Airstreams frequently have large block numbers affixed to the front and rear end shells of their trailers. That number indicates that the owner is one of more than 12,000 members of the Wally Byam Caravan Club International, Inc. A practice adopted by Wally Byam during the early caravans of the 1950s, WBCCI members continue to use the numbers—cross referenced in the annual directory—to identify one another.
All WBCCI members are assigned an official identification number which remains as long as the membership is in good standing, and can be transferred to any Airstream. The self-adhesive red vinyl numbers are issued to each member; their usage is beneficial, but not mandatory.
Stars beside or above the numbers on a member’s Airstream indicate how long the owner has been a member of the club, with each star signifying five years. Many members have belonged to the WBCCI for more than 40 years.
Additionally, the club insignia, a round decal of the WBCCI logo (bearing the likeness of Wally Byam and a globe), is typically placed above the red numbers.
A fun and inexpensive way to see the country and the world, caravans are typically a group of 10 to 60 Airstream owners on a road trip together to destinations along a designated route. Sponsored by local Units, Regions, and the International Club, caravans range in duration from days to months and operate on an actual cost basis.
Caravans are led by volunteer hosts—International Caravan Committee members instructed through the WBCCI Caravan Training Program—who are well acquainted with the caravan route, campgrounds, and sightseeing opportunities.
Popular caravans include “Ghost on the East Coast”, “Maple Leaf Trail”, “Taste of the Blue Ridge”, “Springtime in Kentucky”, “Louisiana Cajun Heritage”, “Landmarks West” (following the Lewis and Clark Trail), “Southwest Adventure”, and excursions to historic Civil War sites.
Overseas “rent-a-rig” caravans are also organized by the Wally Byam Overseas Club (sponsored by the International Relations Committee) for touring Europe, South Africa, New Zealand and Australia.
Interested members can learn more about caravanning or becoming a caravan leader by attending the Introduction to Caravanning seminar at the International Convention, and by visiting LINK.
In addition to caravans, Airstream rallies are planned and hosted by local Units. Held at a fixed location in places of interest throughout the nearby states and regions, rallies are typically three-to four-day weekend excursions with Airstreaming friends a short distance from members’ homes.
Membership in a local Unit permits attendance at any and all Unit rallies—over 1,200 each year—that members are welcome to join as they travel across the country.
Additionally, several Units may join together to host a rally, and most Regions have an annual Region Rally. A number of yearly national rallies, sponsored by local units, are planned around an event or theme of national interest (including the St. Augustine Easter festival in Florida, the Mardi Gras Rally in Louisiana, and the Pendleton Round-Up in Oregon). Examples of Special Event rallies are the Sun Vally Jazz Jamboree in Idaho, the Balloon Fiesta in New Mexico, the Galax Fiddler’s Convention in Virginia, and the Rose Parade in California.
Community Service Rallies are also organized at the Unit level, providing the opportunity to help clean up a park or participate in local fundraisers. Non-Airstream owners may join the fun at a designated “buddy rally”.
Most rallies include full RV hookups (with water, power and sewer connections), but some are offered for dry camping without outside services. Well suited for these “boondocking” adventures, self contained Airstream trailers allow members to bring the comforts of home to remote locations.
New Airstream owners are encouraged to attend a local rally to meet other Airstreamers and learn the benefits of WBCCI membership.
Interested members can learn more about caravanning or becoming a caravan leader by attending the Introduction to Caravanning seminar at the International Convention, and by downloading the Caravan Manual.
Wally Byam began wearing his signature cap in 1948 while in Europe with the first Airstream trailer to travel abroad. “In my endeavor to do as the French do, I bought a little French beret,” Byam wrote. “I found that the beret made a wonderful trailer headgear. It kept your head warm, kept your hair in place, and gave you some protection when popping in and out of low doors. Best of all, you could roll it up and put in your pocket.”
Byam obtained several berets and began gifting them to friends and customers who asked where they could find one; on the first caravan, Byam gave a beret to everyone on the tour. The jaunty cap soon became a badge of Airstream ownership.
The blue beret was adopted as the official symbol for the Wally Byam Caravan Club when it was founded in 1955.
Yes! At the request of Wally Byam in the spring of 1948, renowned cyclist Alfred Latourneau pulled a 22-foot Airstream Liner to demonstrate that the trailers were lightweight.
The famous photo of the stunt was taken at the Van Nuys Airport in California, and appeared in the April 1948 issue of Travel Trailer Magazine.
The Blue Beret is the official publication of the WBCCI. Published once a month, it is mailed to each member and subscriber and includes news of all International, National, Regional and Unit events as well as technical advice for Airstream repair and upkeep, safety tips, news from Intra Clubs, sponsor information, and articles by club members and staff at Airstream, Inc.
The Blue Beret can also be accessed online at blueberetonline.com.
In addition to the Blue Beret, club members receive an annual directory containing an alphabetical and numerical listing of members, the roster of club officers, and information about courtesy parking, discounted RV parks, and Airstream factory service centers.
From time to time, additional information may be delivered to members via email: a message from the International President, supplementary news from various committees, or announcements about caravans and club business.
Social media fans can participate with other WBCCI members at our Facebook page, and follow the WBCCI on Twitter @Wally_Byam. Many individual units maintain Facebook and Twitter accounts as well.
Not to be confused with www.wbcci.org, at WBCCI.net leaders of Units, Regions, Intra-clubs, Rallies and Caravans can build group websites, access @wbcci.net email, manage personal and group calendars, and create and share online documents, spreadsheets and presentations.
CLICK HERE for examples of group websites created by WBCCI units. To create your own, request a webmaster account at the “member tools” link at the bottom of the page.
CLICK HERE to join online and pay with a credit card or PayPal account, or call WBCCI headquarters in Ohio at 937-596-5211.
WBCCI Central Office803 E. Pike StreetP.O. Box 612Jackson Center,OH 45334Ph 937-596-5211Fax 937-596-5542