Airstream A/C Shouldn’t Be This Hard

The Attwood going up

The Attwood going up

The Pursuit of Happiness

I decided to upgrade the Airstream’s OEM Domentic Penguin II 13.5k air conditioner with an Attwood Air Command. The Attwood promised to be:

1) Quiter (this would be easy as a jet engine would be quieter than the Penguin II)
2) More efficient (supposedly the 13.5k operated at an equivalent of a 16.0k)
3) More air volume
4) Cooler (anything blowing air cooler than a jet engine would beat the Penguin II)
5) Able to start with a Honda EU2000i generator – one, not two tangled together

So, the decision was made and everything was ordered. It all arrived except the gasket that went between the A/C and the roof, so we had to stop and wait TWO WEEKS for the gasket to arrive in Nevada from Ohio. It came by horse, or my order wasn’t important to the distributor, not sure which.

My installation crew came back and installed the Attwood. We turned it on. Glorious! It blows so much more air than the Penguin II, it was much cooler, much quieter, and boy was I happy!

And then the bad news came that the Dometic thermostat that runs the air conditioner, heater and heat strip doesn’t communicate with the Attwood, so the new delicious A/C had to run manually.

Well, I didn’t know it at the time, but the Air Command does not shut down when the desired temperature is reached. Nope. It switches to the fan only mode, then back to A/C, then back to fan, then to A/C, forever. It never shuts off until the human intervenes.

That little bit of rather vital information wasn’t really in the sales print, though it was sort of eluded to in a roundabout way, kind of. That’s what Attwood said, anyway. So, now my dream machine had a good a/c, cheap insulation, a thermostat that was useless, no heater, and cost about $800 more after the a/c installation. Oh, and I gave the Penguin II to the repairman as I thought I would have no more need for it.

I was broken hearted yet again. After much stewing, I decided I had to do something for heat before winter set in, and I hated the Attwood staying on all day long in it’s perpetual cycle, so I came to grips with ditching the Attwood and $800.

Oh, and during this whole fiasco, I contacted Attwood. They were very concerned and were going to jump right on engineering a fix, but then they disappeared. No contact. No reply to my emails. No nothing. It wasn’t until later I heard they had been bought by… Dometic – the Penguin II people. I’m thinking it’s part of a vast conspiracy against Airstream owners who try to disconnect from the Mother Ship.

Dometic Brisk Air II

With much more research done, I found I could recover the use of my heater and thermostat if I went back to a Dometic product (conspiracy). I initially refused for moral reasons, then finally capitulated. They promised, like Attwood, that their Brisk Air II unit would be wonderful. I didn’t really believe them now that I knew Attwood and Dometic were in bed together. With much chagrin, I ordered the BA II. However, I ordered a 15.0k unit rather than the 13.5k, with a hard start capacitor, and the heat strip option.

I called the installers again and had them swap the a/c units again. Now, my new air conditioner solution cost $1,600 rather than the $800 I originally thought no one who bought a $70,000 trailer should have to do.

The results? The heater works just fine. The 15.0k BA II is still noisier than the 13.5k Attwood, but not by much. At least it now shuts on and off on its own via the thermostat. The air is not cooler, though the air temperature stays cooler longer (15.0k v 13.5k?). The outside profile is much, much higher than the Penguin II, and a little higher than the Attwood. It kind of looks dorky on the roof, but it works. I have not tried it on the Honda EU2000, so we’ll see how that goes later. The air vents for the BA II are poorly designed for the Airstream. The forward vent emits very little air even with the rear vent closed. A sketchy design from the same folks who brought us the Penguin II.

Sorry for not pulling punches on the equipment manufacturers. When they fall short, I call them on it.

And speaking of falling short, the distributor I bought the Brisk Air II products through ended up being the worst vendor I’ve experienced over the last many years. They actually have zero ways for a customer to speak to a human, they provide nearly nothing in the way of assistance in ordering, and their returns policy requires you stop payment on your credit card before someone will speak with you. Totally grumpy – totally 1970s longshoremen union mentality. The company is I cannot speak loudly enough about my terrible experience with them.

The end of the whole story is the air conditioner to buy is the Dometic Brisk Air II if you have the Dometic Comfort Control Center thermostat in your RV. It works well, though not ideal. An Attwood would be good for a race car trailer or somewhere you want cool, quiet, efficient air blowing 24/7. The OEM Penguin II is horrible, but you already know that.

