Shady Dell Vintage Trailer Resort - Time Warp

Step Back Into The 1940s And '50s At This Vintage Trailer Resort In Arizona

Phil Noyes
Apr 1, 2011
Photographers: Phil Noyes
If you've ever passed a gleaming, streamlined vintage travel trailer and wondered what it would be like to stay overnight in one, I have just the place for you.
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Honoring the tradition of full journalistic disclosure-I am a vintage trailer nut. I have written a book about the subject, produced a national PBS documentary about it, and I am often called upon when somebody needs an "expert" on the subject. I have owned and restored many collectable trailers, and about 90 percent of our family vacations involve one of our vintage rigs.
When we were considering a recent trip to see friends in Texas, and I was route planning, I suggested to my wife that we stop in the small mining town of Bisbee, Arizona, to split up the trip. She asked if there was a nice hotel and I replied, "Yes, very nice and very unique," to which she replied, "Sounds great, and it sure will be nice to stay in a hotel for a change." Little did she know we were on our way to the Shady Dell vintage trailer court.
Where It Began
From Los Angeles, our route began eastbound on the Interstate 10 and settled into a 530-mile haul through some wide-open country until we got to the Interstate 80 eastbound, where things got interesting. The I-80 takes you through some very scenic country and right through the small western town of Tombstone, the site of the historic "Gunfight at the O.K. Corral."
Photo 3/14   |   Lisa enjoys some quiet time by a 1954 Crown.
At this point my son was dying to get out and explore, but my wife and teenaged daughter argued well enough to persuade me to push on until we came through the Mule Mountain Tunnel and to the stunning town of Bisbee, glittering in the late afternoon sunlight like a ghost from the 1800s. It's hard to believe that Bisbee, impossibly perched on the side of a mountain, was the largest city between St. Louis and San Francisco at the turn of the last century. We then passed the former open pit copper mine, the Lavender Pit, which is one of the most eerily beautiful sites you will ever see.
We pulled into the Shady Dell just as the sun was dipping behind the Mule Mountain range and the nine gleaming aluminum trailers were in their full glory. At this point the cat was out of the bag and there were some audible groans from the family, but their attitudes were soon about to change.
Meet Justin And Jennifer
As we got out of the car, owners Justin and Jennifer Luria (they bought the Dell in 2007) came over and welcomed us then let us know that we would be staying in the 1950 Spartan Manor, which is a marvel of engineering, built by J. Paul Getty's Spartan Aircraft company. The sleek lines and polished aluminum skin are enough to convince even my jaded family that this is one "hotel" that is out of this world.
Photo 7/14   |   Owners Jennifer and Justin at the counter in Dot's Diner.
Trailers have been part of the landscape of the Shady Dell since 1927. When the original owner bought the park in 1993, it was in terrible shape. He cleaned up the park and started buying vintage trailers and decorating them with period specific furnishings. From the 33-foot Royal Mansion to the 12-foot Crown, each trailer is a time capsule waiting to transport you to simpler era when Frank Sinatra ruled the airways and Americans were enjoying some post-war extravagance.
Each trailer has a vintage turntable complete with a nice selection of vinyl records to add to the ambiance. And if you're in the mood for a movie, that old black-and-white TV is not just set dressing; each one is restored and hooked up to a DVD player, and of course Justin and Jennifer have a great selection of old films to choose from. This attention to detail is everywhere-even the coffee makers are the old percolator style.
If travel trailers are not your thing, don't fret, as the Shady Dell also features the permanently dry docked 1947 Chris Craft yacht, the "Rita D" decorated with vintage boating memorabilia, and the 1947 Airporter bus that has been transformed into a Tiki-themed wonderland.
A Step Back In Time
After a wonderful meal and a walk through old town Bisbee, we all put on our pajamas, curled up on the couch and watched a wonderfully bad B-list horror movie. After everybody fell asleep, I threw on a coat and walked around the park to enjoy the "glow" emanating from the trailers. There is nothing like the light from amber shellacked birch paneling filtering through vintage bark cloth curtains to take you back in time.
If you are lucky enough to wake up at the Shady on a Saturday or Sunday morning, you can wander over to the amazing 1957 Dot's Diner, which originally graced the corner of Ventura and Topanga Canyon boulevards in Los Angeles and has been at the Dell since 1996. Justin is an amazing baker and will ply you with warm goodies to go with your percolator coffee.
If you've ever thought about what it would be like to stay in one of "those" vintage trailers, the Shady Dell is the perfect place. No towing, no set up, no loud public RV park- just the warm honey interior, vintage chenille bed spreads, and the gentle sounds of a bygone era from a real record player to lull you into a "vintage" dream you won't soon forget.
Book Your Trip
To learn more, visit www.theshadydell.com or call (520) 432-3567. The Dell often closes down for a month during the summer for maintenance and upkeep, so make sure you check the availability chart on the website before you start planning your trip. And if you were wondering, the Dell has wonderful bathroom facilities with showers, and all your towels and linens are provided.
Always A Classic
By Larry Saavedra
A friend gave me a copy of a book called Trailer Travel: A Visual History of Mobile America, and I finally got around to reading it over the holidays. It is a fun and fascinating pictorial study of vintage trailers with plenty of unique trivia about their designs and beginnings, including print advertisements from the leading trailer manufacturers of the era. I thoroughly enjoyed this nostalgic look at trailers-so much so that I decided to give the author, Phil Noyes, a call to see if he was interested in sharing his wealth of knowledge with the readers of RV magazine. He accepted the challenge: Throughout 2011, Phil's column and other contributions will be featured in each issue of RV.
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Phil has been producing television at PBS Los Angeles since 1991. To date, he has produced more than 1,000 episodes for Huell Howser Productions, including the series California's Gold, California's Green, and Road Trip. He recently finished the documentary Women in Boxes, which uncovers the secret world of magician assistants.
Phil's great love is vintage travel trailers. He wrote and produced a one-hour national PBS special Mobile America and co-wrote the aforementioned Trailer Travel. Both projects uncover the history of the RV in the USA. Phil is currently working on two new books about trailers that will be published in the spring of 2012. To learn more about Phil's upcoming books, visit www.trailertraveler.com.

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