Saturday, November 9, 2013

Louisville Redux

Sometimes circumstances, events and desires perfectly align in time and place to facilitate our travels. Those circumstances have for three years in a row brought us back to Louisville, KY. Sarah and I use the Mary Joan III to travel to warmer winter climes. This city is just far enough south to mostly avoid snow and salt encrusted highways so that we avoid the aforementioned hazards. 

Our son and daughter-in-law live in Radclif, KY. John is in the Army, assigned to the First Infantry and he is currently deployed in Afghanistan. His wife, Becca, works as a case manager for a non-profit organization that provides services to disabled persons. So, securing the Mary Joan at Louisville allows to visit with our loved ones. 

Knowing we had just a couple days to visit with Becca, we all made the most of it. The evening we arrived, we dined on Market Street then made our way Iroquois Park for the Jackolantern Spectacular. A meandering walkway through the park was lined with thematically arranged carved and sculptured jackolanterns. 
Wonderful pumpkin art

Thousands of jack o lanterns

The next day Becca introduced us to Tonka, her recently adopted German Shepherd. We enjoyed a beautiful afternoon at Saunders Springs in Radciff. That evening we dined and enjoyed the theater at The Bard's Town Theater ( We all enjoyed our dinner and could not have expected a more hilarious performance by the community actor's and actresses. 

Becca and Sarah with Tonka

At the theater

For our last day, we decided to make an excursion to Mammoth Caves National Park ( Although we had not made reservations for the cavern tours, we got lucky and were able to join the Historic Tour and the Black Onyx Lantern Tour. This visit was my third to Mammoth Caves and it was clear that I could return many times and not see all there is to see. This was evident when our tour guide pointed out a couple from England who had spent a week at the caves and had taken two different tours each day. The extent of the caves is amazingly vast.
Beautiful day and beautiful women

The natural entrance at the beginning of the Historic Tour at Mammoth Caves

The Historic Tour retraces the steps through the natural entrance to the caverns that tourists took more than 150 years ago. We got to see remnants of the mining that was conducted there and experienced some of the largest "rooms" in the caves as well as some narrow and short passages that challenged some of the tourists.
Low "ceiling"
Historic Cavern, an ancient underground river bed 

The Black Onyx Tour took us into a cave with an amazing variety of mineral structures. It passed from a "wet" cave with beautiful stalactites and stalagmites to drier caves with exquisitely formed gypsum crystals in the "dry" areas. This tour was illuminated only by the ten Coleman lanterns carried by our fellow tourists. This tour is only offered during the months of September and October, we happened to be on the last tour of this season. 
We carried lanterns to find our way

I was continually at awe to realize that I was walking on a riverbed, the river which had long ago carved its way through solid limestone hundreds of feet below the ground level and was at some places less than one hundred feet below my feet creating more passageways on its relentless journey to the not so distant river in the nearby valley. 

Down we go
Incredible column

We celebrated our day with a delightful dinner at Rye restaurant on Market Street in Louisville ( Each of us enjoyed the food and the service. 

The next day we winterized the Mary Joan III just in case there was a hard freeze in Louisville before we could return to resume our trip south for the winter. 

We enjoyed our visit with Becca and look forward to returning to continue our journey. Stay tuned.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Trip to Ohio for Airstream Warranty Work

Since we planned on storing the Mary Joan in Louisville, KY until we are ready to head south, having some issues we found with our 'new' trailer fixed at the Airstream factory in Jackson Center, Ohio seemed a logical choice. It is almost on the way to Louisville and we know that whatever needed doing could be done at the factory.

We left Massachusetts on the morning of October 26th.  Not a day too soon we thought since the temperature dropped to 27F the previous night.The day's drive rewarded us with brilliant scenery as we traveled from Massachusetts to Black Moshannon State Park in central Pennsylvania. The foliage, although past its peak here in Massachusetts became more intense as we traveled south. 

When we arrived, Black Moshannon State Park ( was nearly deserted, only a few campers were present. We spent two nights because we enjoyed hiking the trails and we didn't need to be in Ohio for two more days. Our next stop the afternoon before arriving at Jackson Center was at Barkcamp State Park in eastern Ohio ( It too was nearly deserted, but we enjoyed the foliage and a fine sunset. We didn't get to explore the area because we arrived in the afternoon and left the next morning for our appointment with the Airstream crew.
Black Moshannon Campground

The forest trails were beautiful. But, there was evidence of disease. I think these are Ash trees killed by the Ash borer.
Beautiful foliage at Barkcamp State Park in Ohio
I doubt anyone would argue with the statement that Airstream represents the iconographic image of the American travel trailer. Like other truly American brands such as Harley Davidson, L.L. Bean, John Deere and Apple Computer, Airstream is generally recognized as being a leader in its field in terms of design, quality and customer service. Each of the aforementioned companies has not only endured and survived serious economic downturns that threatened their survival, but have come back stronger and more determined to survive.

