Desert heat

We celebrated Earth Day by returning to Anza-Borrego Desert State Park for a five-night stay.  We arrived in warmer than usual temperatures for this time of year, which gave us a chance to see how well we could keep comfortable if we camped in the desert later in the season. We had full hook-ups at Borrego Palm Canyon Campground and used our Safari’s air conditioner extensively for the first time. This and other strategies enabled us to keep relatively comfortable, even when the outside temperature was 100 degrees.

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Our desert heat is usually a dry heat that I tolerate rather well. I sat under one of our three trailer awnings (which also help to keep the trailer cool when the wind is not gusting) and sipped on a cool one.

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Marshal South described desert heat in his article, DESERT DIARY  7, July at Yaquitepec, (August 1940 issue of Desert Magazine):

Heat! And the distant phantoms of mirage. Desert summer is with us now and Yaquitepec shimmers in the heat of a midday glare that is thirstily metallic… Nowhere but in the desert, and in summer, can you see such magnificent cloud effects as those which tower into the hard, turquoise sky above the heat-dancing wastelands.

(All 102 articles and poems written by Marshal South for Desert Magazine from 1939 to 1948 can be read in Marshal South and the Ghost Mountain Chronicles: An Experiment in Primitive Living, 2005, Edited and with a Foreword by Diana Lindsay and Introduction by Rider and Lucile South, Sunbelt Publications, San Diego, CA.)

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Upon arrival, the first item that I connected was shore power so that we could start running the air conditioner. Our original 30-amp power cord that came with the trailer was starting to pull loose at the male connector end. We recently replaced it with with a heavier duty Marinco 30 Amp Right Angle Locking RV Cord Set.

On an earlier camping trip here we noticed that the campground’s water pressure was overcoming our water pump’s check valve and the fresh water tank filled and water was seen trickling out of the overflow drain on the side of the trailer.  We found, that by hooking up a water regulator gauge, the incoming water pressure could be monitored and adjusted to prevent this from happening.

Once we were hooked up to shore power, we were pleased that our new 3-stage Xantrex  XADC 60A Converter/Charger worked perfectly and quietly. (Our previous two Parallax converters failed). See how I installed it: “Parallax Converter Replacement with Xantrex“, on Airforums.com.

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The desert heat prompted us to convert the trailer into a comfortable cave.

dsc_0047-insulation-leds-copy.jpg We closed the curtains, blinds and Vista View window covers. Larry made covers for our two Fan-Tastic Fans from Reflectix insulation that he cut to size and then sewed the edges together. (Our forward Fan-Tastic Fan has a reversible switch, so we have the option of pulling in cool night air at one end of the trailer and blowing it out the rear end, if we didn’t want to use the air conditioner or if we were boondocking.)

Our cave was brightened by new Warm-White LEDs that Larry installed. They use less energy and run cooler. He replaced the ceiling, over-the-stove and reading lights with LED lights (G4-WHP10-D, T10-PCB-WHP9, and G4-WHP15-T respectively) that are now available in a pleasant warm-white light from Super Bright LEDs, Inc.  See details and photos of his installation in his post, “LED ceiling lights“, on Airforums.com.

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Those hot-to-touch Halogen reading lights now feel only slightly warm with the Warm-White LEDs, which is very much appreciated when camping in the desert heat, and as a bonus, colors look truer.

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More images and notes about our LEDs appear in this Airforums post.

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Earth Day was brightened in Anza-Borrego Desert State Park not only by the blazing sun, but also by the flowering Palo Verde tree, also called “lluvia de oro”, which is Spanish for “shower of gold”…

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Reminding us that the real desert heat is still to come, and hopefully, with more gorgeous blue skies.

Airstream Alley, part two

Cooking, feasting and entertaining our way into the New Year(s)…

This alley-not-a-rally had no scheduled, organized activities and events.  Even dinner details were decided at the last moment.  We set up our base camp (which faced away from the main campground) with picnic tables, umbrella, flagpole, lights and mats.  Participants and dishes varied from night to night as our spontaneous rolling party continued.

