The Adventures of Airstream Mikie

Monday, December 21, 2009

First Tow using new Tundra: "Oh, what a feeling!"

Over the weekend I finally got the chance to tow the Airstream with the new Toyota Tundra tow vehicle. Wow, what a difference from the FJ Cruiser! So much stronger, more stable... "like it's not even there"!

The Tundra's hitch port is higher than the FJ Cruiser, by about an inch, so I need a shank that will compensate for that to tow the Airstream closer to level, but I can get by with the current setup for a while.

Again, it was Abe Hernandez who helped with the project this past week. Together (with him doing all the work) we moved many items from the To Do list to the Done list. As before, Abe's work is first class. He really knows his stuff, works fast, charges reasonable rates, and even cleans up after he's finished. If you need some help, Abe is the man for you. Phone 760-802-3238 or email him at and tell him I said "Thank you".

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Double Juice

The Sport 17 model comes from the Airstream factory with a woefully inadequate single battery.

While I'm waiting, seemingly forever, to figure out why the Yamaha generator will not start, I have taken another approach toward living off the grid. I have doubled my capacity of DC power, adding a second deep cycle marine/RV battery.

I say "I have..." but in fact all I did was point, grunt, and write checks. The real work was done by a very talented man named Abe Hernandez who has a lot of Airstream experience.

Last week we discussed the project, and yesterday Abe showed up right on time and moved through the surprisingly complex project with ease. His experience showed in every move he made. He had all the right tools and knew how to use them.

After that job, he resealed a seam in the roof, hung a few hooks, checked out why my plumbing makes nasty noises, and installed a brake controller in my new pickup truck tow vehicle.

If you need some work done on your Airstream, contact Abe Hernandez. Phone 760-802-3238 or email and tell him I said "Thank You".

Friday, December 4, 2009

Aluminum Propane Tanks

Today I ordered two 7.1 gal. (30 lb) aluminum propane tanks to replace the two 5 gal. steel tanks that are standard on the Sport 17. I figure they are going to look a lot better than the ugly white tanks now being hidden by the cheap plastic tank cover, so I'll probably not even use the cover. And with the additional propane on board, I can go 40% longer before refills.


Sunday, November 29, 2009

Airstream Life Magazine

A friend bought all the back issues of Airstream Life magazine and I had a chance to look through about six of them today. They are filled with useful info and neat stories, so I ordered the complete set of back issues today. Get yours at

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Wanted: Bigger, Longer Airstream


Airstream, new or used, 25' or 27',
pano windows front and rear,
Flying Cloud,
preferably west of the Rockies.

If used, must have non-smoking, no-pet history,
and in like-new condition.
Please reply directly to
for immediate reply.
Thanks for passing the word.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

TomTom iPhone test run

I needed a GPS Navigation system for the new truck, and after doing some research decided on the TomTom iPhone app and car kit. It took a couple of hours to download the app and maps, and the car kit will be shipped in a week +/-.

I took my bike in for some minor repairs and decided to give the new TomTom iPhone app a test run even though I didn't have the car kit yet. The results were better than anticipated. It synced with Bluetooth no problem, worked at the same time as the music was playing from the iPhone, and muted the music when a turn announcement was being made, and even came back online after a phone call in the middle of the trip.

So far, so good...

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Truck Improvement Project

Base Vehicle:
2010 Toyota Tundra 4x4, Double Cab, 5.7L V8, TRD Off Road Package
Purchased new in November 2009 from Toyota Carlsbad

Goal: Customize the vehicle to serve the following purposes:
  1. tow an Airstream 25FB trailer (GVWR 7,300 lbs. nose 800 lbs) comfortably and safely.
  2. carry camping supplies and equipment in support of the Airstream trailer, including a 200 lb. generator, bike, and kayak along with hoses, extension cords, ropes, chairs, mats, tools, survival stuff, spare parts, etc
  3. be home on extended remote camping trips, beyond the range of an Airstream.
  4. do it all in low key style to create a visual presence which might be easily overlooked. On close inspection it is clearly an extraordinary vehicle, everything very well thought out and executed with high quality materials and workmanship.
To Do List
  • Lower 2" front, 4-5" rear (Tundra Racing Drop Kit and Air Spring Kit Toyota Escondido installation?, check for warranty, air spring kit, price.
  • Hitch - mate to the Airstream
  • 20" wheels/tires (freeway cruiser tires, not low profile tires)
  • Step bar (Running boards) - stainless steel (Nasta Tundra Parts Store)
  • Pedals - sport covers
  • Grille - Carriage Works Billet Grille ( , or similar
  • Locking gas cap (on order at Toyota Carlsbad 4/24/2010)
  • Sun visor extension, driver's side
  • Window shade, driver's side
  • Sun visor tint for windshield
  • Turn Signal Side Mirrors (Muth)
  • Cargo Tie-downs (Core Trax), in black
  • Cold Air Intake system (K&N)
  • Exhaust tip, stainless steel, (link)
  • De-badge
  • Smoked tail lights
  • Connect iPhone via Bluetooth for tunes and communications
  • Remove dealer license plate frames and temp registration holder
  • Load 6 discs into CD changer
  • Review Owner's Manuals
  • Program Garage Opener
  • Remove headrests in rear seats for better visibility
  • GPS - TomTom/iPhone
  • Notify Insurance company
  • Spray-on bed liner
  • Brake controller (Prodigy) by Abe Hernandez
  • SnugTop Shell, Super Sport model
  • BedSlide
  • Secure Generator to Bedslide (Roberto Mendez)
  • 1000w Inverter for truck bed
  • Install roof rack bars
  • Storage bins (milk crate style, black plastic)
  • Bike rack for BedSlide (Hollywood)
  • Recall fix (accelerator pedal recall) - Toyota Carlsbad
  • Specialty plates installed (MIKE 101)
  • Generator, running on propane
  • Wireless entry remote control, custom programmed

Resources recommended so far:
  • Abe Hernandez Phone 760-802-3238 or email
  • Toyota Carlsbad - where I bought the Tundra, see Kevin Edge and John Sanders

Monday, November 16, 2009

Airstream Social Scene: First Encounter

And so it was in the fullness of time that I went out among other Airstream owners, members of the Wally Byam Caravan Club International (WBCCI), as they are found in the wild, camping with their Airstreams.

The WBCCI is highly segmented with regions, chapters, etc. I am a member of the San Diego unit, which had a joint rally with the Orange County unit, at Guajome park, a campground east of Oceanside, CA. The draw for me to attend this meeting was food. A big Thanksgiving dinner with turkey and all the trimmings. Even hermits like me have a tough time turning down a great meal.

