Friday, January 22, 2021

The Airstream Basecamp Is a Little Camper--and We're Glad

An easy park and plenty of space

"Look at all the room we have!" my wife exclaimed when we first stood inside an Airstream Basecamp, and I absolutely agreed with her. The interior of the Basecamp was huge compared to our RTTC Polar Bear 5 x 10 tiny trailer. 

I now own a new 2021 Airstream Basecamp 16-footer, and I'm still reveling in the larger space but also coming to realize that the Basecamp is a little travel trailer. Space is a precious commodity: storage is limited and transformation of available space from activity to activity is still the daily routine. Cooking space becomes office space, benches and tables transform to bedroom, and the bathroom/shower . . . well, watch your elbows and head! This isn't a bad thing, though, and that's what I want to talk about today. 

The cooking space inside the Basecamp is a big change

In the first article I wrote for this blog--"Why Such a Tiny Trailer?"--I articulated the reasons why my wife and I chose to buy a tiny trailer, tiny even though the RTTC Polar Bear was a "standy," the largest of the company's line. Here's what I wrote:
  • We wanted a trailer small enough to fit those campground sites that aren't linked to the sewer system, sites that fit into the natural landscape, rather than bulldozed, "tract home" sites.
  • We wanted a trailer we could pull with the vehicle we owned. 
  • We wanted a small trailer that I could tow and learn how to back more easily.
  • We wanted a trailer that put us outside more often, where even with our "safe haven" tiny room, the outdoors campsite was still our main living space.
These reasons for camping in the tiny trailer lifestyle still are important to us, and now that my wife and I own an AS Basecamp, it's a good feeling to realize that we can still honor our initial impetus for camping as we go out with our new trailer. We can still maintain our lighter environmental footprint when we camp, and we can still travel light and easy. Those four principles for tiny trailer camping still apply to the Basecamp. Let's take a look.

We wanted a trailer small enough to fit those campground sites that aren't linked to the sewer system, sites that fit into the natural landscape, rather than bulldozed, "tract home" sites.

Airstream built the Basecamp to be agile and more capable to travel to those harder to reach destinations. The online company pitch is as follows: "The Basecamp Travel Trailer was made for those who want to see the world. Built for adventure, it’s a small camping trailer that’s tough enough to go anywhere your wanderlust takes you, and comfortable enough to help you really enjoy the time you spend there." 

I'm somewhat reluctant to completely buy any company's sales pitch, but the fact is the Basecamp is built for more rugged travel, especially the "X" package, although even the original model was designed with rougher roads in mind. For my wife and me, though, we're mostly interested in staying off "Sewer Row" when we camp, and the Basecamp allows us to do that. At sixteen feet in length, the unit will fit just about anywhere that we would consider taking our original tiny trailer. We can set up camp where the larger rigs will just drive by. "Nope, too small. Not for us!" We don't have to say or think that.

Our Nissan Pathfinder pulls both tiny and little trailers

We wanted a trailer we could pull with the vehicle we owned.

We tow the Basecamp with our Nissan Pathfinder. I've found the Basecamp pulls easily, but whereas with the tiny trailer I wasn't even aware that I was towing, with the Basecamp, I do notice the weight. That's not to say that the Pathfinder is overmatched; it's rated to tow 6,000 pounds. However, the BC is about two-thirds heavier than our tiny trailer, and the extra weight is noticeable.

We like the idea of not having to buy a special vehicle just to tow our trailer--or buying a special RV that we drive just when we camp. The SUV does double duty; it's both a family car and a tow vehicle. This saves us original investment dollars and also money on the road because we get better gas mileage than the large rigs.

We wanted a small trailer that I could tow and learn how to back more easily. 

The simple truth is that I wouldn't feel comfortable driving a large RV or pulling a large trailer or 5th-wheeler. For me, the comfort of traveling small supersedes whatever luxuries and comforts a larger unit provides. Having camped in the Midwest for a few years, what I've discovered is that there are very few boondocking opportunities available, if the definition of "boondocking" means off the grid on federal or wild land. However, I'm discovering more and more campsites that are labeled "primitive," meaning no electricity, modern showers and toilets, and sometimes even no drinking water access. These campgrounds are perfect tiny trailer territory, especially for those solar equipped. Some of these campsites are described as tent campgrounds but are still accessible to lightweight tiny campers, as long as the sites are not carry-in.

