Editor’s Note: The following story was posted on the Tin Can Tourists TCT Campfire blog at http://tincantourists.com/blog/?p=646 describing the recent Tin Can Tourists Rally in Nashville, Tenn.
The 2009 Nashville TCT Rally (Sep. 23-27) is now history. It was a very successful event, in spite of heavy rain that continued several days. There was a good mix of vintage and modern RVs: 1962 Airstream, 1976 Avion, 1976 GMC, 1977 Avion (2), 1978 Avion, 1979 Avion, 1985 Avion, 1988 Avion, 1989 Avion, 2004 Jayco, 2007 Casita, and 2007 Flagstaff. The group enjoyed lots of entertainment. Some attended the Grand Ole Opry, Country Music Star tour, Flea Market, Rivergate Mall shopping, Camping World, and almost everyone tasted the wine/cheese at the winery and heard Stu Phillips sing a medley of songs for us. Also, the BBQ dinner (with the Blue Grass Band) and a performance by Paul Hill were well attended. There were several walk-ins on Saturday to visit the RV open house. Almost everyone opened their RV for visitors.
Ronnie and Ann Mollere’s 1962 Airstream (shown above) was selected as the Most Impressive RV present. Rick and Angie’s 1976 GMC received lots of praise as the runner-up.
Needless to say, some new friendships were made. RVs came from Wisconsin, Ontario, Ohio, Missouri, Tennessee, North Carolina, Alabama, Mississippi, Florida and Arkansas. Tentative plans were discussed for having a rally in Mississippi next year.
Thirteen RVs attended. Because of the forecast for heavy rain (which was accurate), a number of those pre-registered cancelled. It is believed that if the weather had been more favorable, more than 20 would have attended. It is understandable that those who primarily wanted to “show” their beautiful restored vintage RV chose not to come. Those folks who use their vintage RV regularly did come and received a great (free) wash job.
We know that Airstreams are all over the United States, but did you know they are quite the hit in Europe as well? Belrepayre Airstream & Retro Trailerpark, located in southern France, is an Airstream and retro campground with amazing views of the Pyrenees, according to the Airstream Inc. blog. Originally owned by two former circus performers, the park also offers rentals of nine authentic Airstreams. The park is fully-equipped and also includes the Apollo Lounge, a retro-style Airstream lounge bar (shown below).
Now you can have your Airstream fix even after you’ve crossed the ocean. Airstreams are manufactured in Jackson Center, Ohio, by Airstream Inc., a Thor Industries Inc. company.
Dale “Pee-Wee” Schwamborn was a 20-year-old college student when he led the way as an advance scout during the 1959 Airstream caravan from Cape Town, South Africa, to Cairo, Egypt, a trip that took about six months to complete.
Fifty years later, Schwamborn, a California native, was again at the front of the pack as a caravan of Airstreams made their way across the Bill Emerson Memorial Bridge on Friday (Sept. 11) on their way in a tribute to the original trip, according to the Southeast Missourian, Cape Girardeau, Mo.
This time they were going from Cape Girardeau to Cairo, Ill., a 68-mile trek that falls considerably short of the more than 4,000 miles of the original journey, and there were only 17 recreational vehicles in the caravan compared to the 41 that made the Africa trip.
Still, the trip was special, Schwamborn said.
”I can’t think it went anything but great,” said Steve Burrows, an Airstream trailer owner and aficionado who planned and led the caravan.
Burrows got the idea to recreate the trip as a celebration of the 50th anniversary when he met Schwamborn at an Airstream event in Texas.
“I thought it was a really fun idea,” Schwamborn said.
Schwamborn’s mother, Helen Byam Schwamborn, founded the international Airstream club WBCCI. Her first cousin, Wally Byam, who died in 1962, founded Airstream.
Though Burrows said Friday’s caravan was “smooth sailing,” and credited Cape Girardeau and Cairo police with their assistance in making sure there were no problems, the Africa trip was not without obstacles.