This was my first time camping out with other Airstreamer peeps, and after having the opportunity to meet some of them I pronounce them as "good people". Nice people, and very willing to help a newbie like me. For example, the unit president Joe Thomas stopped by on Sunday morning to check up on me and gave me some helpful suggestions on my tow hitch. His wife Anne made one of the delicious turkeys. And I finally met Bill Wright, and his lovely wife Kathy, who I have been wanting to thank for his email suggestion that I visit Kirk Creek campground just south of Big Sur. He and Super Don Snyder are fellow flyers, but with the distinction of being fighter pilots, and kept me fascinated with great stories. And there was Bev and Lowell who are probably in contention for the title of Nicest People on the Planet... the list goes on, and I could name some others, if I remembered their names.

It was one of those social situations where the New Guy (me) meets about 50 new people at once! It's madness, of course...

I got to rig my hammock between a very handy tree and my tow vehicle roof rack, and spent a deliriously happy Saturday morning gently swinging and soaking up some warm sun. A walk around the campground revealed absolutely zero other hammocks. How can this be? Possibly because there is a campground rule against tying ropes around trees. I need to figure a way of rigging a hammock with one end tied to the Airstream. Are you listening, Airstream Inc.? They are selling "lifestyle", right? What says "relax" more than a hammock in your campsite? It seems that if you are selling "relax" at $50-100 thousand a copy, you could afford to throw in an eyelet for a hammock rope/carabiner.

All in all, it was a successful adventure. I got out among the people, had a great meal, got hammock time, discovered a new place... Life is Good.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

New Tow Truck

The engine is still warm as the new tow vehicle rests in my parking spot, recently placed there by the Toyota truck salesman.  The specs:

2010 Toyota Tundra (half-ton pickup truck), Double Cab, 4x4, 5.7L V8 engine, 6-speed automatic, with TRD Off Road package, Tow package, Cold Weather package, Bluetooth, Backup camera, power heated mirrors, 10 speakers + subwoofer, power 8-way bucket seat, power sliding rear window...

Need to add:

Navigation system (portable)
Security system
20" wheels/tires
Bed rug
Camper shell
Brake controller
Tow hitch.  (Hensley?)

Wooden canoe for the roof

Source:  Toyota Carlsbad, Kevin Edge salesman, knowledgeable and professional.  Strong truck experience, gave me a good deal.  I got the zero percent 5 year loan, so the truck was delivered to my home and I never paid a cent for it.  No down payment, no first month, nothing.  Wow!  America!

Tow capacity: 10,300 lbs.
Payload: 1,640 lbs.
Bed length: 6'
Seats: 4
Power: 381 hp @ 5,600 rpm
Torque: 401 ft. lbs.@ 3,600 rpm

Now all I need is something to tow.
Something shiny, rounded.
A pod, a home, a retreat.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Change is in the air

The Airstream Adventure is 4 months old and I have been learning at a fast clip.

1. The Sport 17 model pulled by a Toyota FJ Cruiser has been a good PROTOTYPE, a test bed, a learning experience.

2. The next Airstream, coming soon, will build on what has been learned, and extend the adventure to the next level.

3. Currently looking for a 23 to 25', maybe 27' Flying Cloud, new or very good condition used. This requires a bigger tow vehicle and currently looking at Toyota Tundra 5.7L V8 crew cab with a SnugTop camper shell covering a Bedslide carrying the Yamaha generator.

4. This leaves me with two Airstreams and two tow vehicles, and the obvious choice would be to sell the smaller of the two rigs, and I would be open to offers.

5. But the entrepreneur in me figures that I could rent the Sport, and if I were going to go to all the work of renting the Sport, then I'd probably want to rent the Flying Cloud as well to maybe even make a profit, which I am feeling a growing need to do.

6. The Sport has been left pretty much in original condition, but the new Flying Cloud would be modified considerably to fit my particular tastes in woodwork, lighting, electronics, materials, etc. This may even make it more rent worthy for high-end applications, but that is beside the point, which is to create a personal space which could eventually become a full time home.

7. If I am going to be making significant changes to the new Flying Cloud, then it would probably be best to get a used one and build it up rather than paying for all the stuff that would be changed out.

8. An alternative to this would be to get a new shell, with bed and dinette/sofa never installed in the first place. Then there wouldn't be a bunch of drilled screw-holes for mounting the unwanted furniture!

9. Whichever way I go, the tow vehicle will have a canoe on top.

There are many options, many opportunities!

Friday, October 30, 2009

Future Trips: Wooden boats: canoe & kayak trip to plan

I'd like to head north to Big Bear Lake, CA, just north and east of Los Angeles, to check out some canoes and kayaks at North Shore Trading Company (link).

On the way, it would be good to stop in Corona, CA and meet Andy Rogozinski, the owner of Inland RV, the Airstream repair facility featured in the current issue of the Airstream newsletter.  Seems like a regular guy.

Following along with the boatman's holiday theme, I'd definitely like to head a lot farther north and check out the custom wooden kayaks built by Joe Greenley at Redfish Kayaks.  A good time to go would be late July, 2010 for the West Coast Wooden Kayak Rendezvous. 

Meanwhile, I ordered the book

The Complete Idiot's Guide to Canoeing and Kayaking

The Complete Idiot's Guide to Canoeing and Kayaking 

I doubt I'll learn how to paddle a kayak sitting in my chair reading a book, but maybe I'll learn something useful...

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Condiment packets, as few as you want!

On my last excursion to Big Sur, I started running out of stuff in the refrigerator and bought a sandwich from a local gas station / convenience store. When I got back to the Airstream I realized that I sure would like to put some mayo on my turkey sandwich, and maybe some mustard too, but I didn't have any in the refrigerator... it didn't occur to me when I was packing for the trip, probably because of the big sizes I keep at home and the limited space in the Airstream refrigerator.

That's when I got the idea to pick up some of those little packets of ketchup, mayo, mustard, and soy sauce the next time I saw them when I was out and about (rare for a hermit).

The solution came to me a few days ago when I was looking through for such packets, but they only sell them in quantities of 200, and that's way too much for just me. However, there was a "sponsored link" to where they will sell you as many or as few as you want. They came by Fedex this morning. What a score!

Click here for the link!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Toyota FJ Cruiser as camper tow vehicle

Being a total novice to camping of any sort, much less Airstreaming, I had no idea what tow vehicle I needed, so I asked my friendly Airstream sales rep, and he suggested I get a Toyota FJ Cruiser.  Let me share with you some of my experiences with this choice:

1.  Great looking vehicle.  I like the aggressive stance, and the lines of it.

2.  Nice riding vehicle.  Much more civilized than I expected from an off-road 4WD.

3.  Poor gas mileage.  I haven't measured it, but the stock FJ, not towing, is poor, and towing an Airstream it's worse.

4.  And now for the biggest problem I have encountered with it:  You can't open the rear hatch very far at all when you are hooked up to your Airstream because the spare tire hits the electric tongue jack.  The I can open it is about 8 inches or so.  Even after I moved the spare tire to the roof rack, tied down with a ratcheting strap, (photo above taken before this) the door opens a lot more, but not fully as it still hits the tongue jack.  The only solution to this is to un-hitch the trailer and pull the FJ forward a foot or so.  That seems a reasonable fix, but many times when I'm at the beach for just the day, unhooking and hooking up again seems like more work than necessary.

