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Old 01-05-2006, 06:18 PM   #1
30' 1999 Excella
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Kingwood , Texas
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First Trailer, First Trip

We decided we needed a trailer – won’t go into why, but we started looking for one last summer. Driving past an SOB dealer, on a whim, we stopped in for a first look. Came out with our enthusiasm dampened– something just didn’t seem right about them. Then we remembered those cool shiny things we saw as kids… AIRSTREAMS! We quickly found this forum, and through it found our 1999 30’ Excella near Atlanta (we’re in Houston).

I’ll pause here to recognize Blakely RV in Douglasville, GA. They only sell motor coaches, and had taken our Excella on a trade-in. It was the only travel trailer on the lot, and it looked pretty small sitting next to some of those 40’ monsters. I know our deal was a tiny fraction of their usual sale price, but from start to finish they treated us like we were buying the biggest RV on their lot. Picked me up at the airport (and took me back) when I flew up for a last look before buying. Let us leave the trailer on their lot for 30 days until we could drive up to get it after the holidays (actually, over New Year weekend). The salesman, Peter Mucci, was helpful, honest, and not at all pushy. They have a pretty good parts and supplies store. If you ever need to do business with them, I think you’ll be treated fairly.

Back to my story:

We tried to learn as much as we could from this forum, but nothing really means that much until you’ve got the unit in front of you. Suffice to say, half the things I bought on a shopping spree in Camping World I don’t need (at least not yet) and I probably didn’t get half of what I will need.

Some advice did sink in (for the ‘we’re-just-gonna-get-it-and-bring-it-home’ first-timers):
  • Get your TV serviced ($500 for all new fluids, brake check, lube/oil/filter, etc.)
  • stop every 50-miles and check all the tires – feel them for heat buildup
  • Check your tire pressure
  • Have fuses, lug wrench etc. (OK, I ignored this one)
  • Go slow
We drove up in our Navigator (nervous that we’d be towing 85% of our capacity – I know, I know… we’re gonna get a bigger TV), had a first-time walk-thru for my wife, and had a great time in Atlanta over New Year.

First challenge: figuring out how to configure the Blue Ox hitch that came with it so that it would do its thing correctly with the Navigator. Fortunately, we gave ourselves a day to accomplish this, and after a 20-mile test run went back onto the Blakely lot and completely redid it. Still not sure I have it right… the owner’s manual isn’t very helpful. But it was definitely better than the first try.

Hey, remember your VERY FIRST TIME pulling out with your trailer behind you? Really cool!

Anyway, we checked the pressure on the tires (52 pounds on the trailer, 42 on the Navigator – comments anybody?) and hit the road Monday morning. HEAVY rain coming out of Atlanta… gotta love it as a first-timer! The rain quit around the Alabama boarder, replaced by strong (20mph+) side-wind… really made getting passed by 18-wheelers a LOT of fun. Checked the tires after 50 miles, 125 miles. At a rest-stop on I-20 near Meridian MS (200 miles+ into the trip), we pulled over for another tire check… the left rear trailer tire had blown off a 12” x 5” piece of sidewall, and another four inches was flappin’ in the breeze… and the tire was hissing air. I don’t know how much further we could have gone without a full blowout, and I don’t want to know!

No lug wrench… curses (well, more than that). PLUS, some #@!*&% had pumped his black-water tank into the parking lot somewhere near us - really near us. Fortunately our ‘neighbor’ in the rest stop, driving the oldest 5th wheeler I’ve ever seen, loaned me a lug wrench, plus some wood blocks to boost my Camping World leggo blocks (one smart purchase, anyway). Ramped the wheel up, put on the spare, and limped into Meridian, MS where (hallelujah!) there was a Goodyear dealer right at the exit who just happened to have four new tires (the previous owner told me they were unused but had sat for 3 years – we decided not to take chances). Another $500.

We finally made it to Baton Rouge, where we had hotel reservations, around 9pm (we left Atlanta at 7am).

We pushed it to BR because we knew that I-10 going into Houston was rough and we didn’t want to worry about covering a lot of miles that day. Rough road. Lots of construction with lanes squeezed to minimum. See observation below.

Some random observations:
  • All the rest stops (that we stopped at) in Alabama and Mississippi had free dump stations. The big one in Texas just inside the border didn’t. I could make a joke here, but I’m sure I’d piss somebody off.
  • The Navigator did pretty well. We averaged 16.1 mpg driving up to Atlanta (no trailer, 80 mph) and 11.7 mpg coming back with the trailer (56-58 mph). Underpowered on steep bridges and overpasses, but able to hold it in cruise control in overdrive very nicely on flat land, even with a strong headwind.
  • I-10 is tough in the 20 miles east of Beaumont. A 30-year Airstream veteran told me today its still the only white-knuckle driving he does. But here’s a trick… the feeder road on the side is OK and doesn’t have any significant stops or other problems. We exited the highway onto the feeder, cruised comfortably at 40 mph and missed most of the squeezed-down construction lanes.
Anyway, we made it home safely, thanks in large part to the good advice on this forum. See y’all down the road.

