As a kid and with my family, we tent camped (5 kids...bless my parent's souls) often and I camped quite a bit outside of family trips...just because I loved camping. I tent camped off the back of a motorcycle for years and today, I have two 2012 pop-up campers to tow behind GoldWings. I bought my first SOB trailer in my 20's when none of my friends would remotely consider that option or accessory. Besides camping, I really like preparing for camping as its a good alternative to camping when you can't get loose to go.
My parent's neighbor had a brother that was a sales rep for Airstream...he (a very "stately" man...reminded me of Richard Attenborough...the theme park owner on Jurassic Park) would come down to visit several weeks out of the year with his custom Land Yacht and his "tricked-out" white International Travel-All with hitches, both, front and rear. I lusted after his trailer recognizing he had the Rolls Royce of trailers and I had a tin & stick box on wheels. When he heard that I was enamoured with his trailer, he flagged me over one day and gave me the full tour. Compared to my trailers up to that point, I felt like I had stepped into a corporate executive's custom-built Gulfstream jet. His was decked out with leather and what appeared to be mohogany panels throughout...extremely plush. It was a bachelor's dream trailer and as of today, I haven't seen any trailer that rivaled his interior in appearance and in that "feel". If James Bond had a travel trailer, it would have looked like that one. A man's man trailer, for the lack of a better description.
With time, limited savings and some horse-trading, I worked my way up to a 26' AS...it was a little rough around the edges but the body was straight and looked good. The fabric on the cushions, etc. looked like it had been selected by someone on a bad acid trip from the 60's....but I had arrived and it felt good...real good. With time, I had the upholstery redone a piece or two at a time in some high-end fabric by a highly-skilled local man who worked it in between his high dollar jobs. It turned out to be a fine rig that I was quite proud of. However, as time went on, I wanted more.
A friend brought to my attention that an older man in a neighboring town had a longer AS and was wanting to down-size. We worked out a deal and I ended up with a '73 31' Land Yacht...center twin, rear bath in exceptional condition....except the upholstery fabic...yuck. I repeated the process on the upholstery and ended up with a reasonably nice trailer. At the time, I was a field supervisor over-seeing jobs all over the country. I lived in that trailer 5-6 nights a week for several years...not retired and rambling the country-side but I enjoyed the utilization and was making cash money off of it in the form of daily per diem as opposed to staying in motels.
With time, my friends and family associated Airstreams with me. If a AS surfaced on the local market, many times it was pointed out to me. Later and after looking at many, I found an exceptional deal on a second '73 31' center twin but this particular trailer had the optional Onan "battery charger", double-pane windows and supposedly, "extra" insulation for colder weather service. Not wanting to part with my existing 31' footer, I became the proud owner of two Airstreams. One usually was parked out of town while one resided at home for recreational service. Even after I changed careers excluding my need to be away from home, I still kept both trailers. The fact that they were almost identical trailers and being the gearhead that I am, I began the process of transferring all of the best components on to the "Onan" model to develop "my" premier trailer. Over time, my Airstreams became "cooler & cooler" especially after hitting vintage status. Besides the road trips, they proved handy when the kids had sleep-over company, the mother-in-law came to visit or I needed an on-site retreat.
The amount of pleasure I got out of the trailers, by far, greatly exceeded any effort or money I put into them in the way of maintenance or "refreshing". Besides being symbolic of my freedom, I like the legacy of the Airstream product line. I had no intensions of ever getting rid of the trailers but Mother Nature had different plans. Between a tornado topping a pine tree on one and Hurricane Katrina killing my favorite of the two, I found myself trailer-less for several years while trying to recover from the losses incurred during Katrina. Although I remain interested in Airstreams, I had more pressing issues to deal with on my plate.
Fast forward to a month ago, while browsing the net, I found what I considered a killer deal on a "new" trailer....a fellow purchased a 2012 28' International Signature in August of 2012 and traded up to a 30' footer in February of 2013. He never rigged out the 28' footer, never used it, never slept in it, never a hose hooked to it....just hauled it home and parked it. The bed & pillows were still sealed in plastic and I assumed it was a 2013 when I first saw it on the dealer's lot. Best I can figure, the PO took about a $27K hit on the 28' not to mention what he laid out for the 30'. The dealer was flooded with 2013s so was willing to negeotiate.
I am crazy about the wide-body models but, respectfully, feel like Airstream went backwards in some areas. Realistically, the things that I think are vast improvements aren't really related to AS but their suppliers (Dometic, Atwood, Fantastic, Amana, etc.). LED lighting and flat-screen televisions were heaven sent to the RV world. I don't like the cheap looking steps on the later models...looks too SOB for me and some items just plainly weren't right from the factory (gray water/fresh water monitors were swapped, waste-water connection support...cheesy and hanging on by a thread, etc.). Personally, I think the sky-lights are more of a liability than an asset on these later models. With the battery location moved to the front and I guess, the addition of particle board, the weights/tongue weights have gone up dramatically (the published tongue weight on my '73 31-footer was 515 lbs) But, it is fresh, I have better TV's than years gone by and I'm just going to treat it as an "workable core" which is kind of a shame considering the layout of cash even at my discounted price. I think in some respects, Wally would be spinning in his grave...but I still think it is the best thing going in travel trailer in spite of the price tag.
To further feed my aluminum addiction, Father's Day, I bought a nice '03 30' Classic (non-S/O). It is as clean as a pin, well maintained and includes a HA hitch at a small fraction of what I gave for the 28' International. I plan to keep both trailers which isn't odd for a fellow that has had two before and currently has 15 motorcycles. Once again, I'm a little less than enthusiastic about the upholstery but maybe that is just me...not nearly as offensive as the psychodelic stuff from years ago. For the price, I wouldn't care if it were avacodo with purple & pink sun-burst. The body is straight and well maintained, I like the floor-plan/oak interior and it is ready to roll. The only immediate change I foresee is the addition of a second A/C unit which is a slam-dunk with the goodies available today for that type of up-grade.
If my close friend were to ask me advice on getting an Airstream, I would recommend that they shop for a well-maintained earlier model. Not necessarily vintage (unless they were mechanical & enjoyed tinkering) but something that the "bugs" have already been worked out by the PO and the depreciation hit had already been absorbed by someone else. If buying new, it is a substaintial financial layout and if not satisfied, you will take a major hit trying to sell it. I wouldn't recommend a new trailer to anyone that hasn't had a pre-owned AS or isn't flush with cash. Frankly, I would hate to recommend a new one to a friend/newbie and then, they have to worry with getting all the little issues fixed with no clue of what they are dealing with. At the rate the quality was improving on Airstream's decades ago, you would figure the process would be so refined by this point that you couldn't find anything wrong with them or any area to improve on.
Such as life and welcome to the 21st (disposable, take-what-you-can-get) century.
Glad we got a chance to visit.