Category Archives: Refurbishment Projects

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  Our original main awning fabric had been replaced by the trailer’s most recent owner about 7 years ago.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

Avion Medalions and Emblems and more….including Resource List

Clearly anyone who owns an Avion understands that they are historic preservationists in the most fundamental sense.  Not only do they maintain, restore and covet their aluminum beauty…they also USE it as it was intended to be used—for enjoying the outdoors, sheltering from weather and creating memories with loved ones and dear friends.  If they did not revere history and love nostalgia they would own a modern cardboard box, flat top trailer with little to no personality and certainly not built for the longevity that the Avions can boast to this day.  (our Avion turned 45 years old this year-2018, and I challenge any modern box campers to be on the road in excellent running order in 45 years!).


NOTE:  at the end of this blog post I have a list of resources for reproduction items talked about throughout this post.  Enjoy!


Almost monthly, there are questions about, or seekers of information on the various medallions, decals, numbers and company markers on the trailers. 

In this article I will attempt to answer many of the questions and in some cases provide some current links to where some of these items (or reproductions of same) may still be obtained today.  Also included are links to other websites where directories of the Travelcade member ID # may still be looked up.  Sadly, currently no one source of all those numbers exist so the hunt is on and if someone would eventually scan and post the books in an archive it would be like winning the lottery for a lot of us!  More about that in a subsection below.

Lets start at the beginning…the birth so to speak when an Avion was coming off of the assembly line.

As a side note, see our post about our trip to Benton Harbor MI in April 2018 to see a video of the plant that still exists but now is a cheese factory.

Avion Coach Company Medallions and Logo Markers:

pre 73 avion nose front
This is the company logo on front of a pre-1973 Avion.  How to tell?  The originals from 1956-1972 have the “pie slice” multiple riveted sections converging in the front, then from 1973 onward the design changed dramatically -see example below which is our Avion.  This was the first and only real major structure change the Avion (Cayo) corporation ever made to these trailers.
our 73 Avion nose, breadloaf style
Notice that the design change in 1973 created what many of us call  the “breadloaf” style.  This design change added significant headroom inside and more front storage over sofa or dinette and far more headroom in the rear bathroom area.  It also meant a far larger, and curved three section front window which was fitted with a rock guard.  The rock guard is on hinges and raises up.  The guard provides protection to windows and shade for the interior.   I will put a source to purchase a reproduction rock guard at end of this post.  The metal Avion Logo was moved to below the window and a stenciled AVION motif added to the rock guard.  We will be repainting ours this spring.
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This is the rear of our Avion the day we bought her.  She was quite dirty and needed a bath!  You will see the Avion logo medallion also on the rear above the bathroom window. More about the decal sticker above the light later in a separate blog post.

These logo medallions from what we have seen were almost always painted red.  Today many look like a pale/faded tomato red, but from what we understand a deep true red was more similar to its original color. Over time, the colors have faded.  This is the same with the rub rail- that vinyl strip that slides into a channel that goes around the trailers mid-belly in two layers with a shiner (non-anodized) strip in between them (at least on the years surrounding our years of production.  In the 80-90’s the colors for Avions turned more to using blues and black.  You can see that along the way one of the three previous owners of our trailer replaced the rub rail with black which is very common to see these days.  The rub rail material is not easily found in the right size.  Resource list at end of this post.  Some people have taken to painting the rub rail vinyl back to red, or from faded black to black.  It can be done, but I have seen them and to me it looks a bit like a cob job.  Perhaps if you were to actually remove the vinyl and spray paint it it might be better—but no way am i promising you will ever get that rub rail back in the channels again very easily!

2018-04-01 14.08.23As another side note to the company medallions, above is the dealership plate from where our 1973 Avion was originally sold from.  This dealership does not exist anymore but we have located where it was through old news clippings and at the time surely it was on the outskirts of Dearborn Heights in a rural area– but now that address is smack dab in the middle of a very built up almost urban environment.  Our little lady did not travel that far from her birth place to be purchased for the first time.  Many Avion’s also still have their original dealer emblem on them.  Again, its all about nostalgia for us and we wear it proudly.

Below is our LaGrande “model” medallion which appears on both sides of the trailer to the rear-basically even with where the bathroom is located (at least with 70’s models).  Early Avion photos (50’s-60’s)  we have seen do not appear to have these though there were some model names.  See second photo below for placement.  Many of these model plates that we have seen are, like ours is pitted.  They are stainless but age, and in our case, being kept in Florida near the ocean in the winters for many years has caused the pitting.  If a rig has been kept under cover or in a garage these emblems may be in far nicer condition.  The background is dappled/textured a bit and supposed to be painted all flat black. Only the raised lettering is supposed to be shiny.  The “Travelcade” models (a wee bit of a step down, basic model of Avion) also have them in the same locations.  It is not advisable to remove these unless you really know what you are doing.  (again, this was before our baby had her first bath!)

