July 26, 2004
New Bern Sun Journal
by Sandy Wall
Sun Journal Staff You could call them 'Kings of the Road'
Husband and wife travelers Jamie and Susan King of New Bern have ridden more 100,000 miles in a "tin bucket" -- and they say it's been a blast.
The Kings' beloved "tin bucket" is actually a 31-foot-long Airstream motor home, which they've used to travel to places across the United States, Canada and Mexico.
Over the last 16 years, the couple also has joined other Airstream owners to take part in several weeks-long "caravan" tours of fun places. The Kings have even led a few of those caravans, and they plan to lead another one along the Atlantic coast from Delaware to Florida later this year.
"It's a ball. Otherwise, I wouldn't do it," Jamie King said with just a hint of a New York accent. "I'm retired. I don't have to."
Jamie King Jr., 70, grew up in Brooklyn, N.Y., and came to Craven County in 1958
. A retired Marine Corps pilot, he found a second career teaching a variety of science courses at Craven Community College before retiring in 1998.
Susan Robinson King -- who politely declines to give her age -- was born in Beaufort County and grew up in the Vanceboro area. She was working for a cosmetics company and living at a New Bern apartment complex when she met Jamie King in a laundry room on a Friday night in 1978.
The two were married in 1979 and became involved in the formation and development of the Neuse River Foundation, which began as an effort to call attention to the waterway's pollution problems.
"It stunk. It was dirty. You couldn't go out on it," said Jamie King. "We had to do something."
The Kings stayed active in the organization for years, essentially serving as its lobbyists, publicists and cheerleaders. Seeing that it was taking too much of their time, the couple decided to cut back on their commitments to the foundation in 1985.
"It's kinda like children: At some point, you have to let them go their own way," Susan King said.
The organization continues to thrive. The Kings remain involved with it and have been inducted into its Hall of Fame.
Not long after the Kings began spending less time on their Neuse River Foundation work, the couple began their ongoing Airstream adventure. In late 1987, they purchased their first Airstream, and they took their first extended trip in it in 1988.
"We started traveling about 10 years before Jamie retired and we've been going ever since," Susan King said.
Susan King's parents owned an Airstream, and Jamie and Susan were taken by the convenience of owning a motor home.
"They were having a lot of fun and had been for several years," Susan King said, adding that a motor home can be preferable to a hotel room.
"If there's dirt there, it's mine," she said.
Jamie King added, "Sleep in your own bed, eat off your own dishes. You don't have to live out of a suitcase."
The Kings became active in the Wally Byam Caravan Club International, which is named for the Airstream's inventor. They say they take two or three extended trips with other Airstream owners every year, and, until recently, they served as leaders of the organization's Civil War Caravan, organizing the itinerary and activities for caravan participants.
The couple also takes their current, 21-year-old Airstream motor home, which they bought sight unseen, on shorter trips each month. Both husband and wife take turns behind the wheel of the silver vehicle, which they say gets about 12 miles to each gallon of diesel fuel.
The Kings' adventures in their Airstream have gotten them lots of publicity. They've been interviewed for National Public Radio and by The Tennessean newspaper of Nashville, among others.
But most importantly, the Airstream has always brought them back home.
The Kings are finalizing the arrangements for their upcoming "Southeast Coast Spectacular" caravan, and they say they've already made plans to travel as part of other Airstream caravans to places across the United States.
"We're booked up through 2006," Susan King said.
Sandy Wall can be reached at 638-8101 ext. 261 or firstname.lastname@example.org