Schwamborn recalls helping to dig caravans out of deep sand as they crossed the desert of the Sudan, and everyone lending a hand as they crossed quagmires in Ethiopia.
During Friday’s trip to and from Illinois, the caravan did earn some curious looks from passers-by, Burrows said.
Tina and Mike Nelson of St. Louis, new Airstream owners, made it to Cape Girardeau RV Park for Saturday’s two-hour open house,” an opportunity to meet other Airstream owners and talk.
The Nelsons purchased their first Airstream two months ago. Since then, they’ve been surprised by how helpful and close-knit the Airstream community is, Mike Nelson said.
“They’re just willing to share what they know,” Tina Nelson said.
“Airstreams are vintage, iconic, unique,” says Jody Aufrichtig, who spent months and millions to buy, import and renovate a small fleet of vintage Airstreams. The point? To put them on the roof of his four-star Cape Town, South Africa, hotel, the Grand Daddy, and create what he calls a Penthouse Trailer Park. Trashy? No way. Try flashy, notes Travel + Leisure magazine.
Airstream travel trailers, those iconic silver bullets, hit the road in the 1930s and quickly became design icons, cropping up in movies and fashion shoots as well as stylish front yards along the way. These days, the rolling slices of Americana seem more popular than ever. Google the word Airstream and you get nearly two million results-from YouTube videos of loving restorations to forums populated by thousands of rabid owners. The Airstream fan club also includes impressively high-voltage celebrities, like Tom Hanks, Sheryl Crow, Francis Ford Coppola and Johnny Depp.
Now hotels and motels around the world are adding Airstreams as a hip alternative to cookie-cutter rooms-as stand-alone hotels, as add-ons to existing inns, even as part of KOA (Kampgrounds of America) locations from Las Vegas to Maine. Style aside, features like multiple beds and fully equipped kitchens can also make Airstreams a cheaper option. Savvy travelers are fast becoming the newest Airstream aficionados.
One early-and enthusiastic-adopter of the trailer-hotel trend was The Shady Dell Trailer Court ($87 per night) in Bisbee, Ariz., which opened in 2007 with the slogan “Midcentury Modernism Is Alive and Well at the Shady Dell.” Currently the Dell has nine fully restored vintage aluminum travel trailers for rent, including a 21-foot 1949 Airstream that sleeps two .
The hyperefficient use of space (à la a Japanese capsule hotel) is partly what attracted an Asian wellness retreat in Santa Fe, N.M., to adopt the Airstream-as-hotel-room concept. Ten Thousand Waves ($99-$129, depending on the season) has a Silver Moon (a 2003 19-foot Airstream Bambi), which appeals to a broad range of travelers-from Airstream enthusiasts to guests looking for unique lodging. But it also rents for half the price of traditional accommodations, which is perhaps the real reason its Airstream had a 92 percent occupancy rate last year.
It’s style, however, that rules at the doo-wop-themed boutique hotel StarLux ($69-$233, depending on the season) in Wildwood, N.J. Wildwood is the doo-wop capital of the U.S., with more surviving examples of this classic ’50s-style design and architecture than anywhere else in the country), so it made sense for the StarLux to go retro and install two Airstreams. Each sleeps four and includes a kitchenette.
One of the latest hotels to offer an Airstream is the Lakedale Resort ($229 from May 1-October 31) on San Juan Island, Wash.. Inspired by all those celebrity Airstream enthusiasts, the resort added a fully restored 31-foot 1978 Airstream Sovereign to its existing roster of canvas cabins, campsites, lodge rooms, and log cabins. Snazzed up with Cuisinart kitchen appliances and Molton Brown bathroom amenities, it includes a private furnished lakeside deck.
The trend recently reached Europe as well with the opening of the Bel Repayre Airstream and Retro Trailer Park ($125-$167 for two people) in the Pyrenees foothills of southern France, near Mirepoix, featuring nine restored vintage Airstreams, all with kitchens and outdoor barbecues. The owners have even converted an Airstream into an outdoor bar.
