How Much to Airstreams Weigh?

A good number of people are asking this question and ending up at Trail and Hitch so I felt it would be good to try and provide an answer. I suspect this comes up in relation to towing an Airstream rather than say, mailing it first class in the post.

Let’s start with a few terms used to specify the weight of trailers.

Hitch Weight:  This is also called Tongue Weight. It is how much downward pressure the trailer puts on the hitch when attached. When you buy a hitch, you want the tongue weight capacity to be as much or more than the Hitch Weight.

Base Weight:  This is how much the trailer weights when it rolls off the assembly line. It does not include the weight for fresh or waste water or any other stuff you put in your trailer.

Maximum Capacity: This is how much your trailer would weigh if you loaded it up to its maximum safe capacity. Thus it would include the trailer, all the water in it, and all your stuff. It is sometimes listed as (GVWR) Gross vehicle weight rating.

Net Carrying Capacity: This is how much stuff you can safely load in your trailer. It includes water weight.

The numbers that matter most

Of those above, the ones you need to pay attention to for towing are the Hitch Weight and the Maximum Capacity.  You want to compare Hitch Weight to your hitch’s Tongue Weight, and Maximum Capacity to your vehicles Towing Capacity. Your hitch and vehicle capacity values should meet or exceed your trailer’s weight values.

You may find a lot more information about towing in other articles that go into greater detail but Airstreams are built to be well balanced and that means many of those considerations are not at play so you won’t need to sweat over them. It’s good to learn all you can, but with an Airstream, it doesn’t need to be complicated. They are built for easy towing. If the numbers match, you should be good to go.

So How much do they Weigh?

So glad you asked, it all depends on the make and model. I’ll start by giving you some examples from the modern fleet, but it is best to go look it up for whatever you specifically are interested in. I’ll help with that too.

2017 Basecamp or 2017 Sport 16′:  This is the lightest Airstream currently on the market.  It has a Maximum Capacity of 3500lb. You can tow a basecamp with a mid-sized SUV, light truck, or almost any vehicle intended for towing.

2017 Flying Cloud 23′ Full Bed: This is around the mid-sized range for Airstream trailers. Its Maximum Capacity is 6000lb.  You can tow one with a larger SUV or mid-sized truck.

2017 International Serenity 28′:  Now we are getting into the big, double AC Airstreams. This one has a Maximum Capacity of 7,600lb. Now you need the largest of SUVs or a full sized truck.

2017 Classic 33′: This is as big as they currently make them. The Classic has a Maximum Capacity of 10,000lb. You need to have good truck 1500 v8 or better to tow one of these and most will want a 2500 to be on the safe side.

Make model and year are going to vary and things like furnishings can change the weight. Generally, airstreams of a similar length will have a similar weight. Newer ones will often be a bit heavier than older models because they got a fair bit wider starting in 1994.

You can find modern weights on Airstream.com.  Just go to the main page.  Hover over the “Travel Trailers” menu and select the trailer style you are interested in. Then choose the Specs/Floorplans option on the page for that model.  If there are multiple sizes for the model, a drop down menu will let you select them. Then just look for the values we discussed in the spec sheet.

For older models, go their library page and use the tools to search for the model you are looking for.

More Stuff To Read

I’ve got more articles you may find helpful on this topic.

Picking a Tow Vehicle for an Airstream Trailer

Picking a Hitch for Your Airstream Trailer

 

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The Best Hot Weather Hat

OK, I’ll admit I don’t know for a fact it is the single best hot weather hat in the world. I can say it is really a good one and I have worn it extensively in the deserts of the American west. Best is one of those keywords that people like to search for, myself included. I promise you won’t be disappointed by one of these hats on a hot day, I honestly adore mine.

So what hat am I talking about? I actually had to do a little research to discover that my hat is the Henschel Breezer with Coolmax Band. I picked mine up at Saguaro National Park. Trail had gotten one earlier at the SanDiego zoo earlier in the year and was loving it so she got one for me too. A fair number of national parks sell them in their gift shop with the name of the park embroidered on the band.

Here you can see the effective shade provided by the hat while I do some fishing.

Why it’s “the best”

It has good hat fundamentals with a nice fit and a fairly attractive and classic profile. The brim is the perfect size for shading the sun out of your eyes for most of the day and preventing sunburn on your face. It is sturdy and can stand up to some rough treatment and still come out looking decently after brushing it off. Mine has deformed just a bit from having stuff piled on top of it in the truck but for the most part still looks good. The stitching and materials are excellent. It stands up to modest rainfall pretty well but is designed more for hot and sunny days.

The real star of the show with this hat is that the sides of the crown are an open mesh material. This both allows heat and sweat from your head to escape and allows cool breezes to pass through which I can attest is a wonderful thing. The top is solid as is the brim so rain and other falling material won’t pass through. The hat will get wet, but you won’t.  So often with hats, I want to take them off to get some circulation but there is no need with the Breezer. The sweatband is also very nice and does a good job keeping your eyes clear and your head dry. The underside of the brim can get a bit sweat stained as a result but the mesh covering on top of the brim keeps that from being visible to others. A nice touch.

Witness the near hysterical joy brought to me by my wonderful hat.

Best of all, it’s not a very expensive hat, retailing around $25 – $35 depending on where you buy it. As of this writing, the one I linked to on Amazon above is $25 + shipping. I likely paid closer to $35 at the national park store when I got mine. As a bonus, Henschel manufactures most of their hats in the US  and notes which others are specifically imported. I like to support business local to the regions we travel in and from the US when there is a good product to be had.

 

 

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Work Anywhere: Qwik Lock Laptop Stand Reveiw

The idea of working from anywhere in the world is a compelling one. It has always been one of our goals to figure out how to make a living while traveling America, and eventually the wide world. I think all of us who pursue this dream imagine golden moments without our laptops on the beach or in the high alpine mountains. The reality of it tends to be rather different. For me, most of my computer time is sitting in the galley of my trailer with my laptop on the dining table. It is neither a great place to sit for long periods nor terribly inspiring.

It was a combination of wanting to work outside more and concern for my health that led me to seek out an alternative. My first concern was that I wanted some way to work standing up. Secondly, I wanted something I could take with me nearly anywhere and use my laptop comfortably. Finally, I wanted something sturdy enough I wouldn’t be constantly worried about it tipping over or falling apart.

