2013 travel plans

2013 is right around the corner, and as with every year I’m considering our options for travel.  It’s looking like it will be a very interesting year.

Our first big trip will likely be in late March or April.  Normally we take a week around New Year’s to go camping in southern California, but this year we are going to hang around Tucson over the holidays, and take a longer trip to California in the spring after we’re done with Alumafiesta in Tucson.  The general idea is to meander up the California coast for a few weeks, stringing together a lot of visits along the way.

We haven’t made that trip since 2005, when we started at Florence OR in mid November and worked our way down the coast all the way for Christmas at the San Diego Zoo.  It was a very memorable trip, and I can’t believe that it was seven years ago—until I look at the pictures of Emma, age 5.

This time we’ll do the trip heading north, starting in Anza-Borrego and then working up the coast.  I don’t know how far north we’ll get, but at the very least we will see some redwood trees.

These days none of our travel is arbitrary.  Time seems to be more scarce for us, so the multi-week trip that we would just throw together on a whim in the past now requires major planning sessions.  I have to justify the time in the Airstream more carefully than ever before, because every departure from home base disrupts projects and goals for all three of us.

A good travel route comes together like a string of pearls, and right now I’m collecting those pearls along the 1,200 mile string between San Diego and Oregon.  We’ll stop in to see friends in the major cities, visit Airstream Life clients and prospects, camp in a few beauty spots, and replenish our resources of Airstream stock photography and future contributors that we meet along the way.  So far I’ve got about eight or nine stops in mind, and by the time the trip dates come we’ll probably have a dozen or more things that we need/want to do. The real trick will be getting it all done in three to five weeks, before we’re required to come back to Tucson for something.

This summer looks even more challenging, in the sense that we have to figure out some complicated travel.  As with the previous three years, everything starts with Alumapalooza in Jackson Center OH.  I love doing Alumapalooza but it forces us into more or less the same travel pattern every year, which is boring.  Once again we will hit the road some time in May and work northeast toward Ohio, then continue east to Vermont.  Fortunately, after that the program will likely change, and I can’t say how much until we get further along our planning cycle.  Most likely the Airstream will stay in Vermont most of the summer, but Eleanor and I may fly off a couple of times to attend events far away.

I’d really like to make this the year of our long-awaited Airstream trip to Newfoundland.  It’s a tough trip to make, because the miles are long, the costs are high, and connectivity (for a working person) is difficult.  Even from Vermont it’s a long trip, over 1,500 miles to St. John’s NFL, which is like driving from New York City to Dallas TX.  Diesel in Newfoundland today is the equivalent of $5.19 per gallon (US), and the ferry for all three of us plus the Airstream would run about $830 round-trip.  Still cheaper than Alaska, which is sort of the “white whale” of RV’ing in North America, but Newfoundland is definitely not easy.

Eleanor and I went there in 1995 via car, tent camping and staying in local inns across Maine, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Newfoundland, and Prince Edward Island, traveling 2,000 miles, and all in nine days.  It was beautiful, memorable, and exciting.  This time we’d like to go more slowly and explore more.  Each year I look at it and wonder if this will be the optimal year to go.  The only thing that has improved over the past few years has been Internet connectivity, and it’s still pretty spotty compared to US standards.  So I’d have to disconnect for much of the trip, which is simultaneously a wonderful and horrifying thought.

Another “wish list” trip is Europe.  For the past couple of years I’ve been investigating the realities of European travel by American Airstreamers, and unfortunately it’s pretty hard to do.  You have two basic options:  (1) ship your suitably small Airstream over and do a quickie conversion to make it legal and compatible with EU standards, then ship it back; or (2) buy an Airstream in Europe.  Both options are expensive and would only worthwhile for an extended trip of several months, which is not possible for us right now.  We’re looking at a third option for this summer, which is basically hanging out with European Airstreamers while we travel conventionally by car & hotel.  Not ideal but at least feasible, and if the stars align it might yet happen.

