Posts Tagged ‘camping’

IMG_7168For Kim and I, the TCT spring and fall rally’s in Milford MI at Camp Dearborn are the bookends of our summer season.  The spring rally, always on the third weekend of May, kicks off summer, and the fall rally, third weekend is September is the wrap.  We like to have at least one more fall outing after the TCT event, but this years busy schedule didn’t let us squeeze in another weekend outing.  The weather this spring was a bit cool, as was the entire summer here, but the summer weather waited until after the end of September to start to wane, and we were rewarded with absolutely perfect weather all weekend for the rally.  The clouds even parted Sunday night for the total eclipse of the “Super Moon”, so I don’t have to wait another 30 or 40 years for that!   We’re still enjoying an extended, mild autumn, the leaves have just begun to turn here, so the mild, beautiful weather continues.  Part of the reason I’m only now getting around to writing this…

This year Kim and I took a couple of extra days off for the event, and even though we missed Fridays activities coming home for our niece’s wedding, this years get together was the most fun yet.  We’d planned on leaving early Thursday, but instead hitched our little “Tini-Home” canned ham to the Pontiac wagon and headed out Wednesday after Kim got out of work.  We rolled into Camp Dearborn just at dusk, and got landed in record time up on “The Hill”.  For this trip we slimmed down our decor and accessories, partly because of limited room in the 13′ trailer, a lesson we learned on this summers “Super Yooper Looper Tour” and partly because we had to leave Friday.  At any rate, the downsizing was a welcome change, we took about 10 minutes to set up and “decorate”, and packing up was similarly streamlined.  We are going to let this be an inspiration when we complete the “new” ’47 Spartan Manor…

IMG_6948Thursday was a great day to relax to a beautiful sunrise, watch our friends, and the many “newbies” roll in from our vantage point up on the hill overlooking the rest of the park.  (Since the Starlight Lounge has been retired, we can enjoy much earlier mornings!)  Warm and sunny, the day was perfect for strolling around, checking out trailers we hadn’t seen before,  shopping in Milford, cruising around the park and meeting new folks in the “Welcome Wagon”.  The induction of new members after supper was HUGE, with almost as many new members learning the secret handshake, secret password, and club song as veterans at the tables!  They were in fine voice too, during the sing along.  After that, a great presentation on where the hobby is going from Vintage Trailer Supply gave us a little insight into the hobby (lifestyle?) and where we may be going.  Thanks for coming all the way to Michigan guys!FullSizeRender

Friday morning breakfast at the Big Top was great as usual, scrambled eggs, ham, biscuits and gravy left everyone in a calm post prandial stupor, which made shopping downtown in Milford easier for the guys.  The historic Graton trailer was on display for all to see, a treat to see this unrestored, original condition  pre-war home built trailer.  The day saw some new activities with the Welcome Wagon continuing to greet the new folks, a poker run for newbies, and another great TCT evening meal with everyone in the Big Top.  Later, Billy Mack and the Juke Joint Johnny’s rocked the roof of for the Mad Hatter Dance Party.

11902261_10207911367164698_1262336816742776819_nWe were sorry to have missed Fridays fun, as we left mid-day to go back to Grand Rapids for our niece’s wedding.  She was a beautiful bride, and we’ve gotten her started off with a wedding gift of a ’67 Dodge Travco motorhome!  She’s planning on converting it to a mobile hair salon/spa, so we’ll keep the tradition of vintage RV’s in family, this time with a new twist.  Which I understand is some sort of hair style…

Saturday we were happy to leave the Tini-Home door open for visitors, walk away, and actually have time to walk around during the open house.  We made the best of it.  We saw lots of great trailers we hadn’t seen before, and got some great ideas for our new Spartan.  We were lucky to score a remnant of really cool 40’s vintage linoleum during the flea market from TCT friends Julie and Steve which will become a table top, and hopefully enough to make some TV trays as well.  Thanks guys!  That evening was another game of “Playing Card Bingo”, with thrills, chills, and fabulous prizes!  Well, some fabulous, and some not so fabulous, but it’s all in fun, and hey, everybody needs something for next years game, right?

