Flexibility is key for us right now. (No, your driveway cannot go in that oh-so-perfect place without a culvert and this and that and the other thing... all of which could run you up to $10,000.) Okey dokey, then. Plan B it is.
Things are rolling along. We picked up this camper as a starting point for shelter up north. Originally we thought we’d create a fairly decked out tenting area for the season with an outdoor kitchen, tent platform, overhead roof, that sort of thing. Then we realized two things - we’ll often be arriving on our land late on a Friday night; pitching tents at 11pm after a four hour drive might be a drag. Hardly a big deal, but it was just something we thought of. The second, and most important reason for the tent-to-camper switch, is for Scout. He pretty much rules the roost over here in all of his Border Collie neurotic brilliance. And the truth is, he is not into driving around in the car. He endures the Connecticut to Vermont drive at this point, but it is not a tail wagging, head hanging out the window in glee, sort of experience. The thought of him hopping in the car each time we headed out for supply runs and that sort of thing was concerning. Poor guy would be miserable. And seeing as we can’t exactly zip the dude into a tent when we need to run out, we thought a camper was a good solution. A little slice of home for Scout.
Avocado green, three burner gas range with an oven! With a fairly decent stretch of counter for a 12 ft camper.
So, we have this camper now. It's a 1971 Shasta 1400, and we are only the third family to own her (love that). I named her Birdy. She’s the perfect size for us to tow with our small truck. After a bit of a makeover, we’ll take her north and set up a truly permanent camp. Hopefully it will only take another 2-3 weeks for the overhaul. Once she is all set up there, coming and going will be so much easier. Adam will build a carport structure for her to sit beneath. Nothing fancy, just some cedar posts and metal roofing. A little added protection from snow weight and heavy rains. The camper does not leak now, but you never know what the future holds with these things.
The truth is, it’s pretty small for a family of (basically) three adults to sleep in. When we first started thinking of going the camper route, we thought we’d go bigger. Get one with a bedroom up front, a bunk room in the back, and living space in the middle. I like the idea of having a shower that can run off as grey water. This one does not have that, which is a bummer. I do love a shower. But, there were a few problems with going big.
- They’re big. We have a Toyota Tacoma which is not suitable for towing a 25-30 foot camper. This meant we'd have to hire someone to haul it up for us, which is one more expense/thing to coordinate. We looked into purchasing one up there so the hauling distance would be shorter, but seeing as I wanted to Heather-fy every one I looked at (which is easier to do down here), geography was still a factor.
- They're big. The carport type structure we want to build for added security against the elements is simpler to build for a 12 foot camper, than it is for a 30 foot camper.
- They’re big. Our land is dense, rough, and extremely brambly (send goats!). We do have a woods road through some of it, but most of the land is hard to navigate at this time. Hauling a big ol’ camper up there would feel tight and impossible to maneuver and set into place.
- Also, they’re big.
The goal is not to live all cozy comfy in a big camper, the goal is to have something that is a passable, perhaps even charming, place to hang our hat (and house our pup) while we fulfill the real purpose up there, working the land and building a modest cabin. I imagine given its small size though, either the teen or the parents will wind up pitching a tent beyond the camper walls. But it will be good to have a solid base to keep basic supplies, do some cooking, and generally have a dry, mosquito-free place to hang out.
Oh! Because someone put super thick insulation in a 1" frame. We'll fix that.
A bonus discovery made during this decision to get a camper is that having it will likely allow us to build our cabin even smaller, at least the first phase of it. Emily will be perfectly happy claiming Birdy as her own for three seasons out of the year, still enjoying day-to-day living and shared meals with us in the main cabin, but not needing any of her own personal space within.
There's no going back now! There will be new walls, new flooring (cork? bamboo?), a dinette on the right and a couch that turns into a double bed on the left. A shelf for baskets to store clothes and such above the back window. The cool thing about redoing an old camper is that you can't really mess it up, and if you stay with the small ones, materials cost is pretty minimal. We are only this far into the process and can totally see why people get into restoring old campers as a hobby.
Anyway, if you haven’t already seen her in the land of Instagram or Facebook, meet Birdy. She’s quite a catch.
(Although if you ask Emily, her name is Joan.)