The Airstream Renaissance

Ah, yes. As soon as you invoke the word Airstream, people get the attraction.

Santa Rosa model at Santa Barbara Auto Camp
Light reflects on the wall behind the Santa Rosa model at Santa Barbara Auto Camp. (Photo Credit: Anne Cusack/Los Angeles Times)

It’s a part of American culture that transcends time. Airstream, manufacturer of the iconic “silver bullet” travel trailer, is the oldest and most recognized recreational vehicle manufacturer in North America.

It’s one thing to take a 40-foot-plus diesel pusher or 36-foot fifth wheel trailer on the road.

But being an Airstream aficionado can be quite another thing.

In 1936, Wally Byam stated that he is in business “to make people’s dreams come true.”

The enthusiasm for Airstreams that has always been with us has surged in recent years with everyone from stylish millionaires to young travelers wanting to own one of these design icons. This is a distinct subset of the RV crowd.

The only way you could experience the Airstream lifestyle on the open road was if you went all-out and bought the dream.

Enter Airstream campgrounds and motels as an alternative to owning the dream. Capitalizing on the retro-romantic image, Airstream parks or traditional RV parks with permanent Airstreams available for nightly rental have popped up with regularity across the American Southwest.

Airstream Bambi at the Metro Hotel in Petaluma
Airstream Bambi at the Metro Hotel in Petaluma (Photo Credit: Sam McManis/Sacramento Bee)

Previously featured in Vogel Talks RVing, the Santa Barbara’s Auto Camp offers five custom-designed Airstreams as part of a trailer park. The Auto Camp is so popular, its owners are planning to open similar sites soon in San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Ventura.

Nestled between Capitol Reef and Bryce Canyon National Parks on Utah Scenic Byway 12, the Shooting Star Drive-In Airstream and RV Park is the marriage of two iconic symbols of freedom and adventure on American highways. It’s a one-of-a-kind resort that combines Airstream travel trailers and vintage convertible cars with a drive-in movie theater.

Kate Pierson, the retro, beehive-coiffed singer from the B-52s invites visitors to “rocket through the wilderness” in a collection of six vintage Airstreams, the interiors of which riff off the kitsch of the band’s best-known material. Kate’s Lazy Desert Airstream Park is near Joshua Tree.

Nine lovely, fully restored vintage Airstream travel trailers await you at the Shady Dell in Bisbee, Arizona.

The Airstreams at Flying Flags RV Park in Buellton feature a porch with a barbecue and couch and lounge chairs.
The Airstreams at Flying Flags RV Park in Buellton feature a porch with a barbecue and couch and lounge chairs. (Photo Credit: Sam McManis/Sacramento Bee)

Whether it’s the 33 foot Royal Mansion built in 1951 and restored with leopard carpet, martini glasses, diner-style breakfast booth, and phonograph with a collection of 78 rpm records, or the 1947 Tiki Bus Polynesian Palace, complete with hand-carved outrigger bar and your own Tiki God, the Shady Dell’s individual trailers will surely send you back to a time when freedom was just another word for jumping in your aluminum house on wheels.

Flying Flags RV Park and Campground, in Buellton, California, a sprawling, upscale trailer park, rents nine Airstreams.

The quirky, French-themed Metro Hotel in Petaluma’s wine country has a couple of 16-footers in its parking lot.

Or experience the nostalgia and romance of an Airstream trailer at a spattering of KOA Campgrounds—Santa Cruz/Monterey Bay (California), Stockton/Delta (California), Eureka Springs (Arkansas), Mystic (Connecticut), Sugarloaf Key (Florida), Boston/Cape Cod (Massachusetts), Bar Harbor (Maine), Cape Hatteras (North Carolina), and South Padre Island (Texas).

It would be too easy to dismiss this Airstream revival as a fad, a traveler’s version of the horned-rim glasses by trend-seeking hipsters.

After all, celebrities such as actors Johnny Depp and Matthew McConaughey and rockers such as Eddie Vedder and Sheryl Crow own tricked-out “silver bullets”. Country crooner Miranda Lambert, owner of a 1954 Flying Cloud Airstream trailer she named “Wanda the Wanderer,” even penned a song about her trailer: The Airstream Song.

Miranda Lambert's 1954 Flying Cloud Airstream trailer, affectionately named “Wanda the Wander"
Miranda Lamberts’s 1954 Flying Cloud Airstream trailer, affectionately named “Wanda the Wander” (Photo Credit: Miranda Lambert facebook)

But Airstreams endure. They are vintage and iconic, not merely a passing fancy on the roadways.