Meanwhile back at in the states we have things to do too.  The big one is Alumafandango, which is our August event.  Last summer we held it in Denver.  After much consideration, we have decided to hold it in central Oregon, so I’ve got to get there for that at a time when the Airstream is going to be almost as far away as it can be.  The answer will be a plane ticket and a hotel room, unless I can borrow an Airstream in Oregon for a week.  Still working on that.

Officially we haven’t announced Alumafandango 2013, so you’re the first to hear about it, but the registration form is open now if you want to check it out.  Dates will be August 6-11, 2013, at the wonderful Seven Feathers RV Resort in Canyonville, OR.  That’s right on I-5, about 200 miles south of Portland.  Like Alumafiesta in Tucson, it will be a first-class event with all full hookups in a really nice campground, indoor displays of Airstreams, lots of activities, etc. Pricing is the same as Alumafiesta.  There’s more updated info on the website, even though the graphics still show last year’s event.

After Alumafandango I’ll have to fly back to Vermont, retrieve the Airstream and family, and then begin the long trek back west to home base.  All told, the Airstream will probably log about 9,000 miles this summer (plus 3,000 if we manage to get to Newfoundland), the Mercedes will probably cover more like 12,000 miles, and by September I’ll be really glad to just park myself back at the desk again … and think about 2014.

Rt 40, Colorado

It was a late start for us yesterday morning; between the mouse hunt and general post-fandango fatigue we ended up not awakening until well after 9 a.m.  Then Eleanor decided to make scrambled eggs with a little of the leftover gravlax that she made in her “no cook” demonstration.  All told, it was nearly noon when we were finally hitched up and ready to move.

After looking at the calendar we decided it would be better to cut short our visit to the Grand Lake area and move onward to Dinosaur National Monument, about 200 miles west.  First of course we had to go to the RMNP visitor center to see the rangers so Emma could get her Junior Ranger badge, which Eleanor estimates is number 68.  (She already has one from the east side of RMNP; now she has one from the west side.)

The drive west from Granby CO on Route 40 is another one of the great scenic opportunities of Colorado.  For a while, west of Hot Sulphur Springs, the road winds down a steep and narrow canyon with a river and railway.  With the white cumulus popping up overhead, and gray streaks of virga in the sky, it was a fantastic visual experience.

Later the clouds turned to bands of rain, which surrounded us and lent even more drama to the sky.  We stopped at Rabbit Ears Pass for a roadside lunch (9,500 feet elevation), and then, now west of the Rockies, gradually descended for a few hours all the way back into the desert.

Our arrival at Dinosaur National Monument was perfect to catch the setting sun lighting up the park in fiery orange.   A few miles past the visitor center (closed when we arrived at nearly 7 p.m.) we came to our destination: Green River campground.  This is a very pleasant place right at the banks of the Green River, with lots of large trees for shade and paved level campsites.  However, it has no hookups, which is probably part of the reason it never fills.  We debated a few minutes whether we wanted shade for coolness during the day, or sun for solar power.  We ended up with site #59, which offers sun most of the day and shade in the late afternoon.  Hopefully this will be a good compromise, as the temperature when we arrived was about 91 degrees.

I’m surprised to have a weak but usable cell phone signal here.  We are in a valley, at least 7 miles from the highway and any semblance of a town.  I had expected to go fully on vacation for a couple of days.  The campground has a payphone, connected by satellite, which is usually a tip-off that cellular signals do not penetrate.  But since I can make contact with the outside world, I’ll at least check email once a day and try to post a blog.

Our mouse may have bailed out.  There’s no sign of him today, despite Eleanor deliberately leaving out a few champagne grapes as temptation.  He could not had have an enjoyable trip across Colorado, since Route 40 has plenty of bumps & rolls.  In our experience, mice don’t like towing.  Tonight we may have to try leaving out a little chocolate, just to be sure.  He definitely preferred Special Dark over the Mr. Goodbar.

