Rendezvous with the Pendleton Airstream

Some press opportunities popped up during April that brought us to New York City, which turned out to be a perfect opportunity to pick up a Pendleton Limited Edition National Parks Airstream and drive it to Acadia National Park in Maine. We had seen these beautiful units while at Airstream Headquarters in Jackson Center, Ohio earlier this year and we were thrilled to have a chance to live in one, if even for only one week.

At the Classic Car Club on Pier 76 in Manhattan is where we first stepped foot inside of the Pendleton. What a beauty. With classic park interior details of distressed wood, beautiful Pendleton blankets that are a work of art in their own right, maps adorning the interior as wallpaper, and a modernized shout from our youth—Coyote Butte Lucky Bear—we realized for a moment that as beautiful as the exterior of the Airstream is, it's what's on the inside that counts. 

A 1966 vintage Airstream retrofitted as an office at the Classic Car Club in Manhattan. And some car porn: vintage Vipers, McLaren's and other fine works of automotive beauty on Pier 76.

A 1966 vintage Airstream retrofitted as an office at the Classic Car Club in Manhattan. And some car porn: vintage Vipers, McLaren's and other fine works of automotive beauty on Pier 76.

The rendezvous point at the Car Club was special too—and not just because of our close proximity to vintage McLaren's and Vipers—but because we got to see what is undoubtedly one of the coolest Airstream refurbishments out there: a vintage 1966 Airstream retrofitted as an office for the club owners, and a matching restored 1966 Ford truck that toes it along (though we got the feeling that the duo is mostly stationary.)

Our tow-vehicle for the week, a Ford F-150 Limited Edition, had all of the muscle needed to tow the 27-foot travel trailer along with some bells and whistles that were equally impressive… automatic high-beams, we love you.   

A special thanks Airstream and the Ford Motor Company for giving us a traveling experience of a lifetime while on the road in Maine.

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!