Alumapalooza is around the corner, and that means it’s time to get serious about traveling again. That event (held every year at the Airstream factory after Memorial Day) has been the kick-off for our summer travels for the past six years, and this year will be the seventh.
We’re not the only ones gearing up to hit the road either. I’m hearing from friends all over the country who are anticipating saddling up and hauling the Airstream out later this month or in May. Many of them will be out for weeks, which is great for them. They’ll have fun and maybe we’ll cross paths at some point.
Getting ready for Alumapalooza is really only the beginning for us. The Airstream won’t be back to home base until September, or possibly October, so we have to pack and plan for a magical mystery expedition. I don’t know exactly where we will be later this summer because some of our plans are going to be spontaneous, which means we could encounter temperatures from freezing to 110; activities like hiking, motorcycling, and swimming in the ocean; social events ranging from the five-day party that is Alumapalooza, to quiet nights in the middle of nowhere; and much more.
A couple of weeks ago Eleanor and I started to talk about our preparations to hit the road, and just about every day we do something to advance the cause, because it really takes that long to get a family of three and a small business ready to go. It would be easy if it were a simple matter of packing, but of course there are all the other things in life that get in the way.
For example, we have foster kittens again (yes, those two pictured really are our current obligations: Coleman and Storm), and I’ve been doing maintenance on the cars, we are taking a language class, Emma has a karate tournament coming up, etc., etc.
All of these projects and obligations seem overwhelming at times. Sometimes I feel like the month of April is really just about getting ready to leave, and it seems tedious, but then once we do finally start traveling everything falls into perspective. The prize of being on multi-month adventure is well worth the advance work.
What I really like about traveling this way is that we don’t have to plan everything in advance. I’m a planner by nature, but in this case it’s actually easier if we don’t. We have a general plan based on a few hard deadlines (Alumapalooza late May in Ohio, Alumafandango late September in California) but everything else is subject to whims and winds—and opportunities that may arise.
Fuel prices, by the way, hardly come into it at all. I mention this because if you are considering becoming an Airstream traveler you might think fuel cost is a big deal. Really, it’s one of the smaller budget items since traveling by road is more enjoyable when you drive less and explore locally more. I expect we’ll spend about $1,500 for fuel this season thanks to low diesel prices currently, and for four to five months of travel that’s a bargain.
The photo above is from a recent 2-night trip with my friend Nick, back to Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument. Out there in the desert you’ll find a strange sight, a lovely pond filled with tiny desert pupfish just a couple hundred feet from the border fence. This memorable trip across southern Arizona wasn’t expensive. It’s not about how far you go, it’s about what you can find near where you are.
This season we’re winging it more than usual. We always have a list of “maybe” ideas handy when we venture out, and this year’s list is really wild. We’re considering “side trips” as far apart as Newfoundland and Oregon. We’re keeping an eye out for cheap last-minute flights to Europe and bargain cruises to Alaska. It’s quite likely that none of these ideas will pan out, but it’s fun to have ideas to consider.
As I said, flexibility is a big advantage of traveling this way. When we walk out the door of our house, the adventure begins. Discovering where it ends up is the fun part. Pack your ideas and inspirations in the Airstream and see what happens.