Help me. I think I want an Airstream.

by Lorin Michel Monday, August 10, 2015 8:03 PM

In the early part of the 20th century, before the stock market crash of 1929, a man named Wallace Merle Byam, Wally to his friends, lived in a two-wheeled shepherd’s cart outfitted with a kerosene cook stove, a sleeping bag and wash pail. He liked his cart so much, he was inspired to draw up designs and plans so that others could build what he called a travel trailer. His first attempt, which he tried himself, needed some modifications. He made those modifications and then proceeded to tell everyone how they could build one themselves for under $100. He sold sets of plans for $5.

By 1929, he was building a tent contraption on a Ford Model T chassis but it wasn’t very good in the rain. Using masonite, he reconfigured his design, creating a teardrop shape. He added a stove and an ice chest, and he hooked it up to another Model T and started traveling the country. Other drivers on the road noticed. It moved through the air like a stream of light, was easy – and lightweight – to tow, and provided what Wally called “first-class” accommodations anywhere he went. When a camper company called Bowlus went bankrupt, Wally bought it, and in 1936, he introduced his first product, the Clipper, a reference to the Pan Am Clipper airplane. It was all-aluminum and monosoque-constructed, 19 feet long, single-axle, with two beds, an icebox, a two-burner range, windows that opened, a pot-bellied stove and venting chimney to heat, a closet, storage drawers, a small writing desk and a fold-down table.

The Airstream had arrived. It is my new obsession and yes, I probably should go into therapy.

I am not a camper. I have no desire to pitch a tent in the woods, attempt to build a campfire to roast marshmallows, and then pee in those same woods. I have no desire to stay anywhere that I can’t have a hot shower whenever I want one, or have a television if I want to watch a show, internet if I want to cruise. But for some reason, the idea of getting an old Airstream, restoring it ourselves to be exactly how we want it, has suddenly taken hold of my imagination. In much the same way I never know where story ideas come from, I have no idea where this manifested.  I just know that it’s there and I have to deal with it.

Another confession: When I am Cait debuted a week or so ago on E! I was briefly fascinated. I had an uncontrollable urge to watch it and I have never watched a reality show before in my life. Luckily the feeling passed before I acted upon it. Maybe the same will happen with the Airstream, but I doubt it.

Years ago, Kevin and I briefly entertained renting a tricked out RV and going on vacation. We didn’t do it. A client turned friend of mine took an old RV and renovated it. It has hardwood floors, a tiled shower, leather couches. His is an RV though. I don’t want an RV. I want a trailer. I think they’re called Travel Trailers now. I want a small one, called a Sport to pull behind my Range Rover Sport. I want to find one on ebay or Craig’s List, one that is rotted inside, but still solid enough on the outside to save the aluminum panels. I want to put it in the garage and together with my husband, rip it apart from the inside out. I want to tear off the horrible paneling inside, and pull out the insulation. I want to rip up the floorboards and tear out all of cabinets and appliances and the bathroom. I want to replace everything, from the inside out, including the windows and the door, then polish the aluminum so that it glints in the sun. I want to do all of this and then put a hitch on the Range Rover, pull it out of the garage and go on a trip, maybe to the Pacific Northwest. Maybe wine tasting in Washington.

The Airstream Sport I want is 16’ 4” long, 7’ 3.25” wide and 9’ 3” high (with the AC unit). It is not big at all. But we could make it big enough for the two of us and Riley. We could travel all over and take our little 4-star room along with us.

Now I just need to convince my husband. And find a beat up Airstream for not very much money. And retire so that we have time to travel all over. And then live it out loud in a very Sport-y fashion.

Comments (3) -

8/11/2015 2:28:20 PM #

I want one, too. But, I don't want to do all that work.

I Am actually pretty good and very fascinating.

Larissa United States

8/12/2015 7:09:04 AM #

Just as long as you don't start a meth lab... 😬

Pam United States

8/12/2015 7:59:35 AM #

I think I need a Winnebago for that. Ha!

Lorin United States

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