Camper Update #3

Holy moly I’m so disappointed in myself for taking so long to update. Sheesh! Every single time I do this and I never learn. Things with the camper didn’t go as planned so it made it hard to want to update. But just because they didn’t go as planned and it was really frustrating on so many occasions it was still an incredible experience and I loved it. I thought that I was going to be more hands on in the renovating process but it ended up being way beyond what I could do. This is mainly because it needed to be gutted so it took a skilled handyman to be able to get it back just to walls and a floor. Now that it’s at this stage I can get to work, building and learning and making plenty of mistakes. I documented some of what the camper went through to get to this point but not as well as I would have liked. Like I said, I wasn’t very involved, it was mainly my dad and our handyman, Randy, working extremely hard and running around town every day trying to get all the parts and get everything in working order. I have never been a fan of the “if it can go wrong, it will go wrong” mentality but it seemed every step of this process gave us trouble. And I really had my heart set on leaving Orlando by the end of April so being in a time crunch did not help. I had a camper kick off gathering at Mead Botanical Garden in Orlando on the 25th. I have no photos!? But it meant so much to me. I should snag some photos from other people and do a post about it. The plan was to leave Orlando on the 25th, camper in tow, and head to south Florida to visit with Blake’s family for a couple days before taking off. But the camper still needed a couple days of work on the 25th so my mom, stepdad Ryan and I headed to Blake’s without it. It was a short but wonderful visit. I planned a very last minute meet-up in Fort Lauderdale and wasn’t going to be surprised if no one showed due to the lack of notice and threatening storm clouds but I was so very happy to meet and get to know the handful of people that came to hang with me and my mom. We sat under a pavilion in Snyder Park and painted mini terra cotta pots and planted some zinnias in them. We got back to Orlando on Tuesday and tried to leave but the camper wasn’t ready until too late in the day so we decided we’d leave the next morning. But just before I was going to bed my dad wanted to take the camper for a drive around the block just to see how it felt and when we hooked it up to my Subaru the lights didn’t work, extremely frustrating considering they worked earlier that same day. My dad took it to Uhaul at 7:30 the next morning to get fixed and he was there until 3:30 with no progress and finally took it to another place. It took all day but the camper was ready to go by 5:00 and even though it was late in the day we still left town because I was too anxious to wait any longer. I had planned on taking my time through Florida but since the camper still needs so much more work we had to head straight to Pensacola. My grandparents live here and my grandpa’s garage is his workshop with all the tools we’ll need to build out the inside of my home on wheels.

So I started this update May 3rd and today is May 13th. How has it only been 10 days?! Feels like weeks. I don’t feel like I properly thanked my dad for helping me get the camper ready to leave town. He had new wheel wells built and reinforced the trailer. He also had a storage box built to sit on the bumper I’m not sure where I would have stored anything without it. Since I’m having a hard time recalling everything that was done to get the camper ready and I definitely can’t remember the order in which things happened I’m going to caption all the photos instead of trying to sum everything up at once. Also, my “underwater” camera broke when I took it underwater… so I’m currently camera-less so iPhone photos will have to do for a little bit.

We spent a couple days in Pensacola visiting with my grandparents. We unloaded the camper into their garage which was a decently difficult job considering all the pallet boards we hauled with us. After a couple days there we realized we didn’t have all the tools we needed to get the job done (or started rather) so we drove to my uncle’s houseboat/barge in Gulf Shores, Alabama. The bottom floor of his home is a fully equipped workshop so we parked the camper in his driveway and were ready to get to work. I’m in absolute awe of what my uncle has created.

So, it’s June 2nd?! Haha okay. I’m not even going to try to continue with one long blog post, it’s been too long and we’ve done too much. But the most important part of this is to let ya’ll know my plan. Even though we finished building out the camper it’s still not done. I wasn’t really ready to do meet ups without the camper finished. We were overpacked so it was always cluttered and I haven’t decorated it or built the shop. I’m spending the month of June in Summit County and while I’m here I’ve got a ton of work to do (in between hiking of course). I need to get all the business parts of the camper in order, work on new merchandise, finish decorating the camper and make an itinerary for the summer. I’m going to be on the road July and August and I’ll post where I’ll be and when. I think most of the meet ups will be at campgrounds, where we can hang out, make campfire meals, craft and get to know each other. And if you guys want to camp at the same campground that would be awesome! Then I’ll come back to Colorado for a couple months and then go back on the road for an extended period of time. I know it seems like I’ve just been traveling and not doing meet ups which is what I have been doing haha but it’s just because the meet-up part of this adventure hasn’t started yet.
Anyway! Here are some photos though I’m missing so many moments I wish I’d captured.

