As we close out 2019 Kevin and I wanted to thank each of you for subscribing to our Pewter Palace blog and following along on our posts, our travels, our tips and trials of RV life.
We are sending you all our best wishes for happiest of holidays, good health and good cheer and we truly hope that our paths cross in person someday soon!
Above is our 2019 Christmas card that I made up as part of the wonderful Avion Fellowship Christmas Card exchange now in I believe its 2nd year. Deb O’Connell, out in Indiana coordinates the sign up and list process and we send cards to over a dozen Avion owners across the USA and into the Ontario Province. Some we have met in person, others we hope to meet someday on the road at a rally or with an arranged “meet up”.
The list of event on the back of our card is FYI only. Sadly there is no way while we are still both working full time that we are able to attend all of these rallies. But we WILL get to all of them once we retire, (at least attending the one in Texas and Arkansas at least every few years).
Our plans for 2020 rallies/events include the following as of right now:
July– Silver Avion Fellowship Rally in Elkhart
September– TCT rally (all makes, models, not just Avions) at Sampson State Park in the NY Finger Lakes
Never underestimate the power of the internet to connect old friends and make new ones! Sometimes those new friends are virtual and although you may not have met them in person you form connections….
Such is the case with Avion owners. There are at least 4 very active Facebook groups exclusively for Avion owners. Kevin and I have gotten to know dozens of folks quite well through these social networks and learned so much about how to take care of and love our Avion from them.
There are Avion Facebook sites that focus on:
Sharing tips and product sources
Taking Avions on trips around the country, campground reviews, beautiful views
Avion Rally Events (yes, there is one for the IN, TX and AR rallies),
Renovation projects (interior and exterior), how to’s
Avions for Sale.
Hey–there is even a FB page just for becoming part of the now annual Avion Christmas Card Exchange club!
Most of us patrol through all of them if not daily…at least weekly. If you do not belong to these groups do a simple search using the keyword “Avion” or “avion trailer” and they will pop up. I believe all are by being approved to join the group, its easy–just ask to join the group.
Kevin and I have been extremely fortunate to have been able to travel to some rallies and actually been able to shake the hand, and give a hug to those we have “met” and gotten to know through these FB pages. It has been simply wonderful.
Now for a “next level” connection and the main reason for this post….
There is a fellow Avion owner in Milwaukee, Wisconsin named Glenn Reinle. We have never met each other, but have exchanged many conversations about tires, reno projects, tips and techniques….He has seen photos of our Avion, we have seen his and he is a subscriber (I think) to this Pewter Palace blog!
So in mid-November…out of the blue, Glenn sends me a PM and says…“Hey, Luisa isn’t this the same canvas as your awning?” OH YES IT IS!!!- I shoot him back immediately!!
Glenn proceeds to share with me a marketplace listing on his Milwaukee facebook marketplace that shows an ORIGINAL ZIP DEE FOLDING chair WITH FOOT REST ATTACHMENT! WOW!!! super duper I am ecstatic! Yes, it matches our awning that we had purchased new from Zip Dee in 2017.
Not only does Glenn unselfishly share this listing to me…he volunteers to contact the seller, pays a visit to the seller to see the chair in person to make sure its in decent shape, springs are tight, etc, and after feeling it is worth the price ($80) being asked, he purchases it for me so I can just send him the money as a reimbursement through our paypal accounts. You can see the canvas is vintage, not perfect but thats fine with us as long as it was not dry rotted (he checked that out) What a guy, what a friend!!
So our fabulous Zip Dee Chair with matching canvas (and the very hard to find attachable footrest lounger piece) is sitting patiently in Glenn’s garage in Wisconsin waiting to come to its new “Mama” when we meet in person at the Silver Avion Fellowship Rally this summer in Indiana!
How awesome is that! This is surely a case of a fellow Avioner going above and beyond the call of duty to think about and support a fellow Avion fanatic!
We purchased our 1973 Avion in September 2016. Quite a birthday present for me if I do say so!