What I ended up getting

After a long bout of scouring product reviews, I decided to try out the Quik Lock LPH-oo3 Laptop Stand. Overall, I liked the tripod style laptop stands better than the style with four legs. This Quik Lock stand can adjust from 30″ to nearly 50″ in height. This means I can use it sitting down or standing up with a quick adjustment. The tripod can also be pulled in close to a chair or bench and needs only a small, level area to stand on. The tripod style stands also had a better track record with reviewers for being stable than the four legged free standing options. What gave the Quik Lock the edge over other laptop tripods was that it had a built in mouse tray as where many other brands did not.

The laptop sits on an adjustable platform at the top. It has a grippy surface and four adjustable arms to hold it in place. Reviews varied widely as to how big a laptop it could accommodate. I think that is due to how people try to use the arms. The two bottom arms will always fit fine. The two back arms are a tad too short to grab both sides of a largish 15″ laptop like mine. I was able to put one arm on the side, and another around the back and this fit fine and held my laptop firmly in place.

Trying it out

Overall the stand felt sturdy and stable. I would not use it in a high wind, but even at its highest extension, it would take a good solid shove to knock it over. I was delighted to find that even at 6’3″, it was comfortable to use standing up, a little short of its maximum height. It also worked well sitting down in a camp chair at its lowest setting. If you are short, it may be a little too tall in a low chair but it worked great for me. In a desk or dining chair, it should work for near anyone. I was concerned that a comfortable standing typing position would have me bending my neck to look down at the screen. This proved not to be an issue. To make a comfortable typing surface I had to angle the keyboard a fair bit and this resulted in the screen being at a great angle for viewing while standing straight.

The only downside was that the mouse tray was simply too small for my mouse. It has metal rims to keep the mouse in place when not in use, but this affords almost no range of motion for a standard mouse. A small wireless mouse would work, but it still feels like you have little room to maneuver. I decided instead to get a Logitech M570 wireless trackball. It fit perfectly in the tray and I am fairly comfortable using one for work applications. A little practice and I barely noticed the difference.

Once the weather was nice enough, I took it for a spin outside the trailer. I worked for about 90 minutes standing and found it to be very comfortable. I’m not used to standing while working but had no real issues with posture or position. I did get a little tired and switched to sit down mode. I worked for another 60 minutes in the camp chair without any problems. All in all, I’d say it is a big success. I definitely give the Quik Lock a recommendation if you want a versatile laptop stand for both standing and sitting.

Here I’m sitting in a pretty typical folding camp chair with the stand pulled in close. The angle is actually much nicer than a desk.

Have laptop, will travel

The final test was to see how just how portable the thing is. Sturdy comes with some cost in terms of weight. The stand weighs just over 13lb which is not what I’d call light. For travel, you detach the platform from the tripod, fold up the arms on the platform, and then collapse the tripod. The tripod is about 18″ long folded up, and the platform about 12″ square and 4″ thick with a fair number of pointy surfaces. I don’t think I’d be quick to take it on a long backpacking trip but you could if you were determined to. I had no trouble finding a storage spot for it in the trailer and it would be no sweat taking it anywhere that I’d bring a camp chair or cooler. It would be amazing if it were just a bit lighter and sleeker. As is, it’s good enough for my needs.

Here is the stand separated and folded. Its certainly portable, but somewhat awkward and heavy.

All in all, I think it’s a great product and I suspect I will get a lot of use out of it. It will allow me to switch things up for long work sessions and to do some writing in inspiring locations. One thing to keep in mind; the outdoors are not always laptop friendly. Strong winds can tip over your stand. Rain is an issue for most laptops. You can’t stray too long from a power source. Strong sunlight can make reading the screen a challenge and direct sun could overheat your computer. Bugs may find you or your screen attractive in the evening. And as I discovered, birds and butterflies are pretty good at distracting you from your work. All that said, it was great to get outside in the open air and continue to work on our blog and I plan on doing more of that in the future with my new portable workstation.

 

 

 

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Happy Pants: A review of Duluth Cargo Pants

Ever since I married I have abdicated the lion’s share of my clothing purchases to my dear wife. As a bachelor, I was never a fashion icon. I typically bought clothing when what I had became dysfunctional. I was even known to wear shirt’s I’d made for myself from time to time. These days Trail does the shopping while I retain the right to rubber stamp or veto any given selection. Trail has good tastes and my main interest in dressing up is look good in her eyes so the arrangement works well.

Time for a change… of pants

When traveling, the qualities you look for in clothing change somewhat. A typical day can include crawling through a wet cave tunnel, sliding down a sand dune on your butt, or working with a greasy trailer hitch. Durability and stain resistance are key, as is being comfortable in a wide range of weather conditions. Of course, you also want to be comfortable in a wide range of challenging situations and still look respectable if you go out for dinner after an adventure.

Recently, it came time to replace some of my old pants which had run the gauntlet of travel challenges and failed. One pair split wide open while sliding down sand dunes, another was badly shredded by rocks and cactus after a trek in the badlands. My jeans were declared a money sink as they took twice as long to machine dry as every other article of clothing. Trail decided some serious research was needed to find the perfect pair of trousers for me and my new adventuring ways.

A good view of the pockets and belt.

Traveling Trousers

Her search turned up the Duluth Trading Company and their Dry on the Fly Nylon Cargo Pants. They are designed to be tough and comfortable and to look decent as casual wear and they succeed on all accounts. The material is nylon that has been treated to be water and sunshine-resistant and both features work very nicely helping you stay cool and dry. Unlike my cotton jeans, they dry fast both when worn and when being cleaned. The material is woven in such a way that it is flexible in the diagonal but firm vertically and horizontally. As a result, they look fairly crisp but flex nicely when you are moving around.

A feature common to nearly all fo the Duluth pants lines is their “crotch gusset.” This is a somewhat stretchy wedge of fabric in the inseam of the pants that gives them a lot more range of motion without pulling or pinching. Not only does it mean no pinching in sensitive areas, it prevents the pants from stress on the inseam and ripping up the middle. It’s an event that not only destroys your pants but makes for an awkward day on the trails. I speak from personal experience on this account. The end result is that they flow near as well as a pair of sweat pants but look a whole lot nicer.