Atwood vs Dometic

Interior panel and controls

Interior panel and controls for Atwood 13.5k

After spending a rather miserable summer in my 2012 25FB Airstream last year, I decided to shake free of the mothership once more in search of more truth. This time, it’s all about efficient and plentiful cool air.

The Dometic Penguin 13.5k that Airstream made standard on my 25′ Flying Cloud is 1) noisy, 3) cool – not cold, 3) stingy with air volume, and 4) has a low-profile exterior cover (credit where credit is due). Oh, and 5): won’t run on a single Honda EU2000 generator.

My $68,000 aluminum heat magnet needed something much, much better than what was stock,  further convincing me Airstream’s management spends very little time in their product outdoors under varying conditions – probably just an annual spring camping weekend in Kentucky.

My need fits somewhere else besides what comes standard so, logically, I looked somewhere other than where Airstream looks.

Last year, I found an ad for Atwood’s Air Command air conditioner systems in 13.5k and 15.0k. They said their units were 1) quiet, 2) cold, 3) loaded with air volume, and 4) were not as low-profile as the Penguin. Oh, and the 13.5k would start and run on a single 2000 watt generator. This began to sound like lust was just around the corner so I researched more. This is what the Atwood people say:

Atwood Air Command RV air conditioners are designed to withstand the rigors of the harshest elements while delivering the most cool air in its class.  From an incredible air delivery of 360 cubic feet per minute to the standard digital thermostat with remote control, these units provide function and features unlike anything else on the market today.

Flip-down digital thermostat (non-ducted models) or wall-mount digital thermostat (ducted models) plus wireless remote control.

– Digital thermostats and wireless remotes are standard on all models.

– The two(2) motor concept used allows for an efficient fixed condenser fan speed, while the blower has variable speed.  The result is lower amp -draw and quieter operation.

– Ducted and non-ducted units available

AC-135 Specifications

  • 13.5k BTU Rated, performs as if 16k
  • Installed Weight:  84 lb.
  • Digital Thermostat
  • IR Remote Control
  • 2 Year Warranty

As you can see, this seems like a great product which deserves some attention.

Now for the distributor. I shopped around the internet and found RV Supply Warehouse. Their price for the exterior cooling unit, the interior panel and control, and freight to my doorstep in Nevada was $689.00. The next best rate I could find was $693.00 (very close). The reason I went with RV Supply Warehouse was they packaged the whole system and freight into one low price – no misleading unbundled prices – one straight honest (and great) price.
I’ve made contact with a local RV repairman who says he will remove the Dometic and install the Atwood for $125.00. I’m pleased with that rate thus far. We’ll see how his work is and I’ll report.
Right now, it’s 85 degrees outside and the A/C is on. The little (quiet) floor fan is on also. The A/C fan sound is annoying and it’s 82 degrees inside. $68,000 and there’s a noisy 3 degree difference. Let’s see what Atwood brings, huh?


Laguna Seca

140502_0395The TUDOR United SportsCar Championship series showed up at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca near Monterey over the first weekend this May. So did I, Airstream and all. Monterey County Parks department has a couple hundred old campsites nestled within the coastal live oak trees which surround the racetrack. My campsite looked all the way to Monterey out the back and it was 50 yards from my folding camp chair that looked over the track. Perfect.

The Tudor USCC is a new series in professional auto racing. Well, it actually is two previously existing racing series blended into a single “united” championship. TUDOR is a brand of wrist watches, or something equally beyond my price range, providing the hefty series sponsorship fee. It’s the same as the Sprint Cup, Nationwide series, and Camping World series in NASCAR racing.

Flying Lizard R8

Flying Lizard R8

The TUDOR USCC is the current combination of the Rolex Grand-Am and American Le Mans Series of professional road racing series championships. The minds behind the scenes of those two organizations realized they were much more attractive to the television folks as one series rather than two. Two lightly viewed racing series would supposedly create one moderately viewed series. A good idea in the board room, I suppose.

