Wow. I love being here. Every day I drive over the hill (literally) from Campus to Florence (that’s my Airstream) and I see the most beautiful things. Today I saw the most breathtaking sunset, a special gift after such a cloudy, rainy day. Then there was the herd of deer gently and quietly grazing in the meadow next to the state forest. Then, I pulled in my driveway to see one of the most stunning rainbows I have ever seen. Truly a treat. The magnitude of the rainbow was so immense that I couldn’t even get it into one frame. Considering that Florence is about 12 feet high and the tree next to us is about 45 feet tall, you can see the scale of the rainbow. Amazing.
When folks ask me about the airstream, they are always interested in two things: the bathroom and the kitchen. (For the record, it has both.) The kitchen is fully-functioning, and surprisingly functional. The kitchen has a sink (with instant hot water), a refrigerator with a freezer (that runs on both electricity AND propane), and a propane gas stove top with two burners. I added a microwave and a rice cooker, as well as a full compliment of spices and kitchenware (including my great, great grandmother’s cast iron skillet). The kitchen has ample storage space above and below, and I find that though compact, I can actually do a fair amount of cooking in it. The high-end faucet has a spray handle on it, so it makes washing dishes a snap.
I enjoy cooking and I thought I would be limited in my ability to cook a “real” meal. That hasn’t been a struggle at all. The range hood (with light and fan) are perfect, and keep odors and grease out of the living space (which is, after all, only inches away!)
This afternoon I spent a little time doing some work on the airstream! Yesterday we had a violent and punishing thunderstorm, and I had a little drip drip drip of water coming in. So I spent some time this afternoon figuring out where the drip was coming from. I climbed up on the roof after borrowing a ladder from my very nice neighbor, Teddy!
I spent a little time looking at the roof trying to figure out where rainwater might run off into, and then spent some time using clear silicone caulk to seal up some of the possible points of entry. I also used a piece of pipe insulation to jam under the roof air conditioner/heating unit. I suspect that is where the water is leaking into.
Here’s a few images of what the top of Florence looks like.
I also spent some time tying in my sewage line to make it more permanent. It looks really great!
I’ve been able to see the Milky Way twice in my life with my own eye.
The first time was in Costa Rica, on the darkest beach I’ve ever been on in my life.
The second was when I got “home” to the Airstream tonight. The stars were completely visible from every angle, and there was no moon to blank them out. Truly, remarkable. I have gone out and stared at them about 300 times. There are literally about 200,000 points of light in the sky. What a gift!
Halogen lights. It’s amazing they were ever produced. They are energy hogs, difficult to maintain, a fire hazard, and produce an amazing amount of heat. Florence came with 20—count ’em—20 halogen lights (and I suspect there may be even more that I haven’t found yet.
I decided to swap these out for LED replacements, which allegedly last forever and use 1/12 the energy of the original halogen bulbs.
The replacement, it was actually pretty easy. The two prongs on the replacement LEDs were sometimes a little bit longer than the original halogen lightbulbs, but the fixtures seem to be able to accommodate it.
The light quality is outstanding and other than the energy use, I will probably never notice the difference.
There isn’t a thing that I don’t love about living in my tiny new Airstream.
My mom and I were talking the other day, and it turns out my Grandmother had an Argosy Airstream (I was about 4, but I remember it parked in her driveway next to the horse stables.) My uncle is looking to see if he can find any pictures of it. If any turn up, I’ll be sure to post them here. I remember the look of it, and it looks a lot like the picture that I posted above (but, for the record, that’s just an image I borrowed from another Airstreamer on the internet.)
I’ve written about my Grandmother a bit, but I haven’t really told you the whole story about her and why she figures so prominently into the whole Airstream adventure. When I was young, she and her second husband Lenny (my grandfather had passed away years before), sold their house, retired, and hit the road. They lived in so many places and traveled so frequently that I literally couldn’t send her mail, because by the time it would get there, she’d be gone. I remember getting letters and cards from her from places as far flung as Bakersfield, California; Las Vegas, Nevada; Rye Beach, New Hampshire; a bunch of places in Texas, and Santa Fe, New Mexico, where she died.
When I was 17, my mom and I flew out to Las Vegas and visited with my Grandma. We went to the Hoover Dam, hung out at a few casinos (which, when you’re 17 is way cooler than when you’re middle age), and went shopping at Montgomery Wards and Abercrombie and Fitch (at the time, as hard as it may be to believe, there were only three A&F stores in the country, so that was an especially rare treat.) We had a great visit and saw a lot of the city and desert. At the end of the day, we would go back to Grandma and Lenny’s trailer, and hang out. I was fascinated that their home moved with them, and was surprised to see that my Grandma still did a fair amount of sewing in her trailer. She had always been an avid seamstress, and she had a sewing machine set up, and a not-so-little sewing station with a little thread holder on the wall that probably had a couple hundred different color spools of thread on it. Her main project was letting out Lenny’s shirts, because he enjoyed hitting up the buffet after an afternoon at the casino.
At the end of that trip, Grandma gave me a little folding alarm clock. I remember vividly when she gave it to me, she said to my mom: “he’s going to need it. He is going to travel a lot.” I didn’t think much of it at the time, but for some reason her comment struck me. It was oddly out of character for her and seemed to presage some unknown plan that would shape my life. Or, maybe she just saw the same wanderlust in me that she had in herself. The day after she gave me the little alarm clock, was the last day I saw my Grandma. My mom and I left to head back home, and a short while later, my Grandma passed away.
