Posted March 13, 2016
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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 wasnt’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. Yes! 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.