The Basecamp, especially with its solar capacity, is also accessible to these Midwest primitive sites. With water, propane, and solar, the Basecamp's small size allows it to be accessible to many of these primitive campsites--and you can still camp with some comfort. The Basecamp is small enough to fit, and just like tiny trailers; however, those design limitations also limit inside space for movement and storage. Bigger than our tiny trailer, the BC still provides my wife and me with head-scratching moments as we think, "Now, where are we going to put that?" Careful utilization of space is a necessary reality that allows for lightweight travel. That's the price of being able to camp off Sewer Row, a price we happily accept.

Exploring the inside space

We wanted a trailer that put us outside more often, where even with our "safe haven" tiny room, the outdoors campsite was still our main living space.

There is a rhythm to tiny trailer camping, a routine that allows for living well even though living small. Perhaps the easiest way to describe that rhythm is that you deal with tasks one at a time, and when done with a task, the next step is to put away everything associated with that task. It has to do with the reality of space allocation and transformation. Done with sleeping? The bed becomes the sofa and dinette. Done with cooking? The interior space becomes the office. Going for a hike or bicycle ride? Get out the appropriate clothes and shoes; put away the leisurewear. 

Our outside REI canvas chairs are more comfortable than the benches inside the trailer. Tight quarters inside lead to creative living solutions outside. Sleeping at night inside the trailer is a "safe haven" experience, not so much an issue of security (although I do feel more secure inside) but mostly a safe haven from insects and inclement weather. A tiny trailer allows my wife and me to extend our camping season; in fact, we've found now that our favorite seasons for camping are the "shoulder" seasons. The campgrounds are less busy, and the weather is often milder. We may have to bundle up, but that's a small price to pay for avoiding chafing from the heat . . . and chigger season!

The Airstream Basecamp is not a tiny trailer, but it is a little trailer. Most of the challenges and joys of tiny trailer camping still apply to camping in the larger (but still little!) Basecamp. Yes, it has an inside kitchen, bathroom, and more leg room, but the BC also requires careful consideration of space and a certain neat-freak regimen of housekeeping. The Basecamp allows my wife and me to store our unit in our driveway without offending our neighbors with its bulk. It allows us to get down the road and to find a campsite with a minimum of fanfare (and gas consumption), and it allows us to find those smaller campgrounds and campsites that are farther away from other campers, more secluded and private, more natural surroundings and less citified. Does the Airstream Basecamp provide the "golden mean" of camping, the middle way between the extremes of too small and too big? For my wife and me, it might just be. We find the Airstream Basecamp is a little trailer that gracefully leans toward tiny. Thank goodness!

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Tuesday, January 19, 2021

Steve and Amberly Russell: Walking the Tiny Trailer Talk

Two degrees below zero. anyone?

Two school teachers from Connecticut, Steve and Amberly Russell were married only a year before buying their first tiny travel trailer, an RTTC Kodiak Stealth. "We ordered our first RTTC in November 2018, a Grizzly Bear, but later switched the order to a Kodiak Stealth. We took delivery of the camper in April 2019. We later sold this 2019 Kodiak Stealth in May of 2020 and built the new Kodiak Stealth that we have now in order to test out new prototype features."

What makes Steve and Amberly special as tiny trailer owners is that not only do they own a Rustic Trail Teardrop Camper, a Kodiak Stealth, but they are also part owners of the company, having in 2020 bought the company (along with Amberly's brothers Derrek and Jermey Long) from its founder Jonathan Sechrist. In these unique times, the Russells were able to combine three factors--business owner input, the coronavirus pandemic, and schools teaching online--to live for long periods of time in their little home on wheels. They were able to walk the RTTC talk by living and experiencing tiny trailer life not only as trailer owners but also as business owners. Let's put some numbers to back up that statement. "During the summer of 2019, we visited over twenty different states and put around 15,000 miles on our camper within this first year of owning it," they say in their RTTC blog. They have also lived full-time out of their 5 x 10 camper for six months while teaching remotely and running a small business. 

Kansas, December 2020

The Russells had to get creative in how they utilized the tiny interior space of the Kodiak in order for both of them to teach remotely at the same time. Often, Amberly would sit upon the bed of the camper with her laptop positioned on a makeshift desk consisting of blankets and the optional Rustic Trail Teardrops outside table. Thanks to the interior walkway space inside the Kodiak Stealth, Steve was able to set up a camp chair located in front of the bed while using the countertop area as a desk. Many innovations came from living full-time in their Kodiak Stealth, many of which ended up in production versions of the campers. Steve and Amberly explain the dynamics of this process in their blog. 
"As you can imagine, living in a tiny camper for a long period of time gets one thinking about what kinds of changes and enhancements could be made to our line of campers. During this time, we redesigned the dinette for 2021 giving greater ease of use. We also created a new optional front cabinet layout for the Kodiak that provides added storage and flexibility. One of our favorite innovations was the sliding RV queen-size bed in the Koala Bear which gave our customers the ability to sleep on an elevated platform instead of the floor–something that is rare in a 5 x 8 camper. In total, over a dozen changes and improvements were implemented to our line of campers throughout the summer."

