Happy New Year galaxy travelers

We rested and feasted while home for the holidays and kept warm and dry while our space ship enjoyed a natural washing from the recent winter rain storms along the coast of Southern California. Gas prices have now hit a five-year low and our sun now smiles down on the great Southwest, just in time for us to drive to Dos Picos Regional Park for a pre-New Year’s celebration with fellow galaxy travelers, Terry and Greg from Tucson, Arizona.

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We brought Larry’s homemade lentil soup with chicken, sausage and bacon, along with pork tamales, and chocolate biscotti.  The weather was on the cool side, but the food and hot tea warmed us up.

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(Sadie, their blond cocker spaniel, sits next to Larry, while Annie, a black cocker spaniel sits under the table, Greg is wearing the ball cap and Terry is wearing the yellow shirt.)  Terry (sometimes known as Tucson Terry) is known on Airstreamforums as TBRich where he features his travel thread “AZBAMBI… On the Road Again…“.  He also maintains his web site of the same name, which features a detailed log of their travels along with a plethora of beautiful and colorful photos. Through AZBambi Decors, Greg and Terry help others customize and personalize their Airstream interiors by making custom slip covers for the dinette, along with curtains, bedspreads, window valances, pillow shams and throw rugs. Greg made the new dinette cushion slip covers for the Luhrs’ seen here.

After lunch I enjoyed hiking the Nature Trail of Dos Picos Regional Park, located in San Diego County. Dos Picos is Spanish for “two peaks” (which are nearby) and is in a small valley filled with oak trees and surrounded by ranch land and steep rocky slopes. The Ipai (Kumeyaay) Native Americans lived here 7000 years ago. They gathered the abundant oak acorns and ground them into meal. The wide range of habitats supports birds, coyotes, foxes, possums, skunks, and raccoons. Due to the recent rains, moss grows abundantly on the rocks in shady areas.

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Along the trail I spotted a boulder that looked like a large skull.

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Snow covered the Cuyamaca Mountains in the distance.

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We re-grouped and spent the afternoon chatting.

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We talked about everything… their new interior LED overhead lights, fabrics, cushions, accessories, camping, traveling, cooking and food,  pets and even politics.  Well, New Year’s is a good time for A Year in Review – 2008… and a good time to raise our concerns for national lands and the wildlife therein (as recently done by writer and photographer, Bert Gildart)… and a time for contemplating New Year’s resolutions.  As darkness descended we talked about the Man in the Maze symbol, often used in the American Southwest by Hopi silversmiths.  According to O’odham oral history, this design depicts experiences and choices we make in our journey through life.  Greg then showed us his watchband with two A-Man-in-the-Maze gold and silver jewelry pieces made by Jason Takala (of the Hopi tribe) who specializes in Hopi Overlay Jewelry.

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I seem to recall seeing that symbol and title used somewhere else… let’s see.

We said our “See you on the road” to Terry and Greg and attempted to return to home base, but found ourselves repeatedly going in circles through the dark maze of the campground until a Park Ranger led us from darkness to the light of the Ranger’s Station at the park entrance.  Tomorrow we will reactivate the mother ship, recalibrate the flux capacitor and continue preparations for traveling to a warmer climate to greet the sun, travelers, and the new year.

Today Terry and Greg moved to William Heise County Park near Julian, CA.  I just received their report that it is cold, 35 degrees. (Current weather in Julian: temperature is 33 degrees and will drop to 22 degrees by midnight). Terry reports that the campground looks like an active lumber cutting camp with freshly bulldozed mud banks and torn up remains of trees”. He said the ranger reported that the heavy snow there earlier in the week had brought down many limbs, branches and whole trees! Hang in there, Terry and Greg, the weather in Anza-Borrego will be 70 degrees when we rendezvous there on Tuesday, and sunny through the week, which should be topped off nicely by the Quadrantids meteor shower during the pre-dawn hours of January 3.

Happy New Year! Galaxy Travelers and everyone, everywhere… Let’s toast to the New Year with champagne… or grapefruit juice… and Drive the Cold Winter Away!

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Home for the holidays

As you may recall from my previous post, I was having difficulty shutting down our Airstream’s vertical thrusters, and was losing contact with Ground Control, while desperately searching Airforums for a solution. I was beginning to wonder if I’d ever get back on solid ground again.  Finally, with the help of the advanced search engine, I found that the source of my problem was that I had forgotten to recalibrate the flux capacitor for vertical travel. I am happy to report that I have landed safely and we have returned home for the holidays.

This full moon, the Cold Moon, found our Safari resting on its pad at home base…

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We enjoy the holidays, including Hanukkah, Christmas and New Years, along with good reading and good music.  A nutcracker rests on our fireplace mantel, reminding me of my favorite Christmas fairy tale-ballet, The Nutcracker, by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, composed in 1891-1892; my favorite movie version is: Nutcracker: The Motion Picture, which is a video of the performance of the Pacific Northwest Ballet.  Herr Drosselmeier is a character in this story (who visited Emma last December).

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Where are you Christmas?  Well, in San Diego, back in 1904 it was in the form of America’s first electrically lighted outdoor Christmas tree at the Hotel del Coronado.

