RV MUSEUM - AMARILLO TEXAS
When I first heard of an RV Museum in Amarillo, Texas, my first thought was, sure, some RV park on Route 66 through the American plains had some old trailers left behind and decided to put them on display. Wrong on most counts, but not entirely. Upon entering the former repair bays garage in the back of an RV Dealership, I was quite delightedly surprised to step into a charming look into the traveling days of the past and not so past. Fifteen historic motor homes from the 1930s, to the 1970s, laid out as if you might find them in a roadside camping ground, as if the occupants had just stepped away for a trip to the fishing stream.
Jack Sizemore and his son, Trent, Amarillo’s mayor for a time, run the long standing business of Jack Sizemore’s Traveland RV, just off the I27 interstate in Amarillo. Jack Sizemore started with a gasoline filling station in the 1960s and began a side business of renting out a motor home for a little extra income. The motorhome rental business eventually overtook the gas business and grew over the years to a major RV center in the Texas panhandle. But Sizemore, didn’t just rent RV’s and camping trailers, he began collecting and restoring unusual vintage examples about 25 years ago, some on his travels as far away as New Hampshire. In 2012, the Traveland RV Museum opened to the public, and is well worth a stop in Amarillo for a bit of real Americana nostalgia.
The American love affair with the roadways and byways of the great west, began almost as soon as the first automobile rumbled and coughed down a dusty road. But to escape overnight on long treks across the expanse of America, rather than stop and pitch a tent, the idea of the portable travel trailer soon emerged. First were simple cocoons with a stove and a place to store the tent, and over the decades, increasingly complex self-contained units of living, which could be towed behind the car, an eventually driven under their own power. This history of the travel modes of American wanderlust can easily be followed in this well presented and comprehensive unique collection.
The oldest in the collection is an Alma camping train from 1937, found in almost original state in a barn near the Alma factory. A 1946 Teardrop trailer was one of the first restorations and after 24 years still looks new. This unique trailer was built as a kit from war surplus, with many of the wheels needing bullet holes repaired. And take a close look at the rare Bakalite fenders, which came from the founder of the Kit manufacturing company, Dan Polkapaila. Of the larger stars of the exhibition, the standout is the 1948 Flxible Clipper Bus. One of the first versions of a self-powered RV converted from an actual bus. This sample made an appearance in the 2006 Hollywood movie “RV” with Robin Williams and a young Josh Hutcherson (now better known as Peeta in the Hunger Games movie). In the film the Flxible bus (converted for the movie) was driven by Jeff Daniels, Williams’ comedic “nemesis”. Perhaps the rarest of the collection is the first Itasca Motor Home ever built, a factory prototype from 1975 designated serial number 1. It stood in the Winnebago Factory Welcome Center for 20 years until taken to Texas. Other unique examples of the road ranging camping spirit are a gleaming 1962 Airstream and 1953 Fleetwood, found in a gas station parking lot, bought from an 85 year old woman who had been traveling the country in it from when she first bought it – from the first year of the make.
Also on display among the travel trailers are a number of motorcycles collected by the Sizemores, with plans to expand the exhibit with more of them, still mostly tucked in a warehouse. To complete the trip down memory lane, Jack Sizemore has recreated his original filling station, mostly of found items, but complete with his original massive cash register. The Sizemore RV Museum in now only the second of its kind in the country (the other a museum at the Winnebago factory in Wisconsin), and whether you’re old enough to remember the days of ice boxes and or just introduced to the luxurious style of the modern road motor home, it’s well worth a stop in Amarillo.
Visiting the Traveland RV Museum
Entrance to the museum is free of charge to the public and is open 9 am to 5 pm Monday through Saturday, basically the hours when the RV Dealership is open. The location is 4341 Canyon Drive, Amarillo, just look for the Traveland dealership sign and RV lot on I27/Highway 60, two miles south from the I40 interchange (3 miles south from historic Route 66). © Bargain Travel West
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