My Globetrotter: Backyard Bound, But the Road Is Wide Open

As Outside Interests starts to pull out its last rivet, I’m compelled to tell a personal tale of my own Airstream experience, to show you how Airstreams can take you on long, winding journeys, even when they just sit in the yard. In 2001, just when I was taking the first morning breath of summer, I almost choked: my girlfriend Alice informed me that the night before she’d bought on eBay—sight unseen—an old Airstream, to be delivered to our central California home from Winnemucca, Nevada.

There are many ways you can scream “What!” but mine came out with a garbled twist of interest, since I’d always loved Airstreams, particularly the vintage beauties that some intrepid campers shined to a blinding gleam, ones that magnetized my eyes when I saw them on the road. But buy one on eBay without seeing it?

Our ’66 Globetrotter arrived in all its dull-skinned glory. It also arrived without a refrigerator and no cap on the propane line, so we couldn’t test the propane system. It also arrived without a kitchen sink, so we couldn’t test the water pump or the water system. However, it did have bright orange/brown/white/yellow plaid upholstery. [Note to museum curators: it still has this upholstery; make me an offer.]

So, Airstreams on eBay: caveat emptor.

Since I had a ’71 Volvo p1800 and Alice had some other piddly vehicle, we had nothing to tow our beauty, but it did rest in the driveway for a couple of months, to make our neighbors jealous. Finally, we had a friend tow it across the neighbor’s fields and back it into the space behind our garage. I say “finally,” because that’s where it’s been ever since. But that’s not to say it hasn’t been a thing of movement—it’s wiggled around enough in my imagination to change my life.

In 2004, I wrote an article for Things magazine on what I knew about things Airstream and my own Airstream experience. That article was later seen online by Rich Luhr, who was then starting an Airstream magazine called Airstream Life. Rich contacted me about doing a piece for the magazine—and I haven’t stopped writing for it (and some of Rich’s other Airstream publications) yet.

In the time we’ve owned the Globetrotter, it’s been an occasional guest house, a mancave, and for the last 10 years or so, my office. It’s been the place where I daydream, stare out the windows at the occasional coyote, and even write a sentence or two. The trailer has been a retreat, a nap center, and even when winter has dropped everything else’s leaves, the trailer has been something that’s always been in blossom in the yard,

So, I’ve never known the pleasures of towing an Airstream on the road, nor that of swinging the door wide on some gorgeous national park waterfall, or, after some broken-road boondock, peering out a side window at a stark desert vista. But my imagination has really traveled in this thing; its rounded contours have sent thousands of ideas rolling.

I’m sure the ’Trotter’s axles are frozen, and the belly pan has some crunches, and the plumbing could use some twists from hands that know wrenches better than keyboards, but it wouldn’t take a Herculean effort to get the thing ready for the road. But I’m in no hurry—I travel in my trailer every day, and the weather’s fine.

By Tom Bentley