Restorable Airstream

Restoring Aluminum

2013 Roslyn Vintage Trailer Rally

For Mother’s Day, my husband took me camping. For Father’s Day, it was only fair to return the favor. Besides, my destiny was calling: the 2013 Roslyn Vintage Trailer Rally. If you happen to know my age and my last name, you will understand why this was my destiny. A family reunion of sorts. Not knowing exactly what to expect, we packed for a weekend of hanging out in a park and walks through a small town. There was a competition in numerous-categories for the best-outfitted trailers. I had several ideas for trailer themes but in the end, I kind of gave up on it. I decided my theme was family fun with my 2 kids also known as “survival”. I packed a pair of overalls that I wore as a toddler (size 24 months) for my daughter to keep with the vintage theme. They were denim and she was constantly mistook for a boy. I threw in my son’s lemonade stand supplies (two failed attempts last summer,,,but I keep the supplies at the ready). I packed some mid-century silver wear that my in-laws gave us imagining that I could set the table for a little ambiance, but it never left the rubbermaid crate of supplies. All packed up, We were on our way Friday after work

Roslyn, Washington is a lovely small town on the east side of the Cascade Mountains. Not too far east, tt has more trees than most of Eastern Washington and a bit of altitude. The city allowed the trailers to converge in their city park. We arrived around 8:30 PM, and there were trailers everywhere, somewhat haphazardly scattered all over the park. A nice guy walking a dog told us we could park wherever we wanted, and mentioned something about a lot of beer. We drove straight in and parked in the middle of the park, next to a 1968 Airstream. After wandering around, we determined that per vintage trailer rally etiquette we probably parked too close to this family but they were very nice about it. Our trailer did create some shade that thankfully they took full advantage of. My son also took full advantage of the two brothers in that trailer as new playmates. We took a bit of a walk (to the bathrooms), and then it was time to put my daughter to bed. I fell asleep, too. Which was good because she was up before 6 AM. We still managed to diddle the morning away:making oatmeal, changing diapers, reading. Most folks were up early anyway, since the sun rises at 4 AM. So, we packed things away in our trailer like never before. We did the dishes. We UNCOVERED the upholstery. And then we opened up the door, and people come in, and vice verse, we got to peek in other trailers. Here is what I learned: 1. Airstreams are like fingerprints, no two are exactly alike. 2. There are many cute vintage trailers that I can’t name but the Shastas were particularly adorable. 3. People bring all manner of vintage items to sell “swap meet” style..I resisted but I like old lanterns and there was the cutest set of metal play dishes that I passed up. 4. Some people go all out with their trailers. I saw a working pot-belly stove in one, an Oklahoma themed one, lots of pink, yellow, lavender, and turquoise, and lots of polished aluminum. I got our key stuck in the doorknob, and Derek had to pull out the whole cylinder. This lead to a conversation with a guy  who was practically a co-worker that lead to my husband the finding a new Airstream doorknob at a lock shop a few blocks from our house for 200 dollars less than it goes for on the internet. Whew!

Let the family fun begin: Afternoon arrived, and my son set up his lemonade stand and had a record breaking day of sales! We were in close proximity to a playground. It had some old-school monkey bars that I will spend more time writing about soon.  We spent a lot of time on that playground. My daughter likes to sit in camping chairs! Anyway, the day ended with a potluck. There were lots of yummy salads which upped my normal camping veggie intake. I fell asleep early and again missed an opportunity to see the moon and the stars.

People started packing up on Sunday, in fact, we were one of the last trailers to leave. We took a walk to Ronald, WA on the Coal Trail…a path that was a former coal railway line. We went to the Sunday farmer’s market and back for some more ice cream. Incidentally, I got the best photo of our camper to date as it was uncovered and uncluttered and bright due to the appearance of the sun…probably why I can’t stop gushing.All dressed up...the interiorRoslyn 2013 Vintage Trailer Rally

posted by admin in Camping Trips, Vintage Trailer Rallies, Vintage playgrounds and have No Comments

Spring Thaw

We kicked off the camping season a bit early in March 2013. By a bit early, I mean that we did not fill the water tank with water for fear it might freeze.  We added to the list of places that I have visited in Washington State that I can’t pronounce: Dosewallips State Park. When we left the park on Sunday aftenoon, it was forty-something degrees. We have temporarily replaced the 1966 propane fridge with a small dorm-sized electric fridge bolted to the ground. By temporarily, I mean that we may get this fridge unbolted and replaced just in time for my 6 year old son to take it to college. With an electrical hookup, it works pretty well, especially compared to the propane fridge that didn’t work at all. A few weekends later, we visited Ike Kinswa State Park (#2 on the list of places in WA state I can’t pronounce), which was on a lake and considerably warmer. We even saw the sun! It was heret hat we broke the lock on the door. Something that should have been a square mechanism had gone round…This proved to be a difficult problem to solve. Parts are not longer available, but you can replace it with something that is expensive and doesn’t actually fit. This culminated in my husband spending a lot of time in the basement with a dremmel tool. ( Lists to start: Tools I can’t spell), and wa-la! The lock works. I was involved in a critical decision: what color to paint the doorknob. I should have said silver, but if you see an old Airstream with a robin’s egg blue doorknob cruising down the road, know that it is mine.

