Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Featured Teardrop: Stacie's Glampette

I met Stacie Tamaki, owner of the Bay Area The Flirty Blog, at the Treasure Island teardrop gathering and was seriously impressed with her new teardrop trailer. The Glampette, a self-contained and light (600 lb.) trailer was built by Fred "Alaska Teardrop" Markoff from the TNTTT online forum. Stacie recently returned to her home in California after picking up her new trailer from Fred's studio in Michigan, and had a lot of tales to tell of her nearly 5,000 mile round-trip to pick up her new baby with the yellow trim.


What impressed me the most about Stacie's trailer is the way she designed it to accommodate her safety requests since she travels alone, along with her dog, Kitai. Her teardrop enables her to stay inside to cook, use the bathroom and it even has a peephole in the door to check out her surroundings before opening it up.


Why did you decide to get a camping trailer?

I saw "Audree", blogger "The Fancy Farmgirl's" vintage, glamped, 1959 Fireball canned ham in a 2011 blog post Tiffany had written and realized I wanted a glamped-out trailer of my own some day. I thought it would be fun to do overnight trips around Northern California but instead I've taken a three-week trip, followed by a two-week trip, followed by a four-week trip since June.


What led you to teardrop trailers?

I wanted to tow a trailer with my everyday car, a 1994 Acura Integra. It's a 4-cylinder rated to tow 1,000 lbs so I knew a traditional canned ham was out of the question as it would be too heavy. I started researching on Google looking for smaller alternatives and discovered teardrops in the process.


Tell us about the building and buying process.

When I realized I wasn't going to be able to find what I wanted already out there, I decided to try to build it. So, I designed the trailer, took a MIG welding and metal shop class and realized it would take me at least five years to build a sound, safe trailer. In the meantime, I'd met builder Fred Markoff on the Teardrops & Tiny Travel Trailers forum. He goes by the name "Alaska Teardrop." Fred builds his Alaska Teardrop and Northern Lite Traveler trailers the way I needed to build mine, with a welded steel frame instead of wood (wood is heavier). He, along with many other members, posted into my design idea thread and began advising me on design and construction methods. One thing led to another and by the time I realized I didn't want to do the build on my own, that I needed to hire a professional instead, Fred was in my sights as the perfect man for the job.

After convincing him to let me hire him we drew up a contract and he began work on The Glampette in December 2012. She was completed in May 2013. During the build process he emailed me photos of his progress every other week and we'd talk on the phone once a week about details. When she was done I drove (alone) from California to Michigan to pick her up.




What features did you want in the trailer?

Because I'd always be traveling alone I wanted my galley and storage to be inside the cabin, not on the rear under a classic teardrop hatchback, so I'd feel safer not having to leave the trailer at night. I also needed it to have a dry weight of less than 600 lbs so that my car could safely tow it. I wanted more vertical interior height so I could sit upright inside with room to spare. I also wanted to be able to store and use a Thetford porta potty inside the trailer in case of late night emergencies when I might not feel it would be safe enough for me to wander an RV park or campground alone. Basically what began as a teardrop design became a mini canned ham profile instead. I call The Glampette a canned "SPAM" due to her more petite size and shape.

I keep my cooler in the car (usually filled with eggs, fruit, homemade (frozen) lentil soup) but all of my cookware and dry food goods are stored in the trailer on the bottom shelf of the interior galley. I also eat a lot of Subway when I'm "traveling" since they're often open at the 24 hour Pilot Travel Centers.


 Where do you like to go camping?

To be honest I began as a traveler, more than a camper. That entails driving from point A to point B, usually 10 to 11 hours each day along the interstates and stopping at dark to be safely off the road at an RV park. I've also stayed at Walmarts, numerous Pilot Travel Center truck stops, a winery, and a restaurant. Only recently I went camping in Wisconsin and along Michigan's Upper Peninsula (UP). I'd definitely recommend camping in the UP. Many of the state parks and national shorelines are right along Lake Superior and Lake Michigan so the views were stunning, especially in the fall with the leaves changing color along Highway 2 as you travel from park to park.


What advice do you have for women teardrop owners?

Don't let fear hold you back from hitting the road on your own. I got caught in a tornado and large hail storm in June (and had to be pulled out of 3 inches of hail by a wrecker), three sleet storms this fall, torrential rain, lightening and thunderstorms, 30+ mph winds in South Dakota, a 28ยบ (F) night in Oregon, and many gorgeous days of blue skies and sun enjoying the landscape as I traversed I-80 and I-90 to and from California. I haven't regretted a moment of it.

