We were so surprised and happy to see Rich Luhr at our Heart of Texas Halloween campout in October! I mean, Rich lives in Tucson, so he was really that last person we expected to show up at the LBJ Grasslands, but he was picking up his ’68 Caravel from Paul, one of our members and decided to stick around for the weekend. We had a great time catching up and filling him in on our plans to leave Texas the following week to which Rich extended an incredibly generous in offer of courtesy parking in his driveway if we went through Tucson. A few days later after looking at the map and realizing the southern route this time of the year was the best, we took him up on his offer and made a date for dinner at Rich’s in Tucson.
After a fantastic stop at Rockhound State Park the night before, we arrived in Tucson in the afternoon, loving the cul-de-sac and large, wide street we were to call home for the next night. Rich’s place is a great vintage Tucson house with an amazing view of the Santa Catalina mountains — a no brainer as a home base in between traveling!
Quiet street? Check. Palm trees? Check. No lawn to mow? Check.
We hopped in the car for a tour of the mountains, heading to Mt Lemmon (9,000+ ft) stopping at the various lookout vistas for incredible views of the city below. What I didn’t expect was snow at the top.
View of Tucson from above.
It gets a little chilly up there...
The rest of the night was spent getting a ton of amazing advice from Rich about places to stop on our way to Seattle, and eating a delicious meal his wife made for us. Oh, and trying to give his daughter a real idea of the commitment it takes to be a dog owner. I think she passed the test.
Road to KOA.
KOA’s are my go-to campsites when I need something guaranteed to be comfortable. These situations usually arise when we’ve been on the road for 8 hours and don’t want to mess around with electric that doesn’t work, unlevel spots or just an unclean park. The high price tag of a night’s stay, most of the time, justifies the hassle-free-ness of it all. Our first KOA experience was in Hope Springs, Arkansas last year — again, another great place.
I knew we’d be a little tired once we hit Kentucky on our way to Alumapalooza, so the Louisville KOA was in the right place at the right time. If we had two days to spare, I would’ve booked us another night here — it was that nice. The campground is set off from the highway, and then off from the main road you take to get there — no traffic noise here. The long, and sometimes, winding road, takes you through what looks like a state park-ish area where you find the main office.
The spots are gravel, large and pretty level. We had to use one leveling block and so did the guy next to us, but overall, thumbs. Our spot was very shaded and the whole place was quiet. We even got our bikes out to ride around the area.
Behind our spot.
Just the facts:
- Louisville South KOA
2433 Hwy 44 East
Shepardsville, KY 40165
Toll Free: 1-800-562-1880
- About $40-50/ night.
- 33 tent sites, about 55 water and electric and about 90 full hook up sites (we were in 319 if you’re looking at their map).
- They have a very big pool, laundry, fishing, propane filling station and a dump station. They also have a lot of stuff to do for kids and free wifi.
[slickr-flickr tag=”koalouisville kentucky”]
Open House Day!!
For us, the Open House was one of the most anticipated programs on the schedule at Alumapalooza and really one of the most inspirational events for me personally. More than half the group opened up their trailers to show off their remodels and modifications both inside and out, and there were more than a few truly awesome Airstreams.
Seeing the full range of models and years was great –but we were most curious to see what people with 27ft Internationals had done and got to see a few great ones including Josh and Jessa’s fabric reupholstery and bunk bed modification. Jessa made new sofa cushions with the same Sunbrella fabric that the awning is made from! Genius — most likely I’m going to steal this idea. But their biggest modification was putting upper bunks in the back above two twins. I encourage all of you to look at their site and see the remarkable transformation! There were also the small things we saw — popping out rivets to put up an ipad, installing motion sensitive night lights in the bathroom and repurposing and recycling items from other Airstreams. It was just the kick in the pants we needed to create something really unique in the Weaz.
I’d like this one please.
One of our favorites was a remodeled 1960s unit — I’m embarrassed to say I can’t remember the name of the woman who owned this one, but I was truly in awe of the inside and basically couldn’t think straight. I thought I took a few photos, but apparently I was just wiping the drool off my chin. If you happen to be reading this, Talented Owner, please get in touch!!
Master Rivet contest
You would THINK four hands are better than one….
On this faithful day we also lost any opportunity we had for working in the Airstream factory. High noon-ish began the Rivet Masters Contest in the Service Center where 20 couples were judged on the quality, not quantity, of the rivets they bucked into a predrilled sheet of Airstream aluminum. After a quick tutorial from Dave and Dan (who didn’t do a very good job at hiding their laughter at us), we had one minute to make the best installed rivets we could. This is not easy — in fact, it’s rather difficult as we found out.
After everyone was finished, the experts judged the rivets and at Happy Hour Deke and I discovered we had the worst record — 13 rivets, zero acceptable. At least we were consistent. I’d like to thank everyone for trekking over to the service department to watch, and congrats to Kerri and Russ who did a respectable 60+% successful rivets!
The Golden Airstream
Everyone should add their names on the outside!
