The following was printed in the St Cloud Times. The park website is www.airstreampark.com
3 August, 2004
Buy an Airstream, meet friends
By Elena Cisneros
PRINTER FRIENDLY VERSION
CLEAR LAKE -- As the saying goes, God rides a Harley but lives in an Airstream.
That is what Dick Adams heard and it made sense to him. The Airstream is an American landmark for setting out on the road, Adams said.
Adams travels with his wife, Barbara, from West Palm Beach, Fla., to Clear Lake to relax and enjoy the summer at the Airstream Park.
"We're not going to drift around," Adams said. "We know where we're going."
The park, the only one of its kind in Minnesota, is a welcome relaxation and change of view for campers, most of whom are retired. It is a getaway and gathering of fellow campers who all have one thing in common -- the Airstream travel trailer.
The Airstream has been on the road for more than 70 years. The look of an Airstream is undeniable because it shines like a silver airplane and is aerodynamic to match. The Airstream is a home on wheels and known for caravans -- long trips across the United States and overseas. When you buy an Airstream you become a part of an exclusive club that takes to the asphalt in search of new horizons and new people.
People nationwide are making their way to Clear Lake in what has been called "the best kept secret" in Airstream parks.
If you are in the loop, finding the park is easy. For the Adamses all they had to do was look inside the Blue Beret, the Airstream book distributed to members of the Wally Byam Caravan Club International. The book lists ads, rally sites, caravans and park locations.
The Adamses spent a month at the Clear Lake park three years ago after touring North and South Dakota. They have since made the park their home during the summer.
"It's a destination for us," Adams said.
Dolores Perry, a retired hospital executive assistant from Greenwich, Conn., travels 1,400 miles with her husband, Donald, to spend the summer with the new friends they met because of the Airstream.
It's not unheard of to meet a stranger on the road with an Airstream, flash the lights and get to know one another on a stop along the highway, Dolores Perry said.
"The unit starts it but we finish it," Dolores Perry said. "It develops a camaraderie that I haven't seen in anything else."
For Joan, 77, and Fred Gilson, 87, from Pharr, Texas, the community at the park is a perfect match.
"We're at that age where we're not able to drive the caravans," Joan Gilson said. "Here we can stay put and still get that same feeling. You find that same fellowship."
The park has a specific layout intended to create space while promoting a close community feel.
The land was developed as a getaway from the city by the late John Olson who was raised in Montevideo.
There are four circles of small neighborhoods, each with its own letter. There are small signs, some handcarved, with the names of those who live there. Each site has either a gazebo, made of dark wood, or a screenhouse. On the lawns you can find a barbecue going or someone reading a book in the cool summer breeze. There is always a hand waving "Hello" to those who pass by.
The park has many activities for those who live there.
There is a community center where morning coffee is an event. There is no set plan and the invitation is open anytime.
"We aren't bashful to find out who each other is," said Pat Throlson, a nurse from St. Cloud and fellow camper.
There is a community pool, garden, laundry, tennis court and golf course. At the entrance of the park is the gatehouse. Inside is a message board adorned with advertisements for freezers or invitations to a tennis game.
The road ahead
Eleanor Van Slyke, from White Bear Lake, and her husband, Bob, have become what is known in the Airstream world as full timers. They sold their home and live in their Airstream.
The park is a summer stop for them to meet with their family in the Twin Cities area and to work at the park. The Van Slykes' work at the gatehouse, answering phones, getting mail and doing anything else that needs to be done.
They have been at the park three years. Retirement and no house to worry about has been a huge, but welcome, change for the Van Slykes.
"We're rolling," Eleanor Van Slyke said.
They now travel across the country meeting other Airstream owners, and they make sure to tell people about the park and what they like about it.