Archive for October, 2009

Winter Blues

Thursday, October 29th, 2009

After reading some of the other blogs, about wasps (I hate them!), mice, and other invaders, I now consider myself blessed. One of the great things about condominium living is that most of the duties of being a property owner are taken care of. It is one reason we thought it would work for us. A condo or townhome is a lock and leave lifestyle.

If only we could leave! I’d had thoughts of traveling, at least to some places around Colorado, but winter keeps invading our fall. It has absolutely killed what should have been a glorious autumn. Early freeze and snow at the beginning of the month turned green leaves straight to brown. It has depressed me to no end. Autumn is my favorite season, and old man winter stole it. Where did that good global warming go?

October along the Front Range in Colorado is usually a quiet month with mild sunny days and clear cool nights. Snow can come even in late September, but most often, we count on our first good snow and freezing temperature closer to Halloween. This October, we’ve fluctuated wildly between warm days and nights to sub-freezing temperatures and heavy wet snow. Local weathermen have taken to calling it the “warm before the storm.” For instance, Tuesday afternoon I played golf, but that night and since then we’ve been inundated with snow. In fact, there is a blizzard outside my window as I write this. I’d take a photo and post it, but what would be the point? If you need to know what it looks like outside my window, just take a piece of typing paper and hold it up close to your face. There it is!

So, the weather this month has me stymied. I’d hoped to get more work done on my Excella. I did fiberglass the floor under the bathroom sink where there was some minor water damage. I installed the stainless steel rock guards I purchased from Airstream back in June. I fixed a roof leak caused by cracks in our front Fantastic Vent. Whoever installed it didn’t use the foam gasket that comes with the kit. Instead, the outer flange was screwed directly to the aluminum skin and now there are cracks radiating out from the screws. Ultimately, I’ll have to replace it, but for now, my fix was to replace the old caulk and cover the flange and screws with adhesive backed aluminum tape. It’s a temporary fix, but will likely last for a couple of years.

I still have a long list of things to do though. I bought a five-gallon bucket of Napier RemovAll 220 from Vintage Trailer Supply. It is reportedly good for removing the clear coat on Airstreams, but I need a steady supply of 60+ degree-days to use it. If you are planning to do the same with your Airstream, get some now. The Napier factory has closed and RevovAll is no longer being made.

The bottom of the storage box behind the propane tanks has nearly rusted out and that will be a future project. Then there are the wheel wells, axles, and brakes. That will be a big project. The list goes on and on, but I’m closing the gap between projects and just doing maintenance – I think.

As involved as all this sounds, it isn’t unusual in the first three years of vintage ownership, and the Excella is very livable in its current condition. In fact, it has grown on me to the point where I like it as much as I do my Globe Trotter, but work on it and travel with it is now on hold. The good thing about being cooped up is that it gives me the opportunity to get some reading and writing done. I just checked out three books from the library written by Cornelius Vanderbilt, Jr. He and Wally Byam traveled together through Europe in Airstreams twice, the first time right after WWII ended and again in the Fifties. Cornelius lived a very interesting life and was a world trailer traveler even before Wally was. I hope to have more on that in a future article. Until then, stay warm!

LOOK OUT! Bad Highway, Great Park

Saturday, October 3rd, 2009

Driving south on I-25 between Loveland and Denver I nearly lost control of my rig. We were returning from a rally. The weather was perfect. The road was straight and dry. Traffic was heavy as it always is in that area. I was towing at my normal highway speed of sixty mph when the road surface in the number two lane (farthest to the right) pitched up and down in a series lasting about a quarter mile. This wave like surface created an unsettling oscillation and sway, so much so that I was only able to regain control by using the trailer brake controller to activate the trailer brakes. I’d already taken my foot off the gas pedal and so we were slowing, but the trailer was pushing our Suburban around. By activating only the trailer brakes, we were able to slow down and stop sway.

Some of you may think that if I had a Hensley hitch, instead of the Reese dual cam, that this wouldn’t have been a problem, but you’d be wrong. Later that day, Rich Luhr and his family drove the same route and encountered the same problem. Rich even anticipated it because he noticed the undulating surface and slowed down somewhat prior to driving into it. His rig has the latest and best equipment – Hensley hitch, Kodiak disk brakes and of course his tow vehicle is a Mercedes – can’t get much better than that. My rig is all circa 1985 technology.

When we later compared notes, we came to the same conclusion. The only solution to that bad patch of road is to drive through it more slowly, perhaps at forty mph (the speed limit there is seventy-five). What we believe happened was that our trailers began seesawing and when the rear of the trailers went down the fronts went up, taking the rear of our tow vehicles with it. This effectively un-weighted the rear axles of our tow vehicles, causing the trailer to push instead of be pulled. Even with his Mercedes and its all wheel drive, the front wheels alone can’t control a thirty-foot trailer (mine is thirty-two feet, but a little lighter).

Our rigOur ’86 Excella and ’85 Suburban are in the foreground. Rich’s Tour of America bunk house is in the background.

Tour of AmericaThe leaves are turning for autumn and nicely frame Rich’s Airstream.

Fortunately, we both arrived at Cherry Creek State Park no worse for wear. The park is still Five Star, even though the staff there was on furlough the day we arrived (the Governor recently mandated four furlough days for all State employees due to a budget crisis). Both Rich and I have commented in past postings about this park, but it deserves repeating. The RV sites all have level concrete pads, full hookups, and graveled picnic table and fire pit areas. The overall scenic appeal I’d rate at least an eight and in the fall perhaps a nine.

Back-in SiteAll the RV sites, whether they are back-in, such as this one, or pull through are excellent.

There is a lake for swimming, boating and fishing. The bike paths are simply the best in the world and can take you into downtown Denver and Aurora, or out into the country if you’re so inclined. There are excellent nature trails and even a remote controlled model airplane airport, complete with paved runways and spectator stands. Outside the park is all the shopping you could hope for, in any direction. Access into and out of the park is straightforward because it borders I-225. Rates continue to go up though. That is the only downside, but it is still a better deal than any private RV park in the area.

Mt EvansMt Evans (14,240 ft), in the background, and Cherry Creek Dam are visible from much of the park.

About the Author

Hi, my name is Forrest McClure. I've been writing for the magazine since its inception. My wife and I travel with our 1966 20' Globe Trotter or our 1986 32' Excella. So, my primary interest is vintage travel trailers.