The comments keep coming in about Alumafandango. Apparently my public venting about the staff experience encouraged attendees to offer their point of view, and they have been uniformly positive. I got a call from Joe P yesterday, signing up for Alumafiesta in Tucson, and he said that he was signing up for Tucson specifically because he’d had such a great time in Lakeside.  Many other people emailed to say they had a wonderful time too.  I have to remember the duck theory:  Remain placid above the water, and beneath the water keep paddling furiously.

During our drive along Route 40, Eleanor and I were talking about this, and about some of our favorite attendees.  There were some people who really embraced the philosophy of the Wally Byam way of Airstreaming, and among those were the Finnesgards.  Merlin, Maxine, Joe and Beverly came in two Airstreams parked side by side at Alumafandango, and they were such wonderful people that I want to give them a little “shout out” from the blog.  Being Minnesotans, they are people who take care of themselves.

One of their group is on oxygen, and they are all seniors, so you might think that they had justification to really complain when the power went out on the first two hot days of the event.  But far from it.  Those Finnesgards were endlessly cheerful.  I never saw them without a smile on their faces, and they went out of their way to tell us what a great time they were having.  They knew that whatever happened, they had their Airstreams, which meant they had everything they needed, and so why complain?  That’s how Wally would have done it.  Thanks for coming.

Today our plan is to explore this side of Dinosaur National Monument, with a series of small hikes and perhaps a Ranger talk.  This is a big park, so tomorrow we’ll relocate the Airstream nearer to the Canyon area (25+ miles away) and explore over there next.

Fortunately, everything got better

I  promised you that the second half of the story would be better than the first, so hopefully you can read this blog entry without wincing.

When we left off, things were finally starting to turn in our favor.  By Thursday we had the electrical problems mostly worked out, water was extending to all of the campground, most of the trailers were parked, and our seminars were purring along.  But we weren’t in the clear by any measure.  One of the legs of my 30-amp power cord had melted (due to corrosion and heavy use in Tucson) which caused it to fuse to the surge protector device and melt part of it as well.  This meant we could not connect to the power at all.  Adam went out to Camping World and bought a new pair of plug ends, so I could fix the cords while working registration in the Event Trailer.  The borrowed Caravel that Brett G and Lisa were using had a plumbing problem that caused their black tank to fill up with shower water, and they could not get 30-amp power all week (due to their location).  Their refrigerator didn’t work either, so they carted their groceries over to a nearby display trailer and used its refrigerator instead.

Meanwhile, Lucy the bathroom trailer was functional but didn’t have any toilet paper, soap, towels, or hand sanitizer.  We managed to get some TP in there but I don’t know if the rest of the supplies ever arrived.  (I never had time to go look.)  Our dump station still wasn’t done, and so gray water was undoubtedly being disposed by “creative” means.  The vendors in the Showcase area were still operating on very limited electricity, and the Event Trailer itself (our headquarters and home of several laptops and all our walkie-talkie chargers) had no power at all.  Periodically we’d steal the cord from Chris Cooper’s trailer to recharge all our stuff.  He was nearby selling iPad cleaners, and was very good natured about sharing the power.

Amidst all this we had many heroes.  From Timeless Travel Trailers, Brett Hall was literally tireless.  The man never seemed to sleep.  He stayed calm throughout every mishap and always had a plan to overcome.  He also ran fantastic historical tours of Lakeside Amusement Park on Wednesday and Friday that helped people appreciate the unique setting we were in.  From his team, Paul stood out as an incredible worker, always with a good attitude and quick to solve a problem.  Frank, Dick, and John were there most of the week too, running the Bobcat and fixing the power—all great guys who put in a lot of hours to get our sites ready. Lori G, who helped us at the last two Alumapaloozas, helped again with parking and running errands, including fetching pizza for all the staff on Tuesday.

Scott V was there every day to help with parking despite the sun and heat, and his wife Denise came in as well to staff the Event Trailer when the rest of us were running around crazy.  Mary and Kyle helped us tremendously just by bringing their daughter Kathryn, because Katheryn and Emma stuck together the entire week and mostly kept themselves entertained. The two sleep-overs were really helpful too.  Mary pitched in at registration for a couple of days, even through she was a paying participant in the event.  Kevin and Laura volunteered their extremely cool hexcopter to shoot aerial video and the photo you see above.

