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Day 2: The mothership

188 miles 17mpg Airstream Factory “Terraport”: $10 The McDougall family has a long tradition of going on free factory tours as part of their camping vacations, and I could not let this trip west go by without finally visiting the birthplace of my airstream “Apollo 19″ in Jackson Center, Ohio.   It’s an impressive facility, at one end of a flag-lined Main Street straight out of  “It’s a Wonderful Life”. Jackson Center oozes pride, as it should. I’ll be camping tonight at what they call the “Terraport“. It’s free if you’re having a trailer worked on, or $10 if you’re not. For electric, water, and sewer hook-up, that’s a great deal. It’s right next to the parking lot for trailers waiting for service, like an outdoor hospital waiting room. The hail damaged trailers are especially sad to see, but I know they’ll get good care inside. I thought I knew a lot about Airstreams untilI met our tour guide,  Gary Bird. He let us through the factory. I’m not sure if they have the computer guided cutting machine back then, but today’s process is not that much different than in years past. Well, maybe a little different than the first models. I kept my hands to myself, but many on the tour couldn’t resist touching all of the new trailers and parts as we walked along. It’s hard to believe they’re real, and still made today.

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Seven years ago to the month, my Airstream was making its way along the assembly line, guided by skilled hands at every stage. “Apollo 19″, as I call her, sat on the dealer lot until summer of 2011, when the previous owners took her out for just a few trips before they realized they wanted a few extra feet of trailer. Lucky me, I stumbled upon her at Colonial Airstream with virtually all of her 2-year warranty intact, but minus $thousands in depreciation. I highly recommend that approach. Being cheap is the mother of invention

And as you may remember, I had another late-breaking reason to come to the factory today: my refrigerator door was only being held in place with one hinge. Getting the interior freezer door open while gently holding the main door in place was nearly impossible. Another 7,000 miles like that, not knowing if the contents of the fridge with all tumble out was not a good option.

Again though, Airstream came to the rescue. Even though I did not have an appointment, one of their technicians, Keith, came out to confirm and what I had suspected: I need a whole new refrigerator door. He read the model and serial number off to me from inside the door, and I started to make my calls. $220 for a new door.

The local “Dometic” dealer was closed until tomorrow. I thought I might have luck in trailer-Mecca Elkhart, Indiana, but even they couldn’t get one until Thursday. And do I really want to make a 200 mile detour North, when I want to be heading south towards Santa Fe?

So, armed with just a screwdriver and an old pair of tongue and groove pliers, I walked down the main street to the hardware store, where Tom (a former Airstream employee) sold me $.52 worth of self tapping screws. He didn’t think it would work, since the plastic is fairly brittle, but I headed back to the campground to give it a try.

My inner-MacGyver kicked in and, and I reattached the broken hinge with three screws. It actually seems pretty strong, and works better than it did before. A little Frankenstein-like, but functional. So now that I’m done with today’s blog, I need to figure out where I’m headed tomorrow. Honestly, I have no idea, but I’m excited to look into the possibilities.

Day 1: The journey begins

354 miles
17mpg (approx)
Barkcamp State Park in Belmont, OH: $21

After a long hard weekend of outdoor July 4 concerts, I was determined to get started on this trip on July 5 if it killed me.  Unlike my dad, I’m not really a list-maker, so I’ve been packing my trailer throughout the week as I think of things.
With Huggy Pillow as my copilot, I started with a beautiful jaunt through the Amish countryside and met up with the Pennsylvania Turnpike near Harrisburg. I usually don ‘the remember just how bad Pennsylvania roads are until I make the return journey, but the 45 mph speed limits, narrow lanes, and Art Deco bridges made it impossible to ignore that these roads were designed for the a ’40 Packard.

But… I was determined to get to Ohio on this first leg, and I camped in the first state park over the border: Barkcamp State Park in Belmont, OH.  Most of the July 4 revelers have already left, so the campground is half empty on the Sunday night of the holiday weekend.  It’s a beautiful park, with paved campsites with electric hook ups, and friendly staff. The only downside is that they have pit toilets, and the only running water I see is at the showers, and spigots spaced throughout the campground. I am however enjoying the guilty pleasure of running the AC.