Everyone thought my Grandmother was crazy for traveling so much. It certainly wasn’t the “normal” grey haired, cookie baking, grandma stereotype that most of my friends had. My Grandma was unique. She was a pioneer for her day, widowed early in her life in a time when single/working/strong women weren’t the norm. She worked hard to provide, and when it was time to stop working and live… she did. It’s taken me a few decades to appreciate that, but with each passing year, I can better understand that she knew one simple thing about life: that time is limited. You can make it an adventure or you can abstain from life and allow routine to take over. She most definitely chose adventure. Amazingly, when I think of the miles she covered in her trailer and the things she saw: the painted desert, the old south, the old west, wintery New England, I’d say it’s not too shabby and damn near impressive accomplishment for a farm girl from Western Pennsylvania.
My grandmother, as it turned out, was right. I have travelled a lot. I’ve been to every major city that I’ve ever wanted to see, and dozens more. I can tell you my favorite Waitrose in London, the best flavor at Pinkberry in West Hollywood, “the” place to order patatas bravas in Barcelona. I can tell you that dinner at the restaurant voted “the best” in the world for three years running is a dreadful disappointment (unless you like to eat fermented pine needles), the best place to order dinner in Quepos, Costa Rica, and what aisle to find my favorite deodorant at the Super U in Pontivy. But, funny enough, after traveling so much for so long, I realized last summer that I haven’t had the opportunity to see much of my own continent! I’ve never driven coast to coast. I’ve never been to the Canadian Rockies, I’ve never been to Yellowstone and despite all the traveling I have done, I haven’t felt a sense of adventure, until I bought the Airstream. There is a freedom that comes with being able to hitch up your house and go. It’s exciting, liberating, and enchanting.
As the middle age me sits at my Airstream kitchen table and reflects on the younger me and my Grandma, I notice that I am sitting just like she did: my left leg bent under me. I noticed when I had my photo taken for my new ID at work today that I’m getting her trademark wrinkles and jowls, and hopefully with some luck… I’ll be getting some of her spirit of adventure as well. As my own minutes tick by on the alarm clock of my life, it seems I am nearing the jingle of the alarm that tells me that it’s time to wake up and enjoy a little bit of adventure before the clock stops ticking.
I’ve been reflecting a lot lately on the attractiveness of living small. I’m surprised, as a big guy, that my life in less than 100 square feet is as good and comfortable as it is. It continually amazes me how little we need and how comfortable living in the Airstream is.
I read a statistic the other day that the size of the typical American home has more than doubled since the 1950s, and that 40% of “stuff” is in storage. I’ve also been reading a fair amount about the “tiny house” movement, and how as resources and energy grows increasingly more scarce, and as the population becomes increasingly more mobile, that the way we live will probably begin to change. Maybe Airstream living will become the wave of the future?!
So, I reflect. I am finally “moved in” with all of the things I need to live comfortably, and I’m still learning about plumbing and electric things, but overall, I’m shocked that living small is really living large!
A fascinating history of the Airstream trailer.
Well, today was an experience! I taught in the morning, and then drove two hours back to Buffalo to meet my good friend, Jim. We hitched up the Airstream and took it back to where I’m teaching. So, all said, about 5 hours in the car for me!
It was nice to open up the Airstream as I was getting it ready to travel and find a nice housewarming gift from my Mom and Dad. Very thoughtful, as they always are.
Hitching up the Airstream took all of about 90 seconds. Jim is a pro, and it wasn’t difficult at all. Snap, plug, go.
Miraculously, when we arrived at the RV park (that I’ll call “temporary home” for the nights I am teaching) the electric was turned on! (I meant to write about that yesterday… RG&E has to be the most difficult and least customer service-oriented company in the entire world.) So, I plugged in, said goodbye and thank you to Jim and got busy setting the place up!
My first experience was hooking up the water. It’s sort of like hooking up a garden hose. Well, actually it IS just like hooking up a garden hose, only the spigot is in the ground in this little box and it is impossible to get the hose in and turn it. So, it was a challenge, but I made it work.
Then turning on the LP gas. That was easy, and after letting the stove click away for a little bit, the flame popped up. I flipped the “hot water” switch to “on” and within seconds, there was hot water. Amazing.
I took a drive to Lowe’s (thankfully there is a Lowe’s relatively close-by, because I despise The Home Depot. I bought a PVC pipe and some fittings to get my sewage set up, and now that’s working too. The only thing that isn’t ideal: the water is well water and smells like ROTTEN eggs. Like really really rotten eggs. So bad that I probably won’t ever use it for much.
But, all that said, the place is set up, livable, and comfortable. I even met some of the neighbors, and they are all very nice.
So here’s to the first night of many happy, healthy, content, blessed nights in the Airstream!
I spent the majority of this “holiday” weekend cleaning up and moving in to the Airstream, which I have decided to name “Florence” after my Aunt Florence who passed away this past March. She was 98, and strong as they come until the day she passed away.
Her sister (my grandmother), Ruth, lived in an Airstream for a bit, which is why I probably have an interest in them. I asked my mom to find some pictures of my grandmother and the Airstream, so I will post them if we can ever find any.
Florence (the trailer) is looking great. I couldn’t be more happy or more proud to be her owner, and I’m looking forward to the many days we will spend together. It’s just an amazing feeling to have a home on wheels.