Blips and Bubbles

This 4th post of the series, From Beauty’s Doorstep, was originally published on Airstream.com

Posted September 13, 2022 – Narrated by Carmen
To listen to the podcast, click the play button


This series, From Beauty’s Doorstep, is based on five-years of full- time travel, aka LIB (Living in Beauty)

Champagne!
      In victory one deserves it,
        in defeat one needs it.

Napoleon Bonaparte

August 3, 2016

Pop!

We both heard it, the sound of someone opening a bottle of bubbly in the next hotel room. But we were not in a hotel. We were driving the Beast up a scorched highway in the Mojave desert with Beauty in tow.

“Blowout! Pull over!,” I shouted.

Jim slowed down, activated the emergency lights and showed back, “There’s no room!”

He was right. The road curved sharply as we ascended a steep hill with rock-strewn edges. We’d never driven this road before but, hoping for the best I said, “There’s a pullout right around the bluff.”

Jim continued to slow down, hugging the shoulder, fearful a vehicle would approach from behind. Just as I hoped – barely fifty yards up the road – a paved pullout appeared. It was not an emergency pullout, but the old driveway of a burnt-out building. 

August 3, 2016 – Day 16 on the road

Fortunately, Beauty’s blown trailer tire caused minimal structural damage to the undercarriage. If we had been traveling at a higher speed, it could have been a lot worse. 

Later, we realized that the blowout was caused by a multitude of newbie errors, including too much air in the tires and damage from winching the tire against a curb. 

It was also a wake-up call, not a dress rehearsal.

The Magic of Mental Preparedness

In our first few weeks on the road, we had succumbed to the intoxicating powers of mobility and no reservations. Our newfound freedom of movement nudged us to take risks. It could happen to anybody but, for us, these serial errors were a sobering lapse in judgment.

In the 1970’s, we worked as magicians. Contingency planning and imagining “what if” scenarios were essential to our skillset.

1977 – Jim and Carmen’s Promo Photo

Sure, we look tame now, but back then our touring magic show featured human-sized illusions with real blades and explosives. As professionals, we checked and rechecked props and safety measures to the point of paranoia, and after thousands of performances, we never seriously hurt ourselves or lost an audience volunteer.

Jim’s career with the San Diego County Medical Society put those decades of experience to good use as he helped coordinate effective medical responses to potential county-wide disasters such as earthquakes, wildfires, and pandemics.

Take it from Jim – a guy with two uncles, one from each side of the family, who lost an arm (one right and the other left) in accidents – there is no bad juju when it comes to imagining the worst and troubleshooting every imaginable scenario that a species with opposable thumbs can create.

August 11, 2016 – Mammoth Lakes, California

But thanks to our great big human brains, most sticky situations are resolved without physical harm. Survival instinct is such a dominant response that most close calls turn out fine. Keen, split-second decisions are usually dependable reactions.  

Mental preparation, equipment readiness and being financially prepared were all equally important to us before hitting the road full-time. Like an epic adventure novel, we anticipated that our biggest challenges might occur in those first few months. So, we fine-tuned our rig until every unit, feature, and item of gear hummed the same tune – as if all the separate parts were made to harmonize together. (we now have a tire pressure monitoring system)

July 18, 2016 – Our first night on the road, Riverside, California

Being in a rush led to the blowout.

Play Fast, Practice Slow

In the transition to Forever Camping we surrendered many things, but we kept a solid grip on our fast-paced lifestyle. We never enjoyed hurrying, but being so conditioned to the city pace, we couldn’t imagine life any other way. Compared to recent years, our 2016 Travel Map looks frenetic. We covered territory like captive animals newly released into the wild.

These days, we take it slow. Miles and distance are not the goal. For us it’s all about being fully present. Musicians say, “To play fast, practice slow.” That applies to living in Beauty.

One step at a time, intentional, measured movements is a functional necessity when adapting to smaller quarters and a new lifestyle. At first, slowing down felt awkward, yet strangely satisfying. Letting up on the gas – relaxing and staying longer between destinations – made the difference between being in a place and going to a place.

