Airstream Time

Exploring North America in an Airstream

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The Loneliest Highway St. Louis to Mt. Vernon, Kansas

It took an hour to get to St. Louis on I64. Traffic was moderately heavy and sometimes frantic. It rained heavily as I navigated the southern edge of the big city. You can complain about 18-wheelers all you want, but I have nothing but respect for these road warriors. I could barely see the lanes, so I got behind a tractor-trailer and followed. He slowed to a safe speed as we wound our way around overpasses, underpasses and roads going everywhere. Thank God for Google Maps GPS directions. One wrong turn and you’ll lose an hour. with crazy people driving too fast, we (my tractor-trailer and I) passed several accidents. I wasn’t dressed to get out in this rain, and thank God I didn’t have to. I finally found I44 and it started thinning out slightly. Now the trucks were all business, but I was trying to find Rt. 50.

Rt. 50 is a coast-to-coast highway and a main route before interstates. My goal is to travel this road to Nevada, where it gets its name, “The Loneliest Highway”. I have traveled it across Nevada, and it is appropriately named. Through this part of the country, it is simply a beautiful highway through beautiful country, lush farmland and small towns. America at its best.

This is Amish country with Amish restaurants and furniture stores. They take incredible care of the land. I wanted to stop at bakeries and shop antique stores, but I must get on. It’s Dutch country and New Holland tractor sales. Some parts of the road are four lanes with a speed limit of 65, while other parts are two lanes and 55 or 60 speed limits. For me, this is a very pleasant drive. I only took one wrong turn through an interesting town where 50 turns left with no sign, or maybe I was too busy looking at the sites.

I’m a sucker for Lewis and Clark, so I drove well out of my way to get to Clark’s hill where he surveyed the Missouri River where the Osage joins it. I hiked up the hill to a trail along a ridge overlooking the river. You could hear the river roaring. It is high and muddy and moving fast. I cannot imagine oaring those big, heavy boats up this river. It was hot with 100% humidity. I was sweating like a dog. At a platform, all you can see are trees, the way Clark would have seen it. I’ll post some other pictures when I get time.

I wanted to get to Dodge City, but by late afternoon, I had enough. Fortunately, there is a Corps of Engineers campground around Cheney Reservoir, or rather there are about 8 campgrounds. Still I was lucky to find a spot. 4th of July is coming up. This is a beautiful campground with very generous sites right on the lake. It would be a good place to stay for a while, but I must go in the morning. About 475 miles today, but then I took a nice hike.

Driving I64 Charlottesville to Mt. Vernon, Il

With a clean truck and trailer, I got off at 6:35 am. I remembered 64 being pretty easy to travel, but today that was not the case. There was lots of traffic. Well, normal traffic. Turning off 81/64 at Lexington, it is less traveled and quite beautiful. We have had so much rain, everything is so lush and green. I wanted to stop and take pictures, but with a 12-hour day, there was no way.

Crossing into West Virginia at 8:45, there was road construction everywhere. Bumpy side lanes and frantic drivers through Beckley made it nerve-wracking. There are two toll stops between Beckley and Charleston. I had put an EZ pass in the truck. This was my first time using it, and I envisioned it not working and having to back out of the EZ pass only lane, but it worked like a charm.

More construction, then you’re out, then back in it. Unlike a lot of road construction areas, there were lots of crews and a lot or work being done, with extra lanes being build in Beckley. That might have slowed me down this trip, but it sure will be nice next time. Ol Jim Justice at work. He is going to get the job done in his state!

I crossed the Big Sandy river just west of Huntington and into Kentucky at 1:00. Surely it would be easier in Kentucky, but more orange cones and barrels met me. It’s all good. This major interstate needs it. I don’t know what time it was when I crossed into Illinois, maybe 4:15 after Louisville. A big city on the Ohio River, I was surprised to find little traffic. In fact there was hardly any as 64 goes right through the middle of town.

