It's been a looooooong time since I blogged. I'm so rusty at it, but I want to try today because a) I would like to share some things with you, and b) I'm concerned that if I don't, Blogger will sell this off to some foreigner who will take it over just for the few followers and turn it into an ad site. This is way too personal for me--even now--so I shudder at the thought! (And it also makes me wonder if I should preserve the stuff I've blogged somehow. . . but that's fodder for another day.)
I want to look back on 2016 and share some of the best parts of it. Partly just for fun, and partly because I want to remind myself of the good stuff. And there was good stuff.
So here's the first Good Thing: Tilly.
I'm using mostly the photos that the seller used in his listing, so it does not look quite like this now (it's nestled against a fence under our redwoods at the side of the front yard, and has different decor) but his photos were good and I'm lazy. Besides, it's fun to show you the photos that first caught my eye!
She is a 1951 Boles Aero. The outside is aluminum, which we could polish to a high shine like those fancy Airstreams--but we're leaving her dull. Both DH and I like the look, and also it makes her blend into her surroundings better; if we polish her up she might look like something worth stealing.
The view from the front door (click on any photos to embiggen)
I came up with the idea of getting a trailer this past summer. I realized it would solve several problems we have, mainly the need for a space for guests and the need for quiet home office space for DH, who is now working from home 3 days a week minimum on the average week, and who was spending hours sitting out with his laptop in the car. (I booted him out there. It was just crazy making to have him home and working in the living room and then we all had to drop what we were doing and go into the bedroom and pretend we didn't exist whenever he had a phone meeting. I just asked him to do it when he had meetings but he would end up staying out there all day sometimes, and that's just not a good solution.)
The dinette at the front. the table folds down and the cushions lay flat to make a bed. It's pretty comfortable--I've slept on it for one night! There's lots of storage underneath and behind that far back cushion.
So I started looking around the web at what might be available, first locally and then branching out to other states when I realized how few camper trailers would meet all our desires & needs. I wanted vintage because I wanted an interior of real materials that I could clean and might hopefully be healthier to be around than outgassing plastics. And of course because I wanted to actually like it. I am not such a snob that I didn't consider something less cool, and spent several hours looking at and considering more modern options. But even though there was an abundance of late 60's, 70's and 80's trailers, they were all so depressing. I realized there was no point in even considering a trailer that I would not actually want to be inside--and there were no trailers of those vintages that I could envision myself in that didn't involve "Jack and Diane" playing the background and me developing a drinking problem and wanting to grab a rifle and go shoot something. Possibly myself.
The adorable kitchen.
So that vintage choice narrowed down the field considerably, since most older campers are either way out of our price range or are in need of complete restoration. So that was another determination--we had to get a camper that was usable as is. It was fine for it to need some work, but it needed to meet our basic needs immediately with very little cost or effort. But yet it had to be imperfect and in need of repair or we could never afford it!
With surprising amount of storage!
I also had a specific layout in mind. I wanted a "real" bed, not a fold-down sofa, and I wanted it to be in the back of the trailer so there was a distinction between living and sleeping spaces. This was because I was envisioning a few years when we might have a college girl who needs a more independent but cheap space to live in.
Not only does this trailer have a little bedroom in the back--with another door for emergency egress, even--but it has a sliding wooden door so it can be closed off from the kitchen.
Ideally I wanted the trailer to have a tiny water closet--just a toilet, although a shower would be an awesome bonus.
A functional toilet/bedside table combo was not quite what I had in mind.
But a closet that can easily be build out to fit around a toilet? Yes. And in the meantime there's plenty of room for a camping toilet (in fact DH's parents left theirs after they visited and it's in that closet as I type).
For it to be a full livable space for a young person it would also need plenty of good storage space, and I was particular that it needed one full-length closet for hanging things. This trailer has two, so which means decent clothing storage even with one closet converted to a toilet room.
