JC daze

We’re in a “Jackson Center daze,” caused by overwhelming activity.  It’s as if today has been a compression of three days.  My day started at 3:20 a.m. when I was pacing around the Airstream unable to sleep. Today was our first official day of Alumapalooza, and my mind was full of things we needed to do.

I got back to sleep an hour later, and Eleanor and I slept fitfully until 6:00.  We finally gave up thoughts of rest and got busy prepping the Airstream to relocate from the Terra Port to the rally field, just north of the assembly building.  I had thought I might need to be very quiet as I worked, but it seemed that nearly everyone was also up and getting ready to go.

The thunderstorms hit us hard last night, and the field was slick with wet grass and clay.  Our Airstream got into position easily enough (the Mercedes has all-wheel drive), and Brett’s Argosy 28 motorhome managed well enough, but artist Michael Depraida’s giant commercial box truck with dually rear wheels (pulling a 30 foot Airstream Classic) slipped badly and ended up digging a long furrow.  Fortunately we had a tractor on standby and it easily hauled Michael’s trailer into position.

The sky stayed deeply clouded in the morning as the trailers began to arrive, with fog on the distant fields and a chilly light breeze.  It felt like it would never warm up, but just two hours later the sun was out and we were looking for shade.  This changeable weather — typical for Jackson Center in June — duped me so that I forgot to put on sunscreen. Big mistake.  By the end of the day my feet were burned between the sandal straps and my ears were scorched.  Brett also looked like a boiled lobster.  The only good part about it was that the field dried up nicely by mid-afternoon, so we didn’t need the tractor any longer.

We parked about 65 trailers today, which is roughly half of what we are ultimately expecting.  The Airstream folks have been very supportive, which made our work easier.  Airstream’ president Bob Wheeler dropped by the Happy Hour and thanked us publicly, and he even read a little limerick of his own creation.

Brett, Lisa, Eleanor, and I were hustling all day long to get people parked, answer questions, solve problems, and set up equipment.  Tim and a few helpers went around the field and got all the electrical and water connections set up for the arriving trailers.  But the real job of the day was dealing with the unexpected.  There were plenty of problems to solve:  About half a dozen trailers didn’t follow the directions and ended up coming in facing the wrong direction.  The dumpster didn’t arrive on schedule (we’ll get it tomorrow).  I accidentally scheduled a talk for Wednesday when it should have been on Thursday.  Many of the pre-printed badges we made a week ago turned out to be missing — apparently the result of a software glitch.  We found some nasty potholes in the field that needed marking with yellow paint.  But those problems were relatively minor.  Everything else worked out fine, including getting water and electricity to the trailers.  And most importantly, everyone seems to be having a great time.

The last two years of producing the Vintage Trailer Jam have taught us that there are two essential tools for this sort of work: bicycles and radios.  The mountain bikes allow us to quickly move from place to place, even over rough terrain and between trailers, which makes “gofer” work much easier.  The radios kept the whole team updated.  A loaned Gator (a 6×4 all-terrain vehicle with a cargo bed, kind of like a little pickup truck) helped us move stuff around, too.

The entire Airstream company is feeling the impact of Alumapalooza this week.  Bob Wheeler says everyone is charged up from having us all here, which I can believe. You can’t look at all the people roaming around, and all the trailers coming in, without at least a little tinge of excitement.  I understand that the Service Center lobby was inundated with people today.  The 2 p.m. tour got about 35 people, which is a pretty large group.  It’s only going to get busier from here.  We expect an additional 12 trailers on Wednesday, and about 50 more on Thursday.

My last major obligation today was to give a talk about “full-timing,” which turned into more of a ramble by me about all kinds of random things relating to Airstreaming.  I showed a few dozen slides and answered questions, and it went pretty well.  After that, the four of us who made up the core team debriefed each other (that’s code for “a bitch session about all the things that went wrong”) and having unburdened ourselves, we all felt better and vowed to have an even better day tomorrow.  I can tell you for certain that sunscreen and a better hat will be a key part of the day’s preparations.

Everyone else is still outside, since it is quite warm and pleasant as the sun sets.  They’re talking, meeting up with old friends, eating dinner, sharing desserts, and settling in.  We’ve retreated to the trailer to shower off the day’s sweat and catch up on email.  Tomorrow promises to be a really big day, and I am hopeful that we will all get a good night’s sleep… Alumapalooza 2010 is under way!