By Russ and Tiña De Maris
Ah, the iconic Airstream trailer. Sleek. Shiny. Whizzing down the highway, it could well be the epitome of Joe American’s vision of what RVing is all about. But when reflecting on the Father of Airstream’s humble beginnings, one might wonder about a recent development on the Airstream scene.
Wally Byam, born late in the 19th century, spent his childhood working a mule train with his grandfather, then later tasked as a shepherd. One can only imagine the teenaged Byam’s life in a shepherd’s wagon – cooking his meals on a kerosene stove and washing up from a bucket of water, probably drawn from an icy creek. Wally never lost his love of the out-of-doors, but his Airstream creation was a bit less, shall we say, “rustic” than the great outdoor adventuring of his youth.
Were Wally Byam alive today, what would he think of what industry is now doing to his children? An Airstream hotel? Well, that’s one phrase to describe what AutoCamp is up to. A California-based “glamping” development group that, in 2013, plunked down six “experienced” Airstream trailers in Santa Barbara and started renting them out as a sort of high-brow camping experience. No, guests didn’t pull these trailers anywhere – they came to the Santa Barbara location and stayed put inside their choice of the six trailers. Company slogan: “Adventure Simplified. Enjoy the spirit of camping with the creature comforts of a luxury hotel.”
We’d have to guess that the definition of “the spirit of camping” is largely open to interpretation. But here’s a lift from media publisher bloomberg.com that might help to enlighten. Speaking of a third AutoCamp location near Yosemite National Park, the story mentions, “[It’s] slated to open later this year with 80 Airstream trailers with custom hardwood floors and marbled bathrooms – and room rates that can reach almost $500 a night during peak season. And that’s with no daily housekeeping and no bellhops on hand to help with the luggage.”
Hardwood floors? Marble bathrooms? Yes sir, we can see Old Wally now, enjoying the air of the great outdoors as he pulls his AutoCamp-provided Radio Flyer wagon filled with his Louis Vuitton Luxury Trunk (just $170,000, if you need to ask) down the path to his spiffed-out Airstream for a relaxing “outdoor” weekend. But thanks to the genius – and financial backing – of Thor Industries (now proud parent company of Airstream), Wally would only be able to check into an “Airstream Hotel” under the AutoCamp name, as both have struck an exclusive deal for it to happen.
But don’t worry. Mr. Byam wouldn’t find it too difficult to keep his humble beginnings in mind. Says AutoCamp CEO Neil Dipaola of the AutoCamp experience, “There’s fantastic, fresh-squeezed orange juice, but in true AutoCamp fashion, you have to squeeze it yourself.” One must assume that AutoCamp equips each of their “rooms” with an Omega J8006 Nutrition Center masticating dual-stage juicer. And in case they don’t, one can be had on Amazon for less than $300.
It’s enough to make you think about going back to a tent.