5.  With only a 5,000 lb. tow capacity, its perfect for my 3,500 lb. Airstream Sport 17, but there's no way I'd feel good towing a trailer the next size up.  And since I'm looking at the Sport as a prototype learning experience before I jump in with both feet and get a 27 footer, it looks like I'll be trading in the FJ for something like a Toyota Tundra pickup.

But it sure looks great, doesn't it!  And, with the spare on the roof, it looks even more gnarly!

Monday, October 26, 2009


An adventure is only an inconvenience rightly considered.
An inconvenience is an adventure wrongly considered.

G. K. Chesterton  

(attitude is everything)

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

I want, I need, I lust...

When I get where I'm going, wherever that is, even if there is no water nearby, it seems that I still want a wood canoe.

Even if I never get it in the water, I would still like one of these in my home, either on the wall, or even on the floor, just to admire the craftsmanship, to sit in occasionally, and dream.

This is only 13' long, perfect to put on the roof of the tow vehicle.  I think it would look so fine going down the road on some great adventure.

Here's the link for more info.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Road Trip #1: Day 5, Big Sur!

Today almost never happened, and I wouldn't have had much of a story...

I was well rested and looking forward to my final thrust up the rugged coastline to legendary Big Sur.  The road between El Capitan and Big Sur gets progressively more challenging, and the last 50 miles are downright treacherous with a trailer.

I have played with very fast cars on this road many times.  Never with a trailer.  But I was ready for it when I woke this morning.  In fact, I was looking forward to the challenge.

I made the many preparations to break camp and prepare for travel.  One of the very last things to be done went seriously wrong and almost cancelled the day.  A part of the tow hitch went missing, and of course I had no spare part.  There were no such parts available at the camp store.

Do I really need that part?  Not absolutely, but without it the trailer will be more effected by gusty winds and swaying.  And gusty winds can be expected on this stretch of road through the mountains.  For the road to Big Sur, I want every advantage I can get.  I called two RV parts businesses nearby, but it's Sunday and they are closed.

I could wait it out here and get the part in the morning.  So what if I lose a day, right?  Normally, yes.  But my schedule (reservations) say that if I miss tomorrow then I miss Big Sur completely and I have wanted to stay at Big Sur ever since I first passed through the place more than 30 years ago.  If I want to stay there on this trip, I need to leave now, without the part, and without the added safety the part brings to the towing experience.

What was previously going to be a very challenging drive is now going to be off the charts challenging.  I was not looking forward to this at all, but then I was not looking forward to missing out on Big Sur.  This is one of those Go-NoGo situations, and I have had my share of those as an aviator.  The final decision usually comes down to Confidence...

So, I went for it!

This stretch of road is spectacular.  I love it, I love it, I love it!
There was lots of fog blowing up from the sea below, crossing the road at an upward angle and continuing to climb into the trees and the mountains and into the low clouds.  Fascinating!

I refueled at Ragged Point although I really didn't need gas, but I am magnetized by Ragged Point.  The name draws me!  I have stayed at this place many times over the years when I toured this road in Ferraris, Jags, Corvettes, etc.   I wanted to hang out and stretch a bit, but parking the rig was going to present challenges so I didn't stick around to savor the memories.

The road from Ragged Point to Big Sur is the best driving on the planet.  I loved every second of it, even towing the trailer.  In fact, the much slower speeds expanded the time to appreciate even more the beauty around every turn.

After getting parked in a grove of ancient redwoods, I headed out to a nearby pub for some fish and chips and a pint of Guinness (amazing, even here in Big Sur!).  Next door to the pub were a few tourist shops, and in one of them I spotted a hammock which was calling my name...

I have had in my mind since day one that a hammock is an essential piece of kit for the Airstream lifestyle.  Well, every lifestyle, actually.  It is my belief that a hammock is an essential part of life and there should be one wherever you (I) go.  It's embarrassing to admit, but in the 2 months I've had the Airstream I have not found my hammock.  I have searched, and in every case found the hammocks to be lacking.  And now, right here in Big Sur, is this hammock calling to me.  Great colors, all cotton... SOLD!

Back at the Airstream I stow the hammock in the closet, thinking I'll get to figuring out a way of rigging it later -- another day's project for sure.

I made a cup of coffee, and settled down, but the hammock was still calling to me.  I removed the hammock from the bag, and was impressed with how well made it is, and for only 20 bucks!  There's not enough room inside the trailer to lay out completely, so I take it outside and that gets me thinking and looking for where I could hang it.  There only one low branch anywhere nearby, sticking out of a redwood stump.  The other end would have to be the roof rack on the tow vehicle, so it could work out if I had a lot of rope.  And then I remember that I might have what I need in an emergency kit I keep and, YES!  The kit, put together about 15 years ago and never used, has a coil of 120' of a really interesting military surplus green natural fiber rope!

I whip out my Marine Corps Kabar knife from World War II, and it cuts through the rope like butter.  Maybe too easy, I think.  The knife is not that sharp, so maybe the rope has some rot from being so old.  Caution!

I cut two sections of rope and hung the hammock in less than 10 minutes, probably closer to 5.  I lowered myself into the hammock and stretched out completely and relaxed and the wonder of it all struck me:  Big Sur in a hammock!  Just doesn't get much better than this.  I took a few photos with the iPhone in my pocket, and a video, but can't upload because there's no signal.

I enjoyed my time in the hammock immensely, smiling the entire time.  Admittedly, I got pleasure out of the thought that I did something improvised with a knife and rope and achieved one of my primary objectives for this Airstream.  What impressed me is how everthing just flowed...

The rope has been in that emergency bag for many years, waiting for some purpose.  The knife was an impulse buy, in my previous life of conspicuous consumption, at least 15 years old, and never used!  That knife and rope have waited a long time to meet the hammock, and what a beautiful thing they did when they finally got together, and it all flowed so naturally.

I moved through each phase of the job with a general idea of what needed to be done and improvised along the way.  However, my moves were so fluid, so flawless, that anyone watching would think I had done it a thousand times before.  I was like a big jungle cat, moving deliberately without any lost energy or mis-steps.  Today I was a tiger.

The night among the big trees was silent and peaceful.  I could not have been happier!

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Road Trip #1: Day 4, Santa Barbara, CA (El Capitan State Beach)

I headed out before breakfast to find the Pacific Ocean, El Capitan State Beach, to be specific.  More of a hike than I expected but it's always a reward to arrive at the sea.

In fact, it was an excellent hike.  There was a nice fog and it seemed to want to rain but couldn't quite make it.

I ran out of bananas and a few other items are running low, so I was forced to make a supplies run into the nearest town, Goleta, 13 miles to the south.

It's Saturday night, and there's a live Rock 'n Roll band playing in the canyon just over the ridge.  It occurs to me that if those sounds were coming from another camper nearby, it would be a nuisance, but since it is so far away, and a live band, it is not only acceptable, but fun!

