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March 31, 2011 | by Airstream
March 11, 2011 | by Becky Blanton
Chuck List, 41, lives in one silver aluminum tube, a 2005 International CCD Airstream, and works in another, a commercial airplane. List, a pilot for SkyWest Airlines, is living the Airstream adventure in a way few do: He works 16 to 18 days a month, usually four days at a time, flying around the country. Then he returns to his Airstream to continue his journey on the ground.
“It’s almost a moral imperative to live like this,” he said. “The airline provides me the kind of things I need to sustain a mobile lifestyle. I don’t have to think about going home at the end of a trip. I can just jumpseat anywhere in the country for free and that gets me back to wherever I want to go. When most people end their vacation, they have to think about flying home and going back to work. For me, it’s like going to work then flying back to my vacation.”
Thanks to his acquisition of an Airstream last year, he can travel on the ground portion of his life in style. “I was a voracious VW Westfalia fan for years. I would park my van at the nearest airport, jumpseat to where I was flying, then jumpseat back to wherever I left my van and keep going,” List said. “Then I realized I had a really unique ability to stay out on the road. The whole idea of paying heat and cooling on a house when I’m only there on an average of six or seven days a month—I decided to just move into an Airstream. It’s so iconic. It’s so esthetically pleasing. It wasn’t a hard choice.”
Last year List bought an International CCD, making the jump from van to Airstream. Like many who see the CCD, he preferred its modern lines, and the well-designed and luxurious interior. He took a month off from hiking and traveling to put a cork floor in the trailer and add bamboo countertops, making it uniquely his. And now, he says he loves it even more. List also loves to ski, bike, and hike. He enjoys his time off and the Airstream fits hand-in-glove with his passions.
“I’m a big skier. I’m a lifestyle guy. That’s why I bought the Airstream,” he said. “I wanted to have a nice place to live and a place to store my equipment—the bikes, skis and gear.” He stores the gear in his Toyota Tundra, and calls the Airstream base camp.
List parks his Airstream around the country – typically for a month at a time at any one place. He dry-camps, off the grid. He has the freedom to move from warm to cold, but prefers to leave the trailer in warmer climates so the water doesn’t freeze when he’s away working.
“Keep in mind I fly 16 to 18 days a month,” he said. The rest of that month is spent in the area exploring, hiking, cycling and enjoying the great outdoors. Don’t worry: He doesn’t get lonely. He’s dating a doctor who works half-time and shares his passion for the outdoors and the mobile lifestyle. “She likes the same things, sports, the outdoors,” he said. “We are always off doing something, kite boarding, surfing, hiking, something.”
List was in Montana most of the summer, Utah in November.
His coworkers don’t think it’s odd at all. In fact, they’re joining him. “I know about three other airline people who are starting to do the same thing,” he said. “They realized the freedom an Airstream can give you too. Once you work for this industry you realize how easily you can get around. You can take advantage of the opportunities and really enjoy them. This is a lifestyle industry and Airstream supports that.”
March 10, 2011 | by Tom Bentley
“Everything” in Donaldson’s case was the purchase of 2010 Airstream International 534 for the couple’s old-country traveling pleasures. But that purchase was just the beginning: Donaldson now owns TrailerFlash, which rents a 534 out for excursions all over the island. “We wanted to share this experience and let others enjoy Scotland—the scenery, castles, restaurants—in the comfort of a silver bullet. Whether driving an hour away—golfing in St Andrews—or 10 hours away—walking in the romantic Isle of Skye—the Airstream experience is superb,” says Donaldson.
Though the company has only been in business for a few months, their customers are enthralled. As one of their site testimonials stated: “Wow, as cool inside as out. Chilled out all week in the great outdoors with all the comforts of a luxury pad.” And luxury pad it is, though the Donaldsons haven’t made any modifications to the trailer, which already includes items like a flat-panel TV and leather-upholstered lounge area. They do provide luxuriant bedding, outdoor furniture, and a generous welcome pack that includes a selection of Scottish delicacies including wine, local cheeses, shortbread, and as Donaldson says, “…and of course a fine dram of Scottish whisky from the local distillery to hopefully set the mood for a great vacation!”
The site advertises “bespoke itineraries,” where the company provides advice and bookings for local restaurants and special venues like distillery visits. One of the more striking Airstream vacations that could be had through TrailerFlash would have to be a trip to one of Scotland’s fascinating and beautiful islands. Some, like Skye, are famous and others like Mull and Harris not so much, but all are splendid. Most of those trips would require a ferry ride, which of course the company arranges, at an additional cost. Depending on the season, a weekly rental would be around $1,250 in U.S. dollars, with delivery costs extra. The company delivers the trailer to the agreed site, and doesn’t allow towing by renters.
