In 1985, I went on a one week assignment with another photographer to the Adirondacks to do a shoot on the Wally Byam Club for the Smithsonian Magazine. It was the most amazing event I have ever seen. In one day, the members of the club set up an entire city consisting of 4,000 Airstreams, along with their own post office, medical team, police, and communications system (no cell phones in those days). They brought out measuring tapes to make sure that each Airstream was parked in exactly the proper manner and at the right angle. I was impressed. I wanted an Airstream. I wanted to be a member of the Wally Byam Club and travel the world - they do travel the world. I wanted a Bambi, the little darling of the models.
Spending a week back in '85 with such wonderful people who invited us into their homes was a real treat. They treated us like family. I was in awe to see the workmanship inside those silvery domed rolling homes - some even had organs. The Airstream is truly the cream of the crop when it comes to traveling. And the people who drive them are some of the finest people I have ever met.
Recently, I was shooting a feature for the newspaper on the beach in Crisfield. I looked towards the American Legion where I saw a small caravan of Airstreams set up along the waterfront. I was like a kid in a candy shop. Airstreamers are infectious people; always happy, accommodating, and they have a twinkle of adventure in their eyes. Once you spend some time with them and their magic carpet with wheels, you can never pass an Airstream on the road without feeling like you are seeing an old friend.
I ran over to talk to the people who had come down from Delaware for a sock hop the following evening, and to take some photos with the little time I had left to get my photo back to the newspaper. Unfortunately, most of the people had gone into town to do some shopping.
I chatted with this member for a few minutes.
Then, I chatted with his wife. He is cutting up with her, pouring water on her head
I had an assignment the next night so I did not make it to the sock hop, but I dropped by and caught a halfway decent sunset. No time for tripod shooting. For you photo bugs out there, I had to use a high ISO, a low shutter speed, and hold my breath. The sun sunk on me like a lead balloon. Sometimes I think the sun was created just for Airstreams. With a tripod and a little time, you can get some spectacular sunrise and sunset photos.
When the sun set, I captured a shot of some of the members enjoying a fire. Sorry I could not stay long on either of my visits, but assignments and deadlines were looming. I really would have loved to have spent a few hours with the lovely folks and their rolling homes.
I never got my Airstream, but I have always loved the quote by Wally:
"Don’t stop. Keep right on going. Hitch up your trailer and go to Canada or down to Old Mexico. Head for Europe, if you can afford it, or go to the Mardi Gras. Go someplace you’ve heard about, where you can fish or hunt or collect rocks or just look up at the sky. Find out what’s at the end of some country road. Go see what’s over the next hill, and the one after that, and the one after that." ~Quote used with permission from the Wally Byam Club.
Several times, I have threatened to stowaway on one of the Chesapeake Boat Builder's boats. After I get back (or when they boot me off at the next port) I might set my sites on an Airstream bound for Brazil. Or Canada. Who knows?
Visit the Wally Byam site for more info. And if you have an old Bambi sitting around that needs a good home, give me a call.
Oh, and you don't need an Airstream to enjoy the beautiful sunsets at the American Legion, or anywhere else in Crisfield. On the water, there is always a million dollar view.