This is not my typical blog entry. It is about maintenance issues and our changing needs and thoughts on RV's in general including features we are finding more important. So it may not be interesting to everyone, but it is what I would tell all our RV friends. It is also a brain dump to everyone rationalizing the crazy things I do.
10,000 miles on the trailer. The truck has over 25,000. Problems are expected. Last year our left rear brake failed. It froze up the wheel and ruined the tire. We unlocked the wheel by backing up and were able to get to our campground in Georgia. We then had trouble locating a dealer who would do the warranty work, and after calling Airstream headquarters and our dealer in NH, we opted to do the work back home with the dealer we trusted. Dan was great and repaired the brake under warranty.
Sometime around Utah or Arizona on this trip I started to hear a barely audible to sometimes more noticeable metal on metal screech. It didn't happen all the time and we couldn't tell exactly where it was coming from until we were in Yuma Arizona, just a few miles from entering California. There, Sandy drove the trailer in the campground parking lot and I located the noise on the right rear wheel. We decided to get it looked at in San Diego (our next stop), where we expected a good dealer.
I called the only Airstream dealer in SD and they didn't give me a warm fuzzy so I called Airstream direct and they gave me the dealer in Temecula almost an hour away. We set up an appointment for Monday January 28.
After dropping off the trailer in the morning, we were visiting Old Town Temecula when we got a call from the service manager. He told me he had bad news and worse news. The left rear wheel drum shoe was broken off, the other three brakes had severe scorching – indicating that the brakes were working too hard. The worse news was that he didn't have the parts and may have to get them shipped from Indiana.
This is how both sides of our trailer looked when we returned from lunch.
Brake pad has fallen off the right side.
At first they were blaming the scorching on me being too hard when braking. And while operator error is partially true (I shouldn't have waited so long to fix the problems on either trip), the real issue was that I drove from Georgia to New Hampshire last year on 3 brakes, and then again on this trip since whenever the brake failed again driving on three brakes.
Actually there was another problem that caused me more concern over the long term than the brakes. We also had a water leak on an inlet in the lav. Water is the fear of all campers in that it can do the most and costliest damage - especially if mold is created. They never got to look into this problem.
While we waited for the service team to locate parts, we walked into their large warehouse/showroom of new trailers. I was anxious to see the new Globetrotter which is the same size (28') and floor plan as ours, but with an international flair and some features that sounded pretty good to me. They also had a Tommy Bahama Edition, the costliest of the three 28' models, which also has some nice features - I loved the wooden slat type cabinet doors, replacing the useless sofa end with counter space and storage, and improved sound system, but the unnecessary opening rear hatch adds too much cost. In any case, neither of these were a significant improvement over what we already had compared to the additional cost.
Just a week before, we had been looking at Class A RV's. These are the 30 to 40 foot plus bus type RV. They have some big advantages (storage space and driving comfort ), over a trailer, with the offset of having a much higher purchase price and higher cost to own (particularly maintenance). Also, my personal opinion is that because they are built on truck frames with truck drive trains and truck tires, they are built for the long haul which would give me a better sense of security driving across country. My observations have been that most full time seniors and those who can afford it, will opt for a Class A over a trailer.
Therefore, I had been casually checking out used Class A's off and on since we started traveling. While a new unit is out of our financial reach, one or two year old models with less than 10,000 miles can be found for half the MSRP. I've thought that if we were living in it full time, it would be an affordable option when compared to a house. We thought we found a good unit/option in San Diego, but after researching reviews on-line, I wasn't happy with the manufacturers' quality. Another big detriment to purchasing any Class A is that after the sting of the initial purchase, we would have to replace our new truck with a more efficient towable vehicle. It just isn't sensible for us.
Back at the Airstream dealer's showroom, I was happily surprised to see that they had a new 30' Classic. This is the longest running model and often the top in their line. It has some very nice improvements over our unit that left me seriously considering one when we first bought ours.
