Written by Steve Mosco, firstname.lastname@example.org Wednesday, 25 September 2013 12:26
The great American road trip.
For travelers living with the constant tug of wanderlust pulling on their hearts, it is a rite of passage. For countless office workers stuck stationary in confining cubicles, it is a dreary-eyed daydream. And for meandering twentysomethings, it is a grand plan designed to stave off adult responsibilities for just a little while longer.
But for native Massapequan author Tara Cox, the great American road trip served as an inspiration to explore an iconic symbol of this country’s free spirit; a reflective symbol of freedom chronicled in her book, Airstream: The Silver RV.
Born out of an immersion the into world of RVs and road trips while publishing the magazine RV Living, Cox’s book delves into the eye-catching vintage classic with an examination of its hardcore devoted fan base and its innovative, eccentric inventor Wally Byam.
“He’s a very unique and highly quotable guy that I wish was known more in history,” she said. “It was part showmanship, part old-fashioned work ethic. He was a smart and talented guy.”
The Airstream as it is known today got its start in Byam’s California backyard, and its design was inspired by a trailer conceived by Hawley Bowlus, the famed chief builder of The Spirit of St. Louis. The Bowlus Road Chief allowed the comforts of home to travel with road trippers, before the company folded in the 1930s.
From there rose Byam’s Airstream with its cool, retro, futuristic look of rounded corners, shiny silver exterior and Art Deco-inspired style. Largely unchanged since it first rolled off the assembly line, the Airstream remains extremely popular and its durability makes it more than just a nostalgia act.
“Its appeal then is the same as its appeal now; it allows people to forge ahead,” said Cox, adding that about 60 percent of the original Airstreams and still on the road. “The really never fell out of fashion.”
Cox remembers looking out of the back window of her parents’ car as a little girl and catching her first glimpse of the silver RV. From then on, it held a special place in her heart, along with her love of Americana and unique roadside oddities like Long Island’s famed Big Duck in Flanders.
“We’ve lost so much originality in this country, that it is important to hang onto what we still have,” she said. “The Duck is a funny, kitschy thing that makes you smile. Life is difficult and everyone is swamped. You see a giant duck and it makes you feel good.”
The roads of America are filled with distinctive peculiarities that coax warm feelings of nostalgia, according to Cox. But more than the promise of roadside attractions, Cox believes Byam and Americans in general are born with an explorer’s heart.
“It’s in our blood. From the very beginning of this country, we’ve wanted to move around and see what is out there,” she said. “In my experience as an American kid, it’s a big deal to get your own car and get out of your own little world.”
Cox’s own little world growing up was the neighborhood haunts of Massapequa. Her parents still live there and when she visits, their first stop is usually Krisch’s Ice Cream Parlour.
“I have great memories growing up in that town and riding around on my bike, my first sense of freedom as a child,” she said. “It’s a great place to grow up because everything was so close; the beach, the city, it was all right there. It’s nice to have that balance growing up.”
After leaving Massapequa, Cox found herself living the city life while working in the publishing industry for various well-known magazines. It is a life that sparks creativity for Cox and exposes her to a variety of lifestyles.
“Whatever topic I’m covering, I get to immerse myself in it,” she said. “I pretty much get to dabble in everything in life.”
Always a wanderer at heart, with her sights set on the American road.
“I don’t have an Airstream yet, so it’s really a love from afar,” she said. “But one day, I’ll have a plot of land and a country home with an Airstream ready to go.”
Airstream: The Silver RV is available on www.amazon.com.