Posted March 13, 2016 – Narrated by Carmen
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Last year, in preparation for our full-time Airstreaming adventure – beginning hopefully, this summer in July – we took Beauty and The Beast out for a two week trial run at Agua Caliente campground, a San Diego County Park.

One drizzly morning three days before Christmas, Jim woke first, as usual, and brewed coffee.

According to his usual routine, he leashed up the dog for a morning stroll while I took my time to wake up.

But, when Jim reached for the door handle it didn’t budge.

The regular lock and the deadbolt were in the ‘unlocked’ position, so that wasn’t the problem.

Short of brute force, he gave it bit more muscle. Nothing.

He sat down to examine the handle at eye level and noticed the handle was stuck at a strange angle, rather than its normal horizontal position.

Panic didn’t set in immediately –

It more-or-less bloomed like one of those time-lapse cactus flowers – slowly gaining momentum as events unfolded one on top of the next.

As I lay in bed, smelling the coffee, I sensed more than knew about the mostly silent battle between Jim and the door.

As his frustration mounted the metallic jiggling sounds increased sending our skittish chihuahua, Pico de Gallo, fully-harnessed and leashed, dashing though the trailer up onto the bed and under the blankets for sanctuary.

Coffee is a nice smell. A comfort I have never associated with trauma or Jim telling me that we are locked in and he had already tried everything he knew to open the door and was out of ideas to get us out.

He stated these things as calmly as possible because I suffer from claustrophobia.

Why the Airstream doesn’t set me off like cars, buses and planes, I may never know but, at that point I could feel my heart begin that familiar terrible pounding heralding an episode.

My pale wide-eyed stare must have impressed Jim because I see his tension increase from just being locked inside a trailer to being locked inside a trailer with a crazy woman … in the desert, with no tools (all were in the truck), no cell service, no wifi, and not a soul near enough to hear our cries for help, much less the sound of me chewing through the aluminum door.

Jim’s voice became over-the-top calm, which made me even more nervous as he tried to focus my attention on what we could do rather than what we couldn’t do.

Until someone came to help, we had everything we need … coffee, food, bathroom, we could open the windows, allowing in fresh air  … Windows!!!

Jim remembered reading in the owners manual that the rear window could be used as a fire escape!

The manual was in the trailer.


While I fondle a ginsu knife looking for a good spot on the window to start hacking, Jim locates the passage in the manual regarding the window, but there are no instructions… We’re on our own.

Jim hands me the camera and tells me to take photos and though this task appeals to me about as well as rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic, I consent.

So, we evacuate the chihuahua from the bed, move the pillows from the rear window area, get on our knees and take a look …

There’s a loop hanging from the top which appears to be a part of the rubber spline holding the screen in place.

Obviously the idea is to pull the loop and remove the rubber spline which in turn would remove the screen.

Okie-Dokie. Screen removed, we open the window from the inside and look down.

Whoa! Quite a drop for a guy who had neck fusion surgery two months ago … but, Jim’s the most amazing man in the world so, out he goes.


Now, how do we unlock the door from the outside?

After several minutes of monkeying around from both sides of the door we were finally able to get it open!

But, now we’re afraid to close the door for fear it will voluntarily lock again. With at least another week of vacation left, we need a fully functional door.

So, Jim gets in the truck and drives about fifteen minutes up the road to a place where a weak, but usable cell signal can be obtained when the wind blows just so and you hold your phone in such a way … and, he posts our problem on the AirForums website.

He titles it: “Help!!!! We got locked inside our Airstream.” Then, he drives back home for breakfast.

The dangerous part now past, coffee consumed, dog walked, our minds and vision now clear enough to examine the door a bit more closely.

We notice that one of the screws holding the door handle plate on the inside is a bit wobbly – the one on the bottom left. This screw is impossible to see or access while the door is closed.

Jim sees that it’s so loose, he can pull the plate away from the door by about 1/8 inch and, as he does that, the entire handle freezes – evidence that something inside is out of alignment.

While holding the plate away from the surface of the door, Jim gently moves the handle down to the proper position, horizontally, and tightens all three screws.


