In my last blog entry I talked about how, in the final months of owning the 2005 Airstream Safari bunkhouse, I turned it into an Airbnb. And then I sold it.
Which temporarily put me in an awkward spot. I mean, the Publisher of Airstream Life magazine really should have an Airstream, right?
That was in early May. My first thought was to wait until late fall to replace the Airstream, but with the pandemic in full swing, I began to see inventory at Airstream dealerships all over the country disappearing astonishingly quickly. Suddenly I realized that if I didn’t buy an Airstream right now I wasn’t going to be able to buy one for a long time.
In addition, things were heating up in the Airstream Life Store. All those new Airstream buyers were eager for new products and information. Without an Airstream to travel in, take pictures from, and get inspiration, I felt somewhat crippled.
And to make it even more imperative, my fiancee Tothie (pronounced “TOE-thee”) had brought her 25 years experience from the corporate world to Airstream Life, but she didn’t have a clue about Airstreaming. We both wanted her to get up to speed as quickly as possible, so she could start to contribute more significantly to the business. There’s only one way to understand Airstreaming: you have to use one, a lot.
So we dashed out to the Arizona Airstream dealers and started walking through the quickly-disappearing trailers on their lots. Originally my thoughts were on the popular 25FB floorplan, but we kept going back to the smaller 23FB, and when we saw it in the Globetrotter decor, we fell in love.
It is by far the nicest Airstream I have ever purchased (and I’ve owned five, counting vintage and new). It’s obviously considerably smaller than the 30-foot Safari bunkhouse but the floor plan makes a lot more sense for the two of us and one small dog, so it feels almost as roomy as the old 30-footer without the added towing weight and bulk.
A few months earlier I had also sold the Mercedes GL350 diesel that I had used as a tow vehicle before, and downsized into a (brace yourself if you’re a Big Truck guy) 2019 Ford Ranger XLT Crew Cab. The Ranger is an astonishingly capable little truck with a 4-cylinder turbocharged (Ecoboost) engine.
In the old days towing with 4 cylinders was unheard-of, but it’s amazing what the engineers can squeeze out these days. It pulls the Airstream with as much power as the 6-cylinder Mercedes diesel without the GL’s constant threat of overheating, even on an 8% grade. The old saying, “There’s no replacement for displacement” seems very obsolete now.
In the interest of completeness, I do have to say that the ride of the Ranger is incredibly inferior to the Mercedes GL. The Ranger has an old-school solid rear axle with leaf springs like many other trucks, and it lurches and stumbles over uneven roads like a dancing bear.
Moreover the handling is awful when towing, loaded with understeer that makes every tight bend result in a tight anal sphincter. I have been spoiled by the independent Airmatic suspension of the Mercedes, which stuck to the road and handled like a sports car even with a trailer in tow. I am hoping to cure some of the defects of the Ford’s dinosaur design with a Hellwig rear sway bar. (I’ll write a more detailed review of the Ranger as a tow vehicle in a future blog.)
We had some delays over the summer which prevented us from taking delivery of the Airstream until September. When we finally did have it, it was like I’d never had an Airstream before. I had to re-figure everything: where stuff goes, what to bring, what fits in the fridge, the entertainment system, hitch, brake controller … even stuff like how to make the beds and shut the curtains. It was all just a little bit different. We took a “shakedown trip” to nearby Patagonia AZ for two nights and discovered all the things that we needed to tweak, clean, repair, add and figure out.
It was humbling to realize that, despite my extensive experience in Airstreams, this new Globetrotter was capable of teaching me a few new things. I had to learn the best technique for using the power stabilizers on un-level ground, which windows to open for good ventilation, the un-documented potential “gotchas” of the 3-way refrigerator, and many other subtleties that in total can make the difference between a good trip and a frustrating one.
The overall feel of the new Airstream is surprisingly different as well. Where the old Safari was always comfortable and homey, the new Globetrotter feels even more cozy with an air of sophistication.
Overall, while sticker shock over the price of the Globetrotter did give me a brief heart arrhythmia, I have to say I have never had an Airstream that I was so instantly and completely in love with. Every detail, such the Euro-style faucets and stove, the Spradling Hitch dinette, Infinity woven floor, fully pleated curtains, mattresses, etc., just exudes style and comfort, and it really does feel like it was worth every penny.
The sound system (a dismal blight in the Safari that I never used) is world-class in the Globetrotter—so beautifully balanced and clear that we always want to play quiet music while reading in bed in the evenings, and a bit of classical music during breakfast. The power awning is so easy to set up that we have it deployed all the time (in sunny Arizona).
The ducted air conditioning is a blessing in Arizona as well. No longer do we have to shout to be heard over the roar of the machine—but since we’ve been camping exclusively in high altitude places we haven’t had to run it except when the Airstream is parked at home in the driveway.
Our plan is to take the Airstream out for one trip every month, mostly for long weekends. We didn’t count the initial shakedown, so our first “real” trip in September was Silver City NM and our second was Prescott AZ in October. Both were selected with an eye toward escaping the relentless heat of Tucson by going to higher elevations, and both were great successes. Mickey the dog loves it too.
Our November trip will be to Borrego Springs CA, and in December we’ll be off to Tothie’s first rally in Pismo Beach CA. We’ve got plans for 2021 as well, and I’ll write about those later. It’s hard to plan far in advance these days, but it will be easy to keep our commitment to use the Airstream monthly because it’s a great break from work, a great education for Tothie, and Mickey insists that we go.
I’m still pleasantly surprised that after 16 years, Airstreaming has gained new dimensions for me and I’m in love with it … again. Let’s see where it leads us.