So if it all worked, it was not because of our core team (Rich/Brett/Eleanor/Lisa) but because of the dozen or so people who jumped in and worked overtime to do their very best.  And we’re incredibly grateful.

Now, all of this narrative has been solely my perspective.  I was in the trenches, and rarely got a chance to stick my head up and find out what was really happening.  As it turned out, the event wasn’t half the disaster that I thought it was.  Most of our attendees were very understanding of the glitches and appreciative of the program we’d put together for them.  We had tours of Lakeside and Timeless, many seminars, vendors, contests (Aluminum Chef, Backup Derby), dozens of door prizes, some great entertainment, Happy Hours, Open Grill on three nights, Swap Meet, Blogger’s Roundtable, and Luke Bernander’s one-of-a-kind “BarStream” (a.k.a. the “rat trailer”) was hosting evening parties until midnight with free New Belgium beer and popcorn).  I gradually began to notice that people were actually having a lot of fun.  It was just us workers who thought everything was a disaster.

To some extent, this happens at every first-time event.  We set a high standard for ourselves and our events.  Our goals are to keep everyone preoccupied with fun things, and have lots of surprises (in this case: free beer, popcorn, Hi-Chew candy), and have everything work smoothly.  Well, nothing ever goes perfectly smoothly the first time, but nonetheless by Friday I was being inundated by people saying that they were really enjoying what we’d put together.  And when the park opened on Friday night, and everyone saw all the gorgeous lights and rode the rides, they started saying, “I get it now.”  They could see why we went through the trouble to build a campground right on the edge of Lakeside Amusement Park.  It started to get magical.

In fact, things were running so smoothly by Friday that we all took a break for the evening and rode the rides too.  Eleanor and I started with the Ferris Wheel, then the Cyclone roller coaster  (the best ride in the park), the Wild Chipmunk, Merry-Go-Round, and the Spider.  I joined Adam, Susan, Brett and Lisa for a race in the little “Sports Cars” that go putt-putt around a track, and then the bumper cars (called “AutoSkooter”).  We rode until nearly 11 p.m. and then collapsed into the Airstream, wiped out by five days of sleep deprivation.  Emma and Kathryn rode the Spider eight times.

There were some other hassles that occurred as late as Saturday afternoon, but overall we felt like we’d managed to work around all the problems and everyone I talked to said they had felt it was a marvelous week.  Most of them said they’d like to come back, despite everything.  I don’t know if that will happen yet.  We are going to look for a number of important improvements before we commit to a repeat, including things like a grass surface and our own entry gate and tent. A few people even signed up on the spot for Alumafiesta in Tucson (Feb 5-10, 2013), so I guess they were really pleased.

After dinner (which was good and ran smoothly, thank goodness), I spent Saturday evening unwinding with some new and old friends among the bloggers.  They have documented Alumafandango far better than I could, with photos and video, so I encourage you to read their version of events.

Mali Mish
Channel Surfing With Gas

Normally I would have blogged this event daily, but I think you can appreciate why I was silent all week.  There just wasn’t enough time for anything, including photos. I have virtually no pictures of my own.  But now that it is over, and we have caught up on sleep, I’m able to reflect on everything and read the comments of those who were there.  The horrible week I had is starting to look not quite so bad.  We survived.  We conquered.  We learned a lot.  And we’re still married.  Overall, it was a success.

Now for a little vacation.  We’re heading out today for points west.   Dinosaur National Monument is at the top of our list.  After that, we’ll meander down through Utah.

Alumafandango post-mortem

*sigh*  Like most stories, it all turned out well in the end. But I’ve just had a week I’d rather not repeat.

You might have detected some hints of trepidation in my pre-event posts.  Over the past few months the amusement park we’d selected had suffered from a serious thunderstorm that washed away much of the area where we’d planned to camp.  The management of the park didn’t give the site crew access until the event date was imminent, and that—more than anything else—put us squarely behind the eight-ball.

