Wednesday, March 5, 2014

I did it.

I looked all over Craigslist and even at ebay. I also learned about Search Tempest that looks in a broad area on craiglist AND ebay for whatever it is you're seeking. Remember, I'm seeking a vehicle to store my camping gear and provide a more comfy sleeping space for camping.

I have driven by a few homes that have old campers sitting in their yards. One in particular I've noticed for the entire two years we've lived here. They also have two much newer campers in their yard, so surely they'd be happy to unload their old (super cute!) camper, right.

In obsessing looking around the internet I read a suggestion to approach people who had old campers in their yards. So maybe I wasn't crazy in being tempted to do this very thing. My influential friend suggested sticking notes in mailboxes if I was too nervous to knock.

With this in mind, I paid careful attention to the cute camper I'd passed to catch the make to look up later. As I was driving home (by myself, it happens sometimes ;) ) I noticed an old camper on a side street. I turned around to get a better look at it. There was someone getting wood outside, so I parked the car and approached. It was very very cold outside with a wind that shot an ice-y breeze, eating up any exposed skin.

"Hi," I started - I will note here that often I think my awesome mauve pea coat, big floppy purple hat, and ugg-ish boots encourage people to make assumptions that do not lead to someone thinking I am a farmer with 5 kids and a camera. "I'm kind of looking for a camper and I wondered if you'd be interested in selling that one." It's cute, with blue and white exterior paint and from this distance looks to be in pretty good shape.

My companion has an armload of wood. "You know that's only had one owner," he said confidentially.
"Oh. Okay," I was unsure how to respond.
"Come in, come in!" he said leading me in to the house. Through the porch and the front half of the kitchen I stepped in to was overwhelmed by a large brick wall with a large cast iron wood cookstove hugged close to it. Hung neatly on the brick was more cast iron pots and pans than I had ever seen in one place. I was amazed.
"I collect cast iron," the man explained. "I have over 75 pieces."
"Wow," I said as he pulled out a chair for me to sit.
He took another chair and said in wonderment again: "that camper has only had one owner, let me tell you about it." I looked at him in what I hope would be an encouraging way. "It's all original, with a bathroom and kitchen."
"I don't really need a bathroom or a kitchen - I just want a place for us to sleep when camping and a place to store our camping gear," I explained.
"Let's go look at it," he said.
We were out of the house again and he explained that the original owner had the camper parked in the woods and it was getting looted. The lock on the door had been broken and the looters had busted a hole in the wall to try and remove the oven and refrigerator. They were successful in removing the refrigerator, but not the oven. This was disappointing to hear. I'm not interested in hooking up to anything, but I was thinking the built in refrigerator in a camper would be a convenient cooler alternative. Oh well. The price was just a bit more than the other camper I looked at and it was in MUCH better condition. The cute profile helped a ton too.

"You know who you should go see, is Bobby," my camper-deliverer advised. "He lives right off the Bucks Corners Rd." He proceeded to draw me a rough map in the dirt with his toe (how there was any piece of earth not covered in ice is a miracle in itself). "He has a small camper that could be just what you need. He offered to sell it to me last year, he and I kind of are dealers of campers. He got it last fall and was having trouble selling it. He said he would take $XXX for it. Don't tell him I told you, but just so you know." The price he shared was half the price of the original camper I looked at. "If that's not the camper for you, he has a whole bunch behind his house - he kind of has a junk yard. Tell him what you're looking for, and he'll probably have one for you. If he doesn't, come back - but check with him first."

"Okay!" I agree. "Do I just go and knock on his door?"
"I'll call him and tell him you're coming," he offers.

I smile and wave as I call out "I might be back!"

This is what happens when you randomly drop by the house of someone in the North Country. You never know who you'll meet. What an experience!

I'm not intending to buy a camper today. But I'm curious what this person might have. I glance at the clock and wonder if Ren Man is worried - wondering why it's taking me so long to drop off Child F.

I find the house he's talking about easily. There's a Shasta sitting on the opposite side of the road from the house. Could that be the small camper? Couldn't be. That would be too awesome.
I pull in the drive and notice a man walking down the road away from me, with a dog following. I approach the house and hear someone come to the door.

"He's just gone to get the paper," a woman explains. "You're here to look at a camper, right?"

We chat while Bobby gets the paper and I'm smitten when he returns, lead by a dog holding a paper in his mouth gently.
"You're looking for a camper?" he asks.
"Yes," I reply, "something small that won't be too hard to tow."
He points at the Shasta and explains that it's been buried in a snow bank by plows going by at 40mph. I nod sympathetically.
"I have a few out back, just be careful, it's icey," he warns.

We walk behind the house and it's a treasure trove of campers with some antique-ish cars too in a deep undisturbed bed of snow, save the "road" we're walking on. He takes me first to a Prowler, slightly smaller than the one I've already seen. He asks where I live and I tell him the road - turns out he has a camp above our farm and says: "you have a camper in your field."
"Yes, we bought it for a chicken coop," I explain. He takes this information in.
"Hey!" I see, spotting a familiar shape, "that's our chicken coop!" It's the exact same camper, which is unreal. I've been a little sad that I didn't have this camper love a few years ago when we bought that gutted camper. It would have been perfect! But alas, the axle is now broken (anything to do with off-roading across pastures?), even if I was motivated to clean out the chicken poop and install beds.

