Posted September 14, 2017 – Narrated by Jim (updated August 2018)
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.
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.
- Always have a set of keys to the outside compartments available at all times.
- Every time the main door is shut, make sure the two lock levers are completely pushed to the right.
- 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.
- Once a month, lubricate with a penetrating lubricant, all moving parts of the main door, inside and out.
- Have a plan for if and when our door will not open.
- Are we going to go through the rear compartment and the bed?
- Are we going to break a glass window that we can crawl through?
- Are we going to wait around for a locksmith to come and help?
- 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.