Tag Archives: vintage camper

My trailer might be cursed

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It’s taken me a little while to gather up the energy for this post. Sometimes it takes a little bit of time and perspective to have a proper laugh over events that really aren’t funny as they are happening.

We sold our beloved red trailer and bought our ’67 Yellowstone in June. It took a few weeks and a team of elves to get her nearly into camp-ready shape. We tried to take her out in the heat of July but were thwarted by problems with our doorknob. The rest of July was just too unbearably hot to think of camping. August was pleasant but somehow we were never able to go. More than one weekend Rob or I suggested that we might finally make it away for a long-awaited inaugural night in our trailer, but for one reason or another no 24-hour space could ever be carved out to get away.

In the meantime, I made progress on our doorknob issue. The actual replacement knob was just too expensive to consider. I found a similar knob that I thought would work, but when it came in I found that the inside knob prevented the thing from closing if it were installed, and that the opening on the side of my trailer door could not quite accommodate the hardware. I ordered the handle version of the same knob and asked my kind brother if he’d cut a larger opening on the side of the door. He was glad to do this but had not yet had a chance to do it when mid-September rolled around.

In August, when our schedule prevented us from camping, we did make a date with some friends to go together in September. We still held out a hope of going by ourselves before that date, but in early September our towing vehicle overheated and had to be taken in to a garage. We were hoping for a minor radiator problem; instead we discovered that our old Discovery needed a whole new-to-it engine. This was unfortunately in keeping with all the other experiences we had in the first two weeks of September, what with the plumber, the electrician, the waterproofers, electrician again, and the sad state of Rob’s primary vehicle making us wonder why our karma took such a nose dive. But I got through the upheaval in my home and the pain of writing the checks by fixing in my head an image of how much fun we were going to have finally camping with our friends. We were to get our old ‘Rover back on that Friday, and would load it up and head for camp with our friends after soccer practice on Saturday. I daydreamed about the dog finally napping on her little bedroll, about finally getting to use all the sweet accessories I’d had so much fun collecting, and in general of relaxing in that space and using the night away as a barrier between the problems we’d been having and the new week that was to start on the other side.

Now, I’m 36 years old and I’ve had things break before. I really do know that when cars are supposed to be done on Friday that they sometimes aren’t. I know that getting through stressful events by focusing on one that may not happen is not really a good coping strategy…but somehow in the heat of it all I lost that wisdom. So when Friday morning came and I phoned Rob to make arrangements for picking up our ‘Rover and found out that it wasn’t actually ready at all, I should have dealt with it better but I didn’t. Instead, I’m sorry to say, I, um, lost my shit. I cried like a baby. I cried about my kitchen sink, and my dishwasher, and my basement, and the wire to the garage, and the hole in the back of Rob’s car hood, I cried because I knew that I should actually get a grip and be grateful that our family is whole and healthy, I cried about the money, and mostly I cried because I really, really, really wanted to finally use my damn trailer and I couldn’t.

Rob said we should go camping anyway. We had a tent and we had supplies, we had friends planning to meet us, and we had all the s’mores ingredients I’d already bought. I knew he was right. I didn’t want to break our date just because we couldn’t take our trailer. I occupied myself with other things for an hour or two to calm down and then I sat down to make a list of the things I’d need to gather to go tent camping. Then I started crying again. Almost everything we needed was in the camper. I was going to have to go in and out of my trailer a hundred times to unload and repack all our sleeping bags and gear, and I felt like root canals, childbirth, cat poo cleanup, or that “Call Me Maybe” song on endless loop would have been preferable to taking our camping gear out of the Yellowstone without ever having used it in there. I promise I really did (and do) have perspective on where my Tiny Ass First World Problems fit in the grand scheme of things, but that perspective isn’t actually all that helpful when you’re in your kitchen losing your shit over a disappointment that may not be worthy but is still very real.

I thought about ways to get myself out of unpacking the trailer. The most achievable scenario seemed to be renting a truck to tow it to our campground. We spend a certain amount of money on each family member for Christmas; if I petitioned to use my Christmas money this weekend to secure a rental truck no one was likely to complain. In fact, the kids seemed very enthusiastic about the idea (they were disappointed too, after all) and I think Rob must have felt like anything was better than me crying about it again. I discovered that the rental car companies would not rent me a car to use for towing, but that I could secure a U-Haul pickup with a hitch for a reasonable price. I went to make my reservation and discovered that most of the area’s U-Haul pickups were already reserved for the weekend, but that I could pick one up 10 miles away in Indiana. I’d have to be driven over by Rob and the kids, be charged for mileage back to my house, hitch the trailer and drive the 28 miles to our campground, then do the whole thing in reverse the next day and have the truck back within the 24 hour rental space. I didn’t even hesitate. Mileage charges for Christmas, a time constraint, and the extra hassle couldn’t possible be as bad as unpacking my trailer to go tent camping. I reserved it.

