Category Archives: Traveling

On Our Way to NYC This Week

We left Pittsburgh a couple of days ago on our way to meet up and go to NYC with a bunch of Wally Byam Airstream Club friends from Ontario. There were several potential routes to the meetup and we hadn’t settled on where to stop the first night. Then BANG! “Why don’t we spend a day touring Niagara Falls?” Okay, small route change and no problem. Let’s do it.

Sunset on Lake Erie

Why do things work out really well sometimes? Apparently someone cancelled their plans for an RV site in Four Mile Creek State Park. This is near Niagara Falls and our site backs up to Lake Erie. Four Mile Creek State Park is a gorgeous campground with several hundred sites. The shower houses are very nicely built, although there was no walk path from our loop. The sites are large and have electricity. Water is available throughout the loops for refilling fresh water tanks and the dump station is conveniently located on our way out. Best of all, the drive between Four Mile Creek and Niagara Falls is a pretty and short twenty-mile drive.

Our NY State Park camping fee also covers the day’s parking fee while we’re visiting Niagara Falls. This happens sometimes, especially if we listen and take someone’s advice, are willing to be flexible, don’t let our expectations keep us from enjoying things, and let things work out. It’s not just a freedom of full-timing, but that helps too. Sometimes you wonder what you did wrong. Sometimes you get very lucky.

Garbed up for the boat tour

We checked in for our online-purchased tickets when we arrived at Niagara Falls State Park in the morning. The visitor’s desk lady asked us, “Do you want to get wet now or later?” Our choices were to get wet on the boat tour, or wetter on the Cave of the Winds walk. We started the day at the Falls with the Maid of the Mist boat tour.

Can you see us on the boat?

The falls almost overwhelmed us on our boat tour. Not capsized us, but it filled us completely with awe. There are 675,000 gallons per second rushing over the Canadian Falls and we were struck dumb by the tremendous power and beauty as we bobbed along in our boat near the base of these falls.

taken from the Skylon Tower

Best laid plans were thoroughly doused in our next adventure. The issued blue ponchos had kept us entirely dry on the boat tour despite wet blustery air currents and showers. We wore our waterproof hiking boots and gore-tex jackets too, so we felt well-prepared for whatever the Falls could dish out. We went next to the Cave of the Winds and boldly advised the flip-flop passer outer that we had on our waterproof shoes and wouldn’t take the free flip flops.

Ha! Our waterproof boots, once they filled with icy cold water on the boardwalk so near the falls, kept the water from leaking out from around our feet. We sloshed back to the truck where, fortunately, we had two pairs of dry socks to change into. Note for next time: use the flip flops.

Our park pass admitted us to all the attractions and also onto the trolley. We made good use of the pass, checking out all the stops on foot except for the Schoellkpof Power Station site. The trolley trip there was nice and quick and allowed us time to tour this and see the movie in the Niagara Gorge Discovery Center. Our last stop was for dinner reservations on the Canadian side, 1.6 miles distant. We walked across Rainbow Bridge, the largest hingeless arch bridge in the world from its 1941 construction until twenty-one years later when surpassed by a nearby bridge (Lewiston-Queenston) of the same design.

Perhaps exactly midway across the border we were standing astride the border between two of our favorite countries, the one where all our children and grandchildren live and the one where two of our grandchildren were born. Someone told us earlier in the day we’d find the Canadian side of Niagara Falls cleaner and neater than the American side. The remark didn’t surprise us and we weren’t surprised to find it so, again. We had a nice appetizing walk to the Skylon Tower and made our early dinner seating right on time.

dinner reservations at Skylon Tower

Debbie had arranged for a prix fixe, where everything’s included in one price, at the revolving restaurant atop the Skylon Tower. We would ride the yellow elevator up the outside and have seating in the window for a one revolution per hour dinner. The dinner was several courses, the food was very good, and the views were wonderful. This was a really nice way to spend the evening after walking all over the Niagara Falls State Park.

dining in Skylon Tower

The spontaneous stop in Niagara Falls allowed one of our best touring days ever. The weather forecast was for rain. We figured we’d be getting wet anyhow (and we did, or at least our feet did), and the rain apparently kept the park from being very busy. We arrived early and stayed until nearly 7:30 in the evening. We didn’t spend enough time on the Canadian side and didn’t quite finish the American side either.

As usually occurs, we left thinking, “We’ll want to return and see more of this”. It was a great day!

See you down the road,

Jim and Debbie
see us at dreamstreamr odyssey, chasing 75 degrees
see what’s going on at WBCCI, The Wally Byam Airstream Club

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The Road Less Traveled By

Any other highway but I-10 would be fine this time. So we started westward on I-20 and almost magically found ourselves entering the Sacramento Mountains on US-82. How could we have known how cool this was going to be? How many times did we not take this road?

