Just think how well aircraft paint works.
I have gone round and round with the idea of applying paint to the Avion. I can't seem to let go of the idea of OEM even though the exterior finish is subject to staining and mottling. I think that its something that should be tried. I mean, if the Canadian Air Force can do it, why can't we?
I like the looks of the camper. I'd like to know the owner's experience with the painted exterior and the thinking that went into the decision.
I note we are at 300 pages according to my browser. Quite an achievement for a group dedicated to one product: the Avion truck camper. The interesting thing is that the string is self generating with who knows who deciding to post. Though I started it I sure don't have to nurse it along. But I do try to watch it.
I must admit that the conversation that most interests me is the build of Argo. Lots of thought. New ideas. Cross referencing yacht technology. But, I worry that an attempt to create a Class C from a C10 will not end well. I urge Dick to think again about hunting down a clean Motovator and going camping. Just my 2cents worth. I'm sure he'll make great decisions.
As for all of the Avionistas: Forward!
Whoa! That's a re-purposed Motovator. Wheels on the back, truck frame removed, and it's now a gooseneck fiver. I ask you, are the Avion guys inventive or what?
Do you have any interior photos? That's amazing.
Jim, what you do is a real blessing for these youngsters. What people on this forum probably don't know is that this is just one of many volunteer commitments that you perform. Our collective hats are off to Jumbojet.
Beautiful it is, for sure. Keeps us coming back for more every time. In the US, you have everything - and it's opposite.
I'm traveling with a truck camper in Europe this fall between Amsterdam and Copenhagen. I'll pass through a part of Germany on the way and plan to camp on the seaside before continuing on to Denmark. You've got a beautiful and vigorous country as well.
Next time you are in the US stop by here in the Midwest near the Mississippi River.
TexasShadow, CEWillis, Powerdude, JumboJet, Tiger4x4, Exhaustipated, realter, CamperJeff and Kelli, Sandblast, dokkema1, Joerg68, Oldtymeflyr, SAbconsulting...thanks for your comments.
Actually, I got a PM from a friend who lives in Arizona and who will remain unnamed. He asked, "Will all this be on the test"?
As many of you know, I am fascinated by the American experience. When I try to get my arms around something as incomprehensible as the scale of Wal-Mart or Tyson, it sometimes makes my head hurt. Wal-Mart has over 11,000 stores and 6,000 of them are outside the US.
To me its evidence that our country is in good shape as long as brilliant folks like that come along. I include Gates and Jobs and so many others. Its really stunning.
This doesn't mean that I "like" the people who create these institutions, or for that matter the institutions themselves. I try to understand where they fit into our polity.
Now, the whole world is competing. China is creating a millionaire every day...and a billionaire every week or so. We better stay on our toes or our children and grandchildren are going to have a hard row to hoe.
So, if you see me on some country road driving real slow with my Avion, with Jane riding shotgun, you'll know what we'll be thinking about.
America....how we got here and where we're going. And how beautiful our country is.
Jane and I traveled to the Ozarks recently….in search of the spirit of Sam Walton. Let me explain.
Jane is an anthropologist and I’m a former news photographer. When we travel we are as interested in what is called the “social landscape” as we are in the topography and geography. Our truck camper facilitates our travel where we can go slow and travel anywhere we want on the backroads of America.
We wanted to better understand the extraordinary phenomena of Sam Walton who helped build the largest retail chain store in the world, with over 2,200,000 employees in 2015.He accomplished his life’s work from the little Ozark town of Bentonville, Arkansas. We knew that the 30 mile stretch of road between Bentonville and Fayetteville had several other world class businesses developed since the 2nd World War: Tyson’s Foods which is the worlds largest meat producer and located in Springdale, Arkansas. And J.B. Hunt trucking, one of the largest transportation companies in the world located in Lowell, Arkansas. The University of Arkansas is located at the south end of the stretch.
It is one of the most rapidly growing areas of the United States. However, during the development of Wal-Mart and the other businesses there was neither a freeway nor a major airport. However, many of the original Wal-marts were located in these towns. What happened there? Actually what is happening there? We get in our truck camper and take a look.
Left to Right: Sam Walton, Don Tyson, and J.B. Hunt
The Ozarks are a highland region of the US, covering the southern half of Missouri and the northern/northwestern part of Arkansas. We set onto the road from the Shawnee Hills of Southern Illinois which is sometimes called the Illinois Ozarks. It’s a beautiful drive this time of year with wildflowers spread as far as the eye can see.
Jane securing the back door of the Avion C-10 camper
The roads in southern Missouri wind through a largely depopulated landscape. Dotted along the roads are abandoned homes and farms. When we travel with our truck camper we can stop and look around without hurry.