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This photo is after her bath!  Note location of the LaGrande emblem on rear, about even with the bathroom shower area.  These are also riveted on.

HOW CAN I TELL HOW OLD MY AVION IS AND HOW LONG IT IS?  In the photo below you will see the vehicle details on the orange plate that was afixed to the trailer upon completion at the Avion assembly line plant.  This is not our trailer but you can see and tell the year, month, and production # as well as the model style “LaGrande”.

These plates are very important when looking at purchasing a new to you Avion or for reference for a rig you currently own.  Hopefully you still have one on your trailer.  This one is located just to the right of the door entry.  This is also where ours is, however there is another plate on the streetside as well that also has important trailer information and should be documented.

There is an excellent resource website maintained by “DR G”, Dr. Don Gradeless that is a treasure trove of manuals (PDF by year) you can download or view, info regarding Avion specs and also early rosters of some Travelcade member units.

His website is at:      http://my.execpc.com/~drg/avionrem.html

Here is how to read the numbers (see image below)- this stands for trailers made at least in the 1970’s that we know and cannot attest to how earlier or later models may be marked.

 SERIAL NUMBER         75-L-28043

1975 production year   L = LaGrande Model      28 = foot length   043 = 43rd trailer made that year.

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Trailer Travelcade Member ID Numbers and Units:

I will be including a whole separate blog post about the history of the “Travelcade” membership club because it really was cool!  But for purpose of this post, I refer to the wonderful Avion history book written by Robert Muncy (link to purchase here) entitled SILVER AVIONS AND CAYOS.  Muncy writes that the Travelcade club of Avion owners got its start in 1959 and had its highest rendezvous turn out of 818 Avions in Coldwater MI in 1970.  Please see my future post about the Travelcaders and their club soon!

The photo below is our Avion, our “Pewter Palace” as we call her with her original Travelcade ID numbers and geographical unit emblem.  Not all Avion owners joined this optional club and so if you do not see any type of stickers like this (front and rear streetside is where they should be) then the owners did not partake.  Benefits of the club included a printed newsletter, attendance at rendezvous (FL, MI, WI) and the ability to order and wear some of the truly awesome “Travelcader Swag” like earings, jackets, knitted caps, pith helmets, bolo ties and more….remember….this IS the 1960-70’s!!  See some of the swag we have gotten so far in this previous post or on our Avion Swag post page.

Our trailer’s second owner was from CT and therefore was part of the New England Unit which sadly no longer exists.  In fact, the whole “Travelcade” club and movement died out after the corporation sold to the Fleetwood RV company in the 80’s.  Happily, a diehard group have resurged the zeal for hosting rallies of Avions again and now there is are very active “Sliver Avion Fellowship ” units based in MI, TX and more recently one started in Arkansas.  The trend and desire to all get together again is growing each year as is the popularity of owning one of these classic, well-built beauties.  We attended the Silver Avion Fellowship Rally in Elkhart MI in the summer of 2017 and had a blast with over 25 Avions of all designs, lengths and styles present.  The MI group, I believe is the one who got the whole Fellowship rolling again.  Search Facebook for The Silver Avion Fellowship and ask to join. There is a similar named fb site for the event too. I believe that black numbers and letters were the standard issue of these rigs.  People attending the Travelcade official rallies back in the day would register with their trailer number.  There were published member directories for each year and geographical unit.  If you are lucky, someone at one of today’s Fellowship Rallies may come with one and you can look up your original Travelcade member’s name, address, etc.    On occasion someone will also post out on one of the Avion FB pages that they have access to one of the books , or you can post out on the Avion Owners facebook pages that you are seeking a “look up” for the numbers on your rig.  Folks are more than happy to help find this nostalgic piece of history out for a fellow Avion owner.

As you can see by our membership number—our trailer owner’s were the 14229 members enrolled.  WOW!

Below these emblems, or on the curbside somewhere near the front side panel, some Avions also have a vertical list with smaller letters of the location and date of EACH Travelcade Rendezvous that they had attended.  It is an amazing story for your Avion and we highly recommend that you LEAVE it, or if needed get repro stickers if some of the letters or dates are worn off.  Some trailers only have a shadow (left from fading of the finish) on their rigs.  Again—this is a badge of honor that should be maintained in our opinion and we know many other Avioners agree.  So please keep them visible!  We wish we had some but perhaps our owners were more interested in just reading the member newsletter than traveling south.  We do know they took our trailer to Alaska twice though!

