Locked out!

Posted September 14, 2017 – Narrated by Jim (updated August 2018)
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There are two sides to every story …

In March 2016, we shared our experience of being locked inside our Airstream. Last week, we discovered the flip-side of that ordeal when we were locked out. 

Our story begins in the worse possible way.

Carmen needed to use the bathroom. I say, bathroom – Americanese for “toilet” – but, to be perfectly clear, my wife didn’t need to take a shower at that moment, though regrettably, that necessity arose later during the miserable course of events.

Having our very own “Rest Stop” in tow is one of those “pinch me” benefits of LIB.

On our Maiden Voyage, we even shared a celebratory high-five somewhere on the shoulder of I-8 – that desolate 230-mile stretch between Tucson and Yuma.

With Beauty hitched behind us, we hacked that wretched travel hazard – the random unscheduled bio-break – and went on our merry way, until …

Last week, at Dreher Island State Park, while looking for our campsite, Carmen urgently demanded that I pull over, and I obeyed.

White-knuckling her trailer key, she bailed out of the passenger side door and strode quickly to the main door where she thrust in the key and turned the lock.

But, nothing happened.

Frustration quickly set in as she struggled with the handle, shaking the entire rig.

By the time I got out of the truck and arrived at her side she was banging her fist on the door shouting, “What are the (expletive deleted) chances!? Why the (expletive deleted) now?!”

Yes. The Beaubeaux’s have arrived …

… and Carmen extends her sincerest apologies to anyone who was within earshot – by my estimation, all those within a good half-mile.

Then, I – thinking her urgent condition caused her to mistakenly turn the key the wrong way – took my turn at the lock. But, my efforts rendered the same effect.

No matter which way the key turned in the lock, the door would not budge.

It was stuck shut.

Meanwhile, Carmen – not waiting around for my inspection of the door – was sprinting uphill.

She’d spotted a campground bath house about a hundred yards away! But, when she arrived she found it, too, was closed and locked.

Many more deleted expletives later we found a functioning bath house but alas, it was too late … too late.

While Carmen dealt with the dark realities of the human condition, I fiddled around with the door and lock.

No success.

My first thought was to find a way to flip the locks on one of the bigger windows that I could fit through. But trying to get a credit card or screw driver under the glass proved impossible.

My second idea was to remove the four large screws that hold the main door in place.

After a closer look, I decided that would be a last resort. Big job to reinstall.

I remembered reading on Air Forums about an alternate entrance in the rear compartment under the bed.

Just two weeks ago, entering there wouldn’t have been possible because our mattress and toppers weighed 130 pounds and required both of us to lift up and down from the inside.

But, while we were in Tennessee for the eclipse, a light weight memory foam mattress arrived at Carmen’s sister’s house from Vinnie’s Northbay Airstream Repair.

I always carry the outside compartment keys, so I was able to unlock the rear door.

First, I emptied items stored there.

Next, I would need to protect the rear rubber bumper (that was recently restored at Airstream) from my body weight. So I put four lego type leveling blocks under the door to shield the bumper.

Then came the hard part, lifting my hefty frame through the small opening while scooting on my back.

Carmen lifted my legs, which helped me scoot inside. Well, that was awkward.

Carmen coached me through, making sure I was okay and not having a panic attack and hoping those nightmares about being locked in a coffin don’t start coming back …

I found there was very little … actually, no room, to push up on the bed frame and mattress. The room to make leverage with my arms simply wasn’t there.

Then, I remembered the extra weight on the bed.

When traveling, we store several items on the bed – vacuum, microphone and stand, fruit and vegetables and wall art.

But I kept trying and finally managed to raise the bed on the hydraulic hinges – grateful, at least, for the new lightweight mattress.

Once I had the bed frame up, the next challenge was to somehow flip over from my back to my stomach so I could then kneel and stand up.

I flipped over onto my belly, pulled my legs inside and got onto my knees.

Once on my knees, I could crawl out of the compartment into the bedroom.

The other side of the door revealed the problem.

The top lock lever wasn’t all the way to the right in the unlocked position.

The top lever is an additional lock used only when you are inside the trailer and it cannot be locked or unlocked from the outside.

How the lock had managed to move on its own into the center is the mystery. A patch of rough road, perhaps?

After 414 days of full-time travel, this was a first for us.

Hopefully, someone with more wisdom or experience can give us some prevention tips.

But, for now here are the lessons we learned.

  1. Always have a set of keys to the outside compartments available at all times.
  2. Every time the main door is shut, make sure the two lock levers are completely pushed to the right.
  3. We will never install locks on our bed frame (thinking it will stop a thief from entering through the rear compartment) since that that may be our only access.
  4. Once a month, lubricate with a penetrating lubricant, all moving parts of the main door, inside and out.
  5. Have a plan for if and when our door will not open.
    1. Are we going to go through the rear compartment and the bed?
    2. Are we going to break a glass window that we can crawl through?
    3. Are we going to wait around for a locksmith to come and help?
    4. Are we going to remove the four screws holding the main door in place?