By the end of the weekend, there were winners in the Ferrari Challenge, the Barber Miata  series, the Porsche GT3 Cup, the four or five or six categories of USSC racing, and probably more I’m not recalling. It was three days packed with racing, practice, qualifying, autograph sessions, paddock strolling, great sounds, and really cool cars – lots of cool cars. It was a slice of heaven. The weather was great, too, as were the sunsets.

Laguna Seca is between Salinas and Monterey in a spectacularly beautiful section of California’s central coast. The drive over the Sierra Nevada range, across the San Joaquin valley, up and over the Coast Range, and through John Steinbeck’s hometown of Salinas was 284 wonderful miles each way. It took six hours one way. The Mercedes-Benz diesel engine in the 2007 Jeep Grand Cherokee pulled my rather portly 25′ Airstream with little effort all while delivering 14.5 MPG. Pretty good, huh?

Racing gets in some people’s souls and I’m going to head to Monterey again next year.

I’ve been neglectful in staying up on the Tincanz blog. OK, it’s worse than neglectful, it was as if I abandoned it. And some may say I did, but as you see, I didn’t.

The world of living in the Airstream from last fall to this spring has been rather bleak. Cold, actually. The temperatures here in northern Nevada reached the negative numbers several times which just turned it into survival rather than living. My handy outdoor thermometer has several readings in the negative teens, but I actually caught this reading just for you.

Minus what?

Minus what?

And for you folks who are wondering how that panel in attached so neatly to the wall, I used 3M picture hanging Velcro(r) so it can move around if needed. I know.

That -7* temperature is down right cold for western Nevada. The outdoor water hose stayed ice-free through the application of thermostatically controlled heat tape, foam tubing insulation down the entire water hose and ends, duct tape to secure the foam insulation, and some HD insulating tape at both ends for good measure. The result: No freezing all Winter #2 which is much better than Winter #1.

The black ABS sewer pipe didn’t freeze which is two winters in a row. That tells me the black 3″ pipe soaks up just enough heat to prevent ice build up. My grey water tank valve is open the entire time I’m hooked to a sewer and the black tank is drained and sprayed out every couple of weeks. This year, the black tank drain valve did not freeze closed as it did once in Winter #1. That was a scary situation, but solved by buying a halogen work light and laying it face up under the black tank where I figured the valve was. A couple of hours later it had thawed and worked fine.

Oh, you want to know about the bed and the Atwood Command Air and the trunk? Stay tuned.



Alumafandango 2013 – Solar Power!

From 2013 and 34' to 1962 and 16' - it's been a treat!

From 2013 and 34′ to 1962 and 16′ – it’s been a treat!

Sixty three Airstreams. Yep, that’s how many I counted. I might have counted one or two twice or not at all as counting Airstreams all lined up 30 feet apart in three rows is a bit like counting marbles in a jar. No matter the actual count, the turn out has been very good.

The Trunk - Designed by me, envied by many, scorned by purists

The Trunk – Designed by me, envied by many, scorned by purists

I’ve met many nice folks and it seems the biggest hit of the event may just be The Trunk. I’ve had so many people stop by and ask about it, take pictures of it, want to see inside, and even wonder if the Mother Ship knows I did it. It’s been very popular and I’ve sure enjoyed talking to people about it.

Neil, a very enterprising man, announced he is going to copy The Trunk and sell a ton of them. That reminded me of the guy who sold millions of the Opti-Grab eye glass holder in The Jerk and made Navin a multi-millionaire from royalties. Maybe royalties are coming my way! Ha!

The weather has gone from Sacramento Valley hot to Oregon coast cool with a little rain shower to settle the dust. If it could just settle right in between there, I’d be ecstatic. The weather here is near perfect, all things considered.

I just attended a great conference on solar power for RVs presented by Thom from Sutton RV and Dave of Battery Systems. They both promote the Zamp Solar products and as a happy Zamp user I understand why – no worries – ever. They were touting Zamp’s portable solar panel arrays which come in 40, 80, 120, and 200 watt configurations. They fold in half, have their own semi-hard sided carrying case, and Sutton RV will wire them to a female 7-way trailer plug for no-brainer connections. The Alumafandango show price is great and I’ll probably buy an 80 watt for my trailer.