If you look very closely below you will see under the “pie slices” a discolored area on the body.  In the right light, you can see EACH of the rendezvous that this trailer has been to.  It was quite amazing and yes—a badge of honor we are happy to see they have kept even though the actual black letters are long gone.  Those letters were issued to you when you arrived at the Travelcade Rendezvous.  Today’s Silver Avion Fellowship Rally we attended in MI is reissuing these once again and we will put it on our trailer once we get our clear coating done by Chuck Cayo this spring.

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Below are some resources for items mentioned above.  Please do remember to check back to my blog often as I will be adding an entire post about the Travelcaders and club which will include some vintage photos of rallies, people wearing Travelcade swag and more… including where to buy reproduction Travelcade Large Member Stickers like what is on the front and rear of our rig (we have purchased new ones to replace our very faded and worn out ones)

CURRENT RESOURCES THAT WE ARE AWARE OF: 

(these were viable at date of this post, sorry if no longer active)  Please contact me if you find new or other sources!!

Our Facebook Page for the Pewter Palace: https://www.facebook.com/PewterPalace/


Avion reproduction Rock Guards:   Chuck Cayo- Cayo Repair, Watervliet MI.

https://www.facebook.com/pages/Cayo-Repair-Service/116726535054286  (Chuck is an old school kinda guy—-and is the guru of Avions (his grandfather co-owned the original company and Chuck grew up with them from his father.  They do not have a website, but this listing gives phone info)


SILVER AVIONS AND CAYOS, book by Robert Muncy (a must have for any Avion owner)

https://www.muncywinds.com/silver-avions-and-cayos.html


Rub Rail Vinyl strips:

(1)  Chuck Cayo (above) keeps black in stock most of the time.

(2)  Others have used sources found on Airstream (gasp!) forums, recently someone used vinyl stripping found on a website that sells it for lawn chairs.  He said it worked well.  I got some samples, nice colors but is very thick and not sure how well it will last with temp changes/extremes of full timing plus would be really hard to insert in because it is flat, not curved and very stiff.  They said do it on a sunny warm day, and use a heat gun to soften and insert- perhaps with a putty knife to help tuck into track gutter.

(3)  Vintage Trailer Supply also at least from time to time does carry limited sizes and colors since this is a type of trim that is found not only on Avions, but Airstreams and other vintage rigs.  https://www.facebook.com/vintagetrailersupply/


(4)  Travelcade Member ID #’s and Units:  This is a very recent link that I found posted on one of the handful of Avion facebook pages that i belong to.  So far, I believe the folks who have ordered from her have had a positive experience.  Mind you, you must have a steady hand to apply these…or take the letters and numbers to a professional sign shop or automotive detailer who does this kind of thing and have them apply them!  As mentioned, so far, we have only seen black letters on originals but I believe some current owners are using red for their numbers.  I guess its a matter of choice.

https://www.etsy.com/listing/598338016/avion-number-decals-airstream-avion-rv?ref=shop_home_active_1

As always, I hope you have enjoyed this post and gotten some “take aways” from it.  I would love to hear your feedback, or if you have other sources for the items discussed above or anything to do with Avions.  Its all about helping each other to preserve and enjoy our beloved Avions as much as we call.

We look forward to meeting fellow Avioners on the road in days ahead….till then…

ONE LIVE–LIVE IT!

–Luisa

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April Trip to the “Motherland”, (Cayo)

2018 will go down as the winter that never ends…yes, it is April- long past the Easter holiday and we are still getting snow.  We had chatted with Chuck Cayo (a.k.a Avion guru) over the winter about bringing our Pewter Palace to his repair and service business this spring so we could have a punch list of things done including the installation of a new ZipDee awning system, replacing our old Carefree system and vinyl awning PLUS installing new awning systems all way round the rig.

Chuck is the grandson of one of the two original owner brothers of the Avion (and Cayo) corporations in Benton Harbor, MI.  We were in luck and Chuck said he had a window of scheduling that could put us in the ques for Mid April.  Perfect!  By then, Kevin would be off of his extremely rigorous and mandatory 24/7 “on call” status with NYS DOT (yes, overtime this winter was big with so much snow…but I also once again became a “snowstorm widow” not seeing him sometimes for what seemed like days on end!)

So we booked it in figuring also that perfect weather would be our guide.  NOT!!!  We hit the road a little earlier on Friday than originally planned just to be able to scoot out of NYS before yet another sleet, snow and rain storm came barreling through.

