Category Archives: Review

Review: Trailer Travel Here and Abroad

Trailer Travel Here and Abroad, Wally Byam
Trailer Travel Here and Abroad, Wally Byam

So, a friend recommended that I might really enjoy reading Trailer Travel Here and Abroad: The New Way to Adventurous Living by Wally Byam (of Airstream fame).  While it mostly documents the beginnings and evolution of the international Airstream Caravans in the 1950’s, it also discusses some of Wally Byam’s philosophies about how travelling should be undertaken, and what the 1960’s and 1970’s future of trailer travel could look like.

While the discussions of the travails of the caravans and how they overcame (or didn’t) the problems they encountered.  While the discussions of the qualities of 1950’s American cars as hauling vehicles is cool, it isn’t as useful today as it probably was in the 1960’s, the aspects of how best to load a travel trailer for rough roads and for the management of tongue weight on the car are just as relevant now as they were then (perhaps more for skoolie travelers who have the clearance to take rough roads).

But the descriptions of the caravans are really cool.  The places that they went on the Mexican (and as far south in Latin America as they could go), Canadian, European, and African caravans, by train, oxen teams, and even the trailerites themselves hauling on ropes over dirt roads, through jungles, over rivers by fording, winching, barges and ferries, and doing field repairs along the way, set up real adventures of Oregon Trail proportions.

Spoiler Alert - They made it through Africa!
Spoiler Alert – They made it through Africa!

The African caravan that he was in the middle of while finishing the book really sounds like a pioneering wagon train sort of adventure, as they are essentially building their own roads to get the 20+ foot long travel trailers through, and having their tow vehicles limping along (or dying) through the harsh terrain.

One of the things that I can really see about this is how the shared triumphal and awe-inspiring successes and hardships that the whole groups of travelers experienced built a sense of community that could be extrapolated onto other people who had been on different caravan trips.  These people experienced different things, but felt a common bond by knowing they were amongst kindred spirits.

It must have really been awesome in the 1950’s to see the long line of Airstream trailers being pulled one after another along the roads.  There is certainly something that would be stirring in thinking about a caravan of 50 or so skoolies travelling together for a couple of months though the wilds of … well, anywhere.

But Wally Byam’s book is well worth the read.  There’s information about preparations, organization, conduct, and education in there, and not just for the caravan traveler, but for the solo traveler as well. While some of the practices are no longer valid (like using gopher holes as places to plug your waste tanks into), there are likely some that almost any reader will appreciate.

Trailer Travel Here and Abroad, The New Way to Adventurous Living (Hardcover)

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Review: Glamping with MaryJane

So, my wife got a copy of “Glamping with MaryJane” out of the library, because we had heard that Glamping (Glamour Camping) was a term that was applied to people who went above and beyond when it came to camping, as opposed to minimalists. In going with our (kind of) Steampunk/Erie Canalboat sort of Victorian theme, we thought it would fit with us, as I’m happy to have fancy lamps, a set of silver plate for meals, and lots of elaborate items and woodwork. I read through it, and thought a review here would be appropriate.

First, let me say that the book is pretty. There are really lovely pictures of things, from campers to food. But there’s not as much substance as I would have expected from a book this size.

We do get a background on MaryJane Butters, and her ‘her-story’ with camping parents, living rough while working for the Forest Service, and how she’s set up her own wall-tent B&B.

But what I would want out of the book is the practical information on how-to. She devotes four pages to a photo spread of tearing down her vintage camper, and showing the damage that she encountered (the scheduled re-build didn’t get done before the manuscript deadline, but working on my own project I know how easily that happens,) which is the same amount of pages that she devotes to Insurance (what kinds there are and whether you need any), though that section also has a full-page image with a single paragraph of text, and another with no text instead of information (and neither are pictures that conjure up ‘insurance’ to me).

She does have some neat plans for folding chairs & cots, and for building a massive wall tent structure (including concrete pillars), and some recipes that you can make while Glamping (though her ‘Budget Mix’ is just her own brand of biscuit mix). She also has some decorating and theme ‘flavoring’ ideas, such draping old necklaces over your lamp to make it more elegant, or using a particular theme (such as Old West/Cowgirl, or Rosie the Riviter) as a unifying motif.

The thing that got me, though, was that Glamping, is (in MaryJane’s concept) apparently only a thing women can do. This is evident in little indications throughout the text (with the differences between how men and women change the oil in their cars – his involves much beer and much mess, hers involves a mechanic, a cup of coffee, and a nail file), but becomes blatant when she calls glamping ‘girl camping’ and repeatedly that men ‘don’t get it.’

But, if you want to try your hand at ‘Glamping’, want a pretty book to look though, or want some Glamping recipies or rustic plans, then check it out.

Glamping with MaryJane: Glamour + Camping (Hardcover)

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