Airstream Factory Tour

Touring the Airstream factory in Jackson Center, Ohio was one of my shining moments on this trip. To many non-RVers, this may sound rather boring and a stretch of imagination, considering the life we’ve led in our journeys over the past 6 months. However, if you have ever owned, travelled or stayed in an Airstream, you might understand the depth of pride to be an Airstream devotee and admirer.

To witness the progression of the life of our trailer, from the chassis to its final shining aluminum glory was a treat to behold. My heart raced and palms sweated at the thought of arriving and setting roots (for a few days anyway) at the birthplace of our beloved trailer, which I fondly love to call Airabella (Airabella is an English girl’s name., which means: `shall never harm or fear; sweet and lively created`. ). The chance to explore other Airstream trailers, both new and old, left me breathless with anticipation! And the tour of the service centre with its unique memorabilia photos, furniture and aluminum wall covering only highlighted the tour of the factory.

Heading over to the factory, we were shown the custom chopper sidecar made for Airstream by Jessie James. The story goes that Jessie approached Airstream looking for a gift for his then-wife Sandra Bullock. In exchange for the trailer, Jessie themed a custom built bike that is truly the most gorgeous piece of motorcycle artwork I’ve ever witnessed. Jessie proudly owns two Airstream trailers btw. 🙂 Also there in the service area was one of the original Airstream trailers. Did you know that Airstream is the oldest recreational vehicle manufacturer in the industry? Here’s a few history tidbits for you from Wikipedia:

Airstream trailers are easily recognized for their distinctive rounded aluminum bodies, which originated in the 1930s from designs created by Hawley Bowlus (who was the chief designer of Charles Lindbergh’s aircraft, the Spirit of St. Louis). The design of the now familiar sausage-shaped, silver aluminum Airstream trailers cuts down on wind resistance thereby improving fuel efficiency. The company was founded by Wally Byam, And of more than the 400 travel trailer builders operating in 1936, Airstream was the sole survivor of the Depression.

And did you know that:

In 1969, upon their return from the Moon, the crew of Apollo 11 were quarantined in the Mobile Quarantine Facility, a modified airtight Airstream trailer until it could be determined that there was little likelihood of their having brought back “lunar pathogens” with them.
For decades, NASA has used a fleet of Airstream motorhomes to transport astronauts to the launch pad. The space shuttle program has used a modified 1983 Airstream Excella since 1984 dubbed the Astrovan.

Also, Airstream trailers are commonly used to transport American officials around the world. The trailers are strapped down inside military cargo planes.

The history behind the Airstream trailer is as rich as the quality of these rugged trailers (which seemingly hold their value more than any other RV out on the market!). Quite a few famous people are proud owners of an Airstream. Here’s a few to start (as documented on the website airforums.com):

  • Lawrence Welk
  • Howard Hughes
  • Matthew McConaughey (who owns 3 Airstreams, one of which is named ‘The Canoe’, including a 2004 factory unit, a refurbished 1958, and a 2010 Timeless Airstream fully custom 34′)
  • Lance Armstrong
  • Jeff Daniels, who co-starred with Robin Williams in the movie “RV
  • Wally Byam
  • Diablo Cody, Hollywood screen writer
  • Mark Harmon has a 1972 24 footer that he restored and uses on the set of his show NCIS
  • Sean Penn ~~ once a proud owner of a 27.5 foot Airstream until lost in a fire.
  • Tom Hanks
  • Julia Roberts
  • Kyle McLaughlin
  • Mathew Modine
  • NASA
  • Eddie Vedder from Pearl Jam
  • Brad Pitt had a classic Airstream nicknamed “The Love Sub.”
  • Rikki Rokket (drummer for the rock band “Poison”) has a 19′ Bambi
  • Pamela Anderson: Hugh Hefner gave her a customized totally white Airstream, dubbed the ‘LoveStream’ – complete with a stripper pole and strobe light (article posted in the Service Center)
  • Sandra Bullock
  • Jessie James (see above photos and facts)
  • Paris Hilton and Nicole Richie took a cross-country trip from Florida to Beverley Hills pulling an Airstream trailer behind a pink pickup truck on their TV program, The Simple Life.