We trudged through snow that held your weight for a moment before plunging you through a crust layer a few inches. Thankfully the snow was not above the bottom of the door and we were able to open it and enter. How fun to see the chicken coop not gutted! There was a bathroom, which makes me sad because it could be used as beds, but I can use it for storage. The floor looked awesome. There was a frame for one bunkbed, and another bunk was still in place. It was workable.

"This looks great," I said, "We'd have to wait for spring," I stated. "how much would you want for it?"
$100 less than the original camper I looked at less than a week before. Doable.
"What about the camper across the road, the little one?" I said - resisting asking about the "cute vintage shasta".
$200 less than the chicken coop camper.
"Can I give you a deposit or something, so you can hold it until spring?" I ask.
"I don't want to do that," he said, "in case someone else comes and buys it before you."
"Can you deliver it?" I asked.
"Sure," he responded.
"Can we look inside the one across the street?" I asked.
"I'll get a shovel, I'll have to dig out the door," he responded.
"Get two, I'll help!" I offered.
"No, that's okay," he replied.
We made our way back up the icey road to the front of the house and while Bobby grabbed a shovel, I grabbed my mittens from the car.

It didn't take long for Bobby to scoop out enough snow to get the door to the Shasta opened.
"The oven and the furnace still works, I'm not sure about the fridge," he said. "There's water damage in this one around the skylight." He showed me by pushing up against the ceiling. "It's an easy fix," he assured me.
"How would I fix it?" I asked.
"Just caulk around the window and then you can get a t-bar to re-brace the ceiling."
"Should I rip this panel of the ceiling out and replace it?"
"You could, but you don't need to," he responded. "They make t-bars that fit this space perfectly. This is really common in campers."
There's two top bunks that unfold over a couch and a dinette that turn in to beds also - everyone already has a bed. I was envisioning having to build bunks, being wary of added weight on the camper. This was a ready-to-go-but-needs-some-paint-if-you-insist kind of camper.

"Can you bring it in the spring?" I asked.
He hesitated. "I can." he responded.
"But you don't want to," I stated. He didn't deny or confirm. "I think I want this one because it already has the beds for our kids," I told him.
"What about your husband?" he asked.
"Oh, he doesn't go camping with us! We have a farm, remember," I say.
"If this is the one you want, I can get it out of this snow bank today," he says.
"You can?" I say, trying not to be too giddy and also running through the parking options at our house. "Okay, why don't you give me your number and I'll call you. I'll get the cash and clear out a place at home."

He agrees and I take down his number.

Back in the car I'm resisting squealing out loud.
A SHASTA for $300 less than the Prowler camper I looked at - and this one seems in better condition. It's also a third of what my influential friend paid for hers. It doesn't have a registration and it may have water damage - but who cares!? It's all doable!
As an extrovert, I can hardly contain myself as I speed down the road. There's no one with me to talk to! I don't even have a cell phone with me to call someone!

I burst through the door when I arrive home.
"GUESS WHAT?!?! I bought a camper!!!" I announce. Ren Man is less than thrilled, but he's still talking to me - a good sign. My dad asks for details and then offers to lend me some cash if I can't make up the whole amount from the cash we have at home.

I run to facebook and message my influential friend: I did it! I stopped at someone's house who directed me to someone else's - a Shasta Airflyte!!!

Much messaging ensues. I call Bobby and tell him I'm ready, just bring the camper around the back. He mentions needing to dig it out. I assure him that if he can't get to it today, that's okay - even though I'm dying to see it again!!
"I don't have anything else to do today, so I'm going to work on that," he replies.

Less than 2 hours later:
"Sarah, your camper is here" Ren Man calls to me from another room.

I ZOOM out of the house, past the sleeping puppies, throwing on boots, hat, coat, mittens, and cowl as I go - all barn clothes. I wonder if Bobby notices the transformation from the pea-coat clad woman.

We write out a bill of sale, he parks the Shasta and in theory he's on his way (he actually ends up stuck in the driveway - the second person that day to do that - I help dig him out some and when that's not successful come in to ask Ren Man to go push him with the tractor. The tractor doesn't start and Ren Man is a bit miffed with the whole situation. The kids are needing lunch and naps so I stay inside. By the time the kids are napping I'm back outside taking pictures of the camper and inspecting it more thoroughly).

I didn't expect to buy a camper today and I'm guessing Bobby wasn't expecting to sell one either!

I did it! I'm so proud of myself and whew! It's wow! Just wow! Now I'm really seriously planning. My friend asked how I planned to renovate. My response: slowly. Knowing me, that's probably the normal rate for the average. I'm a little overwhelmed at this big thing I did today, but also excited.

So pictures!!

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