Travel Log: Airstream Sport 22FB and 2017 Toyota Tundra
Streaming Out of the Smog
At times, Los Angeles can be a bit oppressive and claustrophobic, so with a long weekend on the horizon, we arranged to escape the urban confines of LA and explore the Napa Valley in Northern California. And with nowhere to stay once we got there, we spoke to our friends at Airstream, who suggested we tow one of their legendary “Bambi” models, a single-axle Sport 22FB, to lovely Petaluma for a weekend of comfortable, luxurious glamping.
Lisa and her team at Airstream Los Angeles introduced us to the Sport 22FB early Thursday morning. After a short walkthrough, we loaded picnic fixings into our new Yeti cooler, hooked up the Airstream and Equal-i-zer Sway Control Hitch to our ’17 Toyota Tundra Platinum, and hit the road, bound for the region’s crisp mornings, warm afternoons, and star-filled nights. Annoyingly, so did seemingly everyone else in LA. The six-hour trip ballooned to seven, then eight, then finally nine hours from door to door. However, once settled in at the San Francisco North/Petaluma KOA, our Airstream became a welcome respite from the traffic and stress of California’s Interstate 5 highway.
To say we slept soundly is an understatement. Airstream outfits the 22-foot variant of the Sport with a surprisingly comfortable double bed, mounted by the company’s signature wraparound bay windows up front. With the curtains drawn, the sleeping area couldn’t have been cozier or more private, and between the comfy front bed and the dinette-turned-twin bed, our travel companions had just enough space to stretch out and relax.
The next morning, we made good use of the Airstream’s propane stovetop, propane and electric refrigerator, and combination convection/microwave oven. As someone who is more accustomed to roasting cheap weenies over a smoky fire, the author took probably too much delight in how easy it was to whip up eggs, bacon, and French toast, and thanks to the onboard water tank with city water hookups, cleanup was similarly quick. This is something die-hard RVers have known for years, but we at Truck Trend aren’t used to such accouterment when camping.
Another unexpected surprise came with the piping-hot shower in the Sport 22FB’s dry bath. Seriously, we’ve had apartments with smaller bathrooms than the one in the Airstream. However, we were lucky that there were only two of us using the facilities, as we’d completely filled the gray-water tank in just two days. Mercifully, the KOA offered free black- and gray-water tank concierge service, allowing us RV greenhorns to keep our hands (and the environment) clean.
With full bellies, we locked up the Airstream and set off in the Tundra for a long day of music. Napa Valley is home to one of the most entertaining festivals in the U.S., called BottleRock. Its unique geographic location—downtown Napa—gives it a small-town feel, and although it attracts well-known musicians and rock groups, it’s just as focused on the great food and wine that make Napa famous. Once the morning fog broke and the sun shone through, our SoCal stress melted away, replaced with folk music, rock, jazz, and the best grilled-cheese sandwich on the planet.
After yet another cozy sleep in the Airstream (credit the onboard automatic thermostat, which cycled the propane furnace on and off throughout the night), we took the Tundra out the next day to Napa Valley yet again to do some hiking and hit the famous tourist spots. As per the usual for yours truly, the food was the most memorable part of the day, thanks to lunch at Redd Wood in Yountville (try the prosciutto crudo pizza) and dinner at Taylor’s Automatic Refresher, an outdoor roadside spot that serves a darned good burger, fries, and peanut butter milkshake. Our final day on the road saw us leave Petaluma and make our way slowly back to Los Angeles. Taking our time to get home, we stopped in Monterey and sampled both the city’s legendary seafood and the Airstream’s impressive maneuverability. We also took a detour through the central coast’s acres of farmland, replacing gas-station chips with orchard-fresh cherries as our road food of choice.
As our vacation time drew to a close, we were left with few complaints. The Bambi trailer had been used (and used hard) by journalists before us, so we weren’t too surprised that one of the cabinet doors had lost a hinge sometime before we took delivery. And in spite of the statewide 55-mph maximum speed limit while towing, road vibrations had caused the onboard fire extinguisher to pop off the interior paneling, leaving two unfortunate holes where the mounting screws had ripped out. Given our religious adherence to the speed limit, we hope it wasn’t poor driving that caused the damage. Aside from that, interior comfort and classy styling onboard the Sport were all first-rate. And we were delighted every time another Airstream family honked or waved as they passed by.