I have two cell phones (an ATT & Verizon) for better cell coverage, an AAA membership that includes my trailer, a tool box, a tire patch kit, a portable tire compressor, an alarm on my car with a panic button I can activate from inside the trailer, and I use a as much common sense as possible to stay safe. I have several other safety layers but I don't disclose what they are publicly because the element of surprise would give me an advantage if I ever need to use one.

Always have a spare and know how to change your own tire. Even if you have AAA you may not always be within range of a cell tower to call for help.

Learn how to downshift going both up and downhill. This is especially helpful when traveling through passes on rainy days. Not needing to use the brakes to slow yourself adds an extra measure of safety that reduces the chances of sliding across wet pavement.

Also, learn to back up your own trailer. Find an empty parking lot and practice until you get it. Just take it slow (very slow) so you can see where you're going and make minute corrections. Once you figure it out it just gets easier and easier.



What do you like most and least about teardrop camping?

The thing I like the most is the self sufficiency aspect. I love that my trailer is like a tiny studio apartment. From the moment I got it I felt like I could get rid of everything at my house and just live (comfortably) from the trailer. The thing I like the least? That would have to be the mosquitos in the midwest. They're far more plentiful and aggressive than the California mosquitos I'm accustomed to. And for some reason they love me! I had swarms of them biting me on both of my trips back east until the first light frost hit Michigan in early October.


What are your favorite camping accessories?

Hmm...I love my awning. It's nice that it creates shade I can set my chair beneath but most of all I just love the way it looks. Theres's something so nostalgic and whimsical about the old rope and pole style. I also love the aqua grill I found on Etsy. It screams vintage style with its chippy paint and unique design. I set it outside my trailer to use as a fire-safe cooking platform for my ultralight propane back packing camp stove. It also doubles in the trailer as a shoe rack. I can put my wet, muddy, or dusty boots on it to keep my floor and blankets clean when I turn in at night.


What has been the reaction from other teardrop owners and non-owners?

In general people can't get over the small size, or that I can fit inside of it to lie down. But once they sit inside they all say it's more spacious than they thought it would be. Those who have built or restored a trailer all compliment the quality of Fred's construction techniques. He did an outstanding job building me a sturdy, well insulated, well built, water resistant, light weight trailer. Equally, most are blown away that I travel alone. Both women and men have said they would be too afraid to. For some reason it doesn't phase me. I don't take any risky chances with my safety so it truly doesn't seem anymore dangerous than when I'm at home. I'll even check local crime maps online ahead of time to make sure I'm staying the night in a safe part of a city or town I'm unfamiliar with. Bad things can happen anywhere.

I want to experience life to its fullest potential. The Glampette has already taken me on more adventures than I could have hoped for, and I've only had her for five months!


Photos by Stacie Tamaki and Christina Nellemann

Monday, October 28, 2013

Photos from the Treasure Island Teardrop Gathering

While in the Bay Area, I was able to pop into the Treasure Island teardrop gathering during the Treasure Island Flea Market. Several people I knew were there including Debby and Randy with Monstro (who won the People's Choice Award), Steve with his Tortuga and Stacie Tamaki with her new Glampette.
 

A limited number of teardrops were allowed to park in this grassy area near the Bliss Dance statue and enjoy the amazing view of San Francisco, the Bay Bridge, Alcatraz and the Golden Gate. Next year, I'm there!














Friday, October 25, 2013

Friday Teardrop Photo


This weekend we are off to San Francisco for some fun and food. We have a tight schedule, but I'm hoping to make it to the Treasure Island Flea Market where there will be some teardrops on display.

This photo was taken at a teardrop gathering last year on Treasure Island by Stacie Tamaki of the Flirty Blog. Treasure Island just might be one of the most beautiful and unusual places to have a teardrop gathering. The island off the Bay Bridge in San Francisco Bay has a great view of the city and you can camp underneath a 40-foot naked statue of a woman named "Bliss Dance." We first saw "Bliss Dance" at Burning Man 2011, but now she has a permanent place on Treasure Island.


