Goodbye to Airstream Ranch, An I-4 Monument
Interstate 4, the often wild and crowded road that stretches across the middle of Florida, is full of strange sights. At “malfunction junction,” where Tampa’s I-275 merges with the Orlando-bound traffic, you’re likely to see breakdowns, accidents, and road rage. Near Disney, Mickey Mouse’s ears signal your arrival in the land of tourists, theme parks, and colorful billboards. And near Altamonte Springs, you see that one unfinished building, the classic I-4 eyesore. But perhaps the strangest and most mesmerizing of all? “Airstream Ranch,” an installation of eight Gulf Stream RVs jammed into the ground near Dover.
What exactly is Airstream Ranch? An art piece? An advertisement? It really depends on how you look at it. Built in 2007 by an RV salesman, it celebrates the classic Air Stream camper. Since then, tourists have flocked to marvel at it, while many others demeaned it as a nuisance and distraction. In 2008, the owner was fined $100 a day for the display. Hillsborough County claimed that it violated zoning and sign restrictions. In 2010, however, the owner emerged victorious — the RVs could stay.
But just as suddenly and mysterious as it appeared, Airstream Ranch is going away. As announced on February 9th that the display will be torn down. Since the former owner has sold the property, it’s likely that the new owners do not find it artistic or tasteful. Or maybe the neighbors, who have complained all these years about the unwanted traffic and attention, are finally getting their way.
Despite its troubles, Airstream Ranch was a wonderful sight amid the horrors of I-4. It was an interesting conversation starter, a unique tourist destination, and for others, an ugly distraction. Regardless of opinion, we can probably all agree that 1-4 just won’t be the same without it.
What do you think?
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