The two 90 watt Zamp Solar panels I have hardwired are excellent and my batteries are always freshened except for when I park in the shade. For those times, the 80 watt portable system would be just perfect. Most Airstream owners will probably opt for the 120 watt which is a great all-round system. Since I already have 180 watts of solar on the roof, the 80 watt portable would fill the gaps just right. I’ll fashion a 20’ security cable to keep honest folks honest, but the risk of losing a portable is still quite real. For me it’s a reasonable risk.

Rhonda Coleman starting the Airstream cookie decorating event

Rhonda Coleman starting the Airstream cookie decorating event

Rhonda Coleman of led the crowd for an Airstream cookie decorating class which my diet precluded me sticking around for (they were so cool!). A fun time for everyone.

Artists at work...

Artists at work…




[contact-form-7 404 "Not Found"]

Alumafandango 2013 – Airstreams in Oregon

Alumafandango 2013 - Oregon

Alumafandango 2013 – Oregon

The Alumafandango sponsored by George Sutton RV (where I bought my ‘home’ 362 days ago), is in Canyonville, Oregon at the Seven Feathers resort and casino. And it’s humid, but of course anywhere in August outside of my home state of Nevada seems humid. Well, not Arizona or Utah, but pretty much everywhere else.

If you have never visited this RV park, you’ve missed out. It’s luxurious, green, clean, and modern. It has a portico to park your rig in while checking in and a uniformed attendant guides you to your spot with a smile and tips on hooking up. Free Wi-Fi and cable, too. A shuttle bus is waiting to pick you up to take you to the casino and convention center – at your site – no wandering around waiting for a routed bus. Or having o take your own car. Excellent.

At 5:00PM, the Airstream outside temperature is 92 degrees, but that’s not going to deter a bunch of ‘streamers from having a great time. I met Steve from Iowa who’s my front door neighbor. He’s in a 19’ Sport. He had a tough time on his way here and jack-knifed the trailer. He admitted it was driver error. He’s also a Vietnam Veteran and a standup guy.

I think this one's from New Mexico

I think this one’s from New Mexico

Scott and Stephanie pulled up on the other side and unloaded for their very first trip in their 27’ Safari. Their first Airstream anything was this event. A good way to start Airstreaminit.  I also met Neil from Washington. He’s been an Airstreamer for a long time and found great interest in my trunk. So have a lot of folks, but it’s not an authorized factory add-on, so they pretend not to look. Much.




The week ahead is fun-filled and I’ll report back, but now I’m headed to a market somewhere, maybe Roseburg.

Downhill Braking, Brake Fluid and a Disclaimer

Great Brakes!

These are brakes!

The drive from my home in Minden, Nevada to Convict Lake in California is due south all the way on U.S. 395. The old highway has been the north-south conduit through the eastern Sierra Nevada and Cascade Range since forever and still serves well. I navigated slowly through Gardnerville, Nevada and then on to Topaz Lake at the California border. Continuing south, I went through Coleville, Walker and then Bridgeport where the scenery was beautiful and all went smoothly.

I drove past the road to Bodie then climbed up Conway pass to 8,143’ with a little effort, then did the steep 1,100’ downgrade to Mono Lake which required some attentive use of brakes and transmission. Though this grade is challenging for anyone, there were no problems on this trip. There could have been which is why I’m sending off this article (please read the disclaimer at the bottom).

Going down steep hills with a load (e.g. a trailer) is a skill I acquired while driving semi trucks up and down the Sierra Nevada many years ago. I’ve gone up and down Donner Summit, Echo Summit, Sherwin Summit, and Conway Summit during night time snow storms and during clear days. They’re always dangerous when you are pulling a trailer.

I thought I should share some pointers with those of you who haven’t had the opportunity to be a professional driver of really big and very heavy trailers and  equipment.

#1: The first and main rule is to read the road ahead – well ahead. Look a ½ mile out all the time

#2: The second rule is to brake early, gently and steadily.

#3: Maintain the speed you’re comfortable with while going down the hill. Do not let the 15,000+ pounds of tow vehicle and trailer build up speed, to say 65 MPH, and then try to slow it down to 55 MPH while fighting gravity. That’s how the brakes overheat. First, before heading downhill, get to 55 MPH (if that’s what your comfort speed is for that hill) and stay there.

#4: Use the transmission and engine by selecting a lower gear or maybe two lower gears while going downhill. The brakes are like a credit card – use when needed, but don’t splurge as hitting the limit can be quite dangerous.