I would like to have stopped and taken pictures of beautiful farms and lush, green fields across Illinois. It was gorgeous. Looking for radio stations, I found three, all with bible quotes in between songs. More construction, with crews paving long stretches after quitting time. It’s really pretty inspiring to see. Six years in jail for reckless driving through these work zones. 50-55mph strictly enforced with police cars in many of them. Glad to see we have police.

I found Archway RV Park just after 7:00 when they close, but I think it was Kathy who was still in the office. Very nice and relaxed, she asked me for all the ways she could give me a discount. Good Sam? No. Veteran? Well yes, but not retired or combat. Doesn’t matter, you’re good. No papers required. She told me about her father who was career Air Force, recruited to play football as a nose guard!

Another nice lady showed me to my site. I was getting pretty tired, so this was very helpful. I thought about not unhooking, but I was 5″ off level, so I unhooked, plugged in, fixed a glass of wine, made a quick dinner and tried to unwind. It was hot, very hot with 100% humidity. I walked over to Tractor Supply to look for something and noticed a Lowe’s a block away. On my way back, I got 16 lbs of ice for $2.50 out of a machine, dividing it between two coolers. It didn’t take me long to get to sleep.

Waking at 4:00, it was raining. I had heard warnings of flood watches in Kentucky and Illinois. Then it rained hard with lightening and thunder. The air conditioning was on all night, but the power went out. Now I was sweating again. I turned the inverter on and ran it off the batteries, a very nice convenience, though I’m not likely to get much solar today.

What the hell? I put on a raincoat, gathered my stuff and went looking for the bathroom and shower. I found it in the back of the office building. It was huge, one of the nicest bathroom/ showers I have ever seen in an RV park or anywhere else. OK, now I’m adding this place to one of my favorite campgrounds! Really nice people, very nice facility, easy access off 64, ice machine, Tractor Supply and Lowe’s across the street and all the hookups. 5 stars for a tired traveler! 690 miles today – too many and too long.

Coronavirus Projects

June 20, 2020

The Coronavirus shutdown has been a good time to catch up on a number of Airstream projects. The Airstream Service Center in Jackson Center repaired the damaged roof from my run-in with a covered bridge in New Hampshire in July of last year. With a new roof, air conditioner and bedroom Fantastic Fan, it was a good time to update some other things. I know my friend, LeRoy, is excited to read about this. There were some things I had on a to-do list, but as I did one thing, I would see something else that wanted help.

It started with wiring LED lights to the hot water heater switches. It’s not a big deal, but it sure is easier to see if I left the water heater on with lights on them. One switch is for an electric heater, while the other is for a propane heater.

That led to switches next to the door for the “porch light” and the step light. The step light may not be a big deal, because it is a small light, but if I left the porch light on, it could bother the neighbors. It also burns power, which might be OK when the trailer is plugged in, but not when on battery. That’s a bit like leaving a light on in your car, and when you go out in the morning, it won’t start. It is similar to the water heater switch, but each switch goes to a different light, so I labeled which is which.

I am happy to go into the full description of how to do this if you like, even step-by-step pictures 😊

LevelMate Pro: Reading the Airforum is fun, but can lead to more projects. One person described how he put a LevelMate Pro in the trailer. With an app on his phone, he could tell when it was level. There are various ways to tell when you are level, both side-to-side or front-to-back. One night i had to turn around in the bed to get some sleep, as my head was lower than my feet. I put in a LevelMate Pro, and it does save time. I’ll let you know on my upcoming trip west. You can also set the hitch position, making it easier to hook up the trailer.

Pantry: Replacing the slides for the pantry was next. This proved to be a difficult project. Like most things, it isn’t so tough once you know how it’s done. There are two slides, one on the bottom and one on the side. The one on the bottom had rusted and was not running smoothly. The pantry is only six inches wide, making it difficult to work in and clean. There are no releases on the original slides, so you can’t remove the cabinet. It also took me a long time to figure out how to remove the cabinet and slides.