The afternoon drama and excitement over, we got back on track.

Carmen paddled her anxiety away on Lake Murray.

Then, the sun went down …

and the moon rose up …

and tomorrow was another day …

AUGUST 2, 2018 UPDATE: After the identical thing happened again, (but this time Carmen was inside to open the door), we have added two rubber bottle stoppers to the inside door dead bolt lever. This stops the problem, although we can no longer use the deadbolt.

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.

46 thoughts on “Locked out!

  1. Now really….. who hasn’t had to do this at least once in your trailer life. Many lessons learned about extra keys, stuff on the bed, locks with minds if their own. Hope Carmen found a private tree!

    1. Yep, many lessons learned here! That is for sure! I will not comment further on Carmen’s part in this story! lol

    1. Dan, I can tell you that if small spaces bother you, going into that compartment is not something you want to do.

  2. I’ve climbed in that way a couple of times. We also have a 30′ classic. It’s not comfortable, that’s for sure. Now we keep spares in the truck.

    1. Since we had the key for the lock this time, having extra keys would not have helped us. But one of the lesson learned is to have spares in various places.

  3. Awwww Man!! What a challenge, well handled, though I’m sure it didn’t feel like it at the time!! Your wife’s a trooper!!! Good advice

  4. I have to look into that crawling option. Had my 75 Land yacht for 15 or so years and the entry lock broke at 11 or so at night during Watermelon Park Fest. We happened to have an opened window that we could crawl through. It took several more months to find a replacement that worked.

  5. My husband locked keys in out 30′ classic. At a rest stop mid 1000 mile trip. This camper has the under bed storage and a large back opening. Well kind of large. We unloaded all our crap out of storage compartment and I climbed in and pushed bed up and got in camper. Not so sure if this is when I sustained the rotator cuff tear or not but we did get in!

    1. I feel your pain! I have both shoulders with torn rotator cuffs, two neck surgeries, and a separated bicep muscle from my right arm. What a challenge!

    1. Carol, I agree there must be a way to make the upper lock lever a bit harder to move into the lock position to avoid this problem.

  6. We truly enjoy your stories. Being that we are new to Airstream living, we learn from your every experience. Thank you for sharing.

  7. My husband tried to shove me in that side compartment and a huge panic attack hit me and I begged to be pulled out! It is the most helpless feeling!

    1. Well, we didn’t write it into the blog post, but I did panic a bit while inside the small compartment. Since it was almost impossible to get inside it, I thought while in there, that to get back out the way I came would be harder than just pushing and pushing on the bed frame until it gave way, was my best option. Thank goodness it finally opened up.

    1. We love South Carolina! We are staying at Myrtle Beach State Park for two weeks and then on to Hilton Head for another two! We will have spent over 45 days in the state by the time we head south to Georgia.

  8. We were at Canopener last Jan when our upper lock failed (came apart). Were locked outside in shorts and t shirts with no wallet, no cell phones and no keys to the truck. Five hours later got in via drilled out door handle. Classic 30; tried to get in through rear compartment; at 6’2″ and 230, not going to happen; was almost the end of me. Several fellow Airstreamers helped; finally found a locksmith. Now lock paranoid.

  9. That’s scary. We got locked inside our Airstream this year and you should have seen me climbing out the rear window. Not very graceful at 70 years old and overweight at that. A screw had come loose in the lock which prevented the unlocking mechanism from working. It is with fear and trepidation that I close the door on Serendipity now.

    1. Sorry to hear you had the same problem we did about a year and a half ago, https://livinginbeauty.net/2016/03/13/trapped/. My wife grabbed the camera in time to catch me crawling out the window. Our problem was exactly the same, the screw had come loose and stopped the door from opening from the inside. I put a lot of ‘loctite’ on those screws so it will never happen again.

  10. Great job… you made it look easy. Glad you didn’t unscrew those door hinges. The nuts on the backside can fall loose or refuse to tighten again without further interior panel access.

    1. Thanks for the tip about the door hinges. I wonder what folks do in our situation when they do not have a rear compartment under the bed?

      1. I travel full time alone! I have a ‘14 27FB twin without access. When this happened to me (twice) I learned that I could use a butter knife after removing screen material… and move the window “locks” over…. climb in or pay a kid to! Th locksmith didn’t have a better idea. And waited for him four hours. A butter knife is now a park of my truck tool kit and be is in an outside compartment I don’t lock. No damage done and screen simple to replace.

        Good luck all!

    1. Nancy, you can purchase for under a dollar one or two of these black rubber stoppers at any hardware store. The size is approximately ½ inch diameter at the top, ⅜ inch diameter at the bottom and about ¾ inch long. Here is a link to the product at Home Depot. Black Rubbeer stopper

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