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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The Joys of Retro RVs

In a day where many recreational vehicles can easily cost six-figures and measure 40-feet or more, some people are returning to basics resulting in the retro RV trend gaining momentum.

The 1961 Shasta trailer, formerly owned by Kelle Arvay of LittleVintageTrailer.com, was nicknamed 'Buttercup.' (Credit: Courtesy of Kelle Arvay/LittleVintageTrailer.com)
The 1961 Shasta trailer, formerly owned by Kelle Arvay of LittleVintageTrailer.com, was nicknamed ‘Buttercup.’ (Credit: Courtesy of Kelle Arvay/LittleVintageTrailer.com)

Numerous vintage trailers, Airstreams, and other retro RVs have been featured in Vogel Talks RVing.

The retro RV is making a strong comeback. RVers young and old are investing in either fixing up retro RVs or buying them used. Others are renting a retro RV or staying in a retro at an RV park featuring retro RV rentals.

Some older models, like the Airstream, last for decades. Some Airstream owners have been using their trailer for over four decades.

The Airstream has made a major comeback in recent years—and whether the comeback has fueled a vintage trailer trend or it’s the other way around, one thing is certain: It has become easy to rent a retro trailer for a weekend or extended vacation, whether it’s an Airstream, a teardrop trailer, or retro RV.

Life on the road can be enjoyed in a retro RV in one of four ways:

Restore a retro RV

Depending on your time investment and budget, restoring a RV can be one of the most exciting and adventurous projects you and your family take on. When restoring a RV, you can work on a project-by-project basis. You’ll find locating parts that you need might be a little bit harder than you anticipated, but they’re out there. When tackling a project one-by-one, you can move towards the overall goal of fully restoring a RV to its former glory and then hitting the road.

Buy a retro RV

Flyte Camp retored this 1950 Traveleze vintage travel trailer. (Credit: flytecamp.com)
Flyte Camp retored this 1950 Traveleze vintage travel trailer. (Credit: flytecamp.com)

Restoring vintage trailers is not for the fainthearted. That’s one reason full-service restoration shops such as Flyte Camp are in high demand.

Rescued from curbsides and junkyards, castaway classic campers are getting a new life at Retro Trailer Design.

Custom vintage trailer restorations are also a specialty at Russian River Vintage Travel Trailers; visitors are welcome to view the vintage trailers under restoration as well as admire finished trailers available for sale to the public.

Buy a new RV with a retro flair

Several manufacturers are producing brand new models of travel trailers with retro flair, exposing today’s consumers and their families to unique recreational experiences that create or help to relive a lifetime of memories.

Paradise Coast RV is a manufacturer of brand new models of travel trailers all modeled after the 1940′s, 50′s, and 60′s.

The Dub Box is a fun and creative retro camper with a new twist. The initial design was born from the American vintage trailer, merged with retro styling, and infused with modern conveniences for style and comfort.

Dub Box is a customizable camper manufactured in Oregon. (Source: Dub Box USA)
Dub Box is a customizable camper manufactured in Oregon. (Source: Dub Box USA)

Popular from the 1930s to the ’60s, teardrop trailers are 4 to 6 feet wide, 8 to 10 feet long, and light enough that you can park your car, unhook the trailer, and just pull it into place.

These trailers are making a big comeback now, so much so that teardrop manufacturers are springing up across the country. One such company, Tiny Trailer, offers a single teardrop design that sports the retro look of the 1940s paired with 21st century amenities — a micro-heater, forced-air ventilation, electric lights, and weather-proofing — all handcrafted from modern lightweight, durable materials.

Rent a retro RV

You don’t need to drive a motorhome, travel trailer, or fifth wheel to enjoy the RV park experience.

Ready-to-rent on-site Airstreams are also popping up in a variety of campgrounds. The Autocamp, Santa Barbara’s “boutique Airstream lodging” concept— a downtown pod of five handcrafted fully decked-out vintage trailers— is expanding to San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Ventura Beach this year.

Shooting Star Drive-In & Airstream Resort
Shooting Star Drive-In & Airstream Resort

The Shooting Star Drive-In Airstream and RV Park is a one-of-a-kind resort along Utah’s Highway 12 where travelers can stay in restored Airstream travel trailers and sit in vintage convertible cars while they watch a drive-in movie.

