Friday, February 21, 2020

I Join the Tear Jerkers Tiny Trailer Community

I tend to camp by myself quite a lot, which I don't mind. Camping with my wife is also something that I really enjoy when she can get away from work. We both hope to start camping with our grandkids soon when they get a bit older.

What I'm trying to say is that I haven't done much group camping; I just haven't had the opportunity. Last year I did attend a tiny trailer company get-together, which was a lot of fun--like-minded people owning the same brand of tiny trailer. ("2019 Gathering of the Bears: RTTC 2nd Annual Tiny Trailer Gathering") I was able to meet people I had interacted with online, to enjoy food and camping together, and I was able to see that although solo or couple camping is wonderful, group camping can also be a hoot.

Based on my RTTC Gathering experience, I decided to join up with the Tear Jerkers organization. I have joined both the international organization and also the chapter for my area, the Tear Jerkers Heartland Chapter (Iowa, Missouri, Nebraska, and Kansas). There is also a Heartland Tearjerkers Facebook page that I've referenced more, at this time anyway, since the main Tear Jerkers website has just moved to a new platform. The new platform is up and running now, so I'm looking forward to exploring it.

Here is the Tear Jerkers description of their organization:
Tear Jerkers was founded in 1997 by Todd Brunengraber, with assistance from Grant & Lisa Whipp of Teardrop Tales & Trails / Teardrop Times. Our members include owners, home builders, manufacturers, restorers, parts suppliers and creative craftsmen that build their own from scratch. We enjoy not only our small vintage trailers but also, vintage vehicles to tow them with. Tear Jerkers started out on the East Coast of the U.S. but has expanded to include members from Great Britain, Australia, New Zealand, Finland, Sweden, Canada, and The Netherlands. 
Tear Jerkers is an informal group of people who share their love of teardrop and small travel trailers through discussions and gatherings. 
"If you enjoy the great outdoors and fellowship with others, our campsite will always be open." 
Let us make no mistake, TearJerkers does "Group Camping." Our gatherings are social events with lots of interaction and activities. One does not have to be a member to attend our gatherings.
I think it's important to reiterate that the organization is for both teardrop and all other small travel trailers. When I once asked a FB tiny trailer group administer what constitutes a "small trailer," his easy-to-understand reply was "a single-axle trailer." Some single-axles are not so small, but it is a good beginning point for identification.

What Is a Teardrop Trailer?

While exploring the Tear Jerkers' website, I enjoyed reading a short piece on the history of the teardrop trailer.
As early as the 1930’s, a unique camping trailer began taking to the American roads. Teardrop trailers are named for their unique tear shape, and became popular in the early 1940s. Their compact size, simplicity and affordability made for a winning package to Americans of the era. When Post-war availability increased the resources of aluminum and fiberglass to consumers, and with the boom in automobiles (and children), coupled with the new national highway system, vacationing via the family car became an inexpensive way to see the country. These small trailers were easy to tow, slept two comfortably, featured a cooking area under the hatch, and were stylish and fun. Multiple manufacturers contributed to the various styles and shapes such as KIT, KENSKILL, CUB, MODERNISTIC, MODERNAIRE, MARVEL DWYER, and SCOTTY, to name just a few. Many of them were sold as ready-to-assemble kits, and homebuilt from plans published in the pages of magazines such as POPULAR SCIENCE and POPULAR MECHANICS. Today, plans are still readily available to the do-it-yourselfer, and many new manufacturers are re-creating the classic shape with modern conveniences.
Heartland Tear Jerkers

Right now I am having fun learning about the Tear Jerkers' website and especially the group chapter for my area, the Heartland chapter. I've introduced myself on the main site's forum and am pleased to find out that some members have been reading my Green Goddess Glamping articles. I've found out that there is a Heartland chapter gathering at Mark Twain Cave Campground in Hannibal, Missouri, April 30-May 3. I've never been to the cave or on a riverboat, so it sounds like there are some new experiences available, in addition to meeting some new Midwest campers.

The organization and "look" of the website is different than I'm used to, but there is a wealth of information and opportunity available. I've connected to the international Tear Jerkers site now during the last few days, and interactions have been positive and supportive. Sharing common interests is a good thing to do, and the Tear Jerkers is a safe, friendly, and inclusive avenue for learning more about this tiny trailer lifestyle. As a note, if you belonged to the old website, you need to sign up for the new website. Soon they will archive the old site, making it accessible for research but not for interaction.

