A friend called Eleanor the other day and noted that the blog was quiet. When that happens, she said, either Rich is working on projects he can’t talk about (yet) or there’s not much happening. Turns out that it’s a little bit of both lately.
Home life has been quiet … so quiet in fact that our major form of entertainment has been the foster kittens. They have kept us entertained day and night, even at times when we’d prefer they were sleeping. They arrived here underweight and left today, three weeks later, each nearly a pound heavier and in peak form to be adopted.
It’s a shame to let them go back to the Humane Society when they are so darned adorable, but they need homes. We’ve done what we can to bring out their natural irresistible cuteness, and make them completely comfortable with people and typical household life. As I told them at today’s graduation ceremony, “Boys, the rest is up to you.” They seemed prepared for the task. We’ll get a new kitten or two shortly, and begin the process anew.
Meanwhile I have fulfilled my pledge to do something about the spare tire issue. This turned out to be fairly easy. I ordered a fifth tire from Discount Tire to match the four new Bridgestones that are on the car, and they mounted it up last week. The only catch was that the tires for the Mercedes are a lot bigger than the ones for the Airstream, so it wouldn’t fit in the spare carrier on the Airstream without some modification. The Merc tire is about two inches wider and 2-3 inches larger in diameter.
So the first step was to do some careful measuring to confirm that the larger tire would fit in the Airstream’s belly recess. It seemed like there was plenty of room in there, almost as if Airstream had foreseen this situation.
The spare carrier comes off easily, with just two bolts toward the rear holding it in place. A 3/4″ socket and a short extension on a ratchet wrench are all you need. Well, that plus a little elbow grease. Once it was off, I loaded it up along with both the Airstream and Mercedes wheels, and took the whole pile to my favorite welding shop.
The modification was fairly simple. The two bolt attachments needed to be extended by about two inches so that the entire carrier would hang lower. This would allow the bigger spare to fit and yet still be pressed tightly up against the belly of the Airstream so it wouldn’t move.
I also asked the welding shop to figure a way that I could go back to carrying the smaller Airstream spare if I wanted to. You can see their solution above. They simply bolted on a pair of height extensions, welded on new outboard “arms” to accommodate the larger diameter, and fabricated a new latch with two holes.
If I wanted to go back to the Airstream spare, it would be just a matter of unbolting the two extensions, and using the lower hole on the latch for the locking pin. The tension of the tire pressed up against the belly of the trailer will keep the tire from shifting much.
The new spare was a tighter fit than I had expected. While there was plenty of room in the recess, I had failed to consider the process of getting the tire under the Airstream. The struts of the Hensley partially block the path, and there’s not quite enough clearance to slide the tire atop the carrier and beneath the battery box. To get it in, I have to wind the Hensley strut jacks up into towing position (not a problem since that’s where they’d be anyway), and I have to use the trailer’s power hitch to lift the nose about 2-3 inches. It’s also a much heavier wheel to deal with, so pulling this thing out on a rainy day by the side of a muddy highway will not be much fun.
Once it’s in place, there’s plenty of ground clearance. The tire still hangs above the height of the hitch weight transfer bars.
This amounts to a very expensive spare tire. I bought the Mercedes 20″ rim from a guy in California for $300 (new ones cost about $900!), the tire was about $250, and the fabrication work ended up at $125, for a grand total of $675. But it will get used, because we need to do a five-wheel tire rotation every 10,000 miles (to keep all five tires evenly worn), so I’ll get my value out of the tire at least.
And it’s nice to know we have it. Now if we have a tire failure on the tow vehicle, we can still drive. If we have a tire failure on the Airstream, we can tow on three wheels or unhitch to go get a replacement Airstream tire. We have better options. If we ever decide to go to Alaska or Newfoundland, we can still throw the (smaller) Airstream spare into the back of the car for added insurance.
OK, enough about that. I hope to not need to write about tires again for quite a long time. I want to talk about another project, the new Airstream Life Classifieds section.
Places to list your Airstream for sale are everywhere on the Internet. I used to maintain a list of them that ran to about thirty different sites, all free. But once in a while I get a call from someone who has a special, rare, or high-value trailer, and they want to see that ad in print, in Airstream Life. We’ve never been able to accommodate this, but I’ve finally set up a site where you can post your ad online and have it appear in the next issue of the magazine.
So it’s in a trial mode right now. (I’m sorry, that’s not cool enough for the Internet. I’d better say it’s “in beta” instead.) You can try it out right now at classified.airstreamlife.com. Online-only ads are free, and print ads cost $75. But here’s the sweetener: since this is the first run, you can actually get a print ad for free. When you fill out the ad form, at the bottom of the page will be an option box that says “Ad Package”. Choose the “Print ad in Airstream Life magazine” option and just below that, enter the coupon code FREE_ASL_AD and your ad will appear in the Winter 2012 issue for free!
Now, I do have to put in a few limitations. Only one free ad per customer, and all ads must be submitted no later than October 5 to receive this deal. If I don’t get enough ads to launch the section, this offer will be void (but your ad will still run online for free).
I’m interested in your feedback. If you’ve tried it out and have some comments that might help improve it, let me know with a comment on this blog post. If it works and people find it valuable, I’ll make it a formal part of the magazine going forward. It’s up to the community. Personally, I think that even in an era of Internet everywhere, there’s a certain credibility that you can only get from print, so I’m hoping that we get some interesting Airstreams in this section.