Last Friday I pulled into the park and there was a 23 ft Airstream parked across from us. Hmmm, could it be Kyle? I knew he was making his way up through Oregon this week after visiting with Kevin and Laura, so I was thrilled that he stopped by to spend a few days with us at Tall Chief. We met Kyle last year at Alumapalooza (although mysteriously he’s missing from all 367 photos…) but we havent seen each other since, so this reunion was like seeing an old friend from back home. For those of you who might not know Kyle, he’s been on the road for 3 years in his International and his latest adventure is heading to Alaska for about a month before returning back to the States and joining us at Alumafandango in Denver in August. So what have we been doing all week? Well…
RC helicopters are fun and they don’t take up a lot of space. And you can freak out park neighbors and dogs.
There was also helicopter crashing. My bad.
REI. The Container Store. Ikea (Kyle wants these solar lights — take note gift givers). Target.
Computer Geek Stuff
There’s been a lot of talk this week about The Dish Network, Verizon, AT&T, antennae, boosters, satellites, RAM… I cant keep it all straight. Good news is we got an antenna that seems to work.
We ate a lot.
Chocolate covered biscotti (The Container Store took its toll).
Shopping at Ikea also took its toll.
Lying around in our Airstreams took its toll.
We also tried some new things like grilling grape leaves (Deke learned this at the Pike Place cooking school)…
and Smores with banana bread.
By the end of the week, I think Lucy was confused… she kept going over to Kyle’s Airstream…
Kyle’s stopping for some repairs at the dealer this week and then he’s off to Alaska!
I’m taking a little break from reporting on the various places we stayed on our journey from Dallas to Seattle to talk about some of the foods we ate along that way. Deke and I love to eat and, more specifically, we love to cook. One of the greatest things about living in Chicago was the Green City Market and the access we had to foods grown in the Midwest. So during our trip, we tried to cook a majority of the time instead of eating out, and shopped local as much as possible.
Here’s our favorites!
Big Bend Coffee Roasters. We came across Big Bend Coffee in Marfa, TX, at The Get Go independent grocery store. We drink a lot of coffee, and we figured we would need plenty for the trip, so we picked up a bad of the Big Blend of Texas. Owner Joe Williams roasts only Fair Trade, organic coffee and his facility is carbon-neutral. Besides that, this coffee is awesome! Runner up: Ruta Maya coffee, Austin, Texas.
Really, really good bread.
Dave’s Killer Bread, Portland, OR. Dave’s bread is killer. No doubt about it. We found this bread at The Red Rooster Grocery is Sequim, WA (more on that later), and have since sought it out whenever we grocery shop. Long story short — Dave is an ex-con whose father was a baker. Dave decided to change his life around and make wholesome, certified organic bread with no chemical preservatives. This bread tastes delicious, and by eating it, you’ll not only do good for yourself, but Dave’s also donates over 300,000 loaves to shelters and food banks in the Portland area. Need more reasons? Their bread bags are biodegradable, they buy 100% wind power to offset their carbon emissions and they use bicycles to deliver bread in their area! Dear Dave, I’d like to work for you. Love, Tiffani. To show you that its not just me … here’s a picture of my local Abertson’s Killer Dave bread shelf:
San Simeon Cabernet Sauvignon, Paso Robles, CA. There are hundreds of good wines coming out of California, but I’m including this one because, well, we know the people at one of the vineyards. But the wine is really good, I promise — plus it’s awesome to see the vines and meet the people responsible for whats in the bottle! Here in the Airstream, we like to throw down a few drinks here and there — especially red wine and whiskey. This red is just how I like it, a bit fruity, a little oaky and goes down smooth. All for about $20 a bottle.
Bone dry cider.
Another great find in the Olympic Peninsula was Alpenfire Organic Hard Cider, made in Port Townsend, WA. We had the Pirate’s Plank Bone Dry version, which was delicious. These guys use old English cider making techniques for small batch deliciousness and have been certified organic since 2005.
So that’s it — coffee, booze and bread. It’s all you really need for a great road trip!
At Alumapalooza in June, John Irwin (he writes the Great Ideas column for Airstream Life) talked about these little one inch square water packets that you can freeze and use as ice cubes during those times when bags of ice aren’t available to buy at your campground and if the water at your park might taste (and let’s face it, smell) less than desirable.