NY, PA TO OHIO BORDER:  We got as far as over the Ohio border and found an excellent rest area/truck stop directly off Interstate 90 Westbound at exit 223.  This Flying J truck stop has about 8 dedicated RV parking spots on the left front area of lot.  Much quieter there than in back with big rigs.  There is a Denny’s restaurant that opens at 6 AM.  Nice breakfast.  And the Flying J store and bathrooms were great, spotless with store having very good variety of foods, snacks and beverages even at 10 PM when we arrived.

As we approached through OH and into Indiana and Michigan the next day we caught a storm of rain, and some snow….yeah…it followed us!  Ugh!  There were some high winds (25-35 MPH)  but Avion’s are so aerodynamically designed that honestly Kevin said that the wind is really a non issue.  We cannot say the same for other RV trailers and Class A’s we saw along the route who were blowing all over the place!

A great thing we also learned was that the state of Ohio has really become RV Friendly in that they have been upgrading some of their rest areas and creating some dedicated RV overnight parking WITH ELECTRIC HOOKUPS!  there is also potable water and a dump station area onsite at these special rest areas.  You can pick up the info flyer on these at any of the rest areas.  There is a self-pay kiosk where you pay $20 for an overnight with electric and put the chit on your dash so you don’t get rousted in the middle of the night.  Bad part in their planning was the sites are quite short and close together.  We are talking a parking lot folks!  But honestly, with the 28.7 feet of our trailer plus our Chevy Suburban’s length we were hard pressed at the first one we checked out to be able to fit our rig.  And God help us if someone pulled into either side of us because the first rest area were all straight back in’s (no angle to pull out or in) so to make that “J” turn to get out with approx. 48 feet of rolling metal- would be impossible.  The photo below shows that back in only lot.  Fine for small bumper pulls, vans, small class B & C’s.

 

Below is the flyer detailing some of the info about these special rest areas.  Again, only in OH on RT 90 (wish NYS would take cue and do this!) and it is only for ONE night stays.  Good in a pinch, esp. if it is so late at night that its too late to get to a campground and you want an easy off, easy on in the morning.  We suspect these spots are very full in season!!! They are first come, first served.  The Rest Area as Mile Post (MP) 79 on the Westbound side did have 8 pull through sites on angles which was a little better, but again we just fit nose to tail.  BTW–the OH rest areas are beautiful! huge, have pay showers if needed, and you can eat off the floor they are so clean.  Decent offering of typical fast food Starbucks, Burger King, etc.  Nothing to write home about food wise for this gal.

new_rv_lots_brochure_2016  This is a printable brochure from the OH Interstate Authority all about the program.  Check it out!

Of course the 90 degree turn in Cleveland OH is always fun!  Check out the very cool building on the right but then please………Take it slow please!!!!

AT this point it is lightly snowing…

On through Indiana for a bit, still is amazing when going through the Elkhart area to see all the many manufacturers of RV parts, trailers and motorhomes just finished their assembly line and waiting to be shipped to dealerships all over the US.  Elkhart is the RV capital of the world (no kidding!) and if you want to stop there, you can even go on factory tours that are scheduled (advance reservations are suggested because of set times/days of the week they are done).  We did not stop this time, but had visited the RV Hall of fame during our last visit to this area last summer when we attended our first Silver Avion Fellowship Rally.  The RV/MH Hall of Fame sits right off the left side of the highway as we were heading west.  Easy in and out, plenty of RV parking.  Worth supporting and definitely worth the visit to see some of the really rare, early tent campers on Model A’s etc right through to modern styles.

On to Michigan and nearer the “Motherland” by every passing mile!  This was now Saturday, April 14 and we had made reservations to stay in Coloma/St. Joseph KOA just north of Benton Harbor MI.  We had always planned to get to MI early enough on Saturday to visit the ORIGINAL AVION FACTORY AND HQ in Benton Harbor first.  Onward we went, despite frigid temps and blowing winds and the occasional snow flake or two…

We had reached out to a historical facebook page of folks who love Benton Harbor history. They, along with the wonderful book published by Bob Muncy about Avion’s were key to us finding the original location.  Bear in mind, to those who live in IN and MI this pilgrimage may seen downright ridiculous, but for us, who are so literally obsessed by “everything Avion” we just had to find the original site, buildings, and location of where our “baby” was born!!  And we did!!!

1300 East Empire Ave, Benton Harbor, Michigan.  Thanks to some clues from those facebook folks, google satellite image maps (comparing them to Muncy photos) we found the Avion Maternity Ward–still intact, but now a Cheese Factory/Importer was in the manufacturing plant and next door, the Avion HQ and Sales room was empty but perfectly intact as it was in the heyday!  This was an awesome experience, brought chills to our spines (disregarding the weather!) and truly was so cool to park our rig right in front of both buildings.  Kevin was in his glory!!  It was so cool!  Good we were there on a weekend as there were no cars to jockey around in the parking lots!

