Posted February 10, 2016 – Narrated by Carmen
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We’ve enjoyed the responses about our rig and plans to live in Beauty full-time. Just this morning our old next-door neighbors swooned, “Airstreaming around the countryside is our dream too!” Other friends squirm at the idea of spending years on the road and gently suggest we get a bigger RV …
… and some even hint to us their concerns about living together in such close quarters.
And, the irony … Just when we think we’ve become conventional old folks by moving into an RV to travel the Americas with GPS alerts for Cracker Barrells and Dairy Queens, we learn that were tiny-house, off-grid renegades. How cool is that? But, honestly, there are times – this week, especially – when we feel the need to retrace our steps and recall how we came to want this way of life. So, we will take this opportunity to answer some questions.
Brad commented, “Isn’t traveling what hotels are for?”
Good question, Brad. Love the pools, workout facilities, Starbucks, lounge … And, though many RV resorts have those amenities, they’re usually not quite as nice and they charge just as much! But, fact is – though I’m a very healthy person – I’m allergic to hotels. Actually, I’ve been diagnosed with an allergy to the preservatives in things like fresh paint, disinfectants, laundry product, fragrances, pesticides and delousers. And since that stuff doesn’t always work (as my sister, an RN, recently discovered during her compulsory flash-light inspection before occupying a room in a particularly well-known 4-star beach resort on the east coast, resulting in the entire wing being evacuated) the industry is having to use more and more of the stuff that makes me sick. I’ll spare you the photo of my face blown up like a big red monkey butt during my last hotel stay.
Also, fewer hotels are accepting dogs and when they do it can be pricey. So, for me – compared to hotels – living in Beauty with allergies and dogs should be one long picnic.
Chuck: “Full time? That’s a lot of camping! Are you sure you’re up to that?”
Touché, Chuck. We probably do look a little soft around the edges, and we ask ourselves that question every day … The answer is, “We will know soon!” We have our doubts sometimes, but we’re not beginners, entirely.
Jim grew up camping with his sister Delores and her family in the outback areas of the San Diego desert where almost every weekend they would fish and ride motorcycles and dune buggies. I grew up in a camping family too – we had both tents and trailers all my life.
Tent camping has been our hobby for 40 years. But about three years ago we had to stop. Hiking, kayaking and cycling were no problem, but sleeping on the ground became a contact sport. We tried everything from cots to inflatables – but still no sleep.
Jen: “Ok, but why a 30′ Airstream. That’s a lot of trailer!”
Yes it is … long story, Jen. We started with small ideas that grew. When we were about to give up camping and shop for a vacation cabin in Idyllwild that we’d eventually retire to – this little baby turned our heads …
… and the conversation took off from there. We visited a couple of RV shows to look at Class B’s. The superior smallness of the Class B almost guarantees access to our preferred destinations – even some places where it would be impossible to tent camp. We liked the low profile, elegant appointments and fuel economy … but the sticker prices were “up there” to say the least … and, with our little alley house, we had no place to park it.
When you can’t afford something you focus on the negatives. The Class B felt cramped. We’d probably have to pack a tent, in case of rain, just so we could spread out a little. For us a Class B is for a weekend or two weeks max. Ultimately, we eliminated the Class B. But, what we learned from our research was the ideal of conservation, good design – use of technology and space. The Class B possibilities were excruciatingly close to what we needed – but no cigar.
Then, we went to an RV show …
The smokin’ big Class A’s wanted us, but we didn’t want them – overkill for our needs in terms of space. The design didn’t appeal to our tastes either and we felt – considering the quality of the finish work – they were incredibly overpriced.
Ok, some backstory may be necessary here.
I tease Jim about his four-year degree in Wood Shop and that’s not far from the truth with his studies in Industrial Technology majoring in Telecommunications, Photography and Woodworking. His professor was editor of Fine Woodworking Magazine.
So, Jim is a cabinet snob. Where most people see cabinets as storage receptacles, Jim sees art form and grimaces at every missed opportunity.
Once, he bought a 1960 Rolls Royce Silver Cloud II just because the burl wood interior needed restoration.
Not investment. Purely infatuation – a fling with wood grain, texture and finish.
So, cabinet snobbery drove us away from Class A and most Class C motorhome shopping.
For me any cabinet is fine as long as I don’t bump my head on them when open or closed. But my head-bump test usually failed. Class C’s tend to present themselves as smaller Class A’s – cramming features together with little thought. I also put Class C’s to the sink test. In most coaches, I could reach out with both hands and simultaneously touch two sinks. Now it’s possible – since I’ve never lived in an RV – I have no idea what I’m talking about, but from my current newbie perspective it seems to that two sinks positioned so closely means there’s one too many sinks. Also, multiple TV’s, fireplaces, doors, popout features, outdoor storage lockers and two kitchens – one inside and one out … Just too much stuff in too little space. Clearly, we were not the customer Class A’s and Class C’s were designing for. San Diego is notoriously low on inventory, but after extensive online research on RV Trader and local sources, we managed to see some Fleetwood, Forrest River, Lance, Highland Ridge, Skyline, LivingLite and Airstream. Of those, three manufacturers moved us to investigate more.
Camp Lite manufactured by Livin Lite educated us about the benefits of aluminum construction … and, since the finish work didn’t even attempt to feign wood features or finish, Jim called a truce. Also, Camp Lite got us thinking about towing – weighing the pro’s and con’s: Drive an RV and tow a car? or drive a truck and pull a trailer? We decided to be trailer people.
Then, we spotted the Fleetwood Aviator …
… and were even more convinced.
Prior to making an offer I did the smart thing: Call Daddy. It would have been just plain dumb not to. With eight decades of pulling everything from a plow in an Alabama field to a fighter jet on a flight deck in the Suez … he’s owned several trailers, yachts, motorhomes, a 5th wheel … He an engineer of just about everything from motorcycles and cars to jets and helicopters. Daddy still keeps an assortment of “play purdies” … back hoes, trucks, golf carts all tastefully adorned with his beloved football teams’ logos.
When, at last, Daddy found an opening in my monologue he said, “Honey, why don’t you stop talking my ear off and go and get yourself an Airstream? You’ll both love it. I know you will”
Roll Tide, Daddy … Roll Tide.
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