The Zeppelin’s Maiden Voyage

After installing a brake controller in the tow vehicle and then having the Airstream professionally checked for mechanical integrity, having the bearings packed, and having the electric brakes inspected (turns out they were brand new!), the maiden voyage of the Zeppelin has been completed: 1,200 miles from Indiana to Colorado, with minimal negatives to report.


The biggest “bad” was that I lost one of my 40 pound aluminum vertical propane tanks.  Luckily no one was hurt, but it was brand new, full, and the replacements cost $200 (without the fuel).  The weird (lucky) thing is that only ONE tank fell out.  They were mounted correctly using the t-bar screw down holding system, but the failing point was a weak cotter pin holding the vertical bar in place (in retrospect, we should have used a bolt, perhaps even drilled a larger hole for a stronger cross-bolt, but the existing hole was really tiny, so we used a cotter pin that eventually failed).  After a bit of bumping (well… many hundreds of miles), the cotter pin began to bend and slip within the cylinder that holds the vertical support, thus allowing the tanks to rattle free.

I still can’t believe the tank fell in such a way that I didn’t even notice it was gone ’til I stopped for gas.  How did it NOT hit the tow vehicle or Airstream?!  How did it NOT hit another car (luckily there’s no one on the road in Kansas at 3am)?! How did it not EXPLODE in the absolute dark of the Black Kansas Night in some kind of Jerry Bruckheimer glory?!

At first I thought it must have been stolen by a meth head, but in going over the situation again and again in my mind I realize it was missing as soon as I pulled up to the pump, so there wouldn’t have been enough time for a theft.  Good to note though… these things should really be locked down so nobody can snag them.  They are pricey in the first place, and the larger 40 pound tanks are “extra-special” to crank heads, who use propane tanks to hold the anhydrous ammonia used in the production of their product.

I’m still not sure what the Airstream weighs sitting empty and gutted as it is (well, filled with parts and pieces but no cabinets, furniture, flooring, etc.), but hooked up directly to the Jeep’s ball hitch and using an electric brake (Tekonsha 90160 Primus IQ), it was pretty easy towing.  I averaged around 60-65mph and got nearly 18 mpg (oh, yeah, baby –I love my Liberty CRD!).  Late at night when the temperature dropped and the wind started blowing in KS, I could definitely feel the gusts, and I quickly learned how to prepare for passing a big rig or having one pass me, but it wasn’t too bad.  Looking forward to seeing how a good WD/Sway Control hitch changes the feel of the tow.

At one gas stop I took the turn too sharp and scraped the side of the AS on a yellow guard pole, but I noticed right away and the damage was minimal (I got most of the paint off the aluminum simply by rubbing it with a rag).  It was a good way (not too much damage) to learn the lesson of “PAY ATTENTION EVEN WHEN GOING SLOW” and maneuvering in tight spaces, and the only real pain I suffered was having the hill-billy with the three four wheelers on the trailer behind his pickup look at me with disdain (“How about a toothbrush, there, fella?”).

I also had a bit of overheating going on during the journey.  It never reached a point where any alarms went off, but the Jeep was certainly running hotter than normal, and I’m definitely installing the auxiliary transmission cooler I’ve been considering.

It was a little painful having a trip I typically make in under 18 hours take well over 22 (including my initial “stopping at every rest stop to check things out”), but once I’ve got company in the tow vehicle it’s going to be great!


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