Wash, wax and treat

Cooling off while camping at the beach is a treat that is followed by our annual big wash and wax job. We have learned the importance of washing off salt deposits to prevent or control corrosion. We will probably limit our beach-side camping to once a year, not only to limit the exposure of salt to our trailer, but also to cope with the reality of mandatory water rationing that is about to begin due to California’s third year of drought conditions.


Notice that I’m using an extended scrub brush compared to flooding the top of the trailer with our precious fresh water as seen in this photo from last year’s washing.  We are following many of the tips to conserve water seen here.

Before washing the trailer, I needed to tend to a few minor details…

dsc_0060-smashed-marker.jpg On our return home from our last beach outing I successfully negotiated the busy Interstate 5 freeway and was driving up our neighborhood hill. A car was coming down the street so I moved over to the right and, when the car passed, I pulled back toward the center of the street as I accelerated up the hill. I heard a barely audible “boom” which sounded like something had shifted in the truck’s cargo area. An hour after unhitching I noticed a slight dent in the rock guard and a smashed amber marker light. I must have hit one of the large plastic city trash cans that were out that day.

dsc_0069-new-marker-lt.jpg This gave me an opportunity to learn how certain parts for the Airstream are obtained. Airstream, Inc. was helpful in giving me the correct part number (511750, Marker Light, Amber Teardrop) and the two closest Airstream service centers. I chose C & G Trailer Service, an Airstream Certified Service Center that has had an association with Airstream since 1946. They had the part and could ship it via UPS, but we drove 113 miles up the coast to get it so that we could see their service center and become familiar with driving there when our trailer needs servicing (San Diego no longer has an Airstream dealer or service center). I installed the light fixture at home and substituted a flat #6S brass washer and added a #60 rubber O-ring to reduce the incidence of moisture getting into the light. Another LED bulb (67-A15) has been ordered to match our other marker lights which Larry had switched to LED.

I was now ready to wash the trailer and used Meguiar’s Deep Crystal Car Wash (See Meguiar’s over 100 year legacy and family history).  San Diego has hard water and water spots are prominent after washing. I added a cup of vinegar to a bucket of water and used a chamois to remove the water spots. Then I inspected the trailer for filiform corrosion which is showing up in newer Airstream trailers and extensively documented in the Airforums.com thread, “Corrosion problems with new Airstreams“. Last year I treated my filiform corrosion with Boeshield T-9. The label on its 12 ounce spray can indicates that T-9 was developed by The Boeing Co. for lubrication and protection of aircraft components and contains solvents, lubricants and waxes designed for penetration, moisture displacement, lubrication and protection. It dries to a thin, clear waxy film that clings to metal. One year ago I applied T-9 to my filiform and I am glad to report that I saw no expansion of the filiform. Compare the current filiform image below with the one taken last year.


(Whitish circular areas surrounding the rivets are actually incompletely removed waxy residue from Mequiar’s Mirror Glaze sealant.)

The following day was the wax job and, as indicated above, I used Meguiar’s Mirror Glaze Professional Polymer Sealant #20 that can be obtained from a good automotive body shop supply store. (Thank you, 2airishuman of Airforums.com for sharing your wisdom and insights on protecting trailer exteriors.)  I bought the 64 ounce size jug and used it to refill the 16 ounce size squeeze bottle which is easier to handle while on the step ladder. (The roof also gets a protective waxing.) This is my third year using this product and I can report that it is durable and withstands washings throughout the year. I also believe that using the above two products goes a long way in preventing and/or controlling filiform corrosion.


Also note that I observed Sun safety while out in the sun by wearing a broad-brimmed hat, long sleeve white shirt (Columbia Titanium), sun glasses that protect on three sides, and sunscreen.

So by the end of two days the trailer was washed, waxed and treated for this season.


(Larry made the covers for both the Super Jack and the wheels.)

So now it’s time to relax and enjoy summer and our own back yard.


(Red Trumpet vine that our hummingbirds love.)

