Airstream Upgrades and Visiting Family in Indiana

Lifted Airstream
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When we left Knoxville this year, we headed straight to Indiana to visit with my family! It was so good to be back. We had a few updates planned for the Airstream and we had talked to dad about helping us with some of them before we got there! He was up for it…as long is it didn’t take us 6 months :) ha!

But first, hang out with family! We’re not a hugging family, but it was so good to hug my parents when we got there! They were such a huge part of making this happen for us, and we had not seen them since we left 15 months ago. It was so weird to park the Airstream in the same place where we had worked on it for so long. So many memories flooded my mind, but I’m so thankful we’re not doing anything like that again!

I think Dad couldn't wait to get back to work though.

Back in Indiana with the Airstream

Dad and I made a trip back to the lumber yard in town. We picked up some poplar for a few projects and I'd be lying if I said it didn't give me a bit of a panic attack. Thankfully this isn't anywhere near the amount of wood we bought for the renovation. But still, planing all of it was brining back some pretty strong feelings.

planing wood for airstream

First up, making an organizer for our dishes. After living in the Airstream for almost a year and a half, I've found it would be easier to have our dishes and utensils out on the counter, but contained for travel.

After measuring and deciding what goes where, we came up with this!

Strap for the Berkey

I LOVE IT! It's just what I had in mind. Now everyone can easily access the dishes and they're contained for travel days!

Next we solved our iPad charging station problems. We have tried many different products, but as usual...custom built is just better. We didn't want to take up much space, but we wanted to be able to have a place for all of our iPads and my computer.

This is what dad built!

DIY iPad Charging Station

It's perfect. We added some little feet on the bottom so that the cords could pass underneath for easy charging.

You may have also noticed the plugs on the utensil organizer! We added a 110 plug as well as a 12 volt plug! We realized that we really should have added a plug to this area in the original renovation, but now with this organizer, it was easy to run the wires inside! It's so nice to have the extra plugs here!

While dad and I were busy in the garage, mom was teaching Ada how to sew on her sewing machine.

Ada learns how to sew

I was hoping Ada would sew our new 'summer curtains', but I don't think she would have enjoyed that as much. Mom showed me what to do and I took time to measure and iron and sewed all our new (old) curtains.

Summer Curtains

Perhaps you recognize them? They used to be in our old house, then they were hemed to fit in our 5th wheel. I have always regretted not keeping them with us. They just feel like home.

I sent a message to the family who bought our 5th wheel asking if I could buy them back and they said yes! I was so excited. Then I found 3 more panels on eBay, which turned out to be just enough for all our windows. So happy to have them in here now.

Airstream Dinette

When we installed the organizer for the dishes, we went ahead and ran wires for another plug in the front corner of the Airstream. I'm often on this side of the room working and always need to charge my computer. This is also the side I sleep on so having a place to charge my phone and watch would be nice.

We added a 110 plug and a 12 volt here and it works perfectly. Though I wasn't super excited to be drilling a hole through this awesome shelf, I do love how it turned out!

Adding Plugs to Airstream

Since we were still working with wood, I showed dad the inside of our truck. There are no useable cup holders in here! What were they thinking? When the console is down in the middle we have cup holders, but it's rarely down since this is where a kid sits!

We have this really awkward place up on the dash that could be useful for a cup holder so dad did some measuring and came up with this.

F250 Cup Holder

We're still not sure if it will stay in here forever, but for now it works.

While dad was busy doing other things, Adali and I tackled the paint touchups. When we had our Airstream polished, all the letters and plastic things were taped off, and when the tape was removed, some of the paint came off, too.

Adali touching up Paint on Airstream

Not a big deal though, just some paint sprayed into a lid and a small paint brush did the trick. I was going to paint the casings around the back taillights also, but then I sanded them down in preparation for paint, and I loved how they looked. They shined right up so we left them as is. Just added some fresh black paint to spruce it up a bit! Looks like new!

