Wash and wax, tricks and treats

Salt deposits had been washed off our Airstream Safari trailer just after we returned home from our last beach outing, and now it was time for our big annual wash and wax job prior to the beginning of our fall camping season.  The trick is to use a good quality wax that is easy to wipe on and off, and provides long lasting protection.  This is the eighth year that I have used Meguiar’s M20 Mirror Glaze® Polymer Sealant to wax the trailer and I have been treated with its ease of use, high gloss finish that makes it easier to rinse off dirt between washings, and its ability to prevent and/or control filiform corrosion.  The 16 oz. size nicely covers our entire 23′ trailer, including the roof and air conditioner shroud.  The trick is to get it on the roof, and I have a crutch for that, literally.

DSC_0004 Applying wax with crutch

This year, sun safety for my skin was provided by my wide brim plague doctor’s hat, and for a brief moment by a calavera mask, a calaca, a skull mask, often used in celebrating Día de los Muertos* (Day of the Dead).

DSC_0006 Airstreamer with Calaveras mask

A calaca of Catrina and other symbols of the season already decorate our dining room table and Larry will be baking Pan de muerto (Bread of the dead).

DSC_0013 Día de los Muertos table display 2014

For us, this season is also a reflective time for reviewing the past year’s events, the tricks and treats.  For example, last November our corgi, Tasha, had a herniated disc, and the trick was to find it with an MRI and to remedy it with a laminectomy, and the treat was that she went on to a full recovery.  Last June, we found the trick on how to stop paying $75/month for cable TV channels that we mostly don’t watch, and now we are treated to free TV by using an indoor antenna.  Last August, we found the trick on how to stop paying high prices for cell phone service that we rarely need, and we treated our selves to a new service provider, resulting in better service at much lower prices.  In August, we were also treated to the happy sight of our first pitahaya blooms, and last month, we were treated to the sight of our first fruit after bees and I (with a brush) performed the trick of cross-pollination.

DSC_0155 Our first pitahaya fruit

This exquisite dragon fruit was cut in half, scooped out and served with a dollop of premium vanilla ice cream.

DSC_0169 Cross section of our pitahaya

We are now ready to celebrate Halloween*, Día de los Muertos*, and our return to the Anza-Borrego Desert!*

*This is a link to a YouTube video.

Mobiling more for less

A new law this summer, “Unlocking Consumer Choice and Wireless Competition Act,” makes it easier for consumers to change their cell phone service.  We are retired and want to receive the most value for our money that we have earned and now spend.  Earlier this summer, we declared our independence from pay TV, bought an indoor antenna, cancelled cable TV, and are now enjoying saving $900/year.  We recently re-evaluated our mobile phone service and found that we can get more value for less money!

Our mobiling needs began when we began Airstreaming with our new Safari in 2007.  We bought our first mobile phone primarily for safety and emergency concerns while traveling away from home (we have an AT&T landline).  We chose Verizon because of reports of good wireless coverage and bought a basic flip phone for $99.99 and have stayed within our allowable 450 minutes/month, resulting in a monthly service bill of $43.69.  Actually, we rarely use more than 200 minutes/month, so while reviewing our current service, usage, and costs, we looked at Verizon Nationwide 65 Plus Plans, such as the single line, 200 anytime minutes for $29.99/month, with an overage charge of $0.45/minute.

I then reviewed the Consumer Reports January 2014 issue on choosing the best phones and plans, and I was surprised to learn that Consumer Cellular* was the leader in their satisfaction survey, with top scores for value, data, and support.  According to Wikipedia, in 2014, “Consumer Cellular received the highest overall satisfaction rating in the mobile carrier category of PC Magazine’s 27th annual Readers’ Choice Awards survey…”  I liked reading and hearing that Consumer Cellular has inexpensive plans that require no contract and can be changed anytime without a service fee, operates from the AT&T network, and is the exclusive wireless provider for AARP members (and gives AARP members discounts).  Consumer Cellular* has a low-cost family plan that lets family members share minutes, and calls between phones on the same account are free (otherwise, there are no free mobile-mobile or free night and weekend minutes… See Consumer Cellular’s FAQ webpage).

We are AARP members and make few calls and don’t text or surf the internet with a phone, so a Consumer Cellular Family Plan through AARP made sense to us (text and data plans are optional).  We chose the Anywhere/Anytime 200 minutes Voice Plan, $15/month ($14.25 for AARP members).  Since this is so inexpensive, we purchased two new flip phones, Consumer Cellular Envoy,* for $35/each.  The additional line will cost $9.50/month, so our expected monthly service charge, including surcharges, fees and taxes is expected to be about $26/month, saving us of over $200/year!

