Archive for November, 2012

Shopping for a “Vintage” Airstream

Thursday, November 29th, 2012

Chapter 4:  The term vintage by definition refers to a season’s yield of grapes or wine from a vineyard. Nowadays, the word vintage seems to describe anything that is not new, but not antique– rather than just saying it’s “used”. Marketing minds prefer the word to make used things sound more desirable or important. Think of boutiques selling Vintage Clothing opposed to Goodwill selling used clothes. The word can mean the difference between you paying 50 bucks for a t-shirt versus five.

Even new stuff is described as vintage when it’s just made to look old. It reminds me of the clothing at Abercrombie & Fitch that my kids wanted me to pay big bucks for because they looked like someone had already worn them for years. My kids were so gullible. But now that I am searching for a used trailer, I find myself telling my friends that I am in the market for a “vintage” Airstream. I guess their mother is gullible too.

When I first start looking at used trailers on-line, the photos of the Airstreams from the 1950’s and 1960’s captivate me. I can feel myself starting to fall in love with their look. Yes, their bodies still had that same aerodynamic bullet shape, but the shine was magnificent on some of the older ones. I’ve learned now that the aluminum back then is different than the aluminum on contemporary Airstreams. When polished, these trailers have a perfect mirror finish. I could imagine the wow factor when you see one of these cruising down the highway. I couldn’t think of anything more romantic than spontaneously hitting the road to some unknown destination towing one of these nostalgic pieces behind. Sometimes, old things are just better. (My answer to trailer trash quiz #3).

So my search for a vintage 50’s or 60’s trailer has begun. We don’t have an Airstream trailer dealership here in Arizona, so I resort once again to the internet. For the past few years I have been diligently fine tuning my on-line shopping skills. Every month, Brian reminds me just how excellent I am getting. My AMEX bill mostly says Amazon, Amazon, and Amazon about 20 more times. However, I claim that Chevron times 6, reduced to Chevron times 3, is a direct result of shopping from home. After I get my Airstream, I’m looking into an electric car so I can break up with Chevron for good.

I wish my vintage Airstream could show up at my door in a cardboard box with the smile logo on it. It would be a very happy day. If only it was as easy as Amazon One-Click. But what’s different about buying a used trailer is that I want to see it in person before I decide. A lot of “things” could have happened to it during its 50 plus years of life. I would imagine that one person’s description of these “things” can be quite different from another’s.

The first places I start looking for a vintage Airstream seem very promising. As I had guessed, there are plenty of used Airstreams out there.

Unfortunately, every time I think I’ve spotted something, it turns out to be 2000 miles away. So this is not going to be as easy as I had hoped. No instant gratification here. I map out in my mind what my shopping radius is. This transaction is likely to require two trips. One to go look at the trailer and make sure that I can live with all its “things”, and a second to go back and pick it up. Maybe there will be a nice seller (who is not a scam artist) that is willing to deliver it. I have seen several ads on Craig’s List where the seller is “regretfully” willing to part with a photo perfect trailer- at a very cheap price AND is gladly willing to deliver it to you free of charge. THIS IS A SCAM. Believe me. Just try contacting them. They will only communicate via email- they won’t talk on the phone. If you say you will meet them to see the trailer- they will say they’ve already left town. They will say the trailer is stored safely somewhere ready to be shipped to you- free of charge once you pay them. You can pay them by Pay Pal or even through a “pre-arranged deal through Amazon”. (I hate that they drag Amazon into their dirty trick). If you insist on not conducting business this way, they will stop communicating and move on to the next sucker.

So I keep on searching, avoiding scams, and waiting for my vintage trailer to surface within a reasonable driving distance. I have my shopping radius drawn, and, my over-night bag packed– just in case.

