A desert homecoming

The “promising new site” mentioned a year ago in my article “Grazing and gazing at Agua Caliente” has become our desert home-away-from-home where we can set up camp and enjoy the desert in relative peace and quietness and hear the hum and chirping of hummingbirds* darting to our feeder or ravens circling and calling overhead.*

DSC_0265 Morning at Agua Caliente

One of the features of this site was a lush growth of Nerium oleander that provided beautiful flowers, windbreak and privacy that we cherish.

DSC_0095 Nerium oleander bloom

But, alas, a California State Park mandate required its removal because oleander is a non-native plant with toxic foliage that can have a negative impact on bighorn sheep that frequent the area (a temporary exemption was lifted on May 25, 2015).  “A single oleander leaf ingested by a bighorn sheep can cause death,” states former Anza-Borrego Desert State Park Superintendent, Mark C. Jorgensen, in his book, Desert Bighorn Sheep: Wilderness Icon, Sunbelt Publications, Inc., 2015, page 116.  So we were not surprised to find stumps instead of lush plants when we returned earlier this month…

DSC_0297 Oleander cut & poisoned

… and a lack of privacy (compare the photo below with those seen in my article noted above).

DSC_0261 Our site without oleander

Fortunately, we have very nice and friendly neighbors, so our celebration of the season and our return to the desert was not diminished!

DSC_0189 Holidays in the desert '15

Our day at Agua Caliente typically begins before the sun rises as ever-changing soft pastel colors of red, orange, and yellow bathe the nearby mountains.  The early morning is chilly, but Larry is already outside, enjoying this peaceful, magical moment as I crawl out of bed in a comfortable Airstream trailer kept toasty by a quiet and efficient Vornado AVH2 Whole Room Vortex Heater that can “heat an entire room without using intense heat and remain cool to the touch.”*  Larry hears me move about and comes to the door to take the dogs down their ramp for their morning walk.  (Corgis’ long backs make them prone to injury. Tasha has made a full recovery after her $6000 laminectomy for a ruptured spinal disc 2 years ago.)  I enjoy the moment by seeing and smelling freshly brewed coffee steam swirl about over the coffee filter as I listen to NPR’s Morning Edition, and then take time to savor the flavor of rich coffee and mellow out.*

DSC_0245 Early morning coffee

After morning chores (and eating homemade cookies and apple slices), I take the Nikon camera along for a hike.  I enjoy the textures of the desert…

DSC_0234 Desert textures

… and look for signs of wildlife, such as coyote scat…

DSC_0217 Fresh coyote scat

… and whatever else comes along…

DSC_0233 Ocotillo, cholla & barrel cactus

After a midday shower, I enjoy one of Larry’s delicious sandwiches, and sometimes a roadrunner* drops in.

DSC_0291 Roadrunner

The days are now short and it’s not long before the sun sets, the air chills and the splendor of a desert night sky reveals itself.*

DSC_0197 Under desert night sky

*This is a link to a YouTube video.

Resealing our Airstream plumbing vent

Last month,  I posted about our annual “Wash, wax and treat II” job and mentioned that I used a ladder to wash and wax the roof of our 2007 Airstream Safari trailer, while inspecting the roof seals for any signs of deterioration.  Five years ago, I resealed the Fan-Tastic Fan and bathroom air vent seals.  This time around, the plumbing vent pipe seal was cracking and in obvious need of repair.

DSC_0056 Cracked plumbing vent seal

This job needed to be done before the beginning of our fall-winter-spring camping season, so I consulted Rich Luhr’s The (nearly) Complete Guide to Airstream Maintenance, and read that Sikaflex 221 is a good general multi-purpose sealant, especially for roof work such as around vents.  I was reminded that the shelf-life of sealant is relatively short (12 months from the date of manufacture), and of course, my old tube of sealant had solidified.

Airstream Life's Maintenance Guide p

I ordered a new tube of Sikaflex-221 Multi-Purpose Polyurethane Sealant/Adhesive from Amazon and once it arrived, I checked its expiration date (12 May 2016) and gathered my tools: a caulk gun, plastic scraper, isopropyl alcohol (see note below) and…

DSC_0166 Resealing tools

a sturdy ladder (Little Giant*).

