Nero At The Airstream Factory

16 July 2007
Jackson Center, Ohio. It looks just about like it sounds. Sleepy. But Airstream is here, and what a company this is. They really take care of their brand–they treat their customers like they are part of the family. Hard to believe in this age where customer service usually means a phone conversation with somebody in Bangaladesh who has absolutely no ability to help you.

We had made our appointment for service before the PVGP, but at the driver’s dinner we met Dutch Mandel from Autoweek, who enjoyed seeing Nero and Peyote. Turns out Dutch knows the president of Airstream, so he sent him a email that we were coming and suggested that he’d probably like to see Nero. He told us the president is a car guy. Very nice of Dutch.

We arrived the night before and took advantage of a nice park they’ve set up for customers–a free, full hookup camping area they call Terraport. In the morning we did the paperwork and turned Nero over to the service techs who swarmed over it, looking over the brakes, checking out the leak we have in the grey water tank, changing the shocks, and looking at the air conditioner. Turns out the drums were too far gone to turn, so we’re in for new brakes all around. The greywater leak is going to be hell to fix, the tank was displaced sideways by the hit and some fitting is probably cracked on top.

I should have opted for the disk brake conversion, it’s about a grand more, but the money didn’t matter that much, I just didn’t want to have to wait another day–it’s a fairly lengthy installation. As it turns out we have to wait anyway because they only had four drums in stock. Bad decision on my part, I’m sure the disks are a worthwhile upgrade.

What a luxury it is to have other people doing the work I normally have to do on my own. We were here for about an hour when the guy in charge of the repair center came by and said the president, Bob Wheeler, would like to meet us if we had time. We wound up having lunch with him. Great guy, very fun to talk with. Facing the usual business dilemnas but very appreciative of the brand legacy and momentum that he’s inherited. It’s also nice to see that he’s so well respected and accepted at Airstream. Many of the employees we met have been with the company for just about as long as Bob has been alive. Their respect and affection for him and the company are obvious.

So Nero will be here at least one more day waiting for two more brake hubs. I’m not sure how long the leak will take to fix. We might just have to call that too nasty for an on-the-road repair and wait to get back home. I have this nasty feeling I’m going to be pulling the waste tanks this winter. It’s just the greywater, and we’ve confirmed that it’s not in the body of the tank. If we’re just careful not to let the tank get full it should be adequate to get by.

Diane and I are staying the night in Lima, Ohio. Quite the garden spot. I believe every chain restaurant and business I’ve ever heard of is represented here. New heights of absolute mediocrity. We had an absolutely pointless dinner at a Tumbleweeds Sedona Grill, a characterless chain whose only advantage was that neither of us had ever heard of it before.

Now we’re staying at a holiday inn. Can’t wait to get Nero back.

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