Switching to project mode

We are back at home base.  And this time, it’s going to stick, because there’s much to do over the next few months.

The first job is resolving our tire situation.  We got back on the road after two days of waiting, and while it was pleasant in Camp Verde and swim in the RV parks’ pool, this isn’t a situation I want to find myself in again.  We might have been on a schedule to get somewhere, or in some lonely place where tires aren’t easily located.  We need a better solution.

The Discount Tire store in Prescott AZ worked with the Discount Tire store in Tucson to work out our immediate problem.  The Prescott store gave us four new Nitto tires (not run-flats) to get us home, and that worked out fine.  I’m not wild about them, as the handling is poor and they are noisy, but it was what they had in stock.  The Tucson store will take them off tomorrow and exchange them for four new Bridgestone run-flats that I ordered a few days ago.

The really nice part is that they’ll give me 100% credit for the returned Nitto tires, even though I’ve used them for 200 miles.  Kudos to Discount for going out of their way to take care of a customer.  This is the kind of service that has caused me to buy tires from them exclusively for the past few years.

Since we got the Merc we’ve always had two plugging kits and a tire inflator in the car at all times to handle typical punctures.  That’s not good enough for our needs.  This episode demonstrates that other things can happen to a tire that you can’t fix by the roadside.  We’re hard on our tires, towing many miles in southwestern heat with a heavy trailer, and so I’ve concluded that we need to get back to a full-size spare when we are towing.

The solution I outlined in the previous blog is still the plan. We’ll remove the Airstream’s spare and put a Mercedes spare in the carrier instead.  The Michelin tires we put on the Airstream have proved their durability, and the Airstream can be towed on three wheels in a pinch, so I feel pretty confident about going without a spare on the trailer.  The car, on the other hand, would be “interesting” to drive with only three wheels.

The challenge is that the car tires are much larger than the Airstream tires.  The Airstream tires (with Michelin 235/75 R15) are 28.9″ diameter and 9.3″ wide.  The Mercedes tires are about 33″ diameter and 11″ wide, so the spare carrier will have to be modified to allow one to fit.  That means I’ve got to find a welder who can either come to the house to work on the Airstream, or has a large lot where I can park the Airstream.  I’ll post pics once that job is done.

We’ll also have to do a five-tire rotation pattern from here on, because it’s important to keep all the tires worn evenly (this is an AWD car).  It’s a small price to pay for the convenience of a full-size spare.  When the car is being driven without the Airstream (and hence no spare tire nearby), it will still have the backup capability provided by the run-flat tires, just like millions of other cars.

We finally pulled into Tucson late Wednesday night.  We’re still in that phase where we are living off the remainders of our Airstream supplies, until Eleanor gets a chance to replenish the house food.  But we have landed lightly, without too much fuss or inconvenience, and are settling into our home-based life for the next few months.  I did a calculation and found that so far this year we have towed the Airstream Safari 7,582 miles, which is about average.  The image above shows our approximate route in 2012 (but not every stop).

Since we are going to be at home base for at least a couple of months, this is a good time to take on projects.   We still need to get on the Airstream interior renovation, although budget is a challenge.  I plan to kick that project into gear fairly soon.  I’m also working on Alumafiesta in Tucson.  We’ve confirmed that Stevyn Guinnip will be joining us at Alumafiesta to lead morning exercise sessions, and Bert Gildart is likely to lead some photo safaris in the great southwestern outdoors.  I’m working on lots of other good things for that event, which will be announced as they get solidified.

E&E have taken on a new project too.  To abate Emma’s lust for a pet, they have taken training at the nearby Humane Society and are now official foster parents to a pair of kitten brothers, one orange tabby and one solid black.  For the next three or four weeks, their job is to convert these malnourished, underweight, frightened and slightly feral kittens into adoptable, people-loving cuties.  The kittens are living in Emma’s bathtub with all sorts of comforting things to assuage their mental anguish, and several times a day they are held and fed.  Although already this project has meant lots of cleanup and midnight attention, Emma and Eleanor are having a great time of it and I’m sure that when the time comes it will be hard to say goodbye to these little beasts.

Our next planned Airstream travel is not until after Christmas, although you never really know for sure.  A trip opportunity may present itself in the near future, and the spare Airstream (the ’68 Caravel) could yet be outfitted for some adventure in southern Arizona this fall…

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Editor & Publisher of Airstream Life magazine