Sunday, December 11, 2011

Cozy Rosie is named

Our Airstream needed a name. Somehow, referring to “it” as "it" didn’t seem to describe “it.”

Cozy Rosie

I need to back up for a moment and talk about our desire to name objects.

One of my responsibilities at work is serving as an administrator for several UNIX (Linux) Web servers. All of these servers have names that they go by on the Internet.

I was having hardware issues with a new server, which was under warranty. I called the service department and started explaining the issue. In the conversation, I started calling the machine by its name and explained how it was the backup server to another named machine.

That was when the service technician asked if these machines were running Linux and not Windows. When I said yes, he chimed in that he knew it because UNIX people always name their computers then start talking about its personality.

Since I work with UNIX/Linux computers, naming inanimate objects seems normal to me.

Some of the first names we considered were TravelStar Galactica or the Aluminum Falcon. While these were great names, they didn’t seem to fit our camper.

We settled on Rosie since this was a play on the World War II Rosie the Riveter campaign. That was shortened to Riveting Rosie, which lasted about a week. That was when my wife remarked how cozy it was in Rosie. At that point, our Airstream had a name and it was Cozy Rosie.

I think the service technician was correct in suggesting that UNIX/Linux people not only name things, but they also assign personalities to them. Cozy Rosie definitely has a growing personality—something we continue to learn about as we continue our adventures in Rosie.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Wind Creek State Park, Alabama

Our first adventure in our new (to us) camper was a one night stay at Wind Creek State Park in Alabama. This would be our first opportunity to practice the steps we were shown at our orientation when we took possession of our new trailer.

Wind Creek State Park
For some reason, the set-up seemed much easier at the dealership. Fortunately, several seasoned campers were quick to identify us as "rookies" and came to our rescue.

The first problem was our assigned site. There was a ditch on both sides of the little bridge we would have to back our Airstream across. With less than 15 minutes of trailer backing-up experience among us, this was too big of a challenge. The park rangers agreed and moved us to a less challenging site.

After backing in to our site, we had to connect the power, water and sewage to the park. We discovered that is is easier to connect than disconnect.

Next, we moved inside to discover we didn't know where anything was nor did we have a handle of where things should be located. And that was how we spent our first day in the camper--trying to figure out where we should logically store stuff.


It would be unfair for us to attempt to evaluate this specific park because we were overwhelmed with making our peace with trailer camping. We did note the following:

Park Focus: a large lake
TV Reception: campers on a hill could see Birmingham stations. We could not receive any stations.
WiFi: Yes, and it worked reasonably well.
Camping sites were paved and had water, electricity and sewage hookups.

We plan to return to this park and to take some time to enjoy it.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Answering the Lingering Questions

Any questions we may have had about towing were answered during our first outing with the Airstream.

Question One: Can a V-6 actually pull three tons of trailer?
Absolutely! Our first trip was through some of the biggest hills in Alabama. The Ecoboost V-6 had no problems with the hills and pulled the trailer without hesitation. If we had any doubts, they were quickly dispelled once we hit the road.

Some of the classic ads for Airstreams show the RV being pulled by a bicycle. While there was lots of “artistic license” in creating that impossible graphic, a Ford F-150 with the Ecoboost V-6 has plenty of power and can pull our Airstream.

Hitched and ready to go

Question Two: Can we back the trailer into a camping site?
Yes! What may not be as surprising is that Becca is the tow master when it comes to backing up the Airstream. She can thread the needle and place the trailer exactly where it needs to be located. On the other hand, I normally can get it in the right county.

Question Three: Can we survive living in a 25 x 8 foot space?
No problem. Keep in mind that we are used to camping in a tent. Even our dog recognizes the extra space and convenience found in the Airstream.

During my early teen years, my parents had a 16-foot travel trailer and I vividly remember being battered by the wind when a big truck passed us coming from the opposite direction. Our first trip was over some two-lane country roads in Alabama and we braced ourselves for the blast when we first noticed that a large-box semi was heading our way.

We quickly learned why people say Airstreams are great on the road because we did not feel the drag when passed by a big-rig truck. The Airstream’s aerodynamic shape really helps you when traveling.

We picked up the trailer on Saturday and we both had to be at work on Monday so our first camping adventure would be only one night long.

