In spite of two unplanned technical events late in October, we still managed to get to southern Utah and fulfill a couple of long-time dreams for ourselves. Let me first start with the unplanned events which occur in life whether you are living on the road or not. First, we ended up with another quirky electrical problem in the truck. The short version is that our stay just over the California/Nevada border in a town called Fernley was extended for one extra day while Peter spent a day with the local Ford dealer (patiently waiting half a day since they were all booked) and determining that we needed a new battery. Continue reading
On September 28, we crossed into Oregon from Idaho, about half way up the state at Vale where the wide open land looks more like high plains of Kansas with grasses and open spaces. The first night in Oregon, we camped in a quiet county park, Bully Creek, along a reservoir. The day we left, we watched campers arriving and getting set up for the opening weekend of deer hunting season.
We rarely catch those TV reality shows about home makeovers, but Monday, we were actually living one. Exactly one week before, we left our Airstream with the mighty team of Ultimate Airstream in Williamsville, Oregon. This was Phase Two of the renovations we committed to after two years of living on the road. When Ian Harnish, the incredible team leader at Ultimate Airstream, showed us the inside, I just started crying with joy. It was beyond what I could have imagined.
As you loyal readers know, we love our Airstream (named T2). Our experience with Airstream as the manufacturers has been nothing but enthusiastic. But, after twenty-seven months, our love of travel, adventure, and life taught us that there were renovations we needed in order to maximize our tiny and very efficient space. Specifically, we decided that we had no need for extra sleeping space so the long couch and the large dining table, both integral components to more sleeping space, were not priorities for us.
We are both avid readers and a comfortable chair became an essential element to peace and wellbeing and the original Airstream curb side bench was not making the grade. We aren’t the kind of people who entertain a lot indoors so the long couch was not functional. What we did need was more organized storage space inside, much more comfortable seating, and easier access to the under-bed storage that Airstream so brilliantly includes in the front bed, twin models.
Phase One of the renovations was completed at Airstream in Jackson Center, Ohio in June. They removed the curbside bench and installed our new Lambright wall-hugging recliner pictured below in a couple of images. We also had them cut down the size of the dining table to better fit the recliner and open up the space more. JC also installed a porthole window in the bathroom. We had seen this modification when we were in Death Valley in March and it just blew us away. The picture here tells all you need to know about this improvement to the quality of our life. The bath was functional without the window but with it, the natural light and the illusion of spaciousness of bringing the outside in, is wonderful and the last four months have just re-enforced our decision.
In October, Ultimate Airstream took over from there for Phase Two. They re-built the seating area completely, removing the original 93″ couch and replaced it with a custom 72″ couch and removing the gaucho slide that offered the option of another bed. (I have inserted before and after pictures at the end of this blog so you can experience the complete make-over). These guys use professional grade upholstery cushions and great vinyl covering that are essential for the intensity of our full timing. These cushions are firm and very comfortable for long periods of sitting (like writing and reading) and that will most likely last a decade.
They also designed and built a custom cabinet for us, adding precious storage space and creating an efficient set of storage spaces. The middle cabinet drawers are heavy-duty, 11″ deep (they need to hold a portable filing system) and extend fully for access to the content. The cabinet materials, including drawer pulls and countertop, are all with the original Airstream materials that are specific to our 2015 and so the finished result is completely seamless.
The other modification we made was to install custom drawers underneath the deeper of the two twin beds in the bedroom. Again, these are super deep and pull out all the way for incredibly easy access from the top to the storage bags of (in this case) sweaters and bulikier clothing items. This is already a life-changing modification as we have re-organized all the harder to get to spaces where seasonal items like hats and scarves got buried in smaller storage areas inside T2 and were hard to access. We opted not to build drawers under the other twin because the space is not as deep (there are outside storage areas located in this general area) so it is far easier to access the contents since the space is so shallow.
We also made another change this time around. Ultimate Airstream replaced the radio/stereo that came with T2. It never really worked for me and was too hard to use. The new one, a Kenwood car stereo is great and since our Clarion speakers are so good, we can listen to our music and easily watch movies through the system. No picture here of the stereo but know that it’s great.
