City Girl Country Bound

Trip Planning

City Girl, Country Bound

“The adventure begins the minute you start towing.” Jane Layman

When Jane Layman leaves her office in Manhattan on Friday nights each summer, she heads straight for the New Jersey parking lot where she stores her coveted Airstream. As the shining, towering skyscrapers recede behind her, so does the week’s workload. She will soon be towing her silver bullet to greener pastures, campfires, great camp food, starry, unbroken skies, and friends – lots of friends, with their own shiny Airstreams waiting to circle their wagons. This city girl with five star hotel taste is a study in contrasts. An accomplished professional with thirty years’ experience in clothing design and manufacturing, Jane leaves all the pleasures of the Big Apple behind on weekends and heads out looking for adventure.

Born in Berkeley, California to parents who prized culture, education, and experiences, she found herself on the east coast when her physicist dad, Robert Watson, took a teaching position at Dartmouth University What was supposed to be just a few years at the prestigious university became her whole childhood. It was most likely the phase that planted the road trip bug in her. Each year when the term ended, her parents loaded Jane and her two older siblings in their 1960s Volkswagen Microbus and they headed for their home in California.

Jane’s dad was a fifth generation Californian whose ranching ancestors had traveled there by wagon train before the Gold Rush. Her mother’s colorful family tree included the Chisholm’s, famed for their well-known cattle trail, as well as “horse thieves and bank robbers.” Spending summers with their aunts, uncles and cousins in California was an annual event but getting there was just as much fun to Jane. The cross-country trip with her parents is what Jane remembers the most. Seeing the country from the VW in those days before ‘in car movies’ and hand held electronic devices left a deep impression on Jane. Her parents were anxious to get to California, and although they didn’t stop long at any one place, there were stops that became part of the annual trek. Seeds were planted for places that someday Jane wanted to stay for more than a few hours.

At age 18 Jane headed off to New York City to attend the acclaimed Parson’s School of Design. She has worked in fashion since graduating and lives on the Upper West Side. When her parents retired they initially returned to California but moved near Jane when her father could no longer drive. He reasoned that if he couldn’t drive he wanted to live in a place where he could have lots of things to do without a car. In 1998 Jane’s parents bought a Ford Explorer and the three of them, along with her parents’ Springer Spaniel, went west on a 10K mile road trip through the US. They traveled a northern route on the way out visiting historic landmarks and staying at hotels and motels along the way. When they hit the west coast they visited Mt. St. Helen’s and then spent time with family and friends in the Bay area before heading home on a southern route and traveling along Old Route 66. When Jane’s dad called her one day to tell her to come straight over after work she expressed concern for his health. Her dad assured her that all was well but he wanted to show her something important. What he had was the “Design Within Reach” catalog featuring the limited edition Airstream designed by Christopher Deam. It was a 16’ Bambi model with a redesigned interior by the well-known minimalist. The modern interior design now matched its iconic exterior, which has only been modified 6 times in the brand’s history. Jane’s dad was thrilled when he saw it and wanted to buy it immediately for more trips, this time without the hotels and motels. Sticker shock threw cold water on that plan, but the bug had bitten deeply and nine months later they bought one of the few remaining models.

The happy trio headed out the following weekend to Mystic, CT to test it out. They spent weekends all over the east coast visiting friends in New Hampshire and New England but the New Jersey shore was a favorite spot for Jane’s parents. They regularly camped on Sea Isle at the shore and made friends they frequently visited there. There was always something to do at the campground and it became a great social outlet for her parents who no longer drove. Jane however was looking for a younger crowd. When she purchased the trailer she immediately joined the Wally Byam Caravan Club International. Wally was the founder of Airstream and an instrumental influencer in the RV industry. He founded the caravan club as a way for Airstream owners to travel together and share ideas and experiences. The club still exists today and has more than 6000 members. They hold regional, national and international rallies every year.  When you join, you are given a number that is placed over the front window of your trailer. When another member sees you on the highway they can look you up in their members catalog and say, “That was Jane Layman of Manhattan that just passed us! Member #2778!”

Jane went to her first rally the weekend after their trip to Mystic, CT. She soon realized that she had gotten more than a trailer. An Airstream comes with its own community. Since Jane had never camped and knew nothing about owning a travel trailer, this was a welcome surprise. Although she was the youngest member of all of the clubs she belonged to, she really enjoyed the camaraderie, rallies and planned excursions with the groups. She eventually became president of the Wachung group in New Jersey and purchased a second Airstream, a vintage 1963 Bambi. Each year Jane attends the International Rally of the WBCCI.

She has attended rallies in Wyoming and New Mexico and this year she will be attending the International Rally in West Virginia. One of the fun things that they do at rallies is called the Wagon Wheel. The owners “circle their wagons” and form a ‘Wagon Wheel.’ If the group is small, the ‘Wagon Wheel’ may be just a half wheel. If it is an international rally the ‘wheel’ could be several hundred trailers.

Sadly, Jane lost her dad at age 91 in 2013, but she and her 90 year old mom, along with Jane’s two teen aged daughters, Emily and Atterbury, keep on making memories and new friends in their Airstreams. Leaving the city behind, they set out for old friends and new escapades, enjoying the wide vistas, simple pleasures and life in the wide open, even if only for the weekend.

For Jane, switching hats and leaving the subways, cabs and crowded streets of NYC for the roadside stands, pastoral drives and familiar faces of her many Airstreaming friends is a way of life. It’s all about the adventure.

woman posing

Girl Camper

Janine Pettit

Janine Pettit is a lifelong lover of camping who took a 25 year sabbatical when she married a “resort” type guy! She discovered that camping was still in the cards for her when she stumbled onto an article about a women’s outdoor adventure group that travels around the country in RVs, meeting new friends, checking off bucket list adventures and doing things she had only dreamed of. Janine has become an Ambassador for the Girl Camping movement and encourages women to go places and do things in her blog and podcast.