Officially, this weekend’s Airstream trailer meetup at Tuttle Creek Park’s River Pond campgrounds wasn’t a club-sponsored or sanctioned rally, but since when do friends need a specific reason to get together and enjoy Spam concoctions and creations?
The “silver bullet” trailers stood out this weekend underneath the park’s autumn canopy as Airstream owners came together for the second Spam and Eggs meetup. Nine owners from four different states — Kansas, Nebraska, Missouri and Iowa — represented decades of history in the American-manufactured trailers.
The owners became friends through their membership in the Wally Byam Caravan Club International, a worldwide club for owners of the conspicuous coaches, and its official Airstream rallies and meetups. Kansas no longer has a local unit of the club, but people like Lee and Joyce Cantrell of Olsburg belong to the now-joint Missouri-Kansas Airstream Club. The couple brought their 1984 Airstream trailer to the Tuttle Creek campout.
“We started in 2017 with just four people, when we went camping one last weekend in November for my birthday before we winterized our trailers,” Joyce said. “(Our friend) Jim (Wright) said he was going to make Spam and eggs for breakfast in the morning, and we decided to humor him, since we’d all grown up eating it.”
After the couple and a few other area trailer owners went to the Spam Museum in Austin, Minnesota, last summer, they decided to hold a second Spam and Eggs weekend, but with even more Spam-related dishes. The Cantrells brought barbecued Spam sliders, while others made Spam monkey bread and tiki masala Spam.
As the group, made up of mostly older retirees, waited for the Spam potluck in the evening, some chatted in lawn chairs next to one of their trailers, while others lapped around the park with their dogs (there were more dogs than trailers).
The campout had started Thursday night, and after two howling, chilly nights, the trailer owners enjoyed the gorgeous November weather Saturday with the high temperature in the mid-70s.
Lee explained that for many owners, the Airstream trailers and their bright aluminum designs reflect a time when people were drawn to the sleek looks of the post-World War II era airliners. Buyers of used trailers typically restore, modify or fine-tune the trailers to their liking. The Cantrells adopted an Asian-style motif in redesigning their 1984 trailer, which is classified as a vintage trailer by the WBCCI since it is more than 25 years old, and it includes original woodwork by Lee and a shoji-style paper sliding door.
“It’s not really different than owning any other different type of trailer,” Lee said. “You still get leaks at different times. It also depends on how old your trailer is. Some people tear the whole interiors out and start again. They, overall, are well-built, considering how old they are.”
Charlie Griffin, a retired Manhattan native, brought his 1977 Argosy Motorhome to the meetup. Argosy trailers, also made by Airstream, resemble the style of the company’s regular trailers but were typically painted on the outside, and Griffin’s was beige. He bought it only last year when he retied but hasn’t got to use it much yet, he said.
“I never really thought that I’d find myself using a trailer, since I’d always been a big tent camper,” Griffin said. “Once I started going places, it turns out it’s nice to have a shower and a bathroom right there with you in the middle of the wilderness. It just makes sense for us at our age. It’s easy living.”
As members of WBCCI, the owners regularly travel across the country each summer to Airstream rallies and meetups, and the Cantrells and others have even gone over 2,000 miles away to Prince Edward Island in Canada. They plan on making that same trip in 2020, and they also plan to attend the WBCCI’s 2020 International Rally, although that trip to Loveland, Colorado, will be a lot shorter.
In any case, it’s the kind of trip that requires the romance with highway and road camping culture that Airstream founder Walt Byam developed in America in the early 20th century. His company came at a time when the country began to develop an appetite for adventure, and his trailers later became rolling embassies of American culture as they spread to countries in Europe and Africa.
For Brian Peterson, a taxidermist from Cedarcreek, Missouri, the weekend meetup was a sort of homecoming, or at least for his 1977 Avion trailer, which is very similar to the more famous Airstreams. He bought the trailer, which had been sitting on a road next to Tuttle Creek Lake, from a local family back in 2011. Since then, he’s done his own work to restore the trailer, although he estimates that about 85% of the trailer is still original.
Peterson and his wife JoAnn look forward to the meetups, as they find new and old friends at each one.
“We come for the people,” Peterson said. “They just happen to have the same kinds of trailers. We’re friends with about half of the people at every rally we go to, and by the time we leave, we’re friends with everyone.”
He said he’s enjoyed meeting people who have the same appreciation for the iconic trailers throughout his travels around the country.
“There’s a romance to it,” Peterson said. “The luster of the aluminum, the feel, the history. We don’t try to hide them. We’re proud of them, and we’re not trying to rub it in people’s noses, but they do stick out.”