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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  1. Great article Mary & Ava...our favorite camping pals :)

    1. The Heartland Tear Jerkers seems like a great group.

  2. Great article Mary! Can’t wait to see you and Ava again. Shirley

  3. Great article Mary. Can’t wait to see you and Ava again in Oklahoma

  4. Enjoy articles like the one featured. Inspiring.

    1. Thank you! That's one reason why I've developed this blog--to learn about all the inspiring lives others are living.