CD collection from our iPod through our radio, have a roof-top television antenna, and can watch movie dvds. When’s the last time we were bored? I remember once, back when I was seven or eight years old . . . I guess we’re just very easily entertained. And between our Airstream and the array of available venues we should have plenty to occupy us.

Our heating and cooling system has worked just fine in all but extreme conditions. We intended to chase 75 degrees, and found ourselves using almost no auxiliary heat or cool when outdoor temperature was between 65 and 85 degrees Farenheit. We found ourselves camped in 19 degrees F in South Carolina last February, and 106 degrees F in Bakersfield, California, last August. We were adequately comfortable (inside the Airstream) in both cases.

The bathroom is smaller than I would ever have imagined designing a shower/toilet/lavatory area. Airstream did not waste a square millimeter in this layout yet it works perfectly for us. We attended an RV show in Charlotte, NC, a few years ago and watched a fellow peer into the shower/toilet of a CCD 25. He promptly backed out and said, “No way. No way I could fit in and out of there.”

And he’ probably correct. This plan might not work for everyone. Another person, a family member, told us, “It’s just so small, it makes me claustrophobic.” We, on the other hand, see this 1,200 cubic foot space (8′ X 23′ X 6.5′) as tremendously larger than our 84 cubic foot backpacking tent (7′ X 4′ X 3′). In our Airstream trailer, you don’t have to run outside to use the bathroom and can even stand up to change clothes!

But if you’re a large person, this may not be the optimal living space for you. Getting in and out of the bathroom might prove challenging. The doorway is small and the toilet and shower are both somewhat compact. And if you are at all mobility challenged, the bed may prove difficult for you — it is only accessible from one third at the bottom corner.

We didn’t live in the bedroom. I know, people correctly point out the amount of our lifetime we spend in bed. I’m asleep — I didn’t care how big the bedroom was. And I spent as little time as practical in the shower or toilet area. Why spend money and space on those functions? Would it change the outcome? (pun intended, ha ha)

Our favorite indoor activities in our Airstream last year? Listening to the rain; enjoying home-prepared food while we ate at our dinette; playing music on the nice sound system; sleeping in our comfortable bed in this cozy trailer; and looking out through the panoramic windows or skylight or vista view windows, to name a few. This Airstream International CCD 25 brilliantly and comfortably accommodated our needs throughout 2008. Let’s go another year!

This article discussed livability of our Airstream trailer. The previous article addressed expenses, and equipment reliability. Another time I may discuss our 2008 experiences in health care, clothing, food and beverage, utilities, exercise, and sightseeing with our twenty-five foot Airstream travel trailer.

See You Down The Road!

Recap our first year’s costs & equipment

Today is Super Bowl #43, a gorgeous day in Okeechobee, Florida, and the one year anniversary of our start on full-time RVing. We had dreamed more than two years about living full-time in our Airstream trailer. Crunch time was upon us and we felt like we were in an almost impossible task. January 2008 was incredibly hectic for us as we arranged disposition for all the house furnishings, some as late as the morning of the closing.

We closed the deal on our house, packed the aisle of our camper with boxes of things we hadn’t yet placed. We drove one half-hour to stay a couple nights with Debbie’s parents before leaving for south Florida. We did it! We sold the house, escaped with our sanity, and we started on our dream, living full-time on the road.

Our first year included a fly-drive caravan to Alaska in which we flew into Anchorage and rented a small class-C motorhome to travel with fifteen other couples throughout a section of Alaska for sixteen days. We caravanned with another Charlotte, NC, couple to Bozeman, Montana. We attended the large International rally in Bozeman, MT, of WBCCI, the Airstream Owners Association. We caravanned for 53 days throughout the Pacific Northwest. We traveled extensively between Vancouver, Canada, and Bakersfield, California. And we brought not one, but two, Airstream trailers back from Bakersfield, California, to North Carolina. 2008 was a pretty exciting first year for Jim and Debbie.

This seems the perfect opportunity to recap 2008, our first full-year of full-timing. The recap will require more than one article to write. I’ll start by addressing budget, pace, and equipment reliability. Another time I may discuss our 2008 experiences in health care, clothing, food and beverage, utilities, entertainment, exercise, sightseeing and livability of our twenty-five foot Airstream. If you have other questions for us let me know and I might address your questions first or, at least, be sure to try and include responses in future articles.

Let’s review our 2008 expenses first.

Who knew the economy would free-fall, gas prices would soar, and we would be completely wrong about our first year travel goals? We planned, and budgeted $4,800 for 12,000 miles at $4.00/gallon. We drove over 18,000 miles and spent almost $8,000 on fuel. We missed our budget primarily due to extra miles but also because of higher-than-budgeted gas prices. We budgeted $1,145 for dining, but spent $3,550. Mostly we ate out when people invited us to join them, even if we wouldn’t have otherwise gone out. It’s not about the food sometimes. We saved money in several categories but not a lot in any one of them.

Overall we finished the year $1,000 under budget for our eleven month budget. More burdensome than our financials is the emotional cost we expended traveling so often and so far. Everything we read warned us, new full-timers always drive too much the first year. First-year full-timers, the experienced ones say, cannot help but live a year-long vacation hurrying from one destination to another all year.

We thought we were too smart and strong to fall for this weakness. We knew, we read all about it, and we had a plan. How did that work out? We hurried and moved too frequently all year, driving from one destination to another and not staying anywhere more than two or three weeks at a time. No downtime at any time, other than a day here or there, left us feeling like we had just towed our Airstream back and forth across the continent four times back-to-back.

We had no equipment breakdowns for the Airstream in over 18,000 miles and eleven months of travel. A screw near the sidewall of one of the trailer tires caused us to replace the tire. The interior lights in one section of our Airstream stopped working and I easily found and corrected the loose connector. The overhead storage bin over our bed unattached itself from the wall but the ceiling attachments prevented the bin from falling onto our bed.

Our kitchen undersink storage was wetted by a loose p-trap connection we’ll start checking monthly. And, I broke a trailer window with my forehead. Sounds like a lot? It isn’t a lot of trouble for living all year in the trailer and towing it all around the country. We spent just over $500 all year on repairs and maintenance for the trailer and, best of all, had no bad surprises.

The truck suffered one malfunction but we stumbled upon it serendipitously. We were using more oil than I thought reasonable for a relatively new and broken-in engine. Sure, it’s a huge engine at 8.1 liters, but I was adding oil at intervals less than 1,000 miles. And Mobil 1 is darned expensive! A little research turned up a web article on big Vortec engines history of internal oil leaks.

We too our 2006 Silverado to the Chevy dealer, Ressler Motors in Bozeman, MT to ask their help in determining the problem. The service manager responded the internal leak issues were for earlier versions but would I mind if they looked more carefully at my truck’s engine and checked it out for me? They found broken connections on the factory-installed oil cooler and replaced the cooler under warranty. No more oil leaks and we’re using a quart every two to three thousand miles.

Tires on the truck? No problems so far and we hope they’ll go another 20K or 30K miles. Only one othe problem related to the truck, the truck’s hitch receiver pin hole was beaten out of round and created excessive drawbar play in the receiver. A North Carolina Chevrolet dealer replaced the receiver under warranty with another of the same really crummy oem receivers. Nine months later the receiver is holding up very well.

A great first year for us, eh? We goofed a little on some of our budgeting. We goofed big time on our scheduling. I goofed a little breaking one of the Airstream’s windows with my head. And we enjoyed ourselves thoroughly. Nothing really surprised us, everything fell into place nicely, we just tried too hard. We think we know a little better how to do this. Let’s start another year!