Archive for the ‘Ranger Doug Roadtrips’ Category

Our Molesworth Airstream

Friday, December 26th, 2014


Well, you all know about the 1948 Airstream Tradewind we found in California last year.  We towed it up to Montana and then on to Cody to get a new interior.  It’s a peach–and the third one built.  It’s currently parked in Cody Wyoming where I’m putting in a new “Molesworth” interior.  Who is Molesworth?  Read on…..


Driving to Cody is always fun.  After disembarking the Alaska Ferry from Seattle, I desperately need a haircut so stopped in a Korean barber shop in Tacoma (next to the clock shop) and there is one chair in a gymnasium sized room heated to a robust 50F.  I ask the Korean woman if she can give me a haircut to which she enthusiastically replies:  “DeRux!”  So after 15 minutes, I come out looking like Kim Jung Un.  The first stop is Portland and later Antelope Oregon where the Bhagwan used to live.  Quite frankly, I’m surprised he picked Antelope but as The New Yorker Magazine said, “Let’s let Bhagwans be Bhagwans.”

Grand Teton

The next stop is Jackson Hole where Martina and I take our usual fall hike–here the wind blows off the summit of the Grand Teton (right) like Mt. Everest.  The North Face of Teewinot doesn’t look that inviting either.  I worked here as a Jenny Lake Ranger for 7 years in the 1970s.  Great years.


In Jackson, I heat up my uncle’s old branding iron–the A Lazy D–and brand all our new Molesworth chair panels……..

Molesworth Chair

Now doesn’t this look snappy!  Thomas Molesworth founded the Shoshone Furniture Company in Cody, Wyoming in the 1930s and built furniture for lodges of the west.  He was the right man in the right place at the right time.  My great-uncle (David Thomas Abercrombie) sold this furniture at his NYC store–Abercrombie & Fitch.  It can also be found at Camp David and throughout the west.  These reproductions are built by Lester Santos of Santos Furniture in Cody. Lester is a renaissance man who once built harpsichords in New England.  He is a craftsman’s craftsman.


I’ve also included the A Lazy D brand in our fireplace doors among other park dude ranch brands.  Note the buckaroo andirons and buck & rail fence.

Cover Pattern

OK, so where we……the trailer is getting a Molesworth interior and I desperately need an air conditioner to cover the global warming issues–and a recent 114F day-time temps in Quartzite Arizona we encountered last year.  But I cannot install a butt-ugly plastic cover (under table) on a 1948 beauty.  So it’s self-fabrication–and here is a retro pattern for an aluminum cover……Buck Rogers!

Cut Pattern

I order a sheet of .025 thick 2024T3 aircraft aluminum and get out the tinsnips.  When rolled up and hauled across the street this looks like a giant aluminum squid which turns many heads in Cody.

Welding Frame

Next step is to build a frame and my welder guy, Daniel is adept at this step.  Cody is a big participant in the fracking oil boom in North Dakota and you can see fabrication of natural gas piping in the background.  Also two split water tanks–the temps went from 67F to -18F in about 5 hours catching everyone off guard.


But it didn’t catch Ranger Doug off guard.  I’m busy riveting together this ‘squid’ into a shape reminiscent of a miniature airstream……

Finished Cover

…..complete with a 1948 Pontiac tail-light mounted forwards.  Flash Gordon or what!  Expanded metal will fill in the vents and rear door.  Awesome!


A tour around the trailer is now in order.  Here is the utility area where all the tankage, spare tire, pumps, etc. will go.  Over this utility area will be a dedicated near-queen sized bed–no more sliding panels.  In the 1961 Bambi (sold to a Hollywood movie guy) things were so tight I had to step outside just to change my mind.


All the electrical will fit in this box with a tilt-down lid.  Stereo, all tank gauges, etc.  Note the beginnings of the Molesworth paneling on the settee to the right.

Galley 2

The galley is original but I’m building stainless steel backsplashes, Chicago Faucet fixtures, a fancy Italian cooktop and micro/macrowave, convection oven below.  Top notch!


Here’s a view the other way.  Oh, and no refrigerator.  In the Bambi we had one that was never used.  We simply carried a camp cooler with a block of ice–which this stainless has already built in and drained to the gray water tank and ultimately the shower pan.  The tankage is equalized so total fresh water equals the total gray water.


