Sunday, October 30, 2011

This 'n' That From Our Latest Road Trip

Your pal Girl Camping Girl has been away from home the last several days, doing the Idaho-to-North-Dakota drive to visit family.

This, of course, involves crossing Montana, and there are certain places where we MUST stop--the bakery at Wheat, Montana, being one of them.

It takes all day to drive the breadth of Montana, but since it's one of the best states ever for roadside trailer-trolling, we have no trouble passing the time. Old trailers are EVERYWHERE in the Big Sky State, tucked into alleys, pastures, and backyards easily visible from the freeway. Probably a good thing that we hitched a ride in a vehicle that's not set up for towing, or we'd still be haggling with some hapless trailer owner or another, between Missoula and Miles City.

Montana serves as the seasonal home for one of our favorite queens of the vintage trailer phenomenon--none other than Miss Debra Bolnik, owner of Montana Camps and Cabins. Located near Bozeman, this enterprise finds, repairs, and restores vintage travel trailers. If we'd had to means to snap up an old trailer while on this trip, we could have dropped it off with Debra's crew for a re-do.

Here is Debra at the steps of Annie Lee Rose, her most amazingly restored Kencraft. This photo is from one of our 2010 road trips.

We can't make mention of any Montana road trip without showing you the 'Woodstock Or Bust' rig that we spied a couple of years ago just outside of Glendive. Love that vintage bus!

Eventually, we made it to North Dakota, where our first stop was the Hobby Lobby store in Bismarck. Had to snap up one of the vintage trailer Christmas cookie jars in this year's lineup of holiday items!

From Bismarck, we went a few hours north--almost to Canada--for a little time at Mom's house. Had to make sure she has next year's dates for Girl Camp on her calendar, as she hasn't missed Camp yet! Here's her little house on the northern prairie.

Now, we are waiting for the sun to come up for a day of playtime with One and Only Grandson.

'What's that, Grandma? Did you say we can go CAMPING?? I'll bring the cookies!'

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

A Glimpse Inside Barbie, the Girlfriend Trailer

Have a peek inside Barbie, a 1965 Shasta compact who lives with Girl Camping Girl.

Barbie is a 'girlfriend trailer,' kept for the purpose of loaning to friends when needed.

She truly is a girlfriend trailer, too.

The charming retro-kitchen curtains were a gift from Miss Francine. The Shasta compact birdhouse came from Miss Shelley. The green cup and saucer were discovered and presented by Miss Grace. The knitted pot holder under the cup and saucer was contributed by Miss Steph. It's like walking into a friendship treasure box.

Best way to justify an extra trailer that we've come up with so far!

Monday, October 24, 2011

The Mental Vitamins of Girl Camping

Did you know that Girl Camping is good for your health, with its own set of special mental vitamins? It's true!

Vitamin A is for Anticipation. Life would be very boring indeed with nothing to look forward to. But as a camping girl, you never lack for that, because you get to anticipate finding that trailer, fixing it up, the next outing on the calendar, and so forth. We love mental vitamin A!

Vitamin B is for Beautification. This is what's behind the urge to decorate your trailer and your campsite just so. It feels the soul while it feeds your eye and that of everyone else around you.

Vitamin C is for Camaraderie.  Camping with others is a bonding experience that launches and cements friendships. It's an antidote for loneliness and shyness and good for even the most dedicated introvert.

Vitamin D is for Delight. Delight, in its purely joyous state, is a hard thing to come by. But you'll get lots of it from Girl Camping, to push its opposite--anxious worrying (often the chronic state of people usually focused on 'being responsible')--right out of your mind.

Vitamin E is for Experiences of the New Kind. Without mental vitamin E, we stay in our familiar ruts, never challenging ourselves to do things like learning to hook up and tow a trailer, or going to an outing where we won't know anyone at first. Without mental vitamin E, we never get the reward of being able to say, 'I did it!'

