Tag Archives: Airstream

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.

 

6-Charlotte1-SAF

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
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©2007-2016 Dreamstreamr odyssey

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Why We Love Our Truck

A few weeks ago we talked with Jim’s brother about an upcoming road trip. You might have read our Fiat 500 story two years ago about renting a car instead of taking our truck on a 1,000 mile jaunt? Upcoming was another opportunity to avoid piling expensive miles on the truck. Or was it?

The possibility of saving money and saving our truck caused Jim to run an analysis of life-cycle costs for our truck and see if we made the correct decision last week. We decided not to rent a car for a week-long trip to North Carolina. The truck gets almost 16mpg highway (not towing), is trouble-free, very comfortable, and we don’t have to support a rental company’s O+P if we use our own truck. We’ll get back to the rent decision in a minute.

We love our pickup truck. Full-timers, maybe, maintain a closer relationship to their truck than some folks. If the truck doesn’t go, we can’t either. Bought to tow the Airstream trailer, this truck has met or exceeded all our expectations. The truck just turned 140,000 miles and has towed the Airstream approximately 100,000 miles since July 2006. Below are the new truck’s story and some numbers.

Over eight years ago we bought a new truck. The old Ford 4X4, while fine for the 22′ RV, wasn’t enough to stop or pull our new 25′ RV. The Ford was tired when we bought it. Pretty, nice paint, comfortable, but a worn-out engine. We needed a new truck and were brand indifferent.

What mattered more to us than brand was the right arrangement of features including gas engine, bucket seats, extended cab, 4X4, no sunroof, and some others. We had bought the new Airstream and needed a more capable truck. Ward Williams came to our rescue. Thanks to Williams Buick-GMC in Charlotte, we were able to find a good deal on the right Chevy Silverado 2500HD. The truck apparently was languishing at a dealership in Virginia.

Big Red Truck

Big Red Truck

His buyer found us a truck meeting 5 of our 6 criteria. He called us one day and asked, “Can you go with a red one instead of blue or green?” Once we looked at it we were all in. The truck is a deep red called “Sport Red Metallic” by Chevrolet.

Jim owned three other trucks before this one, all purchased used. And between us, we’d bought, traded, and sold dozens of cars. None of those previous trucks and cars came close to the comfort and technology represented in this 2006 Chevy. No, none of them cost close to the truck’s purchase price.

We’ve never experienced a failure or breakdown of any type. The truck has found no hill too steep, even towing the trailer up or down 15% (that’s really really steep) grades on the Sea-to-Sky Highway in British Columbia. The engine temperature doesn’t vary more than one degree. It’s a little hard on batteries but, really, that’s more Jim’s fault for accessorizing the truck with 12v appliances like ham radio, cb radio, air compressor, trailer tire monitor, and chargers for Apple mobile products.

Folks often ask, “Why didn’t you put a camper shell on the truck?” We thought we were minimalists, having emptied a 3,000 sf house and moving so much less stuff into a 180 sf travel trailer.

We thought you might appreciate seeing some of the numbers we’ve developed on this great truck’s performance. No, nothing like 1/4 mile or 0-60 stuff. These are life cycle cost numbers. Bottom line, we thought we could save the rental cost and at least break even using our truck. See what you think?

copied from worksheet

copied from worksheet

Here’s how it worked out when we ran all the numbers for rental vs using our gas hog truck:

copied from worksheet

copied from worksheet

The $195 saved by not paying tires, oil, maintenance, and gasoline on our truck would be close to breakeven once we paid the fees for renting a subcompact car. Our truck is roomy, comfortable, has XM radio and ham radios, and we like it. According to these numbers, we did okay on our decision. Not great, not saving the world by reducing carbon footprint and fuel usage, but for our pocketbook, we at least broke even.

We made over 15 mpg overall, the best we’ve done since ethanol cut our gas efficiency. We were ready with 4-wheel drive in case those New England/Canadian storms brought snow into our path. Best of all, we enjoyed 1,300 miles Interstate driving together in our big red truck. What a nice way to spend Valentines Day!