We’ve crossed the continent, out and back, almost every year for the past ten. Every time we’ve been pulling our sweet 25′ Airstream home-on-wheels behind us. It seems like we’ve taken I-10 way too many times.

Really we probably used other highways at least half of the times we traversed the continent. We’ve crossed on The TransCanada Highway once, and each of I-90, 80, 70, and 40 at least once in both directions. Interstate 10 gets all our other crossings because it’s the most southern route and therefore the most suitable for towing our unwinterized RV in January, Feb, or Mar, which we often seem to do.

We were headed from North Carolina to Casa Grande AZ for the WBCCI Airstream Club’s annual winter Board meeting. Each evening on this trip we looked at the possible routes and weather a day ahead ahead. An overnight in Sweetwater TX on I-20 gave us a good look at a route we’d never considered. We saw a straighter line than I-20/I-10 offered from Sweetwater to Las Cruces, by picking our way from I-20 to US-82. We had no idea the adventure we were facing, the route simply looked more direct.

One hundred or so miles later we were in an incomparably beautiful area, the Sacramento Mountains in Lincoln National Forest. Without a doubt this was the prettiest part of our entire drive. The two lane road gently turned and climbed back and forth as it followed an ancient route through a gorge and then inexorably upward toward Cloudcroft NM at 8,650 ft above sea level.

There were long stretches of nothing but unspoiled terrain. This natural beauty reminded us of driving on Top of the World Highway between Dawson City YT and Chicken Alaska, where for as far as we could see away from our road there was no trace of civilization anywhere. Gradually we started seeing more homesteads, then RV parks, and finally stores. In Cloudcroft we even drove by a small ski slope filled with folks enjoying skiing on a sunny afternoon.

It took a little while for us to recover from the excitement of watching our engine and transmission temperatures climb on the mile-high climb and imagine our brake temperatures climb on the 4,300′ descent. Then we realized we were going to be driving right by White Sands National Monument. Several times we had driven on one border or the other of the White Sands Missile Range. We’d never been on this side of the area and hadn’t thought how to find our way to it. We had to stop!

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We spent a fascinating hour touring the Visitors Center and watching their very good video about the area. We learned some history and geology about the area, and why the white sand is special – it’s gypsum instead of quartz. What surprised us most is the rule prohibiting taking any of this white sand out of the park. Sure enough, we saw little piles of it on the sidewalk of the parking area where people dumped out their shoes so they wouldn’t be absconding with the material.

I’ve friends who won’t take that road, the one less traveled. Their travel’s going to be on the four-lanes and GPS-referred routes. There’s nothing wrong with that. Those roads are likely to have good paved shoulders, softer grades, great sight lines, and perhaps other safety features. The best thing is that the really interesting routes might remain, in Robert Frost’s words, “the road less traveled by.” It did make all the difference for us yesterday.

See You Down The Road

Jim and Debbie,
dreamstreamr odyssey, chasing 75 degrees
©dreamstreamr odyssey 2017

Preparing for Snow?

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This morning on the telly NC’s new governor, Roy Cooper, announced declaration of state of emergency for all 100 counties. They’re pretty sure this snow’s coming. We’re in the dark blue region on this map so things could become messy. We made a quick trip to the local store, beat the rush. We have enough scotch and bourbon for the weekend.

We were planning to leave NC today for sunny Arizona. We miss 75 degrees and look forward to a great Board of Trustees meeting of the Airstream Club. Our new plan is to enjoy the snow and tow our Airstream southbound starting Monday. We’re ready to go!

See you down the road,

Jim and Debbie
see us at dreamstreamr odyssey, chasing 75 degrees
see what’s going on at WBCCI, The Wally Byam Airstream Club

Kickstarter for Alumination, a feature-length documentary

We’d never contributed to a Kickstarter campaign. We’d never even browsed their web site. Kickstarter claims 15 diverse categories and thousands of projects. I’d wondered what was the motivation to contribute to a campaign. Someone I know kicked in on a project a few years ago. He received a handful of the items when it went successfully to production and he gave us one. Still I wondered, why get involved in this?

Eric Bricker is a friend we first met at Alumaflamingo (Sarasota FL) several years ago. We’ve since met with him several times in other locations. He’s each time impressed us with his enthusiasm for the Wally Byam Airstream Club and all things Airstream. Clearly he’s done his homework about our Club and community. This morning we opened Eric’s invitation to look at his Kickstarter campaign for “ALUMINATION, a feature-length documentary”. We love it and we’re all in!

