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Old 05-17-2013, 10:20 PM   #1
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Minneapolis , Minnesota
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An Epic first Airstream Adventure

So here goes. (Warning, this is a long story with a "To Be Determined" ending)

We flew into San Jose Airport last Saturday and the seller and his brother in law picked us up, joined us for a nice dinner on the coast and then dropped us off at the Airstream in the RV park along the Pacific Coast in Marina CA where they had parked it for us earlier in the day.

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The next day we got up and began our journey home. The drive along the coast was lovely, despite some traffic in the hills around Santa Cruz. We stopped for food and fuel in Vacaville CA and when leaving the gas station there was a loud squeal, which turned out to be the air conditioner compressor siezing up. Before I could get it pulled over and shut off one belt snapped and another came off which meant no power steering and no power breaks. I managed to pull onto a side road and made the first call to AAA.

After a number of calls and discussions it turned out that the best option was road service from Mike's towing in Vacaville who could get there the next morning. As it so happens we were right next to a very nice community center where we had a hot shower the next morning and then walked a couple blocks to Starbucks for breakfast while waiting for Thomas to arrive and get us fixed up. Luckily the original owner had stocked the RV with spares so I had the necessary belt on hand to get the steering and breaks back in operation and off we went.

We made it through the Sierra Nevada mountains into Nevada but the RV was struggling on the Hills. We stopped at the KOA in Wendover NV that night and the next morning I installed the spare fuel filter we had on hand in the hopes it might improve the power situation. It was not perfect but better, and I smelled of gas for the rest of the day.

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On Tuesday we made it to Laramie Wyoming after barely limping into a gas station in Reno earlier in the day where we realized the fuel gauge was not even close to accurate. Spent the night in a Truck stop for our least glamorous evening of the trip and got an early start the next morning. Purely by chance we happened upon Carhenge in Nebraska since we decided to head north on side roads in a part of the country neither of us had seen.

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We made it all the way to the Badlands and stopped at an overlook to take in the view. After seeing buffalo, wild turkey and pronghorns (a first for us) we decided to head out, went back to the RV and it wouldn't turn over. Since all I had was a test light the best I could determine was that it was probably the starter solenoid so I whacked it a few times to no avail. Walked off to contemplate the situation...

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and made call number two to AAA. After many, many conversations with the nice folks at AAA while we watched the sun set over the Badlands a couple of well equipped and brilliant men from Olson's towing in Rapid City arrived on the scene and loaded our 345 onto a low boy flatbed, which was one of the most interesting things I have ever watched. Hats off to the people who know how to do this stuff.

They towed us back to I90 RV in Rapid City and we got a hotel room across the street, checking in at about 3am. The next day my traveling companion had to rent a car and head home to take care of the kids so I was on my own for the rest of the journey. The folks at i90 RV diagnosed the problem as a bad starter solenoid, although it was the second solenoid, not the aforementioned one I had whacked on. Got a part the next day and I took off this morning.

I made it half way across South Dakota and the left rear inside tire blew out in a big way. I limped it to a rest stop and made call number 3 to the fine folks at AAA. A couple hours later a resourceful young man named Victor had me back on the road, albeit with a spare tire that was down on air quite a bit. I took it easy until I could get to a gas station only to realize that without a valve stem extension the standard air chuck was no good for filling the inside tire. A few miles further down the road to a truck stop and some creative purchasing and engineering later I had the spare filled and want to check the others. Upon realizing that the inside tire on the other side had no air at all I remembered that the towing guys had mentioned that the valve stem extensions had broken off both tires in the process of hooking it up and would need to be replaced.

Note to self, if someone tells you something important at 3am write it down rather than committing to memory.

So, knowing I had already stressed the other inside tire in a big way i took it slow and easy down the road try to make it last 250 miles home to Minneapolis but alas the other inside tire blew out about 50 miles down the road and I was on the phone yet again to my friends at AAA.

As I write this I am sitting at the top of an exit ramp in Southern MN, 2131 miles into my first trip, having a beer exactly 200 miles from Minneapolis and as it turns out my Premiere AAA RV membership includes one tow of 200 miles per year so I am waiting to hear which lucky affiliate service provider will be towing me and the 345 the rest of the way.

I'll post again to let all of you know how it ends. It is a journey I will surely never forget...
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Old 05-17-2013, 11:19 PM   #2
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Gosh, Tom-- Hope you have a safe-- and uneventful-- trip the rest of the way home!

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Old 05-17-2013, 11:20 PM   #3
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Hi, WOW; What an interesting [first] trip you had. Hope you get all the bugs worked out so you can enjoy using this motorhome.

