In late 2019, my friends Dan & Maggie from Colorado visited me. They were exploring Florida in their RV, a Winnebago Micro Minnie trailer they towed with a Land Rover LR4. I checked it out and was impressed at what I found. It seemed like a perfect setup to travel and explore the United States. I had been thinking of this as I entered retirement.
I had been building out my new workshop in the spring of 2020 when I had an epiphany: If I didn’t seize the moment, I would regret it! So, I briefly discussed it with Jake, and we agreed it would be Most Excellent!
We took command of Starship Excellent Adventure in the summer of 2020 at the beginning of the infamous COVID cluster-fuck. The timing, as I would see later, was perfect!
The first step was the muscle. The Ford Ranger was fine for pulling our boat, Lark’s Tongues in Aspic, but would not cut the mustard to pull a trailer. It was also dull to drive. I had envisioned a scenario where we could travel to different places, park the trailer, and explore the local area in style!
I had my eye on the BMW X6 for a while. It seemed like it would do the job and not look like every other SUV out there. Plus, it had the Teutonic attention to detail and performance I have so loved in BMS since the 1980s. I checked them out, and the 6-cylinder version had better-than-average feedback. I found a nice, low-mileage one in the right color – red – at a dealer in Fort Lauderdale.
This was right at the beginning of the COVID panic, and I had to wait several weeks for them to get enough staff back in the dealership to sell cars again! I got them to install a trailer hitch before I picked it up. This turned out to be a big fucking mistake. However, the car was great; it drove as I expected and clearly had the power.
At the same time, I started looking at the trailers. I decided I would get a Winnebago after talking to my friends about their experience. I settled on the smallest dual-axle model they made. It was outfitted with a queen bed in the front and a bathroom in the rear. You could stand up and take a shower, which fits my needs fine. A slide-out turned the middle into a nice living area with a kitchen on the fixed side and a booth-like table in the slide-out. Most Excellent!
I started looking and immediately found one near Tampa at a huge RV dealership (Lazy Days). It turns out it was one a customer ordered but could not pay for. They gave me a nice discount, and I was a happy almost-camper!
Then, the real fun began! It turns out the European hitch the BMW dealership installed was entirely inappropriate for several reasons. I replaced the one the dealer put in with a standard aftermarket 2-inch receiver. I tried it with the hitch alone and quickly invested in a good load stabilizer/sway bar setup. After a lot more fooling around adjusting the trailer axle heights, I was able to make it work. The back axle was a couple of inches lower than normal, but that was to be expected.
Together, Starship Excellent Adventure was complete. It drove great – the car had plenty of reserve power with the twin-turbo layout. The car and dual-axle trailer combo with electric brakes proved to handle above my expectations regarding stability and power. Absolutely no sway in all but the most extreme conditions (like a tractor-trailer coming at you at 80 mph 🙄).
After our first trip, I made some modifications to the interior. I added more storage for my computer and camera and extended the table top by replacing the rearmost bench seat. I also removed the flat-screen TV and added deeper cabinets for pots and pans. Most Excellent!
We started traveling the following Spring. I was a bit surprised at how much I liked traveling this way. I wasn’t really interested in going and sitting in one sport for very long. As a way to see the natural beauty of this beautiful country, it was, as they say, my cup of tea ☕️.
Our first trip was in the Spring of 2021, when we traveled 9200 miles over 49 days along the western slope of the Rockies, starting at the town of my birth, Alamogordo, New Mexico, then north through Utah, Idaho, Wyoming, and finally Montana and Glacier National Park.
Our second trip in the Fall of 2022 covered 5200 miles over 35 days, touring the Appalachian and Adirondack mountains with visits in Virginia, Maine, New Hampshire, New York, Pennsylvania, and Tenessee. In Pennsylvania, I visited the ancestral homes of my mother and father.
Our third trip in the Spring of 2023 - The Big Kahuna - took us all the way west, up the coast through California, Oregon, and Washington, and then a slide back down to the southwest with stops in Arizona and New Mexico for a total of 12,460 miles, 82 days, and 44 stops!
2021 – Rocky Mountains
Starting in my birth town, Alamogordo, New Mexico, we worked our way north through Utah, Idaho, Wyoming, and Montana.
2022 Appalachians & Roots
Initially planned for the spring, this trip was delayed because of my knee replacement. We headed north through the Shenandoah Valley to Maine and then worked our way across New Hampshire and New York. From there, I visited my ancestral homes in Pennsylvania, where Mom and Dad’s family came from.
2023 West Coast & Southwest
Our most extended trip to date! We started in Southern California and then took a zig-zag trip northwards, finally ending up at the most northwest point in the US in Washington. From there, a trip back south to visit the magical desert in Arizona and New Mexico.