Sunday, September 22, 2013
How old is she? What does she weigh?
Polite people don't ask such questions. But people who admire trailers of a certain age can't seem to help themselves.
I knew Pam loved vintage Airstreams because I endured a year of marital torment before finally admitting last year that if she had to have one, the specimen in the photo above was probably a good choice.
We've just returned from our first real trailer excursion, and I now realize that America has a major soft spot for the silver bullet, and the older it is the softer the spot.
"Love your trailer," they shouted at us at almost every stop.
Others gave us thumbs ups or V signs as they drove past. One man who cornered me while I was trying to examine the pictographs carved on Newspaper Rock in Utah grew emotional.
"I don't know what it is, but I just love old vehicles," he confided. "They're such a slice of Americana. I still drive a Corvair."
"Oh," I said. "Well, wear a helmet."
By the way, "she" is 44 years old and weighs well over 3,000 pounds, stuffed as she was with the organic, free-range, grass-fed, sugar and gluten-free groceries with which Pam provisioned her for the trip.
Her prior owners called her "Streamie," which I thought was dopey when we took possession but which is now a household word and may eventually be a vanity plate.
She scared me to death when the sellers delivered her to us last year. I am a poor hand with machines, and a trailer is a rolling collection of mechanical puzzles. In an antique like ours, they are also balky and brittle with age. I spent hours in the penalty box last week for bad language in front of Elizabeth, nursing scrapes and nasty spatters.
Nevertheless, with only a few minor exceptions I managed to make everything work for a week on the road. Even for the two nights we spent in remote campsites, we had hot water, cold beer, fresh-cooked meals, and reasonably wholesome sanitary facilities.
The high spot of the trip was Canyonlands National Park in southeast Utah, where we snagged the last of the come-as-you-are campsites, nestled beside rock that took 300 million years to lay down and 300,000 more for wind and water to carve into the dazzling shapes that surrounded us.
That's the spot in the photo, which doesn't do it justice.
Nothing broke, not even on the horrible drive into the Chaco Canyon, cradle of ancient pueblo civilization, a 21-mile ordeal for man and machine, 13 miles of which is unpaved washboard that seemed like it would rattle the rivets right off poor Streamie, but didn't. In one low spot we forded storm runoff after passing signs advising us not to cross if any water was present.
"Those Airstreams can go anywhere," said the ranger who greeted us at the campground. "Say, how old is she and what does she weigh?"