Airstream Cats: Kia & Keckovar


Kia is a tiny american short-hair tabby-calico with incomparably soft fur and sharp claws. Kia likes to patrol for shadow creatures, ghosts and other unseen apparitions when not sleeping or eating. She feels her brother is over excitable and altogether undignified. Kia is happy to see America so long as it doesn’t overly interfere with nap time.



Kekovar is an american short-hair orange tabby and bigger than his sister Kia. Kekovar loves to keep Hitch from working too hard by providing frequent petting breaks and opportunities to clean the cat box. Kekovar feels America is far too large and scary a place but is looking forward to viewing its many birds from the other side of a securely closed window.



Both are a little over five years old, by the Cat to Human Years Table, they are considered adults. Some of our first conversations when we decided to embark on a nomadic life, were about the cats. We had to answer important questions such as, “Will they come with us? Where will we put them? Where will they sleep? How will we feed and care for them? How will we transport them when we are on the road? Should we leash train them?”


One of the first things we knew we had to do is get them a bigger cat transport enclosure. A container big enough to contain a bed and cat litter, yet still fit in the truck. Since would be on the road from anywhere from 2 to 5 hours with water and feeding stops, we needed to have a means of easily accessing the cats. After talking with friends and internet research, we bought the large version of the Petego Pet Tube Kennel. We also got these pet pillows which fit to create a flat bottom on the tube, but discovered that the cats didn’t like the feel of them and replaced them with towels and a warming blanket.

The first few times in the tube kennel were stressful for the cats, but by the fourth or fifth time they were use to it and driving around in the truck with us. We of course applied many favorite treats before, during and after the trip. They kinda go nuts for these WildSide Salmon Cat Treats, which list only one ingredient: “Wild Salmon FREEZE DRIED”. During regular feedings on the road or while docked, we found the Pet Travel-Tainer, which the bowls and the container fit together conveniently for travel. To calm the cats during stressful travel moments, we also got Feliway diffusers and collars, which was recommended by our vet. The calming pheromones released in to the air, really work on our cats, which then makes it easier for the cats to associate travel with positive reinforcement.

Quality of Life

We also made sure that the cats had plenty of toys, cardboard scratch pads, and warm beds in multiple hiding areas in the Airstream. With near freezing temps the last few nights, we also lined their sleeping areas with Bubble Pack Insulation. The stuff is great because it reflects any radiant heat back into the trailer, so why not for when the cats’ cubby holes. We also covered the insulation with old towels and t-shirts, so the insulation material wouldn’t be too startling or uncomfortable to them.

Cats are inherently nocturnal, so playing with them before we humans go to bed is important. Sometimes we forgot kitty play time (too tired, too busy, etc) and the result is four-legged romping, skittering toy mice, and midnight serenades at the blurry hours of 3am and pre-dawn.

Given that the space in the trailer is rather limiting, we plan on training them on a leash and harness for outdoor fun, but not any time soon. We have plenty of time to train them after they get use to life in the trailer and travel.


The downside of such small place and with two cats is that a cat box gets used twice as much. Its advised that you have one box for each cat plus one. We have no such luxury in a trailer. However we found a solution to this problem by going with the Tidy Cats Breeze Litter Box System. Its different than most cat box system because it has pellets which allow urine to pass through, and leave solid waste on top for quick, easy removal. The urine is quickly absorbed by the odor-controlling pad. It really does keep the odor down, especially when we clean the box of solids every day and replace the cat pad every other day. Its advised that you replace the litter pellets once a month per cat. For us that means twice a month, for our two cats. The disadvantage is that you have more bits to buy, including the Cat Pads and Cat Pellets.

Safety and Insurance

Costs can escalate quickly with two cats on the road. I’ve included hotel pet fees, kenneling costs and emergency room costs into our pet budget.

My cats do have microchips, but the chip data is only registered with our local county. I’ve been looking into pet insurance that includes chip service that can be looked up anywhere in the country. So far the average cost is $20 a month per cat. I will update my blog later once I’ve finished research.

I also keep a pet file, with all vaccinations and medical records for each cat. This is pretty handy to have your pet’s medical history on hand should an emergency happen.

Although its a bit of work, I find traveling with our two cats rewarding. With a bit of time, effort, and lots of love and care. I hope both cats will be comfortable and happy on the road with us.


