Friday, January 8, 2021

People are amazing!

 Hi Friends!

We are currently at a lovely state park in Florida, Topsail Hill Preserve.  It is beautiful, with lots of great bike trails and a beautiful beach.  When we got here we got a big suprise;there were other Airstreams!  We usually don't see a lot of Airstreams in campgrounds, maybe one or two, but there were so many. Turns out there is a rally at this park that we landed persfectly in middle of!  Over 70 Airstream campers are here for the Canopener Rally.  We have made a lot of new friends and are constantly learning from them.

On Tuesday I decided to put up the awning.  We haven't had it up in a while because it's either been too cold, too rainy or too windy but Tuesday was perfect.  As I was lifting the rear support it broke!  The spring unwound and wacked me in the head and arm pretty badly.  There was blood everywhere - head wounds are the worst according to everyone.  So we went to Emergency, probably the last place you want to go to in a pandemic.  But after three hours and lots of bleeding, I got eight staples in my head!

When we left for the hospital the awning was sprawled over the camper half unrolled, half still attached.  While I was getting fixed up, the other campers at the campground put the awning back together so we didn't have to deal with it when we got back!  People are amazing!

Now I'm going to continue with my recap of how we got here.  We left off in my last post dropping the AS at Woodland Airstream in Grand Rapids in February.

We gave them a massive list of projects:

  • The major issues to start was the rotted floor in the back storage space so that had to be completly replaced.
  • Replace the roof fans with new Fantastic Fans
  • Replace the front skylight
  • Make the furnace work - the previous owner had removed the controller so you couldn't even turn it on.
  • Install a new Natures Head composting toilet and plumb it into the black tank.
  • Install a new Truma on Demand instant hot water heater. 
  • Fix any leaks they could find (I now know that is an impossible task - but worth a shot)
  • Remove the old satellite dish and patch the holes
  • Replace all the bulbs with LEDs
  • Replace the old power ports with USB.
  • Add a back up camera

They set to work and then Covid hit. The dealership was closed for a couple months, but so was everyone so we understood. 

I made a "before" video at the dealership.

We picked up the completed camper on May 7.

Meanwhile, we scheduled The Dry Campers, a couple who travel around installing Solar systems on RV rigs, to come work on our camper. They had a great way of working.  We ordered all the parts they would need to be delivered to our house before they showed up.  Then they camped near by, Mike worked on our camper during the day and they get to enjoy a new part of the country. They were at our house the first week of June and put in 900w of solar panels and 4 lithium batteries. I highly recommend working with them.  Mike and Leanne are just great people.

When Mike pulled up the floor to put in the batteries he discovered some black mold! It wasn't bad but we decided to pull up the the laminate floor and take out the cork floor a previous owner had installed. I marked the existing laminate and reinstalled it - badly I will admit.  We should have replaced the floor at that time but didn't.  

I started working on the interior. We decided to use the Moose picture that was in the camper when we got it as our theme. I didn't care for all the oak and decided to paint it all.  I went with Annie Sloan paint because it covers everything.  It was a huge learning curve getting it right and I'm still touching it up where I didn't get it on correctly but I love the look.

The jackknife sofa was in dire need of reupholstery.

Pleather peeling

I wanted to use the leather from our sofas in our home.  It was buttery soft and the perfect color.  I called around to find someone to do the work but most people said it was impossible.  Finally found a wonderful man in Holland who said he would take on the challenge.

I "skinned" our old sofa and loveseat and delivered the leather and sofa to him.  He did an amazing job. I even convinced him to make a poof, an empty storage pillow for blankets and extra clothing.

I loved this sofa, so comfortable

Leather after skinning it and the loveseat.

Randy, the artist who did the work.

The sofa and the poof!

The leftover sofa and cushions were reused by our good friends the Spratts.  Randy did an amazing job for them as well.

I put up press-on wallpaper in the bedroom, bathroom and main room. I installed press-on tile in the kitchen. The difference was amazing.

Bedroom wall

Hard to believe it's press on

The last project was the desk.  We removed the dinette and sold it to The Dry Campers - well, actually used it to pay for some of our solar installation. :)  A good friend built a custom desk and I painted it.

At this point we were ready to move in. Over the summer we had sold our house and most of our stuff.  We still had some issues with where to put what we wanted to keep.  I'll save that for my next post.

Now it's time to enjoy this lovely park.

Take care of yourself and each other,

Monday, January 4, 2021

Purchase and pick up

Hi Friends,

Our move to living full-time in an Airstream has had so many ups and downs that our friends have suggested I write about it.  Yes, I should have started the minute we brought it home, but I didn't.  So today I'm going to start journaling what's going on.  But first I need to go back in time and journal what we did to get here.

January 2020

Starting in the fall of 2019 I began researching online looking for the perfect camper.  I knew I wanted an Airstream and I knew it had to fit in our budget.  I wanted to keep the total for both the truck and camper around $50,000.   That's seemed almost impossible. 

I had an idea of the layout we wanted. We didn't like the rear bathroom because the bed was much to small for the two of us but other than that we looked at every model. I scoured Airstream Classified, RV Trader, FB Marketplace and Craigslist every day for months.  It was frustrating when I would find the perfect camper on the west coast because I knew it would be more to trasport it home than to buy it.  Eventually I found one in Florida that seemed about perfect, a 2001 31' Excella wide body with a rear bed.

Buying something for that much money sight unseen is scary.  I asked the very helpful people on the Airstream Forums page what to do to make sure it was a good purchase and they gave me the name of an inspector in Florida who really helped us out. He gave a full report, found some issues (in hindsight, missed a few - but not many) and we negotiated the price down to cover the repairs. 

