Sunday, May 29, 2011

Ewww Yuck!! Is That What I Think It Is?

What’s the fascination with feces? As the end of our first camping trip in the new Airstream drew near, it was time to learn about the many different chores that must be attended too before heading back out on the road. I have heard stories of well intentioned folk driving down the I-5 with a shower of sparks coming from behind their trailer as they have forgot to retract the stabilizer    jacks. Or the couple from Ohio pulling out of the campground with their awning fully extended. Let’s not forget about the Florida family where every member thought the other had surely remembered to place Fido securely in his kennel and NOT leave him tied to the rear bumper. (Yikes!) Yes, I wanted to learn and did not want to the story told around the campfire. My friends kindly introduced me to the clear plastic piece that hooks up to the black water tank. (For those of you unfamiliar with this term, it’s RV lingo for “tank with all the crap and piss in it”).  “Oh, this is the greatest thing since the invention of jet fuel. Just put it on and hook up the hose, and you’ll be able to watch all the poop and pee just slide on out!”  Was I hearing this correctly or just imagining it? Did he really just say, “Watch the poop and pee slide on out”. Yup, he did, and he went on... “In fact, when me and the misses first bought this here thingy, we all gathered round (kid included) to watch the poop and pee wash down the drain”. Ok, I get it. I understand why he bought it. He simply needs the visual confirmation that the tank is clean. I mean, who would want to drive around with chunks of last night’s pig roast sloshing to and fro in the tank. Although it’s disgusting to think about, it needs to be cleaned out. How else do you know if it’s clean unless you chunks of poo. It makes perfect sense for the person who is in charge of draining the tank to have a look and hope that they see nothing but clean, clear water swishing around a clear plastic piece of tubing, but why is it that the entire family stops what they are doing and gathers round as if they are about to watch an episode of “Happy Days”. 
Oddly, this all seems normal to me now. I too, must look to see that things are “all clear”. 

Monday, February 21, 2011

First Trip Ever...end. (or "Freeze the Economy!!!")

Saturday I awoke to a beautiful sunny morning, albeit colder than I hoped. Today would be the first full 24 hour camping day with the Airstream, I just need to get through the sales pitch. (In hindsight is was good that I did not eat breakfast; it probably wouldn’t have stayed down.) I was fortunate that I was not alone in my misery as my wife, my friend and his wife would also attend. We arrived at the office promptly at our 10:00am appointment time. Our host arrived late, but at least he brought excuses. He rushed through why it was such a great place, blah blah, then got right down to business...... “I’m gonna offer you folks a special one time deal just for today that will allow you to FREEZE THE ECONOMY! You see folks, these memberships will never go down in value, heck, they hold their price and keep going up up up. Normally this membership will cost you $12,000, but because your friends of  existing members, I’m gonna give you a special price of $10,000 to help you FREEZE THE ECONOMY! “
“Um, I’d like to think about it”, I replied.
“Ok, I can see your a business man and I can respect that...I like you. To show HOW much I like you, I’m gonna give a one time special price of $5000, but you have to let me know by 1:00 today if you want to FREEZE THE ECONOMY!!!”
“You do realize this is my first ever camping trip in a trailer, and I have actually spent less than 14 hours camping, and you want me to make a decision to essentially spend most, if not all, of my annual camping budget on this place, and your giving me less than 3 hours to make the decision? If that’s the case, my answer is no.”
“Ok, I’ll give you until 5:00pm today. If you doubt this is a great deal, just ask some of the other members...but don’t tell ‘em what kind of deal I gave you, or they be mad if they paid the $12,000 price.”
So I decided to ask around. The first couple paid $3000. The second couple bought it off Craigslist for $500. The third couple, same thing, $500 off Craigslist. Turns out the membership does not exactly hold it’s value like he mentioned, so people resort to selling it for whatever they can, say, 500 bucks. I found the manager and his finance guy later in the afternoon, and told them thanks, but no thanks. Truth is, I don’t mind the park. My kids had fun, it felt relatively safe, it’s close to home, and we have friends that own (or their parents own) a membership. What turned me off was the manager himself. Drunk, swearing, late, high pressure sales tactics...just a few of the “don’ts” when your in sales. Had this manager conduct himself with a little professionalism and said something like, “Hey, I understand this is your first time with the trailer, no problem, take your time. Just enjoy your weekend, you don’t need to make a decision today. If you had a good time and you want to talk, feel free to call me when you’ve had time to think about it, my offer will still stand.” This approach likely would have worked for me. I like the park, my friends want me to join, and I would have left with a positive vibe, so maybe things would be different. 
I did return to this park the next summer and I was truly amazed at the spectacle I witnessed. As there was a state fair being held nearby, every member decided to show up and camp for the weekend. It was this weekend I discovered they have sold waaaay to many memberships. Their policy is they will never turn away a will always have a place to camp. When busy, this “campsite” might be in the middle of the soccer field, or perhaps the middle of the gravel parking lot. One lucky fellow was parked right next to the ladies washroom, where he  ran an extension cord from his trailer to the outlet inside. Unfortunately the breaker kept blowing, but being a male, he did not want to enter the ladies abode to flick the switch. It was a lesson both in charm (“Young lady, could you do me a favour?”) and, of course, patience.