One reason we didn't is that I was leery of the additional size - 3 feet in length and additional weight (which could required a larger tow vehicle). I didn't want to get a huge or expensive unit for our first trailer because we weren't positive how much we would like it. Our dealer told us that if we wanted the Classic within the first year of purchase, he would give us our entire purchase price towards one.
So, I have also been periodically looking at inventories around the country for a new or newish Classic. Used Classics are impossible to find (a good thing if you want to sell one), and new ones were never within physical reach (a dealer in New Jersey has them). Even then I couldn't find one with the interior colors I liked. Most units have black Corian countertops and dark wood, while I preferred the lighter colored counters and Maple finishes. The Classic at the shop doing our repair had the exact interior I liked. I told the salesman to work us up a price.
So, ya, we bought the new Classic.
Major upgrade #1; A comfortable place to read. Notice the shades instead of curtains.
A separate place for the laptop as well as eat. Table collapses to turn dinette into bed.
The biggest advantages over our 28' International are:
Foremost are the comfortable chairs. A camper in Virginia last year let me sit in his and I was smitten. While our trailer is great for most days – on long stays indoors like rainy days or cold nights, I find the lightly padded and right angle seating to hurt my back after a few hours. The Classic eschews a bench seat with two comfy recliner style seats which are great for reading and watching the tube, and the softer dining seats gives me a comfortable workspace for the computer. Being able to go from one area to the other keeps the old back from getting stiff.
The second bid deal is the heating system. The Classic uses a radiant heating system that is very efficient, noiseless, and gives a uniform comfortable warmth. Other Airstreams like our International use an electric heating element, electric fan and ducts. It is loud enough to wake me up when it came on at night. The old heater system would cycle between blasts of warm air and cooling down. The Classic's heating is a constant even heat throughout the trailer. The drawback of the radiant heat is that it takes up more space and will require some periodic maintenance.
The 30' Classic gives us separate dining and sitting areas. Previously we had to brake down the dinette to make a lounge area and use multiple pillows to prop ourselves up.
Wardrobe and Shower
At the dealer.
You pay this much for a trailer they also give you hats!
Other cool things with the Classic:
More counter space, a second air conditioner (our single unit could only bring the temp down about 10 degrees), nicer stove, bigger fridge, dual privacy blinds (nicer looking and easier to use than the curtains), power stabilizers, power dinette (for turning into bed), upgraded audio system (Polk Audio is a high end brand), LP monitoring (beats waiting till your stove doesn't work to find out you need gas), tilting bed, almost all light are dimmable, bigger bathroom, drawer in nightstand (replacing my basket), the stove is much easier to light (didn't use the other one), nicer wood finishes makes it look more homey. The trailer has a 3 year warranty (our 2 year warranty was about to expire).
It also came with one year unlimited data 4G LTE from AT&T. It works really well and has a cool feature. I can use a phone app to look up the location of the trailer; see the status of the LP, water and waste tanks; and turn on some lights. That should allow us to put on outside lights before we come home after dark.
On the down side (beside cost):
Surprisingly, the Classic has less overall storage space - mostly attributed to the heating system and the need to stow away two large seating cushions used for turning the dinette into a bed. While the heating system is significantly better, the hot water system is worse – you cannot get consistent and plentiful hot water in the shower. The standing area in the shower is confusingly smaller due to the location of the shower head. There is nice and ample overhead storage in the galley but its' depth causes me to bump my head when doing dishes.
A perilous maiden voyage!
It took 5 days for us to pick up the trailer after taking one day to think about it, one day to get the loan processed, and two days to transfer everything from the other trailer. Moving was WAY more work than you can imagine. Just like moving houses without the furniture.
Originally I had planned ahead and booked a trailer park in Temecula for 2 nights. Figured if the repair took all day, I could avoid 5 o'clock traffic by staying over and we could see the local wineries. Big! winery area. When we were originally told about the brakes, we drove right over to the dealer and told them to put the wheels back on and we would drive to the RV park for the night and stay there until they got the parts. They told us they couldn't and wouldn't let us drive the trailer out because of liability. They said because they knew the brakes had failed they were liable if anything happened. I was very upset for about 2 minutes and then came to appreciate (though still not like) their position.