Kalamazoo, Michigan

Recognize the Right Things

Crossing the desert from Big Bear to Mammoth was entirely unnecessary and dangerous in that heat dome situation. Rolling brown-outs during peak hours in Big Bear made us edgy, impatient. In hindsight, the solution was simple: move to a nearby park with a generator allowance. That way, we could run the air conditioner during the hottest hours of the day.

As we pulled safely to the side of the road – thankful that we’d stopped for a tank of fresh water, a bag of ice, and fuel for the generator – the stress lifted. We took cool showers in a comfortable trailer as we waited for roadside assistance. We discussed our next steps. We researched tire shops and since we were traveling without reservations, we contacted several campgrounds in the Mammoth Lakes area.

The news was both good and bad. We found an excellent tire shop and made an appointment, but every campground within thirty miles around was full of concert-goers for the Bluesapalooza Festival. Nevertheless, we kept our appointment at the tire shop.

Finally, roadside assistance arrived, but our hero was ill-equipped. He had no tire-inflation device for the spare. Way out in the burning hot desert, it is what it is. While Jim retrieved our recently purchased tire-inflator, I formulated reasons to go into the air-conditioned trailer.

Changing a tire in 100 degrees

“Ice water for Everybody!”

Reaching into the refrigerator, I noticed the champagne. There’s always a chilled bottle on hand. It’s our tradition.

A celebration bottle is a testament to life’s uncertainties. At any moment, when we least expect it, something wonderful and life-changing may happen. A chilled bottle of champagne is a talisman to summon happiness and luck to our door. “You look silly,” I thought. Here broken down on the side of the road in a parched desert, being champagne-ready seemed out of touch with reality, like a bikini in a blizzard. 

But that perky bottle refused to let me wallow in defeat. “Oh, c’mon,” it seemed to say, “it can’t be all that bad.” I didn’t even have to open it to think of all the things we did right.

Right thing # 1: We weren’t listening to music while driving. That’s why we heard the soft vaporous sound of the pop.

Keeping an ear to the rig while underway goes back to the magic show days and our heightened senses as we listened for key sounds through a framework of choreographed chaos. Strobe lights flashed to loud music and fog billowed as Jim thrusted swords with menacing abandon into a colorful box where I waited, unseen by the audience, crouched in an impossible position like a crunched up Barbie doll, dodging swords as I changed costumes and characters.

1976 – Carmen and Jim

Meanwhile, Jim’s command of the stage kept the audience rapt. Throughout his deceptively wild performance, his ear stayed tuned to our secret signals conveying my need for more time, or more air, and for my “ready” cue to pop out of the box in a flowing white silk pantsuit while revealing Sebastian Rabbit, our live white bunny in my arms, who always received the most adoring applause.

Right thing #2: Jim trusted my instincts. Neither of us had ever heard a trailer tire blowout before, but he didn’t question my analysis and he responded immediately.

Right Thing #3: Jim indulged my instinct about the pullout. That goes back to Rule #1 in improv theatre: Always agree, or no more speaking parts for you.

Embracing the Partnership and Seeing the Silver Linings

With our birthdays balanced on opposite sides of October, a see-saw is an apt metaphor for our partnership. We face every issue from an opposite perspective. Yet, we find the other fascinating and their ideas have weight. Our strength, creativity and joie di vivre, even in times of crises, is grounded in respect.

“Tiny bubbles in the wine,
    Make me feel happy, make me feel fine.
Tiny bubbles make me warm all over,
    With a feeling that I’m gonna love you
till the end of time.”

As the sun showered the mountains with backlighting, our technician finished his work and sallied off into the desert. Ready to go, we idled there wondering what would be the safest way to back a 50-foot rig onto a highway from behind a blind curve at dusk. As if on cue, a California Highway Patrol car drove up, lights flashing and siren whooping. The officer blocked the lane so we could pull out safely.

While driving up the mountain into Mammoth Lakes, a campground returned our call. They had a space for us. A few minutes later, as we pulled the rig under the shady pines, Jim spotted our tire shop directly across the street. And, that, Dear Reader, is what emergency champagne is for.

The Road taught us a good and lasting lesson that day: When everything is out of control, help rises to the top.