 I’m happy my money is still in my pocket. For the money they were asking for, I can have many nights of camping in many different locations, without fear of being stuck in a gravel lot.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

First Trip Ever...continued...

Two of the other families have a membership to a campground just across the border in Washington State, so they convinced us that this would be a great place for our first ever Airstream moment. “And you can camp for free all weekend, you’ll just have to listen to a teensy weensy little sales pitch for about an hour.” The first thought that came to mind was “oh crap”, as I have little patience for sales guys. (If your reading this and you are in sales, please don’t be offended. I am in sales, but I have little patience for high pressure sales tactics.)

We head across the border and once again, the border guard cares little about any kind of contraband or illegal aliens were smuggling across, nope, they’d rather talk about the shiny chunk of aluminum behind me. After 5 minutes of pleasantries, we enter the States. 20 minutes later, we are at our destination. Luckily for me the spot chosen by my friends was a pull through, which is exactly what I needed until I become more proficient in towing and backing up a trailer. I researched what I needed to do to get “set up” as I didn’t want to go through the classic noob questions, but I was thankful to have patient friends that would happily help if requested. I put the jacks down and made sure things were level. I then hooked up the water, electrical, sewer, turned on the propane, extended the awning out, unrolled the artificial turf, step extended, hot water furnace on, and flamingo lights up around the awning. I looked at my watch and whoo-hoo, it was Beer O’clock. Perfect timing! I grabbed the lawn chairs and met my friends at the campfire. It was there I met for the first time the director of this campground. First impressions are everything, and my first impression of him was disappointing. He was completely drunk and dropping f-bombs in rapid succession. I’m ok with drinking and having a good time, and I don’t offended too easily if someone swears as I’ve dropped a few cuss words in my day also. What bothered me about this was that there were 8-10 young children in his presence. He was too drunk to understand a simple concept called “couth”. It got to the point where one of the mom’s finally asked him to leave as he had ignored several requests to not swear in front of the children. He is probably a decent guy when sober, but this was the first of a few warning signs I received this weekend.

Once he left, I returned to the task at hand, enjoying the first official night in my Airstream. After a few more laughs, marshmallows and hot chocolate for the kiddies, it was time to turn in. Teeth brushed, kids tucked in, the wife and I lying in our cozy little bed....and then I hear a clicking sound. It just happened to be the coldest Thanksgiving on record, so that little clicking sound was the heater starting up. It’s strange how something as simple as a heater can stir up feelings or emotion. I lay there with this overwhelming sense of just how truly blessed I be falling asleep with my beautiful wife by my side....with beautiful little girls fast asleep just feet from a trailer I have dreamt of  for years...yup, I have been blessed beyond what I could have imagined. 

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Our FIrst Trip Ever! Thankful on Thanksgiving Day.

You know you have great friends when they are willing to de-winterize their trailers for only a weekend just to go with you on your first camping trip. Such was the case with us when we purchased our Airstream. When we finally brought our trailer home, we simply did not have the time to get out in it right away. After nearly a month of looking at this shiny aluminum egg in our driveway I finally came to my “Popeye” moment. “It’s all I can stands and I can’t stands no more!!” I had to take her out and see how she would behave in public. I picked up the phone and made a call, “Hey, we’re thinking about taking the Airstream out this weekend, where would be cool place to go to?” This was all it little phone conversation. Unbeknownst to me, the voice on the other end began calling other friends that also own trailers...”Hey, Moses wants to take the wife and kiddies camping in their new trailer this weekend, wanna join them?” Before I knew it there were three other families “de-winterizing” their trailers just to come and hang with us for our inaugural trip. How cool is that! What amazing friends we have.
Now that the trailer is registered and insured, it was time to load it up and get the heck out of Dodge, even if just for a long weekend and only 50 km (30 miles for you Yanks) away. (Did I tell you that when I brought the Airstream to get it registered the office girls asked to come see the trailer?) We had purchased a bunch of new items specifically to remain in the trailer. Bedding, pillows, towels, pots, pans, dishes, glasses, dish soap, Scotch. I had googled “RV Checklists” and downloaded many versions of the same list, then cross referenced them and determined what was a must have and what was sheer insanity. (I do not need an outdoor propane shower capable of producing enough hot water to fill a public bath house in 30 seconds or less, nor do I need a generator capable of powering a city the size of Walla Walla.) As an aside, it’s fun to say “Walla Walla”. Ok back to business......Trailer loaded? Check. Everything hooked up and safely secured? Check. House locked, alarm set? Check. Passports in hand? Check. Alright then, let’s go! Kids, you got your seat belts on? Kids? Oh shit, we forgot the kids. 
I start the vehicle and in moments we begin our first adventure as we cruise by our neighbours homes with the Aluminegg in tow. I couldn’t help but feel like Wally was smiling down on us. Yes, good old Wally Byam, the inventor of the Airstream trailer and the man who dreamt that one day, families such as mine all over the world would embark on these adventures and create memories that would last forever. I have no doubt Wally was smiling this day, but I was soon to learn the source of his smile may well have been coming from a dark place deep within his soul. He knew full well that camping with children was not the Utopia I had envisioned. 