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Tuesday, February 18, 2020

Retro Reads: Why Such a Tiny Trailer? Teardrop Owners Speak Out


Retro Reads: The second post written for this blog (August 2018), this article set the tone for much of the writing to follow for Green Goddess Glamping. Based on research and the tried-and-true experience of tiny trailer owners, it explores the foundational principles and beliefs that lead campers to the tiny trailer lifestyle.

"Why did you buy such a tiny trailer?" For many owners of teardrop trailers, the answer is obvious. However, much of the fun and satisfaction comes with the 'splaining, so I asked owners of teardrops trailer by tapping into a Facebook group, the Rustic Trail Teardrops Camper Owners Group. As I read responses to my question, little aha! lightbulbs went off inside my head. "Oh, yeah, that's right. . . . That's true. . . . Well said!"

My last blog post listed my reasons for buying a tiny travel trailer. This post is dedicated to the ideas and words of other teardrop owners. Bottom line--the reasons why I bought a tiny trailer, it ain't just me. Motivating factors for purchasing a teardrop included comfort, simplicity, and lifestyle.

June 2018, Smokey Mountain National Park
Folks are comfortable in their teardrop campers, and that comfort zone includes both physical comfort and safety issues. Michael from Georgia summed up the joy of being physically comfortable in a teardrop by saying: "A comfortable bed in a climate controlled (dry, cool or warm) environment when needed, but always a comfortable dry bed." Teardrops are mostly bed, comments including the ease of "a bed on wheels with space to come in out of the rain" (Diana from Vermont), and, speaking from experience, Karen from North Carolina: "Had the big boys all sizes from pop-up to 31 ft travel trailer..... comes down to the purpose of camping ....being in the outdoors.....so why a big camper when all you need is a bed ...RTTC campers gives us exactly what we need .... comfortable bed, air conditioning, cabinets and a place for my TV....that's all I need, everything else I use when camping is outdoors."

Some owners voiced comfort in terms of safety, having a hard surface overhead and a door that locks. Lindsey (from Australia, owning an Avan Weekender teardrop) states: "I do a lot of solo camping so I need something that I can do on my own but still have all the comfort and a little security - was once trampled on in a tent by a herd of cows that totally ransacked our camp - scared me a little to think how lucky (was me and my son at the time) that the cows missed our legs and body but destroyed the tent." Jim from South Carolina provided an additional wrinkle to safety: "My primary reason for buying our teardrop (RTTC Grizzly) is for something to bugout in if we get a major hurricane along the SC coast. I have been through a couple hurricanes and know that when the power goes out that the comforts we are used to disappear almost immediately. We desired to have a small place we could escape to that would have air conditioning and everything we might need with food, shelter and water whether we have to camp near our home or hit the road prior to the storm. The teardrop is perfect as it is compact, easy to heat and cool, provides some safety and allows us a place to have emergency items already packed when the storm rolls in." Jim's sentiments are echoed by Cheryl from North Carolina: "We had thought about that too, living on Hatteras Island. That's always a concern, and having the teardrop is much better than a motel room during recovery." Teardrops may be tiny in size, but owners say they are large providers of security.

2018, Lexington, SC
When Henry David Thoreau wrote "simplicity, simplicity, simplicity," he was harkening to his experience in his cabin at Walden Pond--or to put it another way, his tiny house . . . or his tiny trailer without wheels. Many teardrop owners affirmed that "less is more," as Phyllis from Louisiana said, while another owner added "less maintenance than bigger rigs have." Several owners mentioned the ease of towing a teardrop and how another, larger vehicle didn't need to be purchased. One owner, Diana from Vermont, was more reflective: "Small needs, small space." From Virginia, teardrop owner Mike covered a number of points, saying that often RV owners experience buyer's remorse after a purchase when the camper is too big and takes too much upkeep. They may feel it was too much money, and resale value may be low. A late discovery can be that they need a gas hog for the tow package. A teardrop eliminates all that . . . and also turns a lot of heads. Finally, he mentioned that teardrops, because of their low weight, can be deeded or registered as utility trailers instead of recreational vehicles, which saves big. One married couple summed up teardrops by saying they don’t want all the bells and whistles. As Peggy from Florida put it, "The simplicity of my trailer is perfect for me."

