Our Baby Has New Clothes! Our New Zipdee Awning Systems

In June of 2018 our “Pewter Palace” got a new set of “clothes!  Our original main awning fabric had been replaced by the trailer’s most recent owner about 7 years ago.  He had purchased a Carefree brand, vinyl awning (see below right photo) which for us was too dark and the color scheme and design was not vintage looking enough for our taste. 2018-07-14 12.41.52.jpg

The main awning hardware was still the original Carefree equipment (1973) as well and functioning fine.  The side and rear bath windows of our Avion had never had their own awnings and we really wanted to add them to our rig for the following reasons:

Positives about Window awnings…..

  1. Keeps the interior of your trailer cooler by preventing sun from streaming in during hot weather.
  2. Lessons the fading of your interior fabrics (curtains, bedspreads, dinette cushions, etc.).
  3. Provides the ability to open windows even in most rain or drizzle, thereby affording continued air flow through trailer.
  4. Look downright awesome! and we think add to the vintage homelike feel.

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Why switch to Zipdee all the way around?  Because we were going to install window awnings for the first time, the logical choice was Zipdee based on their reputation for quality, outstanding customer service and for the fact that during certain production years the Avion Corporation did install Zipdee awning systems on the trailers on the assembly line.  Also, the Zipdee Corporation is still going strong and has not varied their design to much over the decades and they continue to produce older parts so you can always get them.  Carefree stopped making these bent arm model awning systems many moons ago and in fact our original 1973 hardware is very hard to find and in demand by folks who need parts or are purists and want the original for their period rig.  Lastly, since we were putting on window awnings we wanted everything to match from the hardware to the “software” of the awning fabric itself.  When we considered removing our old vinyl awning fabric, the cost to have a new one made out of our new Sunbrella material–between labor and materials it just did not make sense.  Not to mention the fact that we have read horror stories of lay folks like us trying to switch out awning materials themselves.  It is not easy and requires at least three strong individuals to manage this feat.  We were not going there!

The ordering process:  We looked on the Zipdee Awning website which is expansive and offers some great information about ordering, history, parts, installs, how to videos and more.  (see links in this blog for some of these pages) but also they have a very good variety of Sunbrella patio awning fabrics to pick from.  You WANT to get specific patio awning material because it is going to hold up to wind, rain, rot and fade issues and the elements of weather far better than any lesser grade or household canvas awnings would.

We wanted a color scheme that would compliment our Bavarian feel and predominate colors of deep red, hunter green and spikes of Dresden blue and yellow.  Wholla!!!  We found just what we wanted in their “vintage fabric” list by choosing their (#4751) Hemlock Tweed Fancy.  Honestly, if my memory serves me correctly, my paternal grandmother had this very same stripe on her camp chairs at her circa 1940’s lake cottage in South Jersey when I was a little girl.  It brought back a flurry of wonderful summertime memories.  So that was it, hands down!  We had to laugh when Chuck Cayo called us to say that the awning had been delivered and he described it as “wow its really bright and looks like a Mexican blanket”!  Once we explained our Bavarian/German color scheme and motif he understood since there is still a lot of German influence to be found in Michigan for sure (hunter green and deep red are very traditional German/Bavarian colors and seen on  many chalets and houses in Europe)!

Adding more shaded living space:  Chuck actually did the ordering and install process for us so we cannot comment much on that other than we also gave instructions that we wanted to have the longest awning possible (given the curvature of Avion’s front and rear) on our curbside main awning.  Our existing awning was a tad short and we knew we could go at least two feet longer which would provide just that much more space underneath the awning for a picnic table in case of hot or rainy weather besides our camp chairs and side table, etc.  The longer awning also ensures that the curbside bedroom window is fully protected from rain and sun and can be opened and never worry about a rain soaked bed (on my side of course!)  Our new awning is 19′ 6 3/4″ long–we gained nearly 3 feet over our Carefree system!  Score another reason to replace!

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The Zipdee awning has proven itself to be a real winner!  It is lighter in weight which is always key with Avion’s since they do tend to be far heavier than other trailers of their size.  This is because of the quality construction, beefy frame, solid wood cabinetry and construction techniques.  We are not knocking that…this is one of the key reasons why we chose an Avion in the first place…but it does bring with it issues of needing to really be mindful of how much you are loading into the rig.  Even if your tow vehicle can handle it, your Avion was not made to transport an elephant!

Rear Bath Window Awning System Our rear window is far more useful too now!  As those who own Avion’s know, the rear bath models have a sliding window (others are crank out awning-style) and so without an awning in place you had to close that window even if the slighted hint of rain was coming so that the interior cabinetry etc. did not get wet.  The window is slightly tipped so that the bottom of the window is out a little more than the top due to the design of the overall body (at the mid-belt area the trailers actually are at their widest).  So this window was essentially a “water catcher”.  With the rear awning system, once you deploy that awning, you can fully keep your rear bath window completely slid open.  NOTE: in our ordering spec’s we also told Chuck to order as long a rear awning as possible to extend as far beyond the rear window frame sides as possible, again to provide more shade and protection from rain driving in.