In a few days, we head off into our maiden voyage, but before that we spent Thanksgiving with our favorite people and long time friends on GRUBB STREET. This year I splurged for a heritage turkey from Windy Acre Farms. A heritage turkey comes from one of several strains of domestic turkey which retains historic characteristics that are no longer present in the majority of mass-consumption turkeys. Heritage turkeys are biologically capable of being raised in a manner that more closely matches the natural behavior and life cycle of wild turkeys. Heritage turkeys have a relatively long lifespan and a much slower growth rate than turkeys bred for industrial agriculture, and unlike industrially-bred turkeys, can reproduce. Since their breast isn’t overly malformed as in regular mass-production turkeys, the males can actually mount females.

The white meat from a heritage tastes leaner than regular turkeys due to their lean lifestyle. The dark meat on a heritage bird on the other hand is superior. They also tend to run smaller. This particular bird is 12.7 pounds. Our bird chef, Jeff, said he was use to roasting 20+ pound birds.

Aside from the turkey, there was marvelous side dishes brought by our other friends: corn souffle, mint peas, yams with walnut streusel, stuffing, mashed potatoes, three kinds of pie, sauteed mushrooms, and home made rolls. And lots of wine.

Overall, a wonderful Thanksgiving. I’m glad we decided to stay until the end of November before heading out, it was a fun gathering and I’ll miss everyone.

Life in the slow lane

Life in the slow lane sums up a fair bit of trailer life. In the literal sense you tend to drive in the slow lane on the highway, for the sake of safety and often required by law. Beyond that you are out traveling to see things and be places, so taking your time and smelling the roses, even while driving, is kind of the whole point. As such you tend to take it easy and set a slow pace.

Inside the trailer, many of life’s many activities just take longer than they do in a full sized house. This is due to limitations in open space and the needs of travel.  Most of the interior space is storage or spots for human bodies to occupy such as seats, beds, or walkways. There are especially few open surfaces on which you can set things down for easy access. The storage spaces are generally secure because when the trailer is in motion things will otherwise bounce around. Thus most goods are stored in a container which in turn is inside a cabinet. This means when you want something you need to open a cabinet, open a container, get the thing, put the container back in the cabinet. Because open space is limited you can’t have a lot of things out and avialable. This means to change tasks you typically must put things away again: open the cabinet open the container put the thing inside put the container back in the cabinet. All in all a lot of time is spent getting things out and putting them away.

Of all life activities personal hygiene seems to be one of the most time consuming. I used to shave and brush my teeth while taking a shower and I could get all that done very fast. Now the usual morning rituals are much more involved and each needs to be done separately and keeping in mind the needs of conserving both the water I use and what goes down the drain.

Life in a trailer also has less “modern conveniences” especially noteworthy being no dishwasher. You must not only wash dishes by hand, but you have to do it all the time as there is no where they can be stored out of the way. Economies of scale are also out the window due to space so you do many small things each day rather than storing up work of a given kind and doing it all at once. Storage being limited also means you tend to go out shopping more often for basic supplies you otherwise would stock up on.

The utilities on a trailer are more hands on than in a home. You need to empty the waste water tanks periodically, fill propane tanks, fill gas tanks, fill fresh water tanks, maintain the batteries and so on. Houses certainly have some of their own maintenance challenges but they are generally once or twice a year as where trailer utilities tend to come up once or twice every week.

There are some time saving aspects. Because the trailer is small, there isn’t a lot of walking around, everything is close at hand. Cleaning, while a daily requirement is pretty quick. There isn’t a lot to dust in a trailer and cleaning all the floors takes a few minutes rather than hours. Because you own less stuff, less time is spent maintaining it, and finding things tends to be pretty easy since there are a limited number of places they could be provided you maintain good organization. A place for everything and everything in its place is pretty essential to trailer life.

On occasion the extra time and attention to daily activities is a downside. I like to spend as much of my time as possible on my passions or on relaxing. That said I would say overall the time and attention to detail required in trailer life is good for me. I must be more mindful and deliberate in each thing I do, traits that are helpful in professional life and even in relationships. One of my keen interests in this Adventure is to see over time how I change in response to life on the road. This new way of doing day to day activities may well be the first.

I’d love to hear if others have worked to try and make day to day activities more efficient, or embraced life in the slow lane and try to reap its benefits.

Trail & Hitch versus the Nettlesome Moist

Our 2016 Airstream 30-foot International Serenity comes with a manual entitled, “Recreation Vehicle Owner’s Guide to Moisture Management.”  When an Airstream becomes too damp, it then becomes very hard to get rid of that damp. This moistness invade every part of the living space and saturate nearly every material in the trailer. Walls, wood, drapes, mattress, clothing, and even the adhesive holding together parts of your trailer, will become damp to the touch. Before you know it, mold and mildew will start to appear. I have made it my goal to reducing humidity. It is my ounce of prevention that is totally worth a ton of hurt, especially if mold and mildew sets in because it will never go away.

