Monday, June 15, 2015

Airstream Terraport, Airstream Factory, Jackson Center, Ohio - Second Visit

Our first visit to Airstream's factory in Jackson Center, Ohio, was to fix a list of nagging problems with Rosie, our 25 foot trailer. It is easy to see that we were impressed with their service department since we decided to return eight months later for a couple of factory installed upgrades to our Airstream.

The Airstream Factory in Jackson Center, Ohio

Our earlier visit to Jackson Center was during November and we had to deal with winter in Ohio. Snow flurries and freezing temperatures were what we faced during that trip. Weather would also play a role in our second visit.

Temperatures were better on this visit than during our winter trip

Our service appointment started on a Tuesday and our plan was to take our time and leisurely drive part of the way on Sunday. That would allow us to arrive in Jackson Center on Monday afternoon. That flew out the window on Saturday while looking at the weather apps on our iPhones. Severe thunderstorms with heavy rain and winds were moving into Ohio Sunday evening and were predicted for most of Monday. If we followed our original plan, it appeared that we would be traveling, arriving and setting up in a storm.

Plan B was to leave home earlier on Sunday morning and to drive straight through to Ohio. That would put us on the road more than 12 hours as we pulled Rosie nearly 700 miles in one day. While ambitious, we felt the benefits of arriving ahead of the storm outweighed the negatives.

Entrance to Airstream's Terraport

We had to stay focused on our goal and were successful in arriving at the Airstream factory in Jackson Center at sunset and about 40 minutes ahead of the storm. That gave us enough time to park Rosie in the Terraport and get set-up before the rain and winds started.

According to our weather radio, the winds were 25-30 mph and gusting up to 50 mph. We placed a tarp over our bicycles and I ended up having to go outside to better secure it. Rain drops hitting at 50 mph leave an impression on you.

There is a story shared among Airstreamers about three families traveling out west. One in this group was pulling an Airstream and the others had some other brand of campers. When they arrived at the campground for the evening, the other RV'ers were talking about the high winds that rocked their rigs as they traveled down the road. That was when the Airstreamer asked, "What winds?"

I thought about that when I had to go out to the truck to get some stuff. I was shocked when I felt the wind grab the door as I tried to open it. I was unaware inside Rosie that we were really suffering through 25-30 mph winds with gusts up to 50 mph. While we could hear the rain hitting Rosie, I thought the winds were in the 10-15 mph neighborhood. I was wrong.

There is always a group of nervous Airstream owners on their first morning in the Terraport. The tractor starts pulling trailers into the service bay at 7 a.m. Since our minds tend to think in Central Time, that translates into 6 a.m. for us. There is a rush to disconnect the trailers from the utilities to get them ready to travel the hundred or so feet to the shop. Most people leave some things on their site to let campers arriving that day know that the site is occupied.

The tractor hitching-up Rosie

Rosie being pulled to Airstream's service bay area

Once the tractor picked up Rosie, we rushed over to Airstream's service department to talk with the service writer. (Don't drop by wanting service without an appointment because both the bays and technicians are busy all day!) In a few moments, the service technician assigned to work on Rosie went over the the list with us.

The people that were anxious moments ago in the Terraport were now in the service area lounge draining the coffee machine and swapping adventure stories. As before, we learned about some interesting places to go and we shared some of our favorites with the other owners.

Rosie in the service bay

Airstream's service bays

The tractor brings the trailers back to the Terraport as the technicians complete the projects or at the end of the day. If there are more things to be done, the tractor will return at 7 a.m. the next day to start pulling the trailers back to the service bays.

When our technician found us in the customer waiting area, he said that he sent Rosie back to the Terraport and that he would only need three or four hours the next day to finish everything. That meant we could get an early start the following day on a new Rosie adventure.

A funny thing happened as we arrived back at the Terraport. There was a box motorhome in Rosie's spot. Yes, this fellow camper (non-Airstreamer) ignored our power cord, water hose and the two tarps we left in the site and commandeered Rosie's place. We found Rosie sitting on the site next-door to our original one.

Many of the power boxes are shared between sites at Airstream's Terraport. That shouldn't be a problem because the 30 and 50 amp services are on different circuit breakers. A few minutes after I plugged Rosie in, the box motor home's breakers blew along with our new neighbor's congenial spirit. He was convinced that I was responsible for his power problems. It appeared that the neighborhood was going downhill fast so I flagged down the tractor driver and he moved us to another loop.

View of the sky from the Terraport

Rosie's new camping site was in a loop quickly filling up with Airstream campers returning to the "mothership" for factory service. It didn't take long before we were all outside talking and helping each other. We were very glad we moved. The sharing and fellowship among the Airstreamers was similar to being at a rally.

This visit to Airstream's factory service was more about upgrades to Rosie than for repairs. We added new awnings on the side and rear and a rear-view camera that paid for itself a little more than an hour after we left Jackson Center.

We were a few miles south of Cincinnati heading to our next campground when a big 18-wheel truck suddenly swerved into our lane and hit the breaks. That forced me into a panic stop. As I was watching the road ahead, I was thankful that our Pro-Pride hitch was keeping Rosie straight and that we had left plenty of space between us and the car formerly in front of us, Becky was paying attention to the new camera and saw that the 18-wheeler behind us was quickly running out of road and was about to rear-end us. She excitedly told me to go forward and I closed the gap between us and the front truck giving the truck behind us enough room to stop. Needless to say, the camera alone justified our trip to Airstream's factory.

Here are some specifics about the Airstream Terraport:
  • There are multiple camping loops (we think four) in the Airstream Terraport. Each loop is named after an Airstream model.
  • Each loop is a circle with back-in sites.
  • Each site has concrete pads.
  • The sites have water, electric and sewer connections.
  • There is a dump station in the park.
  • AT&T placed a dismal signal over the Terraport and Jackson Center. Most of the time our iPhones failed to connect any better than at Edge speeds. Fellow campers with Verizon and T-Mobile also complained about their service. One person said his Sprint service was adequate.
  • There is Wi-Fi in the Service Department's Customer Lounge. That signal tends to leak out to the Terraport area. It helps to choose a loop close to the service building.
  • This is a pet friendly place.
  • There are lots and lots of over-the-air TV signals. We were able to watch ABC, CBS, CW, FOX, NBC and PBS. Digital channels included ME-TV, MY-TV, GET-TV, GRIT and Bounce.
  • Jackson Center isn't known for its vast variety of restaurants. Your choices are Subway, the bar or the other bar. We joked that one of the bars claiming to serve food must have used "I Can't Believe It's Not Lard" as its secret seasoning. There are other choices about 15 miles away along I-75.
This was our second trip to Airstream HQ for service. We came away both times glad we made the trip to Ohio and appreciative of Airstream's hard-working service technicians and staff. We were very impressed with the knowledge, skills and professionalism our service technician exhibited.

While nothing else is planned at this time, I have a feeling that Rosie will return one day for more modifications and service work.

Display of some early model Airstream trailers at the factory

Selfie at the factory

At the start of the factory tour
Every Airstream trailer leaves the factory with this sign
What a sad sight! A new Airstream on its way to a dealer was rear-ended.

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