Steve and Amberly give a big shout out to Derrek Long (co-owner and Director of Operations) and the build team Levi Sechrist, Zachary Shelton, and Jonathan Moser. "RTTC is a team operation, and we are very thankful for their hard work and dedication to Rustic Trail Teardrop Campers." 


Towing in New Mexico

All this time on the road and in the camper is a tribute not only to the Kodiak Stealth but also to the Russells' tow vehicle, a 2014 Lexus RX350 with a factory tow package, which is rated to tow 3,500 pounds. That's plenty of muscle for the 1,525 pound trailer. Previously they owned a 2012 Toyota Highlander that was designed to tow 5,000 pounds. "Both cars share the same engine, and we actually find the Lexus RX350 to tow better than the Highlander," says Steve. "We recently towed our Kodiak Stealth up Colorado mountains to 9,000 feet. Even though the Lexus has nearly 200,000 miles on it, the car performed great!"

Their Kodiak Stealth, all cleaned and straightened up and ready for a tour

Prior to their being married and becoming tiny trailer owners, Amberly and Steve both did tent camping growing up. Amberly's family owned a pop-up tent trailer, and because of Amberly's experience with the pop up, she knew right away when they were looking for a small trailer that it had to have hard-sided walls, saying, "When my family camped in a really windy location, I'd experience constant headaches throughout the night because of the sides whipping back and forth. I am also not a fan of the condensation that builds up on the tent walls; as a child I used to get my sleeping bag wet because it would brush against the wet side."

Even in this time of the pandemic, Steve and Amberly have spent a lot of time camping, splitting that camping between their original 2018 Kodiak Stealth and then the newer upgraded 2020 Kodiak. "On the average, we spend over  ninety nights per year in our Rustic Trail Teardrop. In 2020, we spent over 210 days or seven months in our Kodiak Stealth." They mostly camp at small family-run campgrounds, which helps maintain their internet work connections, but also spend a good amount of time boondocking and off-grid.

Living close to the beach in New England, they are always not far away from the shores of Connecticut or Rhode Island. Their favorite time of year to camp is in the summer or early fall when the temperatures are comfortable and the New England fall colors are plentiful. Their favorite places to camp however include Rollins Pond Campground, located on Saranac Lake in upstate New York, and in the mountains of North Carolina and Colorado.  One camping place that is a little different from the usual natural campgrounds is the Fort Wilderness Campground at Disney World. "This is one of our favorite campgrounds simply due to our love for Disney World Theme Park. Going to the Fort Wilderness campground was our first big trip with our 2019 Kodiak Stealth." 

Oscar in the Kodiak

Because Steve and Amberly have been to a lot of different locations and have covered the majority of America over the past two years in their RTTC teardrop, they have many "favorite" experiences. Interestingly enough, one of their most favorite "things to do" is not an activity but a process: going on trips that are not planned in advance. One example of a spur-of-the-moment decision on a trip resulted in what is one or their most memorable times, a trip to Rollins Pond in New York which they booked about three days in advance. 
"We came to find out by speaking with fellow campers at Rollins Pond that most people have to book a year in advance in order to get a reservation, and the site on the water we had was even more sought after. We are thankful for our jobs as school teachers to have the time off throughout the summer and school breaks to be able to travel and explore this beautiful nation. In summary, the freedom our Rustic Trail Teardrop has given us to go where we want when we want is our favorite experience itself." 

The main advice that Steve and Amberly shared for people new to tiny trailers is to consider a tiny trailer with a layout that is more than just a "bed on wheels." Although many campers find a "bed on wheels" the best fit, the Russells found that for them, an inside layout that included more space was essential. "After considering this longer, we determined that camping with our dog, trying to get changed while lying down, and having no room to even partially stand up was a deal-breaker for us." They found in Rustic Trail Teardrops a unique interior layout that offered more features and space without a raised cost. They encourage all future owners of a tiny camper to consider interior layouts that offer more space, like their RTTC layout, and to experience how it can radically change the comfort and camping experience. "We would also encourage others not to be afraid to give up a rear galley as the trade-off, for interior space and comfort is well worth it." Their final tidbit for future trailer owners is to not purchase too many items before their trailer arrives other than basic necessities, such as wheel chocks, an extension cord, and any other items needed in order to tow the trailer. Once you've got the basics, they say, then the experience of actually camping with whatever tiny trailer camper you choose--that hands-on camping experience will let you know what you need and what you don't--and save a lot of money

