posted: August 31st, 2007 | by:Bert
©Bert Gildart: I’ve been trying to shift gears, still reveling in my experiences from climbing Mount Rainier. This morning I received just what I needed, an e-mail note asking for advice about Airstream travel trailers, boon-docking, photography–and any other Airstream Camper Tips I might have. The note was what I needed, for these are, of course, some of my favorite subjects as those who follow this blog realize. With the help of the man’s note, I was able to leap the bridge from the beauty of Rainier to what we’ve come to take for granted as our home away from home. Obviously, that’s a compliment to the reliability of our Airstream.
The note came from Bob Mariano, a coach with the SF Giants, and I was flattered that his questions were generated as a result of a story of mine that appeared in this last issue of Airstream Life—and from my blog. The story pertained to Airstreaming through the Sonoran Desert, and Bob’s questions made me realize just how much we’ve enjoyed our trailer and how we’ve made this lifestyle work for us over periods that have spanned as much as nine full months. The thoughts that follow are essentially in response to the questions posed by this Minor League Hitting Coordinator.
First, this is the second Airstream we’ve owned, so obviously we like the brand. Our first model was a 25-foot Safari, which we traded in several years later for a 2005 28-foot Safari—with slideout. Unfortunately, Airstream no longer makes this combination. Because of our extended trips, we enjoy the extra room provided by the slideout. Today, we’d have to go to the Classic 30-foot trailer, with slideout. That wouldn’t be a bad option, though it would be a much more expensive option.
Other than the abandonment of the Safari 28 with slideout, my only other complaint is that front panels are susceptible to rock dings, something we learned on Airstream number 1. To prevent dings on Airstream number 2, we installed on our hitch a Rock Solid Rock Guard. The guard consists of a series of segmented rubber flaps that span the distance between the two rear tires and that almost touch the ground. Installing the guard seemed to eliminate our problem for last year, we drove from Montana to Nova Scotia, to the Florida Everglades, to New Orleans, to the Sonoran Desert, and then home—with many stop, of course, in between. In those nine months, we logged more than 20,000 miles and during that entire time, sustained but one tiny ding just above the left front panel. One day we’ll have that covered with a rivet.
We pull our trailer with a Dodge 2500 equipped with the Cummins Diesel engine. When not towing, we sometimes average close to 18 mpg; when towing, and with kayaks mounted on the roof of our pickup, our average drops to about 14.5 mpg. We drive conservatively, and we think that if you are environmentally conscientious, this setup works well. In fact, a case could be made for Airstreams as being the most environmentally friendly of all RVs, because it has such a low coefficient of drag. However, the case is well made by any RVer whose lifestyle is such that they base themselves for long periods of time, relying for entertainment on bikes, kayaks, canoes and time spent fishing (this for Bob) along rivers and streams.
The Sonoran Desert is a wonderful place to make use of solar panels, and our Airstream has two. With them, we can fully recharge our batteries, even if we watched TV off our batteries the previous night. Solar panels don’t work as well when we camp, for instance, in Glacier, as we’re often in heavily forested areas. During such times, we augment our energy needs with our Honda 2000 generator (very quiet), which provides enough power to operate a microwave, but not enough to operate an air conditioner.
Last summer, for a brief period in Theodore Roosevelt National Park—when temperatures exceeded 100°—we wished for a second Honda generator to hook in series with first. Honda makes a special kit that sells for about $200 and that enables such a combination. With that combination, we could have operated our air. Instead, we sought out a commercial campground, something that went against our grain as we so thoroughly enjoy “boon docking.” With our setup, generally we can camp free of commercial settings for as long as we want. All we need is access to water and a dump. We re-supply water ever 3-4 days, and empty grey and black water about once a week, using our “Blue-boy.”
One of the coach’s final questions concerned my camera preference. I have always used Nikons, first in the film format, but now in the digital format. Currently, I own a D-200 and use a complement of lenses acquired over 30 years ranging from an 18mm wide angle to a 600mm telephoto for wildlife. Today, all my images are edited using PhotoShop CS2 and then stored on external hard dives, which we carry with us as we travel. In this way, I can sell images as we travel, something we did often last year as we traveled, extracting in some cases from images taken years ago. My files now number over 100,000.
So there you have it: That’s how we travel and how we work as we travel. The lifestyle is not for everyone, but we thoroughly enjoy what we do and meeting so many interesting people along the way. Perhaps we’ll meet our new reader, and we’d be flattered if he’d then spend a bit of time telling us about his work as a Hitting Coordinator for the SF Giants.