Sandy thought the whole thing was a plot. I didn't rule that out.
So, because we had to leave the trailer, we had to book a room at a hotel. We chose the cheapest of the closest three – still over $70 / night. As each day ticked past, we booked another night at the hotel. We found solace in the simple things – an outrageously good breakfast place called Mo's with the nicest waitstaff. The first night at the hotel, some 20 somethings were pretty boisterous till 2 AM when we heard the girls saying goodnight. The guys continued to yak till 3 AM. After complaining the next day, we got $10/night off the room for the rest of the week.
The dealer has a procedure where they deliver the trailer out of state so that buyers can avoid the higher California sales tax and pay sales tax for their home state. After a week of paperwork and transferring our gear, we left Temecula at 6:30 AM for a 3 hour drive to a truck stop in Ehrenberg Arizona. There we met the trailer guy and a notary to sign papers that we were receiving the trailer in Arizona. We were going to stay at a local campground, but the Superbowl was the next day and I didn't want to miss it so we decided to hit the road for the 3 ½ hour ride to our home campground.
This may not seem necessary to explain driving back, but after a long week, a really long morning, the excitement was just beginning.
It was a windy day across the southwest. We later saw the the lightest winds were in the 35 mph range. On our GPS we saw that we would be traveling through the middle of the Imperial Sand Dunes Recreation Area. This is the largest sand dune area in CA stretching 40 miles by 5 miles.
Here is a video at a site describing the largest OHV recreation area in the US.
At first we were astounded and smiling looking at the up to 300' tall sand dunes. We passed a BLM area full of RV's and off road vehicles. Moments later we were watching a few OHV's blasting through and bouncing over trails amid the dunes. The wind was kicking up clouds of sand and blowing it our way.
Returning my eyes to the road, I saw increasing blowing sand hitting the road and us broadside. A car several hundred yards ahead started flashing his emergency lights. It was getting hard to see, and I slowed down, but I was unprepared for the amount of sand that was building up on the road. I hit a couple wedge shaped sand speed bumps at about 35 MPH. That's when I realized why the guy had his emergency lights on. I should have paid that more seriously.
The problem was that the blowing sand was blurring out the road exactly as a blizzard would (though the sand was only several feet high), and though it was annoying not being able to see the road more than 10 feet in front of me, up until then, the road was clear of accumulating sand.
I plodded on this 55 mph road going about 35-40 because the road seemed clear again and shortly after I saw a tractor trailer coming over a hill flashing his lights at me. I was thinking, “I know. We're driving through blowing sand and there was some on the road.” But, I figured I was going slow enough to brake if I saw more piling on the road. Not so.
Shortly after passing the truck, I saw through the blowing, a pile of sand that increased from a few inches deep in the center of the road to about 5 inches deep at my right tire and an unknown height towards the right edge of the road. I braked quickly, but the jolt threw us to the left straddling the center of the road. Sandy screamed like we were falling off a cliff.
The trailer started to sway a little, but I quickly got her straight (though still in the middle of the road), and in a calm voice I think, I told Sandy that “I got it.” I braked down to about 10 mph as I was now slowly bounding over various piles of sand. It was so deep that I put the truck into 4 WD to make sure I could get through it! After being overly optimistic twice, I kept the speeds down until we drove out of the dunes.
An hour or so later, and after miles of steep ascents and descents approaching San Diego, the sky began to get dark. My eyes darted from the road to the GPS for our ETA to our destination, which was running around 4:30PM. I wanted to get back before dark. That was the least of my problems.
The rain started about ½ hour out and continued to get worse. By the time we got to our site, the water in it was 5 inches deep where our door should go. Sandy stood outside in the rain and I was hoping in and out of the trailer trying to line the trailer door up to the one dry spot. We managed it after about 6 attempts. Once in, I had to unhitch and hook up the power standing in a couple inches of water.
After driving almost 400 miles, going through a sand storm and heavy rain, we settled in for the night in our new trailer trying out the sound system, all the new buttons and controls, and simply admiring our new home. Despite the day, we were very very happy.