'Airstream.' The very name conjures an iconic image, because it's the most widely recognized brand of travel trailer ever made.
That's how I ended up with one as my first vintage trailer. I knew nothing about vintage trailers except that name, and neither did Mr. Ed (hubby dearest), who gave me the 1972 Airstream Sovereign Land Yacht, above, as a Valentine's Day present in 2006. He purchased it as an estate item, parked alongside the road, from the son of the man who'd traveled and lived in it for quite some time. It had been sitting empty--uncleaned, unused, unsheltered, and unmaintained, for five years.
The fact that Mr. Ed got this 31-foot classic trailer for $2,500 probably tells you that by 2006, her days of grandeur were long behind her. Her built-in living room furniture was shot, and so was the carpeting, thanks to slow, chronic leaks that had never been addressed. The awning fabric was torn and tattered. Her drapes were gone and her fridge didn't work. Her tires were old and needed replacing. The plumbing was just plain scary. Her north side came with its very own moss colony.
Not to mention, every interior surface was coated with a combination of cooking grease and the grime of 'lived-in.' I ended up scrubbing every square inch with a toothbrush (many toothbrushes). The crud was impervious to common household cleansers, but I finally got rid of it by using Excalibur Sheath Cleaner. Horse people will know what this concoction is for--I'll spare everyone else that detail.
Today, she's still nothing fancy. She'll probably never be material for trailer-rally-with-awards (unless there's a first place for funky). She has a painted floor, thrift-store furnishings, off-the-rack curtains, and a dorm fridge to fill in for the original one that still doesn't work. But she's clean, dry at last, super cozy, and makes an excellent portable cabin. That is how we use her, by setting her up in one place for extended periods.
Blessedly, the air conditioner still works like a champ, and so does the furnace. We sometimes use a mini-electric fireplace with faux flame for a little extra atmosphere. The original fridge and freezer have been repurposed as pantry space.
For half the year, we keep the trailer in a mild-winter area of Idaho named for a native American chief, White Bird. Whereas you might see cowboy boots and tooled belts as decor in my other trailers, the Airstream has moccasins and other beaded items.
Conflict with the U.S. Army also marks the history of White Bird, as do a series of plucky, independent pioneer women. The Airstream's center cabin pays homage to both. The vest on the wall, with Indian warrior and cavalry trooper, came from my closet at home. The cowgirl images are framed calendar pages.
This Airstream model has a rear bath with a nice, big window--the better to see the view! In winter, the Salmon River. In summer, forested mountains. (Easy to come by in Idaho.)
Beyond an incredible amount of elbow grease and leak-sleuthing/stopping, our two main investments in this trailer have been for tires; and replacement of the old awning fabric. Combined, those improvements cost about $2K. The tires were necessary and replaced right away; it took until this spring for the awning to make it up to the top of the discretionary-spending list. I do have to say, it's great to have use of the awning again. At 20 feet, it adds a large outdoor room to the entire setup, and the shade factor is enormous, in more ways than one.
I've learned a lot about this trailer since getting it, and a lot more about vintage trailers in general. As complete novices, we had no idea what we were getting for that initial $2,500.
It turned out to be more than enough.