Its factory in Jackson Center, Ohio, produces 50 trailers a week and, according to Investor’s Business Daily, enjoyed a 59 percent increase in revenue in 2013 over the previous fiscal year.

Perhaps more impressive, the company boasts that 60 percent of all the trailers it has produced over the past 80 years are still in use today.

Worth Pondering…

Airstream Song

Sometimes I wish I lived in airstream homemade curtains
Lived just like a gypsy.
Break a heart, roll out of town
Cause gypsies never get tied down
—Lyrics by Miranda Lambert, Natalie Nicole Hemby, Natalie Hemby, Miranda Lambert; sung by Miranda Lambert

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America’s Cool Airstream Motels

The Shady Dell

The Shady Dell
The Shady Dell

Nine lovely, fully restored vintage aluminum travel trailers await you at the Shady Dell in Bisbee, Arizona.

Whether it is the 33 foot Royal Mansion built in 1951 and restored with leopard carpet, martini glasses, Diner-style breakfast booth, and phonograph with a collection of 78 rpm re

cords, or the 1947 Tiki Bus Polynesian Palace, complete with hand-carved outrigger bar and your own Tiki God, the Shady Dell’s individual trailers will surely send you back to a time when freedom was just another word for jumping in your aluminum house on wheels.

Bisbee is captivating and full of historic buildings, museums, art galleries, antique shops, hidden walkways and plenty of ghosts. Its close proximity to Chiricahua National Park, Cochise Stronghold, and the Ramsey Canyon Nature Conservancy provides numerous opportunities for bird watching, rock hunting, biking, hiking, or just leisurely explorations of the wonders of southeastern Arizona’s high desert area.

Address: 1 Douglas Road, Bisbee, AZ 85603

Phone: (520) 432-3567

Website: www.theshadydell.com

El Cosmico

El Cosmico
El Cosmico

El Cosmico is an 18-acre nomadic hotel and campground in Marfa, Texas. In keeping with the belief that life should be a balance of adventure and do-nothingness they offer shelter, occasional entertainment, opportunity for learning/doing/making, and access to the majesty of the high plains desert.

From its wide open spaces to the vast canopy of stars above, El Cosmico provides temporary liberation from the built world. It is second home to intrepid travelers and wanderers from all corners of the planet.

Accommodations at El Cosmico include renovated vintage trailers, safari and scout tents, Sioux-style tepees, and tent campsites. The property also offers several communal spaces for guests—a hammock grove, an outdoor kitchen and dining area, a community lounge and mercantile, an outdoor stage, a reading room.

El Cosmico rents wood-fired hot tubs as the burn ban allows, and bikes for exploring Marfa.

Physical Address: 802 S. Highland Avenue, Marfa, TX 79843

Mailing Address: PO Box 1368, Marfa, TX 79843

Phone: (432) 729-1950 or (877) 822-1950 (toll free)

Website: www.elcosmico.com

Kate’s Lazy Desert Airstream Motel

Kate's Lazy Desert Airstream Motel
Kate’s Lazy Desert Airstream Motel

Kate, of B-52s fame invites visitors to “rocket through the wilderness” in a collection of six vintage Airstreams, the interiors of which riff off the kitsch of the band’s best-known material.

The Lava trailer, with its orange-blob paint job, mimics the gooey movement of the ’60s-style lamp, whereas Planet Air is cast in an otherworldly pink light to recreate the aura of Planet Claire. The windows are covered with colored gel to give the feeling of “pink air” and the interior has special “space controls and LED panels” fun!

In Hairstream, a fantasy version of a B-52′s dressing room, the walls are covered with posters and photos from each and every album, and the exterior is even stenciled with the names of places they’ve been—and some places they’ve never been—on the road.

Tiki features a groovy mid century Tiki bar motif inside and out.

In an earlier post on vogeltalksrving.com, we introduced Kate’s Lazy Desert Airstream Motel in the story, B-52 Love Shack: An Airstream Motel.

Address: 58380 Botkin Road, Landers, CA 92285

Location: 17 miles north of Yucca Valley, off State Route 247 (Old Woman Springs Road)

Phone: (845) 688-7200

Website: lazymeadow.com

Please Note: This Part 2 of a 2-part series on the Airstream mystique and Airstream motels

Part 1: Airstream Mystique

Worth Pondering…

Love Shack
If you see a faded sign at the side of the road that says
“15 miles to the Love Shack”
Love Shack, yeah, yeah
I’m headin’ down the Atlanta highway
Lookin’ for the love getaway
Headed for the love getaway

—recorded by The B-52’s

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B-52 Love Shack: An Airstream Motel

Fans of the B-52s might be inspired to roam — if they want to — all the way out to the Mojave Desert.

