She is a 1959 Airstream Caravanner. As many of you know, I spend quite a bit of time on the road between workshops, classes, speaking engagements along with a whole host of other activities. Until now I have spent much of my time sleeping in tents, the back of my car and the occasional hotel room. In fact when I went to buy my most recent vehicle, I tested out the back to make sure I could fit my camping pad in there with my gear. I have now gone so far as to build a platform that I can store gear below while sleeping on top; minimizing my time to go from exploration mode into hibernation mode. It is still a long way off, but when Amelia is done she will be a modern rolling home away from home for me.
I have actually been looking for about 2 years now for an old Airstream to make my own and take on the road with me. Earlier this year I was perusing all of the sites I would check periodically for new offerings on the market when I spotted an old Airstream with more windows than I had ever seen. It was gutted with a frame that had been welded in areas with new steel to give her a new lease on life. It was love at first sight! I live in Seattle and this Airstream was in Wichita, Kansas. For the average person this would pose a bit of an obstacle, but I was already planning on driving east to NY in June for my 20th high school reunion and my brothers wedding in which I was the best man. Since I was planning on spending the summer in Los Angeles, and the place I stay at down there had enough room for the trailer (and amazing friends that don’t mind our intrusion), I just picked up the trailer on my way across the country back west. Yes, for those of you with me so far, I bought it sight unseen.
I had it shipped from the person I bought it from to L&M Auto in Wichita. I found them after cold calling many different places that deal with trailer brakes. I got a really good feeling from them when I spoke to them the first couple of times and my instincts proved to be spot on. Caleb, Bryce and the amazing people at L&M pulled off the old 3500lb axle, rusted-solid shocks and brakes. They installed a new custom built 7000lb axle along with modern brakes and new bearings. They also hooked up my weight distribution hitch and RF brake controller so I could safely hit the road. When I first called them I was just planning on getting new brakes on it and hooking up the controller. In the long run we ended up installing a whole new bottom end to the trailer.
Despite the fact that there were no wheel wells to speak of, I was almost ready to head westward to Los Angeles. Before I left Wichita though there was one more stop I had to make. When I picked up the trailer it had tires that were not rated for highway speeds. I headed over to the Discount Tire in Derby, KS where Michael squeezed me in before they closed and I had new tires put on that would be ready for all of the miles we will be logging over the coming years. I ended up driving for about 4 hours that night and found a hotel that I could pull through with the trailer not too far from the Colorado border. I was planning on using the trailer like a big metal tent on this trip, but the lack of installed wheel wells that were supposed to be there meant that anytime I drove through a Midwestern summer storm the trailer would get filled with road grime and water. After a long day I was ready for some sleep only to head to The Great Sand Dunes National Park in the morning.