This film is something all Airstreamers can look forward to enjoying. Eric’s trailer will give you a pretty good understanding of his feel for our Aluminum community. I’m interested in supporting this project because of his demonstrated talent, hard work, and successful portrayal of something I believe in – the Airstream lifestyle. I hope you’ll agree his project is worth supporting, and you’ll open your wallets to kickstart it like we have.

Jim

visit our website
©2007-2016 Dreamstreamr odyssey

Air travel is Again safe

Tried to get through TSA screening today with Chapstick in my pocket. It’s nonmetallic, non-liquid, right? The full-body scanner picked it up, thank heavens. We then submitted to the one-on-one.

“Sir, do you have items in your pocket?”

“Yes.” Reach in and retrieve the Chapstick, and I show it to him.

“Sir, I’ll need to pat you on that side.” I guess it was good for him. Then he said, “Please open the Chapstick.”

Okay, that worked. I get to keep my Chapstick. They either didn’t detect the individually wrapped lifesaver mint in my other pocket or they know what it is. Probably the latter, eh?

I hope we’re safer now. So long as only goodness comes in Chapstick- and smaller-sized packages, I do feel safer.

How many years full-timing?

2-dswkayak2015 was a good year for us. It wrapped up an enjoyable eighth year of full-timing. We began the year in a wet and chilly Corpus Christi TX, and the year mostly improved from there.  Our year was full of interesting travels throughout much of the United States. We visited another FL state park (Silver Springs) for the first time before visiting Sarasota and Miami again. We added another state, Pennsylvania, to our camping list with two weeks enjoyable visits there.

5-liarWe traveled a different path westward to Farmington NM for the Airstream Club’s annual meeting and rally. It was fun to stop at the mother ship of Bass Pro stores in St Louis MO. Along the way we discovered a free city park in Elk City OK (electricity and water,) and nice RVers everywhere we went. While in Farmington at the annual meeting, Jim was elected to 2nd Vice-President of the international Airstream Club. This was an exciting event and promises to provide a lot of hard and rewarding work.

9-ChacoFarmington NM is a great part of the USA to visit. Attractions include Shiprock, Chaco Culture National Historical Park, and Aztec Ruins, and Hovenweep National Monument, and Durango, among other ancient and more recently developed attractions. Summer may not be the best time to visit the southwest but we found the weather manageable and enjoyed our stay and the attractions.

3-CWCSadly, Jim’s mother died in mid-March last year. We left Miami earlier than planned to rush home to be with Catie and family during this tough time. Thankfully the campground in southwest Miami was very accommodating about refunding our unused camping nights, and we’re glad we weren’t any further away from the family home. Our full-timing lifestyle allowed us to quickly respond to the family’s needs and care for Catie so she could stay home during her last two weeks.

4-firewoodland

One of our daughters and her family repatriated from Vancouver in Canada last month. They’re getting settled in with many adjustments after being out of the country for ten years. We’re excited to have all our children and grands living in North Carolina for the first time. We sense, on the other hand, a tug to start settling on our NC mountain acreage. Doesn’t this look really inviting? We have courtesy parking – let us know if you’d like to stop in. It’s pretty nice.

 

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Two new grandchildren joined our family last year. We’re grateful our travels and their arrivals all timed well, and they’re both in N.C.

 

We encountered our fair share of mechanical issues last year. Our fridge and water heater both failed on our rain-soaked trip from Farmington. Not until we hit some dry pavement in Tennessee did these start working again. Our batteries stopped charging from shore power. We accidentally destroyed our folding step when we ran it into a projecting concrete sidewalk. Precipitates from the water heater clogged our sink faucet completely. The solar charger quit. Debbie’s makeup mirror LED lights failed. We found ourselves needing to replace the trailer’s brakes and turn the drums. We had our worst water leaks into the cabin. One that soaked the fabric base of our sofa and one that dripped onto the floor from inside the roof air conditioner.

These are all pretty routine maintenance issues to us. To have a gaggle of mechanical issues in the same year is unusual for us and was frustrating at times. We sometimes defer maintenance when we think we can count on getting to it before long. Ideally, we catch problems before they catch us. Other times, a delay turns out to be punctuated by a repair instead of preventive or scheduled maintenance. Dry camping is easy when most things are working. Living in an RV is easy for us when most things are working. Our RV is eleven years old and is apparently becoming a little more demanding. Okay – we’re on it!

Our 2015 towing mileage was 11,740, down from 14,866 miles in 2014. This brings our total full-timing towing miles to just under 108,000 miles. Our truck has 157,000 total miles, so towing represents 70% of our total truck mileage. The truck and trailer each continue to delight us with low maintenance needs and costs. We still plan to run the truck to 200,000 miles, or another three to four years, before replacement. Get your bids in soon for future purchase of a lightly used truck!

