Meet Nellie

I am very happy to announce that Spencer and I finally purchased an Airstream. I know it doesn’t seem like very long to all of you, but I’ve been desperately searching Craigslist for almost a year and (admittedly) getting way too emotional when one I wanted was sold or didn’t work out.

My routine was to check Craigslist, Ebay, and Airstream Classifieds, but I would (in desperate moments) deviate from that routine and check other sites. During one of these frantic internet searches, I discovered a vintage Airstream being sold by Happy Trails USA RV Supercenter in Texas, which was odd. You don’t often find 40-year-old trailers being sold by RV centers. The cut off date seems to be late 90’s, if that.

The RV Center was very eager to get rid of the Airstream. I speculate they acquired her in a trade-in and did not know how to handle a vintage trailer. After all, they didn’t even have an asking price; they were just looking for offers. Apparently, she’d  been sitting in a barn for the last ten years, so they wouldn’t guarantee any of the systems or even the tires. You could tell from the photographs that they hadn’t bothered cleaning the trailer either.

But, it was perfect for us. We had no interest in a clean trailer or even one with functioning appliances. We’re going to rip all of that out anyway. We were looking for good bones and this trailer had them.

Of course though, Spencer and I were both nervous about purchasing a trailer we couldn’t see ourselves. We had concerns about leaks, the condition of the floor, etc. But, the RV Center provided extensive, detailed photographs and answered all our questions.  Plus, a very nice man I solicited over Airforms volunteered to inspect the trailer. Armed with this knowledge and a rough shipping quote from, we decided to take the plunge.

We purchased her just before Thanksgiving and she arrived this past week. Overall, our experience with the RV Center, Airforms inspectors, and the shipping service was great. After our initial tour around the Airstream, we didn’t find anything to trigger buyer’s remorse.

So, I’d like to introduce you to Nellie.

She’s a 31′ 1976 Airstream Sovereign Land Yacht with a side bath and rear bedroom, which is exactly what we wanted, but that’s another post.

She’s named after Nellie Bly, who was a journalist and explorer in the 1800’s. Nellie Bly is one of my absolute  favorite historic heroines–a list which also includes Sarah Emma Edmonds, Civil War spy. When deciding what to name the trailer, Nellie seemed more than appropriate because Ms. Bly is most famous for her record-breaking circumnavigation of the globe. Her trip emulated the fictional journey of Phileas Fogg from Jules Verne’s Around the World in 80 Days. She wrote a series of newspaper pieces for New York World chronicling the 72-day trip, which I read in 11th grade.

So, not only did Nellie bet Fogg by eight days, but she also did it as an unaccompanied woman, which was unheard of at the time.

“It is impossible for you to do it,” was the terrible verdict. “In the first place you are a woman and would need a protector, and even if it were possible for you to travel alone you would need to carry so much baggage that it would detain you in making rapid changes. Besides you speak nothing but English, so there is no use talking about it; no one but a man can do this.”

“Very well,” I said angrily, “Start the man, and I’ll start the same day for some other newspaper and beat him.”

Around the World in 72 Days by Nellie Bly

She also launched investigative journalism with her series of pieces Ten Days in a Mad-House, in which she went undercover and exposed the mistreatment and abuse of asylum patients, leading to one of my favorite quotes of all time.

“Could I pass a week in the insane ward at Blackwell’s Island? I said I could and I would. And I did.”

Ten Days in a Mad-House by Nellie Bly

After I rambled on about all this, Spencer agreed with me. Or at least he pretended to. Either way, we now own an Airstream named Nellie.

She’s a little rough around the edges. A little battered and tired. A little dirty. But she has plenty of potential and I’m really excited to share our experience renovating her with you.

Now I just have to figure out how to spell the words Land Yacht and Sovereign without spell-check.

So, here’s to new adventures and historic heroines!

2 thoughts on “Meet Nellie

  1. Milton Block says:

    I’m really enjoying your story about Nellie. My wife and I recently purchased a ‘77 sovereign 31’. So your story is of great interest. Last evening we decided we would commence a shell off restoration with NO idea what we are in for. I started reading at your floor removal post. And then worked my way back to this page.
    Right now I’m trying to locate an appropriate location to do the work. My driveway is not suitable. I wish I could find an all weather shed…
    thank you for providing such details descriptions and pics. I have learned much from you already.
    Question. How long did it take for you to complete the work?

    • A. Monterey Blair says:

      You definitely need the right location for a shell on restoration. I hope you find one that works for you. When you ask how long it took, do you want to know just about the floor and underbelly replacement or the whole project?

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