A Hermosa Beach family discovers the Airstream life and hits the road creating lifelong memories
Along for the ride.
Lori and Will Ford didn’t ever envision parking a 23-foot-long Airstream Flying Cloud trailer in their narrow driveway in Hermosa Beach. But the busy husband-and-wife duo, co-owners of Gum Tree Shop and Café in Hermosa Beach and Gum Tree Manhattan Beach (she’s the CEO/buyer and he’s CFO/chef), did have Airstream ownership on their bucket list.
“We always had the Airstream dream,” says Lori, sitting inside their Airstream trailer on a light sand-hued leather banquette dotted with pillows and Mexican cotton blankets from their store. “But we sort of figured it would be when we’d retire one day.”
After winning a two-night stay in a vintage Airstream as an auction item at local fundraiser, Hearts of Hermosa, the couple and their two children and dog, Theo, decided they should stay overnight in one first and see if they liked it enough to invest in one of their own. A year later, they ventured to Caravan Outpost—an enclave with 11 Airstream trailers in Ojai. After that first night, they were hooked.
Lori, who grew up in Manhattan Beach and lived in New York for many years (where she met Will at his former restaurant, Eight Mile Creek), didn’t have a lot of experience camping. “I wasn’t raised camping at all, and we hadn’t done any of the research,” she says.
“Being outside, exploring river beds and climbing trees, sleeping all together with the dog in the tiny trailer … this is what it’s all about.”
The two experienced a learning curve on everything from hookups, water and propane tanks to booking campsites. “There are so many models and configurations,” Lori explains. “We just wanted it to be comfortable and a reasonable size to tow.” They measured the driveway, scoured eBay and Craigslist, and began the ultimate nine-month hunt for their Airstream trailer.
With the help of Diane, a representative at Airstream Los Angeles, the couple found the perfect trailer for their needs (one bed for them and pullout beds for the kids). They learned the ropes at an orientation before heading to Camp Williams for a night to practice everything they had learned.
Since then the Fords, who affectionately refer to the Airstream as “Sandy” (a name they all voted on), have traveled to Foster Park in Ojai and Jalama Beach in Lompoc. Next up is Kodachrome Basin State Park in Utah and a 10-day trip up the California coast with stops in Paso Robles, Morro Bay and Big Sur.
“The name [Sandy] is fitting as we live at the beach, and it’s pretty much filled with sand as soon as we arrive at any campsite,” says Lori. “I’ve never been to Yosemite or the Grand Canyon, and we thought, ‘Let’s just take this next five to 10 years with the kids.’ We love the idea of going anywhere whenever and wherever. Now everyone stops us, and we’ve shown it to the whole neighborhood.”
The main duty for Will, who grew up caravaning in his hometown of Whyalla, South Australia, is navigating the Airstream on the road. “I haven’t found it that nerve-wracking,” says Will, who is settling into the Airstream life. “As soon as you have it, it’s like a magnet, and it’s really like a network. It’s a fun and inclusive culture, and I love to travel and get away. It requires teamwork, but really the kids love camping and we want them to have their memories.”
Lori agrees that beyond traveling in the Airstream, it’s about the memories they are creating as a family. “It’s teaching the kids that there is more out there in the world than our beautiful little bubble of a beach town,” she says. “Both kids are very active and love the outdoors. Of course we love a beach day at home, but there’s nothing like being in a different environment and being able to explore and discover new people, places and things.”
On the road everyone has his or her own chore list. Will is in charge of barbecuing, while Lori takes care of packing food and supplies. The kids have the task of helping collect wildflowers for table arrangements, assisting with cooking and assembling the outdoor awning.
“Being outside, exploring river beds and climbing trees, sleeping all together with the dog in the tiny trailer … this is what it’s all about,” says Lori. “Roasting marshmallows and playing card games and making friends with other families at the campgrounds—it’s a total departure from our everyday life in Hermosa, and that’s what makes it great and memorable.”
For the interior design of the 20-by-7½-foot space, Lori chose a neutral black-and-white palette down to the enamelware dishes and layered-in quilts from the store with pops of color and texture. “The black-and-white keeps it all uniform and cohesive,” says Lori, who strategically stores dishware and blankets and sheets in specific cabinets. “It all has to be super-functional. Just like in our house everything is Gum Tree, so too in the Airstream. We use the vintage kantha quilts a lot and have one on the end of the bed. They are thin and easy to fold up and store, and they have beautiful patterns. No two are alike.”
On chilly nights with s’mores and stargazing, Mexican cotton blankets are at the ready. The curtains above the banquette are repurposed shower curtains from Target that Lori had recreated at Twist Custom in Manhattan Beach. Other design touches include an outdoor rug by Fab Habitat, a glamping travel candle from the store, a road trip coffee table book, and a photograph Lori took on a past trip to the beach in Cinque Terre, Italy.
When not in use, Sandy (which bears a “Gum Tree” logo) resides in the driveway and is used as a guest room for visiting relatives and sleepovers for their daughter and her friends. On weekends their son takes his iPad and a bowl of cereal to the trailer and watches his favorite cartoons.
“We love that it brings us together as a family, and we love the time we get to spend together in it on our trips,” says Lori, who plans to someday take Sandy to the Hamptons for a traveling, pop-up store for Gum Tree. “I still can’t believe we did it, but I’m so glad we did it now.”