I’m sure we’ll sing ballads of that time that we drove our 26′ Airstream through the Siskiyou Pass in the middle of winter, 700 miles down to Santa Cruz. (Literally, up hill both ways.)
It never snows in Portland; except this one night when we were trying to get going down the road. We’d had it bouncing around from side street to side street for a few weeks; trying not to get a ticket. After packing, re-packing, reading terrifying articles about what to do when your trailer slides and you’re driving down a mountain, one last Chinese food meal with some promising fortunes, and a quick stop at a welcoming welder (that makes amazing fruit wines) for a late-night, last-minute “sway bar trailer mount” job – we headed out.
We decided that driving in the rain and darkness was better than blizzards in the daylight, so drove late into the night to beat a snow storm in the mountains. Then in Napa, we stopped to visit some friends, and work on the interior of the Airstream a bit. They’re modern-day pioneers that have lived out of a 13′ vintage trailer for over a year; and with three large, mostly inside, dogs. They were our small-living compass in figuring out how to go about doing it, and had an array of power tools that made so many things possible.
If you’ve ever found an apartment, a couch, or a job interview on anything that you found on Craigslist, you know there’s a certain “roll the dice” factor associated with it. Usually you don’t win. (And unusual smells could be involved in all.) But we found the Airstream, Bronco, and our cozy “glamping” spot – all Craigslist treasures.
Here are a few pics of the spot overlooking the Monterey Bay near Santa Cruz, up in the mountains. It’s chilly at night, but sunny and 70′s during the day in the winter. Getting the trailer up the steep, one lane, gravel road was a challenge. Joel was actually sliding backwards a bit at one point; with the brakes to the floor on the Bronco. But once we got to the clearing, it was amazing! We rolled in right at sunset; not planned, as it took longer to drive it down from the Napa area that day…and like 3 days later than we thought it’d be due to rain. Such a highlight to a week of sleeping in the back of a car and playing DIY trailer fix up. (The curved wall made of pegboard is the divider to the “bed fort” that we made; Joel is allergic to the cats, so couldn’t have them sleeping on his face.)
There are some logistics that go into this that we won’t go into, as it was a lot of boring stuff. Like finding internet or shipping Amazon goodies (outdoor stove, shower, etc.) as even having an address to send it to was a challenge. Before we got the shower hooked up we were just hosing each other off with freezing water, as you’re up on a mountain and have limited options. It was hilarious, though, and made the hot outdoor shower amazing when it was hooked up. Even cooking and doing dishes outside was a welcomed change of pace.
We stay there anywhere from two to almost six weeks at a time; testing ourselves to see how long we could live there. Rain and wind storms are a little complicated, as we just find ourselves inside a lot – moving drip buckets around as it is 45 years old, and can’t seal all the leaks on the rainy days. Shower design v6.3 works pretty well, and is made out of PVC pipe and tarps. I think an outdoor sink and kitchen counter set-up could make things a lot more functional. It’s amazing, though, despite the logistical hurdles.
Hindsight Facts: The Bronco is a little small to pull the Airstream down the highway next to semi-trucks. Four-wheel drive should be turned on when driving up a one lane mountain road next to a ravine. Sleeping in the back of the Bronco was cozier than we estimated. Our cats are way better at traveling than we’d ever hoped.