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The historic Hotel del Coronado, which opened in 1888, displays a large stained glass window depicting the legendary Queen Califia, thought by some to be the origin of the state name California.

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Last Friday we returned to the Hotel del Coronado to enjoy the sights and skating by the sea.  Their Windsor Lawn has been transformed into a spectacular ice rink overlooking the beach and the Pacific Ocean.  I enjoyed skating while listening to Christmas songs and didn’t mind the thin water areas on the ice.  A portion of the skating proceeds goes to the Make-A-Wish Foundation, which originated in Phoenix, Arizona, in 1980 and “grants wishes” to children with life-threatening medical conditions.

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Inside the main lobby is their spectacular Christmas tree that takes up to two months to decorate.

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We returned home to continue enjoying the holidays, decorating the house and trailer, and delighting in movies, such as The Polar Express, which seem even more magical in the Airstream when Christmas comes to town.

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“All aboard”, said the conductor, “because my dancing waiters are about to serve some hot,hot… hot chocolate!

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Watching a special holiday DVD in our Safari on Christmas eve while imbibing on a delicious beverage such as eggnog might just become a wonderful new tradition for us… which just might be repeated on New Years Eve’s eve

Happy Holidays from us to you!

Ground Control to Major Bill…

After docking our traveling space vehicle, the Airstream Safari, at this remote base station below Ghost Mountain in the California desert under the rising full moon earlier this month, we set up camp and enjoyed eating spicy food under the stars. While listening to yipping coyotes and the crackling campfire and watching the flickering lights dance on the trailer, my mind wandered to more reports of strange lights over the skies of San Diego and to thoughts about the ghostly legends of this Ghost Mountain area.

These thoughts evaporated into the thin and dry desert air the following day as I protected my skin from the burning rays of the sun while I shaved with the help of the trailer’s Vista View window, which was now multi-tasking as a mirror.

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But theses peculiar thoughts returned again after dinner at sunset…

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along with the ghostly moonlight and clouds that began looking like dragons…

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Then I saw it… an object flying over the trailer that I could not identify…

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streaking across the sky and I remembered flashing lights reported by NASA. Could this be the Ghost Lights of Anza-Borrego? It seemed to land on the other side of Ghost Mountain and I was determined to locate it, so I closed the pod bay doors and prepared to launch our custom-ordered Airstream using its built-in De Laval nozzles.

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I enjoyed the view as our Airstream rose up from the desert floor…

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But I began to sense that something was not quite right when the vertical thrusters could not be shut down and the craft drifted higher into dark space…

and the stars began to look a different way…

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Before losing my internet connection, I quickly checked Airforums, but was shocked to see no one had started a thread on this problem. As I started to lose contact with Ground Control, I wondered if I would ever be able to return to the desert…

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or if it was all due to the spicy food… I did feel like I was floating in a most peculiar way in our aluminum can… but I think it knows which way to go…

Ground ControlCan you hear me now?

Full Moon at Ghost Mountain

My timing was off so we arrived below Ghost Mountain just as the sun was setting, but my spirits were rising along with the anticipated full moon during the second week of November. We’re now on Pacific Standard Time and the shortening of the days is not helpful, except for my skin. (See my August 24th post on Sun Safety.)

Ghost Mountain is located in what is now called Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, in the eastern side of San Diego County. It was the home of poet, author, and artist Marshal South and family from 1930 to 1947. On this dry and sun scorched flat just below the top of the mountain, Marshal built his adobe home, which he called “Yaquitepec“, which means “hill of the Yaqui” after the fiercely freedom-loving Native American Indians of Sonora, Mexico. Due to his successful article, “Desert Refuge” in the March 11, 1939 issue of the Saturday Evening Post, he received a contract with Desert Magazine to write monthly articles on his experiment in pursuing a primitive and natural life style, along with his reflections on family life. (He and his wife raised three children and home-schooled them.)

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Wally Byam, designer of the Airstream travel trailer, wrote a letter to Desert Magazine, in the March 1941 issue, praising Marshal South for setting the example of escaping the treadmill side of life, along with being “slaves to businesses, jobs, possessions and conventions” and for living his dream of going back to nature and depending on minimal stuff. Read more about this and see photos of Yaquitepec along with Marshal South and family in the article, “Marshal South & Wally Byam – Parallel Roads, Different Destinations”, pages 36 to 39, in the Fall 2008 issue of Airstream Life.

Additional information, along with the complete collection of his writings from Desert Magazine, is contained in the book, Marshal South and the Ghost Mountain Chronicles – An Experiment in Primitive Living, edited by Diana Lindsay, Sunbelt Publications, 2005. The newly released DVD of John McDonald‘s full length and uncensored documentary, The Ghost Mountain Experiment, is now available and previewed here.

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Just as I had hoped, the Beaver Moon, also known as the Frost Moon or Snow Moon, rose shortly after setting up camp and bathed the trailer and landscape with beautiful, reflected sunlight which was thirstily absorbed by my Nikon D40 camera set on Auto (Flash off) Mode, as previously illustrated and described in my Cuyamaca spirits rising article.

