One day at a time

The skies this morning were foreboding when we awoke in Sonora, TX. The icy fog that motivated us to leave the Interstate had only deepened overnight, and the temperature had plummeted to 21 degrees. While we were warm inside the Airstream, I could see small deer foraging just a few feet away on frosty ground under a deep gray sky. It felt like winter in Vermont.

The Airstream was showing signs of the harsh weather. Splatters of road grime (and dare I say it? road salt from the bridges), and icicles hanging from the belly plan where the leaking water had escaped gave it a “rode hard and put away wet” look.

But the forecast from the weather service—and my own personal forecast for the day—were both positive. We had a list of challenges ahead, all of which I felt we could accomplish with just a little luck.

First, we needed the sun to break through and bring us temperatures above freezing so that the roads would be clear of ice. This happened by 10 a.m., right as predicted by the weather service. We waited a little longer to be sure the ice was melted, so our actual departure was about 11 a.m.

Next, we needed to drive 160 miles uneventfully to the nearest RV dealer with a parts shop, in Boerne TX, to find a new Shurflo city water fill (in chrome) to replace the leaking one on the Airstream. There was no guarantee that any of the white-box RV dealerships would have the part, so the night before I found three places that we could check.

Third, we needed to install the part in the Airstream without any “surprises” in the process. If my diagnosis were wrong, replacing the part would do no good. I was pretty sure the leak was from the water fill, but not 100% sure.

Fourth, we needed to find a place to spend the night, and we couldn’t know that until we finished the repair. I estimated the repair time at 30 minutes but who really knew what it would take until we got into it?

Fifth, we needed more propane. The cold air has really challenged our furnace and water heater. We filled one bottle of propane in Lordsburg NM on Monday, and now we had killed the other one.

Finally, atop all the other things was the cold virus I picked up last weekend. This morning I felt it more than any other day so far, and I was starting to wonder if I was going to lose steam early in the day.

All of these things were weighing on my mind as we prepared to go this morning, and I was trying not to be apprehensive. This trip is supposed to be fun (and it HAS been fun) so I didn’t want the little worries to overshadow the bigger picture: caravanning with friends across the country to a five-day party in Florida.

It all worked out. We drove in pure sunshine and dry roads all the way to Boerne. The first two dealers we checked didn’t stock the part (but one of them did have propane) and when it looked like nobody in town would carry a Shurflo water fill we pushed onward 40 miles to New Braunfels to Camping World. They had located what we needed and put it on hold at the parts desk for me. When we arrived they also said it would be no problem for us to do the replacement in their parking lot.

Replacing the water fill was dead easy. Four screws on the outside, one threaded swivel fitting on the inside, and a bit of prying to break the thing free of the caulk bedding. We had the new one in place in less than ten minutes, and it solved the leaking problem entirely. (Of course, it was easier because I already had some plumber’s tape and Par-Bond sealant in my tool bag. If I hadn’t, we would have had to do some more shopping.)

With a careful look at the old part, we could see that the threads had been bollixed by someone. There was a distinct flat spot, suggestive of cross-threading, which was prevented from leaking by some plumber’s tape. I think a bit of freezing was the catalyst to allow this marginal installation to finally let loose. It doesn’t leak a drop now that we’ve installed a new fill.

It was about 4 p.m. when we finished, so we decided to do some grocery shopping and overnight park at the Super Wal-Mart in Seguin. After dinner in our separate Airstreams, we met up for a movie here in our trailer. Alex brought some Betty Boop cartoons from 1932 for the pre-show. It’s our form of civilization.

We’ll hit the road again early in the morning. Our plan is to get well into Louisiana tomorrow, and —assuming no misadventures—arrive in Sarasota by Sunday night. But we’ll have to take it one day at a time, just as we have done so far.

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Editor & Publisher of Airstream Life magazine