No photos were allowed, of course, inside the factory. But from my memory of the tour, I noticed the quality of materials and workmanship that went into each production was a marvellous sight to behold. Shiny aluminum everywhere makes my heart skip a beat.

Our own Airstream trailer is a 1991 60th Anniversary Limited which is 34.5 foot in length. A mighty long trailer which has been beautifully restored to look like a land yacht inside. Comfy, cozy and plushly gorgeous with our granite countertops, magnificent U-shaped couch and king sized super bed. We’re pulling it with a half-tonne 1994 Dodge Ram pickup truck, fitted with ‘The Edge‘.

As the ‘ole saying goes: I have a loaded Airstream trailer and I’m not afraid to use it! 🙂

Airports, Jack Daniels and Jesus

What an exciting, fun-filled day! On this day we experienced an amazing airport extravaganza, a fascinating tour of the Jack Daniels distillery and Jesus. But first, let me explain ……

Last night, whilst driving through the glorious green spaces of Tennessee, we were grazing for a unique place to park our Airstream overnight. Walmart and Truck Stops are okay places to use as a standby when boondocking (i.e. dry-camping with no hookups — electric, water and sewer), but the crowds and noisiness can be quite interruptive at times, with the question of safety always a factor. So why not search out the local airport, was slaDE~s suggestion.

We’ve camped at drop zones across the country. Why not non-skydiving operations as well, if they’re open, willing and able? Being a Licensed Private Pilot with 130 some odd hours of flying until my belt, I can talk the talk and walk the walk :). And that’s an important step in to building new communities and possibilities … finding a mutual interest with common dreams and values. It also helps to have a good looking trailer than has similarities to an airplane! :).

So around the airport we walked and knocked, until we found an authority figure who had the say as to whether we could park for the night. Blessed be the Fleeman family!

And park we did …. the only ones in the parking lot, on a starry-bright pitch black skied night, 5000 foot paved runway aglow, with a Wifi connection to boot! All you could hear were the chirping of birds, the waving of freshly born leaves in the wind and the occasional drone of a passing airplane. Life doesn’t get pretty much better than this.

Speaking of walking, I started out my day with a gorgeous walk in the country. Strange how passerbys can turn around and drive by several times out of curiosity to see who you are. But I carry forward at my speed-walking pace, not really giving them much notice. And it’s at opportune times like this that I LOVE carrying my camera when out-an-about in new territory and find awesome signs like this! How would you label this photo? ‘Jesus, just around the corner’ perhaps??

Before getting ready to pull out, Reford, one of the airport staff, suggested that we go and visit Joe Fleeman in his shop where he builds new and restores antique aircraft. Oh what a treat!  It was like an aircraft playground with the most unique and fabulous airplanes one could witness: a cloth-winged Piper, a Cessna T-50 called the ‘Bamboo Bomber’, a Pitts Special, a Mustang II and Joe in the process of building a wooden framed Aeronca Champion from scratch (no quick build kit needed). WOW. Such brilliant talent, and Joe doesn’t even use the internet at all to acquire his knowledge. Rare indeed … old school, the way I like it!

After enjoying what seemed like our own museum tour, we made our way through to Chattanooga, but not before stopping along our scenic route in Lynchburg, home of Jack Daniels. I never knew what a treat visiting such a small town and going on a 1 hour Distillery tour could be. Lynchburg is a unique small town, population 361, rooted upon the growth of the infamous JD Tennessee Whiskey. Fascinating history around the origins of Jack Daniel and his emerging company registered back in 1861. “Even though it’s home to the Distillery, it’s a dry county and has been ever since Prohibition.” The 1 hour walking tour was awesomely unique and filled with interesting tidbits around the complete story of JD whiskey. No samples per se but lovely cold lemonade at the end of the tour helped to quench any thirst hunkered up through the succulent temptations of our tour (the wafting smell of whiskey from the vats was incredibly appealing). We had such a great day, touring the town and meeting some wonderful Tennessee people. We’ll surely be back, especially if we can go for a ride in some of Joe’s aerobatic airplanes ;).