I do want to do a more detailed post about the camper build out which hopefully I’ll actually do when I get some photos from my mom.

Ripping out all the old wood and all fiber glass insulation. I knew I shouldn’t let it touch my skin but I couldn’t quite bring myself to wear sleeves in Florida heat so… I just dealt with the rash.

DSC_7223Handyman Randy helping me pick out which wood we should use for the floor of the camper.DSC_7259Gutted! I did most of the wall removal, Randy cut the floor out and my dad scrubbed down the walls with some bleach. The bottom floor layer you see here was similar to particle board, it was pretty rotted so we replaced it with those sheets of fake bathroom tile, pretty lightweight and water resistant.DSC_7260

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DSC_7282Picking where I want lights and outlets to go. This part was intimidating!DSC_7284

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DSC_7289Testing stains. I thought I’d stain most of the pallet boards but I ended up loving them how they were but still used the few boards I tested. DSC_7295My dad and I sanded as much rust off the metal trailer frame as we could and painted it with rustoleum. DSC_7301Some of the nails harvested from the pallet boards.DSC_7353My younger brother, Connor, helping me with the pallet boards. His help meant so much to me! DSC_7356I attempted to polish all the aluminum trim with a Dremel tool bit which proved to be extremely difficult. It appeared to be working but it was hard to get it consistent. And what was worse than the trim were all the screw heads which were rusted almost black. I don’t know anything about anything so chances are I was going about this all wrong but I came up with what seemed would be a decent solution. I taped off all the windows and spray painted all the trim with metal primer and then sprayed it with rustoleum silver aluminum metal spray. I was pretty happy with the outcome, it’s chipped in a few places already but otherwise it’s okay. DSC_7360

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DSC_7363Keeping me company while I work.DSC_7515

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IMG_1624Replacing all the window screens.IMG_1631Bunk #1! This bunk was Connor’s idea and I love it. Two of the bunks are decently hidden, which was the goal. I want the store to be the main focus and have it be pretty open on the inside. IMG_1659Pressure washed the camper before painting it, removing almost all the old teal paint. IMG_1618Dad removing rust from the roof of the camper.IMG_1677Was very thankful to have my dad, brothers and Blake help me paint the camper. We were in a super rush so it’s not as perfect as I’d like but it was awesome to get it done and have help. I’d love to get it professionally painted one day but I can’t afford it at the moment but if this turns out being something I do for a long time I definitely hope to get it done.IMG_1701

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IMG_1723A little bit of a tight fit getting the camper into the warehouse to paint.IMG_1724Finally used my scroll saw again! Working on some display pieces for the camper shop.IMG_1235Blake’s momma and my momma.IMG_1777

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IMG_1794Fort Lauderdale meet up 🙂 IMG_1808

IMG_1810Last minute Ikea trip. IMG_1820What the inside of the camper looked like when we left Orlando -_- hahaha way overloaded and totally unfinished.IMG_1826

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IMG_1832She ready.IMG_1839

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IMG_1860Good coffee and vegan food in Pensacola at End of the Line Cafe.IMG_1864Pensacola dog beachIMG_1901

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IMG_1918Gulf Shores! The hottest, muggiest, buggiest place we’ve been but I can not put into words how much I enjoyed building out the camper at my Uncle’s. IMG_1927

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IMG_2007We left the windows open in the camper overnight and it appears we had a visitor.IMG_2009

IMG_2014 1Sketching and planning.IMG_2021

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IMG_2038Took apart the pallet boards, removed the nails, sanded the boards, split the boards with a bandsaw to reduce weight, cut them to fit with a jigsaw, wood glued and screwed. Hardest part by far of the camper build out but the part I’m most proud of. IMG_2052

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IMG_2089More dirt than tan.IMG_2097

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IMG_2137Testing some ideas for the floor.IMG_2133

IMG_2135Building bunk #2, this one folds up to the wall. IMG_2136

IMG_2138Back to Pensacola for another meet up.IMG_2142

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IMG_2154I had so much fun this day! Met some wonderful people and Rosalina and Jordan surprised me!IMG_2251After Pensacola we headed straight to Louisville to pick up Rhianna, a friend from New Zealand. We’ve known each other for years online but this was our first time meeting and her first US trip! We picked her up on the 12th and she’s been hanging with us since. IMG_2185

