Friday, December 25, 2020

What's an Airstream Basecamp Delivery Day Like?

December 22 pick up--what a wonderful Christmas present!

After a six-month wait, the day had arrived for my wife and me to take the two-hour drive to RV One in Des Moines, Iowa, and get our brand new 2021 Airstream Basecamp 16-footer. Now the Basecamp sits in our driveway, plugged into our 15 amp garage power, the batteries staying charged and the heater on low electric, ready for us to move in.

The process began with a text from the RV One salesperson saying, "Guess what's here?" We quickly wired our payment and set up a pick up and orientation meeting for a week later. The dealership emailed a confirmation notice, and at 7:30 in the morning on a beautiful, clear winter's day we were on the road, lunch packed and masks and sterilizing hand spray at the ready.

It would be naive of me to think and say that all Airstream "demo days" are the same, but Airstream does supply a checklist for the technical support demonstrations--what to talk about. First, though my wife and I met with the business manager and signed papers, finalizing the sale, receiving our paper license plate and providing information so that Iowa could mail our permanent plates and registration. We also paid for our extended warranty for non-Airstream components in the trailer, such as the air conditioner, Truma heating system, and refrigerator. 

Our teacher for the day was Austin Peterson, who led us back in the shop to our Basecamp. He wore a mask and was careful in his distancing, staying out of the unit while I was inside and my wife listened from the open back door. Covering the trailer's layout and systems, Austin provided how-to information, why-to admonitions, and anecdotes which provided an interesting and informative presentation. After three years of owning a tiny trailer and administering this blog, I was happy to find out that although I learned a lot and took useful notes, I didn't feel like I was ever in over my head. Researching and writing articles about other travel trailer owners has provided me with good background information, as has following Airstream Basecamp groups online and also looking over online AS videos and owner manuals. I won't be surprised, of course, if things don't show up that I don't know or expect. Part of the learning curve!

I found information about the battery system especially useful, since my tiny "standy" trailer I owned before didn't have a battery. I was especially happy to learn that battery maintenance with the AGM batteries is minimal since they are sealed--no need to check liquid levels. Just plug in the trailer at home, Austin said, and the batteries will stay safe. He said they should last 7-10 years if I take care of them. I have to mention also that in our final check-out, salesperson Philip Pickering talked us through possible purchases in the dealership's RV store. One item we picked up that we hadn't considered was a 30 amp surge protector. He also went over all the black tank sewer necessities we need to purchase, but we decided that since it will be three months before we de-winterize and activate the water systems, we'll buy all those items later. Our financial guy RJ Vacco at the dealership was also supportive and made all the paperwork quick and easy. Thanks to our team!

The purpose of the demonstration is to showcase the Airstream's systems and to provide information on what to do and what to avoid when camping with the unit. I suppose the "usefulness" of all the info will differ from person to person, depending on what knowledge and experience is brought to the orientation. The information about the battery was best for me, but if someone had a battery in a previous trailer, then probably that information wouldn't be #1 on their learning curve. Anyway, I took notes and was encouraged to call RV One if I had any more questions (which I did early today, by the way, and received a good, useful answer from Philip).

I have to really compliment salesman Michael Farley at RV One and his team. My wife and I bought our Basecamp in July 2020 and picked it up this December--five months later. When we arrived on our demo day, the first comment of the welcoming team was that we didn't need a weight distribution hitch for our Nissan Pathfinder/BC towing combo. We had been given the WD kit by our first RV One salesperson in July, so Michael suggested we get instead an electric hitch jack at no cost. We okayed that, and it works great, even if it is really slow. We also had a problem with the Basecamp's visor (awning). When we asked during our check-out about where the visor was, Michael said they weren't included with the 2021 package. However, we had bought our BC in July of 2020, and the brochure said that the visor was included. Michael checked with his corporate AS contact and was told, "It's not included; check the 2021 brochure." I pointed out to Michael that in July there was no 2021 brochure and that I felt the ethical choice of action would be for AS to honor what was agreed upon in July. Michael came back later in our orientation and told us that RV One had decided to give us the visor, and they just hoped that AS would reimburse them. Even if they didn't, we would still get the visor for free. That made us feel happy and cared for!

There are a couple of Airstream weaknesses we're going to have fixed in the Basecamp next spring. 1) both back and front open door fasteners are just screwed into the aluminum and will pull out easily. We're going to have a steel plate installed to strengthen the base. 2) We plan to buy a Zamp solar suitcase, either the 180 or the 230 watt package. Evidently, the wiring for the exterior Zamp plug-in are only good for around 100 watts, so the wires have to be replaced with bigger wires for the larger suitcase solar kits. It seems to me that just installing the bigger wires from the get-go would make more sense, but we'll have to come in the have the smaller replaced. 

My wife and I imagine that things will come up that we have to take care of, but the drive home was a dream. I had mounted mirror extensions prior to our trip and found that I could have skipped them; however, I also noticed that I could see better behind me. A car behind would be blocked by the trailer when looking into the stock rearview mirror but would be visible with the extended mirror. I noticed when I was almost home that if I leaned to the left then I could see a blocked car behind me, but that's a lot of bobbing and neck craning. At any rate, the trailer pulled well, and backing was about the same as with my tiny trailer. 

My suggestions for "demo day" when picking up a new trailer would be to research prior to the orientation. Watch Airstream's videos and peruse the manuals that are available online at the AS website. Then don't just listen to the spiel. Imagine the basic scenarios of hitching up and pulling out, or of parking the the driveway and hooking the trailer up to a 110v household system. What are the steps; what are the crucial points? Asking such questions got me home and hooked up to survive single digit temperatures--with the batteries safe and me knowledgeably using the Truma heater. 

Now I'm loading up and getting ready to camp locally for a couple of days--between the current two days of deep freeze and an upcoming snow storm. Two days in the 15-35 degree temperature range . . . and then a week or two of colder weather (hopefully no more!) to mull over what I've learned and to make new plans. But that's another article!

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  1. Congratulations! It looks beautiful.
    Wishing you wonderful camping adventures in the New Year!

    1. Thank you! My wife and I just returned from an overnighter--or first in the Basecamp--and had so much fun learning and enjoying.

  2. Congratulations on your new Basecamp! Yes to the surge protector (I've only had mine warn me once, but it did save me) and for the black ank, check out Happy Camper powder - non-toxic, and powder not liquid so easier to store and spills are easier to clean up. And it works really well, many full-timers use it and we do give our tanks a workout :-)

    1. Thanks, Annie. Sandy and I haven't bought any water/sewer products yet, even though they were available and offered for sale at the dealership. In part, we wanted to look for more sustainable sources, so your nod to the Happy Camper organic products is appreciated.

  3. Congratulations on the new trailer! It will be fun exploring it while you're exploring parks!