But perhaps the world’s chicest Airstream installation is in Cape Town, South Africa. That’s where the four-star Grand Daddy Hotel ($117 per night) offers seven vintage Airstream travel trailers installed with landscaping (and even mailboxes) on the roof. Owner Jody Aufrichtig was inspired by the movie What’s Eating Gilbert Grape, in which Juliette Lewis’s character lives in an Airstream, and traveled to Ohio to purchase the trailers. Today, each “penthouse” has interiors customized by different artists .
While some hotels go for vintage or customized Airstream interiors, others prefer more modern designs that complement their locations. Hotel Airstream ($149-$179 per night) in Newport Beach, Calif., offers one 2006 26-foot Airstream International Ocean Breeze edition with a full kitchen. It can comfortably sleep four, and it comes with beach-inspired décor and colors that fit right in where it’s parked – on dunes overlooking the Pacific.
It’s the club’s 52nd annual convention, according to the Isthmus Daily Page, Madison.
Somewhere in the midst of the Airstream maze on Monday, Don McKelvay tidied up his trailer. He and his wife, Kathy, represent the northeast United States branch of the Wally Byam Caravan Club International. Together, they’re in charge of about 18 caravan units, each ranging from about 10 to 400 trailers. It’s a pretty big responsibility for a man who never thought he’d own a trailer, let alone an iconic Airstream.
“I had never intended on buying an Airstream,” says McKelvay.
Now, he couldn’t be happier. “The Cadillac of travel trailers,” he calls it, pointing to his collection of convention stickers on the trailer’s back window. His newest addition: a sticker with a red border and Wisconsin’s capital building.
In celebration of its 125th anniversary, Victorinox Swiss Army -makers of the Swiss Army Knife – has announced a partnership with Airstream Inc. to produce the first “Victorinox Special Edition Airstream” travel trailer.
These two iconic brands have created a 19-foot trailer, production of which will be limited to 125 units and which embodies their shared qualities and philosophies: precision, functionality, reliability and a classically elegant design, according to a press release.
”When you enter into the trailer, the design cohesion between the two brands is both intuitive and natural – it’s comfortable and truly defines a luxe camping experience,” said Scott Swaebe, director of visual merchandising for Victorinox Swiss Army.
Like the legendary Swiss Army Knife, the details of the trailer are precise and clean, the release stated. And to ensure consumers are fully equipped, a collection of Victorinox Swiss Army timepieces, kitchen cutlery, Swiss Army Knives and accessories are included with each trailer
“It’s rare to find another brand that so closely represents the Airstream values of outdoor adventure in style,” said Bob Wheeler, Airstream president and CEO. “Victorinox is clearly such a company and we were thrilled to collaborate on this very special travel trailer. Whether it’s a Swiss Army knife or an Airstream, it’s something you buy to last a lifetime.”
The specially numbered special edition units are available beginning June 15. The commemorative, serialized plaque bears the famous Swiss Army Knife cross and shield emblem. This special edition Airstream travel trailer will retail starting at $59,000 and will be available at participating Airstream dealerships nationwide. For more information, please visit www.airstream.com
2007 RVIA Spirit of America Award winner Matthew McConaughey (below) appeared on “Live With Regis and Kelly” April 29 to talk about the 7,300-mile, 42-day road trip he recently took with girlfriend Camila Alves and their 9-month-old son Levi in a travel trailer.
McConaughey, who for years has lived in his Airstream, is now reported to be building a house for his family. But the avid RVer told Regis and Kelly that even though he will soon be a homeowner, “I’m not giving up the trailer.” In fact, McConaughey is currently having two additional travel trailers built to add to his collection, according to the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA).
When Regis Philbin teased McConaughey about mingling with other RVers at campgrounds, McConaughey said that his fellow RVers were more interested in the gadgets on his travel trailer than in his celebrity status.
