Monthly Archives: April 2009

What’s better than a perfect day watching PGA golf?

We went today to Charlotte’s own grand PGA golfing event, the Quail Hollow Championship. My brother, Chuck, and stepfather, Dow, and I spent today at this PGA event at Charlotte’s Quail Hollow Country Club.

We watched several groups teeing off from number 4 tee. I was impressed by the accuracy of these professional golfers on their drives. These guys were driving almost three hundred yards, and 2/3 of the shots were landing the same spot on the left corner of the fairway. This gave them the best shot to turn the corner to the green. I could hit the ball all day and, even if I could hit so far (which I surely cannot), I would never find the accuracy they can hit with most of their shots.

I’d show you a picture but the tournament operators prohibit private cameras during the competition rounds. Let me describe my impression for you. I’ve played golf courses all over North Carolina and in Georgia, Florida, and Colorado. Quail Hollow Country Club, at least on day 1 of this Championship, is unquestionably the most beautiful golf course I have ever seen. I wonder what it would look like (other than a lot shorter distances) from my tee boxes than the ones the professionals were using today.

We left the fourth tee box and watched the golfers coming in to the third green. We enjoyed seeing the golfers hitting their second shots at the green from around 130-150 yards out. Most of them hit the green, and a few put the ball within one putt from the hole. We watched two groups here and left to search for the signature par 3, number 17.

This par 3 is 217 yards across water and the green has water on the left and sand on the right. We saw one of six golfers land in the water and none in the sand. Again, this is pretty amazing accuracy for a 217 yard shot. At 217 yards I will hit the ball straight, or left, or right. It might go 217 yards but probably will go 100, or 150, or 175, or 200. But it might go 217 yards. Then it may roll away and still find water.

These golfers, though, hit the green and the ball stopped on the green. Makes me wonder what club they were hitting. Maybe a de-lofted five iron? Oh well, never mind. I’m de-rating all my clubs anyway. The longer I hit, the more trouble I can find. Straight is good. How did we start talking about pro golf club distances? I thought we were talking about the 2009 Quail Hollow Championship.

The day was beautiful, the players well-dressed, the crowds were well-behaved, and my beer was $6.75. No telling how much a bottle of water would have cost. And the day was fantastic. We enjoyed traipsing around between the spots and crossing several fairways (under the Marshalls’ supervision). At each green and tee location we easily found shade. And yes, we even saw Tiger Woods as he was leaving the ninth green. The only thing better than a perfect day to watch would be a good day playing golf.


I’m sitting outside our Airstream and surrounded by Airstreams at the WBCCI Region 3 Rally. The sun set ten minutes ago. This is my favorite time of the day and always has been. The air is cooling, soft breezes are blowing. Today’s activities are complete and we’ll enjoy quiet time together this evening.

The only noises are a neighbor’s rooftop air conditioner motor and the dripping water from its condenser, and the almost constant truck tire noise on Interstate 75. Sometimes the trucks make more noise as they run caravan-fashion down the interstate. Then the traffic lessens a little and I can hear the smooth and steady hum of the condenser fan working atop my neighbor’s trailer.

We talked today about some of the many travel opportunities we have for 2010. North America holds a zillion fabulous travel destinations. Our Airstream owners’ association, WBCCI, offers numerous caravans throughout all corners and sections of North America. There are also many local or regional rallies and special activities we are interested in.

The idea of daisy-chaining a number of these caravans and rallies attracts us. We’re good managers of time, money, equipment, and activities. So why not string together a number of the best caravans and rallies throughout the year? We could start at any corner of the continent and, using our WBCCI Blue Beret magazine’s activity listings, cross the continent sampling cuisine and sights all along the way. And we would meet so many more people this way!

Why not? Because this is an attractive idea doesn’t make it a good one. We realized today we are still prone to overbook ourselves as we look forward to next year. Some of the offered activities are so appealing and provide unequaled access to camping and attractions. Then we remember we have limited time and money and don’t want to hurry through this part of our life.

So we look again, and we back away a little from the dreams. We still want to hike many sections of the Appalachian Trail. We want to visit the Florida Keys. It would be nice to take a cruise sometime. Could we return to Alaska? Wouldn’t New England and Canada’s eastern provinces be wonderful?

Someone told me once, “The Catskills are wonderful in the spring and fall.” And so many other places are, right? How many springs and falls should we plan for? Shouldn’t we hurry and get this done while we are still able?

