The Burma Shave signs are long gone and Route 66 exists in name only but this summer travelers can hit the road in a rig that truly recalls the glory days of the Great American Road Trip, according to a report by NBC News.
Launched earlier this month, Airstream2Go.com offers the first-ever rentals of the distinctive “silver bullets” that have been icons of the highway for more than 80 years.
“Everybody recognizes them,” said Al Hesselbart, historian at the Recreational Vehicle Hall of Fame and Museum in Elkhart, Ind. “If it’s a bright aluminum trailer with rounded curves, it’s got to be an Airstream.”
That shape owes its existence to Hawley Bowlus, a glider builder and designer who conceived it in the early 1930s after helping build the Spirit of St. Louis for Charles Lindbergh. Unfortunately for Bowlus, he was a better engineer than a businessman and the company struggled until master promoter Wally Byam took over, renamed it Airstream and launched a sales and marketing machine that capitalized on the trailer’s unique shape and then-futuristic styling.
“For many years, it had kind of a snob appeal,” said Hesselbart. It was, ‘I’ve got one and you don’t.’”
Enter Dicky Riegel, who founded Airstream 2 Go after serving as president of Airstream and group president of its parent company, Thor Industries Inc. With new models costing $30,000 to $100,000, he saw a gap in a business model in which the rigs were available for sale but not for rental.
“I was with Airstream for 15 years and there wasn’t a day that went by that someone didn’t ask, ‘How do I rent one?’” he told NBC News. “The answer to that question was always, ‘Well, I’m sorry but you can’t.’”
Until now, that is. Currently, Airstream 2 Go is renting 23- and 28-foot Airstreams from two locations: Las Vegas and Los Angeles. Trailers are paired with a GMC Yukon Denali truck with rates starting at $3,850 for a self-guided “Take It & Go” 5-day rental.
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Airstream 2 Go, a new travel company offering rentals of current-model Airstream trailers, makes its debut this month.
According to a press release, Airstream 2 Go offers customers a unique and stylish way to explore the United States in a turn-key Airstream vacation experience. Travelers can visit and explore America’s national parks, landmark destinations and landscapes with all the comforts of their own Airstream trailer, custom matched to dedicated GMC Yukon Denali sport utility vehicles.
Independently owned and operated, and exclusively factory-authorized by Airstream Inc., Airstream 2 Go has strategic locations in Los Angeles and Las Vegas.
“Airstream 2 Go is a brand new company with an 82-year history,” said Dicky Riegel, founder and CEO and a former Thor Industries Inc. executive. “Airstream trailers have been an American icon for travel and adventure since 1931 but, until now, only Airstream owners have been able to access the brand. Through its rental offering, Airstream 2 Go provides adventurous travelers with a timeless vacation and travel experience.”
Airstream 2 Go trailers feature sleek and contemporary interiors designed by award-winning San Francisco architect and designer Christopher C. Deam. All Airstreams in the fleet are fully equipped, with many items provided through Airstream 2 Go’s relationship with Zappos.com (www.zappos.com). Each Airstream includes luxury amenities such as plush linens, towels and all the essentials for a fully equipped kitchen. Available in two sizes – a 23-foot trailer that sleeps four and a 28-foot trailer that sleeps six — each Airstream features Ultraleather fabrics, Beauflor flooring, Wilsonart laminate furniture, flat screen LED televisions, Sony DVD/CD players, iPod docks, integrated sound systems, microwaves and cook tops, barbeque grills and Zip-Dee powered awnings.
Travelers will receive also hands-on guidance and expertise to make the trip as turn-key as possible. Airstream 2 Go has partnered with Off the Beaten Path (http://offthebeatenpath.com/), a travel planning and outfitting company known for exceptional outdoor explorations since 1986. Named one of the top 25 exploration experts in the nation by National Geographic magazine, Off the Beaten Path offers an insider experience to some of nation’s most incredible natural attractions.
Prior to hitting the road, Airstream 2 Go will educate renters by providing detailed information on itinerary stops, destination facts and even step-by-step product videos available online at www.airstream2go.com, including what to pack for their specific journey. Upon arrival in Los Angeles or Las Vegas, guests are welcomed and transferred to the Airstream 2 Go depot, where staff will provide a thorough overview and education about the Airstream and tow vehicle. Renters will be equipped with fully loaded iPad Minis containing information on all necessary safety systems, a copy of their itinerary, maps and even a special Airstream 2 Go driving playlist.
The journey duration is up to the traveler, with a minimum of five days. Introductory week-long trip rates range from $5,300 for a ‘do it yourself’ trip with a 23-foot trailer to $7,500 for a fully customized itinerary with the 28-foot trailer. Airstream 2 Go offers travelers a unique opportunity to experience America, in a quintessentially American way.
For more information visit, www.airstream2go.com or call 1-800-780-9880.