Check this out!!  Here is our video as we pull up in front of the original Avion HQ

On to our KOA in Coloma/St. Josephs.  Nice campground, easy access.  We had the honor of being their first “American” campers of the 2018 season….yes…it is now snowing a bit with the rain!  It got down to 29 degrees that night.  We did have to take a different site than we were assigned because as nice as this campground is (and the owners were very nice!) the campground lies very low and many of the sites were flooded due to rains for the past few days.  Since the rain was supposed to continue through our stay we did not want to have to test out the Avion’s buoyancy much less need a tractor pull competition to get her out of mud.  The owners understood and were accommodating for sure.

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We ventured into Coloma for dinner, cute downtown, neat boutique type shops including one very original 5 & 10 Store that functions much like it did in dime store heydays. The owner obviously loves retro and loves his G & M Variety store.  You can get everything from fishing tackle and slogger shoes to makeup and very nice home decor or hardware items….and penny candy, etc. still too!!  The set up is just like original dime stores (just minus the little old/ancient sales ladies following you around every corner and every aisle for fear you were going to steal some pair of socks or something)…it was very cool!I only wish it has fountain service where we could have gotten a yummy grilled cheese or roasted hot dog on a grilled bun!  (ahh the memories!!).  We ate at the local brew pub in downtown.  Decent, but nothing out of the ordinary for us.  Back to camp, bundle up and relax.

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Sunday we spent day tripping in our car going to visit Holland MI.  Sadly, lesson learned not much is open on a snowy, cold Sunday in Mid-April.  We hit a terrible snow storm enroute and were very happy to not be towing anything.  Eight cars spun off the highway in one hours worth of the trip, no DOT trucks in site.  Waylaid at a great Antique shop which worked out well to let the snow pass by and melt off highway a bit.  Holland was a bust, most was all closed and we got there so late due to 25 mph max on highway during storm.  We did eat at a great restaurant in one of the shopping mall areas.  I think the name had “Annies” or “Ann’s” in the name.  Also a “wooden shoe” antique mall on outskirts heading out of town was worth the stop.  Prices for antiques are alot better in MI compared to NY!

Monday morning it was up bright and early and off to see Mr. Chuck Cayo in Watervliet which was only about 15 minutes from our campground.  We arrived to find the door to the main shop locked.  oh no……the service door was open and in we went to meet one of his helpers “Bill” who explained to us that Chuck had been hospitalized on Friday due to emergency medical situation—clogged artery!  Nearly took him to the big Avion lot in the sky!  YIKES!  So Bill assured us Chuck was doing well, but would be in hospital for at least the rest of the week.  He took our three page (yes, three page) punch list and keys, we parked our baby the Pewter Palace, gave her a hug around the beam and wished her well.  We also took time again to check out the other Avions in the lot for sale or for repair.  Always fun to see after market creative fixes, additions, etc. and variety of rigs.

We had told Chuck we just need her back for Mid to Late June….seems like so far away…we miss her already but know she is in very good hands!  Till June little lady!!

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Rear Bumper Storage Ideas for Vintage Avion Travel Trailers

In our travel last summer to Michigan and Indiana, we stopped by Cayo Service & Repair which is located in Watervliet, MI where current owner, Chuck Cayo continues to work his magic restoring, repairing and promoting vintage Avion Luxury Travel Coaches.  They do not have a website, but they do have a facebook page with limited info including their contact info and map for directions.

My goal in this post is to share some storage ideas we have come across that owners of Avion’s have employed to garner some much needed additional storage space.  

  • Please remember- there is a cautionary tale about adding excess weight to the rear of any travel trailer.  It can throw off your correct weight distribution and tongue weight ratios and therefore safety-so please use caution and get professional advise as needed. 

Anyone who currently owns an Avion, regardless of year (except perhaps those five 5th Wheel Avions that were produced and may be still in service) you know that Avions’ suffer from a real lack of exterior storage for important things like modern sewer hoses, fresh water hoses, repair kits, emergency roadside warning kits for breakdowns, not to mention the proverbial citronella candles, exterior carpet mats, camp chairs, gas grill, etc.