Since they are meant as work or adventure pants, they have a wide range of pockets and super wide belt loops. This means you can pack a lot of gear into the pants and on your belt. The pants come with a belt, but I found it to be too thin for practical use and substituted my usual simple wide leather belt for it. It accommodated the hefty leather strap quite nicely. One nice feature on the cargo pockets is a side zipper. It is arranged such that it is easy to access while sitting, which makes them great for keeping a phone or wallet on long drives, much easier to access than a traditional pocket.

Style wise, they are not the sleekest pants ever, but the lightweight material keeps them from looking bulky and awkward. Different models run the gamut from casual slacks to fairly utilitarian. Mine are on the utilitarian end but they don’t look out of place with a casual collared shirt. Unsurprisingly, they go very well with typical outdoor clothing. Colors can be limited depending on the specific model. During the sale, they were out of my preferred color, Black. Most of the colors are browns and greens, classic fall colors.

The “bottom” line

The only downside is that these pants don’t come cheap. Full price they range from $65 to $80 depending on the specific size and style. The do go on sale and that is how we bought ours, closer to $50 a pair. I think in the long run the durability and quick wash times will make that a good investment compared to cheaper pants, all the while enjoying a lot more comfort and utility.

All in all, I highly recommend them for anyone who wants a rugged, comfortable, and decent looking pair of pants that can handle some serious adventure.

Never mind the honeyed hams, here you can see how the fabric stretches when in motion. No pinching or tugging which is nice.

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Carlsbad Caverns: Natural Entrance Trail

Ancient Inland Sea

Like many natural geological formations of Southwest America, Carlsbad Cavern’s story starts over 280 million years ago, during a time known as the Permian age. Back then, a primary landmass called Pangea was surrounded by a global ocean called Panthalassa. In the land area which we now know as New Mexico, there was a shallow inland sea, home to a reef rich with aquatic life. The reef wasn’t like modern reefs; this reef was made mostly of sponges and algae. Today’s geologists call that ancient reef Capitan Reef, and it sheltered many now-long-gone animals such as ammonites, crinoids, snails, nautiloids, bivalves, and brachiopods.

Permian Age Fossil from the Capital Reef

Permian Age Fossil from the Capital Reef

The Making of a Mountain

Fast forward nearly 30 million years — after billions of sea critters die and collect on the sea floor, after millions of sediment layers coat the sea bottom, and then a few hundred major land shifts drastically alter the landscape — the coastline ultimately uplifted into a horseshoe-shaped limestone layer of rock a few thousands of feet thick, a few miles wide and over four hundred miles long. During this Triassic Age, it took 20 million years for the Capitan Reef to be covered by thousands of feet of additional sediments, and then (with the help of tectonic plates colliding) rise upward even further to form the Guadalupe Mountains. Water in the form of rain and snow melt eroded the younger sediments and exposed a limestone ancient reef from the Permian Age.

El Capitan - Most western part of Capitan Reef

El Capitan in Guadalupe Mountains – Most western part of Capitan Reef

Birth of a Cave

Roughly 6 million years ago, one of the last caves in the Guadalupe Mountains was formed: the Carlsbad Caverns. The caverns in Carlsbad are unique in that there is evidence that sulfuric acid eroded out the limestone, instead of the usual carbonic acid. Scientists discovered that sometime during the late Tertiary period (12 million years ago), hydrogen sulfide (H2S, gas) from oil deposits began diffusing upward and then combined with oxygen within the underground water table found within the limestone cracks and faults to form sulfuric acid, a very aggressive acid. As the Guadalupe Mountains shifted upward, the water level dropped in relation to the land surface. This drained the acid bath away, leaving behind the newly dissolved caves, a process that took roughly 4 to 6 million years.

Looking out of the Cave Entrance of Carlsbad Caverns

Looking out of the Cave Entrance of Carlsbad Caverns

Cave Decorations

About 2 to 3 million years ago, a collapse at the top of the cave created a natural entrance to Carlsbad Caverns. For the first time, a world of darkness and hidden passageways was open to the above world. Air began to circulate and flow through the caverns. Once Carlsbad became a breathing cave, magnificent cave decorations began to form. Rain and snowmelt soaked through the limestone, then down into the cave, drip by drip. On the way down, the water absorbed all kinds of minerals and even gasses. With the air now circulating through, the water could evaporate, and release carbon dioxide and leave behind minute deposits of calcite.

Looking down in the Main Hall

Looking down in the Main Hall

Speleothems of all different shapes can be found in Carlsbad. Slow drops form stalactites, soda straws, ribbons, curtains, and draperies. Faster moving water forms decorations on the floor such as flowstones, columns, stalagmites, shelves, cave pools, and rimstone dams. Through evaporation, you get cave popcorn, with capillary forces, gravity defying helictite forms, and nucleation creates beautiful crystals such as dogtooth spar, anthodites, and frostwork. The amazing part is that many of these speleothems would have formed up during the last Ice Age. Imagine 10,000 years ago, while saber-tooth cats, giant sloths, and mammoths roamed the surface, all the amazing formations you see today were formed deep underground – when the Guadalupe Mountains received a great deal more rainfall than in today’s desert climate.

Amphitheater Leading to the Natural Entrance

Amphitheater Leading to the Natural Entrance

Natural Entrance Self-Guided Tour

When we first arrived at Carlsbad Caverns, I was determined that we start from the Natural Entrance and making the full descent, instead of taking the lazy way down in the elevator. There’s an option to get an audio guide device, but we skip that and head directly to the route. I want to walk the 1.25-mile path and see the cave as the original explorers did, with eyes of curiosity searching out for new discoveries. We first began at the amphitheater, where visitors can watch the bats fly out into the night by the millions.

Natural Entrance of Carlsbad Caverns

Natural Entrance of Carlsbad Caverns

Into the Twilight Zone

Slowly we descended down, and bid the daylight farewell. The path took us down a steep and narrow trail bathed in the perpetual dusk, a place known as the “Twilight Zone” by the rangers who work here. Many of the cave formations deeper in were lit by LED lights put in just a few years ago. Without the lights, we wouldn’t be able to see a surprisingly tall cavern ceiling looming above us, nor the stone formations flowing and jutting in odd shapes. Looking back daylight streams through the entrance. Little did I know that this would be my last glimpse fo the sun for many hours. From here on out the communication between Hitch and I is reduced to short bursts of exclamations containing no more than three syllables and sighs of wonder. Nothing but, “Wow!” or “Woah!” or “Amazing!” and the occasional “Look at this!”