2017, Salida, CO
It's a lifestyle choice for many teardrop owners, the middle way between tenting in the rain and living on RV Row, hooking up your mobile apartment. Having a more stable basecamp than a tent (without having to dry out everything when you get home) yet not not having too big and cumbersome a rig is a perfect fit, as owner Jennifer says: "We love visiting Disney World and recently got back into camping. We wanted to camp more but summers in Florida just aren't great for tent camping so we decided we needed an air conditioned option. We didn't want to deal with a large camper or a pop up, and we needed to stay under 10k since this was our first really serious venture into campers, looking into smaller campers was the best option. We looked at a few options and then stumbled on Rustic Trail. Loved the retro look, size, and price." Marti from West Virginia considered the big picture when searching for a camping option: "We had several bottom line requirements: be able to pull into a rest area or truck stop and just climb in (not like a pop up); pull with a 4 cylinder car; park in our house's parking area; internal storage (not with a kitchen on the back); design where we could mount solar panels and batteries; cost less than a car. RTTC met all that. We don't have the inside space that the big campers have, but a 12x12 pop up pavillion fits right outside the door. We camp to be outside, not in a traveling hotel room or suite. Maybe if I was retired and spending all my time traveling I would consider a big one...?" Goldilocks would own a teardrop: not too small, not too big, but just right! Or as Jean from Virginia said, "Once I thought I needed more, but after searching the soul... its not more.. just more time outside and up off the ground is the bells and whistles for us!"

2018, Dillon, CO
Cash was a factor for teardrop owners, as was the towing experience, even to be pulled by a "beetle" or a Mini Countryman. The desire to be outside while camping--but not in all types of weather, was the kicker for a lot of owners. Comfort and ease, traveling and camping in a simple, economical way, enjoying a "retro" experience, a "tiny house" version of camping--all these factors were articulated by teardrop owners. For my wife and me, we're excited to be among the elect. "Just park and a ready-made place to sleep" says Andygirl from the Antipodes. As Nancy, another owner, said, "Just add food, water and clothes and we’re on the road,"  and reaching your destination to camp in the mountains, streamside. I'm feelin' it, aren't you?

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Friday, February 14, 2020

Disneyland and the Tiny Trailer as a "Bed on Wheels"

Anaheim Harbor RV Park

Sometimes we camp to commune with nature, and sometimes we just want our "bed on wheels" for the night, even if it's parked deep in the roar of the city. Karen and Louis Valentino took their Hiker Trailer into the hubbub of Southern California's Disneyland country, and even though their hiking was on pavement and cement, at the end of each adventurous day, they were still able to spend their night in their familiar bed, snug in their tiny trailer.

Living in Northern California near Monterey, Karen and Louis wanted to visit Disneyland and Disney California Adventure Park, having the idea to take their Hiker Trailer with them and stay at an RV park to save money on a hotel. After some research, they settled on Anaheim Harbor RV Park (not to be confused with Anaheim RV Park). "Our 'campsite' was very different from what we usually prefer," Karen said. "RVing is a completely different lifestyle than camping; in fact, we generally avoid RV sites at campgrounds, opting instead for quieter, more scenic tent sites with no hookups." They found Anaheim Harbor to be "a big parking lot experience," but still a camping place that had the amenities they wanted: proximity to the Disney parks, a good restroom and shower, an electrical hook-up so that they wouldn't need to manage their usual solar power source, and an on-site water spigot so they wouldn't have to pack water.
"We chose a 'Deluxe with Grass' site ($56/night). It was a double site designed to allow travelers with long RVs to park a vehicle next to their rig. At the rear of one side, there was an area of faux grass with a picnic table and umbrella. Behind that were electricity and water. The bathrooms were immaculate. The women’s bathroom had two showers, three toilet stalls and two sinks. I never had to wait to use anything, but we were up early and back late. The showers provided sufficient hot water and acceptable water pressure (in California every shower head is low flow)."
Karen and Louis caution that it's important to go into the "big parking lot" experience of tiny trailer camping with eyes wide open. It's important to make sure that the RV park you choose will accept your tiny trailer set-up. Know in advance whether the cancellation policy is acceptable to you. Finally, they add to be sure you have a high tolerance for noise and sub-prime weather conditions. If you're good on those points, then maybe a Disneyland camp trip is for you.
"Some RV parks accept only self-contained RVs, but I confirmed with Anaheim Harbor that our set-up would be acceptable. We then put down the required $40 deposit. Had we canceled our reservation a week or more before our visit, we would have received the deposit back; if not, it would have been forfeited. We were dead certain we did not want to camp in Anaheim in rain or freezing weather. We were willing to forfeit the deposit if the forecast unexpectedly turned ugly. We watched long-range forecasts for weeks to ensure weather would be favorable. Fortunately, the forecasts held true and a few days before we went down to Anaheim, we could tell it was a go!"
They stayed four nights and visited the Disney Parks three days this January, 2020. Their original food plan was to cook dinner on arrival their first night, and breakfast each morning thereafter, then have lunch and dinner at the Disney complex. Karen and Louis quickly decided upon arriving, though, that if they wanted to take advantage of Magic Mornings (early opening) and get enough sleep the night before, it would be simpler to also get breakfast inside the parks.

