Time to Fall out

It is Fall in northern Vermont, just past peak foliage season, and that’s a clue that we are overdue to get rolling southward. The air has gotten distinctly chilly and the blustery winds that swirl the fallen leaves around are making it seem even colder. Believe it or not, winter is not far away. It tends to happen suddenly. I remember many a Halloween night as a kid, with snow flurries landing on my costume.

The state parks in Vermont close early because of this. Many closed yesterday and many more will close this weekend, as the trees go bare and the leaf-peepers head back home.  The commercial campgrounds tend to follow suit, so we may have trouble finding places to camp until we get to Pennsylvania or Virginia.

That means this week is dedicated mostly to prepping to go. All of our belongings that have gotten scattered through the house and all of the “stuff” we have accumulated has to found, culled down, and re-packed for travel. That alone takes Eleanor and Emma several days. Then there’s a round of final goodbyes to friends, last-minute errands, and of course getting the Airstream ready to hit the road.

There are two jobs that always come up at this time. The first is cleaning the roof of the Airstream. It spends the summer under cedar and locust trees that copiously drop branches and leaves on the roof. This begins to turn to mulch in the frequent rains, and the tannins stain the solar panels and roof. So I always have to get up on the roof and carefully sweep it clean, then scrub it down, without sliding off and injuring myself. I did this job yesterday during a brief warm up to 72 degrees (the nice weather lasted a few hours, then went back to the usual gray and breezy 58 degrees).

During my roof inspection I found that the metal TV antenna support that I used to attach our cellular antenna has broken. Metal fatigue occurred in one of the 90-degree bends, leaving the support and the antenna a bit wobbly. It’s still serviceable for the moment but I will have to design a fix for it in the next few weeks. I also noticed that the sealant around the antenna base is pretty bad, so that’s going to need replacement too.

In my book, The (Nearly) Complete Guide To Airstream Maintenance I have a section all about roof inspections (and other types of inspections) which explains what to look for when you are on the roof. I recommend that everyone do a roof inspection at least once a year. Lots of problems start on the roof, unnoticed until it’s too late.

The second job we always have to do is eradicating the Mouse Of The Season (MOTS).  We always get one in the late Summer or early Fall, except in the years when we get three.  Rodent visitors are a fact of rural life, and they particularly love Airstreams. If you were a mouse, you would understand the appeal: lots of fluffy pink fiberglass insulation to burrow in, plenty of food in the cabinets, and no predators.

This year’s MOTS made his presence known a few days ago when Eleanor discovered sunflower seeds under the bed. We cleaned up the little stash he’d left, but couldn’t find a nest. For the past three nights I have awoken in the early morning to hear the unmistakable scritch-scritch sound of a mouse chewing on something that belongs to us, so we’ve torn the front bedroom apart looking for further signs.

Usually it’s easy to find Mouse Ground Zero: plenty of tiny droppings and shredded nest material, but this time we have found nothing. I was tempted to ignore it because the mouse will leave voluntarily when we start to tow on Friday, but then this morning he crossed the line. While sleeping at 6:10 am I felt something in my hair and brushed it away. MOTS was knocked clear by the impact of my hand, and we both had a bit of a shock. The thing he was investigating turned out to be alive (me) and of course I awoke to realize I had a mouse in the bed.

He made a quick and invisible getaway of course, but then further invited my retaliation by going back to his hidden spot and making munching noises again. That sort of poor judgement has sealed the fate of many a house guest, and this case will be no different. MOTS must go.

Traps will be set tonight, baited with every mouse’s favorite Last Supper, peanut butter. Ever-thoughtful when it comes to food, Eleanor commented, “We can use the cheap stuff.” Apparently we have good peanut butter and then some sort of lesser peanut butter that is reserved for bad houseguests. (You have been warned.)

Of course there are other jobs to do before a long trip, but they are simple.  Water, propane, cleaning, lubing the hitch, clearing off the spider webs, testing the systems that have not been used in a while, and such basic stuff. By Friday we should be ready to move out, and the Airstream will begin its 2,000+ mile journey back to Arizona, with stops along the way to be determined.