Archive for the ‘wally byam/wbcci’ Category
So, here’s what didn’t work.
My effort to prevent devaluing my fabulous collectible Chris Deam DWR Airstream with the WBCCI Big Red Numbers resulted in a frightful defacement. “Take THAT,” snickered the ghost of Wally Byam.
My own displaced vanity and lack of ability to think a process through is really to blame, of course.
Early this spring I reached out to 1859 (the magazine named for the year Oregon became a state) and pitched the WBCCI Oregon Unit as the subject for an article.
“In an intelligent and beautiful format, 1859 explores the landscapes, the personalities, the movers and shakers, the history and the architecture that is the jewel of the Pacific Northwest,” states their website. We were thrilled (I think, mostly) to learn that the Oregon Wally Club would be featured in the July/August 2013 issue.
A real live professional photographer was assigned to attend our rally…
Ralliers at wonderful, warm, windy Ana Reservoir RV Park enjoyed what the Oregon Outback had to offer: a tour of the state wildlife refuge, wildflower viewing at Fremont Park, the Paisley Mosquito Festival, splashing in the lake, collecting cattails, and evening kite flying followed by a knock-your-socks-off sunset reflected in aluminum.
An expedition to the Cowboy Dinner Tree in Silver Lake was organized, and mass quantities of meat were consumed—obscene portions served family style with sides.
I towed into Pendleton, Oregon minutes before the Westward Ho! parade and faced nowhere to park; every empty slot and lot teemed with RVs and horse trailers and teepees. Somehow I squeezed into a miracle spot in the WalMart parking lot, stuffed to the curbs with motorhomes, tents, and rednecks camped in the beds of their pickups…like spring break for hillbillies. I followed the crowd and piles of manure on Court Street to the all non-motorized parade which showcased wild west wagons and buggies, all manner of cowboy, Indians, Mexicans, sheriffs, preachers, outlaws, firemen, Oregon Trail pioneers, weird timber equipment, every rodeo princess in the Northwest, longhorns, mules, donkeys, horses, miniature ponies, and State Treasurer Ted Wheeler.
I used to be crazy-patriotic. I walked precincts for the party when I was eleven, voted in every election since I’ve been able (wearing pajamas to the dorm polling place to be first in line at age 18), and I know every flag etiquette rule and the harmony part to This Land is Your Land. I grew out of it though, jaded in recent years by my understanding of the bigger world, media massaging, and our electoral system.
But, this Independence Day I had to turn my head so no one would see me choking up over a red white and blue birthday cake.
I fully expected the WBCCI Oregon Unit members to know how to have a good time when I met their club president at the International. Expectations fulfilled: The HiWay Haven rally in Sutherlin OR—a nonstop block party with Airstreams and the people who love them—pegged the fun meter.
A little Airstream history was thrown in between the eating and drinking; the weekend commemorated the 50th anniversary of the famous Cape Town to Cairo caravan with a special lecture and a screening of two films about Wally Byam and his followers to Africa and Mexico. Other movies on the old drive in screen included the unwatchable RV and The Long, Long Trailer, unwatchable for other reasons.
Lowered expectations are the key to happiness. Every Airstreamer under fifty warned me about the dork factor of the WBCCI 53rd International Rally. Thusly, we had a rockin good time.
Yes, there was a weird opening ceremony involving unit flags and the procession of club officers in their blue berets; the sort of ancient tradition like the Elks’ 11 O’Clock Toast or the Shriners’ love of clown cars that many people enjoy. And I was confounded by the focus on structured indoor activities that had nothing to do with camping: byzantine meetings heavy on the Robert’s Rules of Order, some board game called Joker, ham radio workshops…it was like being on a senior cruise without the buffet.
Though Ralph has the Wally Byam Caravan Club in his bloodstream we knew virtually nothing about it when we bought the DWR and fell awkwardly into membership in 2007. Now, with one week to prepare ourselves for the spectacle that will be the WBCCI 53rd International Rally—our first official rally as members—procrastination must end. It’s time to apply our Big Red Numbers.
Among the many annoyances at the unforthcoming WBCCI website is no official explanation of the history of these numbers or what point they practically serve today, sixty years since the club was founded. Most members surmise that their purpose is threefold…
In 1955, a group of 55 avid Airstream owners—mostly friends of founder Wally—became charter members of the Wally Byam Caravan Club. During that year, the largest Airstream caravan in history was launched to Mexico.
Ralph’s Norwegian grandmother Odne and her husband George were part of the historic WBCCI Western Mexico Winter Caravan of ’55. During our visit to Detroit Lakes, Ralph’s mother—Odne’s daughter—dug through a box of keepsakes and produced Odne’s journals about the trip that winter, handwritten in notebooks she purchased along the way.
Update the cultural references and much of her chronicle could be written about an Airstream caravan in 2010 (though hopefully highway conditions have improved by today).
Wally Byam, the founder of Airstream, was a guy who knew how to have a good time. In 1952, Byam and a group of funloving maniacs towed their trailers down to Central America en masse, initiating an annual tradition of winter Airstream trips to Mexico and other destinations worldwide. It’s been nearly fifty years since the Cape Town to Cairo caravan he led across Africa in 1959.
Ralph’s grandparents actually accompanied Byam on one of his caravans to Mexico in the early 50s. He doesn’t remember much of the story, (“I was bored by the pictures when I was a kid,”) but has his grandmother Toring’s original Blue Beret.