Tomorrow I head to Jackson Center, Ohio to the Airstream factory for a tour (aka, “The Mothership”). Which is lucky, since the top hinge on my refrigerator broke upon its first opening at the campsite, and I’m not sure what’s going to hold it in place while I’m driving yet. I’m hoping the Airstream factory will sell me the door to this Dometic 4 cubic foot refrigerator. In the meantime I’m weighing the merits of every refrigerated item as I open the door and have to hold it in place.  If the bottom hinge goes too, I’ll need to turn off the fridge, empty i,t and buy a cooler. If they don’t have spare parts at the factory, perhaps I can have it ordered ahead to a future spot on my trip. This is going to get really old, really fast.

On to the mothership: 

I’m back

Fasten your seat belts. It’s time for another cross country summer camping adventure. Just as soon as my  Independence Day concerts with Philly Pops in Philadelphia and Wildwood, NJ are over, I hit the road.

 

Look for regular posts beginning July 5.  Like my trip in 2012, I have no set itinerary. Hoping to hit:

  • Airstream headquarters in Jackson City, OH for a tour and a night of camping
  • Parts of Route 66
  • Santa Fe, NM
  • NM, CO, & UT with my brother
  • A little boondocking in the Sierras.
  • Family and friends on the West Coast: NV, CA, OR, WA.
  • Oregon coast camping

Let the games begin!

The other Key West

The past two weeks, my Facebook friends have grown weary of my Key West photos of cobalt blue seas, swaying palms, and umbrella cocktails. I will post some of those photos here soon enough.

But first…

On your way into Key West, take the first right after the golf course onto College Avenue.

First, you will see the Key West Tropical Forest & Botanical Garden on your right.

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If you have an endangered species to drop off, use this entrance.

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Next, you’ll see Bayshore Manor Assisted Living

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If you have an endangered species to drop off or pick up, use this entrance.

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Then, the Animal Shelter and Adoption Center

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If you have a pet to drop off, use this entrance.

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And then the saddest sign I think I’ve ever seen.

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I shudder to think how many instances of thrown animals it took to necessitate ordering a painted sign.

However, if you have an unruly minor, you can throw them over the fence a few yards down the road at the Monroe County Sheriff’s Headquarters, Detention Center, and Juvenile Justice Center,

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If you’re lucky, on the second and fourth Sunday of the month, you may find them working at the petting zoo filled will animals cared for by detention center inmates. Check out their Facebook page!

Finally, on our College Avenue journey, just before the elementary school, most of Key West’s non-human trash is dropped off at the southernmost landfill in the US.

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It’s also the highest elevation in Key West.

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Bahia Honda

Leaving South of Border before sunrise, we head to our next destination – Edgewater (thank you Zan, for the overnight in your driveway). A nice halfway point between Dillon, SC and the Keys. And a short drive from one of the few places you can drive on the beach. First, a burger at “Breakers”, with their fabulous views.
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Then a quick drive on the beach. If you’ve ever driven in dry snow, it’s similar a similar feeling.

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You can’t drive on the beach all the way to Key West.

Video: 1935: Driving to Key West

The roads have improved a lot since 1935. But the drive to Key West is not without hazards.

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After I was plucked from the limousine by a helicopter before it plummeted in the ocean, the Governator dropped me here: Bahia Honda State Park.

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This is one of the busiest parks in Florida, but I lucked out two weeks ago when I was campsite surfing on the web. Where else can you kayak from the gulf to the ocean in 1/2 hour, from your campsite (#17, for those if you looking to reserve ).

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If I were willing to pay WordPress, I’d show you a video of my flawless paddling technique. You’ll just have to take my word for it. The blisters on my hands, and sore arms remind me that kayaking in the ocean is not for the novice (me). I wish I knew more about tide. Fighting the current seemed like this

(or this),

but was probably more like this

Campsites were $2.06 in 1966.

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Now, $38 – but same great view.

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And a great beach.

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On to Key West…

And we’re back…

Back on the road for another Key West Adventure.

Is three days enough to drive from Delaware to the Southern tip of Florida? Maybe. But it’s way more fun if you stop at South of the Border your first night.
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Somehow, I feel safe under Pedro’s watchful gaze.

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Welcome to paradise.

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Birds-eye view.

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A beacon of hope on a lonely stretch of I-95.

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Onward…

2012 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

600 people reached the top of Mt. Everest in 2012. This blog got about 3,800 views in 2012. If every person who reached the top of Mt. Everest viewed this blog, it would have taken 6 years to get that many views.

Click here to see the complete report.

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