Right after Weston was born, I started looking for a camper. William had started asking about camping and it honestly is something that Jeremy and I LOVED doing when we were dating. Forgive me for a moment while I pop in my Beaches Soundtrack and get nostalgic all over you.
The year was 2005…maybe 2006…and almost every summer weekend, we loved getting all our friends together and going out on the lake. We would spend the whole day wake boarding and then roasting dogs and marshmallows on a fire left from the previous nights lake occupants. We would pull out the tents, girls all in one, guys all in the other….and of course, there would be a night full of giggles and whispers and the guys trying to scare the living daylights out of us. We have stories of ‘crap rock’ and the token camping virgin who was scared of every little sound. There are memories of waking up to a tent full of mosquitos and pitting cherries for breakfast. It was honestly the best time of our lives. You know….before we discovered how awesome children are 🙂
I wanted to pass that love along to my kids….but honestly…the appeal of sleeping on a hard surface and waking up with achey bones has passed me by. I will do it mind you….because it’s still sleep….but it’s not my preference. I like pillows. And pillow tops. And being able to move at least one part of my body the next day.
So fast forward to 2012 and I started searching for campers. And the budget was basically nonexistent. There once was a listing on Craigslist for a free one….Jeremy drove an hour to see it at 5:30 am….and it was already gone. Years past by. I got really into reading all the info I could about vintage travel trailers….what mechanically could be terrible….what a good deal looked like….what pitfalls to look out for. The whole shebang. I even remember finding out I was pregnant with Max and my first thought was…well, now I am gonna need a bigger camper. It was a really really long process….until the week after Christmas in 2015. I found a 1977 camper called a Red Dale in South Carolina.
We called the number listed and it was in towable condition. The axles and the undercarriage were well protected and the previous owners were giving us an amazing deal….$1300. WITH A ORIGINAL TITLE…which is something that is a rarity in the south. The listing on Craigslist was misspelled…”travel traler” and it didn’t pull up on any other search…so I think that is why this gem was still available. It seemed meant to be.
The kids got loaded up and explored the tall grassy lot while Jeremy slid on his back in the mud to see if he could get the lights hooked up. That afternoon we drove the baby home. This guy was all ours. It was January 4th, 2016.
Yes – a little over a year ago we bought a vintage travel trailer and we haven’t mentioned it till now. SURPRISE!
The thing is…we wanted to work on it as soon as possible…but then we had to pay for a new roof for the Monroe House and it cost a lot more than we anticipated due to structural issues. So that came first.
We knew that the trailer could wait…that the roof was more important….and so we waited. It was our secret and those are rare in the blog world. The thing is….it’s 2017 and a little over a year later and it gave us ample time to watch every camper transformation ever made on You Tube and read every travel trailer makeover ever written on blogs. It was our ‘research’ period and hopefully it will save us time and money in the future. I say hopefully…because let’s be honest….this is still a huge undertaking…and one that pushes us outside our comfort zone. But that’s life right?! Eleanor Roosevelt (my favorite) is accredited to say “Do one thing every day that scares you.” and boy….this is a gonna be a whole lot of one things.
We are REALLY excited about it….nervous and terrified and slightly overwhelmed….but mostly excited. I mean…look at it – it’s got so much potential! And hopefully when it’s done, we can take it on a voyage up to my grandparents house and park it right there in the back yard 🙂
(look at those baby faces! And Will’s why-are-we-taking-a-picture-in-front-of-the-camper? face!)
This guy is a Red Dale – which is a travel trailer manufactured by the Red Dale Coach Company out of Colorado in the 1960’s and 1970’s. There isn’t a ton of info available about these trailers but from what I have found out…it’s made for colder weather and this particular one is in decent condition considering its age.
We definitely need a rock guard as that was missing and we are actually handing off the propane part of the makeover to the pros. I don’t wanna blow up. It’s just a personal preference thing.
Most of the exterior is in decent shape. We found a couple spots that we need to replace a single piece of aluminum but as a whole…we believe it should be in good enough shape to clean and seal and repaint. I say that because we haven’t dived in yet…who knows what is really in store!
