Posts Tagged ‘camping’

The Glamper

The concept of taking a tiny, outdated and rundown camping trailer and refurbishing it into something not only functional but perfect in every nostalgia-inducing aspect first came to me one hot Indian summer day at the 2013 Country Living fair in Columbus, Ohio. Not that any one part of it inspired me to come up with the idea myself; rather, the realized creation rose up before me beyond stalls piled high with antiques, jewelry, furniture, amputated doll arms and other vintage ephemera.

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I stopped, floored by the ingenuity and thought, My goodness. Someone’s taken a tiny, outdated and rundown camping trailer and refurbished it into something not only functional but perfect in every nostalgia-inducing aspect.

This isn’t the one at the fair but it’s gone through the same process.

photo credit: Eighth Lake via photopin (license)

photo credit: Eighth Lake via photopin (license)

I Googled this phenomenon when I got home and discovered that I am a latecomer to it – people all over the continent, mostly women, are buying up tiny old camping trailers (the tinier and older, the sweeter the finished product) and converting each one into what amounts to a play fort for neurotic romantics. They labeled the movement with a suitably clever portmanteau: glamping, which in its broadest sense means camping enjoyed with the amenities and luxuries of home (this can happen in a tent) but often refers specifically to camping in these trailers, and then they organized rallies in every state and province so that they can admire each other’s glampers and show off their own. The rule for converting these trailers is that no rules exist beyond what personal style and taste dictate. Contemporary browns and stodgy grays have no dominion over the glamper; they’re turned out in every colour imaginable: lemon yellow, cherry red, calming turquoise and combinations of all three and more. Interiors are limited only to the imagination, from frilly to minimal, monochromatic pinks, 50s diner, fairy tale, each trailer is its owner’s happy place realized. I was captivated.

Albert responded to my latest whim the way he does to all of them: amused smiles and eye-rolling set to indistinct rumblings of, “impracticle”…”never use it”…”too much work”, words that mean little to anyone afflicted with the fever of new discovery and ambition, if they hear them at all.

What he did next though, was a surprise. While I perused vintage trailer websites and cheered myself with the hope of owning one someday before retirement, Albert secretly scoured the country side for a specimen to match what he’d gleaned from my rhapsodic depictions of the ideal glamper. He found it last summer, hunkered down in a man’s backyard on highway 3 between Aylmer and Tillsonburg.

When he drove up to the house to ask about it, the man came to the door and said the trailer was for sale but that it belonged to a younger brother whom he identified only as shithead junior, but he never said whether the boys’ namesake was their father or himself. All that remained for Albert was to call me up and mention, as cool and indifferent as you please, that he’d landed me the old trailer I’d been hankering after. I let out a gasp and some other high-pitched noises and fell to thanking and scolding him in turns and generally carrying on exactly the way he’d known I would to such news. It was what motivated him from the beginning.

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The trailer is a thirteen-foot 1965 Playmor, which, on researching alphabetical listings of travel trailer brands on the internet makes me grateful – it falls only two entries below Playboy and a page over from Gay Rover – names innocent enough fifty years ago, surely, but I couldn’t disclose the name of my trailer without a blush were it to carry connotations of a lecherous magazine mogul or character in a Bronski Beat song.


The glamper honeymoon ended when we got it home. Behind every fantasy spun from a vintage trailer with buttercream curtains and daisy decals is a load of work, and work of the most unromantic sort – wiping petrified mouse droppings from closets, plying layers of old linoleum from the floor one obstinate inch at a time and if you’re really unlucky, pulling back a wall panel to reveal wood rot in the trailer’s frame, and then you know that the renovation monster ruining your life has only begun to straighten up and look interested. It feeds on every discovery of further damage – Hello, rotting floor boards – and crows when it knows you’re in too far to turn back – Home Depot doesn’t refund Behr’s Effervescent Yellow in semi gloss because only a poor sap who fancies dilapidated camping trailers would buy it.

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We couldn’t keep the barn cats out and yet invariably, they just wanted to look at the barn from the inside of a trailer.

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But we prevailed. The damp wood was aired and repaired and then we replaced and painted walls and everything else that needed freshening up. We scarcely finished one day before we finally went camping with a group of friends at the end of July this year.

trailer outside

Even now, I haven’t done everything to it that I plan to but it’s still right. Besides, renovating can threaten the equilibrium in even the best of marriages if you don’t know when to stop.

I wish my pictures of the interior weren’t so dark.  The bench seat in the back pulls out into a twin-size bed. I underestimated the amount of curtain fabric needed to cover the window at the head of the bed but that’s another detail I’m willing to overlook for the sake of equilibrium.

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In the front, the table lowered and the four bench cushions laid flat provide another twin bed.