Airstream Alley, part three

Hiking our way into the New Year…

Our Alley-not-a-rally had no scheduled activities.  For example, on the first morning after our arrival in Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, Rich came by and knocked on our open trailer door as I was brushing my teeth by the Vanity sink.  I smiled when I saw him and immediately quoted back to him the first line in one of his posts, “The knock on the door always seems to come at the worst time”.  (Salt Creek Recreation, Joyce WA)  He laughed and announced that David, Ari and their son, William, would be riding with them in the Armada to visit Slot Canyon and Split Mountain and that anyone else would be welcome to follow them.  I thanked him but I said I wanted to spend some time completing the set-up our base camp.

The closest we got to scheduling anything was on the night before the event, we chatted about taking a hike up Palm Canyon and decided that a 9 a.m. time would be doable. The next morning at 8:55 a.m. I saw Rich’s door swing open and he came over and munched on sweet orange slices as Eleanor and Emma got ready, while I put the polarized lens on my camera.  “Hey, let’s go for a hike!”, he said.


The Palm Canyon Nature trail is adjacent to the Palm Canyon Campground, where we are staying in Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, and reveals the dramas of past floods that uprooted palm trees and pushed them, along with massive boulders, down the canyon. (Palm Canyon Flash Flood!)  This hiking area is always a wonderful photo opportunity, especially when the wild flowers are blooming (First Field Report).   Ongoing and special events are listed on the Anza-Borrego Foundation website.


With luck, patience, right timing and being quiet, sometimes Bighorn Sheep can be spotted here.  It seemed we might be in luck.  I spotted Rich, Eleanor and Emma ahead studying an auspicious sign, fresh scat.


Zoe the cat, in Emma’s day-pack, smelled something’s up.  (Zoe the cat goes with Emma on all major hikes, including Death Valley.   I’m rather skeptical, too, because this is at least my third hike here and I’ve never seen a Bighorn Sheep. I am tempted to think that this is a myth perpetuated by rangers who periodically sprinkle scat on the paths. But, then again, writer and photographer, Bert Gildart spotted 21 of the elusive and endangered Peninsular Bighorn Sheep here last year. (Note that all, including myself, are observing sun safety by wearing wide-brimmed hats.)


Even if we don’t see sheep, we know we will eventually be rewarded by the Palm Oasis ahead and its refreshing shade. We just have to decide which way to go. Here Eleanor contemplates going over or around a boulder, while Rich decides to cross the stream.  After a while, it seemed evident to me that Rich was choosing the more challenging way at every turn in preparation for his rim-to-rim Grand Canyon hike later this year.  This tested our agility and became a balancing act.


The Palm Oasis beckoned us on ahead.


Once under the shade of the oasis, Rich adjusted his camera (Nikon D70 with the same lens that I use, a 18-200mm VR zoom lens).


We felt at home in the oasis as we relaxed…


and snacked…


Emma is showing us her now almost empty box of raisins.  She dug her fingers down into the box and found a raisin to give to Rich.  As he accepted it, he exclaimed, “Wow, I’ve seen peas bigger than this!”, and Emma giggled with delight.  Oops, one raisin fell to the ground and Eleanor reminded her to pick it up so that the ants would not get it.  Later I questioned Eleanor about this and she said she had learned how ants can be damaging to our national treasures, such as the cliff dwellings at Mesa Verde. Even items like soda and juice are not allowed on their cliff dwelling tours (they could attract animals and insects which could lead to damaging the dwellings).  Beyond this, Leave No Trace philosophy reminds everyone to be responsible for their actions and leave parks unaltered so that they may be enjoyed by future generations.

As we got up to leave the oasis, Eleanor’s hat fell and was stained with mud.  We decided to go up the canyon a bit higher, as Eleanor looked for a waterfall to wash her hat. She was delighted to find one.


Rich forged ahead and found an even larger waterfall for Eleanor and a better photographic opportunity for himself. But she had to lean dangerously forward and swing her hat into the falls.


Great fun was had by all!


Well, we never did see sheep, but we did have a fun and enriching time…

And time for contemplating…


… crossings and passages.


