Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Camper Vans and Compromise

We took a bit of a detour last week in our search for affordable living for retirement. We had been focused on finding a smaller home in St. Augustine as our base. But seemingly overnight, house prices have gone up. It may be just a temporary bubble, but it is no longer a buyer’s market here. So our house search is on hold.

Meanwhile, we are still looking at how to pull off the second phase of retirement living: where we will be when we are not at our base. We love our teardrop trailer, and it is perfect for short get-a-ways, but we dont picture living in it for weeks at a time. We dont want to own a second home for several reasons: the expense and headache of buying and maintaining it, and the wanderlust that calls to us from different parts of the country.

2002 EuroVan Camper: 42,000 miles • $43,500 • ebay  
For now, we have ruled out a larger trailer, even though I covet vintage Scottys and Shastas and Casitas. Same for a tiny house on wheels.

Dale’s opinion is that he wants more flexibility than a trailer, even a small one, allows. He’d like to easily pull into a major city or stop for the night at a tiny inn. And he’s a Jersey boy - constant towing is just not in his blood.

Our compromise is a camper van, which is not as simple a compromise as it sounds. It used to be, if you were a hippie you got a VW camper and if you loved country music you got a Chevy conversion van. Those lines have blurred today, and there are almost as many camper van options as there are baby boomers.

Vintage Karmann Ghia meets vintage trailer:
This St. Augustine resident has figured out how to combine a VW and a house on wheels
My favorite, VW campers, haven’t been available new in the US for over a decade. But when I took a break from writing this post to attend the memorial celebration for my friend’s mom, I bumped into someone I had not seen in 15 years. She was back in town after living on the West Coast for years in her 2002 VW EuroVan camper. And she is considering selling it…just a little more St. Augustine synchronicity. It may not turn out to be the right choice for us, but it sure is fun to think about.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Tiny Living and the Kitsch-en Sink

Don Featherstone flamingo 
design circa 1957 
made in Massachusetts
photo by Letty DiLeo

I camped in my teardrop trailer, Lizzie, the weekend before last with my friend Amy. We picked up Lizzie at Trekker Trailers in Eustis, Florida, from Andrew Bennett, who designed and built it. He had it in his shop to add a slide-in table on the back. While we were there, Andrew offered us a tour of his new tiny house.

I’d seen hundreds of tiny houses on-line, but had never been in one. This aqua beauty is 70 sq ft, and it has everything you need. The unique skylight makes it feel roomier than it is. It was easy to imagine living in it, minus all my stuff I discussed last week.
(Update: the tiny house, which you can see in my May 2 post, sold last week and headed to its new home in Neptune Beach.)

The new table
Lizzie lakeside at serene 
Lake Recreation Area 
Paisley, FL

Later, we set up camp at Clearwater Lake Recreation Area. The trip was a good reminder how little we need day-to-day. And the smell of the campfire reminded me of good times more than any amount of nostalgic clutter could. 

Some folks at Clearwater Lake carry  
their tiny houses on their backs
We spent a day in Mt. Dora at Renningers Vintage Garden Show, a huge flea market, and many, many yard sales. I saw lots of odd, old stuff that I liked and wanted. Amy bought a vintage typing table, a mysterious giant oak box that spun on a pedestal and, yes, the kitchen sink. I spent $15 and bought just two things: a small metal folding table to hold my Dutch oven and a vintage pink plastic flamingo, made in Massachusetts, to adorn my campsite. Because living tiny does NOT mean you can’t have kitsch.

Rennigers has its share of vintage trailers