Adventure by Design


n a South American town called “Little Hell” I folded my truck around a wooden post. Trash spilled from its dog-proof perch into the new geography of my hood, unfamiliar hills and valleys shrouded in radiator steam, and my passenger cackled ruefully. I’ve since learned not to go out seeking adventure—the spoken goal of that hapless midnight drive. Or to heed the suggestion of a grown man with tube socks tattooed up his legs.

Peter Pan once said to Captain Hook, “To die would be an awfully big adventure.” And he was right. That’s my point.

Great travel partner, though, my tattooed provocateur of a friend: an instigator, to be sure, always down for an adventure of some sort. And though I’ve officially given up on eternal youth and learned to avoid chasing “adventure,” per se, I’m still not above an occasional nip from the jackass trough.

Yes, I still crave adventure—even as I avoid it. So when I look at that glistening pod on our cover it sparks something internal. It’s nothing new, of course, this timeless urge. Kerouac’s “On the Road” fantasy has called to men since the advent of the wheel. Steinbeck embarked on his own “Travels With Charley” late in his life. And Tom and Huck’s 19th-century creekside musings still sing to us from the pages of Kindle.

The resurgence of these riveted travel trailers, however, has perhaps more to do with design than our urge to hit the open road in search of adventure. They are undeniably cool looking. Real head-turners. And now there’s one with an interior to match that classic style.

On page 19, Maryann Hammers chats with the designer of the Bowlus Road Chief, John Long, a connoisseur who spent a decade restoring his own 1935 Road Chief before securing the rights to the brand and launching a contemporary version of the original, which predated and inspired competitors like the now-ubiquitous Airstream. Beginning this summer, the luxe new travel trailers will be made right here in Oxnard, with a sticker price of a cool hundred grand.

Now, I don’t expect many of our readers to go out and buy one of these. But anyone with a good sense of design will appreciate the genius behind them. As an article in the New York Times put it, “The Bowlus Road Chief makes an Airstream look about as design-forward as a dogcart.”

Retro? The originator, William Hawley Bowlus, actually spent his career on the cutting edge, designing planes like Lindbergh’s famous Spirit of St. Louis. Indeed, his fascination with aircraft construction inspired the first Road Chief, produced in 1934. This odd contraption reflected the futuristic style and “space-age” technology of his era. He was anything but a throwback.

Fads come and go; great design is eternal. And I believe this trailer owes its longevity to forward-thinking design rather than the obvious retro-cool appeal.

Or who knows, maybe Maryann is right: perhaps a “craving for new adventures” is the big draw—the fuel of our attraction to these “sleek silver tubes.”

But people please, can we call it something else? Let’s leave intentional adventure to the jackasses.


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