Saturday, October 17, 2009

Life on the American road

Hitting the road and going wherever it takes you. What could be more quintessentially American?

When I headed out on to the highways of America in April of 2007, I had no idea what lay ahead. More than anything, that is what was so magical about it. From beginning to end it was an adventure. I was rarely lonely and I met amazing people every step of the way. Being on the road and pushing the envelope made it even more interesting. Somehow I pulled the whole thing off through a combination of pluck and luck.

This site is a tribute to my Airstream. It was the critical ingredient that held my life together from April of 2007 until August of 2009.

When I headed out I knew nothing about recreational vehicles. I didn't know how to start my hot water heater. I was unaware that my 1973 Airstream was in desperate need of new axles or that it was suffering from a minor case of floor rot. I learned. What was broken or on its last legs was fixed.

Today I sold my aluminum home, and a part of myself. The Airstream found an outstanding new home at the Utah Animal Adoption Center's equine facility just on the northeast side of the Salt Lake City airport. Look for it when you are landing or taking off from SLC.

Here's to my Airstream and all of the people and animals who gave it life during a period of my life that was given over to the American road.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Photo from May of 2009

Airstream at the Museum of Modern Art--NYC

Did you know that the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York City has an Airstream as part of their permanent collection? Why? The answer is simple, an Airstream is a triumph in modern design--they would be remiss if they didn't have one.

My boy

I couldn't have done this alone. My boy Jake was with me every step of the way.

Front interior

The bookshelf is from Sundance of Utah. It was made with wood from a former Sears and Roebuck warehouse that was built in Boston approximately one hundred years ago. The couch is a bed at night and sleeps one adult. Originally this was a double bed--it was the only major part of the original interior that was missing when I purchased it.

Desk in back

The trailer originally had two twin beds in the back. A friend and I removed one and put in a desk. The other twin bed (not visible here) has a new matress. The desk is bigger than this photo suggests.

A little about this Airstream

Originally posted as part of my marketing efforts when I sold the Airstream:

The basics: 1973 Airstream Trade Wind 25', made in California.

I purchased the trailer in March of 2007 in Arizona. There were at least three previous owners. The trailer had not been used much, probably since the 1990s. This is a guess. As far as I can tell it has spent its life in dry climates. I owned one other vintage Airstream from Ohio, and the difference between one that sits in a dry climate versus a wet climate can be profound. The two previous owners kept this trailer in Arizona and also possibly in Montana.

At the time I purchased it, I was starting a business that would take me on the road. I ended up visiting over 30 states that year. I spent a lot of effort and money making the trailer fully road worthy.

A partial list of the things I did: new tires, new axles, major interior work, work on all systems such as AC, heat, refrigerator, propane, hot water heater, plumbing, electric. All systems work was performed by RV professionals and mostly Airstream specialists. Everything has worked like a champ and continues to perform well.

Few unrestored vintage trailers have the sound fundamentals that this trailer has--the new axles, the 2007 tires (still in great shape), the solid floor.

Floor rot is common in older trailers and is usually very hard to see--I had no clue my trailer had floor rot when I bought it. Thanks to Colin Hyde and his team in New York (which briefly included me), we did a first class repair of the floors, which was quite involved. My floor rot prior to the full repair was limited, but you don't want any since the floors are an integral part of the structural integrity of the trailer. I can tell you more about what we did if you're interested.

Rising into the coastal mountains on I-8 about one hundred miles east of San Diego

Tuesday, September 1, 2009


Starting a meteorite and gem business is what first motivated me to head out on to the road. Selling rocks from space has to be one of the more novel ways that somebody financed almost 2.5 years of traveling. There were other income sources along the way but it was meteorites, more than anything that made it possible. There were many times when I wondered if I’d pay the bills that month. Somehow I did.

I traveled from coast to coast and from north to south. Even with all of this travel, I added no new states to my roster of 44 that I’ve visited—though I did see many new places, as well as old places anew. I was close to Maine and tempted to cross in to a state I’ve heard much about, but I never made it.

Of all the places I stopped along the way, one stands out more than any other: Quartzsite, Arizona. Quartzsite is a town that fills up with misfits and others who also have wanderlust. It booms from Christmas through late February. I’d never heard of it, but a few people I met at rock shows filled me in on this strange sounding place. I completed two seasons as a vendor at Quartzsite. During the first season I stayed for fifty days in the hardscrabble town and loved every minute of it.

The Airstream allowed me to spend more time in coastal California than I ever had before. It is a magical part of our country. From a friend’s ranch in Fremont (near San Francisco) to the mountains of San Diego County, I was able to enjoy the Golden State, even as much of the state reeled from a tough economy.

What gives some of us the unquenchable desire to explore?

Airstream and redrock, April 2007

Arizona's Navajo (aka Dine') country.

Crossing Lake Champlain

On Lake Champlain just south of the Canadian border and just west of the most northeasterly point of our travels in 2007. This ferry originated in Grand Isle, just north of Burlington, Vermont.

Monday, August 31, 2009

In Salt Lake City

You can see the oxidization on the roof on this photo. I've been torn about taking the plunge and doing the whole buffing process--at this point that will be up to the next owner. One thing that stopped me was I rarely was parked at a place where I could do it.

Forward cabin interior

Aft cabin: Second bed, desk, closets, and storage

The bathroom

Architect Frank Lloyd Wright believed bathrooms were a waste of space in homes and unless his clients demanded differently, he designed them small. Airstreamers adopt the lifestyle because they like to be out and about. This bathroom covers all of your basic needs.