There was a new activity as well on Saturday night, Blue Poly Waste Tank Racing, which made up for it’s inherent danger by being totally unsafe, although the darkness did make it seem more dangerous than it probably was.  If we kept anyone awake, apologies all around.  Next year, we promise better organization, and a wider fleet of racers.  Anyone needing imminent hip replacement would be well advised to pass, trust me on this, and please, clean, unused tanks only…IMG_7146

Sunday the vantage point of being up on the hill let us watch the caravans get packed up and roll out below us.  Several of us who also had Monday off moved down to the lower loop after everyone moved out, and we had a very relaxing evening under the stars.  It clouded up after sunset, but we were rewarded for being patient as the clouds parted as the Lunar eclipse began and we were treated to a spectacular sight of the blood red Super Moon in full eclipse.  Again, the feeling that the friends made are much more important than the trailers was reinforced, as much as we love the trailers, it’s the people that make the TCT so special, and so important to us.

IMG_7167Monday we had breakfast in town with friends, and headed home.  We got with about 20 miles from home, when the Pontiac uncharacteristicly sputtered and died.  As we coasted off to the side of M-66, we each said, “Didn’t we fill up in Milford before we left?”  The answer was yes, we had, but we both had forgotten about driving to Grand Rapids and back on Friday, and while we filled up then, the wagon can’t be driven 300 miles pulling a trailer on 18 gallons of gas!  Fixing the gas gauge may be one of this winters priority projects.

We’re now busy getting our Spartan, a ’47 Manor, the “Last Trailer”, ready for next years camping and TCT trips, and many more years after that.  We’d never have gotten this involved, done so many things, or taken the trips we’ve done with the TCT without the Bone’s, Forrest and Jeri, Terry and Michelle, and ALL of the great TCT friends we’ve made belonging to the Tin Can Tourists.  Thanks for all the hard work, caravans, rallies and camping fun.   Truly, the more we get together, the happier we’ll be!  IMG_6062


I thought I’d be writing about having the new flooring installed in the Manor, but, the red tiles (which would be where the white ones are) we ordered turned out to be a weird shade of pinkish magenta, so, another carton of tiles was ordered and we’re waiting on those.  So, hurry up and wait.  Hopefully, the weather will cooperate and I can get it done this week on my days off.

Instead, I’ll talk a little about last weekends Tin Can Tourist Fall Rally in Milford, MI.  Kim and I left Wednesday about 6:30, a day earlier than we’d planned, and got there just about dark.  We had a great weekend of reuniting with old friends, hanging out, and surprisingly little looking at old trailers.  In fact, going through my photos, I took pictures of exactly two.  One, our friends Jake and Tami’s ’48 Spartan Manor, which makes me regret not having ours done, or maybe even regretting selling the ’46, hence, the work being done on ours, and the other a very rare “Holiday House”, the Holy Grail of sticks and staples late ’50’s canned hams.


Jake and Tami’s trailer was a 3 month thrash build from a gutted shell, which included the stripping of the original interior, complete new floors, running gear, custom interior, glass, insulation, wiring etc.  In other words, a total, frame up rebuild, which was completed the night before a cross-country family vacation with their two young daughters.  Jake is a high energy hot rodder, the quality of the build is incredible, and the trailer works flawlessly for them, right out of the box.  That little truck is another of Jake’s builds, his daily driver, built from swap meet parts, a thrashed S-10, and a rusty Sierra pickup that donated its heart to the project.  Nice work, Jake!

