LET THE ADVENTURE BEGIN. The Italian fashion magazine IO Donna paid Janie and me a very substantial day rate for posing models with our Airstream.
©Bert Gildart: With the odometer on our 2004 Dodge Diesel engine about to push past the 100,000 mile mark, and our second Airstream logging in half that number of miles, it seems like a retrospection of our travels as Airstream enthusiasts might be in order. Pictures you see here are from all corners of North America and if you want a precise location, click on each image and that will link you to a larger version and to an extended photo caption.
For the past seven years Janie and I have been on the road, searching for stories, many of which have appeared in RV magazines, such as Airstream Life and those produced by the Affinity Group.
Others have appeared in publications that produce conservation stories such as The Wilderness Association, Christian Science Monitor, Native Peoples Magazine, National Wildlife. As well, we’ve written a number of books for Falcon Press and other publishers. To say that we cherish the lifestyle is an understatement. WE LOVE LIFE ON THE ROAD.
Both Janie and I are army brats so it is safe to say we came by our nomadic makeup honestly. By the time I was a senior in high school, I had traveled in most of the European countries and many of the states in the U.S. and have never grown tired of the lifestyle.
When Charles Kuralt was alive I tuned into his “On The Road” each Sunday morning, always lusting for his way of life. And, of course, we read works by some of our favorite authors and took much of what they had to say to heart. For instance, Robert Louis Stevenson once observed:
“For my part, I travel not to go anywhere, but to go. I travel for travel’s sake. The great affair is to move.”
That’s a fairly accurate summation of our penchants, but I would add that we also like to get something out of our travels, and that comes from reflecting at night about what we’ve seen – and also from the many people we’ve met. And that’s something easy to do with an Airstream: No matter where we are, people want to know how we like our trailer, and many ask if they can take a peak inside.
PEOPLE WE’VE MET — A FEW BUMPY ROADS
We’ve met wonderful people in the course of our travels. In Quebec we met a Royal Canadian Mounted Policeman in Old Quebec City who before retiring and purchasing a 34-foot Classic had ventured to Old Crow and some of the other remote areas Janie and I traveled to in the Yukon Territory by boat. Amazing to us how people who own Airstreams always seem to have been afflicted by the adventure bug.
L to R: National Parks around the country: Mojave National Preserve, Shenandoah, Apostle Islands National Lake Shore, Cabot Drive.
We met a couple from Maine whose doctor told him his outlook for the future was not good, so he purchased an Airstream and is now touring the country. Thankfully, the doctor has backed off on his first assessment.
Some of our excursions have taken us to places we never intended to go. Once, while trying to find the retirement home in which my dad lived we were skirting Washington D.C. and took a wrong turn. Our mistake took us along River Side Road, and eventually down Massachusetts Road and around several traffic circles — all during rush hour. Try pulling an Airstream there!
Eventually, we arrived at Knollwood, a military retirement home near Rock Creek Park in the Capitol City, and because we were there to help my dad, managers allowed us to set up in their rather exclusive parking lot. But then, why not?
L to R: Pumpkins, Aerial of Airstream Convention, Natchez Trace, Oregon Pipe National Monument
On the other side of the continent, in Kenniwick, Washington, once Janie had to be hospitalized, and doctors there said they had a special place all picked out for people in our situation. Janie said that being able to look out the hospital window and see the Airstream was very reassuring.
BLOGS AN OUTGROWTH OF TRAVEL
Since 2006 we’ve been posting blogs about our Airstream travels and those blogs have covered Alaska, Canada — to include the Maritimes — all four corners of the United States and dozens of destinations in between. Making short forays from our trailer we’ve watched as the sun’s first rays touched Cadillac Mountain in Acadia National Park; met Secretary of Interior Gayle Norton just after she dedicated the new Indian Memorial at Little Bighorn Battlefield; visited the Dry Tortugas south of Key West, Florida; watched whales in Nova Scotia; traveled the Alaska Highway. Last year the Italian fashion magazine, IO Donna, paid us a day rate of over $500 so that they could pose models in front of our trailer. Andrea, the photographer, said “Airstreams have cachet.”
