Tag Archives: Streamliner

The Land Yacht… When Dreams were Big and Fuel was Still Cheap

Road Dog Deluxe

I found my Streamliner in Albuquerque, New Mexico. It was the ultimate. I mean it was the full fantasy. In 1974 I was on the back lot at Circus Vargas. We had jumped over from St. Louisto see the show in Springfield, Missouri. They’d come off a mud lot and the trucks and trailers that arrived had been pulled off the last lot with tractors. Most rigs had buried their axles at the hubs into the mud. The center ring circus stars were the backstage mechanics who had to pull repack the bearings on their trucks and trailers between shows while preparing to jump to the next stop.

The new acts traveled in whatever they could scratch up. The families who had spent their lives in circus, the families that had come from families that had spent their lives in circus traveled in a rather distinctive manner. They pulled Airstream trailers with these massive Cadillac’s. These were the 500 cubic inch motors of this era.

Most circus shows worked east of the Mississippi and for good reason. West of there were mountains. West of there were long distances between towns. West of there were small populations. It was hard to scuff up enough people to make a show worthwhile.

Pulling an Airstream with a Cadillac on flat ground was not too hard on equipment. You don’t break down as often. You don’t fry transmissions. Motors don’t give it up going over a mountain pass.

I had plenty of years to consider how I wanted to do it. Dodge king cab diesel pickup truck with dual rear wheels was off the shelf perfect. Streamliner travel trailer looked good on her bumper. I already owned a proper towing hitch.

Big Bad Dodge Pulling a Classic...take that Shakespeare

She served me well while I owned her. Wasn’t a long affair, but it was a grand and elegant stop along the road called life.

Sold her to a collector out of Austin, Texas, he took ownership in Tucson, Arizona. When I bought the Dodge diesel was still under one dollar and fifty and when I sold her a gallon was running five bucks! Pretty much ended the heavy duty era of my touring life. I tried holding on for a spell, but unless it was a high dollar multiple week contract the trailer couldn’t come, didn’t pencil out.

Still it isn’t like I had to have that setup for the rest of my life. It wasn’t like I was going to need to vow devotion to a trailer. She came, did her little dance in my life, and at the right moment she departed, and a time and place of my choosing. Wasn’t more than six months later that I swapped out my Dodge Cummins Diesel for a Toyota Tacoma. Six diesel turbo powered cylinders for four naturally aspirated combustion chambers.

As a fellow performer reminded me once, “It isn’t what you have, it’s what you can tell someone you had.” So, there you go. If you’ve been thinking about running the highway with a rig and trailer like this I’d be careful. Be sure you know how far and how often you’ll need to pull her somewhere. Rig like this will eat you out of house and home in this day and age…

BANKRUPT HEART                THE SECOND NOVEL

Ry turned down the alley. He walked out onto the pier. There were fishing boats, some worn by work, others painted fresh. There were Purse Seiners and Long Liners mixed together with commercial sports fishermen boats. Across the way near the warehouse, the bigger vessels in the fleet were tied up at the docks. He counted two trollers. The next one looked like a Gillnetter and last, a ship built for fishing far offshore. Ry leaned on the rail. Tied up below was a Monterey Fisherman, a capable sea-going vessel. It was not big. Time had taken its toll. Hard for a one-man show to make a go of fishing.  Ry knew a few who still tried. Hard to make ends meet. Fuel bill, cost of bait, cost of ice, and a slim catch could eat up a man’s profits. A few seasons of that and a fisherman has no choice but to throw in the towel. Ry inhaled. The sea air was ripe with salt, the stink of fish, and a wisp of diesel fumes. Scoma’s, one of the oldest fish joints in the wharf, was set back out here above the bay water on the piers.

Change of Address of Changes

One of my homes....

I’m in my home up in the hills. I can just see the chimney of Eugene O’Neil’s Tao House from the living room. I’ve been here since January 2010. We came from Telegraph Hill in San Francisco where my wife and I lived together since March of 2007. We had an apartment at the edge of a cliff and we faced east. The view of sunrise was sublime. We often got up just for that show. When we met I was living aboard Maestro, my 25 foot wooden sloop. I’d found my way to this home by 2004. I lived in the San Rafael Yacht Harbor. I loved it. I did a piece of life in Berkeley near the Rose Garden not far from the Gourmet Ghetto. That began in 2001. In the first six months of 2001 I lived in my travel trailer in Castro
Valley. My trailer prior to that resided on the bumper of my truck. More or less I bounced between the American Southwest for half the year and the Northwest and into Canada for the other half. That segment began in 1999. I owned my trailer until 2007 and used it for work where in autumn for this last decade I worked in Queen Creek, Arizona at Schnepf Farm where my performing dog Lacey and I spent October’s entertaining visitors. I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the back of my truck where I have often slept while out doing dates on the road. For example in 2004 I did the Ohio State Fair and didn’t want to pull the trailer and in that case I slept on my bunk in the back of my pickup truck…very nice. If it was all added up I’ve lived on things that move almost as much as I’ve lived on things that don’t in the last twelve years. The biggest change of all isn’t where I sleep, but with whom and of all the changes that has been the most amazing change of all.

Highway Home    The Novel

” The first decision he made was to keep on sleeping in the back of his van. He might get a place later. He found several
places to park where he wouldn’t be rousted out or hassled by anyone. He rotated from one spot to another and was careful about attracting attention. It
was a good time to hold his cards close. In the morning he’d get up and have coffee at The Irishman’s Café, an offbeat joint near Portland State
University where customers poured their own coffee, borrowed the newspaper from the person next to them, and spoke in neighborly tones to the workers.”

Quick Change Artist in Slow Motion…

It's the Good Life....

Take your tambourine and your guitar string and move on down the track
Don’t like the way that you comb your hair the way you drawl you all
And if you’re not out of town before sundown you won’t get out of town at all…

Get out of town before sunset     by Buck Owens

The small time entertainer has been my version of sanity. For most of my life it has driven me nuts having to stay in the same place doing the same thing day after day. I have found it infinitely better to drive from one town to another and pretend that things are different, that I’m escaping from the trap of being stuck in one place. With all the long hops and short stops the new places help keep it feeling like the deck is shuffling. Forget solitude, forget lost, get on out there and go see the world. And then it is as if fate has conspired with your demons and ends up playing its trick on you. The dashboard on the truck starts looking familiar. Truck stops start looking the same. All the small towns seem to be drying up. Yuma can look as bleak to the eye as Columbus, New Mexico. Stripe down the highway in Nevada looks pretty much like the same line you saw up in Montana. Pretty soon that psychic air bag installation has deployed right in front of your big fat delusions. I remember one magnificent sunset some years back. There were clouds in the sky, deepest blue I’d ever thought I’d ever seen, streaks of lavender, bursts of golden buckets of liquid light, saturated with pulsing deep reds, the whole sky afire heralding the end of the day, parked as I was with my rig and travel trailer, overlooking this pyrotechnic swan song to another turning of the cosmic wheel, in another of those small towns, happened to be Bakersfield that day. Stuck as I was in this insignificant corner of creation I could feel the twang and pang of Buck Owens in my heart, the whole thing brought tears to my eyes, what it didn’t bring was any true sense that any of this had made a difference, that all this running around had in the long haul not changed a thing…