Vintage RV getaway in the desert

As a child, I thought trailer homes were the coolest.

You could live wherever you wanted, all your stuff with you. Trailers were compact, chic (those silver-gleaming Airstreams looked like landscape jewelry) and meant you could travel the world on a whim.

borrego rv rental vintage airstream camping vacation palm springsThe older I got I noticed trailer living wasn’t all it’s cracked up to be. I was probably in my late teems by the time I heard the term “trailer trash,” referring to the undesirability of some living in an impoverished mobile living style. Yet, as I again shifted into a new life stage and saw older adults squealing merrily away from their homes for a retirement on the road — footloose and care free — mobile living again seemed… cool.

Trying on the mobile lifestyle -Borrego RV rental

Admittedly, I’m a homeowner and don’t anticipate that changing any time soon, but there’s still a mystery and allure to a certain kind of mobile lifestyle. I wanted to know what it was like to bunk just off the living room. To cook a full meal in a kitchen the size of a powder room. To pare back life to just the essentials and park under the stars. When I read about a trailer park in the desert outside Borrego Springs where it’s possible to rent a vintage Airstream by the night and try on this lifestyle for myself, I made a reservation.

Vintage vacation in Borrego Springs

After winding through the desert and down a serpentine hill to the valley floor, we turned into the Palm Canyon Hotel and RV Resort in the small desert oasis of Borrego Springs. Located on the edge of town, it’s less remote than my mind movie would have scripted our stay, but it is blissfully quiet. (We picked Palm Canyon Hotel and RV Resort after doing a lot of research. We paid fully for our stay so this is not an advertisement.)

A visit to the Wild West

borrego rv rental vintage airstream camping vacation palm springsThe RV park is located adjacent to a newly built (or at least it looks new) hotel complex made to mimic a wild west stagecoach town. False fronts dominate the mock village which is laid out in a small grid. We check in at the Park Office which also houses a restaurant and saloon.

With bills paid and paperwork printed for us to prove it, a gruff older gentleman shows us to our Airstreams. Cruising down the ‘streets’ in a golf cart, we’re ushered into Moonwalker, and Baby Blue, what appear to be the largest trailer and one of the smallest. (It wasn’t easy to judge size from the photos online.)

“Whatever you do, DON’T SLAM THE DOORS. I’ll hear it! AND IT DRIVES ME CRAZY!” says our guide, gesturing vaguely to another distant diesel pusher that looks about the size of my first apartment.

With assurances that we’d keep the banging to a minimum, we shoo away the helpful but gruff guide and settle in to unpack.

Small but cozy & comfortable stay

My husband and I have won the coin toss and set up camp in the large Moonwalker, a silver-skinned 1970’s Airstream that we’re told belongs to the owner of this wonderland. He uses it when he comes to stay, and lets it out when he’s away.

Moonwalker has a decent sized living room with a sofa and some captain’s chairs and it opens onto the napkin-sized kitchen. We’ve planned to make a few gourmet meals while we’re here so this should be interesting.

borrego rv rental vintage airstream camping vacation palm springs

A bathroom that’s smaller than the kitchen (and is really only big enough to turn around in) is down the hallway, which dead ends in a reasonably sized bedroom with a very comfy queen bed, complete with cozy duvet and linens.

The Airstream is small, yes, but it’s cozy and it’s great for the two nights we’ve booked.

After our quick tour, it’s over to scope out Baby Blue, which takes a lot less time. Couch, counter, toilet, double bed, and we’re out at the fire pit cracking a bottle of cotes du rhone.

There are perhaps six or eight Airstreams lined up here at the edge of the desert, and we’re the only two couples in them. Across the park, some other travellers have brought their own wheels, but by and large we have the place to ourselves this Tuesday night in December.

The Palm Canyon Hotel and RV Resort is quite nice; the roads are freshly paved, the gravel pathways are well kept and the large pool and hot tub area nearby is pristine. Even the bath houses with showers and wash facilities are tidy and feel new.

Cooking on the BBQ & relaxing at fire pit

Dinner (grilled tacos) is prepared on the outdoor BBQ as the night air grows cooler. Soon we’re wrapped up in sweaters, gathered around the gas fire pit and polishing off the cotes and about to move on to gamay.

Instead, looking for some action, or as much ‘action’ as our chill group is up for, we slide on our flip-flops and amble up to the saloon, which is mercifully open, though again, it’s just us.

We chat up the bartender who lives in his own trailer on site with his partner who also works at the resort. He espouses the virtues of a hippie nomadic lifestyle and we listen rapt and ply him with questions. We meet Basil Hayden and Johnnie Walker and then head off for bed.

Airstreams under the stars

borrego rv rental vintage airstream camping vacation palm springsWalking back, despite the lights, we can see a sprawling carpet of stars that’s been laid over us. We stop and marvel at the light from the sky before heading off to sleep; trailer windows wide open, desert breeze tickling in, and the sound of silence lulling us to sleep.

Wake. Rinse. Repeat.

We spent two blissful days at the resort in our small Airstreams. The pool and hot tub (“PLASTIC GLASSES ONLY!” ) were well used and we took some time to get acquainted with the desert by renting dune buggies and going shopping for adventure. Read about that here.

In those two days did I fall in love with mobile living? Yes and no. I loved the quiet of the desert, but wanted more counter space. I like the vintage accommodations and found it novel that the living room furniture doubles as a driver’s seat. I found the sleeping arrangements quite cozy but kept banging my crown on the bulkhead of the bathroom while trying to do my makeup. Win some, lose some.

My preteen self was right about some things: Airstreams are gems. There’s freedom to this lifestyle, and yes, I could travel on a whim if I had one. I’m not ready to commit yet, but I am ready for another date.

borrego rv rental vintage airstream camping vacation palm springs