A few of my favorite things

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Julie’s top 11 favorite items to have while Airstreaming!
(Not in any specific order)

1. Dyson hard floor vacuum
I use my Dyson hand mop every single day. Our dog Afred sheds a LOT. I joke about him having a new coat of fur every day. I’m not sure it is a joke. I have also found a lot of dirt generally comes in walking outside to inside. We did buy a nice rug for the entrance, but it doesn’t capture everything. The smaller space makes you really see the dirt inside and there isn’t very much room for it to go. In our previous house I would only vacuum once a week but all of Alfred’s fur would be spread out and not really noticable like it is in our small space. So this is a must have item to make life easier and cleaner.

2. Heated mattress pad
Ahh, the warm bed. I have never had a heated blanket before. The first night we had this heated mattress pad I thought I might have gone to heaven. It was so wonderful! Espically useful now in the winter months. During the night we can turn down the furnance to around 50 degrees and I’m still nice and sometimes too toasty. The Airstream bed is actually not very insulated. You can feel quite a chill from below it since it is almost directly linked to outside. If you lift it up and have the back door open, TA-DA! The outside is right there. This was the perfect fix to sleeping a lot better at night. It also serves as one more fluffy layer on the bed too which I enjoy.

3. Stackable pots and pans
The storage space for my kitchen stuff seems a bit limited. Most of our plates, cups, cooking pots and pans are all above the counter. But I have food up there as well. I find that with our new pots the removable handle really lets me stack them all. So instead of having 3 pots taking up my whole upper cabinet, it really just uses the space of one.

4. Mifi internet
This is a biggie! We have the Verizon mi-fi hot spot. It has worked at nearly every location we have gone to so far. I’m using it right now as I type this. We are big internet users. From doing our blog, to upoading photos. Online games even work perfectly on the mi-fi. We can be sitting on the top of a mountain in a state park, playing an online game with my brother in Florida. How cool is that! When we were first thinking about doing Airstreaming full time, my hesitation was partly not having any internet. The only down side to the mi-fi is that you pay for every 1GB overage. My beloved Apple TV has really become a thing of the past. I used to download tv shows and rent movies every day. But with the limited amout of data that can be downloaded I have had to change tactics. I have tried going to a local spot with “Free wi-fi!” but they never seem fast enough to download a full show. Unless I want to sit there for 6 hours to download a 30 minute show. The last time we went to a hotel I had my whole list of shows and did a massive download. Or when I have been to a family members home, I use theirs as well for the big downloads. But overall I have been really impressed with the speed and reliability of the mi-fi.

5. Walkie talkies
The fun walkie talkie! 10-4 over and out. These are used mainly when we are traveling from place to place. We use them a lot while driving, since we have two vehicles and have to be separate. Its nice to just press a button and say “lets stop at the next rest area”. Instead of using cell phones everytime. Also we use the walkie talkies when we are parking the Airstream. I will stand in the spot that we are backing into and give direction to which way it needs to go. Also they have been used when going out with Alfred late at night. I have walked around a park late at night when it is dark and have the walkie talkie handy to just say something to Anthony inside the Airstream, or vise versa. It’s just an extra security to always be in touch with one another at the push of a button.

6. Stay put hangers
These are so handy to have. At first you might think… umm hangers? really? But YES, really! After the Airstream has been on the road, every single time my closet of clothes would be all in a pile at the bottom. So annoying to go to your closet after a long day of driving and having everything in a heap and wrinkled. Then you have to take the time to rehang them all, etc. It sounds like a silly little thing, but these hangers have made my life better. My clothes always stay put now when we travel. We have the hangers in both side wardrobes and also our bigger closet, where we hang our coats.

7. Crocs
Crocs were really cool maybe 2 years ago? Well I think they need to have a comeback already. They are the perfect shoe for Airstreaming. You can just slip them on, take the dog outside quick. They can get wet, snowy, muddy, sandy. Just give them a rinse and PRESTO clean and ready to go. I have a pair of nice hiking shoes, but once they get wet, they stay wet. I find it very difficult to dry things inside the Airstream. Especially in the cold weather that we have been in lately. You can’t just leave your wet things outside to dry because they will just turn into an ice cube instead. You also don’t want a bunch of wet stuff inside the Airstream, because a damp stream is a big no no. All our shoe problems were solved with these little rubbery shoes.