We were a happy band of campers that Saturday morning. We checked off the soccer game, packed our cooler, picked up the U-Haul truck. I wasn’t bothered that I didn’t have the new doorknob on the trailer yet. The old one still shut but just wouldn’t lock. I bungeed it to the handle-grip next to the door to make sure it wouldn’t come open in route.

I invited Belle up into the passenger’s seat of the U-Haul and we left home, with Rob and the kids following me in our family car. (The family car, for the record, does not have the towing capacity to handle our Yellowstone.) Our friends sent us a text message that they had arrived at our campground and secured a nice site for us to share. I sent back the happy message that we were leaving and planned to be there soon.

We’d gone about a mile into our 28-mile trip and had not yet reached the highway when the trailer door flew open. I pulled over and surveyed the situation. The bottom of the handle-grip to which I’d bungeed the doorknob had come off the side of the camper and lost its screw. The top still seemed to be firmly attached. I went inside the trailer and collected duct tape, made sure no items inside had shifted to where they were likely to hit the door and force it open again, and then duct-taped the door shut all around. I made a loop with the tape and re-attached the handle-grip to the doorknob as well, for extra security. We laughed cautiously at having to stop so soon into our journey but felt like we’d remedied the situation and traveled on.

We were on the highway traveling through Louisville’s west side when my duct tape job gave way. The door to the trailer flew open with so much force that the door’s window shattered in a spray of glass. The metal handle-grip detached from the side of the trailer and flew through one of the trailer’s back windows, also shattering it. Rob immediately phoned my cell to ask if I’d seen it, but really, how could I have missed it? We were near an exit and we took it, pulling into a vacant lot right off the highway. Rob and I got out of our vehicles and stared at the broken glass shards that were all that was left of the door and back windows. Rob put his arm around me and kept saying, “I’m so, so sorry.” I knew he really meant, “please do not start crying again. Please.” I fetched the trash can from inside the trailer and we disposed of what glass was left in the broken windows.

At this point we decided to try bungees again. I had a stout bungee in the back of our family car and with the windows out we had more possibilities for places to hook it. We got the door shut very firmly and duct-taped again more thoroughly for redundancy. We made it across the state line and were only a couple miles from the exit where we’d leave the expressway when the door swung open again. We took an exit and made for another parking lot. The bungee had shredded like dental floss. I don’t know if it was an old bungee, maybe a little brittle after a lifetime in the back of my car, or if the force of the door was just too much for even a bungee in good health.

We were only a few blocks from a hardware store I knew of, but Worth had fallen asleep. If Rob left me with the trailer in the lot he’d have to wake the boy up to take him inside the hardware store. We couldn’t wake a sleeping kid; I abandoned the U-Haul and the trailer in the parking lot and crammed myself and my fifty-pound dog into the front seat of the family car. Dorothy, Belle and I sat with sleeping Worth while Rob went in and purchased a bucket of fresh bungees. We made it back to the trailer without waking our boy, got Belle transferred back to the U-Haul, then set about securing the door with as many bungees and at as many points as we possibly could.

Once we finally pulled in to the park which housed our campsite I felt like we we’d come much farther than we had. The grumpy lady who took our money asked skeptically if we had reservations. I thought “bitch, you are not going to keep me from camping here.” I assured her we had a spot and drove off without listening to whatever else she had to say to me. No dominatrix gatekeeper with a librarian complex was going to stop me now. We were united with our friends, parked the trailer at our spot, and then I parked the U-Haul at the lot designated for extra vehicles. Another camper told me he liked my truck. I didn’t whack him.

The next 18 hours passed with far less drama. Some of our party got covered in ticks, but at least that is a possible hazard that always comes with camping. The children had great fun burying small cars in dirt and then exhuming them; the grown-ups drank a lot of wine and beer. Our dog went into overprotective watch-dog mode and growled at everyone outside our party all night long. But it was fun. It was fun to finally put down the bunk and hoist Dorothy up. It was fun to unroll the bedding and sleep on my polka-dotted cushions. Our friends’ homemade wine was delicious, and it was even better to drink it out of the aqua-swirled cups I’d placed in the trailer cabinets with such great expectation. We walked, we sat, we drank, we talked. The weather was perfect, the food had all the smoky flavor of a real fire. Ahhhhhhhh.

