Have you ever wanted to sell everything you own and just "take off?" Travel the country's back roads, paddle down a meandering stream, experience breath-taking mountain views, walk among 100-year old trees, and just marvel at America's beauty? That is the dream that my partner, Betsy, and I decided to make a reality. This blog describes our adventure. The food we eat, people we meet, sights we see, and the enjoyment we find in traveling.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Surrounded by Tin Cans

070When Airstream after Airstream came rolling into the park we knew a rally was about to take place.  One hundred of these iconic Twinkie-shaped shining beauties invaded the campground and livened up the sleepy park.  There were three days of pot lucks, live music, bloody mary bars, open houses, and plenty of mingling about that brought tin canners out into the streets despite the chilly weather.

001Airstream first took to the street in 1929 at the hands of a young travel enthusiast by the name of Wallace (“Wally”) Merle Byam.  The first design was a tent simply set on a Model T chassis.  This design did not fair well in the rain and his wife was not a fan.  The tent was cleverly replaced with a teardrop-shaped permanent shelter that sported a stove and ice chest.  Now we are talking!  The design caught the eye of fellow travelers who asked Wally about it which sparked the idea that building travel trailers might be “a pretty good business to get into.”  The success of Wally’s Popular Mechanics guide to building a trailer showed a demand and a business was born.

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Building trailers in the front yard seemed like a pretty good idea to Wally but noise complaints from the neighbors spurred him into renting a factory and, in 1931, Airstream had its first factory in Culver City, California (which later moved to Jackson Center, Ohio).

Travel-crazed Americans enthusiastically took to the road and trailer manufacturers sprung up across the country.  By 1937, there were some 400 manufacturers – all but Airstream would succumb to the economic hardships of the Great Depression and World War II.  During imagesthe war, aluminum was hard to come by and Wally shut down the factory and found employment at various aircraft factories in California.  The knowledge would serve him well.  When the war ended, the plant he was working at (Curtiss-Wright) closed down and Wally saw the opportunity to revive his trailer business in the factory and the Curtis Wright Clipper was born – the first aircraft constructed trailer.

Eager to road test his product and the urge to travel sent Wally and a friend to war-ravaged Europe in 1948.  They traveled in . . . what else . . . but an Airstream.  This trip was the precursor to Airstream Caravans and the Wally Byam Caravan Club International which is still going strong.

So where did the name Airstream come from?  Wally’s dream was to build a travel trailer that would move like a stream of air, be light enough to be towed by a car, and create first-class accommodations anywhere.  We’d say he achieved that goal.

During the rally at our campground an “Open House” or as Airstreamers call it “Can Opener” was held.  Participants opened their doors, baked cookies, offered spiked cider, and were all too happy to talk about their trailers.  On display were vintage trailers lovingly restored, brand new 2015 units that smelled brand new, customized trailers capable of sleeping seven kids (plus two adults), and everything in between.  So we invited some friends (and potential Airstream buyers) over for the event and spent hours going through each one.

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We all like the Eddie Bauer "Base Camp" trailer that is a toy hauler.
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This 1988 motorized Airstream was all original including the mauve colored couch.
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And in case you are looking to take seven kids with you, bunks are the option of choice.
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We especially loved this restoration by a women who has great taste and had never restored one before.
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The Airstream rally was a ton of fun . . . and we don’t even own an Airstream!  During the weekend we met so many great people like Joanne and Greg - blog readers who are getting close to their dream of retiring and hitting the road full-time in an Airstream.  We also hooked up with Jim and Tim and Debbie and Jim – Airstreamers who we met on RVillage and invited over for a drink along with our good friends Nealy’s on Wheels.  Prior to the rally, we met Gone with the Wynn’s and enjoyed swapping RV’ing stories with them.

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It’s back to work for three days before heading to the Tampa RV show (just to look!)




6 comments:

  1. We, also, have been surrounded by those silver bullets here in the Anza Borrego desert here in southern California.....Are they taking over the world?

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    1. This group was super fun, but yes, they may be.

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  2. Nancy, it was a highlight of our weekend to run into you, Betsy, Deas, and Jennifer at Canopener. You all look just like you do on TV, ha-ha! I posted a link to this post (great writeup!) on the Airstream Forums, you so might get a few visitors from over there. By Canopener 2016, Greg and I should be on the road as full-timers and will spend some time in the Topsail area at that time. Hopefully our paths will cross again and we can spend some time together. We can't wait!

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    1. So glad you introduced yourselves and enjoyed meeting you both. Stay in touch.

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  3. Is a can opener a banned kitchen tool if you live in an Airstream? One could slip and tear open a whole side wall... ;c)

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    1. You are too funny. Guess canned vegetables are out.

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