Monday, July 28, 2008

"License and Registration, Please"

As we fired up the truck to leave that night, we realized that our flatbed trailer lights weren’t working. On the way down, they had been working in reverse – when the truck signaled left, the trailer signaled right, and vice versa – but at least they were working. We couldn’t wrestle them into submission and it was really getting late, so we just decided to leave and drive carefully. Fortunately, we’d planned to stay a night at a nearby hotel and drive back up to Alabama the following day, so we could take some time the next morning to get things working again, as well as adjust the chains and straps for a tighter hold.

We went just a couple of miles to find a nearby hotel and as luck would have it, we passed a police car right as we turned into the parking lot. He pulled up alongside us and Ben hopped out, apologizing for the problem with the lights. The officer dismissed it with a wave of his hand, grinning like a kid at Christmas. “Where’d you get that thing?!” When we told him it had been just around the corner all this time, he said, “Dang, I sure wish I’d known about that!” He walked around the trailer and peeked inside, just fascinated with the whole thing. He kept muttering things like, “You’ve got yourselves a cherry!” and “That thing’ll shine like a new dime!” He was so enthralled that he left his coke sitting on the wheel well of the flatbed and came running back over to retrieve it before we could take off and send it flying.

The next morning at the hotel, I woke up early, excited about our new ‘baby.’ I ran to the window and peeked out. Yup, there she was in the early morning twilight. She didn’t gleam like the restored, highly-polished ones, but the mossy patina gave her an endearing quality all her own.

Driving back on the 4th of July in the patriotic deep South, it was fun to see people’s reactions to this piece of Americana floating down the highway, being given a new lease on life.

A family passed us up towing another Airstream, one of the big, newer models. They had their cameras out, snapping pictures of our cute little vintage trailer, and we caught eyes and grinned and waved. It was like a big happy family.

The Big Day

Just getting her on to the flatbed was an adventure in and of itself. There was a narrow strip of grass the width of a driveway running along the side of the house, with a gate opening into the yard. The driveway was flanked on the other side by the neighbor’s vehicle collection, one of which had no engine and so could not be moved. The first careful attempt at driving in resulted in the truck wheels sinking down into the sandy Florida soil and spinning out. This turned out to be a good thing in the long run – better to get stuck there instead of way back in the yard with the trailer loaded up!

The ol’ Trailwind was tucked into the back corner of the lot, and after a 20-year stint as a backyard shed, had dug its heels into the sandy soil. A tree had grown up around it on the back fence side, and its younger branches had recently begun to explore the interior of the trailer through a small, cracked side window. The tires were completely flat and the tongue had rusted 90% of the way through, so we really weren’t sure how we were going to move it.

Luckily some neighbors happened to have a four-wheeler handy and nothing better to do. That four-wheeler saved the day. We had to back the truck and flatbed trailer out and in again to get that thing into the yard, but it was well worth it, as he managed to yank the trailer out of its ruts and tow it all the way to about 10 feet from the gate before the tongue finally decided to give up the fight. At that point we were able to push it out the gate and over to where the flatbed was backed in, waiting.

Since the tires were flat and not free-spinning, we started winching it up onto the flatbed with a come-along. The ramps weren’t perfectly aligned with the tires so at one point we actually had to rally about 6 people and lift the back end of the trailer to move it over so the rims wouldn’t give out.

By this time it had gotten pretty dark out, so we were running around shining a couple of flashlights on the situation. Everyone was in pretty good spirits and determined to make it work…or at least determined not to have to deal with it in the morning! We got her up there without any more “incidents.”

Former Life

Our Airstream had been in the same family for decades – it belonged to a lady named Beverly, whose father had left it to her. She had the title issued in her name in 1966, so she’d had it for 42 years now, and the last 20 of those it had been in storage in her backyard.

She and her daughter Carol told me stories of the trips they’d taken in it. Carol laughed as she remembered how when they had first gotten the trailer from her grandfather, it was painted bright blue inside and out, to match the old car he towed it with! The first thing they did when they got it was to take some steel wool and scrub the outside silver again! A peek inside confirmed it – remains of that paint job were still in there, though much of it had long since peeled off the aluminum.

Monday, July 7, 2008

The Beginning

Our fascination began a few years back when we first saw the picture of the guy on a bicycle pulling an Airstream. Ben started researching everything about the gleaming capsules, from specs on various years/makes/models to just how much aluminum our car could tow. We watched...and waited...and watched...and waited...

Over those same few years, we'd been talking about taking a time out from the non-stop action of our lives - we've been involved in several ministries over the last 10 years, and they've been both the most intense and incredible times of our lives. We experienced a lot of joy and pain and continued on without really taking time to process what we'd seen and heard and felt and learned. We saw a natural break in the action coming up this fall and winter, and after much thought, prayer and consultation, decided to go for it.

The very week we made the decision and began to tell people of our plans, this little gem popped up on craigslist. It matched what we were looking for to a T, in terms of size, condition, location and price. We jumped and the rest is history (in the making).