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Rich Luhr pointed out the fun of experimenting with nighttime star photography in his article on his visit to Navajo National Monument, Az, earlier this fall.

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The above is really sunlight bounced off of the moon as evidenced by the candle light inside the trailer and the stars above.

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It really was nighttime as Larry deep fried potatoes and cauliflower while I cooked steak on the hibachi.

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We enjoyed the after dinner glow (Pug is wearing a red lighted collar for safety from REI) as we listened to the crackling fire and coyotes yelping in the distance…

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And look forward to celebrating Thanksgiving with family and friends.

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If you are in the area, instead of shopping at the mall for more stuff after Thanksgiving, you could take advantage of a special event this weekend in Anza-Borrego, the screening of John McDonald’s The Ghost Mountain Experiment, 7:30 p.m. on Saturday, November 29, at the Borrego Springs Performing Arts Center.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Tire pressure monitoring system

One of the selling points for us when deciding which Airstream trailer would best meet our needs was that it would be safer to have two axles rather than one in the event of a flat tire. We chose the largest trailer (23′ Safari) that would comfortably fit in our driveway, and considering all of the stuff that we take with us, it is good that we have two axles.

One of the caveats (as noted in this Airstream Forums thread) to be aware of with multi-axle trailers is that drivers are often unaware of low or flat tires until the entire tire fails which could lead to extensive or catastrophic trailer damage. For years I have followed Rich Luhr’s experience with tire problems as summed up in his Tour of America post, “A tirade about tires“. One way to increase awareness of the state of our tires, especially while moving, is through a tire pressure monitoring system (TPMS), discussed here on the Airstream Forums.

After reading about Rich’s decision to install (last May) the Doran 360RV Tire Pressure Monitoring System for RVs, Tow Vehicles and Trailers, and after reading the Doran 360RV advantages in their ad in Airstream Life, Fall 2008 issue, page 74, and as our tires are now over two years old, we decided it was about time to add an extra measure of safety and ordered our Doran 360RV directly through Doran Manufacturing LLC. The item was shipped free and arrived within four business days via UPS.

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This system can continuously monitor up to 36 tires. We started with 4 sensors for the trailer. This system installed and worked so well during our trip to the desert last week, that we plan on getting four more sensors for the truck. Besides the monitor and sensors pictured above, other system components included are the sensor lock with wrench for each tire position purchased, visor clips and self-mating fastener tape mounting kit, adjustable pedestal mounting kit, Dill valve tester, and the Installation and Operation Manual.

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First I programmed the monitor for the appropriate maximum cold tire pressure rating of 50 PSI for our ST215/75R 14C tires. Then each sensor with its own 3-digit serial number is assigned to each tire location. Once the monitor is programmed, the sensors are screwed onto the tire valve stems and the monitor is hooked up to a 12-volt power receptacle. In our 2006 F-250 truck the monitor fits perfectly in the pull down smaller storage compartment and is securely held in place by the self-mating tape supplied. It is then plugged into the 12-volt power receptacle nearby.

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The Operation Manual points out that the sensors transmit a coded RF signal and the monitor will alert if the pressure drops more than 12.5%. A second more urgent alert occurs if the tire pressure drops more than 25%. Additionally, we have our monitor programmed to alert us if a pressure is detected to be 25% higher than the programmed baseline pressure, which can assist in the checking of elevated heat in the tire. During our recent trip to the desert, we heard no alerts, thankfully, and it was interesting to see the tire pressure raise from 50 to 55, and to a maximum of 58 PSI coming back due to tire heat.

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After unhitching the trailer, I covered the tires to protect them from the UV rays of the sun. The picture above actually shows the trailer being lit up by the full moon last week, as evidenced by the stars over the trailer, candlelight showing through the windows, and trees on other side of trailer glowing from the campfire! (More about that in my next posting).

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When we arrive at a campsite, we check for nails, screws and any other dangerous items before backing in. The above picture shows the Doran 360RV sensor in place and the nail and large screw that was in our space waiting to puncture our tires. Another benefit of these sensors (which I added to my routine) is that I can now check the tires during our stay (and not have them lose any air) to make sure they don’t have a slow leak from any inadvertent screw or nail picked up along the way.

Three months ago, Rich Luhr’s Doran 360RV Tire Pressure Monitoring System alerted him of a rapid de-inflation of his right front trailer tire, enabling him to do a quick stop before the tire “shredded into lots of expensive rubber parts”, as described in his Flat tire on I-270 post. A short time later his system warned him of low pressure in his left rear tire that he attributed to bad valve stems.

Overloading and under-inflation are two common factors in why tires fail. Other factors are listed here by Rich Luhr. I found this sobering You Tube video, How to Handle a Tire Blowout in Your RV, made by Michelin for the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association, which I urge you to watch.

Although “It’s the end of the mall as we know it“, it is the beginning of the holiday shopping season and time to start buying more stuff to save the economy… at least stuff that will support our RV industry and Airstream Life (Doran Manufacturing LLC continues to be a supporting advertiser, their ad will appear in the Winter issue).

Happy Holiday Shopping!