Salt, paper, brownstone and hot dogs

There is one major problem with camping at the seashore: salt.  I have fought quite a battle with airborne sodium chloride pollution (i.e., salt spray) over the past week, and I have not yet won.  Our five days at Horseneck Beach resulted in the car and the Airstream being coated with sticky spray, and the entire time I could practically hear the Airstream corroding.

To its credit, the Airstream is made of aluminum, with stainless steel rock guards, and the fasteners are all made of non-corrosive materials as well.  So the trailer resists the elements well.  But nothing is perfect.  Every exposed bit of steel on the hitch (where rocks have chipped the paint, and bare metal parts) quickly went to a bright rust orange.  The trailer has bits of damaged clearcoat on the aluminum edges, where curly white “filiform” corrosion had previously begun, and the mixture of salt and humidity is ideal for speeding up that process too.

It’s a problem to wash trailers on the road.  A 53-foot combination does not fit into standard car washes.  Most campgrounds don’t permit washing the trailer while on-site, for various reasons including water conservation.  We occasionally stop into Blue Beacon truck washes to get the entire rig (Airstream + Mercedes) washed, but I couldn’t find any truck washes on our route from Horseneck Beach to Portland CT.  Finally I found an opportunity to thoroughly rinse off the trailer (details deliberately obscured to protect the guilty) and seized it.  Now the trailer is relatively clean, with just a few streaks of diluted salt here and there.


However, I was shocked to find greenish deposits atop the chrome of the clearance lights and taillights after I washed the trailer.  Some sort of chemical reaction has occurred.  These deposits look like corroded copper, and they rub off cleanly with a rag and a little pressure.  A yellowish deposit has adhered to the sea-facing side of the backup camera as well.  So the job of recovering from the salt will not be done until I can get a proper wash with some scrubbing.  Such a price to pay for a few days at the beach.  It’s not normally like that.  We’ve camped on beaches many times and usually there’s not that much airborne salt, but this was a particularly windy trip and we were right on the shore.  When I get a chance I’ll spend a day sanding down and repainting all the rust spots on the trailer’s tongue and hitch as well.

The car, of course, is easy.  I ran it through a local car wash as soon as I had the trailer disconnected.  The car wash was was on the way to a mid-day visit about 25 miles away with relatives that I have not seen in many years.  That visit turned out to be a big success, and we followed it up with dinner in Waterbury with our good friends (Airstreamers) Rick & Sandi. While Friday was unproductive from a work viewpoint, it was at least a day filled with pleasant visits and good chow.

On Saturday we decided to roam around the local Portland-Middletown area while getting some errands done.  I had a massive amount of mail overdue to me, and it all arrived at the Portland Post Office via General Delivery. Even with all the efforts I’ve made over the past several years to eliminate paper mail, I still get too much of it. I don’t want paper statements from any business, but some just can’t seem to get the concept of electronic delivery and payment yet.  My current Tree-Killers Hall of Shame:

#1:  Golden Rule (our health plan administrator):  Every doctor visit results in a shower of paper, including Explanation of Benefits statements that are generally incomprehensible anyway.

#2: Bank of America credit card:  Despite signing up for electronic billing multiple times (and being successfully enrolled for two years), they still send paper statements every month.  Because of mail forwarding delays, I get these a week or two after I’ve paid the bill electronically.

#3: EBSCO (a magazine order service that handles all the Airstream Life subscriptions from 3-4 pieces of paper in an envelope whenever they process orders for Airstream Life.  They try to consolidate orders so that I get 3-4 in a package, but we still get about two dozen of these envelopes every month.

If I could get these three on the electronic program, my forwarded mail package wouldn’t have been three inches thick and my working day would be 30 minutes shorter on Monday.

But rather than go back to the Airstream on a perfect September day, we continued around Portland.  The town is known for its quarries by the river, which for centuries have been mined to supply stone for nearly every brownstone building in New York City. I’ve never really studied brownstone before, but upon seeing a fine example you can tell why it was prized for construction of elegant homes and offices.  It has a beautiful grain and color, and can be worked readily.  The current working quarry is quite small and can be seen just a short distance from the center of town.


The historic quarries are quite a bit bigger. In fact, they have since been flooded and turned into a unique urban fun park called Brownstone Exploration and Discovery Park.  This place is a must-see.  You can swim, scuba dive, snorkel, ride zip lines, and there are all sorts of water toys to play on.  I wish we had planned our Saturday around it, because it was the perfect day to spend at a water park, and the weather won’t be nearly as nice the rest of the week.

