Guest Post by Dawn Langton: On the Teardrop Camper Trail
When I was kid, my mother aspired to a singlewide. She grew up in our house, a rambling Dutch Colonial on Long Island. My friends loved its weird nooks and crannies and creepy cellar. My mom hated that it always needed work and took forever to clean.
So in the New York suburbs of the 1960s, when most adults thought bigger was better, she longed for a simple trailer in the woods. Later, she discovered tiny log cabins, and lobbied my father endlessly to make the move. She finally got her wish, in a way, when they retired to what she called her “treehouse,” a small, rustic duplex on stilts on the Gulf Coast of Florida.
My mom’s love of little dwellings was not lost on me. We started to camp when I was 10. While my dad started the fire on cool fall mornings, she and I would hunker down in the canvas cabin that we got with S&H Green Stamps. I still use the same Coleman cooler and stove, but I’ve reached an age when sleeping on the ground has lost its charm. My husband and I also are working toward downsizing. I blog about our progress at Trending Toward Tiny Retirement (www.trendingtiny.com). When we sell our 1,800 square foot house, we hope to rent a smaller place as a base and take to the road.
In the meantime, we’d like to camp more. I love all things retro, so of course I’m drawn to teardrop campers and vintage travel trailers. The 50s version of today’s tiny houses, they are ready to go on a moment’s notice and fit most anywhere. And, unlike VW campers, which I also covet, they don’t have an engine to worry about.
I spent hours, days, weeks, ok, months online, drooling over old and new campers. We ruled out the taller canned hams, tempting as they are. As much as I’d like to stand up in my dwelling, finances and vehicle storage are top priorities for now. So I honed in on teardrops.
Let me be clear about one thing: I can paint and hammer and sand, but I’ve never built anything bigger than a birdhouse. It was made of redwood, but that’s where its grandeur ended. So building a teardrop was out. But that still left lots of choices. Used or new? Wood or aluminum skinned? Homemade or company-built?
I joined the forum at www.tearjerkers.net, and asked those good people for advice and leads. A few members were selling wonderful, one-of-a-kind tears they’d built, but most of them were too far away. So I used a Craigslist app and www.searchtempest.com to scan Florida on a daily basis. I visited vintage trailer classified sites and eBay weekly. I haunted forums and blogs.
One day I spotted a listing for a teardrop in Eustis, Florida, about two hours from my house. Many phone calls and texts later, we were on our way to check it out. Built by Andrew Bennett of Trekker Trailers (www.trekkertrailers.com), it was aluminum out and wood in, the tiny product of a tiny company.
Andrew is a skilled builder with an art background who appreciates fine design, careful craftsmanship and smart spaces. He had two tears on site, a Simple Sleeper and the larger Adam’s Cabin, both beautiful to behold.
Even better, the smaller one was a demo, and Andy offered us a great price with lots of extras thrown in. The next week, after a few modifications, we hitched it to our Kia Ronda and drove off. Since then we’ve camped in muggy downpours and freezing winds, and stayed snug in our tear.
It’s not a singlewide, but my mom would have loved it.
Dawn Langton is a writer, editor and blogger who has loved tiny spaces since she built a duplex out of a refrigerator box when she was seven. She’s been a newspaper reporter, college publications director and small business owner. She lives in a bungalow in St. Augustine, Florida, with her husband, daughter, dog and cat, and is the proud owner of a Trekker Trailer teardrop. She blogs about Trending Toward Tiny Retirement at www.trendingtiny.com.