Thursday, May 14, 2015

Wally Byam Cajun Country Caravan

One of the many benefits of owning an Airstream trailer is that you can join the Wally Byam Caravan Club International (WBCCI). Wally Byam was the founder of the Airstream company and the purpose of the club is to get you out and using your camper. It is easy to spot Airstreamers belonging to WBCCI because they usually have the big red numbers on their trailers and motor homes.

It took us three years after buying Rosie, our 25 foot Airstream trailer, to join the WBCCI. We were still working and didn't think we had enough time for the group. Once we became members, we didn't wait long to sign up for our first WBCCI caravan.

Actually, it wasn't that simple. Prior to joining the WBCCI, we discussed at-length the pros and cons of joining a club that has the word "caravan" in its name. Did we really want to join what we feared was a regimented travel group? After all, we enjoy being able to travel when we want and to plan our activities around our whims at that moment. Would we ever fit in with a group of seasoned Airstreamers marching to the caravan leader's orders?

It turns out that we were not unique in questioning this. Phrases similar to "I like being spontaneous," "I like my independence" or "I would not want to keep up with a group" tend to creep into conversations with other Airstreamers who are not WBCCI members. These "all too familiar" phases were the same ones we used prior to joining the WBCCI.

We were probably the worst new members of WBCCI ever. Our predisposition was that we were probably not going to enjoy caravan camping and the club would have little benefit to us. While we knew we wanted to try a caravan, we were not sure that style of camping was a good fit for our tastes.

This was the low set of expectations we dragged into our first WBCCI caravan. It didn't take long to discover that we were wrong about many things associated with WBCCI and caravans. 

Several WBCCI members we talked to during our camping adventures recommended the Cajun Country Caravan as a great introduction to the club. This was one of the shorter caravans and the description sounded like it would be lots of fun. We agreed and registered for it.

Rosie on the road to the Cajun Country Caravan

 One of the early lessons learned about joining caravans is that you have to sign up early. Caravans tend to fill up a year or two in advance and you have to plan ahead if you want to be included in a specific caravan.

While waiting for our first caravan, we decided to schedule a "big" trip in Rosie. We started working on a trip through the upper peninsula of Michigan only to find that the parks we wanted to stay in were already booked. It seemed that every camper on earth wanted to stay in these parks at the same time we planned to be there. This made the idea of going on a caravan, where the camping reservations were booked by the leader, more appealing.

The next issue was about what to do while in Michigan. Sure, we could probably find the big "tourist trap" type things, but would we be able to locate the unique things that define the area?

The more we worked on planning our Michigan trip, the more we realized the value of the WBCCI caravans. And this goes beyond the fact that our route through Cajun Country was worked out by the caravan leaders and we had camping reservations for the entire time; it included that we were going to visit some places that we would have never thought of if we were left to plan the trip ourselves.
For example, most people would think of including a swamp tour when visiting Louisiana's Cajun country. How many people would also include visiting a crawfish farm and riding along while harvesting them? That turned out to be one of the unexpected highlights of our caravan.

WBCCI Cajun Country Caravan group at the crawfish farm

Larry Boudreaux, our caravan leader, with a crawfish

Harvesting crawfish
 Another example was going to Cajun music places. It is easy to find lots of Cajun music, both good and bad, in Louisiana. How do you find the better places? I'm sure that I would have missed some of the great places that our caravan leaders found.

Dancing to some Cajun music

Our failed attempt to schedule a trip to Michigan on our own helped us realize one of the strong values of WBCCI caravans is that the leaders did the hard work of putting it together.
It was easy to see once we joined the Cajun Country Caravan that there was a mix of seasoned caravaners and rookies, like us, in the group. Once we pulled into our first campsite, we discovered that our table leg inside Rosie was bent. Yes, some of the roads in Louisiana are very bumpy! Our caravan leader quickly came to our rescue and helped up straighten the leg so that we could continue using it during the caravan. This would have been a big problem without the help of our leader.

Rosie at one of the parks we visited on the WBCCI Cajun Country Caravan

There were two other times during the caravan that we had small maintenance issues. We needed to replace the cotter pin on the safety chain at one park and we needed a washer for our water hose at another. Our fellow caravaners came to our rescue both times.

The veteran caravaners shared tips with us that helped speed up our hitching and unhitching process. We were concerned because we tend to spend too much time getting Rosie ready to roll. It you had a question or a problem, someone in the group was there to help.

Another thing I found interesting was how quickly the campers in caravan formed a group. I was amazed to find one couple on our caravan who went to the same elementary, junior high and high school as me. In fact, they grew up only a couple of blocks from my childhood home. Amazing.

During our caravan, we all parked next to each other, we carpooled to our events and we ended up eating many of our meals together. In short, we made many new friends from the 25 units in our caravan.

One of the meals we enjoyed on the WBCCI Cajun Country Caravan

Visiting an interesting home while on the WBCCI Cajun Country Caravan

Becky meets Bevo

More Cajun food on the WBCCI Cajun Country Caravan

What do you do after harvesting crawfish? Eat!

Becky holds an alligator

Steve holds an alligator

I am not going to talk about the individual things we did on our caravan. Judy and Larry Boudreaux, our leaders, put together a great itinerary and it would be wrong to take their hard work and share it here. I will say that we discovered that caravans are a strong benefit of the Wally Byam Caravan Club and one we will be taking advantage of in the future.

We have moved from being caravan skeptics to talking to other Airstreamers we see along the way about the fun and the fellowship we had on our first WBCCI caravan.

As the pictures show, we had a wonderful time on the Cajun Country Caravan and we highly recommend it to all WBCCI members. We are also grateful to Larry and Judy Boudreaux, the caravan leaders, for putting this together, scouting out the best sights along the way and making sure we all had an amazing adventure in Cajun Country.

Visiting a Cajun home

Leaving on the swamp tour

A couple of non-Airstreamers camping at a Cajun swamp

A couple of Airstreamers camping while on the WBCCI Cajun Country Caravan

Lunch time!

Judy and Larry Boudreaux at the farewell dinner
If you are thinking about signing up for your first or for another WBCCI caravan, you will enjoy joining the next Cajun Country Caravan. You will learn about the Cajun way of life, experience their culture and participate in the fun and fellowship of being a part of this wonderful caravan.

Becky's watercolor painting from the WBCCI Cajun Country Caravan

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