Of all the possible answers to the call of the open road, perhaps none is more compelling than the Airstream travel trailer.

As reported by BBC, though these glinting gray whales of the highway have been manufactured in the U.S. since the 1930s, Airstreams are selling at record numbers, with the company reporting a 50% increase in revenue for fiscal year 2014. And while Bob Wheeler, Airstream president and CEO, attributes the growth to such factors as an expanded dealer network, accelerated marketing efforts and product consistency, it is the Airstream trailer’s fervent fans – along with a zeitgeist-y embrace of retro kitsch – that largely underpin the renaissance.

“I just had to have it,” says Kate Pierson, front-woman of the U.S. band The B-52’s. Pierson operates Kate’s Lazy Desert in Landers, Calif., an Airstream hotel consisting of six little love shacks on wheels. The business was born when Pierson, driving down the road, screeched to a halt in front of an old Airstream for sale.

“It really symbolized that mid-century optimism of hitting the road,” says Pierson, who also operates a resort and lodge in the Catskills mountains of New York. “It’s something that is retro and nostalgic but very forward-thinking at the same time, which is pretty much the same thing that people loved about The B-52’s.”

The vintage vehicles evoke comfort in an increasingly troubled world, she added. They are a place for reconnecting with the simple pleasures of board games, staring at the night sky and enjoying a terrific conversation.

Airstream aesthetics contribute massively to the vehicles’ appeal. While some recreational vehicles are boxy and clumsy, the Airstream – despite having no motive power of its own – appears nimble. It is aerodynamic. The flanks are rounded and alluring, and the aluminum skin is fastened with precise rows of rivets. The overall effect is that of a silver bullet, designed to slice through lazy plains and tangled ribbons of road alike.

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