Episode 1: Currently Reading
Our friends Danielle and Ryan are back on Airstream’s Endless Caravan. After hitting the road for a Winter Camping adventure in early 2018, they are back for Winter Camping 2.0. In this first of four episodes, Ryan relates their experience battling the challenges that come with camping in cold conditions. But when you’re forced to problem solve, you learn plenty of things to help you the next time around.
By Ryan Rabidou
We were pulled over on the shoulder in a mountain pass up above Lake Tahoe. The snow was coming down in half-dollar-sized flakes that left the roadway slushy and the pine trees so heavy with snow that their branches drooped. Lying on my side in the cold, grey muck underneath the Airstream, I tried to figure out how to get the chains on the tires. Needless to say, I had not planned for this. And I did not know what I was doing.
I had assumed the gas station clerk 15 miles back had been attempting a creative upsell when he asked me if we had chains for our tires. The cops who flagged us over at the checkpoint further up the mountain told us otherwise. The chain law was in effect, they announced through megaphones over the rumble of passing tractor trailers and the swish of their tires in the slush.
Normally, I would have just YouTubed a solution. There are tons of videos on how to handle just about anything camping related on YouTube. The only thing you need is service or wifi, but up there in the mountains our phones might as well have been paperweights. There were other options: We could’ve enlisted the “help” of the guys down the road trying to sell us chains at top dollar, along with an equally expensive fee to install them. But we were committed to this adventure – and to figuring it out for ourselves on our own terms. So I got down on my knees and crawled under the truck.
Moments like that can be pretty hair-raising while they’re happening. But we’ve learned that if you take a second to breathe – just a second to assess what’s going on – you might amaze yourself with what you can accomplish in a DIY situation. I ended up working the chains up around the tires one by one. I had to do it with my gloves off – I needed bare hands to line up the little knobs – and my fingers nearly froze.
But then we were done. The snow was still coming down and my fingers were numb, but we were on our way. We cranked the heat and by the time we reached the ski area I was thawed out and ready to tackle the mountain and all that fresh snow.
Danielle and I are lucky. Our jobs as a photographer (her) and marketing consultant (me) mean that we can do most of our work from just about anywhere, as long as we have an internet connection. But the experiences we’ve had in an Airstream are not unique to our situation. Ask any Airstreamer and they’ll tell you the same thing: A little courage and confidence goes a long way when you’re creating your own adventure.
Our adventures often take us to the snow. Danielle and I love to snowboard, and we wanted to find a way to work and enjoy the best of the snowy season. So, in the summer of 2017 we asked Airstream if we could join the Endless Caravan in an attempt to explore the world of winter camping and living #outsidethecubicle. We spent two months on the road, chasing snow storms at some of the most amazing ski and snowboard areas in the country. It was our first real experience with an Airstream and we learned a lot. Our plan was to follow a general route that allowed us to detour to chase the snow. And along the way we found ourselves experiencing the best of what traveling in an Airstream is all about. Even if sometimes it didn’t feel like the best.
In Jackson Hole, Wyoming, a friend-of-a-friend told us we needed to connect up with a guy he called “the Wolf.” He said everyone called this guy The Wolf, and that he could show us around the mountain. With a name like The Wolf, I’ll admit I was intimidated. Not to mention, the trails on this mountain were daunting and I was a bit worried it might be more than I had bargained for. Danielle ended up sitting this one out – on standby to call the authorities if I didn’t return.
It turned out my fear was unwarranted. The Wolf took me to some incredible, untouched turns and I rode with him all day. It was fantastic. Another day, we rented a timber sled and went out exploring together. The three of us became fast friends, and we all hung out a couple times in the Airstream before we headed on our way.
Later we found ourselves in Mount Baker, Washington. We knew they were about to get hit with a huge snowstorm and the snow was great but we spent our four days there trying to keep the trailer from freezing out in sub-zero temperatures. We were set up in the parking lot of the mountain resort so we had no hook ups. Our only hope was that our solar panels would generate enough electricity to keep us warm – but of course in snowstorms you don’t have any sun.
We ended up running out of power and propane by the last night and we completely froze – there was ice on the inside of the trailer.
What helped us to not feel too badly for ourselves was the couple from Alaska parked next to us pulling the ultimate boondock in a $19.99 local moving trailer. We invited them over, lit candles, got the guitars out and attempted to use our hot breath and body heat to stay warm. Then we slept in our snowboarding gear with every blanket we had.
We were so frozen we couldn’t even jack the trailer up to hitch it and had to get someone let us use their car battery with jumper cables to get the trailer connected the next day. And then it was off for the next storm – armed with confidence and a new bank of knowledge to help us through whatever situation came next.
Turns out, the next situation was more winter camping – this time with a twist.
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