Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Pimp my vardo

While Supertroll did a mighty fine job of finishing the vardo, including sewing the cushions on the bed, seating area and curtains.....

the color scheme was just not what I had in mind for a gypsy wagon. He finished in all in pretty neutral tones of gray and dark green - OK for a guy, but I have a VERY different color palette planned.

He did add special little touch of ivy decals on the inside that are nice... I will leave them, but of course add much much more!

The new color scheme really was inspired by a quilt I made last spring - it has really bright colors that just make me happy. It will be the perfect size for the twin bed. I also have some lovely purple fabrics that will become curtains and new seat cushion covers. I found a few small purple carpet pieces ( future plans may also include adding a nicer wooden floor)

The new exterior paint is a bright green/ deeper green, purple and bright pink trim. i'm working on trying to make it look distressed/ or like washed woodwork. need to tone it down just a bit!

I have also found many different pieces wooden scroll work at a lovely little shop - "Vintiques" in the KC City Market. I intend to copy them to make a few more pieces and they will be painted in these lovely bright colors and placed around the windows and at the bottom corners.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Trip to Tennessee

We left on Friday the 13th ( my mom says the number 13 is LUCKY), so we weren't too worried! On the way there I wanted to stop by a little Irish store called Blackthorn Stick in Washington, Mo. It was a little out of our way - but worth it! What a neat little shop and the owner was very friendly and she is into fairies. So am I - in fact I'm working on making small fairies made of flower petals, felt tops, wool hair and acorn caps. One of the crafts I hope to sell out of my little gypsy wagon. We also found a horseshoe (many wagons I've seen have a horseshoe hung in their vardos). The one we found wasn't really an actual horseshoe, but is a carved image of one with shamrocks and "Love and luck welcome here". I thought it might help us have safe journeys. Actually our detour took us south of St. Louis so I think we missed most of rush hour traffic.- a lucky beginning to this trip. We made it to our first stop in Paducah, KY for an overnight stay.

We got up early Sat to travel on to Lynchburg, Tennesse. It was pouring down rain as we passed through Nashville. I requested that the sky lighten up and stop raining when we got to the campground and.... low and behold as we pulled in to the parking lot where the vardo was parked - the rain let up! We got out and met up with Supertroll who was in the visitors center when we arrived - getting quarters (the trip up from Alabama was also quite soggy and the inside of the vardo got wet - the cushions and the floor) he was quite upset and wanted us to be able to dry them out at the laundry mat! It really wasn't as bad as he thought.

He opened up the vardo and we all climbed inside. It was really more roomy than I had imagined. In all the pictures he had posted there was never any with people inside, so it was difficult to really understand the scale. All four of us - Mike and I and Supertroll and his wife climbed in to sit - quite cozy but it will definitely work for one or two!

We then proceeded to a campsite where Supertroll (he prefers to keep his identity unknown!) showed us all the bells and whistles - we leveled it out with jacks, plugged in and had lights and air(although this was definitely not needed as the temp was about 50 degrees). think I should've taken notes cause we had a little problem later that night!
So money was exchanged, bill of sale signed and I was now the proud owner of an Amercan bow topped vardo - my gypsy wagon.

It then started to rain again. We decided to plug in the portableheater to try to dry the cushions rather than take the covers off (which were rather hard to do - he really made a good fit for them) and take them to the laundry.

After all the excitement of setting up camp we realized we hadn't eaten lunch and we were starving. On recommendation of the park rangers we headed to a restaurant called
Granny Fishes for some of the local cuisine - fresh catfish and trout as the place is right next to a fish farm. Great food including some really fine hushpuppies and blackberry cobbler for later!
If you are ever near there - stop it for some reasonable priced, good and filling dinner.

Of course we had to make a quick stop( yeah right) into Walmart for a few more essentials - jacks for the front porch, a hairdryer to help dry the cushions, a waterproof mattress cover and then some Jack Daniels berry coolers to toast to our first night the Emma Rose! When we got back to the campground - still raining. The heater had really warmed it up and dried the carpet and part of the cushions. (I actually had been in a litle panic about leaving the heater on when we weren't there - visions of the vardo in flames danced in my head). Still raining. I worked to set up the bed and we shared a cooler to celebrate how well everything had gone so far ( perhaps celebrating a little too soon).

Not much going on in state parks in March - although we lucked out to be there on the one Saturday of the month when they had "Saturday Nite Pickens" with local acoutic music - guitar, fiddles, mandolin, etc. in the recreation hall. It was warm and dry - some of the music was good, some was definitely "local" amatuers so we decided to turn in early. It had been a long day, long anticipated and we were both ready to hit the sack.

When we got back to the campsite - the outdoor lamp was quite dim and when we opened the door, there was strong electrical smell. Mike picked up the trickle charger attached to the 12 volt and it was really hot! We disconnected it. Then we had NO lights. Something was not right with the 110 plug and those lights were not working either. Not sure what was wrong - maybe water had gotten into the wiring, but it was late, dark and wet - not the time to be fiddlin with electricity so.... we pulled out our little lights SuperTroll had given us and dug around for other flashlights trying to get something to work (important note to self - always check your flashlights BEFORE you need them!) Apparently all the moisture was now on the inside of the tarp - we did our best to dry in off with paper towels so that it wouldn't drip on us.

