January 26, 2017


I found this book on our Xmas trip to Arizona and plan on stealing the title for the filmed version of my life. 
The purpose of this trip (aside from neatly sidestepping the Christmas Craziness) was to see how our yearning to be Airstream nomads actually feels in the field.  In this case, the field was in the Tonto National Forest of central Arizona.

We waited for our rented 16-foot Bambi and truck to be delivered to the parking lot behind our hotel in Scottsdale. There, in the dark, the guy who drove it down from San Francisco would show us RV neophytes how everything works.  The guy, who made The Dude from The Big Lebowski look hyperactive, ambled out and showed us how to put the key in the lock of the door. (Pretty much how every key goes in every door, by the way.)  The information flow went downhill from there:

"What is this panel of indicators for?"
"Wow. Yeah. I've never seen one like that."
"Where's the switch for the hot water heater?"
"Yeah. It is supposed to be over here.  Not sure why it isn't."

"Well, is there a set of docs we can look at?"
"Yeah, well...um..there should be."
Fortunately, I opened a whole lot of drawers and pulled out this manual:
 Unfortunately, this was a manual for a 2007 Safari. We were in a 2005 Bambi.

We called the Dude's boss, who enlightened us.

"So what is this panel of indicators for?"
Each light gives you important status info: how much water is left in your tank, how close you are to sewage overflow, how much charge is left in your battery.
"So how do we know which light goes with which function?"
 "Don't worry about it."
"How do we empty the sewage tank?"
"Open the valve on the outside pipe after you've connected the hose to the dump station."
"But there doesn't seem to be anything to pull. Everything is covered in electrical tape."
"Don't worry about it."
 The Dude headed off into the sunset with Big Gulp in hand. We headed back to the room, where we debated the wisdom of actually driving off in this mess in the morning. It was a spirited and informative exchange:
"This is NOT what we signed up for. Maybe we should just pull out now and rent a car."
"Is that what you want to do?"
"I don't know. What do you think?"
"I don't know. What do you think?"
"I don't know. What do you think?"
 Things were different in daylight. That's when we could see that both propane tanks were empty and that the truck had two bald tires.

We headed out and by the time we arrived at Lost Dutchman State Park in the Superstition Wilderness, we were back in our saddles. Who could worry about anything in a campsite like this:
I made our nest cozy...
And we set off to bed, snug inside our little home while the temperatures outside plummeted to freezing.

Which is when we discovered that the heater didn't work.

I jumped out of bed, threw on my Iceland gear, and renewed my love affair with French press coffee while Himself went to the showers. When he returned, he looked grim.

We have big problems.
Don't worry, I'll call Bill about the heater.
We are sitting in a puddle of sewage.
Everything that's gone down the sink or down the toilet is now dripping on to the ground. On to the campground. The one that everyone else around us can see just by walking by.
I ran outside. Remember being 16 and discovering a surprise menstrual period while wearing a white skirt?  On a field trip?  That's roughly what I experienced seeing our mess in this neighborhood of shiny RVs that probably started at $500,000.

Did I mention it was a Saturday? Did I mention it was the day before Christmas?

I called Bill and suggested it was time to start worrying. He found a solution.
Yes, Mobile RV Repair! On a Saturday, on the day before Christmas! Himself went out to assume the hands-in-pockets-man-posturing-position once the truck pulled up and I was startled when I finally crept outside (in my Iceland gear) to see a rather large gentleman in shorts and a Hawaiian shirt stretched out on the ground.
He quickly discerned that the reason we couldn't close off the waste valve was because...there was no valve. Just a whole lot of electrical tape.  Miracle of miracles, he had a replacement in that truck and we were back in business. He came inside, stretched out on the floor (activating the gas alarm with his rather large body), and rewired the furnace.

It was Santa Claus and nobody can tell me otherwise. So our little home was in its right way from then on. And we were ready to soak in the delights of the southwesten desert that we so love.

Like the sunsets...