In accepting RVIA’s Spirit of America award in 2007, McConaughey said, ”My RV means freedom,” and discussed his love for the open road. Now that McConaughey is a father, Kelly Ripa asked how baby Levi handles being on the road. McConaughey reported that Levi is a good traveler, who “sleeps one full tank of gas, which is perfect.” Kelly said, “I’ve always dreamed of doing a trip like that with the kids.”
The edited video is available for viewing on YouTube and is also posted on Go RVing’s Facebook fan page.
Nearly 86 Airstream trailer owners camped out at the Boone County Fairgrounds near Columbia, Mo., as part of the Wally Byam Caravan Club International’s Region 8 rally. The gathering, which started April 29 and ended Sunday, drew Wally Byam members from Missouri, Nebraska, Iowa and Kansas.
Wally Byam founded the Airstream company and designed the first trailers.
Activities featured an open house Saturday for the public and other rally attendees. The trailers were parked side by side in rows, so owners could go from trailer to trailer to compare notes and connect socially.
“If you didn’t have any in the beginning, you’ll develop some social skills,” Airstream owner Rachel Hughey said.
Some units looked modern while others had been restored to their original decor. The oldest model at the rally was from 1948. Many had flamingos, which like the iconic Airstream itself, are an integral part of Americana kitsch.
But it would be a mistake to think of the units, or “silver twinkies,” as Hughey likes to call them, as relics of the past. Hughey said most RV parks today are practically required to have Wi-Fi access and “the VAP,” or Vintage Airstream Podcast, a popular podcast that owners can tune in to about vintage trailers.
Hughey said that a new Airstream today can cost around $100,000 and that even in these times, Airstream Inc. does well financially, building on request. She said the company also makes UPS trucks and other vehicles if RV demand wavers. Hughey visited the company’s headquarters in Jackson Center, Ohio, and said that more than 60% of all Airstreams ever made are still on the road.
“They are very versatile, and that’s how Airstreamer people have to be,” she said. “If it doesn’t work, try something else.”
Some Airstream owners still work, but most couples are retired and have the freedom to travel. Most importantly, however, the passion for Airstream ownership must be shared. Hughey told a story about a man she met in Tennessee whose wife wasn’t into his RV devotion.
“She said, ‘You have to choose between me and the Airstream.’ And she’s gone!”
Airstream Inc. and MINI have teamed up to offer a MINI Cooper S Clubman and an Airstream travel trailer featuring interiors designed by Republic of Fritz Hansen.
The concept will be presented for the first time at the INTERNI DESIGN ENERGIES exhibition during the upcoming Salone del Mobile show in Milan, Italy. The exhibition runs April 22-27.
Republic of Fritz Hansen, the Copenhagen based premium furniture brand, designed the interior of the MINI Cooper S Clubman and Airstream trailer. Drawing inspiration from the outdoor lifestyle of surfing, the Airstream interior will feature, amongst others, new interpretations of Arne Jacobsen’s Egg and Swan Chair and a table set up with four unique Series Seven chairs. Sleek wood paneling finishes off the “modern surfer” look.
“Here at Republic of Fritz Hansen we are thrilled with the collaboration and really look forward to introducing this unique and eye catching concept,” says Jacob Holm, President and CEO at Republic of Fritz Hansen.
The MINI Cooper S Clubman will also reflect the same adventurous personality and style with clean lines, bold colors such as lightning green and an array of interior gadgets.
The MINI Cooper S Clubman will be predominately jet black with black “wetsuit” neoprene accents along with green trim. The 22-foot silver Airstream trailer will also sport the same exterior details as the MINI but will have an interior designed for beach goers with features such as a waterproof interior and a sun bathing bed.
“Partnering with MINI was a given,” said Bob Wheeler, CEO of Jackson Center, Ohio-based Airstream, Inc. “As one of the oldest manufacturers of recreational vehicles in the U.S. and MINI’s longstanding history producing unmistakable sport cars, we knew that we would make a dynamite team.”