Along the Natural Entrance Trail, in the Twilight Zone

Along the Natural Entrance Trail, in the Twilight Zone

Mysteries of Devil’s Den

On we wandered through a tight tunnel, only to be surprised by tall and spacious trunk passage of the Main Corridor. Here we passed by several named formations: Devil’s Spring, Taffy Hill, and the Whale’s Mouth before heading into an adjoining cavern known as the Devil’s Den. In this eerie cavern, Geologist Carol Hill and her team excavated the remains of a giant ice age sloth. Known as the Shasta ground sloth, this megafauna reached 9-feet long and weighed a quarter of a ton. According to Hill, the sloth was probably injured when it fell down into the cave. Ultimately, the sloth laid down to die in a pit beneath Devil’s Den.

Heading Down to the Devils Den

Heading Down to the Devils Den

Beyond the Devil’s Den, the path begins to snake and curve downward. We pass a set of magnificent narrow stalagmite formations, known as totem poles. This particular set of totem poles is called the Witch’s Fingers, due to their crooked and knobby nature. At the foot of a 30-foot totem pole near the trail, is where I begin to wonder who named all of these formations, and why did they have this odd fixation on devils and witches. I later learned from a ranger that an 1800s Carlsbad-area cowboy by the name of Jim White named most rooms and formations. I couldn’t imagine roaming this rocky terrain with only a kerosene lantern, I’d probably break my neck in first five yards.

Witches Fingers

Witches Fingers – super narrow stalagmites known as totem poles

Iceberg Rock

The trail then takes us down to Iceberg Rock. This 200,000-ton behemoth fell from the cavern wall. From the top of the trail, we can see the white tip, while at the bottom the trail brings us right next to it. We turn the bend and end up in a passage benight the giant for a good look at its underside. Before we know it, we clear the passage and end up in a hallway that looks to be made from the bone of some long gone monstrous creature. Before I can say anything, Hitch points out a sign indicating that this area is called “The Bone Yard.”

Iceberg Rock - A 200,000-ton rock that fell from the cave wall

Iceberg Rock – A 200,000-ton rock that fell from the cave wall

We scale a small hill before heading down to a junction point where the Natural Entrance Trail joins the Big Room Trail. The sheer size of the Big Room stunned us both. Although I can only see half way, the signs indicate that the room is 4,000 feet long and 625 feet – a very Big Room!

I’m afraid I have to end this blog article here and save the details of our Big Room exploration. There’s just too much for me to talk about to put in one post. I remember thinking, when we reached that junction, “Wow, there’s more?” Yes, lots more, but in a later article. So stay tuned!

Where Natural Entrance Trail joins Big Room Trail

Where Natural Entrance Trail joins Big Room Trail

Looking up toward the Natural Entrance

Looking up toward the Natural Entrance

We are in the Twilight Zone

We are in the Twilight Zone

Looking down in the Main Hall

Looking down in the Main Hall

Devils Spring - where water collects into a pool and the columns of stone seem to guard it

Devils Spring – where water collects into a pool and the columns of stone seem to guard it

Hitch at Carlsbad Caverns Entrance

Hitch at Carlsbad Caverns Entrance

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Why Are Airstreams So Expensive?

We get a lot of compliments on our Airstream as we travel around the country. They are striking trailers and they have a very good reputation. None the less, you don’t see nearly as many of them as you do other brands of trailers and motorhomes. One of the reasons why is that they don’t come cheap. A brand new Airstream in 2017 will cost you somewhere between $40K to $140K.  It is no wonder we are often asked: “Why are Airstreams so expensive?”

The Body Beautiful

The principle reason Airstreams are expensive is the Aluminium body they are so famous for. The shell of an airstream is made from a high quality “aircraft grade” aluminum alloy riveted over a steel frame. This is insulated and then an inner shell of aluminum is riveted on from the inside. Not only is the material more expensive than what other brands use, it takes a lot more labor to assemble it. Every rivet is put in by hand to ensure a perfect seal and to avoid damage to the frame. You can watch the process of construction here: How it’s made – Airstream. This build process also means they can’t drop appliances in from above but must carry them inside the trailer to install them by hand. Again, this means more labor and higher construction costs.

So much of what makes an Airstream a great trailer has to do with its body design. The all metal construction means it is incredibly durable. It is a very similar design to WWII era aircraft which were near legendary for their toughness. Airstreams don’t rot like other trailers. The only plywood used in their body construction is the sub-floor which is needed to provide an anchor point for the appliances and flooring. It is completely contained within the double frame so it cannot easily rot like the plywood walls and floors of many other trailer brands.

The aluminum also allows the streamlined shape of the trailer as well as making it lighter weight than it’s counterparts. That makes them easier to tow, both in terms of the power needed and the amount of gas you will consume. Of course, the signature silver bullet finish of an airstream is also due to its construction materials. Because they are not painted, their good looks are easy to maintain and hold up well under all kinds of weather.

Most trailers have a limited expected life span. It is very rare to see 30 and 40-year-old trailers for any other brand, but you can find numerous Airstreams of that age on the road. If kept up, they look as pretty as the day they were made. It is one of the few trailers that become family heirlooms, outliving their original owners. As a result, Airstream trailers hold their value better and longer than any other brand.

Why don’t other brands use aluminum bodies? Primarily because it is very expensive and most brands compete on features and price rather than longevity.

Around 25% of Airstream’s plant workers have been with the company for 30 or more years.

A Legendary Brand

Airstream is something of a luxury brand. They are made to appeal to middle and upper-class customers and that is also how they are marketed these days. Like any luxury brand, they come with something of a luxury price. That isn’t to say the margins they sell them on are sky high, I don’t honestly know exactly what their margins are as that is usually a closely guarded secret for most companies. But it does mean that Airstream will probably not produce a stripped down bargain version of their trailers as it would hurt the image of the brand as the best you can buy.

There is also a lot of loyalty and love for Airstreams among its fans which keeps demand high, and that helps keep their resale value high. There is some real benefit as an owner from this fandom. Airstream is almost as much of a community as a brand and its roots go back to the companies founder, Wally Byam, who organized international caravans for its members. He had a vision; to allow people to travel the world and have grand adventures, not just to make money selling trailers. Airstream owners love their trailers and form tight-knit communities and clubs that still rally for adventure and help one another.