The extent of our exterior storage on our 1973 Avion LaGrande 28′ that is not already dedicated to the sewer/grey water flush system and electric hook up is very minimal compared to the huge storage found on modern trailers or Class A’s especially.  The streetside compartments we have are filled with sewer, water and electrical apparatus for the most part and offer very little if any additional storage.  Below is shot of our streetside “business compartments” that include  our Hot water heater (one with vent plate), and behind that our water/sewer connection compartment.  The small one underneath that drops down to open and contains some cleaning supplies but that is about it. Note how a former owner cut a hole into that door so that the sewer hose comes down through.  Nice idea but now the compartment is virtually useless to keep anything contained much less dry! (BTW yes, we LOVE our red Anderson leveler system and strongly recommend!!)

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Our ’73 Avion LaGrande, 28 foot streetside storage and compartments for water heater, sewer/water hook up and one small lower compartment.

With regards to this curbside “storage area” in the two photos directly above—- it should be mentioned these are underneath my curbside bunk used for sleeping.  So really..no sewer hose is going in there!!  We also found when we bought our trailer (we are fourth owners) that this area had been leaking due to poorly maintained rubber gasket around the door flap.  Kevin has since replaced and realigned and it no longer leaks.  We do manage to cram our Anderson leveler system into the small curbside drop down compartment (see sample in photo below) as well as some chocks for wheels and the plastic pads for our crank down levelers. See previous blog post for details on this project from Summer 2017.

Some Avion owners have taken to install water run off shields over top of these curbside access panels.  This is a great  after market idea and one we are going to still look into for double protection from the rain that literally flows like a river down the side of the rig.  Here are two photos from the same rig that we saw on an older Avion parked at Cayo for repairs.  The smaller, lower one is where we store our leveler system, etc.

It should be noted that NONE of these small drop down exterior storage areas are waterproof by any means.  The aluminum panel underbellies of these Avions are great, but after e.g.  45 years of being on the road (our rig has been to Alaska at least 2 xs and Florida annually for over a decade or more) they are not water tight- not sure if they were ever truly meant to be.  So whatever you plan to put in these smaller areas that are on the sloped down lower part of your Avion…be sure it is nothing that will rot, mold or get otherwise ruined by splash from your wet tires, or rain seeping in would wreck.  Also, replacing the original latches with new stainless steel latches is also advisable. The originals do rust and can stain your exterior finish with their run off, or rot off completely at some point.  Source for the stainless ones is Cayo themselves, or here is a link to the exact latches themselves at VintageTrailerSupply.com.

BTW- VintageTrailerSupply.com is a great source for tons of stuff and their customer service is outstanding- I know this from personal experience. Some have reported getting them at your local big box hardware store, but I am not sure if those are 100% stainless–I suspect not.

Other ideas for increasing your exterior storage:

Here is another photo we took at Cayo last summer.

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You can see where some ingenious owner fabricated a rear bumper storage area similar to what is found on many Airstreams.  This one had two liftable storage lids that lifted up from the top.  The hinge end was near the spare tire mounted in the center.  Note--the spare tire mounts (and tire covers-we have that too!) were OPTIONAL gear when these trailers were made, at least in the 70’s and so the original owners would have had to have them ordered as part of their options package at the time.  Some used ones can still be found by scouring the facebook pages where Avion parts are being sold by folks who are salvaging the ones unable to be fully restored but are still good for parts.  There are several, just do a simple search on Facebook for Avion Trailer Parts.  You may have to ask to be invited as some may be closed groups to keep out spammers and ner-do-wells that could clog up the process of Avion owners reaching real Avion owners.

This one had its sewer hose neatly tucked in.  The tray underneath can be made to go completely underneath the whole area.  Its just that due to the spare tire placement your access can only be from one side or another.  I do not recall if these lift lids were fastened down with latch locks or simple 90 degree angle hasp locks with pad lock but simple enough to do!  Again, this tray sits exactly between the round bumper and the trailer body.

How About Vintage Camp Coolers as Outside Permanent Storage:

Originally, we had a plan of attaching brackets to hold vintage aluminum camp coolers to the back of our rig.  (That is until we went to Cayo and Kevin saw the rig in photo above) The idea being when on the road, they could hold our water hose on one side and our sewer hose (in a plastic trash bag) in the other.  They would each sit on top of the bumper area and on either side of the spare tire.  Reminder, if you go this route, be sure to select one cooler small enough to fit underneath your original license plate holder and light bracket because I really think you want to keep that original feature intact.

I really like this idea and am still trying to convince my husband that my Ebay purchase of these two coolers was not in vain.  He is leaning more towards the inline tray concept instead.  Let’s see who wins this one!  Maybe Cayo can fabricate something inline that has the access doors opening on either end and thereby satisfying both parties!!

