Archive for Wednesday, October 20, 2004

Campouts are anything but rustic for Airstream travelers

October 20, 2004

In the world of Airstream, home is wherever you want it to be.

Last week a couple dozen Airstream users pulled, or drove, their rigs into the drive of the Leavenworth County Fairgrounds in Tonganoxie.

Members of group, which also stayed in Tonganoxie about 10 years ago, returned because of the area's convenient location, the good facilities at the fairground and the local attractions.

Among them were Clinton and Bonnie Gregory of Independence, Mo., complete with their Cavalier King Charles spaniel, Wellington, and a dog dish just inside their door.

Clinton Gregory is the upcoming president of the Greater Kansas City Airstream chapter.

The Gregorys are proud owners of a "silver bullet" model Airstream trailer. It's complete with a bump-out dining room table, storage space carved into every available nook and cranny, a spacious walk-in shower, and a cozy bedroom tucked in at the back.

Nearby, Betty Sullivan raises the three flags at the front of their trailer. The last one she put up was the Kansas state flag. Sullivan, a retired nursing teacher, and her husband, Leonard, a retired pediatrician, are from Wichita.

Traveling in their 34-foot-long Airstream motor coach is nothing new. The Sullivans bought theirs shortly after retiring in 2000.

This year they took the Airstream on a long drive -- all the way to Alaska. With them, in their own 39-foot motor coach, were Wendell and Shirley Sisk, who live in Overland Park.

Anyone home?

The couple met a few years back at a Texas campground where the Sisks knocked on the door of the Sullivans and introduced themselves.

In fact it's Sisk who noted the advantage of owning an Airstream over other brands of RV's.

"The others don't have a club," Sisk said.

Betty noted there are other clubs, but said there's something special about the Airstream group, which will celebrate its 50th anniversary next summer.

The folks who use Airstreams get together, and of course the more they get together the better friends they become.

Sisk, retired since 1981, said his friends used to be his neighbors and co-workers.

That's changed.

"Now our main body of friends are Airstreamers," he said.

And of course, Betty Sullivan explained Airstream's characteristic reputation: "They're quality built trailers and motor homes."

Friday morning as the men headed out for a day of golfing, the women met in the fairgrounds administration building for a morning of craft making.

Each decorated an 8-inch-tall Christmas tree -- the perfect size holiday decor for their homes on wheels.

The best on the road

According to club members, Airstreams are the best recreational vehicles on the road.

And, they've been around for a long time.

Wally Byam introduced his Airstream trailers in 1934, because, according to an Airstream press release, he thought his trailers "cruised down the road like a stream of air."

The Airstream "Clipper" model was introduced in 1936, carrying a price of $1,200. Today the units cost much more. In fact, a 39-foot home can carry a list price of $250,000.

Airstream club members agree that Byam's trailers were so well built, more than 60 percent of Airstreams ever made are still in use today.

Home away from home

Dorothy Radford, who lives in Kansas City, Mo., said she and her husband live in their Airstream about nine months of the year.

"We just pass through our house to exchange clothes," she said.

Radford says people who buy Airstream are serious travelers.

"When you've got $200,000 invested in something, you'd better use it," she said, adding, "It's not necessarily an inexpensive way to travel."

While in Tonganoxie, the group stopped at Wednesday's Methodist church bazaar, and dined at several area restaurants.

And on Saturday -- the last evening in the Tonganoxie area -- the members planned a trip to Annie's Country Jubilee, in downtown Tonganoxie.

Although club members try to get together at least once a month, they're planning to participate in a larger-than-usual event next summer -- the 50th anniversary of the Wally Byam Caravan Club International, scheduled to be held in Springfield, Mo.

While the members are looking forward to that, they seemed appreciative of the camping opportunity in Tonganoxie.

Evenings at the camp were filled with entertainment, some planned, some spontaneous.

For instance, Thursday was supposed to be card night.

But it quickly evolved into an evening of lively chatter.

"We only played one game of cards," one member commented.

And there's a plus to traveling by Airstream -- at least while you're on the road.

As Airstream club member Peggey Phelan said, "You don't get any junk mail."

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