Favorite Travel Quotes

"Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts."
-- Mark Twain
Innocents Abroad

"Stop worrying about the potholes in the road and celebrate the journey." -- Fitzhugh Mullan

"A good traveler has no fixed plans and is not intent on arriving." -- Lao Tzu

Archive for September, 2011

C M Russell Wildlife Refuge Provides Elk With Magnificent Stage

posted: September 30th, 2011 | by:Bert

Elk-CMR-29©Bert Gildart: I am a few days behind in the dates ascribed to my posts, essentially because we have based ourselves in areas that have no connections, specifically Zortman, Montana.  The settlement is located in the Little Rockies and for this posting it must be noted that we are but a 40 minute drive from one of the nation’s greatest wildlife spectacles  -  the fall rut of elk, which here includes literally hundreds of these magnificent creatures.

The stage is the Charles M. Russell Wildlife Refuge, specifically the Slippery Ann Wildlife Viewing area, which is immediately adjacent to where Adam, Sue, Janie and I took out from our seven-day float on the Missouri River one month ago.

It is here that Janie and I watched two nights ago as an estimated 300 elk materialized from stands of cottonwood trees, and then edged closer and closer until it seemed as though we had front seats at what could be  the photo opportunity of a lifetime.


The performance began about 5:30 p.m. but before you could see the elk, you could hear them and their famous bugling. Bull elk create the music and do so by tilting back their heads and emitting a sound that begins on a low note then progresses up the scale.  Finally, it ends with a guttural “Ugh, ugh.”   Hearing them is one thing, but when you hear not just one bull creating the sound but dozens, it blows your mind.

The purpose of the bugling – followed by aggressive gestures in which they use their antlers to blow up the dirt, “murder” small trees, or actually engage other bulls in battle – is intended to help each bull establish a territory.

Elk-CMR-30 Elk-CMR-33 Elk-CMR-32

L to R:  Bull elk establish a harem and warn other males to keep out by bugling, fighting and tearing up the ground; CMR attracts thousands annually, often to watch elk; six-point or “Royal” elk.


Here, in a space each bull must mentally define, he guards his developing harem, and woe be to any interloper, particularly to “the welterweights,” or to one whose spread of antlers is inferior – that enters this space. Presumably the genetically superior bull emerges victorious and it is he that passes on his genes.


We watched the display for about three hours and saw bulls whose antlers were represented by all the various descriptive nomenclature.  Biologists have created a system of classification. Bulls with six tines (most typically) are categorized as a Royal while those with seven or eight are categorized as an Imperial and Monarch, respectively. We saw them all, and most importantly from my perspective, I was able to photograph them all.  To obtain frame filling images I used lens ranging from 400 to 800mm.


Rounding up harem and warning other bulls to keep out.


Dramas such as this should be set on a stage of magnificence, and the CMR qualifies.  Encompassing about 1,100,000 acres, the Charles M. Russell National Wildlife Refuge extends 125 miles east/west.  Lewis and Clark saw it first and described the area in glowing terms. The refuge was set aside in 1936 by President Roosevelt and, today, some call it the crown jewel of the National Wildlife Refuge system.

They’ll get no arguments from us.




Nova Scotia’s Fort Louisbourg

4th ed. Autographed by the Authors

Hiking Shenandoah National Park

Hiking Shenandoah National Park is the 4th edition of a favorite guide book, created by Bert & Janie, a professional husband-wife journalism team. Lots of updates including more waterfall trails, updated descriptions of confusing trail junctions, and new color photographs. New text describes more of the park’s compelling natural history. Often the descriptions are personal as the Gildarts have hiked virtually every single park trail, sometimes repeatedly.

$18.95 + Autographed Copy

Big Sky Country is beautiful

Montana Icons: 50 Classic Symbols of the Treasure State

Montana Icons is a book for lovers of the western vista. Features photographs of fifty famous landmarks from what many call the “Last Best Place.” The book will make you feel homesick for Montana even if you already live here. Bert Gildart’s varied careers in Montana (Bus driver on an Indian reservation, a teacher, backcountry ranger, as well as a newspaper reporter, and photographer) have given him a special view of Montana, which he shares in this book. Share the view; click here.

$16.95 + Autographed Copy

What makes Glacier, Glacier?