Relative Humidity

Acurite Humidity Gauge

Acurite Humidity Gauge

I’m a meteorology fan, it happens to coincide with my plant and gardening geekery. The key here is to understand Relative humidity or RH for short. RH is the amount of water vapor present in air expressed as a percentage of the amount needed for saturation at the same temperature. If the water vapor content stays the same and the temperature drops, the relative humidity increases. If the water vapor content stays the same and the temperature rises, the relative humidity decreases. This is because colder air doesn’t require as much moisture to become saturated as warmer air.  In simpler terms, this means you either have to remove moisture from the air and/or raise the temperature to reduce relative humidity.

According to the Moisture Management Manual, the Airstream should maintain a humidity rating of 60% or lower.  A majority of mold species require a relative humidity of 70%. Maintaining relative humidity below 50% prevents dust mite infestations and inhibits bacteria, in addition to preventing mold and mildew growth. In colder climates, wintertime humidity levels must be even lower. A relativity of 30 to 40% will prevent condensation on windows and other surfaces, which by the way is my sweet spot.

I already own several digital thermometers and hygrometers (relative humidity gauge). This is a powerful tool to help you reduce internal moisture levels. My favorites are my AcuRite Temperature and Indoor Humidity Monitor  and AcuRite Weather Station (this is a newer model, they don’t have my model anymore). They fairly accurate and easy to use.

Dehumidify and Heat

Here in Seattle, autumn and winter are the very wet seasons, and average monthly rainfall can range from 4 inches to 6 inches.  For just this month, rainfall is now at 7 inches already above monthly norm, and we still have two weeks to go before December. Because of this, I broke down and got a beefy yet portable dehumidifier: NewAir AD-250 25-Pint Portable Dehumidifier  because it weighted 16 pounds and cost $160 — pint per dollar and pound per dollar, it was the best option.  I would have gotten the EcoSeb DD122EA-SIMPLE Desiccant Dehumidifier, 15-Pint, White, 120V, but $200 bucks was out of my budget range.  I would say that the biggest drawback is that the NewAir is easy to tip over and doesn’t have a tilt-over safety shutoff protection, whereas the EcoSeb does. In addition, the EcoSeb has a cover to its water tank, preventing a major spill should it tip over.

NewAir Dehumidifyer

NewAir Dehumidifyer

Combined with a good space heater such as a Lasko 5307 Oscillating Ceramic Tower Heater or a Dyson AM05 Hot + Cool Fan Heater, you can bring down the relative humidity quite a bit. The RH in our trailer dropped from 70% to 35% after a few days of operation, even during a classic Seattle November wind and rain storm.  Now normally you could run the Airstream’s heating system (heat pump and furnace) with the air conditioner, but that requires a lot of electricity and it’s an option not recommended unless you are fully hooked up to 50 AMPs. That’s fine if you’re fully docked at a RV Park, but if you’re on a 115V or 110V outlet, you’ll trip a breaker after a few minutes of run time.

Standard 20 amp circuit breaker

Standard 20 amp circuit breaker

Managing Power Consumption

The heater-dehumidifier combo isn’t a perfect system.  A space heater can pull anywhere from 1100 watts to 2000 watts of power – obviously drawing more power at higher temperature settings. Dehumidifier can draw as much as 200 watts. That’s a potential of 2200 watts. A standard household circuit breaker will hold 20 amps with a voltage rating of 120V. You can figure out your amp draw for each appliance by dividing the wattage by the voltage of the circuit.  Total amp draw would be to add all the appliance amps together.

(appliance 1 watts / volts) + (appliance 2 watts / volts) + (appliance n watts / volts)  = total amps
(2000 watts / 120 volts) + (200 watts / 120 volts) = 18.3 amps

So our total power draw is for just those two appliances is 18.3 amps! Just low enough on a standard 20 amp house circuit without tripping it. Run an additional appliance at any more than 200 watts and the circuit either in the trailer or the trailer’s source outlet trips and you are in the dark groping around for a flashlight.

Basic Practices for Humidity Reduction

I’ve also learned a few tips and tricks for keeping moisture down in our trailer, both from the Moisture Management Manual and from articles online:

1)  Keep your RV or trailer well ventilated.

2) When you produce steam from cooking, cleaning and washing, open a vent to create air circulation

3) Humans produce CO2 and H2O by just breathing, especially during sleep. If weather permits, open a nearby window by just a crack or more.

4) Refrain from drying clothing inside your trailer. Dry outside whenever possible.

