Trundling over to Jackson Center, Ohio, is a pretty routine experience for us these days. We get here every year, and sometimes twice a year. And yet, it’s still sort of exciting to visit the home base of Airstream, talk to the people, watch the guys working in the Service Center, and see all the Airstreams coming and going.
Sixty miles out from the plant we started to see other Airstreams along the road, and pulled over in convenient spots for lunch. By the time you get to Jackson Center, which is a small village far from city lights, the Airstreams seem to become as numerous as the soybean & corn fields.
Coming here this week has been quite a different experience from our annual Alumapalooza week. For one thing, it’s very quiet. Only about eight Airstreams are in the Terra Port, and there’s no line at the service center parts desk nor anyone in the Wally Byam store most of the time. I liked it. But still, we never fail to run into someone we’ve met before in the Terra Port. This time it was Jim and Linda and their two cats.
The other thing that is different is communications. Verizon and AT&T are terrible here; non-existent inside the metal buildings and marginal everywhere else. At Alumapalooza we rely on professional-grade handheld radios to keep the staff in touch, but during this visit we’ve just had to act as if it’s 1980 and cell phones haven’t been invented. I haven’t been able to successfully receive a call since I got here, although I can place them if I stand outside in the 93 degree heat (with plenty of humidity).
Ah well, technology will find a way. In this case I discovered that I could make very good Skype calls from the air conditioned Service Center lobby using their wifi, and the rest of the time I just told people to email me instead. That’s good enough for a couple of days.
Our primary purpose in being here was to have a few meetings with Airstream staff, but also to pick up some parts. The Safari’s silver beltline and propane tank lid look just awful as a result of UV exposure, so I bought replacements for those as well as a few of those small parts that are so necessary but you can never find on the road when you need them, like various sizes of rivets.
(I got up early this morning and installed the replacement propane lid before the heat built up outside. The job involves drilling and riveting, and took about 30 minutes not counting the run to the parts dept. to get another size of rivets.)
One of the Airstreams I spotted here was Wally’s “gold” Airstream, a semi-famous trailer that we wrote about in the Summer 2006 issue of Airstream Life. It’s a 1957 tandem axle custom that went to Mexico and Africa on some of Wally’s last caravans. The anodizing process used to give the trailer its gold color was never really ideal, and would deteriorate periodically leaving the trailer looking pretty awful, so this time Airstream decided to paint it gold instead.
The new paint job looks just spectacular and should last quite a long time. If our trailer starts to look ratty (many years from now) and we want to keep it longer, I’d seriously consider a silver paint job on it. I’ve seen other ones and if it is done well it looks great.
Jackson Center is a very quiet little village these days. There’s not much here to do, but people are still making an effort to keep the village alive. The Elder Theater just successfully completed a Kickstarter to raise $25k to get a digital projector and so the town’s one-screen old-school cinema will be able to continue. The Verandah, the best restaurant in town for years, was closed but now is advertising for staff again, so we have high hopes for its return soon.
This may be our last night in a convenient full hookup spot, so we’ve made the most of it. That means running the A/C, watching a movie on the TV, taking long showers, using the microwave, making repairs, and even a late-night final laundry run.
We’re done with work now, so it’s time to move on. Tomorrow we are going to make the major sprint of our trip, hopefully ending up somewhere past St Louis MO by the end of the day (over 400 miles). That’s a big one for us, and we’ll be starting early to make the most of the day.