From Woodinville to Monterey
It’s been just over a week since Sam, Dog, Boat, and I shoved off and if the last eight days are any indication of what the future holds, we’re in a for one excellent ride. After spending our final non-nomadic night with two of our closest friends; we started the journey on a sub-freezing Saturday morning. First stop: Starbucks--two venti darks, one everything bagel, toasted with cream cheese. Second stop: Chevron--one cheetos original, one cheetos fire, one bag dill flavored sunflower seeds, two bottles water, four gallons of gas. Third stop: Woodinville Self Storage-- one Flying Cloud Airstream, 28 feet. Holy shit.
We had spent the last five months prepping for this exact moment. The manuals were read. The built-in dinette was replaced by a more functional set of table and chairs. We upgraded the stock television with the best looking 39” Vizio $250 can buy. The “pantry” was packed with the necessary spices. The Goodwill runs were made and our wardrobes were set. All we had to do was unlock the various security devices, check the tire pressure, hitch-up, and we’d be on the road. Only thing standing in our way was the sheer terror associated with hauling your house down Interstate 5 for 500 or so miles. After my best delay game:
“Babe, you sure you checked the electronics cabinet?”
“I should probably take another look at the sway bars...is it seven or eight links from the top...or the bottom?”
“Did dog pee?”
“What’s the fastest route to Oregon, again?”
We (read: I) got past the puckering and off we went.
The most frequently asked question leading up to launch was what was the one thing that scared us most. As you can imagine, there’s a laundry list of frightening things associated with that ‘stream life, but for me, number one was simply pulling it behind us. I say was, because after a few miles down the 405, the ride couldn’t have been smoother. The truck (“TV” for the initiated) did its job and easily stayed at speed. The boat maintained her lane and didn’t sway or porpoise more than expected. Keeping in mind that the combination of truck and trailer is just under 50 feet, I can’t say that we’ve completely conquered the driving fear, but we’re comfortable enough to move onto the next one: Getting gas.
The physical task of filling up your tank while hauling a trailer isn’t any different than the normal routine. The gas cap is still on the driver’s side. Premium is still the preferred octane. And sometimes you still have available fuel reward points. But, boy howdy...Getting into the proper mental space to squeeze all 47 ½ feet of you into a Chevron takes a little bit of practice--I’ll save the harrowing details for a future post, but suffice it to say, Sam’s a good sport and I recommend gas stations that have an adjacent Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen.
Gas tank and bellies full, we were on to our next stop--meeting a dear friend somewhere outside of Portland for a quick hug, neck kiss, and tour of the boat. Navigating unknown side streets is actually an underrated joy associated with towing an Airstream. So long as you don’t get stuck or have to shift into reverse for any reason, there’s a small power trip that comes with being the biggest, slowest thing on the road. Need to turn left without an arrow? Sorry, 12 cars behind me. Four way stop? I’ll just go...Thanks. Navigating unknown parking lots? Not as much.
We met our buddy outside of a fitness center that had two parking areas--we chose the small one. While we successfully crammed into a parking lot built for Priuses and scooters, the highlight of the rendezvous was the phone conversation that immediately preceded:
Buddy: “So, are you on the west or north side of the building?”
Pete: “Oh, keep driving around. You’ll definitely know it when you see it.”
Buddy: “Okay, are you...WHOA!”
Dogs got reacquainted. Necks were kissed. Good times were had.
Oregon is a deceptively long state; especially when your top speed is a smooth 63 mph. As such, our original goal for Saturday night was to make it to a Medford Walmart. Once we had a better feel for the gas mileage (and getting gas) and a clearer sense of what towing actually felt like, we blew up that plan. As neither one of us was too keen on spending our first night in a parking lot, and we were still working off of the morning’s adrenaline, we set our sights on northern California--it just felt right. As she does, Sam came up clutch and secured us a pull-through spot just outside of Yreka, CA--our first night on the road was going to be done right.