The unexpected dangers of tiny trailer travel

A "dream trip" the Russells would like to take in the future would be to take their tiny trailer on a trip to Alaska. Thankfully with their jobs, they think they can make that a reality within the next few years. This next summer they will be traveling around 9,000 miles with their teardrop. Along the way, they will be putting on RTTC gatherings in Pennsylvania and Utah for RTTC community members and friends. They will also be stopping at places such as Las Vegas and Fort Wilderness Campground at Disney World. "Of course," they say, "our summer would not be complete without going to Rustic Trail Teardrops World Headquarters in Pilot Mountain, North Carolina, where we will build our next camper and continue to make revisions and upgrades." 

Summarizing their experience in the world of tiny trailers over the last couple of years, Amberly and Steve describe it as one of joy and passion that took them on a journey "from customers to employees of the company, to now part owners of the company."  As part owners of RTTC, the trailer they tow is the tale they tell when they promote the company. "A Rustic Trail Teardrop is simply not just a product that we build and sell at our business. It is a way of life for us, and we get excited for our customers who order our campers, and hope the camper gives them freedom and adventures that will create lifelong memories, just as our tiny travel trailer has for us."

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Friday, January 15, 2021

Bouncing Betty: Renovation of a Classic Travel Trailer

Bouncing Betty, the renovation complete and out camping

There's something about the design of those classic little travel trailers that just seems so right--the outside so retro and the inside so liveable. Evidently, Barbara June Frantz thinks so, too, because in 2009 she slapped down five hundred dollars and purchased a 1962 Trotwood Lark II "canned ham" trailer. 

Not too bad? Worse than it looked in this Craigslist photo!

"Yes, the window with the duct tape is broken," Barbara says.

"I think I saved it from the junkyard," she says. "A lot of work, but it came out great."

Rotten sides, and the floor was caput, too.

"This is more than needs a little fixin' up"

The trailer is a ten-foot box, thirteen feet long from bumper to hitch. Made in Trotwood, Ohio, "It is a lot of comfort in a little space," Barbara says. "It's a hoot to camp in, too!"

Purchased from a Craigslist ad, "sight unseen," Frantz says, the renovation work needed proved to be extensive, inside and out. The work continued on the Trotwood for three and a half years before Barbara was able to final write in her blog where she chronicled the renovation the following magic words: "I am DONE!" (The gap of three and a half years was because Betty spent a couple of years stored in a barn while Barbara renovated and camped in "Bee Bee," a 16’ 1958 Yellowstone canned ham.  "When I sold Bee Bee to someone who really wanted her, that gave me the extra cash to fix up Betty." Perhaps another story!?) With fewer photos and a bit more narration, this article pays tribute to Barbara June Frantz's achievement of bringing back a classic trailer to its former beauty and saving it from the salvage yard.

Framing and insulation added

Norm and Travis with floor and interior work

New birch interior paneling

After the initial investment of purchase of $500 in December of 2009, Barbara finished her renovations in June of 2013, having spent a total of a bit less than $5,000 on the project. Her guardian angels for the project were "Norm and his family," and here are Barbara's accolades: "Thanks to Norm and Julia and their family for rolling up their sleeves and giving my little Trotwood a new floor, all rebutaled and fixed windows, and a new two-toned paint job--with free labor and a lot of it!"

Betty gets her make-up

Barbara's first investments were for new tires and rim repair--and rewiring the trailer's brakes. "I drove home without lights and found out the tires didn't hold air and damaged a rim driving on a flat tire," she says. After that, she had a lot of rust and rot to deal with, requiring new siding, some framing, interior panels, appliances and cabinetry repair, not to mention cushions, curtains, and paint to pretty the baby up.

Back bed

Front dinette

Back from the junkyard, Bouncing Betty is ready to roll!

In the end, Barbara's desire for a beautiful classic travel trailer for camping was realized--with the help of her dedicated crew. Everyone working together made Barbara a happy camper . . . and the world a bit prettier. I have in my mind this picture of Norm and the crew standing downtown somewhere as Barbara cruises by with Bouncing Betty, on her way for a weekend of camping. Wow! If that were me, I'd feel so proud to have reconstructed an American classic travel trailer, to have hijacked a wreck on its way to the junkyard and to have created again not only a beautiful RV but to have also brought to life the beauty of a time past, tires singing those old sweet songs once again.

(More photos are at the owner's original blog post.)