So here are two remarkable pictures of T2. The first, the “before” picture, shows the original set-up with the curbside bench, most of the long couch, and the fabric upholstery that we chose when we ordered the Airstream new in 2015. The original table is oversized and while it did provide a great work space, the trade-off in comfort was not worth the price.
And below that is the “after” picture of the new living area showing the gorgeous couch covering, Chimayo wool throw pillows, comfy alpaca throw over the back cushions, and a view of the recliner.
Liz and Peter are continuing their pilgrimage to here in their newly renovated Airstream, heading slowly south and east and aiming for arriving in Florida by mid-November.
On this Labor Day morning, we are heading west across Kansas where the early morning sun is chasing us, splashing its burnt orange light on the world. We left New Hampshire August 22 which was six weeks to the day from Peter’s hip replacement surgery. His recovery continues to amaze everyone, including his surgeon, and after years of chronic and increasing pain, he is reveling in the reality of being pain-free. In light of the priorities for his recovery and healing, we did two major things before beginning our westward journey. Continue reading
The gypsies have put down roots in Keene, New Hampshire for a total of eleven weeks, which began June 8. The primary objective of this longest-of-stays is ensuring Peter’s successful recovery from hip replacement surgery. Now, nearly three weeks post-op, I am happy to report that surgery went very well and Peter is on the positive curve toward full recovery. The daily progress is astounding and serves to remind us of the gifts of grace where God is in the details. Last week, Peter moved from the walker to his walking sticks during his bi-weekly PT session.
After leaving Hot Springs National Park, Arkansas, our eastbound trip took us into Tennessee, crossing the Mississippi at Memphis. Swollen by the heavy spring rains, the mighty river had topped its banks, turning the flood plains on the Arkansas side into expansive, if shallow, lakes. We didn’t stop in Memphis this time, reluctantly leaving the exploration of the Lorraine Motel and the National Civil Rights Museum, and other things Memphis, for another visit.
Like putting on a well-fitting shirt, we headed east from oversized Texas, slipping into the easy comfort of the eastern forests of north central Arkansas. Here, the recognizable hardwoods, the moist air, the meandering and now-spring-muddy rivers reminded us of New England, even though we have yet to cross the Mississippi River. Continue reading
Since leaving the Hill Country we have encountered the good, the bad, and the ugly of life on the road. Let me assure you dear followers that we are both fine. All of the wheels are back on the wagon and we are winding our way due east out of Texas and into Arkansas. Here is the story.
The Good. Visiting friends on the road is one of life’s delights. From the Hill Country near Austin, we wandered up toward Fort Worth, visiting friends we met in the 1990s during our days in the art furniture business. We haven’t seen them in years and it was a happy weekend reunion at their lovely ranch home. These are two of the most artistically creative people we know. Buckeye, a painter and sculptor in the traditional Western style, and Tona, who explores jewelry making and decorative arts, live in a custom home/barn that is beautiful and joyful. Continue reading
We came to the Hill Country of Texas because we were on a mission. We were intent on uncovering the clues that would help us piece together a more thoughtful understanding of our 36th president, Lyndon Baines Johnson. After visiting the Johnson Presidential Library in Austin in 2016, we realized that our memories of him, formed in the turmoil and passion of the 1960s, were narrower than the historical record. The filter of our 20-year old lenses acted like a microscope, zeroing in on the details of just two things – the assassination of JFK and the Vietnam War. While both were hugely formative in our young lives, the lens created a blind spot when it came to an awareness of the deeper contributions of his presidency, of the man himself. Continue reading
Witnessing the sunrise on Easter morning was an unexpected gift. After two visits to the McDonald Observatory, I thought I had exhausted my quota of celestial events. Maybe they all prepared me for this one?
In any event, I woke up Easter morning before dawn and spotted Venus, the morning star, just above the horizon. I realized that it might be clear enough to drive up Skyline Road at Davis Mountains State Park for sunrise. From that vantage point, one can view the wide open valley that includes three counties (Jeff Davis, Brewster, Presidio) with 30% more area than the state of Vermont and a total population of 20,000. This is sparsely populated west Texas. Continue reading