Why I Chose “Glamping”
Terry Taurus and the Trailer Park Diaries Written by Kyly Clark
I used to poke fun at people with RV’s. Big rigs that take up the freeway, huge trucks towing trailers towing boats and cars, filling camping spaces and running loud generators…“what’s the point of going camping if you bring your house with you?,” I’d say, unimpressed by the lack of minimalism and disregard for the very purpose of camping: to be in nature. To be surrounded by forest, mountains, lakes and rivers, to cook over a fire, to sleep under the stars and breathe fresh air. To find solitude and rely a little less on modern conveniences.
This becomes nearly impossible with grandiose glampers and 40-foot motor homes that cost $150+ thousand dollars with microwaves and cable TV.
Since living in my vintage camper for the summer, I’ve gained new perspectives on recreational vehicles. I think Vintage trailers are their own RV species, and when used intentionally for the off-grid purpose, they become a comfortable way to live longer term with nature, and have the time for it. I want to share what can be so special about trailer life and it’s unique sub-culture, among the millennial movement of mega busses, #vanlife, cab-overs, car-top tents and all the other ways of living the “tiny” mobile adventure.
After comparing our options and researching for awhile, my boyfriend Ray and I found the way to live tiny that best suits our lifestyles, and our personalities. We sat down and made a mental list of priorities. It looked something like this:
- We didn’t always want to be attached to our home. We wanted to move freely without hogging gas, driving a monster vessel everywhere we needed to go, or making it blatantly obvious that we live in our vehicle.
- We needed a place to put it. Whether it would be full-time or months at a time, we wished to eliminate the feeling of being lost, not having a plan, or worrying about our next “parking space.” Having a home base while still exploring new places and allowing us to keep our local jobs was important. We already owned two cars that enabled us to come and go from our “house” as we pleased.
- We wanted to keep the idea of glamping affordable. It couldn’t cost too much or the idea would no longer pay off financially. The “tricked out” renovation wasn’t as important as practicality.
- We wanted to experience the adventure while getting ahead and saving money. We would rather make a small investment than RENT.
- It had to be fully equipped. Could I spin in a circle and have everything I needed and nothing I didn’t?
So we decided on the travel trailer, which provides the same value and the same comforts as tiny-homes on wheels. It includes all the necessities of basic home living, with a fridge, stove, oven, bed, and bathroom at a fraction of the cost. We chose the 1977 Terry Taurus very intentionally for reasons including it’s size, weight, ability to tow, and price. We also found that the 18-footers provided the most efficient use of space.
We spent a year dreaming about it but only six months planning our move into the camper. Our first challenge was to find the exact trailer that we wanted. We had a plan to purchase one in Reno, NV and made an agreement with the seller that he would store it for us until the spring. Unfortunately, he got cold feet and backed out of the deal. We lost our heads! We were only months away from moving in and had to start all over again! We had been downsizing and downsizing again, mentally preparing to live this new lifestyle. But this was only a temporary setback as we widened our search radius. Just weeks later, we found our perfect match and drove to Southern Oregon on a whim to pick up our very own, vintage, Terry Taurus.
At 6am on April 22nd of 2018 we set out with high hopes. I ditched my classes and played the “I’m sick” card, jinxing myself later on, hurling fast into car sickness. The drive was tense and we were nervous, calculating our slight risk of failure and returning empty handed. As we drove up to the camper we were excited and in slight disbelief about what we were really shopping for. It was as clean as we thought for its age, but there was a lot of work to be done before we could move in.
But we hadn’t planned on driving all that way and not buying. When we hooked it up, Ray noticed that he had a flat tire, and the guy selling to us commented, “maybe it’s not meant to be.” We chuckled anxiously, paid him $1500 and continued on our 15 hour journey home after fixing the flat.
Over six months later we couldn’t be happier that we made this decision, and I like that we repurposed an otherwise abandoned or unused vessel. It’s more sustainable, especially for temporary living too. It’s also the most legal way around living rent-free, aside from staying at mom and dad’s house or couch surfing. Tiny homes are new and on the radar of many towns and counties that have since placed bans on living on wheels full-time. Campers are vacation getaway pods that are ALL over the country and don’t raise much attention like vans, busses, and tiny homes do because, well, “we’re on vacation.”
But the stress of mobile living is alleviated because we were able to purchase our own campsite at a member-owned campground. We can stay stationary for six-months out of the year in our glorified tin-can-home, in the middle of the woods. Most mornings we are greeted by a family of deer peering through the windows, chipper songs of birds, and chipmunks racing up thickly barked trees against the quiet tall forest.
