Now that our “usual pre-trip delay” hurdle has been passed, we are entering the other pre-trip phase, where everything happens at once.
Today the replacement Hensley hitch arrived, 99 lbs. of steel in a big box. The poor UPS guy is expected to be able to move around boxes up to 150 lbs, but I took pity on him and together we carried it over to the Airstream. Removal of the old hitch and installation of the new one took me about 30 minutes, working solo. It’s pretty easy when you know how — and after several years of ownership and on-the-road repairs, I’ve become rather well acquainted with the workings of the thing. My trick for easy installation was to use a hydraulic floor jack to raise the hitch into place. The job required just two wrenches (for adjusting and tightening the grease zerks), some paper towels, a few shots from the grease gun, and a couple of plastic bags to contain the greasy parts.
So now we are once again toting a classic “Hensley orange” blob on the front of the Airstream. That won’t last. The paint never does on these things. It fades and gets dinged by road debris. Once we get to Tucson I’ll sand it down bare and give it a really good paint job. But at least at this point we should be completely functional again, towing-wise.
Eleanor has been out most of the day doing her final grocery shopping, which always starts a comedy routine between us. She approaches a departure as if we were a submarine going out on patrol under the Atlantic, and fills every conceivable space with food. “We’re going to be on the road for two months,” she says. Then I comment that we can easily go for a few weeks on the food stored in this trailer, and there’s no need. We’re in America. There are grocery stores everywhere. Eleanor’s rejoinder will be that in some places she can’t get the stuff she wants, or that it will be more expensive in many of the podunk locations we frequent, and I have to admit that this is true. If we lived on Twinkies and soda, or if we ate out every meal like many travelers do, we’d be all set, but Eleanor cooks our meals and I can’t complain about that. So inevitably she wins the debate and I spend a few days tip-toeing around bags of miscellaneous groceries that don’t quite fit into the storage spaces. My “revenge,” if you can call it that, is asking for whatever I want to eat for dinner and having a very high expectation of getting it.
At the same time Eleanor is acquiring a trunk-load of food, she is also trying to get rid of certain things. Right now we all have frosty cold virgin pina coladas to sip because she wanted to use up the last of the Coco Lopez. One never knows exactly what will be on the dinner table the night before one of our departures, but if you guessed “leftovers” you’d probably be right 90% of the time.
My routine before departure is to check all my “to-do” lists, all the corners where tasks have piled up, and try to resolve as many things as possible. This is a nuisance but easier than dealing with some things when we’re trying to move fast. The next two days will be mostly driving, as we head to Ohio, and I will not be in the mood to break out my battery-powered printer, stamps, and envelopes in the evening. It’s amazing what I can find in here when I start looking for half-finished projects. Today for example, I paid an overdue parking ticket from Madison WI, renewed a car registration, shipped back license plates for the Honda Accord and 1952 Airstream Cruiser we sold (now property of a famous movie star), arranged UPS pickup of the old Hensley hitch, mailed off a check deposit, scanned a whole heap of paper, and dealt with a dozen other odds and ends.
Now the slate is pretty clean. I still have work to do but at least I can drive down I-90 with a peaceful head, not worrying about 1,001 details. We still have plenty of re-packing and cleaning to do, and that will get completed first thing tomorrow morning. The finishing touch on the interior will be when I haul a powerful vacuum cleaner in here and follow up with a good hands-and-knees floor mopping. We won’t get another chance to clean that well for at least a month.
Tonight we are having a small “farewell” dinner, although to be honest it won’t be much different from an ordinary evening. Eleanor is making cannolis for dessert, and we’ve got a birthday card for my mother, whose actual birthday we will miss by a few days. The real dynamic in this evening will be our guests, who are arriving after dinner with their three small children. The first and only time we ever met Chuck H and his family was at Jamaica State Park about five years ago. At that point they were two adults and one baby in an Avion, but today they are a family of five in a popup. They have made the trip all the way up from Long Island today specifically to catch us before we leave. A family that size needs an Airstream Safari 30 bunkhouse, like we have, and they want to take a look at ours.
It’s too far to drive just to see an Airstream, so they’ll spend a few days in northern Vermont exploring what we have. Eleanor and I will point them to a few good things to do with kids and hopefully they will have a wonderful time in the fine late-summer weather here by Lake Champlain. It certainly is fabulous weather — the sort of dry, lightly breezy, sunny, and pleasant day that is normally the hallmark of late August and September here. I’ve been waiting for this to come for two months, but we’ve been cursed with lots of rain and abominable amounts of humidity, until very recently. With friends coming to town and this excellent climate, it is tempting to stay a few more days.
That, however, cannot happen. We have made a promise to good friends in Ohio that will be there for the Labor Day weekend, and we intend to keep that promise. Also, we’ve been here seven weeks, and we are reaching the end of our shelf-life. A famous saying claims that houseguests are like fish, in that they begin to stink after three days. When the houseguest comes in their own Airstream, the shelf-life is longer, but there’s still a point at which you should voluntarily go. Seven or eight weeks is enough for us to have a really good visit, engage in all the annual rituals, and see everyone at least three times, and yet depart before people begin to wish we would. That way they’ll look forward to us coming back next summer.
If all goes well — and you know how fatal that saying can be — we shall be moving down the road by about 10 a.m. Thursday. Where we end up Thursday night is a matter to be resolved on the fly. And that’s the way I like it. Adventure lies ahead. See you on the road.