Being the only Airstream rental service in Scotland doesn’t mean the Donaldsons will be resting on their laurels. They intend to have a range of Airstream models available as they move into the year. Donaldson knows they’ve got a good thing going: “Airstreams are just a totally unique American design. Our customers love the luxury inside and the way the silver bullets turn heads.”
It’s probably just as well that the renters don’t drive the trailers, with the temptation of that wee dram available. Heads will be turning, and happily so.
Get complete info on TrailerFlash rentals at http://www.trailerflash.co.uk/
March 9, 2011 | by Becky Blanton
The Hackings took their own advice and bought their first Airstream, a 1974 27' International Land Yacht they purchased in 1988. The couple, both former Canadian government workers, retired in 2005. They’re now on their 5th Airstream, a 2005 34’ Classic. Canadian residents, the Hackings head south for the winter each year.
“There are basically three choices for staying warm in the winter,” Carolyn said. “Florida, Texas or Arizona.” The Hackings like Arizona because of family and friends in the area, but they’ve been to California and Florida as well. Heading south later in the year means most of the usual tourist attractions are closed for the season, but the Hackings say there are still unusual attractions to explore. “We did find a psychiatric museum open,” she laughed. “It was interesting to see all the ways people used to be treated for mental illnesses, how they were treated and restrained.”
Retirement doesn’t mean life slows down. “John rides his bike every morning with some of the other men in the park, and we travel and do something just about every day,” Carolyn said. Having started traveling while they still worked, the couple got to see much of the United States long before they retired. When they finally did retire, they made friends and discovered places they wanted to spend more time visiting. “It’s one of the best advantages of starting early,” Carolyn said.
Pre-Retirement RV’ing Tips
Don’t wait until you retire to try RV’ing. If you don’t like it as much as you thought, at least you know it early enough to plan on doing something else after you retire. If you love it, who knows? You may quit your job and find a way to do it full-time and discover a whole new life!
Before looking at a trailer, decide what you will use it for. Do you plan to take it out for weekends, weeks or months at a time? Will you be full-timing? Based on how much time you plan to spend in the trailer, decide how much storage space you’ll need.
RVs don’t have as much closet and storage space as a house, but they should have enough for the clothing and items you need. Measure the width of the closet and count the drawers and storage. Compare layouts and take your time deciding. Sit down at the table, stretch out on the bed, stand in the bathroom, and generally just get a “feel” for the floorplan.
Don’t be afraid to sell your trailer after a couple of years if you’re not happy with it. You learn something new with each model you own and someone will be thrilled to have your trailer, just as you’ll love getting a new one yourself.
February 28, 2011 | by Becky Blanton
Opposites attract, and the spark of their different lifestyles may have played a role in their initial vision of what constituted happiness, Deke admitted. “I’ve always lived a pretty simple lifestyle,” Tiffani said. “And I’ve always been a huge consumer. Loved my toys,” Deke said. He admitted he had expensive tastes and was a major consumer of anything electronic. “When I moved into Tiffani’s apartment after we got married I think the electric bill quadrupled,” he said.
Tiffani’s 600-square foot, one bedroom apartment proved too small for two adults—one with an addiction to electronics and computers, plus their dog, and their combined furniture, books and clothes. They did what any young married couple did: they went out and bought a larger condo, 2.5 bedrooms, to hold all their stuff. Then they continued to do what many married couples in their early 30s do—accumulate more stuff in pursuit of happiness.
“We were both working and doing our thing,” Deke said, “And then we took a vacation and everything changed.” In 2009 they took a trip to a little island off the Yucatan Peninsula called Isla Holbox. They spent a week without phones, work, office pressures and stress. In the place of stress they found people who “exuded fulfilled lives.”
“It was great,” Tiffani said. “We just fell in love with the simplicity.” She had always loved simplicity, but as a couple they’d never experienced such happiness in just being together, being with friends and seeing the possibilities of a life different than what they were living.
“I couldn’t believe how many of the people we met were truly happy, I mean soulfully content. And they weren’t living anything like we were in Chicago. We talked about it on the way home and decided then to simplify our lives,” Deke said. “For the first time, my wife and I clearly saw what’s possible when you find a way to follow your passion and do exactly what you love all day, every day.”
Once they got home they created a 5-year plan for their lives, along with a list of “must haves,” for the relationship.
- We want to spend more quality time with each other.
- We want to travel and experience more.
- We want enough money to afford the lifestyle that makes us most content.
- We want to work less for other people, more for ourselves.