End of summer dreams

Thanks to Dwayne and Aaron of Southwest Coaches, “Where Dreams Come True”, our end of summer trip-to-the-beach dream eventually did come true. But it was a different picture just one week ago. Just after I had unhooked our 30 amp shore power cord from the trailer, in preparation for washing the trailer, just prior to our scheduled three night camping outing at South Carlsbad State Beach, I heard some brief, but unusual, street-side clicking sounds near the area where the converter is located. I washed the trailer and reconnected the shore power.

The next day, while I was doing interior cleaning, I had two Fantastic fans running and some lights on. When I happened to glance at the Sunexplorer (solar power) monitor, I was shocked to see it reporting that the AGM batteries were at 45%. (They are normally at 100% when connected to shore power.) That evening I posted the problem on airforms.com and got useful information and support. (See jd’s excellent troubleshooting tips and photos in this thread.) Setting the “Use/Store” switch to “Store” did seem to keep the batteries from draining lower during the night (thanks 2air’). The solar panels were able to bring the batteries back to 100% during the day (and thus helped to save the batteries during this crisis). But as the sun set, I could see that the batteries were not holding their charge like they used to. What was needed after that drop to 45% was for the batteries to get charged to the maximum for a couple of days on shore power via the converter.

Testing with a digital voltmeter showed that my Parallax 7300 Series electronic power converter was not working correctly because the voltage reading at the positive and negative battery connections at the converter showed 9.5 volts (my Airstream Manual states that if the reading here is not between 13.8 and 14.0 volts, the converter needs to be serviced or replaced).


(This photo shows the reading of the voltage of the converter after it was replaced by Southwest Coaches.)

The other indicator that the converter was not charging the batteries was that when testing the voltage at the battery terminals, the voltage remained the same, regardless of the shore power being connected or disconnected. (You would normally see a higher reading at the battery terminals when the shore power is connected.)

So our end of summer trip to the beach became a trip to the dealer and we reluctantly canceled our camping reservations. Fortunately, our Parallax converter was still within the two year warranty period, and, with our local Airsteam dealer, Revolution RV, suddenly out of business, we journeyed 83 miles up the coast (a two hour trip in morning rush hour traffic) to Southwest Coaches, in Irvine, CA., where we originally bought our trailer. When we placed our factory order with them almost two years ago, they gave us a good deal, and when the trailer arrived, it got an excellent prep, and we got a thorough walk-through/orientation from Aaron.

When we arrived, Aaron confirmed that the converter (bottom half) needed to be replaced, and not only replaced it, but also checked and replaced the notorious, black water tank sensor, and re-calibrated all of the system monitor sensors, and all within an hour’s time.

So we were back on the freeway, happily headed south at 11:30 a.m., when I thought we have everything we needed to camp, wouldn’t it be fun if a beach-side campsite were available. We quickly assessed our provisions and resources (and were glad that we had brought the dogs along) and pulled into South Carlsbad State Beach. The very friendly ranger told us we were in luck because this nearly full campground just had an unexpected early departure from a beach-side campsite. We took it!


Even though it was just for one night, it was wonderfully therapeutic after dealing with the past week of stress and two months of not camping. We and our dogs enjoyed relaxing to the sounds of the waves, birds, and ocean breezes.

My two week topical chemotherapy treatment of actinic (solar) keratosis ended a week ago and the rather large red area on my cheek was starting to fade. The area had been unsightly with white whiskers sprouting through, until I bought an electric razor (Remington Microscreen 280), which comfortably brought them under control. This razor has additional benefits when camping by not adding whiskers to the sink drain and by saving on water usage… and it will be recharged with power made by the sun when boondocking.

Sun safety not only means protecting skin with sunscreen and wearing broad-brimmed hats, but also protecting eyes with a good pair of sunglasses. After each of my cataract eye surgeries I was provided a pair of Dioptic Solar Shield sunglasses. By the way, some scientists are now saying that there is no such thing as a safe tan.


