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Archive for the ‘gear and tips’ Category

chicken fried steak

How do you tell the quality of a diner? By its chicken fried steak, of course.

Maybe it was just the mid 80’s, when everything was better, but the finest I ever tasted was at Boz Scaggs’ Blue Light Cafe on Union Street in San Francisco. I’ve been chasing that high for three decades. (The Blue Light today, minimized and lost to new management, serves greasy, monotonous bar food paired with Jello shots.)

The award for Second Best Chicken Fried Steak went to a diner outside Grand Coulee Dam. Actual steak, with a bone, real and delicious. The coating, crispycrunchy. The gravy, oh god, the gravy: not too salty, and lumpy with pork sausage.

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boondock of discovery—or, airstream faker comes clean

For five years I’ve been towing alone, passing myself off as some kind of RV studette. Repeatedly on the road I hear, “oh my, a woman all alone with your Airstream, crossing the country, how do you do it?” “Nothing to it,” I brag, with a smug wave of my hand.

I’m a fraud.

I’ve been cheating. For five years I’ve been using the trailer as a glorified tent, essentially car camping. I’ve never showered in it, washed dishes in the sink, or used the commode for its intended purpose. I’ve never replaced the propane tanks myself, put up the awning, or, god forbid, visited a dump station. (Sexist alert: I have my man for that.)

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solar ‘streaming – new airstream solar panel

Confession: I don’t understand energy. At all. I know that after two miles on the treadmill I’ve only burned the caloric equivalent of one damn cookie, but apart from that, I got nothing.

What’s a watt? What’s a volt? What does “at peak the inverter will pull 170 amps” mean? These and other concepts were no doubt covered during a science class I was absent from, or during shop, which was once For Boys Only.

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iball hitch camera

The iBall Hitch Cam went directly onto my Christmas wish list after Teresa Taylor’s sister demonstrated its virtues at the Pendleton Round Up rally.

It requires a 9V battery, not included, nor is a manual—everything you need to know about its operation is described by a three-step diagram on the packaging card. (By the way, will someone please invent a device to pop open the industrial strength plastic casing that’s fused around everything these days. You need the jaws of life just to open the iBall package.)

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foldable favorite: portable invisible fence

I was outside at a Utah Starbucks when a man arrived with his two chocolate labs. He left them unleashed near a table, and without a word, went inside to fetch his latte. The dogs watched him disappear, then sat politely to wait for his return. “That,” I said to my friend, “is the difference between a lab and a dachshund.” Ralston would lie down to wait. Ripley and Raven would cry, “Yay, she’s gone! Let’s play in traffic!” and I’d never see them again.

Thus the need for Invisible Fence at home and a new camping must-have: “The Rock” portable electronic fence system. It works like a charm and the concept is fiendishly simple.

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foldable favorite: demarle flexipans

My friend Karla—a spectacular cook—sells high-end kitchen tools as a Demarle At Home instructor and host. Recently she suggested the obvious that I’d overlooked: wouldn’t Flexipans be perfect for your Airstream?

Of course! Yes! If the DWR had an oven.

I made Halloween brownie bites in a mini muffin tray at home (using a low cal version of a box mix, with applesauce instead of oil), but YOUR trailer or RV certainly has an oven and you’ll want this rubbery cookware for your galley.

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the rally

Airstream is but a tiny, shiny star in the RV universe—most are SOBs (Some Other Brand). ‘Streamers I recently polled guesstimate that Airstreams comprise only one to three percent of the market, both new and old.

As it was held in my backyard (Redmond, only thirty minutes from Bend), I dropped in on “The Rally” (sans DWR…no aluminum allowed*), the premier annual RV gathering, to see how the other (more than) half lives.

It looked kinda fun, if you have a White Box.

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the newbie’s guide

I like the Airstream factory-issued Owner’s Manual that came with the DWR: the uncluttered layout, the clean language, the Euro-style cover. But, as it must be, it’s a dry read, and sometimes raises more questions than it answers.

Rich Luhr’s compact Newbies Guide to Airstreaming presents everything—literally—that you need to know before setting out on your shakedown cruise in a personal and friendly fashion, like a calm and trusted friend, patiently answering all your idiot questions one by one with expertise, respect, and a touch of humor.

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foldable favorite: twist espresso maker

It doesn’t fold but for Christmas I received the MyPressi TWIST Easy Elegant espresso maker, which claimed to change how and where I will enjoy my delicious espresso and espresso-based beverages, as it is “perfect for home and office”. Somehow they overlooked its most obvious application: for use in the Airstream.

Producing “perfect crema every time”—I suspect that’s the beige foam at the top of the coffee—the unit uses pressurized cartridges (the ones that make carbonated water from a seltzer bottle) in lieu of external power, and dispenses single or double shot extractions. A separate “frother” turns hot milk into a fake-steamed latte lather.

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olive pit

Everyone from California has driven by the Olive Pit fifty times. Located in Corning, the “Olive Capitol of the World”, (Spain, Italy, or Greece may take umbrage at that) in the blasting hot flatlands north of Sacramento, Olive Pit is the Wall Drug of the west.

The general attitude has always been “move along people, there’s nothing to see here” but I was rapidly approaching friends, in whose driveway I would be camping and upon whom I would soon be mooching. I complied with signs demanding that I take exit 631, confident I’d find a hostess gift, pull-through parking for the Airstream, and a bathroom.

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