With new slides, the cabinet can be easily removed, and it slides out further for easier access to items on the shelves. Taking from the Airforum again, I added a ¼” board to which a spice rack was added.

Rust: I cleaned and painted the hitch as well as the front part of the Airstream frame, both of which were rusting. I used POR-15 (Paint Over Rust). I like this stuff. It goes on easily and smoothly. Hopefully it will do it’s job for a long time.

Then I painted the steps

Flooring: We use a soft covering to help protect the vinyl floor. It’s like a workout floor that comes in squares that interlock. Ours was 3 years old and looking punky, so I replaced it. It adds a little insulation, making it warmer in cold weather and cooler in hot weather. It soaks up moisture, leading to mold, but isn’t expensive to replace every three years or so.

The toilet! I had a teeny leak in the mixing valve. Since there was water around the base of the toilet, I decided to remove it and check it out. Of all the projects, this was pretty easy. I ordered a replacement seal and hardware (nuts and bolts), cleaned the toilet, replaced the mixing valve, and put it all back together.

Solar system: I have been having trouble with the solar system cutting off, not charging. I would have to cut off the power switch or the breaker and turn it back on, and then it would work…….until it didn’t. Reading about others who had a similar problem, it was suggested to look for a loose wire. The batteries and wiring are under the left twin bed, so I took the bed apart and examined everything. Lew Farber did the work in Naples and did a great job. There is not a loose bolt or connection anywhere, so I removed the Circuit breaker. The breaker never flipped off, but in order to get the system working, I would have to pop the breaker and close it again. I took it out and found the housing was cracked. I ordered a new one, thinking it would be an easy job replacing it, but those big wires don’t allow much flex or give. I made the opening in the wall bigger to give the wires (cables is more like it) room to wiggle. After 10 tries to get everything passively fitting in that hole, I realized why it probably cracked. I was about to crack this one, but I finally got it back in. Hopefully it will solve the problem. At least it works for now.

Next, I detailed and waxed the truck and the trailer. Who needs to work out? Just go out and detail and wax.

Now I think I’m ready to hit the road, leaving Monday for a 4-week trip to Idaho. I will travel “The Loneliest Road”, Rt. 50, which was the main coast-to-coast highway before interstates. I have driven it across Nevada, where it gets its name. There is definitely very little on that stretch of highway. Still, it is very pretty in its own way. Rt. 50 travels past a number of National Parks and other interesting sites. For one week of the trip I will be floating the Middle Fork of the Salmon River. I’ve done that before, and look forward to doing it again. My friend, Ron Lowry, has been doing this trip for 18 straight years with Steve Zettel and Idaho Wilderness Adventures. Steve does a great job and has great guides.

Disclaimer: I get no money, kickbacks, rewards or any other favors from anyone.

Placentia/Plaisance

Tuesday, September 3, 2019

Taking our time at Bellevue Beach on a blustery day, we washed clothes and caught up on some things. It’s only a 1-hour drive to Argentia, where we will catch the ferry to Nova Scotia Thursday. On our way out, we stopped to say goodbye to a couple we had met with a 1972 Airstream Argosy in great condition. 

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Martha read a brochure on Placentia, next to Argentia. I had called Sunset RV Park in Argentia about 7 times with no answer, and there is no website. It looks like a parking lot for ferry travelers. When we got there, a nice man checked us in. All the spaces were booked, but we could use the unserviced overflow area for $15/night. We picked a relatively secluded spot near a cute, little Evasion trailer from Quebec. Later a cool o’neiro pulled in between us.

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It’s one of those times I am happy to have solar. Despite my constant tinkering with solar, we have only plugged into electric July 20 and September 2. We pay attention to what we use, but we watch TV, play movies, cook in the oven for short periods, run the fans and lights. It really has done well in a land where the sun doesn’t shine regularly.

We went down to Placentia and drove around. It’s a cute little town with a spectacular harbor, and two rivers. We drove up to National Historic Monument, Castle Hill. It is where the French built a complex fort in 1693. Bill was at the desk and I thought had a great analogy. He said the fishing resources were incredible here. It was full of cod and salmon ran up the rivers. Cod was a resource like oil is today. Countries would go to war over it. It was impressive the amount of cod that were caught, preserved with salt, then stacked and sent to Europe. The French would raid St. Johns from time to time. By 1713, the French gave up their right to settle Newfoundland. 

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Today it is a cool site with great views of the town and harbors. Trails run from one end of the fort remains to the other. It is well-maintained and quite pretty. The visitor’s center is a good one, explaining the design of the fort as well as the history.

We went to Three Sisters for dinner, which was OK.

Drive to Frenchman’s Cove Provincial Park

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

We decided to leave a day early in order to catch the once a week ferry to St. Pierre, one of three French islands on the south of Newfoundland. It only runs on Wednesdays. I was unable to book Frenchman’s Cove Provincial Park until we cancelled our last night at Lockston Path, but I couldn’t do that online. Martha went down to the office to cancel. The office people are very nice, as we have found pretty much everywhere. Martha did a couple of loads of laundry while I loaded up and hooked up.

On our way we stopped  at Canadian Tire in Clarenville to pick up our repaired trailer tire and refill a propane tank. It was pouring rain. The nice man at the desk gave me the nail that was in the tire, a 4” pallet nail. He said it had been in there a while because the end of the nail was shiny from wobbling around inside the tire, and the head was worn. Asking what the prognosis was he said, “Well, it’s better than it was.” I think we need a new tire. As I walked out he said, “Stay between the raindrops.” 

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I met a young man at the propane refill station, where he filled it up. Then I put it back on the trailer and went inside to pay for it. There’s a lot of trust here – trusting me to come in to pay. Also, when you fill up with gas, you just pump, then go inside to pay. 

Putting the spare tire back in its rack on the front of the trailer requires sitting on the ground and pushing it with your feet, from both sides. By now, my pants were soaking wet, so I went inside and changed.

We had another 3 hours to drive down the Burin Peninsula. It was beautiful, even in the fog, clouds and rain. It is similar to other areas, but more open grasslands, with shorter trees and hills and mountains to give it character. Of course there are always the beautiful ponds.

Checking in at Frenchman’s Cove Provincial Park at the end of a long day, Jim and Clay hesitated, looked at the computer, discussed and studied. There was a concern of whether we owed a daily park entry fee. I have always added that to my reservation, so I was pretty sure I had paid it. Looking at all the parks we had stayed in, they said we should have gotten a seasonal pass. I thought that was for each park, not all of them. They said they would check if we could get a refund and let us know tomorrow. How nice! Then Clay showed us to our campsite.

To catch a 9:00 ferry tomorrow, we wanted to get on the road at 7:30

Brigus Lighthouse Trail

Thursday, August 15, 2019

Driving 35 minutes west from Butter Pot Provincial Park along the coast, we arrived in Brigus, which we heard was very pretty. We pulled into a parking area by a pretty cove. A man and his family drove in behind us. The big man said they had never been there and just followed us. I told him we knew nothing. They were from Corner Brook on the west side of Newfoundland, and he was taking his teenage kids on a trip before they started school again. We chatted for a while, and he told us about a pretty drive when we go back through Codroy Valley. “Just turn at the convenience store with a gas pump and follow the road.” 

There was a tour van with a guide and 6 people. We followed them through a cave leading to the bay. The group was so excited and having such a great time, telling about all the whales they had seen on their boat tour. Meanwhile, the tour guide was telling Martha where to go and what to do. I was trying to listen to everyone, but that was not possible. 

For those who don’t know Diego, he is from Mexico City, and we were classmates in graduate prosthodontics residency at Ohio State University in 1984-86. Diego was 25 when he came from a GPR in Louisiana. I was 40, having sold my share of a general dentistry practice. We have been like brothers ever since. We asked him to come up and join us for any part of our 2-month trip, and he has come for a week, flying into St. John’s.