Glacier Icons: 50 Classic Views of the Crown of the Continent

Glacier Icons: What makes Glacier Park so special? In this book you can discover the story behind fifty of this park’s most amazing features. With this entertaining collection of photos, anecdotes and little known facts, Bert Gildart will be your backcountry guide. A former Glacier backcountry ranger turned writer/photographer, his hundreds of stories and images have appeared in literally dozens of periodicals including Time/Life, Smithsonian, and Field & Stream. Take a look at Glacier Icons

$16.95 + Autographed Copy



Read Comments | 3 Comments »

Bear Paw Battlefield Helps Amend Tragic Policy

posted: September 29th, 2011 | by:Bert

©Bert Gildart:  Seasons vary dramatically from year to year, and for the past few days we’ve been enjoying weather that is like that of a mid July day. On this late September day, temperatures peaked at 93 and we parked (not camped — mind you) our Airstream so that we could take advantage of the night skies — cleared with the NPS before pulling in.  Soon coyotes began to howl and the stars came out adding a feeling of euphoria to the Bear Paw Battlefield, located just south of Chinook, Montana.


Airstream overlooks actual site where Miles laid siege to the Nez Perce


How these conditions contrasted with those about 130 years ago when Chief Joseph and his band sought a temporary reprieve from U.S. troops who had chased them for over 1,500 miles. When Joseph, Looking Glass and other significant war chiefs fought here in yet another defensive battle, snow fell and temperatures dipped to well below freezing. Hundreds of women and children in the many Nez Perce families suffered and did so in ways that proved deadly.


The battle occurred in early October of 1877 and commenced when Colonel Miles rode in from the east.  The Nez Perce thought they were days ahead of the troops, but Miles had been alerted of the band’s position, and he intercepted Joseph.  Nevertheless, the warriors rose up, and turned the charge, just as they had done repeatedly over the past few months.


Fearing a defeat such as Custer experienced, Miles retreated and then regrouped, And then he positioned his deadly Hotchkiss gun and began to fire.  Almost immediately two women were killed when the cave in which they’d hoped to find safety collapsed.

Colonel Miles and General Howard continued their assault, and though the Nez Perce fought hard, attrition finally began to mount, and on the afternoon of  October 5, 1877, Joseph asked to surrender to Miles, despite the fact that he and his band were  just 50 miles from the Canadian border — and freedom.  His subsequent words are famous and have been quoted throughout history.

Chief Joseph began by describing the suffering of the children, and then concluded by surrendering his rifle and asking that the opposing soldiers hear him. It has been called one of the most beautiful speeches of surrender ever made:

Tell General Howard I know his heart. What he told me before I have in my heart.  I am tired of fighting. Our chiefs are killed. Looking Glass is dead. Toohoolhoolzote is dead. The old men are dead. It is the young men who say yes or no.  The old men are all dead. It is cold and we have no blankets. The little children are freezing to death. My people, some of them, have run away to the hills, and have no blankets, no food; no one knows where they are – perhaps freezing to death. I want to have time to look for my children and see how many I can find. Maybe I shall find them among the dead. Hear me, my chiefs, I am tired; my heart is sick and sad. From where the sun now stands, I will fight no more forever.


As Janie and I walked the battlefield trail we were joined by Park Historian Stephanie Martin, who told us that after the surrender conditions for Joseph “only got worse.” Though Miles had promised the Nez Perce that he would return them to their homeland in Idaho, the government countered the wishes of both General Howard and Colonel Miles. Instead, Congress shipped the band to Fort Leavenworth in cattle cars.  Here, disease and weather killed the infants and then settlers dug up the bodies and fed them to their hogs.  “It was,” said Martin, “one of the worst cases of man’s inhumanity to man.”


Joseph's rifle as seen in museum at Fort Benton.


Today, when visitors hike the one and a half mile loop, they can see the site where Chief Looking Glass was killed and where Joseph actually surrendered to Miles.  But they see a more compassionate side of humanity as well.  At various and significant spots along the route, visitors have left offerings that might include tobacco, coins… a dollar bill, the shell of a grouse, beads, or perhaps a smooth rock that Martin says is most likely from Idaho’s Salmon River country.


One of the many sites at which token of remembrance has been left.


The offerings and serenity of the season made us feel as though Joseph had actually found the freedom he had struggled so hard to achieve.  How easy it was to believe that on a warm fall day — and on a night when stars filled the night sky — that all was well. Other than the yip of coyotes, the silence that engulfed us inside our Airstream was absolute.



