From New York to Zurich

This article is part three of a series about the Airstream Caravan in Europe. To read additional entries, click the links at the end of this entry.

Flying in 1956 is different than it is in 2016. Propeller, or prop-powered airplanes, were the only form of air transportation crossing the United States and the Atlantic Ocean.

When you are just 17, a new adventure requires you to overcome anxieties, lack of sleep, the rumbling of four engines, and flying over the great Atlantic Lake.

Flight 918 hopped from New York to Gander, Newfoundland; from there to Shannon in Dublin; then to Paris, which is in France; finally over the Alps to Zurich.

My seat arrangement was next to the window on the left side of the plane. Next to me sat a priest on his way to Ireland. I had a few glasses of wine, and a nice meal punctuated with snacks.

After leaving Shannon and during the darkness, a flame - a very long one - came bursting out of engine number two, just past my window. For an instant, I was sure the plane was going down, as smoke began to billow out of the engine in wisps that curled and dissipated in the wind.

What do you do in such a situation? I can hardly remember, but I know it scared the bejesus out of me! We made a quick landing, and as we touched the ground all the passengers took a deep, relaxing breath.

This made for a long layover at the Paris airport while they removed and replaced the engine on our plane.

I went into the terminal and ordered a glass of milk. Ugh! I was served non-homogenized milk, forced through a machine that came out scalding with a taste so strange I dared not drink it.

As they called for passengers to return to the flight and board the plane once again, our next stop was Zurich. When the plane arrived, I was greeted by my mother, Helen Byam Schwamborn, and Wally Byam himself, founder of Airstream. Hugs, smiles, and wet tears were my hearty welcome to Europe. We left then for the campsite in Lucerne.

Here I was in Europe, with my graduating classmates not even having earned their diplomas or having marched in solemn procession to Elgar's Pomp and Circumstance.

On the way, I had my first big European meal. We stopped at what appeared to be a gas station, and Wally led the way up some rather steep stairs to a restaurant. He and Stella had been there in 1955 on their scouting trip.

So my first European meal became a tasty steak fondue with wine.

And so I arrived in a land far from home, a continent full of rich cultures and new experiences. The people I would soon meet I'll remember for a lifetime. From this point on, I will be snippet on remembrances of places, focused rather on people. I'm not into cathedrals, museums, or palaces, though I visited many during the four months on the Caravan.

Next week, I'll begin to introduce some of the wonderful Airstreamers I met while adventuring through the European continent.

Dale “Pee Wee” Schwamborn has silver in his blood. Each week, Pee Wee shares one of his many stories, including his experiences on the iconic Airstream Caravans, his time spent working in the Airstream factory, and the many Airstreamers he’s befriended, far and wide.

Part One: A Natural Leader

Part Two: Across The Sea

Part Four: An Instant Connection

Part Five: Brimming With Enthusiasm

Part Six: An Early Morning Excursion