by Matt Bergstrom
Trailer Travel: Here and Abroad
Wally Byam, the inventor of Airstream trailers, has given us a real classic work with this book. It is a combination how-to manual and autobiography of the man behind the machine.
As the father of the Airstream genius, Byam is undoubtedly the best qualified to instruct the novice in the various techniques and know-how needed to maintain a trailer as a comfortable home on wheels. The clear and descriptive prose used to describe the methods of hitching, powering, backing up and towing the trailer alone would warrant the inclusion of this book in the library of any traveler of discriminating taste.
The real delight of the book, however, are the first-hand accounts of Byams Caravan journeys around the entire globe. The first caravan consisted of 47 trailers driven by senior such as Byam and his wife. All the members were given blue berets, a tradition that continues to this day. The group started at the Texas-Mexico border in the early summer of 1953 and after three grueling months, 19 of the original trailers made it to Panama. Although there were many instances of ill planning and tempers flared on the first caravan, it was soon declared a success and the start of a grand tradition.
In the following years the Byams and friends traversed Canada, the continental U.S. and a return trip to Central America. A strong dollar allowed the seniors to ship their trailers and Cadillacs to Europe, the Middle East, Asia and Africa.
How else could you bring the comforts of home with you, allowing, as one picture in the photo gallery center section shows, you to bake chocolate-chip cookies in the Sahara? And so, as Wally Byam continues his personal mission of good will around the world by meeting the common man, enjoying Caravan rallies and trailer olympics (there were over 500 Airstreams assembled at one recent Wisconsin Dells rally) getting off the beaten track, helping his veteran buddies get over prejudices against Germans and Russians, and going where no suburban senior has gone before, we wish him luck and never let them tell you that "you cant take it with you!"