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The tiny three-burner stove and oven in classic Avocado Green is my favourite feature inside the trailer.

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It reminds me that there was a time near enough for me to remember yet so far removed from today’s jaded and contemptuous mindset that people considered this humble colour quite beautiful and suited to the Frigidaires and Hotpoints of the day. I know they must have been contemptuous of their parents’ things but I’m not sure each generation only matches the level of contempt of the one before it. I think maybe we get snobbier and more cynical all the time.

I kept the original linoleum in a few strategic places for my own private enjoyment.

old linoleum

Dark clouds moved in on the third night at camp. I crawled into the back bed and Albert into the front. He soon fell asleep but I left a light on and counted the plastic flowers that surround the screws in the ceiling and listened to the slow rain on the tin roof a few feet above us. I video-taped a little of it. I wanted to immortalize the perfectness of this tiny glowing sanctuary and the rain except the effect produced through my phone camera sounds more like AK-47 bullets hitting the roof than anything comforting. Still, you don’t forget what it’s like to inhabit those moments where you believe, however briefly, that drive test flower powerappointments, low platelet counts and hyper-Calvinists can never get in or make you come out. I guess this is what inspires every glampermaniac to tackle the grime and rotting wood and mouse poo and frustration in the first place. We’re not crazy. We just knew it could be like this.


Of Moose And Men

There’s a hollow clearing in the woods about eighty kilometers south of Kakabecca Falls and twenty-six kilometers west of Thunder Bay.


woodsy path

Every autumn, Albert and about five other men travel sixteen hours to reach it.  These sons of Cain congregate in the dell for a week of male camaraderie and all that that entails – tearing around the woods and fields on four-wheelers, eating red meat laced with Habanero peppers and hunting moose.



For all their need to escape to the great north and “rough it”, they’re housed quite comfortably.  They outfitted an old tractor-trailer with windows and a door and swathed it in the most arresting shade of blue paint I’ve ever seen.


 They furnished it with a fully functional kitchen and a wood stove for heat,


sleeping quarters beyond the kitchen,


and a shelf for toiletries.


When the beds are packed away on the way to and from camp, there’s even room to pack an extra vehicle.


The boys are a motley bunch.  They fill evenings around the wood stove with theological debate, hearty drinking and impromptu Bible study.  Sometimes all three happen at the same time.


The oldest of the men, Wishbone, is the camp cook.  His real name is Jacob, but with his prickly personality, he’s the epitome of Wishbone, the cattle drive cook from Rawhide, Albert’s favourite old western TV show.


Paul Brinegar as Wishbone on right

Wishbone (Jacob) is a capable outdoorsman.  He can whip up dinner for seven, wash dishes, then walk into the woods and shoot a bull moose for supper while the rest of the gang (who haven’t seen more than a hoof print in three days) range up to thirty kilometers from camp on their all-terrain vehicles in search of wild game.  Wishbone takes good care of the men, on his terms.  You’re not late to supper and you don’t order the cook to get up and refill your coffee cup when you camp with Wishbone.

The boys climb into their bunk beds and sleep in harmony every night – six-part harmony, that is.  When Albert describes the men snoring, I wonder how any of them get any sleep.  Some of them even snore both ways – drawn-out, seismic tremolo on the way in bridged by sonorous vibrato of the tonsillar pillars on the way out.

Albert is impossibly cute when he sleeps.

Albert is impossibly cute when he sleeps.

They bring a very serviceable shower to the site,


but now and then, some of the men like to disrobe and wade into a cold, clear lake nearby.  How I relish the thought of posting a picture of four middle-age men cavorting in the water under the bracing northern sky wearing little more than farmer’s tans.  But I can’t, for the simple reason that Albert won’t let me.  Before the men broke camp that week, they made a solemn pact that none of the pictures should ever surface on the Internet.  I am guilty of sharing one of the pictures with a friend, but Albert was alone in that particular photo and we both trust the person I shared it with implicitly.  Besides, I reckon if the men are so anxious that those photos never see the light of day, why, then they should have kept their unmentionables shrouded in that same dark place.

Once Albert comes home with the spoils of the hunt, moose makes a regular appearance on our fall and winter menu.  If the animal is killed properly (read “mercifully”) and butchered correctly, there is usually no need to marinate the meat in vinegar or cook it with onions or to employ any other method commonly used to make wild game edible.  It will taste no different from beef, or perhaps beef will taste no different from moose.

Moose enchiladas,

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moose fajitas

 Moose fajita

and savory moose chops are a few of the delicious moose meals we enjoy.

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I’ve yet to try my hand at moose loaf and moose medley.  Wishbone might be disposed to share a moose recipe or two with me.  If I ask nicely.


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