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.

Whether you currently own a retro RV, searching for the perfect one, or just discovering the wonderful world of vintage trailers, The Little Vintage Trailer website may help you to find your own happiness in a retro RV.

Worth Pondering…

One of the great things about travel is that you find out how many good, kind people there are.

—Edith Wharton

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Airstream Mystique

Airstream, manufacturer of the iconic “silver bullet” travel trailer, is the oldest and most recognized recreational vehicle manufacturer in North America.

Shooting Star Drive-In & Airstream Resort
Shooting Star Drive-In & Airstream Resort

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

When Airstream began, there were less than 48 trailer manufacturers that were registered for business. Five years later, nearly 400 companies squared off against each other. Today of those 400 companies, only Airstream remains.

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.

In earlier posts on vogeltalksrving.com, we have discussed the Airstream mystique, unique uses, and commercial applications of the “silver bullet” in such diverse stories as Pushing the Airstream Boundaries and Airstream Goes Posh.

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

It was a commitment to be part of a lifestyle enjoyed by many and envied by many others.

Shooting Star Drive-In & Airstream Resort
Shooting Star Drive-In & Airstream Resort

Until now, there’d been no way to rent an Airstream to live this fantasy.

Enter Airstream hotels and motels as an alternative to owning the dream.

Hotels around the world are making happy campers by capitalizing on the retro-romantic image of Airstream trailers.

In this two-part series we’ll introduce some of America’s coolest Airstream motels, including B-52s singer Kate Pierson’s Kate’s Lazy Desert in Landers, California, which offers six restored units with psychedelic ’60s-inspired décor.

Shooting Star RV Resort 

The Shooting Star Drive-In Airstream and RV Park is the marriage of two iconic symbols of freedom and adventure on American highways.

Nestled between Capitol Reef and Bryce Canyon National Parks, Utah Scenic Byway 12 is located in one of the most beautiful places on earth.

This All-American Road which winds its way 124 miles from Panguitch to Torrey has dozens of natural attractions from alpine forests and ancient sea beds to pink rock turrets.

The Shooting Star Drive-In Airstream and RV Park features 360-degree views of the Grand Staircase, the Escalante Mountains, and Dixie National Forest.

It’s a one-of-a-kind resort along Utah’s Highway 12 where travelers can stay in one of eight shiny, custom-designed Airstreams restored Airstream travel trailers and sit in vintage convertible cars while they watch a drive-in movie.

Cowboy hopefuls should saddle on up to The Duke, a 31-foot trailer John Wayne used on the set of The Searchers. It’s outfitted with Western décor, leather furniture, and pony fur. There’s also a drive-in movie theater onsite—1960s convertibles included.

There you’ll also find 18 long, pull-through sites with 20/30/50-amp power, water, and picnic tables. Nine sites have a sewer connection and an easily accessible dump station is also available.

Shooting Star Drive-In & Airstream Resort
Shooting Star Drive-In & Airstream Resort

In an earlier post on vogeltalksrving.com, we introduced Shooting Star Drive-In Airstream and RV Park in the story, Two Iconic Symbols Merge: Vintage Airstreams & Drive-In Theater.

Address: 2020 West Highway 12, PO Box 290, Escalante, UT 84726

Phone: (435) 826-4440

Website: www.shootingstardrive-in.com

Please Note: This Part 1 of a 2-part series on the Airstream mystique and Airstream motels

Part 2: America’s Cool Airstream Motels

Worth Pondering…

I saw a peanut stand, heard a rubber band,
I saw a needle that winked its eye.
But I think I will have seen everything
When I see an Airstream fly.

—music and lyrics by Oliver Wallace and Ned Washington, in Dumbo

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More Parks with Creative Accommodations

You don’t need to drive a recreational vehicle to enjoy the RV resort experience.

Kate s Lazy Desert Vintage Airstream Hotel: Yellow Stripe Hairstream
Kate s Lazy Desert Vintage Airstream Hotel: Yellow Stripe Hairstream

Just mix one or more icon symbols of freedom and adventure on American highways with a creative mind. Add in a generous helping of awe-inspiring scenery, and you have a man-made curiosity and a one-of-a-kind resort.

