Posted In: Airstream, Blog

What is Alumapalooza, you ask? It’s a big gathering of Airstream enthusiasts, and it’s being held June 1-6 at the motherland in Jackson Center, Ohio. Kristy and I are not only slated to ATTEND Alumapalooza, we’ll also be speaking! So if you want to see my ugly mug in person, Alumapalooza will offer a fine opportunity to do so.

Since there have been Airstreams, there have been Airstream gatherings. Last year a significant rally anniversary came and went. It has been 50 years since Airstream founder Wally Byam led his famous “Capetown to Cairo” caravan across Africa. The original journey stretched from South Africa to Egypt. It has become firmly entrenched in Airstream lore, and is hailed as the “rally” to end all rallies.

Rallies have been a part of the Airstream experience since the early days.

Rallies have been a part of the Airstream experience since the early days. Kristy and I have not yet fully explored this angle.

A rally, for those of you who don’t know, is just a gathering of fellow Airstreamers/RVers — usually, but not always, organized by some sort of club. Rallies can be as small as a few RVs, or as large as several thousand. For some people, the rally experience is intrinsic to RV ownership. I mean, some people travel in group caravans almost exclusively, because the social experience makes the travel more enjoyable.

So far, Kristy and I have pursued a very different course with our Airstream traveling. We call our production company “walkabout” for a reason. For better or worse, we tend to meander around from point A to point B without a specific agenda.

Our ONE participation in a rally happened in Santa Fe, New Mexico where we met the Siglo De Oro RV club. We locked ourselves out of our Airstream, and what could have been a disaster turned into a wonderful experience. (CLICK HERE FOR THE VIDEO: Locked Out … and Lovin’ It!) Although our participation in the rally was accidental, we quickly understood the appeal. There was a lot of friendship and laughter amongst the crowd (and not just AT us, but with us).

Recently we were proud to help sponsor the official unofficial 50-year anniversary rally of Wally Byam’s famous African trip. A clever group in Missouri, led by devout Airstreamer Steve Burrows, organized a commemorative rally that stretched from Cape Girardeau, Missouri, to Cairo, Illinois. Get it? Cape “town” to Cairo! You’ve got to give ’em two thumbs up for creativity!

The official table of rally prizes.

The official table of rally prizes!

I particularly love the story of the original African trip because Kristy and I love international travel. To my knowledge, only Wally Byam has seamlessly combined the notion of globetrotting with RV ownership. When you consider the logistics of the ORIGINAL trip, what Byam pulled off was incredible. Can you imagine the road quality in rural Africa circa 1959? I’m thinking that tire technology of the time probably wasn’t conducive to rough-and-tumble treatment. Not to mention the lack of RV infrastructure. How did they obtain safe fresh water? How did they handle flat tires and mechanical breakdowns? The RV toilets of the time were quite primitive (for many the “toilet” was basically a hole in the floor). It makes modern North American RV travel seem like a breeze.

We're happy to see "Long Long Honeymoon" in such good company.

We're happy to see "Long Long Honeymoon" in such good company.

A couple of years ago there was a concerted effort to organize an anniversary rally IN AFRICA. The plan was to ship a large group of Airstreams to Africa, and then retrace the route of the original trip. There was a website. Money was collected. Trailers were outfitted. There was talk of premium sponsorship (Ford? Airstream?) and even a TV show, complete with celebrity hosts. Kristy and I were intrigued by the opportunity and thought about joining the cause ourselves.

But alas! The Africa rally was canceled. The logistics of planning such an adventure circa 2009 proved to be overwhelming, especially without corporate support. Apparently no company was willing to step up with a significant commitment to make it happen. I’m sure the economy didn’t help. Nor did the fact that most RV companies seem to operate with a caveman marketing budget (and then they wonder why their sales are down?).

A winnah!

A winnah!

And thus, the 50th anniversary of Wally’s Africa trip would’ve come and gone without a whimper if not for the efforts of these Airstreamers.

From one standpoint, it’s commendable that a passionate group of fans would literally “rally” to the cause and commemorate this anniversary. On the other hand, it’s unfortunate that Airstream corporate wasn’t more involved. The Capetown to Cairo anniversary was marketing gold.

There’s a lot of latent potential in the Airstream brand that goes woefully unexploited. It’s because tremendous marketing opportunities like this one are allowed to come and go without significant corporate support. Airstream will never achieve its full market share potential until it capitalizes on the unique marketing upsides of the brand. But I digress…

We were happy to see our Long Long Honeymoon t-shirts at the rally. I love the shirts and (strangely enough) wear one just about every day.

The towing / marriage double entendre is always good for a laugh.

The towing / marriage double entendre is always good for a laugh.

Thanks to Steve for taking the initiative and making the anniversary rally a reality. Wally would be proud.

Good times round the campfire. This is what it's all about.

Good times as campers gather around the campfire. This is what it's all about.

Kristy and I look forward to getting more involved with rallies in the future. Even though I am a “walkabout” kind of guy, I’m sure the camaraderie and fellowship of the rally will be welcome. We look forward to receiving a heavy dose at ALUMAPALOOZA!

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Scout365 – Our Inflatable Boat!
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