Out-of-the-way-places. L to R: Natchez Trace National Parkway, Padre Island, Dawson City, Jasper National Park.
Since owning our Airstream we’ve traveled to every state except Hawaii, meaning we may at times have lived more by Robert Louis Stevenson’s observation then we should have. And that brings to mind another travel quote, which I found in James Michener’s book, The Drifter. Wrote Michener:
“The fool wanders, the wise man travels.” Now that’s something I want to think about.
We bought our first Airstream in 2002, a 25-foot Safari which we kept for two years. We sold it because we soon realized we needed something a little larger to facilitate work, so we traded up to a 28-foot Safari with slideout. For us, it has proven ideal and were sorry to learn that the model was discontinued as it seems so perfect. In one corner, there’s a fold-up table and I use it as an office. To make it work a little better, I added an inverter into the electrical system above my head so that I can work with or without hookups, the later of which we try and avoid.
Because the outdoor is our beat, we carry kayaks, bicycles, backpacks and day packs. And because we travel so much and want to do so under the safest of conditions, we added a Hensley Hitch, which has absolutely eliminated all sway. In fact, once as we were approaching Glacier National Park from the east, we found ourselves in a brutal windstorm. Gusts, we later learned, had been blasting us at 70 mph. Still, there was no sway, but that’s not to say we weren’t looking for shelter, which we found behind the barn of a most gracious member of the Blackfeet Indian tribe in Browning, Montana. The man even offered to hook us up. “Like your trailer,” said the man.
Travels can all season and extreme places. L to R: Minnesota produce big fish, winter in Yellowstone, New Brunswick covered bridge, Out Banks of North Carolina.
Airstreams have been our homes for about 9/12th of each year (we’re not quite full-timers) and we have had only a few minor complaints, and not all of them derived from our Airstream. For instance, we bought a Dodge ¾ ton and with the Cummings Diesel engine it is wonderfully powered for our needs. Pulling an Airstream we get about 15 miles per gallon, driving about 60, meaning that the combination might be good for those who think Green.
Beware, however, if you buy a Dodge, and note that the wheels stick out beyond the vehicle’s body. If you don’t want dings on your trailer, purchase the aftermarket wheel flares, your first line of defense against flying rocks. As a second line, add a solid mud flap that stretches down from the rear bumper the width of the rear tires and almost touches the ground.
AIRSTREAM COMPLAINTS? MAYBE ONE
But all Airstreams have a small but easily remedied construction problem. When driving on gravel roads (unavoidable as much as we travel) rocks kick up and will invariably break the petcock controlling water in your fresh-water storage tank. Initially, we had that problem but an RV dealer corrected the situation by building a small shroud that hinged around the petcock. When we bought our second, we had the dealer duplicate the shroud installed on the first. I mention the condition as we’ve met so many others in the course of our travels who were not so protected and found themselves without water. They were grateful to learn about our remedy.
Family camping and Waiting out a Storm: L to R: Flathead Valley, January at Montana’s Monida Pass.
Recently we’ve attended to a number of normal maintenance concerns. We purchased new tires for the Airstream, had brakes repaired and replaced, had our truck thoroughly checked out and believe we’re ready for our next 100,000 miles. Though we’ve covered so much, there is so much more to see. America is a big place. Thoreau never ventured far from his Walden Pond because he felt he had not learned all his area had to offer. That’s a good philosophy, particularly in these new times, and we may take some of his advice and apply it to our travels.
In so doing, we may also listen to Charles Kuralt.
“Thanks to the Interstate Highway System,” said the veteran traveler, “it is now possible to travel across the country from coast to coast without seeing anything.”
Because we so thoroughly enjoy visiting national parks, we’ll apply his advice and spend less time driving and more time at each of the many areas that have so inspired us. That should work, for with our Airstream we have a mini apartment, and find that we can be comfortable in the snows of Yellowstone in the winter and heat of Death Valley in the spring.
"And here's to the next 100,000 miles."
And now, in about a month, we’ll be striking out, gathering, among other things, images for our next 100,000 mile retrospective on Airstream travel, which you should expect to see several years down the road.
TWO YEARS AGO AT THIS TIME:
*The Raven, My Good Luck Bird
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