Tin Can Tourists Central in RV Centennial
Editor’s Note: The following story was written by Staci Backauskaus and first appeared in Better RVing, a publication of Lazydays.
You may have seen the Travel Channel special highlighting vintage RV renovations, but you may not know about the Tin Can Tourists, a group of nearly 1,000 who proudly rally and caravan their vintage campers all over the U.S.
Started in 1998, there were 21 trailers and 58 people at the first gathering in Michigan. Today, they have nearly a dozen events every year, many of which are sold out with waiting lists. “People have found an interest in vintage trailers,” says Forrest Bone, founder of the group. “They’re more and more noticeable on the road.”
The idea for the organization came from Bone’s experience with his father-in-law’s vintage Airstream. “We worked with him on the restoration and from there, we were hooked,” says Bone. He then got involved with the vintage Airstream organization that existed and served as president for one year.
Bone became fascinated with the history of the first caravanners. “My wife and I like all different brands and types of trailers,” he says. “The Airstream organization limits their events to their trailers. So we got interested in establishing an organization where anyone could join – even if they have a new rig. They just need to appreciate the vintage trailers.”
The goal of the Tin Can Tourists is to show appreciation for and work toward preservation of vintage campers and trailers. “It’s been really interesting to see what types of units are still out there and have been restored,” he says. “We even have members on their third or fourth vintage trailer because they really enjoy doing the renovation and restoration.”
The group also receives requests on a regular basis from towns and organizations asking for their participation. In 2006, 25 members caravanned from Cumberland Md., to Vidalia Ill., to help celebrate the 100-year anniversary of Route 40, one of America’s historic national roads. Last month, another Tin Can Tourist group traveled Route 6 through Pennsylvania to help celebrate the RV Centennial and promote the area as a vacation destination for campers.
Many members own rare trailers like the 1927 Wieder or the Curtiss Aero Car that served both as a cab and an emergency vehicle in the ’20s and ’30s. “The Aero may be one of nine in existence in the U.S.,” says Bone. “It’s the only one still being used. The others are in private collections or museums.” Bone owns three vintage trailers right now and admits, “When we’re driving along and see something that catches our eye, even if it doesn’t have a for sale sign on it, we inquire.”
A retired school teacher and coach, he is excited about how the organization has expanded. “Growth has been so steady over the last three or four years,” he says. “And we’re starting to see more events at a regional level.” The group has regional reps in various areas and the number of local events is growing. Several have already taken place, including one in Vancouver, another in Sedona and there was even a rally in the Fingerlakes region in New York. The group also helped celebrate the RV Centennial in Florida by displaying vintage trailers at several Interstate welcome centers at the beginning of June.
Membership is open to anyone with an appreciation of vintage campers and trailers. For more information, visit www.tincantourists.com