Traveler’s Rest, Florida

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Just outside Dade City, Florida is a place where Airstreams and their owners thrived and co-mingled. Developed by Jake Busch, a member of the Tampa Bay Unit of the Wally Byam Caravan Club, Traveler’s Rest was initially funded by Airstream enthusiasts who invested $500 a share and raised over $80,000 to help secure a site. Jake Busch scoured Florida for a beautiful location that could fulfill the dream he had of providing an Airstream Park for wintering travelers.

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He found it near Dade City, adjacent to the small towns of St. Joe and San Antonio; the are know as the “Florida Alps.” In 1972, the property was secured, volunteers helped clear brush, install drainage and water, and prepare sites for silver bullets to nestle in together for warmer winters. Wells for drinking water were drilled and a sewage treatment plant was planned and eventually built.

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Unfortunately, a corrupt contractor took advantage of the park builders and nearly bankrupted them right off the bat. Jake Busch stepped in and pulled the plug on him, but not before he and others paid him off. By 1973 part of the park was finished along with Busch Hall, which houses everything from church services, arts and craft fairs and, of course, the traditional Airstreamer’s pot-luck.

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As is the custom of ‘streamers, much of the work done was facilitated by volunteerism, and several things available today, like the front office, pool, snack area, and Busch Hall floor were the result of loans given for the cause. There was much trust and fellowship as they built out the cabanas, maintained the grounds and enhanced the park. By the end of the ‘70’s most all of the Village lots were sold as well as about 100 mobile home lots were occupied. Traveler’s rest was now a wonderful destination spot for ‘streamers and winter “snowbirds” that wanted a community.

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The golden years from the mid-70’s through the 80’s began. Tennis courts were built, Mirror Lake was created and a new golf course added. They were all enormous projects that today form the beauty that makes Traveler’s Rest unique. In 1986 the TR Times was begun by a retired newspaper editor and continues to this day.

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Can you imagine lines of silver trailers gleaming in the Florida sun? If you go to some of the larger Alumaevent rallies around the country, you might get the idea. But Utopia for Airstreams couldn’t last. Unfortunately, Airstream began developing a line of motor coaches that were strictly outlawed at Traveler’s Rest due to a clause prohibiting motor homes of any sort so that sight lines wouldn’t be ruined.

Additionally, Jake Busch was disheartened following a particularly nasty town hall meeting in his own hall. His dream sullied, Jake Busch passed away in 1993.

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Several “founders” stepped down including the park manager. Airstream sales began to decline and fewer trailers came to Traveler’s Rest as the elder ‘streamers declined. Discontent bread defections and many people simply left. Maintenance and park repair fell as money and interest dwindled and Traveler’s Rest was on the verge of collapse until the bylaws were changed admitting RV’s with other brands were allowed to stay. A renaissance of Traveler’s Roost was underway.

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As we walked around the park, we were greeted by a friendly wave from everyone. And I mean everyone. The sense of community was palpable, and while Airstreams still dot the landscape with newer and older models existing side by side sometimes, the other RV’s fit in well with the landscape in the various sections.

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We particularly liked the area of Cabana’s that were placed next to the Airstream offering what is known as a “Florida room” for residents to enjoy. Airstreams were next to mobile homes, or rested under canopies of Spanish moss covered oak trees.

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The gardens are well maintained by friendly Garden Club volunteers we met. The hall was bustling with church services, the golf links were busy and several people were out for walks with their dogs. They even have an off-leash area. Mirror Lake is now a bucolic view from the wood-planked walks and trails; wildlife teems along its shores.

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John and I now know a place to bring “Margaret” that will be close to his mom’s and provide us with a community of ‘streamers and RVer’s alike, but also that promise of a hookup for electricity and sewage for our longer stays. We are looking forward to our first trip across country!

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Roman, Josephine (John’s Mom) and John

Note: Much of the information on the park in the above article was taken from their history PDF available on their website here: http://www.travelersrestresort.com

Vintage Airstream Village, Florida

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I spent a year vacillating between going vintage or a new model. A 1970’s era Overlander is featured in AIRSTREAMING and I thought how cool it would be to go around the country and conduct readings and then show people the Overlander so they’d have a visual reference to what they’ve read or are going to read. What I found were that most Vintage owners are quite adept at carpentry, plumbing and remodeling, which I am most certainly not (though I do envision myself as a person who could with lots of practice).

But let’s be real. I would be working on it for years before I would get it to a place I’d want it to be, or I’d have to hire out for all the other stuff, which would price me right back to getting a new Airstream. I will always, however, have great respect for the vintage models and someday, when I retire, might embark on doing one. At Bates RV in Florida they have a mini Vintage Airstream Village that is fun, and each Airstream contains an office or is used by the company.

One can dream.