Planting the garden of ideas

I’m back in Tucson, trying to digest the myriad events of the past week.  I ventured out to Texas with an agenda: to seek diversity, new input, and ideas from the friends I met along the way.  Well, I got a lot more of that in a short time than I had bargained for.  Now, instead of being refreshed, I feel as though I have eaten too much of a smorgasbord.  I need a mental Alka-Seltzer and a few days to get everything processed in my brain.


The Lone Star Vintage Airstream rally was pleasure, despite the tremendous trailer-rocking winds on Friday and the awareness that wildfires were sparking up all over Texas.  Since we were parked in the midst of 20,000 acres of dry grasslands, one good fire could have swept over us and wiped out 40 or so lovely vintage Airstreams — not to mention the occupants. I never heard anyone speak of this possibility, but I’m sure many of us had it on our minds.  Like the devastating effects of a hailstorm on aluminum, it’s one of those things you’d rather not contemplate.

lbj-grasslands-caravel-departure.jpgSaturday was quite a bit nicer, with calmer winds and fine skies for the Open House, where everyone browses everyone else’s trailers.  On Sunday morning, it was time for me to go.  The Caravel was destined for Paradise — Paradise, Texas, that is — where my friend Paul Mayeux has his fledgling Airstream workshop.  We have visited Paul and Ann many times over the years, usually when we are in nearby Weatherford getting serviced at Roger Williams Airstream.  Now that Roger Williams has ceased being a dealer and service center (at least for now), we are happy to patronize Paul’s new shop.  He’s got a list of little tweaks that I want on the Caravel, and will be working on it in May.

Dropping off the Caravel meant I needed to empty out all the leftover food Eleanor had sent along with me, as well as personal items that I’d want back at home or when we go out in the Safari later in May.  I cleaned the trailer, stripped out all the food and tossed it in the Mercedes, left the fridge open to air out, shut off the propane, installed the hitch lock, and then, rather wistfully, drove off for the first time in five days sans Caravel.

While I love the fact that Eleanor prepared food and treats for my trip, I had far too much to consume during the rally, even though I was sharing the food at the potluck breakfasts and dinners.  The rest of my trip became a mission to somehow get rid of everything perishable before returning to Tucson.  I stopped off and bought a large cooler and four ice packs, and immediately began plotting ways to force my friends to eat.

Normally this isn’t a problem, but the leftovers were not exactly designed to go together:  Indian dal, a sheet of brownies, cranberry-almond cake, yogurt, various cheeses, Italian sausage, apples, some bread rolls, etc.  I could see it was going to take some convincing to get beef-eating Texans to engage this odd little picnic.  Fortunately, my first stop was at the home of Erica and Jef, who took the plunge and discovered something new that they would never be able to find in their little Texas town, namely the dal.  We cut up the blue and gouda cheeses and the dry Italian sausage to eat with stoned wheat crackers, and tried the brownies and cake for dessert.

This was mixed with one of those intense brainstorming discussions that I often find myself, in this case talking about the possibilities and intricacies of a potential business idea.  In my opinion, interesting food makes people more creative and results in more interesting talk.  (You can solve the problems of the world over a good blue cheese, I say, so I don’t know why more people aren’t willing to try it.)

All in all, it went well from a culinary perspective but I was still left with quite a bit of stuff, so after a very peaceful night in the 1948 Airstream Trail Wind I gathered up my ice packs from the freezer and hot-footed it down I-20 to my next stop.

Marty & Nevena live in El Paso in a converted movie theater that they have owned for over twenty years.  Marty uses the place as his studio (he’s a photographer) but also as a base for their magnificent vintage trailer collection.  The interior of the structure defies description, as it is one of the most eclectic homes I have ever visited. Two decades of customizing the building with their unique artistic bent, and collecting all sorts of things has resulted a place that is something like a mashup of a mid-century modernist art museum and an architectural fantasy.  I loved being there, and fortunately, they loved the brownies enough to keep the rest of them.

rocketbuster-boots.jpgMarty & Nevena also run a business called Rocketbuster Boots, which makes absolutely spectacular custom cowboy boots.  Every pair is made to order (the ones on display are samples), and if you want a pair, be prepared to pay for the privilege of wearing a fantastic set of handmade boots with absolutely anything you want on them.  They are really art, and I almost wonder how anyone can justify even wearing these beautiful boots.  If I had a pair I’d probably keep them under glass.

Although I’d met both Marty and Nevena at the Palm Springs Modernism Show last February, I hadn’t had much time to talk to them until my visit.  They turned out to be a remarkable couple with great insight and peacefulness about them.  This morning Marty and I sat in the dining room eating chili bagels and drinking tea after Nevena went to the boot shop, and discovered that we have a remarkable amount of philosophical common ground. After an hour he had me almost convinced to go looking for my own open space commercial building (like a firehouse, church, or schoolhouse) to live in and start collecting vintage trailers again.

From Tucson to Decatur TX and back is about 1,800 miles of driving.  Add in the late-night sidetrip to Austin to pick up the ’55 FC and a detour to Paradise, and the total mileage easily exceeds 2,000 miles.  Four different overnight locations in seven days, too.  The trip was a crazy whirlwind of events, places, emotions, and ideas, so as the untethered Mercedes was thundering east on I-10 on the final leg, I began to feel that it all needed to be put into some sort of context.  The trip wasn’t relaxing for the most part, but it was challenging and inspiring, and sometimes that’s what I need.

So my brain began spinning.  I shut off the iPod music and spent the rest of the 300 mile drive from El Paso to Tucson talking on the phone about new ideas, and new plans for the coming months.  Nothing will come of it quickly or easily, but I can credit this strange and wonderful adventure for pushing me to plant some seeds today.  As the rest of this Airstream trip meanders through my mind, more changes and directions will probably float to the surface.  I will be interested to see how the “summer garden” of new ideas begins to shape up.  But first, it’s time to unpack the cooler.


  1. Doug Rowbottom says

    Rich, we moved into a 5ooo sq.ft. commercial building 7 years ago. It was a blacksmith shop in the 1800’s, then a plumbing and electrical shop was added about 35 years ago. It has 3 garages where I work on Airstreams now. We used a 1250sq. ft area upstairs and built our living area. It’s great to just go downstairs to work. Stop in if your ever in the area.


  2. says

    Just bare. The Caravel tows very well under all circumstances thanks to excellent design by Airstream. See this blog entry for further details and comments by readers:

    The only trailers from the 1960s that I’ve seen with towing instability issues have been the ones suffering from post-manufacture (owner) modifications, like air conditioners or gray tanks located too far rearward, rear spare tire mounts, furniture re-arrangement, etc. I do make a point of keeping the fresh water tank full to maintain proper tongue weight.