*Harper’s Ferry


Read Comments | 1 Comment »

Montana’s Mermaids

posted: September 24th, 2011 | by:Bert

©Bert Gildart: Photographing mermaids?  Yes, it is possible in Great Falls, Montana, at a lively tavern called the Sip & Dip.  Normally an end-of-the-week attraction, the manager asked the young ladies to make a special appearance, to help with one of my assignments.  Graciously two mermaids appeared and then performed, swimming in a huge glass tank in outfits that looked like the top of a bikini and the bottom of an actual mermaid.


Lung power of Montana mermaids is immense, enabling the young women to remain submerged for long periods.


As they swam past me, they undulated in ways intended to propel themselves forward.  Other movements were choreographed so that they performed backward somersaults, and if one followed their flow, their arch swept in such a way so that I was reminded of Salome and her Dance of the Seven Veils.


To maintain my status as a dedicated professional photographer, immense powers of concentration were required, as some might  imagine.  As the young ladies swam by, they threw me kisses, and though I was tempted to return those gestures, I remained steadfast, trying for selective focus, making sure my strobe was angled in such a way that it did not reflect off the glass. It was a tough job.

My interests, of course, were empirical.  I was concerned with the functional, and my thoughts were thusly channeled.  I was obsessed with the way in which the designer had tailored the lower part of the costume so that it would provide easy access for the young women but simultaneously permit the fluidity of motion necessary for swimming.


With powerful thrusts of arms and "flippers" mermaids descend. I remain concerned for integrity of bodices.


But I was also concerned with the bodices, because sometimes the loop inscribed by the young women consisted of a powerful downward thrust, and at times such as this, tension was applied to the bodices.  Could the materials withstand such vigorous pressure.  I was concerned – and hoped for the best.


Fortunately, patrons — all behind me — could not observe the challenges to which I was confronted and that must have registered in my countenance.  The manager had allowed me to stand behind the bar so that I was immediately adjacent to the glass. That placed me so my back was facing other patrons, and in that way I did not have to concern myself with questioning looks.


Departing with a kiss


Though I thought I heard some heckling, at such times furrows in my brow must have registered confusion as I was simply a camera artist trying to capture that which seemed most important to their performance. Sometimes the young women passed within inches of my camera and I fervently believe that helped with my various endeavors.

Unfortunately, I have not yet processed all the images, so am presenting the first of those which I have processed. I expect to be spending many hours in Photoshop, hoping to tease out artistic nuances that I may have overlooked on my first pass.




*Where Does Fall Begin?


4th ed. Autographed by the Authors

Hiking Shenandoah National Park

Hiking Shenandoah National Park is the 4th edition of a favorite guide book, created by Bert & Janie, a professional husband-wife journalism team. Lots of updates including more waterfall trails, updated descriptions of confusing trail junctions, and new color photographs. New text describes more of the park’s compelling natural history. Often the descriptions are personal as the Gildarts have hiked virtually every single park trail, sometimes repeatedly.

$18.95 + Autographed Copy

Big Sky Country is beautiful

Montana Icons: 50 Classic Symbols of the Treasure State

Montana Icons is a book for lovers of the western vista. Features photographs of fifty famous landmarks from what many call the “Last Best Place.” The book will make you feel homesick for Montana even if you already live here. Bert Gildart’s varied careers in Montana (Bus driver on an Indian reservation, a teacher, backcountry ranger, as well as a newspaper reporter, and photographer) have given him a special view of Montana, which he shares in this book. Share the view; click here.

$16.95 + Autographed Copy

What makes Glacier, Glacier?

Glacier Icons: 50 Classic Views of the Crown of the Continent

Glacier Icons: What makes Glacier Park so special? In this book you can discover the story behind fifty of this park’s most amazing features. With this entertaining collection of photos, anecdotes and little known facts, Bert Gildart will be your backcountry guide. A former Glacier backcountry ranger turned writer/photographer, his hundreds of stories and images have appeared in literally dozens of periodicals including Time/Life, Smithsonian, and Field & Stream. Take a look at Glacier Icons

$16.95 + Autographed Copy

Read Comments | 2 Comments »

“My Indian Maiden” Struggles with Sacagawea’s Cradle Board

posted: September 23rd, 2011 | by:Bert

©Bert Gildart: After trying on the replica cradle board and the attached head band displayed at the Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center in Great Falls, Montana, Jane Gildart (my young Indian maiden) believes Sacagawea had to have been one tough woman.


