Link to article on finding the Vintage Airstream at a Flea Market


Wow. Where did the 2016 camping season go? Some of us enjoy some late fall and winter camping. But the majority of the RV and Trailer camping types are busy winterizing their vehicles during late October. The die-hards might be out there trying to squeeze in another weekend or two.

Those of TOPONAUTIC, friends and family really enjoyed this year’s season. Mostly a series of camp outs and cook outs. Though we had some serious issues occur over the year.

One of our early trips to an old Nevada Ghost Town was a fun meet-up of friends. We did some camping in the town, a beverage or two in the old Saloon, Dutch Oven cooking, and took an endless stack of photos.

Link to Ghost Town of Gold Point, Nevada


Our circle of wagons broke up way too soon as we all headed off in the different directions of home. We would later joke the ghosts had messed with our trailers.

One in our group had to have their axle replaced after noticing abnormal tire wear while in camp. That led to a several week ordeal dealing with the manufacturer and a repair shop. This one has a happy ending with the manufacturer taking care of the cost of replacement.

I wasn’t so fortunate. On my way home (About 175 miles one way), a friend traveling behind me called on the cell phone and asked a question. “Did you just lose a wheel”? I said “I don’t think so”. Heck I had the van on cruise, going down the road smooth as could be, and hadn’t felt a thing.

I pulled over and started circling my rigs (Van towing a trailer) to find out one of my trailer wheels was gone. I am talking the tire, wheel, brake drum, and all the important parts.

My friend said the whole wheel tire arrangement as rolling down the road beside me for a while then went down the berm and flew off into the desert. We went back later and never could find it. Serious stuff, that wouldn’t soon be over. Now months later it is the topic around many campfires.

Luckily my trailer has tandem axles. I can only surmise this is the reason I never felt anything. It was later determined the most likely cause was the cotter pin at the end of the axle had sheared off. Parts of the cotter pin were found still in the cotter pin hole in the axle shaft. The nut had spun off and everything else followed slowly. The wheel and bearings, on the way off the axle, destroyed the threads on the axle shaft. I was stuck and couldn’t put parts back on even if I had them.

Note to self and others. Spend a few cents and buy a new cotter pin any time you service the bearings. Don’t think you can re-use the old one.

I was 19 miles from home. This disabled the trailer completely. The spring and spring U bolt on that side was dragging on the pavement. Dragging just enough that towing further would cause even more serious damage.

I ended up alongside the road for 6 hours waiting for a tow truck. Luckily I had roadside insurance coverage for this. It appears my insurance company has outsourced this calling and arranging function to an outside vendor. In my opinion they are incompetent. I ended up calling a tow company myself after getting, “Someone is supposed to be there” over and over.

At around midnight I called directly and had a tow company show up in 1 hour. By this time Sunday night was wasting away. I was sitting out in the middle of the desert along the highway. They flat bedded the trailer and got me home about 1:00 am. Several of the neighbors were awaken by the entire ruckus in front of my house as they unchained and dropped my trailer.

I later contacted my insurance agent and expected a big fight trying to get reimbursed. But I had saved most of the texts and phone call logs, along with names, from the evening before. I should have been keeping track of everything from the initial call. You don’t realize it until you are way far into a mess and you decide the way you are being treated is BS.

My agent had me send all the info in writing. I was happy to receive a check a week or so later from my agent. I don’t know if he reimbursed me directly or if that was a corporate response? I didn’t care, just happy with the outcome. That roadside assistance otherwise was one of the worst experiences I have ever had over a lifetime of driving vehicles, RV’s and towing trailers. This is a major Auto Insurance carrier and not some on-line bare bones insurer with reduced rates.



That all led up to replacing an axle, electric brakes, bearings, brake drum wheel, and tire. This didn’t go smoothly either. My trailer is a 2011 and I could not find anyone that had the axle in stock. Not even one I could have shipped, or drive and pick up. The factory did not have them either. I was in a time crunch to be on the road again in a few weeks to head out over a thousand miles on a prearranged trip to Glacier NP. There was money involved, reservations all locked in along the way, and other people involved.

The long story short of all of this was finding a shop to make the axle to specs. I found an excellent shop in Salt Lake City. That’s hundreds of miles and about a 7 hour drive from me. I was prepared to drive it. They seem to be super honest and committed to their word. For $50 I could pay and expedite fee. For about that much again they would ship it to my house. I couldn’t drive up there and back for that amount. They built me a spec axle and it was at my door on the day promised. It was looking up for that trip to Montana.

The big trip this year was to Glacier NP in Montana. For the first 500 miles I was paranoid of the whole new axle, bearing, brakes, thing. I was getting out every hour using a Infra-Red heat gun to check bearing and hub temps. I was traveling the desert southwest in the dead of summer with air temperatures hitting over 110°F.