#5: Read the yellow diamond signs; this is part of Rule #1. The signs you ignored when you weren’t puling a trailer are the ones you need to read now. When it shows a truck swerving and says 35 MPH, you’d better slow to 35 or less. If a sign says 6% down grade ahead, you absolutely need to prepare to gear down and slow to your comfortable downhill speed – now, not when you’re doing 70 MPH on a 6% downhill grade!

On vacant roads, practice applying your trailer brakes to feel how they work. Reach down and gradually move the trailer brake lever until you begin feeling the trailer brakes work. Repeat this process once every trip to 1) ensure the trailer brakes are working, and 2) to create muscle memory in case your vehicle brakes fail and you have to use the trailer to stop you. Training is your key to safety.

Speaking of brakes, get yours checked more often than usual when you’re doing a lot of towing. Ask the mechanic to flush your brake fluid at least once per year as hydraulic brake fluid gets very, very hot when towing and begins to lose its ability to transfer pressure after repeated heat cycles.

The brake fluid heats up as do all the brake parts when the brake pads are doing their job of generating friction. The heat isn’t bad as long as it’s not excessive or maintained for too long of a time. That’s when the pads begin to stop generating friction and the brake fluid heats up beyond specifications and begins to boil.

The way you can tell if your brake fluid boils is pretty frightening – you push the brake peddle down and it just keeps going down… very scary! In extreme cases, if your brake fluid boils, and it will if you’re not careful about braking with heavy loads, get it flushed out of the tow vehicle’s brake system right away and fill with fresh DOT 4 fluid.

Brake fluid comes on four grades or specifications based on U.S. Department of Transportation minimum boiling point requirements, ergo the “DOT” level assigned.

DOT 3 is the lowest grade permitted and is most common in all cars and trucks built before 2006. It has a minimum dry boiling point (0% water) of 401 degrees Fahrenheit. It has a minimum wet boiling point (3.7% water) of 284 degrees.  Notice how little water needs to be absorbed for the boiling point to drop substantially.

DOT 4 fluid has a higher minimum dry boiling point requirement at 441 degrees as well as a higher wet boiling point of 311 degrees.  Most cars and truck built after 2006 use this type fluid.  It is frequently used as racing brake fluid with boiling points up to 600 degrees and beyond.  Due to its chemical makeup, DOT 4 absorbs water more readily and should be changed more frequently.

DOT 5 fluid is silicone based and is highly resistant to moisture, but its compressibility is lagging well below the DOT 3 and DOT 4 fluids which makes it unsuitable for street use.

DOT 5.1 is the final fluid specification which has a higher minimum dry (500 degrees) and wet boiling point (356 degrees), provides strong system pressure with minimal compression, and is more lubricating which makes this grade excellent for vehicles with ABS. It enjoys success in the racing arena as well so look for higher boiling point temperatures. DOT 5.1 is not compatible with DOT 4 due to their chemical composition, so if you want to use 5.1, have your technician flush the brake system and refill with 5.1 – don’t just top it off over DOT 4 fluid.

Flushing the entire brake hydraulic system is a regular service item and doesn’t cost much. Spending $35 to $50 for fresh ultra high quality DOT 5.1 racing brake fluid is cheap and your braking system will be way more protected against heat degradation than it is now.

Be careful out there.

Disclaimer: Thank you for reading this article. Do not take these references, tips or suggestions as fact. They are my opinion which I’m sharing publically. It is your responsibility to drive safely and ensure the vehicle you are using is maintained safely. This article is not to be considered training or guidance. I am not a certified driving instructor nor mechanic and am not responsible for your actions. Sorry, it had to be said.

Being a Baked Potato

Feel like a baked potato?

Feel like a baked potato?

Our Airstreams are beautiful. They are also wrapped in aluminum just like a fine baked Yukon Gold potato would be. Why do chefs wrap potatoes in aluminum foil? I asked.

Aluminum conducts heat quite well. That means it moves heat from one place to another efficiently, such as from the outside of an Airstream to the inside. Be thankful Wally B didn’t use copper to skin his Airstreams as it’s an even better heat conductor than aluminum.

