It all started with a Craigslist ad.
Actually, scratch that. It started well before this particular ad with my bad habit of browsing Craigslist mindlessly on my phone, just looking for weird strangers who’d like to take my money. (Now that we have no money left, thanks to the Craigslist ad, I have successfully kicked the habit cold turkey. But I digress.)
Not to play the blame game or anything, but John did this for months on end. Months! While he was searching for the perfect truck to haul our tiny house back to Michigan, he was browsing Craigslist as soon as he woke up; during breakfast and his morning coffee; in the bathroom; in between killing sprees on DoTA 2; and for the last few minutes before he fell asleep each night. His list of demands was quite reasonable, he claimed: three quarter ton, 4wd or dually, diesel, manual, and a “reasonable price” — in a state where every hillbilly thinks his big rust bucket is worth a fortune because it’s loud and belches impressively disgusting clouds of black sludge. Pffft! It worked, though, and his patient diligence eventually paid off. John finally found the perfect truck (2002 Dodge 2500 5.9 Cummins 24v in case you were wondering, and I know you were); and with a bad case of truck envy, I took over his Craigslist preoccupation.
Why do I need a truck, you ask? …if we’re being honest here, I don’t. I was toying with the idea of something small – a little Mazda or Toyota – with which to haul the gypsy wagon I planned to build on a decrepit old trailer languishing in our driveway.
Totally adorable, right? I had been anticipating the build for months, scoped out the right trailer, and painstakingly laid out all the quirks of my tiny space. It was going to be perfect for the Ukulele World Congress and my beloved ODPC Dulcimer Funfest this summer. Plus, how fun would it be to have my own tiny truck for towing it?
And then it happened.
While looking for trucks, I widened my search parameters to include the eastern panhandle of West Virginia, and I saw… an Airstream.
Nestled there between a pile of junk and the burnt-out shell of a ’53 Buick, it stole my heart in no time flat; and the price was ludicrously low. Even in the roughest shape, just the iconic shell of an Airstream will often sell for between 6 and 10 grand, depending on the region. This one was listed for just $1500.
It didn’t take long to convince John that this was a seriously worthwhile investment. Many of you know how deeply I love language, and also how I detest certain portmanteaus like… (deep breath)… “glamping” – a combination of “glamour” and “camping” – but I’ll be darned if it isn’t a lucrative market right now. Airstreams are the Cadillac of the glamping world.
If I can manage not to get attached, that is.
Anyway, the owner recommended getting out there as soon as possible, as he had people practically lining up across three states to see the thing. John and I trekked over into West Virginia on Sunday after church, and while we were waiting for the seller to arrive at his shop, our spidey senses began to tingle.
“Is that… an anvil? You don’t suppose he made that sign hanger himself, do you?”
John started peeping through the windows and moaned, “He has a power hammer. And a forge, and three anvils! He’s a blacksmith!”
I tell you, this experience could not have been more fated if we’d tried. Not only is the seller a welder and blacksmith (who owns his own business and runs an Etsy store on the side), he’s also the father of five homeschooled kids, a man of deep Christian faith, and one of the funniest, most congenial people I’ve ever met. He and John bonded like a forge weld in minutes, and they’ve already made plans to get together and do nerdy blacksmith stuff in the near future. There could even be some partnership in the works, since he has no access to wooden components for his projects and is all about the salvaging life.
He thinks our shop is awesome. We think his shop is awesome. Frankly, there’s a lot of awesomeness going around.
Getting back to the Airstream… it turned out that the previous owner had removed and scrapped all of the inside skin (wah!) in addition to jaggedly sawing out the rotten floor, leaving next to nothing for stability during towing; so John and I returned happily on Tuesday afternoon with some braces.
We stabilized the frame, wired up some trailer lights, and loaded boxes of mismatched hardware and original window screens. Our new friend’s young apprentice was hammering away in the shop while we worked, and John was drawn inside to the smell of that coal fire like a moth to a flame; but there was no time to waste in getting back to work, and he left the shop with many heavy sighs.
Transport was a cinch. The truck pulled our new treasure without a fuss, and John drove it like a champ. We couldn’t have asked for a lovelier day or a better experience!
My rapid descent over these last few days into the technical world of Airstream renovation has been intimidating, to say the very least. There is so much information that it just makes your head spin. It’s hard to know where to start. The amazing part, though, is that this massive community of people has left no stone unturned, and they are ready and willing to share any scrap of information that could help out a fellow enthusiast. It’s truly a beautiful thing.
So begins our latest adventure as the owners of a 1970 Airstream Sovereign 31 — may it be an interesting one.