The Big Metal Tent Trip


Within days of bringing the Airstream home, the complete interior was removed to address known water damage to the floor.  Even then, big plans were being made for how best to enjoy my Overlander.  The first camping trip though came much sooner than expected:


In an actual camping situation, I don't plan to sit in the Overlander sipping lemonade enjoying the breeze from an open window. I'll sit outside for that relaxation. At night, I will turn the A/C on.



This plan would work extremely well if one starts with a fully functional Airstream. A month or so ago, my wife indicated there was an event at her alma mater she really wanted to attend with our three & four year olds, and me. Unfortunately, she was having trouble locating a motel room for one night. “No problem”, ever helpful me said as I struggled to align a large, custom trimmed section of OSB floor decking into the rear of the Overlander, “We can take the Airstream loaded with sleeping bags!” I kept a straight face as she took in the lack of carpet, furniture, toilet, running water, heat, and functional Bay Breeze air conditioner. “Our first outing in the Airstream!”, I said indicating my willingness to make a 400 mile round-trip with toddlers to camp in a campus parking lot in Tuscaloosa Alabama with no hookups.

Last week, she confirmed the unavailability of motel rooms while observing the aft belly skin still draping the ground. “Will you be ready?”. Picking up the gauntlet, I inquired as to the expected temperature at the day’s event. “Cool in the evening, but I will put the boys in long sleeve pajamas”.

Now, I had already spent a lot of time sealing seams and addressing soft/missing floor issues, so the Overlander was structurally ready to hit the road. But finishing the details responsible for the belly skin laying on the ground kept me busy almost down to the wire. And, at the last minute, I decided to partially reconnect the wiring system for 12 VDC operation for overhead lights and so the boys could watch Disney flicks before they went to bed. And, to make the experience as rich as possible, Walmart sold me a porta-potti for $20.

We headed out early yesterday morning looking good. I pulled over a couple of times early on to the check running gear, and was happy at every stop. We were about halfway there when there was a muffled screeching sound followed by a low roar. Pulling over to the side of the interstate, I found that the Suburban’s radiator fan clutch decided to freeze up in the engaged position. Deciding it would only affect gas mileage, I attempted to restart the engine to find the starter motor solenoid did not care for the heat from a 454’s exhaust manifold while towing at 65 mph.

After discussion, we decided that if I could get the motor restarted, we would continue, as she really wanted to make the event, her parents were already on standby to save the grandchildren, and I had put too many late hours in to turn back now.

We pulled in to the 85 degF
University of Alabama campus with no further incident. Enjoying the scheduled events all day, we retreated to the Airstream around eight last evening. It was still hot, and I had no lemonade to drink. But I had to smile as I lay there sweating with the windows partially opened watching “Pete's Dragon” on a 13-inch, portable TV thinking, “Our first trip!”.


An hour or so later, it began to rain.  It was a gentle, cooling rain.  “What a pleasant sound” I thought.  “Like sleeping under a tin roof”.  Just as I was getting coolly comfortable, a clap of thunder rumbled across the campus.  The Alabama alumnus among us immediately asked for the TV to be switched to the weather.


Uhh, add “television antenna” to the list of things removed from the Airstream prior to this trip.


This did not sit well with my weather watcher wife.  Normally, when tent camping, we have a portable radio & a handheld CB/weather radio with us.  But, since clear skies were projected for our one night trip, the radios were not packed.  Luckily, there was another Alabama Fan close by in the parking lot in a fully functional RV who agreed to knock on our door if truly severe weather headed our way.


Although the weather picked up intensity, it never got bad, and ended up tapering off a few hours after it started.  Although not all of us slept well, we did stay dry.


The trip home, aided by the fact that the motor was never turned off, was uneventful.  I’m debating on waiting for snow for the next trip…

Our luxurious accommodations


The Boyz enjoy a movie





Our campground