Saturday, January 22, 2011

Our FIrst Trip Ever! Thankful on Thanksgiving Day.

You know you have great friends when they are willing to de-winterize their trailers for only a weekend just to go with you on your first camping trip. Such was the case with us when we purchased our Airstream. When we finally brought our trailer home, we simply did not have the time to get out in it right away. After nearly a month of looking at this shiny aluminum egg in our driveway I finally came to my “Popeye” moment. “It’s all I can stands and I can’t stands no more!!” I had to take her out and see how she would behave in public. I picked up the phone and made a call, “Hey, we’re thinking about taking the Airstream out this weekend, where would be cool place to go to?” This was all it little phone conversation. Unbeknownst to me, the voice on the other end began calling other friends that also own trailers...”Hey, Moses wants to take the wife and kiddies camping in their new trailer this weekend, wanna join them?” Before I knew it there were three other families “de-winterizing” their trailers just to come and hang with us for our inaugural trip. How cool is that! What amazing friends we have.
Now that the trailer is registered and insured, it was time to load it up and get the heck out of Dodge, even if just for a long weekend and only 50 km (30 miles for you Yanks) away. (Did I tell you that when I brought the Airstream to get it registered the office girls asked to come see the trailer?) We had purchased a bunch of new items specifically to remain in the trailer. Bedding, pillows, towels, pots, pans, dishes, glasses, dish soap, Scotch. I had googled “RV Checklists” and downloaded many versions of the same list, then cross referenced them and determined what was a must have and what was sheer insanity. (I do not need an outdoor propane shower capable of producing enough hot water to fill a public bath house in 30 seconds or less, nor do I need a generator capable of powering a city the size of Walla Walla.) As an aside, it’s fun to say “Walla Walla”. Ok back to business......Trailer loaded? Check. Everything hooked up and safely secured? Check. House locked, alarm set? Check. Passports in hand? Check. Alright then, let’s go! Kids, you got your seat belts on? Kids? Oh shit, we forgot the kids. 
I start the vehicle and in moments we begin our first adventure as we cruise by our neighbours homes with the Aluminegg in tow. I couldn’t help but feel like Wally was smiling down on us. Yes, good old Wally Byam, the inventor of the Airstream trailer and the man who dreamt that one day, families such as mine all over the world would embark on these adventures and create memories that would last forever. I have no doubt Wally was smiling this day, but I was soon to learn the source of his smile may well have been coming from a dark place deep within his soul. He knew full well that camping with children was not the Utopia I had envisioned. 

Saturday, January 15, 2011

"With Glowing Hearts..."

We pull up to the Canadian border guard and roll down the window.
“Where are you coming from?”
“How long were you in the States?”
“36 hours.”
“Do you have anything to declare?”
“Yup. The big Silver Sausage behind me.”
The border guard pauses and takes off his sunglasses, then with a sparkle in his eyes and a ring in his voice asks “Is that an Airstream?”
“Yes, yes it is.”
“What year is that?”
It seems that my answer was the trigger that allowed the excited little boy to be released from within this big scary border guards body, as he unleashed a quickly spoken tirade about his own desires to own a Silver Sausage. “Really? A 2008?!! I didn’t know they were still making them. Why, it was just last week I went to look at an older one, but it needed sooooo much work and I just don’t know if I have the time to restore it. Wow! They still make them. Cool! I love Airstreams!” Once he calmed down, two thoughts came to mind.... 1)It is gonna be a whole lotta fun to be an Airstream owner, and 2) I should have stashed a few bottles of Scotch in the trailer, cause this guy probably would turn a blind (albeit Silver) eye to it.
“I imagine I’ve some paperwork to attend to, so if you have a break coming I’ll happily give you a tour of the Airstream.”
“I’d like to, but I just took a break...thanks for offering, though. Pull in to lane #2, take your bill of sale inside. And enjoy your Airstream.”
“Thanks, I will.”  As I pull away and maneuver over to lane #2 I can’t help but smile; I haven’t gone camping yet and already I’m loving this.
I park in lane #2 and walk inside to fill out the necessary forms. 
“Hello Sir, can I see the Airstream? I loooove Airstreams!” The girl behind the counter must be married the guy in the booth I just met, this getting a bit ridiculous. I decide to humour her, “Yup, it’s an Airstream. Do you need to do an inspection?” “Um, no Sir, not really.” I sense some disappointment in her demeanor. “Are you sure? I thought all new vehicles coming into Canada need an “inspection” before continuing their journey.” As I say the word “inspection”, I do the little two finger quote gesture to her and include a wink. She understood. “Ahhh, you are correct Sir. In fact I DO have to come and inspect the Airstream *cough* I mean, trailer. Let me just grab my clip board to make this look official.” We head out to the Airstream where she does the quick walk around. She doesn’t want to impose but mentions how she’s “always wanted to see inside of one of these”, so I unlock the door and she enters...and falls in love with my trailer. After a brief discussion and a couple laughs, we head back to the office to finish the paperwork. Just as I’m about to open the door to leave I hear this voice....
”Um, Sir?”, she says softly.
“Yes?” I reply.
“Thank you for the “inspection””.
“You’re welcome”
She’ll own one of these one day, I’m sure of this.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Picking Up The Silver Sausage - Part 2