We chose both the black and red Envoy phones and had our previous mobile phone number ported to the black phone.  Each mobile phone comes with its own wall outlet charger. We also got two Premium Combo Packs that include a car charger adapter and leather case.  The Envoy phone can provide text messaging and 3G networking, should we want these options in the future.

DSC_0106 Consumer Cellular Envoy

Now we each have a mobile phone that we can personalize with photos, contacts, and MP3 music (the phone is also a MP3 music player and I can add an optional microSD card, up to 32GB).  We can now contact each other whenever we want and can find each other when out shopping, camping, and hiking (in most campgrounds that we visit).

DSC_0126 Cell phones, cases & chargers

Envoy’s two megapixel camera* is adequate for our purposes and will be helpful if an accident occurs while traveling.  I was pleased that the phone has Bluetooth and I learned how to transfer files using Bluetooth,* once the phone and MacBook Pro were paired.  Below is a photo taken with the Envoy phone, transferred to the MacBook Pro’s iPhoto library, and uploaded to this article.

Img11 Envoy image of our Airstream

Cutting our previous mobile service costs nearly in half, while gaining a second mobile phone through Consumer Cellular has resulted in our mobiling more for less.  Now our attention turns to getting our Safari clean and ready to get on the road again* and enjoying our fall camping season and more riveting experiences!*

*This is a link to a YouTube video.

Airstream Safari trip notes

I start by making checklists and notes on a 8.5″ x 13″ yellow pad days before our Airstream Safari camping trips and specific tasks are assigned to specific prep days depending on the weather.  For example, Friday’s weather was clear, two days before departure on our first trip of the season, so I completed one of the scheduled tasks by attaching my PressurePro tire pressure sensors to the tires of the truck and Safari and adjusting the pressures toward the recommended cold tire pressures (50 psi for my 14″ trailer tires, 60 psi for the front truck tires, and 75 psi for the rear truck tires).

Starting a trip with the right tire pressures is important because an under-inflated tire could get too hot, stressed, and fail.  The tricky part is that tire pressures fluctuate with the outside air temperatures by as much as 1 psi per every 10° F change in temperature.*  The temperature was 80° that Friday afternoon when I attached the sensors.  I knew that the pressures would be lower the next morning and even lower at our mountain camping destination, predicted to get the first cold storm of the season by midweek.  My task was facilitated by the PressurePro monitor, which shows the pressures at a touch of a button and then I recorded the pressures, along with the date, time, outside temperature, and weather conditions.  So when we departed, I was confident the tires had the optimal pressures for our 5 days of camping.

DSC_0017 Solar & Tire pressure notes

My note taking continued when we arrived at our non-hookup campsite as I kept track of weather conditions and how well our Lifeline AGM batteries were being recharged by our two Airstream factory installed solar panels (See my Columnar Pad notes in above photo).  These notes are saved and assist me in determining when it’s time to replace the batteries (I replaced our first set after 5 years).

I continued to write notes on my yellow pad throughout our camping trip, which are also saved for future reference.  At home, Larry maintains a running camping log on a Word document on our aluminum iMac* of trip mileages, menus, plants, birds and people seen.  I also make concise entries in “The Airstream Travel Journal”.

DSC_0003 Journal hardcovers

See More, Do More, Live More: The Airstream Travel Journal“, designed by Bryan Burkhart/MODERNHOUSE, was published by Chronicle Books LLC in 2002.  (Bryan Burkhart is also the designer and coauthor of Airstream: The History of the Land Yacht, Chronicle Books LLC, 2000.)  The spiral-bound journal with aluminum* front and back covers and featuring lined pages along with vintage Airstream spot art and photos, originally sold for $16.95 and I bought two of them in 2006.  This journal is now out of print and is no longer available from Chronicle Books*, but it can be found online for prices ranging from $79.99 to $600!  (For now, I think I will not place notes in my second copy and will just keep it in pristine condition for future possibilities!)

DSC_0002 Lined pages with notes

See More, Do More, Live More: The Airstream Travel Journal

Another journal, “Airstream Prism Journal Book“, is currently available online for $16.95 from Airstream, Inc..  Per Airstream’s website, this journal has a silver anodized aluminum front cover and a black leather back with an elastic pen loop and includes a black Airstream pen.

Our aluminum Airstream (75th anniversary)* Safari trip notes also find their way into our aluminum MacBook Pro*, which transforms them into a blog post, documenting those riveting experiences.*

HPIM2381_2 MacBook Pro & Safari

I prefer writing my trip notes with a pen and paper, but perhaps I should consider a simpler tool, the pencil, or a more powerful tool, the iPad Air*, or perhaps the typewriter (with its classic, iconic image and sound)* would be more appropriate!

