We are so happy to share a question and answer & home-on-wheels tour today with another Argosy owner, we love our tiny painted Airstream and never once ran into someone else with one while traveling all of last year, it’s fun to see others (as owners particularly) because the layouts are very similar in many models with only slight tweaks.. this 24ft model is much different with the middle bedroom but otherwise there are still lots of similarities. We were introduced by fellow airstreamers Tiffany & Deke over cyberspace and hope to meet up one day on the road… David has given tons of fantastic advice/information in this Q&A.. anyone thinking about taking the plunge will be loaded with good info..
1. How did you decide on an Airstream as your camper of choice and specifically an Argosy?
I’ve noticed Airstreams all my life, and I’ve always been fascinated with them. They were pretty much the only RV that didn’t seem “frumpy” to me, though I still find that the interior of some of them is a bit of a disconnect from the sleek streamlined exterior. Chris Deam commented on the same thing, saying it was odd to walk into the door of the ’90s Airstreams and go from the retro-modern exterior into “grandma’s kitchen.” (Owners of Classics will probably give me hell for that answer.) I’m a bit obsessive about research and when I found AIRForums I dove in headfirst, reading a ton about the trailers (and learning about the construction of other brands in the process) and realized that the durability/restorability of Airstreams made it more appealing than most other brands (Streamline, Silver Streak and the older silver Avions would also qualify there.)
Our Argosy was just a happy coincidence… I wasn’t specifically looking for or avoiding Argosy trailers, but it happened to be The One. When we found out we were staying here for at least a few years, I started looking. I checked out several vintage trailers far and near, and ended up finding the Argosy only 12 miles from the house. I happened to see the listing 15 minutes after it was posted, called the same day to make an appointment to inspect it 2 days later, and thus began the grand adventure/addiction. I was very skeptical about it, because the seller didn’t even post any pictures and the price was higher than lots of the listings, but it was better than even the description in the listing, and I’m still convinced it was worth every penny.
2. What year/length is your Argosy and were you looking for a particular size?
Our trailer is a 1975 Argosy24 (so 24 feet from bumper to hitch). I was looking for a mid-sized trailer (22-27 feet) mainly because I was a little intimidated at the idea of towing a really big trailer (and I didn’t want to feel like I needed a big truck) and I knew that the smaller sizes are in higher demand and therefore a bit pricy. So far it’s turned out to be a “just right” size for us… we’re both big guys, and when we travel with the dogs it’s good to have enough room for everyone to settle somewhere without tripping over one another.
3. We love having a painted Airstream versus the traditional silver, have you ran into many on your weekend outings? (we never do)
We’re also very happy with the painted trailer, though our paint is the original 1975 paintjob, so refreshing that is going to happen somewhere down the road. So far I haven’t seen another Argosy when we’ve been camping, though 2 different random people at gas stations and a few Airstream owners have said they used to have an Argosy. Every one of them has said they regretted selling it too! One of the advantages of an Argosy in Texas is that they don’t heat up in the sun quite as much as the silver trailers. It’s still MUCH better to have good shade, but even with our antique AC unit we can usually keep it comfortable inside.
4. What do you love/hate about your set up?
We really love the panoramic front windows. It’s the biggest advantage of an Argosy over a silver trailer of the same era, the Airstream models didn’t get panos until the 80s (on a few models.) If you buy an Argosy, PROTECT YOUR PANOS! You just can’t get the clear-glass panos anymore unless they come from a scrapped trailer, we had custom padded protectors made for when we’re towing that remove easily, so we get great light when we’re camping (the Airstream rock guards have a dark tint).
The next problem we need to solve is the mattresses (both, ours is a twin-bed floorplan.) They’re not original anyway, so I’m not conflicted about it like I would be if we had to replace the cushions on the dinette w/ their funky ’70s fabric. They’re just not thick/supportive enough for big guys, and we often wake up with sore/stiff backs and shoulders. We need thicker mattresses with denser foam and perhaps a memory-foam layer on top.
5. Are you equipped for boondocking? Did your Argosy already have a gray tank and if not did you install one?
In theory we could boondock in moderate weather, but we haven’t yet tried it out. We still have the recalled original Suburban furnace, and the only way to check whether or not the fix for the recall has been done involves taking it out… which involves dismantling the galley cabinets, which means removing the range and sink… funny how satisfying a little ceramic heater can be when you have 120v power! (; They started with (tiny!) gray tanks in 1974, so our trailer has 15 gallons of graywater storage. With careful use we’ve had 4-day stays without a sewer hookup and hadn’t filled it. We’ve only got 1 battery and still have mostly incandescent lights, so 2 nights boondocking with VERY careful power usage would be our limit without buying a generator.