Saturday, January 15, 2011

"With Glowing Hearts..."

We pull up to the Canadian border guard and roll down the window.
“Where are you coming from?”
“How long were you in the States?”
“36 hours.”
“Do you have anything to declare?”
“Yup. The big Silver Sausage behind me.”
The border guard pauses and takes off his sunglasses, then with a sparkle in his eyes and a ring in his voice asks “Is that an Airstream?”
“Yes, yes it is.”
“What year is that?”
It seems that my answer was the trigger that allowed the excited little boy to be released from within this big scary border guards body, as he unleashed a quickly spoken tirade about his own desires to own a Silver Sausage. “Really? A 2008?!! I didn’t know they were still making them. Why, it was just last week I went to look at an older one, but it needed sooooo much work and I just don’t know if I have the time to restore it. Wow! They still make them. Cool! I love Airstreams!” Once he calmed down, two thoughts came to mind.... 1)It is gonna be a whole lotta fun to be an Airstream owner, and 2) I should have stashed a few bottles of Scotch in the trailer, cause this guy probably would turn a blind (albeit Silver) eye to it.
“I imagine I’ve some paperwork to attend to, so if you have a break coming I’ll happily give you a tour of the Airstream.”
“I’d like to, but I just took a break...thanks for offering, though. Pull in to lane #2, take your bill of sale inside. And enjoy your Airstream.”
“Thanks, I will.”  As I pull away and maneuver over to lane #2 I can’t help but smile; I haven’t gone camping yet and already I’m loving this.
I park in lane #2 and walk inside to fill out the necessary forms. 
“Hello Sir, can I see the Airstream? I loooove Airstreams!” The girl behind the counter must be married the guy in the booth I just met, this getting a bit ridiculous. I decide to humour her, “Yup, it’s an Airstream. Do you need to do an inspection?” “Um, no Sir, not really.” I sense some disappointment in her demeanor. “Are you sure? I thought all new vehicles coming into Canada need an “inspection” before continuing their journey.” As I say the word “inspection”, I do the little two finger quote gesture to her and include a wink. She understood. “Ahhh, you are correct Sir. In fact I DO have to come and inspect the Airstream *cough* I mean, trailer. Let me just grab my clip board to make this look official.” We head out to the Airstream where she does the quick walk around. She doesn’t want to impose but mentions how she’s “always wanted to see inside of one of these”, so I unlock the door and she enters...and falls in love with my trailer. After a brief discussion and a couple laughs, we head back to the office to finish the paperwork. Just as I’m about to open the door to leave I hear this voice....
”Um, Sir?”, she says softly.
“Yes?” I reply.
“Thank you for the “inspection””.
“You’re welcome”
She’ll own one of these one day, I’m sure of this.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Picking Up The Silver Sausage - Part 2

We head back onto the I-5 and we’re in the final stretch to see the new addition to the family. It’s kind of like having a baby.... it’s costly of course, but if properly taken care of, it should provide years of happiness and many proud moments and fond memories. (It’s nice that Airstreams do not yell at their owners. At least when his baby enters my world, I won’t hear the high pitched angry and somewhat justified scream of....“YOU DID THIS TO MEEE!!”) We pull into our final destination and have time for lunch before the exchange. We walk into the dealership and 20 minutes later we are being guided through all the systems and things I need to know to about my new purchase. After a couple hours, it’s time to go. I have pulled a small boat trailer before, and have a utility trailer for yard refuse and other junk, but an Airstream is bigger and more expensive. I read horror stories of people creasing the entire side of their new trailer on its’ maiden voyage, causing upwards of $10,000 in damage. Gulp. With a start of the engine I soon  realize how special this moment is. I’m no longer the dreamer, I’m an Airstream owner!

