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?

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