6. Advice for those dreaming of buying their very own?
Research first, then DO it. And don’t be in a hurry to buy the first one you see. There is a fantastic “airstream trailer inspection checklist” on the AIRForums website that I’d recommend anyone use (just do a Google search for the string I have in quotes, it’s currently the first result.) Don’t expect a $4000 trailer to be perfect, odds are you’ll spend that amount on it again getting it into good shape. Ours was in very good shape (and cost well over $4k), we could have gone camping right away, but there are still things to improve. I hear from people with brand new ones that those also cost money to keep road-ready.
Also, think VERY carefully about the sleeping arrangements. If one of you thrashes about in your sleep or needs lots of space, a double bed ain’t enough for 2. A “real” queen (that’s not in the corner) or a twin-bed plan may be better for you, it is for us!
7. As gourmands, any challenges in the kitchen?
The size of the range has been a problem from time to time. Even though we try to have right-sized cookware, those burners are CLOSE together and getting everything done at the same time takes a little practice. We’ve learned to plan meals that are galley-friendly, such as one item finishing in the oven while the rest finish on a burner or two. We’ve also bought a nice little Coleman propane grill with a burner so we can cook part of the meal outside.
8. Favorite spots you’ve been to?
Mill Creek Park near Jasper, TX is a nice place if it’s not too hot. It’s a Corps of Engineers campground on Lake Sam Rayburn, with great tall trees and good spacing between the campsites. Blanco State Park is also very nice. We’re still trying new places for most of our trips, we haven’t had the Argosy long enough to do a lot of repeat visits.
9. You belong to an Airstream group.. is that fun?
We belong to two, a unit of the official WBCCI club and the unofficial AIRForums group. Both have been great for us.
We’re in the Heart of Texas Camping Unit of the WBCCI, which is a “virtual” unit in that we have our business meetings/votes/etc. online via email, and all of our events are about camping. It’s a great, diverse, welcoming group of people and has been very rewarding, we’ve made good friends in the unit. So far our “social” camping trips have been split pretty evenly between HoTCU and AIRForums, and both kinds of trips have been great fun.
AIRForums is a mostly-online organization. The discussion forums have an unbelievable amount of valuable information about using, maintaining, restoring, modifying and/or improving Airstreams, as well as a treasure trove of specific info about various different models, etc. It’s all user-contributed, the moderators are just a group of people even more fanatical about their “aluminitis” who volunteer to chaperone a bit. Quite a few people arrange gatherings from informal camp-outs to big rallies via AIRForums, so there’s a good in-person social aspect to it as well.
10. Parting words of wisdom…
If you’re thinking about investing your time, treasure and toil into an Airstream (new or vintage) seek out people online who are already hooked on it and benefit from our experience. Most WBCCI units welcome visitors to their rallies, and that’s a good place to see various different models and ages of Airstreams. We’re generally proud of our streamlined portable houses (to a fault) and love to show them off and talk about them, so don’t expect a quick peek and departure, but it’ll give prospective Airstreamers a chance to learn a lot and decide if it’s a good choice for them without writing a big check, and can help decide between new and old, large and small, etc. Quite a few Airstreamers I know have traded through a couple of different configurations before settling on one that is “just right.”
**thanks again for sharing david & david**
*please & thank you* link back to us if you re-post something you see here.
Another great home-on-wheels tour… with a vintage airstream and a couple doing it all with 2 kids and the dogs, a true family adventure. Nicki gives a run down of what life on the road with kiddos is like, the challenges, the busy schedules and home-schooling to boot. They have tons of good advice and many of her points resonated with us as well. Things like… it is not a full-time vacation (read all about that here), don’t schedule too many things in advance because you will end up missing things, you cannot see everything in every place unless you stay awhile, laundry takes planning (although I can’t imagine planning for four) and people really don’t care about your rig that much.. we too thought lots would be interested, not so much. Some Airstream enthusiasts were, but we almost never saw another Airstream. Instead people saw us as.. the really young couple on the road. (;
1. What made you decide to go full-time in an RV?
It was a natural progression. We have moved every two years since 2005, when summer 2011 rolled around we knew we were moving and didn’t know exactly where we wanted to go. We’d already made the decision to try out homeschooling our kids, we were renting a house, Shawn works from home, and we already had an Airstream. We didn’t really have any major obstacles to hitting the road. Somehow along the way moving to a sticks and bricks house changed into moving into our Airstream. I’m not sure we ever had a “Hey, let’s hit the road and full time” moment. It was more, the opportunity was there so let’s take an extended trip and see how long it lasts.
