Airstream as winter cabin

Winter camping. Lake Anita State Park. Anita, Iowa.

Shortly after moving into our new house, Julie enrolled in a year-long course in therapeutic massage. This was largely inspired by her sister, already licensed in Iowa. Is it ever wise to go into business with family? We shall see what comes of this sister-sister conspiracy.

I have and continue to be a willing test subject until the course is complete in December of this year. Unfortunately the classroom time consumes several weekends, leaving me and Alfred to our own devices during the day.

Meanwhile our Airstream has been languishing in storage most of the time. Sad about this I have taken to using it on weekends throughout the winter, primarily at Lake Anita State Park.

Lake Anita is a gem in winter due to camping being rather unpopular this time of year. There are usually a few ice fisherman out on the lake. It’s 45 minutes from our house and they keep the power and water on.

I’m not sure what prompted me to start doing this – some mixture of refusing to let the Airstream dream die and feeling guilty about a very expensive shiny object sitting idle.

Having lived in this contraption I never thought of it as a weekend thing but I have surprised myself. I am developing a weekly corporate-unwinding routine. Running, reading, writing this stuff, catching up on the great photograph project, perhaps watching a movie and becoming immersed in a game I have played since 1991. I now understand why people buy cabins.

So you can do this in winter, in Iowa. Obviously the fresh water hose is not an option beyond filling the fresh water tank. I do have a heated hose and used to insulate the standpipe when we were full-timing but I won’t go to that trouble for a weekend.

The biggest issue, as always, is disposing of waste water which will freeze in the exposed drain pipes. Grey water can be eliminated by simply leaving the valve open provided you have a full hook-up.

If the temperature is forecast well below freezing all weekend then I leave the black tank valve open as well. This is not a best practice and should not be done long term since, well, you know. But you’ll have no trouble doing this for a few weekends and when it does get above freezing you can fill the black tank and flush it all out.

We are very close to purchasing a composting toilet which should solve this problem for good. I intend to have it installed by Airstream in Jackson Center. We’ll see how that goes . . .

It is also necessary to re-winterize after each outing. I do intend to write a “how to” on winterizing over and over again. Once you’ve done it a few times it’s a short routine.

If you’re wondering, the virtual fireplace pictured above is a fun iPhone app, “A Very Cozy Fireplace HD.” It streams to the Apple TV and even includes the fireplace crackling sound.

– Anthony, Waukee, Iowa

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