Airstreams to converge on Main Street

This is what Independence could look like this weekend.

Photo illustration courtesy of Independence Downtown Association
This is what Independence could look like this weekend.

INDEPENDENCE — Roughly 20 Airstream trailers will line Main Street in downtown Independence this weekend, starting Friday and leaving Sunday.

It’s the 22nd Airstream rally held this year by the Oregon Airstream Club, and one that is unique to the Oregon chapter.

“A few years ago, a club in the Midwest did an Airstreams on Main Street,” said Brad Taylor, club president. “Part of our mission is to give back to the community and try to be generous in our lifestyle.”

This rally differs from the norm for club members in many ways.

First, it is in an urban environment rather than a state or county park. Second, club members will not be providing coffee or food for each other — instead they will support the local businesses in downtown.

“Normally, whoever our host is arranges all the meals,” Taylor said. “Whereas here, we’re looking at boosting the income of local businesses.”

Third, participants won’t be able to come and go as they please. Parking the trailers front-to-back along Main will take some maneuvering. The street will be closed for an hour on Friday for people to park, and for an hour on Sunday for people to depart.

“For our participants, they have to be there at a set, specific time, and can’t leave until a set, specific time,” Taylor said.

The Airstream, invented by the late Baker City resident Wally Byam, is a recreational vehicle with an aluminum skin. But they’re much more than that, Taylor said.

“They’re so incredibly iconic,” he said. “They are plain America.”

Strangers are always interested in them, he added.

“Probably the neatest thing with Airstreams, people at the gas station will ask, ’Oh, do they still make them?’” Taylor said. “Also, we’re often asked, ‘Can I look inside?’ I actually got pulled over by a cop one time for no infraction, he just wanted to step inside my Airstream.”

On Saturday, the participants of Airstreams on Main Street will open their RVs to the public for an open house from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., welcoming visitors to tour the trailers. Taylor said that while they all have the same shiny, aluminum skins, they are very different on the inside.

“We’ll have our 1950s Airstreams there, and there will be trailers that are 3 months old,” Taylor said. “People can walk through and see what the trailers are like.”

The Wally Byam Caravan Club International started when Byam took an unhappy customer on a road trip from California to Mexico, Taylor said. The following year, Byam invited friends to come make the trip again. About 60 trailers made the trek, which was just the beginning of Airstream caravanning tradition.

“In 1959, Wally took a bunch of trailers and they shipped them to South Africa,” Taylor said. “They went from Cape Town to Cairo, Egypt.”

The trip was documented in photos and videos by National Geographic and took about a year to complete.

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