We dream, we connoiter, we consider, we plan. Reality sets in, we reconsider, and we unplan. We want to plan less and enjoy, as it comes, what is in front of us.

Thunderstorms Lead to Calming Weather

Yesterday started with me trying to check in to the RV Service 40 meter Net at 0730 hours. Band conditions and a terrific local thunderstorm made this doubly challenging so I waited until almost 0830 hours and checked in through a helping, or relay, station. I reported on the number of units at this WBCCI Region 3 Rally (80) and the weather conditions (skies clearing nicely and temperatures at 60 degrees) for Perry, Georgia yesterday morning.

Debbie and I walked to the meeting hall for pastry, fruit cup, and coffee and morning visiting with other Airstreamers. Ken and Ruth Dorn had room at their table so we joined them and enjoyed talking with them and with Dottie McElvine, Ruth’s mom. It turns out Ruth’s parents were Airstreamers 25 years ago and Ruth and Ken also had an Airstream. Ruth and Ken have recently purchased their first Airstream in many time, joined the Carolinas Unit of NC, and are attending their first rally in over twenty years.

We drove to Warner Robins Air Force Base to the Museum of Aviation. The first building required almost three hours for us to browse the first two floors. As we walked outside to attend to other exhibit halls we realized our tour time was expended and we needed to return to the rally campus. We were due to present a brief seminar on full-timing in less than one hour.

So we returned, ate a fresh tomato sandwich, and walked up to the meeting hall to greet all four attendees of our small seminar. No problem, we moved to a nice round table. We presented our perspectives on full-timing for almost an hour and facilitated another half-hour of discussion on full-timing issues. We enjoyed this and think the attendees did too. This was easier with only four people and is good practice for us. We’ll be presenting to ten times as many people in Madison, WI, in two months.

Enjoyed a cookout with some friends before we walked to the meeting hall for rally announcements, merit awards, entertainment, door prizes, and nightly ice cream. Entertainment last night was fabulous, a quartet from Columbus, GA, called Wynnbrook Quartet. We enjoyed them tremendously.

Two previous nights were cooler than last night. We opened our windows a little wider and put less covers on the bed. I was really looking forward to a good night’s sleep before a golf game in the morning.

No lightning and thunder, no rain, and no strong winds buffeted us this morning. We woke up to a beautiful orange sunrise and what seems like our first calm weather. This is a welcome change, even with the likelihood of warmer temperatures and more bugs. Jim has a golf outing and Debbie will join friends sightseeing.

Airstream Region 3 Rally in Perry GA

We spent Thursday last week driving from St Augustine to Kannapolis, NC. The buyers for the Snow White, our Airstream Argosy Minuet 7.3 trailer, advised they would arrive around April 20 to pick her up. We spent Thursday evening and all day Friday and Saturday working on Snow White.

She looked so great! She cleaned up well and all her systems worked even better than we could have hoped. I already wanted to keep Snow White for ourselves and somehow, miraculously, find time to restore her to her original fit and luster. Once we finished cleaning her up Snow White became especially appealing.

Sunday afternoon the buyers arrived and were instantly smitten by Snow White. Whew! We made the sale. We spent time Sunday evening, throughout Monday and then Tuesday morning helping them learn about their Argosy trailer and preparing them to tow her back to Canada. We left for Perry GA and they left for Ontario late Tuesday morning.

We’re attending the WBCCI Region 3 Rally, an annual event, at the Georgia National Fairgrounds in Perry GA. We arrived just yesterday evening and spent the night in the “bullpen”, the parking area for late arrivals. Almost as soon as we arrived we had a visit from our good friend, Jerry Hall.

Jerry invited us to join the crew from National Landmarks West caravan for supper. We ate in Roberta & Bruce Williams trailer with Jerry and Ann and Wally & Carol Welch. It was wonderful to be in their company for the first time since Bakersfield CA last August when we all rallied around Jerry and Ann.

And what a difference in the weather! Bakersfield treated us to day after day of temperatures over 100 degrees. Last night the wind was reportedly gusting to well over 30 mph, some rain was mixed in, and the temperatures hit the low 40s. This morning Jerry was missing one of his vinyl tire covers. It had blown 100 yards to a pond and crossed another 100 yards over the water and was awaiting him there.