Of course to get the separate sleeping space the trailer was not going to be the teeny-tiny kind--but we also needed it to fit between two redwood trees at the side of our yard. That made another restraint on my looking--it could not be longer than approximately 22 ft, but shorter would be better. This one is 18 ft.
With all these specific desires and needs in mind I looked and looked. I found two possible trailers. . . in Michigan. Another cute affordable restoration. . . in Florida. (If a trailer was perfect enough we would have traveled to get it--but closer would clearly be better.) I tried to buy here in California but didn't win the bid. . . . By the time I found this one, I had looked enough to know that it was a real contender. And it was only 2 1/2 hours away from us! There were two other trailers we considered (one was so awesome--it had a toilet already and a working vintage pot-bellied stove! So sweet.) but had to knock out of the running for various practical considerations. So it ended up being this trailer . . . . or I'd have to wait a few months and start the search all over again, which I was not about to do (It took me several weekends of obsessive looking--because when you find a good one it is likely to be snatched up quickly, so you have to be thorough but fast). When I called to inquire about this one from the owner, he said there was someone else interested who was going to tell him yes or no after the weekend. I said we would be there first, cash in hand. So DH and I got up early and drove up to Sacramento first thing Monday morning to look at it, ready to purchase on the spot.
(I had to take a picture for posterity, because we went to the bank and cashed in all the bonds my grandmother Evah had given me for important life events--birthdays, graduations, marriage, etc.--to pay for part of the trailer. I've been saving them all these years, and they are finally all completely mature. And I finally had something worth using them for.)
We had such a specific list of things we needed/wanted, and I still can't believe we got them all, in a trailer that was a "fixer upper" enough to be affordable but in good enough condition to be usable immediately. This trailer only has minor issues, mainly that the heater, fridge and stove all need maintenance, so they don't currently work. That is so not a big deal. I don't even need those things right now, and the seller was confident that they would be easily restored, and even updated from propane to electric. The other issues with the trailer are just that almost everything is original (he made new cushions for the dinette and his wife made the new curtains) and so looks worn and needs a tlc. The linoleum in particular has two damaged places--easily covered with those floor rugs and putting in new flooring is not a big deal when we want to do something about it. There's likely asbestos and lead in a few places, but if we leave those places alone it's fine for now. There's some hardware missing on the back window that needs to be replaced so it shuts properly. There's that whole toilet "improvement" someone made that will have to be dealt with. And we need to get new keys made for the doors. And of course we would want to get a new mattress. But that's it. Those are the "totally fine for now" flaws that put this trailer within our price range.
In person the trailer was just like it looked in all these pics, and talking to the owner we felt really confident in the purchase. He's a hobbyist, and car guy, and so when we realized there was a problem with the door handles not locking from the inside he just got his tools and fiddled with the handles for an hour until he got them working! The more we hung around and chatted, the more we liked him and his wife--and the more we realized we were buying the trailer from the best possible source. Because they are literally the people who wrote the book on vintage campers:
They also are the editors of the Vintage Camper Trailers
magazine! The more we chatted the more we realized they are not only experts in the field, but are also a Christian homeschool family! Needless to say, the whole transaction was extremely positive and felt like it was meant to be.
We brought the trailer home, somehow wedged it between those two redwood trees, and immediately started using it:
DH working and helping Merry with math. It's darker with the back curtains closed, but we're not crazy about the view of the neighbor's plastic fence.
And it has wonderfully met all our needs. DH moved his home office into it within the week. We bought a nice mattress for that back bed and when my parents came to visit us we gave them our bed (since it comes with a working bathroom!) inside the house and DH and I slept out in the trailer every night, quite comfortably. When my in-laws came this fall they stayed in it--warm and cozy, even if the rain is a bit loud on the roof. It's a great space for me to go and make phone calls of my own, or even to have the occasional quiet napping or reading space for a needed break. And the kids sometimes go out to the trailer to play or do schoolwork or practice music--or make a whole world for their Barbies.
But the trailer has been even more of a blessing that I had ever imagined.
