Introspection is good, in moderation. “The greatest good for a man is to discuss virtue every day,” said Socrates, adding the famous statement that “the unexamined life is not worth living.” These days blogging is the common man’s method of self-examination, revealing quite a bit about the bloggers to the world even if the bloggers themselves aren’t aware of it.
But there’s only so far you should follow the advice of a guy who has been dead for 2,400 years. (Socrates himself made a point of the fact that he didn’t know everything, which he viewed as a slight advantage over people who think they know everything.) So after about ten years of nearly constant blogging (first in the Vintage Thunder blog, then Tour of America, and now Man In The Maze), I finally got to a point where it felt better to be quiet for a while, and just enjoy life. And that is the short explanation for the long absence of this blog.
Now it’s time to get back to it, because the Airstream is about to move and our plans have been laid for the next six months. We have much to do, and many places to go.
First, we need to get up to Ohio for Alumapalooza. This is the fifth year we’ve made this exact trip, and while Alumapalooza is always fun, we’re all getting a bit bored with the drive. We have tried just about every route between Tucson AZ and Jackson Center OH, running anywhere from 1,900 miles to 2,400 miles one way. Last year we were so desperate to have a change of scene that we went all the way east to the Great Smokies before heading north. It was a good trip, but now our options for seeing new landscape will have to bring us up to North Dakota, and that’s just too far out of the way.
So I’ll find some things to see and do along the way that we have missed before. Not sure what yet. We may end up going off on weird little side trips, like our quest for “Forbidden Amish Donuts” a couple of years ago. I’m open to suggestions. (No giant balls of twine, please.)
After that, we will set up the Airstream in Vermont, and then I’ve got a two-week “adventure motorcycling” trip scheduled in June. Three guys on BMW F650 bikes (3 of the 4 members of the former Black Flies gang) will wander up into Quebec, around the Gaspé Peninsula, through New Brunswick and northern Maine, basically seeing what there is to see. I hope to spot a few puffins and get some nice photos of the scenery, but those are optional. My only real desires are to stay dry (it’s rainy up there) and avoid incidents. With luck, my cell phone won’t work most of the time.
Late June gets really interesting. Airstream is lending me a new Interstate motorhome for a couple of weeks. This is a real privilege, because (a) the thing costs $140,000; (b) it’s super-cool. My plan is to take it from Los Angeles up the coast to the SF Bay area, then back south through the desert, then via Palm Springs to I-8 and back to Tucson. During the trip I want to meet as many Airstream Interstate owners as possible, so if you have one please let me know if you can cross paths between June 28 and July 7.
In July I’ll pay the price for all this fun by parking my butt in Tucson and working like a dog at the computer, and in August we’ll haul the Airstream back west—and right now I have no clue what route we’ll take for that.
In early September, Brett & I will be running Alumafandango in Canyonville OR. That was great fun last year and I expect it will be even better this year. We’ll have all-new seminars, more off-site tours, bicycling, all-new entertainment, and of course an Airstream display indoors. Since we moved this event to September instead of August, the weather should be even better, too! I’m told that early September is a spectacular time to be in southern Oregon.
And finally, in October we’ve got another trip on the drawing board, which (if it comes off) I’ll talk about later.
All of this moving around comes at a price, and I don’t mean dollars. There’s a lot of prep. We’ve been getting ready for months, arranging dates and flights, twiddling with the Airstream, scheduling appointments months in advance, collecting destination information, cleaning, re-stocking, upgrading, etc. The motorcycle trip, for example, kept me engaged for a couple of weeks just figuring out what gear I would need and how to pack it all. But really, this is good. During the off season, travel planning is a great way to build anticipation and pass the time on dark winter nights. When I think of it that way, it doesn’t seem like a “price” at all.
In the Airstream, Eleanor has made a special effort this year to pull out a lot of stuff that had been accumulating, and culling down to the things she really needs. So I’ve done the same, and it’s amazing how many things I don’t need anymore. I would say that the Airstream is going to be a few hundred pounds lighter, but it looks like all the ballast we’ve ditched is going to be made up with new stuff. Partially this is because our interests and situations have changed. The Airstream is no longer young, and so I’m carrying a few more tools and spare parts than I used to. We’re eating differently than we did just a few years ago. Emma is a teenager, and I probably don’t have to tell you what a massive change that has been. We’re no longer carrying snorkel gear—instead Eleanor packs equipment for cooking demos in some of that space. It’s all good because it’s a reminder that the Airstream reflects who we are, rather than defining us. That’s why they’re shiny.
I had lots of plans for upgrades to the Airstream but in keeping with the decision to pause blogging, I decided not to take on any huge projects in March or April (when the weather here is usually ideal for outdoor work). Instead, I took care of a few small things and otherwise left the Airstream alone. No worries, it’s ready to go, thanks to all the updates and repairs I made last year (backup camera, new storage unit, 4G mobile Internet update, flooring and plumbing, window gears). The only significant task this year was to finally get rid of the factory-installed Parallax Magnatek 7355 power converter, which I’ve never liked because of its lame charging capabilities, and install a Progressive Dynamics Intellipower 9260 in its place.
This was a a little out of my comfort zone but worked out well. High voltage isn’t my thing, so I Googled a bunch of reports from other people who had made similar conversions, and eventually realized that there’s no single “best” way to do it, and that the job isn’t really that hard either. Over-simplified, it came down to disconnecting four wires (two AC wires and two DC wires) and connecting five (I added a ground wire on the AC side). One trip to the hardware store for an outlet box and some wire, and the job was done in about two hours.
The only way you can visually detect the change is by the little “Charge Wizard” stuck to the wall (this gizmo allows you to overrride the automatic function of the charger), but the Intellipower documentation (and my voltmeter) tell me that we should now have far superior charging. That means the batteries should recharge faster, be automatically “equalized” (essential for their long-term health) and I no longer have to worry as much about overcharging while in long term storage.
The real joy of this, if I’m totally honest, is that I did it and nothing blew up.
Well, perhaps that’s the joy of everything we try outside of our comfort zones. I think I would be OK with an epitaph that read something like, “He did many things … and nothing blew up.”
In fact, that’s pretty much the goal for the next six months. I’ll keep you posted.