"My Indian Maiden" hefts cradle board with "her baby Pompey" to begin the start of "her (imagined) 26 day journey" around the five falls of the Missouri.

That toughness was particularly needed between June 13 and July 15, 1805 – the 26 days the Cops of Discovery struggled around the five separate falls comprising the Great Falls of the Missouri. During that time Sacagawea carried her infant child, Pompey, joining with the men in their struggles, all of whom fought exhaustion, rain, hail storms, excessive heat and the prickly pear, which constantly pierced their double thick moccasins.

That story is particularly well told at the Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center.  The center does so with an exhibit hall, theater and various displays.  Displays include sculptures by famous artists, maps showing the routes, grizzly bear skulls, and bison artifacts.


Perhaps the most heroic of the displays greets you the moment you enter the center. The heroic assemblage features men from the Expedition struggling to haul their canoe up a huge embankment.  The canoe was made from a cottonwood tree and the wheels were sectioned from a tree.  I was curious about the perfect hole in the wheel that accommodated the axel, and was told the Corps carried hand drills.

Sacagawea of course struggled with the men, and she served Lewis and Clark as a guide, despite her young age.  She had been captured while young and later married the French trapper Charboneau.

Throughout the long journey she totted their child Pompey and though she must have been constantly challenged, most likely the challenges were greatest at these great falls of the Missouri.


Rough weather constantly assaulted them and Lewis wrote of hailstones that measured “7 inches in circumference and waied 3 ounces…”   Lewis also wrote that in one afternoon his path converged with a bear, a mountain cat or wolverine and three buffalo bulls.”

G-FallsArea-6 GreatFalls-31 G-FallsArea-1

Struggles were immense for Corps of Discovery when the reached the Great Falls; Black Eagle Falls, one of the five comprising the Great Falls of the Missouri; L&C Interpretive Center provides impressive displays.

Sacagawea struggled with the captains through this country and again my  “Indian Maiden”  turned to the cradle board and hefted it, judging with the interpreter that it weighed about 30 pounds.  To facilitate weight distribution Sacagawea  had attached a head band, and that helped Janie when we she tried it on; but as Janie reminded me Sacagawea carried the baby all day long, and at this juncture in their journey, he struggles must have been particularly difficult.  For 20 grueling miles over a period of 26 days she and the Corps plodded around five massive falls.


Though the Great Falls of the Missouri have been tamed, nevertheless suggestions of great energy remain.  Several of the five falls have been impounded and now produce hydroelectric power.


Bison were integral to the Expediion, and are interpreted at the L&C Center as both utilitarian and as an object of art.


But the question I have is what would the Corps think if they could rise in mass from their graves and visit this incredible land through which they once struggled.  Obviously the question will remain forever unanswered, but it does seem as though they would be delighted that their adventures are cherished and that they are preserved with imagination displays such as are now found along the route of their 8,000 mile-long two year journey. One third of that time was spent in Montana, and some of the most significant challenges remain in this state.  Appropriately those struggles are preserved at the Lewis & Clark Interpretive Center in Great Falls, Montana.




**Airstream and our First 100,000 miles


Read Comments | 1 Comment »

Underground Havre — Brothels, Opium Dens Reflect on Relatively Recent Lifestyle

posted: September 19th, 2011 | by:Bert


"So sad?" Maybe, but maybe not.

©Bert Gildart: When travelers driving Highway 2 pass through Havre, Montana, most are unaware that they are driving over tunnels that once connected an outlawed way of life.  Beneath the highway slumbers “Underground Havre,” a several block series of rooms that actually secreted opium dens.

As well, it interprets other aspects of Havre that have been selected as being worthy of interpretation to include a bootlegger bar, gambling hall, a mortuary, a brothel – and a few businesses that once thrived in the middle of this Montana town.

Interested visitors must join a guided tour.  Guides lead groups to a creaky wooden door, and then descend a series of old concrete stairs.  Here, beneath a dusty, hard-glassed skylight, the tour begins, passing first through an old tunnel to a series of clean well-lighted rooms that includes the old brothel. (We covered one in Skagway, too, The Red Onion.)


You remember the mannequin depicting the come-hither lady because she is standing to the side of a bathroom and because she is pressed against a bed covered with a purple quilt, which was folded back – as though extending an invitation.