DSC_0157 Removing old sealantPlease note that this time inquiring readers should feel relieved that I am standing on the second step from the top and not the first, per the American Ladder Institute.*

Our plumbing vent is near the trailer’s edge, but if I needed to get up on the roof, I would review Colonial Airstream’s video and maintenance tips, “How to climb onto a roof of an Airstream Travel Trailer.”*


I used a plastic scraper (putty knife) to remove the old sealant that was softened with isopropyl alcohol.

(Note: alcohol can prevent the polyurethane in Sikaflex from properly curing, so care must be taken to remove any traces of alcohol by washing, rinsing and drying the prepared surface before applying Sikaflex.)


DSC_0170 Cracked sealant removed

The flange of the Ventline plumbing vent was intact (no cracks adjacent to screws) and new sealant was applied with the caulk gun* and smoothed by my finger.

DSC_0174 Sikaflex 221 Sealant

Now it’s time to get on the road again!*

*Note this is a link to a YouTube video.

F-250 dual battery change

Some people have said a 3/4 ton truck is overkill when towing an Airstream trailer, but I am very happy that we chose a 2006 Ford F-250 Super Duty 4×2 Crew Cab diesel truck when we purchased our 2007 23′ Airstream Safari trailer nine years ago, especially every time we travel from near sea level to 5,000 feet elevation over the often windy mountains to our favorite campground in the desert.  It gives us a great sense of confidence, security, and peace of mind under the stars.

DSC_0057 F-250 & Airstream trailer

The truck has been virtually trouble free and only needing the routine scheduled items listed in my service manual, and the routine tire and battery changes.  This truck requires two 12-volt batteries to turn over the diesel engine and my original batteries lasted 5 years before dying.  In 2011, I replaced these batteries with Costco’s Kirkland Signature batteries, 65-850, which had a 100-month limited, prorated warranty.  I was hoping that these batteries would also last 5 years, but a few weeks ago, I noticed that the engine was slow to start.  I first thought this was due to old fuel sitting over the summer (our off-season for camping).  But reality set in when it would not start in a parking lot last week and required AAA to do a jump-start!

I returned to our local Costco and bought two new batteries.  The battery brand, Interstate, has now replaced the Kirkland Signature brand, but both are made by the same company, Johnson Controls.  For the new batteries, Costco now provides a non-prorated, 42-month warranty.  My new Interstate batteries cost $89.99 + battery core charge (deposit) of $15 each.

I returned my Kirkland Signature batteries to Costco and since my $85.99-batteries lasted 50 months, Costco gave me 50% back (credited to my credit card), along with the battery core charges.

Changing my batteries was relatively easy (since I took notes last time and am now documenting them here for future use, but note that the steps below are how I went about changing my batteries and are not intended to tell others how to change their batteries).  As a refresher, I viewed “How to replace dual batteries on a Ford F-series diesel“.*

DSC_0150 F250 6

DSC_0154 Interstate 65-850 battery

Our F-250 diesel truck requires two 65-850 batteries (65 is the group size and 850 is the cold cranking amps (CCA).  On the top of the battery is a sticker indicating the manufacturing date (10/15) and a label to scratch/mark the installation date.

First I assembled my tools: 5/16″ hand wrench and a 8 mm socket with wrench extender. Then (and most importantly), I disconnected the black, negative (ground) cables first from both batteries (the clamp nut is loosened and the clamp is worked back and forth while pulling up).

DSC_0151 Disconnect black:negative cable 1st

Important: only after the black, negative cables are disconnected, did I disconnect the red, positive cables!  Then I unsnapped the street-side battery cover by pushing in the tabs on each lower side while raising the cover off.

DSC_0152 Driver's side battery & cover

A 8-mm socket wrench and extender were then used to remove the bolt and clamp holding the battery in place and the batteries were removed. The battery tray was inspected and cleaned (of dust and sand) and the new batteries placed and secured with the clamps and bolts.  The street-side battery cover was re-secured. The cables were then attached in the reverse order of how they were removed.  The red, positive cables were connected first, followed by the black, negative cables. I was careful not to over-tighten any of the nuts.

So now our Ford truck is a perfect fit and should be good to go (for at least another 4 years), and I guess you could say, “I’m a Ford truck man!“*

HPIM2824 Ford truck man

*This is a link to a YouTube video.