Small cup, lots of ice.
A box of 20 of these little plastic water-filled cubes cost $5 at Cost Plus World Market and can be frozen and used in your drinks to keep them cool or they can be kept in the trailer as-is until you’re ready to use them. It took about 24 hours to get them really frozen the first time around, and in my opinion, it takes about 4 or 5 to cool down a drink — a little more than a regular ice cube, but your drink won’t taste like crappy water!
Deke was worried that they might take on the taste of whatever item they were submerged in even after rinsing them off, but so far that hasn’t been the case. The name of this fantastic product? I have no idea….the box had one little tag on it, and of course I threw it away. But they look exactly like these Reusable Ice Cubes!
We’re three weeks in and I’ve decided to take inventory of the items I brought aboard. My list actually came out to be 101, but I feel I stayed very true to what I started with on the original list — only adding a few things here and there like my Hanging Monkey Potato Peeler. I thought I’d give you a rundown of the Top 10 things I’m glad I have, and wouldn’t want to make this journey without.
1. Dyson Hand Vacuum
This is hands-down the best thing on board. It breaks down to fit inside a plastic bin, which neatly fits under the couch. It has 3 attachments that allow me to pick up everything that comes inside — from dirt and grass to dog hair. The carpet attachment allows me to vacuum the furniture too. If you’ve ever had a Dyson, you know what a lifesaver they can be. After three weeks of hard use, I love this item almost as much as Deke loves his Xbox.
Dyson DC31 Handheld Vacuum Cleaner [Amazon Link]
2. Sewing Machine
I wasn’t sure how this was going to work out. Sometimes I wish I’d have picked a hobby with smaller equipment, but I love to sew and I’m going to make it work. The machine itself actually gets stored in the truck, but everyday I bring it in and set it up on the table and get to work. I find that as long as I’m organized, it all works out ok. Also, if you’re lucky enough to stay in a park with a community room, I’ve found that they’re more than happy to let you haul your stuff inside for a day and set up on a table.
SINGER 7469Q Confidence Quilter Sewing Machine [Amazon Link]
My book library
I’m a book person. I worked at a bookstore. But I love my nook (that Deke basically had to force me to agree to buy – “But what about the feel of the paper?” I cried). I have 40+ books downloaded and at my disposal for a read anytime outside under the awning. I’m really happy I have it.
Cooking provides its own set of challenges in the Airstream, but I love to cook and this is the one tool I can’t live without. It’s small (which is a bonus) and once you have it, you’d be surprised how much you use it — even not so great meals always taste better with a little freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano. And how about some fresh grated lime zest with that gin and tonic? Can’t beat it. And who wouldn’t want to eat my homemade apple crisp with a little fresh nutmeg? See? You need the microplaner.
Microplane Grater/Zester [Amazon Link]
5. Microfiber bath towel
At first, I doubted the effectiveness of the microfiber bath towels we got at Whole Earth Provisions. They’re thin, they don’t come in fun colors and they’re only-kind-of-soft. To me, a bath towel should be huge, fluffy as a cloud and preferably have stripes or polka dots. But, once I realized that while living in a trailer bath towels are utilitarian not decorative, I embraced microfiber. They don’t take up a lot of room and they dry incredibly fast. Enough said.
Eagle Creek Travel Towel [Amazon Link]
6. Ingrid’s crystal bowl
On my 100 items list are 10 things that I don’t have to have a reason for. They aren’t multifunctional, they aren’t light or small, they’re just things I want around me because they’re beautiful. One is a crystal bowl that one of my very best friends, Ingrid, bought for Deke and me when we got married. It’s a heavy, deep red bowl that sits in a place of honor on the table, right in front of the window so everyone can see it. Sometimes its empty, sometimes it holds apples or limes or keys. It’s beautiful and reminds me of great things.
Keeping your feet dry is paramount in an Airstream
In any park, after it’s been raining all day, you do not want to go out in regular shoes. You’ll ruin them. Bring a pair of wellies. Trust me. I wish they made them for dogs.