The lady is also dressed in purple and she wears a slight smile.  Entrance to her room — and to the bed – is through a laced door, and though we heard one woman say “How sad,” I had to wonder why?

Men out numbered women almost 100 to 1, and these women softened a harsh landscape in which hostilities were but a quirky gesture away.


Adjacent to the bordello was a bar and a laundry room, but what intrigued me most were two other mannequins. One depicted a man sitting crossed legged in a corner with a pipe resting in his lap. The other, however, was more graphic, for it showed a man cradling a pipe; but he was prostrate.  His eyes seemed glazed and his expression was vacant.


vacant stare and glassy eyes testify to hard-core opium use.

Was he content?  Perhaps not according to members of local church groups which began increasing in number in the 1920s.


We passed through other rooms, rooms depicting a dentist office, Indian wars, a drug store, sausage shop, meat market, and arts of the times. Finally, however, we entered a room presenting the mannequin of a small man, but one who enjoyed a huge business.

HavreUnderground-14 HavreUnderground-12 HavreUnderground-10

Art is part of decor; butcher shop; tour quickly
progresses from skylights to clean well lighted rooms.

His name was Chris Young, and he prospered as a bootlegger, big in the Havre, Montana, area in the ‘20s and the ‘30s.  Interestingly, when he died in 1944 he specified that his fortune be used to benefit children.


Chris Young, small man but one who profited in big way from bootlegging.

One could say that there are lessons here, but most likely they are all of an existential nature.  That may not be what the city fathers intended. Most likely they intended to show a way of life that once thrived, and to that extend they have succeeded admirably.





Grave Yard Tour in Nova Scotia







Read Comments | Post a Comment »

Secret Revealed: So Who Is That “Ole Sore Head?”

posted: September 18th, 2011 | by:Bert

©Bert Gildart: According to Cliff Ulmen, the old “Sore Head” seen on the sign that graces Highway 2 near the turnoff to Rudyard died a long, long time ago.


So Who is that "Old Sore Head?"


“Ole Sore Head,” said Ulmen, “was the first of the egg-laying dinosaurs to be found in Montana, and it died almost 60 million years ago. Jack Horner (famous as a anthropologist) helped excavate it at my ranch about 20 years ago.”

Ulmen is one of the other 596 people (“Actually, it’s about 300,” says Ulman.) the sign brags about, and though 92 years old, he seems to remember everything.  He says his father proved up on the land in the early 1900s, and then, later, he took over.  “When I was about 13 my father gave me a choice. “ ‘You can go to high school and I’ll loose the farm. Or you can help me.’ ”


Ulmen chose to help his dad, but he has done much more.  He has also helped one of the small settlements along the Highline garner a reputation.

Rudyard-4 Rudyard-2 Rudyard-3

Cliff Ulmen surrounded by donated saddles and a harness his dad made; gasoline powered iron; mannequin showing clothing worn to win the Rudyard fashion show.

Most of the little towns along this 300-mile-long stretch had ignominious but almost instant origins.  They began in the late 1800s when railroad magnate John Hill established his rail lines across this northern part of Montana.  Rumor has it that many of the little towns (Kremlin, Havre, Shelby, Dunkirk, Malta, Hingham, Chester, etc) derived their names by the simple toss of a dart.


Secret Revealed: Old Sore Head

Aiming at a map of Europe, the settlement’s name was determined by where the dart landed.  Others, such as Chinook and Wolf Point took their names from features which shaped them, like the Chinook winds; or the practice of wolfing, as conducted when ranchers began lamenting the canine’s  presence.


All the towns have personality, but Rudyard may have some of the most conspicuous. For one thing, it is on Montana’s Dinosaur Trail.

For another it has a most compelling museum, created in part by earth hardened people such as Cliff Ulmen, who is still on the board and who seems to have self educated himself so that he speaks as well as any college-educated man.

Initially funds were raised by selling stones for a wall, first to the area’s homesteaders, then to its veterans.  “We’ve sold hundreds of engraved stones which quickly raised funds,” said Cliff.

“And when we had enough for a building, we began asking people to contribute antiques and mementos.  The response was overwhelming.”


“People brought in old gas clothing irons, early day dresses, harnesses, saddles, old wagons, and scores of photographs.” Ulmen says that the museum provides a feeling for the way in which farming evolved along the Highline.

