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'Art' makes viewers nostalgic ... or queasy

Dover The Airstream tribute next to Bates RV? Rubberneckers notice; so has codes.

By TRACI RADER, Times Correspondent
Published January 11, 2008


It's enough to slow traffic on Interstate 4: a collection of Airstream travel trailers wedged into the ground like overgrown metallic tombstones.

The 71/2 shiny, tubular trailers buried along McIntosh Road in Dover are the brainchild of Frank Bates, who owns the Bates RV dealership nearby.

The Airstreams are modeled after the Cadillac Ranch, the iconic exhibit of half-buried cars in Amarillo, Texas.

The Airstreams are 16 to 34 feet long and 14 to 51 years old.

Bates, who collects old Airstreams as a hobby, had no problem finding some shopworn trailers that were perfect for the exhibit. He planted them on property next to his dealership that has agricultural zoning.

"There are 71/2 trailers to represent Airstream's 75th year anniversary. The construction hasn't changed much since. They are built to last," says Frank Bates, who owns Bates RV.

Whether Bates' "RV Ranch" - which he envisioned as a permanent work of art - will last is another question. It has caught the attention of some neighbors and county officials. Some residents of nearby Castlewood Road are upset that the display is so close to their homes.

"The first time I found out what he was doing was when the trailers were being placed in the ground. ... I asked him what he was doing and he said he was making art," resident Brian Connell said.

Bates visited the neighborhood recently, but most people were at work, Connell said.

"What if we get a hurricane? Those trailers are close enough to be an issue," he said.

Another neighbor, Gary Spivey, called the spectacle "kind of cool" but said he's concerned about extra traffic that the exhibit might draw.

Bates will be given time to comply with a forthcoming notice about his improper use of the area and accumulation of trailers, Kemly Green of the Hillsborough County Code Enforcement Department said Monday.

The county's Environmental Protection Commission found no violations, said Al Higginbotham, a county commissioner and chairman of the EPC board.

Still, Bates has no plans to remove what he calls art.

"I will be glad to do whatever it takes to make my neighbors happy," he said. "I'll put in a wall, landscaping, pretty flowers and even make a little park with picnic tables."

He hopes that RV Ranch will remind visitors of their enjoyable travel and camping experiences.

"People come in and tell me stories like 'My grandfather had an Airstream and we slept over there on the floor. It was the best time I ever had,' " he said.


To gaze upon it

"RV Ranch" can be found at 4656 McIntosh Road, Dover.

[Last modified January 10, 2008, 22:39:29]

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