How about blackwater???   A macerating toilet and a 10 gallon holding tank–coupled with the gray water at the exit and all piping stored outside.  This space doubles as a shower (Chicago Faucet fixture in box).


Here’s the settee roughed out.  The table is removable to fit for an emergency bed between the seats.  It also will install outdoors on the trailer with a barbecue for outdoor cooking.   The interior curved areas will be painted like the Sistine Chapel, ala western national park scenes and some Department of the Interior artwork for accents.  Lester will add burl trim, sequoia cones (the NPS symbol), and lots of varnish for the finishing touches.  Don’t forget Chamayo cushions and a little leather fringe here and there…..Then toss in a nice stereo, catalytic heater and wide screen TV and we’re ready for the big Ranger Doug 2016 NPS Centennial Roadtrip.  More to follow!

Ranger Doug goes to Washington–Part III

Sunday, May 11th, 2014

DOI Steps

This is my third trip to Washington and this time I get the royal treatment from the Department of the Interior.  My 20 years of republication of WPA National Park posters and contemporary works are now on exhibit at the DOI Museum.  I am elated to finally get to tell my story.  Jason Jurgena, Museum Director and Ranger Doug stand on the front steps.   Let’s step inside…..


The exhibit is called “Posterity” and features every one of our reprints and also six originals.  It will run for one year.

Presenting Hat

I requested a meeting with the Secretary of the Interior, Sally Jewell, and we spend our allotted 15 minutes in her office.  Here, she receives a “Ranger of the Lost Art” hat with “I Ride With Ranger Doug” on the back band.  She is elated!  We compare our Co-op numbers and then launch into Alaska politics, geology, and of course, this unique poster art.

Secretary of the Interior

After our meeting, we invite the Secretary for a personal tour of the exhibit and spend another 30 minutes with her.

Corey Exhibit

The staff did a wonderful job of interpreting this art, even a center exhibit of our screen printing process and Scott’s 20 years of pulling screens.   I kept hearing myself say “wow!”

Summit Register

Sally Jewell is the first to sign the “summit register,” and Ranger Doug is next.  Third on our rope is co-author and computer guru, Brian–it’s been a long trek to this summit.

DOI Museum Staff

Here is the staff:  Jason, Tracy, Diana and Kayla.  They even set up a screen press to print the DOI poster and their logo on handbags.  Great job!


Then I tell my story about the discovery and reproduction process that spans nearly 40 years.   DOI also tapes a 3 hour oral history about these prints and I leave nothing out.


Here is a postcard version of the poster print for the 75th anniversary of the DOI building which coincides with the Museum opening after four and one half years of closure due to Congressional sequestration.   The entire DOI building was built in the WPA era in only one and a half years.  It took Congress one year to approve the lighting just for this exhibit !   Let’s go for a tour…..


Over 3000 custom brass doorknobs featuring the bison head and eagle escutcheon adorn the doors in this building.  Today, only 50 knobs remain, the rest given away as retirement gifts or pilfered from the public domain.  They fetch up to $1000 on ebay and if you find one, my foundation will buy these back.


On the top floor there is an ice cream parlor with hand painted murals everywhere you look.  The building was designed so employees would actually want to go to work–each room has a window to the outside.  On the rooftop plaza outside the ice cream parlor two cannons were placed for defense during WWII.  One discharged during cleaning and blew the “W” off of “Wisconsin” on the Washington Monument–the only time it was fired during the war……

Washington Monument

We lucked out with the cherry blossoms and the weather.

DOI Roof

Well, time to ride off into the sunset…..that is, Amtrak back across the country and head for home.  Thanks to all of you who made this possible!   Stay tuned.

Our winter respite–Eastbound

Friday, November 29th, 2013

Saxman Totem Park

Well, after the outdoor kitchen project, I’m ready for a break so Martina and I jump on the Alaska ferry and our first stop is Saxman Village just south of Ketchikan.  It’s one of the most beautiful places on Earth.  We walked around for a couple hours while our ferry took on fuel for the non-stop trip to Bellingham.

