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Exiled Napoleon and Old Johnathan

This article is a continuation of the previous Airstream Caravan journal from New York to Cape Town.  When we left the New York docks, we were thinking about the African Caravan, and not landing on St. Helena. We were able to go ashore and spend several hours roaming the small rocky island certainly a travel gift. This is the story of Old Johnathan, a two hundred year old land tortoise, and the exiled despot Napoleon Bonaparte. The British determined that Napoleon would never return to Europe sailed him to St. Helena, an island so remote that his return to France was impossible.

The African Adventure: from New York to Cape Town

We were journeying to the most formidable continent on Earth. A place of beauty, culture, and history. Distances play a very important part in the story surrounding the Airstream Wally Byam African Caravan. A straight-line distance from New York to Cape Town is 7,800 miles. With our two island stops, the mileage was probably a few hundred miles longer. The Airstreams and tow vehicles went by sea from North America to Cape Town. A few Caravanners, including Wally and Stella, flew to Cape Town. I sailed on the African Enterprise, owned by the Farrell Lines. Eighteen days sailing the Atlantic

Wally and His Majesty the Ethiopian King

Imagine this: the Airstream Wally Byam African Caravan in Ethiopia. It’s 1959 and His Imperial Majesty Haile Selassie I, Conquering Lion of the Tribe of Judah, King of Kings of Ethiopia, Elect of God is with Wally Byam, Founder of Airstream. The two are walking the Caravan’s campground together. Earlier that week, the Caravan was hosted by His Imperial Majesty in his palace. Each member of the Caravan shook hands with Haile Selassie, who spoke through a translator with the adults and spoke to the children in English, The Caravan parked at the prestigious Royal Race track grounds. We enjoyed

The South American Airstream Caravan: What Happened?

Only Wally Byam could have conjured up his first Airstream caravan trip, through Mexico and Central America for four months. Imagine leaving El Paso, Texas and roughing it along the center of the continent all the way out to Managua, Nicaragua. Then soon after that, adding visits to Canada and Cuba. Picture your Airstream and tow vehicle being loaded on a steamship in Brooklyn, New York and heading for Rotterdam in the Netherlands for a comprehensive six month tour of Europe. It made sense to Wally to go all out for an Airstream caravan to South America, and/or one to Lebanon

Cooking Up Adventure

Grub? Grub is a word from the 19th century that means gourmet, not a small little worm or a prospector wanting a grub stake to search for gold. Grub is normally reserved and associated with beans, salt pork and hardtack. Grub was Wally’s word for a meal, going shopping for food, or even going to a night club for dinner and entertainment. More than once during a Caravan potluck, Wally thanked the ladies for the wonderful grub. Wally once herded his grandfather’s sheep for a full summer. There is no doubt that outdoor cooking became a part of Wally’s life during this

Sharing American beauty with some guests

The story doesn’t begin here at Dulles International Airport, located in Chantilly, Virginia. It begins in Los Angeles, California in 1962 after Wally Byam passed, when Stella Byam and Airstream executives had a meeting and set in motion the Wally Byam Foundation. The Foundation spanned 15 years from 1962 to 1977. In 1967, a major event happened: Caravan America. Sponsored by the Wally Byam Foundation, a contingent of British Caravanners flew into Dulles. The group was going to travel across America from Chantilly, VA to Santa Rosa, CA. Airstream and General Motors furnished twenty rigs for the group to travel

Going to Africa takes planning – but it’s worth it

There are endless hours put into planning, executing, and getting on the road for an Airstream Wally Byam foreign Caravan. Up until 1959 Caravans were mostly traveling through Mexico, Central America, Canada, and Europe. When Africa went into planning the details had to be meticulously crafted. Considerations were many dealing with nations, cultures, religions, roads, significant events, and planning for the unexpected. It was no easy task, considering they were traveling from the converging waters of the Atlantic and Indian Oceans, to the Mediterranean Sea. In 1959 the Shembe Festival was held near Durban, Natal, in the Union of South

Airstream, the Vanderbilts, and politics

In the early 1920’s, Wally Byam met Cornelius “Neil” Vanderbilt, Jr. for the first time. Their friendship would last for the rest of their lives. In 1948 the two men toured a Europe still recovering from World War II with an Airstream. Vanderbilt, as a writer and ‘filmographer,’ recorded the aftermath of the war through journalistic eyes. Wally and Neil designed the Commodore together. This state-of-the-art Airstream would then appear in Chicago during the Democratic and Republican Conventions of 1952. It was party time, and it not for political parties – it was a time of entertainment and socializing with

Handle with care

There is now conclusive proof that since 1931, Airstream has been hanging around the RV industry. In February 1960, the Airstream Wally Byam African Caravan was embarking from Alexandria, Egypt for Beirut, Lebanon. To load our Airstreams on the passenger freighter it was necessary to use a barge with a crane. A disclaimer: please don’t try this at home. Our Caravan moved north from the Atlantic/Indian Ocean in South Africa and the Southern Hemisphere, to the Mediterranean and Northern Hemisphere. In the U.S.A. our rigs were loaded with land based cranes onto freighters, and unloaded with the same in Cape

Airstream Expands Coast to Coast

Airstream’s history began on the pages of Popular Mechanics. By using and improving the mail order blueprints, Wally Byam began his first Airstream in 1931. From his garage on St. Andrews Place in Los Angeles in 1931, his dream became reality. There were many factory locations before the company began manufacturing on North Main Street in Los Angeles, California. In 1952, it became apparent that the Main Street plant couldn’t reach a production level to keep up with their national market and sales. The first step that Wally took was the opening  of the Ohio factory in Jackson Center, Ohio.