The Airstream

Everybody should have a Boston Whaler of some kind and also an Airstream trailer.

They are a part of Americana.

I didn’t do it on purpose, but it happened. In 1973 I purchased a used 14 ft Boston Whaler. In 1987, I purchased a 1958 Airstream trailer.

If my internet search is accurate, the model name is the Pacer and it’s 18 feet long.

Both of these vehicles seemed to be indestructible.

These items are two of the coolest things I’ve ever owned, but I never fully appreciated my love for the Airstream until today when my friend Tom Billingsley put new tires on the trailer, greased the hubs and pulled it out of the muck of our Mayberry duck club.

It had been sitting in one spot since 1992.

I purchased the Airstream from a neighbor in about 1986 and I’ve been paying the annual rent to the state of California ever since. I can’t tell you how many times I cussed when the DMV registration letter arrived.

The earliest registration I can find is for 1987 and the fee is $174 so that must have been based upon my purchase price. If I remember correctly, I purchased the Airstream and an International Harvester Travel-all for $4,000.

In 1988 the registration fee was $27. In 2016 it was $79. I paid the 2017 fee on July 31. It was $89. Most property deprecates with time, this trailer only goes up.

However, it’s only a shell of its former self.

Here are a few pictures I took a couple of weeks ago.


That’s the bad news. The good news is that today the Airstream has been freed from bondage. It has new tires, greased axles and a new location on flat ground. Tom had to do some fancy maneuvering to get it out of it fix. But now it’s ready for a facelift and transfer to its new home – once I figure out where that is.

I’ll make a progress report before duck season.


The “Perfect” RV (Part 3)

The inside dimensions of the trailer are 16 feet by 7 feet. The roof has been raised by one foot over the standard 7 foot high ceiling making it 8 feet tall inside. This will accommodate the Rhino (side by side). I suspect it will accommodate all ATV models, but didn’t confirm that.

There will be four – 12 VDC LED dome lights centerline on the ceiling. They will be powered by one 12 VDC battery which will be stored inside the trailer. The battery will primarily be charged by a solar panel on the roof. Did not opt for 120 volt AC.

Decided to add two five gallon propane gas cylinders and regulator on the tongue. The spare tire will be mounted above them.

Added four E-track rails, two on each side of the trailer. E-track is a tie-down system for trucks and cargo trailers. It will create a great deal of flexibility for how the trailer can be used. You can find information about it readily on the net.

Besides tie-downs for the ATV and boat, the E-track rail will provide support for furniture, primarily beds which can be put up and taken down (easily I think). Or, they could fold up and be stored against the sides of the trailer – or both. I’ll decide on that later. Also had six rings installed in the floor for additional tie-downs.

The floor will be covered by heavy-duty rubber matting. I want it to be easy to wash out if necessary so I also had a one foot high kick plate will be installed around the perimeter of the floor. The matting extends down the ramp as well.

I decided that insulation was important, so everything but the floor has R7 insulation.

The standard metal door will be replaced by a 36 inch RV door which will have a window and screen. Three additional windows will be added appropriately. They are 30 inches x 22 inches and will pop out per safety standards. I added a few extra running lights and a light by the door.

The trailer will have a “straight axle” upgrade that will create four inches of additional clearance and two boogie wheels should help reduce damage to the rear end of the trailer if (and I will) I drive over sharp inclines like when I take it one the ferry to Webb Track and the tide isn’t perfect.

Went with scissor jacks on all four corners to make it more convenient to keep it level. A cable hatch will allow me to breach the wall with wires or hoses as necessary without making additional holes in the wall.

In order to load my Boston Whaler, I’ll need to build a boat dolly and remove it from the current boat trailer. I’ve been looking at options and going through some mental gymnastics. I’m pretty sure it will work out. I may have to take the 20 HP Mercury motor off each time I load it, which will be a pain. I’m hoping it will squeeze in.

I also have a twelve-foot aluminum boat that would be easy to load, but the whaler is a much better option.

The cargo trailer will also be an option for storage in cases where there is a short-term need such as remodeling and needing a place for furniture storage.

There should be enough room for three people to sleep inside, but they’ll be getting to know each other quite well. I had a Fantastic Fan installed so at least there will be good ventilation.

I would have posted the plan, but it is property of the builder, Forest River, Inc. Wouldn’t want to made anybody mad at me.

Decided to be conservative and go with gray exterior paint.

That’s about it for now. I’m waiting to hear how long it will take to build it. Will post some photos at that time.

RV Search (Part 2)

Frustrated in my effort to come up with a plan to consolidate the RV situation, I stepped up my search for improving the situation.

