VIDEO: Save Airstream Ranch!

Posted In: Airstream, Destinations, Interviews, People We Meet, Video

I like mavericks. These are people in our world with the courage to do things a little different. They may emerge as entrepreneurs, writers, artists, teachers, you name it. But wthout mavericks, America would be a dull place indeed.

Frank Bates is a maverick. Bates owns one of the most successful (and coolest) Airstream dealerships in the country. His latest creation, Airstream Ranch, is a roadside attraction in Florida that’s causing no small share of controversy. Inspired by Cadillac Ranch in Texas, it consists of eight vintage Airstream travel trailers that have been wedged vertically into the ground.

A few local residents have complained about Airstream Ranch. They’ve petitioned the county government for its removal, and the bureaucrats have agreed. These residents claim that Airstream Ranch is an eyesore, and little more than a promotion for Bates’s RV dealership.

But after viewing Airstream Ranch, I’m saying that it’s art. It looks like Wally Byam and Stanley Kubrick got together to have a little fun. It brings some kitschy entertainment to an otherwise unremarkable stretch of interstate highway. It should be allowed to stand.

I’m sure that a few vintage Airstream enthusiasts (you know who you are) are offended by the thought of sticking these beloved silver beauties into the ground. But these aren’t pristine Airstreams that have been sacrificed here – these are trailers that were once left for dead. Their aluminum panels were so damaged, their interiors so ravaged, they were relegated to junk status. They probably would’ve been scrapped entirely if not for Bates. Now, if he gets his way, they’ll enjoy some measure of immortality.

Is Airstream Ranch a promotion for Bates RV? To the man’s credit, there’s absolutely no signage on Airstream Ranch. He could’ve erected a huge screaming neon sign (not unlike South Dakota’s Wall Drug). But instead the trailers stand alone, unadorned, like sentinels from campgrounds past. Sure, it’s located on property adjacent to his dealership, Bates RV. But it’s also located next to a massive campground, and near some other dealerships.

In fact, Airstream Ranch could outlast Bates RV. If allowed to remain, it could become a Florida road trip institution, a legacy monument to the RV lifestyle. But alas! Its future is in doubt. ‘Tis said that Bates is incurring a fine of $100-per-day that the Airstream Ranch remains. But he’s got a renowned constitutional lawyer Luke Lirot on his side, and this battle will be waged in court.

We’ll be keeping our eye on Airstream Ranch. If you are ever in the Tampa, Florida, area you should stop and check it out.


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