Vitamin F is for Fun. There's no such thing is too much fun, but it's definitely possible to have too little, and to descend into a state where you even forget how to have it. Girl Camping is fun, personified. All you have to do is show up.

Vitamin G is for Girlfriendism. Many of us go the bulk of our adult lives doling out momism, wifeism, good-employeeism, caretakerism, and other 'isms' of the self-sacrificial kind. With Vitamin G, much of this giving finally comes back to you, in ways you never would have expected.

We're here at all times to help you find and take the mental vitamins of Girl Camping. It's why we have this blog!

(Also keep in mind that there is a Girl Camping page on Facebook, and that we adore all its visitors, old and new.)

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Walk-Away Signs For Trailer Shoppers

When it comes to buying a vintage travel trailer, we all start out as greenhorns. Typically, it's the low-priced trailers that first attract us. "Older Shasta, everything works, just needs TLC, $600 OBO."Sounds perfect, doesn't it?

Whoa. This is the most dangerous period of your Girl Camping life, because trust us--a $600 trailer (you were going to offer $500, right?) is almost always a $600 trailer for a reason. And it's one you want to walk away from, because it adds up to way more than the new-paint-and-curtains kind of TLC you most likely have in mind.

We're talking about water damage. The kind that's gone on for years and years, until it's rotted out the wooden framing, where you can't see it,  behind the trailer's metal skin.

Water-damage evidence is sometimes subtle. But when it's as blatant as the examples here, WALK AWAY. What's on the outside is your canary-in-a-coalmine clue to what's trapped inside and rotting the frame. Your only way to correct it is with a complete teardown and rebuild--surely not what you had in mind, because that would cost your $600 multiplied many, many times over. (We've seen someone spend $12K to 'rescue' a $600 trailer.)

From the Shasta trailer above:

This is the curb-side front corner.  It's rotted out (remember, there's wood under there) until the motion of travel sprung the metal trim. An attempt was made at some point to caulk up the edges, but at this point there's nothing left of the wood inside for the trim to screw back into. Walk away!

Here we have the curb side's upper right corner (and the left side looks the same). The sealant tape beneath the metal trim has dried up, cracked, fallen out in places, and allowed enough moisture into the seam to set up perfect conditions for mossy-looking mold. It's not just on the exterior, it's also feeding on the wood behind the seam.

Here's more of the same mossy, moldy gunk affecting the front window frame. You can scrub off what you can see on the outside, but remember, that metal window is set into a frame made of wood. See that double row of caulk atop the frame? All that did was seal the moisture already trapped behind the window frame. You know the advice--walk away!

Here's a close-up of the trim on the street-side rear seam. The sealant tape is so old, dried up, and shot that water has gotten into it. Now it's supporting its own life form. Yes, you can have the trim removed, new sealant tape applied, and the trim put back on. But do you really want to go there, knowing what's likely to have happened to the plywood behind the skin? Walk away, this is not your trailer.

We recommend that you take some time to read 'FAQs for Trailer Buyers,' by Robert Hessellman. He offers more good advice that's intended to save you the grief of a bad first buy.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

The Official Bird of Girl Camping

That's right, ladies--the official bird of Girl Camping is none other than that feathered friend known as...

The Pink Flamingo!

We'll leave it to the camping sociologists to explain why this is so, but something about the visage of the pink flamingo seems to signal 'let loose, the party's started!'

Even pajama designers seem to know that the flamingo goes perfectly with canned-ham trailers, summer umbrellas, and a pair of lounge chairs (plus a mimosa or two).

Pink flamingos go well with bold statements because they make a bold statement themselves.

You pretty much can't miss by giving 'something flamingo' to a Girl Camper as a gift.

Flamingos are versatile and hardy. They will happily stand guard outside your trailer, camper, or tent. You can put them in planters and never ever have to water them!

Which means...they will live forever as your Girl Camping totem, and never end up like this!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

The People You Meet When You Take Up Girl Camping

We'll let you in on a little secret.

