Our 1966 Airstream Caravel is really cool. A compact silver bubble, it’s space-y and cute. Seventeen feet long, it features a dinette that turns into a double bed, a “gaucho” - an Airstream term for a fold-out sofa - a kitchen with three burners, a stove, sink, fridge/freezer and furnace, and a bathroom complete with a shower. It’s all more or less in one room, with the girls sleeping at the front end (Daniel built a box-like structure that keeps Lulu from falling out) and us on the side, with a bathroom at the back end.
That doesn’t mean we don’t get occasional bouts of trailer envy, Daniel especially. There are all kinds of recreational vehicles (RVs) available: trailers such as pop-ups (which are kind of like an expandable tent on a trailer base), fifth wheels (they attach onto pick-ups), truck campers (which slide to fit on top of pick-ups) and even something called a Toy Hauler (not sure yet what exactly that is); converted vans (the Dodge Ram is popular); and of course monster mobile homes such as the Winnebago. Here are some photos and proper definitions, if anyone’s interested: http://www.rv-coach.com/rv/types/classes/rv_types.html
We’ve seen RVs of all vintages and sizes at various institutions, the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, Michigan the Elkhart RV Museum in Indiana and the Winnebago factory in Forest City, Iowa. Unfortunately, we were not able to make it to the Airstream factory in Jackson Center, Ohio. And of course, we’ve seen many an RV on the road and at campsites.
When camping, it seems that peeking into other people’s RVs is fairly commonplace. Once you get talking to someone, you can ask to have a look at their vehicle. One advantage of owning a vintage Airstream is that lots of people want to look inside, so it’s a bit of I’ll-show-you-mine-if-you-show-me-yours. Or, you can hover outside a vehicle – pretending to be on a walk around the campsite – until you get an invitation. Or just stumble in drunk, which one very friendly couple did to us at Custer State Park in South Dakota’s Black Hills.
The pop-up is probably the most sensible and lightweight option although they provide less defense against inclement weather, while the truck camper, for its part, is also great use of space. The vans look great but might be a bit difficult for our trip, since it might be difficult to carry a lot of stuff – and we have tons of baby and kid paraphernalia.
The mobile homes, some of which are as large as an intra-city coach bus, are pretty amazing – they tend to have an enclosed master bedroom, shag carpeting, separate bathrooms, microwaves, TVs, space for dogs, magazine racks, etc. We’re not so sure about the décor, though. And going for side trips would be cumbersome and expensive given the low mileage per gallon these things get. Lots of these people hitch a car onto the back of their vehicles.
That brings us on to the other Airstreams we’ve seen. The most luxe one was a 2008 model, which had white leather sofas. We saw the outside of a 30-foot 2005 trailer belonging to Rich Luhr, the editor and publisher of ‘Airstream Life’ magazine (www.airstreamlife.com). His has a master bedroom as well as a second room with a double bed and optional bunk bed, where his nine-year old daughter Emma sleeps. There was also an Argosy, part of a short-lived range of painted Airstreams that sometimes draws scorn from the hard-core Airstreamers. We’ve also seen a longer vintage Airstream, probably from the 1970s that we liked the look of – it had loads of awnings.
Our dream Airstream would have an awning – which would give us a front porch – separate master bedroom and bunk beds for the girls. And probably be a couple of feet longer.
However, there are advantages to being short and sweet: it’s light to tow and will conform to UK road regulations – and perhaps most importantly, Daniel can light the kettle from bed in the morning.
Claire – On maternity leave from career as editor of monthly finance trade magazines, and occasionally a freelance translator. Half-American/half-English, raised in the suburbs of New York, has lived in London for almost nine years.
Daniel – Furniture designer/maker based on London’s Columbia Road flower market, for ten years, also an aspiring painter and DIY supremo. On one-year career break to reconsider options. English by birth, but mother is half-American and spent part of her childhood in Bronxville, New York.
Sophia – 3.5-year old spitfire who loves school, singing, swimming and being a big sister
Lulu – Born May 8 of this year, a model baby who eats, sleeps and gurgles.
Special guests – American, British and international friends and family who drop in along our trip to see whatever part of the country they fancy. They’re welcome to travel in the car with us and sleep in an adjoining tent.