It’s not hard to figure out what iconic American product has captured Dicky Riegel’s imagination.
Moments after driving onto his Bedford Hills property, you can spot a vanity plate sporting a version of the word Airstream.
A glance across the lawn reveals Riegel is down by the pool, where a “Bambi” — “‘Bambi’ is a loving term for any Airstream under 20 feet,” he will explain – serves as a pool house on wheels.
Later, he will walk you to a charming, barn-like structure in the shadow of the main house, an oversize family/rec room complete with an Airstream-themed bar, painting and assorted memorabilia capped by an Airstream-shaped weathervane on the roof.
Behind the barn sits Riegel’s fully restored – to original specifications – vintage 1954 Airstream, one he would soon be taking out on the road.
As one classic image – or actual vehicle – is spotted after another, Riegel makes an admission, accompanied by a laugh: “If you cut me, I bleed silver.”
Clearly, Riegel is more than just a fan. The onetime president and CEO of Airstream, the classic American trailer company, has continued his love of that distinctively designed mode of aluminum-clad transportation with his latest venture. In June of 2013, as founder and CEO, Riegel launched Airstream 2 Go, a company that combines luxury travel with the classic American road-trip icon.
It was his own family’s Airstream adventure – Riegel, his wife and their two children joining two other families for a most memorable trip out West nearly a decade ago – that spurred it all.
“It was the best trip that we’d ever taken,” he says.
And now, he’s started to bring that experience to many others, with the company designed to fill a need that Riegel long noticed.
“Every day somebody who knew I had anything to do with Airstream said ‘How do I rent one of those?’” he says.
Until the formation of Airstream 2 Go, Riegel says that wasn’t readily possible.
HIT THE ROAD
Airstream 2 Go may have offices on Park Avenue in Manhattan and in Mount Kisco, but its focus is on offering one-of-a-kind vacation experiences in the American West.
The ideal, he says, is “to take advantage of the name of the company. Airstream, freedom, movement,” and help people visit iconic American sites in an iconic American way.
“It’s the cool way to travel, and you have these great destinations.”
It’s not specifically for people in the American West, he says, but for those adventurous travelers wanting to see a Big Sky ghost town, the Grand Canyon or the Pacific Coast Highway or fashion a trip focused on fly-fishing or white-water rafting, for example.
As Riegel says, Airstream 2 Go “addresses the question of ‘How do I do that?’”
The company is the exclusive, factory-authorized source in North America to rent current model Airstream trailers.
But don’t think you’ll be handed a key and sent on your way.
No, the Airstream 2 Go experience is one designed to meet the needs of today’s travelers, from families on their annual trip to friends hitting a music festival to corporations looking for a distinctive team-building experience.
Airstream 2 Go features two models, the Airstream 28-foot International Signature Series and the 23-foot FB International Signature series, which sleep six and four, respectively. All rentals, from a few days to a few weeks, include a GMC Yukon Denali tow vehicle.
Riegel says, “Towing an Airstream can appear daunting at first sight to some people.”
So staffers explain how to operate one after picking you up at the airport, taking you to the fleet location and offering an orientation for the virtual hotels on wheels.
In line with the company’s approach, the Airstreams are outfitted with Egyptian cotton sheets, state-of-the-art kitchen supplies and iPad minis that are fully loaded with everything from operating tutorials to themed musical playlists.
Rental locations are currently operating out of Las Vegas, Los Angeles and Bozeman, Mont., which Riegel considers the ideal gateways to the American West.
Customers can “Take It & Go,” or opt to create a “Custom Journey.” For the latter, Airstream 2 Go has partnered with Off The Beaten Path, a veteran travel planner and outfitter, to provide clients with personalized service that extends to itinerary, stopovers and destinations that suit your expectations.
“We go to that extra length,” Riegel says.
A HISTORY PRESERVED
Riegel says that in today’s fast-paced world, people are intrigued by the chance to experience the nostalgia encapsulated by Airstreams, a storied way of travel.
The lure of the open road led to the founding of Airstream in 1931 by Wally Byam.
The recreational vehicles have long been known for their riveted aluminum shells as well as an efficiency that extends from an aerodynamic exterior to a most functional interior.
“They’re very simple, but very livable and beautiful in the simplicity,” Riegel says.
He will hop onto his pool cottage’s bed, for example, to show how it accommodates his 6-foot-7 frame.
Riegel finds much to admire in Airsteam, which fuels his continued passion.
“I just love celebrating the heritage of the company.”
Riegel has his own long history with Airstream, having been a part of the company from 1998 to 2012.
Growing up in Wilmington, Del., with an auto-enthusiast father, Riegel attended Salisbury School in Salisbury, Conn., before Middlebury College in Vermont.
“I joined out of Columbia business school,” he says of his time with Thor Industries, Airstream’s parent company. He was with the company in corporate development before being asked to become the head of Airstream Inc. and for a time, Riegel had a house in the Ohio town that Airstream calls home and is a big part of the community.
Airstream 2 Go, he notes, is also a local effort. He points to the designers who created its site to the attorney he worked with to the voiceover artist on the iPad tutorials as all drawn from Westchester talent. It took, he says, “a Bedford village” to get Airstream 2 Go road ready.
And, he adds, word continues to spread both locally and across the world (a recent client came over from England).
“There is no question that word of mouth is by far the biggest advertising that we could create,” he says.
Working with corporate clients – such as Aston Martin, which conducted automobile test drives by day and put up the participants in an Airstream fleet by night – helps raise the profile.
“Car companies are always looking to do something in a unique way,” Riegel says.
THE ETERNAL PULL
Travel by Airstream, Riegel says, can be addictive.
“Once you experience it, it’s something that grabs hold of you and you want to do it more and more.”
Riegel uses his 1954 Chevy truck to pull his own vintage Airstream on his family trips, which included spending most of August on Fishers Island. He also frequently takes the setup to Lime Rock, where he’ll camp on the infield and race the Connecticut track.
He admits working in the recreation field has its benefits.
“You can have some fun doing it,” Riegel says with a smile.
A reward, he notes, is being so hands-on in helping people create stylish, memorable journeys on the proverbial open road.
“People still have that wanderlust and want to go and see and do these things,” he says.
But, he adds, Airstream travel is not for everyone.
“You have to be adventuresome. This is not for somebody who wants a spa vacation.”
In his backyard, Riegel point out the way his Airstream’s aluminum side is reflecting nature.
It’s an observation that could equally apply to the entire Airstream experience.
As Riegel says, “It’s capturing the colors around you.”
For more, visit airstream2go.com.