And, of course, there is the dinosaur thing, aided by the erosion of the nearby Milk River, which in some ways contributed to the preservation of Ole Sore Head, whose life as an egg-laying dinosaur is still celebrated and retold in open and friendly town of Rudyard, Montana.




*Old Rag Weather (Shenandoah)


Read Comments | 1 Comment »

Fall Beauty Means Glacier is Still Packing ‘Em In

posted: September 15th, 2011 | by:Bert

©Bert Gildart: Amazingly, Glacier National Park’s Two Medicine campground was almost full, leaving us with the challenge of parking our 30 foot Airstream in one of the less desirable sites.

But the challenge of parking was worth the effort.  Fall is already exhibiting its first sign and it is gorgeous, particularly in the Two Medicine Valley.


Two Medicine campground and Airstream, squeezed into one of few remaining campsites. Orange from mountain ash berries means it is fall.


Over the years I’ve spent much time in this northwestern extreme of the park, and posted on it often, particularly as a Many Storied Valley.”

Most notably I worked here for a month following the devastating flood of 1964.  At the time I was working on a park labor crew, and our assignment was to clean up all the debris created by the exceptionally high waters of Upper Two Med Lake. The flood cost many people their lives.


Mountain ash, fall harbinger

Our crew lived in a tiny “Trail Crew Cabin”, and we stayed here from mid September through the end of October, when snows shut us down.  During that time we saw moose, goats, bears and all the various species of vegetation, such as mountain ash, which is one of the most conspicuous and one of the first harbingers of autumn.

But now, many years later, Two Med for Janie and me is simply a stop over, as we are now back on track after many interruptions. We’re working on a book about Montana and on several magazine assignments, all of which will take us into the eastern part of this diverse and fascinating state.

Interestingly for the technocrats, the addition of two extra batteries (total of four) has enabled us to operate well out of a campground that has no hookups.  Last night the temperature dropped to 39, so we kept warm running our furnace, which gobbles up the power.

But we still had plenty of umph to run the water pump, and yet plenty more to operate my computer and an external hard drive, all needed to create this blog.

However, there is no internet connectivity, so this post has actually been made from Havre, Montana, which boasts an underground Chinese section and a buffalo jump, which we are anxious to see.



*Shenandoah Monarch Butterfly


Read Comments | Post a Comment »

Enthusiasm May Be Secret to Successful Airstream Dealership

posted: September 12th, 2011 | by:Bert

©Bert Gildart: “We really didn’t get into the Airstream market until about 15 years ago,” said George Sutton of Sutton RV, which is located in Eugene, Oregon.  “That coincided with a downturn in the RV market,” continued George, who now operates — with his wife Martha — the second largest Airstream dealership in the USA.


George and Martha Sutton believe in the Airstream product -- and helped with the heroic Airstream book covered (appropriately)with aluminum


To some extent George believes  success results from his endless thinking about ways to improve the looks of Airstream.  Most recently, he suggested that Airstream create a black interior and though management in Jackson, Ohio, wasn’t sure, the concept is going over well.  Apparently Airstream will now be offering the look to any interested.

At the time of our visit, Sutton RV was also renovating an Airstream that was called the Norman Rockwell design. We had a chance to see it, and the look certainly was exquisite.


As well George has been involved with Alcoa Aluminum in the experimental use of Xzilon, a compound that is supposed to prevent the buildup of filiform corrosion, such as we’ve recently (and tragically) experienced  (See: Worse Case Ever).  I say “experimental” as I don’t believe the coating has been on the market long enough to provide definitive answers. So whether a coating of the substance would have prevented our disaster is debatable, but after our experience with filiform corrosion we had it applied anyway.


Interior of Airstream, a model called "Normal Rockwell"


Sutton, of course, stands by the product and to experiment,  said that they sprayed an aluminum panel with Xzilon, then took a can of spray paint — and to simulate an act of vandalism — they sprayed it.  According to our salesman, “the paint wiped right off.”  Nevertheless, Airstreams do come with a protective coating of some kind, so if Xzilon proves its mettle, perhaps it might be make better sense to apply it several years down the road, after the factory coating begins to wear.


Justifiably, George and Martha were particularly proud of an Airstream book (above) created as an in-house product, which included several pictures he had taken.  The book’s cover is aluminum, and the size is heroic.  Text and images tell the history of Airstream and the evolution of a unit that has become an icon among those seeking travel adventures.