Our rock guard (original to 1973) was in decent shape, with the logo faded and some stress cracks at the angle support hinge area on top. Both of these “age-related illnesses” are ones that are very common and frequently seen in Avions especially those pre-1980’s. (you can easily see the cracks in photo below).
The previous owner to us had done a decent repair job on that right crack by reinforcing with a piece of steel behind it and filling in the crack on the outside with Parbond or something similar, but now after two years of our use we started to see the left side begin to show more of a pronounced stress crack too.
These cracks in the solid formed hard plastic original rock guards like ours are common due to the sheer weight of the guard and the jiggling, torquing and bouncing it experiences when rolling down the road even though it is locked in at the bottom. Hey, and our baby has done Alaska 2xs, California at least 4 times and Florida annually for at least 6 years—so after a total of 45 years and having only these cracks in her is truly not bad!
In May of 2018 we had taken our Avion out to Cayo Repair in MI to have some work done and on the punch list was to sure up that left crack to prevent further damage and to ensure that it would hold, at least for a few more years. Chuck Cayo did a decent job with it which you can see on photo below where the rivet stud backs are showing through the horizontal piece of sandwiched steel plate. But we knew at some point the inevitable question would have to be addressed to repair again or replace completely.
In the photo below you will also see where the two support hinges mount up underneath the top inside of the rock guard. These hinges bear the full weight of the guard when opened (as shown) but also lock in place in the pull latches on bottom edge center of window to lock the guard in place for towing mode. Thus all the stress is there despite the long tubular hinge that connects from the guard itself to the rig.
The photo below clearly shows the system by which the rock guard is “hung” to attach to the trailer body. (also the horizontal steel plate repair by Cayo) .The body has a receiver tube as we call it that the guard slides into from one side.
It takes two people to effectively and safely remove or install the guard to the rig using this system. The sheer weight of these original guards is a lot.
Newer replacement guards are being manufactured by Cayo RV Repair in MI and some other private owners these days. I believe they are made of fiberglass and therefore far lighter which is a good thing, however the ones we have seen are all black which we do not care for at all. We prefer our muted grey which blends in with the aluminum body of the trailer better.
Here is a good photo for comparison, ours being on the left with its original as is condition, the one on the right is the fiberglass black replacement.
To Repair or Replace….THAT is the Question!
We knew we had only really two options with our ever growing cracks in our original existing rock guard.
Bite the bullet and purchase one of the new fiberglass knockoffs (around $700-800 +S/H)
Try to once again do repairs to our existing one in hopes to sure it up sufficiently for the wear and tear it would eventually get once we begin full timing in a few years.
Never Underestimate a Sunday drive to VT!
It brought us a TREASURE FIND or TWO!
One sunny Saturday in July 2018 I suggested to Kevin it would be nice to go over to nearby VT to scope out some potential campgrounds where we may wish to stay in coming years. We like to physically see the campground and identify specific sites that we take note of for future calls for reservations. We wanted places that would be grandkid-friendly and relatively easy to get to distance for us and for my daughter and son-in-law to drive to as they would be transporting the two grandchildren to us for a camping weekend.
Living in eastern upstate NY we can be to VT in a matter of 40 minutes. Our trip that day took us over through Cambridge NY and then into the Bennington and Manchester VT areas of mid-state/western VT. Using just my google map locator asking “campgrounds near me” we found several close by with no problem. Our third one to visit though was the charm. Not because we would want to end up camping there (no amenities, mostly all very run down, entrenched seasonals) but because on our way out the driveway Kevin shouted STOP! (I was driving) “WAIT…THERE IS AN AVION!”. Yes, it was, abandoned and sitting among wreck, trash, bits and pieces from other trailers. It was the campground owners graveyard of discards from two generations of ownership. Yeah, they did not ever throw anything away! Thank goodness!!