I’d like to end the story there but unfortunately there is a wee bit more to it. We stayed in happy camper mode a bit too long the next morning and were in a rush when we finally bungeed everything closed, hitched the trailer back to the U-Haul and pulled out. Our configuration of bungees this second time around didn’t seem to be as well-engineered as the day before and the door started swinging open and then quickly, violently closed as we drove down the state road near the campground. We did what we could but were still concerned about getting home with out incident. After our first stop to rearrange bungees I realized we were probably not going to make it home in time to turn around and return the rental truck within our 24-hour window, and two days of U-Haul rental was a more generous Christmas gift than I’d intended to claim. I phoned my parents, who lived much closer to our campground, and appreciated their willingness to house my trailer until we could get the door secured.

We dumped the trailer at my parents’, dropped off the U-Haul in the nick of time, then piled once more (dog on my lap) into the family car to get back home. I don’t think I’ve ever been so tired after such a short trip. My nice brother came to my aid a few days later, installing the new knob and even pulling the trailer back to my house for me. We think we’ll get our Rover back this week, and Rob already has a new camping destination in mind.

I’m not sure how I feel about it. We’ve gone to a lot more trouble than I ever intended to have a little family fun. The adventure reminded me a bit of our day trip to Mercer County, without all the poo and nudity and with a little more genuine frustration. I’m still working on laughing about it properly. I’m hoping that after this experience and the one before it, the next time I post about traveling with our Yellowstone I’ll just be gushing about all the fun we’ve had. Yes, indeed.

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Working on the interior

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No time for a real post, but I have to share some photos of the progress I’m making on sewing for the interior. Some of you saw the teaser to this post on Facebook–the photo I paid my daughter $1 to pose for, under a wool blanket in the heat!

Camper madness takes over

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Disclaimer: This post is coming from the slightly OCD Renata that once brought you trailer textiles and a camper fridgie. What can I say? I get focused on one thing and beat it to death. I’ll clean the bathrooms some other week; right now my energy is consumed with Camper. It’s not a bad life, really.

First, I got stuck under a grumpy 2-year-old at my computer and needed something to do while I sat there and held him. So I created a camper graphic to put on a new yard sign for our campground. Here it is.

Then today I found these totally awesome mid-century Samsonite suitcases at an antiques/junk store and bought them because I’m traveling by air on a trip next month and clearly I needed these old blue cases to avoid confusing my luggage with everyone else’s on the conveyor belt. The wheels and handle still work perfectly, the lining is intact, the keys were included, and the metal is shiny and perfect. I get the feeling they were mostly stored instead of used. The original “Ladies’ and Men’s Packing Guide” was still tucked into the big one, advising me to “use shoemitts of fabric” to pack my shoes. I swooned, because I’m into that kind of thing, you know? The original Samsonite tag was also still on the big case, never inscribed, but I think I’ll tuck it away with my packing guide for posterity and decided to make my own instead.

I went to print out the card to tuck into my new homemade luggage tag (the fabric is a laminated cotton) but couldn’t find a design that seemed right on the Avery website, although I often find really great printables there. Then it struck me that this was an excellent opportunity to use my own new graphic, so I designed a card with it and stitched it in. I think it looks perfect, and now I’ll have a little piece of my camper with me as comfort when I’m trying not to vomit at 32000 feet. (Campers=good; flying=bad.) Then I decided that my children need t-shirts with the same graphic (don’t they though?) and maybe even me too. So I headed over to Cafe Press, where I discovered that it is cheaper for me to offer my own graphic as an item for sale and subsequently buy it myself than it is for me to just privately design and purchase my own product. Sort of annoying. But why not? Most of my search engine traffic here is from people who google campers, so maybe they need Renata-designed camper merchandise too, right?

So in case you happen to fall into that category here is the link to my brand-new Cafe Press store, where you too can join the vintage-camper-graphic-wearing crowd. Or something. Who knows what’s next? Maybe I can convince Cafe Press to start offering fridgies.

Camper elves!

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So the timing of my new camper acquisition didn’t seem too great. I pulled it home on a Tuesday, got sick with a summer cold next day and spent the remainder of the week dragging around the house feeling lazy and yuck, finally got up enough energy to paint part of the exterior (see last post) over the weekend, then left for Philadelphia with the kids. After all the excitement of getting my little Yellowstone I was let down at not being able to work much on it.  But then something magical happened! On the day before my trip to Philly my maternal grandparents came by to see the new camper. It turned out that they had also owned a late-60s Yellowstone of about the same size and layout. How fun! Granddad remembered every detail; Mamaw’s fingers couldn’t stop themselves from doing a little cleaning around the kitchenette while they were there looking around. I got the grand idea to leave the camper over at their house during my trip. I could tell Mamaw wanted to scrub it a little and I figured they’d have fun just having it there on site for a few days. So I pulled it over to their house and left it, all dirty and full of miscellaneous supplies, in their driveway and waved goodbye. The kids and I spent a jolly five days visiting friends and family and driving 1400 miles.

