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Posts from the ‘Mishaps’ Category

Big Storm, Minor Damage

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Summer rain and hail storms here in the Midwest can be something fierce.

This week an afternoon a storm cell quickly snuck-up on me, bringing heavy rains and ferocious winds.  Despite my best efforts to hastily retract the (Zip Dee) patio awning, I found myself wrestling with what was effectively a 20 foot sail.  While I eventually managed to retract, I did not do so without escaping damage … specifically the ‘claw hook’, which is a piece of connecting support bracket hardware.

Fortunately, the claw hook is seemingly designed to fail under certain circumstances; I suspect this design helps avoid even more significant damage .

A quick internet search pointed me to a parts dealer and within a few minutes I had a replacement part on its way.   The part was easy to replace and cost only $21.

Unfortunately, 2-day shipping from Utah set me back $20 dollars.

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Site 25

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The plan today was supposed to involve a quick drive from one campground to another, the latter being William Kent, a national forest campground located in popular Tahoe city.

On paper the plan seems sound – drive the scenic 20 miles or so over a beautiful pass before descending into Tahoe City, whereupon we’d set-up shop in a location offering easy (ie- walkable) access to the town.

That was the plan anyway.

In reality what we arrived to was a cramped campground, packed with people, trailers, and no shortage of twisty roads complemented with perfectly (ill)situated trees and boulders which will test even the most experiences drivers.  It would have been fun if I had been playing a video game, not hauling around my home.

In a nutshell, it was a shit-show.

Foolishly ignoring the inner voice advising us otherwise, Kelly and I went about our typical routine – she helping me navigate blind spots using combination of hand signals and vocal commands.  Despite our best efforts, and slightly bent steps, site 25  defeated us today. 

Our first complete parking failure.

With my head hung low, I slowly began the process of navigating the truck and rig back to the park entrance while Kelly sheepishly walked back to negotiate a refund.  And with that we left.

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But alas … there is a good ending to this otherwise harrowing story.  

When life offers lemons, why not make lemonade?  And that is exactly what we did by hauling ass directly back to Martis Creek campground in Truckee. 

Now, comfortably situated in a huge site and not dealing with a mob of people or horrific Tahoe City traffic, we find ourselves sipping a cool, sweet, summertime drink.

So F-off site 25 … you may have won the battle, but Kelly and I won the war.

Not The Gift I Wanted

Santa delivered strong wind gusts today and of course I forgot to tie down the portable solar panel.  Consequently, my (previous) 160watt goal panel is no more.  All is not lost however, I’ll disassemble the components and rewire, salvaging the surviving panel.

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photo credit: @aluminarium

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photo credit: @gm3sf

New Shoes For Mabel

Our trailer came equipped from Airstream with 15″ aluminum Sendel rims and Goodyear Marathon tires.  Like most larger trailers, ours has two axles and four total tires.

About a year ago I noticed irregular wear pattern on the front curbside tire.  At the time, I didn’t think too much of it – concluding it was simply a faulty tire.  A few days later I replaced it and assumed all was good, but unfortunately the wear has now returned something serious … only this time having expanded to both front axle tires.

Concerned about misalignment, I booked an appointment with an axle shop – specifically contacting a dealer specializing in the same brand axle I have (Dexter), but not immediately.  Instead, I deferred further inspection until a time more convenient, which would be a few weeks later.  Then, on cue as if planned, a couple days prior to the scheduled axle check, one of the tires failed.  Fortunately, not catastrophically.

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I had the alignment checked, but results came back all good, so I remain stumped (as does the owner of the axle shop).

However to be safe, I upgraded to bigger wheels and more durable (truck) tires.  Like many Airstream owners before me, I opted for 16″ wheels and also transitioned from Goodyear to Michelin LTX tires.

Combined, this new set-up can accommodate increased weight ratings, reducing individual stress on all four tires.  I’ve haven’t towed more than an hour since making the swap, but early indicators are positive and I’m expecting an overall improved towing experience ahead.

 

 

Product Testing

I hate to admit as much, but I dread manually refilling the trailer with water.  It’s an absolutely required aspect of the lifestyle I choose to live, but it sucks … the jerry cans I use have a short nozzle, the trailer’s external fill opening is tiny, and I’m a bit too tall to comfortably align the the jerry can with the Airstream’s intake opening.

By the way, the jugs weigh 50 lbs when full of water.

The other day I had an idea that maybe I could be working smarter, not harder.  A few minutes later I assembled the water fill gravity tower pictured above.

While it seemed like a promising concept at the time, product testing continues.

 

 

Turbulence


This morning the winds in western South Dakota were crazy.  Easily the most turbulent towing conditions I’ve ever experienced, and leaving I-90 littered with debris.  We stopped at Wall Drug for gas and noticed that the lid to our LP tank had broken free.  Our contribution the debris.