We pulled off the drive and into the graveyard. Wrangled over debris and checked her out. Appeared to be a 1988 but the rock guard looked really, really similar in design and size to ours. The poor rig had had a tree fall on her, breaking her center spine and was left in the graveyard to fill with rain, leaves, etc. etc. and used for storage, sort of, for perhaps a decade or more. But the rock guard was crack free, moveable and hopefully would be ours! We did have a tape measure with us, took measurements and tried texting and calling Cayo and posting on the Avion FB pages quickly to see if anyone could answer our question about if size of this one was same as our ’73 which of course was safely and out of reach back in NY. A couple online FB Avioners replied they thought it would fit, but if the price was right, even if it did not fit ours, there was surely a market to sell it to another Avion owner who could use it. That was enough security for us!
The owner of the campground came by driving his backhoe to gawk at these unfamiliars climbing around his Avion. No worries, nice guy and Kevin quickly sparked up a perfect, nonthreatening conversation to allay the owners fears that we were some city slickers. We are not, we are North Country folk too and Kevin knows his mechanicals, trucks, etc. to dazzle any New England car/truck junky. After a very short and amenable conversation the deal was struck, tools offered to assist us in the guard’s removal and within about 15 minutes the new rock guard was being hoisted by Kevin and I into our Suburban. Reddy our Cavalier Spaniel who had come along for the ride was not quite sure what this big canopy was coming over top her bed!
This ends Part 1 of our ROCK GUARD RESCUE.
BUT THERE’S MORE LUCK TO BE FOUND! Never underestimate what gems you may find on a Sunday drive!
Not more than 15 minutes down the road from rescuing this rock guard did we see a much earlier Avion (can you spot it in first photo below?) at a horse show along the road.
We veered quickly there to see that too! And to our sheer delight, it belonged to a woman who ran a mobile embroidery business who was actually based out of CT. Turns out it was a 1974, 23′ Travelcade. She had pretty much gutted the inside but had done some tasteful redecorating in prep for her boutique.
She was making custom designed hats, shirts, jackets for the horsey set. She needed an awning for her new Avion soon to be traveling boutique on wheels. Perfect! We struck a deal to trade our old Carefree Awning system hardware for some custom designed clothing using our trademarked Avion artwork that we had commissioned an artist to do for us in 2017. This was truly our double lucky day!
My next post will be on the Rehab phase! Until then…safe journeys!
There is no doubt that one of the key features of vintage trailers is their craftsmanship and quality of products/materials. Later in this post I will talk about what we do to maintain our cabinetry so well, but first, a little history and photos.
The Avion Coach Company spared no expense when manufacturing their signature aluminum trailers prior to the late 1970’s. Given the price tag at the time, these beauties were high end, luxury trailers. It was after that time that the company was sold to the Fleetwood RV company and incrementally over subsequent years the quality and craftsmanship started to wane. For more history about the Avion Corporation we highly recommend purchasing Bob Muncy’s book shown here. There is a link to how to purchase on our resources page.
Our 1973 is considered by many articles we have seen to be in the “perfect window years” of style, amenities and design of the Avion Coach Company. Truthfully, many prefer the pre-1973 models which have more rounded, Airstream-type styling (photo below left) with more front/rear fan panels—but in 1973 when they changed to our “breadloaf” front and rear (ours at photo below right) you gained some really valuable headspace and storage inside and more room to move about in the rear bathroom.
One of the things however that did not change during these pre- late 70’s years and even into the 80’s at least was the superb quality of their use of real wood and excellent craftsmanship of their cabinetry. Real hinges on drawers, metal tracks and wheels. Full length piano hinges on all tall cabinets and closet doors are all standard. Our LaGrande model has the extra French Provincial molding and flourish handle pulls (our kitchen cabinet below). The more basic, entry level trailer, The Travelcader, and Sportsman models had plain fronts and simple pulls.
Now owners of Avion’s are tasked with maintaining the condition of these beautiful wood cabinets. Some have chosen to paint over the stained finish-perhaps because of worn, dried out condition of their trailer, others because there is a growing preference especially among Millennials to have a crisp, bright, clean look so white or pale grey painted cabinets seem to be the rage. Below is a great beautiful example of a more “modern 21st century look” recently put on one of our Avion Facebook forums. It is a very, very nice look but not one that we would feel comfy in for any full time living. It always amazes me how varied style interiors each Avion owner does with their trailer. We are all starting with basically the same bones!
