Airstreamers’ Mecca

There’s only one factory in the world that makes the iconic Airstream, and we visited it early in our travels because our Firefly needed tweaking—a handful of problems she came off the factory floor with that were under warrantee.

So when we got a coveted appointment for servicing, we high-tailed it to Jackson Center, Ohio, a tiny town in central Ohio (I’m working on a webmap I can post here) where the Airstream is king.

Professional Care

Airstream has set up a small, rudimentary campground a stone’s throw from the service bays, so we parked there and checked in a day before our appointment.

These guys are serious about the coronavirus: they’d set up a station at the door to the service center where you have to done a mask, fill out a form attesting to your health, then wait for a technician to take your temperature before you could walk in.

To our amusement (but decidedly not for the tech meeting us at the door), Tracy was running hot when he walked in; that was because he’d had to walk back to the Airstream to grab a mask then back to the service center all on the hottest day of the year. But the tech at the door didn’t know that and thought he’d finally met his very first person with the virus right there!

Thankfully he didn’t freak out but gave Tracy time to cool off, then took his temp again and let us in, with a chuckle that indicated the friendly seriousness these guys assume for all their work.

Tailgating at the Factory

After reviewing our service requests, they told us they’d come get our Firefly first thing in the morning, so we had that afternoon and evening to hang around. A few Airstreamers in the little campground were chatting outside their trailers, but most were holed up with their AC on, and of course we’re not going for that.

Instead we grabbed a couple of beach chairs and a blanket and picnic and set up under trees right beside the service parking lot where the ailing Airstreams were waiting their turns.

That’s Tracy and Banjo lounging in the shade there, with a blue factory building behind them.

To stretch our legs we walked the parking lot, ogling all the makes and models, license plates (my fav is LOVNEST), and stickers of special names and mottos (Gladys, the Tin Can Pilgrim).

I took only a photos of the odd or old or super-shiny ones, plus all the plates and stickers.

Look at this special one.

Note that the windows have been replaced with aluminum shell for the recording studio inside, and on the other side is a second door that’s wheelchair-compatible. StoryCorps, you so cool.

When Tracy was here last you could go on a factory tour, but due to the virus we’ll have to catch that next time.

Fixing Our Home

At 7 am sharp as promised, a service tech came barreling out of the bays on a John Deere, grabbing each trailer to be worked on that day one by one and towing them back to the recesses where the magic is done.

Gotta say it was weird seeing my home with all I own inside being pulled down the street by a tractor going alarmingly fast.

Back inside the service center (where Tracy made sure to walk in cool), we were assigned one technician for the day, Bill, who met with us to go over all our requests, patiently looking at photos we’d taken and hearing all our hypotheses. Our biggest concern was the door that wasn’t latching firmly or easily; we also needed a replacement speaker for the sound system plus various checks on monitors and such that we don’t fully understand yet.

He sent us off for the day with a promise he’d call frequently so this would be a group effort. What thorough professionalism, I tell you.

I didn’t take photos of the customer lounge and gift shop, but believe me, it is Airstream to the Nines. Aluminum walls, kiosks made from Airstream shells, coffee table books about the company’s history, and my favorite: photos of NASA astronauts using an Airstream in transition between land and space for three decades at the Florida Kennedy Space Center launch pad. NASA, you cool, too.

Tailgating at a Lake

At the early hour of 8 am we headed for Indian Head State Park nearby to explore for the day. Lucky for Banjo, we found a dogpark with no one in it so she could explore and run around. Frankly I’ve never seen her run so much—which was great timing because we had a day to kill ahead of us.

Our spot we chose for the day was on tiny Fox Island, where we again spread out chairs, a table, a blanket, books, ukulele, snacks, and ourselves. For six hours we lolled about under the trees with a wonderfully fresh wind blowing off the lake, keeping us cool.

Here Banjo and I goof off for the camera while Tracy grabs lunch.

We saw two kinds of ducks (Tracy can tell you which exactly), and Banj was highly interested in them both.

Plus people pulling in and out of the marina right in front of us on their pontoon boats and jetskis, living the Lake Life, as Tracy explains to this non-Midwesterner.

I don’t know how we did it, but six hours flew by, with interruptions only from occasional calls from Bill when he explained in detail what he’d found on each service item and asked us how he should follow up. I felt like we were talking less to a mechanic and more to a pediatrician during a well-child visit.

Pause Before We Set Out Again

Now we’re spending a second night in the campground by the parking lot, which is a little surreal and why I can’t sleep. There are maybe 15 Airstreams parked all around us, some close enough that I could almost touch them with my arm though my window.

Everyone seems quirky-friendly as you’d imagine (we met a woman who travels to work for Habitat for Humanity and one who is a traveling evangelist), but I feel like I’m in a land of limbo, not really camping but in my home nonetheless.

Well, mission accomplished. All our concerns were satisfied, plus we spent a glorious evening and next day smelling the farmland air of Ohio and watching the vast sky.

My only regret is that we weren’t able to make an offer on the sofa and dinette cushions we covet that we found in a sadly wrecked (and brand new) Airstream exactly like ours that we found in the parking lot. The guy I asked said that they would try to rebuild the trailer so wouldn’t sell the cushions.

Tracy and I joked that tonight we would clandestinely climb through the wreckage and swap out our cream-colored, bland cushions for those red ones and hope by the time the wrecked trailer one got worked on they’d forget who had inquired. Um, no. But funny anyway.

Tomorrow we hit our first free stay at a farm in Indiana through a cool, quasi-barter system called Harvest Hosts. They have alpaca!

3 thoughts to “Airstreamers’ Mecca”

  1. What a complete exercise in the Buddhist concept of impermanence. Watching one’s possessions and home be towed away. Very awesome–in a cerebral way. Very palpable in a real way, I’m sure!