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The Family
Airstream Weekend Warriors

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Sunday, February 24, 2013

Advance Planning

Centerville, Ohio
Airstream Advanced Planning Headquarters

     It is cold outside in the Ohio winter season. During this lull in our Airstream travels, we dream and plan our destinations for the next season. With some advanced planning, we hope to avoid getting shut out of the best spots.

     When I bought my Airstream a few years back, I had a lot to learn. One of the first lessons I learned involved the laws of supply and demand. Melizza and I bought our Airstream in October of 2009. After our purchase, I was eager to use my new toy before it was necessary to winterize it for the season. I quickly learned that it was difficult to secure a good campsite in the peak fall season on short notice. While the United States has a number of camgrounds from coast to coast, the best places are in much higher demand than the best hotels.

     The competition for the best campsites at the peak times is fierce. If you want to enjoy a popular state park in Michigan on a summer weekend, you had better plan ahead. In the past few years, we have spent a great deal of time camping along Lake Michigan.  We have learned the hard way that you must book a site six months in advance to the minute for a summer or fall weekend.  Otherwise, you will be left high and dry. The lessons of Michigan have made Melizza and I vigilant with our campsite acquisition plans.

    Unlike many of my fellow bloggers who can work anywhere they have an internet connection, I must travel with the masses. Our work schedules coupled with the kids activities do not provide the same flexibility many of my friends have. As a result, we have to be on the ball with our advanced planning to make the most of our time in the Airstream. With some advance planning we have achieved great results. Since we are traveling to Maine in August and the Florida Keys during the holiday season this year, our planning skills will be put to the test.

     The only place more difficult than Michigan that we have encountered is the Florida Keys. I hear Yellowstone and Yosemite are worse but I will figure those out next year. The Keys are popular in the RV world because of the great weather and water views.  There are four state parks in Florida Keys. From north to south, they are John Pennekamp, Long Key, Curry Hammock and Bahia Honda. Since Melizza and I decided to plan a trip to the Keys for New Years Eve this year, we knew we would have a difficult time getting into any of those parks.  There are so few sites and the demand is enormous. We must compete with traveling families and snowbirds.

     We had no trouble booking sites in Savannah, Saint Augustine and even Fort Wilderness at Disney World a year in advance for our trip down.  The Florida Keys are a different story. First, we tried to book a site at a private park called Bluewater Key.  Most of the sites in this park are perched on the water. Each site is owned by an individual.  Many of them have little tiki huts. The place is the perfect Florida Keys experience. The problem is that most private parks have a seven day minimum stay requirement plus a holiday premium to secure a site during the Christmas season. We looked into staying there but ultimately rejected it because of the conditions.  We will try it out in a slower season.  Ideally, we wanted to snag a spot in one of the great state parks. Melizza and I were poised at our laptops eleven months in advance and ready to book our campsites. As soon as the reservations were opened, all of the sites immediately disappeared.  We tried this for several days with little success. I did secure a spot at John Pennakamp Coral Reef Park for two nights. As for the others, we will have to wait for a cancellation to have any chance to stay in the lower Keys. We hedged our bet by booking a campsite at Boyd's near Key West. It has a great location but lacks the isolation that I crave. Sometimes you have to make compromises. We will be within biking distance of Key West and the Hogfish Grill. I still have to decide if I will take my kids to watch the New Years bacchanalia in Key West. 

     Melizza and I approached our trip to Maine in the same way we handled Florida. We figured that it would be difficult to secure a great spot anywhere in late July or early August. Maine has a unique reservation system compared to Florida and Michigan. Instead of opening up sites six or eleven months in advance, they open up the whole season in early February. We had done our homework. Melizza and I had analyzed the data and checked out the best spots on, and the All Stays app on the iPhone. All three of these sites are invaluable resources.  Smartphones and the internet have made planning so much easier.  We were poised and ready to go as soon as the campsites were released. Unlike Florida and Michigan, we were able to get our first choices at Cobscook Bay and Camden Hills State Park. This was too easy. No one beat us to the punch this time. We were also able to grab a site in Acadia National Park without much of an issue. This early planning will pay dividends when August comes around. I can smell the lobster rolls already.

I am ready to launch

Dreaming of warm destinations like Grayton Beach, Florida
     As you can see, with some advance planning, you can hit the popular spots during prime time. For all of you newbies out there, the best advice is to be flexible or plan ahead. Now, we are waiting to take the Airstream out of storage and enjoy the fruits of our advanced planning. If you have any tips to secure the best sites, please share them. I won't tell a soul.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Houston, We Have A Solution

Cricket Trailers
Made in the USA

     The problem with the RV industry in the United States is a lack of inspiring design. There are only a handful of recreational vehicles that are truly works of art. Airstream will always be the pinnacle of iconic American design for me. However, this design comes with a hefty price tag. After a few years of travel around this country, I am underwhelmed by the quality and look of most recreational vehicles. Do they all have to be white fiberglass boxes with giant eagles on the side? If it weren't for the classic teardrop trailers, vintage buses, T@B campers and the Volkswagen Microbus, there are very few RV's to drool over. All of the examples cited above are not currently in production. Why can't someone come up with a great design that is relatively affordable?

     The Cricket Trailer maybe the answer to this design void. This RV was designed and conceived far from Elkhart, Indiana where most RV's are manufactured. This funky travel trailer was designed and built by a former NASA engineer in Houston, Texas. Garret Finney worked on the habitation module at NASA before following his dream to build a better travel trailer. He has filled a void in the market for those individuals or families who want something more than a tent for their outdoor explorations but do not want to invest in a new tow vehicle. He has created a trailer that marries great aesthetic design with well thought out functionality. This trailer is a product of American ingenuity. Even though I own an Airstream, I want one of these too.

     The Cricket trailer has a number of great attributes beyond its good looks. With a gross weight of 2,200 pounds, it can be towed by a Suburu or even a minivan. My Airstream has a gross weight of over  7000 pounds by way of comparison. The Cricket trailer can sleep a family of four or more depending on the configuration. The interior design looks like a marriage between a NASA space module and IKEA prefab furniture. It has a pop up tent top that is reminiscent of the VW Microbus. It also has a Thule rack on the roof to carry bikes or kayaks. There is a rear hatch that allows easy access beyond the side door. This is the perfect vehicle for the weekend warrior who wants a little bit more than a tent but less than a gargantuan RV.

The rear hatch
The utilitarian kitchen
     If you need a full kitchen and bathroom and a couple of flat screen televisions, this is not the product for you. The target market for this product are active individuals who love to be outside but are turned off by the uninspiring options in the current travel trailer market. Although it is very utilitarian inside, this is the coolest product I have ever seen under $20,000. I am impressed by the look and function of the Cricket trailer. I also admire Mr. Finney for creating such a great alternative for consumers.

The kids can sleep suspended above the parents.  How cozy!

     I am trying to convince my sister and my friend and travel companion Phil to buy one. I hope they both get one so that we can travel together in style. I am not ready to give up my Airstream, but I am a big fan of the Cricket trailer. I hope this company blows up. This is not a paid endorsement. I just like what this guy is trying to accomplish. Check out Cricket Trailer here and support this innovative American product.