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Old 08-31-2008, 02:06 PM   #1
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A Tribute

I literally wouldn't be here - as in life - or metaphorically as an Airstreamer, if it weren't for one significant person. On a terribly hot July day, I made the pilgrimage to a windswept plain in the upper Midwest, to pay respects to the man who introduced me to the RV lifestyle. Whatever your belief system, and whether you believe in a life after this one, I know a more than a few people who still 'talk' to those who have departed. Sadly, Dad never saw my wife and I become RVers, a stroke felled him only a year before my wife and I retired from the military - and suddenly had a chance to hit the open road. So for whatever metaphysical reasons, I wanted to 'show' him the Airstream, seeking approval from someone who had everything to do with granting me the open road spirit. I can't forget his instruction in practical matters such as dealing with black water, smacking sticky hitch locks with a mallet, using a 'cheater bar' on weight-distributing systems, and troubleshooting LP appliances. But his urge to explore as much of his home continent as possible, to visit every enormous, wondrous place - geologic, geodetic or geopolitical - was addictive.

My father bought our first travel trailer in 1969, a 1970 model year 23 foot Concord. It seemed an enormous white whale, with stout double axles, lapped metal siding, a fiberglass stone guard that seemed capable of stopping a small arms round. He towed it with a Ford F-100 pickup with a 390 V8 and three-on-the-tree manual gears. Oh, and sometimes with a Rocket 98 Oldsmobile sedan with a 455 V8, plus those enormous insect antenna front fender mirrors. And where DIDN'T we take this rig? ... Well, anywhere that wasn't the upper Midwestern plains. We did more than one loop covering 2/3's of the continental US. The Concord gave way to a 1976 Shasta (yes with the signature orange plastic wings flying from the rear roofline), also a 23 footer. I think that is exactly why I wanted to start with something that size - Dad claimed it was the perfect balance between useable size and reasonable handling. As an only child, it was just three of us. Yet after I graduated school and entered the Air Force, the smaller trailers gave way to enormous fifth wheels and Ford F250 tow vehicles. Of course, snowbirding for four months demanded more room. My folks were also lifetime members of an RVing club, which began as a Shasta, then Shasta/Coachmen, then no brand affiliation bunch, who just wanted to get together in the original spirit of organizations like the WBCCI. Dad was the club's first "Wagonmaster," fearless in paving the trail for cross country caravans. When a couple of club members bought Airstreams, he'd give them admiring comments, but always seemed to wince at the sticker price. And yet, any time we saw an Airstream on a dealer's lot, he gave it a careful inspection. He admired the engineering, and especially the curving windows (he spent much of his professional life in the commercial glass business). But like any man of modest means, he saw them as a bit too much coin for our middle class family budget.

So here I am, with one those timeless, shiny, costly little rascals, parked near his memorial (picture: centered between TV and TT, foreground, with white flowers), and having that reflective moment with my Mom. "I hope you like the trailer, Dad." Thanks for the greatest gift, all the life lessons, and the RV Spirit.

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Old 08-31-2008, 02:42 PM   #2
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Whizzo View Post
I literally wouldn't be here - as in life - or metaphorically as an Airstreamer, if it weren't for one significant person. On a terribly hot July day, I made the pilgrimage to a windswept plain in the upper Midwest, to pay respects to the man who introduced me to the RV lifestyle. Whatever your belief system, and whether you believe in a life after this one, I know a more than a few people who still 'talk' to those who have departed. Sadly, Dad never saw my wife and I become RVers, a stroke felled him only a year before my wife and I retired from the military - and suddenly had a chance to hit the open road. So for whatever metaphysical reasons, I wanted to 'show' him the Airstream, seeking approval from someone who had everything to do with granting me the open road spirit. I can't forget his instruction in practical matters such as dealing with black water, smacking sticky hitch locks with a mallet, using a 'cheater bar' on weight-distributing systems, and troubleshooting LP appliances. But his urge to explore as much of his home continent as possible, to visit every enormous, wondrous place - geologic, geodetic or geopolitical - was addictive.

My father bought our first travel trailer in 1969, a 1970 model year 23 foot Concord. It seemed an enormous white whale, with stout double axles, lapped metal siding, a fiberglass stone guard that seemed capable of stopping a small arms round. He towed it with a Ford F-100 pickup with a 390 V8 and three-on-the-tree manual gears. Oh, and sometimes with a Rocket 98 Oldsmobile sedan with a 455 V8, plus those enormous insect antenna front fender mirrors. And where DIDN'T we take this rig? ... Well, anywhere that wasn't the upper Midwestern plains. We did more than one loop covering 2/3's of the continental US. The Concord gave way to a 1976 Shasta (yes with the signature orange plastic wings flying from the rear roofline), also a 23 footer. I think that is exactly why I wanted to start with something that size - Dad claimed it was the perfect balance between useable size and reasonable handling. As an only child, it was just three of us. Yet after I graduated school and entered the Air Force, the smaller trailers gave way to enormous fifth wheels and Ford F250 tow vehicles. Of course, snowbirding for four months demanded more room. My folks were also lifetime members of an RVing club, which began as a Shasta, then Shasta/Coachmen, then no brand affiliation bunch, who just wanted to get together in the original spirit of organizations like the WBCCI. Dad was the club's first "Wagonmaster," fearless in paving the trail for cross country caravans. When a couple of club members bought Airstreams, he'd give them admiring comments, but always seemed to wince at the sticker price. And yet, any time we saw an Airstream on a dealer's lot, he gave it a careful inspection. He admired the engineering, and especially the curving windows (he spent much of his professional life in the commercial glass business). But like any man of modest means, he saw them as a bit too much coin for our middle class family budget.

So here I am, with one those timeless, shiny, costly little rascals, parked near his memorial (picture: centered between TV and TT, foreground, with white flowers), and having that reflective moment with my Mom. "I hope you like the trailer, Dad." Thanks for the greatest gift, all the life lessons, and the RV Spirit.

Good Story - warm hearted!
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Old 08-31-2008, 05:23 PM   #3
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It is sad when you loose your parents. Touching memorial.
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Old 08-31-2008, 05:37 PM   #4
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Victory to your Dad!

Wonderful tribute to your Father, and shows how deep our passions can take us and those who listen and are aware...to finally realize the original dream!
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Old 08-31-2008, 07:40 PM   #5
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Beautiful story, and I hope he (your dad) enjoyed seeing the coach. What a tribute!

Marie
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Old 09-01-2008, 09:53 AM   #6
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Thanks for sharing your story...it is very touching and I bet your Dad approves of your shiny new trailer very much. I grew up in an RV family also and appreciate my parents for every special moment we had together as a family.
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Old 09-01-2008, 11:42 AM   #7
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Thanks for sharing your memories of your dad and growing up in the camping lifestyle.
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