Friday, April 26, 2019

The Traveling Teardrop Sisters: a Tiny Trailer Owner Profile

Betty and Ann, the Traveling Teardrop Sisters

Ann Schnepf and Betty Hanscum are the Traveling Teardrop Sisters.

The sisters travel a lot together with their tiny trailers and have discovered that they create a parade-like effect. "I travel in tandem with my sister," says Ann, "so there are two teardrops going down the road. I am in the lead, so by the time a car is passing me, they have already seen my sister. The looks we get are hysterical. We always have to give tours to other campers. You can tell they are curious as they walk by slowly. The usual response is, 'Is there a bed in that small thing?' Most people marvel at how much room and storage there really is in a teardrop." Both sisters reside in Iowa Des Moines area, having owned side by side apartments in a condominium for the last two years. Both own teardrops: Ann a Rustic Trail Teardrop Grizzly, and Betty a 5x10 T@G teardrop.

I (Tom Kepler, Green Goddess Glamping's sole cook and bottle washer) know this because I've seen the Traveling Teardrop Sisters all set up in their full campground splendor. The two rigs were the first teardrops I'd ever really looked closely at, and the story goes like this . . .

I was on an overnight bicycle camping trip to Lake Darling State Park in SE Iowa, having arrived early because of a wonderful tailwind. I pitched my one-person tent, cooked my dinner over a little alcohol stove, showered, and drifted off to sleep with the beautiful colors of the sunset reflecting on the lake. The next morning while walking, I met two women, whom I later found out to be Ann and Betty, who asked me about my camping set-up. They owned two teardrops, a T@G and an RTTC. Looking at my tent, Ann said, "Well, we finally met someone with a smaller camp set-up than us!" The sisters later took me on a tour of their teardrops and their campsite, answering my questions and allowing me to peek inside. That was my introduction to tiny trailer camping and my introduction to the RTTC models that eventually led to me buying a used RTTC Polar Bear--the Green Goddess. Therefore, I will always be grateful to Ann and Betty for introducing me to the world of tiny trailer camping.

Betty bought her T@G new in 2015 in Missouri, ordering it "with some custom items on it, no stove or sink in my back kitchen galley, just storage . Mine also has an ac unit in it with a 3-way roof fan. I also have an awning for my teardrop. My teardrop is white and yellow, and her name is Lemondrop. I bought it from Missouri Teardrop, outside of Warrensburg, Missouri, great place and great guy, Dana, to work with! He also installed a double bike rack to the tongue of my teardrop because I didn’t need a propane tank." Betty has modified her trailer from a double bed to a single, giving her more storage and open space. She can stand up in her 4-foot trailer by "hunching over," since she is only 5' 2" tall! She has also added a Velcro screen door to the trailer to keep out bugs and says it works great.

Ann hit the camping scene running (or driving), buying her Grizzly in July of 2017, picking it up in North Carolina, and camping all the way back home to Iowa. Her tow vehicle is a Honda CRV, which works great for her. She camped four times in 2017 and "was only able to camp five times in 2018," which shows that Ann is hooked! Ann and her sister camp at state parks because they love the availability of electric hook-ups.

That Traveling Teardrop caravan must be quite a sight, since not only do they both own teardrops but also the same model of tow vehicles, each a Honda CRV. Betty says, "I tow my teardrop, that weighs just about 1,000 lbs., with a 2018 Honda CRV. I got a new car this past summer; my previous car was a 2012 Honda CRV. There are no brakes on my trailer and generally I get 17-20 mpg towing. No issues ever with towing in Mountains, wind, all types of weather, etc. I usually forget she’s back there. I’ve even driven through fast food drive-throughs with her behind me! The best gas mileage was 32 mpg in Texas with a significant tailwind!"

For thirty years Ann was a tent camper, but over the years the tent routine grew old. "My sister had a smaller teardrop, and I loved it. I was tired of always having to put my tent up, and in bad weather we would sit in her camper."

Betty's take on her years of camping is similar--of how her life changed over the years until she finally "grew into" the teardrop camping life.
"I have been camping for over forty years, starting with my ex-husband going to Yellowstone camping in tents, every year coming back with a bigger tent until we bought our first pop up trailer. We pulled that little pop up with a 4-cylinder car (no ac) into the mountains! No problems. We had our first pop up for about 14 to 15 years before the roof rotted out. After that, we didn't camp for for about 2 to 3 years. Then we bought another pop up camper and had that one for eight years before we sold it. About 10 to 12 years ago my ex decided that he no longer wanted to go camping, so I packed up my son and my sister, and we went every year to lots of different places. After my son graduated from high school, the pop up was too large for one person, so I started looking into getting a teardrop. I was able to rent a teardrop from Missouri Teardrop to see if I liked the little trailers, and it was love at first sight! So I ordered one the following spring.  I love the size and tow abilities of a little trailer; also I could hitch up and go by myself and didn’t need any help at home or at the campground,. I felt very secure and safe if I was camping by myself."

The sisters have traveled throughout the Midwest and Southeast, state parks being a common destination. "Ann and I," says Betty, "belong to a group of women campers--Midwest Glampers. We attend several events every year with this group of over 250 women campers. Members set up camping events, usually starting in April, and we camp until October, depending on where in the Midwest and when. We usually camp on-grid in campgrounds, usually state or county campgrounds. We usually have electricity but not much else, and need a bathroom but have taken our portable potty a few times with us!  The thing that bugs Ann and me the most is that so many campgrounds make us get two campsites. Even though we aren’t as big as some of the big rigs and use hardly any electricity, they make us set up in two sites! Missouri has what are called family sites which have worked out well for us, but it is still two sites!"