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Tuesday, January 12, 2021

Retro Reads: Single Mom, Classic Trailer--Perfect Fit

Classic trailers and Arizona tiny trailer camping
16-foot 1971 Aristocrat Lo-Liner

Retro Reads: Written and published a little over a year ago (November 2019), this story checked all the boxes for me--a beautiful, classic trailer with the design that reminded me of my early days of camping with my parents, and an innovative, nurturing parent who has created a rich and dynamic lifestyle for herself and her child. It reminds me that often "luck" is actually the product of fortitude and elbow grease.

What better Christmas gift could a single mom and son who love to camp give themselves but a classic travel trailer? That's just what single mom Jarrett Ransom and Tanner, her son, gave themselves for Christmas in 2018, a 16-foot 1971 Aristocrat Lo-Liner travel trailer that they call "Little Miss Aster."

Tiny Trailer and Arizona camping
Happy owners of a classic single-axle travel trailer

"Merry Christmas to us!!!" Jarrett posted to Facebook on December 19, 2018. "We have upgraded from tent camping to a 16’ 1971 Aristocrat Lo-Liner trailer. We will do some refurbishing along the way, but she’s in good condition as is and can be used right away. In fact, we are sleeping in her tonight!!!"

Jarrett had always wanted to own a classic trailer because she "loves items with personality and character. I don’t find that too much in the newer models and builds. Sure, an Airstream would be nice, but I didn’t want to pay that $ at this time. I love canned hams and knew that I wanted something to fit the vintage title. Shastas, Scotties, etc."

The trailer was found on Craigslist after Jarrett overcame her longtime intimidation of towing and "learning how to maneuver the backing up of the rig. Thankfully, she's not big, but it's still new territory for me and a skill that I am consistently working to perfect." Jarrett tows her classic trailer with an Audi Q7 SUV, rated to pull 5,500 pounds, "so I barely feel Little Miss Aster behind me."

Tiny Classic Trailer Camping in Arizona, Little Miss Aster
US Bureau of Land Management camping is a favorite destination

Jarrett grew up camping and is definitely a tent camper first and foremost. Then she moved to back-of-the-car camping when the weather was nasty or she "felt too lazy to set up a tent." Her Q7 has seats that lie completely flat, so it affords space for her and her son to sleep in the back. Living in Arizona, they can camp pretty much year round, especially if they aren’t too sensitive to cooler temperatures, although “cooler temps” can be relative. "Anything below 70 becomes long-sleeve weather for me now. During the summer months it is great to go up north and camp in the cooler temps. During the winter the lower part of the state offers some nice climates for winter desert camping."

Looking at only three trailers--all found on Craigslist--she finally went with one parked less than thirty miles from her home in Arizona. Jarrett enlisted Ben, a carpenter and "skoolie" owner, to go with her to inspect the trailers. Ben and his wife escape New England winters by parking in Jarrett's driveway. "He got on his hands and knees, lay on his back to look at the undercarriage, taught me to bounce around on the flooring inside and to look for weak spots, and for mold and rust."

Originally wanting a trailer with a toilet and shower, Jarrett finally settled on her Aristocrat. "It just spoke to me." She bought the trailer from a middle-aged man who was very focused on selling it "to someone or some family who would treat it right and make great memories in it."

"To this day," Jarrett says, "I have the seller’s phone number and share photos of our camping adventures with him. He loves seeing our excursions and the work I have done to Little Miss Aster. Ironically, he took her camping/hunting in the same area that my son and I frequent--so he knows to keep an eye out for her when he’s up there."

Now the renovation work began, and Jarrett's generosity of allowing Ben and his wife to winter on her driveway paid off.
"I was fortunate to have some amazing help--from a skoolie couple that I befriended off Instagram. Wild Drive Life (Meag and Ben) are a nomadic couple that were living in their skoolie [school bus converted to camper] that I followed for the longest time and are now family to my son and me. I offered them to park in my driveway while they escaped the New England winters this past winter and Ben, a carpenter by trade, was kind enough to help me inspect the trailer, and he did the majority of the work for me. It was kind of in lieu of calling my driveway home for a month and a half and also because he was itching to work on a project.  I cannot thank him and his handy skills enough. This would have been an undertaking that I am not sure I would have had as much done on her by now if it weren’t for him and the time he put into the trailer."
Tiny Classic Trailer Camping in Arizona, Little Miss Aster