See you down the road!

Jim and Debbie
dreamstreamr odyssey™
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©2007-2015 Dreamstreamr

Why Caravan to Dawson City?

It occurs to me as I revisit our previous blog, City of Gold, I failed to introduce the topic. Just started in as if you and I had been talking together all evening about the topic. And why would we visit Dawson City, anyway? Partly this abruptness is borne of scarce connectivity over the past couple of weeks. I succumbed to a sense of urgency to get a blog posted, even if I couldn’t review and edit it.

Here are a few very short paragraphs to explain the back story for our post, City of Gold.

We are on a 63-day caravan in Yukon Territory, Alaska, and British Columbia with 76 people in 38 Airstream rv trailers and motorhomes. The people range in age from 60 years to more than 80 years, and represent most of the states, including Hawaii. Two couples are full-timers, living in their trailers year-round. Several of the couples have never been on a caravan, a few have been on as many as ten caravans. Their Airstreams were built between 1961 and 2011 and represent all sizes and configurations from 23′ trailers to 40′ motorhomes.

The caravan started in Dawson Creek, British Columbia, Canada on July 12 and will disband in Prince George, British Columbia, Sep 12. We followed the historic Alaska Highway from the starting point in Dawson Creek, until we diverted to Dawson City YT. There we learned about the 1896 Yukon Gold Rush, crossed the Yukon River and followed the Taylor Highway to its starting point at the terminus of the Alaska Highway in Delta Junction, Alaska.

We are in day twenty (20) of this 63-day caravan. We have posted eight times in July about this caravan. You can easily scroll through all the caravan posts to-date by clicking here.

Our next post will briefly detail our day-trip to Skagway AK from Whitehorse YT. It was a wonderful train trip to Skagway and we returned to Whitehorse via tour bus.

Jim and Debbie
dreamstreamr odyssey, chasing 75 degrees

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©2007-2012 Dreamstreamr

The Henry Ford — Leg 4 of AK trip

A distinct advantage of full-timing is our ability to travel without much itinerary. We have a destination (Dawson Creek, B.C., Canada). We have a timeline (Dawson Creek by July 12). But we don’t have any big idea of what all to do and when to do it in the 2,500 miles and thirty-six days before July 12. We are winging it, simply flexible.

If you’re just joining us on this trip, this is the third leg of a many legged odyssey from Kannapolis NC to Alaska. We left Kannapolis May 30, drove to Copper Hill VA (Virginia Highland Haven Airstream Park), and to Dayton Ohio. And the story continues:

Sunday was a nice driving day from Dayton OH to Belleville MI. Sunny, windy, nice temperatures, and increasing traffic as we drew closer to Detroit. We met up with a few Airstreamers on I-75N at a rest stop, they had attended a big airstream rally in Jackson Center OH, Alumapalooza and were traveling in our direction.

We heard from some of the Airstreamers in the rest stop about the Ford Museum in Dearborn MI, and a nearby county fairgrounds with camping. Sounded good, we didn’t know what we were going to do in Michigan. The fairground campground is in a good location for touring Dearborn. Nice grassy sites, good quiet location, two-point hookups plus wifi — checks most of the boxes!

Monday we spent all day at The Henry Ford, an all-American museum since 1929. The museum kicked us out at 5pm as we were finishing our last exhibit. We started touring the trains exhibit and were most interested in the huge 76 feet long Allegheny 160, the last and largest steam locomotive.

We saw perhaps a hundred cars in the museum ranging from a tiny electric to Charles Kuralt’s motorhome. We had several favorites. Airstream and VW campmobile, Honda Accord, Bugatti limo, and Lotus Indy winner, a game-changer after all those front-engine bigger Indy cars.