August 3, 2016 – The campground made room for us in a parking lot

Those sparkling Mammoth vibes continued throughout the week as we scored last-minute tickets for Bluesapalooza, connected with San Diego friends, hiked to a fabulous hot spring, and relaxed while the new 16″ wheels and tires were installed in our campsite. 

Our not-so-secret hot springs in Mammoth Lakes – Coordinates N37°39.574 W118°47.146

Magic and Travel Is Never Out of Style

We’re on the ride of a lifetime with Beauty and The Beast. We go places that can’t be seen or fully experienced from a hotel. Every day we spend traversing the planet in the champagne of trailers is a day worth celebrating. We are Forever Camping. That makes us the luckiest people in the world. 

Arrowhead Lake near Mammoth Lakes, California

Things break, but making repairs in paradise is the stuff adventures are made of. Perspective is gold. We live in an Airstream, so when something goes wrong, it’s usually a small something. A carefree attitude is the most valuable gear on board.

We didn’t sign up for normal.

In South Dakota, a hail storm popped in for Happy Hour. But we were inside, the awnings were not out, the damage was cosmetic, our insurance was up to date, and we were educated about quarter-sized hail

Pop the champagne!

Prepare. Slow down. Listen. Trust your instincts. Expect the best outcome. Learn from your mistakes. forgive yourself and always keep refreshments in the fridge. That’s our strategy. Bopping around the planet in Beauty is a privilege, so we celebrate – even the bumps and bruises – with a bottle of bubbly.

Self isolation in a pandemic. No problem in Beauty!

Our needs are few, our house is small, yet every day is a fantastic adventure and there’s always plenty to go around.

Just remember to bring your own glass.

Cheers!

We’d love to hear from you. Do you have a roadside debacle you’d like to share? Please comment below.

If you want to see our exact route, click here.

*photos in this post (unless otherwise noted) were taken and copyrighted by Living In Beauty.


24 thoughts on “Blips and Bubbles

  1. We blew our transmission on Christmas Day of 2020 (a Friday). Luckily we were able to be towed to a nearby Chevrolet dealership. Spent three nights in their parking lot and were back on the road Monday afternoon.

    1. Hey Carolyn! Great to hear from you.

      Were you in a motorhome or did you need two tow trucks? What a quirky Christmas! Surely you didn’t plan on spending Christmas in a commercial parking lot. I’m picturing strange and hopefully miraculous moments. Sounds like a great Christmas comedy with some fabulous characters!

      In 2017 we were in a similar situation in lower Mississippi. It was a water pump blowout on a Sunday afternoon. A gas station allowed us to park the the trailer in their lot while a local mechanic took the truck to his shop for an overnight repair. Next door to the gas station was one of the best low-country diners in all of Mississippi. They had like 4,000 reviews and five stars on Yelp. A family with their own shrimp boat run the shop. It was a humble place, like most of the best restaurants in that area of Mississippi but people drive long distances to eat there. We almost felt lucky that our water pump went out! Another stroke of good luck is that the water pump was being recalled by Ram and they paid for the tow and the full cost of replacement by a the local mechanic.

      Thanks for sharing Carolyn!

      Safe & Happy Travels!

      Carmen@LIB

  2. GREAT advice- play fast, practice slow… and we too always carry something bubbly 🍾 (And if possible share how your quarter sized hail ding repairs came along?)

    1. Hey Cyndy!

      The insurance company totaled our Beauty 🤕 and we bought her back for a really good price 🤑. In the end, we decided not to replace the panels with the hail dimples. It was a good idea because over the years the dimples have softened and become a part of her glorious patina.

      Woo-hoo! We should meet up and start a Champagne Caravan!

      Safe & Happy Travels!

      Carmen@LIB

      1. I LOVE the way you think!!! And yes we should!!! If you make it BACK east let me know? (We are in Savannah and NOT retired yet 😉 so we don’t go too far afield, YET.)

  3. There’s a goal…always keep refreshments in the fridge. Great. Love to read along on your adventures. Hope soon to follow in some of your footsteps. Stay safe out there.

    1. Hey Sandy! Wonderful to hear from you.

      Self-preservation is a major part of our primary objective! Even when we were tent campers we packed the good stuff.

      Thanks for following along. Every day is a celebration 🥂

      Safe & Happy Travels!