"Little Miss Aster" was camping and travel ready when Jarrett bought her from the previous owner, who "spent many hunting trips in her and even brought back two whole elk in her after one camping trip." The trailer was in "great working shape, but I did choose to make some cosmetic changes--for now it has been all inside changes. But I am looking to get her painted on the outside next."
"We started with ripping out the carpet--yeah, that’s right . . . it had CARPET. And after knowing the elk was in the trailer, I knew that the carpet had to go. We then removed the wood paneling. We knew there was some water damage (in the front right corner by the booth seating). Some paneling we could save and paint over, but most of it had to come out. I decided to put beadboard on the bottom of the dining booth area and the bottom of the walls around the inside of the trailer. (WARNING--painting beadboard is a nightmare!!!) The other walls were replaced with regular boards and painted white for a clean look on the inside. 
"I used contact paper to accent the back-storage area (where the bunk bed used to be) and will add more of that to the front cabinet area above the dining/eating area. The kitchen counters and the dining table counter are polyurethaned wood. The flooring is black hardwood (also found at Habitat Restore) for the clean black and white motif that I wanted. 
Tiny Classic Trailer Camping in Arizona, Little Miss Aster
"The cushions have been covered thanks to my mom. (I do need to give a shout out to my mom for feeding the outdoor bug inside of me. I have fond memories of her and me camping together for my birthdays, having birthday camping parties at state parks and even camping with her once in high school during my spring break vacation--you rock, Mom!) I sent her the dimensions of the existing cushions, and she custom made an envelope, pocket-like slipcover for all of the cushions. Truth be told she still has the back-bed cushion and all of the curtains still yet to do. (No pressure, Mom, but I am waiting on ya!) 
"Ben also added a vent to the ceiling which I love because I can have the airflow come in or sucked out, and with the windows open, there is so much air circulation. No heating system, though, only body heat. I will add some solar panels to it so I can be off grid as much as possible. And other than the outside painting . . . she’s done."
Tiny Classic Trailer Camping in Arizona, Little Miss Aster

Besides renovations, there have been upgrades or modifications. The original trailer slept four with a bunk bed, but the bunk has been converted to additional shelving storage, great for basket storage and containing items that may shift around when driving. The back bed is the traditional couch-like seating that converts to a bed that sleeps two. The front dining area converts to a twin bed, and one person can comfortably sleep there--"unless you're above 5'9"." The trailer has no toilet or shower bathroom, so Jarrett or Tanner will use a solar shower (water bladder) when necessary. Originally, they did plan for a compostable toilet in the trailer, inside the closet area, but the wheel well inside the closet space meant that wasn’t feasible. "I do have a portable camping toilet in the camper, but we rarely use it. We end up using the beautiful fields of the outdoors when nature calls."
"The kitchen is by far one of my favorite areas. It came with an old ice box, but I removed that and replaced it with a college style fridge that I picked up from Habitat Restore. I covered the face of the fridge with stainless steel contact paper to have a cleaner look. There is a 3-burner Magic Chef stove and oven combo--still in its original avocado green. With the two propane tanks I have hooked up at the front of the trailer, I can cook a pizza or bake some pies if I want to.
"The water tanks hold 40 gallons, so I am able to use the kitchen sink quite a bit to wash dishes, make sun tea, or fill up my solar shower/water bladder. I did replace the sink with a new black, hard plastic, full-sized sink with a standard faucet. It allows me to wash dishes easily with the deep basin. The countertop was also replaced. I ended up purchasing some boards and had them cut for the countertop and polyurethaned to bring out the natural beauty. It’s simple and sleek and also matches the new banquet table. Same wood, same finish and same consistency."
Tiny Classic Trailer Camping in Arizona, Little Miss Aster

It didn't take much to make the classic trailer their own. "Adding the crisp white paint and new fabric and cushion covers, along with some personal photos, have made our trailer resemble us and our personalities more. The outdoor rug is also a nice added touch and provides some extra outdoor living space to do yoga, take a nap, or play a board game together."

Jarrett is more of a weekend warrior when it comes to camping. Of course, all single parents are warrior-advocates for their children, so we shouldn't be surprised at the "warrior" part of her self-definition. Neither should we be surprised at the fact that a working mom mostly camps on weekends.
"I work full-time as a nonprofit consultant, and my son is in the 4th grade. Therefore, our time is limited. We have taken her out twice--both completely off grid. We prefer primitive camping, and Arizona offers amazing BLM land. We have, however, had many 'staycation' adventures with Little Miss Aster--even in our own backyard. 
"The first night she came home to live with us, my son and I cooked dinner on the old avocado-green Magic Chef stove. It was a classic spaghetti dinner, but it was by far a memory I will always cherish, my favorite camping story so far. During dinner, my then 8-year old son looked up at me and proclaimed, 'Mom, this is my new happy place.' It was then that I knew I had just spent the best $1,500 in my entire life. I knew that this camper would provide us with memories abound, no matter where we parked her."
Tiny Classic Trailer Camping in Arizona, Little Miss Aster
On a shared camping trip with parents

Jarret advises that new tiny trailer owners to have fun with it. "Play with colors and decoration. Use it in your backyard, too. Who said you had to take it out somewhere to enjoy it?"

