2007 Region One Rally in the News

Published: August 12, 2007

Iconic, retro-kitsch vehicles converge on Vermont town

August 12, 2007

By GORDON DRITSCHILO Staff Writer

© 2007 Times Argus

Coleman Mitchell, Kathi Mitchell and Jerry Ingallinera
BONDVILLE — It looked like the set of a 1950s retro-kitsch movie.

Row after row of shiny silver boxes with rounded corners lined the Bondville Fairgrounds as Airstream trailer enthusiasts from around New England gathered for the weekend.

“We’ve been to Michigan and North Carolina,” said Lynn Blackwell of Connecticut. “The great thing is, we have camped at places that are within 20 minutes of our house that we never would have seen before.”

First built in the 1930s and designed by the same man who built The Spirit of St. Louis, the Airstream trailer has become an iconic American vehicle. An Airstream was used to quarantine the returning Apollo 11 astronauts and “Airstream parks” exist around the country.

Chapters of the Wally Byam Caravan Club have held Airstream rallies since 1955. The gathering in Bondville was of chapters from Region 1, which includes New England and portions of Canada.

“It’s a way to travel and get to know something about the region you’re in,” Blackwell said. “Every region in the U.S. is different and unique and the thing about Airstreaming is learning about the uniqueness.”

Blackwell and her husband said they are relatively new to Airstreaming, just having been at it for five years. Airstreamers have red stars they put toward the top of their trailers for every five years of participation.

Ten stars lined the top of Coleman Mitchell’s trailer.

“We were around all these people and they were telling how they worked at Yosemite or they worked at Yellowstone,” the 91-year-old said. “I thought it was kind of fun to do something different.”

Mitchell said he has been to every state in the United States and every province of Canada, and even shipped his Airstream by boat to New Zealand, England and Ireland.

“We’ve traveled the West a lot,” he said. “That’s God’s country out there.”

Bard Fuller, another Connecticut Yankee, said he practically grew up in an Airstream.

“My father was a school teacher so he had summers off,” he said. “We crisscrossed the country a couple times. … It was a good way of seeing the United States. We got to experience a lot of different places in the ’60s that a lot of families did not have the opportunity to do.”

Airstreams have more than just a distinctive look — their owners say they are also noted for a solid, durable construction.

“It’s riveted together as well as aircraft-cement bonded,” said Richard Bartram, a retired engineer from New Hartford, Conn.

Bartram said he and his wife started their marriage in a trailer, though it was not an Airstream.

“We took some trips around the Maritimes of Canada,” he said. “By the time we got back to Connecticut, we’d been on so many bad roads the thing got so banged up it was leaking. … My wife said Airstreams were the best. We bought the trailer without even knowing about the club. You join the club and you’re hooked.”

Time and again, Airstreamers listed travel and camaraderie as the activity’s appeal.

“Any one of us would do anything for any one of the other members without knowing anything about them,” Bartram said.

Like many others, Bartram said he had crossed the country but still had plenty of places he wanted to see.

“We don’t know if we’ll live long enough to say ‘been there, done that,'” he said, “but we’re working on it.”