Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Boise Road Trip

Memorial Day weekend this year was a road trip to Boise, or specifically: Kuna, Idaho and my sister's place Whiskey Creek West.

The occasion was my nephew's high school graduation--a big moment! Mom flew out from Ohio and we had a nice time hanging out together.

Here I am sipping whiskey with my mom who is 78 and amazing:

My sister, nephew, and mom squinting in to the setting sun . . . we're standing on a foot bridge over the Boise River which was in flood stage:

Memorial Day was my last full day there. We'd already ridden that morning, on Archie, my sister's three year old warm blood. I was restless to get out and we couldn't agree on where to go so I decided to do a mini road trip. The Snake River Birds of Prey National Conservation Area stood out when I looked at the map. It's just south of my sister's ranch, and I had been to part of it before, but it was such a big area that I thought I'd explore more. 

Despite the map showing little roads, they turned out to be mostly private country lanes. My anticipated 90 minute excursion (I planned to include some kind of short hike) turned into a solid three hour, 135 mile driving loop around the whole area. This included some long stretches of dirt roads. 

Mostly it was fun and it's always nice to be out with my puppy Jake. It was a gorgeous day. 

The Snake River and my furthest point on the three hour loop at Grand View, Idaho:

The most surreal thing I saw was at the Idaho Army National Guard's training center in Orchard, Idaho--which isn't much of a town, just a few buildings.

I have no photographic evidence but I saw some big army trucks, humvees, and two tanks. And when I say I saw these things they were all operational and rolling down the road. It felt like I'd stumbled into a war zone, or the scene from a bad novel. Seeing the tanks rolling along was jarring. 

Other sites along the way:
  • Shooting ranges
  • Free range cattle
  • An old Spartan trailer, in the town of Kuna
  • And a lot of wide open space
I was in my VW TDI which I plan to write about separately as I turn it in to Volkswagen in less than a week thanks to VW's cheating software.

Huge congrats to my nephew John on reaching this big milestone.

Monte, my sister's Cleveland Bay colt in front of the setting sun at Whiskey Creek West.

Monday, May 29, 2017

Transforming my front yard: The new walk

Last summer and fall I designed and personally completed some major new xeriscaping in my back yard.

This spring it was time to focus on my long neglected front yard. The photo below does little justice to how bad the walk was. The bricks were uneven--dangerously so in spots. Weeds were a constant battle (I seemed to have been winning when I took this photo). The curb appeal was, well there wasn't much curb appeal, and not just because of the walk. But one thing at a time.

I took the plunge and rehired the contractor who did my patio. It was expensive, but what the hell right? The contractor ended up making a couple of major mistakes, which I won't elaborate on here, but the end result is a massive improvement:

The concrete is stamped and colored and looks so much better. 

The next photo is a closer to the house after I added more weed barrier and rock two days ago. 

I love this stuff . . . just wish it didn't cost so much. And yes, it's also time consuming and back breaking, but that's not all bad. Note the two surviving sage bushes of the three that I planted--five years ago. They are looking strong. 

Posted from Kuna, Idaho

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Boom times for Airstream and the entire U.S. RV Industry

Today my mom, sister, nephew, and I stopped by Idaho Airstream in Caldwell, Idaho near my sister's ranch. We had fun looking at the new Airstreams--which are awesome! They are also expensive. I asked the sales guy about hitches as I am trying to pick a hitch for my new vintage Airstream.

One number he mentioned stuck with me. He said Airstream will manufacture about 3,400 trailers this year.

3,400!! That's all?


The number sounded low so I did some quick and dirty research.

The first number I found online was from 2.5 years ago when they were said to be producing 50 Airstreams per week which would be 2,600/year. Source: Washington Post, "Airstream can’t keep up with demand for iconic silver trailers," January 1, 2015.

The same article said they are on track to increase production by 50%, but didn't give a timeline. An April 2016 Dayton Business Journal article said they were up to 72 trailers per week and on track for 77 by the end of 2016. That's all consistent, and even ahead of the the 3,400 number I heard today.

These would likely be their highest numbers since at least 1979-1980!

"That's all?" wasn't the right reaction. These are boom times!!

This photo, from the Airstream website, is the 2017 International Serenity, it was our favorite today.
I am curious how many they were producing per year from about 1955 to 1978.

After reading the history of Airstream it was likely 1974-75 when sales really began to plummet during the 1970s because of the OPEC induced spike in gas prices that shocked the whole economy.

I've heard from a few sources, including Colin Hyde on the Vintage Airstream Podcast (The VAP), that Airstream is in the midst of a big expansion. You can read more about it in the Dayton Business Journal, November 2016.

In 2016, U.S. RV shipments totaled 430,691 units. These are big numbers! This was a gain of 15.1% over the previous year and the biggest year in 40 years according to the Recreational Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA). That number is for all RVs including travel trailers and all motorhomes. Source: RVIA, April 2017. Here is another RVIA link with some historical data, but it only goes back to 1978!

