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the mothership

Jackson Center, Ohio: population 1365—where Wally Byam found the vacant paper factory in 1952 that would house his Airstream production center. Today, workers in JC continue to crank out the aluminum beauties at the only plant that builds new Airstreams and delivers them by flatbed to dealers across the country.

‘Streamers, plan a pilgrimage to the factory at your earliest convenience. (New buyer tip: order from a dealer, obtain the production number of your unit, and scurry to Jackson Center where you’re welcome to watch [and photograph] your very own Airstream being built step by step on the line during its nine day assembly process.)

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alumapalooza

Alumapalooza is an all-Airstream event sponsored by the good folks who bring you Airstream Life magazine, held on the grounds of Airstream, Inc.

Like a giant rally, but more, Alumapalooza crams back to back activities into a too-short six day event, presented by those who own and love Airstream: gear, technical and safety classes; workshops on interior design and vintage restoration; tax tips for fulltimers; morning yoga; numerous maintenance sessions; cooking and sketching demos; a short session on bucking rivets (“Buck Rivet”—best porn name ever)…

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road to ohio

From the moment I was informed by the nice gas station character that filled the trailer tires that 38 tornadoes just had their way with my eastern destination states, the hostile spring weather has tried to run me off the road: torrential rain in Washington; fat wet snow flurries in Oregon (is the west not aware that it’s nearly Memorial Day?); fierce winds in Idaho that actually BLEW A PART off the Airstream (hopefully they’ll reattach it at The Mothership); and fog so dense in Wyoming that semi drivers on the I-80 formed a 30mph protective convoy, hazards flashing.

I didn’t see another Airstream on the road until two days into the journey—they waved to me from the other side of the freeway where I was shipwrecked with a blowout.

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there’s no place like (a new) home

This month we started the bassackward process of relocating our belongings to Bend, Oregon, a three-plus hour drive from Portland.

Why Bend? It’s a fishin’ hikin’ skiin’ bikin’ town, all activities Ralph enjoys and I will, too when the right loaded firearm is pointed at my head. Compared to hipster Portland (“a city where young people go to retire,” as observed in Portlandia), Bend culture can best be described as “emerging”. But I love the pine smells, the clean high desert ambience and relative lack of traffic #inBend. The new house, set back from the street and far from the neighbors, is surrounded instead by wildlife and easterly views, and came with a pull through driveway and civilized gravel pad upon which to park the DWR.

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chumash casino

My mom and dad—married 65 years and counting—still live in the POS town in California where I went to high school, an hour’s drive north of Santa Barbara (which sounds far tonier than it is).

It’s also near Solvang, the ersatz Danish community where tourists flock to buy abelskivers and crap from the Thomas Kinkade gallery. Six miles further lies the promised land: the smoke-choked but otherwise upscale Chumash Casino.

My parents, frequent flyers of the resort, drag me there when I return home to visit. This trip to Chumash had three saving graces.

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toy museum

It’s hidden in plain sight on busy Grand Avenue in Portland in an unmarked, windowless, locked building. To gain entry you must knock, wait, and the door will be opened (when I visited, by a woman who returned to an unseen corner after speaking her only words: “Set your umbrella down—no, not there,” (the dirty worn carpet). “There.” (The dirty worn linoleum.)

The silent cramped foyer smells musty and is lined with display cases packed with shadowy objects. Enter the first brightly lit showroom on the left and be overwhelmed by cases and cases and cases of…toys.

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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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burning man

Unless you live under a rock, you’ve heard of Burning Man, the annual art festival slash summer camp for adults in the Black Rock Desert north of Reno, Nevada.

In the weeks leading to my departure several fifty-something friends confessed that they’ve wanted to see it for themselves but have felt too intimidated to attend “that thing in the desert”. I concur; it’s difficult to get mentally and physically organized for Burning Man if you’re a grown adult not surrounded by peers who have been or are coming with you.

For the “virgin burner”, shopping and preparing can be daunting and confusing; it’s the packing equivalent to extreme boondock camping, seven day Halloween party, and week-long potluck.

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mountie museum

Traveling to Regina? (What an embarrassing name for a city. Like that Seinfeld episode. “Mulva?”) Don’t miss the contemporary Royal Canadian Mounted Police Heritage Centre in Saskatchewan where you’ll learn about the formation of the original 300 Mounties in 1873, what the RCMP is up to today (with a force of nearly 5000), and how you’d look as a Mountie in that smashing scarlet tunic and Dudley Do-Right hat.

Back to back theme rooms explore aspects of RCMP history including their presence during the Klondike Gold Rush (when the worldwide image of the Mountie was formed).

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flea market

Maybe it’s because I came up in the suburbs of the west coast and have never seen oddities like weatherworn drake decoys and antique muskie lures. Maybe it’s the way said items were displayed. Maybe I just hadn’t been shopping in awhile. But I was positively mad about Shady Hollow Flea Market.

A bit like Les Puces de Saint-Ouen without the newer merchandise and pickpockets, Shady Hollow is not about transients unloading their castaway crap. Here, professional antique dealers traffic hand picked items from teeny, tasty little store-sheds and tables piled decoratively with fabulous junque. Shabby chic people, you’ll go out of your mind.

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