When you first get bitten by the camping bug, it seems to be all about finding a cute vintage trailer, fixing it up, and taking it out on the road to some interesting places.

This phase can take a while. There are only so many old trailers out there, and a smaller number of those worth saving, so there's much looking, waiting, deciding, and dreaming to be done before that first (apprehensive?) trip gets taken.

But then--Katie, bar the door!--you do venture out, trailer in tow, and you find out what really makes the Girl Camping hobby fly.

It's the GIRLS themselves.

They're from all walks of life. They're funny and fun. They share your creative streak, in ways that will amuse and inspire you. Waistlines and wrinkles don't matter. They have a zany side that liberates your inner goofball. They share your yen for independence (and for garage sales!).

They see you pull up with a trailer in tow, and just assume that you're going to be another new best friend. They help you park, pour you a drink, and ask to hear your story.

And before you know it, your level of vitamin G (for girlfriendism!) is the highest it's been since...when?

Do you see yourself in the photo--for real, or for your future? Leave us a 'yes,' and we'll count you as in!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

The Objects of Our (Camping) Desire

A funny thing happens when you decide to take up Girl Camping (or whatever you choose to call it).

Items that you once dismissed as tacky knickknacks suddenly become objects of desire. If it's shaped like a trailer--you want it! And if it comes gift-wrapped from a gal-pal (or--gasp--your significant other)--you adore it.

It's been many a year (OK, make that many a decade) since Girl Camping Girl has played with dolls. But mini versions of travel trailers? Well, that's another story. There's an RV lot's worth of those in her possession, and she plays with them all the time!

Even when it's dead-of-winter, even when the camping season is months away, these little objects bring back memories, cheer us up, and motivate us. They're necessary totems!

Call 'em tacky, call 'em wacky, call 'em whatever you will. A tiny trailer will make you smile and inspire your style 'til you're on the road again.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

There Comes a Time (the Dreaded Winter Tuck-Away)

Girl Camping Girl and many of her sidekicks live in the Pacific Northwest, where a change of seasons usually guessed it...rain. As we all know (or should), moisture is the enemy of any vintage trailer, so the little fun-palaces eventually need to go under cover so they can be protected from what falls out of the sky.

Some gals take their trailer to a rented storage unit, some keep them in private garages or sheds, some use tarps or manufactured trailer covers as protection.

It's an established fact that some Girl Campers can't be satisfied with just one trailer, and GCG is one of those. 'The Fleet' is too big to all get into one shot (there are two more trailers tucked in behind these three), but it does make for an entertaining tour of trailers all in one snug spot.

Plus--the wine tastes just as good!

Monday, October 10, 2011

Some Signs That You've Found Girl Camp

Girl Camp is in Idaho, and literally at the end of the road, e.g. Idaho Highway 8.

One of the first signs that you're in our vicinity is the sight of this abandoned public school, easily visible from Girl Camp. The magnificent old building, constructed in 1912, is now privately owned by an out-of-state person who's sadly let it fall into disrepair. Alas, this landmark of the past looks like its days could be numbered, so we enjoy its aging old face while we can.

Girl Camp is surrounded by the Clearwater National Forest, a mecca for hunters--of elk, deer, bear, mountain lions, wolves, and the somewhat tamer huckleberries and mushrooms.

The General Store sells everything from huckleberry pie and ice cream to fishing worms, whiskey,  waders, and gas. And has nice rooms for lodging upstairs.

You can also get a really great breakfast at the General Store, after you've stocked up for fishing!

This 3-foot wooden cutout, complete with lace garter, stands at the top of Girl Camp's corner lots.

Girl Camp also has a hand-lettered sign adorned with two china plates on hangers. So far, the elk hunters haven't shot them down (possibly because we decided 'Sum Boys OK.')

Of course, the MAIN way you can tell you've found Girl Camp is by spotting a row of vintage trailers parked on the grass! When the gals are camping, there's a tiny town within a tiny town, nestled in the forest.

