Holiday Refit: 10 Airstream Fixes

After 11 weeks on the road, we pulled into my parents’ SoCal driveway with a medium size list of things to fix, tweak, switch out or alter. Here is the list, the first few in order of importance/annoyance; the rest are a bit “in the weeds” but we include in case those undergoing a restoration can learn from our experience!

1.Trailer brake lights. In Oregon, we had a “sudden stop behind a semi on the highway don’t know if we are gonna make it” scare, which made us think hard about how well the folks behind us could see our brake lights, especially obscured by the bikes. Ben wanted lights that would somehow blend in and found these bright LEDs to attach to the Airstream bumper. He spent a good amount of time making sure the install was clean, and of course, functional!IMG_4296

2. Closet renovation. At first we had a small closet with a hanging rod and one of those hanging sweater things. The “sweaters” always fell out, and of course we just don’t have a lot of clothes to hang. We do have clothes to roll up, stuff, and most importantly to store in a sort of purgatory when we are planning to wear them the next day. Hence the new closet with shelves only. We’ll get it a bit more organized, but as a quick fix I made a couple of “drawers” out of cardboard boxes, covered them with contact paper and made rope handles. It’s working out great! The purgatory “bins” are the bottom row – Ben added that wood divider at the last minute so we’d each have our own side. Good idea. IMG_4058-03. Curtain tabs instead of metal hooks. I made the curtains and I guess to save a little time/labor I attached them to the rods with metal hooks. Boy were those a pain. They were hard to open, close, the hooks were always coming off and when we drove, the rods would often fall off. I retrofitted them by sewing on tabs (much harder to do on a machine after the fact) and they are working like a dream now.


4. Woodwork – a few things that a little woodworking helped to make better. Clockwise from left: a “dam” to block errant water flow in the shower (the eucalyptus is new too!); Ben fitting and making fiddle rails for the dinette/bed cushions; and a little platform to raise our pantry cabinet so the door opens / closes more smoothly – it had dragged a bit on the floor before.

5. A little metal work – hanging, bolting, etc. which really all come down to creating more/better storage. Left to right: Some new hooks in the shower to hang our dirty laundry bags. Also in the bathroom – Ikea had these nifty metal shelves and one is up now to hold my main toiletries bag to make more room on the counter top. Finally, we already had the bread box, but now it’s bolted down!

6. Trailer hitch The paint on the weight distribution bars had been coming off and there was some surface rust. Ben scraped the old paint off, sanded and repainted with  POR 15. It’s a Reese hitch system which we are loving overall, but we were surprised the paint deteriorated so quickly.


7. Bucket We swapped our “Pacific blue” bucket (in which we keep chocks, stabilizers, etc) for a new gray one (from Target). For many (snobs) in the wooden boat community (from which Ben hails), Pacific blue is an obnoxious, thoughtless, in your face color for boat accessories. It did NOT blend in with the Airstream, especially in pics. Ben hated it. (Can you tell?)


8. Polish And finally – in my mind we were only going to do it if we had time – in Ben’s it was gonna get done no matter what: a quick and dirty polish using S-grade Nuvite polish and the cyclo polisher. The truck got a nice washing as well. IMG_3991

9. Jettisoning some stuff So, our truck bed was crammed full, and we did some hard sorting and left behind stuff we hadn’t used and came to realize we likely wouldn’t miss: a foldable kayak and accessories, a metal detector, sewing machine, exercise bands (kept the yoga mat), some clothes (see pile below; but added my slippers, which I had foolishly thought I wouldn’t want), our tent (kept the sleeping bags).IMG_3987

10. Storage Hammock Where to store produce that doesn’t need to be refrigerated? We had tried everything and we bought and installed this gear hammock (from a marine store of course). It was hard to pick a practical spot that wouldn’t stick out too much – we settled for above the sink. IMG_4056-0

So, off we go, 2nd leg, Southwest here we come, on our way to Ben’s family in Dallas for Christmas, with hopefully a shorter refit list so we can enjoy family and put the rest of our time and energy into rooting for the Sooners (Ben’s alma mater) in the playoffs!


