Another much talked about dream was our retiring, acquiring an RV, and travelling the country. It seems that the energy that we’ve focused on it engendered unexpected opportunities coming our way.

Over the past few years we’ve visited a number of RV showrooms, and have periodically scanned the RV trader websites. We felt like we’d finally settled our wish list on finding a late model 25’ Airstream. But we realized that even when we did find one, the reality was that we had no way to bring it home with the vehicles we owned. Still, with no immediate plans to retire, there wasn’t a rush to take action.

Then, Michael came across an employee discount for new automobiles. And next thing you know, the Miata was gone (sniff!) on trade for a new Dodge Durango RT (which we named “Big Bob”).

And then, before we could act on a used, 2015 model year Airstream that Michael had found in San Francisco, a Sunday morning call to the Airstream dealer in Los Banos resulted in an offer nearly comparable in price, but for a new 2017 model! Michael nearly suffered whiplash as he saw Danielle became a hypersonic blur - ready for the drive to Los Banos in less than 10 minutes. We made the deal, with delivery deferred until September, since we were leaving shortly on our Baltic cruise.

More than a month later, when we finally did go to pick her up (we call her “Stella”, license plate STLLLA) at the dealer, much to our dismay we discovered that the Durango was not quite a suitable match for her. After a mostly sleepless night aboard Stella at a nearby KOA, we made the decision to purchase a Ford F150 XLT Ecoboost 3.5L from the dealer in Los Banos (taking a sizable loss on the Durango in trade). We call the F150 “Bigger Bob”, license plate BIGRBOB

(left to right, below: BIGRBOB and STLLLA parked across from our house - Smith family Thanksgiving dinner)

After a few ‘shake-down’ excursions to some nearby campgrounds, we decided to take the Airstream down to Maureen and Sean’s home in Yucaipa for the annual Smith-family Thanksgiving get-together. Not wanting to navigate holiday traffic through Los Angeles, while towing a 25’ trailer as a relatively inexperienced driver, we planned a two-day drive going the ‘back way’ through Mojave, staying the first night at an RV campground in Tehachapi.

On our return, we again stayed at the Tehachapi RV campground which borders the little Mountain Valley Airport which is primarily used for sailplanes. I asked Danielle if she’d ever been up in a sailplane and, when she said that she hadn’t, I made a reservation for her to take a 15-minute ride with one of their instructor pilots. When they had trouble locating their regular pilot, the school asked another instructor-rated pilot, who happened to be there doing some of his own flying, if he would mind taking Danielle for her ride...