- We want to enjoy our waking hours, not dread them.
- We want to leave a small environmental footprint on the places we live and visit.
They also wanted to travel. So they decided an Airstream was the best solution to living and working the dream life. They already owned a 22’ Airstream and considered living in it full-time, but decided to upgrade to a new 27-foot Airstream CCD.
While the two waited on delivery of their new trailer they began the big purge of their condo. A lifelong consumer, Deke admitted that he was a “stuff collector,” and had brought his materialism into the marriage. “We realized we were just collecting a lot of material things and we didn’t need them. They weren’t what was really important to us,” Deke said. “The mortgage, car payments, furniture, books, clothes—everything added up to more stuff.”
For the next year they sold everything they could and gave away what they couldn’t sell. They rented their condo and have begun moving to their new Airstream, at an RV park in Texas. Even with their life in boxes and more things to do before the big move, they’re still excited about their adventure.
To help make it easier for others who want to simplify as well, the couple started a blog (at weaselmouth.com) about the process: where to sell things, how to purge, and life as full-timers working full-time jobs while living in a mostly permanent location.
February 14, 2011 | by Rich Luhr
Kanasugi says the family was never attacked, but they did yearn for more solid—yet mobile—walls around them. Four walls and a roof would not only allow them to enjoy the simple pleasures of staying near the places they love, they’d also be able to just relax.
A little over four years ago, Kanasugi’s son convinced his parents to drive the 30 miles to Airstream Japan in Saitama prefecture, where they fell in love with a 2005 Safari. The Safari was the first of only 10 Safaris made to commemorate the 100th Edition sold by Airstream Japan.
Aside from special trim for the 100th Edition, the trailer is a standard model Airstream with no special modifications. The family can’t use the FM radio due to a different frequency spectrum in Japan, and there are only five campgrounds in Japan with 30-amp power service, but they love their trailer.
The Kanasugis had the sloped garden in front of their house dug out to make a parking space for the Safari, and then poured a concrete slab for the trailer to rest on. The space is complete with 30-amp power, fresh water and a sewage connection.
Speaking through an interpreter, the Kanasugis talked about the trailer. “Most of the time the Airstream serves as a spare room, sometimes for guests, or to relax. No working in here,” the elder Kanasugi winked.
Kanasugi pulls the Safari’s 2.5 tons with a Ford Explorer, left-hand drive SUV. The Explorer only adds to the curiosity factor of the set-up. In Japan right-hand drive is the norm. When asked what kinds of comments he gets from people, the elder Kanasugi laughed, “Many just say, what is this? They called this trailer many names: one guy jokingly called it coal-fired, meaning locomotive, and a third-grader called it a vacuum car, mistaking it for a sewage truck. At a highway service area, many bus travelers admire the vehicle.”
Most of the trailers sold in Japan are the 8-foot wide version, to comply with Japan's traffic laws, which reflect the narrower roads in the country. Like many RV’ers, Kanasugi would have really liked to have the extra six inches of width, but is happy with what he has.
Unlike America, a special license is required to tow the Airstream in Japan. “You need to obtain a special trailer license, normally following 12 hours of driving instruction on a school ground, costing a thousand dollars. Very few people in Japan find time to do this, next to a busy job with little vacation,” he said.
What does Mr. Kanasugi like about the Airstream? “Well,” he says, “Living in a trailer you are all on the same floor and keep close company with the family members and the dog, or with guests. You can move it any time. The body is airtight and silent, no worry about your party upsetting nearby people on a campground. You have all the convenience of modern lifestyle, yet can move your walls-on-wheels to a different place every day.” And, most important of all, “You are bear-safe.”
February 12, 2011 | by Rich Luhr
But he feels pretty good about it all, because as he said, he’s “… had some truly amazing experiences. I have taken the Airstream on ferries in B.C., Nova Scotia, P.E.I., and the Outer Banks. I have taken it down every single mile of the Pacific Coast Highway from Blaine, WA to San Diego, CA. I went through all 10 Canadian provinces, and have been to 47 US states. I have stayed overnight in countless Walmart parking lots, rest areas, dirt lots, and friends’ driveways.”
“I have traveled over the Golden Gate Bridge, visited Mt. Rushmore, toured 17 US national parks, been stuck in NYC Friday afternoon traffic, walked in the Bay of Fundy at low tide, traveled over the Confederation Bridge, saw the Chateau Lake Louise, the CN Tower, the Chateau Frontenac, and Parliament Hill. I stay in touch with Airstreamers I met in Ohio, Lake Tahoe, Prince Edward Island, Florida, and some I have never personally met.”