The site work that was started on Saturday continued through the weekend.  I made a short movie documenting some of what happened, because it was just unbelievable.  The Caterpillar scrapers hauled dirt all weekend and into Monday, moving hundreds of cubic yards.  On Sunday a water leak sprang up from the ground (an old subsurface pipe leak probably forced to the surface by the 55-ton weight of the machines), and Brett Hall spent much of the day digging with a backhoe to find it.  Sunday night the leak became a 15-foot fountain, and water to much of the park had to be shut off.

On Sunday we also found out that repair work to the Merry-Go-Round would prevent us from running the QR Code Hunt through the park, so I quickly revised the Survival Guide and Brett picked up the corrected copies at the nearest Staples.  The we learned that the blackout curtains we had expected for the Royal Grove pavilion, where we were to hold all of our seminars, weren’t going to arrive.  Our stage turned out to be a no-show too.  Brett G got busy on his phone and managed to arrange new stuff within a few hours. This was typical; we kept finding things weren’t as we had expected, and we just had to jump on every problem and find a solution as quickly as possible.

Monday the guys were still building the 30-amp power system while Brett H continued to dig with the backhoe.  Some handwritten records from fifty years ago were located, but they might have just as well been hieroglyphics.  Our excavation turned up a maze of undocumented water lines, sewer lines, valves, and telephone lines.  Brett G and I ended up in the five-foot deep pit at one point, digging with a shovel to uncover a valve and a series of ridiculous pipe connections.  Then, since the Timeless Travel Trailer guys were all busy working on the site, Brett and I hitched up all the display trailers to my car and towed them, one by one, into their display spaces.  You should have seen me moving the 40-foot “Western Pacific” railway crew Airstream.  It’s worth about $170,000 and I had to maneuver it very carefully into a space next to a telephone pole, guy wire, and a metal pipe railing, without denting anything.  I pity the guy who has to get it out of there.

Meanwhile, sitework continued in the southern park of our camping area, and the electricians continued to hustle.  I bailed out of the site at about 9:30 pm, sunburnt and exhausted, but some of the Timeless guys worked until well past 1:30 a.m. and got back at it by 6:30 a.m. the same morning.

Tuesday dawned and we still had no water, no power, and our attendees began to arrive.  We brought our Airstream over early in the morning and came face to face with the hideous reality that nothing was ready. Parking was a total nightmare.  The west gate we had planned to use was unavailable because construction at the Wal-Mart next door was ongoing.  We had to post a person all day, every day, at the published arrival location to redirect trailers to the main entrance of the park (halfway around the city block).  Lisa and Eleanor shared this job.   Worse, we had been told over the weekend that the main gate would be locked nightly at 10 p.m., and anyone who was on the outside after that would just be out of luck.

Because we had no water to the campsites and no idea when we’d have water, we set up a “water fill” location and stopped everyone who didn’t arrive with full water tanks there, so they could fill up before being parked.  Then we discovered that the site map we’d been provided with was drastically inaccurate, and in fact the net campground space would accommodate only about 2/3 of the trailers we had planned.  So we quickly came up with a plan for a new camping space west of the abandoned racetrack, although we had not the slightest clue yet how we were going to get power to them.

The bathroom trailer, named “Lucy,” was on site but nobody had time to connect her to the sewer tanks, so she was unusable.  We had a Port-A-Potty brought in as an emergency backup.  Likewise, the dump station was not ready, so anyone who showed up with full black/gray water holding tanks had to leave and dump elsewhere, but fortunately only one trailer had that problem.

All of this had us hopping around like kernels in a popper. It was in the upper 80s and we were doused in sweat, guzzling bottled water whenever we could.  We set up the pavilion, checked in dozens of guests, answered endless questions about the lack of utilities, parked trailers, and even dealt with an upset dentist (he didn’t like the trailers lining up in front of his storefront office).  The event trailer still wasn’t on site, so registration was set up in the pavilion instead. I got chewed out badly by a woman who was extremely upset about our state of confusion.  She demanded a refund, which I agreed to give her if she chose to leave.  She walked away without saying anything else, and I later discovered she wasn’t even registered, only her husband was!

