November 12, 2019
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Retro Relaxing

A couple’s vintage ride receives a modern makeover
Mike, Rachel, and baby Gus.Mike, Rachel, and baby Gus.
Mike, Rachel, and baby Gus.

Sitting on a bluff overlooking the river, Mike and Rachel Martin’s aluminum refuge is one of their favorite getaways — even if it’s just parked on their four-acre riverfront lot in Henderson, Ky.

Although the couple currently lives in Downtown Evansville, they eventually plan to build a home on their Henderson property where Mike’s business, Architectural Renovations, is located. He is the owner and operator of the firm, where his attention to quality and detail transfers over to his own projects. With the big move still a year away, the Martins have found a way to enjoy their river view before ever breaking ground: their 1987 aluminum Airstream trailer.

Before Mike and Rachel were married in 2010, they began discussing family traditions. Both agreed that camping was an experience they wanted to share with their future children. “Families that camp together stay stronger,” says Rachel. “And they are stronger because of the good times they had and because of the bad experiences you grow from.” But with a creative like Mike, a tent would not suffice.

He had always liked the look of Airstreams, which are rounded, light-weight aluminum travel trailers known for their retro style, and now he finally had the perfect excuse to buy one. It took a few months before an Airstream showed up in the local classifieds, but eventually it did, and the Martins’ dream of completely revamping one of theses vintage campers came true. “We immediately fell in love with it,” says Mike. “It had a few dents and it was far from perfect, and definitely dated on the inside, but we had a vision.”

While preparing for their wedding, the couple decided to renovate the Airstream during the week leading up to the big day; a week in which Rachel describes as “very chaotic.” Mike and Rachel fully gutted their 27-foot-long Airstream in preparation for its interior remodel. From installing new Konecto wood grain rubber floors to replacing countertops and upholstery, the Airstream got a major facelift. After all, that it was Mike does for a living (see the feature story, “Lofts in Translation,” in our 2008 City View issue). Rachel says that when they think of Airstream they think retro, which is the theme throughout the interior.

Airstreams have been around since the 1930s, when Wallace Byam created the first silver bullet for his wife who refused to go camping without a kitchen. Knowing he was on to something, Byam opened Airstream Trailer Co. in 1931, at a time when there were less than 50 trailer manufactures in business. A few years later, nearly 400 Airstream businesses opened, although only Byam’s original company still exists.

Even celebrities such as Steve Carell, Tom Hanks, and Matthew McConaughey are seeing the draw of the cozy aluminum homes. From appearances in movies — “Charlie’s Angels,” “Independence Day,” and “What’s Eating Gilbert Grape” — to the creation of Airstream hotels — a penthouse trailer park was built atop the luxurious Grand Daddy Hotel in Cape Town, South Africa in 2009 — the popularity of the iconic silver bullet is resurging throughout the U.S. “I think it’s the nostalgia of the 1950s,” says Mike about the draw of Airstreams. “I think it’s all about the aluminum. It’s just rounded and cool.”

Although Rachel and Mike haven’t taken their Airstream on many long trips, they did drive it over to Yellow Creek Park in Owensboro, Ky., for the ROMP Bluegrass Festival last summer. At this year’s festival, the couple had company with their 9-month-old son, August, along for the aluminum ride.

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