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Old 01-17-2006, 01:13 PM   #1
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All of us in a '34 for a year?

Hello all,

We're in the planning stages for taking a year off and exploring the lower 48. The problem we're having is that we're not sure that our '86 34' Limited/'03 Silverado CC D/A 4x4 combo is the way to go. We've had the '34 for 10 years and have loved it. It's not too tight for 6 when camping short term (1-2 weeks) but long term might be problematic. Our concerns now are storage space for a year for a family of 6, driving for thousands of miles with 6 people in a crew cab, and lastly safety. We're wondering if there are others out there with 4 kids or so that have done a silimar type trip and how it went. We homeschool and this trip will be part of it. We're also contemplating if this might precipitate a move into a similar year Newell or BlueBird.

What recommendations do you have?

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Old 01-17-2006, 03:08 PM   #2
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Originally Posted by 6inAK
Hello all,

What recommendations do you have?
Head on over to The Vap and listen to the interview with Rich Luhr who is doing today, what you are thinking about. If you have an Ipod subscribe to the podcast where you will get the bonus interview (not available on the web site).

Living in Aluminum

Rich and his wife talk about many of the same questions you are asking.


Jack Canavera
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Old 01-17-2006, 04:23 PM   #3
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Dh, dd (8) and I fulltime in our 31 ft excella. We have been full time for almost 2 years and have been in the Airstream since July4.

Honestly, It was easier to full time in the 5th wheel. Alot more storage space for the daily stuff we needed. Putting all of us, all our stuff and all the school books in the Airstream has been a real challenge.

If it was me I would store the Airstream and go for a larger rig for the year then sell it. (If you can financially pull that

It is hard and wonderful at the same time.

Good Luck
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Old 01-17-2006, 05:19 PM   #4
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I just finished full timing for 5 years in a 40' Monaco Dynasty with 2 and a dog. It was a little close but had plenty of storage. Now in a house with a new 19 CCD. As great as the A/S is, I would go for a large bus type RV or 5th wheel for your journeys and then sell it when you're done. There are lots of older MoHo's out there that would be up for your trip with 50-75K miles on them that can be had for a song (relatively speaking). Lots of elbow room when on the road and sufficient storage when parked. Plus you can tow the vehicle of your choice (full-sized van?).
Lew Farber...RVIA Certified Master Tech...ABYC Certified Master Marine Electrician
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Old 01-17-2006, 08:54 PM   #5
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Thanks for the replies! Anyone else out there with some recommendations? We really do love our Airstream and would love to find some way to make it work...

Jack - I'm listening to the Luhr's on VAP. This website is awesome.

Tyndale Lady - A fiver wouldn't really address the 4 kids/2 adults in a truck for thousands of miles up to a possible year total. Also, I really don't know of any that have the same type of quality/timelessness of Airstreams. The homeschool books/supplies are real concern for me also.

Lew - The Monaco sounds nice, but I'm more prone to a motorhome/coach that has the same kind of reputation for quality as Airstreams, hence why I mentioned BlueBird & Newell. Whatever we buy, we'll probably keep for future trips. Know of anything down your way?

If we do move up to a motorhome/coach, a major drawback is the cost of maintenance, upkeep, and mileage as when compared to our present setup.

We've also considered some of the bus conversions, especially because we need something to sleep 6 comfortably day after day. The problem with them is that they don't always have good engineering behind the conversion and the ones that do cost mega-mega bucks.

I considered a Classic Airstream Motorhome, but they don't have much more storage than the '34 LTD. I always wanted one. The first one we saw was when we stopped by the factory after we bought ours and had them go over it. In the bay next to us was a 345 that had just been purchased by one of the Smothers Bros. (I forget which one.) He came in to pick it up and gave us a tour and then came over to look our trailer over. It was a great memory of our visit.

I've been chuckling a bit on our thoughts about a CC being too small for a family of 6. I remember as a kid on trips to the East Coast from the Midwest, laying in the back of the station wagon with my little brother, my three oldest brothers were in the middle seat, and my older sister was in the front between Mom and Dad. That was only for several days each way though.

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Old 01-18-2006, 02:19 AM   #6
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Home Schooling /Airstreaming

I once saw a PBS special that opined that the most significant invention of the 20th century - as far as women were concerned - was the electric mixer. I was amused/horrified, because the early model they showed was a 1939 GE Mix Master stand mixer my mother finally gave to my sister about 10 years ago; with attachments to juice citrus fruit, churn butter, grind and stuff sausage, etc.

I disagree with that opinion because I actually went camping as a girl scout for 4 weeks with only a washboard to launder my clothing on.

As far as the 19th century, the big life affecting technology was the sewing machine, and it certainly benefited females. Ever hear this old saying, "A man will work from sun to sun, but a woman's work is never done?" Men labored from sunrise to sunset... and women sat and sewed by rushlight for hours after the sun went down. But the sewing machine also affected men's work. Consider sailmakers, harness makers, cobblers (shoe making and repairing) as well as seamstress work. I'm a dab hand at hand sewing, but I once decided to sew a dress entirely by hand. One seam and I was back at the ole Singer.