*This is a link to a YouTube video.

Safari shine on harvest moon

Washing the dirt and salt deposits off our awnings after the trip to the beach was the prelude to our annual big wash and wax job before the start of our fall camping season.  Over time dirt and salt deposits can weaken the awning fabric and shorten the functional life of trailer awnings.  See Zip Dee’s video, “Cleaning Your Zip Dee Awning Fabric“.*

DSC_0118 Washing Zip Dee awning

A fabric bead strip attaches the awning to the trailer via the awning rail…

DSC_0100 Streetside bead strip

and when the awning is closed, this strip forms a trough that collects and traps dirt.

DSC_0094 Awning trough

I am always amazed how much dirt is flushed away when I extend and wash the awnings.

DSC_0103 Canvas attaches to trailer

Our fall camping prep continued with a midsummer cleaning and repacking of our Safari’s wheel bearings and having the brakes adjusted.  Last week as the Harvest Moon rose*, we ate Moon Cakes in celebration of the Chinese Moon Festival, also known as the Mid-Autumn Festival.  Cool, fall weather arrived just in time for my big wash and wax job of the entire Safari trailer, including the roof (white wax dust particles are seen in the photo above).

I washed our trailer with Meguiar’s Deep Crystal Car Wash and on the following day I sprayed Boeshield T-9 on any areas of aluminum that had first shown signs of filiform corrosion (that was stopped in its tracks years ago by this product).  Only a light coating is needed (spray on and wipe off before it dries) as this product penetrates any breaks in the clear-coated aluminum and helps to block salts and oxygen from corroding exposed aluminum.  I then applied my favorite wax, Meguiar’s Mirror Glaze Professional Polymer Sealant #20 (the dry residue easily wipes off and the protection lasts over a year).  I then applied 303 Aerospace Protectant to the rubber seals of the Fan-Tastic Fan and windows and doors (keeps them from sticking and prevents UV damage).

DSC_0076 Our trailer protectants

Leaves are starting to fall from our Ginkgo tree and the nights are now cooler as we anticipate our early October return to the Cuyamaca Mountains.

DSC_0090 Autumn leaves (Ginkgo)

It was a bit of work, but by using quality protectants annually this nearly seven-year old Safari still shines and is ready to resist the elements, which makes me smile and want to sing and dance!*

DSC_0080 Safari shine

*This is a link to a YouTube video.

A marathon experience

Our Marathon tires became six years old (from date of manufacture) during our summer of ’12 and we knew that, even though they looked OK, they were already beyond the expected lifespan of a normal trailer tire and needed changing.  The tires that came with our newly built 2007 23′ Airstream Safari trailer (Goodyear Marathon ST215/75R14) have served us well and have had no problems with our routine of going on monthly 200 mile round-trips, mostly from San Diego to our nearby desert areas, from October through April, and one last trip of the season to a nearby state beach in May.  In addition, I make sure they are at the specified pressure of 50 psi cold just before starting and I monitor them with PressurePro tire sensors. When the trailer is parked, the tires are immediately covered (sun protection). We typically travel at the posted speed limit for vehicles towing trailers in California (55 mph) and rarely go over 62 mph. Upon return to San Diego, our trailer and tires rest on plywood boards placed on top of the cement pavement and the tires are covered.  So, even though there is much discussion about tires and tires sizes on the forums, we chose to replace our tires with another set of Marathons!

I obtained our 5 tires locally from SD Tire and Wheel Outlet, used a 4-arm lug wrench to loosen the lug nuts, and used the F-250’s tire jack to raise the trailer.

I was surprised to see the curbside hub dust cap covers (aka grease caps) were not attached, but just inside the exterior hub cap!  They could have come off during a trip, or might never have been properly installed at the factory, but the visible area of the end of the hub looked clean, so the dust caps were installed with the help of Larry holding a board while I tapped with a small sledgehammer.

The street-side grease caps were in place as expected.  So all tires were replaced with recently manufactured Marathon tires, including the never-used spare tire.  A torque wrench was used to tighten the lug nuts, and will be used to recheck them at intervals on our first trip out to the desert.

I decided against the added expense of Centramatic Balancers for these 14″ wheels based on how we use our trailer and how our tires showed no uneven wear in over five years.  And the rubber valve stems never gave us a problem with our tires (maximum pressure cold of 50 psi), but I do like the new ones on our new tires with the metal tips.

Putting on five new round tires is a perfect way to start our fall camping season and the first of the new year celebrations that we enjoy observing, in this case, with a delicious round challah (a sweet egg bread) that Larry made with Craisins.

Roundness and sweetness are perfect symbols for the start of Rosh Hashanah, along with the apple that is sliced, and dipped in honey!