1966 Airstream

Restoring aluminum on an iron chassis

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November/December: Penrose Point State Park

My son and I decided that 2014-2015 was to be the year of the monthly camping trip. We have done well on our family promise, if you count November and December as one month. Between the end of soccer season, Thanksgiving, and Christmas, that is all we could work in. The day after Black Friday, we woke up to snow in the Northwest. The streets cleared by noon, so snow didn’t deter us from heading over the Tacoma Narrows Bridge to Penrose Point State Park. Nor did the “Severe Sidewinds” sign flashing before we drove over the bridge. I had a flashback from Honors Algebra: the “Galloping Gertie” black and white footage that illustrated the principle of harmonic motion depicted by the collapsing Tacoma Narrows Bridge. I decided to ignore my Central Mid High education and we made it across the bridge without incident. When we arrived, we saw a ranger! And it appeared that we would have the entire campground to ourselves! We did.

All alone at Penrose Point Campground.

All alone at Penrose Point Campground.

The campground host site was available for $29 and had electrical and water/sewer hookups. We brought nothing to plug in, so took an “economy” site. We took a walk near the water, and beat the darkness back to our camper by getting in it at 4:00 PM. We had skipped lunch, and were very hungry for the cabbage pancakes that my husband was going to make. Except I forgot the cabbage. This has been a camping theme lately, forgetting a major meal ingredient. We reheated the homemade Cream of Celery Root soup I had brought for lunch the next day, and depleted the hot chocolate and decaf tea supply. My husband was ready to bake Christmas cookies, part of our “what to do in the camper when it gets dark at 4:00 plan”, but I had forgotten the sugar as well (but remembered the cookie cutters and the rolling pin: there must be points for that careful planning). I brought the Christmas cards to address, so that little holiday job got done. I wished for some of those ridiculous-looking down booties because the floor was very cold. We watched Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets and bundled up to go to sleep. It was probably only 9:00 PM at this point. The predicted overnight low was 27 degrees. I had a mother-panic that my kids would be too cold. So I put them both in the front bed with me, toddler in the middle flanked by a seven-year old and Mom. We were actually pretty cozy.

We awoke to a rare sunny December day and took a 3 mile hike around Penrose Point. It was a perfect family hike through the forested areas with occasional glimpses of the water.

View from Penrose Point to Mount Rainer.

View from Penrose Point to Mount Rainer.


There was enough uphill to feel like you got a bit of exercise without totally wearing out my 3 year old daughter. The day use area had fantastic fire-pits with benches right next to the water. Since we never unhooked, the pack up went quickly and we headed to Gig Harbor for my favorite pizza at Pizzeria Fondi (since we had already eaten our lunch for dinner the previous night).

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Shutting Down Ohanapecosh at Mt. Rainier

October 4-6 was the final weekend the Ohanapecosh Campground in Mt. Rainier National Park was open. We arrived Friday night, in the dark, and took what appeared to be one of the few remaining sites on the final weekend. I have taken many day trips to Mt. Rainier, probably at least 25, and done some tent camping at White River and Carbon River campground (before the flood destroyed the road to the campground), but this was the inaugural visit of the Airstream to the National Park in our backyard.

Saturday morning we woke up and drove to Naches Peak at the top of Chinook Pass, to do a favorite hike that is relatively flat and family-friendly, about a 3 mile loop around Naches Peak. The hike is so family-friendly we ran into another family that we know on the trail. It is fantastic hike during wildflower season and also for fall color.


Fall color on Naches Peak Trail.

Fall color on Naches Peak Trail.

On Naches Peak Trail.

On Naches Peak Trail.


We returned to the campground for some exploratory play around the river and for a campfire.



Sunday morning we hiked around the Ohanapecosh campground and visitor center. There are actually hot springs, and ruins of a resort that used to exist. You can feel some heat from the water, but there are no areas for soaking.

