Stories

The Cosmonaut is Risen

Our time on the road started off in an Airstream Argosy motorhome. On our first long journey we encountered a number of mechanical mishaps. Read on to find out how we faired.

If you’ve been following us on the Instagram (@liveworkwander), you know that our Airstream Argosy suffered a pretty tragic break down on our way from ATX to NYC. Somewhere in Mechanicsburg, PA—oh, the irony— our camshaft sheered and little bits of metal started circulating through our motor rendering our Argosy—The Cosmonaut (aka El Toro aka The Fat One)—DRT. We spent the next day trying to figure out what happened with our motor (we didn’t know at the time it was the camshaft) and so we left it with some nice guys—really unbelievably nice and helpful guys—at a Pep Boys in Mechanicsburg while we set off to NYC as I had to get to work that week. That was Saturday and Sunday.

Now let’s backup here a minute and give you some context/history/the low down. We bought this Airstream from a guy in Southern California who swore by the hand of God that this vehicle was good to go. The motor he’d put in it was some fancy 454 that was built, seemingly, to race the Daytona 500. This thing sounded bad ass. This is the original listing. He said it had a small water leak in the front over the passenger’s side and that the generator was old but ran like a cheetah. Upon leaving his place after paying $9000 for the Argosy, the generator stopped working and some electrical issue rendered our tail lights useless. We were able to get the light issue fixed but the generator wouldn’t stay on for longer than a minute. So, we decided we’d get it fixed when we got back to Austin.

On the drive home, we went through some really amazing landscapes. Southern Arizona where we saw saguaro cacti, southern New Mexico and that road through Las Cruces to El Paso. El Paso is NOT at all what we were expecting by the way. What a fascinating place. But I digress. We fell in love with the Cosmonaut on that drive. Looking through that huge windshield while driving through these vast expansive landscapes was spellbinding. You could see everything all around you. From peripheral vision to right in front, the scenery overwhelmed our senses because of how much we could see out the front. It was like driving a bubble.

We got home to Austin, packed up our house, put everything we wanted while living on the road into the Cosmonaut and hit the road to Miami for Christmas  (we tried to get the generator serviced by these guys. Never use these guys). On the way to Miami we drove through a South Eastern United States sized monsoon. There was a torrential downpour through all of Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and the Florida pan handle. There wasn’t a small leak in the passenger side. This airstream was a sieve. Leaks everywhere. We never made it to Miami. Instead we drove to Atlanta so we could stay with friends and family while Cosmo had the leaks and generator repaired. That was over Christmas.

We dropped him off with the folks at Three Way Campers. I also recommend that you never ever ever use these folks either. Needless to say, Cosmo was with them for three weeks and he came out worse than when we left him. The generator still didn’t work, leaks were still there and the pipes had burst because one of those Polar Vortexes had passed through Atlanta while he was in their care and they didn’t bother to winterize my camper to avoid this problem (something they said they would handle but didn’t). Ugggh. What an awful experience.

But we needed to press on to NYC at this point because my gig started on January 15th. That’s when things got real and the motor blew. My Creative Director in NYC, Chris Kelly, offered to let us stay at his place while we got this repair situation with Cosmo figured out. He also hooked us up with the mechanics that do all his work on his adventure mobile, Extreme Vehicle Builders in Danbury, CT.

We’d left the camper with Pep Boys in Mechanicsburg, PA and Tuesday the 17th they called to let us know that the cam shaft was toast and that they couldn’t help us with the repair. We got quotes from people in Mechanicsburg for $10k to $12k and our jaws were on the floor. We never imagined that this could be such an expensive repair. We never would have thought that after all the guarantees from the seller that we’d be putting a new 454 in this vehicle only 3000 miles after buying it for $9k. When we found this out, we contacted the seller and explained the situation and he offered to pay $2k towards the repair. In my opinion, that is an incredibly stand up thing to do. We never doubted his honesty…but after all of this happened we doubted his assessment of his vehicle. I think that’s fair. Anyhow, we decided we didn’t want to spend $12k with someone we didn’t know in Mechanicburg so we ponied up up the $1500 it would take to tow it to Danbury.

At EVB, we met Jim, a fellow RV owner. He walked us through everything that needed to be done to Cosmo to get him up and running again. He also looked over our pipes, the ones that had burst, our generator, our suspension, everything. I mean everything. The thoroughness and care he and his mechanic, Chris, took with Cosmo is a standard I will forever hold any other mechanic shop to. Utter professionalism and attention to detail. It was a spectacular experience. Jim advised us on which motor to buy and why, he advised us that the front suspension and steering column were a serious danger to our safety (and he showed us the bent and haphazardly bolted together pieces that were holding it all in place), he took care to make the generator area more stable, he customized a solution for us to be able to quickly and easily winterize our pipes. It was truly spectacular.

All of these repairs took 9 weeks to complete and when it was all said and done, we were into this service for $19000. You read that right. Nineteen thousand dollars. Jess and I decided that it was worth spending the money to essentially restore this vehicle because it is a one-of-a-kind and you will probably never see one of these on the road anywhere except maybe one in Southern California and a few in the Pacific Northwest. This Argosy is extremely rare and it is rarer still because of the interior configuration and the exterior body modifications. To us, that was worth it at the time. We wanted to live on the road in something smallish and more mobile than a regular motorhome and we’ve always had a penchant for offbeat, unique vehicles. So pretty much every dollar we earned while in NYC went to fixing Cosmo up. That was not how we had planned to spend our earnings from that gig but if we wanted to live on the road, if wanted to make this dream happen, we believed we needed to get Cosmo fixed up.

 

When Jim called us and told us Cosmo was ready for us to drive, we were beside ourselves with joy, and when we finally got to drive him, I kid you not, it was like driving a new car. The steering was tight, the engine sounded clean and quiet, the ride was smooth. We were blown away. It really was like driving a new vehicle. We finally had our WanderMobile back.

So all-in-all, we’re about $30k into this Argosy…and believe it or not, we’re now seriously considering selling it.

 

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About The Author

Jorge Gonzalez

Jorge Gonzalez

Spit up by a whale onto the island of Puerto Rico, Jorge was raised in the dirty dirty South where he grew up playing in the woods, dominating on NES Tecmo Bowl, and pretending his bike was an F-14 Tomcat. He only answered to the name "Maverick" and all his sidekicks were named "Goose." They all died as a result.

After a stint in the military and running a business, he now resides full time in a 78 Series Land Cruiser with his wife traveling North America searching for experiences, friendships and stories.