Feeling short on your fun factor? We know where you can get a booster!

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Girl Camp, in October--Pretend You're Here

Greetings from Girl Camp, where the October morning mist is hung with woodsmoke and the scent of apples begging to be picked.

A couple of us are here to do some of the pre-winter button-up chores, like putting the umbrellas and other outdoor furniture away.

The hillside grasses are in their autumn colors, but the trailer parking areas look like verdant putting greens (until you get up close--then they look like deer have been using them for personal potty stops--which they have been). The deer trails up the hillsides are well etched.

One of our tasks will be to cut down the vines and perennials that grow in the Girl Camp garden. Always something of a bittersweet day, but still a good feeling when all done and ready for heavy snow.

Cuz believe us, in these parts (Girl Camp is in the midst of the Clearwater National Forest), we do get snow.

No snow today, though, as the sun's now out and starting to burn off the mist. Lots to do, but then there's no such thing as a bad day at Girl Camp!

Friday, October 7, 2011

Girl Camping Tip: U-Haul Is Our Hitch-Up Friend

So what's a gal to do when she needs help in the trailer-hitch department? Let's say she has to buy one and have it installed, or get a repair, or add an anti-sway system, or even have the tongue and coupler of her trailer completely refabricated?

Here's a great place to start: Call U-Haul.

Seriously. U-Haul isn't just in the moving business. It's also in the trailering business, and by association, in the business of installing, supplementing, and repairing trailer hitches. U-Haul rents its trailers to customers who pull them with their own vehicles-----so it just makes sense that its technicians will have plenty of experience at coming up with the right hitching system for what you want to pull, with what you have to drive. A full-service U-Haul center can be found in most areas of the country.

So just keep it in the back of your mind as a resource.

Girl Camping Girl doesn't have any association with U-Haul other than as a regular and appreciative customer. Some things about camping and trailering are DIY, but for safety with hitch-ups--we go with a pro.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

As the Camping Season Draws to a Close

With a nod to our southern and southwestern friends, who have some of their best camping weather  coming right up, we northern folks are starting to tuck our trailers, campers, and tents away for the upcoming winter.

You may all join Girl Camping Girl in a loud chorus of BOO-HOOs. (And if you can manage to squeeze in one more outing or two, even if just to a gal-pal's back yard, the advice from here is go for it.
Spring will be a while in coming back around again.)

To keep spirits up once the curtains are drawn on bonafide camping, we can recommend:

* Campfires on the patio! The smell of woodsmoke is good for your soul, any time.
* A nice bottle of Happy Camper wine, preferably shared with a camping friend. (Call her, if nothing else.)
* Display of a favorite camping memento (we even top our Christmas tree with a trailer ornament).
* Getting next year's camping dates FIRMLY on the calendar, so you have times to look forward to.
* Establishing the 2012 Girl Camping Piggy Bank, and making regular deposits to it.

How else will you be passing time until your next chance to hook up and head down the road? All ideas welcome, and hey, you can always stop by here or our Girl Camping page on Facebook for a few minutes of camping in your imagination.


Saturday, October 1, 2011

Traveling With An Icon In Tow

After you've had a Girl Camping trailer for a while and been a few places with it, you'll begin to notice something:

The sight of your trailer will make other people curious and happy, and then they will want one, too. A vintage trailer is iconic on its own, but the addition of an independent gal at the wheel plants a notion.

If she can do this, maybe I can do it, too.

Girl Camping Girl's trailer has been chased down the street by a woman enthralled by this vision. Notes get left on her windshield in parking lots. Perfect strangers ask for tours, take photos, then walk away with a dreamy look. Once, a woman rushed from her house to the trailer parked across the street, acting like she'd just seen Cinderella's coach in the 'hood. A few weeks later, sure enough, we spotted a cute little trailer parked right there in her driveway.

Got a tale like this to share about getting attention, everywhere you go?