A replacement lid will run us $54, with expedited shipping adding another $45.  And just like that – whoosh … the this pesky South Dakota winds blew $100 out from my wallet.

Avoiding Groundhog Day

A year ago Kelly and I completed our longest tow day ever – 11 hours on the road only to go nowhere.  I’ve detailed events of that fiasco previously, but suffice it to say, I do not advise towing a fully provisioned trailer along a very crowded HW1 on the 4th of July, especially without a campground reservation securely in hand.

Determined not to make that same mistake this year, Kelly and I finalized holiday weekend reservations at Pinnacles National Park well in advance.  This would be our second visit to America’s newest national park and our plan was to spend a few relaxing days hiking the trails we didn’t complete during our visit last fall.

Knowing the weather would likely be hot, our plan was to be on the trail by 7am each morning in order to be back at the trailer a few hours later, before temperatures rose to triple digits.  Just as planned, the following morning we arrived to the trailhead around 8:30am.

Bathroom at the trailhead

Bathroom at the trailhead

I’d categorize the first trail as ‘ok’.  The trail took us through rolling sections of tree cover and skirted some cool ravine areas before arriving to sketchy  stairs carved into a rock face leading to a giant reservoir … which as far as I could tell, was inhabited mostly by snakes, frogs, and turtles.  But mostly, the trail lacked in ‘wow’ factor.  Perhaps I’m starting to become spoiled with the abundance of ‘wow’ scenery in California, but for me, this hike – while certainly pleasant, wasn’t the best I’ve seen, nor the best the park has to offer.

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Headed over there somewhere

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Kelly pauses for a look

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climbing up towards the reservoir

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Reservoir low on water – another victim of the severe drought conditions

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Lots of snakes relaxing under the warm sun

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Pinnacle rock formations

Day 2 started off a bit better – that is to say we arrived to the trailhead by 8am, but still sufficiently late for our 7am target (hey, it’s vacation, cut us some slack please).  Anyway, our plan was to complete one of the larger loops which would take us to what one park ranger referred to as the “money shot” section of the park.  Having seen the western side of the park during our last visit, I concur with the spirit of his comment – the area is stunningly beautiful, but I would prefer that ranges refrain from describing anything as being a money shot when conversing with me.

The weather seemed to be warmer than the day prior, and with no cloud-cover in sight, we knew to expect high temperatures for much of this unshaded hike.  However, before we would face any of the high heat, we first had to navigate through one of the park’s three caves.  Technically, these are not caves per se, rather  hundreds … perhaps thousands of boulders which have toppled onto themselves, creating a cave-like effect.  The result is a section of trail that is completely dark, damp, and very cool (temperature-wise).  Oh, and a lot of fun.

The park literature and signage approaching all of the park’s caves strongly advise the usage of a headlight(s).  Myself, I cannot imagine attempting to navigate the caves without lighting, but I’m sure some dumb-ass has tried.

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Approaching the cave

Just inside the cave, looking back towards the entrance

Just inside the cave, looking back towards the entrance

The picture below was taken using a flash, but trust me, it’s absolutely dark in these caves.  Note the guide arrow (pointing to the right) above Kelly’s left hand.  Also, check out the size of the boulders – they are  huge!

Kelly, cautiously making her way forward

Kelly, cautiously making her way forward

Dave descending into the 2nd set of caves

Dave descending into the 2nd set of caves

Once through the cave section, the trail winds through a series of giant boulders and other rock faces before opening onto an expansive meadow.  We then connected to a trail that winds atop some of the higher points (2500-ish feet) of the park, affording fantastic views.  Total hike was about 8.5 miles.  July isn’t the best time to visit – it’s crazy hot, dry, and much of the plant life is burnt to a crisp.  With better planning on our part, I would expect springtime to be glorious … wild flowers blooming everywhere.

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BIG rocks wedged everywhere

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Transitioning from caves to meadows

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More pinnacles as we hike towards the highpoint of the trail

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Not long after we returned to the trailer, the air conditioning failed.  Quickly, the inside temperatures of the Airstream soared to a sweltering state, but we managed to make the best of the situation … including Kelly’s usage of an ice pack to cool her aching head.

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Turns out that the failed AC was caused by a tripped GFCI bathroom breaker … probably due to heavy load.  Foolishly, I failed to consider this simple fact as part of my troubleshooting, so we had no choice but to sweat it out with many others for hours until the temps broke.  Fortunately, I did notice GFCI after work today (Monday), which was easily reset with the push a button.

So it turns out the misery you see in the photo above could have easily been avoided had I noticed tripped outlet.  Sorry Kelly.