Why Airstreaming beats air travel

I forget sometimes how nice we have it, traveling by Airstream all over North America. This week I have a trip designed to remind me, traveling to Europe by jet and staying in hotels like the 97.5% of Americans who don’t own some sort of recreational vehicle.

Eleanor and I finally got off the ground last night at 11:30 PM, launching in to the dark air above the Atlantic with a few hundred other souls in a vast Lufthansa 747, an hour late and already feeling a bit lagged by travel.

We had driven 300 miles from northern Vermont to get this direct flight to Frankfurt, and the last 50 miles were a nerve-jangling stress test of New Jersey and New York traffic. Then there was the drop-off of the car into the unfamiliar hands of a nearby hotel valet, the rattling shuttle ride to JFK, and the giant ongoing strip show orchestrated by the TSA. We had an unsatisfactory bite of airport food and then milled into a final processing line before struggling to fit our small carry-on bags aboard. So by the time we got flying we were already feeling the traditional stress of air travel. We took a picture of ourselves sitting in row 42 and hoped we’d survive until morning.

Lufthansa made sure that sleeping was difficult, with lots of announcements, dinner at midnight, and a sketchy breakfast at 4 a.m. We didn’t get much sleep, perhaps an hour total in the seven hours of flight time, but I had anticipated this and was mentally prepared for the next steps: Passport Control, Baggage Claim, Rental Car pickup, and finally navigating off the airport property and onward via the rather exciting Autobahn to nearby Mainz.

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The fun wasn’t over yet. The hotel I chose is in the downtown area. Naturally, parking was another huge challenge, involving multiple trips around the block on narrow one-way streets, reading signs in German, and finally squeezing into an underground garage. Then we hauled our bags up two flights of stairs and two blocks to the hotel, where we finally, gratefully, stopped moving for a while.

It is a testament to both Eleanor’s and my self-control that we managed all this with virtually no sleep and did not at any point lose our cool. We changed clothes, took showers, had a snack of strawberries and pastries that we had picked up along the drive from Frankfurt, and then I slept for an hour. After all this, I felt groggy but functional, and Eleanor seemed to be in her very best “duck” mode, letting all of the stresses of the previous 24 hours slide off as if they never happened. I call that success.

I find it ironic that people who do this sort of traveling routinely will claim that towing a trailer, learning to back it into a campsite, and dumping the holding tanks is somehow too much work. If my Airstream could cross the Atlantic at 600 MPH I’d never step on a jet again.

Having whined all of that, I will now say that we are already having a good time. Sleep will be nice tonight, but even without much of that we had a pleasant walk across the historic district of Mainz, past the impressive cathedrals and the Gutenburg Museum, through the shopping district, and finally to a little restaurant for dinner outside and some people-watching. And the strawberries that Eleanor picked up at a roadside farm stand were spectacular.

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I have been mildly zapped by technology issues. I bought two SIM cards for the iPhone 5, one for cheap voice calls to the USA, and the other for cheap Internet. The Internet card is defective and I can’t get a replacement quickly from the shmucks who sold it to me, so I am relying entirely on hotel wifi to post the blog and check in with the rest of the Airstream Life/R&B Events staff.

This is going to become a problem for the next three days, since we will be staying in a borrowed Airstream (hence no hotel wifi). I’m working on a solution for that, but the blog might get quiet for a day or two if I’m not successful tomorrow. But in any case I’ll write the entries and post them (backdated) when I can.

About the Author

Editor & Publisher of Airstream Life magazine