posted by admin in AIrstream Interior Restoration, Camping Trips and have No Comments

Prosser Balloon Rally

  Somehow, I just feel happy in the Yakima Valley. I love the fields of mint (I wanted to go roll in one once but a mean looking dog quickly squelched that fantasy). I love the hop yards (made that word up but I think it is a good one), I love the wineries, the sunshine, and the orchards. I love the fact that the whole area was once flooded by a giant ice age dam break releasing water all the way from Montana. While passing through this summer en route to Glacier, we learned that Prosser has a hot air balloon rally the last weekend of September. In fact, their 23rd annual hot air balloon rally, which means we already missed 22 of them. And I Think I love hot air balloons, too.
     We hadn't used our airstream since a trip to Glacier National Park at the end of July. It turns out we hadn't really unpacked it either. Which was good because I couldn't bring myself to do meal planning, shopping, and packing during the work week leading up to the trip. So we lived off what we had adding to the adventure. I threw in the following items: some juice boxes, a can of evaporation milk (for coffee), marshmallows, baby food, jar of pasta sauce, pasta. And we hardly used any of it, going out to restaurants instead...a brewpub of my husbands choice and a Mexican restaurant of mine. And what turned out to be my son's favorite breakfast stop ever: a restaurant adjacent to a roller skating rink. The rink wasn't open for skating, but he took a few joyful laps around it in his shoes just because he could.           We left our home at 6:00 pm Friday night. At 7:30 pm I crawled on the back seat to feed my daughter some baby food. My son was already bored in the darkness, and kept shouting "I command that you turn the light on." My daughter cried in between every bite of food. And did I mention it is HARD to feed a 9 month old baby in the dark. I momentarily wished I were home on the couch instead.
     We arrived at the Beach RV park at Benton City, WA well after 10 pm. Ironic to arrive at the Beach after heading away from the salt water for 4 and a half hours. My son needed to go to the bathroom (our trailer bathroom being a Reno project for the future), so we walked off to find one. And could not. The RV park is adjacent to many homes and trailer houses, and it's a good thing they don't shoot to kill in Benton City because I wandered through the yards of many of them, trying doors on outbuildings hoping they would be, well, outhouses. It was dark, and The Beach was not particularly well-marked. A kind soul told us the way to the bathrooms, on the opposite end of the RV park from where we entered.
     The Balloon Rally is good family fun that starts at 5:45 AM. The balloons lift off at 6:45. It is a hobby for the dedicated because it requires not only getting up early but the support of a crew that doesn't get to ride. I am guessing they take turns riding. But you can watch the balloons get filled and stand as close as you want.   I ran into one of the organizers of the event at ahem, Willow Crest Winery who told me it costs 700 dollars to be a sponsor and that you get a free balloon ride. He also encouraged me to take the family to Nightglow that evening.
     We went to Nightglow, where balloons don't lift off but are lovely to look at illuminated like nightlights. They flickered on and off to the tunes of the same music played at sporting events. In fact, the Announcer MUST have been playing from the compilation Jock Jams. The whole thing had a small town, yet oddly professional feel to it. It was held in the football field of Prosser High School (Go Mustangs!), but not just anyone is allowed on that field next to that much propane. It is the only event in the history of my family that we arrived to one and a half hours early so we caught the steel drum band pre show. It was akin to waiting for darkness to fall for a fireworks show. Kids were so tired they sat quietly in our laps for the balloon spectacular, and I am certain that I will be able to count on one hand the number of times that happens. So we sat back and enjoyed it.  Whooomp (There it is).
posted by admin in Campground Review and have No Comments