Lamy’s diner

We finished trains and cars and found ourselves at the Lamy’s Diner. We’ve eaten in diners in various places. We had not read any history about them until eating in Lamy’s, where we could read while briefly awaiting our club sandwiches. The diner was very nicely restored to like-original condition.

One of our favorite exhibits was Bucky Fuller’s Dymaxion house — we want one! Sure, we like the aircraft aluminum exterior, the fresh air management, the zero wasted space, and the right-sizing. We’re a little unsure about total lack of insulation but suppose we might be able to work that out. Interesting too was rainwater capture. This house was way ahead of its time. And the investors thought it was too far ahead. The project never took off.

Another fun exhibit featured Charles and Ray Eames and their lasting impact upon furniture design. Exhibited were a chair-mold for their fiberglas chairs, some of their other chairs, stools, and pieces of furniture. And the curator included some nice informative displays about their life and impact on Herman-Miller Company and furniture design.

Thursday morning we attended the factory tour of the Ford Rouge plant. A ten minute bus ride from the Henry Ford took us to the Rouge plant, an absolutely huge vertically integrated automotive manufacturing plant.

The plant, built in 1917, employed 100,000 workers at one time. The plant manufactures F-150 trucks. We watched a couple of great videos and toured the factory’s production area from a catwalk above.

The factory tour was self-paced, easy, interesting, and not too long. The first activities were a pair of movies in very very nice viewing rooms, then the plant tour, overlook of the roofs, and finishing in the ground floor exhibit area to see the eight featured cars from a Model T to a Mustang.

Our favorite things from the museum? We spent one entire day in The Henry Ford and half of another in the factory tour (also part of “The Henry Ford”) but, based upon what we saw and learned, it looks like much longer. Difficult to pick a favorite in this vast museum, we like so many things. We’ll let you select any from these following pictures — it was all great!

Montgomery AL 1955 bus from Rosa Parks incident

Airstream at The Henry Ford (babe optional)

President Kennedy’s limousine

Dymaxion house living room

Dymaxion house kitchen

See You Down The Road!

Jim and Debbie
dreamstreamr odyssey, chasing 75 degrees

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©2007-2012 Dreamstreamr

Mansions and Motor Homes in NC

On our way in for a grand tour of The Biltmore House

We spent yesterday in Asheville NC visiting the Biltmore House. What a fabulous little seasonal cottage, a mere 175,000 sq ft and 250 rooms. The Biltmore House, we read, is the largest privately owned house in the USA. We entered the house at 10:00 a.m., walked the house and gardens and finally left at 4:30 p.m. to drive to Black Mountain for a little while.

an example of the stone carvings at the house

Our Biltmore House tour wasn’t the first for either of us but it was fantastic. We paid an extra $10 each for audio headsets, well worth the cost for the detail we gained. We had fun hearing history and detailed explanations of the family and some of the 250 rooms in the house. An interesting thing we heard was, “21,000 hours expended to restore approximately 2,000 square feet of the Louis XV suite.”

even the carriage house roof is detail-rich

We are astounded at the quality of workmanship throughout the house — the stone and metal work and finish carpentry were stunning everywhere we looked. Even the carriage house roof is rich in details. We’re amazed to think of the architect, Hunt, designing and executing this project. The scale is so huge, how did he get his arms around this entire thing? How ever he did, it sure worked out well.

GWV left his signature

We’re camped at Tom Johnson Camping Center for the Escapees All Chapters Rally East. This is a great rally site location. There are hundreds of three-way hookups for RVs, paved roads throughout the RV park, a great meeting and eating pavilion, and much more. Blue Ridge Parkway and Mt Mitchell, Burnsville, Asheville and Black Mountain, Old Fort and Marion, Linville Falls — all these are very short distances from this rally site.

what better place for a few rose stems?

