____________ July 26, 2016 ___________

Travel Trailer Talk

I’m allergic to travel trailers.  Not kidding, I really am.  I’m not allergic to anything else… just campers.  And not all campers, either.  Just campers built after the year 2000 that have high levels of formaldehyde in them.  And it’s in everything – they use it in the plywood, the laminate, the carpeting.  It keeps things from mildewing and getting mold/rot… something important when you’re roughing it, yes.  But it’s strong.  Bad for humans to breathe.

Do you remember Hurricane Katrina and all of the trailers they shipped down there, and how people were getting sick from being in them?  It’s the formaldehyde that made the people have terrible reactions. And I’m one of those people.  Depending on the amount of formaldehyde that’s been used in the manufacturing of the trailer, it can affect me immediately, or over the span of about an hour it can build.  Brian’s aunt bought a used camper (2000, I believe), and I couldn’t make it thru the tour she was giving us of it – just the three minutes of being in it made my eyes burn.  And everyone else is just fine.  It’s so weird!  Brian says it’s a blessing – because such levels that cause reactions like that can’t be healthy for people who aren’t allergic to formaldehyde, either.  So there’s that.

Our camper is a 1978 Coachman.  We call it the ‘Sunflower Trailer’, because whoever had it before us recovered everything with greens, yellows, and sunflowers.  It has baskets of sunflowers, sunflower magnets on the fridge and a window cling on the mirror… it’s just pretty.  Very vintage, very nice.  We’ve loved it for years… have had it for going on seven, I believe, now.  Even when we thought it might be nice to upgrade… it was paid off, so we kept it, “just in case”… and then it turned out I was severely allergic to the new one, so we were very glad that we held on to the older, better camper.

But this year, we have a problem.  There are fold-down upper bunks in the bunkhouse that are *tight* to squeeze into, and the 8 and 11 year old no longer can shimmy up there.  (Believe it or not, they’re the same height/weight!  Aaron’s built like Brian, and Ethan is slight like I was at his age.)  Also, the 6 year old does NOT fit in the port-a-crib, anymore.  I couldn’t even ask him to, anyhow – it’s an age thing.  So we had to move him up to a bunk, use one of the upper bunks for backpack/toy storage, move the 8 and 11 year olds into our bed in the back (used to be a bathroom – we tore it out and made it a full-size bed with a real mattress)… and Brian and I had to cave and put down the table permanently into a bed up front for us (and buy a real mattress for that).

This is NOT ideal.  There’s no room to maneuver.  There’s no table, there’s… problems.  And then?  We’re lying up front, and we notice that the ceiling is coming apart.  Rotting apart.  And in Brian’s corner, the wood is actually crumbling all the way down to the seat backs.  It’s just too old.  We already knew this… when we’d pulled out the bathroom to put in the rear bed, we’d discovered that the previous owners had used the shower and it’d leaked and rusted thru the frame of the camper.  We’ve used it that way, but we can’t take the thing further than 20 miles.  It’s just too old for a road trip.  Which is bad for us, because we’re starting to not fit in a hotel room, anymore, either… and we’re going to need to start doing our travel adventures in a trailer.

It was time to get a new trailer.

Which, of course, brings us back around to my little allergy problem.  Brian said that likely they’ve lowered the concentration since the Katrina trailer crisis… and maybe the newer ones wouldn’t be so bad.  So we went to General RV to talk to them.  And as we’re waiting for our ‘agent’ to be assigned to us, the kids and I wander around.  There’s a 40′ (I swear, it was HUGE) massive house-on-wheels in the showroom, so I step inside… and immediately am hit with that smell… and my eyes start burning.  Oh, no…!  So I got out of that sucker fast, my hopes plummeting.  Brian’s raising an eyebrow my way, knowing that something’s wrong, and suspecting what I already know.

Salesmen are arses.  Did you know that?  They don’t mean to be, they just want to make a sale, I get that… but they’re arses.  They’ll tell you anything to get you to buy their products.  We shake hands, show him our horde of children, explain our situation (can’t travel, outgrew the beds, starting to fall apart), and ask about formaldehyde.  “Oh, every company is different.”  He assures us, and I start breathing, again.  “Keystone’s are the worst for that, so stay away from those.  But Starcraft has really good campers, and doesn’t have any formaldehyde at all.”  This was sounding better.

He took us out to see the hybrids, because with our sheer number, that’s what we were leaning towards.  He had a 22.9 ft Travel Star with three expandables and a slide out (also one w/o slide out)… and that was amazing, because it was smaller than the sunflower trailer, and lighter by far.  Plus they were really pretty.  Seriously pretty.  Marble counters, hardwood floors, super-mega everything.  And I was able to be in them and not flee… so we were getting pretty excited.

But as pretty as it was…?  It felt wrong.  I can’t explain it any better than that.  It felt… blingy?  Fancier than my house – not a ‘camper’, if you understand.  It’s probably just me – I’m not very good with lavish things, to be honest.  Quaint, charming, antique, cheap, comfortable… yes.  Expensive, blingy, fancy, high-end… not so much.  And we didn’t care for the numbers he was tossing around, either.   So we headed out… but keeping TravelStar in mind.  Although as we were leaving, he checked with the manager.  TravelStar’s have formaldehyde, too.  All of them do… to one level or another.