Airstream is also a distinctly American brand. They are not the only trailers made in the US but they are very proud of manufacturing their trailers in in America using American labor. They have been built in their Ohio factory since 1952.

This isn’t ours but it’s pretty close, we have shell colored cushions… and more clutter.

Other Fine Qualities

Body and Brand are the two big drivers of the price, but Airstream quality is more than skin deep. Airstream does all its own cabinetry and furniture is made from high-quality materials made to fit the trailer’s unique shape. They also use quality third party components like Moen faucets. These factors are not unique to Airstream trailers and other brands have luxury models with similar quality interior fittings. With Airstream, pretty much every model is a luxury model to some degree and you won’t find any with outright cheap components.

Airstreams also have great tempered glass windows and lots of them. Cheaper trailers often have little port holes or small square windows that only open a little way. Airstreams have lots of big windows that open to get you as close to nature as possible without stepping outside the trailer. The breaks, axles, and wheels are also of very high quality compared to cheaper brands.

The styling of Airstreams is also a factor. They tend to a modern aesthetic rather than the common country-home style a lot of trailer companies go for. While this doesn’t always translate to a higher price, the clean lines and curved surfaces do tend to be more expensive to manufacture. Airstream spends a little extra time and money in making sure Airstreams are as pretty as they are functional to maintain their famous brand image and satisfy their demanding customers.

Airstream and SUV

Sweet Silver Dreams Are Made of These

Those are your three core reasons why Airstreams are so expensive: Aluminium Body, Legendary Brand, and Quality Components. They are built to last a lifetime and hold up to grand adventure on the open road. All while remaining one of the most stylish and elegant RVs ever made. In a world with so many throw away products and designed obsolescence, Airstreams are a call back to an earlier era of enduring quality and long term thinking.

OK, that sounds a lot like a sales pitch, but it’s indicative of how Airstream owners, like myself, feel about their trailers. They are very nice and their price really is a reflection of the materials and labor that go into making them with a bit of cache from the history of the brand thrown in. I’ve known many who decide not to go with Airstream, butI’e never met anyone who owns one and regrets the purchase.

 

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2017: Is the year of…

So, instead of new years resolutions, I do themes for the year. Picking a theme helps me reflect on where I want to go in life and where I’ve been. Sometimes the themes work out as envisioned, sometimes not so much.

Reflecting on 2016

I declared 2016 as the year of Productivity. I’m going to have to chock that up as mostly a failure. It was a year of adventure, a year of discovery, a year of freedom, a year of daring, a year of indulgence, but not a year of productivity. The only thing I produced in any quantity this year were blog posts. I racked up quite a few for Trail and Hitch; 133 of them in total, and a handful more for my personal blog and gaming blog. I nearly finished a 40K word strategy guide, but not quite, it will be done early this month instead. I started writing a novel but never got much past the first chapter. And I almost did a Kickstarter for a game project I spend a bit of time on but decided it wouldn’t be fair to try and charge for it.

I can’t say that I regret anything I did or didn’t do in 2016, it was an amazing and momentous year. It just wasn’t quite what I’d imagined it would be. I’m left to reflect whether it is wise to pick a theme you desire, a theme you strive for, or a theme you anticipate. One thing that has been made clear to me is I am much more a reactionary person than a deliberate person. I am very good at adapting to circumstance but not so great at setting a course and sticking to it. Setting out to be productive was something I wanted to happen, but not something I was commited to.

This post's image theme will be birds. We are parked next to a world birding sanctuary at the moment so I've got lots of em.

This post’s image theme will be birds. We are parked next to a world birding sanctuary at the moment so I’ve got lots of ’em. These are Green Jays.

Deliberations for 2017

One thing I will have to do this year is to make more money. When we set out, I wanted to have a year’s worth of savings as a safe harbor and felt that by years end I needed to have a sustaining income. The good news is that despite some crazy bumps in the road, I had more than a year’s worth of savings, more like two years due to how inexpensive this lifestyle is. The bad news is we have not made much money while traveling, and frankly, I haven’t really tried that hard to make any. I’ve been tracking my hours working the last month, and let’s just say there is no danger of me working myself to death anytime soon.

So my theme should be something like “making money” or “income” or the like but I just can’t bring myself to go there. I’ve been there and done that already. I’ve got a lot more America to marvel at in the coming year and I’m not ready to make money the ends rather than the means of my day to day activities. Still, I think I’d better go for something that least implies I’ll be figuring out where the money will come from long term.

I also want to avoid last year’s mistake of picking a theme that is all about a thing I do and instead want something more about who I am and what will happen. More a focus of my awareness than a directive, something I can use my powers of reaction and adaptation to take advantage of.

On reflection, I think this year’s theme will be….

My theme for the year is not Altamira Oriole though considering how pretty they are, it might be a good one. It's great seeing really colorful birds down here in South East Texas.

My theme for the year is not Altamira Oriole though considering how pretty they are, it might be a good one.

Opportunity

This theme plays well with my reactionary tendencies. When I see an opportunity in 2017 I intend to throw myself at it with some abandon. I want to reach out, take advantage of what comes my way, and throw my lot in with anything that looks promising. Forget second-guessing and hesitation. If it feels right, give it a go and see what happens. When something hits pay-dirt, keep digging, if not, move on to the next.

I think beyond just answering when it knocks on your door, I think 2017 should involve actively looking for opportunity, shaking the trees and trying to do things I’ve always thought about but never quite committed to. I think one thing I’ll have to watch out for is being spread too thin. I’m easily distracted and this year proved again that I’m better at starting ideas than finishing them. I’ll have to fight against that while looking for and exploiting opportunity. Once I’m on something I need to limit my attention to just one or two things until I see them through.

So here’s to 2017, the year of Opportunity!

And here we have some Chachalacas taking the opportunity to beat the heat by providing one another with some shade. Or perhaps they are shedding parasites, I don't really know.

And here we have some Chachalacas taking the opportunity to beat the heat by providing one another with some shade. Or perhaps they are shedding parasites, I don’t really know for sure. One volunteer guide mentioned they taste pretty good.

 

And here is a lovely road runner. We watched for about 20 minutes as it hunted amid the scrub.

