Behind the scenes: trip prep

It seems that every year about this time I end up writing the same “gearing up” sort of blog entry.  It’s a little disconcerting to me that we are becoming predictable, but here we are in May once again packing up the Airstream for the summer of travel, exactly as we have done for the past two or three years.  Of course, it’s wonderful that we are about to launch the Airstream again, and our summer plans look very exciting, so I shouldn’t complain.

Even though the general goal is the same, our process and specific tasks are always a little different.  With a growing kid and growing businesses, we have to re-pack and re-think almost every choice as we gradually stock the Airstream.  We have very detailed “pre-departure” checklists that we carry over from year to year, which cover the basics, and we modify those lists as circumstances change.  The lists cover everything:  what we need to pack, preparing the house and cars for storage, notifications, medical reminders, Airstream maintenance, etc., but they can’t account for the changes that happen in our lives over the course of a year, so the lists are constantly mutating.

Eleanor admires the view from 7,000 feet

This year we have several factors adding complexity to the process.  For example, we bought a car to take with us to Vermont, a 1999 Mazda Miata.  Eleanor will follow the Airstream all the way to Vermont in the Miata (stopping every 200 miles to refill the tiny gas tank).  The plan is that she will have the car to use while she is in Vermont for most of three months, and then she’ll sell it as an “Arizona rust-free car” to a northerner who is desperate for an older sports car not riddled with rust.

This of course means that we’ve had to get a 12-year-old car in shape for a cross-country trip. The last few weeks I’ve been sorting it out, and I think I’ve just about got it ready now.  We’ve been driving the Miata daily for purposes of “debugging” it, which has been fun.  A couple of weekends ago Eleanor and I zipped up the curvy Catalina Highway to about 7,000 feet elevation to escape the Tucson heat.  We just talked in the shade of the tall trees for an hour or so, feeling the blissful cool pine-scented air blowing up the mountainside.  There’s nothing like a convertible for moments like that.

Chef Eleanor will make a gourmet dinner while you watch!

Another major factor in our trip prep has been Alumapalooza.  We have so much gear to bring on site that Brett will be towing a filled U-Haul trailer behind his motorhome from Tampa.  Even with that, I’ve got a bunch of stuff to wedge into the my Airstream for Alumapalooza, including Wally Byam books, Newbies Guides, leftover Alumapalooza t-shirts, and literally dozens of door prizes.

Add to that a bit of extra cooking gear, this year.  Eleanor will be doing a cooking demo at Alumapalooza on Saturday, using an actual Airstream galley (stove/oven/sink) on stage.  Her menu will feature pork medallions in a cherry port sauce, along with sides and dessert.   The interesting part is that she’ll prove that anyone can make such a meal, by producing everything right in front of you and explaining how it’s done.

Alumapalooza is as “locked down” as we can make it right now.  Registration is closed, and the schedule is finalized, but of course little surprises keep popping up to keep our lives interesting.  We did have the usual cluster of last-minute cancellations, but mostly for medical reasons rather than high fuel prices.  While nobody is happy about the current fuel prices, it doesn’t seem to be keeping Alumapalooza attendees away.  We will still have about 200 trailers on the field at Airstream during the event.

Also, Airstream came to us at the last minute with a request for a “Product Feedback Session.”  You won’t see this on the schedule posted online, but it will appear in the final printed program that we’ll hand out at the event.  It should be interesting.  They will run two separate sessions for men and women, one hour each, to hear what people think about the current products.

Of course over the past few weeks we’ve been doing the usual trip prep stuff: mapping out possible routes, looking for interesting stops, contacting friends and acquaintances who might be along the way, and dreaming up crazy ideas of things we might want to do.  Most of the good stuff will have to happen after Alumapalooza, since the initial legs of our trip will be rather rushed.  We should have left a week ago, to allow a really nice meander through Utah and Colorado, but there were just too many things to do here in Tucson first.  So we’ll make a beeline — or at least, what passes for a beeline in our world — to Ohio, with relatively few chances to stop and browse.  We’ll make up for that later.

One of my pre-trip projects has been to upgrade the software that runs all of the Airstream Life websites.  We just completed that task this weekend.  Although not much is different from your perspective, I now have the ability to post and edit blogs from my iPhone (among other improvements) which I hope will make it easier for me to blog daily during the busy times.  As you know, I’ve also set up Twitter so that you can follow quick updates from the road and from Alumapalooza, and if you use Foursquare on a mobile phone you might even find me there, too.

We’ve got three days to go before launch and many things yet to accomplish … but I’ll post again this week as the process continues.