We head back onto the I-5 and we’re in the final stretch to see the new addition to the family. It’s kind of like having a baby.... it’s costly of course, but if properly taken care of, it should provide years of happiness and many proud moments and fond memories. (It’s nice that Airstreams do not yell at their owners. At least when his baby enters my world, I won’t hear the high pitched angry and somewhat justified scream of....“YOU DID THIS TO MEEE!!”) We pull into our final destination and have time for lunch before the exchange. We walk into the dealership and 20 minutes later we are being guided through all the systems and things I need to know to about my new purchase. After a couple hours, it’s time to go. I have pulled a small boat trailer before, and have a utility trailer for yard refuse and other junk, but an Airstream is bigger and more expensive. I read horror stories of people creasing the entire side of their new trailer on its’ maiden voyage, causing upwards of $10,000 in damage. Gulp. With a start of the engine I soon  realize how special this moment is. I’m no longer the dreamer, I’m an Airstream owner!

We pull out of the parking lot and there is a definite sense of pride as I roll though the city with my big shiny egg behind me. Once back on the I-5 heading north, it took a bit to determine the right speed for ease of travel, but once I figured that out, it was smooth sailing. Then a strange phenomenon began. I noticed that other cars were speeding up to pass me, or so I thought. Instead of actually passing, would slow down when they neared my trailer and would stay beside me for a while. Finally one of these cars moved up beside me and honked, then gave me the “thumbs up” and pointed to the Airstream before speeding off. My dad and I never spoke of this, we didn’t need to. Our smiles were said it all. This was fun!
We managed to make to the Oregon/Washington border around dinner time and stopped for some food and a quick Costco beer run. We put the beer in the fridge then had some dinner, and I managed to snap a few first photos of the yet to be named Airstream. We get back in the car with coffee’s in hand and decide to drive for another couple hours. Up to this point we still had not figured out where we should camp for the night. The GPS tells us where the nearest campsites are, but we’re from Dutch heritage and don’t really feel like paying $40 just to sleep. We opt for the new Wal-mart and park near some other motorhomes. We hop in the trailer and get ready for bed, but first we hoist a celebratory Henry Wienhard’s (Oregon’s original brewery!) and talk of the adventures this Airstream will have.

I awake at 6:15 to the sound of the door opening and the smell of Starbucks. I guess I didn’t hear my dad leave, but I sure heard and smelled him return. Ah, coffee! I call it my “ethical addiction.” We enjoy our hot goodness and discuss the game plan for the day. We’ll drive for a bit then stop for breakfast in Burlington. From there it’ll be a dash to the border, stop to do the necessary paperwork, then on to introduce the Airstream to the rest of the family. Just gotta make it home without a mishap. 

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Picking Up The Silver Sausage - Part 1

I pick up the phone and dial my parents number. “Hey Dad, you feel like going on a road trip with your boy, but just for one night?” I could have taken my wife or one of my kids, or all of them combined, but since I was picking up the trailer on a weekday, I thought rather than have the wife and/or kids miss play hooky for a day, I would take this opportunity to spend some time with my dad. We don’t seem to have much time these days to hang out, so this is a chance to create a memory for both of us.
“So what should I bring?” he asks.
“The only things you’ll need other than a change of cloths and your toothbrush, is your sleeping bag and pillow, and your passport.”
“Yup, passport.” (I’m smiling now.)
“Where we going?”
“Why?” He asks this question because I haven’t filled him in on our decision to purchase , let alone even look, for an Airstream. Sometimes it’s best to keep things quiet until they’re confirmed.
“I bought an Airstream. I’m picking it up at the end of the week. You in?”
“I wouldn’t miss it. This should be fun. Airstreams are the Cadillac of trailers you know!”
“Ya dad, I know. That’s why I bought one. I’ll pick you up Friday at 3:30am.”
“3:30am? You’re buying the coffee if it’s that early.”
“I’ll buy the coffee, and meals also. I’m just happy to have you as my co-pilot.” 
(I’m still smiling, but I know he is too.)
I pick him up at the ungodly hour as promised, and we head for the border. I had purchased a GPS unit the night before and was glad I did as everything south of Bellingham was virgin territory for me, unlike my honeymoon. No problems or lineups at the border, just a quick hello from the border guard and we’re in the United States of America, home of the free and the land of the 1520 calorie burger from Carl Jr. We stop for refills of coffee and gas  (equal amounts of both) as we make our way through Washington State to our destination in Oregon. Shortly after entering Oregon I pass a store on the side of highway called “Camping World.” I think to myself “What is this Camping World store and why have I never heard of it? I must go and see for myself.” I hit the brakes and just make the next exit in time. We double back and make our way into the parking lot. (We’re ahead of schedule according to my shiny new GPS, so we have some time to kill.) Upon entering the store I soon realized I had found the camping equivalent to Amsterdam's “Red Light District”. This is basically porn for campers. It has everything! My eyes lit up with the panels for boon-docking (what’s boon-docking), various portable barbecues for cooking meat...lots of meat, bedding, dishes, lights, games, electronics, appliances, security systems of various types (I’ll need one of those), maintenance items, chairs, winterizing stuff (what’s winterizing). I was pleasantly over-whelmed and had no idea where to start. My dad was the voice of reason and suggested I wait until I have actually camped once or twice before spending a fist full of cash. I just couldn’t leave without buying something though, so I threw down some cash on a couple sets of these....
They’ll look stunning on the awning.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Try To Buy From The Local Guy *Sigh*