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IMG_2195We camped at a darling campsite halfway between Louisville and Lexington Kentucky. For some reason the only photo I took is one of the pups out the camper window? IMG_2207We drove over to Lexington to spend the day with an old friend, her boyfriend and her beyond precious baby boy. I love her and her little one and I’m so happy I got to spend some time with them. IMG_2235

IMG_2241Somewhere in Kentucky picnic.IMG_2260

IMG_2257Asheville! I went to twitter and asked if anyone in Asheville had a place the camper could live in for a couple days and a lovely human, Nancy, told us we were welcome in her driveway. We were so excited to find Rosetta’s Kitchen, a late night delicious and affordable vegan option in Asheville.IMG_2286

IMG_2285Short hike to some waterfalls outside of Asheville, North Carolina. IMG_2289Sliding Rock! It wasn’t open for the season yet but you could still slide down it, which I did… twice. Dang cold and so much fun.IMG_2294

IMG_2295Climbing wall in Nancy’s garage!IMG_2318

IMG_2321Spent the second half of the day getting a tour of Asheville from Nancy. She took us to White Duck Taco Shop, one of my favorite meals of the trip so far. IMG_2325Fascinated by The Spoon LadyIMG_2328

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IMG_2351From Asheville to Nashville. First stop is almost always the dog park. IMG_2385

IMG_2387I was so excited to find out that my friend Michael was visiting Nashville while we were there. He was staying with my friend Chris and Chris’s wife, Alyce, both absolutely wonderful people. I loved getting to catch up with all of them. Alyce and Chris were generous enough to let us park outside of their charming house for a couple days and one morning Alyce brought us vegan muffins?! IMG_2400

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IMG_2434Not sure which was more entertaining, watching my mom figure out line dances as they were happening or watching her pose with corny horse decor. Loved both. IMG_2462After watching my mom have a blast line dancing we quickly made our way over to Two Boots for some vegan pizza before they closed. We were walking through the parking lot and I was absolutely smitten with this VW that was parked there when the girls inside seemed just as excited to see us as I was to see their van. They said they’d just been talking about how they were bummed I didn’t do a Nashville meet up haha, they were adorable and awesome and I was so happy to have met them. Hopefully I’ll see them later in the summer when I come back through! IMG_2470

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IMG_2475Rhianna capturing golden Melon moments.IMG_2463

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IMG_2495We picked up another traveler! Hi Caitlin, here’s a Melon for your lap!IMG_2506After driving north to pick up Rhianna and Caitlin we headed back to Gulf Shores to finish building out the camper. The pups had to spend most of the time in the house because snakes and gators lurk in the water. For being so well behaved my mom treated them to some peanut butter pup ice cream. IMG_2522Burritos and margaritas after an absolutely exhausting work day.IMG_2538Momma working on potting the plants while I build the plant shelf.IMG_2565 1

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My uncle and his wife, Teri, recently added a bee box to their list of awesome projects. I could never really thank them for providing me with the opportunity to finish my camper but I made some little wooden bees to put on their bee box as a thank you. IMG_2594

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IMG_2614After a couple brutal and fun days of camper work in Gulf Shores we headed over to Fontainebleau State Park where Rosalina and Jordan treated us to a campsite and joined us for a campfire dinner. It felt like the first real night of camper camping and got me so excited for when I finally get camper stuff figured out. IMG_2636Snagged this photo of the camper from Caitlin.IMG_2682Hanging in New Orleans with mom, Rhianna, Caitlin and Rosalina.IMG_2640I don’t have any photos but before leaving New Orleans we went to Rosalina’s house and Jordan gave me a haircut and Rosalina dyed my hair. I’m so excited about having them as friends! We left New Orleans late that afternoon and headed to Baton Rouge to get dinner with my mom’s cousin and his partner. Right as we were pulling up to dinner we noticed the lights on the camper were out. Earlier that day Jordan had pointed out to me that the bottom part of the camper hook up plug in thing was damaged because it was mounted too low and by the time we got to Baton Rouge all the wires had been severed. We backtracked to New Orleans in the morning to a Uhaul that had the correct part on hand and could replace it. As soon as that was fixed we started to work our way to Colorado. We only got as far as Shreveport, Louisiana when a pretty bad storm rolled in. The sky turned black so quickly and the wind picked up and we ran inside a gas station with the pups right as the storm hit. We camped out in the bathroom with the pups for about an hour and a half as the worst part of the storm rolled through (a tornado hit like 15 miles away). I got caught with the pups and had to put them back in the car. We ended up spending the night in the parking lot there that night. IMG_2782