To be honest, even a long weekend wasn’t enough to get to know either the Airstream Sport or Napa Valley. Our trailer’s ample storage, fully equipped kitchen, comfortable sleeping quarters, and nimble proportions would never get old, and we were half-tempted to refuse to give it back at the end of the trip. And the great food, music, and accommodations of Napa Valley? We could definitely get used to that.
San Francisco North/Petaluma KOAFamilies and travelers have known since 1962 that KOA campgrounds are great places to call home while on the road. Our stay in Petaluma was no exception. Although we arrived after the office closed for the night, self-check-in was simple and easy to understand. The next morning, a representative from the campground stopped by to welcome us and make sure we were comfortable, highlighting the management’s attentive customer service. The campground also offered free black- and gray-water concierge service, a move that probably ends up saving them the trouble of cleaning up after some RV novice uses a dump station incorrectly (like we probably would have).
In addition, most of the camping spaces were outfitted with city water and electric lines, and our pad included a pleasant patio and nearby outdoor kitchen, which became a neighborly gathering place each evening. The campground also boasts a massive swimming pool, climbing wall, petting farm, playground, and hay-wagon ride-along, among many other amenities. That long list of family-friendly attractions is one key to KOA’s popularity and the reason that yellow sign is a common sight all across America.
2017 Toyota Tundra PlatinumThere’s no denying it: the Toyota Tundra is one of the oldest designs on the market. But that doesn’t mean it doesn’t deserve consideration as a family vehicle and tow truck, particularly in loaded Platinum trim. Our top-spec tester had an as-tested price of $51,325 after destination and handling, and that price includes with Entune Premium JBL Audio with navigation, Bluetooth audio and phone functionality, heated and ventilated front seats, blind-spot monitoring, front and rear parking sensors, and a rearview camera, among many other creature comforts. There are few options on the Platinum, as just about everything comes standard.
Towing the 3,634-pound Airstream Sport 22FB was a non-issue. The 22-foot trailer also exacted very little on the Tundra in the way of trailer sway, and rear axle sag was almost imperceptible. Even so, re-aiming the truck’s headlights to prevent blinding other drivers was simple, as Toyota fits the Tundra with a dash-mounted knob to adjust the lamps higher or lower as needed.
On the road and with the trailer in tow, the Tundra was quiet and smooth, and the i-Force V-8’s 381 horses were more than up to the task of hauling the trailer up the I-5 Grapevine in Southern California. Laden with a trailer or empty, the Tundra had brisk acceleration, and its engine emitted a pleasant growl when accelerating and an unobtrusive hum when cruising. Our only complaint was a lack of towing-related creature comforts found in the competition, features like automatic cruise control and blind-spot monitoring that takes the trailer’s length into account. The former, at least, will be standard on the ’18 Tundra, which features totally redesigned electrical architecture to allow for higher-tech features and entertainment content.
Overall, the Tundra was a great towing companion. Its subtle metallic paint and billet-style grille looked great in combination with the polished-aluminum Airstream. Toyota’s most charming ace is the Tundra’s rear window that retracts fully into the rear bulkhead, giving the cabin plenty of passive ventilation and alleviating the stale air and stuffiness that we all remember from childhood road trips. And the Tundra impersonated Toyota’s Avalon and Lexus’ ES sedans in terms of cabin quietness and freeway comfort, with spacious front and rear seats that left plenty of room to spare for each occupant.
2017 Toyota Tundra PlatinumBase price: $50,130
Price as tested (incl. destination): $51,325
Engine: 5.7L DOHC 32-valve V-8
Transmission: 6-speed automatic
Power: 381 hp @ 5,600 rpm
Torque: 401 lb-ft @ 3,600 rpm
Weight: 5,670 pounds
Payload/towing capacity: 1,530 pounds/8,800 pounds
EPA fuel econ: 13city/17hwy/15comb
2017 Airstream Sport 22FBBase price: $52,900
Price as tested: $52,900
Weight, incl. propane and batteries: 3,634 pounds
Maximum payload: 866 pounds
Maximum trailer weight: 4,500 pounds
Sleeping capacity: 4 occupants
LxWxH: 260x87x111 inches
Interior height: 75 inches
Interior width: 84 inches