The Holiday House belongs to another friend, Dawn, who has several other vintage trailer builds under her belt, and she’s building this herself as well.  It’s an unfinished project as yet, but she’s already replaced the skin, much of the front framing and she’s now working on renovating the interior.  These trailers are unusually wide, in fact, they’re a shade over 8′, which makes them very roomy, and the panoramic windows really open up the trailer to the outdoors.  It’s a great trailer, I can’t wait to see how Dawn finishes up the interior.


We had a wedding on Friday, so missed that days fun, but we made up for it the rest of the weekend.  The highlight may have been impromptu downhill rides on Jake’s (new) blue poly waste tank, which was pressed into duty as Soapbox derby racer.  We quit sometime around midnight on Saturday, figuring that since nobody had been hurt (a miracle) and the cops hadn’t shown up, we should quit while we were ahead.

The weekend, and the camping season, came to a close when we pulled out on Monday, having spent an extra night at Camp Dearborn to watch the lunar eclipse with some of our friends.   We sadly packed up and pulled out, heading home for overdue laundry, lawn-care, bill paying, and the usual household chores we escaped for the weekend,


The trip home was smooth, until the wagon uncharacteristically sputtered and quit about 20 miles from home.  When we left Camp Dearborn, we both remembered filling the car with gas in Milford before Sunday, but we forgot about the trip across the state and back for our nieces wedding, and the car really did not have a full tank.  An embarassing call to Hagarty Insurance’s Road Service line had a tow truck with a can of gas, and we were back on the road.  Maybe figuring out why the gas gauge doesn’t work would be a good winter project?


So, all that’s left of this seasons camping and travel is winterizing the campers, tucking them in for the long winter, and getting the Spartan done for next summer so I don’t feel bad when Jake rolls up with theirs!  Stay tuned for progress on the ’47, the T’bird, the Rivi, and the ’34 (if I can squeeze it into the shop).  It’s gonna be a busy winter!

What's wrong with this picture?

What’s wrong with this picture?

Last night I drove the Diamond T out to the State Park to have dinner with my wife (we’re camping, it’s a “working” holiday, so I was only going for dinner, having to work today).  When I left the house, something in the front of the Diamond T made a “clunk” noise, but I was backing over the edge of the garage’s cement pad and didn’t think much of it at the time, and drove to the campground with out a care.

We got in the truck to go to a local pub, when I backed up to leave our campsite, that same “clunk”, but again, rough ground, bumpy, turning, no worries.

We got to the rangers station and Kim said, “I smell anti-freeze”.  I had just noticed it too, and looked at the temp gauge which was about 260.

Not good.

I went to turn into a small parking area, and the steering wheel turned almost 3/4 of a turn before anything meaningful really happened.
“This is BAD”, I said as we finally turned in and stopped.

Getting out and looking under revealed a waterfall of coolant from the radiator, and the steering idler had come apart, letting the center link drop down and forward, hitting the bottom tank of the radiator, punching a hole in the plastic tank.  It would steer going forward, so we made a big U turn in the parking lot and got back to the main visitors lot.  I called Hagarety Insurance’s road service number, and soon a roll back was loading my prized possession up and hauling it home.

There’s a new radiator in the garage already, and I’ll have to pull the grill shell to swap the radiator, but it could have been worse. Nobody hurt, the truck isn’t bent, and I learned to tighten all the bolts in the steering…


Last week when we out to the little Shelter-logic garage to get something for the Del-Ray, I noticed with horror that the fiberglass “Filon” skin on the Tini-Home trailer had split above the front window on each side, from the corners to the outer edges.  Evidently that stuff shrunk so much in the bitter cold last winter that it contracted as far as it could, then simply tore at a stress point.


What to do?  I don’t want to re-skin it, simply because it’ll be a lot of work and I have several projects that are a lot of work, and I’d rather work on them.  I didn’t want to do a funky patch, although simply taping them off with duct-tape or Gorilla tape would have worked, and I couldn’t just leave it because it would have leaked like a sieve.