The park's Wi-Fi is FUBAR so I use the iPhone to connect for email and check out the route to Big Sur, using Google Maps satellite/hybrid views to see what's ahead.

The RV park is big and sterile, with paved parking pads and all the conveniences, but lacks the one thing I want:  the beach.

Tomorrow:  Big Sur!

Friday, September 18, 2009

Road Trip #1: Day 3, Santa Barbara, CA (El Capitan State Beach)

I had a great sleep - No Buzzing Refrigerator Fan!

The Airstreamer next door (23' International and Chev. Tahoe) confirmed the fan problem.  Says he disconnected his fan months ago.  It was driving him crazy.  How could Airstream build, and its dealers deliver, such a flawed product?  But then, I suppose I have been a perfectionist so long and I should expect mediocrity as a best case scenario.     This is the sort of quality you might find in a 1950 Schwinn bicycle.  I know, I have one.  It may be that Airstream has been coasting on their reputation for a long time and has never really needed to compete to survive.

Breaking camp went easy enough, and the drive to Santa Barbara was simple.  Actually it was north of Santa Barbara, and north of Goleta, to a place called El Capitan State Beach... an RV park called OceanMesa.

The farther north, the more fog.  And now, parked in the new camp, the "ocean view" I wanted is just a wall of white.

In the afternoon I had a good phone meeting with a Protégé, proving out the concept of doing business from the road is possible as long as you have a phone or Wi-Fi connection.  This was a key experiment planned for this trip: to see how well a mentoring session can go without being face to face.

Think of me as fog and tree...
Think of me when the fog slips through the trees.
I am that moment when fog feels tree and tree feels fog.
What is their first reaction?
What can they know of each other - they are so different
and have so little time together.
The fog is just passing through,
but the tree is happy to stay.
I think they are happy to see each other, like old friends,
familiar with each other's ways.
One wanders, one waits.
In need of each other,
a story without end.

Think of me as fog and tree.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Road Trip #1: Day 2, Malibu, CA (I killed the Buzz)

I woke at 7:11 AM after a decent night's sleep.  That is, after I got myself pointed up hill.  The parking spot is supposed to be level, but either that's not exactly right, or the bed is unlevel, or the cushions are weird, or something, but my body was sensing something not quite level, and I confirmed it with my iPhone.  It has an app called "Carpenter" which displays a very sensitive bubble-level.

Last night was the first test of the "Travasak" bedding system, and it seems to work OK, but it's quite bulky.  I could probably use a smaller size.

In the middle of the night, I thought I had gone suddenly deaf.  The refrigerator stopped buzzing (briefly).  It has been making that awful sound since I have known it (a couple of months).  And now, without any action on my part, it had gone silent.  Sublimely silent!  What the heck is that all about?  I am at once happy and curious, but also sleepy, and sleepy wins.

The buzzing is there when I wake up, but then, suddenly, it goes quiet again.  And so I have come to expect intermittent behavior from a previous constant.  I guess I'm learning, but I'm not sure what!

Another observed oddity, this one positive, is that this morning I did not even think about using the computer (email, news, comics, facebook) while having my coffee.  Instead, I opened the door and went outside into the fresh air and watched the waves.  And I picked up my pen and notebook.

I like the idea of staying an extra day (one full day) in a new place.  It gives me some time to relax and get a feel of the local vibe.

I clean the floor with a tiny whisk brush and sweep the debris onto a small Post-It note slip.  It's good stretching exercise as well as cleaning, and we all know how Virgos love clean.  (They love the fact of clean, but not necessarily the work of cleaning.)  The floor is, of course, very small, so it's not much work.  How small?  That got me curious, so I measured it and it comes to about 27 sq. ft.  which seems like a big number for such a tiny trailer.  That's just floor space, where you can actually put a foot.  The actual enclosed space inside the trailer would be about (14x6=84sq. ft).  It's interesting that my condo is about 15 times the size (1250 sq. ft.) but I don't feel very cramped at all.  Yet.

The space seems a lot bigger when the door is open.

The unused parking spaces here are all groomed with a fresh and orderly raking each day.  A nice touch.

Beethoven plays as I write.
The buzz stops again!
OK, now I'm awake and curious, so I launch an investigation.  I turn battery power off and remain on shore power, figuring it might be the inverter.
Beethoven without the buzz is suddenly more beautiful, but soon the buzz comes back, telling me it's not the inverter.  It's got to be the refrigerator, but I'm not sure what I can do about it.

So I move outside and for the first time deploy my patio tarp to cover the parking spot dirt with a green space which mimics a lawn and gives depth to "My" domain.  I move the tow vehicle to fully open the 7'x15' tarp then park it with left wheels over the edge, keeping it in place.

Next, I deploy a low folding chair.  The color is a lime green which literally Screams against the very different dark green of the tarp, but I let it go.  Somehow I am just too relaxed to care.  The chair decides to test my calm and prefers to stay folded when I prefer to have it unfolded.  It's one of those cheap aluminum frame things, and I know it will soon break anyway, and I have already resolved to replace it with a quality wooden one which sits at a normal height.  Revenge is sweet.  I will not get angry, I will get even.

Eventually I get it to allow me to sit in it, and, fully reclined, soak up the morning sun.  It's barely past 9 AM.

At long last, I am feeling brave enough to attack the awning.  I have put off this chore long enough.  I wanted to see the awning procedure demonstrated one more time before I tackled it, because I remember there was something important that I should NOT do, but exactly what escapes me now.  There are multi-jointed arms and springs and detents and all manner of gizmos to deal with but I ignore them all and simply tie the grab-strap to the rear wheel of the tow vehicle.  Hopefully, I will not drive off and cause great damage to the awning, trailer and my reputation.  I take an iPhone photo of my new patio room outdoors and send it up to facebook.  Only then do I check my email for the first time this morning, even though I have no interest in any of it.

About mid-day the temperature climbs to 82 and I start up the air conditioner for the first time for a nice cool breeze and fix my first meal of the day: some oatmeal (McCann's Irish), with sliced banana, and have a relaxed breakfast on my patio in the shade.  Life is good.

The afternoon evaporated in blissful indolence.

The weather station (brought it from home) goes spastic, showing 131 degrees.  It's probably the corroded contacts, the ones I didn't clean very well when I changed the batteries a few weeks ago.  This will be a good project for later, but right now the weather is Perfect.   There are low lying clouds off shore, waiting for the cool of evening to roll in and blanket everything in a soupy fog.  That would be nice.  Foggy in the morning, foggy at night, sunny in the middle, and my day's a delight!

All around me the RV people putter with their Stuff.  This is the background music of the passing days in an RV park. The neighbors all seem to want to be alone, just like me, and that's surprisingly refreshing.