Earlier in the week during our Airstream factory tour, we were told Wally and Stella’s gold Airstream was on the lot (YAY!), but we wouldn’t be seeing it. (boo!) On a bike ride around the grounds we spotted it and took a little detour to check it out. We were sad to find it in a gravel lot behind the factory rusted and in disrepair, but did hear that one of the service guys was adopting it and going to see what he could do. It was still great to see this very cool part of Airstream history!
DAY 6 — The End
We drank a lot of coffee.
We were so sorry to see Alumapalooza end. It was one of the best trips we’ve had in the Big Weaz and we can’t wait to do it again next year. If you judge your experience by the amount of things you give away, we did pretty good. I only have 3 coffee cup sleeves left! Or wine glass sleeves, if you’re Kate.
Rich and Crew!
We’re so grateful to Rich and his crew for working so hard in the heat to make it comfortable and super fun for everyone who traveled from all over the country to attend. We also met so many people who immediately became friends (Kyle, I feel like we’ve known you forever!) and through our travels know that we’ll see again. I can’t wait to eat at Kate and Al’s Airstream food stand, Mabel on the Move (look for an upcoming post on Mabel), see what David Winick creates next and maybe, just MAYBE see a few people at Burning Man in 2012.
More Photos from Day 5 and 6
The days went by so fast, and we were having so much fun, I just couldn’t keep up with the posts! Here’s the recap of Days 3 and 4…..
Wow, this is a lot of feedback.
The absolute highlight of Day 3 at Alumapalooza was the Airstream Product Feedback session. Not only was this a fantastic idea, but the buzz of excitement about being asked to give your opinion about Airstream was almost too good to be true! There were actually two sessions, divided up into The Men at 9am and The Women at 10am, which was a brilliant idea. There were three representatives, Justin, Bruce and Ann, each from a different division within the company, all taking notes and having endless patience for, what seemed to be, one of the most attended program events so far. As I listened to what the ladies had to say, most things were agreed upon by all with applause. Don’t get me wrong, we all LOVE our Airstreams… love them to death, but we DID take this moment to tell you what was on our minds.
The three biggest complaints mentioned over and over again were:
- Putting carpet in an Airstream stinks. Everyone that had carpet tore it out and everyone that still has it, wants to replace it. Most said that having carpet was not even on their list of priorities when purchasing — they bought their units for the layout and the size. But as they lived with the carpet, they quickly realized its a priority to replace with vinyl floors.
- The quality control at the factory needs to be better. Many women in the group gave specific examples of items that they felt the company should’ve caught before the model left the factory. One woman actually had no awning when hers was delivered and others mentioned missing drawer handles, tears in the vinyl floor and missing rivets and screws. Obviously with any factory line production, things get missed — but my take on their frustration was the fact that they paid a lot of money for their Airstreams and really expected the quality control to be there.
- Many women who spoke were on their 3rd, 4th or even 5th models, but as they traded in for newer models, they lost some of the features that they loved in the old. They found trade offs where there should have been upgrades. The layouts from year to year changed a little bit in their model, forcing them to make compromises when all they really wanted was a new version of what they had. Everyone had their examples (Airstream made the sink round, Airstream put a bench in the shower, etc) but the best one was “I’ll never trade my model in no matter how worn out it gets because you don’t make the floor plan any more and I’ve never seen another floor plan I like better.” (I read that as a lost opportunity to sell an Airstream, but maybe they see it differently.)
The list went on and on and on, but we all had our say and felt like at least someone (besides our partners or dogs) was listening. You can’t please everyone, but I applaud Airstream for reaching out to this incredibly opinionated, passionate and captive audience to get feedback. Now, what they do with it will be the true test.
Also on Day 3, we got to meet Rhonda of www.airstreaming.net who included us in an article for Airstream Life on savvy (maybe geeky?) Aistreamers, including Kyle of WhereIsKyleNow?, and how we’ve tricked out our models to fit the necessities of the age (the Xbox, the Wii, 3G/4G internet, etc…). We’re so happy we finally got to meet her! Here she is participating in the Dutch Oven Cooking with the fabulous Matt Hackney!
Day 3 also included a talk from Kristiana Spaulding of Silver Trailer– jewelry designer and Airstream interior designer who started off remodeling one Airstream and ended up with five! She has some great ideas about making the interiors more comfortable and more personalized, plus her Airstream themed jewelry is beautiful.
The final talk before the much anticipated daily Happy Hour was from John Long who had, what we would call, the most eye catching model on the field — the Bowlus Road Chief. You can read all about John and his Road Chief (the first Riveted aluminum trailer ever made) on his site about Bowlus Trailers.
The Road Chief.
Getting up at 9am and talking taxes are not two things that typically go together in my world, but at Alumapalooza it means you’re at Day 4 with Marty Shenkman ! I loved Marty’s talk. The man is obviously a no-nonsense CPA and lawyer who understands the concerns we RVers have when it comes to our money. I learned some great basics from Marty, possibly the best advice that sunk in happened to be– don’t believe everything (or anything) you read online. The Internal Revenue Service is really the only place to get factual information to your tax questions online. So many times I take airforums discussions as gospel, so this was a good lesson for me. Also, registering your car or truck in an income tax free state isn’t enough to claim residency in that state. In Marty’s own words: They will find you! Marty also had a full 11 page handout with his entire Powerpoint presentation on it. I’d like to hire him to do my taxes.