Double campsite space for a little more room

What did those four nights and three days of parking lot camping look like? What was the experience in terms of noise, privacy, and camp routine? The Valentinos provide some insight.

 Noise

"The RV Park is located about a mile north of Disneyland on Harbor Blvd., which made for a convenient 15-minute walk over to the parks. But between street noise, planes overhead, and close-in neighbors coming and going, it’s not a peaceful place. Louis and I always travel with a Rohm: a small portable, hang-able white noise machine. The constant noise is effective at blocking outside noises, so we slept well every night."

Privacy

"Getting privacy is harder when you’re not self-contained, but we had a few things going for us. We were assigned a spot at the end of a row with no neighbor on my side, and because we had a double site were able to park our car beside my door, helping to shield my doorway and privacy area."

Camp Routine

"Each morning we were up, dressed and out very quickly, before most others were awake. Also, we are masters at changing clothes behind a partially open doorway and spent very little time in camp. In the evenings we were back, showered and relaxing in our cabin just long enough to get drowsy and go to sleep."

Tiny Trailer Versus Motel

Considering the big-parking-lot reality of all that pavement and having to cope with a routine that includes a high-density population with its noise and lack of privacy, the natural question that arises is this: How did the tiny trailer camping experience compare to the motel experience? "Our experiment of staying at an RV park," Karen said, "actually ended up feeling very similar to a hotel stay. The Anaheim hotel we have stayed at was also about a mile from Disneyland, and in both cases we spent very little time where we were staying except to sleep, and ate almost every meal at the Disney parks or Downtown Disney. We view the experiment as a big success that we would do again."

Choosing a Visitation Date and Weather

It's important to consider Southern California's weather if you plan to camp in a big parking lot. The Valentinos remind us that Anaheim can be miserably hot in summer, and the Disney Parks are very busy when school is out. Even during the school year,  SoCal residents enjoy a special rate, and many have annual passes. Every afternoon the Valentinos noticed an influx of local teenage and college-age kids.

Having visited in early 2018 and 2019, Karen and Louis knew that three winter days would provide just the conditions they wanted. "To choose the specific week, we consulted a website that rates each day of the year based on historical attendance at the parks, and selected three sequential weekdays in January that showed as low to moderate."

Star Wars Galaxy's Edge

It turned out to be a very lucky date choice for the Valentinos. Neither of them realized until just before leaving home that they would be there less than a week after the opening of a new ride, Rise of the Resistance, in Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge. "My husband is a huge Star Wars fan, and we were both excited to visit the new Galaxy’s Edge section of Disneyland, which opened last May. We then got even luckier because upon entering Disneyland, both days that we tried we got into a boarding group (via a form of lottery). So we were among the first to experience Rise of the Resistance, and we got to do it twice!"

From the Ferris wheel

Dressing for the weather, Louis and Karen started each morning in shorts with layers on top, because the temperature was quite cool (low to mid-40s) in the mornings and evenings, warming up gradually throughout the day to highs from mid-60s to low 70s. They brought a backpack with a pair of jeans and a reusable water bottle for each of them, stashing the backpack in a locker ($7) every morning upon arrival. As it warmed up they shed layers and stashed them in the locker; as it cooled down they swung by to put extra clothes back on. Two out of three nights, Karen says she also changed into jeans.