8. Micro fiber towels
Towels were also a big problem with dampness. We had great big fluffy towels to use after showers. They were wonderful and soft. But they would never seem to dry. You could leave the exhaust vent on in the bathroom all day long and they still wouldn’t dry out. Eventually after a couple of days they would start to get that musty smell, as if you had left a load of clothes in the washer too long. This was not good. It wouldn’t have been a big deal if I had my own washer and dryer in the trunk of my car but I do not. Going to the laundromat is already time consuming. I didn’t want to make special trips to one just to wash my towels every few days. The answer to this problem was micro fiber towels. They are thin and feel a bit strange to dry off with. They do however dry very quickly! They don’t take up a lot of space in the laundry loads either. They are a real win win for Airstreaming.

9. Folding bikes
We actually purchased the bikes before the Airstream. We saw a blog post from ‘Where is Kyle now’ and he had a folding bike. So we went ahead and ordered two of them for us. The only difference that I can really tell between the folding bike and a regular bike is that the wheels are smaller which makes your turning radius a little different. But these bikes are so cool! I can just fold it up, put it in my trunk and away I go. The folding/unfolding process takes only a minute or less. I have been using my bike nearly every warm day so far. I look forward to using it even more with the summer weather. I suppose we could have bought a hitch to put regular sized bikes on the back of the Airstream while traveling. But these bikes fit in the bed of the truck. Super easy for anyone to use.

10. Kindle
To be honest I had a Kindle before we started Airsteaming. But the Kindle is the perfect book for a small space. Sometimes I miss the feel and smell of a real book. Streamer_a got me the new paper white Kindle for Christmas and I am in love. I’ve always been a reader, ever since I was young. There is something about sitting outside your Airstream on a warm day reading that is just wonderful. The new Kindle has a backlight feature which is very nice. The Kindle can have hundreads of books on it which otherwise would fill up the space of the entire Airstream. So huge space saver and fun to use.

11. Small space heater
The space heater in our ‘stream has saved us hundreads in propane, I’m certain of it. We upgraded to a larger space heater then we started with. The one we have now doesn’t get hot to the touch which I thought would be safer with Alfred playing around by it on the floor. The heater really keeps the space in the Airstream warm. When it is really cold outside the furnance will still come on but half as often with having this little heater running too.

There are other things we have bought since starting this journey as well. I just wanted to do a quick update with my favorites that we have acquired since the start. Do any other full-timers have a must have item that we don’t know of? Reach out to us on Twitter.

– Julie, Colorado Springs, CO

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Repair List

Broken

  • Gap in wheel well allowing water to enter.
  • Upper window in dinette leaking.
  • Main door is hard to close – needs to be slammed.
  • Screen door latch is broken (missing screw).
  • Seal on hitch lamp needs to be replaced.
  • Popped interior rivets above main door and below dinette.
  • Outside light over the main door does not work – confirmed wiring issue.

Patched

Fixed

  • Bathroom mirror fell off.
  • Refrigerator power lost – blown fuse.
  • Hood exhaust keeps tripping fuse – installed 5amp fuse.

Watch

  • Suspect poor wiring (short circuit) in range hood vent – frequent blown fuses and blown lightbulb.
  • Floor is squeaky by end of bed near bathroom wall.
  • Very small separation seeming to occur in black water release valve. Not leaking.
  • Water heater relief valve weeping.

– Anthony, Cheyenne Mountain State Park, Colorado

Propane pigtail quick fix

The temporary patch (the pigtail hoses should be replaced) was as follows:

Apply Rectorseal Tru-Blue vibration resistant pipe thread sealant.

Pigtail hose patch

Wrap around sealant and pipe with sealing tape.

Pigtail hose patch

Repeat 1 and 2 – two applications of Rectorseal and tape.

Wrap around tape with plumbing putty.

Allow putty to dry then wrap around putty with sealing tape.

The outcome should look like this:

Patched pigtail hose.

The soap and water spray test was applied to this patch and revealed no leaks.

// 2015-10-23 update: we still haven’t replaced pig-tails or updated patch.

