This is a second article reviewing our first year full-timing experience. Our first article provided an overview of scheduling, financial expenses, and emotional costs of our traveling for 2008. This article discusses the selection of a 25 feet long Airstream trailer for full-timing and how the Airstream worked out.
Debbie and I shopped hard for our second trailer, another Airstream trailer. Our first two years owning an Airstream trailer we worked full-time. We camped weekends and one week to ten days annually. We met a couple of long-term full-timers, Tom and Mary Deeney, while we visited Virginia Highland Haven Airstream Park. We’d never heard or thought of full-timing before meeting them. “You can live full-time in an RV?” we said aloud. Who knew?
The idea of full-timing in an Airstream absolutely ruled us. Friends in our WBCCI Unit, Carolinas Unit of NC, advised us, “Go ahead and buy the longest Airstream trailer, a 34 feet long model. Nothing else will suit you and you can avoid the pitfall of buying and selling three or four times as you work your way up to the length you should have.”
We stubbornly resolved to remain with the Airstream International CCD line, featuring very clean and crisp interior lines. We like the brightness and the simple interior color schemes. The walls and ceiling are clear-coat Alcoa aluminum and the floor is light colored seamless wood-grain vinyl. Easy to look at, easy to clean, the International’s appearance appealed most to us.
Airstream’s International line, in 2005, consisted of 16′, 19′, 22′, 25′, and 28′ front-door models. All the models except the 22′ were rear-bed. (In 2008-2009 it seems Airstream manufactures almost all “front-bed” models.) All, in 2005, were available in basically similar interior color schemes and finishes. All shared the same recessed halogen lighting, white and ebony laminate finishes, and a very open interior layout.
But we decided only one model would work for our full-timing. The three shorter models were (and still are) six inches narrower, at eight feet exterior width than the “wide-body” trailers. The longest International CCD, the 28, didn’t seem suited to full-time living. Only the Airstream International CCD 25 offered all the amenities we wanted and sufficient storage.
The one longer model, the CCD 28, artfully provides over the dinette vista view windows but sacrifices the six feet long overhead storage bin in that location. The CCD 28, while more open and roomier, offers half the wardrobe space of the CCD 25. And the CCD 28 does not allow both a gas oven and a microwave oven — the buyer must choose between the two, similar to many trailers, fifth wheels, and motor homes manufactured today. How would we bake muffins or cookies or cornbread or casseroles when we are camping without electricity? The best option for us is to have both appliances, a microwave and a gas oven. Our CCD 25 has both and we are so glad.
The Airstream International CCD 25, while not the largest Airstream trailer (or largest other brand, by any means), is the best match to our sense of function and aesthetics. The interior is neatly arranged, sharp and clean, and spare. The storage area generally exceeds our needs and the weight rating of our trailer’s axles. We have room for more bins than we can load (yes, we tried) without exceeding our trailer’s gross vehicle weight rating (gvwr) of 6,300 pounds. Everything we want to have with us is in either the trailer or the truck.
Our two wardrobes are less than two feet wide each and don’t quite hold all the hanging clothes we wanted to carry. We could have used another two or three feet of closet rod, but worked around it. We carried with us a few extra hanging things folded over and bagged in the truck bed.
And, we store one cardboard wardrobe box in our storage unit. The stored clothes include a tuxedo, a pair of my dark wool suits, two dress shirts, two casual shirts, a formal dress and a couple of cocktail dresses and Deb’s two wool business suits. Our CCD 25 does not have space to expand the wardrobes and we haven’t needed these clothes items often.
I talked with a neighbor last week who told me, “We eat out five nights a week. My wife deserves it after all she did raising our children.” I cannot imagine. We ate out very infrequently. You’d have to beat us with a stick to make us like eating out even one night a week. While we enjoyed dining out occasionally, we preferred the intimacy of dining together and the enjoyment (and economy) of eating our own lovingly prepared food. Debbie cooked almost every supper we ate. I’m grateful and we’re both happy this Airstream’s kitchen has worked out so well for us.
The six feet long galley (including extension), while not huge, was plenty for our cooking. This Airstream’s pantry is superb in size and layout, and the kitchen’s overhead bins for dishes and pans have been ample. We have four drawers and a drawer-slide knife rack in the kitchen. Everything we needed was within short reach and very convenient to the kitchen (and to everywhere within the Airstream).
The six cubic feet Dometic refrigerator had enough space for us and keeps the cold food fresh. Our freezer holds four ice trays, a gallon of ice cream, enough chicken, fish and steak for a week, and several frozen vegetables and prepared entrees. The three-burner stove permitted preparing any meals we’ve wanted, the oven is large enough for baking breads, cookies, and entrees, and the microwave is perfectly located in the kitchen to support any heating or cooking. The large (17″ diameter) and deep stainless steel sink worked out well for vegetable washing as well as dishwashing.