5) Use appliances to help you reduce humidity and increase heat. I also use Damprid Refillable Moisture Absorber, which is great for small enclosed spaces such as the closet or bathroom. They have the added bonus of keeping your clothes dry.

6) Refrain from drastic thermostat setbacks. I know it’s a common trick to set back your thermostat to a lower temperature while you are away and while you are a sleep. Setting the temperature to 10 degrees or more lower can reduce the indoor temperature too quickly and increase the chance of condensation on windows and cold surfaces, especially when the outside weather is colder.

7) Clean regularly, including all storage areas.  Wipe down areas with a cloth slightly damp with cleaning solution. A simple and safe cleaning solution is 70% water and 30% white vinegar — this makes a great all-purpose cleanser that removes light mold and mildew stains. For something stronger yet still safe for the environment, mix 1 part oxygen bleach (OxyClean or Bio Kleen Oxygen Bleach Power) to 16 parts water (1 cup oxygen bleach to 1 gallon of water, or roughly 1 tablespoon of oxygen bleach to 1 cup of water). This mix will be safe enough for use on vinyl as well.

8) Care for the exterior of your trailer or RV. Wash and wax the exterior regularly to prevent water seepage.  Inspect regularly for gaps, tears, punctures and the condition of sealants. Some areas may need to be resealed as time goes on.

9) Be mindful of extreme environments. Prolonged use of a trailer in hot tropical zones or freezing locations such as mountains or winter conditions, will require extra care and maintenance.

10) Clean up messes quickly. Food and water spills, animal accidents, can lead to mold and bacterial growth if not quickly cleaned up and disinfected.

All this I learned after three weeks of living in a trailer while moochdocking in a friend’s driveway.  I’m rather thankful, that we’ve had this learning buffer while near family and friends instead on the road.

Trailer Life: The Kent Files

For the past few weeks Trail and I have been living in our wonderful Airstream but have yet to travel farther than 10 miles from where we bought it. We are currently “Moochdocking” in beautiful Renton Washington at our good friends Jeff and Kate Grubb’s house. We will continue to be here until December 4th when we begin  the traveling life in earnest.

The foremost reason we are here is that every year for some time now we have spent Thanksgiving dinner at the Grubb’s along with a goodly number of mutual friends. The table talk is decidedly Geeky while the food and comradeship are very much home for the holidays. As it will be a while since we next see these cherished loved ones we decided to stay until the annual feast. It also so happens that Jeff and Kate have a sizable driveway in which to park our Airstream, the Yamato.

Parking your trailer at someone else’s home is sometimes called moochdocking since by and large you don’t pay for the privilege. The experience is somewhere between being at a trailer park where you have city water, electricity, and sewer and Drydocking or Boondocking where you have none of that. Generally you can get limited electricity from your host, borrow the WIFI bandwidth and fill up the fresh water tank from their outside faucets. On the flip side you have to find somewhere else to dump your waste water tanks and the electricity has to be used gently lest you trip their circuit breakers. It saves a lot of money vs being at a park and can be a really nice way to visit people.

Our second reason for sticking around is to work the kinks out of trailer life while still close to familiar resources. That has been a very good decision as there have been a good number of kinks to work out and it has been easy to manage them since we are close to friends and family. Of course it’s also meant that we get to see some folks and they us before we head out.

A side effect of our moochdocking is spending more time in Kent, a municipality south of Seattle in the Green River valley. Most of our good friends of the last decade live here so it made good sense as a base of operations. It is largely suburban mixed with light industrial business parks and retail sprawl. There is still some farmland which used to be the mainstay so you can see cows and goats on occasion next to McMansions and low rise apartments. We have found the people of Kent to be especially warm friendly compared to Seattle proper and there are a number of good restaurants and many useful services here. All in all it’s a nice place to live and has been very convenient. What it lacks in flash it more than makes up for in comfort.

The worst of the last month has been the weather. With only a few exceptions Seattle weather has finally been living up to its reputation as nothing but rain and gray skies. The weather was phenomenal early this summer so I suppose we were do, but its made getting out of the trailer and onto some trails a non-starter. Flood watches and wind warnings have been the new normal. Trail has been suffering a bit from cabin fever as a result. Being part cave troll myself and can happily lurk under gloomy skies in a trailer so long as I can run my laptop. To escape the cold and wet we will probably make quick passage south once we do get underway.



Trail and Hitch vs The Immovable Implament

Atwood 3000 Power Jack

Atwood 3000 Power Jack

On a blustery Autumn morning, Trail (Anne) and I found ourselves once again with full sewage tanks and needed to take the Yamato (our Airstream) to the local trailer park for sweet relief. I had just finished creating a set of checklists to ensure we didn’t make any mistakes. Last trip I’d misplaced a Blue Ox Hitch Wrench which sparked a small misadventure. This time we’d leave no task unchecked.