8. Black Diamond Lantern
I know, how great can a lantern be? Um, awesome, that’s how great. This little Black Diamond was insanely expensive by my standards, but we had a gift card for REI, so we got it. It works incredibly well, throwing off a ton of light and packs up easily at the end of the day to store. It runs on 4 AA batteries and also has a hanger at the top so you can hang it from a tree or your awning. When all our other cheap things die, I’m going to buy more of these.
Black Diamond Apollo Lantern[Amazon Link]
9. Collapsible Dish Rack
I saw this at Bed, Bath, and Beyond and thought it was the best I’d seen for washing dishes. I’d been to several stores trying to find something that wouldn’t take up a lot of space on the counter and could collapse away, but most were metal and bulky. This is lightweight, has held up to several loads of dishes a day and folds easily to put under the sink. It even has a little drawer that catches extra water — you slide it out when you’re done and dump it in the sink.
Automatic soap spitter – just like in public restrooms!
10. Simplehuman Automatic Soap Dispenser
This one was a surprise. At first blush, it seems over the top and posh. But the last thing I want is salmonella covered detergent bottles or a dish of bacteria ridden soap water hanging around the kitchen sink. That’s why this auto soap dispenser makes the list. It’s just so easy to hold your hand under the nozzle and wash up in the midst of cooking. No muss, no fuss, no residue, just clean.
Simplehuman Sensor Pump [Amazon Link]
Things I brought and quickly got rid of: second baking pan, husband pillow, big fluffy bath towels.
Things I wish I brought: extra pair of sweatpants.
Silly things we’ll never use because they don’t work well but are fun to have: Space Invader Ice Cube Tray.
How about you? Are there any things you can’t camp without? Let us know!
For most of my home owning years, I thought “bigger grills make better food.” How else could I have a neighborhood party without one of those big, silver, high BTU grills? Well, it turns out that after achieving high end BBQing bliss, the parties rarely happened. In fact, when we finally had occasion to use the grill for entertaining, I struggled to find a use for of the silver behemoth’s 3 independent burners, side hot pot eye, or the still-shrink-wrapped rotisserie attachment! Like many things in my life at this time, I just didn’t need everything I’d purchased.
Then came the Airstream. When we started camping, I wanted to take our grill along. Despite my pre-conceived notions of good grillin’, I was as surprised as my wife when I put the words “minimize” and “grill” together in the same sentence.
Our First Attempt at Grill Minimalism
Grilling on the roof in Chicago
We wanted a grill we could carry along on our new Airstreaming adventures. It had to be portable, but there was still a little devil on my shoulder wanting the high BTU, wide cooking surface and whizzbang features of the big silver guys. I felt I made the perfect compromise when i found the Coleman Roadtrip portable.
It was foldable and rollable, but still pumped out high BTUs. It had 2 burners for indirect grilling and it even had 2 folding table arm things! It was also 2009, and I hadn’t fully embraced the minimalistic outlook of my 2011 self – this grill was still more than we needed.
While technically “portable,” it was big and heavy. It had wheels, but lugging it around was not very enjoyable. There was plenty of grilling space, but it became so uneven over time (even after multiple cleanings) that I basically could only use 1/4 of all that surface.
It was also wasteful for our needs. We would use an entire 16 ounce canister of propane every 2-3 meals. For 2 people, it just doesn’t make sense to spend all that fuel heating up a full size grill when we only need (and could use) a quarter of it.
So, after two years of service, I’m giving up on the Coleman Roadtrip. As you’ve probably read on Weaselmouth before, we’re too streamlined for a heavy, wasteful grill, even if it is a smaller one by most people’s standards.
A New Search Begins
Since we’re living in our Airstream full time now, portability and small footprint top our checklist. With smaller cooking surface, even heat distribution is obviously important. It needs to be simple to setup, use, clean, and put away. We prefer the ease and speed of propane, and since we’ll have plenty of propane access on the trailer, it only makes sense that our grill should mooch off the Big Weaz‘ propane stash.
There are lots of ultra portable grills on the market. Unfortunately, their pricing and marketing schemes are as varied and ridiculous as those of the big silver guys at Home Depot and Lowe’s.As a side note, this is where I learned the truth about BTUs.
