A bit of RV history is rolling down U.S. 30 this month between eastern Ohio and western Nebraska.
It’s a collection of “Tin Can Tourists” traversing what was once called the “Lincoln Highway” with 24 vintage RVs, most of them travel trailers dating as far back as 1948. The group embarked from Hayesville, Ohio, northeast of Columbus, on Saturday (June 21) and are due in Kearney, Neb., on June 29. The RVers are more or less following U.S. 30 but are allowed to deviate from the highway as they see fit, since they are not moving in any type of formal caravan.
The band of vagabonds stopped in Elkhart, Ind., Monday and “dry camped” overnight outside the RV/MH Hall of Fame where they spoke with RVBUSINESS.com about their trek thus far.
“Safe with no breakdowns,” organizer Forrest Bone reported on the first legs of their journey. Bone and his wife, Jeri, revived the original Tin Can Tourists organization in 1998.
This contingent of Tin Can Tourists hails mainly from the East and parts of the Midwest: Florida, New Jersey, New York, West Virginia, North Carolina, Ohio, Michigan, Illinois, Georgia, Wisconsin, Virginia, Arizona and Ontario. The organization, originally founded in 1919, has some 1,500 members and 5,000 fans on Facebook.
Lots of Airstreams were part of the caravan, including an assortment of brands that have all but disappeared from today’s highways and campgrounds. Towables must be at least 25 years old and motorhomes at least 20 years old to be considered vintage RVs and eligible for their contests, but all RV owners with an interest in vintage RVs may join the association, Bone said.
The Bones are towing a 1948 Spartan Manor, a 25-foot travel trailer built by the Spartan Aircraft Co. in Tulsa, Okla., that features a highly polished birch wood interior. The Bones, retired from Milford, Mich., bought the unit just three weeks ago from a fellow Tin Can Tourist who has restored several other units and is traveling with them in a similar Spartan Manor. The Bones have updated their trailer with some modern conveniences, including a TV and modern refrigerator.
Parked nearby was a 16-foot 1986 Serro Scotty travel trailer, owned by Bob and Caryl Cameron of Keuka Park, N.Y. The retirees are veteran tent campers who made the plunge into RVs two years ago when they purchased their Scotty on Craigslist.
Other units include a Starcraft Cruiser motorhome built in 1974 by a company better known for its popup campers.
Bone, a retired alternative school teacher, has built in a daily educational component on this journey. Each night, the RVers gather to recount highlights of the day’s travels (they’ll average between 150 miles and 180 miles per day), while a designated person will provide points of interest their fellow travelers can expect to see along the way the next day, Bone explained. In this way, the Tin Can Tourists can plan their next day’s travels without being tied to something they don’t want to see or do, Bone said.
Following a catered dinner Monday night, Al Hesselbart, the Hall of Fame’s historian, led a tour of the museum and gave a program to the Tin Can travelers. The Hall remained open through the night, and some of the tourists sought refuge inside when high winds buffeted the area around nightfall. “Some were rocked pretty good by the wind but there was no damage,” reported Hesselbart, who spent the night at the Hall and dined with some of them this morning before seeing them off.
The Rest of the Trip
Other stops on their trip include St. Charles, Ill.; Franklin Grove, Ill., (home of the national headquarters of the Lincoln Highway Association); and Oxford and Boone, Iowa, before crossing the Missouri River into Nebraska. They will camp at the Washington County Fairgrounds in Arlington and arrive in Kearney on June 29.
Bone had hoped a western contingent of Tin Can Tourists could be organized to meet them in Kearney, but plans did not materialize. Instead, a lone club member will haul his 1948 Curtis Wright travel trailer behind a 1948 Studebaker pickup truck down from Helena, Mont., and meet them there.
On June 30, they will converge with the East and West Coast Centennial Auto Tours in downtown Kearney to participate in festivities all afternoon.
On July 1, the Tin Can Tourists will set up a 1920s model camp and make presentations at the Great Platte River Road Archway. They also will show their historic vehicles to the public at the fairgrounds.
The group will split up and go their separate ways after Kearney. For example, the Camerons plan to visit relatives in Colorado, Arkansas and Michigan before returning home to Upstate New York the end of summer.
The Hall will also be visited this week by up to 100 antique automobiles traveling the Lincoln Highway. The automobiles are expected to arrive at 4 p.m. on Wednesday.
For more information about the Tin Can Tourists, visit www.tincantourists.com.