We pull out of the parking lot and there is a definite sense of pride as I roll though the city with my big shiny egg behind me. Once back on the I-5 heading north, it took a bit to determine the right speed for ease of travel, but once I figured that out, it was smooth sailing. Then a strange phenomenon began. I noticed that other cars were speeding up to pass me, or so I thought. Instead of actually passing, would slow down when they neared my trailer and would stay beside me for a while. Finally one of these cars moved up beside me and honked, then gave me the “thumbs up” and pointed to the Airstream before speeding off. My dad and I never spoke of this, we didn’t need to. Our smiles were said it all. This was fun!
We managed to make to the Oregon/Washington border around dinner time and stopped for some food and a quick Costco beer run. We put the beer in the fridge then had some dinner, and I managed to snap a few first photos of the yet to be named Airstream. We get back in the car with coffee’s in hand and decide to drive for another couple hours. Up to this point we still had not figured out where we should camp for the night. The GPS tells us where the nearest campsites are, but we’re from Dutch heritage and don’t really feel like paying $40 just to sleep. We opt for the new Wal-mart and park near some other motorhomes. We hop in the trailer and get ready for bed, but first we hoist a celebratory Henry Wienhard’s (Oregon’s original brewery!) and talk of the adventures this Airstream will have.

I awake at 6:15 to the sound of the door opening and the smell of Starbucks. I guess I didn’t hear my dad leave, but I sure heard and smelled him return. Ah, coffee! I call it my “ethical addiction.” We enjoy our hot goodness and discuss the game plan for the day. We’ll drive for a bit then stop for breakfast in Burlington. From there it’ll be a dash to the border, stop to do the necessary paperwork, then on to introduce the Airstream to the rest of the family. Just gotta make it home without a mishap. 

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Picking Up The Silver Sausage - Part 1

I pick up the phone and dial my parents number. “Hey Dad, you feel like going on a road trip with your boy, but just for one night?” I could have taken my wife or one of my kids, or all of them combined, but since I was picking up the trailer on a weekday, I thought rather than have the wife and/or kids miss play hooky for a day, I would take this opportunity to spend some time with my dad. We don’t seem to have much time these days to hang out, so this is a chance to create a memory for both of us.
“So what should I bring?” he asks.
“The only things you’ll need other than a change of cloths and your toothbrush, is your sleeping bag and pillow, and your passport.”
“Yup, passport.” (I’m smiling now.)
“Where we going?”
“Why?” He asks this question because I haven’t filled him in on our decision to purchase , let alone even look, for an Airstream. Sometimes it’s best to keep things quiet until they’re confirmed.
“I bought an Airstream. I’m picking it up at the end of the week. You in?”
“I wouldn’t miss it. This should be fun. Airstreams are the Cadillac of trailers you know!”
“Ya dad, I know. That’s why I bought one. I’ll pick you up Friday at 3:30am.”
“3:30am? You’re buying the coffee if it’s that early.”
“I’ll buy the coffee, and meals also. I’m just happy to have you as my co-pilot.” 
(I’m still smiling, but I know he is too.)
I pick him up at the ungodly hour as promised, and we head for the border. I had purchased a GPS unit the night before and was glad I did as everything south of Bellingham was virgin territory for me, unlike my honeymoon. No problems or lineups at the border, just a quick hello from the border guard and we’re in the United States of America, home of the free and the land of the 1520 calorie burger from Carl Jr. We stop for refills of coffee and gas  (equal amounts of both) as we make our way through Washington State to our destination in Oregon. Shortly after entering Oregon I pass a store on the side of highway called “Camping World.” I think to myself “What is this Camping World store and why have I never heard of it? I must go and see for myself.” I hit the brakes and just make the next exit in time. We double back and make our way into the parking lot. (We’re ahead of schedule according to my shiny new GPS, so we have some time to kill.) Upon entering the store I soon realized I had found the camping equivalent to Amsterdam's “Red Light District”. This is basically porn for campers. It has everything! My eyes lit up with the panels for boon-docking (what’s boon-docking), various portable barbecues for cooking meat...lots of meat, bedding, dishes, lights, games, electronics, appliances, security systems of various types (I’ll need one of those), maintenance items, chairs, winterizing stuff (what’s winterizing). I was pleasantly over-whelmed and had no idea where to start. My dad was the voice of reason and suggested I wait until I have actually camped once or twice before spending a fist full of cash. I just couldn’t leave without buying something though, so I threw down some cash on a couple sets of these....
They’ll look stunning on the awning.