The inside is a makeover waiting to happen. The one end is a sitting/dining/sleeping area with a giant bed (at least for a travel trailer. It has upper storage on two sides and a duck wallpaper border on the other 🙂 The cushions and the table are original but very worn and the we think we can salvage the mechanism for the table…but we have to wait and see. The flooring was added later and that will go. There are a couple soft spots in the flooring….so basically everything comes out so that we can repair subfloor issues.
This camper has the kitchen in the middle and it is small and original.
We haven’t decided yet if we are gonna salvage the stove….it’s hard to test without the propane hooked up and there are many more options now that are energy and cost efficient….including countertop hot plates. So we shall see. The location of everything will remain the same though.
Next to the stove is a pull out pantry – which coincidentally does not pull out….and then a fridge that is REALLY bulky. The newer versions are much more efficient and we have decided that we will probably replace it. You know….so we can actually fit a dozen eggs in there. The fruit wallpaper will probably go too. We are contemplating a microwave somewhere in here….I would trade a stove for a microwave and a hotplate in a New York second….is that weird?
Across from the kitchen is another sitting/eating area that converts to a bed. This is the one area that we can’t decide on. Do we remove the upper cabinets on the left and make it bunks? Do we figure out how to make it a bigger bed? Do we keep the cabinets and buy removable bunk beds that can fit on the floor? The boys are little enough right now to all share the big bed in the front and Jeremy and I can possibly squeeze into a large twin….kanoodling required….but what would be best in the long run? The debate is still up in the air.
ALSO…full disclosure…we don’t see ourselves using this camper forever for our entire clan. It might go to a family member eventually or used more as a ‘family’ camper for special events. My brothers go hunting a lot and this would be nice if they needed it. Or like if we went with another family…like my sister’s family….the girls can opt to stay in here and the guys (and I have a lot of those) can sleep outside in tents. The possibilities are endless….but it’s kind of our version of a ‘starter’ camper. One that we can learn from and use those skills for when we find a bigger camper that will fit the whole family for world wide travel. Yes I know about the oceans…calm down. That being said….we want to make practical decisions on the renovation….because we know that most times, this won’t be used to fit a family of six.
Beyond the kitchen and dining area is the bathroom. This bathroom is SO nice. I have literally looked at a million camper bathrooms and this thing is like the Taj Mahal….look at all that space!!!
SO again…the whole thing will be gutted because of a spongy spot in the floor. UGH. But the square footage space is so great. It has a vanity, small upper storage, a toilet and even a tub.
Yes…that is the original tub! It’s tiny and we are gonna try our best to salvage it! Someone put a weird seat made out of wood on it….and so that will be the moment of truth. PRAY IT DIDN’T MAKE HOLES IN MY MUSTARD YELLOW TUB.
This is the part that I am most excited about. The tub. For camping bubble baths 🙂
Across from the tub is a big door with a full sized mirror…#spoiled.
And that has a huge closet that is almost TOO much room for a trailer. Storage is usually at a minimum in these campers but this one seems like it has a lot.
ISN’T THAT SO FUN?
I mean…like I said before…it’s crazy nerve wracking but so exciting at the same time. We have some definite updates that need to happen just for it to be sufferable….heat, air, water lines, the electrical works but it needs updating as the wiring is *probably* all outdated (this is an assumption from our research on these trailers), and the subfloor will be a big job. And any dry rot will need to be removed/replaced/sealed and then that doesn’t even start us on the actual layout, new fixtures, design portion. It’s DEFINITELY going to be an adventure. And yes, we are telling you all this because we are starting THIS WEEK. You can follow along on sneak peeks on Instagram…I’m @bowerpowerblog if you want to join along the fun.
Now I need to hear your camper-renovation stories….what was your budget? What was your timeline? What did you wish your camper had? More outlets? A stove vs a hotplate/microwave? A bigger fridge? A set of bunks? A hammock? A bidet? A butler? Spill folks! 🙂