Tin Can Tourists “Glamp” in Style
Dotting the highways and byways of the Upper East Side of Texas is a growing number of charming “tin can” trailers, tiny “teardrops,” and fanciful wing-adorned Shastas. These vintage trailers are renewing the romance of the open road.
The attraction is about more than avoiding hotel bills while traveling from point A to B. In fact, the vintage trailers and their modern retro versions are many things to many people for many reasons. The best place to witness this is at one of the many rallies held across Texas and the United States.
One such gathering took place in Canton this summer. The Texas group of the Tin Can Tourists, led by Teresa Archer of Stephenville, spent the better part of four days at Mill Creek Ranch Resort swapping trailer stories, holding an open house for gawkers, playing bingo, and enjoying the modern version of a hobo campfire.
Some folks become “trailerites” for the sheer love of the trailers themselves. Paula Anthony of Paris in Lamar County visited the Canton rally to do a bit of sightseeing and tire-kicking as she ventures in to the new hobby.
“I just wanted to see the vintage campers,” she said. “They steal your heart.”
And that’s the thing — the romance.
Whether it is the kitschy-to-classic design of the trailers themselves, the artistic canvas provided to “glampers” (more about them later), or the call of Route 66, or the hearkening back to earlier times of freedom and community, vintage trailers are fun.
Jerry Barnes got into the restored trailer life (he has a 1956 Metzendorf) via his love of fixing up old drag racers. Sherry and Rodney Kershaw of Lake Charles promote their trailer park in their rare motor coach, a 1965 Ford Town and Country—sort of an ancestor to today’s RVs. Francie Bearden of Athens parks her 1967 Shasta (found out in a field in 2013 and restored) next to her fiancé’s modern motor coach and her 1953 restored delivery sedan. A friendly awning provides shade for the campground neighbors to gather and gab about trailers and life.
Archer, who after restoring a farmhouse without wheels, went on to personally restore more than five trailers for herself and others from a bus to a classic Airstream to a “canned ham.” She always has a next project. In addition, she is an organizer and a cheerleader and a trailer life coach for old friends and new who are flocking to the ranks of the hobby. She helped friend and campground neighbor Phyllis Eyre restore her 1969 Sage. “She,” the trailer, is named Magnolia Rose.
Archer is the Texas State Representative for the well-organized and historic Tin Can Tourists, a nationwide group with roots that go back as far as 1919 that toodles along quite nicely in today’s world. The group has its own website, www.tincantourists.com, and more than 15,000 followers on Facebook.
Tin Can Tourists is not the only group having fun on the road. Several groups promote not just camping in old-timey trailers, but “glamping” or glamour camping. This is one of the most popular twists on the old hobby, which in times gone by was more comfortable with canvas tarps and mud than with indoor plumbing and beds. “Glampers” are mostly women and have formed such groups as “Sisters on the Fly” and “Getaway Girls.”
Dallas hotel concierge Jill Isaacson and Barbara Wells both attended the recent Canton gathering, but they also travel nicely with the Sisters and the “GGs.” The shabby chic gypsy style of Isaacson’s “Patchouli” and Wells’ pride in her trailer’s air-conditioning, capture the feel of what glampers contribute to the movement. And then there’s always a bottle of wine to be shared under the stars.
The old days when Archer could locate an abandoned trailer to restore on a remote deer lease for $800 are probably gone, but getting into the restoration game is not too cost-prohibitive yet. A couple of grand can still get you a good “project” trailer. Add on to that the cost of transporting the trailer and including the most common first repair—good tires—and it is still a reasonable expense.
Finding an old trailer is not too difficult. Trailerites start shopping around on the Internet, frequently, or they see a “For Sale” sign on an old motor coach on the roadside. However, one of the best ways is to get connected with one of the enthusiast groups. While at Canton, Archer was on her cell phone, attempting to broker a deal with a landowner who just wanted the old piece-of-junk trailer off his land. In Archer’s capable hands—she does the carpentry and everything else involved in restoration—that “piece of junk” can become worth thousands.
Instead of getting a fixer upper, some buy a new “retro” tear-drop like Grant Berry and his wife Margaret of Iowa Park, Texas, did. It has all the modern conveniences because it is modern. The microwave oven and memory foam mattress do not seem to detract from their enjoyment at all.
Organizer Archer thrills to the 1953 Lucy-and-Desi classic movie, “The Long, Long Trailer,” where “Nicky” and “Taci” travel the American Rockies, living in their motor coach and learning valuable lessons about marriage in close quarters and not collecting heavy rocks as souvenirs. She’s named her trailer “Lucy,” and she loves “Lucy.”