Trailer Trash Quiz #4

Why do YOU like to shop on-line?

a. The shopping cart never gets full and I don’t have to push it.

b. People selling things on-line want to be your friend. It’s better than Facebook.

c. My UPS man is HOT!

d. Once you’re a regular, it’s like Christmas everyday- especially when you forgot what you ordered!

e. Other. (Enter your answer in the reply box below)

See my answer on the next post. Until then…..

Airstream Sticker Shock

Sunday, November 25th, 2012

Chapter 3: And I was complaining about how expensive my memory foam mattress was… I was also bragging that when I want to buy something, I do. I officially take back that statement, in its entirety. A new Airstream trailer is NOT something you just put on your American Express card. Not even the smallest, entry level model. Nope. I also bragged that AMEX loves me—they don’t love me that much. So funding my new trailer fetish was going to take some creativity. Thank goodness for the folks down at the credit union— let’s hope they are feeling the love more than AMEX. (My answer to trailer trash quiz #2).

On a more serious note, the original purpose for this blog was to share knowledge as well as experience. So this seems like a good time to include some practical information that I am finding along this journey. The first bit I want to share is about travel trailer financing. If you’re like me and one of your general principles in life is to never get closer to a banker than the ATM machine, you may find this helpful (unless those crooks changed the fine print since).

Travel trailer financing:

  1. Financing can be found for up to 90% of the trailer value. (10% down payment)
  2. Financing is available for both new and used trailers.
  3. There are both fixed rate loans and variable rate loans offered for trailers.
  4. Most lenders, of course, will require proof of income and credit information.
  5. You can find financing for up to 20 years, but sometimes after a certain time period, i.e. 12 years, the loan could result in a balloon payment. Make sure you understand the terms.
  6. You can finance a travel trailer sold to you by either a private party or a dealer.
  7. If you buy the trailer from an individual, some banks may require you to complete the sale at the bank so that they can inspect the trailer before dispersing the funds.
  8. There are banks that do not charge an early pay-off penalty, make sure to ask.
  9. Travel trailer financing can qualify for the second home interest income tax deduction- be sure to ask your tax consultant.
  10. Some lenders are completely on-line. They claim to be easy and quick. I have no comment.
  11. Before making an appointment with a local lender, it is still wise to go on-line and see what other nationwide lenders are offering for the best rates and terms.
  12. If you are buying the trailer through a dealer, check with their financing department also. Some dealerships get “bulk” discounts from major banks and can offer you the financing at a lower rate than the local banks.

I wish you luck.

If the credit union doesn’t like you either, it’s time to look at creative buying. If a brand new trailer is out of the budget, maybe an older one is more practical. The great news is that Airstreams are designed to last more than a lifetime. They were intended to be handed down to the next generation. If your grandparents were cool enough to own an Airstream, then maybe you are the lucky one. If not, then maybe you can buy someone else’s grandma’s trailer. The Airstream Company claims that nearly 60-70 percent of all their trailers ever built are still rolling down the highway today. That means there must be a lot of used Airstreams out there!

Now I start to wonder, how old will my used trailer look? Personally, I think that anything I still own after 10 years needs an extreme make-over. But investigating further, it appears that Airstream still stands by Wally Byam’s motto: “Let’s not make changes, let’s only make improvements.” From what I can tell, the aerodynamic body style hasn’t drastically changed in 80 years. I’m sure all the Airstream cult people who know every detail of the trailers’ evolution may adamantly argue with me here, but for right now, my untrained eye can’t really tell the difference. I see no aesthetic change between one trailer body and another trailer body that is 20 years younger—now wouldn’t that just be marvelous if it applied to people?

I do believe now, that NOT buying a brand new Airstream and towing it off the dealer lot (along with its birth certificate and large bank note) is going to be okay. I know that there is a distant older cousin out there that can be adopted– and will come with a much smaller I.O.U. attached. Brian will be pleased.

Woman seeking used trailer.

Trailer Trash Quiz#3.