But there was still a problem, we didn't have a TV (tow vehicle).  I set my two amazing brothers to work on this one.  They are car geeks, they love old cars and fixing old things.  If anyone could find us a great vehicle Norm and Rich would be the ones.  Sure enough, they found the perfect truck outside of St. Louis, a 2004 Silverado Diesel 2500 with low miles and in great shape.  The thing was the dealer knew it was a great deal and we had to pay cash for him to hold it for us.  Again, pretty terrifiying buying something sight unseen. Norm assured me with his research and insight that it was the right thing to do and we did it!  Wired the money to them and then had to figure out how to get it.


On Feb. 3 we flew to St. Louis.  I had booked the night at Americas Best next to the truck dealership in Eureka MO, I thought, but it turns out there is an Americas Best in Eureka CA as well!  Yes, I had booked the wrong hotel; (hard to believe I travel for work all the time).  We stayed at the airport Marriott that night took an Uber to the dealership in the morning and by noon had our first truck! 

We drove to Macon GA en route to pick up the Airstream only to realize I had booked us at the WORSE hotel ever.  I was trying to save money and had grabbed a budget hotel.  YIKES! I can't even describe how nasty the room was. So at 2:00 am I called around and found a Fairfield for the night.  

Next day we drove to Tampa to pick up our new camper.  It was what we expected, except it felt smaller and dirtier.  Photos can be so deceptive.  I paid the owner and we hooked up.  

Our first photo with the camper

The truck's trailer brakes didn't work but we took off.  I called ahead along our route and found someone who could install a new brake controler.  With a small detour and some time spent in a tiny town in Georgia we were back on our way.

We spent our first night at a Cracker Barrel in Georga.  It was hot and we had no idea how to open the windows. The batteries were dead and we had no water but it was ours!  We bought some ice, beer, candles and food.  

Our first night!

The next day we drove most of the way to Michigan.  By mid-afternoon it started to snow. The second night we spent at a rest stop in Ohio.  We had no idea how to turn on the heat and we froze.

We drove into Woodland Airstream mid-afternoon Feb. 7th.  I went over a huge list of things to fix, replace and add with Erich the service manager and left our new camper with him.

We had done it! Bought an Airstream and truck for under $50,000. Now the work had to start.

Enough for today.


Sunday, January 3, 2021

My New Years letter

Hi Friends,

Like many people I didn't send cards this year but still wanted to touch base. This year would have been extremely dramatic for us even if there hadn't been a pandemic. Indulge me while I recap.


In February Dennis and I flew to St. Louis and bought a 2004 Silverado 250 truck. Then drove to Florida to buy a 2001 31' Airstream Excella.  We pulled the camper home and dropped it off at the Airstream dealer in Grand Rapids for major updates. 


The shut down in March hit Liam hard.  He had had his best swim season and was poised to break a school record in the 200 Free at the State meet on March 13th. The meet was canceled on the 13th.  To come so close and miss it was tough, but he never complained or got upset.  He just went on with his dreams of writing music and was accepted to the University of Cincinnati College Conservatory of Music (CCM) to study Music Composition.


Like everyone else, we stayed home for the next couple months.  Dennis had been working at a bike shop for a while and my online training went crazy, I usually had a couple classes a month, but my schedule filled up every week, thankfully.


Liam graduated with little pomp or celebrating.  He didn't seem to mind missing prom, graduation or all the awards ceremonies.  He went to a few graduation parties and we had one for him.


In July we put our house up for sale and it sold in 3 days for more than we were asking! Two weeks later we closed!  Luckily, we had till the end of August to move.  The rest of July and August was spent getting the Airstream completely ready and selling/donating everything we owned.  That is a huge chore!

We dropped Liam off at UC mid-August and he has been LOVING school.  His classes have been mostly online, but he loves being in the dorms around "his people''. He lives in a dorm with a couple floors completely dedicated to CCM students. The jam sessions, the creativity, the fact that other kids get his jokes has been a gift.


August 30, we left our house for the last time.  Our old boy Gus had passed earlier in the month, but we still have Jazzy, our cat. So, the 3 of us set out.  She has taken to Airstream living well but the travel days are still filled with hours of her singing the song of her people.  We must get that figured out!

Labor Day weekend we had a tire on the trailer blow on the highway and it caused a lot of damage to the septic system (tore the valves right off).  We could live in it but couldn't camp in a campground because, well, we leak!  We camped by mom's house in Harrison for most of October and helped sell everything in her house, getting it ready to sell. In November we went to Tennessee to stay at Rich and Sharon's country house. It's a peaceful, beautiful place and we loved being there.  Except for getting Covid.  We both had a mild case and thankfully after a couple months are pretty much back to normal.

Thanksgiving week we dropped off the Airstream at the dealership in Grand Rapids to finally get the repairs it needed.  We spent 10 days in Cincinnati at a lovely Airbnb.  Thanksgiving with Liam was wonderful.  We miss him so much and it was great to laze around and visit.


December finally got us to be truly full time RV'ers.  We went to Florida and got our new license plates and driver's licenses updated. Liam chose to stay at the dorms over the holidays and work.  He is a lifeguard at the UC pool and says he's glad he didn't make the team.  Their warmups are tougher than his hardest practices were in high school!


We are looking forward to traveling around the country.  I'm still training a couple weeks a month from the camper and Dennis is starting a bike repair business.  My goal is to visit as many of my friends and family as I can.  Hopefully, moochdocking with them occasionally. I would love to get invites to visit!  (hint, hint)


We miss our friends, and I am so thankful for technology that lets me stay in touch. We are blessed beyond words to have been able to do what we love and live life simply.


Hope to see you on our adventures.



Cate and Dennis


Here are the links to Liam’s music:


Follow us on Instagram to see photos of our adventures: