by Janine Pettit
08 Jul 2016
“The adventure begins the minute you start towing.”
When Jane Layman leaves her office in Manhattan on Friday nights each summer, she heads straight for the New Jersey parking lot where she stores her coveted Airstream. As the shining, towering skyscrapers recede behind her, so does the week’s workload. She will soon be towing her silver bullet to greener pastures, campfires, great camp food, starry, unbroken skies, and friends – lots of friends, with their own shiny Airstreams waiting to circle their wagons. This city girl with five star hotel taste is a study in contrasts. An accomplished professional with thirty years’ experience in clothing design and manufacturing, Jane leaves all the pleasures of the Big Apple behind on weekends and heads out looking for adventure.
Born in Berkeley, California to parents who prized culture, education, and experiences, she found herself on the east coast when her physicist dad, Robert Watson, took a teaching position at Dartmouth University What was supposed to be just a few years at the prestigious university became her whole childhood. It was most likely the phase that planted the road trip bug in her. Each year when the term ended, her parents loaded Jane and her two older siblings in their 1960s Volkswagen Microbus and they headed for their home in California.
Jane’s dad was a fifth generation Californian whose ranching ancestors had traveled there by wagon train before the Gold Rush. Her mother’s colorful family tree included the Chisholm’s, famed for their well-known cattle trail, as well as “horse thieves and bank robbers.” Spending summers with their aunts, uncles and cousins in California was an annual event but getting there was just as much fun to Jane. The cross-country trip with her parents is what Jane remembers the most. Seeing the country from the VW in those days before ‘in car movies’ and hand held electronic devices left a deep impression on Jane. Her parents were anxious to get to California, and although they didn’t stop long at any one place, there were stops that became part of the annual trek. Seeds were planted for places that someday Jane wanted to stay for more than a few hours.
At age 18 Jane headed off to New York City to attend the acclaimed Parson’s School of Design. She has worked in fashion since graduating and lives on the Upper West Side. When her parents retired they initially returned to California but moved near Jane when her father could no longer drive. He reasoned that if he couldn’t drive he wanted to live in a place where he could have lots of things to do without a car. In 1998 Jane’s parents bought a Ford Explorer and the three of them, along with her parents’ Springer Spaniel, went west on a 10K mile road trip through the US. They traveled a northern route on the way out visiting historic landmarks and staying at hotels and motels along the way. When they hit the west coast they visited Mt. St. Helen’s and then spent time with family and friends in the Bay area before heading home on a southern route and traveling along Old Route 66. When Jane’s dad called her one day to tell her to come straight over after work she expressed concern for his health. Her dad assured her that all was well but he wanted to show her something important. What he had was the “Design Within Reach” catalog featuring the limited edition Airstream designed by Christopher Deam. It was a 16’ Bambi model with a redesigned interior by the well-known minimalist. The modern interior design now matched its iconic exterior, which has only been modified 6 times in the brand’s history. Jane’s dad was thrilled when he saw it and wanted to buy it immediately for more trips, this time without the hotels and motels. Sticker shock threw cold water on that plan, but the bug had bitten deeply and nine months later they bought one of the few remaining models.