Posts Tagged ‘camping’

Homemade teardrops offer campers chance to personalize campsite

February 28, 2011

By Scott Richardson Pantagraph.com

PEORIA — Teardrops form when Gary Daniel and Don Wheeler talk about camping but not because of bad days in the woods.

These do-it-yourselfers built their own “teardrops,” which are compact, efficient travel trailers measuring just 4 feet by 8 feet. Larger ones stretch a bit longer and wider. But they’re still basically just bedrooms on wheels.

“We call it ‘camping with a dry bed,'” said Wheeler, 64, of Groveland, a member of the Illinois contingent of a national club called the Tearjerkers.

Teardrops often have simple, well-organized kitchenettes that are fold-down tables for a workspace. Some have sinks with running water. Most teardrops are homemade so owners have a chance to decorate in unique styles to reflect their personalities.

Daniel and Wheeler will be among teardrop owners who will display their rigs at the Central Illinois Recreational Show at the Peoria Civic Center from Friday through March 6. The event also will feature recreational vehicles of all kinds, including travel trailers, fifth-wheels and motor homes. Vendors will represent campgrounds, tow vehicle dealers, ATV and golf cart sales and more.

Daniel built his teardrop to have an inexpensive way to travel to shows catering to his first love, street rods. He is president of the River Valley Drifters, a street-rod club based in the Peoria area. He’s restored several vehicles since his dad passed his enthusiasm for cars to him as a boy. He has a 1937 Cadillac LaSalle Coupe and a black 1950 Chevy with flames, which his teardrop is painted to match. He is creating a street rod from a 1954 cab-over-engine half-ton Chevy truck that once was a farm vehicle. He is also building a second teardrop that will be painted to match the truck.

“It’s going to be awesome,” said Daniel, 71, a retired salesman.

One of his friends seems to have started a teardrop fad in the

street-rod club when he found an old teardrop trailer in the woods and decided to restore it. The metal-covered teardrop probably dated to the 1940s. Teardrops date to the Great Depression. They were simple and cheap to build from spare wood. They were also aerodynamic and light, which kept down fuel costs, Daniel said. Blueprints and directions appeared in how-to magazines of that day, including Popular Mechanics. After World War II, teardrop builders were able to use surplus aluminum.

One company started selling assemble-it-yourself teardrop kits, Wheeler said. They didn’t sell well until the company started selling fully assembled models.

“Then they went crazy,” Wheeler said.

Though on the roads consistently since then, teardrops faded in popularity as the horsepower of cars grew in the 1950s to allow travelers to haul bigger trailers with more amenities, like Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz did in the movie “Long, Long Trailer.” Teardrops have enjoyed a revival in the past decade, Wheeler said.

Daniel and his wife, Stephanie, love the teardrop Daniel built from cast-off bed frames, plywood, a makeshift axle and wheels. They added a pressurized six-gallon tank for running water and a Coleman stove. The interior is paneled with wood and features shelves for a television and DVD player for movies.

At least two other friends are building teardrops, so they are fashioning an air-conditioning unit that will sit outside and keep up to four teardrops cool. He also has a shower that uses sun-heated water for hot showers.

But the teardrop is still mainly for sleeping. Even Stephanie Daniel, who is 5 feet, 10 inches tall, has plenty of room to stretch out inside. Still, the teardrop is usually the smallest trailer in the campground, a fact that doesn’t bother Daniel at all.

“One of the neat things about teardrops is you spend more time outside. In the big units, they sit watching TV. We with the teardrops are sitting outside around a campfire lying to each other and having fun,” he said.

Wheeler, who is retired from Caterpillar Inc., and his wife, Chris, come from scouting backgrounds. They’ve always liked staying in campgrounds. Their travels have taught them that less is more. They had motor homes and full-sized trailers over the years. But they weren’t enjoyable for someone who still had to clean a kitchen or a bathroom while on vacation.

“My wife would say, ‘This isn’t fun. I’d rather barbeque and have someone else clean the bathroom,'” Wheeler said.

Wheeler, who has restored two Model T Fords, purchased teardrop plans online and went to work. About $1,000 in materials and a winter’s worth of work off later and he created a trailer light enough to tow with a matching Volkswagen Beetle that still gets 25 highway miles a gallon, rig and all.

The teardrop is equipped with a microwave. They carry a camp stove to use on picnic tables to keep the mess away from the trailer. They also have a TV/DVD player mounted inside. A fan is enough for cooling. A heated mattress pad keeps them warm on cool nights. Full screens keep bugs out. The couple buys a week’s worth of groceries, carries a week’s worth of clothes in the teardrop’s closet and stops every seven days to do laundry and re-supply.

The best part:

“You have a dry bed. It starts raining or storming, you can get inside and shut the door. You don’t have to worry about floating around on an air mattress,” he said.

In addition to the convenience and the economy, Daniel and Wheeler like the people drawn to teardrop trailers.

“It’s a unique bunch,” Daniel said. “They are handy and they build their own stuff. That’s why it’s so interesting to street rodders. They like to say, ‘I built it.’ …You get bragging rights.”

Central Illinois Recreational Show

What: Displays of travel trailers, motor homes, fifth-wheels, tent campers, ATVs, golf carts, tow vehicles and more; special display of teardrop trailers

Where: Peoria Civic Center

When: Friday through March 6

Times: Friday 3 p.m.-8 p.m.; Saturday, 10 a.m.-8 p.m.; March 6, 11 a.m.-5 p.m.

Tickets: Adults, $8 (coupon for $2 off at website); children 7-12, $2; kids 6 and under free; Friday only, seniors (65 plus are $5;

Website: www.eventsltd.org/page5.htm#peoria

Orinal Link


Advertisements

If you ride to the left you will lose your horse, if you ride to the right you will lose your head.

August 18, 2010

  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.

And then………

 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.