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This is the larger of the two that I bought on Ebay.  Sadly, during shipping it got the dent on the top.  Does not affect use, but did break my heart a bit.  Note the bottle opener built into the handle.  This cooler would be on the curbside rear making it very handy to you when under the awning enjoying a cold beer…or…whatever!

DUEL PURPOSE!!  With the vintage aluminum cooler concept (they are highly collectible so plan to pay a bit for decent shape ones) I like the idea that after you park and take out your hoses, these coolers can actually still perform a viable purpose.  I don’t know about you, but I hate  my 8 cubic foot refrig being taken up with bottles of beer (or a growler is the worst!) and any other soda cans or large pitchers of green tea, juice, etc. that could find a far more suitable home and keep deliciously cold in our vintage coolers on the “poop deck”.  Heck, one of our coolers even has its original bottle opener right on the side.  How convenient is that!!??

Here is a photo of both of them on the back.

They are not installed at this point in time.  Kevin’s plan was to drill through the bottom of each one, using a rubber gasket to block leakage (but who cares if water drips out right?) so that when we have our gear in there, a simple hasp lock with padlock could be used to prevent (or deter) access to inside and ability to undo any straps, etc. and steal the cooler.  We also do have the original hard plastic spare tire cover but it does not fit when we have the coolers in place as well.  Its do-able but the coolers would have to go a bit further to the outside edge more as the hard plastic cover is wider by at least 3 inches overall to the vinyl cover we have on there now.

ADD ON BRACKET to hold a STORAGE BOX:

While at the Silver Avion Fellowship Rally, summer 2017 in Elkhart, IN we also saw this Avion. The owners had actually had an additional mounting bracket installed beyond the rear bumper so that they could hold this lockable, hard plastic after market storage container.  We have seen these on cars, but honestly we wonder about the added weight that this box and then its contents includes.  There are many stories about not putting too much weight on the rear of Avions (or any trailers for that matter) that will skew the delicate balance between your weight distribution, tongue weight, etc.  So please be careful about any added weight (vintage cooler, generator, etc. of any weight) that you put on your rear end.

SIMPLE BUMPER AREA CAGE IDEA:

Here is another example we have seen that utilizes that area between your bumper and your rig itself.  This was on a 60’s Avion Sportsman model that we were fortunate enough to meet the owner and take a tour inside when at the Northeastern Tin Can Tourist Rally at Sampson State Park in the NY Finger Lakes, September 2017.  There were FIVE Avion’s at this awesome rally!!!  He simply used bungy cords to secure the hose while traveling o the road.  This is a basic fix but for a sewer hose and some other weather proof types of supplies (waterhose in a vinyl bag?)—it works….and is completely ventilated!

LAST WORD ON EXTRA STORAGE FOR LONGER ELECTRIC CORD NEEDS:

Somewhere along the way, a former owner of our rig applied rubber cup covers with adjustable and removable stainless steel bands on both ends of our tubular rear bumper.  Yes the bumpers are hollow!  So my husband, Kevin decided this would also be a great place to store a longer, spare electrical cord for our trailer besides the one that is permanently attached to the rig in the streetside compartment. Its a little tricky snaking the cord in and getting it out but thank goodness he did!  We had to use it when at the Tin Can Tourist Rally we attended last summer.  Due to some uneven ground and where we had to park in order to extend our awning we were too far a distance for our onboard cord to reach.  Wholla….out from our rear bumper appeared the extension with a double ended link to reach the electric post!

 

Well that is all I have for now, but I will continue to provide updated photos as we are on the road and see creative ways to increase your Avion’s exterior storage.

Safe travels, and remember….ONE LIFE!  LIVE IT!!!

Luisa & Kevin Sherman, The Pewter Palace, 1973 Avion LaGrande, 28′- Queensbury, NY

Ceiling Fan Restoration, Phase 1

Most Avions made in the 1980’s through 90’s began using the 14″ square roof vents, some I believe were the FantasticFan brand at some point.

That was not the case with our 1973 Avion LaGrande.  Our ceiling (roof) vents were a little over 18″ square and not easily if even possibly replaceable.  We like the size though and want to keep them if possible.  The former own had installed the full clear plastic protective covers (Maxi-Air) over them on the roof so it is nice to be able to open then even in a torrential downpour and not have rain get in.  We also can keep them open if we want to when rolling down the road.

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Problem was a few things with our ceiling fans were lacking….

Both had screen covers that had cracked frames (hard plastic) and were monsterously dirty. The interior shrouds as they are called (photo with Kevin) were cracked, yellowed and dirty.  Thankfully, replacements for them were available for purchase from Chuck Cayo for about $75 each.  A good deal considering they will last another 40+ years.

 

The rear fan only works on high, while the front one has a faulty switch and does not operate at all.  We continue to try to find replacement parts.