Today we spent much less time touring the motor homes at Tom Johnson’s. We looked at small (22′) motor homes for $50,000 and gigantic ones (45′) for up to $750,000. The biggest difference between these extremes, besides engine horsepower, seems to be interior size. Some of the smaller ones are very nicely appointed and comfortable with nice (if compact) layouts. The smaller ones have many amenities like the largest ones (except washing machines and dishwashers.) But the big ones also have enough floor space for an aerobics or dance class and all have walk-around king size beds.

Still not for sale

We didn’t find any motor homes, any size, we liked as much as the Biltmore House or our Airstream International 25. Since the Biltmore House is still NOT for sale and we’re still in love with our airstream, we’re keeping our 25′ trailer as home.

Jim and Debbie

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©2007-2011 Dreamstreamr

Dreamstreamers drop anchor

Hi there!  We’re in Kannapolis NC parked in Debbie’s parents’ yard.  Trailer is parked behind and a little below the house. This location is out of their way and a little out of sight, a good thing for our extended stay. Extended stay? The Dreamstreamers? Yep, we’re anchoring down for the spring and summer.

Our storage parking at the in-laws

Spring in NC is fantastic once you rinse the pollen from your eyelids and get over hay fever. Oh, and shovel the pollen off the truck EVERY day. Otherwise, there isn’t any prettier place as you can see from these pictures we took yesterday at my mom’s and at Debbie’s parent’s. Anything not blooming is getting ready to — the trees are gorgeous and the bushes and flowers are too.

flowers at Jim's mom's house

Beautiful flowers at Jim's mom's

We arrived in NC last week and had a wonderful homecoming. Our Chapel Hill airstream friends, Bea and Dave hosted us in their driveway a few days for frisbee, tennis, walking through the campus of our alma mater, fun dining, movies and NCAA basketball finals. then we moved a little south to Jordan Lake State Park for a well-attended airstream rally with our home unit, Carolinas Unit of NC.

Vista Point campground at Jordan Lake SP

Why are we settling down for the summer and not traveling? We had a guaranteed spot in a mid-summer caravan to Canada’s Maritime Provinces with our Airstream club. And we might well have bopped around New England afterward, following fall season changes down the continent back to NC. Sounds great, what’s wrong with all that?

We just couldn’t stand to miss all these great family events. Jim’s mom’s birthday, Deb’s niece’s wedding, Deb’s parents’ 60th wedding anniversary, our 10th wedding anniversary, and Jim’s 40th high school reunion all occur between May 14 and August 14. We canceled our caravan and travel plans and are looking forward to everything except summer weather in NC.

Summer is much more than 75 degrees many days in the greater Charlotte area. We’re not chasing 75 degrees for much of the next five months. It just makes sense to hang up the saddle and spurs and stay awhile, no matter what the weather. We like to think we’re fortunate, not stupid. We had the opportunity to make an important choice for family and will have to make the best of the weather.

What will the inveterate nomads do for five months? Other than Jim’s big maintenance plans (check out Thursday’s blog) for truck and trailer we have plenty to do. Not that we’re ever bored anyhow. Our biggest challenge persistently is how do we get to all the things we could do? Cool thing is, we have five months to fill and we’re looking forward to it.

We’ll visit with family and friends, attend a few local unit rallies, take a trip to see friends in Dayton OH (and attend Hamvention), attend WBCCI’s International Rally in DuQuoin, try to go to Helen GA in Georgia’s mountains for a few days, do a little sightseeing in mid-NC, work on our tennis game, and before we know it it’ll be time to hitch up and hit the road again.

Jim and Debbie

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©2007-2011 Dreamstreamr

Headin’ east

It’s time for us to turn eastward once again.  Tough to do, we’ll miss our Towerpoint and ham radio friends and all the great tennis and social events.  Duty calls and, hopefully, fair Florida weather will be welcoming too.

Friends from Calgary, JIm and Martha, were on an easterly course for Tallahassee FL from Las Vegas.  They arrived Wednesday afternoon at Towerpoint for a brief visit before they resumed their trip.  They’ll be joining an Airstream caravan about Florida a few days from now.  Our planned departure from Mesa was Thursday morning, a half day behind them.