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Rich and Eleanor’s 2005 30′ Safari Bunkhouse is just ahead of ours, followed by David and Ari’s 2006 28′ Safari LS Slide-out.  Larry made siu mai, a form of dim sum as our Pug, Pau Hoa supervised.

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These pork and shrimp siu mai were then steamed for 20 minutes in the steamer seen here.

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Meanwhile, Rich and I played “The Galaxy Song” on our ukuleles.

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A pre-dinner “Ain’t Misbehavin‘” was played by Rich on his tenor uke.

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Seen at the dinner table on one of the feast nights were David and Ari, who brought tomato-shrimp pasta, stir-fried vegetables, and cheese cake.   Eleanor brought curried beef and a spicy, Indian curry lentil dish with macadamia nuts.  Terry and Greg brought Chinese spring rolls on one night and a pumpkin pie fresh out of their 19′ Safari Bambi’s oven on another night. (We are bundled up due to temperatures in the 40’s at night, but wear T-shirts during the day when the temperature is in the low 70’s.)

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You can see above that, besides the Oval Office, remnants of Rich’s “Beach Club” fabric also made their way to our cushions.

Seen below are Bill and Beth who brought an assortment of sweets that included nut bread, caramel corn, and Chocolate Crinkle Cookies, based on a recipe by Shirley Corriher (the recipe and how to bake the perfect cookie is found here).  Bill and Beth’s 1979 23′ Safari is pulled with a 1977 Lincoln Continental.  In addition to siu mai, Larry made coleslaw with sesame seeds.  Eleanor brought string beans and a salad with pomegranate seeds.  Also seen here are Bob and Theresa who pull a 2008 30′ Classic Slide-out with a F-350 dually.

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After-dinner entertainment was supplied by Larry and Emma who animated Griff, a griffin shoulder puppet that Larry found at Renaissance Faire.

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The following morning, just before our hike up Palm Canyon, Rich savored the very sweet and juicy navel oranges given to us by Ron and Aldrene, who have a 16′ Bambi.  Highlights of our adventurous hike up Palm Canyon will be featured in Airstream Alley, part three.

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Each year we celebrate three New Years (Rosh Hashana, Western new year, and Chinese New Year).  The new Chinese New Year, the Year of the Earth Ox, begins with the new moon on January 26 and we already have a string of auspicious, red Chinese firecrackers hanging on our pod bay door. The focus of the new year is on our family and friends. Larry is already at work researching Chinese recipes and I just found an Astro Chinese New Year 2009 Song.

From our family to yours, we wish you a very Happy New Year, with health, wealth, and prosperity.

Airstream Alley, part one

Based on Tucson Terry and Greg’s report on snow in Julian, we decided that it would be prudent to once again engage our vertical thrusters and fly over the Cuyamaca Mountains.  The flux capacitor apparently needs some tweaking because our craft still tends to drift higher in interstellar space than we intend,

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but our brake actuator worked and we safely landed…

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and set up base camp in the light of the waxing Wolf Moon.

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The surrounding terrain looked picturesque in the daylight.

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Other silver craft had also safely landed at Anza-Borrego Desert State Park.

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An unplanned, rolling party of eight Airstreams settled in to greet the new year. Captains Rich and David are seen below, standing in front of David and Ari’s 28′ Safari LS Slide-out pulled by a silver F-350.

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As Rich walked down Airstream Alley, he pointed to other Airstreams that had also landed. Co-pilot and cook Larry set up the array of holiday lights on our trailer (which is seen fully set-up, along with the campsite).

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As darkness descended and the temperature dropped, our three Airstreams lit up the night with holiday lights in addition to the running lights that are put on by connecting the two top pins of the 7-pin connector with a 10 watt blade fuse as Larry illustrated here.

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The rolling party has just begun… cooking, feasting, entertaining, ukulele playing (we spared Dr. C’s eyes by not wearing Hawaiian shirts this time), hiking and wildlife will be featured in subsequent posts.

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!