Friday, September 18, 2009

Near Disaster in New York-Or "It Could Have Been Worse"

Sorry for the delay in new postings, but as we headed through the Adirondacks, I suddenly noticed smoke beginning to pour out of the left rear wheel. Within seconds, as I began to maneuver the Airstream toward the side of the road, I watched in horror as the wheel completely separated from the trailer and spilled out onto the road. This left us careening down the highway on one wheel and we soon ended up off the road and stuck in the soft dirt there.

We would later find out that the hub of the axle had suffered a catastrophic failure which caused the wheel to separate. Stuck in the middle of nowhere on a Sunday night, and hopelessly stuck in the ditch, it was about four hours later before we were able to get the trailer up on the flat bed tow truck that came from the little town of Old Forge, NY twenty-five miles away. The driver said he knew of a small shop in town that “builds trailers”, so he dumped us in their lot and we spent the night there waiting for the shop to open the next morning.

Steve from East/West Trailer Sales arrived at work early and after surveying the damage for a moment, declared that “Yup, we can fix that” and sauntered off to get his tools. Several hours later we had everything apart and considering the intense violence of the hub failure, were surprised to see how little mechanical damage we had sustained. Unfortunately, we had suffered a small amount of body damage as the wheel excited the wheel well. Kate is one of these “it could have been worse” people, but surveying the damage I was hard pressed to think of how. Steve could fix the axle, but could do nothing to make our silver beauty whole again.

We had to order parts, so we spent another night in the back lot of the trailer shop. In the morning a family of deer sauntered through the lot on their way to the nearest watering hole. Our parts were not due in until the afternoon, so we spent the day working on the website and looking for someone to repair the body damage. As luck would have it, my friend Steve from Vintage Trailer Supply knew a guy in nearby Plattsburg, NY that he highly recommended. One phone call later, and we had set up an appointment for the next day with Colin Hyde, an expert on vintage Airstreams.

Our parts arrived as we had hoped, and by 5pm we were back on the road, a little bit worse for the wear and tear, but moving none the less. We spent the night on a nearby lake, and made our way to Colin’s place the next morning.

As we approached the shop, there were a half dozen or so Airstreams strewn about the lot and it was obvious we had found Colin. Inside the shop another group of Airstreams were in various states of disassemble and awaiting their repairs. Colin grabbed his floor jack and was soon drilling away at the rivets that, like an airplane hold an Airstream together. For the next three hours, we swapped Airstream lies as Colin cut away the offending bits of metal, and replaced them with some salvaged aluminum sheet from a previous repair. Once complete, he gave the spot a quick polish to match the rest of the trailer, and although clearly a visible repair, “it could have been worse” as Kate loves to say, or “it is what it is” a phrase Colin and I discovered we both share.

By mid-afternoon, we were back on the road, took a ferry ride to Vermont, had a Martini in Burlington, and settled down for the night by the peaceful shores of Lake Champlain. As I drifted off to sleep, I realized that just before the axle failed, I had looked back at the wheel and thought that something just did not look right. Next time I will listen to the voices in my head!

1 comment:

  1. Whoa, dude..and dudette......Damned STRAIGHT it could have been worse!!! I am glad you are both safe and unharmed- truly, that had the makings of an Airstream nightmare!!!! Sounds like you're pretty lucky to be on the road again..........
    ....see? now you can't get rid of me....... xoxoox
    p.s. speaking of voices in your that hereditary?