Grill makers want you to think higher BTU = more grillin’ power. In reality, BTU is only a measure of how much gas your grill sucks over time. Sure more gas equals more fire, but many other factors lead to a grill’s true performance. In addition to checking the BTU, you should also consider how well the lid fits, how the materials shield external temperature and wind, how well the grill grate can absorb heat, and so on. There are many factors that describe your grill’s ability to retain heat and cook food, and BTU is only one of them.
The more I researched online, the more I found excessive prices that didn’t necessarily match the limited feature set or compromises made for smaller sizes. These are undoubtedly great portable grills, and I’m sure the materials and little extras are nice – electronic starter! foldable arms! Infrared heat coils! But they all come with decent price tags as well. At the end of the day, all we truly need is a small, portable, efficient cooking surface that’s easy to use, clean, and put away.
The New Minimalist Grill
The Grilliput – BBQ in a stick.
The first step to a new minimalist grill is to decide how minimalistic you want to go. Having no grill at all is the first option. When travelling, you could always cook over campfire (if allowed). For convenience, you could carry a metal rack to cook on, or get one of these uber-slick Grilliput roll away BBQ in a stick metal racks.
For our two person needs, we find campfire cooking fun, but fairly wasteful and impractical for everyday use. Cooking with fire is difficult to manage heat, easy to waste fuel, and takes a long time. Plus, the ash and smoke require substantial cleanup.
Campsite grills, aka Thumb Eaters
Alternatively, if you camp in campgrounds or RV parks often, you could try your luck with the guillotine-like campsite grills as a true minimalist way to BBQ. By the way, if anyone knows how to stack charcoal or start a fire in one of these things without a) becoming completely covered in soot or b) pinching your finger, please let me know.
For our needs, this too seems too messy and not as reliable as carrying our own grill. Like the campfire, it also seems wasteful and slow for how we cook.
Then it happened. It appeared out of nowhere (ok, it appeared out of a random Amazon.com search with an average 4.5 star ratings from over 180 users). According to the reviews, this grill is small, lightweight, easy to set up, clean and put away. It is quality enough to last a few seasons, but not so high end as to attract sticky fingers. In other words, it’s the perfect grill for RVing.
The Perfect Minimalist RV Grill
Yes, that weber grill, the same one we’ve all seen before. They’re one step up from a hibachi grill, and are usually charcoal (we chose the propane version – the Weber 1520 Propane Gas Go-Anywhere Grill). I didn’t take it seriously at first either. But the more i compared price vs. features vs. value, I kept coming back to this little guy, and I’m very glad I did.
For portability, it certainly wins over the others. It’s feather light at less than 15lbs, it costs a fraction of the total price, sips propane, and is ridiculously easy to keep clean. A few other companies make a similar grill – Char-Broil and Blue Rhino are two we found. The quality of the handles and outer shell materials are much higher with the Weber, and parts are readily available should something break. Also, the Weber has something called a “Flavorizor,” which is essentially a metal tent that protects the flame from fat drippings (in turn protecting from flareups). We usually don’t go for the marketing gimmicks, but this one really seems to help provide the grill with even heat.
Our First Dinner – Shrimp and Salmon
So far, we’ve cooked Shrimp, Chicken, Hamburgers, Salmon, and tons of Veggies on this grill and each meal is better than the last. I bought an adapter hose to hook it up to the Airsteam’s propane tank for gas so we never have to worry about running low on fuel. The only drawbacks we’ve found so far aren’t really drawbacks at all. The grill gets plenty hot, but loses a lot of heat when the lid opens – I see this as a good thing. One of my biggest faults as a grillmeister is a tendency to lift the lid too often. Now, I’ve got a reason to keep the lid closed! The other thing I’ve found is that heavy winds can blow out your flame at lower temperatures. This is easily avoided by turning the flame slightly higher when the wind is kicking up.
All in all, we’re extremely happy with the Weber 1520 Propane Gas Go-Anywhere Grill. It fits our needs and our lifestyle perfectly, and we would recommend it to anyone looking for a portable grilling solution that is easy to carry, setup, take apart, and clean. This grill is definitely Weaselmouth Approved!
Now its your turn – what kind of grill do you carry? Have you tried the Weber go-anywhere? If so, tell us what you think!