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Old 07-05-2012, 01:38 PM   #1
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2012 30' Flying Cloud
Snoqualmie , Washington
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First Long Trip

Hi everyone,

Well, we just got back a few days ago from our first long trip in the AS (2012 Flying Cloud 30) and figured a report on the trip might be of interest to newer owners at least.

The trip was 20 days and a bit over 2,000 miles total. Our actual driving days were between 300 and 400 miles per day, mostly around 400 miles. The first week was at a bluegrass festival near Wenatchee, WA, then we drove from Wenatchee to Missoula, MT one day and the second day from Missoula to Victor, ID, near Jackson, WY. Ten nights were spent in Victor, taking an art workshop and painting landscapes. Then three days to get back to the Seattle area - day one from Victor to Fruitland, ID; day 2 from Fruitland to Terrebonne, OR through central Oregon; and finally back to the Seattle area on the east side of the Cascades.

The Toyota Tundra worked great as a tow vehicle and the AS really performed well in several days of high winds (Missoula to Victor was 25-30 mph sustained with 45 mph gusts, mostly quartering side winds. I hardly noticed a difference in towing, except when the direction was a headwind and that was felt more on the two vehicle than the trailer.

We had no major problems at all, using most all the systems on the trailer, but do have some punchlist items needing to be fixed. We have another three week trip coming up a bit later this summer and I may wait until after that to take it back to the dealer for fixing the issues.

The biggest problems had to do with the water systems. We had an almost-full fresh water tank when we left home and were working off that water source rather than city water (drinking water we brought with us in jugs, using the tank water for dishes, bathroom, etc.). Midway through the trip, the water pump started sounding much louder and causing much more vibration in the trailer. Water was still coming out of the faucets and the tank status monitor showed the freshwater tank was half full. I was concerned enough about the (what I thought was) excessive vibration that we stopped using the water pump, and relied on city water for the rest of the trip. My thinking now is that the tank was probably almost empty and the status monitor was not functioning correctly, as later in the trip, the monitor began to show the freshwater tank as empty. Any suggestions from more experienced folks?

The tank monitors were also the source of other annoyances. The black water tank (per the monitor) went from empty to half full virtually instantaneously, but a check with water shut off, flush vale open and a strong flashlight showed it was nowhere near that level. Then after dumping the black water tank, a very thorough flush, and another visual check to confirm the tank was fully cleaned and empty (it was), the monitor still showed 3/8 to 1/2 full. So we went much of the trip not really knowing how full the black water tank was (it showed full when it wasn't as well). Somehow magically when we left Victor with all tanks empty, the monitor actually showed them empty, go figure). Meanwhile, the gray water monitor seemed to take forever to show the level increasing in the tank, when we seemingly had used enough water to have substantially more in the tank (though we were careful about conserving, so maybe we weren't using as much as we thought...?). The bottom line at this point is we don't really trust the tank status monitor at all, which is a significant annoyance.

Perhaps as a result of the water pump vibration, the shutoff valve on the toilet water line leaks (seeps may be more accurate) a couple drops of water after each flush.

Otherwise, things worked fine - heater, A/C, stove, hot water heater, etc.

On the overnights, we stopped at places where pull-throughs were available and just left the trailer hooked up, making an early getaway the next morning a breeze.

In the fall, I'm planning on pulling the AS across the country and back, taking about 7 weeks. This trip was a good shakedown cruise in preparation for the fall trip.
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Old 07-05-2012, 03:34 PM   #2
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We gave up using the tank monitor the first summer we used our Bambi.

* Black water tank -- Easy to view; turn water pump off, open valve, look in. Also, we fill the black water tank before dumping to get a powerful flush, and it is amazing how much must be added to a half-full tank to fill it up. We no longer worry about black tank overflowing.

* Gray water tank -- When you run out of fresh water, it's probably time to dump the gray water tank. However, by doing a little math on tank capacities and monitoring tanks as they fill, we have determined that we can add seven more gallons to the fresh water tank in our 19-foot Bambi when it runs dry without the black and gray tanks overflowing. (This may not be applicable to other Airstream models.)

* Fresh water tank -- When no more water comes out, it's empty. Time to dump and fill, or transfer an additional seven gallons of fresh water for another shower or a couple more days of dry camping (with spit baths).
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Old 07-05-2012, 03:45 PM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JTMB View Post
The bottom line at this point is we don't really trust the tank status monitor at all, which is a significant annoyance.
We have the 2012 FC also and the Status Monitor is a useless appendage, that believe it or not is worse than having no monitor at all. Pure useless electronic garbage. It provides zero useful status on anything.

Great to hear the trip went well for you. We recently drove in strong winds to in the vicinity of Columbia gorge and the trailer handled perfectly. It was my first time in strong winds. We had headwinds, cross winds, tail winds. All was fine.

Boy, 400 miles a day? You do a LOT of driving! Good luck and good travels.
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Old 07-05-2012, 06:30 PM   #4
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The tank monitors are notoriously unreliable, though the fresh water indicator seems to provide semi-reliable information for longer than the waste tanks. In any event, somehow air got in the line, causing the knock. The simplest presumption is that happened when you ran the tank dry, or dry enough to suck air. You could go on an air leak quest on the suction side of the pump, or you can assume for now that you simply ran it dry enough to suck air. After putting some amount of water back in the tank, turn on the pump and open ALL faucets at once, i.e., kitchen, bath, shower, toilet. Then turn them off one at a time. The "all-at-once" approach seems to speed to purge and end the knocking, unless you have a leak on the suction side. Then you can start your quest.