The camping dreams for this mom and her son are "to adventure to more BLM land this summer," and ideally to Joshua Tree National Park and some other California national and state parks. "We may even go into Mexico to enjoy some Puerto Penasco oceanside camping."

Tiny Classic Trailer Camping in Arizona, Little Miss Aster

Jarrett's tiny trailer dreams are just beginning. "The other day I found myself looking on Craigslist for a few more. I Airbnb my house during Spring Training (Arizona has some great baseball), and we will take the trailer out camping while our main house is rented with tourists coming to enjoy Arizona baseball." She also imagines buying another trailer, "maybe an Airstream, to permanently sit in my backyard as another rental opportunity."

"When my son graduates high school, I imagine I will live a more nomadic life and travel several months out of the year if not full-time." Jarrett's dreams are as big as the road is long, and right now--whether in her backyard or on local BLM land--she is living her dream with her son: single mom, classic trailer, perfect fit. Follow their classic trailer adventures on Instagram at little_miss_aster.

For more tiny trailer Owner Profiles, click on the link.

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Friday, January 8, 2021

Hey, You Campers, Take a Hike--for Love and Life!

On a winter walk with my wife

When hiking in the woods, sometimes I just stop and stand, watching and listening, just "being," I suppose you could say. Silence can be something tangible, something that can be perceived. When we're busy or preoccupied, though, often we lose our connection to the natural world, and that's a shame. Slipping into silence and stillness, just being in the moment, is like noticing the silence between the notes in a song. The silence is just as important as the music but unobtrusive. During that pause when walking, first I notice the silence, the stillness, and then, of course, since nature is dynamic, sounds arise: the flutter of wings of a flock on juncos, the scrabble of a squirrel's claws on the bark of a tree, the wind soughing through the pines as the gray limbs gently sway in the breeze, and usually also the squawking of a jay or crow. These sounds are deeply reassuring for me because they are sounds in nature, the sounds of integrated harmony. They connect me to those ancient and eternal cycles of the world; they define me in ways that my credit cards, bank accounts, and licenses and certifications never can.

The sounds in the silence of nature could be called "random," but that designation is egocentric. Just because I might consider some sound and activity random doesn't exclude that activity from the integrated wholeness of nature. It would be my awareness that is separate and isolated, not the activity, and part of my desire and purpose in being in nature is always to reintegrate myself with the greater rhythms and orderliness of nature, to remind my essential self that I belong. I would call this a spiritual activity, but just calling hiking a "morning constitutional" in no way diminishes its capacity to activate more than just muscle sets. 

While discussing the nature of walking over a hundred and fifty years ago, Henry David Thoreau addressed its spiritual nature: "If you are ready to leave father and mother, and brother and sister, and wife and child and friends, and never see them again — if you have paid your debts, and made your will, and settled all your affairs, and are a free man — then you are ready for a walk." His intent was to remind folks that we are a part of nature, rather than just members of society, that "there are enough champions of civilization" and too few champions for the "crusaders" who hike their way to enlightenment and oneness with existence. From my perspective, Thoreau was likening our time hiking in nature to the sanyasi of India, who give up their possessions and station in life to devote themselves to the spirit. This is what we can do while walking--even if only for a time. We can remind ourselves that we are not solely individuals, that we are also cosmic.

We should not be surprised that integrating ourselves into nature occurs naturally. To experience our unity in nature is . . . a natural process, whether we are in town or country. Immersing ourselves physically into natural settings just aids and eases the process of discovering our greater selves. Owners of little trailers or car-camping tenters are somewhat like the sanyasi; they choose to integrate themselves more in the natural world. They are more like backpackers, feeling that getting out there is instrumental to getting in there and contacting their essential nature. 

Hiking the bluffs of Rathbun Lake

One of my most enjoyable and nurturing camping hikes this last season was at Rathbun Lake while camping at Honey Creek State Park in Iowa ("While Camping, Finding a Silence as Sweet as Honey"). At Honey Creek, the lake is edged by bluffs, so walking the shore provides the sparkling expanse of the water, eroded bluffs with their carved and multi-colored faces, and the forested shoulders of the land that are especially rewarding to walk in the fall, filled with earthy smells and dried, crackling leaves. Since I stayed at the campground for two weeks, I also discovered another trail that curled away, following a separate inlet of the lake. With the cool fall weather, bugs, sunburn, and sweaty chafing were left behind. What joy!