The park is open from May through October and closes during the winter season because of the harsh temps and snow conditions. Our primitive campsite doesn’t have a power hook-up like most trailer parks, but we do have a hook-up with quality water. I bought a safe water drinking-hose, free from BPA, lead, and phthalates (Water Right Polyurethane Garden Hose) and a filter to ensure it’s purity. We purchased a 100-watt Renogy solar panel, and a solar controller, giving us enough power to charge phones and laptops, run lights in the evenings and even make smoothies. A friend gave us a 1000-watt inverter turning our 12-volt direct current battery power into 120-volts alternating current, enabling us to get power right from the outlets in the camper. This also eliminated the need to use our generator.
We use propane to run the fridge, heater, and the cook-top stove and oven. The fridge uses a pilot flame to actually create cold air. This happens when ammonia meets hydrogen gas and absorbs heat, which creates the cooling action. Our average monthly fuel expense costs $20 dollars and doubles when heating.
With a small fridge, sink and counter space, we learned to shop more frequently and cook in an organized fashion. We adjusted to the small kitchen by using less dishes and cleaning as we go but overall our meals aren’t limited by the space like I thought they might be. We also have to be careful about storing food and trash properly. The park had 40 bear break-ins the year before last so we are extremely bear aware. There is plenty of storage in the camper and we have a shed on the lot for tools and extra storage. Our remaining belongings are stored in our cars.
By the way, living tiny has many positives when it comes to our relationship because of the intimate space. We are cleaner and tidier and learn to work together. I like to joke that you can’t stay mad for very long!
For the six months out of the year that we can’t live at the park, we can store our camper there. This is a HUGE convenience for us because we can move freely to travel without it, get a ski lease, or even find another six month investment elsewhere. In order to store it, Ray built a snow roof to help protect the camper from collapsing from heavy snow. To winterize it, we covered the tires, deep cleaned it, drained water lines, and put a tarp over the roof.
Ray and I have come a long way with this project since the spring, and together we’ve accomplished many of our goals for this summer, while also working full-time and saving money. We completed projects like fixing and replacing water-damaged areas, plumbing and ceiling vents. We installed a bathroom fan, ripped out old flooring, sealed the exterior, built retaining walls, leveled the lot, and refinished a picnic table.
We learned so much and put together the three most important lessons we wish we could have told ourselves from the start:
- Make 3x the amount of time for any given task. We spent a lot of time researching, planning, thinking, ordering parts, etc. before we could even begin some of our projects.
- Know that parts will fail and the unexpected will happen. This is the fun of working on a 40 year old camper. A week after we moved in the plumbing sprung leaks everywhere. We went weeks without our sink and it took the two of us to do dishes by holding a water tank over it.
- Prioritize. Prioritize. Prioritize. Because of #2 setbacks, we made sure to work on what was absolutely necessary for living. And in the beginning stages, we would have changed the order of our projects had we known what we know now.
There’s still so much more to do next summer and I can’t wait to be back…
We recognize that it’s hard to save money in a place like Tahoe. For a time I felt like I was getting kicked out of Tahoe because of the housing crises and the high rental rates. So we are thrilled for the opportunity to be able to stay here and make a small investment while living the lifestyle of our dreams. It’s no cabin on the lake, but we love that this could benefit us for summers to come. For now we treat this temporary living experience as a way to learn about each other, what we love, and what is important to us in life.
The main motivation is to practice living a simple life. That means less material possessions and more independence physically and financially. This independence allows us the time to rest, travel, plan the next move, or enjoy our favorite recreational activities and hobbies.
As humans we can go to so many places, have so many different identities, hobbies, careers, and even love many people in our lifetime. And this limitless opportunity can be overwhelming and even paralyzing at times especially when we’re young. We’re left playing the “what-if” game and constantly seeking something other than what we have. But if we remember to commit to our decisions until we can’t anymore, we will begin to build ourselves, and our community.
It’s the practice of committing to whatever it is that you are doing that takes you places.
I think that the balance between exploration and commitment is why this camper fits my personality and stage in life too. Because I always have an itch to travel and explore, but I am also an introvert and I need time alone in a homey environment. This lifestyle gives me that and more. I am grateful for the choice to live however I want to and the freedom to grow and create the building blocks for my future. I am hyper aware of this privilege. Living the gypsy life is so fun, but the reward is having a community to come home to and building that is a lifelong work of art.
“Exploration and all it entails — finding yourself, finding home, finding love, finding likes and dislikes — only works if we give our discoveries a chance to strengthen their hold on us.” -Rainesford Stauffer
If you’re interested in hearing more about the projects we worked on this summer, please comment or ask questions.
Thanks for reading and happy trails!