A view into the shower. The new shower wand doesn't fit the old fixture.

This is the view into the bathroom. Notice the closet to the right--there is a closet just like it straight across. The shower curtain brings a 1970s flair to the trailer and it is included. A sliding door separates the bathroom from the rear cabin.

Below is a full length mirror and another closet in the bathroom:

The good, the bad, and the ugly

Originally posted as part of my marketing efforts when I sold the Airstream:

In the interest of full disclosure, and saving everybody time, here is everything I can think of that you should know.

The good

First, it’s an Airstream, and Airstreams rock!

This is even truer of vintage Airstreams--in my opinion up to circa 1980.

This trailer has sound fundamentals, no floor rot, new axles, newish tires (2007), new vinyl floor inside, all systems work. I spent a lot of money and time to get it to where it is, it could be better, but there is always the budget issue. All of the electric now goes through some state of the art fancy box--can't remember what you call it. It wasn't cheap and the electric has worked fine since Colin Hyde added that upgrade.

All exterior running lights were upgraded to LED lights, but are in the original 1973 style. Brighter lights, seventies style--can't beat that combination.

Most of the rest of this web site covers the good, so on to . . .

The bad

Of the three roof vents, the forward vent has given me a lot of trouble. Ultimately I zip-tied it shut from the inside. I know that it’s fixable but it was beyond what I wanted to do, and the three shops that looked at it never permanently fixed it. One of them had it working for me for almost a year. The problem, it doesn’t stay down, so it pops up and could fly off while driving. It’s amazing it never did come off because it came up on me a couple of times.

Once, while driving north on I-15, a California Highway Patrolman was waving at me. Being a confident Airstream owner I assumed he was just admiring my trailer and saying hi. It wasn't until I stopped that I noticed my roof vent was up again. Colin Hyde recommended zip ties (since I was sick of dealing with it). You may want to just put in a Fantastic vent and handle it that way. For now, it is semi-permanently shut and doesn't leak.

There is a piece of aluminum trim that is on the lower part of the exterior that came off when I was driving in Idaho. It goes all the way around the bottom of the trailer and is about 2 inches wide. This is the kind of thing I would be unlikely to even notice, and in fact I rarely think about it other than I have been hauling around the trim that came off, hoping to find a person to put it on. This is cosmetic and can be fixed for little money. It needs straightened up some and riveted back on. The whole piece of trim did not come off--it's about a six foot section from the water heater to the front.

The shower head—I am on my 3rd in 2.5 years. It works great but currently doesn’t attach to the wall so you have to hold the wand up.

The sleeping arrangements—because I lived in the trailer alone, with my dog (no it doesn’t smell inside, also remember there is no carpet in this trailer—and I strongly discourage wall to wall carpet in any RV). I would love to rebuild the front bed so it sleeps two in a pullout as it originally did. When I got the trailer there was nothing there at all—so a friend and I built what’s in here now. It works great for me, but wouldn’t for a couple that wants to sleep together. This trailer currently just sleeps two. A good carpenter could redo the front bed, but such things aren’t cheap, unless you have the skills yourself.

There are other little things, but this is what comes to mind right now.

The ugly

That’s subjective. I love my trailer and see nothing ugly about it. It is a vintage trailer and it's one that's had the $12,500 makeover, not the $100,000 makeover (yes, you can spend that much, people do, and the end result can be spectacular).

If you go for the flash of a "new" boxy travel trailer, you will get what you pay for--a POS trailer that may last ten years before it either becomes non-functional, or just looks terrible and is on the fast track to becoming non-functional. This Airstream is 36 years old--very, very few trailers manufactured today (even Airstreams, yes, they still make them) will still be around in 36 years. This trailer, by contrast, could be around for another 36.

Malibu Beach RV Park

My favorite RV park. The Airstream in this photo belongs to an A list movie star--and he actually stays in it, in this RV park. My Airstream is immediately below me when I took this shot, and is not visible.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Airstream Life

Airstreamers are fortunate to have the best magazine available in the RV world, and it just happens to be tied to our favorite brand. Rich Luhr is the publisher--the magazine is independent of Airstream. This is Nate Hansen of Sedona, Arizona, enjoying an issue. Get more information and subscribe at the Airstream Life web site. I wrote one article for Airstream Life, on NASA's Airstream "Astrovan," and contributed to another on Quartzsite, Arizona.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

What could you do with an Airstream?

The possibilities are endless . . . yet here's what most people do:
  1. Use it as an office at an equine rescue facility.
  2. Use it as a home as you travel the country selling meteorites (or ten thousand other things).
  3. Use it as a travel trailer and see the world--or at least North America. Airstreams have traversed every continent in the world, although I am not sure about Antarctica--not many roads there, but I'd be surprised if nobody has yet taken an Airstream down as part of a research station.
  4. Use it as a micro-home, or office, and leave it in one place. Not a bad choice for an artist or someone who wants their own space during tough economic times.
  5. Use it as a guest home. Need a place for guests, but want to give them their own space and keep yours? An Airstream is the ultimate answer. It's a rare guest house that has as much style as an Airstream.
  6. There are endless possibilities--but if you want a travel trailer with style, few rival Airstreams.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Friday, August 21, 2009

Visit for more

None of the posts above replicate anything from my main website, though some photos are posted in both places.

Visit for more chronicles from my time as an Airstreamer. Keep in mind that this includes the time from April of 2007, when I first hit the road, until August of 2009 when I moved out of the Airstream prior to leaving San Diego.