So on this beautiful, sunny day at the beach, a fellow passed by and said, “Thanks for doing that!”, as he pointed to our American flag at half-mast… (it was 9/11 Remembrance Day). I said, “Yes, it’s a sad day to remember.” “No!”, he said, “It’s a happy day… we have our country, and our loved ones…”, and he gave a smile and a thumbs-up gesture.


Yes, it turned out to be a happy day indeed. And the following day was happy, too, when we brought our trailer home and connected it to shore power and saw that the converter was now working. After two days of charging up the AGM batteries with shore power they are fully charged and retain their charge when shore power is disconnected.

So I, for one, have had my fill of the sun for awhile, and look forward to the shortening of the days and the lowering of the sun in the southern sky.


This weekend we are enjoying the clear night sky with the full moon as we celebrate family and friends during this Chinese Moon Festival period…

Eleanor Luhr provides additional background information on the Moon Festival, in the September 15, 2008 Tour of America post, “Celebrating the Harvest Moon“, which includes photos of Eleanor and Emma making moon cakes (Thanks, Eleanor and Emma!)

Happy Moon Festival! (and hope you catch your reflections… and dreams!)…

Now “Fly Me to the Moon“… (let me play among the stars)…

or simply, “Nightwish“…. (sing to me, my angel).

Sun safety

Living the Airstream life means being outside more and enjoying our great outdoors. It also means increased exposure to the natural elements, including sunlight. Having fun in the sun brings immediate happiness, but it can also take a cumulative toll on our skin and bring discoloration, pain, premature aging, wrinkles, lesions, cancer, and sometimes death.


Last year I noticed a few skin lesions on the left side of my face, so I had them checked by my dermatologist. I had limited improvement with hydrocortisone, but they did not go completely away. Last week my biopsy results indicated that the largest lesion is actinic (solar) keratosis (AK), a skin growth caused by exposure to sunlight. This can be the first step in the development of skin cancer and needs to be treated. As I write this, I am on day 2 of a two week course of applying a 2% solution of Fluorouracil (an antimetabolite) directly on the lesion. During this period the lesion will become inflamed leading to a crusty scab that will slough away and be replaced with new, and hopefully, healthy skin.


(The largest lesion is the reddened vertical area about an inch from my mustache; the red spot is the shave biopsy site)

I’ve read that during the treatment phase, I can expect some discomfort and an unattractive face. I’ll spare you the day-by-day pictures, but for those who would like to see the process and one man’s interesting story with photos, click here. (Keep in mind he was using a 5% cream.) I also found this article on actinic keratosis helpful, along with this one.

Our skin plays a wonderful role in protecting our body, and, as you can imagine, I’m quickly learning the importance of protecting my skin. I highly recommend that you take a moment to click on and watch this excellent, You Tube video clip, Sun Safety Tips, which tells how to protect yourself (seek shade, cover up and use sunscreen).  This one, Safe Skin, shows how to recognize skin changes that you should see your doctor about.

I am learning that studies show that sun damage to skin accumulates over time and that 80% is thought to occur before the age of 18. (When I was growing up, we used suntan lotions and oils for that even tanned (well-cooked) look.) I am also learning that ultra violet rays can pass through clouds, and bounce off sand, snow and other surfaces and strike us, even if we are in shade. Thinning of the ozone layer may be allowing more of these rays to reach us. And I am at greater risk because of my fair skin and blue eyes.

So, I will try to avoid a sunburn by applying a good broad-spectrum sunscreen, SPF 30 or higher, during our next scheduled outing at South Carlsbad State Beach, CA, after Labor Day. While living the Airstream life, it’s easy to forget to apply sunscreen, as seen in Rich Luhr’s Tour of America post, “Airstream life on the Sea of Cortez” (but you’ll see in one of the post’s photos, that Rich keeps his hat nearby).

Observing sun safety is one way to continue enjoying living the Airstream life longer. And while I’m wearing this hat, I’d like to introduce a delightful tune, “The Sun Has Got His Hat On”, by the Cafe Society” and another version (Ambrose & his Orchestra, 1932).