Airstream Files: How to Launch Your Silver Bullet Dreams

Vintage trailer dreaming.

Vintage trailer dreaming. Or: Bathsheba in a silver bullet.

airstreamHow do you know if an Airstream is right for you?

This is not a question you have asked yourself. You know you want an Airstream. You already know you want to whiz along the highway in your own silver bullet, the landscapes of America standing still while you move move move.

You grew up with grandparents who understood the pleasures of the picnic, for whom the road trip was synonymous with family. You’re nostalgic for a period you have NEVER EVEN LIVED THROUGH.

The Airstream is not a big question mark in your life, it is a giant period and the end of a sentence you haven’t written yet.

Perhaps, like me, you have made a hobby out of scouring other peoples’ Airstream blogs and dreaming about how you would deck out the interior of your own Airstream in a style that nods politely to the era of its birth but moves fashion forward with your favorite textures and colors. Blogs like:

But to identify a longing is one step towards fulfilling it, so today I am putting my own Airstream dreams one step closer to reality. I am taking the knowledge I’ve gathered over a year of reporting on Airstreams for AAA and having some introductory trailer experiences and putting forth a plan to, hopefully, eventually, prettyplease prettyplease, buy my own Airstream.

 Stay overnight in a vintage trailer hotel


Ok, this isn’t actually an Airstream. It’s an 1954 Anderson 315-TB, from the golden age of travel trailers.

My Airstream dreaming began long ago, but it took a turn towards reality last fall, when I stayed with my husband in a retro trailer at , The Vintages, a vintage trailer neighborhood set up in a rather cushy RV park just outside of Dayton, OR.

When it first opened, the park had six vintage trailers, two of them Airstreams. It must be working for them, for the park is now up to twelve, a range of trailers from the heyday of trailer travel in the 1950s up to a 2014 Airstream Atomic Bambi.

My husband and I got a night away from the kids and stayed in the 1954 Anderson 315-TB, one of the larger trailers on the lot and the one with the obvious mid-century modern allure. Plus, it’s within biking distance of one of the cutest old-timey small towns in Oregon, Dayton.

Okay, an Anderson is not an Airstream, you say. I get it. But It was a first step, one that had all of the characteristics of classic travel trailers — life gloriously laid out in a small, moveable space.


Indulging me, as usual. He doesn’t care to be photographed.

Each of the older trailers at The Vintages was retrofitted and refurbished by Flyte Camp, a company out of Bend, OR. These guys are my new heroes, since they take old trailers — I’m talking falling-apart, seen-better-days, ready-for-the-trash-heap trailers and give them good old love and elbow grease and age-appropriate parts and make them almost new again.

The Amenities:

The Vintages will quickly make you re-calibrate your idea of what a trailer park is.

  • Queen Size Bed with Lots of Pillows (exceptional comfort)
  • Private Bathroom with Toilet and Shower(adorable, but not for 7-foot-tall people)
  • Fine Hotel Quality Linens and Towels (might be better than at home)
  • L’Occitane Bath Amenities (sniffer’s paradise)
  • His and Hers Robes (or hers and hers, whatev)
  • Caravan Coffee (out of Newberg)
  • Outdoor Patio Area with Chairs and Table
  • Outdoor Propane BBQ
  • Dishes & Silverware
  • 2 Cruiser Bikes (to bike into Dayton)
  • Refrigerator (perhaps the cutest you’ve seen)
  • Microwave
  • Stereo System (nothing wrong with some good tunes)
  • Flat Screen TV (not really necessary in my book, but whatever, float your boat)

 All the Right Details

Each of the trailers is outfitted with special touches and sweet little details that add to the experience without making you feel overwhelmed.

Because let’s get real: Half the reason I want an Airstream is to escape my house, which is overflowing with kids’ stuff, hobby projects and too much of everything.


Nice touches throughout, like this artfully placed apple and wine guide.

Small-space Savvy

For design geeks like us, just being inside the trailer took up the first four hours of our visit. We opened every cabinet, every drawer, touched every gorgeous light fixture, stared at all of the artwork. We experienced the tiny space like it was designed to be the absolute maximum amount of life in the minimum amount of space, and then we got all nostalgic for a childhood we never had. Basically, we played house.