For what it's worth, since I rarely dry camp, I don't haul water in my tank from point to point. I'm not interested in carrying the weight, and I find that a small gallon jug is adequate to meet pit stop needs. At my next stop, I use the hookups.
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Old 07-05-2012, 07:50 PM   #5
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I guess if it's any consolation, I might add from my experience here that tank monitors are notoriously unreliable, regardless of brand.

Well, I'll take it back a little bit. Skip's sensors are the only sensors for those with vintage rigs, and they always work!


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Old 07-05-2012, 08:04 PM   #6
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The only issue I've had with our 2012 27FB International was the monitor panel which was replace and re-calibrated under warranty. The fresh water was the problem and sounds just like yours.
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Old 07-05-2012, 08:21 PM   #7
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Airstream's implementation of tank monitoring is total crap... pun intended.

The design necessitates the use of wide, shallow tanks - which is great for keeping the CofG low, but no good for an accurate guess of how much is in the tank. Why this puzzle hasn't been solved by now is a great mystery... and servicing the tanks and monitors on an Airstream is rough. The sensor wiring is typically in the walls, so any issues require pulling new wire (if the old wire will take the pull) or ripping out the walls.

Nice...
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Old 07-05-2012, 09:07 PM   #8
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Originally Posted by Friday View Post
Airstream's implementation of tank monitoring is total crap... pun intended.

The design necessitates the use of wide, shallow tanks - which is great for keeping the CofG low, but no good for an accurate guess of how much is in the tank. Why this puzzle hasn't been solved by now is a great mystery... and servicing the tanks and monitors on an Airstream is rough. The sensor wiring is typically in the walls, so any issues require pulling new wire (if the old wire will take the pull) or ripping out the walls.

Nice...
Are there any wireless sensors avail?
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Old 07-05-2012, 11:47 PM   #9
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We have been pretty lucky with out sensors, except for the grey water. It never shows full until it's REALLY full. We always run out of fresh water first...but then we have small tanks in an 19'.

The above notes about getting air in the system due to running the pump with the fresh water tank is empty are correct...you'll learn to recognize the sound of the pump not being happy...then you need to put more water in the fresh water tank and purge the system of air...I usually do that by turning the shower on since that's the highest point in the system...though turning on all the faucets would work as well. It will settle back down and the knocking will subside.

Good Luck! Sounds like other than the monitors you have a wonderful trip.
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Old 07-06-2012, 10:30 AM   #10
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Thanks for the info, everyone. I guess it's reassuring that we're not alone with the monitor issues - . Having worked in high tech businesses for several decades, I agree that an electrical gadget that isn't reliable is worse than a manual method. As soon as we realized the black water status was incorrect, we resorted to the shut-off-water, open-flush-valve, shine-flashlight-and-look method. With some experience, we'll be able to tell when it's time to start manually checking the tank for dumping time.

Quote:
Originally Posted by redwoodguy View Post
Great to hear the trip went well for you. We recently drove in strong winds to in the vicinity of Columbia gorge and the trailer handled perfectly. It was my first time in strong winds. We had headwinds, cross winds, tail winds. All was fine.

Boy, 400 miles a day? You do a LOT of driving! Good luck and good travels.
Ah, yes, the Columbia Gorge and winds. There's a reason Hood River, OR and some other areas along the Columbia are world-famous windsurfing sites. When we did motorcycle cruising (now retired and doing AS cruising!) it was sometimes an experience crossing a bridge over the Columbia on a bike with gusty 50-60 mph sidewinds on a narrow lane. The worst one was the Cascade Locks/Bridge of the Gods bridge, which not only gets strong winds at times (those usually less than those at Hood River), but is one of those grated-deck, see-through-to-the-river-below bridges that cause motorcycle tires to feel unstable, even without wind.

We're used to long days from our motorcycle cruising days - our longest one was a single-day ride from Sun Valley, ID to Seattle, about 750 miles (although almost entirely freeway). Worked out ok that day, but not something we did except that once. We did do multiple 400-500 mile days on some trips though. 200-300 miles will probably be our more common distances on trips with the AS when schedule permits, but on this particular trip we wanted to maximize the number of days we had in Victor and Jackson and so planned longer driving days.

I should have mentioned in the first post that we did see a handful of other AS trailers during the trip - two others at the bluegrass festival, two others in the campground in Victor, and two or three passed while on the road. One was pulled off the road in central Oregon at an Oregon Trail historical site taking their pic with a replica covered wagon in the background. Maybe that will show up on the forum here...
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Old 07-06-2012, 10:50 AM   #11
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One was pulled off the road in central Oregon at an Oregon Trail historical site taking their pic with a replica covered wagon in the background. Maybe that will show up on the forum here...
That was us! I loved the idea of the old wagon juxtaposed behind the new Airstream. I shot those on my film cameras, and I am still developing all my film. As soon as I get to that pic, I will post it here.

We had just been through the Oregon Trail museum there. Nice exhibit. We also saw about half a dozen AS trailers on our trip through Oregon. We camped (by coincidence) next to some folks we had met in May at an Oregon WBCCI rally. It's a small community and it sure is nice to bump into fellow travelers.
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Old 07-06-2012, 01:23 PM   #12
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Wow, small world! Hopefully you had a chance to visit the fossil bed/geological visitor center as well - that was an extremely interesting place for a stop. The John Day fossil beds are about as good as it gets anywhere in the world for fossil exploration and study.
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Old 07-06-2012, 09:05 PM   #13
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You'll know it's time to dump your gray tank when you're showering in ankle-deep water. The black tank is a little less forgiving; fortunately, you'll acquire a practiced eye by looking down the throat of the toilet with the water off, avoiding a "spill" that turns your Airstream into a superfund site.
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