Wednesday, October 23, 2013

My Airstream: From Roadside Relic to Cozy Cabin

'Airstream.' The very name conjures an iconic image, because it's the most widely recognized brand of travel trailer ever made.

That's how I ended up with one as my first vintage trailer. I knew nothing about vintage trailers except that name, and neither did Mr. Ed (hubby dearest), who gave me the 1972 Airstream Sovereign Land Yacht, above, as a Valentine's Day present in 2006. He purchased it as an estate item, parked alongside the road, from the son of the man who'd traveled and lived in it for quite some time. It had been sitting empty--uncleaned, unused, unsheltered, and unmaintained, for five years.

The fact that Mr. Ed got this 31-foot classic trailer for $2,500 probably tells you that by 2006, her days of grandeur were long behind her. Her built-in living room furniture was shot, and so was the carpeting, thanks to slow, chronic leaks that had never been addressed. The awning fabric was torn and tattered. Her drapes were gone and her fridge didn't work. Her tires were old and needed replacing. The plumbing was just plain scary. Her north side came with its very own moss colony.

Not to mention, every interior surface was coated with a combination of cooking grease and the grime of 'lived-in.' I ended up scrubbing every square inch with a toothbrush (many toothbrushes). The crud was impervious to common household cleansers, but I finally got rid of it by using Excalibur Sheath Cleaner. Horse people will know what this concoction is for--I'll spare everyone else that detail.

Today, she's still nothing fancy. She'll probably never be material for trailer-rally-with-awards (unless there's a first place for funky). She has a painted floor, thrift-store furnishings, off-the-rack curtains, and a dorm fridge to fill in for the original one that still doesn't work. But she's clean, dry at last, super cozy, and makes an excellent portable cabin. That is how we use her, by setting her up in one place for extended periods.

Blessedly, the air conditioner still works like a champ, and so does the furnace. We sometimes use a mini-electric fireplace with faux flame for a little extra atmosphere. The original fridge and freezer have been repurposed as pantry space.

For half the year, we keep the trailer in a mild-winter area of Idaho named for a native American chief, White Bird. Whereas you might see cowboy boots and tooled belts as decor in my other trailers, the Airstream has moccasins and other beaded items.

Conflict with the U.S. Army also marks the history of White Bird, as do a series of plucky, independent pioneer women. The Airstream's center cabin pays homage to both. The vest on the wall, with Indian warrior and cavalry trooper, came from my closet at home. The cowgirl images are framed calendar pages.

This Airstream model has a rear bath with a nice, big window--the better to see the view! In winter, the Salmon River. In summer, forested mountains. (Easy to come by in Idaho.)

Beyond an incredible amount of elbow grease and leak-sleuthing/stopping, our two main investments in this trailer have been for tires; and replacement of the old awning fabric. Combined, those improvements cost about $2K. The tires were necessary and replaced right away; it took until this spring for the awning to make it up to the top of the discretionary-spending list. I do have to say, it's great to have use of the awning again. At 20 feet, it adds a large outdoor room to the entire setup, and the shade factor is enormous, in more ways than one.

I've learned a lot about this trailer since getting it, and a lot more about vintage trailers in general. As complete novices, we had no idea what we were getting for that initial $2,500.

It turned out to be more than enough.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Wigging Out With the Girl Camping Girls

FUN is the name of the game when the Girl Camping Girls get together. We love parties, dressing up, and sometimes we even go a little wild with wigs.

It's fun to take on a different persona for a little while, and a crack-up when your friends do likewise. And, hint-hint-hint, those Halloween wigs will be going on sale shortly!

Of course, not everyone fancies the idea of sticking a pile of fake hair on her head for the sake of entertainment. In which case, there is always...

...that card of fake mustaches, on sale right next to the wigs!

Have some fun today, however you define it--
Girl Camping Girl

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Girl Camping: It's Not HGTV, It's Real

We interrupt the regular vein of our posts about vintage travel trailers to say a few words about the reality of Girl Camping, or any camping for that matter:

It's something that you do, not just something to look at. No matter how much white lace you throw at it, real-life camping still involves gear, personal clothing, and dealing with the elements. And unless you do it solely as a hermit, it also involves the company of others who've chosen to camp with you--and whose own stuff must fit into the picture.