The first stop on the way was in Utah at Sandy Hollow. Some of our normal Dutch Oven camping group rendezvoused at Sandy Hollow State Park. We had a hot but otherwise enjoyable weekend camping, Dutch Oven cooking, and kayaking on the lake. Thank goodness for power hook ups and air conditioning. One couple was camping in a tear drop trailer without air conditioning. Can you say HOT! Night time temps cooled off in the desert but man where those days hot.

On Sunday morning I pulled out in the wee hours of the morning. Trying to make as many miles as I could before the sun came up and things heated up. I had said goodbye to friends the night before. They all had to return to jobs or other responsibilities come Monday morning.

Utah Lake State Park – south of Salt Lake City, Utah

I continued on to Utah Lake State Park (Just south of Salt Lake City) somewhere mid-morning. I had reservations but I was way early. I was pleasantly surprised when they allowed me to check in so early. I did my sleeping in the afternoon and was ready to roll again at midnight. I had packed up everything before going to sleep. So after unplugged from park power I took off. This part of the journey going forward was to now just follow a rough plan. No reservations for the next 3 days. I wanted to travel through Salt Lake City in the middle of the night with the least amount of traffic. I have come through in previous years during the day. On multiple occasions daytime traffic has been some of the worst I have ever encountered. It seems there is constant road construction going on. So I made it through Salt Lake in the dark and cool of night.

I continued traveling this way, during the cool night time hours, until I reached Montana. Then I hit one of my favorite campgrounds along the Clark Fork River. I hung out there for a couple of days. I did some exploring, bicycling, kayaking on the river, and relaxing. It gave me time to do a week’s worth of laundry and some slow Dutch Oven cooking.

I hopped from there all the way to Glacier NP. On the way I traveled the edge of the huge Flathead Lake. I had lived in the area for a few years as a teenager. Somehow when I get in the area, smell the pines, and see the rugged snow capped peaks, I feel like I am home.

The next week I spent in Glacier. My sister who lived outside the park was at the campground and we were off hiking, or I was at her house enjoying the visit. We drove up to Polebridge Montana and enjoyed a Huckleberry Bearclaw pastry and coffee at the Polebridge Merchantile. We hiked a trail in the Swan Creek area. I was disappointed the Going To The Sun highway was still closed due to snow. So I drove around the long way one day. I was camped on the west side, and did a day trip to the east side. This week alone could fill pages with its own story. There were the views, the wildlife, a bear story, the crisp morning temperatures, rain, hail, sunshine, hiking trails, and fun.

Lake McDonald – Glacier NP, Montana

All good things must come to an end. I eventually had to pack up the gear and head for home. The trip home was without incident. I eventually stopped checking the heat of the bearings an hubs so often and relaxed about that. I make a point of always checking at each stop though.

Cathedral Gorge State Park was to be my next 4 day outing. Meeting up with some friends and enjoying the higher elevation. Also the lower temperature for an August camp-out in the high desert of Nevada. This was just a laid back trip with no agenda planned. We have camped here previously and have several articles on the area. This was just plan relaxation. The way camping should be. One of my favorite spots in the park is the Caves area of Cathedral Gorge.

September had many of our group camping at Cathedral Gorge State Park again. Only this time it was serious business. We were here to compete in Dutch Oven Cooking competition. The State Park and local Businesses sponsor this event with some major prizes. There were a record number of entries and lots of people to sample and gobble up all the food. This is tons of fun and members of our group walked away with wins and prizes.

We also did several trips over to southern California. Buying trips for vintage goodies. We have fun rummaging around flea markets and swap meets. At one we stumbled into the Airstream Boutique that is featured in our first photo.

The heat of the summer for us has recently changed over to temperatures where we can camp more close to home and not have to pay for power to run Air Conditioners. Fall really starts our camping season all over again. This is the best time for boondocking. I normally camp really heavy now (October) through May, at places closer to home.

We have one such trip planned for Black Friday weekend. Instead of shopping most of our group enjoys meeting up, camping, cooking, and visiting. This one is scheduled at Davis Dam on the Colorado River, Bullhead City, Arizona.

Following close to that is the December Christmas Vintage Trailer camp-out, at Buckskin State Park in Arizona. This one sells out way in advance. There are always tons of vintage trailers as well as vintage tow vehicles. We enjoy lots of campsite Christmas decorations, and a huge potluck meal with the whole campground. People from all over the southwest get in on this one.

Hope to have updates on some of these later.

Camping under the Milky Way – Cathedral Gorge State Park, Nevada