Have you ever wondered what inspired people to start building their trailers?
After all mention the words teardrop trailer to most people and 9 outof 10 won’t have a clue what you’re talking about. So how is it that thousands of people accross the world, became so enthusiastically engulfed in an obsession that means that many will devote the majority of their spare time building, sleeping, cooking and crawling in and out of a 4ft high can on wheels?
Bob Henry is a member of the Hoosier chapter of Tearjerkers and a regular contributor to T&TTT forum. Here he tells us how he was seduced and a love affair began.
The Fork In The Road
January of 2007 was just like any frozen cold month in the construction business, slow , slow , slow.
I was at my desk “Just in case “ but there just wasn’t much happening. Our company pre builds residential and commercial buildings. It simply becomes a follow the numbers build. Stand wall number one then attach to wall number two etc. you just follow the instructional layout that is provided.
I am in charge of estimating , inventory control and shipping and with nothing happening thanks in large part to a –8 wind chill most of the week I was doing a whole lot of nothing.
The cads designer was surfing the internet and hollered at me to “come look at this” !
This moment was to change my life it was a tiny little tear shaped trailer. I had just seen my very first “Teardrop trailer”
In the cold, slow, weeks to follow I searched and searched everything on every search engine I could find about the little trailers. I found several links to a site www.mikenchell.com a rather unlikely sounding site but I dropped in.
It is referred to, by the members, as t&ttt . (short for Teardrops and tiny travel trailers)
I had hit the main vein in the gold mine. This was a site dedicated to the building of the teardrop and other style small campers. The main criteria seemed to be that the minuscule units measured somewhere between 8 and 12 feet in length. It was not a hard fast rule but that was more the general feel of the members. I looked in and learned a great deal and on Feb 7th 2007 I became an active member of the site.
In late March I came out of the closet and informed my wife I was going to build a tiny trailer. My very first effort was a super simple little 3×5 cargo trailer to be pulled by my motorcycle. It was a quick build and only server to whet my appetite for a larger more lavish camping size model.
So with this first little trailer build under my belt I now felt that I could construct a very serviceable full sized teardrop. At 56, and being a two job workaholic most of my adult life, I was done burning my candle at both ends. I asked for the wife’s blessing to start on my new project of building a full size teardrop trailer so we could play on weekends instead of working them away. I felt it was the time in our lives to slow down and start enjoying the peace , quiet and tranquility of camping.
So, appropriately , on April fools day of 2007 I drove 45 miles to pay for and pick up a used Harbor Freight brand kit trailer I had purchased on E-Bay for $75.00.
The build was officially underway.
During the month of April I assembled the frame and constructed the floor.
The walls went up in the month of May.
The month of June was spent designing and building the galley
( the little kitchen in the rear ).
Storage cabinets were installed in the front sleeping area as well.
July was roughing in all the electrical and installing insulation and then the interior paneling. At mid month I was still scratching my head about what to install for the roof ,
Then one day I answered an ad in the newspaper for “Plastic panels” Turns out they were bronze tinted lexan that had been remover from large commercial skylites. I had found my roof material ! The bonus would be a see thru roof !
August arrived and I fine tuned doors and built the galley hatch lid and veneered the outside of the tiny trailer with luan panels and applied 6 coats of marine spar varnish. I was finally ready to install the roof but one final thing had to happen first , a queen sized pillow top mattress needed to be inserted thru the roof spars and into the sleepy side of the tiny trailer.
September arrived and the folks I had been talking with on the teardrops and tiny trailers forum had planned a local Indiana “Gathering” for the 17th of the month. I so wanted to go. I worked frantically but by the date I was still attempting to finish the roof. As it turned out we had to settle for a ride thru the park on my motorcycle and to stop and visit with the folks and look over their little trailers.
I would like to point out a home built teardrop is never really finished ! We refer to a functioning trailer as “Campable” This generally means all the important parts function and that nothing is likely to fall off.
In mid October, with camping season all but gone, we finally got the tiny trailer fully functional. We driveway camped at home. I was heartbroken we had not been able to camp with our new found friends in 2007.
Someone got the bright idea our little Hoosier group should be the first group in the nation to go camping in 2008. We planned for the 1st weekend after new years and 8 intrepid campers braved the snow and cold for bragging rights. We dressed heavily and stood near the campfire and visited and ate and as the sun went down so did the temps. So we retreated to the comfort of our little trailers.
That night’s temperatures went to –1 with a –15 wind chill index but all parties were warm an safe in their little trailers by them. Equipped with small electric heaters everyone was comfortable. This get together was our maiden camping outing we encountered several rough edges with forgotten items and learned to make do and borrow from the neighbors when necessary.
Now, well into the close of or 2nd year of camping, we have camped in 5 states and have attended some 17 gatherings as well as 5 or 6 solo excursions. The camping group has developed into an extended family and we have gained quite a few real close friends. Not a nodding acquaintance but a true friend, one you can call in the middle of the night broke down somewhere and they will rescue you. That kind of friend you can not put a price tag on.
Soon to enter into my 60’s I never expected to develop into a camper type but both my wife and myself look forward to each outing and arrive home at the end of each tired and happy.
Looking back to that cold wintry day in January of 2007 I feel so blessed that I found a small picture of a “Teardrop trailer” . It sounds a bit corny but it was a fork in the road for us and luckily it led us down a serene wooded path to the joys of camping in comfort.