Gizmo here…today we’re I’m starting a new feature here on my blog…Travel Thursday. On Thursday’s I’ll take you somewhere fun for you and your people to visit together here in Florida. Some Thursdays we’ll have interviews with some of my favorite canine geocachers worldwide. As an added feature, we’ll be posting GPS coordinates for the locations we feature.
Yesterday I promised you information on a most unusual roadside attraction. It’s the Airstream Ranch, located roadside on the South side of I-4 in Dover, FL, about 15 miles East of Tampa. There’s plenty of room to pull off the highway roadside, or you can take Exit 14 off I-4, and turn right into the Bates RV Exchange at the SW corner of the interchange, 4656 McIntosh Road, just south of the interstate. Park in the Bates RV lot, tell them why you’re there, then follow the golf cart path from the back to Airstream Ranch.
This roadside attraction has in interesting backstory. Here’s a 2010 interview with Frank Bates, builder of the Ranch, with the Orlando Sentinel:
…Airstream had recently celebrated its 75th birthday, so Bates conceived Airstream Ranch, where he buried seven-and-a-half 1957-1994 vintage Airstream trailers in a vacant lot next door to the dealership. He buried seven-and-a-half trailers because that’s 7.5, as in 75, the Airstream anniversary.
Bates admits he was inspired by Cadillac Ranch, 10 old Cadillacs buried nose-down in the ground, next to a stretch of Interstate 40 near Amarillo, Texas, in 1974. Cadillac Ranch is widely regarded as art, particularly since those rusting, graffiti-covered cars are supposedly facing west at the same angle as the pyramids in Egypt. Bates was going to let local “artists” paint his trailers with graffiti, but most of the graffiti turned out to be gang insignias, so he stopped.
Shortly after the construction of Airstream Ranch, things got interesting: Several residents of the neighborhood right behind the Ranch were not amused, and went to the Hillsborough County Enforcement Board. There was a big hearing. One of the neighbors called Airstream Ranch a “dirty deed” and “a cheap roadside attraction.” Others testified in favor of Airstream Ranch, including Larry Thompson, president of Ringling College of Art and Design, who said that in his “expert opinion, this constitutes a piece of art.”
It probably did not help Frank Bates’ case as a serious artist that he has been known to dress up as a black-and-white cow for his TV commercials, dancing and holding up a sign that says Bates RV can save you “MOO-lah” on a trailer. Or that he takes most anything in trade, including a moose pasture in Alaska, two mausoleums (apparently vacant) and a stuffed marlin. Or that he commutes to work in a red Robinson R44 helicopter that he lands on the dealership’s roof.
Eventually, Bates was told to dismantle Airstream Ranch, or face a $100-a-day fine. In March 2009, Bates and his lawyer appealed the board’s decision. Just last February, a three-judge Circuit Court panel finally overruled the board, and reversed the fines. Last March, county commissioners declined to appeal the ruling. So now, in June — after several months of waiting to see if there are any additional legal challenges — Frank Bates is prepared to declare victory on behalf of Bates RV, Airstream and art lovers.
More information is available at the Roadside America website.
If you’re in Central Florida, anywhere between Tampa and Orlando, take a break and visit the Airstream Ranch…it’s just plain fun!
GPS Coordinates for Airstream Ranch are N 28* 01.271 , W 082* 15.142. Geocachers that stop by can log a Waymark for the Airstream Ranch.
And here’s the last of the 30/30 Challenge tickers. We’ve done pretty well all in all, and tomorrow we get started on the Idita-Walk 2013!