Touching up Paint on Airstream

While dad was busy, I did a little job myself. We have this magnetic knife rack in the Airstream, but with the curved walls the handles were rubbing up against the aluminum making horrible marks that didn't come off. I just cut and sanded a wood piece to place behind the magnetic bar to bring it further away from the wall. Super easy fix! Too bad I can't get all those marks off the wall though. Oh well, it adds character, right?

Ikea Magnetic Knife bar

Dad made the mistake of showing us his new pyrography pen and we went a little crazy with it. Adali loved it, so we made some cool designs on some (all) of our wooden utensils.

pyropen

Everyone took turns with it. So much fun.

More projects...Mom is keeping our hanging plant at her house (because every plant we have had dies in a matter of days) but she needed a cool hanger! Adali to the rescue! She and I came up with this super cute hanger for it.

Macrame Plant Hanger

I love how it turned out. I really wish we could keep plants alive in here. I'm not sure what the problem is.

We took a little break from projects to go see my Grandpa Peck. He just turned 97 and his eye sight isn't so good anymore. He's been wanting to come see the Airstream for so long, but we didn't want him to make the 3 hour drive down. So we hitched up the Airstream and brought it to him.

Even though the 'tour' lasted all of 2 minutes, you could tell he was so happy to see it. To see the work his son had done and how we live in it now. He was beaming with pride. He's such a sweet old man. It had been at least 9 years since I last saw him at my Grandma's funeral. Mom and dad treated all of us and Grandpa Peck to lunch at a place my parents used to take us...Coney Island.

First time at Coney Island

It's this little hotdog and hamburger place downtown Fort Wayne and it was exactly as I remembered. I vividly remember the first time dad took us there.

We sat at the bar and the old man slid down a cold bottle of coke to each of us. It stands out in my mind to this day. I have been telling Jonathan about Coney Island for 15 years, it was so good to bring our kids here. And everything tasted exactly the same. Now, don't get me wrong...it's not winning any health food awards! Ahh, good memories.

First time at Coney Island

We dropped Grandpa off and headed back home. Dad got out his RC Airplane and we drove to the little RC field near by. The kids really enjoyed seeing him fly it. He has so many hobbies. It was neat to see all the tricks he's learned.

Dad and his RC Plane Dad and his RC Plane

No trip is complete without a motorcycle ride though. Ada and Jax still love this tradition.

Jax takes a motorcycle ride Ada takes a motorcycle ride

We took a quick trip back to Knoxville for a couple days to get some dental work done. It was good to see Mimi and Papa again, but this goodbye was a little harder.

No pictures, just sweet memories.

When we made it back to Indiana, it was time to finish up the big project. Learning how to repack our wheel bearings and adding a lift to the Airstream!

Airstream Lift Kit

Up she goes!

Raising Airstream

Once we got the wheels off, that's when we saw some problems. A crack in the frame and a huge hole!

Problems with Airstream wheel well

Yikes!

Our tire had rubbed a hole through one of the wheel wells exposing the insulation. That's just asking for critters to make a home in here. It's a relatively easy fix though. An aluminum patch with lots of rivets and a bar across the wheel well to pull it towards the inside of the Airstream made it to where the tire no longer touches! We didn't get a photo of the bar pulling the wheel well in, but we did get a picture of that sweet patch job!

Patched up wheel well

Now to address the crack in the frame. It was there during renovation and we welded it back together, but it's time to call in the big guns for this.

Dad called his buddy who's a professional welder and he came and fixed us up one morning. We added this long steel piece bolted and welded to the frame. Problem fixed!

Fixing Airstream Frame Welding Steel to Frame of the Airstream

Now for the lift. Nothing is as easy as you think it will be. Once we got under the trailer, we realized that we ran the propane lines under the axels, which will make adding the lift a little tricky.

Dad and Jonathan released the brackets holding the propane line, and now this became a three person job. Jonathan and I were on each side of the axels and dad was under the trailer. We carefully lowered one side at a time and placed the propane line above the axels. It actually when a lot smoother than I thought it would.

Moving Propane Lines Under the Airstream

Now that both axels were below the propane line we can begin to add that lift. We went with a 2-7/8" lift which doesn't sound like a lot, but trust me, it will be worth it!

