Until this week, we had yet to go to an Airstream rally (like a gathering) though they are quite popular ways for like-minded aficionados to get together and see what else they might have in common besides a love of Airstreams. Alumapalooza, in Jackson Center, OH where the Airstream factory is located, seemed just the one for us to check out since it would get us a little bit out into the Midwest (where we haven’t been on our trip yet) and to the factory, where 48 years ago, our baby was born.
Upon arrival Tuesday, we were escorted to our spot (row 7!) on the factory grounds and got set up. Though it’s not an RV park they arranged to have water and electric hookups strung up for everyone.
The events throughout the week were a mix of social, informative, fun, artistic, mechanical, musical, healthy (daily yoga), unhealthy (daily happy hour) and as much down time as you wanted to check out other people’s Airstreams and visit with folks from all around the country – Canada, New Mexico, Boston, Gulf Coast and some “full timers” for whom the road is home. Since our trip has an end point (likely later this year) we are sort of a hybrid.
Some highlights included a talk about Pendleton national park blankets – history of, etc. Airstream has a partnership with Pendleton for the NPS 100th anniversary this year. And a wool blanket is a great way to warm up your aluminum trailer – get the connection?
Of course the Airstream factory tour was a must do (every M-F at 2pm – open to the public.) No pictures are allowed inside but the company takes a lot of pride in the fact that all of the components are built at the factory (nothing farmed out), they are up to about 800 employees now (from closer to 200 coming out of the recession), and can’t make them fast enough to keep up with demand. The goings on inside are a STEM teacher’s dream – lots of measuring, fitting, figuring, fastening, etc. Making dreams come true. (That’s for the humanities teachers.) Don, pictured at left below, worked at the company for years, most recently in the service center, but loves being a tour guide now.
They had door prize drawings every day and we won twenty Alumapalooza bucks which we applied toward a t-shirt (me) and hat (for Ben). That gift shop did a brisk business. (Wally Byam is the founder of Airstream – his name is everywhere.)
We got to meet the folks behind Alumniarium and Campendium. The latter is a growing website designed to help campers find campgrounds – user-generated reviews and pictures are its heart and soul. I have been entranced by every step Brian and Leigh have taken in the site’s development, so I was and have been very on board from the beginning, working diligently to add reviews as we travel-40 so far! We loved spending time with them (below in front of Wally Byam’s gold trailer) and their friends Adam and Susan, also Elizabeth and Ray, our neighbors Terry, Bernie and Dan, musician Steve and Julie, and Paul who lent us his blue boy (portable waste tank). We also got to spend quality time with Colin Hyde, whose NY shop did some great work on our trailer, and his girlfriend Brenda.
There was music throughout the event, both guitars around campfires (well, no campfires allowed) and pros up on a main stage. I did a little ukelele picking and pretended I could play. It’s such a treat to just fake it along a bit and I so appreciated the kindness of the real musicians, especially MJ.
The sunsets out in the heartland were amazing, even if they were accompanied by noise from the factory (automated system that cuts plywood for interior furniture runs all night). It only rained one day, and cooled down enough at night to eliminate the need for A/C. Thank you to Mother Nature and all the organizers! Until next time!