To Tucson, and Beyond! Day one, stuck in Fairfield


14 Days
2876 Miles driven
54 Hours driving
12.5 MPG average (14.7 MPG Max, 8.5 MPG Min)
53 MPH average

General driving observations:

California roads are terrible. Just terrible. Other states would post “rough road ahead” on nearly every California highway.

Drivers in any semi-urban area are terrible, are always in a great hurry, and you can predict them cutting you off and slamming on their brakes to take an exit, rather than losing 2 seconds and doing it safely. Any trucker can corroborate.

Drivers in Southern California are worse than terrible. They need both driving lessons and medication.

Driving with a travel trailer in Arizona on highways at greater than 55MPH (the limit in California) feels weird. 75MPH felt too fast if there was wind.

Finding hotels that have room for a trailer, and take pets is hard. Large additional pet fees at hotels have now become common.


Day one: First stop, Los Banos. Err, Fairfield.

Goal for the first day was to travel from home to Los Banos. We stopped in Livermore to eat lunch, when I realized the deadbolt on Serenity’s door had vibrated closed. See “California roads” above. On this model Airstream, the deadbolt is a manual bolt, only accessible from the INSIDE OF THE TRAILER. We had no way to get into the trailer, short of damaging it. It’s Sunday, so Camping World, and the other local mechanics we called were closed. I called AAA, they didn’t think they could help (or that our membership would cover it). They recommended a mobile mechanic, who didn’t answer the phone. We took a detour to a friends house (thanks James!). We tried to use his tools to figure a way in, but gave up. There’s a local Airstream dealer in Fairfield, they close in 10 minutes, and we’re an hour away. I call them anyway. An aside, I find out later they’re is also an RV dealer that sells Airstreams in Los Banos. In fact, they sold the original owners Serenity. File this valuable fact in the bank of random knowledge that’s hard to find on your phone when stuck away from home.

They’re really helpful, and say to just stop by when service opens, and they’d help out. Now to find a hotel. We drive back and forth through Fairfield for over an hour. My first choice, a Courtyard by Marriott (as I still hold Platinum Elite status) had tons of parking, even though the hotel was a bit run down from the outside. They have a strict no-pet policy. Ugh. OK, find a “pet friendly hotel” website, and visit each hotel in turn. None have parking for our little FJ and 19′ trailer. Then I realize I can use Google Maps satellite view to check the parking. We find the Residence Inn one town over in Vacaville has a huge lot next door, and I know they take dogs (but now with a $100 additional fee!). The hotel is beginning to get a lot of calls due to the nearby evacuations due to the spillway damage near Yuba city. By morning, the hotel is fully booked. Our trailer issue seems pretty minor now.

We get to Bay Area Airstream Adventures when service opens. Our heros, Ben and Gary, figure out they can drill out the rivets on the emergency exit window to open Serenity, and then just re-rivet it to buckle it back up.

They get us back on the road in 90 minutes! During that time I recalculate our route to Tucson, make reservations with KOA, cancel our other reservations, and we again hit the road!