Camping was an important part of Mary Lekoshere’s childhood, and today she and her husband Sawaya are committed to sharing that pursuit with their four children, all under the age of 10. “I want my kids to enjoy nature like I did,” Mary relates. “Growing up my parents took me and my five siblings tent camping a lot, and we all still enjoy camping.”
The Lekosheres have taken their family tent camping, but since last August they’ve gone camping with Pilgrim, their 2018 Airstream 30’ Flying Cloud FB Bunk, a pull-behind, dual-axle camping trailer made by the iconic maker of aluminum-exterior trailers. “I like the vibe of it,” Mary says.
Even though the Lekosheres got their Airstream toward the end of summer last year, they used it many times – taking it to Pipestem in West Virginia, to a KOA near Lynchburg, multiple times to Chantilly Farm in Floyd, and to Hungry Mother State Park. On most of those trips they were joined by friends who camped with them in their own tents or RVs.
A typical camping getaway day begins with a big breakfast, cooked outside. “We try to make something special like bacon and pancakes,” Mary explains. Then it’s time for hiking and exploring the area. Hungry Mother was a particularly nice destination for the Lekosheres because of its playground, which the four kids loved.
Back at the campground, they spend time with friends and meet fellow campers. “If there’s ever another Airstream,” Sawaya declares, “we always bond with its owners. We had heard the Airstream world was its own world, but you don’t realize how true it is until you get one.”
The Lekosheres found Pilgrim at a camping and RV store in Pennsylvania. It had one previous owner. To acclimate themselves to owning the trailer, they joined Airstream Club International and visited online forums for troubleshooting and advice. One thing they realized is the importance of having the right tow vehicle. Pilgrim weighs more than 6,500 pounds before a single item is packed into it. To make sure they would be capable of pulling that weight, the Lekosheres upgraded their truck to a 2020 Chevy Silverado LT 2500HD Diesel.
Pilgrim is known as an FB Bunk because it has a front bed (FB) and a bunk over the rear bed. The front bed is a queen, and the rear bed and bunk easily sleeps the four children, at least at their current ages and sizes. There is also a sleeping spot in the lounge, and the dinette table can covert to a bed. “It sleeps eight,” Mary states, “if you’re really close friends.”
The galley includes a fridge and freezer and a propane stove with hood. Between it and the rear cabin is a full bathroom with a shower. The bed area can be separated from the rest of the living area with a curtain, so the adults can use the space once the kids have gone to sleep.
The interior has a built-in stereo system and three televisions – one more than the Lekosheres have in their 2-story house. The interior walls are, like the exterior, aluminum. There are many windows throughout and a skylight. On top of the trailer are two heat pumps, for air conditioning and heating. The exterior has an array of storage compartments, as well as a large awning on the starboard, entrance side and two smaller shade awnings on the port side. There are also exterior LED lights.
Typically, the Lekosheres take Pilgrim to sites where they can hook up to 50 amps of power, a water supply and a sewage dump. But because the trailer has fresh and waste water storage and a propane furnace, they can camp in Pilgrim without those hookups – boondocking, as it’s called when you camp off the RV grid.
Sawaya, who is originally from Kenya, came to the area to attend Edward Via College of Osteopathic Medicine. Today he is a primary care physician and practices throughout southwest Virginia. He’s also, like Mary, an enthusiast of Pilgrim.
“He babies her,” Mary relates. “He bought a dehumidifier and cut out shades for the windows.” They also winterized Pilgrim last year. “I didn’t realize when we bought it how much it would be like owning a home,” she adds.
Last summer, not long before buying Pilgrim, the Lekosheres went tent camping. It was raining when they put up the tent, so they had a puddle in the tent the whole time. With Pilgrim when it rains, “it just adds to the charm.”
This spring Pilgrim is destined for a weeklong visit to the shore, at South Carolina’s Huntington Beach State Park. The older boys are learning to kayak, so it’s nice to go near water. Eventually they would like to take Pilgrim on a visit out West. “Having an Airstream is a lifestyle choice,” Mary believes. “It’s given us really intense family time.” It also gives her a chance to escape from really intense family time occasionally.
Sometimes, at home, she and Sawaya will step outside the house and go to where Pilgrim is parked to enjoy a glass of wine or visit with friends. “My life can be pretty chaotic with four young kids,” Mary offers. “Spending a bit of time in Pilgrim slows things down a bit, makes things seem more manageable.”
To follow along with the adventures of the Lekosheres and their Airstream, visit their Instagram account: @airstream_pilgrim.
In addition to naming their Airstream Pilgrim, the Lekosheres gave their Airstream the number 1314, after Hebrews 13:14, which reads: “For here we do not have an enduring city, but we are looking for the city that is to come.”
Text by Karl Kazaks
Photos by Christy Wallace