And here is a lovely road runner. We watched for about 20 minutes as it hunted amidst the scrub.

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Trail’s Favorites from 2016

Whew! 2016, what a year. As South Korea and Brazil impeached their presidents, America elected a one-percenter with a powerful brand name, and the Philippines voted in an Anti-American criminal-killer. Many famous people died including Prince, David Bowie, and Carrie Fisher. Brexit surprised the world, while Russia’s interference with U.S. elections didn’t. Payton Manning retired from the NFL and NASA announced that Feb 2016 was the hottest month since they’ve been taking records. Bob Dylan got a Nobel Prize for Lit, while Doctor Li-Huei Tsai and her team discovered that gamma oscillations of light may help cure Alzheimer’s disease. Laser Interferometer Gravitational Wave Observatory (LIGO) confirmed the existence of Gravitational Waves, and (my personal favorite) Obama establishes and expands 29 National Monuments, the latest two being Bears Ears in Utah and Gold Butte in Nevada. That’s a lot of shock, awe, and disappointment for everyone all around.

But not for us! Hitch and I became nomads and drifted across western America, from our winter stay in Southern California to Arizona then up north toward Montana. We then moved southward through Wyoming, with a side stop in South Dakota, and all the way down to Texas. We visited over 80 locations including National Parks, National Forests, National Monuments, Wildlife Refuges, Native Reserves, and a few State run parks.

Favorite National Park: Capitol Reef National Park

Temple of the Moon with Temple of the Sun

Temple of the Moon with Temple of the Sun at Capitol Reef National Park

Capitol Reef is a colorful wonderland of geological rock formations. This amazing area even comes with a fruit orchard and a snaking emerald river tucked into a valley and nestled between stone monoliths. Hidden away and deeper into the park there are temples of stone that rise up into a fierce blue sky. Since many places in the park can only be accessed by high clearance 4-wheel drive vehicles, and thus Capitol Reef became my first solitude experience in pristine nature. An amazing experience I will never forget.

Favorite Hike: Bear Lake Corridor in Rocky Mountain National Park

Lake Haiyaha - Rocks. Lots of Rocks

Lake Haiyaha – Rocks. Lots of Rocks. Rocky Mountain Naitonal Park

Billions of sunset orange and lemon yellow aspen leaves, eight hard high altitude miles, six sapphire blue alpine lakes, two sore feet, and one serene waterfall: this is the Rocky Mountains Bear Lake Corridor. Although hikers crowded this trail and the air thin, the sweat equity I invested paid off in the form of some of the prettiest alpine lakes I’ve ever seen in my life. After talking to a number rangers and consulting a few guides, I realized a common theme: you have to hike and hike hard to really experience the Rocky Mountains. That effort paid off, and I would do it again.

Favorite RV Park: Wahweap Campground in Glen Canyon National Recreational Area

Wahweap Bay from Camp

Wahweap Bay from Camp

The daily price was way too expensive, the wifi was horrible, and pay showers suck. But wow! We got a great view of Glen Canyon’s Lake Powell.  To wake up every morning for five days to a fantastic sunrise painting its color on bright cliff faces and rugged buttes, then shimmer off the lake. Yeah, totally worth it.

Favorite Photograph: Horseshoe Bend in Glen Canyon National Recreational Area

My Best Shot of Horseshoe Bend

My Best Shot of Horseshoe Bend, Glen Canyon National Recreational Area

Standing on the edge of a sandstone cliff and looking down at the Colorado River. Moving to the edge and then stopping just shy enough to feel the wind push upward. Ignoring the crowds of tourists. Getting the shot. Realizing I’m awfully close to dropping down 3,200 feet to the canyon floor, and that death is sure if I’m not careful. That is why Horseshoe Bend my favorite photograph.

Favorite Thing: Nikon D5500 DLSR Camera

This sand comes from the dry lake beds found in the San Luis Valley

This sand comes from the dry lake beds found in the San Luis Valley

When a strong gust of wind blew my tripod over, and I heard the sick crack and shatter of my Nikon D5300. Never before had my heart sank so low. The fact that my extended warranty just ran out was just a low kick to the groin. For a week, I was without a DSLR camera. We were in the San Luis valley, with access to Great Sand Dunes National Park, with grasslands and wetlands frequented by hundreds of birds. When we reached Sante Fe, I finally got my D5500 (which was deeply discounted due to the fact the D5600 was just released) I was overjoyed and relieved.

Most Amazing Thing: Carlsbad Caverns National Park

Hall of the Giants

Hall of the Giants, Big Room, Carlsbad Caverns National Park

Wow! Wow, wow, wow! On our first visit, we took the Natural Entrance Trail and then merged onto the Big Room Trail. We lost track of time and spent nearly 5 hours wandering within this alien wonderland. I was stunned at the size of each cavern and formation diversity. Carlsbad Caverns yields endless marvels for the inqusitive soul.

Favorite State: Utah

Hitch on Zion Sandstone

Hitch on Zion Sandstone, Zion National Park, Utah

Capitol Reef, Bryce, Zion, Arches, Canyonlands, Grand Staircase-Escalante, Cedar Breaks, Dinosaur, Glen Canyon, Natural Bridges, Rainbow Bridge, and Hovenweep. Try saying all that in one breath, let alone visiting all that natural wonder in one month. One stop after another yielded rugged panoramas with dramatic views. The Colorado Plateau is a record of geological time. Stand upon any cliff and let your eyes drift down — you are looking back in time. The furthest back you can go is roughly 1680 million years ago when Earth had a lonely continent, a vast ocean, and single cell organisms were the supreme rulers. Utah is a feast for the eyes and nourishment for the soul.

Favorite App: Google Camera

Just click and drag the mouse to view a 360 near Devil’s Tower National Monument
When we visited Death Valley back in February, I started taking 360° photographs, using Google’s Camera App, which comes standard on many android phones. The process is kind of involved and the stitching of the images not perfect, but it was the best way I could share what I was seeing. Today there are a number of VR devices which you can view 360° panoramas and videos with.

Favorite Blog Post: Airstream & RV Humidity Management

Our Home!

Our Home!

Although it’s not as popular as my husband’s article, “Picking a Tow Vehicle for your Airstream,” my little humidity article is often found in our top 5 posts. I admit it’s kind of wordy, and it even has a healthy dose of math. But its the post also where I keep my notes on the subject and I update it ever so often.