 

Several of the great folks (fellow Avion owners) have pointed us in the right direction for sources for the fan switches, but honestly the whole issue with the Ohms, wires, circuits is way beyond my comprehension and we just feel that this might be a job for Chuck Cayo the Avion Guru whose shop is in Michigan.  We have a few things on a “let the pro do it” punch list for Chuck to work on in 2018 so i think these ceiling fans might be added to that list.  Our AC works awesome, and the rear fan- being overtop our beds is sufficient enough for even hot nights.  It is quite loud though and I think these fans were loud because this is often the most repeated comment that we see from Avion owners who have switched out their large fans to the smaller FantasticFan.  That retro fit requires creating a false template to hold the smaller unit into the larger opening, etc.

So for now anyway, we decided to make do, and work on restoration of what we can handle.  First off….making the screen covers more presentable and usable.

First step–a really good bath.  Used Simple Green HD (Purple) which is also what is recommended to give your Avion a bath outside.  The solution is diluted to 3 water to 1 Simple green (so not use the green version!).  It did a decent job, set them out in the sun to dry but still a lot of mottled discoloration after they were dried.

Then i repaired the cracks with small plastic thin slices to beef up the areas.  Second was to use Gorilla Glue and provide a really good glue job on the cracks to firm them up.  These cracks evidently happen to nearly everyone because this is where the hand cranks turn into and the hard plastic, if the crank gets turned too far, simply cracks.

 

So, cracks mended it was time to purchase some ivory colored spray paint and gently with very light multiple coats painted the mesh fabric as well as the hard plastic frames of each one.  The result was fabulous.  I think I did about 6 light coats.  Careful not to allow any paint to pool in the mesh fabric.

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The final result of these being freshly painted really has made a big improvement and it offered  the stop gap measure needed at this point.  See the finished product below~  not bad eh??!!

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Total cost of project:  About $8 and about 5 hours of elbow grease.  (we had the Gorilla Glue, and for the thin plastic i cut them out of a left over clear plastic take out container-so free!)

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I will post the source for the switches on our resource page.

Bathroom facelift-May 2017

I spent a few days making up new curtains and the shower curtain for our bathroom on the Pewter Palace.  Amazingly enough, the shower curtain onboard when we bought the trailer WAS the original, 43 years old and in fabulous, fully useable shape, but i wanted to do a themed approach in the bathroom too so, it went into safe storage.

When we first purchased the trailer and were doing the initial straightening and clean out we came upon a funky fun strand of decorative lights with pink flamingos and palm trees on it.  Anyone who knows us knows very well that this type of thing is really farthest from our norm of 18th c. style, period fabrics and lighting, etc.  But they were so funky cute–i took them as a great sign that this adventure on our 1973 Avion was going to be great!  So we decided they would come out of the closet and find a permanent home in our bathroom.

So pink flamingos and palm trees became the official theme of the bathroom- which surprisingly for a 28 foot rig (really only 23 feet of living space total) has great room to move around, a full shower and small tub as well as tons of storage closets, an original medicine cabinet and tons of mirror space.

I did handsew the living room and kitchen curtains- but admit with these i did resort to quick dash on my machine!

Here is before and after.  Will have to add more when the funky lights are in place and of the shower curtain.  Fun is!!

 

Avion LaGrande-Exterior Storage Compartment Weatherproofing

May 21-22, 2017:  We have had perhaps one of THE wettest Spring in memory here in the Southern Adirondacks of NYS this year.  With the tons of rain has come the realization that our curbside, exterior storage compartment (which also is a direct access to MY underbed storage area too) has leaks around the compartment door.

Fletch had done a very good job of resealing the outside flanges with Parbond, but the critical issue now was obviously the alignment and need for new gasket that worked properly.

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It seems that at some point, a former owner of the trailer replaced the foam gasket that was supposed to provide a good seal against wind and weather—however either due to time (it had gotten hard) or perhaps not being the correct gasket from the start, this black gasket weatherproofing has failed.

What has resulted is that the door of the compartment does not recess and lay flush or slightly inside the exterior skin of the trailer sidewall. So, when it rains, the rain literally runs down the side of the trailer and right into the gap and into the compartment. Not good!!

Kevin took off the door completely.  Removed and cleaned up the aluminum track area where door seats into body of trailer.  He also found a weatherstrip gasket in a light grey which worked perfectly.  It is far softer and wider and allowed for readjustment of the door so that now it sits correctly and flush to the body of the trailer.  Wholla…no more leaks….but we continue to get rain, rain, rain!  

Finished project.  Works great!

Great job Kevin!!