We’re now home, but must head back out almost immediately.  We’ll be taking with us memories of bad luck but which eventually  transitioned to good luck. It was a delight to meet with the Suttons and we wish George and Martha continued success with Airstream, a product that has proven itself through time.



*Shenandoah — A Walk In The Rain


Read Comments | Post a Comment »

First Night Camp is Beneath Hundreds of Wind Turbines

posted: September 10th, 2011 | by:Bert

©Bert Gildart: We’re trying to return home in our new Airstream, but not making very good time.  We departed Eugene, Oregon about 10 a.m., and though we drove almost six hours, we got not further than Rufus, Oregon, a small town along the Columbia River.

Part of the problem was the ungodly traffic in the Portland area, reminding us of a departure when we were leaving the Washington D.C. area in our Airstream last year about this time. Traffic had been backed up for well over 30 miles, and by my calculations about one-hundred THOUSAND  motorists (Vehicular Madness) sat stranded for about five hours.  Resolving their bathroom needs was a challenge — but we had a solution mentioned in “Vehicular Madness …


Rufus RV Park, beneath wind turbines


Rufus RV Park was backdropped by hundreds of wind turbines – 123 of them said the campground owner, “and those are just the ones you can see.”  As we noted the turbines run along the top of the high banks through which this massive river once cut out.  We’re on the Lewis and Clark Trail, meaning the Corps of Discovery actually passed this way – between 1804 and 1806.

Obviously, much has changed, and we’re just grateful to be back on the road in an Airstream that is in good shape.  We should be home today, but will be packing for an extended trip that we must make through eastern Montana  prior to winter.




*Shenandoah, and Old Rag Views


Read Comments | 1 Comment »

Airstreams — Promote “Deep” Philosophical Discourse

posted: September 9th, 2011 | by:Bert

©Bert Gildart:  After some heartbreaking damage to our Safari Airstream (previously described), Janie and I finally opted for replacement of our damaged trailer with a new one, and here it is. Specifically, it is described as a 30-foot Classic and we think it is beautiful. Adding to its functional capabilities are four solar panels and four “sealed” Glassmat batteries.  We carry yet two more movable solar panels in the back of our pickup and Airstream installed a “quick link” hookup, meaning that we can generate about 360 watts of solar energy — when the sun shines.  The four batteries means we can now store all that energy, ready now for all the boon docking we do.




We purchased the trailer from George Sutton in Eugene, Oregon, and did so because we purchased our 2004 Safari from him and because he subsequently provided us with good service.

Though acquisition of a new trailer may seem an easy thing, in fact, it is not. For the past two days we have been learning about new features – and visiting as well with a number of Airstream owners whom we have either heard about or learned about over the past decade.  Ironically, many seemed to converged simultaneously at Armitage County Park, located just a few miles from Sutton Airstream.


And a new "Flying Cloud" Airstream for Brian and Leigh


Case in point is the couple we are visiting with.  Brian and Leigh have also been long term Airstream owners.  In fact, for a number of years they operated a business out of one of their previous Airstreams and did so as “fulltimers.”  Like us, they have just purchased a new Airstream and (like us) returned again to Sutton’s.  We talked a bit about Mr. Sutton, and a little about the wonderful job sales and service did getting us squared away.  Mark was the sales man but knew more about Airstreams than your average salesman typically knows, in this case through actual ownership. Noah and Thom were in service and helped with questions and minor problems.

As previous owners, Janie and I knew how to outfit our new Airstream but, still, that required almost two full days of transferring pots, pans, inverters, books, key racks, towels, food, etc. from the back of our pickup and organizing it in the trailer.

And so at last we have gathered in front of our new Airstream, engaged in deep philosophy — waiting, of course, to document this deep philosophical exchange until the self-timer of my camera clicks the shutter. Excited as we all were, that’s about as far as we got in our discourse. But wasn’t it fun.



*Old Rag –Shenandoah


Read Comments | 5 Comments »

Industry Secret! Airstream – and “the Worst Case of Filiform Corrosion Ever”

posted: September 4th, 2011 | by:Bert


Hooking up to our diseased Airstream, which has always been protected in barn.

©Bert Gildart: After almost three full months of negotiating with our insurance company we have finally reached a settlement regarding damage to our Airstream Travel Trailer.

To make an extremely long story short, our trailer was blasted by a direct hit of magnesium chloride this winter resulting in what the industry calls “filiform corrosion.”