Ann has also developed a particular style or look that has developed over time. "My camper had a short queen bed. I am single and do not need that size, so with the help of my sister and brother we modified my camper to a single bed, which gives me more room for storage. I love it. I've also decorated [my trailer] with pictures and quilts." Ann and her sister have a camp routine that works well for them. "Betty and I love to cook, so we have a screen room that we put up between the two campers. This is our kitchen. We put the picnic table in there. This is also an area to play games or retreat to when it is raining."

"Trailer trash." Where's the fashion police?
The sisters and their Midwest glamper group do enjoy glamping it up a bit for fun, hangers and pictures that can be changed out according to the holiday or glamping theme. Their club often has a theme which is common for a particular campout, such as Halloween to Trailer Trash to Christmas in July! Ann and Betty have several buckets of fun lights and decorations that they just pack up and go with. And although they have crazy fun, they also have their more personal and heartfelt memories. Betty says, "My main theme in my camper is one of outdoors, wildlife and basic camping. Years ago when I still had my pop up, Ann made me a mountain outdoor wilderness-themed quilt that I still use today. Putting curtains inside the camper also helps make it homey and comfortable, with extra pillows for comfort."

Although their camping norm is the comfort of a state park, there are some qualities Ann especially looks for in a campsite. She feels a lake or a stream is a plus. "I did tent camp in Canada by a lake and it was beautiful, until the moose came through our camp site!" Her favorite time of year is the fall when "the weather is cooler and the leaves are turning." Betty remembers her first time camping alone. She was in southern Missouri, "going to meet with fellow Glampers but was going to be by myself for two days. The campground was empty, no owner, no campers, no neighbors, no cell service--this remote part of Missouri was very scary, but I survived and have a great story about my 'Deliverance' camping experience!"

One interesting trip Ann and Betty took last summer was to Indianola, Iowa, for the balloon festival.

Betty feels that new campers should invest in good quality products. "Cheap doesn’t last long and just frustrates you when trying to do what you want to accomplish. Also a really great camp chair is important. You’ll be sitting in it for a while, so invest in a really good one." More advice from experience is that "quality cookware and stoves pay for themselves over time. Start with the basics and then look around camp to see what others do and start stealing ideas from others to build up your campsite." The sisters aren't afraid to let go of stuff they no longer use, frequently swapping or shopping out their equipment with other campers.

One useful tip is to take everything out of your trailer at least once a year. It helps you discover what you aren't using and what you need--and keep a list of what you have and where it is!  An important recommendation is to also to pack warm weather clothes and blankets, "no matter what the temp, you never can tell when you might need it!"

The Midwest Glampers group always checks with Ann and Betty if they need something because between the two of them, they usually have it, the two tiniest campers having the most stuff! Since Ann and Betty camp together most of the time, they don’t have to duplicate a lot of items, which saves a lot of space. One sister carries some stuff, the other sister carries other stuff! Permanent equipment and supplies stay in the campers, replaceable or temporary supplies go in the cars, which makes it easy to get up and go. "Just load up the cars, hook up the trailers, and go!"

Lake Darling, Ann and her sister Betty's campsite in the background, where Tom Kepler first met the sisters

As for future plans, Ann and her sister belong to several camping groups. Starting in January the groups they belong to start organizing different camping trips, so the sisters begin scheduling a camping calendar or destinations and dates and who they will be camping with, trying to schedule at least two camping trips every month from April till November, some close to home, others bigger trips, some with one camping group, some with another camping group, some just with the two sisters.

They are planning a few trips to southern Missouri and northern Arkansas,  in Iowa, and a big trip to Florida in November. "We plan on kayaking with the manatees down there!" says Ann. Travel dreams include trips to the Northeastern US, and also to North and South Dakota, and Colorado. "Wherever we can and for as long as we can!" The joy of camping for the Traveling Teardrop Sisters is infectious. They take the love and support they feel as sisters and radiate it out into the world, making the world a better place. The best way for me to finish this article is to say that I know that meeting the Traveling Teardrop Sisters has changed my life, and I sincerely hope our paths cross sometime during this next camping season.

(To read all the Green Goddess Glamping owner profiles, check out the Owner Profiles page. Click the link or the Owner Profiles button beneath the header photo.)

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  1. Wow! Great blog about two of my favorite sisters in the world. I can't wait to meet them this fall.

    1. I met them as a lowly bicycle camper, and they were very gracious. The perfect camping neighbors.

  2. Awesome story!!!Camp on Ladies 😉

  3. Great Article!!! Those women are awesome!!!

  4. Very cool!!! I camp in a tent with my dog. Sometimes it IS lonely, just the two of us. And as I get older sleeping on the ground, even on an air mattress, is getting old. Still, the odds of me moving to a camper are low given my husband thinks the whole camping thing is weird. Maybe someday.

    1. The nice thing about these tiny trailers is that they are not real expensive. Some are less than $5,000 new, and used ones can be picked up for much less. So it's possible to have your "bed on wheels." Online sales like Craig's List can be good sources for a local used tiny trailer. Good luck and happy camping!

  5. PS: I'm interested in the screen room...does it have a floor? If not how do you keep the bugs from creeping in under the walls?

    1. If I remember, the screen room does not have a floor. It was used mainly for sun and rain protection. However, the screen definitely helps keep out mosquitoes and flies. Creepy crawlies . . . not so much!

  6. How awesome you both are able to get out and go it together! Have a great time

  7. We just saw you two we salute you guys

  8. I just passed you guys on hwy 64 west bound in Chesterfield, Mo. Was curious and found this page. Cool!! Inspiring!