Route 66 crosses the Texas Panhandle, and the best known city is Amarillo. The premier RV museum in the Southwest is here, Jack Sisemore’s RV Museum located at Jack Sisemore Traveland, an RV dealer, 4341 Canyon E-Way, Amarillo, TX 79110. The museum is free with hours from 8 to 5 weekdays and Saturday. The museum is in its own building behind the welcome sign. On exhibit are about 20 RVs, including six motorhomes. The RV Museum in Elkhart, IN may have drawn inspiration from the Texas collection. We spent several hours there on our slow tour of the Southwest on historic Route 66.
An early forerunner of the motorhome is the 1921 Ford Lamsteed Kampkar. At a cost of $535 you received a kit that your corner garage could mount on a Ford Model T chassis. Anheuser-Busch of St. Louis made only five, and this is one of them. There were black artificial leather seats for a family that converted to beds at night, with a kitchen in the rear that fit into cabinets. Ma could put the water on to heat while dad erected a fly to shade supper or keep rain off.
A red and white 1948 Flexible bus conversion was featured in a Robin Williams 2006 movie RV (the Gornicke bus). A recessed aisle floor left outside-accessible under floor storage for baggage. Longitudinal seats and a kitchen spanned the sides. We have seen the movie and stills from it are on display with comprehensive descriptions of this and other units.
Pick up campers have never been as popular as motorhomes and trailers including 5th wheels. The last one made by Avion in 1970 is on display, and it is remarkable for its clever design and spaciousness. Some friends of ours bought a new pick up camper that requires climbing up 4.5 feet and squeezing into a phone booth size space when the slide is in. When the slide is out you could hold a small square dance, but the modern design didn’t hold a candle to the Avion in the museum.
The two Winnebegos are interesting. The first is a 1974 restored motorhome similar to those used by Jack Sisemore in his RV rental business. His Traveland is the largest Winnebego dealership in Texas. The other is a 1975 Itasca, the first prototype for all Itascas that Winnebego still builds today. This one, Serial No. 1, has only 6,000 miles on it and is 23 feet long. The decor is pure 1970s! What is interesting is the many novel design features built into this unit, including a generous bathroom and shower.
Perhaps the premier exhibit is a 1976 FMC Motorhome that belonged to cosmetic king Max Factor, Jr. The custom interior design by Ruth Montamari is a marvel of tasteful understatement, with maroon and cream colors and simple but elegant layout. It had an interesting upper bunk in the rear. Its magnificent bathroom, in our opinion, rivals any in today’s fancy Class A rolling hotel suites.
Motorcycle fans will really enjoy the more than 50 historic and modern cycles, although many are mounted high near the ceiling where aficionados will need to bring binoculars for a thorough examination. The trailers on display cover a vast range in styles and age.
The gracious Sisemore Traveland hosts for our free tour answered questions and said we could stay as long as we wished. Traveland, in addition to selling Airstream and Winnebego Class Bs, sells several kinds of travel trailers and larger motorhomes. We checked out their inventory of Class Bs while we were there. Very interesting models, but we were not tempted to trade our Roadtrek for one. Their stock of RV accessories and parts is immense. They have several sizes of ice cube makers and washers and dryers — just what we need!