By wrapping a potato in foil, heat is transferred/conducted from the oven into the foil sphere where the potato is and the potato cooks. The foil keeps moisture in, heat in, and it heats more evenly. It also keeps the potato warmer longer after it is removed from the heat source. So, when inside an aluminum trailer, if you sometimes feel like a baked potato it’s for a good reason. You are.

Heated air rises and cooled air sinks. And to support that fact, the cat likes to lay on the floor when it’s hot rather than lay on the top of the lounge pad to gaze out the window. Makes sense. The air conditioner unit, being mounted high, generates refrigerated cool air which naturally sinks to the floor and displaces any warm air because cool air is heavy and dense. Warm air molecules rise (think of a hot air balloon) because they are expanding and lighter than the cooler air molecules around them. This high pressure (cool and dense) and low pressure (warm and light) exchange is something we need to manage inside the trailer to stay comfortable.

The Problem

As the warm air inside the trailer rises to the ceiling where does it go? If you use a pressure cooker  to heat liquid on the stove the liquid’s temperature can increase beyond normal. Why? Because by keeping the pressure up (high pressure = cool), the temperature where boiling occurs goes up and the liquid does not readily boil. Maybe the same holds true for the inside of the hot trailer.

If you turn the A/C on and close all the windows you have kind of created a pressure cooker. Heat from the sun bakes down on the cool trailer and the cool air inside wants to leave. Because the trailer is sealed up tight, the temperature inside rises just like a pressure cooker. The increased temperature will get to a certain level and sort of stay there. From then on, you’re mixing the cool dense air made from the A/C with the naturally occurring heated air from the sun via the aluminum siding and the temperature just creeps up. Sadly, due to the superior heat conductivity of the Airstream, and its lack of an efficient insulation system, the temperature rises rather high and it becomes uncomfortable.

The Answer

If the hot air is something we don’t want, we should figure out a way to get it to go away. If you want to prevent hot air from entering, you create barriers such as insulation to keep the cold and hot separated. If you want heat to go, make some cold air and create a path for hot air to rise. It’s hot air and natural law says it must expand. If it has nowhere to expand to, it creates higher and higher pressure and raises the boiling point. That’s NOT what we want. In an Airstream, during a heat wave, we want cool – not hot. So, what do we do?

Let it go. Let the hot air escape to the outside. The tricky part comes when we want to keep the nice heavy cold air. If we picture the cool air laying along the floor and the hot air moving around up at the ceiling, we might get the idea to let the hot air out one of the vents and let the cold air fill up the Tin Can! Brilliant!

And that’s just what I’ve started to do. I’ve noticed my A/C is doing a better job at keeping the temperatures livable inside my baked potato since leaving small openings in the two Fantastic Fans. The fans have covers made of Reflectix as heat barriers, but there’s enough gap for hot air to escape out the openings I’ve left in the vents.

You mileage may vary, but it is working for me. It’s the little things that count. Happy touring!

A Heat Wave and an Airstream

And the Dometic A/C has been on all day

And the Dometic A/C has been on all day

Like the record low temperatures experienced in January 2013, the high temps of June 2013 are something to learn from during my first year full-timing in an Airstream.

These past couple of days have been unusually warm for northern Nevada. Well, what would you expect for being in the throes of climate change? And isn’t it interesting to be aware of climate change, and to see it unfold? OK, anyway, it’s hot.

It was 100 degrees an hour ago and now it’s 99. The humidity, for your folks east and south of the Rockies, is 16%. Yesterday: 100; tomorrow: 101; Tuesday: 102. You get the idea. It’s hot!

Because I’m not so fortunate as to have a job where I can just work from home, I’m not on my way to the coast. I have an office to show up in tomorrow so here I am, but at least it will have a proper air conditioner and insulation. Not so in an Airstream.

It’s probably much like being a foil-wrapped baked potato, but with electricity and a bathroom. The aluminum walls are classic looking, but boy do they suck in whatever temperature you don’t want outside to the inside.

During the frigid winter, while the air inside was warm due to the heater being on, the walls had frost on them. Well, the summer is worse and it would likely be unbearable with the slightest wisp of humidity.

For the past two days, the Dometic 13.5k A/C has been running non-stop from 8:00AM to 8:00PM. The aluminum walls, when checked with my handy Raytek MT6 laser thermometer came out like this:

  • Next to the door, in shade – Exterior 101.5 — Interior 89.0 degrees
  • Interior ceiling, between the skylight and ceiling fan, no shade – 102.0 degrees
  • Floor – 77.0 degrees
  • A/C duct – 52.5 degrees
  • Next to bedroom window, in shade – Exterior 101.0 — Interior 92.5 degrees.

