posted: August 27th, 2006 | by:Bert
PURSUING PHOTOS AND PROSE
With Kayaks, Mountain bikes, Backpacks, Daypacks, Walking Sticks, Fishing Poles—and an Airstream Travel Trailer
Bert Gildart: Time wise, we’ve probably completed about half of our trip with our Airstream Travel Trailer and 3/4-ton Dodge Ram, in which we anticipate logging in more than 10,000 miles. Our journey began in early July and will probably end by Thanksgiving, when we’ll be back home in Montana. We really need to beat the snow in the mountain passes into Montana. The major purpose of this trip has been to fulfill a number of magazine assignments.
This most recent leg of our trip, which has spanned about two weeks, has been devoted to time with our East Coast children and grandchildren. The remainder of the trip will concern the business of travel, which has already produced a number of stories (several already logged with appropriate magazines) and literally hundreds of photographs. The photo posted here is dedicated to my son-in-law, Will Friedner, a Minnesota native who claims his state has fish large enough to gobble our Airstream. Now I believe him.
From here, we’ll be heading north to Quebec City. From there, we’re covering Baxter State Park in Maine, hiking up Mt. Kahtadin, the terminus of the Appalachian Trail. After that, it’s on to Nova Scotia to bike the Evangeline Trail and do some kayaking.
On our return trip we’re visiting a number of military parks including several in Washington, D.C. Finally, at least on the East Coast, we’ll be covering Shenandoah, the Great Smokies, and Cumberland Island–in part with our kayaks. Finally, we’ll return to Montana, but that leg will also include stops.
The backbone of all of our travels have been, of course, our ¾ ton Dodge with its Cummings Diesel engine and our 28’ Airstream with its space-enhancing slideout. Since leaving Bigfork, we’ve averaged about 13.9 miles per gallon and have paid between $3.40 and $2.79, the latter price in New Jersey, where, ironically, they do not allow you to pump your own gas.
Our 2004 Dodge is fully loaded, though much, but certainly not all, is bulk. On top, we carry two 17’ 9” kayaks. Inside the topper, we’ve compartmentalized our equipment so that all camping items are in one storage bin and all kayaking items in another. I place one of these bins beneath a shelf, which I constructed, and the other on that shelf. The shelf occupies half of one side of the topper.
On the other side of the topper, go our two bikes, held fast with Bungi cords. Also inside the topper, but overhead, I glued four small pieces of wood and inserted eye bolts into them. Between the eye bolts, I stretch yet more bungi chords, and they keep our carbon-light kayak paddles secure and up and away from damage that could result from loading. Though it may sound that we’re pushing the load limit, we’re not—at least according to a weigh station. According to it, we are about 500 pounds below the 9,100 max on the Airstream and about 250 pounds on our 3/4-ton truck with its heavy duty suspension. Tongue weight is about 1,200 pounds, but our equalizer hitch distributes that weight over the truck’s four wheels, rather then just the two rear ones.
With this set up, we’ve been equipped to fish in Fort Peck Lake and kayak to such incredible places as the wreck of the Francisco Morazan (See August 6 post). As well, we’ve simply been able to tow our Airstream through some of the nation’s most incredible country, such as Theodore Roosevelt National Park in North Dakota.
To a large degree the continued success of our travels is the direct result of our Airstream. We’ve owned other types of travel trailers, but the aereodynamic configuration of the Airstream is superior and it enables us to slice through winds that might topple other brands. Once, those winds gusted to near 70 miles per hour, and in abject fear we sought out shelter, waiting until the winds abated.
In years past, we’ve been caught in winter snow storms where temperatures have dipped to -10°F. To the other extreme, this summer we’ve been caught in temperatures that have soared to 103°F. During such times we’ve generally sought out commercial hookups and activated our air conditioner. But once (this past month) in Theodore Roosevelt NP, we elected to tough it out, essentially because the bison were in rut and I wanted to catch them fighting, which I did. But that night, our Fantastic Fan ran on high power throughout the entire night. The fan helps maintain a flow of air through the trailer, and in the prairie, where humidity is low, you can survive.
Generally, we’ve relied on the long cloud-free days to recharge our batteries through the roof-mounted solar panels, and that has worked well. On overcast days, however, we’ve resorted to the use of our generator. Because we like quiet, we purchased a Honda 2000 (Yamaha also works), and it does indeed live up to its reputation, which is one of “Quiet Power.” In other words, when possible, we are boondockers, not only for the savings, but because boondocking generally places us in magnificent surroundings—which is the focus of my “National Lands” web page.
In several days we’ll be visiting Rich Luhr and family in Vermont, but without any concrete idea of where we’ll be landing, and that—to us at any rate—is one of the biggest joys of RV travel. We like to think of it as Adventure RVing, and the lifestyle (with our Airstream and loaded Dodge) serves us well.