Since it was already mid-day and a bit late for us to prep for a day in the water, we continued across the Connecticut River to the college town of Middletown.  This is the home of Wesleyan University, which I’m sure contributes to the liveliness and diversity of the downtown.  Portland’s downtown is not much to get excited about, but Middletown is pretty vibrant and worth a prowl.  The restaurants in particular look good.  We’ll be checking out a few of them for lunch later this week.

portland-ct-hot-dog.jpgComing back to the Airstream later, we ran into an old acquaintance: the famous Top Dog trailer.  It is normally parked right on the highway just about a mile from the marina where we are camped. If you have a copy of Airstream’s book, “Wanderlust,” you might remember seeing a picture of this trailer.  Look closely and you’ll see a little kid squinting into the sun.  That’s Emma, age 4, at the Region One Rally in Woodstock CT.

Well, she’s ten now, so I thought it appropriate to get an updated picture of her with this 1960s Airstream-turned-catering-trailer.  See the results, at right.  (One of the things I like about having a daughter is that I get to travel with two good-looking babes all the time.)  Emma did, of course, get a hot dog.

We spent the rest of the afternoon just chilling at the marina. Eleanor and I went on a walk to look at the boats and see which ones we’d like to own (in our dreams).

In the evening, Eleanor decided it was time to shoot another cooking video.  She’s been getting asked by some Airstream friends, so we recorded some of her preparation of Saturday night’s dinner. You can see it on YouTube.

Maintenance note:  I replaced one of the Hensley hitch’s spring bar jacks in June because the internal gear started binding and it eventually stripped.  The other one began to exhibit the same  symptoms when we left Vermont last week.  Hensley shipped me a replacement for that one this week, which I installed on Friday.  (Installation is an easy job that requires only one tool, an Allen wrench.)  Both of the jacks were replaced under Hensley’s lifetime warranty.  They were about four years old and had been in heavy use.


  1. says

    Enjoying your travels as you head south. We are solar fans, so the solar article was great! I am also slowly reading my way through the tour, which I started when you ended it.

    FYI – Don’t know where you are heading next and what’s on the schedule, but there is a golden opportunity to see the US NatIonal Sheepdog FInals ( in Middletown, VA at the Belle Grove Plantation in northwestern VA starting Sept. 17 – 26th. The best of the best border collies and handlers will be competing. The last weekend would be the most interesting to see. I tell you this,besides being an interesting event, because folks come from all over the country in their trailers and a few of them have Airstreams.

  2. Tom Palesch says

    Rich, Sandi and I agree whole heartedly with Nancy’s suggestion about the sheepdog trials. If you can put it in your schedule some way, you won’t regret it. It’s amazing to watch those beautiful dogs work for their handlers. Big “E” and littler “e” would love it. There is the same type of synergy between people in the herding dog world as in that of Airstream cliches.

  3. Tom says

    Try Iguana Renos (probably misspelled) for great yet cheap tacos on Main Street, Middletown. O’Rouke’s Diner is also a quirky yet delicious institution; it’s the restored diner on the corner near the Portland bridge.

  4. says

    Terrific videos, Eleanor. The cameraman didn’t give you too much trouble, did he?

    Bucatini!! I’m envious. Whenever I think of it, I try to find some to make my all-time favorite Italian meal: Bucatini all’Amatriciana. The spicier the better for me and to make it right, I do prefer the non-vegetarian version, which means that it’s rare to serve around home.

    Sad, but Bucatini is rare and probably unappreciated. The mere mention of it caused me to salivate. Had my very first and probably the best all’Amatriciana in a small restaurant in Carmel, CA. I guess small and restaurant in Carmel is redundant. We’ve been back there many times, but the dish is seldom on the menu. More sadness.

    Safe travels and keep the videos coming. Seeing what you can do in the Airstream kitchen is an inspiration.

  5. Jay and Cherie says

    Hi Rich,

    We were parked next to a fellow with a Hensley hitch setup during International at Gillette. We watched with trepidation as he repeatedly tried to thread the needle, guided by his wife, to get the rig coupled. We’ve also read many of your accounts about failed and worn parts and the repaints. Then there’s the outragous price tag.

    We’re not sold.

  6. says

    Jay and Cherie: We’re pretty hard on hitches. Our Reese Strait-Line wore out, too, on the cams, in less than two years. Full-time travel will do that. So far our failed parts rate amounts to one bracket, a few zerk fittings (which were our fault for not greasing regularly), a cracked head, and two jacks. After four years, close to 100,000 miles, and hundreds of hitching operations, I think that’s actually not a bad record for a hitch. Especially with a lifetime warranty. I haven’t paid for a replacement part yet — just shipping.

    I’ve seen folks like the couple you spotted at Gillette. Knowing the correct technique is everything — and it sounds like they didn’t. Watch me hitch up a Hensley sometime and you’ll see that it’s quite simple. I’ve taught several people to do it in about five minutes.

    I’m not a salesperson for Hensley, so it doesn’t matter to me what hitch someone uses, but I have to say that the Hensley really does make a huge difference in stability. We couldn’t tow a 30-foot Airstream without it, because we use tow vehicles with relatively short wheelbases. With the Reese, for example, we couldn’t exceed 59 MPH under any circumstances. Crosswinds were a terror. The Hensley hitch design makes our style of travel possible.