After a little futzing around, we eventually got settled in for the night. I slept in the upper bed, Mike slept on the floor on a bedroll ( not quite cushy enough - need an airmattress for more comfort ) It rained ALL NIGHT LONG and I heard every drop as my head was only about a foot away from the ceiling. I also made a big mistake by not going to the bathroom before going to bed. Not a good combination for a good nights sleep. I made it till about 4 o'clock before I ventured out to the bathroom ( just one of the disadvantages of this small trailer ) I had the "looby loo" with me, but didn't have it set up. Looby Loo is a poor mans porty potty consisting of a 5 gallon bucket with a toilet seat attached. They make bags to contain the contents in a waterproof bag that even has moisture absorbing crystals - like what is in disposable diapers. I will definitely set it up for future nights. Not the best nights sleep - but I know it'll be better next time. We were warm and dry ( except for the condensation on the tarp) and thankfully the rain had stopped. We hitched up with out a problem and were on our way back home.

We stopped in Murfreesburrough so Mike could see the Civil war museum and Stone River battlesite. It was pretty interesting little museum and the site of one of the bloodiest battles of the war. It occured when the Emancipation Proclamation was signed and was a pivotal point in the war. Mike really loves historical stuff so I was glad we got to stop there. We also made a quick pit stop at a "Toots" restaurant - this word make us laugh as our boys regularly exchange this greeting for no apparent reason sometimes and then for VERY apparent reasons at other times.

We hadn't really plotted our way back - but I really wanted to take a different route and see the countryside. We stopped in Clarksville, but really didn't see much of anything as it was Sunday and nothing was open. We decided to head to Southern Missouri and Sam E. Baker park just outside of . We had really hoped to be there before dark to work on the electrical issue, but no such timing!

I also need to add here that thanks to Jack ( our new name for our Garmin GPS) we had NO problems finding any of our destinations - even in the dark. We would have had plenty of problems and I'm sure many tense moments trying finding these state parks and other points of interest if not for Jack!

It was after 9 when we finally pulled into a spot at Sam E. Baker Park - Campground 2. We were only the third campsite to be occupied that night - park not officially open till April 1. So that meant that the restrooms were locked. I was not going to make the same mistake as the night before, so I got the Looby Loo set up for action. We also were able to get electricity through an extra extension cord we brought. All was well and we got a good nights sleep and woke to a beautiful sunny morning in Missouri. While Mike took a walk to water some trees, I christened the Looby Loo ( note - should lock the door when using) Mike came back and opened the door to catch a lovely view of me perched upon my throne. He rushed to get the camera - and managed to catch me trying to pull up my pants. (that photo needs to be destroyed before it blinds anyone with the dazzling white cellulite!) After a few laughs and threats, we enjoyed a lovely breakfast at the picnic table.

It was a beautiful morning and we explored the park and river just a bit before heading back home.

We had no trouble pulling the trailer - even through some small hills. My truck did a fine job and gas mileage was just a few mpg less. One pit stop for a bathroom break and some folks pulled up to ask about our trailer. They had been following us for miles and couldn't quite figure it out. We put down the ramp and showed them the inside. They were quite impressed and though it was pretty neat set up - the wife said she'd like to have one. They even took pictures of it. Funny a few miles down road - they were at the same Caseys, and came over again. The sister with them wanted more pictures. I think Supertroll could have a business building these things!

Coming up through the Ozarks, we stopped to show my mom She came up to meet us at Chances R restaurant in Laurie, Mo. She brought me a piece of outdoor carpeting that I will add to the porch... my first of many finishing touches. See more in the post - Pimp my Vardo!

Except for the issues of water, condensation and problems with the electrical hook up I think the trip to Tennesse went pretty smoothly. Mike and I got along pretty well on this first adventure (again much of that due to the fine navigation from Jack!). I certainly couldn't have done this with out Mikes support which he shows in so many ways..... more to come about that later in this blog along with a dedication for the name "the Emma Rose" /

Thursday, March 19, 2009

How it all began

How I found her...
Last fall I started looking for some kind of small camper that I could handle on my own. I love to camp, but this old bod just doesn't do so well in a tent- especially on cold soggy mornings!
In my search I found a forum for Teardrops and Tiny Trailers - here is the address if you are looking an amazing amount of info about teardrops and small trailers - this is a builders forum http://www.mikenchell.com/forums/

I was looking for something small and easy to pull that could keep me safe and comfortable. Many people are building smaller more efficient or cost effective ways to camp rather than the obnoxiously large and gas guzzling RV's. In the "For Sale" section I found a post for an "American Vardo for Sale $2,000" with a small picture of this unusual trailer that caught my eye.

Just what I was looking for! Something a little different - big enough to stand in and a soft bed above the ground! The man who built it posted tons of pictures and explanations of how it was built. You can see the build notes at Teardrops and Tiny Trailers forum - look under non-traditional design and a post from Supertroll on a Bow topped American Vardo - or you can see most of his pictures and explanations of the structure and special features he added here:

It's basically a wooden frame built on a 4x8 utility trailer, covered with a truckers tarp. Inside is a raised twin sized bed, two bench seats and a pull out table. It is wired for electricity with dimming halogenlights and even an airconditioner, now we're talking my kind of camping. And maybe what appealed to me most was that there was oodles of character and possibilities with this "gypsy wagon", cause she's definitely one of a kind! I'm sure she'll attract plenty of attention - and who doesn't love attention??
Well after many emails and phone calls to the builder known as "Super Troll" a rendevous was arranged. We would meet at Tim's Ford near Lynchburg Tennessee for the sale and transfer of ownership on March 14, 2009.