The region was settled by Amerindians and then by Scotch - Irish who settled into a pattern of subsistence farming with cattle and hogs on the land. It is very similar to Appalachia. There was some mining and timbering as well.
The roads are occasionally rough as I mentioned. I was very concerned since my truck, a 2004 F350, tended to “seek and hunt" when we were underway. I had to steer constantly. If I looked up at something Jane had seen, I risked running off the road. Just before we left town I had Torklift StableLoads installed. My local shop took three hours to make the installation since my springs were not drilled out. I immediately noticed that the sag in the rear was gone. But, the test ahead was the Ozark roads.
I could not believe the change in my handling. We went around curves and over hills with the smoothest ride I had ever had with the Avion onboard. My truck didn’t “hunt” anymore nor did it bottom out when we crossed a railroad track.
However, due to my typical inattention to detail I subjected another Torklift product to an extreme road test. I didn’t fasten the Glowsteps properly and they bumped along for miles until we stopped to take a look at the Mo-Ark Coon Club.
Amazingly, the steps managed to hold together. I thought they would have broken to pieces, but we can still use them without any issues. However, we now are doubly secure in our process for stowing them away. There may be a better method of stowing the steps other than the wire and eyelet that it has now.
We drove through Mammoth Spring, Arkansas, a bit down on its luck. At least as far as we could tell. It was like many of the towns we passed in the region. An effort to address the tourist trade had been made, but….
On the edge of town we found a small park where we could back in the Avion and use the park tables for lunch. Jane and I enjoy a sort of mediterranean lunch when we travel with olives, pickled artichokes, preserved meats, cheeses and bottled water. We had our spread on the picnic table unaware that we had caught the attention of some local folk.
Jason and Jim had been occupied under a shade tree across the road repairing their car’s fuel line. They were nice enough guys who were curious what we were up to. Mainly, they wanted to know about our Avion Camper. Then their attention turned to our food - ways that were unfamiliar to them. After a while they sauntered back across the road where a bevy of small children played around the disabled vehicle.
But, they played into a popular stereotype of the Ozarks hillbilly, down to the coveralls with only one strap fastened. Al Capp created the cartoon Lil Abner that used the innocent and naive hillbillies to satire excesses in American life. Though it was set in Dogpatch, Kentucky, Lil Abner seems to have migrated to the Ozarks with a huge defunct theme park titled, “Dogpatch USA” in Arkansas.
But, one has to admit it’s a bit difficult to imagine these guys and their kin as the backbone of world class enterprises like Wal-Mart, Tyson and JB Hunt. But, as we learned, it was the values, skills, hard work and insight of Ozarkians who built these firms.
Because we are part of the Truck Camping community we had written to our friend who goes by the handle, JumboJet, and told him we were passing through the area. Jim Bennett graciously invited us to spend the night on a pad next to his house. He and his wife Carol took us out to the “Catfish Hole” where we had some of the best catfish and hushpuppies in our lives. Like Wal-Mart it was very large and very crowded restaurant. And like Wal-Mart it delivered fast and with great value.
Mr and Mrs JumboJet at the Catfish Hole clutching hushpuppies
After we finished our meal, Jim took us on a tour of the area including his home town of Tontitown. Its now a part of Fayetteville, I believe. Jim is a long time employee of Tyson’s Foods where he works in technology and Carol, a former school employee, now spends her time with grandchildren.
Even before we met Jim and Carol we had heard of the story of Tontitown.
In the 1890s a Mississippi Delta cotton planter named LeRoy Percy enticed a large number of Italians from the town of Ancona in the region called the Marche to immigrate to his plantations.The Marche in Italy is on high ground on the Adriatic. Percy sought to replace the black field labor that he viewed as too difficult. His Delta plantations, alongside the Mississippi River, were Sunnyside and Lakeport. They were located in one of the most pestilential and malaria wracked parts of the deep south. The Italians were soon deeply indebted to the company store, sick from diseases and barred from buying their own land. Their priest, Father Bandini, led them in 1898 in a march to the Ozarks. They founded Tontitown and named it after an Italian explorer, Henri deTonti.
The Italian migrants immediately began planting grape vines and resuming their life on the land as in Italy…except it was their land.
Jim showed us some of the vineyards that are still being cultivated.
Now, as a result of the vineyards a world class company came into the area in the 1920s. Welch’s Grape Juice. They bought the grapes from the Italian farmers. But some of the inhabitants were hired into what became a multinational company. Over the years that small spark entered into the economic bloodstream of the northwest Arkansas. Today the vineyards have been reduced as other opportunities have arisen for the children of the immigrants.