Monday, October 21, 2013

Teardrops for Tailgating

With football season in the U.S. in full swing, on the weekends stadium parking lots are filling up with tailgaters cheering for their favorite teams. To make your tailgate experience even more fun, why not bring your teardrop trailer along? Many tailgaters bring their own trailers or RVs to tailgate events so they can have access to a kitchen, bathroom and even a living room couch with a TV tuned to the game.


A teardrop can have the same amenities without taking up two or three parking spots. If the weather is nice, you can open up the galley and set up a bar with the chips and beer, pull out a few camping chairs and watch the game from the parking lot. If you get tired of the crowds, jump into the bed area and close the doors and curl up with a good book that's not about football.

If you are a mega fan, Little Guy Worldwide allows you to order your fiberglass teardrop trailer with your team's logo and colors.


To thoroughly enjoy your teardrop tailgating experience. Here are a few tips:
 
1. Check on the rules and get there early: Check with the stadium or university/college to be sure you can bring your trailer and then get there early to get a prime spot near the end of a row where you can make a quick getaway after the game and the tailgate party is over.

2. Don't forget the shelter: I've been to a few games where the weather does not want to cooperate. When you stake out your space, be sure to leave some room to set up an EZ-Up or other pop-up shelter. You can even get a shelter printed with your team name or colors.

3.  Stock your galley: Pack up the teardrop with what others seem to forget. This includes paper towels, garbage bags, bottle openers, toilet paper, aluminum foil, hand wipes and a first aid kit for those rival team altercations.

4. Get ready for the admiration and pack some extra beers: Teardrop trailers at a football game are a novelty, so be ready to give extra tours of your teardrop. Have extra beer and snacks on hand for your admirers.

5. Oh...and go Wolf Pack!


Top photo: The ultimate tailgater teardrop from Big Woody Teardrop Trailers

Saturday, October 19, 2013

On Teardrop Trailer Radio (again)


 If you are interested, I'm on the phone now with Brooke on Teardrop Trailer Radio. The full episode will be available on TalkShoe.

The final show can be found here.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Friday Teardrop Photo


Taken at Shoshone Falls State Park in Twin Falls Idaho. We took a lot of photos here since we really liked the local mountains and rock formations. The cooler sitting on the tongue of the teardrop is a bear-proof Igloo Yukon from the Sportsman's Warehouse that can be locked with two locks on either side of the lid. The Yukon keeps food cold longer than your average cooler and is tough, but very heavy to carry.

Photo by Harry Thomas

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Featured Teardrop: Crybaby Teardrop Trailers

Crybaby Teardrop Trailers is a small teardrop building company in Huntington Beach, California that designs custom trailers according to owners' specifications. What really caught my eye with this company was not only their fun name, but that one of their designs featured a galvanized tub for a galley sink. How cool is that? I chatted online with the owner, John and he gave me more information on the company.


 Tell us a little bit about Crybaby and what you do.

Crybaby is a small mom and pop teardrop building company. We build completely custom teardrops from start to finish for our customers. We've built the standard teardrop in just about every size and configuration you can think of but the more creative we get, the more we enjoy doing it. We've done things like a toy hauler teardrop, a teardrop customer uses to travel to events and instead of a galley the hatch opens for a custom product display, things like that. We're doing two now that are pretty exciting: an off-road teardrop and one the owner is decorating as a either a "nautical" or "spaceship" style complete with round porthole windows, a beer tap for a pony keg and a rag-top "moonroof".


What do you think makes Crybaby Teardrop Trailers unique?

We are completely unique because, unlike some of our bigger friends, we don't do cookie cutter. Every customer's teardrop is slightly different and unique whether it's wider doors for a disabled customer or custom cabinets. We don't carry any stock to sell or already made trailers, so our customers can be a part of the process from when they order their trailer all the way until their "baby" is finished. Most of all, we're a family run business: my brother, my wife, kids and I are involved in every single trailer. We strive to be artisans and we take our time doing it right.


 Tell us about your trailer options and details? What can customers order or what do they specifically ask for?

Because we do everything under the sun, we don't really have a list of options or price list. Our customers come to us with their ideas, we figure out how to do it and how much it will cost. They can order just about whatever they can think of. That being said, our base model, a 4x8, starts at $3,999. Adding things like extra windows, a second door, a sink, cabinets can run anywhere from $75 and up. Sometimes our customers just bring us cool stuff they've found, like old windows, and ask us to incorporate it into their trailer. One of the huge things for us is to make our trailers affordable for families and to let people decide what they really want in their trailer and how big they want to go. We want to offer a great value for money. As for options, most of our customers really want that second door and window — the sinks with the instant hot water tanks are really popular options.


