Traveling in the Airstream Interstate turned out to be a good TBM* adventure. I recommend it.
(* = Temporary Bachelor Man)
As a solo travel vehicle, it’s pretty roomy. I didn’t need all the nine seating positions, but during the course of the trip I managed to try all of them out anyway. In the evening I could watch a movie on the Blu-Ray player from one of the seats in the second row, or from the bedroom/rear couch in the back. Sometimes I’d swivel the front passenger seat around and use it as my workstation with the dining table. Other times, like when I was parked at the beach, I’d put my feet up on one seat in the back (don’t tell Airstream I did this with their loaner) while sitting on the opposite seat, to read a book. When the bed was set up, I had the equivalent of a King all to myself.
Being TBM my plan was to move fast and travel light, if you can call having five tons of vehicle “light”. What I mean is that I stocked the fridge with only a few essentials, slept in a sleeping bag rather than setting up the bed nightly with sheets, and moved every day. I wasn’t going to be living in the Interstate like a full-timer, but I intended to use every system on the rig that I could, because there were four major goals to the trip:
1. Learn how the Interstate works, for a book I’m working on.
2. Gather information and photos for an article for The Star, the Mercedes-Benz Club of America (which will appear in the Sept/Oct issue).
3. Build up a stock photo library for future Airstream Life articles.
4. Cover a lot of miles to get plenty of driving experience.
But driving around aimlessly is no fun, so I set a goal to get up to the Silicon Valley area to see some friends, taking the scenic coastal Route 1 highway to get there. This turned out to be a great decision. The last time we did that highway was with the 30-foot Safari in tow, and it was one of the most memorable drives we’ve ever done. With a 25-foot motorhome, it was even easier.
Grant me a moment for a minor car review here: The Mercedes Sprinter is an awesome basis for a motorhome. Considering its bulk, it handles remarkably well, accelerates and brakes well, gets good fuel economy (on diesel), and is really easy to drive. Anyone with decent driving skills would have no trouble taking it on a curvy, hilly, occasionally intimidating road like California Route 1. And I really liked the fact that I could pull over in any of the small dirt spaces alongside the highway to stop and take pictures. So I did that a lot.
The weather along this road is pretty changeable, thanks to fog banks that reside just offshore. When the fog was away, it was generally about 80 degrees. When the fog crept in, suddenly it would be as low as 55 degrees. I liked that. In one day I got dozens of shots for my photo library, with radically different scenery.
In Monterey I found a public parking lot with dedicated RV spaces for “RVs up to 25 feet”. Well guess what, mine was 25 feet, so I plunked myself down next to the harbor for a day just to listen to the water sounds while catching up on some work. Monterey even provided free public wifi, and a short walk away at Fisherman’s Wharf I was able to get a nice salmon sandwich for lunch and listen to the sea lions bellowing for a while. If they hadn’t had a “no overnight sleeping” ordinance I probably would have never left.
This was where the size of the Interstate really worked for me. Not only was it easy to navigate downtown Monterey, but I was able to squeeze into a little city park at the top of a hill for the night. The park is too small for most travel trailers and it didn’t take reservations, so by just showing up I actually scored a nice campsite for a night despite the masses of holiday campers elsewhere.
The next day I didn’t have as much luck. I made sure to dump and fill before leaving the campground because I knew I might not get another campground for a while. Sure enough, I finished the coastal drive as far as Big Sur, but every campground along the route was full. Eventually I ended up at Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park, which also had a “CAMPGROUND FULL” sign. From prior experience I knew that despite the sign it pays to ask, and sure enough they had an overflow area where I was allowed to stay for the night. It wasn’t a deal, since I had to pay the same rate as a campsite ($35) for what amounted to a parking space in a neglect asphalt lot, but given that it was July 1 in Big Sur, it was lucky to get anything at all.
No problem, this gave me another chance to experience boondocking in the Interstate. I was getting to know this machine pretty well, and even starting to feel a little pride of ownership (except that it would only be mine for a few more days). At this point I’d figured out all the key stuff: the efficient way to take a shower using the hand-held showerhead in the wet bath; where things fit best in the refrigerator; how to convert from seats to bed in less than a minute; how to change lanes in traffic without crushing somebody in a Mini; which outlets were powered by the inverter, etc. But I never did figure out what that hammer was for …