– Anthony, Cheyenne State Park, Colorado

High-Altitude Exercise

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I have recently been wondering why exercising here in Colorado is so much more difficult than it was in Alabama.

For example, when we were in Dauphin Island, I ran nearly a 10 mile run. Well actually it was only 8.98 miles (I keep track of all my activities in Runkeeper). But it was the farthest I had ever ran before. Awesome mile stone achievement for me. Running along the beach for the first time too! That was most likely the motivator that got me to do it.

Now we are up in Colorado Springs. The day after we arrived I tried going for a run and it nearly killed me. I ran 1.62 miles and was completely out of breath the majority of the run. I’ve always heard ‘there is less oxygen at high altitude’. So I just figured that was my problem, my body just wasn’t used to this elevation yet.

Fast forward a week. I just went for a run and did 3.10 miles. Now yes I did double my last mileage amount, but not very gracefully. So this has made me wonder what is going on?

After a quick google search I have found my answer from Active.com

“It’s not the lack of oxygen that makes your body work so hard at altitude. It really has to do with the barometric pressure. Even at 10,000 feet, there is still 29 percent oxygen in the air, and out of that 29 percent you only take in around 10 percent of the oxygen you breathe. The big challenge is your ability at altitude to extract the oxygen and get it into your bloodstream at altitude.”

If you read on in that article, it basically says my body needs to make more red blood cells. Which then has all sorts of other benefits than just being able to go for a jog out here.

I will just keep training and my body should adapt to being in the high altitude. Easier said than done! But it does sound like the benefits could be worth the work.

Julie, Colorado Springs, CO

 

Why and Why Not?

Cheyenne Mountain, sunset.

This post was modified from the original on 2014-03-22 at Pomona State Park, Kansas.

On June 30th, 2013, at 5:08pm I was thinking about Airstreams at my home in Waukee, Iowa. I know this because I wrote a simple pros and cons list in Evernote. I called that list “Why and Why Not?”

Why?

  • Simplicity. It is more difficult to fill a small space with clutter.
  • A trailer has a real limit to its own maintenance.
  • We’ll get outside more.
  • Whilst running costs are likely to remain high, we won’t have so much tied up in things.
  • I like to travel. “Wanderlust.”
  • Rain falling on the roof.

Why not?

  • No back yard for Alfred.
  • Some everyday things are harder in an Airstream – for example emptying black water and using a laundry.
  • Campgrounds are not glamorous.
  • It may be taxing for Julie if I am not there.

After 120 days of living in an Airstream did I have this right?

Why?

Simplicity. It is more difficult to fill a small space with clutter.

Yes, that’s right.

A trailer has a real limit to its own maintenance.

Yes, that’s right. Although we have been surprised by how many repairs there are, maintenance is limited in scope and we never think about re-modelling.

We’ll get outside more.

Yes, that’s right. We try to travel with the seasons and enjoy being outside more often. We also bought cold weather togs.

Whilst running costs are likely to remain high, we won’t have so much tied up in things.

Yes, that’s right. In fact the numbers were uncannily accurate. We are financially almost entirely virtual now. Click click. We’d have real problems with an EMP.

I like to travel. “Wanderlust.”

The wanderlust hasn’t worn off – it’s grown.

Rain falling on the roof.

Why not?

No back yard for Alfred.

It’s really not difficult at all. Living in an Airstream you find yourself going outside regularly anyway for one reason or another, which is good.

An important piece of our decision to do this was to focus on our health. We’re running farther and walking often. Our dog Alfred is always with us. We think every day is an exciting day for Alfred.

In the winter we have had entire state parks to ourselves for days. Or if not an entire park, a large section of a park. Petit Jean State Park in Arkansas, Pomona State Park in Kansas, Cheyenne Mountain State Park in Colorado. We shouldn’t admit it, but we break the rules about dogs on leashes in these instances.

The biggest dog issue? Dog hair. This is endless war. We fight it every day with a Dyson and large pet hair sticky roller.

Some everyday things are harder in an Airstream – for example emptying black water and using a laundry.

This is partially right. The black water isn’t an issue. I still don’t understand why people fuss about it. The real difficulty is temperature. When the temperature drops into the 20s for more than a day you are in the business of thawing dump valves and pipes each time you need to empty a tank.