From these numbers, we see the interior walls are 9 to 12 degrees cooler than the outside temperature with the A/C running all day. Yes, all day. The temperature of the air inside ranges between 85 and 89 degrees when the outside temperature is (still) 99.

The A/C has been on (again, all day) and there’s almost no humidity, but just 10 degrees cooler? I expected better.

I’ve come to find the single biggest problem with Airstreams: a modern insulation system is non-existent. My model is a 2012 25′ Flying Cloud FB. It still has the pink fiberglass insulation which was tossed in Model Year 2013 for some more environmentally friendly insulation. My guess would be it likely performs about the same as any improvement would should have been heralded by Jackson Center.

Starting in January when I moved in, I’ve used to good success 24″ x 10′ sheets of foil-backed bubble wrap branded Reflectix. I use it primarily in the windows and ceiling openings where it really makes a difference.

Interior wall next to the window (in sun)

Interior wall next to the window (in sun)6" to the left behind Reflectix and the curtain

6″ to the left behind Reflectix and curtain

The temperature at the interior wall (12″ from my head) is 98 degrees. With the Dometic 13.5k A/C running since 8:00AM. Yeah, I know.

The sun is low in the sky and it’s 99 degrees according to NOAA. The wall, on the inside where it has been cooled since 8:00AM, and being signed off as insulated by the Airstream factory, is 1 degree cooler. Yikes.

Move the temperature gauge 6″ to the left and it hits the curtain by the panorama window which, like the wall, is in direct sun. The difference is the window has little insulation factor, but there’s a sheet of Reflectix between the window and the curtain. The temperature reading is now 86 degrees. That’s 12 degrees cooler for Russ’ Relectix and only 1 degree for Airstream’s system.

It it wouldn’t look so silly, I’d be tempted to cover the entire inside of the trailer in Reflectix!

I wish I could order a Flying Cloud with that bubble wrap instead of the factory solution. That would be slick.

And I have a plan for the factory Dometic 13.5k A/C that’s only been used for 30 hours…


Tuolumne Meadows – Yosemite


Tuolumne Meadows - 8,900'

Tuolumne Meadows

The natural magic and sheer immensity of Yosemite National Park goes far beyond gazing up at Yosemite Falls and El Capitan from the valley floor. That part of the park is about 11 square miles in size – 11 miles long and an average of about a mile wide. Of course, that’s the area of the park that draws the crowds and rightfully so. It is breathtaking.

However, the entire park makes up a vast 1,169 square miles making the magnificent valley floor seem, well, like 1% of the park.

As a comparison in size, Rhode Island, according to Rhode Island, is 1,045 square miles, and Washington D.C. is about 69, so Yosemite is larger than United State’s 13th state and all of D.C., combined. Lots of hiking to do.

Yosemite has several sections which include the famous valley floor, the Mariposa grove of sequoias, Badger Pass ski area, and the north half, Tuolumne Meadows, where John Muir herded sheep in 1869 as a recent immigrant from Scotland looking for work. That’s the half of the park I visited.

Getting There

I live in Minden, Nevada which is on the eastern side of the Sierra Nevada range about 100 miles north of Yosemite. These’s a back entrance to Yosemite from the east on Highway 120. The highway begins at the little town of Lee Vining, California on Highway 395. That’s right at Mono Lake for those who like landmarks.

8% Grade

8% Grade

The trip up Highway 120 to the Yosemite entrance gate is beautiful, but not for the faint of heart. Lee Vining is at 6,780′ and the Tioga Pass entrance of the park is 9,945′.

The road  climbs 3,200 feet in just 12 miles. That’s an average grade of 5%. A 6-mile stretch of the road is inclined at 8% which is way steep if you’re in search of a technical term. The Jeep with its Mercedes-Benz diesel engine pulled the 25′ Flying Cloud with all my belongings and a load of water up that grade at about 35 miles per hour. I was impressed.

Going back down that grade required some old truck driving skills and great brakes which is exactly why I use Hawk HPS brake pads and racing brake fluid to prevent fluid boiling (and thus no brakes).