I’m a Craigslist girl.  We love to get things used off the ad site – in fact, that’s where we’d just gotten our new mattress for the front of the camper (<< also eating into our vacation, but I digress).  So anyhow, I went on-line, and found a Palomino Solaire 213X on Craigslist.  It looked to be the same style/size as the TravelStar, but it was a lot cheaper, and I liked the interior (just from the pictures!) so much better.  They had two on a lot in Lansing, so (in the middle of our vacation) we took a day and drove over to Lansing.  Brian was off work, you see – and that’s hard to come by.  Plus it’s an adventure, right?

The salesman was hilarious.  “None of our campers have formaldehyde!  They don’t do that, anymore.  That was back in the early 2000s.”  Yeeeeah.  Anyhow, if you want to see lots of pictures of the Solaire, they’re here… but I’ll put up two, like I did for the TravelStar:

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Very similar, but not so fancy-schmancy.  We got there, and he’d just sold both of the models.  He said they go off the lot as fast as they come in, because of the space in them.  This is a 21 ft camper that opens to the size of a 27 footer… and is light to pull!  It’s amazing.  He was getting another one delivered first thing the next morning, so we drove back again the next day (after calling to make sure it was there, this time!).  We walked into it, and loved what we were seeing.  Comparatively speaking, of course.  It was really nice, but not luxury quality, you know?  And the price was better, too.  I sat in it for half an hour, to be SURE that I wasn’t going to have a reaction.  We shut ourselves in, and I went to every corner of the thing, spending time in all areas, just to be SURE.

We also went in everything Solaire on the lot, in case.  (And one Jayco pop-up, which had red plaid interior that I absolutely fell in love with.  It would never, ever fit us, but I loved it, just the same.  It was so cottage-y and wonderful!)  And then we drifted back over to the Solaire 213X hybrid, and had to make a decision.

But something was holding me back.  Brian was all for it.  It was a 2017!  Brand new, never owned… and the price was high, but if we tightened, we could swing it.  But I couldn’t do it.  I loved it, don’t get me wrong… but it wasn’t for us.  I couldn’t explain any better than that.  And I’m sorry.  But I couldn’t.  I blamed it on the money, because that was a big part of it for me.  I hate debt.  We have one on Brian’s truck, and that’s already too much debt for me.  Adding another that was large enough to be an uncomfortable squeeze?  No.  Just… no.

So back to Craigslist I went.  Had to find another option.  And so I thought, “What if we didn’t just search hybrids?”  So I started looking at other options, and found a listing for a 2005 25′ Jayco 25G.  It’s the same size as our Sunflower Camper (but nearly 30 years newer), has longer bunks with more headroom, and a pop-out up front, which adds a lot more room.  It’s got double the storage.

And it’s red plaid interior.

(((GRINS!!!)))  Ha’Shem was prepping me for that, with the little one we’d gone in at the Lansing lot!  I couldn’t believe it.  I do believe in signs, and that was just… awesome.  Have I mentioned that my first car had red plaid seats in it?  It was a 1979 Mercury Zephyr, and it was red inside, too!  I just… have a thing for red plaid, apparently!  Take a look… what do you think?

2005-JAYCO-JAY-FEATHER-25G-3066A-14830

2005-JAYCO-JAY-FEATHER-25G-3066A-14840
2005-JAYCO-JAY-FEATHER-25G-3066A-14841

I texted the number in the ad (TEXTED?!?), and the guy was a hoot.  He kept texting me all sorts of crazy stuff.  He was just chatty, and a lot of fun, so we were looking forward to meeting him… even if it meant driving almost to Detroit!  So off we went.  The guy – Dave – has twelve kids.  (Six are hers, five are his, and they had one together!)  He buys ‘totalled’ campers at auction for pennies and fixes them as a side income, then re-sells them with a salvage title.  This one had water damage on the floor, so he pulled out the flooring and replaced it all.  (The flooring in the picture has all been replaced with wood in his camper.  Brian went over it all, to be sure there were no soft spots or problems, that the guy did a really good job.  And he seriously did.)  Which, btw, means less formaldehyde issues!  Except we were still concerned.  We knew nothing about the chemical concentrations in Jaycos… so this was an ‘exploratory’ trip.  To see if it would work.  If I could tolerate it.  If the style might suit us.

Long story short, we loved it.  It was “The One”.  I wasn’t allergic at all, and we all agreed that it was perfect for us.  So we put $$ down, and bought the camper.  I was waiting until we had everything squared away to post about it, because we had some goofiness with the financing (salvage titles make things tricky, you can imagine).  But the price is way lower than the newer ones, it’s the same weight as the 213X (because it doesn’t have a slide-out), and it’s not too long for us to pull.  It’s just beautiful.  Cozy, quaint, charming, cheap, antique-ish…

… and the perfect camper for us!

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