All was going well up until we needed to attach the Yamato to Batou (the truck). Airstreams come with a motorized jack on the front end of the trailer. Ours is an Atwood 3000 Power Jack. You need it to lift the Airstream up so you can align it with the truck and attach the hitch. It is also used to level the trailer from end to end. The Airstream is weighted to the front so it always rests on the jack when parked. On this occasion when we tried to raise the Jack it wheezed, moved a tiny bit and then stopped.

A challenge!

Plan A:  Troubleshooting the Power Jack

Of course the first thing we did was try the Atwood Power Jack — again, no effect. It didn’t want to go up or down for us. Our first thought was to check the power connections to the jack, they looked good. We wondered if the battery was dead, checked that and no, full charge. Thought perhaps the battery disconnect should be re-connected but that made no difference: nor should it, the jack has its own separate lead to the battery. We tried plugging the trailer back into our power source and still no luck. It seemed like the motor just didn’t have the oomph it needed.

Manual Crank Drill Adapter

Manual Crank Drill Adapter Top View

Plan B: Mystery Parts

We recalled that Seattle Airstream Adventures Northwest, had told us if ever we ran out of battery power or the motor was kaput, we could use a port on the front to attach a  power drill or use a manual crank to raise and lower the jack. I took a peek at the port, inside the hole was a smooth metal shaft with a smaller cross shaft sticking out of either side about a quarter inch back. I knew right away we had nothing in our power drill set that would connect to that. Thus we went to where the dealer had shown us the hand crank was.

Pulling it out we were puzzled. Its attachment point looked exactly like what was inside the Jack, a shaft with a cross bar in it. The other end was just a simple handle. It also had some cryptic warning on it that with a picture of some object that looked nothing like our jack. I even pulled the Jack apart looking for another port and found nothing. There was no way this thing was going to help. I went inside to find the manual for the Jack. It’s cryptic instructions were not especially helpful, but I remarked that the picture of the hand crank looked nothing like the one we had. Showing it to Trail, she recalled finding some odd parts in a tub under the couch that might be an adapter. Eureka! I asked she go recover said implement.

The device in question posed as many questions as answers. It was a short brass object with a fitting on one end that indeed fit the Power Jack port, while the other end was a thin triangle of metal that fit absolutely nothing at hand. Later we discovered that this drill bit had a proper name according to Atwood: A Manual Crank Drill Adapter

Manual Crank Drill Adapter

Manual Crank Drill Adapter Side View

Plan C:  Power Drill + Manual Crank Drill Adapter

We pulled out the longest wrench we had, put the brass fitting into the Jack and tried to turn it. The wrench just didn’t hold onto the thin brass triangle well so that was a miss. We took out our ratchet set to see if any of the ratchets would grip, no dice, triangles have one fewer sides than you need to grip on. It was then Trail realized the triangle would fit well into a power drill chuck. Brilliant, our problem was solved. We had two such drills in the toolbox in the truck. Sure enough it fit great, clearly that was what it was intended for!

Unfortunately the power drill seemed to have exactly the same problem the Power Jack motor itself did: not enough power to lift or lower the trailer. The Airstream folks had made it sound as if a hand drill could easily move it but this was just not working. Trail thought perhaps the angle of the driveway and the stuff we’d stored in the trailer was such it had gone over what the motor could handle even though we were still well short of its maximum rated weight. We decided perhaps if I were to move myself in the back of the trailer that might counter balance. Not so much it turned out.

Plan D:  Airstream Support

Having exhausted what our dealer had instructed us in, we gave Seattle Airstream Adventures Northwest a call, and ended up on hold for a good long while. We’d been parked only a short distance from the dealer and we decided rather than wait on hold we’d just drive down there and ask them in person. We got the hitch off the truck and headed over with the manual crank and strange adapter thing. We explained the problem to the lady at the parts desk and pointed to the different looking manual crank in our manual asking if they had something like that. She’d never seen one like the picture but verified the one we had was standard. She took it to the maintenance crew while we waited.

She and another service advisory returned with something of a major discovery. The 2016 Airstreams were the first to use the Atwood jacks, but the manual crank was the same one they’d been using the past 10 years and the two were not compatible. Checking they discovered that every 2016 Airstream on the lot had this problem. Not only that but those come from the manufacturer with power jack and manual crank already included so it’s possible every single 2016 Airstream has a manual crank that doesn’t fit the jack!  Trail asked if we were the first, the insisted they’d neither had anyone come in nor that they’d had any word for Airstream about this.

