I cannot think of a better way to meet new people than to pull in an RV park full of white plastic campers with a shiny gold antique travel trailer; but more about that later.
Our trip began when Lee and I decided to quit of full time jobs and travel around the country to see America; its small towns, blue highways, and every tacky tourist spot in between. We both knew our 19' Airstream would not cut it with 2 adults, 2 dogs and 3 cats on such a long adventure circling the country. But what to buy?!? We both love antiques, we enjoy unusual things and appreciate things of beauty and craftsmanship. Then we saw her last fall during a trailer rally at Disney making her début. It was shiny, solid gold and I feel in love. A 1957 Airfloat Flagship, freshly updated and in amazing condition…, “fresh off the line.” Thirty feet of near pristine gold skin. And when I say “fresh off the line,” I almost mean it literally. As I understand from the seller, Goldie (as she was so named) was purchased in 1957 from the Los Angeles factory, transported to it's buyer's home in New Mexico and never moved again until the last owner acquired her just recently. During her near 50 years of being parked, apparently the original owner found the trailer to be somewhat chilly in the winter months and “encapsulated” the exterior skin with rigid foam, consequently keeping her from being exposed to the sun and fading. What you see is what came out of the factory. In fact, the spare tire we took on our trip was actually one of the original Michelin tires still looking as if it had not even see a mile of roadway.
On March 17th, we pulled out, trailer fully loaded and heading North then West from Florida. We really hadn't thought of Goldie as being a new way of meeting people on the road, but quickly discovered this new secret when we pulled into Graceland RV Park as our first destination. There, ahead of us, was a field of white rigs sitting in rows directly in front of the mansion. As we pulled in, it was apparent that our Gold trailer was both a hit and an oddity. People started flocking to her asking all kinds of questions as we were trying to set up. In fact, we also learned the opposite can often hold true about an unusual gold rig. As there were many people who quickly surrounded us, there were also the others who looking in disbelief, pulling in their electric stairs, shutting the doors and peeking through the matching white plastic Venetian blinds. O.k., I might be exaggerating just a wee bit, but the truth of the matter is, it was clear many were not sure if we were “Elvis fanatics” come for a ritual migration to the holy grounds. Ironically and completely unplanned, we also happened to arrive the same week as the 50 year anniversary celebration of when the King bought Graceland and Pricilla Presley would be flying in for the event.
Goldie took us around the country completely trouble free, from Florida to California, up the coast to Washington State and back around again. Never once did she cause us a problem. I cannot describe in words the incredible experience we had and the many, many friends Goldie opened doors us to along the way. People are naturally curious and most are not shy to introduce themselves to get a quick peek inside. Along the way, we hit every major landmark we could, traveled Route 66, and met Mr. Route 66 himself in Seligman who inspected our trailer, even bumped into and had lunch with a major motion movie star in Santa Fe who was filming on set there. The experiences and draw she commanded were amazing including being stopped by a newspaper reporter as we were pulling out of an RV park in New Mexico. She had heard there was an odd Gold trailer and should investigate.
There is one other little bonus to having an old trailer. Goldie was often the magic key into several already booked parks. For example, we had tried and tried to make overnight reservations to a major National Park (of which I probably shouldn't name), but was fully booked according to their on-line system. Even when we called the park the day before our arrival to see if there was a cancellation, we were again greeted by that resounding “no, sorry, all booked.” There was no other place to camp and decided to take our chance and just see, hope, that there was a last minute cancellation and pulled Goldie into the park and straight for the check-in desk. “I'm sorry sir, there is just no room here….hey, is that your Gold trailer in the parking lot? What is it? I've never seen anything like it before…” Five minutes later, we were given a site and spent two wonderful days in the heart of the park at a beautiful spot. Of course, don't be fooled, fame has its price. Expect to give tours almost daily (including the ranger staff that helps one out in need), but it's a great way to ensure you keep your rig tidy at all times.
Our trailer has traveled through the desert one day, followed by a cold night below freezing in the redwoods to be woken by a complete blanket of snow the next. Don't let anyone ever say, “how can you travel in something so primitive.” Not once did we ever feel that we were lacking (except for heat on that one snowy day, but that's another story). Our rig was solid, comfortable, and had everything we needed. We gave tours to folks in $200K rigs that drooled over our huge bathroom and pink cast iron tub. I read in an RV magazine a list of “standard equipment required” for any road trip, which included not one TV but highly suggested a minimum of two TV's to ensure complete comfort. Lee and I vowed that this trip was to see America and everything it had to offer and not to take a TV along. We were both shocked that in the middle of the most beautiful locations, Yosemite, Grand Canyon and many remote spots that as the sun went down the glow of the TV's came on. We have no regrets not taking a TV as we keep our memories of many board games on the sofa while it rained on the metal roof, the moonlight walks under the stars in the canyons and conversations by campfires with strangers who weren't watching American Idol in their rigs.
We came back with many memories, new friends and their phone numbers offering us a place to stay if we happened to come through their neck of the woods. This little gold trailer gave us so much. So in return, we feel proud that we gave Goldie a proper maiden voyage for her first “real” trip. She was built in 1957 and on her 50 year anniversary; she finally got to see the country for the first time.