Saturday, June 3, 2023


Historic 1950s Wally Byam Airstream caravan tour of Mexico

By Cheri Sicard
This is an incredible historic video of an amazing two-month-long RV trip undertaken by members of Wally Byam’s Caravaners club in the 1950s. (The date was not given, but it is post-1954, as the video references that earlier caravan.)

This is RV travel as I wish it still was. Although I understand such an undertaking today would likely be even more of a logistical nightmare than it had to have been back then. For instance, there is no way I can imagine a caravan of 200-plus Airstreams in the streets of downtown modern Mexico City!

But, boy, would I have loved to have been on some of the Wally Byam Caravan Club international trips.

The video presents a historic time capsule, not only from the perspective of the iconic silver bullet trailers, but of the country of Mexico itself. And this trip covers a LOT of territory in Mexico. In fact, members of this particular Airstream Caravan have the distinction of being the first RVers to ever travel to the Yucatan.

Nearly 500 people in 220 Airstreams made the trip.

One of the most amazing things I learned in this video is that the caravans were organized on a volunteer basis. If you joined you paid your own expenses, but there were no charges from the club beyond that!

The group was a traveling community that ran things democratically, right down to their itineraries. All the caravaners would meet together and decide, by a popular vote, where they would go and how long they would stay there.

Volunteers handle all duties of the journey

Volunteers handled all duties along the road, too, such as setting up parking, social events, making sure no stragglers got left behind, and more.

A doctor always traveled with the group. And an advance scout would always go ahead to arrange for parking. That was no small task with that many rigs in a country that pretty much had never seen trailers before.

In Zacatecas, elevation 8,000 feet, there was not enough level parking for the caravan, so city officials allowed them to park around the town’s plaza. In Guanajuato, they filled the city’s baseball stadium with Airstreams. And in Acapulco, they camped on the grounds of the tropical Hotel Papagallo. The beach provided parking in Veracruz.

Unique experiences

The caravaners got to experience things an ordinary single traveler never would. For instance, on this trip they met with Luz Corral, Pancho Villa’s widow, took part in training fighting bulls, watched and participated in special music and dance presentations, and much more.

For hundreds of miles of this journey through an uninhabited jungle where there were no roads, all the trailers were loaded onto flat railroad cars. Travelers could comfortably sit in their cars or go back to the trailer as they chugged along… at least that’s what the video says. How you would actually safely do that without being thrown off the train is beyond me, though.

So famous were the Airstream caravans that everywhere they went, the travelers were treated like celebrities. In one small town, children were given the day off from school in order to greet them.

Archival footage of centuries-old Mexican plazas filled with silver trailers, or an endless train of Airstreams traveling down dirt roads in deepest Mexico, show sights that simply no longer exist and likely never will again. Check out this video and dream of the RV life that was.




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Dale "Pee Wee" Schwamborn
7 months ago

71 years ago, I traveled as a guest with Wally Byam on his first caravan. It traveled to Mexico and Central America. It was pilot caravan leading to future one throughout the world. I have been fortunate to travel on caravans to Eastern Canada (1955 & 1957), Europe 1956, and Africa 1959. The adventure in travel and camaraderie that Wally Byam conceived and shared with the Airstream World can never be duplicated or revisited. This is where legends and icons are born.

Cheri Sicard
7 months ago

How amazing. I am so envious!

7 months ago

Good for them. Wow, the memories that must have given them.

Joe Allen
7 months ago

The Greatest Generation enjoying their travels. They were quite the tours back then. Mom & Dad had an Argosy, a look alike Airstream and enjoyed their travels for just over 17 years. Quite the life back then and they actually knew how to back up with their trailers! Looks like vintage ’56, as I saw a few cars of that era. Thank you for bring back the good ole days of this great lifestyle!

7 months ago

Just looking at the cars pulling the trailers, I would guess 1956 was the date for the caravan.

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