The Start of Stevie

If you’ve made it far enough to be reading this, that must mean you have some interest (however slight) in my little vintage camper and its travels. Yay! Welcome. I hope you love hearing about our adventures.

But, like all true bloggers must, I figured I should start with the obligatory introduction post and telling the story of how my 1953 Fleetwood trailer came to be. I’ll try to make it as painless as possible and get to the good stuff!

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Exploring Prince Edward Island, Sept. 2016

My name is Lisa – I’m an executive assistant and native Arizonan – I was raised in a small town on the Mogollon Rim in Northern AZ, and later moved to Phoenix for school and work. Most days, I honestly hate it. The heat and the concrete jungle don’t exactly call to me. Anyway…earlier this year, I went through a really major life change that I honestly never saw coming. At nearly 27, let’s just call it a “quarter” life crisis. At a point where I had never felt more lost, trapped and out of control of my own life, I started craving and searching for a way to connect – to find myself again.

I have always loved travel and photography, preferably in tandem. But a simple “Eat, Pray, Love” trip to Europe wasn’t going to satiate the type of wanderlust I was experiencing. I needed something that was a challenge, a risk, and above all – something that was my very own. I found myself drawn to Instagram accounts featuring nature, adventure, and a kind of “simplified living” that I yearned for. It’s no surprise that the concept of “tiny living” is sweeping the nation. You can’t channel surf for very long without running into an episode of Tiny House Hunters or Tiny House, Big Living.

I started noticing the clever ways that people were repurposing vans, buses, and camper trailers. While I may not be ready for full-time tiny living, I loved the idea of having a fun mode of transportation that I could take around the country, seeing every inch that I possibly could. Growing up, my family did many trips in our motorhome, and they were some of my favorite childhood memories. But, I was discouraged by the idea of a van or bus because, frankly, I’m not good with cars and engines! While I wanted a challenge, that just seemed like a suicide mission.  That left one option: camper trailer.

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1956 Aljo Canned Ham – PC: Tiny House Blog

Why Vintage? Oh, the number of times I had to field this question once I started looking around for my camper. I heard it all, including but not limited to calling them rolling death traps and, “You know you can get a new one for the same price or even cheaper, right?” Truthfully, I’m not really sure how I came across them, but once vintage trailers came onto my radar, it was really the only option. I wasn’t a fan of the plastic-y, big box trailers that are produced today. And the modern “comforts” of home that most people look for in a new camper were a big turn-off for me. If I’m trying to connect with nature, what on earth do I need cable and a flat-screen TV for?! (I mean no judgement to those who do this – everyone has their own camping/travel experience, and to each their own!)

The look of vintage trailers is unparalleled. You’ve probably heard the phrase before, but it’s definitely true of mid-century campers: they just don’t build ’em like that anymore. There’s a reason that so many of them still exist, and that restoring them is such an art! I started looking around in February, and after two months and many close-calls and false alarms, I was starting to get discouraged. I was discovering that a lot of vintage campers that were so-called “restored” were nothing more than paint to hide a whole host of problems. They were cute, definitely, but not sturdy and definitely not something that I could take on repairing myself.

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Notice “fresh paint throughout” – this probably means it’s covering up water damage, rot, and goodness knows what else! Typical of most “restored” campers on Craigslist.

In researching and searching for these campers, I created an account on Vintage Trailer Talk, and found their advice to be invaluable. Many of these men and women make their living restoring and rebuilding these trailers, and they are a wealth of knowledge on the subject. I basically lived on their forums to ensure that whatever I bought wouldn’t be a disaster or money pit. I quickly learned that Craigslist and Ebay were almost always unreliable.  Two sites that I did visit almost daily were Vintage Camper Trailers and Little Vintage Trailer – and that’s where I first laid eyes on Little Miss Penny.

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Little Miss Penny – PC: American Travelers Restorations

Yes, clearly it’s not my trailer, but Penny is vital to my story, because she’s how I found Brooke, and American Travelers Restorations! While Penny ended up being a little too small for me, I started talking to Brooke about her restoration company and other trailers that she had available, and we hit it off immediately! After hearing her thorough process of rebuilding and the true passion she has for restoring vintage trailers, I knew right away that I wanted to work with her.

Brooke had a 1953 Fleetwood 13′ camper since January, and just hadn’t found the right owner to restore it for yet. Enter: me! I was drawn to the Fleetwood right away, and knew I wanted to make her mine. We came up with a plan and a budget, and I headed out to Hemet, CA in May to check out Stevie for myself before signing on the dotted line. On that note, let’s discuss her name: from the second this Fleetwood was a glimmer in my eye, I knew I would want to name her Stevie. If you know me well, you may have already guessed why I chose that name (my boss caught on right away).

Stevie gets her name from both a play on words (Fleetwood) and one of my favorite musical artists – the beautiful and talented Stevie Nicks! I grew up listening to Nicks and

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Stevie Nicks in 1976 – PC: Rolling Stone

Fleetwood Mac with my parents, and I just love her voice and her gypsy attitude. While I was working on trailer preparation with my mom, the song Gypsy came on and she recounted how she and my dad heard Stevie Nicks perform that song live back in the day – such great memories! It’s rumored that Fleetwood Mac is embarking on their final tour (2018, I believe), so I think I need to hear her in person myself! Accepting donations now, ha!

P.S. Pretty sure I need a copy of this photograph of her somewhere in the camper – how gorgeous is she?! Her eyes are the perfect embodiment of how I want to feel when I travel: wide, wondering, wandering. She’s a perfect mascot!

 

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Me & Brooke with pre-restoration Stevie

So…back to the story. I took the leap of faith and planned a weekend trip out to California to meet Brooke and see the Fleetwood in person. Needless to say, it was love at first sight, and we drew up the plans to meet up again in 6 weeks (eek! was it really that fast?!) to pick up my completely restored trailer and take her home. But, why would I do that when I could take her on an insanely long and overly-ambitious trip instead?! And that’s a story for another post…

I’ll go into her restoration in more detail, but if you’re impatient (I sure was) you can see more before and after pictures of Stevie here.

 

It’s a terrible thing, I think, in life to wait until you’re ready. I have this feeling now that no one is ever ready to do anything. There is almost no such thing as ready. There is only now. And you may as well do it now. Generally speaking, now is as good a time as any.

Hugh Laurie

 

 

 

 

 

2 thoughts on “The Start of Stevie

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  1. Stevie is amazing! I too have had a similar life-crisis/calling. Mine happened at 35 so more of a 1/3 life crisis. 😆 Thank you for sharing your story and photos on Instagram. I’m curious, if you are willing to share, what the ballpark cost was for Stevie? I’m looking into similar options and am trying to get an idea of what I need to save up. Looking froward to more adventures! Thanks!

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    1. Thank you so much for your kind words and for following along! I’m glad I’m not the only one who has these crazy ideas 😉 When all was said & done, Stevie was around $12k (that includes a few mistakes on my part that I had to pay to fix…stay tuned haha!) Like I mentioned in the post, you can find some on Craigslist for $3-7k, but most of them have serious issues that haven’t been addressed and will end up being costly in the long run. For most of the vintage trailers that have been restored correctly, they seem to run anywhere between $10-20k. Unless you’re a major DIY-er who is ready for the biggest project of your life! I hope this was helpful, and if Southern California is convenient to you, I HIGHLY recommend the restoration company I bought Stevie from. Brooke & American Travelers Restorations are amazing! Their website is in my post. Good luck!

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