2. What were the greatest challenges of packing and preparing your whole family (kiddos & dogs) for a life on wheels?
I know most people would say getting rid of stuff and deciding what to take. Since we moved so often we didn’t have as much extra “stuff” as most people. I do remember it took Shawn several days to get the bed of the truck situated. He had to figure out how to fit two dog crates, two blue boys, four bikes and a storage bin in the back of the truck. (We now have a bike rack for the kids bikes)
The kids had a hard time imagining how life would work on the road, they weren’t crazy about leaving the familiarity of life in our neighborhood. I think it might have been easier had we been moving to another sticks and bricks house. I think they feared the unknown of RV life.
The loss of bedroom space was another issue for them. We’d always allowed them a large amount of freedom with decorating their rooms. Suddenly all of that was going away. We found little ways to combat this, they got to bring their bedding from home instead of me picking something that matched the trailers decor and small cork boards on the walls throughout the trailer allow them to decorate and create a little bit of “their space”. They, naturally, had a bit of a problem picking out which toys to take.
3. What have you found hardest to have left behind?
The superficial answer, for me, would be putting my Treadle sewing machines in storage and not being able to use them. Shawn misses having a place to work on the trailer, there is no longer any way to make cosmetic changes without inconveniencing the entire family. On a deeper level, I think the entire family would say leaving Memaw.
At this point, adult friends that we have from previous residences are already accustomed to email and phone contact. I do sometimes miss what I call the incidental daily contact. The people you’d always talk to in line waiting to pick up your kids, the bank, the grocery store, etc. or the occasional invite for coffee. What I found about life on the road is that you are always being asked to tell your story to someone new, you rarely run into anyone who already knows it.
4. How long have you been on the road? and do you have a schedule?
We officially left on May 29, 2011. As of now, 18 weeks in, we are still “newbies”. We started out with a hard schedule, due to mother nature it changed often. A flooding Missouri River and triple digits temps changed all that. Now we have a tentative and flexible schedule. We have a date we need to be somewhere but adjust our stops as needed or desired.
5. What made you choose a vintage Airstream?
When we originally bought Minerva we had no intention of hitting the road indefinitely. We were to be weekend and vacation warriors. Although I was longing for an Airstream, Shawn wasn’t as sure. So, we checked out all of the options in the travel trailer market except Airstream. Keeping in mind, although we had an Airstream Certified Service Center, there were no Airstream dealers in Oklahoma.
We had very specific needs and wants. Shawn did not want any slides. We wanted room to take our dogs with us. It needed to be affordable, we didn’t want a note on a trailer when it something we had never done. I wanted one that wouldn’t give me a headache from the “new RV” smell. Basically, we wanted to test the waters first. We started looking on Craigslist, and to my delight, Airstreams were the only ones that appealed to us in the used market. There was a nostalgic feeling looking at those 70′s interiors. It reminds me of that period in childhood when life had no apparent problems. Shawn just fell in love. He also likes that, except for a few things, he can do most of the repairs himself. Resale value and lack of depreciation were a plus as well.
Shawn says “Because they are cool”. There is also a community already in place to welcome & help you.
6. What do you know now that you wish you had known before you got started?
Flexible Schedules. Don’t promise to make birthday parties, holidays, etc as it can cause you to rush around and miss many great things.
Heat – Vintage (un-renovated) Airstreams, even with a new A/C, aren’t exactly good in full sun on days that reach 113.
Local Conditions – Check the local news for stops on your destination. We had an entire week spent in North Platte, NB for Nebraska Days where everything we had planned on doing was canceled due to flooding. We couldn’t get to our campground in Nebraska City due to the flooding in Missouri as well.
Bike Rack – We should have just spent the money in the beginning instead of waiting till we got to Montana. It would have saved us a lot of aggravation.
Laundry – Most people take for granted the ability to throw a load in the washer. Although you can usually do all of your laundry at one time on the road, it does take some planning. With the limited amount of storage I have for dirty clothes and the number of people we having creating dirty clothes, I do laundry roughly every 2.5-3.5 days. I have to consider if I want to do it before we travel, after we arrive at a new destination, will I be able to do it at the campsite or will I have to go to a laundromat, and do I have enough cash to exchange for quarters. What I’m trying to say is that laundry is no longer a chore of opportunity since I will be gone from the trailer for 2.5-3.5 hours depending on the dryer’s efficiency and the items to be laundered. It also depends on Shawn’s work schedule and any planned activities. For most full-timers laundry is a once a week activity but not for us.
7. How are the kids adapting to full time travel?
They miss their grandparents and occasionally will mention something they’d like to have when we have a “real” house again. As for now they are enjoying it and still look forward to doing it. We do ask them regularly how they feel about it.
