Saturday, October 18, 2014


My last post talked about the general barriers to buying a good used Airstream Interstate.  This post deals with the specific example of the vehicle that became our own.

We bought it the old fashioned way - by pressing BUY IT NOW on an eBay listing.
I'm not going to link to either the listing or the seller until I explain a few things, and maybe not even then, for reasons I will describe.  
We live on the south side of greater Houston Texas and the unit was located 600 miles away near Memphis Tennessee, and so we faced exactly the long-distance challenge I was hoping to avoid for the sanity of all concerned.

My husband was running every search macro known to mankind even though I had told him that I really did not want to search outside of about a 300 mile radius, so that we could physically get to the vehicle and see it before committing to the sale.  When this unit popped up on eBay, he emailed it to me anyway, despite the failure of my distance criterion.  I did not look at it for the first couple of days, but then in a moment of boredom I decided I would review the posting just for future listing comparison purposes.  But this particular Airstream had me at "hello" - it was immaculate, I loved the design and lay-out, it had only 25,000 miles on it, and so we decided to pursue the purchase despite the distance.
Obviously I did a little meme switcheroo with that last thumbnail. And I don't have a boyfriend.  Just a fantastic husband.     
Here's where things got difficult.  Given that my husband and I both have jobs and the thing was located too far away for us to see it on short notice, we worked in absentia to hire a local mechanic to verify its condition.  We did our homework and our chosen mechanic shop was well-rated on the internet, but they did a very poor job of reviewing the vehicle - they missed a number of obvious system failures.  My theory is that, in the style of a superficially-beautiful woman, the vehicle is such a looker that it fooled everyone who examined it for quality purposes.  If you remember nothing else from this post, commit this much to memory:

Just because an Airstream Interstate looks enchanting on the outside doesn't necessarily mean that it's in good working condition on the inside.
Start repairs tomorrow, that is.  Literally we started repairing it the day after we bought it.  
Our seller is a flipper of primarily Airstream trailers (not motorhomes).  He seems like a very nice young man and we don't believe that he intended any deception.  However, the vehicle that he described in his eBay listing as having had a recent "top to bottom inspection" and "is free of any fluid leaks or mechanical problems" was anything but sound.  To his credit, the seller paid post-sale for our first two repairs, an amount of money totaling about $500.  However, the next several repairs we decided to take on ourselves, using our own time and money, rather than quibble further with the seller (I will discuss all of those repairs in subsequent blog posts).

But I'm getting ahead of myself.  The moral of this story is that you are taking your chances if you buy a used Airstream Interstate.  If it's a private-party sale, your seller might be out of his depth where representations are concerned, unless he is specifically an Interstate / Sprinter expert.  You need to do your homework (which is almost impossible if you are buying over a long distance) and you need to be realistic about what you're getting yourself into.  An older Interstate simply will not be a problem-free Interstate.

Despite these challenges, buy it we did!!  I will leave you with a short photo essay describing our journey from Memphis back home to Houston with our new Airstream underneath us.
Late night serenity:  Our plan was to complete the sale in person early on a Saturday morning.  We left after work on Friday and caught a late flight to Memphis using my Southwest Airlines frequent flyer miles.  The airport was so still and peaceful, with almost nobody else remaining at that hour.   
Early morning hell breaking loose:  I had booked us into a chain hotel on the fly (pun intended).  We were in such a rush that I didn't have time to check the place out - it had an airport shuttle, we could crash there, and that was good enough for our purposes.  Little did I know that it overlooked a ready-mix concrete plant!!  Shortly before 6:00 a.m., I was awakened by an extraordinary racket.  I threw open the hotel curtains only to see front-end loaders, screw conveyors, air filter vibrational cleaners, pneumatic transfer pumps, and rotating drums all in a simultaneous cacophony of action.   
First contact: Noisy hotel parking lot, Memphis Tennessee.  It was a bit like meeting a new puppy for the first time at an animal shelter.
An auspicious sign:  We closed the sale 1.5 miles from Graceland but did not have time to visit because we needed to return to Houston same-day.  However, I did convince my husband to at least drive by it so I could see it from a distance.  I told him that I'd like to name our Airstream "Graceland", more in reference to Paul Simon's 1986 work than to the manse itself.

"And I've reason to believe
We all will be received
In Graceland."
Baby's first steps:  Setting out on the open road, IH-55 southbound toward Jackson Mississippi.  The first thing we had to do was to figure out how to actually drive it, this unlikely contraption that is two feet taller than it is wide.  The easiest thing to do is to drop your automobile preconceptions and simply listen to what the vehicle is telling you on any given road and in any given conditions.  It will directly inform you of its handling needs, if you listen carefully enough.     
A new and improved perch:  I've been an avid photographer for more than 30 years now, and I was delighted by the extra height afforded by the Airstream, compared to a passenger car.  Swamp in northern Mississippi.  
Into the setting sun:  IH-10, elevated section westward over the Atchafalaya basin, one of the most unique freeway segments in America.  
Cajun country:  Breathtaking in its own way.  
Blogger selfie, somewhere outside of Orange, Texas, nearing the end of a very long 24 hours.  On a bad section of road, it can be pretty rough in the back of an Airstream Interstate, but I will talk more about that in future posts.  

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