Andy says you don’t have to have a truck.
Day 4 also included Towing with Andy Thompson. I had heard about Andy — his name popped up while we all stood around and checked out each others tow vehicles. Apparently Andy has a reputation for towing a 31 ft with something like a minivan. You need to see it to believe it, and I did. His lecture was definitely interesting — and what I took away from it was this: many tow vehicles work well for your Airstream. Don’t rule anything out!
The right way….
After towing came awnings…. The Zip Dee guys showed up with demonstrations and how-tos for their product. It was so interesting, Im doing a separate posting on it later!
The rest of the afternoon had some great programs like Dutch Oven Cooking with Matt Hackney and Geocaching with Laura Steinberger, but I was exhausted.
Happy Hour on day 4 was especially fun because Bob Wheeler, Airstream President joined us! It’s always nice to be recognized by the Big Boss, and he made us all feel very VIP. Of all the Airstream reps, I felt he genuinely appreciated our business and I hope he takes the comments from all of us into consideration as the company moves forward!
We also got a treat in being introduced to David Winick tonight, who made the trip from Grand Rapids. David is the designer of the 75th anniversary Airstream, but he’s also our key player in 6 Degrees of Separation from the likes of movie stars and rock legends. David has a true gift in being able to see the design potential within an empty Airstream shell. His work can be seen at vintagetrailering.com and in his new book Airstreams Custom Interiors
Being new to Alumapalooza, we really didn’t know what to expect when we finally reached Jackson Center, Ohio on Tuesday. Thankfully there were many orange tie-dyed-shirt-clad volunteers to help direct us to the field that would become our home for the next 5 days. I felt the electricity of excitement when they said “You can park right there and welcome home!” The Airstream factory is on 40 acres of land in this tiny town, and they generously open up the unused fields so 200 dedicated Airstreamers can attend talks by both experts and everyday enthusiasts on topics from cooking given the constraints of an Airstream kitchen, the history of the company and a primer for those in attendance that are brand new to this fantastic group.
On Day 1, the program of events is a little shorter than the rest of the week because everyone’s still arriving. We just made it in time for Happy Hour, but were pretty busy hooking up to the provided water hose and 3 amp power to make it. We did attend the Great Ideas talk by John Irwin, a regular contributor to Airstream Life magazine and all around DIY handyman. I’ll call this talk interesting — hopefully it gave some folks ideas for changes they can make in their own trailers. My recommendation for this type of talk would be to break it down into several different talks divided up by trailer model. Sitting through an hour long talk on modifications made to his Classic didn’t really help me with my 2010 International. Obviously he has a wealth of information on modifications and I think he could really help more people by breaking it down into several different sessions.
The Service Dept tells you how to get the shine!
Our favorite presentation on Day 2 was from the Service Guys, Tim Maxwell and Dave Schuman. Dave has been with the service department at Airstream since 1971 and both of them together seemed to have every answer, recommendation and fix-it involving any and all service issues on all Airstream models. Today’s session covered maintenance and care for the outside. We were introduced to some new products like SD-20, but definitely appreciated the recipes involving non-toxic household items like olive oil and vinegar. Bob from our old WBCCI club in Illinois used the olive oil technique to polish up his trailer and it worked great, although his wife thought the place smelled like dinner.
Working on some Airstreams.
My most anticipated event of Day 2 was the Airstream Factory tour. I’m a fan of tours (this week we’ve already done Graceland and Jim Beam), and to see the process of building an Airstream was very exciting to us! The tour was ok — not what I expected, but the fun of being there is the point, I guess. We talked to a few people afterwards and everyone felt pretty similar — the tour definitely needs some help.
Know Before You Go
If you travel to the birthplace of your dear little (or big) Airstream, be aware that what you get on the tour is probably not what you’re expecting.
- You can NOT take photos.
- You cant really hear anything the tour guide says. And I use the word tour guide loosely. Our guide, Don, has been at Airstream for 53 years and bless his heart, knows everything about the place. However, his 40 minute intro included a lot of info about where his desk was when he started at the company and the reasons why the factory isn’t unionized. Because of this, the tour takes almost 2 hours.
- Anyone that shows up gets to go on the tour. That means its very crowded, and although Don had a little microphone:
- You can’t hear anything he says. And I mean that — nothing. From the time we walked into the factory to the time we walked out, I didn’t hear one thing that was said.
- You basically just walk through the factory — and to say its a laid back place is an understatement. Everyone’s just kind of doing their own thing (putting in rivets, making furniture, installing insulation). I honestly pictured a scene similar to the assembly lines you see in car commercials. Not here. That’s not a bad thing at all – the workers seemed generally happy and even a few waved as we passed, but we found it easy to get in their way without much effort. Just be aware as you tour and try to stay in the yellow lines.
Sea of silver.
I had a great first two days — it’s more fun than I imagined and we’ve gotten the most excitement from getting to know the people we’ve met — Tim and Alice who are parked next to us, Kerri and Russ who are also from Dallas, and especially Sandi Morris who recognized us from our website and came up and introduced herself!