As for the homeschooling, it has good and bad days. They like that school is often over after lunch. They like the freedom it allows them. I like that I can easily spot when they are having a problem with something and either Shawn or I can give them the one on one time to figure it out.
We have seen their imaginations flourish. They can’t wait to get outside and play. It is a joy to see them in the dirt playing with their toys and using their imaginations to entertain themselves. Things they took for granted in a stick house have become privileges on the road. The wii is for rainy or 95 plus degree days, we can’t even remember the last time we got the wii out. Television has become limited to rainy days or true family time with the kids. We have, at their request, family game night about once a week. We do allow them a movie in the truck on travel days.
8. What is a “typical” day like for everyone?
(Mornings must go a certain way or everything is off about the day.)
The blasted phone alarm goes off. Shawn is up first. Unless work intrudes, he takes the dogs out for the first walk of the day, makes the coffee (he is proprietary about the coffee machine…the kitchen really). While he’s out with the dogs, we get ready and unmake beds. Finally when everyone is back in the trailer, the dogs get moved into the bedroom hallway.
Now that everything is settled into daytime mode-
We have breakfast then schools starts. Work for Shawn may or may not have already started depending on his schedule.
Dog walk/School break (usually mid morning)
Lunch – at lunch we figure out what’s left to do for school
After school is done I pack away school stuff/figure out what I need for tomorrows school. Kids play until Shawn gets off work, and after work can be relaxation, errands, or an activity
Getting ready for bed/ house cleaning.
While the kids are getting ready for bed I remake their beds for them and dogs get moved to the front of the trailer and fed dinner
After an hour, the dogs get another walk.
Friday is packing day and not a school day. Shawn’s schedule remains the same but for the kids and I this is a free day… unless something from school was unfinished. For me this is a last chance to do laundry before moving and packing away things after we have finished with them for the day. By the end of the day we try to have the television stowed away, the stabilizers raised, the water hose unhooked, bikes back on the roof rack and anything else needed to ensure we get off to an early start the next day. We aim to start hitching up on Saturday as soon as quiet hours end.
Saturday is travel day. Sunday is free day. We use this day to visit the major local attractions.
9. Best advice you would give other families considering following in your footsteps?
Research. Even if you love the first RV you step into, look at them all. Really think about how you will use the space. This will be your home.
Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should. This can apply to so many things in full time life. Maybe I this should monogram it on a pillow or hang it on the wall. (joking)
Make small trips in your RV first, then a few bigger trips.
You won’t need half of what you think you do.
Fully weigh what you will be experiencing against what you will be leaving behind. If you can’t go a month without visiting your family, 3 months will be depressing and 6 months will excruciating.
Things that look okay on paper might not translate well to life, like traveling 350-400 miles a weekend. It is doable but exhausting when you have to get up the next day to work or teach.
This will be your “normal” life. If you are working and teaching on the road, you are NOT on vacation most of the time. We are working/teaching full-timers. There just isn’t a way to see everything at one place at one time without staying there for weeks or months. There will be many places where you just skim the surface. We look upon this as a reason to return.
We would recommend getting an honest to goodness mail service. Check out the other benefits to joining mail services companies. The one we use has heavily discounted parks.
Once on the road you need to be careful of what you buy. There is a common RV’ers rule for this “For everything that comes in, something of equal size must go out.” Our souvenirs are postcards stored in a photo album.
You will be in somewhat of a social bubble. Most of the older full-timers will tell you what a wonderful thing you are doing and how they wished they had done it. However those of our generation look at us in disbelief.
Have patience. Everyone will feel the need to express an opinion on your life. Take the good to heart and let the rest go.
It is easy to get out of touch with the rest of the world. We are not as aware of global events as we once were.
10. What has life on the road taught you?
More about my kids personality than I would ever have known before.
There is no escape from problems… deal with them head on. Annoyance in a house is not such a big deal, something that bothers you in a 27×8 foot trailer is a different matter.
Sometimes you just have to stop moving and rest.
Certain time zones stink.
When we left we thought it would be the Vintage Airstream that got the attention. Most people don’t really care about your rig… except other Airstreamers. Mostly we have become known as -
The people with the big dog.
The people with the big dog in the small trailer (I’d say 90% of full-timers are in 5th wheels or motorhomes).
Occasionally we are known as the people with the big dog in the small trailer with the kids.
Listen to your elders. Some of these retired full-timers have been out there for 20 plus years. Many of them have great suggestions for places to visit. Most are willing to help with problems.
How much we enjoy going to National Parks/Monuments and taking a Ranger led tour, a family favorite.