In today’s post I report on two such resorts—an Airstream motel and Drive-in Airstream and RV park.

Kate’s Lazy Desert Airstream Motel

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

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, 2012.

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 Airstream Motel is located 17 miles north of Yucca Valley (California), off State Route 247 (Old Woman Springs Road).

For additional information and details on Kate’s Lazy Desert Airstream Motel, click here.

Shooting Star Drive-In Airstream and RV Park

Shooting Star Drive-In Airstream and RV Park
Shooting Star Drive-In Airstream and RV Park

Nestled between Capitol Reef and Bryce Canyon National Parks, Utah Scenic Byway 12 is located in one of the most beautiful places on earth.

This All-American Road which winds its way 124 miles from Panguitch to Torrey has dozens of natural attractions from alpine forests and ancient sea beds to pink rock turrets.

But this awe-inspiring scenic byway also boasts a relatively new man-made curiosity—The Shooting Star Drive-In Airstream and RV Park.

It’s a one-of-a-kind resort that combines Airstream travel trailers and vintage convertible cars with a drive-in movie theater.

Owner Mark Gudenas, a Chicago native, opened the resort about a year ago on 25 acres just west of Escalante.

The main attraction is the eight restored vintage Airstream trailers that guests can rent starting at $149 a night. There are seven vintage convertibles where travelers can sit and watch an old-time movie on a large outdoor screen.

The resort also has its own full-service RV Park.

A movie buff for as long as he can remember, Gudenas decorated the Airstreams in a manner he thinks John Wayne, Marilyn Monroe, or Robert Redford would have liked when they were filming on location in Utah.

The Shooting Star Drive-In Airstream & RV Park features 360-degree views of the Grand Staircase, the Escalante Mountains and Dixie National Forest.
The Shooting Star Drive-In Airstream & RV Park features 360-degree views of the Grand Staircase, the Escalante Mountains and Dixie National Forest.

Each trailer has a kitchen, a tiny bathroom, beds, satellite radio and television as well as a wooden deck with Adirondack chairs and a propane grill. Gudenas even sells ready-to-cook packs of steak, salmon, chicken, brats, or hamburgers so his guests don’t have to hunt for the grocery store.

The Shooting Star Drive-In Airstream & RV Park features 360-degree views of the Grand Staircase, the Escalante Mountains, and Dixie National Forest.

It’s a one-of-a-kind resort along Utah’s Highway 12 where travelers can stay in restored Airstream travel trailers and sit in vintage convertible cars while they watch a drive-in movie.

There you’ll find 18 long, pull-through sites with 20/30/50-amp power, water, and picnic tables. Nine sites have a sewer connection and an easily accessible dump station is also available.

For additional information and details on Shooting Star Drive-In Airstream and RV Park, click here.

Please Note: This is Part 2 of a 2-part series

Part 1: Good Sam RV Parks with Creative Accommodations

Worth Pondering…

There is nothing like a dream to create the future.

—Victor Hugo

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Two Iconic Symbols Merge: Vintage Airstreams & Drive-In Theater

The Shooting Star Drive-In Airstream and RV Park is the marriage of two iconic symbols of freedom and adventure on American highways.

The Shooting Star Drive-In Airstream Hotel features eight custom-designed Airstreams as luxury accommodations. (Source: shootingstardrive-in.com)

Nestled between Capitol Reef and Bryce Canyon National Parks, Utah Scenic Byway 12 is located in one of the most beautiful places on earth.

This All-American Road which winds its way 124 miles from Panguitch to Torrey has dozens of natural attractions from alpine forests and ancient sea beds to pink rock turrets.

But this awe-inspiring scenic byway also boasts a relatively new man-made curiosity—The Shooting Star Drive-In.

It’s a one-of-a-kind resort that combines Airstream travel trailers and vintage convertible cars with a drive-in movie theater, reports The Salt Lake Tribune.

Owner Mark Gudenas, a Chicago native, opened the resort about a year ago on 25 acres just west of Escalante.

The main attraction is the eight restored vintage Airstream trailers that guests can rent starting at $149 a night. There are seven vintage convertibles where travelers can sit and watch an old-time movie on a large outdoor screen.

The resort also has its own full-service RV Park.

