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

Hofmann Architecture and Santa Barbara Auto Camp

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I dropped by Hofmann Architecture this weekend while I was in Santa Barbara to meet Wally who I’d been emailing with while I was in search mode for our Airstream. They have quite a restoration project going on with roughly 9 different vintage Airstreams in their yard in various stages of repair with more on the way.

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Wally and Matthew, the owners, could not have been nicer and their crew were all busy at work while I was there. It’s quite a production. Hofmann Architecture’s approach with clean lines, durable fabrics and modern living features updates these classics quite nicely. They have a wide variety of clients looking for a travel trailer to take on the road, provide an out-of-house office or extend their living space for visiting guests. Some want all three!

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I also checked out their other project, Santa Barbara Auto Camp, which contains 5 vintage Airstreams all restored, remodeled and updated to today’s lifestyle, and each named for the Channel Islands that sit just off the coast. Each trailer is unique and offers a different living experience. Each are nicely landscaped with a deck, seating area, and has an outdoor bar-b-que.

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They are available for nightly rentals and each one comes with a couple of cruiser bikes to ride around town or head to the beach.

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The location is uptown and boasts easy shopping at Trader Joe’s just a couple blocks away, world famous McConnell’s Ice Cream down the street, and many coffee shops to choose from. The historic Santa Barbara Mission is an easy bike ride away, as are the beautiful beaches that the central coast is known for.

Each vintage Airstream is clean, comfortable and extremely efficient. If you want to experience what it would be like to live in one for a weekend before actually purchasing a trailer, this is a great place to discover the excitement and comfort of ‘streaming before you’ll end up wanting to buy your own!

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While I was there, Wally Hofmann had me give a copy of my book to one of his clients who were there inspecting their vintage model that was found in Alabama. It was just starting on its journey to being renewed.