The answer came in the form of some .030 polished diamond plate used for gravel shields on new little RV’s from Bontragers Surplus.  I made a gravel shield of a half sheet drop over the window, after sealing the tears with self leveling RV roof sealant and HVAC tape over that, and today I made lower gravel shields of some scraps to flank the diamond plate tool box already on the tongue.

I think the result is actually an improvement.  It looks like it was always there, it all matches, and, it was easy, the key to a good cobbled up “repair”.  A buddy offered to help me re-skin the trailer, which I may do when after the T’bird, the Riviera, the ’47 Spartan and the Chris Craft are done.

If we’re both still living, that is…

IMG_5280 IMG_5279 IMG_5281


With the Del-Ray firmly anchored in the box of the GMC dually, we headed for Milford MI last Thursday for the Tin Can Tourists Spring Rally.  We spent the the three days prior to that frantically cleaning, packing and getting ready, and spending all our allowance money on 6 new tires for the truck.  It seemed like a big expense, but the peace of mind riding on 6 new tires, opposed to 6 ancient, weather-checked ones was worth every penny.  On the plus side, I’ll never have to buy tires for the truck again!

At any rate, the truck and camper were a hit once we got there, much to my surprise.  We  had a line of people to see it Thursday and Friday, received many complements and what we think is a pretty serious offer to buy the camper.  All in all it was a successful trip, if you don’t count the the roof vent over the bed leaking (of course, it had to be over the bed…) during a torrential downpour on Saturday.  It’s cozy and comfortable for two people, although accommodating the six it’s capable of sleeping wouldn’t be nearly as much fun in the rain…

We answered a ton a questions about it, and I’ve compiled the top ten answers to those questions here, so you don’t have to ask:

10.  About 2500 lbs., empty.  We think.

9.  Yes, it rides very nice with the camper in the  back.

8.  No, it doesn’t seem tippy at all.

7.  We don’t know, but it’s older than 1967 according to the “Expo ’67” sticker in the rear window of the camper.

6.  Elkhart Indiana.

5.  Yes, that is 21,000 original miles on the truck.

4.  We’ve had the truck since 1982.

3.  Yes, it’s comfortable, and yes, the fridge works.

2.  7.9 mpg.

1.  7.9 mpg.

We had a great time, and happily, gas is cheap right now, although it’s only 110 miles from our house to Milford.  The Del-Ray attracts a lot of attention, and the whole rig is,  I must admit, eye catching in a really funky, kitchey sort of way.  We had lots of people relate stories of traveling with their grandparents or aunts and uncles as kids, riding in the bunk looking out the panoramic windows.  It’s rewarding to be complimented, and kind of fun to be reminded you don’t have to break the bank to have fun with vintage campers and funky old trucks.

Camp on!


I’ve spent the past two days on the Del-Ray and GMC pickup. New tires on the truck, fender wells and exposed frame sandblasted and painted. Camper cleaned, birch paneling oiled and polished, counters and backsplash scrubbed, stove cleaned, floor scrubbed. We need to make the curtains and wash the windows, but it’s close to getting a big “DONE” stamp!










IMG_4881 The Del-Ray tuck camper is officially DONE! Well, Kim is going to make curtains , but it’s “campable” now. New cushions , new water system , bathroom re-skinned, toilet working , new mattress, fridge checked, windows and roof re-sealed and caulked. The GMC, designated beast of burden has new dually hubcaps, there’s a complete new stainless exhaust waiting to go under it, so other than the steer horns going on and plow frame coming off, it’s ready to go. We’re ready for adventure!

Kim approves the proposed color for her Riviera!

Kim approves the proposed color for her Riviera!

My wife Kim and I visited the Gilmore Car Museum (practically in our backyard) last week, where I showed her their beautiful original ’63 Riv, in the light silver blue I’d envisioned our (OK, HER) own Riviera, and she approved.  Now, the push is on to get both it, and the ’59 T’bird done and ready for paint when the weather warms up.