The rear awning hardware system is slightly different than the side windows or main awning.  It does not get the “hook in ” system for the strap like others.  This hardware actually has small lightweight swing arms that set in place into the awning bracket arms to fix the awning in place.  This is necessary again, due to how the body of the Avion is designed.  This awning, like the others has a self wrapping metal cover to protect it when rolled up (really nice!) and is very easy to deploy and put small arms in place.  You can see them mid-way down each of the side arms.

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One Minor Complaint…..One thing we have noticed is that it appears Zipdee really should have centered the stripes on this rear awning.  In other words, there should have been a few inches of green on the left side and on the right.  We will be showing this to Zipdee and get their feedback on this.  To many folks this may not be an issue, but as a one time Art Major, it drives me nuts!  The other awnings are fine, so perhaps this was a end of the bolt or a lazy day issue at Zipdee that day!

Zipdee Customer Service:  is outstanding!  When we arrived at Cayo to pick up our Avion, Chuck had not ordered the center support bar.  Kevin was sure that due to length of awning we needed that.  Chuck found a used one in his shop that worked for the short term and to his credit and in 90+ degree weather did install on the spot.  But when we did our first camping trip we realized it actually was too short and came unhitched at the slighted breeze that lifted the awning a bit. So obviously it was not going to do what it is intended to do which is to help stabilize the awning and add additional support to the awning arms.  So we called Zipdee right from the campsite.  Did photos with a tape measure and they sent us the correct one within one day.  Chuck also had not installed the one safety clip which does come with the main awning ayatem.  So they included one of those with complete instructions on install of both of them.  Kevin will most likely do this project on his own- seems simple enough for us to do. Through it all, the customer service folks at Zipdee have been friendly and outstanding to work with.  Our entire awning system is Model AV2.  Here is the tag which remains on the main awning for reference for any future need.  Zipdee needs this # for any orders.

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Pennant Embellishments:  When we were attending the Tin Can Tourist Rally last fall and also in many Vintage Camping magazines, etc. we review I noticed that many folks were using fabric pennants as a way to embellish their vintage-ness!  So over this past early spring I got to work creating our pennants for the Pewter Palace.  I used a bunch of fabrics that I had already, some given to me by a German friend in Lake George, Margit Herzog, and a German linen table cloth that I had purchased on Ebay that had German people and town shields.  To create a little continuity I also purchased the yellow fabric to create a bit of color pop!  This was an easy project.  I made my own triangular pattern, sewed them on two sides, turned, pressed then set into a full length strip of Wrights, double fold bias tape quilt binding in red.  The tape is .875″ wide x 3 yards long.  I used one 3 yard length for across the rock guard front of trailer, then 2 of the 3 yard strings for along awning length.   I was tickled pink when a fellow modern RVer (with a huge 5th Wheel) came over to our camp one morning that we were at Jellystone RV park with grandkids over July 4th and complimented on the pennants and said she loved them and they have inspired her to make some for her awning because hers is so plain.  VBG!  Also, the next day, the owner of the campground mentioned to Kevin that he loved the pennants and that “back in the day” when he was just starting out in RVing that everyone had fabric pennants on their trailers.  He loved the nostalgia look!  Yeah again!  You will see from the photos that I simply used the same (conference name badge clips) to hold up the pennants to the awning edge- then tucked in my fairy light string like I always do to hold everything together.

Clips to hold my solar fairy lights and homemade fabric pennants:  I use a tip gotten from Airstream Vlogger Courtney Adcock (www.AStreaminLife.com). She recommends purchasing a bag of the plastic and aligator clips that are used at conferences to clip through a name badge.  I have ordered them really cheaply from Amazon and they work great.  And they are FAR cheaper than the clips that are sold at most RV supply places.  As of this posting, the link above has them on Amazon for 150 of them for under $15. A Deal! Best thing is that if you have to take down your awning in a hurry, e.g. storm or wind coming in quick) you can pull these off in a flash compared to the ones that slip into your awning track.  IMPORTANT NOTE--Zipdee awnings DO NOT have that internal open track (Carefree does)  for the more traditional light clips to slide in. That also means you cannot insert any of those LED light strips either.  So purchase some of these badge clips and hang from them!  I have used them now for two years and they still look new.

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So here is a shot of the “finished” new set of clothes for our baby!  She looks so happy!  We love them and hope you consider Zipdee as an awning choice as many, many Avion and Airstreamers do.  (Zipdee is the brand that Airstream uses for all of their trailers so if you do have a problem on the road, any AS dealer will be able to fix for you!)

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PS:  The only two other things to add to her “wardrobe” –the first is we will be making up tire skirts in the Hemlock Tweed Fancy to snap in place covering the tires from sun and so we are not looking at them when sitting under awning.  The other one is that once we go full time living on our Avion, we plan to purchase an “add a room” system to put up on the main awning when we are staying more than a week or two in one location. This additional screened in space will allow us to extend our 24/7 living space and create a spare bedroom if need be for visitors.  More on that as it develops….that’s a blog for another day!

Have fun and remember…ONE LIFE…LIVE IT!

Cheers!

Luisa

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