In part three of our series looking at couples who took their lives and work on the road, we hook up with Rich Luhr, the founder of Airstream Life magazine...
Rich Luhr and his wife bought their first Airstream, a 1968 Caravel, in August 2003. "It gets to be an addiction. We've had a 1953 Flying Cloud, a 1952 Cruiser, and a 1977 Argosy. The '52 Cruiser is now owned by Matthew McConaughey." Two years after buying their first Airstream they scored a 2005 Safari 30, which they drove to 45 states over the course of three years, all while editing and publishing their magazine Airstream Life. "The 2005 Safari 30 was only made for two years and is the only floorplan Airstream ever produced with two permanent bedrooms. That made it ideal for us, since we have a child."
Living in what your write about proved invaluable for Luhr, as it not only gave him street cred with his readers, but it allowed him to meet subscribers across the US who shared their own Airstream stories that were then used in future issues. Each location also gave Luhr hundreds of photos he could use in the magazine. "Looking back, I don't know how it would have been possible to build Airstream Life into a successful magazine if I hadn't made this investment."
To keep the pub moving, Luhr worked 20 to 50 hours per week while on the road. He used a Kyocera KR-1 cellular wireless router and either Sprint or Verizon's network to get online. Luhr installed a Linksys wireless range extender to help suck in WiFi through the aluminum shell of the Airstream. "WiFi is better now than it was in 2005 when we started," Rich told us. "Still, you end up sitting in some strange places trying to get online. I can't count how many times I ended up standing on a picnic table in a campground trying to get a cell phone signal. 'Can you hear me now?' is the story of your life when you're a full-timer and trying to work."
A battery-powered HP inkjet printer helped them limit use of their mobile grid, which consisted of four batteries and two 130-watt solar panels.
Of course there were hiccups. "In Yellowstone National Park the hard drive on my laptop died. I had made a backup eight days earlier so the data loss wasn't bad, but it was a week before I could get to Denver and get a repair. Fortunately, we traveled with two laptops and I was able to migrate to the spare and keep up on work. The same week my cell phone died, and then a wheel came off the trailer. It wasn't a great week, but we survived, and in the end that was enough."