Today, on our morning walk, around 6:30am, we passed an old RV that had pulled up near Kittridge. A tall, gaunt, middle-aged man came out with a cigarette and a big can of Colt 45. He walked up Noble, beer and smoke in hand. And, like so many of us these days, seemed headed to nowhere in particular.

Facebook must have known I had that RV and that lost man on my mind.

For, inexplicably, on my feed today, a glossy spread advertised a $190,000 Bowlus Road Chief RV, an exact replica of the 1930s with 2020 features. They start at $190K and go up in price from there.

26 feet long, six and a half wide, 3,200 pounds, the aluminum skinned, aircraft riveted trailer sleeps four.  The all-wood interior features anodized galley, five silent gravity ceiling vents, LED Lighting, luxury commercial grade flooring, hotel bathroom with privacy doors, Italian Marine shower head, vanity, and toilet with a hygienic, “easy emptying cassette system.” There is also a stainless steel bathroom sink, teak shower seating and flooring, and yours and mine large wardrobes with hanging bars.

You can park, off-grid, in any desert and still enjoy a powerful, lithium iron, phosphate power system that runs for seven days. Even the A/C blows for up to four hours a day without current. Control it all on your smart phone. If it gets cold at night, don’t worry, the floors are heated and there is continuous hot water.

A “Wyoming” décor option features “natural brown seating that is incredibly soft with an unrivaled comfort. It pairs perfectly with luxury bedding in flax and oyster. The awning has stripes of flax and beige.”  It would suit one of Ralph Lauren’s mistresses.

Hand crafted in Oxnard, California, the tale of this exquisite trailer goes back 90 years to designer, engineer and aircraft builder Hawley Bowlus who built the famed “Spirit of St. Louis” airplane which Charles Lindbergh flew to Europe in 1927, the first time a man crossed the ocean by plane.

Mr. Bowlus built some 80 Road Chiefs in the 1930s before ending his project in 1937 and returning to aircraft production. Many are still in operation today and fetch a premium.

The new CEO of Bowlus Road Chief is Ms. Geneva Long who conceived of this while in Wharton Business School. She and her company have quite a few accolades: 

• The first female-founded RV company

• The first [RV] with heated floors and life-work solutions that include the first charging stations/router/wifi amplifier for personal technology

• The first direct to consumer model in the RV market with sales generated online

• An ultra-luxury market for travel trailers

• The first lithium-powered travel trailer with sophisticated power management systems

• The first truly sustainable RV

The Bowlus Road Chief is a glorious toy for any person wealthy enough to afford one for their unique and privileged leisure. 

Imagine Gwyenth Kate Paltrow in Pioneertown, CA alighting from hers after lovemaking, the scent of This Smells Like My Orgasm candle wafting out into the desert as she rubs a soothing and aromatic nutritive Tammy Fender Bulgarian Lavender Body Oil ($65) over her moistened, tanned, bony arms and hands.

RVs: An Ethical Question

My question, as always: why can’t all the innovation, design, capital, industry, and technology be applied to housing those who are desperately in need of a place to live? Are we blind and deaf to the tens of thousands camped out in tents along our streets? Do we not smell the fires that burn every single day in these drug and alcohol saturated encampments? 

Why can’t Mr. Garcetti employ Ms. Long or someone from her team to build ten RV cities with lower cost versions of this? Perhaps the City of Los Angeles could have ten factories around the city to employ workers turning these out for our current housing emergency and put up ten villages around the city to house homeless. Am I insane for proposing this?

In 2016, voters passed Proposition HHH which allocated $1.2 billion to build homeless housing.

LAist wrote:

“The city estimated in 2016 that it would cost between $350,000 to $414,000 to build a unit of supportive housing (in other words, one apartment), depending on the number of bedrooms. Now, more than three years after that estimate, the median cost per unit of housing in the Prop HHH pipeline is $531,373, according to the audit.” In 2019, three years after passage, not ONE UNIT HAD BEEN BUILT.

Imagine if during WWII we were attacked in 1941 and never built one aircraft until 1944? We would be saluting Hitler today.

You could have two, nearly three luxury Bowlus Road Chiefs for the price of one unit of supportive housing.

Something is terribly wrong in our city. And his name is Eric Garcetti.

So, let us appreciate the qualities and accomplishments of the Bowlus Road Chief. And let us not forget this jewel box of an RV will travel past the freezing, the hungry and the forgotten, a misbegotten luxury which could be a template for saving many, but instead is a frivolity for the very few.

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