Kevin & Tricia

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Old 01-05-2006, 06:36 PM   #2
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Welcome aboard! It's good you made it home safely, and now you have an adventure to tell your friends about.
Next time towing, you may want to tow in 3rd gear, that is, turn off the overdrive. You should have better pickup while driving, it should go up hills more easily, and may even get a mile or so more MPG, as the engine won't be straining in O/D. Your transmission will probably thank you, too.

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Old 01-05-2006, 07:36 PM   #3
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2005 19' Safari
1968 24' Tradewind
Rural , Delaware
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What a journey you had! The lure of the silver is an enigma. I had wanted an Airstream since I was a teenager, so when I spotted that 68 Tradewind on the side of the road, and heard it calling my name about 10 years ago, I bought it on the spot. I already had a tow package on my truck, so all I had to get was the ball. At the time I didn't even know what a WD hitch was. It was slow driving, back roads, and white knuckles all the way.

All twelve miles.
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Old 01-05-2006, 07:38 PM   #4
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Fond du Lac , Wisconsin
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Kevin & Tricia: Thanks for sharing your experiences. Hope our paths will cross someday. Look me up if you head north when it warms up (and it will eventually.)
2010 43' Newmar Dutch Aire
formerly 2006 34' Classic

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Old 01-05-2006, 07:57 PM   #5
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Savannah , Missouri
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Great story and, nice comments about a dealership.
Something you don't always hear enough about, is the really good ones..
Will look for your future trip dialogs~
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Old 01-05-2006, 08:11 PM   #6
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Crossville , Tennessee
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Knowledge equals safety

Kevin and Tricia,
That is a good read, and somewhat reminds us all of our first time towing an Airstream. The BIG part of safety, you cannot see nor do others see it as they see your Airstream floating majestically down the highway. The big part is knowledge and continuous diligence to maintenanence. I am very pleased to hear that the tire problem did not result in a badly damaged Airstream. Many others have not been so lucky.
Many people say I am an extremist, however, I check my tire pressure every morning before pulling out. I 'look' them over upon arrival each evening. Your tires are renowned for coming apart, however, the reason is not manufacturers defects, but owner neglect. The primary problem is UNDERINFLATION. The result is heat buildup and tread separation. The second is UV degradation and age. I combine the two, although they are separate, they are joined also. The manufacturers recommend seldom used tires should find their useful life to be 5 years or so. When they are used often, then they will marginally be good for up to 7 years. Most of us, unless we are full timers, do not use them often, as we do our private vehicles. This 'often' usage allows the added polymers to migrate through the rubber through heating and flexing. Seldom used tires suffer the degradation as the protective polymers and UV protectant are dormant, and do not continue protecting the tire. That is the reason your little used, 6 year old tire came apart. You can see the birthdate on your tire sidewall by finding the DOT emblem, followed by 2 or 3 ovals with numbers in them. The last oval will have 4 numbers in it, the first two indicate the week of the year, and the last 2 are the year of this century they were made. A number of 3405 would be the 34th week of 2005.
Now, the scary thing is the damage a loose tire carcass will do to the beautiful aluminum on the side of your trailer, and, if allowed to turn enough times, that carcass will beat out the plastic wheel wells, maybe plumbing and wiring behind the wheel well. That replacement panel stretches from the front cap to the rear, and most likely the replacement panel will be installed with Olympic rivets instead of being bucked in like the original! And it is very expensive! WHEW!
I would say you have every right to be proud of your inspection stops, as well as to be thankful the tire held together as much as it did. Here's wishing you many thousands of miles and many, many wonderful days travelin' in your new beauty!!!! Congratulations on your purchase.
2000 390 Landyacht XL
1989 29' Excella
WBCCI #6673 jerry Hodge
Have no intention of arriving at the grave safely, but rather to skid in sideways, chocolate in one hand,throttle in the other, totally worn out and screaming
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Old 01-05-2006, 09:02 PM   #7
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Virginia Beach , Virginia
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I've had mine since March 05 and every time I look in the mirror while towing I break out into an idiot smile.

The very first time I towed my 'stream, this car came up beside me and didn't pass... and didn't drop back. I looked over and there was a man pointing out my trailer to his family and nearly driving off the road. I swear that I could see drool on his chin... Stuff like that won't happen with a SOB.

