Monday, October 21, 2019

2019 Gathering of the Bears: RTTC 2nd Annual Tiny Trailer Gathering

Warm ocean waters, photo by Louisa Dunlap

My first inkling that attending the RTTC 2019 Gathering would be different than most of my camping trips was when I was sitting in my camp chair underneath the Green Goddess's awning, reading and relaxing after the long road trip. It was Thursday afternoon, October 10, the first day of the Rustic Trail Teardrop Campers "Gathering of the Bears." I had arrived early on Tuesday and was all set up in Site 2 of the North Campground at South Carolina's Huntington Beach State Park.

Site 2, Huntington Beach State Park, North Campground, South Carolina

Site 2 is the first campsite you see when you enter the North Campground. (Site 1 is just across the road, but somewhat hidden by trees. Site 2 is bordered on both sides by the entering and exit roads.) So I'm sitting quietly reading, when suddenly an entering car pulling an RTTC Papa Bear completely stops. I hear a shout, "The Green Goddess!" I receive an enthusiastic wave, and the car continues on to find their campsite. This happy circumstance occurred several times during my stay--RTTC owners stopping in their cars, on bicycles, or just strolling by and stopping to ask if my camper was the Green Goddess and if I was Tom Kepler, the writer. Usually I camp and then write about my experiences, publishing and sharing them with readers. This time, I was camping right in the middle of a group of folks who read my blog, and it was such a warm and sharing weekend that turned out to be an enjoyable time of making friends, an experience aptly expressed by fellow RTTC owner Heidi Berman: "I would like to THANK ALL who made the 2nd RTTC reunion a great success. I loved meeting everyone, seeing old friends and spending time with special people who have so much positivity and kindness to give. I can’t wait to camp again."

RTTC evening sharing, photo by Karen Landon

Sharing camping with friends was a new, wonderful experience for me, one that I would never have experienced if I hadn't chosen to attend the RTTC get-together, my attendance effected by a curious convergence of possibilities, including a tree limb smashing my tiny trailer's roof, the gracious offer of the builder to replace it, and the RTTC second annual yearly gathering occurring just one week after the roof replacement. Camping with over seventy others who arrive to share a weekend together? I had last done this when camping with my son and family friends and their son, over twenty years ago.

Event coordinator Jim Cook. Photo by John D. Pappas

I've already written about the tree, the trip out from Iowa, the roof replacement, and other events on this trip, if you need to get caught up.
  • (Sept. 24) A Tree Limb Bashes My Tiny Trailer, the Green Goddess
  • (Oct. 2) Pilgrimage to Pilot Mountain: A New Roof for My Tiny Trailer, Part 1
  • (Oct. 4) Pilgrimage to Pilot Mountain: A New Roof for My Tiny Trailer, Part 2
  • (Oct. 6) Unknowingly, I Tiny-Trailer Camp-Crash Woodstock
  • (Oct. 10) Walking the Beach, Huntington Beach State Park, South Carolina

An evening of fine food, photo by Levi Magon Sechrist

The weekend officially began with a potluck Thursday evening, with the get-together coordinator Jim Cook providing an entertaining yet focused welcoming talk, reminding us all to celebrate our commonalities, to be inclusive and big-hearted. And that is what happened for one magical weekend of great people, great weather, and a grand time. Mother ocean, a nearly full moon, enough wind to discourage the mosquitoes, good food, and a few rascally raccoons to keep us on our toes--RTTC pulled off a homespun, heartfelt gathering for its enthusiastic customers.

Moon and ocean, photo by Charlene Bradley Barnes

Beauty of Brookgreen Gardens, photo by Michael Richardson

I had read on Facebook, of course, about the first RTTC gathering, and I had read about other tiny trailer builder get-togethers: Nucamp (T@G and T@B), Camp-Inn trailers, Hiker Trailers, and I'm sure a great many more builder gatherings for trailer owners. I had read the accounts of owners who had attended get-togethers and even made presentations, and about other kinds of get-togethers, such as the Tearjerkers and Xcapers gatherings and the Rubber Tramp Rendezvous (RTR).

"Birds of a feather . . ."

These gatherings all seemed like a lot of fun, but as the solitary literary guy, I was having so much fun reading about them that I never seriously considered actually attending them! I have to say now that there's a lot more potential for fun to when you go and participate. Watch Rob Dickerson's video compilation of the gathering to see many fine photos of the camaraderie shared during our RTTC gathering.

Kayaking at Murrell's Inlet, photo by Lori Gandy

Sand sculpture contest, photo by Lisa Keeney Maurer

On Thursday, the first day of the gathering, people settled in and set up camp. Friday included food and an informal "beach party" at a central pavilion. Saturday started with a morning craft show (at which I sold books) and an evening dinner catered by a local chef. These more formal events were the anchors around which the fireside gatherings and beach walks and confabs occurred. RTTC trailer owners--and a few attendees who have not yet been able to buy their Bears--talked and shared and got to know one another. I'm reminded of that saying: "You build a house then make it a home." We had bought these tiny trailers, these "hard-sided tents," and we've filled them with our hearts and dreams. And then at this gathering, we shared our hearts and dreams, we shared our tiny trailer lives. By being a part of this get-together, I'm now more firmly established in this community of like-minded tiny trailer owners--of friends. Thank you, Rustic Trail Teardrop Campers, and thank you, RTTC owners.

Photographer/editor Rob Dickerson says, "I just knew I had seen this group before somewhere!"

I now return to my solitary writing ways, sitting beside my woodstove and writing in the pre-dawn morning. Anyone who owns a tiny trailer knows we're all ambassadors for tiny trailer camping. We are reminded every time we stop for gas and are asked about our trailer, every time we set up camp and have folks come by to ask questions. Being a part of this association of tiny campers is a wonderful way to be reminded that we belong to a larger club, the family of man, as it has been called. We are all human beings, with so much in common. We sit around a common campfire, sharing light and warmth, a human experience that goes back to the dawn of time.

Graphic by Louis Laporte

The next RTTC gather is October 8-11, 2020, at Harrison Bay State Park, Chattanooga, Tennessee. People are already signing up. I stopped overnight at the park as I traveled back home to Iowa from the reunion. Mountains this time instead of ocean. And the experience of a sharing and giving community--always!

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  1. I still can't believe that I got to see The Green Goddess and her humble servant, Tom Kepler. Great article. Thanks for helping others enjoy your travels.

    1. The trip to the Carolinas and back was my longest trip so far. Hopefully sometime in the future my wife and I will come out, but take our time rather than a long string of overnighters. That will be fun!

  2. Replies
    1. It was great meeting you and Bob also. I really appreciate your allowing me to write the travelogue about your trip out to the West.

  3. It was so nice to meet you and have you attend our gathering! I hope we meet up again in our journeys and we can just kick back and shoot the bull! This is a great blog that truly makes you ee the warmth of our group.

  4. My one regret is that in the evenings there were a number of campfire gatherings, and I didn't get a chance to spend time at all of them. So, yes! I hope to meet you and everyone again and laugh and talk. :)

  5. Ive attended the first one and live close enough to attendn events at headquarters too. It is a wonderful bunch. I had too much happening all in the same weekend this year but hope to attend next year.

  6. I have plans for next year that interfere, but I hope to take care of those plans early so that I can attend next year (RTTC 3), Good luck!