To that end, I made a trip to the nearby village of Plainwell, where there’s a Do-It-Yourself media blast business.  For 20 bucks, I blasted all the front suspension bits, brought them home and got them painted.  I made a rather ingenious (I think) paint rack of two step ladders and my extension ladder, to hang parts from, it worked very well.

While the paint, rattle can enamel from Tractor Supply, dried, I pulled the front bumper off the T’bird, tack welded a small tear in the seam where the left front fender meets the filler panel between hood and bumper, hammer and dollied a few little ripples in that panel where it meets the bumper, and got a thin coat of reinforced filler on the panel.  Tomorrow, I’ll finish that, do the final work on the front bumper, the quarter panels behind the wheel wells, and the body work on that will be DONE!  Feels good.



Glossy black!

Glossy black!

We also made a decision about our fleet of cars, we’re going to thin the herd.  It’s tough to part with anything (and of course it’s not sold yet), but we’re going to try to sell the Diamond T 201.  I want to rehab the ’48 Pontiac convert (seen in the above photos) that’s been languishing in the garage too long, set aside from money for our rapidly approaching retirement, and finance my planned ’27 Ford roadster project.  We’ll see what happens…

Lets see if this photo ends up shared as much as the wagon and Spartan!

Lets see if this photo ends up shared as much as the wagon and Spartan!

Like the old CS & N song “Almost Cut My Hair” says, “I think I got the flu for Christmas, and I’m not feel’n up to par…”, I have been felled by the flu bug.  Started with an achy feeling in my feet driving to work on Christmas day (?), which led to an annoying but not horrible cough later that day, to feeling like I’d been worked over with a baseball bat by Friday afternoon and feeling as if I was somehow floating several inches off the floor.  I considered calling Kim and having her come and get me, but I managed to drive home, collapsed on the couch and got up only to go to bed, and spent all day Saturday and Sunday on the couch shivering under quilts.  She was going to take me into our Dr’s office this morning, but by then she too felt too sick to drive, while I, on the other hand, felt so much better (by comparison) that I deemed it not necessary.   I say “by comparison”, because I realized that I still am not up to par.  I felt like I needed to lie down and take a nap in the grocery store when I went to get Kim some Cranberry juice, and even though it was sunny and beautiful, I wasn’t even tempted to go out to the  garage and do anything.

I do have the week off (of course, I would be sick during a vacation time), but at least we are home, and I don’t have to go anywhere or do anything.  Aside from bringing Kim a glass of juice now and then and feed the pets.

Meanwhile, I can hopefully get a couple of days worth of work done on the T’bird.  For Christmas, Kim got me a Bluetooth speaker for my cell-phone, and I’ve learned how to purchase and listen to music.  This made me sorry that I’d just cut a hole in the dash of the ‘Bird for a radio/CD player.  Now, when I’m feeling up to going out to the shop, I can entertain myself by filling that hole back in and finishing up the dash, smooth and devoid of out of date tech.

In my head, I’ve also completed lots of other tasks, like, getting a decent interior and a new top on  the ’48 Pontiac convert, getting the Riviera done, fixing the blistering rear fenders on the wagon, working on the “new” Spartan Manor, and maybe even cleaning up and painting the inside of the garage.

Or, that may have just been the fever talking…


'47 Spartan Manor

’47 Spartan Manor



Yesterday I got groceries, hitched the Spartan to the Diamond T and got all packed and ready to go when Kim got home. The forcast called for rain, but it was a very pleasant fall day under partly cloudy skies.



We landed, got set up and had great evening, fixed a nice thick Porterhouse and roasted vegetables for dinner. Still no rain.

During the night however, the odds caught up with us and we got rain in buckets. We awoke to the awning down, and somehow rainwater ran in the rear door frame and wet the floor by the bed.

The awning is back up, the puddle at the foot of the bed mopped up and clothespin in the rain gutter above the back door is diverting a stream of water away from the door frame. All is well.