The horror stories of getting camping reservations at Yosemite are generally true, at least if you’re trying to get a spot on the valley floor at Upper Pines, Lower Pines, or North Pines campgrounds. There are other campgrounds around the park, but due to their locations on the valley floor, these campgrounds are usually booked within seconds, yes SECONDS, of being offered for the spring and summer months.

Tuolumne Meadows campground where I stayed is different. Reservations are reasonably available though there are no site-specific accommodations. You can sign up for a certain size of trailer or RV or tent and the rangers will assign a site when you arrive. Not sure I liked that part as I like to find my own piece of heaven rather than let someone else choose it for me. A minor detail.

Tuolumne Meadows campground hasn’t seen a Federal dollar spent on it since 1963. Or so it seemed. The road to the little check-in shack was rutted, dirty, and poorly marked. The rangers were friendly, as most rangers are, and I checked in with no problem. They decided I would stay in site number B-35. This site was heavily wooded with Tamarack pines and backed up to the staff canvas cabins behind the gas station. The two roof-mounted Zamp solar panels were able to gather enough sun to keep the batteries charged.

The sites was not as bad as it sounds, but the road to get there was fierce. Potholes galore; the road appeared to have been washed out repeatedly over the years and never repaired. It was maybe one-lane wide and sporadically lined with occasional orange cones.

The campsites have never seen a tractor or grader and no one had a level place to pitch a tent or park a trailer. The campground was old, neglected, and poorly managed. This was at the second most visited National Park in the country.

For the price of just one U.S. Education Department conference, one General Services Administration conference, and one IRS conference, the whole campground could be rebuilt and made amazingly beautiful for you and me – U.S. taxpayers. A rebuild would have lasting value for Americans for years, quite unlike these government morale parties the bureaucrats like to throw.

A sternly-worded letter to the Department of the Interior and my U.S. Senators will ensue.


Tuolumne Meadows Visitor Center built in 1933

Tuolumne Meadows Visitor Center – 1933

On Friday morning, I loaded my daypack with a bunch of water, camera gear and all the usual emergency stuff one might need if they get hurt or stranded in the wilderness of the Sierra Nevada. My destination was a high mountain camp called Glen Aulin.

Part of the trail was the Pacific Crest Trail which felt kind of good for no other reason than to know I was on the PCT. The trail started near the Tuolumne Meadows Visitor Center and crossed the Tuolumne River heading north. A little log hut marked the location of Soda Springs where animals and years of visitors stop for the mineral water’s medicinal properties. I didn’t stop.


To Glen Aulin June 2013


Tuolumne River

The trail follows the Tuolumne River and is an excellent path. It’s all wild in this part of the park and is essentially undisturbed since forever. Yeah, but I expected more from the non-wild campground; I’ll save all that for my letters to D.C..

The river’s channel crossed amazingly beautiful territory and then started falling. The falls roared like continuous thunder. There were falls for what seemed like miles – one after another. The sensation was just “riveting” (a little AS humor…).

Tuolumne River

Tuolumne River


At the first bridge

The trail dropped in elevation along with the river and around each bend the sights were worthy of a photo. I did take pictures with the hog camera (Nikon D7000) and they will be posted in the Gallery section as soon as I get that part figured out.


All photos were taken with an iPhone 4s.


Glen Aulin Falls


As I approached Glen Aulin, the falls seemed to have extra power. The picture here is of those falls though it just doesn’t do them justice.


Pack mules

Glen Aulin is a high mountain camp where folks can stay in some comfortable surroundings. The camp is supplied by pack train which travels back and froth on the same trail I hiked. It was exciting to see a pack train going up and down the trail, but dodging the “mule exhaust” was never pleasant.

Lunch Falls

Lunch Falls

I hiked past the camp for about a mile and found a beautiful hideaway on the river. You cannot seethis from the trail, though the falls can be heard. I was getting tired by this point and knew I had 7 miles to go to return to the Jeep. I stopped for a lunch break and named it Lunch Falls.

On the way back, I found more beauty and kept taking pictures. I hope you’ve enjoyed this trail as I did. Please try to go to Tuolumne Meadows. If the campground is in good condition you’ll know the letter writing campaign helped.




Thanks for stopping by!

Thanks for stopping by!