Feeling very ambitious, we visited Sunrise on the way back, and dropped the Airstream at the bottom of the road to Sunrise in a parking area. We had a picnic in the picnic area surrounded by short pine trees and chipmunks. I find the area quite fairy-tale like and looked for a gnome to jump out from behind a shrub. We took a short hike on a gloriously sunny October Day. The mountain was as snow-free as it gets, and the glaciers appeared dirty and gray since it had been months since a fresh fallen snow…the impending winter must has arrived shortly after our visit.

A sunny day at Sunrise, Mt. Rainier National Park.

A sunny day at Sunrise, Mt. Rainier National Park.


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September: Camping and Soccer

As the school year started, my son and I made a family commitment to go camping once per month. We didn’t want summer to end. Then I looked at the calendar and realized we had a soccer game every Saturday in September, the earliest one starting at 2:00 PM. I hatched a plan to book 2 nights at a campground (Saturday and Sunday), and leave Sunday evening. So, feeling rather adventurous we drove the Airstream to the soccer field, and then to Alder Lake Park for a night of camping. Alder Lake Park is run by Tacoma Power and is located on a dam. The park is large and there are numerous sites, loops, and playgrounds. We have previously visited the campground in March and saw a salamander. Saturday afternoon there was time for Dad and the kids to have a swim in the swimming area while Mom made dinner. We spent Sunday at Paradise in Mt. Rainier.


Truly a day in Paradise.

Truly a day in Paradise.


It was a sunny day to attempt an ambitious hike with two little troopers. We still have the Kelty backpack to carry our two year old, but each time I use it I promise myself it will be the last. That’s me testing to see if I still have the ability to lift my arms.


My arm still works!

My arm still works!


We hiked until evening, reunited with the trailer, and drove back home in the dark.


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Lake Easton State Park

One of my favorite “zones” of Washington is the area slightly east of the Mountain passes, but before you hit the desert area of Eastern Washington. There are still trees, but the climate is drier and normally there are sunny, blue skies. This part of Washington reminds me of Colorado. This in mind, I was very excited to check out Lake Easton State Park, just about 7 miles past Snoqualmie Summit off of I-90. We arrived in late August in the dark, and woke up to discover that the campground is adjacent to the lake, and the lake has a nice, beachy area.

Lake Easton at sunset.

Lake Easton at sunset.


The state park is near a trail that runs on an old railway line. The trail begins in Snoqualmie, WA and goes to Yakima. Or somewhere. Apparently there is a seven mile tunnel along the route, for the non-claustrophobic head-lamped type. It would be a good campground to bring along a bike for every member of the family. We spent a good portion of the day hiking along the trail, which had various signs directing us to Iron Horse State Park, which must be nearby.

I had an experience where my background knowledge heavily influenced my interaction with the present. Santa Claus approached our campsite, and invited us to a presentation on firs of the Northwest. I was excited to learn about pine trees from the Christmas tree man himself. He was dressed in a red knit hat, and had  a lumberjack shirt and a large belt. He was definitely the forest version of Santa Claus but we were, after all, in a forest. We finished dinner and made our way to the amphitheater. Displayed on a table were various furs: beaver, fox, etc. The presentation was on furs of Northwest. I still wondered why the man was dressed like Santa. My husband said they he knew he was dressed as a fur trapper all along. The Canadian had, in fact, dressed as a fur trapper himself for Winnepeg Trapping Days. Oh, the importance of background knowledge and where it can lead you.