It's always a thrill when someone doesn't know they still make Airstreams and then they get a look at the interior of my '05 CCD. I have shown the registration to a few non-believers, and I know at least one person who has already made the Haj to Jackson Center, Ohio to see the factory. I'll bet that she's in a 'stream before spring.

Congrats again,

Tin Lizzie
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Old 01-05-2006, 09:56 PM   #8
Argosy/Airstream since 79
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1989 29' Excella
Newport , Oregon
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Posts: 97

to the forums and to the world of Airstreams.

We've been towing Argosy and Airstream since 1978, but your well-written story brings back memories of our first trip home.

Good luck in your travels, and if your plans include Oregon, looks us up.

jim & karen
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Old 01-06-2006, 12:04 AM   #9
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1992 34' Limited
Falls Church , Virginia
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MY first time..... Sigh!

Kevin and Tricia -

Yep, your story was great and a real trip 'back' to when I had my first pull, with SilverToy back there. My 4 y/o named her on that trip.

Yep! It was memorable alright!

Had the whole family with me, pulling through the mountains of Utah into the 4 corners region and beyond... Good memories!

Also had a tire shred itself. Did the tire inspection every 50mi or so for the first 200. Checked the mirrors like an Obsesive/ Compulsive every 10 seconds or so.... Still had a center tire completely lose it's tread and leave only sidewalls on the rim. Don't recall the brand, but it was NOT underinflated, just old (01 date as I recall).

At a rest area outside Moab I told the wife that we were missing a tire and she thought I was kidding. NO wiggle, no rough ride, no indication it was gone. NO DAMAGE EITHER!!!! It was the center tire of the triple axle set up on the 34'. I knew I was a lucky son-of-a-gun!!! Was at JC and saw a couple that shelled out over 7K for damage from a tire on a 28'. WHEW!!! Glad that I missed that bullet on my first tow. Angels??? AS Angels??!!! You bet!

Anyway, thanks for the memory jog back to that first tow!

Use the heck out of that trailer and she will reward you with a zillion memories and a lifetime of 'fun and fellowship'.... A piece of Wally is in your unit too!!!!

Ciao, and see ya around!

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Old 01-06-2006, 07:49 AM   #10
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Thanks for the great discription of your first trip with your coach! I to am fairly new to airstreaming having picked mine up labor day weekend. You are going to LOVE your airstream. Be sure and keep us posted, good call on the new rubber in my opinion.

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Old 01-06-2006, 08:15 AM   #11
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Oxford , Mississippi
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Story was great and welcome to the forums. We have had our trailor for a few months and I still have to go out and just look at it just about every morning. I'm so glad you checked your tire when you did, and you were so lucky to have a tire store so close somebody was looking over you.

The Lacy's
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Old 01-06-2006, 08:36 AM   #12
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2005 25' Safari
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Rivet Maiden Voyage.

Enjoyed your story. I too can relate to my first time. Sort of like sex for the first time . I too had the experience of people pulling up to the AS and pointing it out to members in their cars. Even pulling into the rest areas, people came up (and still do), and asked questions. But the remark made most is... "I've always wanted an Airstream".

Anyway, Welcome aboard. May ALL your future trips be joyous and safe .

Happy New Year !

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"Better to have more then you need, then need more then you have because you don't have enough!"
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Old 01-06-2006, 09:36 AM   #13
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1977 31' Excella 500
Bozman , Maryland
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We towed our '63 home 75 miles on the original tires (and just to prove we love adventure ,with tags from 1987!), stopping every 10 miles to check them. Hubby is an experienced tow-er and knows the risks, but we had to get the trailer outta' the sellers lot instantly or lose the deal. So that was the first, and thankfully uneventful, last time we take a chance on old tires....gonna go look and see if I can find the date on those puppies now that SteelBird has enlightened me.

Speaking of enlightenment...It's threads like this that keep people safe on the roads. And maybe "AS Angels" help too, at least I think that's the reason we made it home without a blowout.

Kevin, please post some pictures of your new AS when you get a chance.
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Old 01-06-2006, 03:59 PM   #14
30' 1999 Excella
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Kingwood , Texas
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pics on request

here's the link to the pics I posted in the new member's intro right after we first bought the trailer (hope this works).

Oh, yeah... forgot to mention one other 'exciting' little thing. We were getting some supplies at Wal-Mart in Meridian and were just pulling out thru the parking lot - which was sloped. We're doin' about 3 mph and I look left and see a runnaway shopping cart coming right at us. Couldn't accellerate in time... it hits right smack on the grill in the hot-water heater door. CRUNCH.
The adventures of RV'ing!

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