I’m in my last week as TBM. This weekend I’ll be riding a Boeing back to New England, and then driving up to Vermont to regroup with the family.
This year my TBM experience has been a bit of a bomb. I lost too much time to illness, work, Alumafandango, and obligations at the house. I had great plans to go for a tent camping roadtrip, which clearly is not going to happen now. But don’t feel too sorry for me, because in September the entire family will be back in the Airstream and towing west, with a full month to burn if we want to. It will be our last chance for a long leisurely family roadtrip for several months, if not a year, so we are planning to make the most of it.
For the last few weeks Eleanor and I have been thinking about the trip plan, and neither of us has come up with much. Usually we are overcome with ideas of things we want to see and do on a cross-country trip, but after having made this trek something like 10 or 12 times, we are running out of major attractions. (For us, a “major attraction” is not a theme park, but rather a national park, or perhaps a gathering of Airstreams.)
I never thought that would happen. Are we getting too jaded, too experienced, or are we just not trying hard enough to broaden our horizons? I think it may be the latter, so I am re-doubling my efforts to seek out the little things instead of the big ones. To that end, Eleanor and I are planning to follow a pattern we used when full-timing: have a long term destination (like home base) in mind, and then take the trip day by day. This leaves lots of opportunities for the unexpected, and often that’s when the most interesting adventures occur.
The process has already started in a sense. In the past week I have been contacted by three Airstream friends, each of whom—completely coincidentally—is likely to cross our path as we head southwest. Just spending a day or two with each of them is likely to result in some new experiences. Think of it as Airstream cross-pollination. We get a taste of their style, and they get a taste of ours, and together we discover things that individually we might miss. It’s always a good thing.
So when we head out, our route will be affected by the routes of other Airstreamers, and we’ll go places we might have skipped. This is tough on fuel budgets, but to be on the safe side I’m planning for about 3,300 miles of towing, which means a fuel budget of about $1100. Seems like a lot but for a month of roaming I think it’s a bargain.
Eleanor is already thinking about getting the Airstream in shape for the trip. She’ll be cleaning the interior and stocking up on supplies; I’ll be checking all the systems and cleaning the exterior once I’m there. Everything should be in good shape, but after a summer of sitting still amongst the trees and insect life of Vermont, you’d be surprised what little problems can crop up. I’ve learned to start checking at least a week before any major trip, just in case I find a problem that requires a parts order or a trip to the local RV service center.
The Safari, by the way, will celebrate its eighth year on the road with us in October. I have lost track of the miles it has traveled, but it is certainly above 100,000. I can’t think of any other purchase we have ever made that has given us such a great return, in terms of life experiences and pleasure. When it’s not our home on the road, it’s a great guest house. People talk about houses as “investments,” and RVs are just “depreciating assets” but I have to disagree. Our house is worth about 2/3 of what we paid for it (not counting the cash dumped into fixing it up), and it costs many times more to keep running than our Airstream. It’s a nice house, but in the end it’s just a house. Our Airstream is probably worth about half of what we paid for it, but it has changed our lives and enriched us in ways we can hardly enumerate.
So by my accounting, the Airstream is the bigger bargain by far, and we will once again prove that in our month-long saga with our recently-minted teenager. She still wants to spend time with her parents, and I think some of the credit for that can be given to the Airstream as well. Going out this fall will remind us all of those precious years (2005-2008) that we spent full-timing with Emma, and I bet we’ll all want to recreate a little of that magic as we roam westward. I hope so.
Thinking of it that way, I realize it doesn’t really matter where we stop along the way. The memorable moments will happen. We just have to get out there and let them come to us, with our Airstream to keep us comfortable along the way.