We pulled into the RV park around 8pm. A little road weary, a lot hungry. The plan was to leave Boat attached to the truck and then walk to the nearest food joint. One problem, no food joint was within walking distance. So...crap. We had no choice (Lyft doesn’t exactly crush Yreka), but to break all RV park courtesy rules (written or otherwise) and unhitch after dark in order to take the truck down the road for sustenance. Our jack is on the extremely loud side, and we definitely made some enemies that night. Totally worth the bad RV karma though, because it lead to one of the best food decisions we’ve made in a long time--If you’re ever in Yreka, stopping at Jefferson’s Roadhouse is a must. We recommend the wedge salad and the prime rib sando.
Back to the boat and off to bed.
We’ve made the Oregon/Cali drive several times in recent years, but day two’s stretch from Yreka to Monterey seemed to fly by much quicker than expected. We made the usual stops. Loaded up on gas station coffee, chips, kind bars, and cheetos. Did our best to find the most boat friendly pumps. Found out that the 680 south is in dire need of repaving. Enjoyed the lyrical stylings of Today’s Hits. And killed time reminiscing about our favorite Chinese restaurant in Monterey (Full Moon, if you’re curious).
Roughly 350 miles into the drive, we approached exit 402A/Fairgrounds. Game on. Taking the off ramp and turning left on Casa Verde Way gave us a few more minutes to contemplate the parking adventure that lay ahead--we had only used pull-through spots up until this point, and while we were confident in our general understanding of how one backs up a trailer, our practical experience was lacking, to say the least.
We ended up docking Boat just outside of the RV park entrance and walking into the office for check-in/host meet ‘n greet. The hosts are a nice couple, with a good sense of humor:
Host Wife: “Oh...I didn’t hear you pull up.”
Sam and Pete: “Yeah, we weren’t sure how things were set up, so we’re just outside the gate.” Host Husband: (HAH) “No guts, eh?”
Sam and Pete: (Laughing) “No sir...None”
Host Both: (Judgement)
We then proceeded to admit that we’re brand new to the life and are open to all advice and assistance. To which they were unsurprised, but appreciative--Sam’s dimples have a unique, disarming ability.
With the pleasantries over, it was go time. Thankfully, the park wasn’t too crowded and our spot was decently wide. Sam hopped out. My heart raced. Here we go. First try: Not bad, didn’t hit anything. Second try: Getting closer. Third try: Jackpot, I’m in the lines...diagonally, let’s go get lunch. Per Sam, “Maybe like four more tweaks.” So; four, five, six, seven, and done--Boat’s as straight as it gets and per usual, Sam was right.
We leveled off, unhitched, and set the stabilizers (see our checklist if you want the full rundown). Then it was time to unpack and connect the water...The God damn water.
Unfortunately, we weren’t able to test Boat’s pipes because it was winterized and we stored her accordingly. We took the dealership’s word that the plumbing would be fine and, so far, everything else had been so figured there wasn’t anything to worry about. We were mostly right. After connecting the hose, Sam flipped the bathroom sink on, and we waited for pressure to build--with the assumption water would flow in a few seconds. Well, water flowed, just not through the bathroom sink. Turns out that when a trailer is winterized, every single valve is left open and the result of pumping water through the system as is, is akin to a cargo ship releasing its ballast. I blacked out for a minute, but I vaguely remember running into the trailer and calmly stating, “Babe, we’re leaking EVERYWHERE!” And that wasn’t an exaggeration. Water was flowing from three different external areas--two were latched compartments and one looked like just some hole underneath the shower. After the initial panic and Sam’s immediate decision to never use water, ever, we worked the problem. Turns outs, all three were easy fixes--one was an outside faucet, another was a flush valve that just needed to be switched off, and the last was a release valve that needed to be plugged. Once all three of those holes were filled, we were in business.
After the water debacle, we made a food run, cracked some wine, cuddled the dog, and headed to bed.
While doing my best to not jinx the rest of our trip, the first two nights gave us enough highs and tastes of the lows to make me fall in love with the lifestyle. So much more to come, and I look forward to documenting it all--after Sam, Dog, Boat, and I enjoy it first, of course.