Of all the cockamamie schemes I’ve had in my life—and there have been plenty—this latest thing I’m cooking up may be the nuttiest. As if things in my world weren’t fluid enough as it is I decide to buy a 50-year-old camper from what is, for all intents and purposes, the junkyard down the road from me, fix it up (in my inimitable fashion, of course) and take off to see the country with no itinerary, no time frame and absolutely no experience whatsoever towing something behind my car. Oh, and with a cat. And an accordion. Within spitting distance of fifty.
But that, my fixed-address friends, is the plan. When I return from my summer adventure in the Caribbean on or about September 1st, I’ll shake the water out of my ears, show off my tan-line, rent out the house for an extended period and shove off.
If any of y’all have had the perseverance to stick with me over the years you already know that ideas come into my head and I run with ‘em. The germ of this plan was this past winter—jeez, but it was a tough one! Cold cold cold and a lot of snow and, frankly, born-and-bred in the northeast that I am, I’m over it. I’ve mentioned elsewhere that I’ve researched lots of different places to live (in the event I were, in fact, to leave the area) and so many things took my fancy that I was having a devil of a time narrowing down my options.
So, when I noticed the little silver-colored camper sitting quite serenely in the yard full of crap that I pass every day on the way to the gym, a light bulb went off over my head. Being me, it was, of course, a decorative Christmas tree bulb (transparent blue) that blinked if you remembered to put in that little disc that sometimes comes with the string of lights into the first socket on the string.
I remembered to put in the disc.
The owner of the camper was on site one day last week, I stopped to chat and—before you can say “ball jack”--I was the proud owner of a 1958 Fan Coach Company 12-foot-sleeps-four camper. For exactly one hundred dollars.
Granted, the condition of the thing is not exactly pristine. Most of the interior pieces are there, but not necessarily installed. You’re not gonna want to fix a cozy meal in it as it is right now. In fact, you’ll probably want to wear rubber gloves and a mask just to step inside.
But did that stop me from making an Ikea run on Friday on my way up from the city? Nosiree Bob! My camper may not have anything resembling seats at the kitchen table, but it does have plates, glasses, silverware and pots and pans. And curtains for the (currently glassless) windows and fabric for the (currently cushionless) benches.
And it has that logo.
The fellow I bought it from mentioned the nickname of this style of camper is “canned ham.” I had never heard that before (in spite of the fact that this is the third camper I’ve fixed up; the other two were glorified lawn ornaments that never saw road trips) but as soon as I heard it I liked it. It sure looks like a canned ham and—considering my retiring personality—it could be said to contain a big slab o' smokehouse pork when I am finally in residence. My pop-culture-wired brain immediately went from ham to “To Kill A Mockingbird.” Remember Scout takes part in her school pageant dressed as a ham just before Bob Ewell attacks her? Somehow all those things seemed to be of a piece and (as the French would say,) wah-la! The Canned Ham logo.
It’s going to go on the back of the camper, above the rear (bedroom--hah!) window with this very website address underneath it. That way other travelin’ folks on the road can keep in touch with me during my travels and travails. (I’ve Photoshopped that on to one of the photos below. Clearly, I’ve got my priorities.) I’m going to get a wireless modem for the laptop so I can update this blog any time I like.
I’m thinking after a real good cleaning, and a fresh coat of stain and polyurethane I can start decorating. I really like the design scheme I came up with for my own house, and the era is approximately the same (1958 vs. 1960 for the house) so I decided to copy it. I even have left-over floor tiles to recreate the floor pattern. The seat cushions will have the same upholstery fabric my kitchen chairs have and even the curtains will be the same.
Talk about your home-away-from home!
I’ll install a little TV/DVD player in the bedroom area and I’m even thinking about putting in a surround sound system. I figure if I’m stuck in the middle of nowhere on a rainy day I can snuggle down with the cat and watch a bunch of movies in splendor. Not to mention the essential iPod to provide my daily soundtrack.
The outside needs a good clean and buff and I’ll have to install a new awning over the door for the full effect. My mechanic will update the tail-lights and give the chassis a once-over while I’m away over the summer.
One big drawback was the lack of title and registration. This thing had been sitting in the yard for decades and the guy I bought it from had no idea where it had come from, much less where the documentation was, or if it even still existed. So imagine my girlish intake of breath when I pulled up the groady old shelf liner in the kitchen cabinet and found a little white envelope that contained the original bill of sale and the title and registration in absolutely pristine condition! That find will save me mucho time and trouble. Clearly, it was a sign.
All these things will be documented in words and pictures right here, you can be sure.
One thing I need to be clear about: I may get out on the road and two days later decide this is definitely not a project for me. I may get just as far as Pennsylvania and find the perfect little town and stay there for a year. Or—the most likely deal-breaker—some amazing opportunity may present itself to me when I’m on Saba and I’ll forget I ever even had a camper with a cute logo on the back of it.
But, folks, I have this fantasy in my head of finding some secluded spot off the road next to a stream, setting up the camper just as the sun begins to go in, fixing a bite to eat and—after the dishes have been washed in the little sink with the pump handle—putting out the folding chair under the striped awning as the crickets start to chirp. Mickey is giving herself a bath just inside the screen door after her own dinner and I get out the accordion and start to play a sweet little waltz meant for just the two of us.
Ahhhhhhh….. I’m relaxed already.