Welcome to the family, Wally.

Now that we think about it, it's surprising to both of us that it took us so long to name the Airstream, our home on the road this year. We've always known it would take on a persona—the way boats, cars, and other large shiny objects we spend a lot of time in tend to do. Teddy, John Muir, Amelia, Ansel Adams, Clark W. Griswold ... we had a lot of contenders (and some really great suggestions) but none of them were quite right. So we threw a bunch of names onto the table, let up on it, and willed the name to reveal itself when the time was right. 


We named it while sitting in the car, waiting for the stars to show in full brilliance on a freezing winter night in North Carolina. Wally. As in, Wally Byam, the visionary who invented the Airstream trailer. Duh. Of course that's its name. It’s also a tip of the hat to Wally World, the road trip destination featured in a classic road trip movie that also provided our theme song, Holiday Road (ten points for naming the movie in the comments section below.) 

Back to the founder of Airstream, Wally Byam.

Wally was a pioneer, one of the first manufacturers of the modern travel trailer, and the founder of Airstream Inc. located in Jackson Center, Ohio. He was also a pioneer of social media—eons before the idea existed as we now know it—earning grass-roots media attention during overland excursions with pods of people on what he called “caravans.” Wally led mobile Airstream travelers all over the U.S., in Europe, South America, and through Africafrom Cape Town to Cairo, during a famed cross-continental fete that is ever more astonishing when you think of how difficult ground logistics are in Africa today, let alone half a century ago ... and in a travel trailer. It’s astonishing.

An original Airstream Caravan! Credit: LIFE Magazine / Airstream Inc.

An original Airstream Caravan! Credit: LIFE Magazine / Airstream Inc.

These roving communities are still alive and well thanks to the Wally Byam Caravan Club, and the thousands of card-carrying member families that breathe life into rallies, caravans, and events the organization holds around the country each year. We had our first caravan experience just recently, when we happened upon a group of friends traveling in a park in the Southeast. Pulling up to that campsite where they were all aligned was a little bit like moving into a new neighborhood, and we were fast friends with our neighbors. They offered advice, showed us the interior of their trailers, and we traded stories over coffee before everyone went their separate ways, a few honking decorator car horns on the way out. If we weren’t on such a tight schedule, we would be hitting up a rally this year for sure! Especially now that we know others who will be there. 

We are continuing to get to know our new home, and we both feel strongly that we are at home when buttoned up inside of it. On the outside, it's handsome and tough as nails. On the inside, it's cozy and comforting and has every practical need one could want in a home. 

So while this post is titled in a way that welcomes Wally to our family, we actually ought to thank the Airstream family for welcoming us to the proverbial neighborhood, that is, in our case, the highways and byways of the United States. Along these roads we've realized that all we need is what any family needs—a place to call home. 

Airstream Caravans helped create a sense of community on the road from the very beginning. Credit: LIFE Magazine / Airstream Inc.

Airstream Caravans helped create a sense of community on the road from the very beginning. Credit: LIFE Magazine / Airstream Inc.

This Wally Byam Creed: 

"In the heart of these words is an entire life's dream. To those of you who find in the promise of these words your promise, I bequeath this creed... my dream belongs to you."

To place the great wide world at your doorstep for you who yearn to travel with all the comforts of home. 

To provide a more satisfying, meaningful way of travel that offers complete travel independence, wherever and whenever you choose to go or stay. 

To keep alive and make real an enduring promise of high adventure and faraway lands... of rediscovering old places and new interests. 

To open a whole world of new experiences... a new dimension in enjoyment where travel adventure and good fellowship are your constant companions. 

To encourage clubs and rallies that provide an endless source of friendships, travel fun and personal expressions. 

To lead caravans wherever the four winds blow... over twinkling boulevards, across trackless deserts... to the traveled and untraveled corners of the earth. 

To play some part in promoting international goodwill and understanding among the peoples of the world through person-to-person contact.

To refine and perfect our product by continuous travel-testing over the highways and byways of the world. 

To strive endlessly to stir the venturesome spirit that moves you to follow a rainbow to its end... and thus make your travel dreams come true. 

- Wally Byam


An Ode to The NASA Astrovan, Made by Airstream (she said)


Today is my last day working at NASA in a full-speed capacity. In less than two weeks, I will be strapping into an Airstream, where I will live out the next year of my life. As such, it is only fitting that I post today about the "Astrovan"  a modified Airstream trailer that has served as a transit vehicle for NASA astronauts around Kennedy Space Center for more than 45 years. 

In 1969, the crew of Apollo 11 were quarantined in an airtight Airstream, called the NASA Mobile Quarantine Facility, after their return from the moon. The purpose of this was to determine that the astronauts didn't bring lunar pathogens back with them when they returned to Earth. For decades, the Astrovan continued to ferry astronauts between what's now called the Neil Armstrong Operations and Checkout Facility (the former O&C) to the historic launch pad 39B on the space coast in Florida. For reference, Pad 39B is where NASA's Orion spacecraft and Space Launch System rocket will launch from in just a couple of years during Exploration Mission One, an effort I've been working on during my time at America's space agency. 

NASA's Space Shuttle program used a modified 1983 Airstream Excella. We will be towing a modernized 'Sport' model built in 2014-2015 — I'm already planning how to outfit the interior with my favorite space memorabilia!  

I can't think of better vehicle to transport me from my job at NASA into a space I've never known  a full year focused entirely on exploration, to all of the U.S. National ParksHey, if it's cool enough for the astronauts, beam me up! 

The Greatest American Road Trip Through the U.S. National Parks

 Arches National Park, Windows section, Utah

Preparing for an epic yearlong road trip is no easy task. I've been thinking and planning about this trip for a good 7 or 8 months. But now that the January 1 start is near, the planning phase has kicked into high gear, and with that the stress level as well. Sure, it is going to be a lot of fun—an amazing experience full of adventure. But right now, we are less than two weeks away with many details to wrap up. It is daunting.

We need to wrap up our entire lives, rent our condo, buy a car, finish our respective jobs, get the Airstream, plan the logistics of the route...and a million other details. But in this time of hectic schedules and mad planning, I look back at some of the photos I've shot in the National Parks (like this one in Arches National Park in Utah) and am reminded of the end goal: to breathe deep in the astounding beauty of our Nation's greatest treasure and to explore deeply each and every one of them. In fact, breathing deeply will become a standard now (as we try to pace ourselves for the workload) and over the coming year (as we are hiking mountain trails and smelling fresh pine). I hope you'll follow our crazy journey. Onward!