I realize "harmony" in nature is not necessarily peaceful. An owl takes a mouse; a coyote takes a rabbit. A crow finds a robin's nest. Violence exists in nature, but its purpose is immediately clear, much simpler and direct than the complications of humanity. That's why I enjoy hiking in the woods. The world seems to function in a much more straightforward manner. It's ironic that because the big predators because of habitat loss and over-hunting are gone or rare, I can hike the woods and not have to attend to "the survival of the fittest." 

The crunch of tires on snow, then silence

The laws of nature that Darwin perceived certainly exist and are active in the woods--the fastest rabbit escapes and the slower doesn't--but the question of "fittest" for me and all people comes down to what we eat, our stress level, and whether or not we exercise. If I think about it, though, that's not so different than the animals in nature, or the plants, for that matter. Even plants need to feed and to avoid extreme weather (such as drought) in order to thrive. As for exercise, I can stretch the metaphor a bit and say that plants need room for their root structure and space in the sky to find the sun. For people, though, we have greater choice, and let's face it--there's a bit of confusion about what decisions are best. For people in the modern world, maybe Darwin's message should be phrased "the lack of survival of the least fit."

Happily hiking, kerchief face mask and all

That's why I like to hike in the woods. The exercise and the surroundings clear my head. All the choices that we individually have to make simplify. Nature isn't regulating our behavior through instinct, yet we can find assistance in nature to prioritize our choices by being reminded that we, just like every other part and particle of existence, are composed--every part and particle of us--of existence. We are nature as much as every rock, stream, tree, and fox and chipmunk. We don't need to dote on these philosophies, though. I think when we hike, nature is enlivened in us simply by the body moving--and that affects our perspective. 

"This is how our body moves," we can think. "And, yes, the silence between our thoughts is also a part of who we are." I am reassured that the rhythms of nature that surround me are also the rhythms of nature that are within me. Those cycles of rest and activity, of action and reaction, of how silence and stillness define and structure action--it's easy to forget the larger organizing rhythms of life when confronted with all those pesky details. It's easy to lose the forest for the trees. Walking in nature can remind us that nature is not just all around us, from the breeze that caresses our skin to the farthest light in the farthest galaxy. Nature is also the essence of our bodies and also each and every thought, memory, and desire. We are nature, and the scripture and literature of the ages testifies to our ability to live consciously in harmony with the laws of nature.

Hidden winter beauty

I've traveled quite a ways from the prosaic (or shall I say "pedestrian") thought: "Feet, start walkin'!" Walking in nature, though, stirs something deep within us, and that something can be stirred even without our being aware of it. We can be enlivened without having to consciously pull ourselves up by our bootstraps. Fresh air and the smell of pine, snow crystals sparkling in the cold morning light--we don't have to note all the details and have our intellects check the correct boxes in order to find a early winter's walk invigorating. Would it be a massive understatement or a profound observation to say that it's natural to find nature nurturing? 

Morning fog sets the scene for a walk with one's spirit

However we figure it, traveling by shanks' mare through wood or along water's edge has not only a practical application but also a spiritual component, especially in a time when it is so easy to surround ourselves in plastic--to function as prefabricated mannequins dressed to conform to the current style, spouting predigested thoughts from the bluetooth-activated speakers of our mouths. Nature is larger than that. It is unbounded, a Unified Field, and to our everlasting salvation, a walk in nature can remind us of that. 

Hiking a local county park

Owning a little travel trailer has provided my wife and me with opportunities for hiking more trails than just those around our town and county. Most state parks have developed trails, and although the hikes aren't along the crests of majestic mountains or along the briny seashore, they are nonetheless good for both the legs and the soul. Hiking around Iowa's lakes and reservoirs has the twin pleasures of both wood and water. My wife and I hike often and have learned to appreciate the small pleasures our local woods, lakes, and streams provide. Beauty surrounds us, sometimes as huge as the sky and distant mountains, but also sometimes in miniature, a tucked away pocket of perfection, just waiting to be discovered and appreciated. It's all good, and it's all there, waiting for us to just take that first step. Care to join me?

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(Note: As the content for Green Goddess Glamping evolves, sometimes content focus will dictate that articles will be posted on some Facebook groups and not others. Articles on Dutch oven cooking, portable toilets, or bicycle day rides, for instance, could find posts in different groups. The best way to ensure that you are receiving all articles is to subscribe to follow this blog by email notifications. And if you don't get a confirmation notice, be sure to check your spam box.)