During colonial times when someone wanted to build a new house, it was common to burn the old one and sift through the ashes to recover the nails. Trees were plentiful, but wroght (worked) iron was hard to produce - and nails were made one at a time.

During the middle ages an ounce of pepper would be sold - for an ounce of gold. Reason? Transportation that was limited to the load and speed of a camel travelling for thousands of miles across rough and bandit infested country.

If you're schooling your kids at home, I'd suggest that you could use the limited space of the Airstream - as your support vehicle, while you and the family practice "real world" history. How about getting your kids enlisted in a historical project - retracing part of the Oregon Trail, etc. with only the technology, clothing, food, toys, etc. available to people in the 1840's through 1890's? Set up one day where the kids - and one of the parents walk for six hours toward the night's destination. (Half an hour before the end of the walk the other parent leaves the previous night's camp and drives to the pickup point.... which will only be about 12 miles down the road. (This should also go a long way to ease the trouble of six people in a tow vehicle.)

Do you need to load up your trailer for a whole year? NO. Kids will get bored having only 5 outfits each? Once a month stop at a nice thrift store and let each kid buy a new outfit - for $3. BUT they have to throw out one old outfit when they bring the new one into the Airstream. Games and amusements? Ditto. School supplies - Every major city in the lower 48 has a teacher's supply store.... and I'm sure you can find one that will send you stuff via UPS wherever you camp.

You could also approach it as a series of 60 day trips. Rather than just covering ground, plan to really spend time exploring one, two or three states - then hold a family conference and decide whether to continue for another 60 days or go home. You might not see the whole country - but you'll see MORE if you stop and meet the people, visit the small towns, etc.
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Old 01-18-2006, 05:22 AM   #7
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I'm fully with Paula. My opinion (and everyone has one) after living in my 23' Safari for a year (many years ago now) is that you can't move your lifestyle into an Airstream. Your Airstream becomes your lifestyle. You don't need to adopt a "Grapes of Wrath" existance to do what you're planning, but you can't move everything out of your house and expect to move it into your trailer and merely carry on the same life in a different location every day.

Re-think the kids' cirriculum materials. Go laptop, CD, and Internet based. They can be bought used now for pennies on the dollar; certainly cheaper than new textbooks for every subject for four. Figure out a way to network wireless with the cell-based cards and $39 wireless routers. The United States has the most incredible public library system in the world. There are literally hundreds of college and university libraries available for your use. Why drag books around? Most of them are outdated anyway!

A bigger bus/trailer/fifth wheel won't serve any better, nor will it enhance the trip; it'll just allow you to travel heavier. Six in a crew cab is what they were designed for. You won't be living in the truck, just travelling in it. Stop frequently. Make those stops interesting. Look at geology, sociology, and history everywhere you stop. Have each kid keep a journal... maybe a blog if they want...

It'll work out fine. You just need to readjust your view of what's important.

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Old 01-18-2006, 06:27 AM   #8
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I second Lew's recommendation for a late model Class A. There are plenty available for sale, many from folks who have returned from similar trips that you are planning. Also, from the extensive traveling you are envisioning, I would go with a Diesel Pusher.

Bluebirds and Newells are nice solid coaches, but aren't available in the used market in the numbers that newer DPs are. How much time and travel are you willing to invest in trying to find a gently used one? And have you considered the cost of maintenance on an older coach??

Only YOU know what your true requirements are for undertaking a trip such as this. We can only give you suggestions and feedback based on what you state your needs are. To be honest, it's difficult to make a valued recommendation without knowing what your budget requirements are for a travel rig... by the way, a Monaco coach would be on my short list of preferred rigs if I was hitting the road, as they are extremely well made.

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Old 01-18-2006, 07:28 AM   #9
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Originally Posted by 6inAK
Hello all,

" We're also contemplating if this might precipitate a move into a similar year Newell or BlueBird."

What recommendations do you have?
First off I want to say nothing to discourage your trip. This is a lifetime adventure that your kids will never forget. I hope you make it to Wisconsin and maybe I can be the teacher of the day.
I have a friend with a '82 Bluebird, he and I compare notes, of course and have come to the conclusion that the only thing more expensive to maintain than a Classic Airstream motor home is a Classic Bluebird motor home. They are a mighty complex piece of machinery. The older ones are sorely under powered and suck up the fuel. My friend gets about 4 to 5 MPG- diesel. They weigh an incredible amount of pounds which means you will have to find paved campgrounds. We have actually been in a campground where he cracked up the black top paving! Aside from that they are wonderful to ride in, smooth, quiet, and luxurious but keep your wallet handy.
I would suggest you keep your trailer and crew cab. You will want the convenience of the truck when you stop and set up, unless you are planning on towing a car. You will not be able to take a larger motor home to all the good sight seeing places and you'll curse it each time you stop for groceries. I drive a 28' and would not want anything longer than that to get in and out of tight places. I also agree with you on the AS Classic we do not have enough storage. My wife and I use a small trailer just to carry our bikes, lawn chairs and supplies and we are just two.
Good luck with your trip I look forward to reading about this adventure and please make Wisconsin a stop. I would love to meet you and the kids.
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Old 01-18-2006, 07:38 AM   #10
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Smile What a wonderful plan! Best wishes!