Lost and Found Storage Space

IMG_8119I spend a lot of time thinking about space. Like: Will we have to store the beer in the bathroom? (See pic at left.) Ben’s wardrobe could and will be just 7 or less pairs of everything, but I need 14, or 21 maybe. I also love to cook and making thoughtful, simple, and delicious meals will be a big part of what will make this adventure enjoyable and economical. Cooking requires stuff: food, and in most cases some sort of equipment beyond a mess kit. Food + cooking equipment + our combined 28 pairs of everything need space to reside in when not in use. So Ben, when not doing laundry, and mostly in response to my wishes, spends a lot of time trying to create / save / maximize space as he designs and builds.

Original interior - cabinets above couch - all gone.

Original interior – cabinets above couch – all gone.

If you look at the original pictures of the ‘68 Safari, there were fairly large cabinets on either end. Those cabinets we torn out and replaced with – a four inch deep, open aluminum shelves.

Artsy pic of the shelf where a big cabinet used to be.

Artsy pick of the shelf where the cabinet used to be.

Pretty! But not exactly practical for storing that 2lb bag of basmati rice, or the 12-pack of Tecate, the extra blanket or soup pot. And of course, when travelling, open shelves aren’t great places for storage, though when we are camping, I suppose we’ll be able to use them for sooooooomething—I’ll let you know. Maybe socks.

One recent Sunday, after a night of going to sleep and waking up thinking about space, I convinced Ben that a trip to one of the many by all accounts fabulous flea markets in the area might be a good break and a way to “purchase” rather than have to build or design hack some additional space. Though in his real life, Ben would go to swap meets, auctions, flea markets, garage sales, etc all day every day, in these couple of months, it’s been tough to tear him away from the job site.

Fridge of left; to be built bed/cabinet on right. Needed a cabinet that fits in the middle.

Fridge of left; to be built bed/cabinet on right. Needed a cabinet that fits in the middle.

But, we both agreed, the space between the fridge and the bed/dinette (as of yet, only marked out on blue tape on the floor) would be perfect for a cool vintage cabinet of some sort. It’s a very visible space, front and center when you step into the Airstream, and a piece of furniture could double as a side table and cabinet. We took measurements and off we went.

The Pasadena City College Flea Market – held the first Sunday of the month and from what we heard is a “just as good but less overwhelming” version of the Rose Bowl flea. After a couple of hours of up and down touring-lots to see, browse and purchase, with good prices-we came away with a couple of good finds. We spotted the white Westinghouse roaster cabinet pretty early in our rounds. We loved the original clock, the shape, the cavernous storage inside (it’s all relative people) the height, the depth BUT but decided it was too wide, maybe too much of a project in that we’d have to maybe cut a couple of inches off somehow stabilize it again by attaching it to the fridge cabinet. Not exactly the time save we were hoping for. So we wandered, bought a bunch of small tins for a dollar each that can be used for storage throughout, and bargained for a super IMG_8188 IMG_8187curvy gleamy bread box that in my real life I would never have used (just seems potentially like a place where bread goes to die) but will look and fit beautifully on our nice deep counter tops. Perhaps a place for bread, or more likely shelf stable pantry stuff. After thinking and searching and coming up empty for another cabinet, we decided the 50 buck price was right to give the Westinghouse a try. Maybe it would fit ok. Sure enough, when we placed it in the spot under the window and through a slab of wood on top (of course) it seems to really belong. So we lost two inches of width on the dinette. I will sleep on the bags of basmati rice if I have to!

In other space lost and found news, we realized we had more than a few inches of clearance between the top of the fridge and the countertop, and Ben set out to create some kind of cabinet there, really a little narrow cubby.

Foil friend for determining cabinet height

Foil friend for determining cabinet height

What could fit in such a small space? Foil and plastic wrap and baggies we decided, so a test-fit roll of aluminum foil became Ben’s constant companion as he measured and cut and fit. He worked tirelessly to get at least two inches of height out of that cubby. And he did it! We now have the coolest little sliding door cabinet. The door face is original trim from the Airstream. The handle is a through-bolt familiar to anyone who has ever come face to face with their subfloor. But it turns out, the foil fit, but plastic wrap doesn’t. So we imagine we will enjoy equally using that space for silverware – you can watch the full video demo on Instagram.

Screen grabs of sliding door cubby in action!

Screen grabs of the sliding door cubby in action!

If not silverware, maybe for our socks, or our rock collection, or our pet snake. Just kidding on the last two!