Kate s Lazy Desert Vintage Airstream Hotel

That’s where the lead singer of the quirk-pop act has brought her bee-hived sensibility to a new Airstream hotel that opened in November, reports The Orange County Register.

Co-owned by B-52s vocalist Kate Pierson, Kate’s Lazy Desert invites visitors to “rocket through the wilderness” in a collection of six vintage Airstreams, the interiors of which riff off the kitsch of the band’s best-known material.

The Lava trailer, with its orange-blob paint job, mimics the gooey movement of the ’60s-style lamp, whereas the Hairstream is a fantasy version of a B-52′s dressing room, and Planet Air is cast in an otherworldly pink light to recreate the aura of Planet Claire.

“Visiting the desert is like a little mini trip to the moon,” said Pierson, whose design sensibility is every bit as far out as her vocals.

The same could be said of the motel’s Airstreams, which are the perfect architectural compliment to the band’s space-age surfer vibe, looking, as they do, like lunar modules with their studded sheet metal siding.

Kate’s Lazy Desert is the west coast adjunct to Kate’s Lazy Meadow, an equally quirky, in-the-sticks collection of cabins tucked into the Catskill Mountains outside Woodstock, New York, where Pierson lives with her romantic and business partner, Monica Nation, who’s been running Kate’s Lazy Meadow since 2004, The Orange County Register reports.

Kate s Lazy Desert Vintage Airstream Hotel: Yellow Stripe Hairstream

The Airstreams in the Lazy Desert were originally situated along the Hudson River at Kate’s Lazy Meadow, and were always the first rooms to be booked, Pierson said. But when the trailers flooded during last year’s Hurricane Irene, she and Nation decided to wheel them off to the Mojave.

“How much safer can you be from a flood than in the desert?” Pierson quipped.

Pierson and Nation have been traveling to the Joshua Tree-area for years to visit her friends Phillip Maberry and Scott Walker, who decorated the Airstreams’ interiors. They also manage Kate’s Lazy Desert because they live next door in the small town of Landers where the motel is based.

If the Airstream Hotel looks like the B-52s Love Shack, that isn’t a coincidence. Maberry and Walker’s home was the location for the famed ’80s video. It’s also served as an unstated motto for the hotel, which is designed to be a romantic couples getaway, not a place for kids, even if there is a swimming pool in the area and the vibe is playful. The trailers are tchotchke’d out with the thrifted treasures Pierson and her band mate Fred Schneider have unearthed during decades of touring.

Pierson is something of a hotel aficionado, having toured with her band for more than three decades and stayed in venues of every caliber and stripe, reports The Orange County Register.

“For me, a great hotel is a place where you’re not disturbed,” said Pierson, who, at age 64, will record her first solo album in L.A. this winter.

“It’s just nice to feel like you’re in an apartment of your own that has really great decor that isn’t generic and is also in a beautiful natural place.”

Pierson and Nation are self-described “nature enthusiasts” who like to hike with their German shepherds.

“Landers seems like the middle of nowhere, but it’s next to this amazing place called the Integratron (a geodesic tabernacle renown for its acoustics) and Joshua Tree National Park, so it’s very well situated. But it’s also raw desert. You can look outside and there are no other houses, just giant mountains.

Kate s Lazy Desert Vintage Airstream Hotel: Desert Aqua Stripe Lava
‘Airstream Hotel’ at Kate’s Lazy Desert

“You can do the town and get a rock ‘n roll tour in or sit by the fire and play Scrabble and watch a horror movie,” added Pierson, who plans to stock Kate’s Lazy Desert with B horror movies just as she did Kate’s Lazy Meadow in upstate New York.

Eventually, Pierson hopes to expand her hotel sensibility to a city, most likely Palm Springs. “We’re just looking for an investor. If Mr. Marriott wants to invest, he can contact us.”

Details

Kate’s Lazy Desert Airstream Motel

Address: 58380 Botkin Road, Landers, CA 92285

Location: 17 miles north of Yucca Valley, off State Route 247 (Old Woman Springs Road)

Phone: (845) 688-7200

Website: lazymeadow.com

Worth Pondering…

The trail is the thing, not the end of the trail. Travel too fast and you miss all you are traveling for.
—Louis L’Amour

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