Andreas J. Düss
Founding Partner & Chief Creative at Nourish Food Marketing.
Voracious reader, passionate cook, monumental geek.
The composting toilet is installed. The awning is repaired. The date to have the hitch on the Dodge reinforced has been set.
Summer can’t come fast enough.
Our Honda Odyssey had been doing a great job for the last three years, but I knew I wanted to sell it while it would still bring a decent price on the second hand market.
We had been, casually, looking on Autotrader for either a Dodge Durango or a Mercedes GL, our shortlisted vehicles. While I wanted to move from our van to a SUV, I wasn’t prepared to go to a body on frame model. Both the Dodge and the Mercedes share the same platform, developed during the Daimler-Chrysler years, modern and with fully independent suspension all round.
In November, a perfect Dodge turned up. 4WD, the large 8 cylinder engine, a 2014 model with the new 8 gear transmissio, low km and captain’s seats in the second row. The icing on the cake was that the tow group had already been fitted, with a Class IV hitch and all wiring ready to go.
The new Dodge, with our old Honda parked behind
Some negotiations later, the car was a lease buy-out, and we had a deal. Next year we’ll be towing with a new vehicle. I am specifically looking forward to the 4WD – there had been the odd occasion where it would have been useful in the past, especially on wet or damp grass.
This blog has been sadly neglected, but that’s the way it goes with young kids around. Life’s busy.
Additionally, 2015 just wasn’t a good Airstream year for us. There were mishaps, breakdowns, lack of time, lack of planning, missed opportunities. Few trips jelled.
Part of this was due to our extended travel to Europe, to see grandparents, parents, friends. There’s only that much energy we had available, and most of it went towards planning the trip.
I am still not sure what exactly happened, but 2015 was the year we lost our awning and our alternator – all in one trip.
I visited the Airstream at the storage facility and noticed that one of the locking wheels was missing. I didn’t think much of it, until the entire awning came loose when we arrived on the campground for our next trip.
Then, the evening before we had to move off our campsite, our car didn’t start. An empty battery, I thought at first, but soon found out that it was far more serious and that the alternator was gone.
We were stuck at Long Point, with a dead car and a 34′ trailer that had to be moved off the site we were on the next morning. I spent a bit of sleepless night, worrying about what to do. While we do have CAA membership for RVs, that only covers the vehicles being moved. For people, including kids, you’re on your own.
In the end, it all worked out. A friend who was also camping at Long Point helped me to get the battery charged up, giving me 20 minutes of movement which was just enough to dump the tanks and make it to the parks storage yard which the helpful rangers opened up for me.
Another friend saw my call of help on Facebook, hopped into his car at 6:30 in the morning and was there two hours later to pick up Anja and the kids. I then waited for the CAA to pick up the Honda and give me a tow back to the city where the car was fixed up with a brand new alternator two days later. CAA was unable to find a tow truck that was able to tow our trailer, which was another problem on top of everything else. In the end, the Park’s rangers came to the rescue, opening their storage facility.
Waiting for the rangers to open the storage yard
CanAm sent a driver down to the Park two days later to tow the trailer back to their workshop to fix the awning. We left it there for winter storage and the installation of the Nature’s Head composting toilet we are having installed.
It’s rare that I swear on this blog, but this time I will make an exception and here’s why – somebody tried to steal, or vandalize, our ZipDee awning, in the process causing serious damage to our beautiful Airstream.
I noticed something what strange when I visited the trailer two days before we were setting out on our summer trip to Long Point. We store the trailer with RV Park and Go just north of Hamilton, in a secure lot, hidden well away from the street and prying eyes.
Because of our travels to Europe this year, we had not used the Airstream as much as we usually would have done. I decided to drop by two days before we were setting off for a week’s camping in Long Point to make sure our batteries were charged, tire pressure ok, that we had propane on board. When walking around the trailer, I noticed that one of the securing wheels on the awning was missing, and one of the supporting arms was out of its holder. At the time I thought that somebody had stolen the wheel itself, which was annoying, but not the end of the world as these are easily replaced.
I figured that all I had to do was get a replacement shipped, and thought nothing more of it.
Until, that is, we arrived at the campground and started to set up. If you own a ZipDee awning, you know that the one thing you never, ever, do is to let it snap back when packing up. Doing so can drive the fabric handle all the way underneath the front roller, making it difficult, if not impossible, to pull the awning forward again.
This is exactly what I found. Somebody had pulled out the awning, then snapped it back. Using wires, and pliers, I finally managed to free the handle and then pulled – only for the entire right side of the awning to come flying towards me, free from the support arm and ripping almost the entire awning support off the trailer, rivets pinging in all directions.
A ZipDee awning on a 34′ trailer is about 25′ long. Its heavy, too heavy to be stopped by one person. The weight ripped the rivets connecting the top of the awning to the trailer right out. The left arm was still connected and stopped the entire awning come out, but the damage was done.
Unfortunately, I didn’t take any pictures, but it wasn’t a pretty sight. Somebody, for whatever reason, had started dismantling the awning, then either gave up or got interrupted. When we pulled the awning out, the damage unfolded.