We will talk about our first camping adventure in the next posting.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Taking Charge: The surprise on the way to pick-up our Airstream

The trip from Montgomery to Oxford seemed like a great time to read the owner’s manual for our new tow vehicle, a Ford F-150 Ecoboost V-6. There were several questions that we wanted answers to and we hoped the owner’s manual would clear up our anxiety surrounding pulling three and a half tons of house behind us with a V-6.

That was when we read something we probably needed to know about before now. Ford said you cannot pull a trailer until you have logged 1,000 miles. A quick check of the odometer told us that we had only 250 miles. This could be a new problem to solve.

About the time we discovered this little fact, we passed a Ford dealership and pulled in to ask the service manager how important it was to refrain from towing until we had 1,000 miles on the truck. The response was that the seals hadn’t seated and the truck needed that 1,000 miles to make sure everything would work right in the future. He also added that the truck’s computer would log a trailer and void our warrantee if we elected to ignore Ford’s rules and pull the trailer before putting 1,000 miles on the truck.

Suddenly, the game changed from picking up the Airstream to simply having our orientation. We would pick up the trailer the next day after a 750 mile trip to nowhere.

While orientations are important, they are also overwhelming. There is a lot to learn about camping in an Airstream and it became apparent that it would take a few weekends to start feeling comfortable with our new trailer.

There was another problem in that the Airstream’s monitor panel was giving a false reading and leaving it there overnight would give the technicians an extra day to correct this issue.

We arrived the next day with 1,000 miles behind us and ready to pick-up the trailer. That was when we found out that the dealer needed a part from Airstream to correct the monitor problem and we would be heading home without our new camper. That was disappointing.

Before heading back a week later, we called to verify that everything was fixed and the trailer was ready to hit the road.

We used our third trip to Oxford for a brief remedial orientation. We were also given instructions on hitching the trailer to our truck and some guidelines on how to back-up when towing.

With this whirlwind of information swirling around in our heads, we hitched up and headed out for our first camping adventure.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Buying an RV

This wasn’t the plan. While we wanted to buy a travel trailer, our timeframe was to make that big investment in June, not seven months earlier in October. But when the call came from Dandy RV in Oxford, Ala., saying that a 2007 25 foot Airstream Safari was traded in and they wanted to quickly turn it around, we knew that we had to see it. (See our review of Dandy RV.)

On the way to Dandy RV, we came up with a million reasons for waiting a minimum of six months before purchasing a camper. Then it happened, we saw the trailer.

It was amazing how fast that Airstream felt “right” for us. The layout was perfect. The size was perfect. The condition was great. The timing wasn’t perfect.

Our two biggest problems were not insurmountable. First, our car could not tow more than 1,000 pounds and this Airstream topped out at 7,000 pounds. This was one of the times when duck-tape would not fix the problem. We needed to new vehicle capable of towing the trailer.

The second problem was the most obvious one: paying for the trailer. Our budget would love for us to wait until June, but there were too many “perfects” associated with this Airstream to walk away. Sure, buying our trailer seven month early would cause some financial hardships for the coming year, but we end up with a really great Airstream.

We agreed to buy the Airstream.

In a little more than two weeks, we would drive our new tow vehicle to Oxford to hook-up and take the Airstream home.

Wait, we have to research, locate and purchase something with the capacity to pull 7,000 pounds. This sounds like a job for Drs. Google and YouTube.

It is amazing how much information is available today via the Internet and Google. You can benefit from the experiences and the mistakes of others when they post their comments and reviews online. The collective wisdom from the online crowd suggested that a Ford F-150 Ecoboost would provide both towing power and fuel economy.

Once again, our timing wasn’t perfect. Ford ended the production of 2011 models and the 2012s were not scheduled to arrive at the dealerships for another month or two. We were limited to dealer stock and the current used truck market.

We quickly had to dismiss the used market. The Ecoboost is too new to be on the used lots and the one truck we seriously looked at in Birmingham had the distinct smell of a smoker having previously owned it.  Our narrows to new trucks.

There are three Ford dealers in the Montgomery, Ala. area. Two fall into the category of “Big City” dealers. The third is a family-owned dealership that has served the region for decades. Let’s go with Collier Ford, the dealership owned by people who have lived in the area for generations. (See our review of Collier Ford, Wetumpka, Ala.)

A couple of weeks after investing in a truck with the power to pull our new Airstream, it was time to head to Dandy RV and hitch it up for the first time. 

The adventure is about to start.