Trailer Park Chic
By John Grossmann
“How’d you like to spend the night in a trailer park?”
On previous visits to my son Andrew in Portland, Oregon, he’d taken me to some of the city’s renowned food carts and hippest craft breweries. One visit, we left Portland a couple hours behind and hiked, in swirling snow flurries, to one of his favorite hot springs, on an obsidian-strewn beach of a caldera-formed lake. So I wasn’t quite sure what to make of his suggestion for overnight accommodations—this time for a dual parent stay with him in the Willamette Valley wine country. But Andrew now works for Travel Oregon, the state tourism agency; hence I bit my tongue and heard him out.
And so it was, that in late January, after stops at two of the more than 500 vineyards in the valley, we turned off the road in Dayton, Oregon, at a neon sign announcing The Vintages Trailer Resort and RV Park. The sign, of classic mid-century design, was actually all of three years old. It went up when a boutique hotel owner called Sima Management Company, based in Santa Barbara, California, bought the 14-acre RV Park and in 2014 hauled in the first of a gradually expanding array of vintage and retro-looking, newly minted facsimiles. The nightly rentals occupy one lane of the so-called Pinot Loop, which encircles eight other wine-named roadways (Chardonnay, Zinfandel, Syrah, and so on) lined with RVs parked on monthly minimums.
The Vintages currently offers 19 trailer makes and models in various sizes and bright primary colors, including a 1947 Spartan Manor, a 1953 Vagabond, a 1963 Silver Streak, and, of course, classic polished aluminum Airstreams. We booked a 1965 Avion, which promised sleeping room for three, a bathroom with shower, and amenities like “hotel quality linens,” terrycloth robes in the closet, high speed wireless Internet, a flat screen TV, and pour-over coffee. Outside our trailer on a small patio stood two metal chairs that could have come off the set of Mad Men and a small propane grill. One reproduction trailer, a 2015 Flyte Camp Neutron, even has a couples soaking tub. All of the trailers come with a pair of coaster bikes.
Nowadays, such tricked-up utilitarian accommodations often go by the name glamping. Treehouses. Yurts. And, increasingly, refurbished vintage trailers await those seeking a unique stay. (see below) Our Avion, as limned by entries in the trailer guest journal, often hosts girls’ getaways. One began like this: “Yet another review about a ‘Girlfriend Ya Ya Sister’ Weekend in Wine Country. Absolutely perfect time of year to visit. God’s Colors were magnificent.”
Our visit, in the dead of winter, was not so optimally timed. The weather was cold and grey and the two space heaters provided in the trailer failed to cut the chill. (A morning shower was unthinkable.) Would I return? Absolutely, but in spring, summer, or fall.
In better weather, I can easily picture myself sipping a local pinot noir on the patio. Or hopping on one of the two coaster bikes that come with each trailer and cycling into nearby Dayton, which features summertime classic auto shows and evening bandstand concerts, not to mention a good breakfast place in a repurposed church. Dayton is also home to the Joel Palmer House, a fine dining spot that specializes in locally foraged mushrooms and truffles.
On the Vintages property, and shared by overnight trailer guests and longer staying RV residents, you’ll find a pool and Jacuzzi. There’s a horseshoe pit and cornhole boxes and beanbags. Management helps cultivate a sense of fun with promotions like a $50 Little Campfire Kit that includes s’mores ingredients from a Portland company called Nineteen27, a bottle of local pinot noir, and a tabletop firepit. Pre-order Flock it to Me, and you will be greeted by 10 pink lawn flamingoes outside your trailer; inside, there’ll be a chilled bottle of local sparkling wine, plus the added fixings to make a flamingo-colored, Shirley Temple cocktail.
After the sun goes down, white lights strung on the trees lining the trailer lane set the throwback neighborhood aglow, echoing the festive look of main street in nearby McMinnville, a charming town in the heart of the valley, which Wine Enthusiast magazine rated the number one wine region in the world in 2016. That’s a superb reason to visit the Willamette Valley. A funky stay in a vintage trailer park is another.
Other Places, Other Trailer Stays
- The Shady Dell, Bisbee, Arizona. Choose from seven 1940s and 1950s trailers or a 1947 Chris Craft Yacht or a bright blue Airporter bus redone as a Polynesian Tiki Palace. Closed summer and winter.
- Kate’s Lazy Desert Airstream Motel, Joshua Tree, California. Six mid-century themed restored Airstreams serve as the Western outpost of upstate New York’s celebrated Kate’s Lazy Meadow, the funky motel run by B-52s singer Kate Pierson.
- Lakedale Resort, San Juan Island, Washington. In addition to standard lakeside lodge accommodations, the resort offers log cabins, “canvas cottages,” and May through September, a single 1978 Excella Airstream with a wooden deck right at lake’s edge.
- El Cosmico, Marfa, Texas. High plains desert digs include tepees, tents, yurts, and 11 vintage trailers ranging from the 11-foot long Amigo to the 42-foot Imperial Mansion. All have cedar decks.
- The Sou’wester, Seaview, Washington. Supplementing seven lodge rooms and four “motel cottages” are a range of trailers, from small, no shower “rustics,” to larger models with kitchens and living rooms. The deluxe African Queen option sleeps six.
John Grossmann has written about food and travel for The Art of Eating, Departures, Eating Well, Gourmet, Cigar Aficionado, Saveur, and SKY. He was a finalist in the food journalist category of the 2010 Le Cordon Bleu World Food Media Awards. He is the co-author, with acoustic ecologist Gordon Hempton, of the book One Square Inch of Silence, (Free Press).