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

Four Weeks Down

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I’m sitting on the bed in the Airstream writing this recap of our remodeling project. Buster has taken over the dinette for his bed and it’s too much work to undo it every day, so we leave it down for him. Of course, he’s laying on our bed while I write.

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Week four was particularly eventful. The roof was removed along with the east room. The East Room will be rebuilt pretty much from the ground up given that it is now supporting a walkable roof we call The Sky Deck. Which brings up last weekend when we inaugurated the deck with two evenings of cocktails, friends and neighbors.

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The weather was truly amazing, and then our brand new neighbor, Grant, brought over a Steelhead Salmon fillet cooked on a cedar plank. It was extremely thoughtful and brought good karma to what, we think, will be a well-used deck.

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Wednesday night, the sky was extraordinary. Amazing colors, clear air and light delineated the mountains and lake.

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As the week progressed, the East Room took shape and the foundation wall was made and the plumbing restored from the basement. Ivan and Leo continue to do great work on the framing, and it’s great to watch their progress.

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Buster has proven to be a great site dog, curious about all things, but when he gets tired he takes himself to the Airstream for a nap. I think he misses John as I do. He likes having us both around so he can alternately entertain himself with either of us. John has been in Florida where the heat has been oppressive, but he’s enjoying the humidity, he said. We started the week finding out that a new grand baby is on the way in January 2015. We are both excited for his son and daughter-in-law, and baby Connor as well. 2015 will turn out to be a great year.

Thursday night brought rain for the first time to the open ceilings and concern for the floors kept me awake. Indeed, pools of water formed where the roof leaked since the covering had been removed. The sky opened up again throughout the day today, but now it’s sunny and bright, wind whipping the tarp around and roughing up the lake.

I’m missing my friends in Bennington this weekend where they are celebrating 20 years of the MFA Writing Program. I graduated in 2002 and it is still in top form.

This weekend might see us out on deck again depending on the weather. It’s supposed to rain, but it might be nice to just sit out there with a glass of wine and a good book thinking about the future.

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.