Originally Posted by Chaplain Kent
First off I want to say nothing to discourage your trip. This is a lifetime adventure that your kids will never forget.
My sentiments exactly. What a great gift for your family--time together seeing the beauty of this country and learning from each other. Everyone here has offered wonderful advice. So much learning can take place in sharing the planning and organizing for the trip too. I'm sure you'll have lots of great adventures. I have been very impressed with the activities for kids at state and national parks, really good science learning going on there. Please keep us up to date on your plans and travels!
Steph in MI Air# 6996-
I Hockeytown USA!!
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Old 01-18-2006, 07:47 AM   #11
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How about a 345 motorhome?

Having lived in a 32 foot travel trailer for a year I was quite content.....
But it was not the case with my better half.
If you tow a 34 ft. trailer for a year, there are concerns with wear and tear on your tow rig, reduced gas mileage, being able to park successfully, being able to stop successfully while trailering.....
Whatever you decide, you will not have enough room. Everyone will have to compromise their personal space. That may be rough on the kids.....
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Old 01-21-2006, 03:15 PM   #12
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Wow! These are great responses. Thanks!

Here’s a little more info. We're planning this trip as a lifetime event. We're especially looking forward to exploring God's Creation and seeing & learning more about U.S. history. This trip will probably happen along with selling our house and relocating, but at this time we just don't know. We have had experience (several times in the last 10 years) of living in the Airstream for 4-5 months at a time. Also we've done everything from tenting, MinniWinni Class C, & of course Airstream up/down the ALCAN to/from lower 48. I guess spending 25 years in the military and the frequent moves has somewhat prepared us for this type of endeavor. The hardest part of the whole thing is getting rid of the STUFF we’ve accumulated over the last 10 years. Paring down has never been fun… As far as size requirements, I know that just about anything is possible if you plan it right. There are families who have done similar things in a suburban and tent. We’ve spent enough time in the ’34 to know what we can and can’t do with it in its present configuration. Things that we’re considering: The benefit to reconfigure the ’34 by adding bunks to the rear & change front couch to a queen; the possible need to work on AC (something we haven’t needed up here); Since there is limited storage in the trailer, the back of the truck would have to suffice. Where would all this stuff go when using the truck to explore and not having to worry about theft? With a Coach, we could just leave it in the basement storage and use the toad. Everything seems to be pointing to a Coach, but I wanted to ask the Airstream faithful for their thoughts before we think about leaving our beloved Airstream.

Do any of you have another freezer? To conserve $$ and also take as much salmon/halibut/moose with us as we can, we need more freezer storage than that provided. Many of the coaches have additional basement freezers.

We've been listening to the Luhr's discussion on VAP and have thoroughly enjoyed it. I wish these type websites were available 10 years ago. I think all we had available back then was Charlie Burke (who was invaluable!) Anyway, the Luhr's have mentioned that they have had a tight fit in their 30', and that's only with one 5 yo. We have a 5, 7, 10, & 12 yo. Oh yeah, we have a boxer also!

Paula - These recommendations are what we're looking for. We really like your suggestion about swapping out clothing at thrifts stores & approaching it as a series of 60 day trips.

Roger – I can’t imagine doing this without the computer. It will be invaluable in teaching, researching, and communication. Also, great idea about using online libaries.

Bob – I’m a diesel nut (the Duramax, & 2 diesel Land Cruisers), so a diesel pusher is about the only thing we’d consider. In the past couple of years of checking around on Coaches, it seems that the only two that have stood out for quality/engineering/safety are the Newells and BlueBirds. It’s surprising to hear Monaco’s mentioned twice in this thread. What stands out during your ownership of them?

Chaplain Kent – I have family in ‘Tosa so that will definitely be a stopping point. We’ll certainly look you up. I am aware of the increased costs in owning a Coach. The early 80’s BBs were a bit underpowered, 400 – 450 HP is more what I’m looking for. BTW, I’ve enjoyed reading your posts in this and other forums over the last several years.

Steph – Thanks for your encouragement. We’ll do our best to set up some kind of a blog/website for posts during our journey. This will probably be a project for our two oldest, but we’ll all be learning on that one.

Jim – We’re aware of wear and tear, having towed the ‘34 well over 10K these past 10 years. As I said earlier, a 345 would be great, but wouldn’t address the storage concerns any more than what we presently have.

One more thing, I was reading a thread on another website about a family attempting a similar endeavor. The responses seemed to be very negative and questioned their objectivity on planning such an event. You guys have been fantastic. We’ve always loved the Airstream family and your responses are some of the proof of why we do. This is a primary reason of why we are struggling with leaving the Airstream family & if we did, it would have to be for a similar situation. That would mean moving to another quality type unit, it seems that you only have these long-term type relationships where there is a quality unit.


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