But then more problems arose. The holes in the lift kit didn't match up to the holes on our axels or frame. Dad drilled some new holes and we were back in business. I'm making this sound easy, but let me tell you, it was not.

Long story short, we got the lift on and while the wheels were off, dad showed Jonathan how to pack the bearings. I'm so glad he knows how to do that now. It will save us some money down the road as repacking your bearing should be a yearly job.

Repacking Airstream Bearings

While they were doing all that, I was able to sneak away for a day to go help my sister. We spent the day moving lots of dirt from her root cellar area to her front porch area. She's building up the ground and creating a natural porch made of rocks and moss she finds in the forest behind her house. It's really cool.

We moved around 12 wheelbarrows full of clay that day which was a lot more work than it sounds. We found stones that had to have weighed nearly 60 lbs each and she carried them to her house. We packed down several feet of clay with our feet, added the rocks, then filled in the cracks with moss harvested from the forest. Just look at how cool this is.

Natural porch

She's full of good ideas and I really wish I could be there to help her more. I love doing stuff like this.

I made it back home in time for watching Dad and Jonathan put the last wheel back on. (Adding that lift was a big job, but in the short time we've been gone, we've already been in several places that it came in very handy.)

Lift on Airstream

Now there were just a few things left to do. I've been thinking of a way to add a strap to our Berkey so that we wouldn't have to move it on travel days anymore. I finally came up with a solution.

We added two hooks to the back of the frame of the cabinet, and I made this macrame strap that simply hooks on and holds it tight.

Hooks for the Berkey

This is such a simple idea and I'm kicking myself for not doing this sooner. One less thing to move off the counter on moving days, plus it's kinda cute!

Strap for the Berkey

We took a break from projects and took the kids to their very first concert! Weezer! They were playing near Indianapolis so we HAD to get tickets. Their minds were blown. It was so much fun (aside from the guys in front of us getting into it and one getting kicked out).

Img 2923 kids first concert

Oh man, we loved getting to take them to a real show. I hope that's one they'll remember for a long time.

The next morning, we were planning to clean up and head out! That's when I discovered the huge crack in our countertop!

Crack in Airstream Counter

We think it must have happened when we let the trailer down after installing the lift. OOPS!

A quick call the the Countertop Shop (where we had them installed) and they said they'd be able to fix it for us...but not for a few more days.

We packed up anyway and made a reservation for a few nights at McCormicks' Creek.

Lifted Airstream

And wouldn't you know, if we hadn't just installed that lift, we wouldn't have made it in this site. I love McCormick's Creek but their sites are SO UNLEVEL and a beast to get in.

Mom and dad even came up for a couple nights to hang out with us in their camper!

camping with mom and dad

The kids had so much fun. Their cousin Levi (who's Adali's age) had been hanging out at mom and dad's place the whole time we were there. They all get along so well so mom and dad brought Levi camping, too.

They had so much fun roasting marshmallows, playing cards, and just hanging out in Grandma and Grandpas' trailer.

After they headed home, we stayed a bit longer and enjoyed some hikes. This park is so beautiful.

Exploring McCormick's Creek

This trip ended up being the last time mom and dad used their trailer. When we went back to their house, they decided to sell it because dad wants to buy a plane!

I took pictures of it for them and put it up on Craigslist. It sold very quickly and now dad has space for his plane (until he builds his hanger...seriously, what does he not do?)

Anyway, we dropped the Airstream off at the countertop shop and they were able to get it fixed in one day! We rounded up the kids, said our goodbyes to grandma and grandpa and were on our way.

Shew! What a whirlwind trip!

We are so thankful for all of mom and dad's help fixing a few things and letting us stay in their driveway. It was so good to get to spend time with them. But now...we're ready to be back on the road.

Oh and I almost forgot. This is where I chopped off my dreads!! INSTANT REGRET!

Cut off my dreads

Anyway, on to more adventures.

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Ashley Longnecker

About the Author

Ashley Longnecker is the fiercely independent tattooed and dreaded half of Tiny Shiny Home. She's a woodworker, photographer and maker of delicious baked goods. She loathes schedules and makes every day an adventure.

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Posted September 03, 2018


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