America is a nation of restless people. Before the arrival of restless Europeans, this was the home of an often nomadic people.
And long before the Declaration of Independence was signed in the summer of 1776, colonists that would soon identify as Americans pushed west through the Cumberland Gap, into the lands around the Great Lakes, and up the Mississippi River. During the 19th century “prairie schooners” sailed across teh Great Plains.
So, it should come as no surprise to learn that almost as soon as the first daring motorist set out on an adventure by automobile, there were people converting automobiles into modernized versions of the Conestoga wagon. It seemed that no one was immune to allure of adventure and roadside camping.
Between 1915 and 1924, a group dubbed the Four Vagabonds, Henry Ford, Thomas Edison, Harvey Firestone, and John Burroughs, set out on summer expeditions. Their odysseys were well organized and, as might be expected, were equipped with all of the comforts of home.
Large passenger cars and custom vans carried the vagabonds and their luggage, as well as a full staff including butler, chef, and chauffeur, and Ford Motor Company photographers.
The adventures evolved with each summer excursion. By 1919 the vagabond’s tour had grown to include fifty vehicles, including two that had been specially designed and built by Ford Motor Company. These innovative recreational vehicles featured a full kitchen with a gasoline stove, and an ice box, compartments for tents, tools, auto parts, bunks, chairs, and even electric lights.
Not every American could afford to travel in the style of Henry Ford or Thomas Edison. But as automobiles became more affordable, and more people took to the open road, modifications that transformed an ordinary car into a self contained motor home became a national mania.
Wally Byam was born July 4, 1896, in Baker City, Oregon. From an early age he was consumed with wanderlust. As a young man with his uncle Roger on a sheep farm in the mountains, where they lived in a custom wooden wagon towed by a donkey. Years later he would recreate and upgrade that wagon, and pull it by car on trips throughout the west.
After graduating from Stanford University, Byam embarked on a journalism career, and married a woman that was as passionate about camping as he was.
In 1929, he built his first trailer. Using a Ford Model T chassis, he built on it a tear-drop shaped structure with sleeping space, and a portable kitchen with stove and an ice chest. The trailer attracted the attention of fellow campers, and so Byam began publishing a do it yourself guide.
Then, under commission, he began manufacturing trailers. That was followed by establishment of a small trailer factory in California where he could manufacture trailers that moved “like a stream of air” down the road. It was that slogan which gave him the idea to brand his trailers “Airstream.”
Author Jim HInckley has written extensively abut the dawning of the great American road trip, and the evolution of the RV. In his book The Big Book of Car Culture, Hinckley detailed he story of Airstream and Winnebago. He has shared stories of early RV pioneers in blog posts on the Jim Hinckley’s America website.
Today, the RV life is, perhaps, more popular than ever. According to the RV Industry Association, there are more than 10 million RV-owning households in the U.S., and more than 40 million Americans go take to the road each year in an RV or trailer.
But what would the RV life be without a place to call home while living the life of a vagabond. In the Colorado River Valley that home away from home is Crazy Horse Campground in Lake Havasu City, Arizona.
Located on the island just across the historic London Bridge, we are the city’s oldest RV Park and campground. We provide our guests stunning views from the multi-layered park. We aslo offer lake access, beach front sites, boat and jet ski rentals and a convenient location. At Crazy Horse Campground, the legend of he RV life lives on.