Our ice cream social ran out of ice cream in 15 minutes because the supplier brought 2 gallons instead of the 5 gallons we had requested.  Nothing seemed to be going right, and it continued well into the evening.  Our 4 p.m. “Happy Hour” was probably the least happy hour I’ve spent in years, since Brett and I could do little more than stand there before a hot and irritated crowd and make weak apologies for the lack of 30-amp power to run their air conditioners.  Showing the 3-minute movie of the weekend’s dirt work helped people appreciate the situation a little, and I asked everyone to think of “how Wally would do it,” so that they’d keep perspective.  I think almost everyone got it, and they were much more patient with the situation than we probably deserved.

I collapsed into bed that night feeling like I had a total disaster on my hand.  One or two participants were already calling it “Alumafiasco,” although fortunately I didn’t know this at the time.  We were all already sleep-deprived from the crazy weekend, and I think if I’d heard that I might have been tempted to just go home.  I awoke at 4 a.m. from the sheer anxiety and sat at the dinette to write up a list of emergency measures we had to take to save our event.  Brett and I compared notes the next day and found we’d both been kicking ourselves for everything that had gone wrong.  Text messages were flying around day and night between us and Brett Hall, trying to keep after everything.

Wednesday morning the excavators were chasing another leak at the entrance to the park.  A commercial plumbing crew was on the job now, but they couldn’t find the leak.  Now water was shut off to the entire park, including our backup water fill.  We discussed bringing in a water truck if they couldn’t fix it by Thursday.  But the good news was that the 30-amp power was finally ready, so we flipped the switch Wednesday afternoon to the delight of most.

I say “most” because the power promptly fried the converters of four trailers.  It turned out that one of three legs coming from the transformer was not working right, and gave those trailers a dose of 208 volts.  The power went off again for everyone, and we dispatched electricians to get on the problem again.  So our second day came and went with only a few hours of usable power.  Timeless Travel Trailers sent Paul—one of the big heros of the week—to meet with each affected owner and replace their power converters with upgraded units with 3-stage charging, at no cost to the owners of course.  They also ended up replacing a microwave oven too.

I had a seminar to deliver in the midst of all this, which went well.  But our Happy Hour that afternoon wasn’t much better than Tuesday’s, and now we had at least four people whose trailers had burned out converters to boot. Things seemed to be getting worse.  One trailer pulled out, and I was afraid things were about to get ugly, so we begged for more forgiveness and, behind the scenes, continued chasing down problems and shooting off increasingly tense text messages to the poor guys who were killing themselves trying to get everything fixed.

At the end of Wednesday Brett & I decided we needed to make a bold gesture to the people who had paid for 30-amp power and not gotten it.  We ended up writing 21 pro-rated refund checks and hand-delivering them to all those people who had arrived Tuesday or Wednesday.  This helped ameliorate some feelings and we started to get compliments from people who noticed how hard everyone was trying to make things right.

The 30-amp power seemed fixed by Wednesday night, but on Thursday afternoon I noticed only 110 volts at my trailer and a distinct smell coming from the campground’s main transformer, which soon turned to smoke.  Off went the power  again.  A new transformer connection was made and a few hours later we were able to announce reliable power again.  This time it stayed on.

Later on Thursday the water was finally turned back on and we managed to run water to about half the campsites.  Word spread and soon everyone began putting hoses out.  By that evening most trailers had water, which was very welcome to a few who were running low.  This was our day to run tours to Timeless too, so many of their guys were back at the shop, and we were able to slow down and breathe a little while the shuttle bus did the work for the day.  Things seemed to be finally going our way.  Of course, we still had about 20 trailers to park in the heat, with minimal staff, and we had the Aluminum Chef contest to run, so it wasn’t exactly a vacation.  But since Eleanor, Brett, and I were judges for the Aluminum Chef entries, at least it was a picnic.

I’ll tell the rest of the story in tomorrow’s blog entry.  Trust me, it does end happily.

