Remember that 1970s-era Euro-pop tune by Kraftwerk? “Wir fahren fahren fahren auf der Autobahn” (English: We drive drive drive on the motorway) That pretty well sums up the past two days.
We just needed to get the Airstream from the panhandle of Florida to north Texas as expediently as possible, and for that job there’s nothing like a nice boring Interstate highway. Load the snacks, the podcasts, and some books and and the Gameboy for Emma — we’re going to check out half a dozen Interstate rest areas along I-10, I-49, and I-20! Woo-hoo!
After an unremarkable overnight in Alexandria LA, where the height of excitement was discovering that we had accidentally spent the night parked next to a sign that said “NO OVERNIGHT PARKING,” we plowed up through Louisiana and across north Texas into the dark heart of the Dallas/Ft Worth metroplex. The Louisiana roads were fine, quiet and even a bit scenic, but I do not enjoy the D/FW traffic nightmare when towing. We encountered about 40 miles of construction zones (narrow lanes, signs missing, Jersey barriers) and the usual maniacal drivers making high-speed radical drifts across three lanes right in front of us while texting.
Twice we were forced off the road by a combination of “Exit Only” lanes that weren’t marked in the construction zones and drivers who would absolutely not let us enter “their” lanes. At one point I decided to assert the mighty power of a 48-foot rig and almost literally crushed a small econobox that was being obnoxious. He got the message. But most of the time we played nice and tried to be steady and smooth as much as the twisting and crazy construction zones would let us.
We survived D/FW once again and eventually emerged on the northwest side near Decatur. We are now parked at Paul Mayeux’s home, where he is running his own 2-man Airstream service center. Long-time readers will recall that last April I left our Caravel here for repairs and never got back to pick it up. So now we have two Airstreams here at Paul’s, 900 miles from home.
Our primary reason for coming here was to get a new air conditioner installed. We’re going with a 15K BTU model (high capacity than the 13.5K model it is replacing). We’re skipping the expensive dual AC/heat pump unit because we hardly ever used the heat pump and we have two other sources of heat anyway (furnace and catalytic heater). That saves about $450. Paul and Denver (who used to work on our Airstream when Roger Williams Airstream in nearby Weatherford was in business) will install the AC on Friday.
It always seems that when we get to a service center we find a bunch more things to fix or check. During our last two days of roadtrip we’ve noticed that the refrigerator has climbed up to 52 degrees during the day. That’s very bad, because it could indicate a failing cooling unit, which is very expensive. The fridge has been running on gas during this time, so Paul checked the gas pressure with a manometer first and found that our pressure was below spec. We adjusted the regulator and left the fridge running in a test mode (basically at top cooling capacity) all night to see if it would cool down. This morning it is showing 42 degrees, which is better but not yet good enough.
Since it was packed full of food (thermal mass), it may be that a few more hours are needed to reach optimal temp (somewhere in the low 30s). These gas absorption-type refrigerators are very slow to remove heat relative to your home refrigerator that uses an electric compressor. That’s why you have to start them the day before you go on a trip. Today we are expecting highs in the upper 90s, so it’s a good test day. If the fridge continues to cool, we’re fine, but if not, we’ll have to dig a little deeper to find the root cause.
We’ve also noticed that the bathroom vent fan seems to drip a little in the rain even when closed. It probably has a crack in the plastic, so we’re anticipating replacing it on Friday as well. That’s not a major job.
Parked next to us is a Canadian couple in an Argosy who are here for installation of solar panels, Marvin and Annie. We’ve met before, way back in 2005 when Project Vintage Thunder was first displayed (unpainted and incomplete) at the Florida State Rally in Sarasota. They remembered us and Vintage Thunder. So it’s like being in a little campground here at the shop.
The best news we’ve had so far is that nights up here are cooling down nicely. We’re getting 65 degrees by daybreak, and the humidity is low, so even without AC at the moment it’s very comfortable. We finally used a blanket on the bed last night. And added to that, we zipped up to Decatur last night and got our first Texas barbecue dinner of this trip, which is always something that makes us all happy. I don’t know why, I guess it’s just a tradition now. Memories of other great trips.