Editor’s Note: The following column is penned by Dutch Mandel, editorial director for Autoweek, chronicling his association with former Airstream and Thor Industries Inc. executive Dicky Riegel over the years and the pending launch of Airstream 2 Go – the only factory-authorized Airstream trailer rental company in the U.S.
I met Dicky Riegel about 10 years ago. I’d been wandering the halls of the annual Recreational Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA) convention in Louisville, Ky., and Dicky was completely blocking the doorway of a bright and shiny Airstream trailer. I wanted in.
At 6 feet 7, Dicky blocks a lot of passages, but opens up many more. As then-president of Airstream Inc., he afforded adventurers a chance to see the world, one iconic aluminum tube at a time.
When we found out what each other did, neither of us could stop asking questions. Dicky is a car fanatic — a nut of the finest order – and from an early age, he consumed car magazines, including Autoweek, like oxygen. As I’ve an interest in design, the open road and a cool, hip life I envision leading someday with an Airstream on my bumper and miles of roads ahead, it was an ideal match. For days, stories and vodka gimlets flowed.
Over the years, I visited Dicky and right-hand-man Bob Wheeler — an unassuming engineer the ladies adore at their Jackson Center, Ohio, headquarters. We did projects together: When Autoweek competed in a human-powered Red Bull Dragster event, we promoted a righteous Airstream SkyDeck motor home. Every successful race team needs hospitality, right?
In time, Dicky moved from Airstream to parent company Thor Industries Inc. (and Bob became Airstream president, a position he still holds today). That was the beginning and the middle of this story … that gets better.
Move forward several years, and Dicky wants to do something on his own. He conjures up a brilliant plan.
Understand that the only way anyone could experience the Airstream lifestyle was if they went all in and bought one. It was a commitment to be part of a life enjoyed by many and envied by more.(Who among us, upon seeing a summer sun glint off that shiny carapace, has not breathed the sigh of a beckoning road?) Until now, there’d been no way to rent an Airstream to live this fantasy.
Dicky started Airstream 2 Go, the first and only factory-authorized Airstream trailer rental company in the States. He raised capital, bought a squadron of trailers and a fleet of GMC Yukon Denalis, and created a mobile destination getaway we all can enjoy. (Its soft launch is this month, but he’s booking clients for May already! Go to airstream2go.com to learn more.)
He’s made it simple — a concierge will plan stops, coordinate your adventure, plot your path and, of course, make reservations. Before you go, a full-blown ground school will walk you through how to care for the trailer. Or you can fly in, rent the rig and off you go. The level of engagement is customizable and fits every customer.
Have you dreamed of a roll through America’s purple mountain majesty? A 23-foot Airstream could fill your needs. A family of six can vacation to the Grand Canyon or the Pacific Ocean in a 28-footer. Each model is fitted with air conditioning, power awning, backup camera, lawn chairs, gas grill, available bike rack, generator, bathroom with shower, kitchen with refrigerator and microwave, duvets (!) and flat-panel TV.
You could float down a river, spelunk a cave or lie on a beach, but until you’ve enjoyed the openness this country offers, you’ve not lived. Dicky, like I said, has opened up America to many, and I can’t wait for my Airstream vacation.
Ron Fenech, president of Keystone RV Co., Elkhart, Ind., has been appointed Thor Industries Inc. senior group president, with all Thor RV divisions reporting to him, according to a news release.
“Over the past eight years as Keystone president, Ron Fenech has been an important driver of Thor’s largest and most profitable company. Thor’s other RV companies will now also share in the benefits of his leadership,” said Peter B. Orthwein, Thor chairman, president and CEO. “Under Ron’s direction, Thor’s RV divisions will remain separate and distinct companies in the marketplace, serving their distinct dealer networks.”
Fenech will report directly to Orthwein.
Richard “Dicky” Riegel, currently Thor’s COO, becomes senior group president, with responsibility for Thor’s bus group, Thor investor relations and for developing new business segments related to Thor’s existing lines of business.
“One of Thor’s biggest opportunities is to utilize its strong cash flow to enter a new, related business segment and Dicky Riegel is the ideal person to head up that effort,” Orthwein said. “Dicky has been instrumental in driving substantial growth during his presidency of Airstream and in his role as Thor’s COO. With his skills and talents, he will help shape the future of Thor by identifying new businesses for the company.”
Andrew Imanse remains group president, Thor Commercial Bus division, and will continue to report to Riegel, who will report to Orthwein.
Bob Martin, currently executive vice president of Keystone RV, has been appointed president of Keystone RV.
“Bob has been an integral part of the Keystone team since our early days, and we have been preparing for this move with Bob for the past three years,” Fenech said. ”Bob understands what makes Keystone great, and I am excited about Keystone’s future under his leadership.”
Thor, with headquarters in Jackson Center, Ohio, is the world’s largest manufacturer of recreation vehicles and a major builder of commercial buses.