Gray water tank is half full, so I need to empty or go without a shower in the morning.  Deal with it now, and stay ahead of the curve.  Did I mention that the water outlet in the Airstream is lower than the RV park sewer inlet?  And since water seldom goes uphill except in the Bible (Red Sea parting episode), this is an unpleasant chore.  There should be a pump, or is that just too obvious.  Duh.  Why is this entire camping this so Primitive?  Didn't we send men to the moon?  Yes, they wore diapers, but you get the idea...

I have found it!  The noisy buzz was the refrigerator fan.  It is very quiet from the outside, but the hard mount and hollow cabinet sure do make it a lot worse.  So I disconnect the fuse, and now the sweet sounds of the surf are much more enjoyable.

One improvement of minor note, I have removed the cosmetic valance over a window blind which was installed improperly at the factory so that it interfered with the control rod operation.  The Quality Control manager must have been sick when my unit rolled off the final assembly line.

And, finally, a decorating note:  I cut up some west coast campground maps and scotch-taped them to the ugly white vertical surfaces for a big improvement.  Better color and educational too!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Road Trip #1: Day 1, Malibu, CA

The "Morning Of" went well enough, a flurry of activity, of course, but it seemed to go without any major problems.  I was just hoping that I wouldn't get 100 miles down the road and realize that I forgot something essential.  I hate when that happens!

In its first real test, the Garmin GPS in the Toyota FJ Cruiser works well enough to get me where I need to go, in spite of several disconcerting audible messages that advise me that it has lost its satellites.

The drive went smoothly enough, and I soon pulled in to a commercial campground in Malibu, on the legendary Pacific Coast Highway, right across the street from the Pacific Ocean.   Some first impressions:

Electricity!  Real electricity, not from batteries, but the good old fashioned stuff right out of the plug waiting by the parking space.  An inexhaustible supply, no generator needed, no battery recharging needed.  Just like home!  I can charge my computer/iPhone/iPod and listen to music and microwave food and use the air conditioner all at the same time without blowing a fuse.  This is truly civilized living!

Wi-Fi.  I can use the computer for email instead of using the mini screen on the iPhone, and it's a lot faster too.

Water!  Right out of the hose, an unlimited supply, so I can take a real shower without being concerned about running out or overfilling my gray water tank.  However, the trailer's water outlet is lower than the park's inlet.  And, from what I learned as a child, water doesn't go uphill.  What is this all about?  Didn't Wally B. start this camping stuff like 70 years ago?  How can it be that the Airstream is designed with such a low water outlet?  How can it be that a campground in Malibu (USA) decided to build sewer inlets higher than an Airstream outlet?  I guess I'm just going to have to get used to the idea that outdoor types don't spend very much time thinking about such details.  Probably a plethora of mesomorphs involved in this camping thing.

View.  A great 180-degree white-water view of the Pacific.  I have a front-row seat (parking spot), precariously close to the edge of the hill.  I chock the wheels for the first time.  Sure, the spot is level, sort of, but the idea of some kids coming along in the night and pushing the trailer over the edge is unsettling.  (I'm remembering my own mis-spent youth.)

Weather.  Perfect. 74 degrees, clear.

Cost.  80 bucks per night!  Yikes!   That seems high to me, but it's probably a lot less than any hotel I might find in Malibu.  And I know where the sheets have been...

1.  The traffic noise during the day all but obliterates the sounds of the surf.
2.  No Sunsets!  That was a huge surprise.  Malibu faces south, and is cut of from sunset views by some mass of land to the west.  Total bummer!  How do these people survive without sunsets?
3.  No Pool Table.  Actually, there is a pool table, but it is closed after 6pm when the campground store closes.  It seems obvious that these people are not pool players.  It's probably just as well because the table is in a semi-outdoor spot, so the table and equipment is almost certainly FUBAR due to the ocean salty humidity.

Late at night, the traffic noise decreases until there are moments, some lasting almost a minute, where there are no cars at all, and the sweet sounds of the surf can be heard.  Big, clean waves roll in and crash on the beach with the sound of thunder.

There is a buzzing sound coming from the refrigerator area.  It will not stop unless I turn off all electricity,  and of course then the food will spoil, so that's no solution.  It is not at all conducive to sleeping, and of course it completely spoils the natural sounds of the surf.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Road Trip #1: The Night Before

I've been wanting to get out of town on a decent road trip, but all the details of trying to make schedules and reservations was just too much for me to deal with so I finally did what has worked so many times in the past:  I delegated the details!

One of my favorite sayings: "I delegate, therefore I am."

I simply charged my assistant Carol with making it happen.  I gave her the final destination (Big Sur) and the duration (about 10 days) and asked her to research the campgrounds and see if she could make reservations for me along the way there and back.  Many days of planning and preparation all come down to "The Night Before", an auspicious time if ever there was one.

I reflect on the other epic journeys in my life, all of which began with their own Night Before and Morning Of.

As always, I'm a little bit nervous, but also feeling confident and strong.

Nevertheless, I updated my Will.

I make last-minute piles of supplies and equipment, and tire myself out, finally getting to sleep and  dreaming of Grand Adventure in the morning.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Generator blues...

Hired a professional electrician to check out why my Yamaha 2400 generator will not start the Airstream air conditioner even though other Airstream owners claim that it works for them.

Still don't know why it works for others, but we know that it will never work for my Airstream air conditioner because it draws more juice to start than the generator puts out.   The unit needs 48 amps to start!  However only 24 amps will run everything simultaneously.  That's good to know.  So if I got a generator that put out 3,000 watts continuously it would cover normal operations, but still not start the air.

Road Trip #1.

ROAD TRIP! Beaches, big trees, quiet, reading, planning, writing, pool, yoga, hiking. Secondary purpose: extended shakedown expedition for Airstream trailer.

A "Road Trip" definition:
minimum 7-day, 
epic locations (beaches, mountains, islands, Parks, events, etc.),
billiards is optional, but welcome.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Local #2: Silver Strand, Coronado, CA

This was the second overnight trip in the Airstream.  Actually got some sleep, but am convinced there must be an improvement with the bedroll.  Check out Travasak.

The beach here is spectacular.  Very wide, and goes as far as the eye can see, and that's forever.  Just north of the camp area is a Restricted Area, so the walk starts out going South.  Lots of kelp, probably due to the purse seine fishing boats just off-shore.

Noise from nearby highway overpowers the sounds of the surf.
Lots of parking space.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Local #1 San Elijo State Beach, Cardiff-by-the-Sea, CA

I have visited this campground before.  This was my first over-night stay in the Airstream.   I'm thinking that it was made easier because I am sort of familiar with the campground -- I have visited friends here on a couple of occasions.  About 7 miles from home.

My birthday!  Joey and I get into some seriously good frisbee on the beach at sunset.

I figured out that if I shower at home in the morning, then I don't have to fill and dump the tanks as frequently.  I'm learning.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

There may be hope...

It is said that none of us is as smart as all of us, so I went online to the Airstream Knowledge Forum to see what "all of us" might have to say about my generator failings (see previous post).