 Do you see any interesting trends in teardrop trailers?

The biggest trend we've seen is the off-road teardrop. We started building ours and we've had interest that's just off the hook! It's amazing how many people are interested in a trailer that they can take to places that only tent campers have been before. It's the new frontier and a super way to get out beyond the campgrounds into the wilderness.

  
Where did your company name come from?



Our company actually started because we are a big blended family. My wife and I had three children each from our first marriage and we love camping. My wife and I also love road tripping and we had upsized into a big trailer to take the whole clan out and about. But when it was just us — without the kids — that big trailer was a production to get out, not to mention the gas to get it anywhere. We wanted something more economical, environmentally friendly and easier to just pick up and go with.  We ended up tent camping or sleeping in the truck a lot.

Then, when my wife was pregnant with our youngest "us" baby (lucky number 7!), we decided we needed to get ourselves a teardrop again as a second trailer. I'm a master home builder and a carpenter by trade and had built many teardrops over the years as a hobby and helped a lot of my friends restore and/or build their own, so I knew exactly what goes into building a quality teardrop. My wife wanted all the amenities too: the iPod hook-ups etc. But when we went shopping for a teardrop, we were astounded by the prices for what we wanted. So I started building my own because I knew I could do it for a lot less and before I was even finished people were trying to buy it out of my driveway. It was amazing! So when our baby was born, I was looking for a way to stay closer to home and I started taking orders and the demand has been overwhelming! We just moved into a brand new shop in Huntington Beach. It all started because of youngest crybaby, so Crybaby Trailers just fit as the name.

 
Do you camp in a teardrop trailer? Where do you like to go camping? 



We love camping. In the winter we go to the desert. Mojave and Jawbone are favorites, and in the summer, we'll enjoy beach weekends at Bolsa Chica State Beach here in Southern California or up north of Santa Barbara. One our favorite summer trips was to Oak Creek Canyon in Arizona — the kids just loved Slide Rock! We're hoping to be able to do Glacier National Park and/or Yellowstone with the kids for our next summer adventures. We’ll do it with the kids and the teardrop!


What do you like most and least about teardrop camping?

In my view, there's nothing bad about a teardrop! My favorite thing about the teardrop is how easy it is to get there and how it can go so many places that you can't with the big trailer and is so much cheaper in gas. My wife will tell you she likes to have the bed because in the winter it can get cold. My wife does say the one thing that bugs her is that the teardrops don’t have bathrooms, but we've come up with a solution for that. We've designed a side attachment for the Teardrop that can double as a shower and privacy for a port-a-potty.

Photos by Crybaby Teardrop Trailers

Friday, October 11, 2013

Live Life Now

It's my life
It's now or never
I ain't gonna live forever
I just want to live while I'm alive
(It's my life)
My heart is like an open highway
Like Frankie said
I did it my way
I just wanna live while I'm alive
It's my life

"It's My Life" by Bon Jovi

When driving down the road, I crank this song up and sing along at the top of my lungs. It really appeals to things that are going on in my life right now, but it can also apply to teardrop camping. Teardrop trailers and camping are a wonderful way to see the country or just your own backyard, and we've had accessibility to more areas around the Western U.S. with our teardrop trailer than from staying in a hotel. However, you don't need to wait around to buy or build your own teardrop trailer to go exploring and see the world. Rent a trailer, or even just a cool-looking van, or gather up some airline miles and take off for Tokyo or Timbuktu.

Don't wait to live your life. You only get one.

Photo by Harry Thomas

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

GPS or Map?

The latest Apple Maps flaw which sent drivers along the Fairbanks International Airport taxiway and across a runway might have people questioning their GPS units. We've had our own issues with GPS units when visitors to our home get directed to take a rugged, dirt country road behind our house when there is a perfectly (and well mapped) paved road in front of the house.


So should you trust GPS units and map apps or is the good old paper map the way to go? When we are traveling with our teardrop trailer, when we need to be even more vigilant, we like to use both.

