The 9 mile shakedown cruise

We’re back from Alumafiesta … and a bit worn out.

It was great to make so many people happy.  We essentially held a five day party for 150 guests, and managed to keep them occupied the entire time.  The feedback was good, we had a little time to visit with our friends, the weather was fantastic on four days, and nothing went terribly wrong.  All in all, it was a big success.  We’ve already picked out the dates for 2014 (Feb 4-9) and opened up registration for next year.  I can tell already that it will be even bigger.

So all’s good, the Airstreamers are smiling, and everyone on the team (me & Eleanor, Brett & Lisa) feel like we’ve done a good thing.  But it does take a lot out of all of us to run these things.  People kept asking if we’d “take over” certain other rallies, or if we’d bring an Aluma-event to their area, and we had to keep saying that we just didn’t have the energy to do this more than three or four times a year.  Right now I feel like I need a vacation.

I’m not going to get it, at least this week.  Beside the work I need to do for Airstream Life, the two Airstreams have spoken up about what they need.  Our little nine mile camping trip to the west side of Tucson was sufficient to blow the dust off the trailers, metaphorically at least, and reveal the little issues that must be resolved before we go on our next real expedition.

As I mentioned before, the Caravel has suffered from sitting, and we discovered several plumbing leaks and a bad propane regulator right before the event.  Since then we’ve found that one of the two Optima batteries has begun to leak from the negative terminal.  This leakage damaged the Marmoleum floor (fortunately a place you can’t normally see).  So I yanked out the battery today and we neutralized the remaining acid with baking soda.

After looking at the mongrel plumbing in the Caravel, I’ve decided that the best approach will be to totally replace the plumbing system with all new PEX lines and fittings.  I really don’t like the system we’ve got (which was installed by a prior owner; the only major system we haven’t already replaced).  It has too many types of fittings, too many bits scabbed together with hose clamps, a lot of lines that are stressed going around corners where they should have neat elbows, and definitely not enough Teflon tape. Plus, this will give me the opportunity to quiet the vibrating water line that comes from the pump, add insulation, and install a real city water fill with check valve & pressure regulator. Today I placed an order for $287 worth of parts and tools to get this job done.  I still need to order the city water fill, so the total will exceed $300 for this particular project.

I also ordered a new propane regulator, two pigtails, a new main supply hose, and an adapter to connect the modern regulator to the original gas plumbing.  That’s another eighty bucks or so.  I’m going to skip replacing the failed battery, since the trailer now has all LED lighting and we really don’t need more than one battery for it.

A while back we tallied up the total “investment” in the Caravel.  Let’s just say it far exceeds the trailer’s current market value (are you surprised?) so it really isn’t a good investment.  Still, it seemed time to insure it for something more realistic than the “book value” of about $2,000, so I bought an Agreed Value Policy from Progressive with a $25,000 valuation and this week got a professional (IRS certified) appraiser to write up an appraisal.  I haven’t seen the appraisal yet, so I don’t really know how well the insurance valuation matches reality.  In any case, insuring for approximately true value tripled the insurance cost.  At least if there’s a total loss we’ll get some of our investment back.

You might wonder why we keep this antique Airstream that we hardly ever use.  The reasons are:  (1) We want to give it to Emma someday; (2) We can’t bear to part with it; (3) The current market probably won’t give us a price we can accept.  So we keep it ready to go for an average of one trip per year, and wait for Emma to learn to drive.  I’d hope for that day to come sooner, but I know that even when Emma inherits it I’ll still be the guy fixing it and paying for it …

For its part, the Safari is mostly fine.  We already knew that it needs a fresh floor covering, and I’ve already got the materials for that.  (That project starts soon.)  The problems I discovered on this trip were with the accessories. My laptop battery has died again ($95), and for some reason the Cradlepoint router is no longer happy with the Verizon Wireless Internet card (a Pantech UML-290).  The replacement battery is on order but I’m going to have to do some digging to figure out the router problem.  Both of these issues have to be resolved before we can go on the road again.

I also discovered that the new tire pressure monitor system I bought last August is really junk.  It’s a cheap system sold under a variety of names (and it’s not the Doran system I was using earlier).  It has managed to give terribly inaccurate readings ever since I got it, and also caused one of the tires to loose quite a bit of air.  I filled up the tires last week, and re-seated all the sensors, but I think this system is going to get returned.

I do like the security of having tire pressure monitoring on the trailer, but on the other hand we have enjoyed 100% reliability since we switched to the Michelins.  No flats, no punctures, no belt separations, no problems whatsoever.  I know that no tire is bulletproof, and yet we’ve been doing so well that I may skip tire pressure monitoring for a while.

It’s debatable whether we are more worn out by Alumafiesta, or the trailers are.  They are getting the post-event TLC, however.  In this case it’s better to be the horse than the rider.

I’ve got about six weeks to get everything buttoned up.  We are considering a three or four week trip in late March/early April up the California coast, and all systems need to be 100% for that.  Even if we end up not going (or being out for a shorter time), it will be good to know everything is ready for the big summer trip to Alumapalooza and beyond, which starts in mid-May.

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Editor & Publisher of Airstream Life magazine