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, Oregon—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. (I wince when I picture Ralph’s response to the situations Lucy and Ricky encountered. A trailer stuck in a muddy ditch just isn’t funny when you tow one.)
During the weekend many of the Airstream owners opened their trailer doors for a public tour of their lovingly restored vintage trailers, factory-fresh rigs, an especially killer new remodel, the smallest trailer at the rally (our DWR) and even an Airstream motorhome, manufactured in the 80s.
But let’s let someone else tell it for a change. Welcome Oregon Unit Member Bill Ferry, ‘Streaming’s first guest poster. His impressions of the HiWay Haven rally:
We all scream
How many of us heard that ditty (modified here of course) when growing up. Well what we have here are some screamin’ Airstreams.
The president of the Oregon Unit owns a REAL classic Airstream, a 1968, one far shinier than ours will ever be. Their rig will fit right in with the classic car show in nearby Sutherlin as part of their annual Blackberry Festival. As a matter of fact, all of us at the rally have the opportunity to open our rigs up to visitors as part of the festival. We’re part of the car show – folks are set to come out to the RV park to tour the units that are putting out the welcome mat.
The oldest is a 1953 and the newest is brand new. Some folks don’t know that Airstreams come in different packages so to speak. The owners of the 1953 have done a great job preserving the feel of this historic trailer.
There is much turmoil in the club currently. Since it’s inception by Airstream creator Wally Byam in the 1950s, the Wally Byam Caravan Club International (WBCCI) has undergone a number of changes over the years. Caravans, which seem to have been the centerpiece of the club for many years (and are still done), are now very junior in popularity to long weekend rallies. The average age of the membership is trending younger while the governing hierarchy is getting older. The digital age is pushing out the analog. Folks aren’t afraid of customizing their trailers while at the same time the popularity of the vintage Airstreams grows. The spread in popularity of these well designed and uniquely beautiful trailers have brought more folks into the club. At the same time those of us new to the organization are asking questions about the type and cost of governance as well as the poor financial shape of the International (HQ unit). Like many large groups (WBCCI currently has 6,000 members) it takes a while to see change reach the top. Many of us scoff at the “Blue Beret” formality (Wally wore a blue beret) of the annual meetings, which until this last year required suits for him and dresses and white gloves for her. This marks our 4th or 5th rally and what is clear is that the local groups we’ve seen are healthy both in adventure, membership and finance. Those at the top are just now beginning to hear the voices beneath them.
We joined the Oregon unit of the WBCCI for “fun, fellowship & adventure” as the WBCCI motto goes and at the rally we enjoyed some of that. There was a choice of outings and we picked a truncated wine tour. The member hosting the tour was an experienced wine connoisseur.
51 years ago Wally Byam organized the Cape Town to Cairo Caravan. We revisited that historic journey during the dinner program (the menu was nearly identical to the last meal of their trip). One of the Oregon Unit member’s mother & father went on that journey. The photos and souvenirs drove home just how exotic and difficult such a trip could be. Images of men pushing and pulling trucks and trailers through muddy bogs, long stretches of wheel sucking sand, the guards that were hired to protect the caravan and more. Broken springs & spirits, lack of replacement parks and a trip that lasted two months longer than planned took its toll. Of the 41 units that started, 29 finished. We are wusses compared to what these men and women endured. And still they wore ties and white gloves in a number of the ceremonial pictures we saw.
The next afternoon was a lazy affair that rather segued into happy hour then dinner. We finally got to know a few more club members once we had a chance to slow down and stay in one place for a while. You can’t begin to estimate the varied background of Airstream owners here this weekend (and something we have noticed at other unit rallies). It is a fun and fun loving group of people and though they like to party, they like to camp more often. Some of these people we’ll see a little later in our travels In Pendleton, most all are off to the four winds for more travel and adventure before winter sets in. For only a few are they done for the season. The owners are as distinctive as their rigs."
View incriminating photos of Oregon Unit members in Sutherlin on Facebook.