For Julie the laundry is a major inconvenience. When the park has a laundry on site this is much less of a problem. Julie loads the laundry bag, takes her kindle, and is back an hour or so later. When the park does not have a laundry (many state parks have laundry facilities but close them in the off season) then you’re in the business of going to a laundramat. We have found a few dry cleaners that also do laundry paid for by the pound.

Campgrounds are not glamourous.

This is partially true. We’ll stay at off-interstate KOAs when we have to if we’re dashing from A > B. They aren’t glamorous. But that experience isn’t glamorous. You’re looking for a place to plug in for the night. In contrast we have been astounded by many state parks. Petit Jean in Arkansas. Cheyenne State Park in Colorado. Pomona State Park in Kansas. Lake Fort Smith State Park in Arkansas.

It may be taxing for Julie if I am not there.

This is true. All alone at 3am in an empty state park.

You get an instinctive sense of a place, which may be completely unfounded. For example, there was something about an evening at Lake Chicot State Park in Arkansas that unsettled us. Even Alfred woke up growling in the night.

That park is located in the heart of “The Most Southern Place on Earth” – the Mississippi Delta. Bordering the park are Washington and Humphreys Counties, MS, jointly tied for 5th poorest in the country. There’s also Issaquena County, 4th poorest in the country. East Carroll Parish, LA., 12th poorest in the country. (The Poorest Counties in America).

Some tweets around that stay convey the mood.

You get it. Unsettled.

So if we’re in a place that isn’t 100% comfortable for Julie, then she and Alfred spend the evening in a local hotel if I need to go away overnight for work.

After 120 days, what’s missing from this list?

Weather

You can keep an Airstream as warm as you like, for a price. You can reliably get water into it with the appropriate kit. What you can’t do trivially is get rid of the waste water, unless you start skirting.

We have done zero-ish cold for weeks. So we’re not talking the art of the possible but we are talking the art of the reasonable.

If I were to draw an arbitrary line on a map I’d probably have it run somewhere through the middle of Kansas and Missouri. Say Springfield, Missouri for the sake of argument. If you can’t spend much of the winter below that line, your Airstream is going to be a lot of work and very expensive (propane).

2014-03-22 update: after a couple of “Polar Vortex” weeks I would now move this line further south to the middle of Arkansas.

Travel stress

Sticking to a tight schedule on the road is stressful. We started out trying to travel too much. When you are dashing from place to place, keeping meeting schedules, things like frozen pipes turn an already stressful day into an unforgiving drama quickly.

So we travel less now. We give ourselves more time. If I need to get from Denver to Kansas City in one day, I’ll fly, as much as I dislike it. For 2014 we’re aiming to stay in each spot for 3 – 4 weeks before moving.

Maintenance

Imagine the most unreliable vehicle you have ever owned. Now combine that with a 20 year old Landrover Discovery. You are visualizing the maintenance implications of an Airstream.

Every day something doesn’t break is a blessing. After about 90ish days our confidence was built up and we became at peace with it. Before that it was a major source of stress.

So that’s it. “Why and Why Not?” revisited and evaluated. We have discovered that it’s true, “love will find a way.”

– Anthony, Cheyenne Mountain State Park, Colorado

Dust storm

Another driving day today – 360 miles from Amarillo, TX., to Colorado Springs, CO. Beautiful scenery: high plains, mountains, buttes, hills, even an ancient volcano.

Near Pueblo, Colorado, we drove through a dust storm before arriving at Cheyenne Mountain State Park in Colorado Springs. We have a beautiful spot overlooking Cheyenne Mountain (yes, the Cheyenne Mountain) through one window and the foothills and plains below through the other.

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There are only two other campers in the park, so we have the run of the place. We’ll be based here all month. Early start tomorrow. I’ll be working at the office in Centennial.

– Anthony, Colorado Springs, Colorado

Alfred the Pouncer!

Anthony recently came home with a new flashlight. I quickly found out that this light has a laser pointer feature, which then turned into Alfred chasing it around. I thought this was so hysterical that I had to video it and share!

– Julie, Alma, Arkansas