Damage was extensive and because repairs would have been very costly, our insurance company decided to total our trailer.


Our insurance company, however, is a good one and they provided a substantial buyout, enough so that we could replace the old trailer with a new one.  Because this most likely will be the last major investment we will ever make, we added a little more so that we could upgrade to a Classic.  Those were some of the facts that placated us last week as we watched a driver prepare to tow our trailer off to Missoula, Montana, where it will soon be auctioned off. Someone could get a very serviceable trailer — and if that someone then tows it to P&S Trailer Service in Helena, Ohio, and has Steve or Kevin buff it out —  that person will have a trailer that looks like new.

We could have gone that route, but the draw back is that the trailer must then be registered as a “salvage trailer.” As a “salvage” trailer, should insurance issues crop up again, a salvaged vehicle does not command the payout that normal registration provides. Yet another option would have been to replace all affected panels. In my case, 10 panels would have had to been replaced but that would have been costly and could have weakened the strength of our Airstream, the reason our insurance company concluded our Safari  should be totaled.


Some may now ask: “Well how will you prevent corrosion from occurring again?”

First, this was a freak accident, and it happened because a careless state driver dropped his load just as he was passing us.  His actions produced what several Airstream dealers described as being “the worse case of filiform corrosion we have ever seen.”


Filiform corrosion, closeup

Those were their exact words, and the corrosive action began almost immediately after the truck dropped its load. Corrosion began because the magnesium blasted our trailer so pitting the clear coating of our trailer, allowing the magnesium to contact with the aluminum where the “disease” established itself, and then began to metastasize.  In appearance — and from a distance — it reminded me of a wild billy goat in spring shedding its winter fur; up close it looked like frost on a window. But this stuff is not pretty, it is butt ugly!

Here I want to emphasize that there was no negligence on our part, meaning the trailer has been waxed religiously (”Walbernized” to all you Airstreamers) and even stored when not in use in a shed we built to protect it.

To actually prove care I provided images from all over the country (see “This time last year,” below)l,  showing that our trailer had been used to produce professional Airstream images, and that it was in absolutely perfect condition prior to the events of several months ago.


Obviously the best solution is to stay off roads when magnesium chloride is being applied, but we knew nothing of filiform at the time,  and up until now it seems to be an industry secret.  No one, not even Airstream, really talks about the issue.

Another solution could be to form a group and march on the state capitol, as many have suggested. I’m not a new-comer to the state, having graduated from MSU, so believe I can make such a suggestion without fear of being called a Carpetbagger. In the past, use of magnesium in Montana has been a political issue.


Diseased Airstream being towed away -- forever!!

Baring a march, residents should group together and petition the state to post signs about the problems magnesium chloride can produce.  Magnesium is a salt and is much worse on vehicles than even sodium chloride.

Magnesium chloride does melt snow but it remains unpopular among most who live in the few states that use it. Montana is one and so I believe are Idaho and Utah.


We are buying our new Airstream trailer from George Sutton in Oregon and will be picking it up this Tuesday. This is our second trailer purchase from this Airstream dealer and the company is  very sympathetic to our plight.

In the future we will refrain from driving winter roads in Montana with our new Airstream and wish the state of Montana had provided a head’s up prior to this sad situation.  Our insurance company attempted to obtain financial help from Airstream but I will probably never know the results of that discussion. Through time and sometimes neglect some Airstreams do develop filiform, but  in my case this was not an Airstream problem.  Our trailer got blasted and only then did corrosion set in. Corrosion would not have been as deep or as complete had not something extreme occurred.


We remain devoted to the product and expect that we will derive immense enjoyment for the next decade (at least) as we travel the nation looking for more stories and generally enjoying the gypsy life style Janie and I been describing in blogs, magazine stories and books.  What’s more, Silver IS Green, and we enjoy the ease of towing, which facilitates adventure.

20287 13130 91527

L to R  showing   happier times: Airstream (all published images) used for family camping (image appeared this past month in Montana Outdoors);  used as base while kayaking Apostle Islands; used for camping in Jasper, Alberta — all showing happier times, but one that we will soon enjoy again!

We also enjoy meeting all RVers and hope this heads up helps prevent others with aluminum trailers (or other aluminum road products) from experiencing what has truly been a heartbreaking situation for us.

And so endeth this sermon.



Actually an Airstream Post,  Showing Very Happy Times


Read Comments | 5 Comments »