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Old 05-17-2013, 11:29 PM   #4
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I guess my post might give the impression that the trip was less than enjoyable, which is actually not the case at all. It has been a wonderful journey and we both have the right attitude so it's all good. I've been a collector of old cars and bikes for years so I am used to break downs and take it all in stride. We are fortunate none of it was major and I'm sure we will be back on the road again very soon.
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Old 05-17-2013, 11:36 PM   #5
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Omg you poor thing, I'd be crying my eyes out. I have AAA RV, looks like they really come through. Look forward to a very happy ending.
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Old 05-18-2013, 12:31 AM   #6
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Hi Tom, Hope you are home safe,
I just have 1 question,

At any point did you regret buying the 345 ?

if so pm me. LOL

i'm sure your future adventures will be less eventful

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Old 05-18-2013, 04:58 AM   #7
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Sounds like our maiden voyage in our first RV, a 1977, 24' Barth. Three flat tires due to dry rot, replaced them all in Colorado.

AAA came through for us, too.

You have the right attitude. Have a safe trip home.

🏡 🚐 Cherish and appreciate those you love. This moment could be your last.🌹🐚❤️
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Old 05-18-2013, 05:02 AM   #8
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Well told story! I probably wouldn't be as calm as you :-)

Hope you get it all sorted out and enjoy!!!!
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Old 05-18-2013, 01:54 PM   #9
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So after having been towed the final 180 miles last night and dropping the Airstream at the repair shop at 6am our trip came to an end. The net of it is I am going to spend some money on tires I would likely have replaced soon anyway, fix an AC system that probably would not ever have worked well having sat for years and following that I will be spending a bunch of time reversing and improving (read simplifying) the wiring setup in the coming months as well as beginning an interior update and renovation. So I have no buyers remorse at all and we had a fabulous trip.

Now that I am home I pretty much have what I expected in terms of the work in front of me and since three of my four breakdowns were the result of self inflicted wounds there are a few valuable lessons here;

1. If you acquire a motorhome (or any old vehicle for that matter) that has sat for a number of years just assume the AC compressor will either be seized up or seize up shortly and do not turn it on, just replace it. This is common to pretty much every kind of vehicle I have worked I should have known better than to even test it.

2. Learn how to use and carry a multi-meter tester. I met a few friendly tow truck drivers and mechanics this week who had experience with RV's and they all agreed that electrical problems were the most common cause of stranded RV'ers.

3. Check your tire pressures every day when you are on the road. These are big heavy vehicles and changing tires is a big effort. If you really don't want to be stranded a tire change kit is not that hard to put together. A 20 ton bottle jack, some wheel chocks and blocks of wood and a 1" socket on a big breaker bar should do it.

And of course get Roadside assistance. Many people recommended Good Sam to me and at one point I even had a AAA operator conference them in on a call to try and find a towing company but in this case they were less resourceful than AAA and since I have other types of vehicles that need coverage (classic cars, motorcycles, trailers, etc...) AAA Premiere RV membership has paid for itself many times over. They are by no means perfect and a lot depends on the agent that works your case but they came through in the end for me every time.

Finally, if you are gonna drive old motorhomes or tow old trailers you should expect to break down at some point and look at it as part of the adventure that tests your resourcefulness and your ability to take things in stride. Enjoy the ride.
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Old 05-18-2013, 03:10 PM   #10
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Originally Posted by Tommoran View Post
Finally, if you are gonna drive old motorhomes or tow old trailers you should expect to break down at some point and look at it as part of the adventure that tests your resourcefulness and your ability to take things in stride. Enjoy the ride.
What a great tale, and what a great trip!

I've always told my kids when they set out "You'll have a good time or you'll have a good story." This shows that, with the right attitude, you can have both.
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Old 05-18-2013, 05:18 PM   #11
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a pre-trip inspection of any new purchase is always advisable. taking a vehicle "that has sat for a number of years" on a public highway without a thorough safety check puts the driver and others on the road at great risk.
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Old 05-18-2013, 06:08 PM   #12
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I've often felt that the unexpected (even if unwanted), punctuates a trip...and makes it truly memorable. Now, that does have a limit in terms of desirability. I learned from my Dad to have a fully equipped toolbox. I do. It does include a multi-meter. He showed me how to test for continuity when I was about 10, and I have to say, the ability to diagnose electrical issues and then repair them has saved me a lot of time (and money). The major lesson I relearn is that stuff that doesn't work like it's supposed to is probably something simple. What a nice contribution Tom's post is to AirForum! If everyone had his attitude life would be a lot easier.
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Old 05-18-2013, 06:57 PM   #13
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Originally Posted by SteveSueMac View Post
Well told story! I probably wouldn't be as calm as you :-)
You have the right attitude.
my thoughts exactly.
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Old 05-18-2013, 08:10 PM   #14
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Wow, to have all those problems and still come home and say you had a great trip, says something to your character. Nice

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