Trading a successful bar for an Airstream adventure might seem an odd transaction, but for Chad and Cate Battles, the rewards of the road have put them way ahead in the win column. OK, it wasn’t exactly a trade: several months ago, the Battles sold The Bywater, their successful riverside boating bar in Asheville, North Carolina to fund a six-month trek across the country in their ’76 Argosy. “We figured we would sell all our belongings, bring along our adventure pooch, Maggie, and travel around the country and Canada for six months until we found a new town to settle in. In the meanwhile, checking out all the pretty sights and National Parks along the way,” says Cate.
It was an adventure in itself to get the 22-foot trailer ready, since it was basically a shell when they bought it. “We remodeled everything but the frame and shell including the flooring, electrical, insulation, cabinetry, and plumbing. It was a total gut job, but luckily we were able to do all the work ourselves, except for repacking the bearings and LP system,” says Cate. That remodeling also included the installation of a porthole, a gift from a friend that came from a decommissioned freighter.
Porthole or not, the most immediately striking thing about the Argosy is its paint job, a mural which took Cate two months to complete. “The changing landscapes around the camper encompass the theme of Woody Guthrie’s ‘This Land is Your Land,’ as you can see many places mentioned in the different scenes. Some are places I always dreamed of visiting, and some places I’ve added along our journey,” she says.
One challenge facing the Battles was their decision to either boondock or use free campsites, thus their frequent use of the AllStays app as well as the freecampsites.net webpage. That decision did prove venturesome: “Just a few days ago, we drove into Death Valley at night and looked for ‘the pads’ (a free camping spot outside the park), but because it was pitch black, we mistakenly drove our car down a dry creek bed instead of the road and ended up getting beached. When the sun came up, we saw the RVs at the pads literally across the street. We had to MacGyver the stuck GMC Envoy out of the ditch, hook up the camper and back down the path,” says Cate.
Their fellow travelers take a positive view of the colorful Argosy, says Cate. “We get lots of honks, thumbs-up, and often people ask to get their picture with it.” But their enthusiasm doesn’t quite compare with hers on Airstreaming: “My feelings for Airstreams started as a lifelong infatuation and has turned into a deep burning love. We love Airstreams, and especially our camper because it’s lightweight, the perfect size, unique, and fits our quirky personalities. It also handles well in high winds and tows like a dream.”
The Battles are hoping to sell their home in Asheville, and through their road odyssey, find a new one soon (and get their pet goat, Frankie Rae, back with the nuclear family). In the meantime, their Argosy has proven to be a worthy—and then some—home on wheels. Check out the great blog posts of their journey (including drone videos!) at the Argosy Odyssey site.
–By Tom Bentley