“So when are you going to buy me an Airstream?” It’s funny that my wife thinks that a) this is hers, and b)this is hers. I hint that maybe we should save the money and buy one  of the vinyl box trailers, she responds with, “I’m not sleeping in one of those!” Just like a Sockeye she is hooked! So how do I get one, where do I get one, and which one do I get? Best to figure out which model/length with suit our needs and budget, then we’ll start at our local Airstream dealer.
Budget: Flexible to a point. (I’m not a bank, but may need to visit one.)
Criteria: Something that won’t be a beast to tow (we are new to this), and something I can keep forever. (I really don’t want to be doing this every couple years. I gotta try to get this right the first time.) Oh, and need windows. (No sport model with the little window, I need light.)
After much consideration, we decided on a 19 foot Bambi SE. We figured that for the the next few years, our girls could sleep on the fold down dinette, and graduate to a tent when they are older, if they felt like it and they were no boys around. :-)  It would be easy to tow and would fit us nicely when the kids are out of the house, and it would be less money than larger models. The bonus is it will fit in our driveway. (I found out shortly into the camping season I might need a second try at “getting this right the first time.”)
Ok, off to the local dealership to begin the process...
Like I mentioned in a previous post, our local dealer does not have much selection when it comes to Airstreams. (They have hundreds of “SOB’s”.) We pay them a visit and I tell them I’m serious about buying an Airstream, and I’m thinking the negotiating will begin. (I had found a website explaining what to expect when haggling for an AS.) Apparently the dealership is not really into selling Airstreams, or so it seems by their lack of willingness to negotiate. A couple grand off of a sell price of $59,000+ is not what I consider an deal closer. “Is that your best offer?” “Yes.” I proceeded to tell them that I was expecting at least a little more movement on price, and that I of course would prefer to support my local Canadian dealership rather than be forced to purchase in the States, but I work very hard for my money and I have to feel comfortable that I’m getting a fair price. The salesman got a bit snippy and retorted, “If you buy in the States we’ll never work on your trailer if there are any warranty issues!” “Really?”, I reply. “How do you think Airstream would feel if they heard that your company does not support them?” His reply was simply, “Ok, we would work on it, but we’d make you wait at least six months for an appointment.” Nice. This exchange made me briefly question the Airstream purchase. If this was the way I was to be treated by Airstream reps, I’m thinking maybe the “SOB” reps will at least have a bit more professionalism.
I get where they’re coming from, though. They are similar to the Dodge dealership. While they have a Viper in the showroom that brings ooh’s and ah’s, they make all their money on Neon’s and Mini-van’s. Same with these guys. The Airstreams bring people in, but they make all their money on the vinyl boxes. They know that eventually Airstream will offer to “help” them sell these in order to ship them new models, which again will sit on their lot for another year. As an Airstream dealer, I would think they would want to promote these trailers, but I guess, for whatever reason, they just aren’t that interested. Case and point: This dealer brought many trailers to the  largest RV show in our province, but not a single Airstream. Why? Wouldn’t you want to showcase these awesome trailers at a show like this? Thousands of people attend this show annually, and they don’t support Airstream by showcasing their product. If I was the owner of Airstream, I’d be choked and consider removing them as a dealer and find someone who is actually trying to sell the product.
(It should be noted that after purchasing my Airstream, I found I was not alone in my assessment of the local guys. I found many AS owners that travelled south to purchase rather than deal locally, a few that wish they had gone Stateside. Quite sad really. One theory suggested to me was by being the exclusive Airstream dealer, this company had effectively prevented healthy competition, or to put it differently, monopolized the market. It’s too bad they aren’t interested in actually selling them, though. I wonder if they realize just how many sales they have lost. Probably not, as most folks I talk to won’t even let them touch their Airstreams.They'd rather drive to the States than let these guys work on them.)

