Our Pilgrimage to Mecca

Every Airstreamer is expected at some point in his RV’ng life to visit the factory in Jackson Center, Ohio. There’s a plant tour five days a week, with the best, most extensive one saved for Fridays after most of the production workers have called it a week. Jackson Center is just six miles off the beaten path between Toledo and Cincinnati. We got there Thursday night and took the Friday afternoon tour.

Kat and I rode our bikes around the little town (population 1,500) and saw the sights. Second only to the Airstream plant is the Wally Byam International Caravan Club’s world headquarters. There we learned that none of the trailer numbers I liked was available. We will probably go with the ghost numbers that came off the Kat’s Cradle when we bought it, 17624. 17 for Havlicek, 6 for Russell, and 24 for Willie Mays. We saw the Napa Parts Store and the axle factory from the street, and got up close and personal to see the Elder Theatre (showing We Are the Millers) which charges $4 for the 7:00 and 9:30 shows, but only $3 for the Saturday and Sunday matinee. We had good burgers, onion blooms and cold beer at the Pub on the Corner with a tab closer to a couple of Happy Meals.

Spartan Helmeted 30's Airstream on Right
Spartan Helmeted 30’s Airstream on Right
Factory Refurbished Vintage Stream: Sold for $65K
Factory Refurbished Vintage Stream: Sold for $65K

The factory was the really big show. There’s a gift shop with shirts, parts, and trinkets. There’s a collection of vintage ‘Streams out front including one from the 30’s with Spartan helmet windows. There’s Wally Byam’s gold 1957 22’ trailer and the custom motorcycle built for Airstream by Jesse James (Sandra Bullock’s ex). And best of all, we got to see the assembly line from start to finish. There really are two aluminum skins. The bundle of wiring that goes into each is mind-blowing. And you can see why one inch of fiberglas insulation is doomed to fail.

Wally's Gold Airstream
Wally’s Gold Airstream
Wally Byam's Gold Airstream, with Pilgrims
Wally Byam’s Gold Airstream, with Pilgrims
Jesse James Sidecar Airstream Motorcycle
Jesse James Sidecar Airstream Motorcycle
The Bike with .44 Magnum Cylinders (Non-functional?)
The Bike with .44 Magnum Cylinders (Non-functional?)
Airstream Hearse
Airstream Hearse
How They Find Leaks
How They Find Leaks

People-watching is a hoot. They park and whip out cameras taking pictures of everything Airstream. They buy the Airstream $30 t-shirts or $50 golf shirts, maybe the $70 windbreakers. One lady was so visibly stricken upon arrival by so much spirit of Airstream that she handed me her camera and posed before the sign out front. I took a couple of shots, then asked “Wanna borrow my prayer rug?”

Hubby’s teeth were clinched, yet giggles were snorting out his nose. But oh, the look she gave me!  It dispelled all doubt that the humor of my jest was lost on her.

2 thoughts on “Our Pilgrimage to Mecca

  1. Your comment about the prayer rug is absolutely hilarious.

    Some people have no sense of humor, and sometimes lose their self-awareness. 😉

    As always, I enjoyed your description of the entire event. It sounds like a fun visit all around.

    Later, I’ll go look online for more details, such as what it looks like inside that gold Airstream.

    Eons ago, I took a trip up the East Coast in an Airstream, some details on which I’ll share later.

    There were four teenagers, and my aunt and uncle. (What were they thinking?) 😀

    Despite some trials and tribulations, I remember the trip very fondly.

    I’ve not had the chance to visit Airstream Mecca, but I’m sure I would enjoy to see how they are constructed.

    Thanks for a little peek into that world.



    1. The gold Stream was not opened. It was probably close to a stock ’62 trailer inside … it was a sales tool after all, and those were a bit Spartan by today’s standards.


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