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Posts Tagged ‘WBCCI’

the international

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.

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big red numbers

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…

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memories of wally

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).

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who the heck is wally byam?

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.

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land yacht harbor

“We can turn around and go to the state campground. It’s only a mile back,” I said to Ralph when we entered the compound at Lacey Washington. We expected to see dozens of RVs, flags flying, vendor booths, children running. Before us lay a deserted sea of blacktop, dotted with a few aged Airstreams, and ringed by single-level homes, each with a huge Airstream parked in a carport.

This was the “2007 Washington Unit National Potlatch and Salmon Rally” as advertised in the Blue Beret, the official publication of the Wally Byam Caravan Club which will mysteriously arrive in your mailbox shortly after you buy an Airstream from a dealer.

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