Project Vintage Thunder

The latest on Project Vintage Thunder, by Airstream Life magazine. Sponsored by George M Sutton RV, Reese hitch, Dometic USA, PPG Paint, Axis Products, GSM Vehicles, and Zip-Dee. Vintage Thunder is an "honest" RV refurbishment and travelogue. We tell you what really happens ...

Wednesday, October 12, 2005


One of my favorite blogs right now is "The Adventures of Tioga and George" at . George is a hard-core RV traveler who, with his trusty class C (Ms. Tioga) and a "team" of other equipment, roams the western states. George's major claim is that he never stays in campgrounds (well, hardly ever). Instead, he makes camp at roadside parking lots, hidden turn-outs, industrial parks, repair shops, and virtually anywhere else that he thinks he can park overnight.

For all his quirkiness, George has captured the spirit of the way Airstreaming used to be, back in the 1950s. Airstream manuals from the 1960s to present day contain some variation on this statement:

"You'll learn the knack of finding wonderful out-of-the-way parking spots in fields, filling stations and just about anywhere that the ground is level and firm." Back in the 1950s, campgrounds were scarce and it was common practice to find a parking spot in any convenient spot, for overnight stays.

Today we live in a more crowded world and it is correspondingly more difficult to find quiet, safe spots to sleep. We are supposed to stay in commercial campgrounds. But a lot of us who are traveling through find the campground experience to be annoying, with lengthy and invasive check-in procedures ("names and ages of everyone in your party, please, also make and model of your car").

Besides, we have no interest in "camping" when are staying for one night -- we're just PARKING. I don't use the mini golf, the swimming pool, the fire ring, or even the water hookup when I'm just passing through. Little wonder Wal-Mart, Camping World, K-Mart, Flying J, and other businesses who welcome overnight RV parkers are finding such popularity.

In our more complex world, George still manages to find his free night camping spots and enjoy them, by staying below the radar of society. His blog tells it all. He calls it "vagabonding."

As we have matured in our traveling sophistication, we too have started to learn how to skirt the traditional and often irritating campground infrastructure. Our version of vagabonding is to courtesy-park wherever we can. Fortunately with an Airstream (and a certain amount of gregariousness), that's not so hard.

Basically, we are opportunistic. Our friend Dr. C made it known for some time that we were welcome to visit his driveway in South Bend. When we found a vinyl graphics shop (to put decals on the new trailer) in nearby Mishawaka, a trip was born. We'll stay for free here in the driveway until our mission is complete.

It just so happens that Brad Cornelius, who works on the magazine from time to time, and Comprehensive Communications (distributors of the Internet-in-Motion box I'm using to connect to the Internet right now) are both in the Chicago area. Chicago is only about 90 miles west from here, so guess where we are heading next? Brad can't offer us courtesy parking, but he has researched a Wal-Mart nearby that will welcome us. We'll spend a night or two and move on.

Our next destination is probably Denver. This is not a random choice, either. We have friends and relatives in the Denver area. That means plenty of options for courtesy parking, or at least local tour guides and meals out. It also means money saved for all those night we don't spend in campgrounds, more entertainment, and a better look at the local area. These are some of the things that make full-timing great.

So when we get to California, do you know who we'll look up? George and Ms. Tioga!


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