Kyle knows that his little mishaps are child’s play in comparison with the travel memories he’s gained—and he’s gaining more every day. Kyle has lived in his Airstream full-time for more than 600 days. After selling most of his belongings from his Chicago apartment in 2009, his 23-foot 2008 CCD International became his home. And he’s definitely digging it: “I could not be any happier with my purchase of the Airstream! No other travel trailer even comes close. It is exactly what I was looking for—inside and out. The iconic exterior and the modern interior are an exact match to my sense of design and usability.”
Kyle has managed to make the open road his home because his work is as flexible as his schedule: he’s an independent software developer who develops websites, iPhone and iPad applications, gives tech seminars, and provides one-on-one tech help to other travelers. Though he’s occasionally constrained by poor Internet access in some locations, he often finds that the free Wi-Fi in RV parks and campgrounds does suffice, and that it can be supplemented at Wi-Fi-enabled coffee shops. His iPhone can be used as a mobile hot-spot when the connection is strong. He no longer needs postal mail—the road delivers all the messages he needs to read.
Weather does dictate much of his winter itinerary, however. “I go where the weather is nice; south in the winter, north in the summer. I find people I already know in various cities and hang out with them. I go back to a place if it is especially nice. If there is absolutely nothing remotely interesting in the area, I just spend the night and keep traveling. Last winter, I spent four months in a campground outside of San Diego. It was warm, and I ended up getting my pilot's license,” Kyle said.
Kyle has made some modifications to the International, such as removing part of the couch and replacing it with a desk. He put in a solar panel to help while boondocking and dry camping, and has gone as long as an entire week just living off solar energy. He replaced the factory-installed marine batteries with zero-maintenance AGM batteries, and installed a surge protector and inverter to safely power his laptop, TV, phone, blender, and more from the Airstream batteries. Other than the occasional mobile setbacks already mentioned, his V6 Volkswagen Touareg has been up to the task, including topping mountain passes over 10,000 feet.
Kyle is fully aware he’s got a mighty good thing going, and he appreciates that other folks feel the same. “I can't tell you how many times random people just knock on my door to see the inside of an Airstream. Even fellow RV’ers seem to take delight when they see me rolling into the campground with something other than the standard white-fiberglass, generic-brand trailer. People, in general, just love the look of the Airstream. They are amazed that I live such a normal life in such a unique and interesting way.”
Kyle posts regular updates to his blog and his website, http://whereiskylenow.com. There you can see his Top Ten list of the fantastic places he’s been, with commentary on what makes them great. And because he’ll be on the move for the foreseeable future, that’s a list that will keep changing. One item is a constant: the Airstream. “Imagine a trendy Manhattan studio apartment with views of the Pacific Ocean, the Rocky Mountains, the fall foliage of New England, and the sandy beaches of the Atlantic. I will be an Airstream fan for life!”
January 15, 2011 | by Rich Luhr
If you haven’t stayed in the Starlux Hotel in Wildwood, NJ, or in one of the hotel’s two Airstream trailers, you might want to book a room soon. The complex will be undergoing some major changes, and the Airstreams may be relocated. Starlux Hotel Manager Gordon Clark says the company plans to keep the trailers at the site, but they’re not sure if the set-up will be the same.
So break out your camera, your Bermuda shorts and straw hat and stay in one of the trailers while you can still be a part of the classic retro doo-wop history that Wildwood, New Jersey is famous for. The retro look is more than just a landmark look. In 2006 Wildwood’s “Doo-Wop” style motels were actually placed on the National Trust for Historic Preservations’ eleven most endangered list and described as “irreplaceable icons of popular culture.”
Clark said the hotel’s two vintage Airstreams have pretty much the same accommodations and dimensions of a standard Airstream, with amenities of a hotel room. “We love having them. They’re very unique,” he added.
With their classic curves, bold use of aluminum and glass, Airstreams have many of the notable elements of “Googie architecture,” also referred to as populuxe or Doo-Wop. Space-age designs that depict motion—like UFOs, boomerangs, atoms and parabolas—are all considered part of the Googie or Doo-Wop palate. Bathed in blue-neon and sitting in the shadow of the boomerang-shaped, slanted silver roof of the Starlux Hotel, the Airstreams are definitely part of the Doo-Wop look the hotel has going on.
“They were recently renovated,” Clark said. “They have the same footprint. There’s not much you can do to change that. They have a kitchen, bathroom—the same size as you’d have in an Airstream, but with a few updates to the interior.”