2016 was also the best year ever for Airstream's parent company Thor. Thor was founded in 1980, the worst year in the RV industry in 40 years. The company began when it's founders acquired Airstream in a fire sale deal from Beatrice who owned Airstream since December of 1967. Since 1980 Thor has grown to become the largest company in the RV industry by acquiring and growing a variety of different RV brands.

Source of Thor's 2016 results: "Thor Announces Record Results for Fourth Quarter and Fiscal 2016."

The industry is highly cyclical and we here we are in the midst of a historic boom. Of course booms don't last, but we can enjoy it while it's here. More RVs for Americans! For better and worse. I've grown to love RVing and especially Airstreaming.

May 30 postscript: I am catching up on past issues of Airstream Life, today the Winter 2016 issue arrived. In it, Publisher Rich Luhr wrote: "Airstream is blowing out sales records every year--and this is the fifth year in a row . . . . the Airstream community is getting stronger. I doubt if it has been so healthy and enthusiastic since the 1970s. The Wally Byam Caravaner Club International (WBCCI) is gaining members again. . . ." Of course Rich is more in tune with the Airstream world than I am, so it's not surprising he scooped me on this observation. His letter was titled It's a Great Time to be an Airstreamer. Of course I couldn't agree more!

It would still be nice to see actual numbers from Airstream, especially historical ones.

Posted from Kuna, Idaho

Update: Read my June 1 post with information on production circa 1971. 

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Truck Porn: My new Tundra

Americans and our trucks. We're quite the pair.

I am someone who thinks continuing to burn oil as we are is a very, very bad thing for our planet. And yet . . . here I am with a new gas-guzzling truck and I am pretty stoked about it. I may not be quite as thrilled when fuel prices spike again, but I'll deal with that when it happens--as it surely will.

I bought the VW TDI (diesel) in 2013 precisely because I wanted to lighten my environmental footprint and save on fuel. The TDI is a fuel sipper and I've loved it. But for those of you who haven't heard (which includes more people than I would think) the VW didn't turn out to be the clean diesel it was billed to be. Read more about that here if you don't know the story.

Last night I had fun driving with my puppy (he's almost 13) and taking some photos of my new-to-me 2013 Toyota Tundra, built to suck fuel.

I can't wait to pull my new Airstream with it!

Update: I loved this truck, but not the mileage. I sold it the following February and got a RAM EcoDiesel. Four plus years later I am loving the RAM. 

Sunday, May 21, 2017


Well, I am on a roll.

Yesterday I bought a 2013 Toyota Tundra! It wasn't part of my day's plan when I woke up, but I have been looking and researching trucks. In buying the Tundra I saved $10,000-$15,000 versus the vehicle I was planning to get: a new, or slightly used Chevy Colorado with Duramax (diesel).

Those are serious savings.

The Tundra is certified pre-owned and is under warranty from Toyota for 12,000 miles or one year. It will be more appropriate to pull my new vintage Airstream. It's a gas hog but I figured it would take 12-18 years to make up the fuel savings vs. the $10,000 price cut. Of course who knows what will happen to the price of fuel, but the point stands.

Here it is, with Jake (it looks kind of creamy here, it's actually a bright white):

Friday, May 19, 2017

An Airstreamer Again!!

I am the happy and proud owner of an Airstream again! A 1962 Safari, 22 feet long.

I love it!

So much for waiting (see my post from Monday). When this trailer was posted on our local classified ads two days ago, it felt like the right one. Wish me luck as these vintage trailers always have quirks you have to deal with (and pay for!). This trailer is older than me but it's impeccable inside and out--very cool given its age. Airstreams cost more than other trailers, but they tend to last and last and last. And yes, they are still in business and they still make them.

Thanks Elise for your support and encouragement, and thanks Bryn for being my first guest. We played Yahtzee, had a drink, and along with Jake we soaked in the ambience of vintage trailer life.

It's so good to be an Airstreamer again. It was the fall of 2009 when I sold my 1973 Tradewind.

Photos from the first night:

My Safari's first evening at my house. 
With Jake. I am so glad he's here to see a new chapter of Airstreaming. 
Bryn, my first guest. 

Additional photos:

Monday, May 15, 2017

Airstream Calling . . .

I am--almost--back in the market for my next travel trailer, and it will likely be . . .

An Airstream of course.

This past weekend I came very close to buying a cool 1954 canned ham. The guy was asking $4,000. I had him down below that, but realized, I wanted a bit more.

My delay will mean waiting longer, but that's OK. I am now focused on a new vehicle. Currently I own a Volkswagen TDI (their dirty/cheating diesels) and a 1997 Dodge Ram 1500. I am likely to sell both of those to buy a Chevy Colorado with Duramax.

I've resubscribed to Airstream Life and hope to have my new trailer no later than next March.  Time will tell.