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Labor Day

When you begin searching to reserve Labor Day trailer sites in mid-August, there is not much available (Restorable Iron tip: reserve sites early on popular camping weekends). I wished we owned lovely rural property. I wished for friends that owned lovely rural property. I got something just as good: friends that plan ahead and book sites at Lake Chelan National Park. Tent sites! We have not camped in a tent in 3 years. In fact, my daughter had never camped in a tent. Preparing for camping without the Airstream felt like I was going to be leaving a member of the family at home.  As I pillaged it for things we might need, I leaned close and assured it that I still loved it.  And face it, packing up the car for camping is a bit more work than preparing the Airstream for the weekend. But we got reacquainted with our Jet Boil and Thermarests. We got dressed/undressed without standing up.  It was great.  Some Highlights: Hiking Little Bear Trail, friends and lots of kids to play with, looking at all of the fantastic tent sites on the beach (really, some of the most awesome car camping sites I have ever seen) , swimming in Lake Chelan, visiting Chelan Estates winery, and visiting the cute and delicious Local Myth Pizzeria selected by a friend with great taste in restaurants.  In fact, she proposed a great camping idea for meal planning, pack breakfasts and lunches but go out for dinner. Lake Chelan State Park is a 10-15 minute drive from the town of Chelan, WA and this was an excellent plan that cut down on some of the prep work around camping.  Especially the work required when camping without the 22 foot long, silver member of your family.


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July 25 Border Crossing

We started the morning with a quick trip to downtown Coeur D’Alene. The kids and I got dropped off in a park while Dad packed up the camper. We played on the beach and saw part of the moose trail, that recreates a children’s book about a moose and a mouse.

We drove to Post Falls, Idaho to cross the border into Canada. Interestingly, they have appeared to cut a straight, thin, clearing through the forest and across the mountains that must indicate where the actual border is. I had to deposit our uneaten because-they-froze-in-the-camper-fridge apricots into a chest freezer because they were not allowed across the border. Thankfully the rest of us were. The drive to Kaslo, BC included the longest free ferry ride in North America across Kooteney Lake:

We stayed at the Mirror Lake Campground near Kaslo. The Mirror Lake Campground contained a lakeside vintage playground and a floating dock that you could swim out to and jump off of. I took my first teeter-totter ride with my son and daughter. Reminder: He who weighs the most works the hardest on the see-saw.  I pushed them on a metal merry-go-round (and hopped on) It was always big responsibility, being the pusher who had to hop on. We got what I consider the best site in the campground, right by the lake and by the playground. It was an electrical-only site, and that must be why we got it, since every other trailer/motorhome seemed to be loving their sewer connection (the stinky slinky). It pays to simplify. Our bathroom system still doesn’t work.



Site 185




Ride the Vintage Merry Go Round.

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July 23 Fed Dub to Coeur D’ Alene

All good trips must come to a beginning, so we left home around 11 AM for a 5 hour and 40 minute drive across I-90. Airstream. Check. Passports. Check. Two children. Check. We were taking the long/scenic way to Sicamous, British Columbia, Canada. It was raining hard when we left, and continued to rain until we were headed down Snoqualmie Pass. We stopped in Ellensberg, WA for fruit: doughnut peaches and apricots. I encountered my first can of Cougar Gold, a cheese made at Washington State University that is stored in a can. I really wanted to buy it. According to the sign, it could last 10 days at temperatures under 70 degrees, and then needed to be refrigerated. I wasn’t sure that the Cougar Gold tin can would survive our Airstream tin can, so I left without it. Next time. As we passed Moses Lake, the rain started again and also brought it’s fine friends: lightening, wind and more wind. We enjoyed watching giant tumbleweeds that looked like hedgehogs racing across the desert attempt to cross the road in front of us. They were fanatastic. I wanted to collect one, with visions of hanging lights on it at Christmas. But I didn’t have space for a large, wet tumbleweed and wasn’t sure about attempting to get it through US-Canada customs twice (My apricots wound up confiscated and in a freezer at the Port , Idaho border crossing. The freezer was large, but not large enough for the tumbleweed) And the winds were blowing like crazy, so it would have been hard to catch a tumbleweed. We continued to watch them blow by while we waited out the storm in Ritzville, Washington.


The next scheduled stop was a Wal Mart. Since this is a blog about restoring our 1966 Airstream, I must mention that the toilet/sewer/bathroom system is not restored. We normally use the campground restrooms/outhouses, so it is not a problem. Our destination in Sicamous is a ranch owned by my husband’s cousin, so the Canadian felt like we should equip ourselves. He made his first recreational, legal pot purchase. At Wal Mart, none the less.