Amazingly, there are posts by several people who say that their Yamaha EF2400IS unit does in fact start up their 13,500 BTU air conditioner on their Airstream.

That really confuses the issue for me, so I left a post begging for some help or insight into why it works for them but not me.   It's really nice when the internet can connect you with people who will take the time to help.  I got a couple of replies and offers to help and now I have something to try before I just give up completely and return the generator.

First thing to try is to see if the air conditioner will start up by using normal household AC electricity.   There's no such juice in the storage unit, so I'll have to hook up and drive it 100 yards to check it out, but that's easy enough to do.  If it starts the unit, then the next step is to measure the power draw on start-up to see if it's more than the generator puts out (2400 watts maximum).  Then I can measure how much juice the generator is putting out.  When I know all this, I should know where the problem lies.

If the air conditioner is drawing too much, then there may be a solution by installing a "hard start" device.  This is way outside my talent zone for now, but I'm learning as I go...

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Caveat Emptor

The current (if you will excuse the pun) situation with the new generator not being able to run the Airstream air conditioner:

The Airstream local dealer service department got through to Carrier (the manufacturer of the AC unit) and they say that the unit will require 28 to 29 amps on startup although only 12.8 after startup.

So, 29 amps, multiplied by 115 volts, equals 3335 watts of power needed to start that sucker (only 1472 to keep it running).   The generator that was recommended to me by the local Airstream sales rep is the Yamaha EF2400IS (the one I bought).

The Yamaha web page for this unit says it has "the highest output in its class -- enough to power up most 13,500 BTU RV air conditioners".  The specs page shows that it produces 2400 watts max, 2000 watts rated.  But the Airstream AC unit needs 3335 watts.  Big difference!

The generator I need will cost twice as much as the one recommended, in addition to about $500 in return shipping and restocking fees to return the one that doesn't work.

The bottom line:  "Caveat Emptor"  Let the buyer beware!  And, of course, the real bottom line is that I did not do my homework and check every detail.  Instead I relied on the recommendation of the Airstream sales rep, who, as it turns out, made the recommendation based on no personal experience whatsoever, just the recommendation of his local Yamaha generator dealer, who, it seems perfectly clear now, had no idea what he was talking about.

I guess you could call this an expensive learning experience.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Service notes

I finally got a free day to take the Airstream in for some warranty work.
1.  The monitor panel was replaced and now my black water tank level indicates correctly.
2.  The incredibly loud water pump was a simple matter of the hoses banging against each other, and all is now much quieter.  What a relief, and a pleasant surprise that it was so simple to fix.
3.  A couple of fit-and-finish issues with weatherstripping were taken care of, but one became un-fixed almost immediately.  So I get to put it on the list for next time.
4.  After several attempts, it is now fixed: the screw that was missing and could not stay in to the support for the dump hose storage tube.

Not bad, really.  Except for:
1.  Still need hole drilled to accept the removable tongue wheel.   The next time will be the 3rd request.

It's interesting to me that there is no formal document created when you bring your Airstream in for service.  There is nothing to sign to say this is what you want done, no estimate of costs, and nothing to sign to say you have received your Airstream back.  Nothing at all to say who did the work, how long it took, and of course, no records that would show how many times something was requested and not done, or had to be redone.  Without this information, there can be no measurable quality control.  And, in business, if it can not be measured, it can not be managed.  It's a completely different experience when I bring my Toyota FJ Cruiser in for service!

But, on balance, I was in and out of there in no time at all, and time passed very quickly as I toured the other Airstreams on the lot, looking for my next upgrade, feeding my aluminum lust.  It was interesting seeing how much nicer the new ones are than my bare-bones model.  For now, I've got plenty to keep me busy...

For example, the Yamaha inverter arrived and, with help, gave it a try, and it ran the TV and the microwave, but it couldn't start the Air Conditioner.  It was a hot day, maybe 85 degrees, and it takes extra power to start an AC unit, but at least 6 tries it gave a power overload reset on the inverter.  Disappointing.  This is the inverter that was recommended for this model by Airstream...

The inverter is huge and heavy (79 lbs.).  There is no way I'm going to schlep that critter around.   So that means mounting it in the rear of the Toyota, and running it with the hatch door open.  Seems like it will be necessary to do some custom work to make it work right in that space.

My concern is that it is too small a unit to be satisfactory.  If it can't run all the appliances simultaneously, it is sub-optimal.
On the plus side, a larger unit would have an option for wireless starting, which certainly seems much more civilized than the raw work of this lower rated model.  But it's going to cost a lot more money, be lots heavier, take up more space, noisier...

And the beat goes on...

Monday, August 24, 2009

Electric Avenue

I just want to turn stuff on, and off.

Why is it so complicated with AC and DC and volts and amps and watts and generators and inverters and some things use one kind but not the other and some things go both ways. Some devices need a generator (not supplied). Some devices can get by with a smaller generator, but to use the AC you need a bigger generator. And even then you might blow a fuse if you wanted to use the AC and the microwave at the same time.

We put a man on the moon 40 years ago, but today I can't charge my iPhone in the Airstream unless I had the engine running in the tow vehicle, or a separate generator running? Even then I could do it only with a non-Airstream add-on inverter.

Why present buyers with all these variables, doubts, concerns, etc. Offer a complete power solution that is simple.

If you plug into "shore power" you can run all your stuff without worry of overload. However, the very design and purpose of the vehicle is to be able to go places and be off the grid. It seems that a simple, complete solution would sell more than a product that does not address the many power issues. Maybe it's just me, but I think there's a big market waiting.

I feel like I need a degree in physics to deal with this stuff. It would be a lot easier for me if I could buy a complete and integrated power solution that included a generator that will run anything in the trailer, including air conditioning, and charge the batteries. run an iPod and charge my iPhone, and run my laptop computer, etc. That just doesn't seem to be asking too much.

And then there's the whole subject of propane and solar! Make it simple, people will buy.

This is an opportunity for Airstream to offer a complete solution, so more people buy and use their products, and be happier customers.