For example, another practical need that I had was storage space for Costco and stocking up during sales. I realized the trailer would perfectly meet that need! So now the kitchen cupboards and drawers hold pasta and crackers and food stuffs, while the large cupboards on the fridge wall hold paper goods. I even use the fridge and oven for storage if I need it!
Other blessings that have come from the space is the ability to retreat into it when DH and I need to have a private conversation. We've really needed to have a lot of those kinds of discussions this past year, and somehow the trailer feels like a sanctuary. A safe space. I'm sure everyone else takes for granted the ability for parents to close a door and have a conversation away from child ears but we haven't had that for the past 12 years, and it was very much needed.
We've learned it is also perfect for one-on-one discussions with the girls--I've already had so many meaningful talks with them when things have been rough. So much bonding made possible because of that "away" space.
And then this holiday season I discovered another, wonderful blessing: a space for me to have just for doing Christmas things! In previous years I had bins under the house that I would stash packages and presents in as I gathered them--but it's no fun standing in a dirt crawlspace opening and sorting. Then I would have to wait until Home Christmas Eve when the kids were in bed before I could get any of it out and wrap presents, stuff stockings, etc. Which meant it has always been a super late night--which of course you all can identify with. But I've never even had a kid-free place to wrap presents in. This year the mysterious bubble envelopes from Ebay and brown boxes from Amazon were starting to pile up unobtrusively in the living room (awaiting me to go find them a storage bin under the house) when the lightbulb came on in my head: I could stash the things in the empty (well, except for camping toilet) trailer closets! So that's what I did. And when I got enough things amassed I used the bed as my space to sit and open packages and organize. I had light, a comfy seat, and even had a heater turned on! And the best part was when the box of Fannie May candies arrived and I decided one of the boxes of Mint Meltaways was for Santa. You can see it in the pic, the low white box on the back of the toilet/bedside table. That really turned the space into my private Christmas retreat. The only other thing I needed was music--and yet, the hours of quiet were music to my tired mommy ears too.
Not the best pic, being at night at from my cell phone, but this is where I spent many a happy hour this past month.
(You can see the vintage quilt I have on the bed too! That was another little piece of happiness, because two summers ago, when I was looking at vintage quilts on Ebay, I saw this one and for some reason decided I was going to bid on it. I have no idea why. I see so many gorgeous things and don't feel the need to own them. I didn't need it. It's adorably retro but not really the style or colors of our house. So after I bought it I immediately chided myself--why did I waste the money? It also smelled vaguely like mothballs--I forgot to ask the seller about such odor. Sigh. So I tucked it away in storage and decided not to worry about it for now. Until we got the trailer this past summer, and I realized the quilt's odd size is exactly right for the custom trailer bed! And the retro style is perfect for the vintage of the trailer! And the colors are so cute in that space! And the trailer has lots of healthy air exchange built in so the quilt is getting to be used but air out at the same time! So one more little thing about the trailer situation that makes me happy. It was almost like purchasing that quilt was foreshadowing for our purchasing the trailer. : )
So this past month the kitchen became the place to wrap presents (and store cookies to keep them cool when I didn't have freezer space! Sure, it gets nice and toasty in there when we have the space heater on, but otherwise food stays cold).
And on Home Christmas Eve, the dinette became the place to store empty boxes and things that were wrapped and ready to go. (It got more organized as the night went on ; )
So the trailer--which I dubbed Tilly when we were pulling her behind our car Lettie on the way home after her purchase--has been such a blessing to us this year in so many ways. Overall, I can't believe we got such a cute and functional trailer for the price we did. It was expensive still, but as my dad put it, it was the cheapest home addition we could have made!
And one of the most special things about it--while it was my idea, DH got behind it and supported me in it. It became something we did together in a year when we were really struggling to live in partnership because of all the family dysfunction we're finally seeing and trying to learn to deal with in healthier ways. This was something we did together, being proactive about our home needs, our family needs, our relational needs. It was totally worth it, and one of the best things that happened in this past year.
Thanks for letting me share it with you!