Advice

The main piece of advice Karen has for anyone who’s planning a teardrop trip is to plan ahead. This applies to theme parks and traditional camping venues. "Louis and I are among those people who think planning a trip is a big part of the fun. We also develop contingency plans–we ask the question, “What could go wrong?” and then work to come up with solutions."

Thinking ahead is important. "Where are the places you won’t have access to cellular or internet? Karen asks. "What will you do to ensure you have the information you need during those times? If you’re driving through remote areas, where will you get gas? If it’s a long trip, where will you restock on groceries and do your laundry? If you plan to hike, how will you decide where?"

Reserving camping spots, planning a route, and knowing local sites of interest and enjoyable activities are all part of the planning. If the Valentinos want to stay at a popular campground, they inform themselves of the date and time they can first try to make a reservation, and when the minute hand hits the mark, they’ve already looked to see which specific campsites they prefer and are ready to try to get one of them. Before they leave home, they download Google Maps, and they also carry detailed paper maps. They are avid hikers who search in advance for the best hiking for their ability at each stop–length, elevation gain, scenic payoff, where the trailhead is–and they often bring a trail map with them.

February 2019 photo

The question for the Valentinos is whether or not their Disney experience will grow old. They've visited several times--why go again? Are there other destinations that would be better or more fresh? Karen thought about those ideas and had a good response.
"My brother-in-law likes Universal Studios, and I’ve heard it’s also a lot of fun. If they decide to go, we might go with them. But there’s something about Disney. I grew up with Disney. I watched The Mickey Mouse Club religiously and remember feeling a little smug that one of the Mouseketeers had the same name I do. My dad took us kids to Disneyland for the first time just a few years after it opened–and made sure we visited once a year whenever he was stationed on the West Coast. All things Disney were magical, and some of that magic still exists in me. I like how Disneyland and California Adventure keep evolving, feeding both my nostalgia and desire to see new things."
We thank the Valentinos for providing us with valuable insights into a more urban camping experience. Through the research, planning, and experiences they have shared with us, planning a Disney or Adventureland trip, or some other such experience, should be a lot more easy and glitch free. For another more traditional Valentino camping adventure, you might try reading about and enjoying photographs from their West Coast Camping Extravaganza, published earlier on this blog. Karen also shares her trailer security measures in the guest article "Tiny Trailer Security: the Valentino Approach." Both a revelation and an inspiration, I can't wait to find out about the next Valentino adventure.

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Monday, February 10, 2020

On-the-Road Tiny Trailer Storage Strategies from the Pros

"Happy Thanksgiving from Florida!" (Kevin Mcintyre, 2019)

Tiny trailer builds are always fun to inspect because the details are so deliciously different. One "deliciously different" detail that always prompts discussion, though, is where do you store everything when on the road? Some tiny trailers have raised beds, with storage beneath. Some tiny trailers have rear galleys; some don't but have cabinetry in the front of the cabin. Some (or many) tiny trailers have beds on the floor, with hardly any storage at all.

With the great variety of tiny trailer builds and floorplans, it's a wonder that any useful advice can be provided regarding strategies for organizing gear. "Figure it out!" might be the best advice. Two constants, though, lead us to listen to the experience of owners of tiny trailers who get out there on a regular basis. One constant is that no matter what camper layout, there isn't a lot of room. The second constant is that easy access to equipment (both to get it out and to put it away) is key to not booby-trapping your camp space with gear that you used a half an hour ago but now is just in the way and taking up space.

Efficient Use of Space

"You're taking too much." The best way to utilize what little space is available is to take only essentials, along with those few luxuries that make your camp special for you. One good suggestion is to make a list of what you pack, and then when you get back home after the trip, take note of what you didn't use. Was it essential?

Multiple Use Clothing. Some clothing is moisture wicking and dries quickly, its fabric smell resistant, allowing multiple uses and, therefore, fewer clothes. Some pants that have leggings that unzip, transforming into shorts. (I don't own a pair but have always thought the idea was innovative.) My main method of space-saving with clothing is to dress in layers. A wool tee shirt doesn't get clammy when hiking or bike riding, which keeps me warmer. Then a mid-weight wool undershirt, a flannel shirt, a down vest, a light-weight down jacket, and an anorak windbreaker will clothe me from warm to very cold weather. I put on as many layers as I think I need--and take layers off as the day warms. I don't need to bring my heaviest (and bulkiest) down jacket--unless, of course, I just feel like bringing it. 