For us traditionalists, we relish the mellowed wood stain of our cabinets and do all we can to ensure they stay that way. Look at the difference! Only you can decide for your personal style which you prefer!
Now, about keeping up this stained cabinetry.
Each spring, we wipe over all of the wood cabinetry, closet doors inside and out with “Restor-A-Finish” oil by a company called Howard. Here is the link to it on Amazon, but they also have other colors available too like Cherry and others. One can has now lasted me two complete seasons. I did go over the cabinets this fall again because we had used the trailer more this season and they just seemed to need a bit more. We purchased this Restor-A-Finish can at our local large Antique Co-op Shop (Glenwood Antiques in Queensbury, NY) and it is something that many antique dealers use routinely on furniture. It does come in a variety of stain colors and we found that the Maple-Pine was the closest match to our cabinets. The Avion Corp. did offer a few different finish colors so some interiors are going to be different than ours, lighter, or darker. The wood is birch with beautiful grain as you can see from our photos.
I use an old Tee shirt or other smooth rag to apply the oil. Careful…it is quite thin and runny!
It does go on somewhat oily but that is fine and over a day or two it penetrates in and rejuvenates the wood. There is no need to go back over it with a dry cloth. Let the oil soak in. What I do like is that it does NOT leave a sticky film like some other furniture oils do. The smell is not bad and it does wash off your hands fairly easy with a scrubby but I do try to wear rubber gloves when applying it because it will stain your fingernails a bit for a time afterwards.
I like that it is a little shiny when being applied because it allows me to more easily see where i have daubed and where I have not. I have also used this same restorer if we had a scratch accidentally onto a cabinet door or trim piece. It covers it beautifully!
Here is a perfect photo to show the treated cabinet on left, and not-yet-treated on right:
In conclusion, we would highly recommend Restor-A-Finish for refurbishing your wood stained cabinetry and maintaining its vibrancy and condition by using it at least annually. We have seen photos of Avion and other RV interiors where the cabinets were not treated regularly and what happens is that they get brittle, chip, peel and look washed out and faded.
So please give treat your wood cabinets to a luscious spa treatment to keep them in beautiful condition always!
It’s that time of year that I am beginning to dread more and more each year….winter is coming! It is marked by falling leaves, the need to start our car for a few minutes to “burn” off the frost from the windshield and now this weekend….the proverbial need to ready our Pewter Palace for the coming of the winter hibernation.
Eventually, when we retire we will be doing the “Chasing 70” dance- which for those in the know..is traveling to anywhere and everywhere that it is in the ranges of the 70-78 degree weather around the USA. Sure we have some specific places picked out like AZ (photo to right)
and western CA along the Colorado River area and maybe an occasional trip to Fort Wilderness Campground in Orlando for a Disney Holiday fix—but for the most part our map is open to ideas for where to spend our winter months from Nov 1 to May 1 (at least!)
But for now…it is a process of putting our Avion snug in “the carriage barn” ( our rented RV storage unit) which keeps her high and dry, away from the elements of snow, ice, and sleet. BTW for those of you who are contemplating an aluminum beauty, be it an Avion or our cousin the Airstream—please know that it is NOT recommended that these trailers be covered with the traditional RV cover sold at many camping supply and RV dealerships. The covers can actually mar your aluminum finish and wreak havoc with your rig. So owners basically have a few options: they are “chase 70, put her into a garage/RV storage barn, or at minimum put your trailer under a strongly built pavilion/roof that will keep snow off the rig, but is open on the sides.
NOTE: A simple search on Google will net you all sorts of “handy lists” in PDF etc that you can download and print off to do your check list to button up your rig for winter. We recommend you check those out. Perhaps even some of our fav bloggers may have some!
So, the Pewter Palace is being prepped for winter this weekend and over this coming week. Here are the basic steps we do and then some of my videos will go into a little more details both inside and out.
