Editor’s note: When Airstream asked me to try out their new Special Edition Tommy Bahama Travel Trailer, it sounded interesting. They had staged it at Ranco Oso, the RV camping ranch bordering on the Los Padres National Forest and the Santa Ynez River, in the mountains about a half-hour north of Santa Barbara. However, I couldn’t make the dates work so I asked my daughter, Amy, if she, her husband and twin boys wanted to go in my place and then write about it. They were thrilled with the opportunity and loved ever minute of it. Below is Amy’s story. And that quote above? It is from Wallace (Wally) Merle Byam, who invented the Airstream in the late 1920s. — Tim Lappen
I like to fancy myself a bit of a nomad and connoisseur of home experiences. That’s my way of pretending my life isn’t filled with rushing to stay on schedule, piano practice, and wiping noses. But, this self-image isn’t entirely fabricated. It does have its roots in some truth and actual history.
In my youth (aka “pre-kid”) days. I made homes in Santa Monica (sometimes camping in my parents’ backyard), Berkeley (running the gamut from sorority, to clothing-optional co-ops, and dorms), Santa Cruz (a friend’s loft, and shared homes), and Oregon (a hot springs community in the woods, living in an aptly named trailer, The Tiny Tin Temple). The soundtrack for these time periods was Cat Stevens, Ani DiFranco, and Hindu chants.
I also “homed” on a ship, circumnavigating the globe as an undergraduate student on Semester at Sea, and again as the ship psychologist—supporting students throughout their voyage on the floating university. Liz Phair, and later, various hip hop artists, accompanied me.
I have lived in an apartmento by the sea in Salvador, Brazil, where Samba tunes played through pink morning skies. And, in a mountainous, rural village outside of Oaxaca, Mexico, where my alarm clock was replaced by free-roaming roosters and muchachos honing their ranchero music skills.
Additionally, Vicksburg was our place of residence, where we didn’t venture out much because as soon as we were feeling courageous, a neighbor would invariably remark, “they were out front shooting at each other again.” And, in Clinton, Mississippi, our neighbors didn’t say much except for “chirp,” because, well, they were mostly crickets. The soundtrack here was Willie Nelson, and Jason Aldean (especially Green Tractor).
Now I am a homeowner myself, and live a relatively stable life as an adjunct professor and a psychologist in private practice. My roommates are my two 5-year-old boys and my husband who works in game development. We listen to all songs Rafi, Annie and Sound of Music.
So, unfortunately, the opportunities for adventure and home sampling are sparse. That said, fortuitously, we have an “inside connection” with someone (ok, it’s my dad) who writes for luxury car magazines and the like.
When he mentioned the Airstream Experience, I leapt at the possibility of reliving my glory days. My mind was filled with visions of passing the torch—how we would begin to instill the sense of love for adventure, movement and spontaneity!
“This Airstream Special Edition Tommy Bahama Travel Trailer was inspired by a commitment to comfort, style, and American craftsmanship, and pays tribute to the great American weekend, time spent with family and friends, and the spirit of adventure…designed for those with mutual appreciation for freedom, comfort, style and relaxation.” Comfort? Check. Style? Oh, yeah. Spirit of adventure? Yes, please!
I pictured myself, relaxing, maybe in a hammock, with succulents and other requisite California landscape elements surrounding. We’d probably be wearing cowboy boots and checkered shirts, and holding marshmallow roasting sticks in one hand, and blue-speckled camping mugs with log-warmed cocoa in the other. I most certainly would have my Nikon to document. And, there would be some sort of vibrant, woven blanket to sit on, while someone strummed the guitar. The soundtrack here, would be James Taylor—Sweet Baby James, Oh Susana, Gone to Carolina, How Sweet it Is to Be Loved By You. Maybe, we’d have some Beatles sprinkled in, for variety. “No one” would be screaming, or hitting. There would be no thrown puzzle pieces, and most certainly no one would be stepping on a tiny Lego, barefooted, for example.
Surprisingly, the Tommy Bahama Airstream experience turned out to be even more perfect than I could have imagined.
After several hours of traffic-filled driving North on the 101 from Long Beach, we approach Paradise road, just before losing all GPS/internet, and phone signals. Confident that we were still headed towards paradise, we continued, winding our way through lush, mountainous areas, where boulders and birds were now more plentiful than cars.
Ultimately, we followed the sounds of whinnying horses, and arrived at Rancho Oso. There we were greeted by the kindly Hugh, a once-Englishman and journalist turned ranger. Hugh is immediately engaged and curious about our impending adventure and who, what and how we came to be the next inhabitants of the Tommy Bahama Airstream. After an exchange of basics, we are directed to our site atop designated camping area. Below our tiny and luxurious home for the weekend, sits covered wagon reproductions that serve as sleeping quarters for campers on cots. We make our dinner and retire for the night.
In the morning, the relaxation begins to set-in. We have been “unplugged” for more than 12 hours and our family time (sleeping and eating together without distraction) is already unparalleled. Determined to make the most of the experience, we set about to fully explore inside and outside of the camper.
Inside: we are struck by the amenities: a full-sized bed, a fridge large enough to suit our family of 4 for several days, an excellent speaker system (where we do, in fact, play Jack Johnson, the Beatles, Bob Marley, and various folk and kiddo-friendly tunes). Also, an automatic and retractable shade, a doorbell (which the boys like a little “too much”), shower (with warm water) toilet, two sinks (with warm water), three burner stove, oven, booth seating nook, and plenty of storage for pots, pans, wine glasses, hammocks, and whatever else might complete the ultimate in family or solo comfort and adventure.
Outside, it’s: the pool, the horse rides, the hikes, mini golf, shared campfire, and chats with neighbors and staff. The one thing they have in common is curiosity and shared mystique about the Airstream. What’s it like? How did you wind up here? How can we do the same? Can we come inside? It’s an easy conversation starter and an easy way to connect.
After two nights and three days, I notice how relaxed and uncluttered my mind has become. Simplified space, simplified mind. And, I am wanting more. I begin to wonder when we can purchase a trailer of our own. And, would we continue to do weekend or even week-long trips? Or, could we even become one of those families that “lived off the grid?” Would our city boys get immediately sunburned and mosquito bitten? Would we miss being a constant part of the mix? Do I even remotely have enough patience to pull off some sort of home school (that was an easy and quick “no”)?
In any case, and now with even more certainty, I believe the Airstream continues to represent the best of all worlds—luxury and comfort in a mobile package.
I hope to own an Airstream of my own someday. Until then, I’ll be singing in my dreams.