field trip: Airstream Adventures NW

red Airstream light

"Get your coat right now. We're gonna go look at an Airstream." Jeff and I had been into the dealership at Airstream Adventures Northwest a few years back when it was up farther north on the west side of McLoughlin, back when he was debating whether he could shuck renting by living in one. He scrolled through Craigslist listings, daydreaming for months about fixing up an old 1960s model as a sleek aluminum-skinned tiny home—even going so far as asking a good friend if he could park a trailer in the guy's side yard. (The answer was no.) But Jeff eventually decided he had too much stuff he was unwilling to part with—a whole three-bedroom-house-plus-garage-worth of stuff—to embrace the Airstream lifestyle.

Airstream styles, old and new

Airstream logo

Fast forward a few years. Jeff's brother and sister-in-law have lately been watching some TV show whose main character lives in an Airstream trailer and decided, out of the blue, that they wanted one (good product placement, Airstream marketing team!)—which explains our field trip to the Gladstone Airstream dealership.

Airstream Adventures Northwest sign

Two weeks ago, Jeff's brother bought a used Airstream (at around $200 a month for 15 years) preowned by a doctor couple who themselves had traded up their older trailer for a newer (used) model. It has an upgraded large wall-hung TV, a fridge, sink, stove with burners, shower, toilet, dining area (that converts into a bed), lounging area (that converts into a bed), and a bedroom in back. The interior is predominantly tan with tan vinyl flooring and tan carpet in the bedroom.

They are a family of four: two adults and two kids. The kids were ricocheting around the talking adults like bouncy balls in the yard of the dealership, while the salespeople looked askance. The girl said, "I don't want to sleep in the Airstream. I want to sleep in the tent with grandpa." The boy, I'm guessing, has mixed feelings about camping because it interferes with his video game time.

This is a family that goes camping maybe once a year. The wife admittedly hates camping and spends most of her time, I've been told, watching DVDs in the tent—hence the Airstream purchase, a temporary home on wheels for those who dislike tent camping and need electric entertainments 365 days a year. It seems a pricey decision for one camping trip a year, so presumably they will be planning more long-weekend trips into the mountains.

rows of Airstreams

Jeff is possibly the most excited of all because he can borrow their Airstream whenever he wants without fifteen years of payments. Jeff himself owns a six-person tent with a queen air mattress. He loves camping, whatever the form, usually camping with groups of friends each summer (though he's never yet taken me camping). I am just the observer in all this.

One of the salespeople, an older woman with long blond hair asked if Jeff was my husband, probably calculating whether we would become future buyers in a family competing for who had the newest and biggest Airstream. I told her no, that we were roommates and friends and that I was planning to build a tiny house. Sensing an opportunity, she said some people use Airstreams as tiny houses. (But as we know, I've already considered and discarded that idea.)

Because their cleaner wanted to get the trailer done, the saleswoman ushered us back into the main showroom where we popped into a tricked-out Mercedez-van-cum-motor-home (called the Touring Coach, not my taste) and a new Airstream Bambi (so cute!). Airstream Adventures Northwest also has a partnership with Pendleton as evidenced in the Pendleton display corner and Pendleton accessories decking out the model trailers. It's a good match, the shiny new Airstream surfaces softened by all the Pendleton patterns, colors, and textures.

Pendleton accessories in Airstream-converted Mercedez van

Pendleton display corner at Airstream Adventures NW

vintage Airstream cooler

When it was clear the paperwork had all been signed and we were wearing on their patience, we spilled out of the Bambi and ushered the kids out the front door. I lost Jeff for a couple minutes as I was snapping the last few photos. He had wandered somewhere out into the south lot among the rows of trailers.

Airstream reflections

line of new Airstreams

Of course, if I ever were to own a travel trailer, an old gutted and rehabbed Airstream would be it. The vintage models are aesthetically fabulous in their streamlined mid-century faith in technology and progress. Yet there is something a little sinister in a line of new silver Airstreams with their dark-tinted wraparound front windows, all lined up like good soldiers, their eyes and thus intentions masked. I shivered a little before climbing into the Jeep.

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