In other words, it's not HGTV. It's not like the pictures of people's perfect campers on Pinterest. Set your overnight bag down into an all-white, linens-laden 'glamper' gone viral on Facebook, and there goes the fantasy part.

More importantly, we think it's important to state that in real life, taking your rig out camping is not meant to be an activity that sorts you into Winner or Loser. It's not a competition for cuteness. The other people don't come there to judge you based on some secret code of standards. You don't have to possess The. Perfect. Camper. to be welcomed and accepted. Girl Camping is not about 'let me outdo ya' unless you want it to be--in which case, you'd be ignored.

Unfortunately, due to the relatively recent rise of social media with visuals, some folks have gotten the above-mentioned false impressions. This was confirmed in a recent conversation with one of our Facebook-page fans. It was the eve of her departure for her very first group campout, and instead of talking about her great anticipation, she confessed that she was terrified.

'Not good enough,' was what she feared. We assured her she was going to a party, not a persecution, and that she was about to meet new friends, not critics. When she got home, she messaged back to say, 'You were right!'

This doesn't mean we're trying to tell you to stay off Facebook and cancel the Pinterest account. Go right ahead and indulge--it's an element of the fun.

Just don't fall for the notion of perfection that you see on-screen, allowing it to hold you back or keep you sitting at home. Go places and do things now, with the means you have, and before more time gets away.

The rest will take care of itself.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Trailer Decoration Ideas

As a general rule, the women who own and camp with vintage travel trailers are crafty and creative. Part of the fun in camping as a group lies in seeing what others have come up with.

Such as the brass music stand, above used as a sign holder by Miss Joyce. Not to mention the sign that lives up to its name--HAPPY.

Pennant banner made of bandannas, with cutout trailers as the fobs. This goes with Miss Carol's hand-painted trailer, Half Broke.

Wee pony saddle atop the propane tank of Miss Pat's Pony Tales--a Lil Loafer that's wee in her own right, with a box that's just 7 feet long.

Old beaded souvenir belts are the screen-door trim on Miss Julie's Oasis.

Instead of a standard globe, Miss Sandy uses a Ball canning jar for her Boler's porch light. But the real beauty of her trailer lies in its simplicity.

Even we introverts need to hang with a group once in a while, just for the inspiration. And what could be better? When the crowd thing gets to be too much, all you have to do is step inside your trailer and close the door.

Happy Girl Camping!

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

2013 Travels With Iron Pony (1972 Red Dale)

This trailer's name is Iron Pony. She's a 1972 Red Dale, and the trailer I camp with most of the time (yep, I have more than one). Here she is the first part of April, just out of covered storage from the winter.

This also is from April, when I took the trailer out to a Sisters on the Fly event in south-central Washington.

End of April, on the Salmon River. I towed up and down several mountain grades to reach this site and thus kept the 'extra frills' to a minimum. The less weight and less load to shift in transit, the better.

Mid-May, north of Lake Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, for Miss Mig's birthday campout. This was a rainy, chilly weekend, so no decor that couldn't get wet.

Early June, at Riverside State Park, near Spokane, Washington, for a campout held the same weekend as the Farm Chicks Antique Show. I filled the trailer with flowers before leaving home, and set them out at my camp when I arrived.

July, at Girl Camp, my little slice of heaven in the Clearwater National Forest. Iron Pony has her very own RV slab and corner bar here, and she spent a good 2 months enjoying the wonderful view that comes with both.

This fall, back on the Salmon River at Swiftwater RV Park, White Bird, Idaho. Notice the different RV rug than in previous shots? I think I may like this one the best--what about you?

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Trailer Painting: Transformation in Progress

Just thought I'd share a few shots of my 1961 Aloha compact as she's been getting her DIY facelift by me and my helper Randy.

Here's the rear of the trailer on the day I got it home. Note the heavy caulking around the window and down the J-rail trim. Cleaning off the moss and lichen growth was nothing compared to getting rid of all that caulking. I probably spent 8 hours just on getting the trim rail clean enough to unscrew it from the trailer, and another 12 cleaning all the trim down to bare metal.

This is the point at which the trailer was stripped of all trim, lights, and windows, and was ready for minor repairs and sanding. We'd already cleaned the roof and resealed its seams and around the vent. Randy worked some magic with Bondo, filling in small cosmetic dents like the one to the left of the door. Then we got to know every square inch of the trailer, making her surface as smooth as we could get it via sanding with green scrubbies and an orbital hand power sander.