      Carmen@LIB

    1. Yes, we were held together in miraculous synthetics that will probably look exactly the same a thousand years from now. Jim’s mom, Ruby, built all of our costumes from the stitching to the finish work. She was amazing.

      Safe & Happy Travels!

      Carmen@LIB

    1. Thank you, Ruamie! What a pleasure to have you on board. Imagine the possibilities if every dwelling – whether attached to the ground or not – was designed to inspire and facilitate adventure …

      Safe & Happy Travels!

      Carmen@LIB

    1. Haha! I can’t even imagine that – not here where moose can hide in the potholes.

      xoxo,

      Safe & Happy Travels!

      Carmen@LIB

  4. The pictures of your magician days are amazing!! I love them. I’d read a blog just about those days. How cool Jim’s Mom made all your outfits. And glad your tire blowout turned out pretty dang good after all. Do you have a TPMS system now?

    1. Hey Brenda!

      Haha! The 70’s were fascinating – the golden era of film, music, television and arts, culture and theatre and the infancy of high tech 😊 And, some things were similar to today with the beginning stages of a pandemic (AIDS), gangs, civil rights problems, and a stalled economy due to oil dependence, wars and cold wars. Like Sonny and Cher sang, The Beat Goes On and on and on …

      Yes we have a wonderful TPMS system now. When we had the blowout, we went looking for the best and it took a while to find it. Tonight we are resting in Prince George, B.C. where we began our trip to Alaska – and were here in the with the same eight tires we started off with!!! Truck Systems Technology Tire Pressure Monitor System is the reason for that:

      https://livinginbeauty.net/product/tire-pressure-monitor/

      When we found TST, we tested it for a few months on some notoriously bad roads, then we blogged about it:

      https://livinginbeauty.net/2020/09/24/peace-of-mind/

      Now, with and Alaska behind us, we are so grateful to have found TST. What a vital tool for our travel needs!

      Thanks so much for keeping an eye out for us, Brenda. It means so much.

      Safe & Happy Travels!

      Carmen@LIB

  5. Hey guys, love your blog. And great to meet you guys. Carmen, your writing is terrific: Inspiring, poetic and fun to read. After we met you guys at the campground near Denali, we had a failure of our anti-lock brakes/traction control when we got to Homer. The truck thought we were sliding out of control every time I even gently accelerated. Scary in traffic. I found a mechanic that would squeeze us in, dropped off the truck and walked back to our rented cabin in the rain. The shop found a faulty sensor but the part would take a week to get. I disabled the system and we drove to Anchorage to get the part but I couldn’t install it because it was raining there too. We made it to Fairbanks where I installed it in a Safeway parking lot – a two hour job on my back. It wasn’t pleasant at the time, but our motto is “Adventure is inconvenience rightly considered.” Now I can look back and laugh (sort of). We then drove the 550 miles of dirt road up the Dempster highway to the Arctic circle and then beyond, finally ending at the Arctic ocean in Tuktoyaktuk where we dipped our toes in the frigid water. There was another “inconvenience” – we picked up Covid, likely somewhere in Alaska and sequestered ourselves for a few days in a condo at Whistler.

    We’re finally home now. We’ll start adding to our woodsandwater.net blog soon, after I wash 9,000 miles of grunge off the truck.

    Be safe!
    Charles and Susan.

    1. Charles and Susan!!! Wonderful to hear from you! We LOVE your blog! The photos are gorgeous:

      https://woodsandwater.net

      We plan to devour your content and learn from you! Thanks so much for reaching out.

      Of course you walked back in the rain from the shop. It rained for an entire month!!!

      For us, rain can be unpleasant and frustrating but for tent, van and truck campers, you guys are badass. How’s that for poetic 😆?

      So far, we’ve had no problems with our anti-lock brakes, but thank you for your description of the issue. This info is really good to know.

      We so admire your method of travel. We’re always thinking we could downsize so we can go more places, but we haven’t had the courage. We wanted to drive the Dempster but we chickened out – too worried about damaging the rig. But you did it!!!! Congratulations 🥂 We just might open a bottle of champagne tonight to celebrate meeting someone who made it to the Arctic Ocean!

      Cheers!

