Airstreams owners rule the campground at one Minnesota RV parkby Tim Post, Minnesota Public Radio
Camper trailers are a common sight on the highways during the summer. But there's one kind that really catches the eye, Airstreams. Their shiny aluminum skin and riveted panels make them look more like a WWII bomber than something you'd see at a campground. A couple hundred Airstream aficionados spend their summers at an exclusive central Minnesota RV park. They're people who are passionate about their homes away from home.
Clear Lake, Minn. — The 80-acre Minnesota Airstream park near Clear Lake looks like most campgrounds. There's a swimming pool, a tennis court, a golf course and lots of camper trailers. But what makes this place unique is a reflective sea of silver. Only Airstream models are allowed in the park according to summertime weekend resident David Piehl.
"The non-Airstream brands are affectionately referred to as SOBs, some other brand," Piehl said.
The Minnesota Airstream park, one of only a handful in the nation, is riding a new wave of interest in Airstreams. Piehl thinks younger campers are attracted to the retro-coolness of their silver-bullet looks and indoor comforts. 37-year-old Piehl owns a 1990 model. He likes the walnut cabinents and the ample closet space inside the 34-foot trailer.
"I just like the space and the appointments. I feel very comfortable in here," Piehl said.
It doesn't take long to realize that people in this park, Airstreamers as they're sometimes referred to, see themselves as different. Bill Crom considers himself a sort of camping connoisseur. Standing next to his 20-year old 34-foot long Airstream trailer, Crom knows that these vehicles get lots of attention, something their owners don't mind.
"Airstreams tend to be kind of a novelty when you pull into an RV park or a campground. People want to look at it. They like to take a look at the inside the trailer," Crom said.
Just owning an Airstream is not a novelty here in the Minnesota Airstream Park, but how many you own can set you a part. Brad Juntunen from Cloquet is sitting under a shady awning by his Airstream. When asked if he'd like to talk about his trailer, he responds "Which one?"
"We have three," Juntenen explains. "We have a 1999 34-foot Limited. We have a 1974 25-foot Land Yacht. And we have a 1962 19-foot Globe Trotter. We restore them, and we can't get rid of them, we get attached to them."
One of Juntunen's restorations is parked nearby. Its freshly polished aluminum skin shines like a mirror on wheels. Inside are gleaming hardwood floors and on a shelf among pictures of children and grandchildren, are framed photos of Airstream restorations from the past. Juntunen and his wife found this all-Airstream campground a few years back, and immediately decided to spend the rest of their retired summers here.
"We were coming back from the Black Hills and found it in our book and said 'Let's try that place.' So we came and we hadn't unhooked yet, and someone came to us and said, 'Hey we're having a potluck tonight. Come on up to the clubhouse." Everybody is like that, we have a great time here," Juntenen said.
This is a co-op campground, so you have to buy a share in order to get a lot. Shares run anywhere from $5,000 to $15,000. An Airstream can cost anywhere from a few thousand for a small used model, into the six figures for a new Airstream motor home. But people here say that's a bargain compared to a cabin on a lake somewhere up north. A cabin that just sits there.