We found a place for everything inside our trailer. We made many small changes to accomodate our wants/needs. We put into use some spaces Airstream apparently did not intend. Although Airstream equipped three lower cabinet doors with hinges and latches, Airstream did not provide door pulls. We examined the spaces and found much very useable space. In these spaces we stored spare water filters, bottles of wine and liquor, and a few other dry goods. We also added, in unused space under the kitchen counter, a drawer and the knife rack. You can read about these and other home improvements here: link to our home improvements page.
How much indoor space do two adults need? We comfortably sat six to eight adults (in the living room plus one side of the dinette) for conversation and drinks, but they had little room to jump about and wouldn’t have space to dance. Conversely, our cubic space required very little energy to heat. Propane provides our space heat, water heating, and cooking energy. In 2008 our propane cost was approximately $150.
We didn’t often have people dine in with us. So how did we dine together when our home is a cozy travel trailer? Two choices, make do in the trailer or go out. As an example, we dined out two weeks ago with Richard and Julie Hunt when they were in town overnight on their way from Melbourne, FL, to Punta Gorda, FL. It was nice to sample a local Mexican food restaurant and spend the evening visiting with friends from the 2008 WBCCI Landmarks Caravan. Mostly though, Debbie and I dined together in our camper.
Debbie, as I type this, is knitting in the dining room leaning back on a bolster against the wall. I’m sitting in the living room. I’m six feet from her, just out of reach and usually not close enough for us. I can practice morse code and work the amateur radio with headphones without distracting her. We read a lot, write sometimes. And rarely watch t.v. except together she and I’ll watch movies or some old episodes of MASH, I Love Lucy, or Andy Griffith.
This Airstream’s layout provides ample space for all these activities and more. Kinda makes us wonder, why do two people still build or buy 4,500 square feet houses? We’re living in an Airstream trailer with interior dimensions of approximately 8′ X 23′, or 184 square feet heated space. Small has worked great for us throughout 2008.
No, we don’t have a surplus of space. We have enough space for over eighty percent of our activities of daily living. The other twenty percent involve outdoor or other venue activities including walking, tennis, golf, line dancing, aerobics, and swimming. Our favorite place to sit is on the L-sofa, followed closely by the benches of our dinette. The sofa is not as comfortable as we want due to the soft and relatively thin cushions. But the sofa is a great space upon which we can relax, read, write, listen to music, or watch the UNC Tarheels win another basketball game. Go Heels!
Sometimes the Tarheels’ games aren’t televised. No problem, they’re always broadcast on XM radio. We have XM Radio in the Airstream, can play our CD collection from our iPod through our radio, have a roof-top television antenna, and can watch movie dvds. When’s the last time we were bored? I remember once, back when I was seven or eight years old . . . I guess we’re just very easily entertained. And between our Airstream and the array of available venues we should have plenty to occupy us.
Our heating and cooling system has worked just fine in all but extreme conditions. We intended to chase 75 degrees, and found ourselves using almost no auxiliary heat or cool when outdoor temperature was between 65 and 85 degrees Farenheit. We found ourselves camped in 19 degrees F in South Carolina last February, and 106 degrees F in Bakersfield, California, last August. We were adequately comfortable (inside the Airstream) in both cases.
The bathroom is smaller than I would ever have imagined designing a shower/toilet/lavatory area. Airstream did not waste a square millimeter in this layout yet it works perfectly for us. We attended an RV show in Charlotte, NC, a few years ago and watched a fellow peer into the shower/toilet of a CCD 25. He promptly backed out and said, “No way. No way I could fit in and out of there.”
And he’ probably correct. This plan might not work for everyone. Another person, a family member, told us, “It’s just so small, it makes me claustrophobic.” We, on the other hand, see this 1,200 cubic foot space (8′ X 23′ X 6.5′) as tremendously larger than our 84 cubic foot backpacking tent (7′ X 4′ X 3′). In our Airstream trailer, you don’t have to run outside to use the bathroom and can even stand up to change clothes!
But if you’re a large person, this may not be the optimal living space for you. Getting in and out of the bathroom might prove challenging. The doorway is small and the toilet and shower are both somewhat compact. And if you are at all mobility challenged, the bed may prove difficult for you — it is only accessible from one third at the bottom corner.
We didn’t live in the bedroom. I know, people correctly point out the amount of our lifetime we spend in bed. I’m asleep — I didn’t care how big the bedroom was. And I spent as little time as practical in the shower or toilet area. Why spend money and space on those functions? Would it change the outcome? (pun intended, ha ha)
Our favorite indoor activities in our Airstream last year? Listening to the rain; enjoying home-prepared food while we ate at our dinette; playing music on the nice sound system; sleeping in our comfortable bed in this cozy trailer; and looking out through the panoramic windows or skylight or vista view windows, to name a few. This Airstream International CCD 25 brilliantly and comfortably accommodated our needs throughout 2008. Let’s go another year!
This article discussed livability of our Airstream trailer. The previous article addressed expenses, and equipment reliability. Another time I may discuss our 2008 experiences in health care, clothing, food and beverage, utilities, exercise, and sightseeing with our twenty-five foot Airstream travel trailer.
See You Down The Road!