Favorite Emotion: Wonder

Us-Arches
This year I saw many sites that filled me with surprise and wonderment. There are many beautiful, unexpected, and unfamiliar places on this planet and I feel very lucky to view to have visited some of them with my best friend and husband. I’m grateful for this sense of wonder. For this ability and opportunity to wander the land out of curiosity and encounter places, people, and things that strike my amazement and admiration.

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5 Things I Don’t Love About my Airstream

Don’t get me wrong, I love my trailer which is my home and castle. The list of things I love about my Airstream is a long one but not everything about our Airstream is perfect. There are certain issues that have proven themselves to be less than awesome over the course of a year living in it full time. Before I get started, keep in mind we live in a 2016 International and every year and brand will have its own peculiarities. That said, in the interest of a better brand and the joy of kvetching, here are 5 things I don’t love about my Airstream.

#1: The window opening mechanisms

Nearly all the windows on an airstream open up, which is great. But the mechanism that opens them is not great. Like many trailers, they lift up like a flap, attached at the top. This is controlled by two “arms” on either side of the window. A knob on each arm sticks out inside the trailer and you push up on them, levering out the window. The advantage of the design is it can get the windows open pretty far and the lever arms seat into a plastic track holding the window open at a selection of angles.

But there are many problems. First among them is that the seals on the windows are somewhat sticky and the way the levers are designed you have a mechanical disadvantage opening them. The combination of weak pushing force and sticky seals means you can’t open them much of the time. I’m a big strong fellow and I just can’t do it much of the time. The bug screens on the inside prevent you from pushing on the window directly to break the seal. We have to go outside and use a key or screwdriver to pry open the bottom of the window to get them open most of the time.

The dealer warned us of this and suggested silicone lubricant. We bought some, applied it liberally, and they still stick if left closed for more than a day or so. It helps a little, but not much. It’s not like they are glued shut, but the weak force of the levels just isn’t enough to push them open. Much like trying to open an oyster from the hinge end of the shell. Making matters just a bit worse, the handles for the levers stick out such that when you close the blinds, you will often run into them and loose your grip on the blind pull causing the blind to snap back up. Not a big deal but it drives you a bit crazy when it happens.

It looks nice and it holds the windows open, but as usual, we had to go outside to actually open them to take this picture.

It looks nice and it holds the windows open, but as usual, we had to go outside to actually open them to take this picture.

#2 The External Shower Faucet

Our Airstream has a little compartment on the outside that contains a hose with an attached shower head and two handles to run hot and cold water. While I don’t often feel the need for a hot shower outside the trailer, it’s not a bad idea and I could see if I were boondocking or just needed a hot water source outside for cleaning, it could be a handy feature. Unfortunately, it is badly designed and manufactured.

The problem comes when you try to put it away. You have to coil up the hose and stuff it in the compartment then close the hatch. The two water knows are super easy to turn and the hose has to be wound up around them and the shower head pushes up against them to close it up. The result of this is that trying to put it away constantly turns on the water flow. There is no shut-off switch on the faucet or the shower head to stop this. I spent a good 20 minutes trying to get it closed and not have it dribble water out of the hatch. Worse is if you put it away with your pump off, then turned it on later, you would never know you were bleeding water out the side of the trailer.

Again, our dealer was well aware of this problem, but in this case, their best offer of a solution was to replace it with an aftermarket faucet or just never open it once you got it closed. I took the latter advice and have not touched it since my initial encounter with the beast.

Oh, it looks innocent enough, but breathe too had on those knobs and it will dribble water for the rest of eternity.

Oh, it looks innocent enough, but breathe too had on those knobs and it will dribble water for the rest of eternity.

#3: The kitchen cabinet black hole

Under the kitchen counter, there is a space where the plumbing gas and electrical wires and pipes are found. It is partly screened off by a plywood wall about 3/4 the height of the cabinet. It has a gap so you can, to some degree, access these things. The problem is that some of the drawers are higher than this barrier and things can push out the back of the drawer and fall in. Same goes for some items in the cabinet under the sink. Once they fall down there, they are very hard to get out because of the divider wall designed to help keep things from getting back there. It’s too narrow for a hand (at least mine), too far back to easily reach, and too high to look down into.

We’ve had a few items fall into the black hole and getting them out involves a lot of trial and error with a long pair of kitchen tongs grabbing blindly until you luck onto the thing you are searching for. All in all, I think it would be a lot better if the barrier were shorter and transparent or no barrier or one that was more completely covered the space. Or perhaps just a guard on the drawers that stopped items from falling out the back of them.

Tall enough to keep my hands out and block by view, but not tall enough to keep stuff from getting stuck back there.

Tall enough to keep my hands out and block by view, but not tall enough to keep stuff from getting stuck back there.

#4: Half way to the digital age

Airstream has taken some steps to make their modern trailers fit a modern life. There are many outlets in the trailer and even a few USB plug including a set on either side of the bed. There is a DVD player that is connected to the TVs and has blue tooth capabilities so you get a kind of mini entertainment system. Two flat panel TVs have all the appropriate hookups for modern devices. All that is pretty decent, but it falls short in some important areas.

Firstly, there just are not enough USB ports for this mobile age. The outlets in the dining area and lounge should all have two USB ports so you can plug in a phone wherever you happen to be spending time. Secondly, there should be an easy way to run antenna lines up to the roof of the Airstream. Getting a good cell or wireless signal isn’t easy inside an aluminum tube. Signal boosters are an easy solution except that there is no easy way to get an antenna up on the roof. You have to pay someone to put custom holes in your roof or wind a cord through the door or the refrigerator vent or some other hack.

Finally, I’d love to see the trailer have a blue tooth system for monitoring the systems in the trailer. I’d love to be able to check tank levels while I am outside rather than having to hop into the trailer, then get out again, then hop back in to check again. The hard wired one is probably essential but it would be great if all the data fed into an app. Then I could see the battery level, the faults in the electrical and so on, even control the TV radio. Most modern cars come with features like this now and I think its time for Airstream to step up their game.

We should not have to go this far to get food wifi reception in our Airstreams.

We should not have to go this far to get food wifi reception in our Airstreams.

#5: Manufacturing Defects

Nearly everyone buying a new trailer of any brand is going to run into a few issues, but that doesn’t mean I have to be happy about them. We have had three that rise to the level of highly irritating.