Our full-timing travel costs continued another year to trend downward. We spent $2,966 on camping sites, down from $4,050 and $4,565 the prior two years. Our average cost of camp site rental for 2015 dropped to $8/night, down from $11 and $13 the prior two years. Our average nights stay per site returned to six nights.

One expected decrease is our towing miles per relocation. We averaged 178 miles per relocation in 2015, our second lowest number in eight years. Moving more often within southeast USA from July through December 2015 drove this and other reductions. This year we’re likely to spend more time traveling out west, so some of these may swing upward again.

10-75 degrees

Finally, we now freely admit we’re likely to build a house. We bought very nice land two years ago in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina. Weeks spent at various times of the year getting a feel for the sun, the weather, the wind, and the neighbors, provide us good ideas for site placement.

This attraction to building a house runs counter to our full-timing ethic of the past 8+ years. We promised we would only stay on the road full-time so long as we wanted. We’re still loving it, but are beginning to wonder how many more years. We think it’d be nice to eventually have a house again.

See you down the road!

Jim and Debbie
visit our website
©2007-2016 Dreamstreamr odyssey

Living Together in Tiny Spaces – Hobbies and Agreements

We enjoyed a fabulous gathering of aluminized folks at John Leake’s Alumalina Rally at Palmetto Cove Park in Cleveland SC. Approx 120 Airstreams, members and non-members of the Airstream Club, didn’t matter – everyone seemed to have a great time in wonderful Fall weather.

The drive back to Ashe County was accentuated by Blue Ridge Parkway trip from Blowing Rock to Deep Gap. Whatever the experts say, this afternoon was PEAK COLOR on that stretch of the BRP! Just gorgeous.

Just returned to Woodland Ridge, our spot in Ashe County this afternoon and glad rain hasn’t started yet. We want rain, but nice to have opportunity to park the Airstream, arrange everything, get settled without dealing with rain too. Let it rain tonight!

This was a “contest” weekend for ham radio everywhere. No matter where I dial in, multiple ham radio operators from all over the world trying to connect with each other. On one hand, sort of amazing so many people are involved in ham radio. The American Radio Relay League (ARRL) reports more licensed hams in USA than ever before, and something like 18K new ones each year. Sure seemed like it all this weekend, whenever I turned on the radio.

So, it didn’t matter we had relatively weak reception in Palmetto Cove, tucked down below mountains all around. I was able to check into the RV Service Net ham radio net at 8:15 Fri morning, thanks to a relay from friend Garry W8OI in Huntington WV (Garry’s been a licensed ham radio operator for 62 years!) Even in difficult conditions, ham radio always works.

This afternoon I raised my G5RVjr dipole antenna (it’s 55′ up, between a pair of trees 70′ apart) and re-installed my tuner to optimize using that antenna. Now I have choices for HF ham radio of screwdriver antenna on the Airstream’s roof, G5RVjr (oriented north to south, so strongest signal east-west,) and 74′ end-fed wire. Capable and fun!

While at the RV gathering in South Carolina this weekend there was an open house of many of the Airstreams including ours. Lots of questions asked about how we have room in a 8.5′ X 23′ cabin to live year-round. Complicating the question is our sort of full-featured ham radio station and other stuff we like in our lives. Folks naturally are curious about how we fit all our interests into a <200sf cabin and live without getting in each other's way. Many consider our space tiny, and it is smaller than many Tiny Houses. We neither feel cramped nor crowded despite supporting trappings for our varied interests.

A couple living together, with or without children, makes agreements ALL THE TIME. Another word sometimes heard is, compromises. It's what being together is about for us. We're in this together. If one of us isn't suited then something's wrong for us both. We don't look at compromises as a reduction in stock for one of us, but try to make it a win for us both. I've kidded before about the genesis of moving the ham radio station from in the truck's dash to on the dinette table. Debbie expressed reservations but I promised to make it work well for us. It did, although she's not sure if this latest iteration is fully okay.

I added the bottom component today. It's a ham radio antenna tuner with three knobs, a meter, and three buttons. It essentially doubles the ham radio footprint on the table. One, it's on my side of the dinette table, except when we share our table with friends. Then it's "our" side of the table. Two, this component IS removable. Unscrewing two cable connectors and one small power wire on the back lets me slip this tuner out and store it. Debbie's being very sporting about going along with it for now, and I'm okay with moving it out of sight if helpful.

Here's what my "big" ham radio station now looks like in this full timer's cabin:

Our HF station

See you down the road!

Jim and Debbie

dreamstreamr odyssey™
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©2007-2015 Jim @ Dreamstreamr.com