Airstreamers Converge on W. Va. Campground
A steady stream of aerodynamic, silver-skinned recreational vehicles has been snaking its way to the West Virginia state fairgrounds in Greenbrier since Sunday (May 17), arriving one or two at a time or in mini-caravans of half-a-dozen. All are bound for the 33rd annual Region 4 Rally of the Wally Byam Caravan Club International, an event never before held this deep in the heart of West Virginia, according to the Beckley (W.Va.) Register-Herald.
“This site just has way more than we expected,” said the region’s first lady, Sandy Johnjulio, Monday morning. “And the people who work at the fairgrounds have truly been wonderful. They had everything set up for us when we arrived; our committee that usually handles getting chairs set up for meetings will be arriving later today, and they have nothing to do.”
Her husband, Bill Johnjulio, Region 4’s president, seconded the sentiment. “The whole staff has gone out of their way to make us feel welcome,” he said. “The club really appreciates the warm welcome from all the folks in West Virginia.”
By the time the rally officially opens on Wednesday, organizers expect more than the 125 pre-registered Airstreams to be gathered at the fairgrounds. And there will be plenty for the more than 250 rally participants to do while they’re visiting the Greenbrier Valley.
Airstream owners will have their pick from tours of historic Lewisburg, the Cold War-era Bunker at The Greenbrier, the Federal Fish Hatchery in White Sulphur Springs, Monongahela National Forest and the National Radio Astronomy Observatory at Green Bank. Other organized outings involve a leisurely excursion on the Cass Scenic Railroad or the heart-pounding excitement of a whitewater rafting trip.
Catered meals and several evenings of entertainment are also planned at the fairgrounds for the RV owners, along with seminars, a hobby show and a flea market. Most of the fairground events are closed to the public.
WBCCI’s Region 4 encompasses Michigan, Ohio and West Virginia. Only two of the region’s 14 “units” are located in the Mountain State — one in Mercer County and the other in Wyoming County.
Retired railroad engineer Bobby Graham and his wife, Helen, a homemaker, are members of the latter unit, and they are no strangers to the state fairgrounds.
“We come to the fair every year in our RV and stay for a week,” Helen pointed out. “But it looks so different without all the rides and exhibits — so much bigger.”
The Grahams have taken camping vacations their entire married life — 53 years and counting. They bought the Airstream they now own about 20 years ago.
“We took it to Florida this winter,” Bob said, adding that Rapid City, S.D., is the farthest they have traveled in their little piece of Americana.
Along the way, the Grahams have met fellow RVers from Mexico, Canada, even England and Germany, as well as a number of the United States.
“Keeping in touch is such a joy,” Helen commented.
Al and Dottie Miller are also 20-year Airstream owners, dating their initiation into the travel trailer crowd to Al’s 1989 retirement from General Motors, but they now have a 2004 model that’s as compact and well-appointed as a stateroom on a ship. A comfortable sofa nestles into the prow of the bullet-nosed RV, with a cushioned eating nook nearby, just steps away from the neat galley kitchen. A small hallway, flanked by bathroom facilities, leads to a cozy bedroom.
The Millers usually alternate between spending the colder months in their RV in Florida, Arizona and Texas, but had to spend this winter at home near Detroit due to health problems.
“This is our first trip this year,” Dottie noted.
They prefer RV vacations for one simple reason, Al said, “When you go to a motel, your neighbors don’t converse with you.”
He said he knows people in their 90s who are still RVing.
Airstream travel trailers, first custom made under that name by Wally Byam in 1934, are still being manufactured in Jackson Center, Ohio, today.