Whether you’re trying to satisfy a primal urge to spend 24 hours immersed in turquoise Formica, pink flamingos, or mint-green pastel wallpaper, or if spending a night in a vintage Airstream at a hotel on an endangered building list is at the top of your bucket list, you can scratch your itch at the Starlux. The Airstreams are positioned on a deck behind the hotel, and come with their own tables and lights, to give guests a pseudo-camping experience.
Not everyone who stays in the Starlux Airstreams is an Airstreamer. “Some people want to stay in the trailer, but some people sign up online and even though the website says ‘trailer’ they’re surprised when they get here that they’re staying in an actual Airstream trailer,” Clark said. “For others, it’s the last available room in town so they’ll take it. It’s a mix, really.”
Make sure you’re wearing a loud Hawaiian shirt or Bermuda shorts and your Docksiders if you want to be color-coordinated during your stay. Whether you stay in the 1957 Airstream Caravanner, or the 1971 Airstream International, you’ll be surrounded by astro-turf, blue mood lights and some eternal plastic palms that scream 50s retro, or George Jetson futuristic, depending on how you think of classic aluminum curves and sweeping lines.
Even if you never lived at a time when Airstreams, hep-cats, hippies and jewel-toned aluminum drink tumblers were in their glory, you’ll appreciate an evening surrounded by the pastel laminate and aluminum curves of a classic Airstream.
January 11, 2011 | by Rich Luhr
Those features and more prompted Rhonda Coleman and her partner Ralph to order one on the spot after they saw the 2007 catalog. “We're proud to tow the DWR. It turns heads; people point and make size jokes. I'm still glad it's only 16 feet, though 6'3" Ralph looks longingly at the bigger models,” says Coleman.
“At a recent WBCCI Oregon Unit rally we held an open house of our Airstreams as part of the local car show; the DWR was the newest (and smallest) model on the tour. I loved listening to the comments from visitors about the upscale touches and clever use of the tiny interior space.”
But what’s a nice trailer got to do with the apocalypse? The couple are regular travelers in the trailer, hitting the road approximately once a month, two dogs included. “When we got the DWR, we taped a map of Oregon and Washington together and plotted a circle representing a three-hour distance from our home; we limit our weekend driving to anything within that radius,” says Coleman. Fabulous scenery, like the Columbia River Gorge, might make the heart of the trip, or wine tasting at the Red Wine and Chocolate Festival, or the Fort Stevens State Park on the Oregon coast for Ralph’s interest in military history.
But occasionally, the urge for something a little more edgy is stirred, and what fulfills that better than a jaunt to Burning Man in the Nevada desert? There has been an Airstream presence at Burning Man for years: “Burnside Court” is one of the notable enclaves. Coleman parked her rig with the “Airstreameri and Geologists” group that she’d met online; their covey hosted 15–20 trailers, most of which weren’t crazily modified for the event. Coleman did see what looked like a Bowlus trailer made into an art car.
“Burning Man is something different to everyone. I think of it as a post-apocalypic utopia. It's spring break for adults; an experiment in generosity and community; a spectacle of memorable performances, eclectic music, ironic humor, stirring giant-scale art and naughty good fun. Some experience a renewal of their true and radical self that they find difficult to express elsewhere. ‘Welcome home’ is the customary greeting at the entrance,” says Coleman.
Coleman had jolly fun visiting the art cars at night, listening to the marching band with the flaming sousaphone, dancing at the club installations, and of course, the ritual burning of The Man, which culminates the gathering of the tribes. Being in the DWR provided a familiar base from which to mingle in the madness. “As a woman traveling by myself and a Burning Man ‘virgin,’ it was a comfort to know I'd be with people who all shared at least one thing in common: our Airstreams. Even though I didn't yet know them, that fact established a level of trust that allowed me to take the leap to go to Burning Man for the first time. I arrived alone and disoriented after dark, and my Airstreaming neighbors immediately put a drink in my hand, attached glowsticks to my wrist, and took me with them to take in the nightlife on the playa. I felt instantly welcome and accepted.”
So welcomed that Coleman plans to make Burning Man 2012, and only because her big trip in 2011 will be to Alumapalooza. In the meantime, she’ll keep up her travel blog, and working on her iPhone app called “Hidden Portland,” for visitors or locals looking for offbeat, under-the-radar Portland activities.
And the DWR will be waiting for its next venture to Burning Man, where it supplied (according to Coleman): “Shelter from the dust storms. Air conditioning. A stereo to listen to the 24-hour BMIR radio station. A kitchen with a fridge to prepare potluck food away from the heat and blowing dust. A real bed, and a door that can close once in awhile against the relentless stimulation that is Burning Man. All within an solar-powered aluminum pod that fits right in with the playa aesthetic.”