Shut off ByPass to the Hot Water Heater. Lift up the “blow off valve” and get a 5-gal pail and put underneath and unscrew the plug and let hot water heater completely drain out.
Go to the city water and using my air chuck threaded for the water line hook that up. Use an, oil-less portable air compressor to blow all the water out of the lines. Kevin set’s it at 30lbs of pressure to blow out the water from all the lines.
Open all faucets and keep them open
Push the pedal and the spray nozzle in the toilet, and also shower head to be sure all water is drained out completely.
Pour RV (pink) antifreeze into toilet bowl , and all other drains including the shower, kitchen and bath sinks and then be sure to pour at least a few inches of antifreeze into the toilet bowl when closed and check the bowl for evaporation over the winter as you want that liquid to be in the bowl to keep the seals moist.
We leave all the faucets open all winter, all low drains open, holding tanks are drained.
Outside, he gets is 2 foot extension for the sewer line and his yucky 5-gal pail and he pulls the black line let it drain out any remaining. Shut and then do grey water whatever may be remaining. Take this and dump it. He takes a little bottle of water and bleach solution to clean the bucket and then store.
Then disconnect the two foot sewer host, spray off with bleach and water solution and let dry.
Put on a winter cap on to the sewer connect. (he has drilled a few small holes in it for ventilation but small enough that no critters can get in). It is suggested to spray the black and grey sewer valves and push in and out a few times to lubricate. We keep our valves out and open to allow air flow. Our tanks don’t stink at this point! (also as side note, we highly recommend UNIQUE brand RV Digester. Check out all about that here in one of our past blog posts: Its All About the BLACK TANK!
Inside is a bit more my domain for winter-ization. Its become pretty routine now and here is what I do in some basic steps:
Remove all liquid products (again, our garage is great and secure but NOT heated!) from under the kitchen sink, bathroom sink and also the bathroom closet. Use them over the winter at home or place in storage closet at home where they can hibernate too till spring!
Remove all food stuffs, spices and anything remotely food like from the rig. Anything that could even remotely explode with freezing temps, or whose scent might be attractive to starving varmints.
Wipe down the inside of the refrigerator AND freezer area with a mild cleanser that does include either bleach or at least an antibacterial cleaning solution to ensure you have a squeaky clean fridge. Use some sort of block/holder to keep the doors open for the winter storage time. Do not let them close! Pool noodles work well. We already had one of the hard plastic ones from Camping World so use that. I actually think the pool noodles are better, that hard plastic thing is easy to knock out by accident!
Strip beds, clean all bed linens and place all sheets and blankets from beds into scented (we use Febreeze scented lavender) draw string kitchen trash bags and label if needed.
Lift bed mattresses and dinette seat cushions up on their side to allow air flow in and around them thereby reducing chances of any mold and also critters getting more room to hibernate in darkness. We store the scented bagged linens on wood part of bunks next to the mattresses.
4. I then take BOUNCE brand fully scented (knock off brands do not work…we have tried them!) and I place at least two in each cupboard including under sinks, in pantry area, in clothing and bath closets, around toilet area. I also place them in and around all the mattresses, bagged linens, dinette cushions, etc. There are varying reports of these working but I know from over 7 years of experience they have worked for us. We also use them for decades when we are reenacting camping on our tent floor cloth and under our cots and bedding to keep insects, mosquitoes, beetles, spiders, snakes etc out of our tent…and it definitely works for that too!
5. In the bathroom closet I pay extra attention (and more Bounce sheets) because this is where some of our exterior systems/hoses are coming in to the rig. Including where our power box is on outside and near where the sewer intakes, etc are). Here you will see where not only have I put Bounce sheets all over the floor and shelves but I have also hung a store bought (from Vermont Country Store) Mouse deterrent herbal bag. It says it lasts a few months. I have not used this specific brand but it says that it is good for nearly 100 sq feet–so with this cabinet shut it will more than do this bathroom area!