Aluminum Tent Report

In late August, 2011, we took four mini-trips to inaugurate the Sandman. The first trip was to a driveway 20 miles from our home. We enjoyed an evening with good friends and the opportunity to “test it out”. We spent the fall taking a few weekend trips to campgrounds in our area. We did not particularly need hookups, but we camped at Millersylvania State Park where hookups were plentiful. It was here that I learned the dirty little secret of RVing. If you want full hookups, they squish you close together in an area that is reminiscent of “early parking lot.” Everyone has a campfire which makes the area very smokey and everyone has a dog which made the area very barky. I quickly learned that I prefer campgrounds with more privacy and more space between sites, which means more “boondocking”. I thought this sounded like a unheard of form of dance that only the judges on “So You Think You can Dance” are aware of (really, had you every heard of “krumping” before this show ) but come to find out it is camping without hookups of the electric, sewer, and hydro sort. My husband was overjoyed, because he would like nothing more than to install solar panels. It is quite possible that we will spend more on the Sandman than on our house. On which my husband commented wistfully, “I hope our son or daughter wants the Sandman one day…”

It just dawned on me that boondocking must have origins in the ancient Latin phrase “in the boondocks..”

posted by admin in Campground Review, Uncategorized and have No Comments

Things Need Names

If you are looking for a blog that will tell you how to restore an airstream, I am sorry. That really was my intent. To write about the journey of restoring a 1966 airstream and hopefully share some useful and hard-earned tips to save our fellow airstreamers some time. But I had to get real, I sometimes have a hard time using an unfamiliar can opener. I can spend hours in Home Depot trying to find an item that my husband has asked for because I am too ashamed to ask an employee for help because a) I may have only a vague notion of what the item looks like or what it does b)I do not know a noun to describe this item and c) I can’t even properly categorize the item to even know where to start looking ie “used for “plumbing” vs “made of wood” vs “sticky substance that will dissolve my hands.” Sadly, categorization and description are both skills linked to intellect, and in this area I definitely have to fight my way up the bell curve.

Now, I have my strengths, but if you want someone who can help you survive the apocalypse by constructing you a cabin out of found materials and then building some sort of water system to pipe in fresh water from a stream, you should make friends with my husband. The Pioneer Woman has her Marlboro Man, the woman who writes a blog read by my Mother has “Left Brain”, and I have the honor of being married to someone so talented it is hard to come up with one word that describes the person who would assure that me and my children survive any disaster/apocalypse/home improvement project/ construction job/ or repair that the world may throw our way…I think I shall just call him the Canadian, and leave it at that. He will already think that I have revealed too much information about him as it is.

posted by admin in Campfire Cooking, Campground Review, Marital Harmony, Uncategorized and have No Comments

Robin’s Egg Blue

The agreed-upon Robin's egg blue upholstery fabrics in action!

The agreed-upon Robin's egg blue upholstery fabrics in action!

Like so many bloggers, I have ignored Restorable Iron for over a year. And in that year a lot has happened. I am sad to report that the “Silver Sandman” was not ready for a summer 2011 trip. We went to Crater Lake and the Redwoods in Neo, the Trusty Toyota Matrix, and had a fine time. And I should win wife of the year for sleeping in a tent for a week while four months pregnant. And not complaining about it. I won’t even mention the frequent midnight bathroom runs in the darkness in what must have been Sasquatch country. A few more weekends of work after that trip, and Wa-la! We were at what my husband refers to as the “Aluminum tent” stage. Where none of the major systems are working, but you can sleep in the airstream. I am sure that he did not coin the term himself, but instead must have gotten it from his new friends, the VAP boys (Vintage Airstream Podcast). These guys have become an integral part of his life. In fact, he often listens to them in the morning when getting ready for work. This is very tricky, because he occasionally participates in a morning conference call for work as well, so I am trained to not interrupt/talk to him/make eye contact during this time, because, technically, even though he is in his jammies eating a bowl of cereal, he is WORKING So one morning I thought of something semi-important to tell him, and then thought, well I guess it will have to wait. And then it dawned on me for the past year, he hasn’t been on work conference calls, just listening to the VAP. And I thought, these people aren’t even real! I am more important! I can interrupt! I can discuss semi-important matters with my husband in the precious time that we have before we all leave for work and day care.

Making it to the aluminum tent stage means: we agreed on fabrics for interior curtains and cushions. Funny, any time we have to have a meeting of the minds on color we wind up with things in the “robins egg blue” family. Our bedroom walls are painted a similar color. And my maid of honor wore that color in our wedding. I will post a picture as soon as we are brave enough to remove the sheets covering every cushioned surface…Perhaps when we retire we will sit on the cushions in earnest.

posted by admin in AIrstream Interior Restoration, Marital Harmony, Upholstery and have No Comments

What Would Work for Woodwork

The February sun was shining this weekend, reminding us that if we want to take a maiden voyage in the Airstream this summer, there is work to be done. Like, lots of it. This weekend,  D did something with the windows. It involved spraying some paint removal spray while my car was parked about 24 inches away. Rest assured, he covered the car with an old plastic shower curtain he wouldn’t let me throw out. My Mom asked what/why he was doing this, and I really can’t answer, but the window seals have hardened and are disintegrating, and he has ordered replacement seals. The glass portions of the windows are now in the garage and the window “holes” left in the airstream are rather classically covered with black garbage bag and duct tape. The areas around the windows have been polished with a dremmel tool, but please don’t ask me to spell dremmel.