We arrived at Blackwell Island RV Park near downtown Coeur D’ Alene. We were in site # 180. It was a very large rv park with all the hookups, laundry, and showers/restrooms. There was a play structure, the kind you would have been jealous of if it had been in your friend’s backyard. The RV park was near a highway, so not exactly peaceful, but the traffic continued at such a pace overnight that it was almost white noise.

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Wine Country RV Park


Fourth of July Weekend was time for another Eastern Washington adventure. I was excited to find a spot at Wine Country RV Park, because I neglected to plan ahead and was looking around for a space at the last minute. I had seen this park (from the highway) and was excited to give it a try. It was actually rather peaceful for a place visible from the highway. The neighboring property, under construction (my husband thinks that it is a tasting room in progress), was continuously watering their large pile of top soil with the kind of sprinkler that inspired the dance move, so the sprinkler sound kind of drowned out (pun intended) the highway noise. Add the running sprinkler to the evening chirping of crickets, and the hum of the portable fan that we could plug in due to electrical hookups, and these are the sounds of summer for this Oklahoma girl.

To celebrate the Fourth, we joined to the Prosser, WA kiddie parade. Ella was pulled along on her scooter by me, the patriotic hunchback, because it involved some hunching to keep her two year old body upright, and Shay rode his bike. Some candy was thrown and all was right in the world. After the parade, we played Bingo in the city park. It was Shay’s first experience with Bingo. It was actually great game. I am not sure he would have had the number recognition skills a year ago, but away he went covering the correct numbers. First grade was good to him. Luck was good to me, I won twice, and walked away with $7.75 in my pocket (minus $5.00 total at 50 cents per card. Net winnings/wine fund=$2.25)

Three family members napped in the airstream. July naps in the desert in the Airstream are rather warm. Wine Country RV Park is within walking distance of several tasting rooms, so I may have visited a few. Sit down tastings are all the rage now, instead of standing up at the bar, you sit at a table and they bring you the wine. (I visited 3 wineries, two were offering “sit down tastings” 2 out of a non-random sample size=all the RAGE to this statistician). Anyway, I needed a friend! I didn’t know what to do with all the quiet and alone time. So I drank the wine. I regret not trying the chicken salad with peaches and jalepeno on a cucumber slice at Milbrandt Vineyards. I also visited Gamache Vintners and Bunnel Vineyards. I spent my wine fund, and returned to join the family for a swim in the RV park pool. It is rare to find water warm enough for my tastes in Pacific Northwest Summers, but this one was just right.

Somehow, the family managed to stay awake for the fireworks in Prosser, Washington. I did start to wonder about fireworks shows. There are a lot of small towns. There just can’t be enough “professional” fireworks people to go around on the Fourth of July. It seems there is some skill involved with selecting fireworks, lighting them, and safety. I guess every town needs a pyromanic, and that person should probably join the Rotary Club since they put on the fireworks presentation. My civic recommendation of the day.

Here we are at Wine Country RV Park. The very moist dirt pile is visible in the lower right.