We do not use any snatch & kill traps because the whole idea is that we do not want them even coming in…(I do not want a rotting dead mouse inside over 5 months!) We DO have some of those black box traps for mice and rats on the cement floor in the garage with poison in them. We have seen evidence of some nibbles eating the poison but no dead carcasses in the traps themselves- I guess word has spread that our “restaurant” serves bad food! LOL
6. Lastly, a few other places on the outside to put Bounce sheets. We put a few in ALL of our exterior storage bins and also most definitely in our exterior sewer area, power box and also hot water heater compartment area. Again, these are all areas where there is a potential for a varmint to shimmy through even the smallest of openings-they only need the size of a penny or dime to get through!
Last but not least, give your rig a really good vacuuming and wipe down all counter tops, table tops, bath fixtures etc. I use Clorox Cleaning Cloths.
Some questions people ask…
Do you keep your “camping wardrobe” in the closets? We do but again, there are Bounce sheets in all closet floors and shelves. We also store smaller clothing items in plastic snap lid bins all the time above our bunks. I have put Bounce sheets tucked in between totes and on lids here too.
Do you keep your pots and pans, cookie sheets, and silverware onboard in winter? Yes, and we have always done this with no problem. Obviously in spring if we see any sign of mouse droppings or nesting, then everything will get a full sterilization in our dishwasher at home, but otherwise just a good wipe down does the trick each spring.
Do we keep toilet paper and paper towels under RV sink cabinets. NO! we do not. These items provide a huge attraction to varmints looking for nesting and bedding materials. We take those paper products home and use them up over winter in our apartment.
Do we close our blinds and curtains. NO we do not. In fact, those of you who may have the day/night pull down fabric type shades your manufacturer may caution you not to do keep them down all the time. It releases the factory pleating too much. But we keep our curtains open during winter too. Because our garage is dark, there is also no need for us to shelter our interior cushions, and linens from sunlight by having our curtains closed.
How important is it to have your tires up on board or something and not in contact with the cold driveway or dirt? VERY! For the best life and safety of your tires, please drive up on at least 1-2 inch thick boards. We actually drive our rig up on those heavy industrial rubber mats that can be purchased at Lowes or HD. They have holes in them, which allows for ventilation but also as Kevin notes, rubber to rubber is the best of all worlds. You can see a little of the black mat in our video clip above. We also keep these mats down all year because they make a great way for us to know exactly where the RV rear should be when backing in the trailer after a trip. No guess work for me!
This year we are also going to be laying some LED warm white rope lights on under our rig to keep on 24/7. We learned from Courtney & Steve of AStreaminLife.com that they have found that by putting some sort of illumination under their rig they have been spared from any mice infestations–even when camping in boondocking fields. So since we do pay $15 extra per month for electricity in our storage garage, we will put these low voltage rope lights on. We just purchased two spools in the lighting section of Lowes today (better quality than Xmas section). These are the kind and quality that store owners may purchase to go around their display windows, etc. They were $38 for a 48 foot length. We bought two so we can go just inside both wheels and full length and width of the rig with no problem. We will use them on extended camping stays with power too. For boondocking we will get four solar spot lights (tip from Steve and Courtney too!) so we still will have lights to ward off critters. You do not want critters in your rig…ever! Especially when it becomes your full time home. See some yucky videos from both AStreaminLife and from LoLoHo bloggers on their issues with mice in their Airstreams. No fun!
That’s all we have time to share for now. We will stop in and visit the Pewter Palace a few times over the winter months to check on her.
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:
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!
As 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!)
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.
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 length043 = 43rd trailer made that year.
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.
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!!
(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.
(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.
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…
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!!)
Our only real curbside storage
But it is a direct inlet to under my bed!
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.
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!!
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
It’s November 1st and last weekend we Sadly had to put the Pewter Palace into winter storage.
Living in upstate New York, at the entry region to the Adirondack Mountains, we can easily get snow in November and we average about 9-10 total feet of snowfall annually. This fall was exceptionally warm and that allowed us to extend out camping season into third week of October with Temps so nice we only out the heat on a few mornings for a half hour. Then the rest of the days were in mid to high 70’s which was awesome. Several evenings we sat at our campfire with Pj’s, bathrobe and slippers. Nice!!