After calling a few Airstream owners that I recently met, they all suggested I look to the States. Sure, the Canadian dollar was a factor as the Loonie was close to parity with the Greenback, but it was more about the dealer’s willingness to make it work for me, the customer. (Something of which my local dealership failed to understand.) After a couple phone calls and a few emails, it was done. I had a signed agreement to purchase a 19 ft Bambi SE. It was a relatively painless experience, and truthfully I should been able to have the same experience here, but so be it. I was happy as I saved a bunch of money, was treated well, and I get to go on an adventure to pick it up.
So who should I bring.....

Airstreams are COOL!

Purchasing an Airstream can be a daunting task. Like I previously mentioned, they are expensive. So why spend double (or possibly triple) for Aluminum when you could save a bunch and get a relatively decent vinyl box? 
Here are some of my thoughts as to why....
Vinyl box trailers are disposable. Considering they are mostly wood construction, moving these ugly boxes around will eventually cause wood frames to loosen or separate, thus causing leaks to happen. I have had more than one salesman suggest an average lifespan of 10 years.
Airstreams are built with metal frames and covered inside and out with aluminum sheeting, all of which are riveted to the frame, sorta like a Boeing 737. Airstreams have been produced for over 75 years, and they estimate 70% or more are still in use today.
Airstreams give you better mileage. The aerodynamic shape of them result in a 15-30% better fuel economy that of the “SOB’s”. Take that, OPEC!
Airstreams have a higher resale value. This is one you can take to the bank. When I was researching this, Airstreams were the highest rated for holding their value, while the 19ft model was rated the highest of any make/model out there.
Airstreams have a few more perks. My friends had bought an “SOB” shortly after I bought my Airstream, and invited me over to check it out. No TV or CD/DVD player, no water filter for the kitchen faucet, mattress was lousy (you could feel the metal springs through the fabric), and no power jack, just to name a few. (The lack of a power jack bothered my buddy considerably.) 
Airstreams are cool! This was one of the main reasons I bought one. Sure, I like quality and dependability and better fuel economy and higher resale value and sleeping well, but I also like to be me, which is usually different than most of my friends, and occasionally perplexing to my wife. I’m a closet artist, and maybe should have developed this side of me a bit more than I have, but as such, I like certain design elements. Airstreams have this iconic style about them that is timeless. Some folks simply have no style, hence they do not find Airstreams attractive. I personally find them rather sexy, and so do others. If I mention to people that I have an Airstream, their reaction breakdown is something like this....
90% - “What’s an Airstream?” (Keep in mind I’m in Canada.)
8% - “Airstreams are ugly.”
2% - “Oh Dude, an Airstream!! Those things are wicked! I’ve wanted an Airstream forever. Can I come over and check it out? Awesome!”
I’m with the two percent...... is Matt....

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Divine Intervention

Now that I was sure I had my wife on board with the Airstream thing, it was time to figure out how to actually get one. My idea was to find an older one and fix it up. I’m mechanically inclined and good with my hands, so I know that if I were to find a fixer-upper, it would be done right. The sad reality though is that I do not have much in the way of extra time once work and various family obligations are factored in. (In the past we have had nine soccer events per week!) It is likely that the fixer-upper would stay in that state of please repair for years, and we would continue to dream of what could be rather than experience what should be. Nope, the best solution is to buy the trailer that we can use now. So how do we get it? We do not come wealth, we have not won the lottery, and we are not even remotely related to anyone with the name “Buffet” or “Gates” or “Jobs”. (Although I think all three of these guys have some of MY money!) You don’t need to be a millionaire to own an Airstream, but a bit of extra cash is helpful. So my beautiful wife comes up with the solution. 

“Pray about it”, she says.
I reply with a “Huh?”
“I said pray about it. Ask God for an Airstream”.
“Uh, ok.”, I then proceed to utter these words... “Dear God, please give me an Airstream. Amen”.
She suggests to me that I should be more specific when I pray. I doubt it, after all, isn’t He omniscient?
Two days later a miracle happens and my prayer is answered. I get a phone call telling me to get my butt over to their house as they have something I’ve been looking for, and it’s free!

This is what was waiting for me....

While I’m grateful for not having to purchase a central vacuum system for our house, (we really did need this), I’m pretty sure I actually heard God laugh. Not mocking me, but more in a “Ha, I gotchya on that one!” sorta way. God definitely has a sense of humour.

It was now my wife’s turn to hear those three little words every wife longs to hear from her husband....”You were *cough* right”. I’ll be more specific when I pray.