When I left the camper at Mamaw’s the entryway looked like this (above).

And when I came back it looked like this!

And when I left the back wall (with water damage under the window) looked like this.

And when I came back it looked like this!

It turns out that a little more than cleaning went on while the Yellowstone was parked at my grandparents’ house. My mother and her parents (all pictured here with my kids) caught vintage camper fever in my absence. They might have started just cleaning, but they ended up completely refurbishing the interior. Granddad replaced the damaged and missing veneer on the back wall and in other spots, Mamaw cleaned every nook and cranny, together they stained and sealed every surface, stained and rehung all the cabinets with the new hardware I’d left behind, painted the metal parts that needed repainting, and then on the day I drove back across the Pennsylvania Turnpike Mom laid the new floor while Granddad (did I mention that he is 85 years old?) went behind her with the base shoe. Wow! It looks fantastic! It was really fun to see what they’d done, and to savor the idea that my beloved family had such fun on this project while I was gone. It felt like camper Christmas going through it today with all the surprises! I think they all had a great time doing it too and we all enjoyed the big unveiling today. Now I get to pull it back home and finish the exterior paint, and then I’ll be straight onto my very favorite tasks of sewing the new cushions and curtains and outfitting it with all our supplies. I hope I can talk my grandparents into making a little excursion with us once it’s done, even if it’s just a daytime camp-out at a nearby park. Now this is a family business!

In which I use aqua paint twice

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Two unrelated projects, two different kinds of paint, but one color scheme. Here we go:

Folding chairs, rescued from my basement. They came with the house. First I spray painted them…

…then made fabric covers for the back and a nice padded foam one for the seat. I’m keeping these in my garage to pull out when I need comfy seating for child-watching in my back yard and swing-set area. Love making something cute out of old forgotten items left in my basement!

And the new camper. Unfortunately I haven’t finished this job because of threat of rain, but I have one coat on most of three sides. It looks sweet. Here’s the door side before (can you find me in this photo?)…

…and after. Check out my rims! It’s hard to tell exactly what the original blue shade was on here, but I think I probably went just one notch brighter. I love it so much that the first night I had to keep peeking at it our my bedroom window, just to take one more little look at the awesome aqua stripe. My husband has started teasing me about it, which I totally deserve. I can’t wait to finish up the exterior paint job and really make some progress on the inside. It’s going to be so cute! I’ve been watching (and winning) some online auctions for vintage Pyrex dinnerware, with turquoise and flamingo (reddish pink) bands. It’s going to look perfect in this little camper. You know me and dishes, right? I can’t pass up the opportunity.

She’s here!

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So almost two years go I bought my first camper, all ten feet of it. Rob and I were enthusiastic but anxious–would we use it? Could we tow it? Would it smell odd? I did not believe the nice woman at Fine Design Camper Sales who told me she was selling me my “starter camper.” I thought we’d be lucky to get our money’s worth out of it. Well, I guess the joke was on me. Not only did we enjoy camping in it, I also sort of fell in love with the whole vintage trailer scene. Fast forward to today…when the very same Sherry sold me my second one! Can you tell Worth loves it as much as I do? It’s a 1967 Yellowstone. It needs work, which you can be sure you will be reading more about.

It contained the paperwork from when it was new, including this awesome old sales brochure. I can’t wait to repaint the faded turquoise stripe on mine! (This one looks too classic to do anything too creative with the paint.) The interior of this little 14-footer looks just like the photo on top, but, you know, with forty-five years of wear to the birchwood and fixtures. Again, I can’t paint over the inside but I am looking forward to restoring the wood and having fun with new fabrics. This one has the original aqua appliances. Sweet!

And am I wrong, or is that actually me in the bottom corner picture with the baby in the stroller? I think it might be. We’ve just now been reunited. Fun times ahead! As the brochure says, “From the compact fourteen foot to the spacious twenty-seven foot, there’s a model to suit almost every wish plus a travel trailering promise of happy, carefree times.” Indeed!

My camper is sold!

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I listed it on craigslist a few days ago, but because I’m, um, emotionally attached to the item it took me a few days to get the courage to own up to it on here. Don’t laugh–the next owner is going to love it too. And of course I’m not getting out of the vintage camper business, I just have my eye on a new one with an extra bed so my son can get booted to his own sleep space and will quit kicking me in the ribs all night. I think an extra two feet or so of camper will serve us well. So hurry up and share the link to mine, so I can sell it and buy the “new” one! Eek!

ETA: Camper is now sold and listing is no longer active. Thanks!