Thursday, July 12, 2007

Airstreamers Do Georgia

Late on June 25th I pulled in to Fair Harbor RV Park in Perry, Georgia. I was rendezvousing with the Vintage Airstream Club, a group I planned to officially join at the earliest opportunity. It was almost midnight.

After a good night's sleep in the Georgia pines I awoke surrounded by a contingent of Canadian Airstreamers. Like so many Canadians they couldn't have been nicer but this was the wrong group. The Vintage crowd was in a different section of the park so I moved over to join them.

Parked with the Vintage crowd I was in Airstream heaven! There were completely restored models dating back to 1935. Most were from the 50's, 60's, and 70's. There are very few Airstreams from the 1940s due to the war and the time after the war before the company got into full swing again.

I met Ken and Petey Faber of Michigan and Arizona. They toured me through their early sixties trailer and their beautifully restored 1955 GMC pickup. These two are famous for their vintage trailers. Magazines and writers of coffee table books do an excellent job covering the Faber's restored trailers. They've been Airstreaming for many years.

Dr. Holman was also there. He's the owner of a 1935 trailer his father built using plans from Wally Byam, Airstream's founder. He bills his trailer as the oldest Airstream on the road. I'd seen pictures in books. As I found myself standing in this trailer talking to him it was a little eery. Is this real or am I visualizing the images in front of me from photos I'd been looking at in Wanderlust (an Airstream book)? I couldn't get out of my mind the fact that this not so young man had been conceived in that trailer many decades earlier, a fun fact I'd just as soon rather not know but it was in the book.

I met Shari Davis the incoming president of the Vintage Club who was just in from Denver with her very muscular friend Jim. She had an adorable little trailer, 1950s or 60s--completely buffed up and shining like a mirror. She officially signed me up as a new member of the Vintage Club.

That's the cool thing in the vintage crowd, to buff your trailer and make it shinier than it was when it was new. I am sure I'll be buffing mine before too long. To be a vintage trailer it has to be 25 years old or more which puts us up into the not so distant early 1980s.

My favorite was the Belize Trailer. The guy had decked out his Airstream in a Belize theme. He'd printed a banner that said "Welcome to Belize" which he hung from his awning. There was a neon palm tree, a few pink flamingos, and a neon martini on a table. It was all done up to the nines and looked fabulous. I didn't get to speak to him until over a week later near the end of the rally. Just too many people to meet.

The next morning the Vintage Club paraded in to the main event, the 50th Annual International Airstream Rally, put on by WBCCI--the Wally Byam Caravaner Club International. Byam (Airstream's founder) was a flamboyant guy who led Airstream caravans on nearly every continent around the world. One of his most epic journeys was Capetown (South Africa) to Cairo (Egypt)--a caravan they plan to repeat next year. Sounds like fun to me. Around fifty vintage units were welcomed at the Georgia National Fairgrounds where over 800 trailers (and some Airstream motor homes) had already set up. Fellow Airstreamers welcomed us with flags and waves as we caravaned in.

I was fortunate enough to be parked under one of the few trees there, a big old oak. For the next eight nights I was parked in this Airstream haven. I was pleasantly surprised by the weather. There were hot and muggy moments to be sure, but after three summers in Phoenix it just didn't seem that hot. If one more person mentions "the dry heat" as if it were somehow not actually hot I will have to slug them. Every night I turned off the AC and opened the windows. I'd never do that in Phoenix this time of year.

It was now time to meet my colorful neighbors.

On one side of me was a guy named Leo who informed me the only reason he came was to vote on some issue related to whether or not non-Airstream motorhome owners could be part of the Airstream club. His position was Hell No! He'd even set up a web site. He was a great guy, despite his passion for the club politics . . .

The guy on the other side of him was from Front Royal, Virginia not far from where I lived in Berryville in 2002-2003. We had some mutual acquaintances including some good friends of mine who were an arch-enemy of his. He's a hot air ballooner and my friends raise horses and don't like people ballooning over their property. His name is Paul. He has a 1968 Airstream and a 1966 International Harvester Travelall as his tow vehicle. Quite a good looking rig and not a bad guy either despite his hot air ballooning ways. He talked me into joining the DC Unit. I had been a member-at-large, but wanted to join a unit and why not DC? I'd lived there once and don't live anywhere right now.

Parked nearby were Colin and Suzanne who own an Airstream restoration business out of Plattsburgh, New York. They are Canadians and are super-cool. Their high profile job of the moment is an extensive restoration of a 1952 Airstream for the world's most famous Airstreamer: Matthew McConaughey. Matthew, as we referred to him, sold all of his real estate and has been full-timing for a couple of years. He'll soon have at least 3 or 4 trailers so he has room for guests (and maybe staff too). Colin installed some lights for me, updating my original running lights with LED lights. I'd lost two lens caps on the way to Georgia. The new ones look the same as the original, just brighter. I am going to have a few other things done by Colin in August.

Kitty-corner from me were Harley and John. These two were the life of the Vintage community hosting cocktail and dinner parties and just being damn good guys.

Every afternoon at 4:30, in the muggiest part of the early Georgia summer, the Vintage club met for Happy Hour under one of the big oaks. The Vintage-ites tend to be younger than the average Airstreamer attending one of these big rallies and we know how to have fun too.

For five days I set up shop as a vendor, peddling meteorites, jewelry, and my other usual wares. I even gave a talk on meteorites that went well. One fun moment came when I spent ten or fifteen minutes with Bob Wheeler, Airstream's president. I showed him some meteorites and the picture I show everyone of my truck and trailer in front of Ship Wreck Rock near the Utah-Arizona border. Bob's about my age and is on a more traditional career path. I also hauled my largest meteorite over to the Vintage Happy Hour one afternoon and placed it prominently in the center of the gathering. This may have been a vintage first.

Rich Luhr and Brett Greiveldinger were attending the rally and mingling with the crowds. Rich is the founder, publisher, and editor of a magazine called Airstream Life. He's been publishing it for a few years as he fulltimes with his wife and daughter. Rich is a friendly guy capably championing the Airstream way of life. Brett helps out on the magazine with marketing, ad sales, and other important functions. I am now a subscriber of Airstream Life and also own a set of all issues published to date.

Lost in a sea of shiny silver, I couldn't have had much more fun. My 1973 Airstream and I left Perry on July 5th.

Airstreamers rule.


A special thanks to Lloyd and Dona Garner of Ohio for introducing me to WBCCI. Thanks to Paul Waddell for welcoming me to the DC Unit. Apologies to the many many other amazing people I met who are not mentioned here.

To subscribe to Airstream Life (strongly recommended) go to

To get in touch with one of the world's top Airstream restorers email Colin at

For more on WBCCI visit their web site at

The Vintage Airstream Club can be found at

The DC Unit is at

It's time to buy an Airstream or take yours out onto the roads of the world.