Imagine being able to meander across the United States leisurely, and then, when tired, climb peacefully into the back of your very own home and fall asleep dreaming about the open road.
For so long, in true hipster fashion, I scrolled enviously through posts and blogs about vintage campers. Cute little yellow ones, silver Airstreams, blue pop-up ones, antique chairs set up on the makeshift deck, flower boxes, solar panels – the list goes on. And then, it happened. Dave found a (what we believe to be,) 1955 Shasta camper.
Dreams do come true. Well, at least Pinterest dreams come true.
We drove thirty minutes to a neighboring town and pulled up to, what I can only describe as, a hoarder’s playground. Four campers parked haphazardly, three deconstructed snowmobiles, a barn with only three sides and a broken roof, hubcaps and broken window frames, and lots of cats. So many cats. Hello, small town Montana.
A jolly plump couple, in their pajamas at five in the evening, came rolling out of the house, screen door slamming behind them. “Yep, there she is,” and they pointed to the dirty, dented, silver tuna can on wheels.
This was not my Pinterest camper.
Dave walked around the thing, looking underneath for god knows what, as I stood back and tried to kick cats away from my ankles. “Can you hold on one sec?” Dave nodded for me to hop back in the truck. When we slammed the doors we could hardly control our laughter. “What the hell are we doing?” The thing had been through the ringer: hail damage, dents from backing into trees, a window had even been ripped out by a grizzly bear – but somehow in our delusional state, we saw potential. Without saying anything, we knew we had arrived at our decision. We hopped back into the yard of garbage.
“Will you take five hundred?”
“Done.” She stuck out her hand for a shake, and the camper was ours.
Before I realized what had just happened, we were hooked up and on the road back home. We parked it on the street and stood back at a distance, admiring our new purchase. I could only dream about the inside because the smell of mold and wet blankets kept me at bay.
It took a few weeks, and then a few months, before we had much of a plan for our dream machine. We began with total demolition. The entire inside had to be ripped out and gutted down to the aluminum siding. That meant getting rid of old blankets, paper towels, rotting wood, and even a dead bird.
Our weekends quickly slipped by with plenty of distractions – late spring skiing, then camping, running, mountain biking – and pretty soon September rolled around and all we had was an empty tin box. But the wanderlust gene inside of me flared up (can genes flare up?) and I told Dave I was ready to hit the road. We set a timeline: finish by Thanksgiving, take The Glamper on a test run, and hit the road in December for two and a half months. Now, after months of stalling, we had the fire we needed.
So began the hours of gutting, cleaning, and restoring. We set a budget for ourselves of $1500 in new material. Odds ‘n ends have added up quickly. Here’s where we stand:
Lumber: $200, Paneling: $100, Paint: $80, Window screens: $15
Fabric for curtains: $40, Heater: $170
Welding a new bumper and bike rack (that Dave just insisted on having): $400!
We still have to wire the place up, buy six lights, purchase gas lines and a propane tank, and find lots of cute things at the thrift store. We also have to have the bearings checked, and probably buy new tires. Ugh. Estimated expenses to come: $400?
So all in all, we’re probably not going to stay under $1500, but we’re pretty close. We tried to get crafty and scrappy any chance we get, but there were a few new things that really set us back, such as a new (safer than old) heater, and Dave’s bike rack.
But really, we have spent $2000 on our very first fully-owned piece of property! It actually feels different to invest money into this little tuna can, because we can finally say this is ours. We are proud to finally be homeowners. And this is just the beginning!
Follow us on our journey as we depart the end of December for the open road. First goal: take the camper out Thanksgiving weekend. After that, we’ll see where the wind takes us, and what adventures, people, (and likely mishaps,) we will encounter. Happy trail(er)s!