A dark and stormy night …

The Caravel is a wonderful trailer, into which we’ve lavished attention, parts, and buckets of money, but still it has a few bats in the belfry.  (Note: Halloween-y reference in appreciation of the upcoming holiday.)   I fired up the water heater in the morning, took a shower, and discovered several new problems.  Problems are to be expected in any travel trailer as a result of time, miles, or — worst of all — long-term storage, but it just seems that at some point I should get into it and find that everything works as expected.  So far, no luck on that one.

In fairness, the problems are small: water leaks in both of the supply lines leading to the bathroom faucet, and another water leak at the water heater output line.  It’s not that the issues are big or expensive, it’s simply that they are there when they shouldn’t be.  None of this plumbing leaked last April when I last used the trailer, and it’s only a few years old.  So what happened?

Well, storage happened.  There are some types of plumbing that are better than others for long-term reliability.  Nearly every part of the Caravel has been replaced or renovated in the past few years — except the plumbing.  It looked good, so we left it, and that has turned out to be a mistake.  I think these leaks are number 5, 6, and 7 since we put it back into service about two years ago.  Every compression fitting seems to be failing, possibly as a result of thermal stresses (heat in the summer, cold in the winter) or maybe just age.  Some have been fixable with teflon tape, others have required outright replacement.

Paul fixed the water heater leak by replacing a kludged set of rigid plastic fittings (going around a tight corner) with something more elegant.  That got me to the rally site in the Grasslands yesterday, although I have had to keep an aluminum pan under the sink to catch the water that is leaking from the other two leaks in the bathroom.  (After every use of the water, I turn off the water pump and de-pressurize the system to minimize the leakage.)

The other plumbing surprise was the smell of the hot water.  Yikes.  Imagine a mixture of onion, wasabi, and sulfur, and then take a shower in it.  Phew.  It was a result of leaving the trailer in storage all summer.  I should have drained the water heater before storing it.  Fortunately, I didn’t smell like it when I came out of the shower.  After that experience, we drained the hot water tank and flushed it out with fresh water, which seems to have mostly eliminated the issue.  I’m going to do a full flush of the system and sanitize it when I get to a full hookup campground, or at home, whichever comes first.

So with the emergency tweaks done, we lined up the rigs in the  driveway and set off. There were three of us: Paul & Anne’s 1955 Cruiser, my 1968 Caravel, and Pat’s 1966 Globe Trotter.  We paused in Decatur for lunch at the Whistle Stop Cafe and then headed up to the Grasslands, in a steady cold drizzle.

There’s not much positive to say about the first night, unfortunately.  It was cold, windy, rainy, and a little muddy.  Six Airstreams were parked at the primitive campground we are using in the Grasslands, and all of us hunkered down for the night with the heat on (well, those of us who have heat –Paul never got around to installing his) and stayed inside.

I watched a movie and studied some travel books I’d brought.  The catalytic heater was my best friend, hissing quietly and glowing dimly all night long.

Today, however, is another story.  The weathermen were right: it is sunny, cool, and dry, and the wind is gone.  It’s the kind of weather that Texans have been waiting for all summer.  Airstreams are trickling into the campground for the weekend. I have no idea how many we are expecting, but when I left this morning there were 10 already.  I took off for a few hours in nearby Decatur to get the parts needed to fix the rest of the Caravel’s plumbing issues, and to take a couple of hours at the local Starbuck’s to catch wifi and charge up the laptop & phone batteries.  That’s where I am now, milking an iced decaf Americano with cream and hazelnut as long as possible.  This afternoon I’ll install the new pipes in the Caravel.  Tonight there will be a potluck dinner and I expect to find a few friends will have arrived when I return to the campground, so it should be a much more interesting evening than yesterday’s dark & stormy night.

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Editor & Publisher of Airstream Life magazine