My priorities: 1.) Have a place to sleep while on hunting and fishing trips. 2.) Have a second place where a guest can sleep if I’m taking somebody else hunting. This is mostly a problem with duck hunting, which is mostly done with at least one other hunter. The issue is compounded by the fact that the two main duck clubs on which I hunt often require an overnight stay. 3.)Be able to haul  a variety of boats, atvs and other auxiliary equipment or gear. 4.)An RV that can be reasonably managed (stored) when not in use. 5.) An RV that can remain in an outdoors location for months at a time without being overrun by rodents and other critters. 6.) No net gain in vehicles or trailers to store in my side yard at home and better yet, a reduction of those types of items. (This is #1 on my wife’s list.)

Last year I rented a travel trailer to deal with #2 above. Then I towed it to the duck club behind my truck and camper. My guests were quite comfortable. But it was only a temporary fix and it cost over $1,000 to have the trailer available for about a month. Not a solution, just a quick fix.


Rented this travel trailer last December/January. it functioned well as a place to sleep and get out of the weather, but it didn’t solve other issues about hauling and storing equipment.

A trip to a weekend RV show fired me up, the cost of solutions presented there was overwhelming. I checked out a four-wheel drive Mercedes van which would be a great tool, but the cost of the van without any improvements was over $60,000. Estimates for finished vans were $100,000 and up. Non-starter for me.

Then I spotted the Airstream “Base Camp” travel trailer. What I great toy. I sat in it and imagined my camp. Definite infatuation. But the Base Camp trailer cost over $40,000 and it created many new issues.

Next came a few days searching the internet. I was impressed by the numbers of RV’s I found. They didn’t solve my problem.

For years I’ve known about a friend of mine who used a cargo trailer for a place to sleep while camping alone in remote places. Unfortunately he had a very bad experience when a propane explosion destroyed his camper and seriously burned him.

However, the idea of converting a cargo trailer to a combo utility trailer, cargo trailer and RV sounded interesting. Finally I drove to Tracy and looked at cargo trailers. It was clear at once that I was on the right track.


The cargo trailer can haul any ATV  or any boat I own. It stores equipment out of the weather. It is sixteen feet long and has a 5,000 lb double axle. The total out-the-door cost of the customized trailer  will be under $15,000.

The picture above is not the trailer that I purchased, but it is close enough for display purposes. In order to make the cargo trailer versatile it had to be customized. That will be the subject of my last (I hope) RV post.

Search for the Perfect RV (Part 1)

Boats, boat trailers, ATVs, utility trailers, trucks, campers and travel trailers (what have I left out) are necessary for a life as a ranch owner and outdoorsman, but you can only afford to own, or store, a limited number of toys. Here are some of them and what they cost me.


This 13 ft Boston Whaler ($300 used) is old and ugly, but it is a very useful and stable boat that doubles as a fishing and duck hunting platform. The 20 hp motor ($2,000+ new) moves it along, but not like a bass boat.


This eight foot boat, called the “Final Attack Duck Boat” ($600 new) has been idle for a couple of years, but it rests upon a very useful trailer originally desired for Personal Watercraft, like wave runners ($250 used). It works well with the duck boat and may figure into my future RV plan.


About fifteen years ago, my brother and I had this utility trailer built to haul our gear on out-of-state hunts. It holds two one person ATVs or one side by side, in this case a Yamaha, Rhino. It travels well and is not bothered by rough roads. We have about $2,500 invested in this trailer. It also hauls a nice load of gravel on occasion. The side by side is a nice way to travel when you have company, but it is a noisy vehicle.

A few years ago, I purchased a camper for my F-150. F-150 (42,000+ new).


This Raven camper fits on the short bed of my 2013 F-150. It holds enough gear and has a comfortable bed over the cab. Cost $10,000 new about three years ago.

The camper model is the Raven and it is made by Four Wheel Campers and they are located in Woodland, CA.

My camper is just a shell, which means it has only storage, a fan, a battery and a bed. The bed is located over the cab. It works well for me and I don’t need a stove, heater or potty because I spend most of my time outside the camper anyway.

This camper is fine for one person, but not all of my friends have trucks and campers and I don’t own a travel trailer for guests. Not to mention that I potentially hunt on three duck clubs so I’d have to haul the travel trailer to each duck club during the season.

The advantage of a camper is that you can haul a trailer, but I need a trailer for ATVs, boats and sleeping. I suppose that’s why somebody came up with the toy hauler concept, but I don’t want to tow a 25 foot long travel trailer. And just like with the camper, I don’t need a stove, heater, potty and built-in table. Just not my style.

This line of thinking has led me to search for a solution that will impact and simplify all of my needs. Although this is a never-ending search, I made a specific decision related to the next stage in progress. I’ll explain in part two of this post.