The bottom line is that Airstream would enjoy a steady flow of new profits from this business opportunity.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Checklist Version 1.0

I have already screwed up in ways too embarrassing to say, and it only confirms to me that if I had taken the time to prepare (and use) some basic checklists, I might have saved myself some grief. So today I took a first pass at it:

Pre-Departure Checklist

Tow Vehicle checkout
Refuel tow vehicle, check fluids
Tires - check pressure, also spare

Trailer checkout
Tires - check pressure
Dump black and gray water
Fresh water fill
Propane - check levels
Refrigerator - start

Recharge electronics:

Food Inventory
Coffee Filters
Trail Mix bars
V8 juice

Supplies Checklist
TP, soap, shampoo, toothpaste
Black water additives
Trash bags
Baggies, small, large
Paper towels
Towels - kitchen, bath (large & small), beach
Batteries - D, C, AA, AAA, 9-volt

Pre-Departure Shopping
Water Bottles, 6 per day, minimum
Fruit, bananas, oranges
Fruit Juices (mango and blueberry)
Maple Syrup
Half and Half
Prepared meals, sauces

Pre-Tow Checklist

Load all supplies, food, water, clothes, etc.
Load all campground items (chairs, etc) into T.V. and Airstream

Interior Lock-Down
Window, close
Shower door closed and snapped secure
Shower items secure
Blinds, secure, close
Counter top, stow or secure loose items
Lights, off

Countertop - stow loose items
Sink - water off, lid closed, drain open
Window - close, blinds secure and closed
Upper Storage - secure, closed
Lower Storage - secure, closed
Ceiling Fan - turn off
Ceiling Vent - close tight
Refrigerator - close door, stow/secure items on top
Gas Stove - check gas off, lower lid
TV - secure
TV antenna - lower and secure
Lights off

Side Window - close, secure and close blinds
Upper Storage - secure contents, turn off radio, remove iPod charger, close covers
Skylight cover - close
Electrical Master Switch - turn ON to recharge batteries during tow
Lights off, overhead and switches by the door
Under bed storage area, secure

Slide lock left
Close the door firmly
Check it is locked
Stow the step

Exterior Walk-around Inspection
Door closed, locked secure
Entry step stowed
RF stabilizer raised
Awning secure
Fresh water door secure
Kitchen window closed
Sewer hose storage tube cover, secure
RR stabilizer raised
Rear Window secure
LR stabilizer raised
Sewer and Gray water valve pulls closed securely
Water Outlet cover secure
Outside Shower door secure
City Water inlet secure
Sewer Flush inlet secure
Refrigerator Vents, upper and lower, secure
Shore Power door secure
Cable TV cover secure
Hot Water Heater door secure
LF stabilizer raised
Side Window closed
Front (Pano) window cover secure
Propane cover secure
Battery secure

Hitch Checklist
Starting at Right Rear of Tow Vehicle (T.V.)
Raise Tongue to 18"
Hitch lever - slide forward and flip up
Remove ball cover on tow vehicle, stow it in T.V.
Grease ball
Back tow vehicle into position
Lower Tongue over ball completely
Hitch lever - flip down securely
Raise tongue again to 18"
Load Equalizer Bar - Install Left and Right
Lower tongue completely, raising post fully
Safety chains, crossed and hook to T.V.
Breakaway cable, hook to safety chain clevis hook
Electric connection - hook securely to T.V.

Final Walk-Around Checklist
T.V. headlights on
T.V. rear hatch window and door closed secure
T.V. rear lights on
Trailer door closed secure,
Step stowed
Check lights on T.V. and trailer
Check hitch
T.V. mirrors
GPS set destination
iPhone, mount on dashboard, bluetooth hookup, power hookup
Pull out slowly, listen for problems
Check brakes
Equalize trailer and T.V. brakes

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Day Trip 2: Torrey Pines State Beach, Torrey Pines, CA

At 5:30 AM, I showed up just in time to get the last parallel parking spot along Highway 101.  I love these handful of spots because the Airstream door opens out onto the sand, or at most  2-3 steps from the sand.  And it's free.  

Park all day from 6AM to 11AM, but no overnight stays allowed. 

This is a no-brainer for me.  The Airstream storage is maybe 2 miles away, and the beach is about 3 miles from there, so I can be there with a minimum of effort.  The effort/reward ratio is very high.

Kendra and Debbie were featured guests for the first pancake breakfast in the Airstream.  Forgot the flipper.  Duh.

Feeling the need for a generator.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Dixie Dancy saved my life!

It all started when I was at the Airstream dealer, the only Airstream dealer in Southern California, looking to learn more about the different models. It was really just a scouting mission, to see them in real life instead of the brochure and website.

The first one I looked at was the Sport 17 model, and the special price was marked in big numbers on the front pano window. However, since I am the son of a car dealer, I am quite familiar with the ways of some dealers, and a healthy dose of skepticism can save a person some real nasty mistakes. So I asked to see the MSRP (Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price) which is a document that by federal law must be shown. In the car trade the document is known as the Monroney sticker because it was Senator Monroney who sponsored the bill which mandated the disclosure of such prices in a standard format. All that aside, many people are not aware of the federal law, or the MSRP, or the window (Monroney) sticker, and if they see a big number written on the window, they just assume that's the price. Not me, I know better. And I've seen those special prices on the window that are actually HIGHER than the MSRP, but you wouldn't know that without checking the MSRP.

(click the photo to see the detail)

So far, so good. The dealer shows me the Monroney sticker price document, and my first reaction is that this thing is Bogus! Totally bogus. The first thing I notice is that the name Airstream is nowhere on the document! How can that be? Is this an Airstream or not? It shows that it's a Sport 17, but not an Airstream? Weird. Very suspicious. I look around the lot, and there are plenty of Airstreams. Very well stocked. I figure they just MUST be an Airstream dealer because of the research on the internet I've been doing, and all paths point to this place being the only authorized dealer in SoCal.

So I call their bluff. I mention the obvious missing name of Airstream on the document, and ask the sales rep, Jerry Handley, very directly if he is sure that this is the official MSRP document, and he assures me, very earnestly that it is in fact the proper document. I am not convinced.

While we are discussing the missing manufacturer name (not even a logo!) I take a closer look and... what the heck is that: the word "gray" is spelled GREAY! And the word "height" is spelled "HIEIGHT" and to add insult to injury, on the line right below that, the same word "height" is spelled HGITH. What the heck is this about? Don't these people use computers? How can such things get through a spell-checker? Or, was this thing typed by hand, on a bad day when the computers were down, and it was the last day of the month, and they needed to ship a few units in order to get their bonuses, and the lights were off so they couldn't see what they were typing, and they ran out of the official forms with the company name and logo? Sure, I can buy that scenario. Stuff happens! A once in a lifetime comedy of errors and I'm standing there looking at the evidence. I'm thinking that maybe I have an instant collector's item here that's going to be worth a few bucks in another hundred years or so. Yeah, right, says my car dealer's son's skeptical brain. This thing was typed locally, and poorly, to bogus up the numbers so they could make a few extra bucks from any rube who is naive enough to believe it.

But my mother always brought me up to be nice, so I didn't say all that to Jerry Handley, who may really not have known that the boss was cranking out bogus MSRPs in the dead of night. Jerry, by the way, was really very helpful, patient, and informative... the ideal sort of person you would want to help you on an exploratory mission. Certainly not the kind of guy you would expect to be in on a con.

The mystery was not solved that day, and I went home to consider my anticipated purchase of the Sport 17, and to do some more research on the price. And I'll be darned... the numbers seemed legit, so what the heck was the reason for the very strange Monroney sticker?

I let that question go for later, put a down payment on the Airstream the next day, spent a few more days buying a tow vehicle, and then went back to do the deal and take delivery and tow it home and start learning all about the magical mysteries of Airstreaming.