Almost ready for guests

We are in Denver and things are hectic, as the final preparations for Alumafandango are completed.  I knew that we were walking into a minefield of last-minute problems and there was going to be little I could do to affect things, but even with that foreknowledge it was still a shock to see what lay ahead.

My last inspection of the site was in May, and at that point not much had been done to improve the site where we were scheduled to camp for five days.  There were grandiose plans to bring in big loaders, dumpsters, and heaps of fill, along with water lines, electric lines, and a dump station.  In June, not much happened, and that actually turned out to be a good thing, because in mid-July the big thunderstorm came through and wiped out the area.  If a lot of earth-moving had been done it probably would have washed out to the lake.

And so, in late July when you’d think we would be all set, the real task of building a campground at Lakeside began.  It has been ongoing ever since, starting with clearing of old vehicles and dead trees, and hauling of debris and saturated soil.  At least 32 twenty-cubic-yard dumpsters were filled with junk. Screening was set up to hide what couldn’t be moved.  Four abandoned mobile homes were hauled off, the living trees were pruned, fresh concrete was poured for new lamp posts, and electrical wires were buried.

But that was only the beginning.  When I showed up yesterday to see the progress, there were two huge Caterpillar scrapers running around, moving fill from the nearby Wal-Mart construction site to our site.  Each load of those machines moved up to 31 cubic yards of dirt, and they were in constant motion.  Over the weekend they will have moved enough dirt to raise the level of the campground and surrounding area by eighteen inches.   A road grader chased them around, leveling and compacting the soil.  It was amazing to watch the place transform from junkyard to the beginnings of a rally field.

Unfortunately, things are behind schedule, and many problems have cropped up.  Yesterday the weight of the machines (about 55 tons when loaded) revealed a soft spot in the ground.  A few hours later the cause became clear when a fresh water spring popped up in the ground.  There’s a broken water line somewhere, and tomorrow a backhoe will be on the site to dig it up.  Being so late, we won’t have time to put a final covering on the campsites, so the plan is to bring in chopped hay instead.

The Wal-Mart construction next door has been a boon because we got hundreds of yards of free fill (and their excavation company to spread it), but the downside is that the construction gate we were going to use for access is not going to be available, so we had to come up with a new access plan and make up some signs to redirect traffic.  The Merry-Go-Round suffered structural damage as a result of the big July thunderstorm, and that means we’ve had to cancel our QR Code Hunt because all week a contractor will be in the park to build it a new support structure.  And I can list off half a dozen more things like that …

So this has been a test of our ability to be flexible.  As late as Sunday afternoon I was revising the official program once again to accommodate last-minute changes.  The amazing thing (to me) is that despite everything that has happened, we are still going to have a great week.  Except for noticing the packed-dirt campground, the attendees won’t be aware of everything we’ve gone through to hold this event. I am making a little movie of the weekend’s construction so that they can see what the place looked like just three days before they arrived.

Although the site looks rough now (better today than when the photo above was taken), Brett and I have learned that you can make almost any place look good once you decorate it up with a bunch of cool trailers.  Our site for Modernism Week 2012 was an ugly dirt parking lot surrounded by the concrete blocks of a dead mall.  The sidewalks were broken and there were the remains of shattered bottles in the dirt.  We brought in 22 trailers and about ten vendors and suddenly the place was festive with color and decorations. Over 1,200 people paid admission to walk around there.  That’s the power of aluminum.

Speaking of which, our official event trailer is ready to go.  We checked it out yesterday at Timeless Travel Trailers.  It’s a 1962 Globe Trotter converted to a coffee shop, and subsequently converted to be our registration booth.  It’s just one of about eight trailers that the guys at Timeless will be bringing over to show and use during the event.

I was on the site today and I’ll be there again tonight with Brett to check on things and see what we can do to help. We’ll be loading in the show trailers this evening, and tomorrow the electrical boxes should be in place, and the final cleanup and grading can be completed.  The Airstream Life trailer will go in early Tuesday morning.  We are still far from being able to relax but at this point I think we’ll be ready—just barely—for our guests to arrive on Tuesday.