The saguaros talking to each other...
The footprints of another culture echoing everywhere... 
The dusty brown mountain roads...
The adventure ain't over yet. Stick around.


  1. please write a book
    I need this kind of literature at all times, in bookform, on paper so I can pick it up whenever.

    you may have guessed I absolutely LOVE your stories, this one is no exception! I was in stitches, which is a good place to be; I often think laughter, proper wholesome humor is the Best Balm for Everything

    hats off to you, bowing deeply and eternally grateful for your uplifting & joyous sharing of your adventures, Sasx

    p.s. the views are spectacular too, esp like the talking saguaros, Jolly Cactus says 'hi'

    1. If I wrote a book, I would have to go on a book tour. Which means I would have to buy grown-up clothes,keep my chin hairs trimmed, and hire someone to exercise the Dogs and possibly Himself. I would have to go on TV, which means I would have to lose 20 more pounds and trim the hairs on my upper lip, too. I'd get so cranky I would never be able to see the humor in anything, so I would not be able to write a sequel and then, when people heard my name, they would say, "didn't she used to be a writer?"

      As you can see, I've got it all well thought out and making you laugh sporadically is good enough for me!

    2. oh ha, you are such a rare treasure Julie! we will jst have to follow your adventures right here & hope you write that book one day anyway and not worry about doing the tour & trimmings and all that!

    3. ah well, too much to hope for then......will keep on visiting
      p.s. speaking of hairs, I just had my eyelashes extended, a first for me (a colleague of mine does this as a side job) they're a bit too black and long for comfort, however in a couple of weeks'time I think I'll let her stick on a shorter version, see if I like that better....if not I can always go back to natural, ha!

  2. can't wait for the next chapter. be sure we know who NOT to rent an Airstream from in Arizona....sure glad you found a great fix it guy.

    1. I go back and forth about giving the rental company name...Bill was a very nice guy and he was the one who found Santa Claus. However, it sure wasn't the way to send someone off in a vehicle. On one hand, we don't like trashing someone on the Web; on the other hand, I sure would have liked to hear some truth before signing up. As you can see, w are still equivocating...

  3. on 4th read, i can catch my breath and put some words here. Don't know
    what i'd do about the irresponsible company, i guess i hope it was a
    really great Deal?, but also...

    They are just so WONDER FULL, aren't they, the Airstreams...the one
    that is slowly falling apart here...not a Real Airstream, but an Avion,
    faux, but a very excellent facsimile. Just not fancy. but everything you Need to live.
    remember, i lived in that one for 5 or 7 years, probably 5. but 23ft.
    Didn't use it to travel with, but as a home, and whenever things called
    for a move, Easy. That's where the grandkids stayed with me too, on weekends. Alyssia was in kindergarten, so Jeff would have been 4. Happy as Clams.
    They pull easy too...hauled mine with an old Ford Econoline van.

    I think it's a GREAT idea! and there are those positions that people
    can take for a season...Greeters at National Parks campgrounds...
    LOVE Big Guys in Shorts...they get things DONE!!!!!!

    Waiting for MORE....Love,

    1. Well, the subtest to the big test was to see if we would be truly comfortable in the littlest Airstream (esp w/out true shower). We're opting for the next size (22 ft). Funny you should mention the NP program, that's been the foundation for it all. This trip, we met a couple who are not greeters but Caretakers of an old ranch with a giant rock full of over 1000 petroglyphs. They open to the public 3 days/week and the rest of the time, it is their playground. Another woman we met ran the shop at an old Fort, she followed the sun around the US by taking on one NP job after another. They all get free RV hookup and can decide which gig works best for their lives...these are lives uncomplicated by dependents (like having two very old frail parents) but a girl can dream.

      Everything was so much easier than I thought it would be (operationally) and you should have seen my sad face when I returned home.

  4. Oh Julie, how I needed this. I, too, am a fan of your stories and this one is a doozy. Laughing still...

  5. fantastic story well-told. just loved it! (eg the guy making The Dude look hyperactive!)