Back to the Mothership

As I mentioned in my post almost exactly a year ago when we were here in Jackson Center, Ohio, there’s only one Airstream factory in the world, and this be it. I’ve heard inspiring/reassuring stories about the 70-year relationship this tiny town has had with the factory, involving how respected the local employees are by Airstream (we hear) and the obvious pride the employees have in their work.

This is our second time here because we appreciate the service department. Why risk getting your Airstream worked on by Joe Mechanic at any ol’ Airstream dealership when here you’ve got the very guys who make them?

Plus it’s cool as can be to camp in the little campground by the service center, then, the next morning, watch a tractor tow your home into a service bay.

The parking lots full of Airstreams—having been or waiting to be repaired—are tons of fun to walk through, too. Plus, we’re near the factory buildings for the models Basecamp (a light-weight kind-of off-road tiny trailer) and Interstate (a van). The factory for the travel trailers like ours is a mile down the street next to the museum, that’s sadly not open yet. I so wanted to sneak over there and look, though.

Two Days in the Shop

We had been curating a list as long as my arm of major and minor under-warrantee work the trailer needed, plus the big item: getting the frame lifted three inches from the axels. We’re not planning on going 4-wheeling like dudes (and dudettes) who get their trucks lifted, but 1) Airstreams are very low anyway and tend to bottom-out at the hitch or the rear bumper at big dips and certain railroad crossings, and 2) our ProPride hitch lowers ours even farther. So we thought, before we head west, we should give ours a little lift.

And man do those three inches feel like a foot when you’re stepping up to the trailer! We even had to get the receiver hitch on the truck adjusted to meet the new stinger height.

Hull Breach

The big repair that had us in limbo was a leak in the roof that we noticed just recently in Maryland. Finn was visiting during hard rain, and he announced in true Star Trek form, “Hull breach!” Airstreams don’t have many seams, but there are vents in the roof surrounded with sealant that can get old and allow for leaks. This one was allowing one slow drip from the ceiling near the kitchen.

Yet, our intrepid serviceman, Derek, had been working on the trailer for two days and couldn’t find the source of the leak. So we waited. This was the final item on our list, and each time I’d check, he’d be on top of the trailer inspecting the vents closely with a hose in hand.

Suddenly our charming visit to the factory threatened to turn into being stuck in Lodi again.

While We Wait

The first day Derek worked on the trailer, we went to the nearby town of Bellefontaine and bought groceries, then loitered at an outside restaurant/brewery for hours. Apparently, fried bologna sandwiches are a thing in Ohio. Warning: if you have three hours to waste, watch the fat and beer intake. Evening comas are a real risk. They prevent you from socializing with the other Airstreamers camped at the service center (a strange little gang we all make).

The next day we weren’t sure how long Derek would take, so we went to a closer town to do laundry and buy coffee beans, and then we headed back to the factory and got takeout from one of the two town restaurants, walked the food back to the picnic tables by the empty campground (all the campers’ trailers were being worked on), and we ate a mediocre lunch (Tracy opted out of their bologna sandwich) and I folded laundry on a picnic table for the first time in my life. Probably not the last time.

Banjo gobbled up entirely a HUGE pork bone that Tracy had bought for her at the local meat store (that’s what it’s called here, the meat store). We keep forgetting that she eats bones that quickly instead of gnawing on them for days like our previous dog; we really shouldn’t give her them anymore. Let this photo of her finishing up a partial pig (with the Airstream factory behind her) be my reminder.

So, our problem was this. We didn’t know when Derek would locate the leak, and this was Friday afternoon. The service center closes for the weekend at 4:00. If he didn’t find and fix it by then, we’d be stuck camping in rural Ohio by ourselves in the parking lot for the weekend. And we’d be taking three days out of our upcoming time in Iowa with Tracy’s friends and family.

This would be all okay, but we didn’t know if it was going to be our living situation or not. Would we be able to leave that day and put a couple of hours behind us on the way to Iowa? Would we need to spend just one more night at Airstream while some roof sealant sets? Or would we be there through Monday? We had several routes and places to stay planned depending on how long the roof repair took, but we didn’t know which it would be, so we sat at the service center and awaited our fate.

It’s frustrating to have your home being held hostage by a repairman, but it’s also wildly liberating to know that that’s really okay. We’re good at sitting around and we’re good at exploring new places. We just wanted to know.

At something like 2:30 Derek called and said he found a tiny leak in the ceiling fan/vent. PHEW. We still have time to get on the road. But we have to meet Derek, hear his search and fix story, thank him, pay the bill, dump the waste tanks, fill with fresh water, break a window blind and run up to the service center desk to buy another, retrieve the extra key I didn’t get cut at the hardware store because the one guy who cuts keys was out on a delivery, and then finally hitch up for the first time with the new trailer and hitch height, which took a couple of takes.

It’s 5:00 though and we’re on the road! Goodbye Airstream Factory and Service Center. I hope not to see you again for more than a year, this time.

And now we’re off to Iowa via Indiana!

4 thoughts to “Back to the Mothership”

  1. Glad to hear it you’re mobile again. Off to where “the sun keeps shining, through the pouring rain”?

    1. More like to where the weather suits our clothes (and we don’t own a lot of rain clothes). But thank you, very excited to head west!