The day started at 5am. Without a shower or breakfast we loaded a few items into the Suburban. We had already hooked up to the Airstream the night before (well, it was still nighttime, really...). Lights were blinked off and on and our brand new NAPA Auto brake controller was checked. Everything was good to go. If all went as planned we would arrive to Collins Tire before noon.
My eyes were really blurry. Semi's passed and almost blew us off the roadway every time they passed. We had decided to travel on I-10 to I-75. Even though there were few trucks so early, the ones roaring down the road were being driven by the same evil spirits we're all familiar with from that Stephen King movie "Maximum Overdrive". I actually saw the clown face on one big rig, grinning as once again we were blown to the right.
Pulling an Airstream is an interesting experience. Your first inclination is that you forgot to release the parking brake. Once you get past this odd feeling you try to accelerate and quickly discover that the word "quickly" doesn't apply. Instead, you gradually go faster until you hit 65 or so. A demon controlled truck passes again and you're back to 45 and overdrive kicks in... since we have those great plasma plus I suppose you could say we shifted in to maximum overdrive : )) Pulling an Airstream also lets you see how white the bones are beneath the skin of your fingers. They seems to glow in the foggy early morning light. I also have come to understand why there are already ridges on the steering wheel.
We arrive to Collins Tire by 11:30am (5 1/2 hours later). I explained to Bruce (the owner) that we needed to swap our brand new 8 ply Goodyear's for whatever he might have lying around. Within 30 minutes he had located a good set of replacements, tires were swapped out and we were on our way. The new tires were easily stored in the back of the Chevy.
Bruce commented this was a free service. He was really sorry for the trouble we had and wanted to do his part to ease our worries and expense. I was really surprised. In Phoenix and elsewhere we have traveled this would have been at least $15 a tire. I could see in Bruce's face he was sincere. John Wayne looked up as I walked by. Within a few minutes he had cleaned up and came out to say "Hi". I explained our current mission to him. As usual, he smiled warmly and told me he felt we were doing the right thing. "It's pretty bad when you buy something and it literally falls apart before you get far down the road." John is also a sincere person who takes the prize for honest and reliable. I can easily see how he and Bruce make a good business together.
We finished by 12:30 and headed off to see Jay. I had called to let him know when to expect us. He was standing in the yard as we pulled in.
After being directed where to park the Airstream we unhooked for the last time. The first thing he asked was, "What did you hit!?" The tone was tense and angry. It suddenly occurred to me he thought we had acted irresponsibly. Somehow, through incompetence, we had inadvertently bashed the tail of the trailer. Jay had no way of knowing we had towed a fully loaded 35 foot cargo trailer across the US a few years earlier. Kathy & I both had driven large trucks, towed huge trailers and navigated mountain passes without the luxury of electric brake controllers. Through rain, ice and snow we had never had an instance or accident.
I looked at Jay and explained we had simply run across a rail-road track at about 20mph. It was rough (like they almost always are) and within a few minutes, while accelerating down a hill, I heard a god awful noise... Well, you all know the rest if you've read this story completely.
To say the mood was uncomfortable would be an understatement. I was reminded of how I once stood too near a large wasp nest in the old barn behind our farm house. The wasps were buzzing my head and shoulders. I anxiously waited for the sting. Thankfully, I wasn't stung then or now. For most of us it's the fear of being stung that causes the greatest anxiety. I'm sure Jay felt as worried about being stung as Kathy & I.
After a brief inspection Jay handed Kathy the refund. Once counted we said our farewells and headed to the open road again. It felt very good to put this behind us... very, VERY good!
The Airstream glared at us in silence as we pulled away. Perhaps it was the way the sun hit that amazing UFO colored body.
We drove back to Collins Tire. I had the idea that perhaps Bruce could resell those tires. After all, they only had 500 miles on them - still new, really. I told Bruce to ask $75 apiece for those tires and send us a check once they sold, which he agreed to do. If anyone reading this needs a set of 4 new tires at a savings of $33 per tire I suggest you call Bruce Collins (352 669 3847) in Umatilla, Florida.
And so goes the last installment of this, one story from the road. If anything, I hope it might help another novice like ourselves understand these basic insights:
1. Never believe what you're told.
We were told there was nothing wrong (so far as he knew) with the trailer. Nope, no rot or leaks that I know of... Untrue statement if you're told this. Think about it folks. If YOU had an Airstream trailer sitting in your driveway wouldn't you at least know if there was a gaping hole under one of the beds???? (!)
2. Take your time.
If you're told (like we were told), "I've had another offer and if you don't decide now there's a fellow on his way to buy it...", you should walk away. You better take your time and make an educated decision, one based on YOU checking things like water pressure, lights, toilet flushing, holding tank integrity, brakes, suspension and water damage. YOU need to ask the seller to clearly show you what works. If you're shy, you'll be taken advantage of. Demand to see stuff working or proof it is in good working order. The costs to fix these things will add to your cost of the trailer. You don't want to spend an extra $2000 for a trailer? Buy a cheap one like we did and THEN you can spend that much or more to finally have what you thought you were getting. It's no joking matter... it's your hard earned bucks that will be flying out the door and your ego that will be bruised when your wife asks why you didn't check that in the first place.
I now have a completely bruised ego..
3. If you're not sure
you should ask to tow it to an expert and PAY this person to tell you what the truth is. It's always more prudent to believe someone who is NOT in a position to make a bundle off you because of the sale.
4. Hook up and tow the trailer 100 miles
. If the seller won't let you do this you should walk away. How will you know if the frame is warped, rusted thru or other issues if you don't have this experience? Besides, now you'll know how much gas you'll use, how much power you have (or don't have) and what you're needs are for successful towing (your brakes, trailer brakes and brake controller, etc).
I know many of you who will read this already have experience towing. However there are going to be those who are much like Kathy & I. You might have towed before, but not something like this... or perhaps never towed at all. You had better get a qualifying run in to be certain this is for you.
Those demon possessed trucks can really freak you out.
Our experience has been tiring and more tiring... All together we spent about $1000 for this education and drove over 800 miles. Kathy has been a jewel the whole time. You see, it was more my idea to get this than hers. I appreciate her patience and humor. I also thank Jay for being a man of his word. He could have said "screw you..." but didn't. I'm grateful there are still those with this kind of integrity left among us. Finally, I'm grateful for all of you reading this. without your suggestions and support I would have felt pretty alone with all of this.
It's now behind us... Tallahassee is sure a nice place. Warm weather, sunny skies. It's kinda like summer here (85 today) while the rest of the US is freezing. I think I'll buy a motorcycle and ride down to Key West. I'm ready for a cheeseburger in paradise and a cold draught beer...
<Kathy is staring at me wondering if I'm serious... She's ready to go! >
Yes Kathy, I am
Best Wishes to you all and good luck
Do you like UFO's and Rock music???
ELEMENT 115: You have to see this....
Element 115 - the band Classic-rock and Beyond from Phoenix Arizona and the Milky Way Galaxy