We drove around the beautiful, upscale village, then stopped at North Street Cafe for tea, a scone and rutabaga cake. Then we drove up to The Lighthouse Trailhead. The little parking lot was filled, so I parked right next to a cliff, which made me very nervous. I walked up the gravel road, which led to the trail, while Diego and Martha went up the trail at the parking lot. 

The lighthouse Trail

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The lighthouse Trail

It is a beautiful hike, well-maintained and pretty all along. there were a couple of unusual things. One was a greatly oversized Adirondack chair where the best pictures can be taken of the cove and town. The other was a big field where cows were grazing. There is more up and down than I expected, but otherwise an easy trail to walk on. There were many walking the trail on this pretty day. We had a late start, so we had it all to ourselves coming back. Diego and Martha had a running conversation all the way, and Martha liked the way Diego helped her at difficult spots.

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Back at the parking lot, I was nervous getting out of my spot on the edge of the cliff, but Diego and Martha were guiding me. First I pulled forward and then backed slowly over a little, wooden bridge with wooden supports for the tires. I was glad to get over it and turn around.

In the evening, we went back to St. John’s Fish Exchange. We have found making reservations is very important in Newfoundland. Again, we had an excellent dinner and service. I missed our previous waitress with the great smile, but Martha sure liked Chad, our waiter. A tall and handsome young man who was born and raised here. He said this is summer and lasts about a month. Then the winds, cold and snows come. I don’t know how they navigate these big, steep hills in snow. We shared a bowl of mussels, which would have been enough with a salad, but Martha and I ordered Cod, while Diego had Arctic Char. All were excellent, but the real treat was the mussels. The restaurant was packed.

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L’Anse au Meadows

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Wednesday afternoon, July 31, 2019

After lunch, we moved the trailer to work on our persistent leak. Backing the truck up close, I can climb up on the truck tool box, then up the canoe rack and get on the roof. I removed all the duct tape and redid that area with RV sealing tape that Martha brought. Surely that would fix it.

Then we drove to L’Anse au Meadows where Leif Erikson landed and spent a winter. It is a UNESCO site and has a great visitor’s center. There is a very cool rebuilding of the village. This is all the way at the top of Newfoundland in a beautiful meadow with a shallow, protected cove. The Vikings had written about sailing the Labrador coast, describing its long, sandy beaches and endless forests.

Back at camp we showered, built a nice fire in the solo stove, had dinner and watched a cooking show on DVD.

Drive to Pistolet Bay Provincial Park, Burnt Cape Ecological Reserve

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Before leaving Port au Choix, we hiked Phillip’s Garden Trail, very pretty, along the coast, 9.0. We saw no whales or moose

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We came back, showered, Martha and I next to each other with a man going to the bathroom at the same time. Nice, big shower with hot to the right, cold to the left – just when you think you’ve seen it all.

Arriving at Pistolet Bay Provincial Park, we checked in with two lovely, young ladies. We settled in as mosquitoes surrounded us. It was a great view over a field with possibility of seeing a moose. 

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We drove to Burnt Cape Ecological Reserve and walked around for an hour. A couple from Labrador stopped, turned off their truck to talk,  They recommending Onion Cove for whale watching. They were in Newfoundland so he could be treated for cancer.

Looking over at Labrador

Looking over at Labrador

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Raleigh, NL

Dinner was pork tenderloin, rutabaga and a salad.

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Drive to Seaside RV Park, Port au Choix

Monday, July 29, 2019

It was a three-hour drive along the beautiful west coast of Newfoundland. The only road north travels right on the coast much of the way. We stopped for lunch in a church parking lot. We arrived at the Seaside RV Park office as howling winds and heavy rain started. Several people parked behind the office, and one, big heavy-duty camper parked behind a shed. We asked the young lady in the office if we would be safe out front by the ocean, and she looked at us like we were crazy. This is Newfoundland where the winds blow and the wind-stunted Tuckamore trees grow.

