Episode 2 - The Perfect Winter Basecamp
Episode 3 - Bumps on the Road to Experience
Episode 4 - Currently Viewing
By Ryan Rabidou
We’re out on our longest trip yet; four months of the gypsy-lifestyle we love. We’re covering a lot of ground from Whistler BC to Key West, FL and we’ve come to realize our trailer isn’t the only thing that’s been broken in – we have been too.
From surviving in extreme temperatures, to packing and everything in between, we’ve become pros at life on the road in our Airstream Flying Cloud. If you’re going to live like this you have to do the delicate dance of balancing planning and preparation and living on the fly, being ready for whatever happens.
It starts with packing. Danielle is a master packer. I’m the minimalist. She makes lists and piles and thinks of everything we could possibly need. I am the final filter, usually making her whittle down the mounds – cutting the stuff in half.
I always tell her, “Look, you love to shop, if you really need something you can buy it in the place we end up and it will be a little memento,” like the totem pole I bought in Sante Fe, because I like to shop too, and everyone needs a totem pole.
One of our strategies for this trip, because we would be navigating extremely cold temperatures and the warmth of spring, was to skim off the top of our stuff, bringing our favorite things from each category of clothing. It’s how we ensure we have comfortable clothes for travel and hiking but still have appropriate clothes for going out when we arrive at our destination. Selecting items that are versatile and can be layered or have multiple purposes ensures they never get cut from the packing pile.
I’m also a little compulsive about organization, so once we are in the Airstream full time, everything has to have its place. Each cabinet is designated to store similar things. We’re juggling so much. The Airstream needs to be clean. It reflects our mindset. It’s how we manage the frenetic busyness of our adventures with having a calm place to return to for our work-life balance, all in our 25-foot trailer.
Once we set out, the real adventure begins. We know now that you can never be prepared for everything, but when it comes to winter camping, we’re much better at it.
Propane management for heat has been the most difficult. In the extreme temperatures we’re dealing with of minus 30 degrees F at night, we’ve realized that we need about one tank per day, and that’s with turning the thermostat down to 58 when we’re not in the trailer. And you never know when the tank will run out. Sometimes I’m behind the trailer in the middle of the night with my flashlight, in a daze, half asleep, working to make the switch in the frigid temperatures.
For us, the best strategy we’ve found is to have a space heater to help take the chill off and bring the trailer up to temperature quickly after being out for the day. And if you point it at your head while you’re sleeping it helps take the chill off.
I’ve gotten better at driving in winter conditions with the trailer and exceptionally better at backing it up after the tree incident on Christmas. Danielle has the Pilot Flying J app on her phone because we know they are clean with good showers and can be a consistently good place to stop. We didn’t figure that out until the end of our trip the last time.
We know how to keep the trailer from freezing out with propane management, but we also know if everything freezes and the propane stops working, we’re going to be just fine. We know if we are boondocking and only have the use of one outlet, a power strip multiplies our power so we can charge our phone, run our heater and use a computer all at the same time. It really is the little things sometimes.
We now see a Walmart as an oasis. When we are just trying to cover ground as we move from destination to destination and we need a place to park for the night, we look for Walmart. They are free, right off the highway, with decent facilities and access to food, paper plates to serve it on when the trailer is winterized, and even a snow shovel (if needed).
Being in this environment as a couple you don’t have anyone else to blame other than the other person or yourself. You really become accountable for everything. It’s very noticeable when one if you isn’t functioning the way you should. In the tight, high-pressure environment we rely on that rhythm and we notice right away when our rhythm seems to be off.
One of our lessons came full circle when we were at the hot springs just outside Jackson Hole. As we were leaving, we happened upon a man whose truck was buried in the snow – I mean really stuck. He was a little frantic, and had tried a few times to get out, but was only making the situation worse.
Right away, I knew I could help, because now I’m an expert at putting chains on tires, and I wasn’t the slightest bit stressed about the situation, because my truck and trailer were on solid ground. When someone who isn’t directly affected by the stressful situation can come up and calmly be willing to help – like Danielle, when I backed the Airstream into a tree – it bring things to a resolution. So, together we fastened the chains and helped to free him.
Turns out we rescued an executive for Just Ledoux It Bourbon and he expressed his gratitude with three bottles of bourbon.
Bourbon or not, we’re always in the mode of pay it forward because we never know when we’re going to need that help too. It’s just people helping people.
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