What is YOUR best reason to buy a used trailer?

a. Less Guilt. It’s already old and blemished, so I won’t feel as bad making a big dent when backing into a tree.

b. More protection. No one will want to break in. They will assume that everything inside is old too and they simply won’t be interested.

c. Some things are just better with age, like wine.

d. An old trailer will make my old truck look even better.

e. Other. (Enter your answer in the box below)

See my answer on the next post. Until then……

The Airstream Cult

Thursday, November 22nd, 2012

Chapter 2: We were on our way home from tent camping, malodorous and weary from lack of proper sleep. I’m wearing my old favorite DKNY baseball cap. (My answer to trailer trash quiz #1). The moment we had cellular service, I pulled out my iPad and starting Googling travel trailers. Brian will attest, when I am determined to buy something, there is no stopping me. AMEX loves me. My first image search for travel trailers brings up an assortment of these silver-bullet-looking-things. I am intrigued. I click on one of them for a closer look and there it is… an Airstream.

They say that life changing moments are only apparent in retrospect. I didn’t realize it at the time, but typing in that one word, Airstream, on that post-traumatic tent camping day was going to change my life (and Brian’s life too, whether he wanted it to change or not). The word Airstream produced 2,380,000 results in Google. Wow! I had to know what this madness was all about, and I had just been given over two million places to look. So I dove in head first. My life had just changed from Woman Seeking Trailer to Woman Seeking Airstream.

At first glance, I was disturbed that this Airstream trailer group seemed a bit like a cult. Seeing pictures of “caravans” and “rallies”– hundreds of Airstreams gathering together was a bit creepy. Then I find out that there are “Airstream Only” RV parks throughout the country. I wasn’t sure how I felt about exclusionary camping. Aren’t all nature loving campers awesome people? Was it okay to be rejected because you own a Coleman Camper? Some parks even require you to have a WBCCI membership. What’s a WBCCI membership? I had so much more to learn.

I continued to scan the internet and found recent posts like this: “Airstream Owners Club plans its fall adventure…“ Seriously? I’m not a “club” kind of person, at all. I can’t remember being in a “club” since my mother made me join 4H. I don’t play Bridge in a club. I don’t read books in tandem with others. I don’t jog on a fleet of treadmills. I don’t even belong to Sam’s Club. Brian’s love for tennis drew him toward joining a country club, but I scoffed at the idea until he gave up. Join a trailer club? You’ve got to be kidding me. This was pure madness. But my inquiring mind kept me going- wondering why some people would?

Hours of reading later, and at the risk of sounding like an Airstream history lesson here, I will just briefly note what I had learned so far. Flashback to the 1950’s: Wally Byam, who was the inventor of the Airstream (and was also the WB in the WBCCI above), was leading a “club” of Airstream owners all around the world. The Caravans had literally been traveling together through Canada, Mexico, Central America, Europe and even Africa. These little “Made in America” trailers were going global– boldly going where no other trailers had gone before. I was impressed. My attitude toward this “club” and their trailers was beginning to change. Sometimes you just have to embrace the madness.

The one nuance that I was starting to pick up about the Airstream, was that it falls into the same category as baseball, hot dogs and apple pie. Chevrolet move over– or hitch up an Airstream. Like apple pie, the silver-bullet icon screams American culture to a lot of people. The mini living spaces on wheels encouraged people to venture out of their homes and discover new places; form new friendships (i.e. join a club), and make their travel dreams come true. While I was still very opposed to ever joining a club, I did feel myself being pulled along a journey to becoming one of those people who idolizes these little silver things. Cult or not, I am Woman Seeking Airstream.

Trailer Trash Quiz #2.