Indy's Retreat offers a respite from the action that Harrison Ford faced while shooting Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. (Source: shootingstardrive-in.com)

A movie buff for as long as he can remember, Gudenas decorated the Airstreams in a manner he thinks John Wayne, Marilyn Monroe, or Robert Redford would have liked when they were filming on location in Utah.

Each trailer has a kitchen, a tiny bathroom, beds, satellite radio and television as well as a wooden deck with Adirondack chairs and a propane grill. Gudenas even sells ready-to-cook packs of steak, salmon, chicken, brats, or hamburgers so his guests don’t have to hunt for the grocery store.

Gudenas is easy to spot: He wears 1950s-type bowling shirts—a style he adopted long before Charlie Sheen made them famous on “Two and a Half Men”—and a straw porkpie hat. He delivers dinner and breakfast on a vintage 1966 bright yellow electric golf cart.

Gudenas, who operates the facility with his son, said one of his first memories as a child was watching “The Bridge on the River Kwai” in the backseat of his parents’ Ford Fairlane at a double drive-in movie theater.

Shooting Star Drive-In Retreat. (Source: shootingstardrive-in.com)

During his youth, he returned to the drive-in many times: He hopped the fence and pulled the speaker off the post before he was shooed away. He also remembers going in his first car, a 1966 Mustang, The Salt Lake Tribune reports.

About eight years ago, Gudenas began collecting Airstream trailers—as well as the vintage convertibles—from all over the country.

The Shooting Star Drive-In is the marriage of “two iconic symbols of freedom and adventure on American highways,” he said.

“Then there was the fun and unique adventure of a drive-in movie theater. So I built all of them and put them together.”

He searched all over southern Utah for the right place to build the resort, looking in Springdale, Kanab, Moab, and Panguitch and eventually settling on an RV park in Escalante.

“It had to be just right,” he said. The town of Escalante is almost exactly in the middle of the 124-mile stretch of Highway 12, making it a good home base to explore the recreational areas in either direction.

It took him nine months to build the resort, doing most of the renovations himself.

Details

Shooting Star Drive-In Airstream & RV Park

The Shooting Star Drive-In Airstream & RV Park features 360-degree views of the Grand Staircase, the Escalante Mountains and Dixie National Forest.

It’s a one-of-a-kind resort along Utah’s Highway 12 where travelers can stay in restored Airstream travel trailers and sit in vintage convertible cars while they watch a drive-in movie.

There you’ll find 18 long, pull-through sites with 20/30/50-amp power, water, and picnic tables. Nine sites have a sewer connection and an easily accessible dump station is also available.

The Shooting Star Drive-In Airstream & RV Park features 360-degree views of the Grand Staircase, the Escalante Mountains and Dixie National Forest. (Source: shootingstardrive-in.com)

The 2,400-seat Pavilion in the Oaks is furnished with tables and seating for 36. The Pavilion is illuminated and great for Rally dining and gatherings.

When the sun goes down, enjoy a campfire in the river rock fire ring, or stroll west to the Shooting Star Drive-In and enjoy the evening’s entertainment up on the big screen.

The Resort Store features a wide assortment of food, beverages, and sundries. Located indoors, adjacent to the store, is a full bath and shower for guests. A wash and fold laundry service is also available.

Trailer Rental: Airstream trailers can be rented starting at $149 per night

RV Rental: Full hook-up sites, $40; power/water sites, $30

Address: 2020 West Highway 12, Post Office Box 290, Escalante, UT 84726

Phone: (435) 826-4440

Website: shootingstardrive-in.com

Worth Pondering…

Airstream trailer history

The distinctive-looking Airstream trailer dates to 1929, when Wally Byam purchased a Model T Ford chassis, built a platform on it and then erected a tent on it. His wife, Marion, refused to go camping without a kitchen, so he built a teardrop-shaped shelter that enclosed a small ice chest and kerosene stove. He published an article on “How to Build a Trailer for One Hundred Dollars” and sold 15,000 detailed instruction plans. After several friends asked him to make them trailers in his backyard, the Airstream Trailer Company went into full production in 1932. Airstream is credited with the first holding tank, ladder frame, pressurized water system and, in 1957, the first fully self-contained travel trailer.

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