GPS units are useful for finding the quickest route or an alternate route in case of traffic jams or road construction. They are also very useful in more urban areas when looking for specific streets, stores, restaurants and laundry facilities. However, a GPS unit is NOT a map. Don't blindly rely on just a GPS when foraying into unknown territory. A GPS only gives you a very narrow view of the entire location, you need a paper map to see the entire area and plan your trip according to what roads you want to go down and what you might want to see along the way.

Map = big picture
GPS = fine details

One of my favorite blogs, the Long Long Honeymoon, covers this concept nicely in a video. In addition, an article by the Boston Globe confirms that primarily using GPS units to get around affects our brain's ability to assemble a mental picture of where we've been.

Photo by Barbara Gobbi



Monday, October 7, 2013

Monday Teardrop Photo


Because of a very busy week, the usual Friday Teardrop Photo has been moved to Monday.
On our way back from Yellowstone, we stopped for a dinner picnic at Shoshone Falls in Twin Falls, Idaho. At 212 feet, the falls are higher than Niagara Falls.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Featured Teardrop Trailer: Treeline Teardrops

Whether you want to hit the road (or go off-road) with a teardrop trailer, the Treeline Teardrop Trailers company from Petaluma, California have a ton of sizes and options to choose from. These well-designed, sleek silver trailers are custom built with premium materials through the use of computer aided design, CNC routers and exclusively engineered components. But they still look like the vintage favorites complete with white wall tires.


The Treeline teardrops come in a ton of sizes including 4x8, 4x9, 4.5x9, 5x9, 5x10 and 5x11. The Rover, Sierra, Cal-Deluxe and tiny Buzz can all be taken on the road and the Buzz-Off and the Krawler are ready for some rougher, back roads. The off-road trailers have heavy-duty springs, electric brakes, adjustable shocks and gas and water tank holders. You can compare each of the trailers on their Models Comparison chart.

All the Treeline trailers have steel frames with steel fenders, rubber torsion axles, rear stabilizer jacks, mounted full-size spare tires, running lights, locking doors, a galley pass thru, a battery charger/converter, outlets, a thick foam mattress with a cover and a built-in two-burner stove.



Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Lucky Teardrop Camping in Yosemite

Today Yosemite is celebrating its 123rd anniversary...and immediately had to shut its gates because of the federal government shutdown. We were lucky enough to make it down to the park this last weekend for a teardrop camping trip just outside of this beautiful park. We are also very lucky that one of the most popular parks in the U.S. is only a three hour drive south of our home, so a quick weekend away is easy. So for anyone who is not able to visit the park today (but hopefully soon), here's what we did last weekend.


We took the teardrop out with her best friend, the Stargazers teardrop trailer, and our good friends, Brett and Nancy. On the way down, we stopped at Travertine Hot Springs in Bridgeport to warm up. It was nice for the first two days down in Yosemite, but a day before the area had received a few inches of snow and we were expecting colder temperatures. We also stopped at the Whoa Nellie Deli for lunch. If you have not been there, it's a Mobil gas station that serves some really excellent food including seared ahi and bison meatloaf.

 

Usually when we come down to this area, we stay in Forest Service campgrounds, but we decided to check and see if there was availability at Aspen Campground at the entrance to Tioga Pass. We were so lucky this day: we got a large spot right by the waterfall. The campground soon filled up around us, but we pretty much had the waterfall area to ourselves. The days were beautiful, but the nights got down into the 30s and the 12-volt blanket came in handy.

 
 

The next day we drove in Yosemite and were lucky again. It turned out that it was Public Lands Day and we were able to get into the park for free. We did give some money to the Yosemite Conservancy to continue our good karma. We drove along Highway 120 and stopped at a few places including Olmstead Point on our way to Glacier Point. I had not been to Yosemite for several years and it was nice to see that the horrible Rim Fire had not touched many of the places that make Yosemite famous, however, because of the fire cleanup — the entire northwest part of the park was closed.

We drove to Glacier Point and spent most of the day there, walking around, eating lunch overlooking Half Dome and looking down into Yosemite Valley (which we decided to avoid because of the traffic).


At the campground, we did some hiking around the aspens and some Dutch oven cooking around the fire. I made BBQ chicken and Thai squash and our friends made pulled pork sandwiches and a really excellent Dutch oven chocolate cake.


The day we left, the bad weather decided to come in and the cold wind began to sweep through the campsite as we were making breakfast and packing up. Chairs, clothes, shelter and paper towels flew around before were were able to get them into the cars...I think our luck had just run out.