St. Joseph’s is still standing, though a new church and school have been built next to it. This summer the Church will celebrate the 117th Tontitown Grape Festival with a “grape stomp”, marathons, and Italian spaghetti dinners.
We learned a great deal about Tyson’s Foods from Jim and saw the new schools and public buildings supported by the wealthy families of the Tysons, Hunts and Waltons. It became quite clear talking to Jim and Carol that one of the keys to the growth of these industries were small town values that included honest hard work, religious devotion and inspired opportunity.
I know that Wal-Mart took advantage of building an empire practically under the radar of American business. They opened stores in regions where the large chains didn’t think there was business. Tyson’s worked with local poultry producers to build up their business. Hunts trucking actually was one of the first to understand intermodal trucking where a container was loaded from ship to train and then delivered to its destination by truck.
Still, its remains amazing how this little stretch of ground produced all of those businesses. Jim told me that over 50 people PER DAY were settling into the area. Since he has lived there it has grown exponentially.
We camped the next night at a small lake outside of Fayetteville. In the morning, after coffee on a fishing dock listening to the birds, we wandered into Fayetteville for breakfast. We stopped at the local farmers cafe where farm to table foods are served.
Folks what you see here are organic free range chicken eggs served on biscuits with locally made Canadian bacon and covered with Hollandaise sauce. On the side is organic grits with local cheese. That’s quite a twist on the traditional foods of the region.
Jane and I decided to visit Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art that was founded in Bentonville, Arkansas, by Alice Walton. She is the youngest child of Sam Walton and a primary heir to the fortune. As we drove from Fayetteville to Bentonville, we passed through areas that appeared to be a center of Hispanic entrepreneurs as well as Asians. The whole world is getting in on the energy of this region. Everywhere you look there is construction going on.
Fayetteville apartments under consgtruction
We drove up to the entrance of the museum where the low slung building has what appears to be a stainless steel “tree" overhead.
On entering the museum a large room appears with enormous laminated timber in a "rib" configuration. However, the light keeps the whole building bright and airy. Attached to the timbers is a Jeff Koons sculpture “Hanging Heart”. It weighs several tons but appears to be as light as a helium filled balloon.
It was interesting when I recalled that Sam Walton said whatever you hung near the front door would really sell…..
The museum’s curatorial effort is to trace American art history. You start at the beginning and you finish at the present. I know, having worked in New York and elsewhere, that the people-who-count in the art world are not impressed by this emphasis on America and American art. So, I am even more grateful to the Walton family for sticking with their values.
Jane liked the large scale painting of Rosie the Riveter with her foot placed decisively on Hitler’s Mein Kampf. It’s by Norman Rockwell, a fellow that the people-who-know have dismissed as a mere illustrator. He worked for publications like the Saturday Evening Post. I pointed out to Jane that Rosie was transformed from Michelangelo's Sistine Chapel’s “Isaiah" .
Overall, the visit to Crystal Bridges was very enjoyable. The museum and grounds are comfortable and easy to navigate. The emphasis on the American experience was welcome.
We toured the Wal-Mart Museum after a root beer float in the soda parlor. The original Walton's 5 and dime was located on the town square where a Confederate soldier bears silent vigil. The museum is modest with most of the displays being written explanations about the history of Wal-Mart in general and Sam Walton in particular. His original office is located in the museum exactly the way he left it.
There was his old battered Ford pickup that he drove into the fields with his dogs to hunt quail. Walton said one of the reasons he was glad that he had located in Bentonville is that there are four states nearby with different quail hunting seasons.
You get the powerful impression of an immensely talented and motivated guy who was down to earth. His values, as I’ve mentioned before, are instilled in the region. However, he put them on steroids.
We traveled towards Eureka Springs and stopped at the ThorneCrown Chapel.
It’s a beautiful, three story, light filled non-denominational chapel designed by a Frank Lloyd Wright protege, E.Fay Jones. When we walked in there was an unassuming gentleman sitting in the back of the chapel writing notes. I struck up a conversation. He turned out to be the son of the founder of the chapel, Jim Reed, a retired schoolteacher. I learned that the elder Reed wasn’t a churchgoer but had a mission to build a chapel. Reed talked Fay Jones, a professor at the University of Arkansas, into designing the chapel…ran out of money….found a backer that he didn’t know….got it built….then only 30 people showed up for the opening…and he thought it was a disaster.
Today it is one of the most visited sites in the region.
We visited the town of Eureka Springs, Arkansas. It has been a destination for health seekers who sought a cure to their maladies in the springs. Today it is a popular location for tourists and bikers. We found it a good place to have a few craft beers.
