I LOVE campers, and I have dreamed of owning my own since I was a little kid. I love the idea of a mini-house on wheels that you can take on wild adventures and "DIY-it" to make your own. I mean who doesn’t dream of cute little curtains and dinette that is ALSO a bed?!?! It’s no surprise I am a fan of tiny houses too. I think there is something about stripping your life down to the bare necessities that also speaks to me. In a camper, you trade some creature comforts for the ability to wake up wherever you please. You may not have everything you need inside, but surely right outside your door is something different, exciting and new, each and every day.
Around 2010 I got a little more serious about the idea of buying a camper. We had just had our second baby, Zoë, and she was going to be our last. And while life was crazy with a toddler and a newborn, I knew one day that things would be more manageable and travel would be back on our agenda. Plus, taking both our kids on epic road trips (to all of the National Park) when they were older added fuel to my "gotta-have-a-camper-now" fire. I started considering how I could make it happen.
I spent an incredible amount of time looking at campers online. Research. Research. Research. When I first started my search, I considered a Shasta or Serro Scotty or something similar in size. But every one I looked at just didn’t feel right. I knew deep down that what I truly wanted was an AIRSTREAM. But, in case you don’t know, AIRSTREAMS ARE EXPENSIVE $$$. Old or new, they are classic and cool, and the price reflects that. But just like everyone else that has one, I loved the iconic nature of the Airstream, and nothing else was going to compare. The brand and the ageless design speak to me, and I had ALWAYS had a thing for 50s/60s vintage stuff (long before Mid-Century Modern made it cool). Plus, there is just something about that mirror-finish silver shine that is completely and utterly irresistible.
Once we had decided that it was Airstream or bust, I started saving for the “rainy day” that one would cross my path. I had read so many stories of about people’s vintage Airstreams “finding them” that I was pretty convinced this would happen to me too. Instead of stressing about it I took a very relaxed approach. I would look when the mood struck me and let it go when it wasn’t important. Even with my “I-am-going-to-manifest-an-Airstream-approach,” I checked Craigslist for years. I looked all over the United States. I spent countless hours on AirstreamClassifieds.com and RVtrader.com dreaming about the Airstream that I would find that I could: a.) afford, b.) rehab to be the trailer of my dreams, and c.) convince Bryan to go pick up for me cross-country. It wasn’t going to be easy; I knew that for sure.
Then one day, THERE IT WAS on Craigslist, AND to my shock and awe, it was about 30 FREAKING minutes from my home in a campground in Camdenton, Missouri. I asked Bryan to call the owner. I was nervous about asking questions because I don’t know much about towing a trailer, hitches, weight, tires, brakes, etc. And, I knew if I got on the phone with the owner I would probably have been so excited that I would just said "I'll take it" sight unseen. Bryan is much calmer and more relaxed than me in situations like this. He got in touch with the owner, Jimmy, and he said we could take a look at it the following Saturday morning (January 23, 2015).
Saturday morning rolled around, and we showed up at Red Oak Campground and THERE SHE WAS. A 1971 Airstream Overlander that was waiting JUST FOR ME. It had happened. My Airstream had finally found me. But as soon as we started talking to Jimmy, he told us that he had just moments before, “pretty much sold it” over the phone to a guy on his way from Nashville. The guy that was buying it with plans to flip it. But Jimmy said he really would rather sell it to us and that if we could get the cash in his hand first, she would be ours. He said he loved the idea of us taking our family camping and having a great time in this Airstream. Having Max and Zoe with us that day helped seal the deal. I am so glad Jimmy had a change of heart.
We paid Jimmy the cash, and he handed over the keys, title and a stack of original Airstream paperwork. We headed home and returned the following weekend (January 31, 2015) to hitch her up and drive her the 30 miles back home. I think Bryan and I were both a little nervous. The trailer had been sitting in that campground for ten years. I remember pulling out with a knot in my stomach worried that something would break loose or a tire would come off, but I remember Bryan saying that she pulled "like a dream." I think he might have started to fall in love with owning an Airstream on that very first drive home.
We bought her for $5,000. The jury is still out on whether that was a reasonable price or not. But like I have told many people, “the thing about vintage trailers is that there is a limited number.” And our 1971 Airstream Overlander is undoubtedly a treasure in that regard. I am so grateful that she decided to find us and follow us home.