So here we were, just arrived, with three little kids and a trailer full of holes. My first thought was that rain was predicted for the next day, my second that CanAm RV was about an hour and a half away, so we should just pack the kids back into the car and tow the trailer up to London, then head home and cancel the holidays.
But cooler headed prevailed. A neighbour, who had seen the damage, rushed over with an offer of help, step ladders and tools. Together, we freed the remains of mangled metal and fabric, sawed off a drain and sealed the holes created with a tube of silicone that he had on board.
Because of the immense force generated by the awning ripping free, the holes were relatively clean, small and easily plugged – thank God for small mercies.
RV Park and Go responded to a terse, out of office hours, voicemail within ten minutes and are currently checking their security camera recordings. The silicone plugs survived a rainstorm and we’re booked to drop the trailer off with CanAm RV on Saturday. Our insurance will most likely cover the damage and I hope that the old awning, which was in great condition, can be repaired and reused.
I’ll be updating this post as developments warrant. Right now, my main question is: Why? Was this another Airstream owner, there are several parked on the same lot, who needed a spare part for his own awning? Did I make an enemy, towing with a minivan, who wanted to teach me a lesson by vandalizing my trailer? It wasn’t a bunch of kids, that’s for sure – they would have just smashed a window, or let a tire down. This was a targeted, precise, operation. But why? Unless the security cameras caught the act, I guess we’ll never know.
After my recent conversation with Andy Thomson at CanAm I went to check out autotrader.ca to see how much a Dodge Durango would set us back.
We always buy vehicles that are off lease, for cash if possible. They’re 50% cheaper than new, and just as good as new, with a full service history and typically some manufacturer’s warranty remaining. I’ve owned one brand new vehicle in my life and that was when work paid for it – even then I hated the monthly payments. It seemed a total waste of money, even though it wasn’t my money.
The three things we need in our next car are: Space for the boys, oomph to move the Airstream and a high payload so we can pack bikes or kayaks on the roof and still stay within specs. Oh, and a decent drive. I got seduced by the space and the high payload capacity of the Ford Expedition, but driving it is an insane experience. As somebody who’s used to European cars I don’t understand how people put up with the wallowing, wandering, can’t-even-drive-in-a-straight-line-at-speed driving these body on frame vehicles deliver. The Ford was out.
The car that included all of our mandatories was the Mercedes GL class, but we had a couple of concerns. First, there’s the price, both for purchase and for servicing and repairs. I’ve owned three Mercs in my life, two classic models and one recent B-class. Cheap, they were not.
Then, there is the question of parts availability. The plan is to take time off work in a couple of years and drive across the continent for a summer. Should anything go wrong in rural Manitoba, a Mercedes isn’t the best car to be in. Parts and repair would be difficult.
So when Andy recommended the Dodge Durango, I was all ears. The Dodge and the Mercedes share the same platform, a hangover from the days when GM and Mercedes were, briefly, one company. As a result, the Dodge is pretty much a GL class Merc, but at a fraction of the cost.
There’s one big drawback however and that’s the choice of engines. The Dodge doesn’t have access to the wonderful Mercedes BlueTEC diesel power plant, which is both fuel efficient and gutsy, with oodles of torque. However, given that we don’t actually drive much most of the time, I am ok with not worrying too much about fuel efficiency. The eight cylinder hemi engine in the Dodge delivers all the grunt we could ever want to move our trailer. An added benefit is that few people want the big engine, making the car even more affordable. Andy’s take was that dealers “can’t give them away” and prices I’ve seen so far seem to corroborate that opinion.
So, if you’re interested in buying a gently used Honda Odyssey with less than 70K km on the clock annd a CanAm reinforced hitch with a Prodigy II brake controller that’s all set up for towing, drop us a line. We’re planning on making the switch next spring, but could make it anytime.
A photo posted by Andreas Duess (@andreasduess) on May 1, 2015 at 6:57am PDT I picked up our Airstream from Can-Am in London today, where we kept her over the winter to get a number of gremlins sorted out. We had a small leak somewhere at the back, the hot water heater had issues igniting… Continue Reading
Shots of the gang – almost all taken with our GoPro Hero 3+. We just spent a wonderful week tucked away on a camp site in Long Point Provincial Park. Long Point is one of our favourite parks in Ontario. Only two hours from our storage facility in Hamilton, it’s easily accessible via winding country… Continue Reading
We’ve always been fans of Lake Huron. The sandy beaches, the wonderful sunsets, the wide open spaces dotted with well kept Mennonite farms, those were the reasons we bought our little weekend getaway farm cottage near Kincardine some years ago. Lake Erie via Landsat. The tongue sticking out from the top is Long Point Provincial… Continue Reading
Just got a lovely message on instagram, on a picture from last year as we were on our maiden trip to Long Point Provincial Park. We met a guy who asked the usual question, how do you tow an Airstream with a van, and I of course pointed him towards CanAm RV in London. Turns… Continue Reading
The Pinery Provincial Park has a bit of a mythical status – hard to get in, forget it on a long weekend, it is supposed to be one of Ontario’s most beautiful Provincial Parks. The Pinery is home to North America’s last surviving oak savannah habitat, the dunes along the shoreline were formed more than… Continue Reading