As we traveled we looked forward to camping at the many dams in the region. We prefer the Corps of Engineers sites since they are near water and usually well managed.
We also remembered the infamous Arkansas Congressman Wilbur D. Mills. It’s been a while, but Mills was one of the most powerful legislators in the United States. He was the longest serving chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, the key money committee in the Congress. One of Wilbur Mill’s pet projects was building lakes and dams in the back country. We have camped a number of times at the Wilbur D. Mills Lock and Dam on the Arkansas River.
Dawn on the Wilbur Mills reservoir November 2013
One fine day Mills hooked up with the “Argentine Firecracker”, Fannie Fox. She was a stripper in DC, and Mills fell head over heels for her.
He was stopped by Capitol Police for driving erratically late one evening. Fannie bolted from the car and jumped into the Tidal Basin with the Capitol Police in hot pursuit. Wilbur was roughed up with his glasses broken and some cuts on his face after an apparent fight with Fannie. But, he was grinning from ear to ear. Fannie and Wilbur made up whereupon Wilbur started having drunken press conferences from her dressing room. It was a scandal that eventually led to Wilbur D. Mills resignation. One of the most improbable falls from power in Washington history.
Wilbur Mills and Fannie fox in Boston
Our visit to northwest Arkansas ended with our camping next to Beaver Dam, one of the sites that Mills had helped develop. I must say, I don’t begrudge Mills his romp with the Argentine Firecracker, Fannie Fox. Not when I awaken in the morning and have my coffee while watching the rising sun across the lake.
I think we came closer to appreciating the amazing history of the Waltons, Tysons and Hunts. But, an understanding still eludes me. How in the world have they done what they did from where they did it? Jane joked and said there's probably something in the water. Maybe there is.
Alex, thanks for the explanation about the fabrication. Like I said, it looks well made and useful. However, I want something that is available on the market and easy to install. You didn't place the spare on your front hitch. I assume that your winch took up all the space...Best of luck in your travels.
Jefe, do you know about the fabrication of the tire mount in the receiver hitch? It looks interesting, but I don't know if its homebrew or a product on the market. I have a large overhang on my Avion in the rear. Probably 14 inches beyond the receiver. My issue is getting the spare tire outside where I can better handle it in case of a flat. I am looking into a front hitch as well.
Yes, I have looked at frame mounted tie downs. My family has been using happijac tie downs for decades with no Ill effects. I know frame mounted are stronger, and I may go that way eventually, but for now, the happijac are working great. I ask you, if happijac products consistently failed, or did not work for campers, would they continue selling them, risking a large lawsuit if the mounts failed?
Of course you are right, Happijacs are a good product according to a lot of folks. And I respect your family's experience. But, I have seen tie downs fail when a great deal of stress is experienced. That does not appear to be the case with frame mounted equipment.......best of luck.
Hi there. Great project! However, I wonder about the tie downs and turnbuckles that are attached to your bumper and sheet metal. There have been discussions for a long time about failures with this arrangement. Have you considered a frame mounted product like Torklift Talons? Take a look at them, there are a lot of people on this forum that have experience with them that may be helpful.
I went to Vickburg in the 1950s with my classmates from Greenville, Mississippi. We were led by two of our schoolteachers who were hard core Rebels. They were sisters who taught in the 8th grade of our school. I loved them both. They're long gone now.
So are many of their ideas.
I still return to the park from time to time, and I too think of the hardship and death visited on these people.
Jane reads the inscription outside the Illinois Memorial
Wyocuttergirl, Muley Point, Utah, overlooks Monument Valley from a sheer precipice hundreds of feet high. It's near Mexican Hat and reachable by climbing the Mookie Dugway, a switchback road with very few places to pass other vehicles. A truly spectacular spot.
I don't want to sound like a scold, but there is a lot of experience here from making our own mistakes. I would only put AGM batteries in a space where you sleep. However, it may be worthwhile to post it as a separate string on this forum and get people's advice.
My two main concerns at the moment are maintenance of the fridge and a slight cosmetic issue on the interior where the original paint is failing. Paint is easy but the fridge is a mystery to me. I'm just glad it's working!
I pulled out my fridge almost immediately. It was heavy, had a sizable space that it occupied, and didn't appear to be that reliable. But, if it ain't broke, don't fix it. I'm sure there are lots of folks on here who can advise you on the fridge.
But, "the original paint is failing"? the original wall paint is Zolatone. I've never heard of it "failing". It turns brown and looks bad, but it is totally adhered to the coach walls as far as I know. It is the same stuff that is used to line trunks of cars. Post a pix of the paint and maybe we can help.