This morning the parking crew directed us to our parking site for the rally, we registered, met the neighbors, and dined at the rally luncheon. We prepared a little for our presentation tomorrow on full-timing, a brief introduction on basic considerations and how to avoid some pitfalls.

We’ll enjoy mid-Georgia weather and the company of many Airstream friends in Perry GA before we head north toward the greater Charlotte area for a couple of weeks. And we hope you are enjoying pleasant spring-time weather, too.

Hard-driving Woman

Today is a driving day for us. We are enroute to Kannapolis NC after spending almost four months in Florida. The buyers of our vintage Argosy, Snow White, are on their way to purchase her. We’ll spend four nights in Kannapolis before heading south to Perry, GA for our Airstream owners’ association regional rally.

Last night after visiting with friends and playing a few hands of cards together Debbie and I agreed we were both excited at the prospect of today’s drive. We don’t relish long driving days but we do really like relocating. Does it affirm our footloose state of living, or does it appeal to our sense of adventure? I think both.

Ah, the wonders of technology. We have been watching on our gps, since departing Faver Dykes State Park this morning, our projected arrival time to Kannapolis. The gps doesn’t know or try to project our stopping times. So our arrival has slipped thirty-six minutes over the past seven hours forty minutes. Three bathroom breaks, one including refilling our fuel tank, account for the stopped time.

Debbie is driving her second two-hour stint today. She is a great driver and has no problems towing our Airstream on Interstates or secondary roads. I already knew this after she, by herself, gamely towed our trailer across the United States last September.

We’ll have supper with Debbie’s parents then go pick up Snow White to return her to their house. Debbie and I will work the next several days to prepare Snow White for her journey to Vancouver Island, B.C. Snow White’s buyers are enroute to purchase her and will take her home and renovate her. This will be an exciting project I wish I was undertaking. But it doesn’t make sense for us, already living the mobile lifestyle. Hopefully, the new buyers will share details of their restoration adventure.

Anyway, I love traveling with Debbie. Whether I drive or she does, we enjoy each other’s company and both enjoy being on the road. I like Debbie driving. She can pile on the miles, is pretty unflappable, and has so much driving experience. She is one hard-driving woman.

Henry M and Mary Lily Kenan Flagler

This morning we were in the waning hours of a night-long downpour. Rain chased me indoors last night from grilling our steaks. We ate supper, played cards, and went to bed listening to a steady and much-needed rain beating on our roof and skylights. We awoke to rain drops pattering on the aluminum roof and the leaves outside our window. After breakfast we had some intense showers and several nearby lightning strikes.

Park's post-storm puddles

Park's post-storm puddles

The skies are brightening now, and we might find a rainbow when we take our afternoon walk. We welcomed the rain and wouldn’t mind if it continued all day. The region is parched and fire risks have been elevated for over a month. Conditions in this state park were extremely dry when we arrived yesterday. Gusty winds drove fine dust throughout our Airstream’s interior. Not today. Everything is well-soaked for the day.

Henry Flagler and his three wives onstage

Henry Flagler and his three wives onstage

We enjoyed a nice visit Saturday evening from Henry Flagler and his three wives. A local man, his wife, and two friends portray Henry Flagler and his three wives, Mary Harkness, Ida Alice, and Mary Lily Kenan. Mr. Flagler transformed the Florida wilderness into an accessible seasonal retreat (for the rich) with the railroad, grand hotels, churches and politics. His three wives, in turn, take the stage and describe life with Henry.

The presentation was our second on Henry Morrison Flagler and his wives, and we left pondering the connections between Mary Lily Kenan Flagler and several Chapel Hill, NC, institutions. There are Kenan-Flagler Graduate School of Business, Kenan Dormitory, Kenan Stadium, and Kenan Oil Company, among others. What would have brought Henry’s and Mary’s money to Chapel Hill to the oldest public university in the United States?

Old East UNC CH

Old East UNC CH

James Kenan, a member of NC General Assembly and of the University’s first Board of Trustees, in 1790 contributed $50 to the construction of the first dormitory, Old East. In the following 220 years the Kenan family apparently has contributed more than $165 million to the University, more than any other private donor. [source info]

Additionally Frank Kenan, one of Mary Lily’s nephews, founded Kenan Oil Company, a $50 million/year oil transport business. Mary Lily’s brother, William Rand Kenan, Jr, discovered acetylene gas while a student at the University of NC. Both of these men maintained a close and generous lifetime relationship with their alma mater.