Our travels have previously been altered by thunderstorms and snowstorms but this is the first time we’ve delayed a departure.  Thursday’s forecast for our trip’s first leg called for 3 to 11 degrees (Fahrenheit) overnight and snow and high temperatures in the high teens.  Our previous trip from Mesa to the east (Dec 2009) was so fast-paced we dedicated ourselves this time to planning an extra two days into the itinerary.  We looked at this weather outlook and dispensed with one of our zero days.  The weather would be better one day later.

We mentioned the weather outlook to Jim and Martha and they decided to wait their departure until Friday morning because the trip’s overnights would be too chilly.  They gained a relaxing Wednesday afternoon and all day Thursday in Mesa.  We joined Bob and Faith for a farewell celebration at Organ Stop Pizza .

Organ Stop is a must-see in Mesa, it has the world’s largest Wurlitzer organ complete with 23 ranks and an entire set of 32 feet long wood pipes. Wonderful organists do a wonderful job showcasing the organ by playing several sets of tunes including requests from customers.  We all enjoyed good pizza, salad, and wonderful music at Organ Stop Pizza.

The evening was still young and across the street is Pros Ranch Market, the largest Mexican grocery store we’ve visited.  Panederia, salsa bar, tortilleria, taqueria, cremeria, carniceria, and all sorts of produce we’d never seen are presented in colorful and appealing displays.  The sweet rolls and cookies are really tempting, the fresh tamales are excellent, the salsas are fresh and fantastic, and if we can catch the store with short check-out lines we enjoy sampling treats from Pros Ranch.

Towerpoint Resort’s gate guard welcomed us to a completely and very dark resort.  Colder than usual temperatures greatly increased electrical demand throughout the east valley and wreaked havoc with the local utility’s power distribution plan.  Rolling blackouts ensued and the resort’s power did not successfully reconnect.  People in some sections of the resort spent  several days without power.  Thursday evening everyone apparently was “in the dark” from before 2100 hours until sometime after 0400 hours.

It’s nice to wake up to full power.  And even nicer is our fully self-contained home.  Regardless of local utility power issues our batteries power lights, heat, fans, and  electronics.  Unfortunately for our park model (mobile home) neighbors their lights and heat are completely dependent upon local utility electrical power.  A few have gas furnaces, but their gas furnaces require 110vac to drive the fans and controls, whereas our furnace is battery-powered.

Good news is on the horizon for Towerpoint folks — their weather forecast is for 70 degrees by Super Bowl Sunday.  Wish we were there!  We have had a wonderful winter in Towerpoint with friends on and off the tennis court, and our Mesa weather overall was fabulous.  No matter how cool the temperatures the hot tubs were still steamy hot and it’s never too cold to play tennis.  Several of us gathered for a couple hours of tennis Thursday morning.  The captains had cancelled our inter-resort league match due to cold temperatures.  Our friendly game, an hour later, was very nice in sub-40 degree temperatures.

Our first travel day we left Mesa at 0530 hours caravanning with Jim and Martha.  We arrived almost fourteen hours later in chilly (27F) Fort Stockton TX.  Saturday morning we left at 0630 hours and drove just past Houston — at 545 miles a much shorter drive than Friday.  Houston is much warmer than Fort Stockton, we arrived to 60 degrees.  Sunday and Monday we’ll also have 400 mile drives, weather permitting.  We’re heading for Orlando FL for Hamcation, the best hamfest in the southeast.

We’ve been “out west” since June 2010, it’s time to head east again.  Even as much as we’ll miss everything western, the food, the weather, tennis, and especially friends, we have family and friends and doin’s back east.  And hopefully we can find our way westward later this year.

[Sorry no pictures this time — posting on the road with battery power only, glad to get the alphabet on this post.  Will post pictures of Organ Stop party later.]

See you down the road!

Jim and Debbie

locate us here
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©2007-2011 Dreamstreamr