Basically, they could not help us. They didn’t have the right manual cranks for Atwood Power Jack. They didn’t know what crank was needed and headquarters was closed for the day. Whee!  We did make an appointment to have the motor looked at provided we could get the thing over to them! They said they would call when they had something, I’ve still not heard from them. How very disappointing.

Plan E:  Impact Drivers

We went online and with the magic of the internet found ourselves a manual crank handle that fit the Atwood. If you need one you can order one here: Atwood 87891 Replacement Handle Power Jack. We ordered it with express shipping but it would not arrive until late the next day. Meanwhile our tanks were filled to brimming. Lucky for us we are “MoochDocking” and can simply use our friends facilities but we really wanted to get this resolved and there was no guarantee this hand crank would work.

We instead headed to the nearest major hardware store looking for a more powerful drill. Home Depot had a number of options for us. What you want with a job like this is torque which is basically the force used to turn something. Drills tend to be about speed rather that high torque but a similar device is the Impact Driver which is designed for high torque rather than speed. The problem is that Impact Drivers are fitted not with a three fingered chuck but is designed to take only hex screw driver bits. We knew from experience this would not work with the Manual Crank Drill Adapter and its brassy tri-head adapter. With the help of the attendant and said brass triangle in hand, we did find another bit that fit the impact driver and had a similar head as the brass coupler. Not exactly the same, but it was worth a shot.

Then again perhaps not. It turns out it was really for turning wall hooks or loops and the central shaft opening was too small to fit the Jack port. By this point in time it was late, and we were tired so we cleaned up at our friends’ house and went to the trailer to do some computer work and go to bed.

Plan F:  Hammer Drill / Impact Driver Combo

Back we go to the hardware store to return the impact driver and see what else we could find.  We found a Roybi brand Hammer Drill / Impact Driver that was a sort of two in one deal. It had the three fingered chuck of a drill but had high torque settings and a bunch of other whiz bang features. Of course it was the most expensive portable drill on offer. We bought it and headed back home.

Crank Drill Bit + Hammer Drill

By golly! It works! Crank Drill Bit + Hammer Drill

The manual crank drill adapter fit nicely and by golly it did indeed turn the jack… for about 5 seconds and then started to overheat. Clearly a superior drill, but it was becoming apparent it would take mighty forces to move the trailer. I tried using my body weight as a counterbalance again and that helped some but it was slow and impractical. Still, it was a great drill, clearly better than ours so we decided we’d keep it. If you want one of your own (it’s got lots of great features) you can get one here:   Ryobi 18-volt One+ Lithium-ion Cordless Hammer Drill/driver Combo Kit

Plan G: Atwood Manual Hand Crank 

We took a break for lunch and when we got back we were pleased to discover the manual crank arrived somewhat earlier than scheduled. With great curiosity and little other hope we unwrapped it. It looked like the picture and the linking mechanism looked like the brass fitting we’d been using. Signs were good. I plugged it into the winch and started to turn. I was surprised how easy it was to turn and it lifted the trailer no problem. A bit slow going but perfectly functional. With a bit of effort we managed to get the Yamato hooked up, taken to the dumping station, and back in place before rush hour traffic descended on us.

To our great surprise on returning back we found the built in motor on the jack worked just fine for unhitching the trailer and leveling it. Hitch came up with what I think is the most plausible explanation. The trailer was parked at something of an angle such that we could not completely level it with the jack when parked. Over the time it was parked it shifted back just a bit which left the jack shaft at just an ever so slight angle which dramatically increased the force needed to lift and lower it.

Atwood 3000 Power Jack Manual Hand Crank

Atwood 3000 Power Jack’s Drill Bit Crank and Manual Hand Crank

To be on the safe side we also thoroughly cleaned and lubricated the power jack shaft with WD-40 Specialist Silicone the power jack shaft now that we could fully extend it. It had some duct tape smashed in around the bottom and some sticky stuff a little ways up from there. Apparently that was a result of the service guys not fully removing the tape that holds protective shipping covers in place. Since it was only at the bottom it seemed unlikely it caused the problem but best to cover all the bases.

And that folks, is what we like to call adventure. There are always interesting new challenges but you have to keep plugging away until you solve it, learn a lot in the process, and accomplish something for yourself.

