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Hotel Airstream

We spend a weekend in a $180,000 Airstream Interstate to race $500 cars, and hope the dissonance doesn't explode our heads.

By Blake Z. Rong | Photos By Blake Z. Rong | February 13, 2013
The Airstream had to be back in Los Angeles by Sunday afternoon. It was going to the prestigious Barrett-Jackson auction in Las Vegas that Monday. Woody had considered putting me in the earliest stint that morning, but the looming deadline meant that I had to leave early -- to say nothing of my previous day's results. We pulled the Airstream out of the paddock in the early morning stillness, just as the sounds of noisy two-stroke ATVs and pit bikes started carousing between the pits, echoing off the other slablike RVs. We were running on fumes down the 5: no water, no auxiliary battery power to power the refrigerator, both waste tanks full, half a tank of propane for the generator. The satellite television couldn't find reception the entire time I had it. We never figured out how to turn off the infuriating Kenwood navigation system, as bright as a binary star and slowly eviscerating any power in the batteries. We slept at night by putting a towel on it. You can replicate the same effect by watching Japanese horror movies on the couch and waiting for a little girl to crawl out of the TV while you're asleep. But the Airstream Interstate remained a faithful travel steed for a weekend in the paddock, offering us a rare glimpse of trackside privacy and luxury details that spoiled us for granted. The LED lights, for example, were designed to produce no excess heat. The bathroom was cramped but surprisingly functional, the "marine toilet" powerful enough to suck down loose change and petanque balls if we tried. The electric awning was sheer genius. And after five fill-ups, the Interstate returned us an average figure of 16 miles per gallon -- a far sight above Larry's GMC Vandura conversion van parked behind his KOA office. The corner workers did their best to inadvertently sabotage us but our team ended up placing fifth in our class without any more major incidents, limping the car around on shot tie rods and steering looser than Nickel Slot Night. Final results: 63rd overall, 238 laps completed, and errant misty-eyed nostalgia of the 1976 Presidential Election. There are some things in life that one just shouldn't cheapen out on: a three-piece suit; a Cuisinart; a racecar. An RV, of course, should be first and foremost. The Airstream Interstate, if nothing else, proves that "go big, or go home" mentality is still alive and well in America. And with an Airstream, "going home" isn't very far at all.
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