Then she had to go gray-ugly for a while, with primer applied where needed (some of the old but original paint stuck on well enough to serve as a primed surface).

This is her status now, with a fresh coat of white automotive paint to match my white Ford truck. Once the paint is fully cured, we'll restore her red stripe. Then the cleaned and polished windows will go back in, and we'll reapply all the trim and seal it. She's getting new light covers and reflectors all the way around. She'll need new tires and cosmetic attention to her wheel surfaces as well.

When finally done, she ought to be pretty darn cute. And I'll be able to take what I learned from this trailer, plus all the tools I purchased to do the job, and apply both to the next one.

Of which there are several, waiting their turn!

Monday, October 7, 2013

Trailer Painting, Underway

In May, I was the beneficiary of a nice older man's goodwill when he decided to give his 1961 Aloha compact away to a good home. It hadn't been used in 15 years except by some nesting wasps. After I got her home and cleaned her up (bye-bye, wasp nests!), I decided she was due for new seals and a new coat of paint.

Not that I'd ever done any of this before--I had not--but I just figured 'what the heck, it's a free trailer and as good to learn with as any.'

Many, MANY hours later, her trim was off, windows removed, her roof was cleaned of old mobile-home coating and resealed, and all the hand-sanding was complete. I used green scrubbies and an orbital hand-sander to remove old flaking paint and to get a smooth surface.

Next, on the advice of an auto-painting buddy, the bare-metal places were treated with rattle-can automotive primer.

Since this is a spare-time project, it took until the end of July to reach this point. By then, it was too hot to paint, so the next steps had to be put on hold.

Yesterday (first weekend of October), the painting planets finally aligned! Tucked into part of the barn, now a makeshift painting booth, the Aloha got a fresh coat of automotive paint applied with a Finex paint gun. Whereas I lost count of the prep-time after the 80-hours mark, this step took less than an hour.

Now I'm letting her sit, curing, for the 72 hours recommended by Auto Painting Guy. Then her red stripe will be restored, her trim and windows will go back on and in, she'll get new tires and hubcaps, a modern propane tank, and new light covers all around. She'll be like a trailer-Cinderella, ready to go to the ball.

I have no idea how long of the rest of this is going to take. But it sure will be nice to work with a CLEAN fresh surface, instead of the one I started with.

And, I can also say, without reservation, that I now understand why quotes for professional paint jobs are as high as they are.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Vintage Trailers: From Hobby to Industry

Have you noticed it--the surge in products, TV episodes and advertisements that are capitalizing on the growing craze for vintage trailers?

From speciality businesses like La Crema Coffee Company to mass retailers like WalMart, the image of a vintage trailer---tied to the dreams and memories it stirs up--has become a hot-trend way to get products flying out the door.

For proof, do a Google search for 'glamping,' or 'vintage camper,' and click 'shopping' from the menu bar.

Want fabric with little trailers on it? No problem. How about a child's indoor play tent that pops up to look like a vintage trailer? Or maybe a doll-sized playset with camper trailer and accessories? Or pajamas with tiny trailers in the graphics? Birdhouses? Cookie jars and teapots? Salt and pepper shakers? Jewelry? You can find all that and much, much more with a vintage trailer theme, just by going online.

If you run across any interesting links, share them in the Comments section.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Girl Camping Girl Returns (to Blogging, That Is)

Behold, a moment of epiphany.

Not long after the last Girl Camping blog post, in July, I celebrated a milestone birthday by throwing a 4-day party for friends who brought their trailers. There I am, Girl Camping Girl, with just one of many wonderful gifts from the guests. It was the kickoff of a grander-than-grand time had by all.

In fact, there was a point at which I was so swept away and laughing so hard that I simply could not tear myself away to fetch my own camera and record the scene, for sharing later.

That's when it hit me. Camping is about being in the moment. It's a real-time activity, undertaken in large part for creation of R&R--not for doing more of the same that you do every day. I happen to 'create content,' as they put it now in media, for a living. Why was I even thinking of leaving the first-person fun in order to step back behind the wall of professional observer?

So I created my own gift for myself, right then and there, with a decision to stop blogging for a while, and do just go camping instead.

Everything has its seasons, and I've just had a dormant but rewarding one as among the blogging unfaithful. Seasons do change, though, and the Girl Camping porch light is back on. So, thanks for your patience, and see you again real soon.