Why would YOU join a club?

a. I don’t have time to read what happened in chapters 4, 5 and 6, so my book club buddies will be sure to tell me next week.

b. Instead of getting one bottle of fabric softener that will do 16 loads, I get one bottle of fabric softener that will do 220. (I don’t have to worry about fabric softener for the next 3 years!)

c. Clubs can pick and choose their members. Even my credit union doesn’t have to pick you.

d. I can exercise with, socialize with, dine with, dance with, wear the same clothes as, drive the same cars as and comprehensively compete in life with others who are named Jones.

e. Other. (Enter your answer in the box below)

See my answer on the next post. Until then……

Woman Seeking Trailer

Saturday, November 17th, 2012

Chapter 1: (September 1, 2012: How it all began.)  I do not consider myself “old”, but when Brian declared the first morning of tent camping, “I’m getting too old to get up and down off the ground”, I had to do a self-check. If I were being true to myself, I’d have to concede that it wasn’t really that easy anymore to fold and insert myself into the mummified sleeping bag. It wasn’t easy at all to hoist myself up off the ground while hurdling over Brian’s body to get out. And when you add in the extra little detail that our THIRD super-duper, extra expensive, puncture resistant air mattress was completely flat by morning; it made me start to think… Maybe I’m not “old”, but there has to be a better way. So my search for a travel trailer had begun.

Compared to tent camping, owning a travel trailer would be the equivalent of checking into a penthouse suite. The number ONE luxury of said trailer would be a bed suspended above the ground. Easier to enter, easier to exit, AND has a real mattress– filled with foam instead of elusive air. I confess right now that Brian and I are spoiled at home- we sleep on a super-duper, extra expensive memory foam mattress (that required a small mortgage payment to acquire). But next to a blow-up bed, any kind of foam mattress would be a massive improvement. Camping was starting to take on a whole new meaning. So the wish list for my new travel trailer had officially begun. These were my top 5 Must Haves:

#1 Must Have a Super-duper, not so expensive, FOAM mattress. A real mattress with real sheets, goose down duvet and color coordinated designer throw pillows (Brian did not just hear me say this). No more deflated dreams, quadriceps work-outs, and maddening zipper wars. The foam, wrapped in 1000 thread-count, Egyptian cotton sheets would be suspended up off the ground AND it could have storage under it.

#2 Must Have Storage. I admit once again, Brian and I have been spoiled in our home. We have lots of storage, and we have acquired a lot of camping gear over the years. However, this is what packing for a spur-of-the-moment weekend camping trip looks like at our house…

a. Go to the kitchen and select the oldest pots and pans that you don’t mind bringing home covered in campfire soot. Don’t forget pot holders, cooking utensils, strainers, grater, napkins, paper towels, salt/pepper/spices/condiments, something to drink in, something to eat on, something to eat with, something to wrap it all in and something to wash it all in. Don’t forget dish soap, dish sponge, and don’t get me started on all the water we have to remember not to forget.

b. Go into the bathroom and take toilet paper, bath soap, bath towels, hair shampoo, hair conditioner, hair brush, and other miscellaneous toiletries. BIG camping bonus: No make-up required (but I usually end up sneaking it along– you never know who you might meet in the woods).

c. Go into the garage and find all the parts to the tent – especially those parts that you forgot last time. Grab stakes, hammer, sleeping bags, super-duper extra expensive puncture resistant air mattress that is guaranteed to be flat before morning, tent broom, tent lantern, lantern fuel, flashlights, lots of batteries, ice chest, campfire chairs, campfire grill, wood axe, newspapers and matches.

d. Go back into house and grab board games, hangers for toasting marshmallow, pillows (forgot those last time), and travel size glow-in-the-dark clock so I can see how many hours I have left before I can crawl out of the deflated bed.

e. Go in the closet and grab clothes, jacket, and hiking shoes.

f. Go in family room and grab dog beds, and then back into kitchen for dog bowls, dog leashes and dog food.

g. Go to store and buy people food. On the way out of town, buy lots and lots of water, ice, firewood and any of the items above that you couldn’t find at home or forgot to pack.

h. Finally, we’re on the road to find the perfect spot— soon we will be ready to camp after we unpack the car, put up the tent, blow up the bed, set-up the “camp kitchen” and start the camp fire.

