VIDEO: Alaska Flood – Emergency Airstream Repair!
In 2012, we towed our Airstream on a 14,000 mile road trip. We traveled 5000 miles from Alabama, exiting the United States from Montana, branching through Alberta, and then along the Alaska Highway through British Columbia, and the Yukon, all the way up to the Alaska border. Then we drove around the Alaska interior (visiting Tok, Fairbanks, Denali, Palmer, Wasila, Anchorage, Homer, Portage, Seward, Glennallen, Haines, and Skagway) for another 3000 miles. Then we towed down the Cassiar Highway through British Columbia another 3000 miles to California. Then we made our way home over the course of another 3000 miles. According to our odometer, it was about 14,000 miles from start to finish.
“Wasn’t that trip hard on your rig?” you may ask.
Indeed, it was a bit hard on our rig. Although we never suffered a major catastrophe to our Airstream, nor did we emerge unscathed. (Our truck did suffer a catastrophe; more on that subject later.)
Of course the general assumption is that the widely feared Alaska-Canada Highway (also known as the “Alcan”) is hell on all vehicles. It gained its legendary reputation in the 1940s, when it was carved out of Canadian wilderness by the U.S. military over the course of six frenetic months. What kind of 1700-mile road can you build in six months? Not much of one. That original road was narrow, rough, and brutally destructive to all but the most rugged military vehicles.
But I am here to report that the modern Alaska Highway isn’t so scary. Over time the original Alaska Highway has been replaced by a new and improved road. Despite what you see in this video, the Alcan is not as bad as you think. Yes, the road surface is radically uneven in many places due to frost heaves (areas of “permafrost,” permanently frozen ground that causes asphalt to lie unevenly). This caused our Airstream to frequently impersonate a horizontal martini shaker.
Thankfully, we have a friend in the Airstream fixin’ business. His name is Vinnie Lamica and he owns Vinnie’s Northbay Airstream Repair. He’s a fellow Airstream owner and shares our passion for the brand. He not only cares about what he’s doing, he clearly loves it. He tackles Airstream problems with the unbridled enthusiasm of a big kid happily solving a giant puzzle. During our visit in California, we dubbed Vinnie to be “the Airstream Whisperer” – he clearly has a knack for bringing troubled Airstreams back from the brink of despair. He has a silver thumb: every time he touches something, he leaves it looking better.
As fate would have it, we spent more time with Vinnie than originally planned. Our faithful truck SEEMORE suffered a catastrophic engine failure in Vinnie’s hometown. That’s the subject of a separate video and article; suffice to say that SEEMORE’s EGR cooler and oil cooler died. Although this happened to us on return from our Alaska trip, I believe it would’ve happened eventually, no matter where we were going. With SEEMORE in the shop, we had ten full days of downtime. During that time, Vinnie led the way as we subjected our Airstream to a revitalizing spa treatment and extreme home makeover, complete with cosmetic surgery.
When all was said and done, I told Vinnie that we arrived at his workshop with our Airstream in its worst condition; and we departed with it being in its best condition. Over the course of ten days, we brought it back. This video is the first in a series that will document all of our Alaska recovery efforts.