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Prosser Balloon Rally

  Somehow, I just feel happy in the Yakima Valley. I love the fields of mint (I wanted to go roll in one once but a mean looking dog quickly squelched that fantasy). I love the hop yards (made that word up but I think it is a good one), I love the wineries, the sunshine, and the orchards. I love the fact that the whole area was once flooded by a giant ice age dam break releasing water all the way from Montana. While passing through this summer en route to Glacier, we learned that Prosser has a hot air balloon rally the last weekend of September. In fact, their 23rd annual hot air balloon rally, which means we already missed 22 of them. And I Think I love hot air balloons, too.
     We hadn't used our airstream since a trip to Glacier National Park at the end of July. It turns out we hadn't really unpacked it either. Which was good because I couldn't bring myself to do meal planning, shopping, and packing during the work week leading up to the trip. So we lived off what we had adding to the adventure. I threw in the following items: some juice boxes, a can of evaporation milk (for coffee), marshmallows, baby food, jar of pasta sauce, pasta. And we hardly used any of it, going out to restaurants instead...a brewpub of my husbands choice and a Mexican restaurant of mine. And what turned out to be my son's favorite breakfast stop ever: a restaurant adjacent to a roller skating rink. The rink wasn't open for skating, but he took a few joyful laps around it in his shoes just because he could.           We left our home at 6:00 pm Friday night. At 7:30 pm I crawled on the back seat to feed my daughter some baby food. My son was already bored in the darkness, and kept shouting "I command that you turn the light on." My daughter cried in between every bite of food. And did I mention it is HARD to feed a 9 month old baby in the dark. I momentarily wished I were home on the couch instead.
     We arrived at the Beach RV park at Benton City, WA well after 10 pm. Ironic to arrive at the Beach after heading away from the salt water for 4 and a half hours. My son needed to go to the bathroom (our trailer bathroom being a Reno project for the future), so we walked off to find one. And could not. The RV park is adjacent to many homes and trailer houses, and it's a good thing they don't shoot to kill in Benton City because I wandered through the yards of many of them, trying doors on outbuildings hoping they would be, well, outhouses. It was dark, and The Beach was not particularly well-marked. A kind soul told us the way to the bathrooms, on the opposite end of the RV park from where we entered.
     The Balloon Rally is good family fun that starts at 5:45 AM. The balloons lift off at 6:45. It is a hobby for the dedicated because it requires not only getting up early but the support of a crew that doesn't get to ride. I am guessing they take turns riding. But you can watch the balloons get filled and stand as close as you want.   I ran into one of the organizers of the event at ahem, Willow Crest Winery who told me it costs 700 dollars to be a sponsor and that you get a free balloon ride. He also encouraged me to take the family to Nightglow that evening.
     We went to Nightglow, where balloons don't lift off but are lovely to look at illuminated like nightlights. They flickered on and off to the tunes of the same music played at sporting events. In fact, the Announcer MUST have been playing from the compilation Jock Jams. The whole thing had a small town, yet oddly professional feel to it. It was held in the football field of Prosser High School (Go Mustangs!), but not just anyone is allowed on that field next to that much propane. It is the only event in the history of my family that we arrived to one and a half hours early so we caught the steel drum band pre show. It was akin to waiting for darkness to fall for a fireworks show. Kids were so tired they sat quietly in our laps for the balloon spectacular, and I am certain that I will be able to count on one hand the number of times that happens. So we sat back and enjoyed it.  Whooomp (There it is).
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Aluminum Tent Report

In late August, 2011, we took four mini-trips to inaugurate the Sandman. The first trip was to a driveway 20 miles from our home. We enjoyed an evening with good friends and the opportunity to “test it out”. We spent the fall taking a few weekend trips to campgrounds in our area. We did not particularly need hookups, but we camped at Millersylvania State Park where hookups were plentiful. It was here that I learned the dirty little secret of RVing. If you want full hookups, they squish you close together in an area that is reminiscent of “early parking lot.” Everyone has a campfire which makes the area very smokey and everyone has a dog which made the area very barky. I quickly learned that I prefer campgrounds with more privacy and more space between sites, which means more “boondocking”. I thought this sounded like a unheard of form of dance that only the judges on “So You Think You can Dance” are aware of (really, had you every heard of “krumping” before this show ) but come to find out it is camping without hookups of the electric, sewer, and hydro sort. My husband was overjoyed, because he would like nothing more than to install solar panels. It is quite possible that we will spend more on the Sandman than on our house. On which my husband commented wistfully, “I hope our son or daughter wants the Sandman one day…”

It just dawned on me that boondocking must have origins in the ancient Latin phrase “in the boondocks..”

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