Plot summary: After the last burst of wonderful road-trip glory, Temporary Bachelor Man (TBM to his friends) finds himself in the sad anti-climax of his adventures.
I knew it would be hard to top the big three-city tour that I did last week, and upon returning to home base I had to face a mixture of painful realities: (1) the end of the 2011 TBM season was fast approaching; (2) I would have liked a drop-in visit by my wife/girlfriend (it’s a dual role this time of year) before returning to family life; (3) we had absolutely no plan for where we were going in the Airstream once we resumed travel; (4) I was bored with Tucson.
For me, the charm of a place is often inversely proportional to the amount of time I have to spend in it. I have enjoyed weekends in absolute hell-holes and dull-as-a-butter-knife cities simply because they were novel to me, and I have completely lost my mind after eight days on the action-packed Las Vegas Strip. It’s the experience of learning, exploring, and being stimulated by new things that makes a place fun for me, which is the same personality characteristic (some would say “flaw”) that causes me to shy away from the routine. And lately, home base has become a little too predictable: not much happening, always hot, nearly always sunny, and everyone hiding indoors to avoid the weather, like northerners hide in the winter.
With only a few days remaining, I scrambled to find things to do, but at every turn was stymied by forces beyond my control. There’s always work, of course, but with excess time the Winter 2011 magazine is not only well in hand, but actually — for the first time in years — somewhat ahead of schedule. The Vintage Trailer Show for Modernism Week 2012 is almost ready to begin accepting trailer-owner applications, and we’ve got the new Alumapalooza 2012 website up, too. That’s all good, but there’s got to be more to life than work.
More sensible people than I have all fled the desert southwest, of course, so few of my local friends can be found. (Note for next year: plan more trips up into the cool country; this means FIND A TOW VEHICLE FOR THE CARAVEL, YOU DOPE!) Over the weeks that I have been in TBM guise, I have satisfied myself with a little checklist of absolutely inane & mostly unnecessary goals, all of which I can accomplish solo:
(1) Eat ice cream at every local place within 2 miles (Baskin Robbins, Culver’s, Dairy Queen, and Frost).
(2) Buy a bunch of used books at Bookman’s for the long trip back in the Airstream and in the process reclaim my “Mayor” status on Foursquare.
(3) See every R-rated movie of interest that I can, either in a theater or via Netflix. This summer I’ve managed about a dozen, including X-Men, The Trip, Potiche, Rango (OK, it wasn’t R but I’m a sucker for animation), The French Connection, Sucker Punch, The Adjustment Bureau, The Illusionist (another non-R animation but charming), Night and Day, and Inception. I’m not recommending all these movies, by the way …
(4) Go for at least one hike above 8,000 ft. (accomplished 8/13)
(5) Cook my own dinner at least a dozen times. This has been accomplished mostly through the miracle of pasta and a very robust sauce Eleanor left in the freezer. I may not be able to face pasta again for months, however. The Weber grill is also a TBM friend.
(6) Sell the Miata. This has been done, although at painful cost. We never intended to keep the car for longer than this summer, but our impetus to sell it became more urgent when the car began to puke up intermittent “Check Engine” lights. The suggested repairs (from three different sources) ranged from simply cleaning carbon out of the EGR passage, to a basketful of repairs that would have cost $2,500. Nobody really knew what the root cause was, and we didn’t have the time or inclination to get into it. Finally we found a buyer who was willing to take on the car as-is, and so we sold it well below the price I would have liked. It was a gamble, and ultimately a failed experiment, but in all failures there are lessons to be learned.
So with those momentous accomplishments behind me, I can turn to the final tasks of the week. Mostly that means buttoning up the house and thinking about where we are going to head once we leave Vermont. Planning travel would seem to be the really fun part, but I have to justify my miles with business along the way, so the planning gets complicated quickly. When we were doing the Tour of America I didn’t write about all the business stuff I did along the way because it was not all interesting and some of it had to be kept confidential. But regardless, nearly every mile had a purpose that related to growing Airstream Life magazine. Marty says that I need to keep that justification in mind and document it better — daily — in case I get audited. In addition to that consideration, I’ve got more projects going on these days, so any time out of reach of cell phone towers is a problem. It puts a high burden on the planning process.
At this point I can only say that we are planning to head down the eastern seaboard again. Beyond that, we may be winging it. If prior experience is any guide, many opportunities will pop up as we go, and the trip will turn out to be much more than we could have foreseen. Traveling in the Airstream tends to go that way. So I’m not worried about making the trip work, but rather anticipating interesting opportunities. If you have any suggestions along the general direction of Vermont-Georgia-Arizona, let me know.