Trail & Hitch in the Lodge of Leisure: Willows Lodge

Tucked in Woodinville’s  wine country is one of my favorite places along the Sammamish River: The Willows Lodge.  The moment you check in, you are greeted with a glass of local wine. Guest rooms feature stone fireplaces to cuddle and get cosy by.  On a clear day, you can see Mount Rainier taunting its splendor from a distance.  But above all, the Willows Lodge toutes some of Seattle’s best chefs and premier restaurants in the Pacific Northwest. Executive Chef Bobby Moore heads the Barking Frog, a casual-smart bistro-esque dining atmosphere with an award winning cellar stocked with Northwest and international wines.  Just a few paces down is The Herbfarm , with its extensively unique, almost theater like multi-course dining experience. With Chef Chris Weber and Sous Chef Jack Gingrich at the helm of this 5-Diamond restaurant, you are guaranteed the best culinary tour of delights that the Northwest has to offer.

For this particular visit we celebrated our wedding anniversary and dined at the Barking Frog. Hitch started with an appetizer of penn cove mussels stewed in a coconut-curry broth along with Cotechino (a kind of tasty salami that requires cooking), bok choy and a plate of grilled naan.  For myself, I sampled a seared ahi over a bed of daikons, cucumber, fermented black beans, soy glazed shiitake, seasoned with black garlic and sesame. For our main course, I dined on the Niman Ranch pork chop served with cabbage, apples, onions, apple chestnut sauce and bourbon maple glaze. Hitch supped on an 8 ounce center cut beef tenderloin served over brussels sprouts, chanterelles and with a blue cheese potato gratin and chateaubriand sauce. All of it was amazing, and the best tasties that a foodie like me could hope for.

In our room, service prepared a drawn bubble bath decorated with floating rose petals, a tray topped with chocolate dipped strawberries, and a chocolate mouse with an espresso crust dessert for two. There was even champagne for two, romantic lighting and a romantic soundtrack. Well done Willows Lodge. Very well done.

Click to view slideshow.

Making Money with Affiliate Advertising

Trail and Hitch is more than a personal adventure blog, it’s also an attempt to make some money from our experiences and writing. Part of our new lifestyle is to find a means to make a living from any place on the globe so that we can live where the winds of adventure blow us.

There are plenty of ways for a blog to make money though by and large all of it is some kind of marketing. We could do fairly traditional banner ads and the like which pay per click but we need a big audience to make them pay and I’m just not a fan of sites plastered with the darn things. We could advertise our own products for sale, and I will, but as of yet I don’t have any to sell you. We could collect email addresses and send spam to them but I object to that on principle. What remains and makes the most sense for us is something called Affiliate Advertising.

Basically we become salesmen for various products you can order on line. If you use a on our site to purchase a product we can make a little money from the sale. A lot of companies have programs like this, most notably Amazon as they sell such a wide range of products. Affiliate links can take various forms. You will sometimes see them looking like more traditional ads in banners or sidebars, or they can simply be text links embedded in a blog post like the one you will find at the end of this article. Sometimes they will take you to a specific product, sometimes to a general marketplace. Whatever it is you buy, if you got linked by an affiliate link the person who put the link up is getting a small cut of the sale. Amazon for instance tends to pay about 4%-5%.

Affiliate advertising has the advantage of working well with a smaller audience but can still grow as your audience does. I also feel it is an honest sort of advertising. You effectively become a salesperson for a product and if you make a sale you get paid. Unlike many sales jobs with affiliate programs you get to pick what it is you want to sell so you are never compromising your values for a paycheck. If you think it’s a good product you can promote it and if you find fault you can stop and find something else.

Trail and I are still very new to all this. We have one post that contains affiliate links for Amazon and there will be more. Sometimes it will just be a product we talk about in a broader post, other times it will be part of a product review for something we are using while on the road or we have recently enjoyed. Whatever the case we honestly think that if you are in the market for such a thing it’s a product we feel is worth the money. If you think you would like to buy it, then by all means please use our link to do so. You will pay the same price and we will make a little of what Amazon would otherwise be getting.

Finally you can use affiliate links as a way to essentially donate to our endeavor. If you use one of our general amazon affiliate links anything you buy will earn us some commission. So any time you have some shopping to do, if you do it through us you are helping us out. Holiday season is coming up so it’s a great time for us to make some money using affiliate links for things you were already going to buy. Allow me to demonstrate…

Go here to shop on Amazon and support the adventures of Trail and Hitch:  Amazon Home Page

Trail & Hitch versus The Yellow Jackets

Hitch and I decided to stay in the South King County area to spend Thanksgiving with friends and to see our families for one last time before our first real maiden voyage across the asphalt seas of America. Thanks to our generous friends, we are parked in their driveway … which by the way, is known as “moochdocking” by the RV community.