Light fixture dorks — check out that galaxy overhead lamp. Just around the corner was a full kitchen including an oven and a refrigerator.

An Invitation to Go Outside

Is there any other place in the world that makes you want to explode outside like Oregon? In our trailer, I found myself doing a lot of longing, and having some of those moments I like to call NOWstalgia, where you’re feeling nostalgic for how you’re going to remember the moment of NOW.

Ok, not an Airstream. This is the Anderson at The Vintages, in Dayton, OR.

I don’t quite have an Airstream wardrobe, if there is such a thing, but that is a 1970s vintage cotton dress, the only thing I want to live in during Oregon summers.

A Quick Escape

And then, when they got hungry, they just jumped on some bikes to go eat at the Barlow Room in Dayton.

And then, when they got hungry, they just jumped on some bikes to go eat at the Barlow Room in Dayton.

An Investment in Happiness

Great. Now you want an Airstream. Me, too. So this is my goal. The Internet is awash with ways to save money to bankroll your dreams and travel like a rock star, but I’m in this for the long-haul. After all, as Airstream founder Wally Byam posited:

The Airstream was intended as a lifetime investment in happiness.

I’m starting an Airstream fund. Maybe I’ll even buy this adorable Airstream bank, which would set my Airstream Dream back $21.53. I firmly believe in visualizing my goals, so this might be just the right way to kick-start my dreams.

That way, if I never actually get a physical Airstream, I can always tell myself I have one anyway.


Next up: Getting the husband and kids on board. Isn’t this always part of finessing the dream? For Airstream dreaming, this will mean renting a movable Airstream.

Do you have an Airstream Dream? Or are you crying over some Teardrop Trailer or some such home-away-from-home? How are you working towards your goal?

Traveling by Scent in the Smithsonian

Follow your nose to know a place.

Follow your nose to know a place.

Smithsonian Magazine has a feature on some of the world’s most intoxicating scent-laden places.

“When scent can bring such pleasure, let alone health, why not indulge on your next trip?”

Now of course I’m wondering where the most scent-laden place in America are. I have a theory that because of the great moisture in the Pacific Northwest, it’s the best place in the world to go on a scent journey.
Any ideas? I’d give you lavender fields in Yamhill, the Portland Rose Test Garden, Opal Creek, Siletz Bay, and anywhere in Oregon’s High Desert.

Oregon Trail Live! A Digital Flashback of Sorts

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My story for the Atlantic about experiencing the live-action Oregon Trail is up! For fun, I thought I’d put a slideshow together from the day. Experience the struggle! The valor! The race to the outhouse to escape dysentery! The bonding through nerdy team-building exercises!

Come hear me at Terroir Writing Festival


I’m going to be speaking for the first time ever about how to write travel articles for magazines and newspapers at this year’s Terroir Creative Writing Festival in McMinnville, OR. Registration for the festival is now open.

My talk is called “Will Work For Fun” and takes place in the afternoon from 2:00-3:00 p.m.

I’m going to walk you through the process of turning your travels into ideas worthy of publication in the travel sections of regional and national magazines and papers across the country.

What am I going to be talking about? Well, apart from imparting my ONE TRUE SECRET OF TRAVEL WRITING, my talk will include information that will motivate you and tricks of the trade like:

  • Why to include travel writing into your bag of writerly talents
  • How to find the best and most reader-friendly travel ideas
  • How to turn your idea into a two-word pitch
  • How to find the best market for your work
  • How to write a pitch to an editor
  • How to be the travel writer every editor loves

I only have an hour, so I won’t be able to include some of the nuts-and-bolts issues of travel writing, like tax forms and tracking expenses, but I’ll be at the conference all day and am happy to talk to anyone about any aspect of travel writing.

Some of my talk will be based on the experience I gained as writer of the longtime column Desperately Seeking Salem, which started out as a blog about life in Oregon’s capital and morphed into a travel column on the front page of the Life section of the Statesman-Journal. I’ll also talk about my work with Sunset magazine, AAA’s VIA, Portland Monthly and others.

Bring your questions, your experiences and your implacable Wanderlust!

Hope to see you there! And if you can’t be there and have a specific question I might be able to answer, please write to me in the comments section here.