The handle now works and the door functions with ease.

A few hours later Jim drives back up the road and retrieves the many brilliant comments, thoughtful solutions and helpful ideas from AirForum participants, and later responds with a  post explaining our discovery and solution.

Special thanks for all the folks at AirForums. Anyone who responds to Help!!!! is a quality individual.

Lessons Learned:

The door gets heavy use and since we only have one door on the Airstream it is perhaps the busiest feature of the trailer – so, now we check the screws regularly to make sure they’re tight. Also, we now keep a few basic tools inside the trailer for emergencies.

If you want to see our exact route, click here.

*photos in this post (unless otherwise noted) were taken and copyrighted by Living In Beauty.

21 thoughts on “Trapped!!!!

    1. Yes indeed! Jim has replaced the screen and we’ll post our trials and errors concerning that job soon!

  1. Whoa! Great post! Sorry for you for the scary parts, and you had me on the edge of my chair for a minute. Brave, adventurous souls you are, and good sports!

    1. Thank you! I wish I had taken photos while towing through a wild fire in San Diego last October – those would have been impressive!

  2. Carmen, I understand the seriousness of your predicament, but I have to say, this proves to me that y’all can fare extremely well in an Airstream…sometimes one has to turn situation into humor, even tho, it ain’t funny……
    Well done!

    1. Thanks, Larry, for your kind comment. And please accept a very big THANK YOU for stowing the Airstream manual in the trailer! We sure do look forward to meeting you and Jacquie one of these days soon!!!

      1. Advice from this old man…..”Never leave home unless the Airstream manual, and a very complete tool kit are in the trailer, or the truck. Also whenever you buy a replacement part, at least think about buying two, ’cause the old one is gonna break some day also…..

        Also, carry 2 bottles of single malt, because one of them is going to be empty one day….I was never a Boy Scout, but it’s nice to be prepared..


  3. Wow what a story! I suppose familiarizing yourself with the emergency window is something every RVer should do in case they need to get out fast and can’t go through the door. My wife didn’t know we had an emergency window in our RV until I pointed it out to her.

    Safe travels!

    1. Lance, you bet! Every RVer should familiarize themselves with how to get out of their RV in an emergency.

  4. We are just now reading (actually listening to) your early posts here. Didn’t know about being locked in. Glad it was an easy fix and all turned out well. I was locked in once also. Lee had left early for work and locked the door behind him as I was still asleep. When I was ready to leave for work, I found that I couldn’t unlock the door from inside. That had never been the case in the past. Luckily we were near other people and I called a friend I worked with, who came over and I handed her the key out the window and she unlocked the door from the outside for me. Don’t know what happened exactly, but Lee never locked it from the outside again. Not while I was inside anyway. There IS an escape window, but I am not too sure I would fit through it…and it is a looooong way to the ground! I suppose in a true emergency I would get through that window one way or another. Happy and Safe Travels to You!!

    1. Cyndie, we have never heard of being locked inside a trailer because someone locked the door from the outside. Glad someone was able to help by simply giving them the key from the inside.

  5. We are still waiting to get our RV. However, I guess we must be practicing. We have gotten ourselves locked in our car several times this past week. Our mechanic is puzzled and still isn’t sure he knows the reason. I appreciate you writing this article. When the day comes we have an RV, I’m going to follow your advice. Wish your advice would work for our car. The locks are just not the same

  6. Your wife’s ability to transform your predicament in a funny yet informative dialogue is great. Job well done! The thought of her chewing her way out of the Airstream was hilarious. We found the same thing was wrong with our door. Loose screws. We keep a watch on them and keep them tightened. Thanks for sharing!

  7. We’re stuck inside our Airstream right now and found your post. This is our first outing. I started to panic. Hubby just got the door open. There is a screw missing from bottom left corner. We’re using a bungee cord for the night.

    1. Whoa! We’re so glad you got the door open. Have a good night’s sleep, now. Hopefully, the door can be fixed tomorrow and you will have a good laugh. No maiden voyage would be right without a bit of a disaster.

      Safe and Happy Travels,


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