Train Station

In Bellingham, we bus down to Seattle, then hop on this Amtrak to……Oxnard, home of the world famous Seabee Museum!   Yes, I was a Navy Seabee there 45 years ago so it’s time to revisit.  Actually, we stored our FJ Cruiser there over the summer so it’s time to trek back across America the old fashion way.


The nice thing about traveling by train is you can drink champagne enroute.  It’s a relaxing way to travel–we rent a small overnight cabin and relax–no hassles about baggage weight or taking off your belt and shoes to board.  It’s a two day, one night trip–we get off at many train stops and admire the restored stations along the way.  Amtrak also offers travel points like airlines.


After picking up our car, we drive up to Nevada City and pick up our new (old–1948) Airstream which had a new frame and polish completed.  We’ll now tow it up to Missoula where the interior work begins.

AC Cover

Here, the guys at Blue Moon Caravans help me fashion a template for an aluminum cover to fit over the air conditioner.  We’ll need one traveling in the SW parks and I’m not going to put an ugly A/C on top of this beauty–well, actually I am;  but it will be disguised under this Flash Gordon cover complete with it’s own headlight and side vents–very cool!


Oh boy, do we love driving the backroads–you see all sorts of stuff–here a tractor collection near Salmon Idaho.  I learned to drive a Farmall Cub which I was 14 working on a horse farm–my preferred vehicle even today.

Paradise Valley

This drive up the Paradise Valley is one of my favorites.  Immigrant Peak is beyond with the Yellowstone River gently winding it’s way down into it’s confluence with the Missouri.


So off we go to Yellowstone to enjoy the animals and fall colors—but one minority wing of one House of Congress, which is only 1/3 of our government decides to shut down government which includes all National Parks for two weeks–OUR TWO WEEKS!


We develop Plan B and divert to Chico Hotsprings.

Chico  Pool

For those of you who have been here, this a no-brainer.  When Ranger Doug asks for a ‘key’ he gets the one to the Hamburg Steinway in the lobby.  With an Olympic sized naturally fed hotspring, a five star wild game restaurant, funky rooms and a wine-cellar that will make a Frenchman drool, we set up our basecamp.

Welcome to JH

Plan C then comes to fruition and we find ourselves later in the week driving back through Jackson’s Hole.  The “….’s” was removed from Jackson for the phone company, by the way.  This is the place where land is so valuable (highest per capita income in the US of A), that neighbors will steal from each other.  Read more here, here, and here.

Cabin 2

Here I ponder the internet and plan some furniture for our house.  I bought two acres 43 years ago and built two cabins out of log–the first with a horse and a chainsaw.

Cabin 3

Cindy warms her back on the fireplace stone which has the same recirculation features as our Alaskan home.  Called a ‘contra-flow’ system, the flue gases circulate until they’re nearly cold expending most heat into the house.   Cozy!


Here’s one of our evening fires with friends.  The fireplace door has all the brands of the nearby ranches including the A Lazy D….(read on).


Out for a walk.

A Lazy D

The A Lazy D.  In the 1930s my uncle David Abercrombie owned a 2000 acre dude ranch.  He’s the middle one sitting on the fence.  We visit the ranch again–it’s now five ranchettes valued in the millions.  Here it is today:

A Lazy D Now

Most of the land has been donated back to Grand Teton Park and the adjacent Elk Refuge.

Gros Ventre

We continue up the Gros Ventre (pronounced Grovont) River where there is still some color left.  This is near the “Shane” ranch which was one of the many movies filmed here.  Here is a list.


Martina snaps a pic of Cindy and me–Cindy worked with us in Alaska and hadn’t been up to Jackson Hole, so here she is.  The Teton Range is behind us reaching to 13,775′.  I was a Jenny Lake Ranger here for seven season and worked principally in mountain rescue–perhaps the best times of my life. I was sorely tempted to become a permanent ranger–my boss offered me ‘carte blanche’ if I would sign up as a permanent–but I felt the call of dentistry instead…..  (yes, this is a bad pun).


But I still am a ranger at heart–here is the symbol of the NPS–which is now $12 Billion in arrears in maintenance.  These bruisers now number about 800 with another 4600 in the Yellowstone herd, up from only 23 in 1902.  Yellowstone was initially formed to protect these herds (also elk) after they were nearly decimated a century ago.   Well it’s off to the East Coast and Europe–stay tuned!