Friday, September 23, 2011

Quite a Contrast!

Light and Dark. Old and New. Right and Wrong. Man and Woman. Hot and Cold. You can think up many more contrasts, and they don't necessarily have to be opposites.

We found an RVing contrast within a period of less than 24 hours this week.

You may remember one of our earlier posts about stopping at Peggy Sue's Nifty Fifties Diner on our way into this summer. You can read our post about that, if you want, at Thoughts from the Road, Part II. Again, for some reason some of the photos have disappeared from that post. Gotta look into what's happening.

We stopped at Peggy Sue's again last evening for dinner, a free parking spot, and breakfast this morning. Last evening, a car towing a trailer pulled up next to us and the folks went in for their own dinner. I took some pictures while they were inside.

I thought it was probably an early model of an Airstream, until I saw this:

Have you ever heard of a Bowlus travel trailer? Neither had I. Did you notice the unusual characteristics? Front entry door, aerodynamic shape of the rear end. Tiny porthole windows.

As soon as the owners came out of the restaurant I was on their case. The man, John, could not spend much time with me, as his wife was not feeling well, and he wanted to move on. But he told me that this was indeed a Bowlus travel trailer, 1935 model (no wonder I didn't know about it -- it was built three years before I was born! John had purchased the old trailer and restored it and now uses it for "camping." The trailer weighs about 1100 pounds.

John also told me that the Bowlus trailer was the inspiration for the later Airstream models. Hawley Bowlus was an air frame designer -- in fact, it was he that designed the Spirit of St. Louis, the plane Charles Lindbergh flew solo across the ocean. Bowlus built these trailers for a year (1935-36), and the Airstream predecessor company sold them. According to John, Airstream took over Bowlus' design, built the trailers but went bankrupt. They came back from bankruptcy, and the rest in Airstream history.

How much of that is fact, how much is embroidered? I don 't really care. I just wish I had been able to take a look inside, and if John's wife had been feeling better, I might have. I Googled Bowlus and found that there were originally 80 Bowlus Road Chiefs built (another source says 200), of which perhaps 40 remain, and of those about a dozen are roadworthy.

But where's the contrast, you may ask, since that's the topic or this post. Right here. Along I-40 we stopped at one of the few Roadside Rest Areas that remain open these days. Right up next to us came a pickup towing another unique travel trailer, this one called an "Earthbound." Again I got in the face of the owner, who explained that he had once owned a motorhome, switched to a fifth wheel, and then "downsized" to this Earthbound Travel Trailer. This one's "dry weight" is 3600 pounds.

I wasn't smart enough to take any pictures at that point, but I connected with and got this photo:

I learned that this company makes essentially "green" RVs. In fact, the trailer I saw had the official
"green" seal of approval!

I also learned that this relatively new company will produce only 200 trailers for 2012, and of those, 100 will be available for customers in the United States. They range in length from 23'6" to 30'. They are lightweight, there is no wood at all in the trailer, and if you want to order one, the "start at" price is $84.900. Before adding any options. A side benefit, I suppose, is all the attention and questions you get at roadside rest areas, like the one today where we paused during ... Our Life on Wheels.


  1. Interesting post. That Bowlus almost looks like an upside down boat hull from the back. One thing we notice in every place we stop is the variety of RVs. Just goes to show, there is something for everyone!

  2. Very interesting to me....they did an outstanding job! We renovate vintage trailers....we just finished a 1954 Bellwood and a 65 Campmoor....we have a 56 Airstream waiting in the is a 13 foot Bubble...pre-Bambi ...

  3. HI, someone posted today..I think it was "Wandering" about being in Elkhart and going to the museum..They showed the same builder and one of his trailers..What a coinsidence for me...just reading blogs today..
    Thanks, Upriverdavid

  4. That Earthbound has a nice shape and look about it. Too bad the price tag wasn't a little more Earth Bound. I thought that Bowlus was just an Airstream that had been squeezed between a couple fence posts out in Wyoming somewhere.

  5. How do they get in that Bowlus? It is beautiful. What an exciting day you had and it was all free. Enjoy the ride!

  6. What an interesting piece of RV history! The Bowlus restoration must have been an act of love. Downsizing isn't in our foreseeable future, but for those who want to go to something like the Earthbound, I hope they have big bank accounts.

  7. Interesting post. I've always liked seeing those Airstream trailers even though I've never been in one. That Bowlus is a real beauty especially given the age of it.

    As for the Earthbound? Pretty'd have to be a pretty committed 'greenie' to pay that much.

  8. Loved the post..great info! Also loved those wide white wall tires on the Bowlus...Isn't it so fun to see the different ways people live on the road??

  9. Very interesting post...thanks for sharing. It's so much fun seeing all the different RVs on the road!

  10. That's the niftiest lil' trailer I ever saw. Looks like a silver bullet.
    Thanks for the info.. its really neat.

  11. The Bowlus is at the RV/MH Hall of Fame in Elkhart. It is beautifully restored by Michele Henry from Phoenix Commercial Paint. We had some work done by Michele while visiting Nick & Terry Russell and Greg & Jan White in Elkhart. Michele is an amazing craftsman and told us to be sure and see her restoration on the Bowlus.


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