In the process of becoming an icon the brand can become precariously perched on a pedestal constructed from the opinions of its customers. The attributes that customers determined awarding the status of icon set a standard that future customers come to expect and will not forgive if they are disappointed. An example of this can be gleaned from customer satisfaction remarks about luxury brand automobiles versus those not considered luxury vehicles. 

So, it was disappointing to find numerous issues with our new Airstream (actually we are the second owners, but the first owner had it for less than six months and only used it for three nights). None of the problems were of such a serious nature that arose to the level of a safety issue. Rather, they ranged from faulty third party components to cosmetic finish work. However, when one purchases an icon and pays a premium price the expectation for quality materials and finish is naturally at a high level. 

We have had work performed by the  Airstream crew at the factory in Jackson Center, Ohio before and have been very pleased with their professionalism and attention to detail. Our visit to have our warranty items addressed was no exception. We arrived the evening before our appointed service day and parked the Mary Joan in one of the Terra Port spots reserved for those having service done at the factory. Our trailer was whisked away shortly after 7 AM the next morning, our service technician reviewed our "to do" list once Mary Joan was inside then we retreated to the reception lounge where we conversed with other Airstream owners who were also having work done that day. 
Life on the Terra Port

As with our previous visits to Airstream I enjoyed seeing the work being done on other trailers.  During this trip, I was especially impressed by their ability to replace badly damaged aluminum panels on large portions of a trailer. It is also fun to see the vintage trailers that constantly come and go. 
Wally Byam's 'Golden' Airstream
A sad sight, the result of a fallen tree. But, it will be made new again.

Among the others having service work at the same time as Sarah and I were Fred and Dale from Connecticut. It turned out that we had friends in common from our Cape Cod unit of the WBCCI. We spent the day sharing stories about our trailer, people we had met and places we have been. 

During our previous trip to Jackson Center we visited the town of New Bremen and the Bicycle Museum. This time we traveled to Wapakoneta and the Wapa Theatre ( Wapakoneta is the home of astronaut, Neil Armstrong. The theater is essentially the same as it was in the 1940s when Neil would have gone there. 

Wapa Theater, Wapakoneta, OH

The next evening Sarah and I dined at the newly re-opened, Cafe Verandah. Just a few minutes walk from the Airstream factory, the cafe serves a simple lunch buffet and a fine dinner menu. 
Sarah with Madge Brown, owner of Cafe Verandah, a fine restaurant in Jackson Center

We retired early the evening that the work was completed knowing we wanted to get an early start the next morning. We were aware of severe weather crossing the country from Texas and approaching the mid-west. But, we didn't anticipate any dangerous conditions threatening central Ohio. So, we were surprised when we checked our phones the next morning and saw that we had slept through a tornado warning. Not only had we slept through the phone warning, but we also slept through the tornado sirens and our "neighbor's" pounding on our door trying to get us to join them in the concrete block tornado shelter. Fortunately, the tornadoes did not hit any populated areas or the vulnerable trailers at the Airstream factory.

One of the "issues" we had with the Mary Joan was the dinette table. The interior cabinetry of our trailer is fabricated from solid hickory. The warmth and beauty of the wood is a constant visual enjoyment for us. However, the finish on the edge of the table had drip and sag marks. Although I told myself that I could live with it because everything else was so beautiful, I realized that I needed it to be "right". The technician told us he might need to order a new table which could take a few days. However, we learned that the cabinetry and woodwork installed in our trailer was made by Roettger Hardwood Inc. of Kettlersville, Ohio which is just fifteen minutes west of Jackson Center.  Not wanting to spend that much time waiting, we called and spoke with Rene Roettger who made arrangements for us to bring the table to Roettger Hardwood. 

When we arrived Rene summoned her father, Dennis. He immediately made us feel welcomed as we talked about his work, what he did for Airstream and woodworking in general. When he saw our table he said he would re-finish it for us and have it available the next day. We also asked if he would make a custom fold down table to fit between the sofa and the dinette of our trailer. Dennis told us it would be no problem, just bring the dimensions when we came to pick up our dinette table. 

We returned the next day to pick up our dinette table and deliver the specifications for the new table Dennis gave us a tour of his workshops. The pride that Dennis has in his enterprise is obvious and he clearly enjoyed showing it to those who appreciate the technical issues involved in creating fine woodworking projects. 
Dennis proudly shows Sarah his woodworking machinery

We were very pleased when Dennis presented our repaired table. Needless to say, it was perfect. Dennis had sanded out the drips and sags and had polished the top to a mirror finish. Thanks, Dennis.
We were amazed at the fine machinery used by Roettger to work the wood into its finished appearence.
Happy to have all the items competently corrected, we left Jackson Center with our Mary Joan III  and headed for Louisville, KY. 

Stay tuned.