A little bit of history - The Adventures of Garfield and Tango - CycleBlaze

A little bit of history

While you're all waiting breathlessly for our trip to begin, I thought I would give you a little history about the Airstream company. 

In California, in the 1920's, Wally Byam was experimenting with building travel trailers using different materials. Starting with masonite, by 1936, he had created the first all aluminum trailer - the "Clipper", named after the first Trans-Atlantic seaplane.

Wally preferred aluminum as a building material. He used practices learned in the service to create a more aerodynamic lighter weight form that was more durable with less wind resistance. 

The riveted, monocoque aluminum body had much in common with the aircraft of the day. He named his company "Airstream" because these improved aluminum bodies cruised down the road like "a stream of air".

Airstream even has a connection to the bicyling world! In 1947, Wally commisioned a photo of French cyclist Alfred Letourneun pulling an Airstream with his bicycle in order to demonstrate the light weight nature of the trailer. 

Wally was also a sailor and many of the Airstream models have nautical names like "Land Yacht", "Wee Wind", "Clipper" and "Flying Cloud". 

The "Flying Cloud" was first introduced in the 1950's and was named after a famous clipper ship that set the world's record for fastest passage between New York and San Francisco. In 1851, she sailed that distance in 89 days, 21 hours and 3 years later in 1854, beat her own record by sailing it in 89 days, 8 hours. Amazingly that record held for over 130 years, until 1989!

Wally and his wife loved camping and traveling in their trailers. In 1951 they led the first Airstream caravan that went from the US through Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras and Nicaragua, and back to the US again. 

Suffice to say it was a challenging trip over very rugged terrain and was successful despite the fact that these early trailers didn't have all the ammenities as those built later. I read about campers not having toilets on board so they had to dig "cat holes" outside! Just like bike touring! But people soon became hooked on traveling with these international caravans. 

Over the years more caravans were organized through Europe, Canada, Africa and even China. These long trips continue today through the Wally Byam International Airstream Club (of which we are members). Maybe someday we'll be able to partake in one of these tours.

Not only are Airstreams built like aircraft but they also have played a part in the space program. NASA has long used a fleet of Airstreams to transport astronauts to the launch pad. In 1969, one was even used to quarantine the Apollo 11 crew until it could be determined that they had not brought back any pathogens.

While Airstreams were first built in California, in 1952 the company began a move to a manufacturing facility in Jackson Center, Ohio where they continue to be built today. 

Airstreams are also sold and enjoyed in Europe. The trailers are built in Ohio to specific European specifications and shipped overseas. 

As a final point, over 70% of all Airstreams ever built are still rolling down the highways. From travel trailers to coaches and vans, these iconic pieces of Americana remain as popular with buyers now as in the past. 

This is a picture of the clipper ship - Flying Cloud. Eventually we're going to have it scanned and the images made into place mats for the trailer.
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French cyclist - Alfred Letourneun - pulling an airstream with his bicycle in 1947. Since then a number of people have recreated the stunt with single bikes and even a tandem (all pulling a much smaller trailer than ours)!
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The iconic Airstream at her first campsite a few weeks ago. Notice the pink flamingo on a bike wind spinner in the foreground. Flamingos are also another iconic piece of Americana. Look for the flamingo flock to appear in future photos! Notice the pretty wind socks on the awning. They also serve a practical purpose in helping us avoid walking into the awning supports.
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Tango is now official with her own badge of honor.
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