a big welcome to rich luhr, editor & publisher of airstream life magazine and new author of The Newbies Guide to Airstreaming. i recently had the opportunity to read rich’s book and also do a question and answer with him. before we dive in a few words from us about the book.
first off it is geared for new airstreams (or relatively new) if you have a vintage airstream like we do it has lots of info that won’t coincide, however it still has tons of useful information such as, hitches & weight distribution, backing up (which can be scary to newbies for sure), boondocking (which we are so anxious to do if we can just get that gray tank!), and tons of maintenance tips. much of what intimidates new campers is universal and this guide covers all of that, for those with a new or newer airstream it will prove invaluable and save lots of time and frustration…for just $9.95 you can’t beat it. links below with buying info and a big thanks to rich for taking the time to do a question and answer for us all!
1. Your new book, The Newbies Guide to Airstreaming, just came out.. Can you share a quick synopsis for those who haven’t read it yet?
It’s the first-ever “quick start” guide for people who are new to Airstream ownership. I tried to take all of my experience and combine it with contributions by other Airstream owners, to help people get past all of the little questions and problems that newbies always have. Airstreams are a little different, and until now there really hasn’t been anything out there to help people get started.
2. How long have you been Airstreaming and how did you get started?
My wife and I bought our first Airstream in 2003. It was a 1968 Airstream Caravel, which we still own. We were tent campers for many years, but when our daughter arrived we decided to try a “camper.” That led to the discovery of Airstreams, and after a few months of traveling with the Caravel I was so hooked that I quit my job and started Airstream Life magazine.
3. When you first got started, what made you choose an Airstream over other travel trailers?
We thought at first that we’d want a pop-up, since it was the most like a tent, but after trying one out and trying to set it up in the rain with a three-year-old child, we decided we wanted something easier to deal with. We walked a few RV dealer lots and saw all the white box trailers, and that quickly led us to desire something a little classier and more durable. It wasn’t long before Airstream hit our radar, and after seeing the 2003 Airstream International CCD, we couldn’t take any other brand seriously.
4. What do you find to be the most common mistakes in newbies?
It really runs the gamut. I’m constantly surprised by the things that people ask me when we meet in campgrounds — things I would never have thought of. But the most common mistake I see is having the tow vehicle and trailer improperly hitched. The vast majority of travel trailer owners really don’t understand the basic principles and goals of setting up a weight distributing hitch. I covered the basic elements in this book, but at some point I hope to do another book solely about hitching.
I also see a lot of people who are afraid to try camping without hookups, who overload their trailer, and never do any safety checks. In the book I tried to focus on tips that would help people get more enjoyment out of their Airstream, and avoid potential disasters.
5. Do you have a number one tip that you think all future travelers should know?
Rather shamelessly, yes, I recommend that they subscribe to Airstream Life magazine. I’m the Editor & Publisher. We cover everything about Airstreams, like towing, destinations, time-saving tips, history, people, interior design, etc. For $24 a year it’s a really cheap ongoing education. I’m always amazed when people tell me “it’s too expensive,” and then go make an avoidable mistake that cost them $100 or $1,000.
OK, if that’s too self-serving, then I’ll suggest this: Take the time to understand every system of your trailer before you go out. It’s no fun trying to figure out how the propane system works, or how to change a tire, or why the shower won’t drain, during a camping trip.
6. What did you not know when you started that would have made the biggest difference?
Wow — there were so many things we did not know, it’s hard to pick just one. I do wish that someone had given me the tip on the bottom of page 38 about sewer hoses … it would have spared me from a really bad experience!
7. Do you see any major benefits to one style of Airstream over another (for ex. a Safari vs. an International)?
No, choosing the “right” Airstream is really a very personal thing, and that’s why there are so many styles and floorplans. Almost everyone I meet is convinced that their Airstream is the best one ever made.
8. Do you travel full-time?
Right now we travel about four or five months a year. We take a few short trips in the winter, and are generally traveling from mid-May through mid-October. We log about 12,000-15,000 miles of towing per year these days.
From 2005 to 2008 we traveled full time, and visited 48 states (just missed North Dakota and Alaska). It was the most wonderful experience of our lives, and great for our daughter (aged 5-8). I kept a blog of the entire adventure, which you can still read online. It has over 800 entries and thousands of photos. See it here.
9. Favorite places you’ve been?
National Parks are our top picks. We have visited over 130 of them at last count, including several in Canada. My daughter has over 50 Junior Ranger badges earned in the parks, and we are on our second National Parks Passport stamp book. We’ve still got over 200 more US national park sites to visit, so we expect to be traveling to them for many years to come.
We have several favorite spots that we return to periodically: Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, Big Bend National Park, central Florida, northern Vermont, California. We love the desert southwest. We also love camping at the ocean, and we have done that in ten states plus Sonora, Mexico. Another big draw for us is great culinary experiences, meaning local flavors and cuisine, since my wife is a chef and I love to try new food. We find great food everywhere.
Airstream is now including a free copy of the book with every new Airstream sold, and sells it at their service center in Jackson Center, Ohio. I just heard that Colonial Airstream (the largest Airstream dealer in the US) will have copies in its store in Lakewood, New Jersey in a couple of weeks, and I hope that other Airstream dealers will pick it up as well.