Until this morning, when I finally ran out of plausible scenarios that could produce such a document from a company with a reputation for quality. My curiosity finally got the best of me and put me over the edge of caution and fear and launched me into one of modern life's most dreaded experiences: Calling a big business customer service department.

Let me explain... I've been in the business world, computers to be specific, for the last 45 years, and I know that dealing with customer service people can be some of the most challenging events in a person's life. I dread calling customer service departments at ANY company, even the best are bad. Now when you also consider the fact that I will soon be 67 years old, and I do not suffer fools lightly, I treat all customer service interactions as potentially life-threatening (to me). I avoid these situations like the plague. But as I mentioned, curiosity got the best of me.

In Fear of The Hammer of Thor

So I picked up the phone and called the Airstream company, division of Thor Industries, which owns several makes of RVs. "Thor"? Really? Viking God of Thunder and excellent customer service? No Way, right?

I was greeted nicely by a pleasant voice who asked me how they could help. Of course, being the skeptic, and having dealt with more than one person whose job it is to "help" customers, I was expecting to be transferred several times to the wrong people, and then having my call dropped, and calling back several more times, more transfers, leaving messages, etc, etc, etc... BUT NO! I said I had an MSRP document that seemed strange, but then figured that she probably didn't know what an MSRP is, so I asked her, and I'll be darned if she didn't come right out with "sure, it's the Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price"!

Oh, I've got a real, live, thinking human being here! She sounds like she knows what she's talking about AND she seems to care. What are the odds of that?

She asks me for the last 5 digits of the serial number, on the upper right of the document, and almost instantly she retrieves it from her computer. I continue with my story, and mention that the name Airstream is nowhere on the document, and I'll be darned, after a brief look-see on her part, she agrees with me, and also agrees that it is strange, but hadn't noticed that before. She does say that there is a faint graphic showing a guy pulling an Airstream with a bicycle, but that doesn't show on my copy, which was scanned and emailed to me by the dealer. And I don't remember seeing it on the document that was shown to me by the dealer, but maybe that was a copy, and some copiers don't pick up light blue, so we move on to the typos. I directed her to the first one, told her how many lines up from the bottom of the right column, and before I could be more specific, she spots it herself and says "the word gray is wrong". This girl is sharp, seriously on the ball. So I direct her to look two lines down and Bingo! Again she spots the extra letter "I" in the word "HIEIGHT". I am really impressed now, so I wasn't so surprised when she spotted the other error on the following line too.

This person is truly a ray of sunshine in the cold, dark world of customer service. She is extremely polite, and helpful, and very much on my side with all this. She verifies all the prices on the document, and our paperwork is in agreement, perfectly. So that's the end of the mystery to me, but she goes on to assure me that she will take these things up with the top guy in the sales department right away, and be sure these things are handled, and because of her tone, and her on-the-ball awareness, intelligence, and courtesy, I actually believe her! You can't get better than that.

One in a Million?

So we hang up and I'm feeling like I just had one of those one in a million customer service experiences. And then I call back and just had to know her name because I'm going to let the president of Airstream know he's got one very, very good person working there.

Dixie is her name. Dixie Dancy. What a fun name! ("and I'm not a dancer" she says with a fun spirit in her voice)

If there are any Airstream competitors out there who need to upgrade their customer service department, you should call Dixie and pay her a lot of money. But if your name is Bob Wheeler, president of Airstream, I suggest you call Dixie into your office and give her a big fat raise and tell her what a great job she is doing as an ambassador of goodwill for Airstream, and give her every promotion she can handle, and I'm thinking that's big.

Thanks, Dixie, and all the best to you!

ps: Bob Wheeler, President of Airstream... they have things called spell-checking software nowadays, usually free. All you need to do is use it. And, putting the name Airstream on the MSRP would be nice! Probably wouldn't cost 20 cents in ink over the next hundred years to make that addition.

So, how did Dixie Dancy save my life? Well, the story continues...

After hanging up the phone, I was feeling pretty good. My faith in human nature was refreshed for the first time in a long time. Some people (in addition to me) really are excellent. And today I had the good fortune to meet up with one of them. I had my faith restored in human decency, even some humans in the vehicle business. Wow!'

Customer Service Call-From-Hell

So, while riding this euphoria, I decided to go visit my Airstream, sitting lonely in storage, and fiddle around with it to prepare it for a day trip this weekend. I went downstairs to the garage, hopped in my daily driver (2006 Corvette convertible) and poked at the start button. Click. Nothing. WTF? I just gave it a good ride yesterday, what's the problem? Poke the start button again. Click. Nothing. Damn. Can't be the battery, the lights are on strong. Instruments look weird when the power comes on, strange messages, engine light is on. I'm thinking the computer is FUBAR. Bugger All. I go to open the door, to get out to call the dealer on the cell phone....

The door doesn't open! I AM LOCKED IN MY CAR! The other door doesn't open. OK, just breathe easy, there's got to be a way out of this. But how? I call the dealer on my cell. Push one for sales, two for service, three for parts, four for... No selection to push for LOCKED IN MY CAR and getting freaked out about it, so I hit zero and try to explain to the operator and she says she never heard of anyone getting locked inside a car before, and transfers me to an "advisor" who never answers the phone and I get a voicemail, which could take days to get a reply, and by then I'll be dead of an apoplectic fit, if not hunger. So I call back and tell her this is an emergency (what if it was 3AM and the dealer was closed?) and please don't transfer me, but sure enough she does, but this time I get an advisor who tells me to rip up the carpet behind the seat I'm sitting in (Corvette, right? There is NO room to even change your mind in there, let alone do the gymnastics to pull up the carpet behind the seat to find a lever to open the door). In any case, I manage to pull up the carpet... no lever! He asks if there is anyone else around who can help? Yes, several, and aren't they enjoying this little freak show! Give them my key so they can open the trunk and in there is another lever to open... but wait, he says, another "advisor" has told him about a lever (invisible in the dark) inside the car, next to my seat that will open the door, and I find it and I'm FREE AT LAST! I breathe the fresh air of Freedom and thank God I'm alive and I don't have to talk with these people any more.

But, of course, I now have to deal with getting the car towed to the dealer, and that took two different people from Triple A to come out and look and poke things and test and tell me it's the battery, but then of course it's not, and how are we gonna get this car out of the garage, and so on and so on until finally it's on the flat-bed truck and down the road

and I'm back in my easy chair thanking my lucky stars I haven't gone purple and insane with rage at the mediocrity of all Mankind, until I remember Dixie Dancy who just one hour before had put me in such a good mood that if it were not for her I would surely have popped a brain artery, or my whole heart would have exploded, and I would be dead as possum on Highway 101.

Thank you Dixie Dancy, you saved my life!

So I'm sitting here in my easy chair enjoying a pint of the good stuff, with a shot of Bushmills Irish whiskey cradled in an Airstream shot glass, and itself dropped into the good stuff. Some people call it an Irish Car Bomb, but in my youth we called it a boilermaker. Call it what you will, it's good to be alive, sometimes!

(click the photo to see the detail)