The ability to store our things in my new travel trailer would clearly save me from having to execute tasks A thru D above, and would also save me from forgetting items listed in A thru D above. Even some items in E thru G could permanently stay in my trailer. Camp packing, unpacking and setting-up would be so much simpler. The spur-of-the-moment camping weekends would be so much more frequent, if only…

#3 Must Have A Place for Calgon to Take Me Away. Maybe this is a sign that I am getting older (and if you remember the slogan “Calgon Take Me Away” chances are you are getting older too, by the way) but gone are the days when I thought “roughing it” was cool and having unwashed, smoke smelling, leaf infested camp hair for the entire weekend was okay. It is not okay. And camp toilets (either free-style in the woods or formaldehyde smelling Porta-Potties) are just plain shitty. This is the crappy part of camping that might keep me at home if I don’t find my trailer soon. What I need is a hot shower and a clean lavatory where strong quadriceps are not required.

#4 Must Have a Culinary Prep Station. Don’t get me wrong, I love to eat food cooked outdoors. Brian cooks most of our main dishes on the grill at home. But what I am beginning to hate as much as smelly camp hair is the whole awkward outdoor food handling charade. Picture me sitting on a tree stump, slicing veggies on my lap (forgot the cutting board), trying to rinse from a gallon jug of water, repeatedly dropping the roll of paper towels on the ground. I like to prepare meals, but not like this. I want to gracefully toss a salad, sauté fresh veggies, and bake dishes like scalloped potatoes made from scratch. In the morning, I want to make toast and scramble eggs. I want to fry sausages without having to first catch them floating in the cooler of melted ice. I want food that is both cold and dry. I want to wash the greasy sausage pan afterwards in HOT soapy water. So what I really need is a refrigerator, stove, sink with hot running water, and counter space. It has to get better- I just can’t resort to canned meals. I am definitely old enough to remember Spam, and I would rather stay home.

#5 Must Have Climate Control. I know that controlling anything in the great outdoor is the antithesis of camping. Appreciating everything that nature has to offer is the primary reason to go camping. But when a sudden rain storm approaches and Brian, two soggy dogs and I dash for cover in the tent, everything– including our ground level bed– is promptly a muddy mess. Why do dogs always go straight for your bed anyways? We’re huddled inside, which has the potential to be quite romantic, but the wine and cheese are outside in the cooler– way over there, and non-citronella candles were not on the pack list. The box of Scrabble is now a pond; the paper towels are still outside on the ground, and the two wet dogs are perched on my pillow. Damp and un-swooned, we wait until the weather clears up so we can be released from detention. Rain or shine, a little climate control would be nice. When the sun is blazing, vented ceiling fans would help keep a trailer cool. When the temperature drops, a propane heater would keep it nice and toasty. Call me crazy, but I do enjoy reading in bed at night and not seeing my breath. A little climate control? You bet I want it.

So, I was Woman Seeking Trailer. I had just begun my search and a whole new domain I never knew existed was about to unfold before me. Miranda Lambert and I may have totally different reasons for wanting a trailer, but I was determined to get one too!

Trailer Trash Quiz #1:

What’s the best way that YOU deal with “camp hair”?

a. I wear a lot of cutesy hair accessories that outperform the camp hair. Scrunchies rock!

b. I make several braids. At least 50. I like to let my inner Bo Derek shine!

c. Where do broken wigs go? I bring them camping of course! Most are even fire retardant.

d. Hats.

e. Other. (Enter your answer in the box below)

See my answer on the next post. Until then……

About the Author

After searching for the perfect travel trailer to make camping experiences more enjoyable, I discovered the world of Airstreams. I’m not only learning a lot about Airstreams, but I’m learning a lot about myself, my relationships, and how an aluminum trailer added into the mix can change your life.