Who would have thought we would end up learning so much about our alma mater from watching a small stage production in St Augustine about Henry M. Flagler’s life? Another plug for the “unintended consequences” rule, I think.

Some references, in case you’d like to read more about Kenan fortunes and patronage:

Everyone is packing

Yesterday morning Debbie and I awoke early and drove into St Augustine for Easter Sunrise service outside Flagler Memorial Presbyterian Church. The Service was in the Columbarian. Tiki torches provided light around the perimeter and chairs provided comfortable seating for 50 people. It was an intimate setting and seemed very appropriate. We enjoyed the music and the message.

We had the final event for the week yesterday evening at the Easter Rally. We sat with Gilliams from TN and Kolesars from VA. The rally evening fellowships offer the opportunity to sit with different couples each night. We got to know both couples a little better yesterday, and will look forward to seeing them again at another rally.

The Florida State Unit of WBCCI provided us a catered ham dinner plus cake and ice cream. The dinner was very good, and Debbie and I volunteered to help with serving the cake and ice cream. Some rallies offer volunteer opportunities for the participants to help carry a little of the load. We find volunteering is a fun and easy way to get to know a few more people.

After the ceremonies and dessert everyone started saying their farewells. We saw, as we walked back to our Airstream, people preparing for this morning’s departure. It was a pleasant evening and we had a little more daylight. Why wait until the morning and unknown weather conditions? Tomorrow might bring rain or locusts!

We latched the awnings and all the windows except the bedroom ones. I lowered and secured the tall antenna and mounted the towing mirrors on our truck. In the morning I would check these things again as I complete preparations to tow our Airstream home to the next destination. I saw one of our Airstream friends walk around his Airstream, clipboard in hand, going through similar steps.

A checklist helps avoid costly omissions like a broken window or awning, or an improperly connected hitch, or snapping off a raised antenna. We have, we think, good checklists. And we used them frequently. Debbie and I have committed to memory the steps for hitching and un-hitching.

I’m responsible for the awnings and hitch segments and Debbie for the kitchen and toiletries. I prep the hitch, back the truck, connect and lock the hitch and its parts. Debbie secures the stove, stows the teapot, kettle, water pitcher, fruit bowls, soap dispensers, toothbrushes. I reef and latch the awnings. Otherwise, we each tackle the preparation for travel as if the other is not doing so.

The other steps include disconnecting and stowing fresh water hoses and filter and shore power cords, and stowing outdoor rug, doormat, chairs & tables. And we remember to safely store our only pet, the aloe plant Monroe Bowles gave us in Okeechobee, FL, in January.

Debbie and I walk around the Airstream at least two times each for our “de-park” inspection. We look at each other’s work as well as our own, carefully examining each window and awning latch, hitch part, step, vent, antenna and light. We slowly and methodically walk around the trailer checking every detail of road-worthiness. This is our final pre-flight check.

We’re ready to go 22 miles to our next State Park. Our preparations would be identical if we were going 220 miles or 400 miles. We don’t want to leave gear behind, we don’t want to damage our Airstream or truck, and we don’t want to create a problem for anyone else on the highways.

We have heard stories of people whose windows broke while on the Interstate, apparently from wind currents slamming the window open and closed. We have seen batwing television antennas crashed into the roof, possibly piercing the roof skin. We have seen sewer hoses dragging from their storage place as the trailer traveled up the road. We know one ham whose raised antenna smashed into an overhead bridge. The antenna apparently smacked into and broke roof-mounted solar panels, to add insult to injury.

Our experience with this has been good, so far. We left a sewer fitting in one campsite, and two levelling blocks in another. Total losses? Less than $20 in five years. One mistake could cost thousands, though. We’ve been fortunate. We might return to a checklist yet.

The routine activities of packing and hitching up take between an hour and two hours, depending upon how “unpacked” we became at the site. Here we used all three awnings, our rug, the grill, a folding table, and had all our family pictures on the shelf inside. When we are staying one night, we can unhook from utilities (if we even connected to them) and be hitched up and on the road in 1/2 hour.

Yesterday and this morning we probably spent over two hours, although some of the time was mixed with saying farewells. We enjoy this part of the rally, too. Five years into Airstreaming we still get excited when we pull onto the road towing our Airstream. Did we remember everything? What will the inside of the trailer look like when we arrive? And, what adventure lies ahead?