We got out to the Airstream around 8:30 on Friday night. It was a calm, cool spring evening. I checked systems and water lines to make sure all was well. It was. Danine brought in all of our stuff for our last night in Shackleton: sleeping bags, pillows, sugar popcorn, drinks, movie, tea for the morning, and one of our regular games from the trip (Arc of the Covenant, a Carcassonne spin-off with game balance). We turned on lights, opened windows and we were home.
It was a pleasant night, quiet and dark. The kind of night you might encounter in Fort Stevens State Park in Oregon this time of year. We watched Madagascar 2 and were glad for cheerful, animated mayhem. It was funny, with great voice talents. At bedtime, Danine got a little too choked up to read Elise a story, so I happily did. Elise, despite feeling sad, went to sleep quickly. Danine and I stayed up to split a beer and play the game at the dinette.
Going to sleep in the trailer is a cozy feeling, but I still tossed and turned, remembering the many good times we spent in our little aluminum home. In fact, if you’ll forgive the self-pity for a moment, I felt like someone punched me in the gut most of the day. I didn’t expect it to be that hard. After all, we have friends with real struggles and I’m broken up about successfully selling a luxury item! But there are a lot of memories and nostalgia tied up in Shackleton.
It was easy to get up Saturday morning because it has always been easy to get in the Airstream. I started organizing some things for the new owner and was about to go out and put air in the tires when Danine said, “He’s here!”
Sure enough, the Transport Guy had arrived — and 30 minutes early no less. The new owner is in Austin, TX. He hired a company to deliver the trailer to him. We spent the next half hour gathering our things, checking things over, and filling the tires. I explained the Hensley hitch to Transport Guy. He backed up his diesel powered, dual-rear-wheel (dually: pronounced “DEW-lee”) Chevy pickup, but was at the wrong angle. I tried to line him up right, but realized that’s Danine’s job! She came over and directed him perfectly in about 15 seconds. I greased the hitch and told him to do it about every 500 miles or so. He didn’t seem convinced of the necessity, but said he would. However, he also doesn’t really need the weight bars, which help distribute the tongue weight of the trailer to both the rear and front wheels. Our truck is small (relatively) and it matters. His is huge (absolutely) and it really doesn’t even notice the trailer behind it.
We took a couple last pictures by our good friend Shackleton, unchocked the wheel and watched. The trailer bounced gently over the lawn and onto the road, dutifully following a different truck for the first time in a long time. We had lumps in our throats, but kept it together. As it disappeared around a bend in the road, Elise came over and gave me a hug. Danine too.
Thankfully, our friends John and Kelley were there with their kids. Shackleton’s been parked next to their house all this time. We chatted as we packed up and promised to come visit them without the ulterior motive of checking on the trailer. They were, as ever, very gracious.
Our next stop was breakfast at Cracker Barrel. Why? Well, it was the first place we stopped (for dinner) on the trip. That time we were in New Jersey — where else you gonna stop in Jersey? Sbarro? As we ate delicious piles of glucose (for Elise) and saturated fats (for me and Danine), Danine said, “You know, it didn’t look like Shackleton,” as Transport Guy towed him away, “because it wasn’t our truck.” She also said it seemed kind of undignified to be towed away by a dually. I agreed. To us, they seem overkill for towing an Airstream (though some folks would use nothing less).
Our last stop was the Dickey Ridge Visitor Center in Shenandoah NP. It’s in Front Royal, VA, at the north end of the park. Danine and I hadn’t been back since we hiked to it through snow and the wreckage of an ice storm on Valentine’s Day in 1998. Saturday, by contrast, was beautiful. At the entrance, I gave the ranger our annual parks pass. It expires next month, one year since I last renewed it at Crater Lake! Skyline Drive was a slow parade of cars. Bicyclists and motorcyclists were swarming like termites.
We stood on the hill outside the visitor center and took in the view of the Shenandoah Valley, green and softened by a light haze. Inside we wandered through the exhibits and the gift shop. Danine stamped our well-worn National Parks Passport. I felt a strong sense of ownership: like these places belong to us. They do of course, taxationally. But this was a sense of familiar ownership. It was nice.
We both agreed that we did all right. The whole selling-the-trailer thing, I mean. It was right, since we weren’t going to be able to use it much and we know we aren’t going to be able to do this again while Elise is in school. That thought brought peace. We were so lucky to have taken the trip. I think of it often. Now I’ll think of it as we plant our garden, fix up the house, and walk to school or the pool. We have a more stationary life and we’ll enjoy its benefits. Of course the idea that we will own another Airstream and travel again is a comfort too. And a certainty.