"This is ours and loaded #1800 axle and 246# tongue.
That is fully loaded 20 days on the road, full fuel tanks and water, bikes, etc." (Todd Mowrer, 2015)

Trip Length.
 One good suggestion for the efficient use of space was to take clothes for one week for a two-week trip, and then find a laundromat at the end of the first week. Simplify your dress code. "Camp hair? Don't care! Have a baseball cap handy!"

"Two months on the road, and we lived out of plastic drawers.
Used blue painter's tape to mark everything so we knew what was where." (Seth Rice, 2020)

Built-in Trailer Storage Space. Whatever built-in space your trailer has, think long and hard about the most efficient use of that space. It's always there and doesn't interfere with trailer functions, which is what a plastic bin sitting on the bed does. My trailer has a small upper shelf with closing doors. We've found it to be a great place for "quick meal" essentials: tea and cups, paper plates and bowls, vitamins, and a few spices. A single man with the same build uses that space for clothes, rolling them like backpackers to fit the narrow 7x7 inch shelf space that runs across the front of the trailer. Tiny trailers with rear hatches and galleys, of course, come with planned space for storage and/or kitchen.

One rear galley layout. (Chris Walters, 2014)

Easy Access

Match Space and Organizer. There's no one right answer here, but figuring out a way to organize your stuff in the space available really boils down to a concept you like--and then some physical organizer. Experienced campers suggested tote bags, plastic bins, and stacking drawers. These organizers can be in the vehicle--backseats or hatch area--or placed on the camper bed or walkway. One camper, as an example, uses containers to sort clothes by use: one bin each for bicycle clothes, warm weather, and cold weather clothes.

Cloth storage bins used in the Green Goddess, wall hooks on left.
A bit of the top storage cabinet can be seen above the light.

Prioritize. First-used and often-used should be placed on top or in the front. Rain gear needs to be handy but not as handy as sleepwear--unless you're camping in a rain forest. My wife and I have tea every morning, so that's always stored close to hand. Our cooking appliances (such as teapot and toaster oven) are permanently stored in hatches beneath camper seats. When we reach our camp, we get out what we need for the next few meals. That way seating and bed set-up aren't always being dismantled.

Tongue Box. Although tongue weight is a consideration, mounting a box on the trailer's tongue can be a really useful space. (Be aware of what the stock tongue weight is on your trailer. You'll be adding to that with a box and whatever you put in it. Also, tow vehicles and hitches have different tongue weight capacities.) I added a tongue box to my trailer and use that for stabilizing and security equipment, for extension cords, and for the trailer's awning tarp.

The tongue box option of one camper. (Christine Hammond, 2014)

Wall Nets and Hooks. My wife and I added four web net pockets to our camper--two to the inside of the front cabinets, and two on the sides of the wall next to our heads when we sleep. The nets on the inside of the front cabinets are used for various, occasional items like facial tissue, sunscreen, tissues, wet wipes, and sundry. The nets beside our sleeping spots are for a book, tissue, eye glasses, flashlight . . . things like that. We have also added hooks (4 metal/4 plastic) on the wall opposite the entrance door for a variety of light and heavy items, such as coats, pants, and dish clothes and bath towels. I'm continually surprised and appreciative of how these simple organizers clean up the clutter. 

Green Goddess solo organization, with bins, bags, and net pockets on the wall.
To set up the dinette, I move the piles, fold back the mattress, mount the table, and then return the storage.

Ultimately, storing your stuff that you take camping has to be an individual choice, based on personal needs and the particular trailer build. Finding the way to utilize the build you have for maximum efficiency and enjoyment is part of the camping adventure.

Simply put, storage is a challenge for tiny trailer owners--one met with ingenuity and resourcefulness. An issue that parallels storage challenges is the need for organization and good camp routines, an issue I've addressed in an earlier article, "Keeping Organized in a Tiny Trailer." Many times the process of organizing camping gear actually begins prior to the trip with how all that stuff is stored at home. Is it thrown in the closet or stored in organized bins? Tiny camper owners clean and prep their trailers in different ways, discussed in the article "Stocking Your Tiny Trailer (or Otherwise)." A third article that shows some good organizational photos is "Emergency Tiny Trailer Bug-out Readiness."