IMG_2801We made it to Denver on the afternoon of the 27th and went straight to Strange Grounds, a dog friendly coffee shop I adore on Broadway. I had requested a favor from my friend Madi to help me put on a little birthday surprise for Rhianna. Madi and I became friends last summer and I’m hoping she’ll join me on the next leg of the camper adventure, she’s an exceptional friend and artist. Madi and her friend Brooke decorated this little corner of the shop with the cutest decorations! (another thing I don’t have photos of -_-)IMG_2860

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IMG_2866After coconut macaroons and brownie bites we went to Madi and Brooke’s apartment to dye my mom’s hair. IMG_2879Some stunning flowers in my cousin Rob and his wife Robyn’s yard. I stay with them whenever I’m in Denver and having them close to Summit County is such a big part as to why Colorado is starting to feel like home. Rob is my mom’s first cousin and I never knew him or his wife growing up and I’m so so happy we’ve changed that. IMG_2896Denver Crema Coffee House, in love!IMG_2950Drove up to Estes Park to see the Stanley Hotel, didn’t expect to see so many elk!IMG_3024The drive through Rocky Mountain National Park was unreal. The road had been closed earlier that day but I thought we should drive as far as we could just for fun and when we got to the gates of the park we found out they’d opened the road an hour before we got there. The entrance fee was $20 or $40 for an annual pass so I went ahead and bought the annual pass, I’ll be back!IMG_3182

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IMG_3107The next morning Caitlin, my mom and I woke up at 4:45 am so we could grab some voodoo doughnuts before taking Caitlin to the airport. Sad to say goodbye 😦IMG_3197Melon knew we were going to the Breckenridge dog park from blocks away.IMG_3229Gordo, my new 115 lb friend.IMG_3234Loveland PassIMG_3304

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One of these days I’ll be better at documenting!

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7 thoughts on “Camper Update #3

  1. Ahh I just love your updates. So nice to see what you are up to and what’s going on in your head. The photos are amazing! You are truly living the dream haha, it’s just wonderful to travel and have all these beautiful sights. I’m excited for what the camper turns out to be!

  2. I’m going to Denver in October and I’m so excited! 🙂 I’ve never been and just the thought of seeing mountains makes me so scared, happy, anxious but so excited. Going to see Of Monster and Men there as well, they’re playing at Broomfield. Your pictures and journey are so inspiring and I hope my small vacation will give me the same epic feels your journey as given me by your posting! So exciting!! :3

  3. Wow, all that seems so fun and exciting! Happily you still keep us up to date. 🙂 What you do is so inspiring and gives me that great positivity! Thanks for that 🙂
    Have a great time!!

  4. Totally and completely inspired by your adventures. I’ve always dreamed of building my own tiny home on a truck bed so I could tow it on some of my own wanderings, and this is just making the dream bigger. Hope to see you in Virginia if you think to roll through here, or else I might just have to track a meetup down myself. Thanks for the inspiration and push to start making my dreams my reality!

  5. Vail, we’ve had such wonderful adventures and I don’t know how to thank you for including me on the first leg of this amazing and ambitious journey. We’ve seen beautiful things, eaten awesome food, met interesting, helpful and lovely people,but for me, the best part of all has been watching you take on the overwhelming and frightening building tasks.

    I knew you could do it and wow did you prove me right. As you said, it was muggy, buggy and extremely challenging but you persevered! I am still blown away by how quickly you overcame your intimidations and just attacked it.

    Building out a camper is a great metaphor for life. It is often daunting and fraught with uncertainties but the challenge and mystery are what makes it worth living!

    You know, I’m big on planning. I love lists and research. I love knowing and considering options etc. Being able to do these things effectively are great skills!

    But being able to “roll with it”, making lemonade out of whatever challenges life brings (but those within and without of our control), THAT is THE best skill set one can have.

    Even a “safe” and “typical” life is challenging and will always have its ups and downs. You, are blazing your own trail! THAT is extremely unusual, wonderful and of course scary. It will at times be exhilarating and at others terrifying and at others lonely and confusing and at others blissful beyond imagination.

    We can’t be in the north when we’re in the south nor happy when we’re sad nor full when we’re hungry… but they are all valid feels to feel…valid states of being. Taking the good with the bad, the ups with the downs, the disappointments with the expectations, learning to let yourself feel your feels, these are the greatest lessons that such a brave assault on life can continue to teach.

    Keep self expressing and most of all keep being my sweet vail baby.

    I am prouder of you than you can ever even begin to imagine xox

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