Now that we have sold our house and downsized into a townhouse apartment we needed a place to store the trailer year round. Our apartment complex does not have any common parking or storage lot like some do.
We had toyed with renting a garage to keep the Palace in from the start. Knowing many Avion and vintage trailer promote inside storage for best preservation we knew that was the route to go if we could. Last year she was inside but our former storage place got locked up for winter and we had no access. We didn’t like that because sometimes we have small projects we could be working on over winters.
Needing space for some of our belongings that we knew could not fit into apartment (yes still more downsizing to go for sure) it seemed like a no Brainer to get a storage garage to handle all our needs.
We found a great place one exit south of us at exit 18 which caters to RV and boat owners. It’s brand new, clean and we have electric outlets. The garage is 43’long x14′ wide x super tall over 20′. Big huge class A RVs have no problems getting in.
Kevin got the Pewter Palace backed in perfectly on first try. Tires up on rubber pads to breath and off concrete, water lines all blown out and RV antifreeze down the sinks, tub and toilet and we are all set. Till early spring!
We will be itching on get her out and will shoot for March or April at the latest to get in a nice long second camping season.
May 28, 2017-Queensbury, NY: Our redecoration of the interior of the Pewter Palace is almost finished. Today we tackled the finishing touches of our dining area. This final step included a repainting of a very rusted ceiling fixture and installation of the curtains and lace valances. The cut glass crystal cover is original too and cleaned up well and sparkles with the new LED bulb we exchanged. We refitted all of our fixtures with LED bulbs from M4LED.com which offers great products and customer service.
(Kevin got a kick out of the “Western Germany” label–obviously pre-Berlin wall take down era! and yes, we did save the sticker and gently placed it back onto the newly repainted fixture base for posterity)
We also were able to do some staging of our German goods and theme too–including one of the fabulous vintage German tablecloths I purchased off Ebay last winter and two pewter tankards. These tankards were thank you gifts to Mr. & Mrs. Johnson of MD in the ’80’s at one of the big Avion rallies that used to be held around the country. They were member # 2018 and belonged to the Mid-Atlantic Unit. This along with some other “travelcade swag” was also an Ebay find. The seller was the Johnson’s son who now we are in contact with offline and he is providing us with some great photos of his fond memories growing up as an Avioner from 1968 and forward into the 80’s. So cool! Watch for a separate post on all this. (I think we have had a hand in re-igniting his passion for Avions too!)
Here is our lovely, cozy dining area in our Pewter Palace. We repurposed one of our custom made wood reenacting tables made by Fort Augustus Woodworks which collapses down and folds away when this dinette needs to be used as a bed for guests.
We just love it. I am awaiting delivery of the small clock face that goes underneath the vintage Black Forrest Deer Head mount (what legitimate “Gasthaus” would be without one right?!). It was found at a local antique shop and is actually hard plastic so its lightweight and we could really secure it to the wall with no problems at all. When we take our big trip to MI and IN this summer- one of our stops is Frankenmuth, MI which is a Bavarian town. I hope to find a quartz table top style cuckoo clock for the trailer….THAT will be the crowing glory! For now, the small antler clock on the table works.
The little red car and trailer on the table are Salt & Pepper Shakers from Vintage Trailer Supply— are they adorable or what!? The fab vintage look lamp was a find at the Goodwill Store on Shelburne Rd. in VT (I always try to make a stop when coming or going to visit our daughter Sarah and her family)–for $4 what a find!
As we were preparing for putting our trailer in storage we experiences the first snow of winter in Early October!
Sure wish we lived in a climate that would allow for full time use of our Pewter Palace. I so would like to simplify living and start spending more time living a more minimal and simple life and less time trying to maintain our very large house which is daunting at times. We love watching the many full timer blogs we subscribe to that have couples living the RV life. Some work full time, other part time and still others have managed to make ends meet enough to keep happily on the road. I envy them.
Snow pictures….here is a video kevin took during the first snow…with our beautiful Pewter Palace….