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Friday, February 7, 2020

Mary, Ava, and Retirement in Their Tiny "Woody" Teardrop

Mary McCartney enjoying retirement with her travel companion and her "woody" teardrop.

This post is a guest article written by retired school teacher and tiny trailer owner Mary McCartney, from Missouri. It is a perfect Owner Profile and an inspiration for tiny trailer aficionados, especially with her beautiful custom-built trailer.

--by Mary McCartney

In 2016 I retired from being a public school teacher to concentrate on a new career in the wanderlust industry. Growing up with summers spent traveling the United States in the back of a station wagon, with tents and aluminum lawn chairs strapped on top, was intensive early training in outdoor wanderlust. When not traveling, we were floating the rivers in The Ozark National Scenic Riverways in Shannon County, Missouri. I grew up camping, backpacking, or in a canoe, always with dogs in tow. When my children were growing up, the camping and floating tradition continued with my own little family. My father, "Papa" to the boys, blessed us all with a love of nature and conservation. To date, I feel closer to God, watching the mist rise from a river or a sunset behind an ocean or mountains.

"I bought my first one cheap, on a whim."

So to continue, in 2016 it was natural to look at teardrops for sale. I bought my first one cheap, on a whim, and went to Gary, Indiana, to pick it up. At this point in the story, it is important to introduce my travel partner, Ava. She is my dog, and the position of power shifted immediately after I got her. In other words, she is really in charge. Of course the first night we spent together was in a tent and then in a canoe for a couple of days. So Ava and I went up to Gary to buy this little 4 x 8 teardrop with no air conditioning or heat; it was basically a hard-sided tent on wheels, that we loved. One of the earliest trips we took was with The Heartland Tearjerkers camping group, and we met some of the closest friends that we still camp with four or five times a year.

"I just couldn't get it out of my mind and had to see it to 'rule it out.' I was enchanted from the first glimpse.
The snow was so thick on the way home that we were only going 45 mph."

We took that little camper all over the Midwest and as far south as a month-long trip down to The Florida Keys, and were sold on teardrops and Tearjerkers, so we upgraded to the homebuilt woody that we travel with today. The woody was built by a couple in Wisconsin, Grant and Diane Pipkorn, and when we drove up to see it, we fell in love with this one of a kind, spectacular camper. The craftsmanship and attention to fine detail draws lots of attention, which every teardrop owner becomes used to. The must-have feature for our teardrop is the galley in the back. Being outside in nature is the point, and cooking and hanging out in the kitchen allows for that. (As well as the ability to fight off the inevitable raccoons.) Solar capacity was another must-have feature which we had installed because I was afraid to drill into the wood, but many owners do it themselves. Boondocking without electric hookup, means seeing places that most people never experience. Another great advantage to solar is staying on free BLM land out West. We, the people of the United States, own about 700 million acres of land that is open for free camping or at a minimal cost. The Army Corps of Engineers also manages free camping along rivers and lakes. I highly recommend this option to get off the beaten path.

With an all-wood interior and exterior, the camper weighs around 1,200 pounds dry, so a tow vehicle is quite important. I pull with a Jeep Wrangler Unlimited with a hitch weight of 200 pounds, which works because the camper has a long tongue distributing the weight to the rear. My tow weight is gross 2,000 pounds, but because most of the gear goes in the Jeep, the camper gross is about 1,350 pounds, which is manageable. The back seats of the Jeep can be folded down or removed, and if you have a dog that is really the boss, it allows plenty of room for said dog to stretch out and make demands. It is still a bit slow in the mountains, but who, pulling a trailer, isn’t? Regarding tow vehicles, I highly recommend installing a five point hitch which charges batteries while driving.  This is an easy DIY project for both the vehicle and camper.

Mary is an active member of the Heartland Tear Jerkers.

The best advice to anyone considering a teardrop, especially solo women, is to do it and stretch your comfort level.  It is surprising how nature can change a person's outlook, and doing it in a teardrop is exceptionally empowering.  Of course, doing it with a dog companion enhances all of the above.

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