Vacation isn't just for vacation anymore.

Oh hail, there goes the Airstream…

Lots of dings in all the things

Two Sundays ago, a miracle occurred. Jill and I both actually crawled into bed before 9:00 p.m.

In the annals of rarified human achievements, this amazing accomplishment ranks right alongside the first lunar landing and the first successful expedition to the South Pole. We felt pretty proud of ourselves, lying there in the dark, thinking about the wondrous things we would accomplish at 5:30 the following morning, fortified by a full eight and a half hours of sleep. If we did this every night, we’d be like Elon Musk or Carlos Ghosn! (Um, before he stuffed himself in a suitcase and absconded to Lebanon.)

The wind howled outside as we closed our eyes and began dozing off. Not five minutes before sliding in between our sheets, both our phones sounded screeching alarms from the National Weather Service. “SEVERE THUNDERSTORM WARNING!” they read. “DESTRUCTIVE BASEBALL SIZED HAIL.” That’s weird, I yawned. I didn’t see any rain in the forecast when I looked a few hours ago. Let’s just go to sleep. It’ll be fine. Tomorrow we need to be like Elon and accomplish many seemingly impossible feats, all at the same time.

The wind became impossible to ignore as it blew waves of rain against our bedroom windows. “It sounds like someone’s outside spraying the windows with the hose.” I said, breaking the silence. “I was just thinking the same thing,” Jill replied. Her voice, unfettered by oncoming sleep, indicated she was just as awake as I was. “At least it’s just rain.” As water continued to pound our house like we were under attack, intense flashes of white light illuminated the entire room at irregular intervals like a malfunctioning strobe light. At one point, a powerful lightning strike blasted light through our closed window blinds and momentarily submerged our closed eyes in an opaque white void. A split second later a monstrous clap of thunder exploded like a atomic bomb and we both jumped. Holy shit! We flipped to our backs, our heart rates now elevated, and sighed. We were so close—so close!—to having our Elon moment.

“But at least it’s still just rain,” we said again. Just. Rain. Not hail. “The alert said the storm should pass by about 9:45, so this is probably the worst it’ll get.”

The storm did not pass by 9:45. On the contrary, it was around that time when we started to hear the distinctive tink, tink, tink sound of small grains of something hard ricocheting against the window pane. At first, it sounded like rice. A few minutes later, ball bearings. Later still, rocks.

That was the signal. We flung off our covers in tandem and ran over to the back window. Huge chunks of hail poured from the sky producing an incredible cacophony of crashing and booming that reverberated throughout the house. The bigger chunks came down like missiles that exploded on impact and sent ice shrapnel shooting everywhere. We watched helplessly as our house, our back deck, our garage, our vehicles, and—of course—our Airstream all got mercilessly pummeled like Joe Pesci at the end of Casino.

Jill recorded this with her phone as we watched from inside the house.

Ice rocks upwards of three inches in diameter came down hard for the better part of an hour. With nothing to do, no preventative measure to take, we just shrugged and watched in awe, hoping that the damage wouldn’t be too catastrophic.

Assessing The Damage

As soon as we deemed our risk of concussion sufficiently low, we grabbed the keys to the Airstream and went outside to assess the damage. We braced for the possibility that the skylight or one of the two fantastic fans had imploded and allowed water inside. As I inserted the key and swung the door open, an eerie sense of déjà vu rippled through my mind and I thought of the last time our Airstream leaked. Just like before, I was initially relieved to find no water on the floor, couches, or dinette. Neither the front fantastic fan nor the skylight appeared damaged. Unfortunately, the similarities to last time didn’t end there. At the rear of the trailer, in the office area, I discovered a thin film of water diffused between the translucent office chair mat and the floor. I reflexively suspected a reoccurrence of the original leak—which seemed highly improbable—and was pleased when I found no evidence of water entering from a seam in the ceiling or from the rear fantastic fan. The source this time was the bathroom exhaust fan, which had been smashed to smithereens by hail.

The amount water inside was nowhere near as bad as I feared. It basically looked like a 20 ounce tumbler full of water had slipped out of my hand while standing in the bathroom. Water was splattered on the walls, the cabinets, and the toilet. A small puddle had collected on the floor, some of which had seeped under the wall that divides the office from the bathroom and dispersed under the office floor mat. We sopped it all dry in about two minutes with a couple of beach towels. We then draped one towel over the toilet and spread another out on the floor to catch the drips that were still coming in from what remained of the exhaust fan. Next, I got out my ladder and taped plastic over the top of the exhaust fan to prevent more water from entering.

With our disaster recovery mission completed, Jill and I locked up the Airstream, shut the garage door, and went back inside the house. We were both WIDE AWAKE, so I suggested putting on some stupid movie until we got tired. That’s when we discovered that our modem had apparently been fried at some point while the storm was raging. We had electricity, but the modem wouldn’t power on. No modem, no internet. No internet, no TV.

“Soooo… bed?” Jill suggested.

I sighed. “Sureeee.”

What’s next?

Before we get into the ‘what next,’ here’s the damage to our Airstream, truck, and car in the light of day.


We started insurance claims for Jill’s car and our roof, but haven’t yet decided how we’re going to approach the truck and the Airstream. Jill’s car had more and worse dents than the truck, and the windshield was smashed, so we figured insurance was the right call. The damage to our roof struck me as minimal, but since my eyes are untrained, we decided we wanted to get our insurance company’s take as well. We’re also having a third party roofer give it a look.

The dents in the truck are minor enough that I’m nearly certain a paintless dent repair guy can get them out for relatively little money. We’re going to get an estimate soon. If I’m right, we’ll just pay for that out of pocket.

The Airstream is a real butt clencher. The traditional wisdom online seems to be that hail damage cannot be fixed and therefore the affected panels must be replaced. That’s a colossally time consuming, extremely expensive, and highly specialized job. Only a handful of service shops in the country seem capable of doing this work and doing it well. I don’t like this option one bit, so for the time being I’m holding out hope that the right paintless dent repair guy will save the day. Stay tuned for more information on that front in the coming weeks!

Making Lemonade

There is one ray of sunshine in this otherwise cloudy tale. The bathroom exhaust fan. Never really loved it all that much. And looky what I have coming in the mail:

If it arrives in time, I’m going to install our new Maxxfan Dome this weekend. It’s supposed to be quieter, offer more effective air circulation, is capable of bidirectional airflow, and it certainly looks nicer! Hopefully the installation is as easy as it looks. 🤞

Jill and I felt pretty sad in the immediate hours after the hailstorm, but by the following day we had moved through all the stages of grief and settled comfortably in placid state of acceptance. Shit happens. We’ll get it fixed. And, really, it could have been soooooo much worse—we’re just grateful it wasn’t!

👋 Hey, Camper!

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Comments (2):

  1. Ken Yunger

    October 2, 2023 at 7:49 pm

    Absolutely crushed to hear about all this!!!  Consider insurance totaling the silver bullet…

    • Nick

      October 5, 2023 at 3:15 pm

      God, I hope they don’t total it. I can’t imagine…


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