  6. Wonderful Blog. My favourite email is the notification of a new post of yours. We too had a similar adventure this summer in Nova Scotia. Throttle body sensor failed on my tow vehicle. Limped back to the campground which we had just left, knowing that they had no “trailer sites” available, but hoping for a parking lot at least. The very lovely attendant offered us 3 sites that were “tent only” but was sure we could get our trailer in at least one of them. Sure enough we fit without difficulty despite it being a 29 footer. Filled our fresh tank and put our solar panels that always travel with us to good use. 3 days later a local mechanic had the new part installed and we were on our way again. Yep we had some fine refreshment in the fridge and got in a couple of rounds of golf to boot. Perspective is everything. Keep up the great work. thank you.

    1. Hey Shawn!

      Great story. But I had to ask Jim what is a throttle body sensor 🤭 Your story confirms our experience that most often all you have to do is ask. When travelers are in need the goodness in people comes forward. And, if all else fails, the refreshments and good company soothe the ordeal until solutions arrive. To have a repair like that accomplished in three days is quite a success. Hurray! You made it! Charles’s comment above comes to mind: ““Adventure is inconvenience rightly considered.”

      Perspective changes hopelessness and frustration into a great story to tell around a campfire 🏕🔥 Thanks for sharing and Cheers! 🥂

      Safe & Happy Travels!

      Carmen@LIB

    1. 💕Melinda!

      We miss you SO much!

      I think that photo of us was taken in 1976. I was 19 and Jim was 21. Jim says, “to put that photo in the perspective of time – from today to 1976 is as if in 1976 we were looking at photo taken in 1930.” Why does he tell me these things 😵‍💫?

      When I look at that photo I think of how happy I was to leave my job on the line at Kyocera to do magic shows. The photo was taken at the first house we bought on Barker Way in San Carlos. It was a huge four bedroom and we didn’t have a stick of furniture other than a waterbed 🤣

      Because the show was doing so well the bank (San Diego Trust and Savings) awarded us the loan for the house – but they told us to keep it a secret because they didn’t want a flood of actors and performers applying for loans. So all of our friends moved in with us 😂

      Those were the days …

      Love you! See you soon!

      Safe & Happy Travels!

      Carmen@LIB

  7. I was following you yesterday in a highway truck just outside Fort Fraser. Wanted to let you know I appreciate your courtesy in slowing down as I passed to allow me to do it as quickly and safely as possible. Unfortunately most travelers speed up thinking we will just be in their way even though they are going slow to enjoy the scenery. Most don’t think about the fact that they are in fact in my office and I’m just trying to get to my location on time and as safely as possible. Most times after I pass you will never see me again. As I travel faster and with fewer stops. Travelers such as yourselves make my job a pleasure to do.

    I hope you find our little piece of heaven enjoyable. If you have a chance stop into the Kootenay area Rossland, Trail, to Nelson spectacular scenery and great historical sites. It is where I hail from and I can attest to its beauty.

    God speed and have a wonderful journey.

    1. Hey Robert!

      Thank you for reaching out. You’re welcome!

      Over the years many truckers (who we will never see again) have kindly moved aside for us and we are happy to return the favor whenever necessary.

      Slowing down is easy for us. We’re retired and always mindful of our good fortune and that we are unusual. Though we’re sure it’s an illusion, as we’ve slowed down, it seems the rest of the world has sped up. Our policy is to never hurry unless we’re trying to get to a Happy Hour 😊.

      I love how you understand how fortunate you are to live in such a beautiful place. Many people who live in paradise seem oblivious. We can’t get enough of B.C.! As Jim and I were passing through Fort Fraser we were strategizing a future plan for six months of lake hopping through the gorgeous interior. Hopefully, someday you will see Beauty and The Beast on your route again.

      Safe & Happy Travels!

      Carmen@LIB

  8. I love that promo photo – not least of all because it was taken the year I was born. You guys have been marching to the beat of your own drum and doing alllll the cool things since before I even existed.

    This article is another great example. While many people would be too scared or worried to do what you do every day, you guys grab life by the horns and just go for it. Things go wrong? Roll with it. Things go right? Celebrate it.

    I truly wish more people appreciated that this ain’t a dress rehearsal.

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