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  • Writer's pictureSarah Fleming

Airstream Appreciation Post

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I'm the type of person that gets obsessed with one particular thing and then likes to learn lots of random facts about it, which I then rattle off after a few beers. Ask me about the prophecies of Nostradamus, sole survivors of plane crashes, Costco or chihuahuas and you might get an earful. (Did you know that chihuahuas were used as hot packs in ancient times?) My current obsession is with the history of Airstreams. The more I learn about Airstreams the prouder I am that we own such an important piece of history. In fact, when I'm not memorizing random facts that serve zero purpose in my personal or professional life, I'm dreaming and scheming of how we can get a second Airstream-- this time to actually travel in!

This is the first sentence of the bio of Airstream founder Wally Byam on the Airstream website:

Airstream founder Wally Byam was born on the Fourth of July, 1896, in Baker City – a boom town along the Oregon Trail, which his grandparents had traveled in a mule-drawn wagon on their journey out west.

Come on! I feel like this is the most wholesomely American thing I've ever read. And the Airstream story only gets better from there. Wally Byam developed the Airstream trailer in the early 1930's using engineering principles borrowed from the aircraft industry, which was booming at the time. In fact, his first model was named "Clipper" after the first trans-Atlantic plane. During WWII, he had to shutter his production because his trailers used the same materials (aluminum, rubber, gasoline) that were now designated solely for use in manufacturing of wartime aircraft.

After WWII, the economy was booming. Byam re-opened his production and began manufacturing Airstreams in California, and later Ohio. The Airstreams that are manufactured today are still made in Ohio, and assembled by hand, each rivet drilled by an actual human being. In 2016, Airstream was producing 72 trailers per week. That may seem like a lot, but compared with the output of mechanized manufacturing it's practically nothing. In 2014, Honda reported that its Ohio manufacturing plant was turning out 1,800 vehicles PER DAY. (I told you I'd be hitting you with random facts!)

Okay, so now I've geeked out about history and manufacturing, but I haven't gotten into the community. Airstream owners are eligible to join the WBCCI - the Wally Byam Caravan Club International. Each Airstream has a unique number on the front (ours is 21955) which is essentially an identifying number for members of this club. The club plans caravans each summer, where they travel together on the same route, carefully planned and executed by experienced Airstreamers. Along the way, they form a strong community of like-minded couples, families and individuals, who are attracted to the freedom and beauty of the Airstream way of life. Many form lifelong friendships.

When we first embarked on this journey, we debated what type of trailer we wanted. We are so happy that we decided to get Vicky with all of her 47-year history and quality and community. We hope that everywhere she goes, she'll inspire people to learn more about Airstreams like we did!

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