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Waiting for the rains to slow, we went grocery shopping, toured the town and had a very nice dinner at Anchor Cafe. Seafood chowder 9.0, seafood tacos 10.0, fish and chips 8.5. couldn’t eat it all. 

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By the time we went to bed, the winds died down a bit, but still very blowy. Our wounded ceiling dripped water into a pot all night. Seaside RV Park is right on the ocean with a great view, interesting shower/bathroom that is unisex, good hookups 8.4.

Tablelands Lecture/Hike to Green Gardens

Saturday, July 27, 2019

There is a great overlook of Bonne Bay, where we sat in Adirondack chairs in the morning, watching for whales. There is a beach next to the dock, where people go for a swim.

Looking for whales

 

We went up to the beautiful, modern visitor’s center for some WIFI, but the speeds were very slow. I could upload a picture every 3 minutes. We had taken the tour of the center yesterday, and it explains the area quite well, but to learn more, we went up to the Tablelands for a geology lecture at 10:00.

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Gros Morne National Park, where the mountains meet the sea

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Model of the Pitcher Plant we see so often

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Guide, Chris Rohrback is simply the best!_1GW2059

We were thrilled to see our guide from a previous lecture at Green Point, Chris Rohrback. She is a geologist, who has a great way of simplifying complex things. Gros Morne was made a national park in 1970’s to protect it’s beauty. Later a geologist, whose name escapes me, studied the area finding it so unique that he developed plate tectonics theory. 

At the Green Point site there is a walled cliff of rock that is turned up on end when two plates pushed up. Usually these are horizontal, but the verticality of this spot makes it so different. First the point is covered with big, round boulders, plowed here by glaciers. All the different layers of shale (mud), limestone, sandstone and a conglomerate, like aggregate. Because of these studies, Gros Morne was made a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

At Tablelands, this desert-like area was the Earth’s Mantle pushed up. It is composed of cadmium, cobalt, chromium and other toxic metals, so no vegetation grows here. Well, some does, but very little. Across the U-shaped valley is another mountain composed of sediment, so there is plenty of growth, and a beautiful trout stream runs through it. The U-shaped valley was caused by glaciers, one 500,000 years ago and one 10,000 years ago. Each left a line of boulders like bathtub rings along the sides.

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After an hour and a half talk, we had a 30-minute walk back to the car. We drove to Trout River, having heard of a good restaurant there. first we drove through Trout River Campground to check it out. There was a great view of Little Trout River Pond.

Bonne Bay

Little Trout River Pond

Trout River Harbor

Trout River

Trout River

Trout River

Trout River Post Office

Trout River

Seaside Restaurant

Seaside Restaurant

We found Seaside Restaurant and enjoyed a good meal of Scallops, salad, seafood chowder, fish sandwich and Partridge berry pie. 

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We were tired, but wanted to do at least part of the Green Garden Hike, which can be 9km or all day, and is rated moderate. You have to earn your keep in Gros Morne. It is a long, rather boring hike across a small mountain and down the other side down to the ocean. There are rocks and many stairs along the way. It took us an hour and a half to get there.

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Finally breaking out to a cliff overlooking the ocean and beach, the views were spectacular. Martha sat on a picnic table while I explored for a short time. We knew we had a 2-hour hike, mostly uphill, to get out, so we didn’t want to stay long.

There are natural meadows along the cliff. I was surprised to see lots of poop. This grassy area must attract lots of moose in the evening and maybe caribou. There are campsites along the coast, and I can see why you would like to stay here a while, hiking the beautiful coast. I would have to be younger to carry a 35-pound pack down here, but it would sure be fun.

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On the way back up, we passed a young couple with three small kids. How they were going to manage getting them back up that mountain concerned us. We were exhausted by the time we got back to the top, and rested at a platform with bench seats. We talked with a family who had just done the same hike. They were from Corner Brook and had a cabin near here, where they would stay two weeks. 

After a quick dinner and an episode of a cooking show, we were soon asleep. Of course our neighbors had a Saturday night party that went on until 12:00. I closed the window and stuffed my ears with tissue.