Friday, February 12, 2010

Streamin' on the Cheap - Part 2

Although, to many, it may seem that an Airstream is an expensive purchase, a persistent and vigilant search for the “right one” can turn up a very affordable option. If you can decide on what your comfort level is for a “fixer-upper”, there can be many options. I have heard of old Airstreams costing from FREE (I personally haven’t been fortunate enough to be that lucky) to no limits, but most are in the $1000-$8000 range. If you’ve checked out the RV market, you will know that this really is affordable.

Some advice to new Vintage owners is to not look for the “perfect” vehicle, as they are only on the showroom floor (I’ve heard plenty of horror stories about showroom Airstreams to believe that there really is no perfect one out there.) Look for the size and layout that makes the most sense to you. On our last purchase, the layout didn’t matter as much as finding a 26-28 footer that we could add bunks to sleep 6 people in.

Know that a floor replacement is common, but is not as bad as it seems. (OK – we are a year out of a floor replacement, and it seems I might not have a very good perspective anymore!) Even if you have to pay for some fixing by someone else, the life of the Airstream is so much longer than the life of some other brand. Take a look at our yard – we have a 1953 Clipper that is all original, except the floor and wiring.

More free advice, along the road, you will see those over-the-top, tripped out Airstreams, and think that’s what you need to do to yours. But along with those few fabulous showstoppers are many more that perfectly functional and carry the nostalgia of owning a piece of Americana. Don’t get me wrong, we all dream of the surround sound, flat-screen televisions and state-of-the-art refrigeration, but ultimately, is about the experience. You can always add the extras as you go.

So back to the floor replacement, I’ll try to make the future as bright as possible on this one. We’ve done two, one with the shell off, and one with sneaking the floor under the walls, and highly recommend the shelling route.

 If you do it yourself, you are looking only the cost of plywood, flooring and rivets (and a lot of time.) If doing it yourself is not an option, you could do it for around $10,000, which would include the frame painting and new floor if you gutted it yourself. (Price quote is from Frank Yenson of Frank’s Trailerworks - or click under My Blog Roll on Frank's Trailer Works) This could still be a potentially inexpensive option, especially if you get a good deal on the trailer in the first place. We’ve always believed, that if the first floor lasted 40-50 years, a green-treated floor should last at least that long.

Doing your own renovations is not without it’s frustrations or challenges, but with so many options out there, it is certainly rewarding! One of the most rewarding things that we have found in doing the renovation ourselves the friends we have gained because of it! The Airstream community has some wonderful resources if you just ask around. Trust me, asking may get you more information than you need! We have gotten so much reward, just consulting, encouraging and advising others, not to mention the pride in “showing off” what we’ve done.

All in all, if you’d love to own a Vintage Airstream on the cheap, set your money aside (cash speaks volumes when going to that farmer’s door to ask!), do your research, take lots of pictures, and ask for advice. Let people know what you are looking for, I promise that you will get many more calls that you can consider. Oh, and if you find that free one and you don’t take it yourself – let us know!

Sunday, February 7, 2010

The Maiden Voyage of the Pooper!

Each year, my husband and I have spent our anneversary weekend together in a Bed & Breakfast alone.  For the last few years, we have been going to Airstream Rally's that happen to be on the same weekend, without our kids.  The first time we went Airstreaming alone, we felt sort of strange, not really knowing what to do with all the space and not having to share with the kids (OK 16 feet of Airstream can seem large when you are used to sharing with 4 kids and a dog!)  Soon, we relaxed and enjoyed ourselves immensely.  Last May, we decided to take out the 1963 Ambassador for the first time to a a rally.  We had just installed our batheroom toilet, black and grey water tanks, and the tub and shower, so we had yet to work out the kinks.  Funny enough, my husband had no intentions of using the bathroom that weekend, but I did not plan to spend my "honeymoon" weekend with no showers and a pit toilet!Here we are (the second one in with the tan Suburban) at the Marshfield Rally last May.  Very nice facility, just missing nearby bathrooms with flush toilets and showers!

Needless to say, we did have some very intense discussions that weekend, and after some discussion with other Vintage owners, we I decided to try the toilet out and even had a grand plan for a shower!  As it turns out, my husband thought that if we just never used the bathroom, we wouldn't have to worry about leaks, or messes!  I on the other hand, have issues with using port-a-potties on a romantic weekend!  All this being said, my husband figured he didn't need to try the bathroom out before our trip, or even warn me that I wouldn't have my own bathroom because it wasn't going to be used.  I left on the trip thinking that since we went to the work and trouble of installing them, I could use them!  See what happens when everyone assumes!  I guess after 14 years of marriage, we still have some things to work out!

Use of the toilet went fine (more on that in a minute).  The shower on the other hand, was a fiasco.  We had a hunch that we didn't have enough grey water tank to hold a shower and dishes all weekend, but hey, you have to try sometime.  Some of the Vintage guys showed my husband how to have a "convenient" leak in the tank, so that it would slowly drain grey water and not over fill. (Before you have a heart attack, we were at a fairgrounds and it was only grey water!)  So, on Sunday of the rally (really I think I was very tolerant to go with no shower from Friday - Sunday!)  I told my husband that I would be taking a shower.  Yes, I didn't give him much choice.  I figured "sink, or swim, buddy!"  As soon as I started my shower up, water was spraying all over the camper (indoor plumbing had some leaks!)  While my dear husband is holding towels over the spray, I took the very quickest shower I could.  Much to our dismay, we got a knock on the door!  My dh answered and found that all the men were gathered around our back end chatting with their morning coffee and noticed our "leak." 

My husband quick shut the valve and immediately, I was standing in ankle deep water!  At this point, I'm trying to get soap out of my hair and tried to convice my husband to open it back up!  Unfortunately, the coffee clutch didn't leave, so my shower ended abruptly!

So, we poked  around after the rally, not wanting anyone to witness our first dump!  We eventually had to do the inevitable - DUMP!  We had all the hoses, the water to flush the toilet with and my dh even had the rubber gloves for handling everything.  (I was thinking raingear myself, but stayed clear!

Here you see my dh getting everything hooked up.  You will notice that the valve is more under the Airstream than most.  My dh moved it in, so one of kids wouldn't accidentally play with it and dump it out on us.  (We found out at International Rally, this didn't work to our advantage, because when they came to dump us, they didn't realize the pan needed to be further under there, and we had to smell black water (that's putting it nicely) all week long under our Airstream!Everything went really smooth until just after this picture!  (By the way, we had an audience too, so they thought the whole thing was hilareous!)  The dh washed everything out, but as he went to fold it all into the PVC pipe under the Airstream, the other end splashed him with the washout water!  I did start to laugh, but tried very hard to keep it to myself as he went into the Airstream to fully change his clothes.  (I think he was thinking that a shower might have been a better idea at that point!)

So there you have it, our Maiden Voyage of the Pooper!  Hope you enjoy!