Fly and be free, Caravel

While I love having Airstreams and cars and all sorts of other things, periodically I stop to evaluate what “stuff” is in my life.  That’s because the human habit of collecting things combined with the abundance we enjoy in North America quickly results in clutter—and I hate clutter. Clutter inevitably decays (the universal process of entropy) and becomes kipple.  (Read Philip K Dick’s novel, “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep” for a good understanding of this.)

Kipple slowly saps your energy and your money, like negative chi.  It keeps you from being able to move forward creatively and efficiently, trapping you in a world of what was instead of what could be.

I am very devoted to the future and not very attached to the past, so I’ve been looking at the stuff–>clutter–>kipple connection around our home base and trying to figure out whether things fit into our future or are just boat anchors. The boat anchor-type items will get cleared out.

Surprisingly, one of the big items that made my hit list is our beloved 1968 Airstream Caravel. This trailer has some real history with my family, as it was our first Airstream, and the inspiration for Airstream Life magazine and all the things that have followed it.

1968 Airstream Caravel-4388

We’ve kept it in fine condition—in fact, considerably better than when we found it, thanks to a major renovation—but in the last few years we have rarely used it. Almost everything about it has been repaired, replaced, upgraded, or polished.

And yet it sits, because a 17 foot Caravel just isn’t what we’ve needed for the past decade.  It was a lovely trailer when Emma was three years old and we were taking weekends all over New England and Quebec. Everywhere we went people would stop us and ask about it, beg for a tour of the interior, and say “That’s a cool vintage trailer.” But Emma will be old enough to vote in a few months and three adults in a 17 foot trailer just doesn’t work very well for our style of 5-month roadtrips.

Still, over the past few years I’ve kept everything in working condition and ready to go at a moment’s notice just in case we might decide to pop out for an old-fashioned camping weekend. I’ve kept it insured to the tune of $600/year (on a more expensive “Agreed Value” policy since the trailer is fairly valuable), locked with a Megahitch Lock, battery charged, and in a prime spot out of the sun and rain in our carport.

One of my favorite memories of the Caravel was in 2004 in Florida, when we decided to spend a day at the beach near Bradenton. We parked the Caravel next to the beach in the regular lot and used it like a cabana for the day, staying to watch the sunset long after all the other visitors had gone home, and then making dinner before heading away. It was one of many blissfully peaceful times we spent in that old trailer.

Memories like that tempt me to keep the trailer just a little longer, in the hope that somehow we’ll recreate them. But life has moved forward: Emma is driving herself around, making her own plans, and we’ll never have a 4-year-old toddler again, nor will we ever be in our early 40s again. I’m looking forward to the things we can do now, instead of wishing for experiences we can never repeat.

The Caravel, to its credit, has a long life ahead. It is too nice to become kipple, so rather than let it sit and slowly deteriorate we’ve over-invested in maintaining it (as vintage owners often do). It is stocked and trimmed and ready to travel. Just about everything from the axles to the roof vents has been refurbished or replaced. Marmoleum flooring, AGM battery, gray tank, PEX plumbing, and aluminum propane tanks are just a few items on a lengthy list of upgrades.  Someone else will benefit from all of this, and hopefully love it as much as we have, and probably take it on many adventures of their own.

If you know someone who might want this trailer, or are interested yourself, there’s more detail here.

BuelltonBut before we let the Caravel go, we are taking one last trip as a family this week. We’re going to the 8th Annual Buellton Vintage Trailer Bash in Flying Flags RV Park, Buellton CA. Nearly 200 vintage trailers will be there!

Our good friend David Neel runs this event and it has been on our “must do” list for years. Finally, we’re going to make the 600 mile trip with our vintage trailer and join the fun (and hang out a “For Sale” sign).

The Caravel is not the only possession of ours going up for sale; I’m also selling my 1984 Mercedes-Benz 300D Turbo, for similar reasons. It was a great car to me for the past five years and a great vehicle for Emma to learn to drive in, but it doesn’t fit our life going forward. Since that’s a non-Airstream topic I’ll spare you the list of things I’ve done to that car, but believe me when I say it’s an extensive list.

We’re doing a lot more downsizing of “stuff” than these two examples, but you get the idea.  I’m upbeat about it.  I’m not forced to clear out stuff, I want to.  Clearing out the cobwebs and stuff we don’t use will open doors we can’t even imagine yet—and I believe that the longer we avoid kipple, the longer we’ll avoid becoming kipple. And the Caravel will be happier too, when it’s back on the road and seeing America as it was always meant to.

Stops along the way from Chicago to Tucson

From Chicago to Tucson could have been a blur of interstate concrete, and to be honest most of it was, but we did manage to make a few pleasant stops along the way.

Ideally this would have been at least a week-long trip. Unfortunately I had to get back to Tucson to supervise a major move: the Airstream Life Store was at long last scheduled to escape our broom closet-sized office. Going from about 300 square feet to 1,350 square feet was something the staff and I have been looking forward to doing for quite a while, and I wasn’t going to miss the big moment.

Iowa Rock Creek SP

This meant a mad dash of 1,870 miles the way we went, across Iowa and Nebraska, to Golden, Colorado and down Route 285 to Santa Fe. The days were spent covering miles, but each night we tried to find somewhere interesting to stay. The first night was a big hit at Rock Creek State Park in Iowa (conveniently located just off I-80, pictured above). After our four nights in a truck lot in Chicago it was genuine luxury to have access to a dump station, fresh water, and 30-amp power.

Nebraska Great Platte River Archway Airstream

The second night was kind of fun, at the Great Platte River Archway. The parking lot is noisy but you can’t beat the price or convenience as an overnight stop, and there’s a pleasant multi-use trail nearby that I got to ride early in the morning before we hit the road again.

Great Platte River Archway Nebraska

From there we plowed ahead to Golden CO, climbing to the higher elevations to escape the heat since we’d be boondocking again. Picking up I-25 would have been quicker but not nearly as scenic as the beautiful Route 285, which brought us winding through the mountains and along rivers in cool air between 7,000 and 10,000 feet all day.

CO Rt 285 Airstream lunch stop

CO North Fork South Platte river Airstream

Tourist brochure hyperbole? Blogger exaggeration? I understand. I’m skeptical of many travel writers who strive to make ordinary experiences seem far more exciting that they were, so check out the two roadside stops we made (lunch and a quick exploration of the North Fork South Platte River) and decide for yourself. You wouldn’t find such attractive spots along I-25.

Route 285 continues all the way down to Santa Fe, and honestly nearly every mile is scenic. We stopped in Santa Fe for two nights to recuperate from too much time sitting in the car, and took advantage of gorgeous weather to ride one of the many city trails into downtown.

Santa Fe trail ride

Even with my self-imposed deadline to get back, it was tempting to linger in Santa Fe. The town has a lot to offer, and it’s kind of like Tucson but with flowing rivers, more greenery, and an amazing art community. Neat place. We’ll probably take more time to explore it on the next trip northward. But this time, there was no choice but to get down to the low desert, back to the late summer heat, and projects waiting.

We spent one more night on the road before getting home, and I’ll write about the final miles in the next blog.