The first was that the interior seals were not properly installed. This led to an invasion of yellow jackets in the first week of parking our trailer. While it made for a great story, it was a simple mistake of just not installing things correctly and then not catching it on inspection.

The second issue is that our main entry door just doesn’t quite fit as well as it should. It requires a fair bit of force to seal it up tight. We noticed this quickly but our dealer and another we took it too insisted it was just that the trailer wasn’t quite level. Well after a year of having the trailer it consistently has this problem no matter how level the trailer is or isn’t. We either have to get a whole new door (if we can convince a dealer it doesn’t work right) or just live with it. We just live with it for now. I broke more than one door handle early on trying to seal it from the inside until we developed a technique for slamming it shut using speed rather than power.

Last but not least, we have had persistent low-grade issues with the electrical system in the trailer. Two dealers have had a go at fixing it. Each time thy think they fixed it, and each time some underlying problem slowly reasserts itself. The result is our LEDs and USB outlets burn out on one side of the trailer and at one point the furnace was knocked out of commission.

Rex gets down to work looking for the source of our problem.

One of the electricians who was sure something was wrong, but no so sure what exactly was wrong.

The post 5 Things I Don’t Love About my Airstream appeared first on The Adventures of Trail & Hitch.

Hitch’s Favorites from 2016

2016 has been a bummer year for many we know, but for us, it was an amazing span of time. We spent an entire calendar year on the road. Last winter we hunkered down in southern California and from there we zig-zagged across the American west to our current winter grounds in east Texas. It has been a year of amazing sights, experiences, and personal exploration.

Favorite National Park:  Death Valley National Park

A lovely view of Tatooine, err I mean Death Valley.

Parks are a big focus of where we choose to go in our travels. Nearly every one of them is fantastic in its own way but few were as fantastic in as many ways as Death Valley. The variety of dramatic experiences is impressive. We came during a rare “super bloom” when the harsh desert was bursting with wildflowers, but that was just the beginning. We wandered vast salt flats, we went to the lowest point in north America, we drove through canyons, we wandered among fantastically colored stone formations, we explored blocks of crystallized salt, we say desert pupfish, we explored rolling sand dunes, we climbed high cliffs, we drove through sandstone washes, and more. Everywhere you went there were totally new and utterly different landscapes. My only tip, don’t go in the summer. Early spring was absolutely perfect for exploring.

Most Amazing Thing: Carlsbad Caverns

carlsbaddraperies

We have been to a few caves now but Carlsbad Cavern is just shy of unbelievable. The scale of it is mind-boggling, the shapes of it are unearthly wondrous, and as a whole experience, it is transformative. Walking down into those caves was the closest to going “through the looking glass” I’ve yet to experience in my life. Wow, Wow, Wow is what kept going through my mind as each exploration revealed new visual wonders. The images and the feeling of being there will forever be burned into my mind by the wonder I felt while exploring it.

Favorite Drive: Burr Trail Raod near Canyonlands National Park

Different Perspective of Burr Trail Switchbacks

I’ve never liked driving that much, that is until we set out to travel the country. For most of my life, driving meant grinding through traffic in crowded cities or suburbs. Now it means winding through epic canyons and stunning landscapes, often without another soul in sight. I like driving now, at least, most of the time. Of the many breathtaking drives we have done, Burr Trail was the coolest. Not only does it have a bit where you drive through a canyon, not only does it have amazing rock formations, but it also has one of the coolest mountain switchbacks roads ever.

Favorite Emotion: Gratitude

Selfies Ubehebe Crater

I wrote about a moment near the Salton sea where I was overwhelmed with a sense of gratitude to my wife, and to the ability to be where we were, doing what we were doing. It is still the most overwhelming sensation of this adventure. I feel so astoundingly lucky to be doing this and having these experiences.

Favorite Blog Post: Picking a Tow Vehicle for your Airstream

Batou-Yamato

This post get’s more traffic than the rest of our site combined. It gets more traffic every day than most of our articles have gotten in a year. Apparently, it’s something many people wanted to know about, and not many people were talking about. I am very gratified that folks have found it helpful and informative. There were many more personal posts, and some that took a lot more work, but this one made me feel successful so it’s my favorite for the year.

Favorite RV Park: Casa Grande RV

Let's go swimming.

Not everything was perfect about Casa Grande but their awesome pool made up for any and all shortcomings. We spent just about every other day swimming while we stayed there and it was a blast. It also had a nice community of residents and a lot of other excellent facilities at a very reasonable price. If I could pick any park to be stuck at for a good long time, it would be Casa Grande.

Favorite Game: Endless Sky

endlesssky

For some reason, this little space exploration and trading game captured the largest share of my gaming time in 2016. It is a simple game, and not even officially finished but it captured my imagination and appealed to my love of fiddling around with character building and design. Long after I’d finished the story line I was collecting and tinkering with spaceships; designing them and then testing those designs. It is far from flawless but it is 100% free, just a labor of love by its creator and his collaborators.

Favorite Thing: Unlimited Verizon Internet

jetpack

Internet on the road is a royal pain when you are used to lovely cable modem land lines in a cyber-city like Seattle. We really struggled with internet for a while, sometimes sitting in parking lots late at night to get a good signal to upload blog articles and the like. Then we discovered the shadowy world of grandfathered Verizon unlimited data plans. They are not cheap, but you can get unlimited high-speed internet nearly everywhere. That is, until such time as Verizon manages to figure out how to shut the all down, something they have been pursuing as of late. It won’t last forever but I’ll savor it while it does.

Favorite State: Utah

Warning: Scenery is twice as awesome as it appears in pictures.

We saw amazing things in every state we visited this year, and I can say with certainty that every state in the American west is drop dead gorgeous if you take the time to explore it. Oregan and California weren’t in the running since we visited them in 2015 and we had to cut them a bit short due to bad weather. Utah takes the crown for 2016 due to the sheer number of awe-inspiring sights it has to offer. Everywhere we went the landscape was dramatic and beautiful. If you grab a topographical map of the state you can see why, it’s a geological madhouse of mountains, salt flats, and all manner of elevation extremes. It was easy to see why the Mormon settlers who arrived there and the native peoples long before them found it to be a land of spiritual awe and wonder, a truly holy place.

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