We spent our first week learning the about the internal workings of our Airstream, but we mostly moved all our gear into the trailer and organized it just short of OCD levels. We made our first RV dump run with little trouble, and decided to move the trailer to the other side of the driveway since it would be easier. Little did we know that we would be a Hotel California for yellow jackets the moment we unhitched and setup the stabilization jacks.

Before I go into our first adventure story, I’d like to point out that adult yellow jackets mainly eat the rich sugars and carbohydrates found in fruits, flower nectar and sap. The larvae feed on proteins derived from insects, meats, and fish, which are collected by the adults, who dutifully chew and pre-digest the food before feeding their larvae. Many of the insects collected by the adults are considered pest species, making the yellow jacket beneficial to agriculture. In the autumn, the adults are desperate for food to feed the next generation who will emerge next spring. Usually by the first freeze, adults that aren’t sheltered in a warm hive die.

We took a trip to Airstream Adventures Northwest, where a service adviser told us that wasps like yellow jackets are attracted to the smell of propane. To them propane smells sweet, and the exhaust from either the water heater, heating furnace and the refrigerator can attract them into the Airstream. We were advised to get additional “mud dauber screens”  for exhaust vents and “aluminum insect screening” for access panels leading to the refrigerator ventilation and water heater.

Furnace Exhaust

The smell of propane may attract insects into the furnace exhaust

Refrigerator Ventilation System

Refrigerator Ventilation System

Water Heater System

Water Heater System

Our Airstream service adviser went on to say that if we were still finding wasps in our trailer, then we should clean out vents using an air compressor capable of 60 PSI. Vents to especially blow out was the refrigerator exhaust pipe behind the burner jet or behind the power module and the water heater vent system just behind the spark probe. If you are an Airstream owner reading this, I suggest visiting your local dealership’s service center for a quick Q&A with a service adviser.

After a cursory search on the internet, I found that many RV and Airstream owners said that inserting or hanging a dog flea collar in these high wasp attraction areas would repel any wannabe insect homesteaders. Personally, I wouldn’t do this with the furnace exhaust, because that vent tends to run very hot when in use.

We also had another working theory as to why the yellow jackets were interested in our home: the Airstream was warm and the insects were attracted by the heat. Regardless of the reason, the buggers found their way into the trailer. Unexpectedly and oddly, they’d come flying out of the skylight fixture in a dazed and loopy fashion, drunkenly flying and then ram themselves into unconsciousness against a window or wall. They hardly made a threat in that state. I almost pitied them, as swept them out the door. We also bought yellow jacket traps and set them outside of the trailer, but only caught three wasps in total.

By the third day, no more yellow jackets showed up. Either because the weather got too cold for them to fly around or we exhausted the colony’s numbers. Hitch noticed through the skylight frame a number of shadowy insect bodies lay dead or dormant. I made an addendum to our upcoming service appointment and have the Airstream service guys remove any desiccated wasp bodies.

New Home Acquired

On October 19th we took possession of our new home, a 2016 30” Airstream International Edition Serenity with Oyster Trim. We are calling it The Yamato after the spaceship in the Anime series Space Battleship Yamato, itself named after the WWII Japanese warship. We are also calling it home!

We picked it up from Airstream Adventures Northwest where Linda Henderson helped us get a great deal. We’d talked to her early on and promised we’d be back. Sales folks hear that a lot but when we came by the Tacoma RV show she was there and we made good on the promise. Buying at RV shows is a great way to go as they tend to be eager to make great deals. It’s a good idea to know what you want ahead of time however. All said and done we got nearly 20% off the retail price and a lot of extras thrown in on top of that. The dealership did a fine job getting it ready for us and showing us the ropes. They also include a lot of essential equipment and a thick book of instruction manuals, guides, and technical docs.

Mind you new 30” Airstreams don’t come cheap, and there are lots of costs beyond the sticker price such as taxes, extended warranties (nice when you live in the thing), and the hardware needed to pull such a beast. All said and done I wrote the biggest check of my life for some 97K. Easily covered by the sale of the house but no small chunk of change for us I can assure you. Still, the fact I now own my own home free and clear is a fantastic feeling of independence. The fact I can take it nearly anywhere I want is even better.

So far, we are loving the Airstream. It’s cozy, pretty, and equipped with quite the array of amenities. We were able to fit everything we decided not to sell and then some without feeling at all cluttered. There was even room for the cats to have a secret cozy cave under the bed all to themselves. Speaking of the cats, it took a week or so for them to settle in but they seem to be taking the move in stride. They definitely don’t like it when the trailer is in motion or when they get moved to the truck for excursions but I think in time that too will become routine for them.

All in all we are incredibly happy about The Yamato and look forward to great adventures with her as we make our way across America following our dreams.