Trying to maintain 3 blogs while teaching two kids just isn’t feasible. (Nicki)
Speak up when you need personal time. I can’t stress this enough. Shawn, the kids, and I rarely require time apart but due to the space allowed us, when we do need it, we have to speak up for it.
When repairs are started it is critical to get it done as it effects the entire trailer. A water leak, for instance, shuts down the water for the whole family. Consider the problem thoroughly before starting… is it critical or just inconvenient?
The regular things you take for granted like hair cuts, doctors visits, exchanging items from storage, the availability of RV toilet paper can effect your travel schedule.
Adjusting to the lack of “I have to be here at this time to pick up the kids. I have to take the kids to soccer, swim, baseball….etc”
Adjusting to the refrigerator size when trying to grocery shop for a family of four.
Thanks for sharing photos of your 1971 Airstream International and special thanks to Nicki for taking time out of your (very!) busy schedule to do the Q&A! Want to see more home-on-wheels tours? go here.
*please & thank you* link back to us if you re-post something you see here.
Today a vintage beauty for our home on wheels tour.. a tiny & shiny ’65 Globetrotter…
and I’ll tell you right now that I’m super jealous of their Home Sweet Home screen door push plate.
Mary & Tom are the proud owners, even though Tom got pulled into the whole thing a little unawares! (;
They gave us a shout, shared photos and did a Q&A.. thanks you two!!
1. How did you get into RV traveling? and do you travel full or part-time?
For probably 10 years prior to getting our vintage Airstream, I wanted one. My dad actually found this one in Northern Michigan about 6 years ago. I screamed with delight when I knew I actually owned it (bought it sight unseen). My husband, Tom, was not as thrilled as I was. He didn’t realize we were actually going to travel in it. He thought I was just going to leave it parked in the yard to use as a studio.
2. What year & model is your Airstream?
1965 Airstream GlobeTrotter, 20′ long
3. What made you choose Airstream, and vintage at that?
It’s a design icon!
4. Have you traveled in other types of RV’s? and if so, what and why did you make the switch?
Never even camped before getting our Airstream.
5. Did you restore your trailer or was it already good to go when you purchased it?
It needed a lot of work. We had a long (very long) list of things that needed to be replaced or repaired. We tried to prioritize the list because we couldn’t afford to do everything at once. Since we didn’t know anything about trailers we made some beginners mistakes along the way. For example, before we had the water hose fixed, we couldn’t use the faucet. So, we decided to take gallon jugs of water for our first trip out. I put these in the upper storage bins above the sink. When we arrived at our destination and opened the trailer door, we saw a huge mess. What happened?? The weight of the jugs of water had pulled the storage bins away from the wall and all the jugs split open so everything was soaking wet. What an expensive lesson we learned! What was the lesson?? Never store anything heavy in overhead bins. Of course any experienced camper knows things like that, but we didn’t. These are the kind of things you learn through doing.
6. What do you love the most about traveling in an Airstream? The least?
The people you meet along the way is the most fun part. The least fun is all the work of setting up once you get somewhere and trying to figure out things when they don’t work!
7. Where are you from and what are your favorite spots to camp at?
We live in Ada, Michigan, a suburb of Grand Rapids. We love Platt River Campground in Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. It is located in Northwestern Lower Michigan along the eastern shoreline of Lake Michigan. The closest city is Traverse City, 25 miles to the east. We also enjoy Camp Dearborn in Milford, Michigan for the Tin Can Tourists Rallies.
8. Best advice you could give wanna be Airstreamers?
Buyer beware! Know what you are getting yourself into if you purchase vintage. If you don’t know enough, find someone who does and is willing to check things over so you don’t end up owning something that is a money pit.
9. I know you went to Alumapalooza this year, do you belong to an Airstream group? and what’s that like?
Yes, we belong to WBCCI (Wally Byam Caravan Club International) and the Vintage Airstream Club, an intra-club of WBCCI. We also belong to Tin Can Tourists, a club for all makes of vintage trailers (although some Airstreamers call the other makes, “SOB’s”…. some other brand!) We especially enjoy belonging to these clubs because you meet some great people, have activities that promote kicking back and enjoying a simpler way of life. Also, it is wonderful to meet people willing to share ideas about how to fix things or answer questions you have on how something works. And, it’s always enjoyable to share a meal over the grill or marshmallows over the campfire!
10. What has traveling in an RV taught you?
Patience, enjoyment of seeing new things, meeting new people, slowing down and experiencing nature. Also how much you can simplify life and still get along quite comfortably.
*please & thank you* link back to us if you re-post something you see here.