So for the past week I’ve been tap-tap-tapping at the keyboard and relentlessly thinking about the future. This is the winter and in the winter it always seems that I have too little to physically do but too much to think about. There are so many interesting plans to execute. “What’s next?” is the question on my mind when I wake up, because for me, ’tis the season to get things done in preparation for an even more interesting 2012.
It has always been this way for me during the winter. In the past it was easy to get bogged down in the minutiae and the winter doldrums, but since 2003 when we began Airstreaming I have not had that issue. Wally Byam was right when he outlined the Four Freedoms that result from Airstream ownership, one of which was “the freedom to relax and lose oneself mentally.” For me, the Airstream is a vital tool to regaining perspective that might otherwise be lost in the press of work and ideas. Every year since 2004 we’ve spent a week or more around New Year’s Eve to get lost somewhere sunny, and not think about the things that need to get done back in the office. I’m looking forward to that trip.
That’s a few weeks away still. In the meantime I’m energized by the prospect of all the interesting possibilities that life presents. My challenge is to push things and people along the path so that every idea can get closer to fruition. It’s a rather delicate process. I can’t just pick up the phone and yell at people to get their jobs done. There are always obstacles to every project, and there’s never enough money. So I spend a lot of time figuring out clever ways to circumvent barriers and financial limits (with the help of a few trusted advisers and partners), and then gently applying pressure in the right spot. This is actually fun. I do get a kick out of seeing ideas become reality, even if they’re not my ideas—and they often aren’t.
Of course, it’s important not to lose sight of the crown jewel that makes all the other projects possible: Airstream Life magazine. I still spend most of my time working on it. The magazine’s Spring 2012 edition is about 80% through the editorial process at this point, and going to layout as of today. We are going to have articles on the 1958 model year Airstreams (continuing the series by Fred Coldwell), a Buyer’s Guide on 30-foot slide-outs, a very interesting Airstream with a Victorian interior, a personal perspective on Chaco National Monument by Bert Gildart, the Shooting Star Drive-In (Airstream park), an Airstream barber shop, a soap opera star’s customized Airstream in Hawaii, another article in Andy Thomson’s towing series, and more. This issue will be in the mail in February. By the way, it’s going to have a really cool cover illustration.
While I was sick in Tampa last week, I had a lot of time to talk to Brett about our plans for Alumapalooza 2012. The event is coming together very nicely. We would have a much easier time if we simply replicated the event each year, but we like to change it up. That way it’s never predictable, so people who come two years in a row won’t be bored. And, we like to look for efficiencies that make the event better.
I already talked about the three grills we had built. We tested them at Brett’s place last week and they did spectacularly well, so you can expect hot grills for at least two hours a night during Alumapalooza. Bring lots of stuff to cook! We also have completely revised the seminars and entertainment so that more than half the program will be all new for 2012. For example, we’re working on a new event we’re calling “The Backup Derby.” I’ll leave the details to your imagination for now…
But in my opinion the best idea we’ve had is a new format for “the process formerly known as registration.” Last year people were waiting in a line to confirm their registrations on site, and it was kind of a drag in the hot sun. This year, we figured that since you’ve already registered online for the event, there’s no reason to make you wait in line when you get to Alumapalooza.
So when you’re there in 2012, either before or after you’ve parked (your choice), all you have to do is approach any orange-shirted staff member anywhere and tell them who you are. Most of the staff will be able to check you in, on the spot, using a wireless mobile device. The process will take about 30 seconds and you’ll be handed a plastic token for every paid member of your group. Ta-da! You’re checked in and ready to start having fun.
At your convenience, you can swing by the Vendor Tent or visit the daily 4 pm Wally Byam Happy Hour under the Main Tent and exchange your plastic token for your personal badge, which will get you into all the seminars, qualify you for door prizes, get you dinner on Saturday, etc. The primary registrant in each group will also get a goody bag full of coupons and freebies. No lines, no waiting, no hassle.
I love this sort of stuff. We didn’t have to make this change, and it will cost us some bucks for the added technology, but it’s going to make life easier for everyone and allow our attendees to get right to the job of having fun. I know when I get to a campground after a long day of driving, the last thing I want to do is wait in line at the front desk and go through some overly-complicated registration process. Getting geeky with our technology to eliminate that tedium is very satisfying.
OK, let’s talk about another project: This week I am pleased to announce the Airstream Life has published another book, “The Collected Adventures of Tin Hut.” It presently is available only in ebook format (Amazon Kindle right now, Apple iTunes bookstore for iPad & iPhone in a few days). The book is a complete set of every Tin Hut episode ever published in Airstream Life—a total of 22 episodes, complete with the original illustrations by Brad Cornelius. It’s pretty damn funny. The price is just $9.95. We’re working on a softcover print edition to follow next year, which will probably be more expensive because of the cost of color printing.
I have four other book projects waiting in line right now. They’re all going to be great (I say with as much modesty as I can muster) but each one has a set of barriers holding it back. With luck, I’ll be able to announce two of them next year. Even when I’m not writing the books, it’s a huge job just to get each one out the door. I love doing them despite the hassles. By the way, speaking as a print publisher, I think ebooks are the way to go. I can offer more titles at lower prices, especially books that would never see print because their audiences are too niche. Some titles must be in print for logistical reasons, but I’ll always offer an ebook edition at the same time.
Another announcement: the free Airstream Life Online Edition is now compatible with Apple iPad. I get emails almost monthly from people wondering when they’ll be able to read it on their iPad. Now you can. iPad users, try it here. The underlying software is still in beta, so it’s not quite perfect but we’ve been promised that the platform will get better in the next few months.
Events: There’s more in the pipeline that I can’t talk about yet, but trust me, it’s good stuff. Hopefully we will be able to announce a second major Alumapalooza-type event, out west, for next summer. We’re just waiting for confirmation that the venue is available, and then we’ll open up registration. And we are already at work on a third event for February 2013. Each event will have its own name and be completely different, so rather than Alumapalooza 1, 2, and 3 clones, they will be more like a set: collect ’em all. This is really fun work. I just wish we could make it all happen faster.
One last announcement. I’m once again working with Brett to curate the Modernism Week 2012 show in Palm Springs. The show will be February 25-26. For information on times and tickets, visit Modernism Week’s website. We have space for just 20 exceptional vintage trailers at the show, and already half the spaces are taken by some unbelievable restored and customized rigs, including Randy Grubb’s one-of-a-kind Decoliner. It’s going to be an awesome show.
Modernism Week is a different kind of display opportunity from vintage rallies. When you go to a rally you are showing off your trailer to other trailer enthusiasts. That’s nice, but you’re sort of preaching to the choir. At Mod Week, nearly 1,000 people who aren’t yet vintage trailer owners come from Los Angeles and southern CA specifically to see what’s cool. They don’t know trailers, but they know what they like and they love good design. That’s why lots of smart trailer customizers and vendors of trailer-related products are bringing their best rigs to Palm Springs for this show. Airstream will probably be there to show their new Sterling concept trailer too, and we are hoping Chris C Deam will put in an appearance at the same time.
To encourage the best of the best, we have put together a special owners-only program which includes a private reception before the show, tickets to an evening event/party at the new Saguaro Hotel, and a chance to win one of three coveted Airstream Life “Wally awards.” If you’ve got a sweet vintage trailer of any make (not just Airstream) and want to be considered for the show, just ping us at info (at) alumapalooza.com for the application form.
This is only about half of what’s on my plate. You can see why my head is swirling right now. There’s so much fun stuff out there to work on! I’ll keep pounding away at the keys and working the phone this winter so the Airstream and vintage-trailer lovers can have a great 2012—and I will too.