Oh, we have made progress on choosing a fabric. It seems the price of marital harmony is $79 per yard. But the fabric does transport you back to the Seattle World’s Fair of 1962, which is totally the look we want for our 1966 Airstream. Recovering cushions at this price would cost more than all of the furniture in my living room plus bedrooms (We shop at IKEA and bought some classic furniture used). Anyway, another fabric came in a close (and better priced) second, and we may just settle on it…I realized we still have some time on the cushions as the other messy interior work is in progress.

I had two jobs this weekend, my Saturday job entailed cleaning out the area under the bench seat including the wheel well. I made this task much easier by spilling a full bucket of water when the handle broke. Presto! Job done. My Sunday job was painting stripper on the cabinet doors that Derek removed, waiting 20 minutes, and then using a special tool to remove the stripper and the old varnish. I learned than when working with hazardous chemicals, you really can not be expected to do anything else, such as removing your 3 year old from the top step of a ladder in the garage or trying to take a photo with the iphone. I tried pressing iphone buttons and using the touch screen with my hazmat coated gloves on: 1. The iphone touch screen does not work with gloves on, so I had to use my nose 2.  I fully expect the iphone to dissolve in any minute.  As for my 3 year old, he triumphantly smiled from the top step of the ladder when he realized I wasn’t about to reach up, grab him, and pull him down with, thus covering him with hazmat and maybe literally scarring him for life.

Before the work got seriously underway, I did snap a photo. The aforementioned, hazardous, i-phone dissolving product masquerades as a friendly orange substance smelling mildly of, you guessed it, oranges!  Paint this on the wood, sit for 30 minutes to 24 hours, and scrape. Removes varnish and water spotting!airstream

posted by admin in Actual How-tos, Airstream Exterior Restoration, Marital Harmony, Woodwork and have Comments (2)

What’s the holdup? Agreeing on a fabric.

My husband has an opinion, so choosing a fabric for the cushions is taking a while.  Not to mention another fabric that coordinates with the yet-to-be chosen cushion fabric for the curtains.  We both think we want a fun, print fabric reflective of the Airstream’s 1966 date of birth. We both want durable, stain, sun, and child resistant fabric, though softness of fabric decreases as these qualities increase. We both like variety of shades of blue.  Then things diverge a bit. Husband eliminates any fabric with any suggestion of brown. And the browns keep speaking to me. So we just keep going to fabric stores.

posted by admin in Marital Harmony and have Comments (3)


When you acquire your pre-owned 1966 Airstream from highly conscientious preowners, one of the benefits is that you also acquire the original 1966 owner’s manual. This manual, in its entirety, contains fewer pages than the manual that came with my bread machine, thus supporting my belief that life really was simpler in 1966. Anyway, on a rainy, cloudy Labor Day in 2010, I opened the manual because I had noticed earlier it contained cleaning directions. Cleaning the Airstream was our first restoration task. I say “our” because it is my first time offering assistance. My father and one of the preowners assisted my husband in the monumental task of replacing the axel, hooking the Airstream to the truck, and driving it to its new home in my carport.

So, I figured I could scrub (Chapter 15: Interior Maintainance).  The walls are made of vinyl, except the part that is made of Zolatone plastic (which I will be Googling as soon as I finish writing this). According to the manual, you could use DETERGENT and a bit of bleach on the vinyl, but SOAP on the Zolatone. I really do not know the difference between detergent and soap. As I scrubbed with some Costco Tide (detergent???) and a bit of bleach, I wondered if a piece of cultural knowledge had somehow been lost between now and 1966? Did men and women  of the 60s know the difference between soap and detergent?? I was hoping that cleaning products had improved and that modern detergent would not hurt the Zolatone, and the vinyl could withstand soap. Well, I shall find out. I cross-contaminated surfaces with detergent and soap.

I think I scrubbed for 4 hours. Despite wearing gloves, taking a shower, and rubbing in some lotion my hand smells like bleach and 1966.

Zolatone: Two step durable auto-body type of paint. Company still exists.

posted by admin in Marital Harmony and have Comment (1)


Axle Arrive

  • New axel and tires installed – Aug 14th and 15th 2010
  • Camper fits under the carport! – August 15th 2010
  • Door unlocked and work begins – Sept. 6, 2010
    (very fitting – Labor Day)
posted by admin in Uncategorized and have Comments (3)