The adventures of Marla and Taco: Building a road-ready travel trailer cute as a button

July 5 | Guest post by Marla

IMG_3841Almost a year after its conception, I birthed my half-baked idea-baby: May 2011 was the maiden voyage of my trusty tag-along camper, "Taco." All my tools, a few belongings, my Zulu short spear, and my cat, Sophie, are accompanying me on an odyssey through as much of this country as we can stand.

Boston had me down and I badly needed a change. It was time to open myself up to the universe. On a whim, I posted an ad on an online dating service. I wasn't actively looking for a girlfriend, but I was single, and I wasn't opposed to the idea. IMG_1373
The ad states I am looking for women ages 21-100 — located anywhere in the nation — who need help with projects and/or are looking for friendship. I filled out the questionnaire thoroughly and honestly. My intentions were very clear and strictly PG, people – I was not propositioning centenarians for casual sex.
I posted my photos of my work and a link to my Facebook page and got my first fan – she liked my project, was in my age range, and she was hot! She lived in the next town over.

I was hoping to reach a little further than across the river, but I sent her a message. After I expressed my appreciation for her becoming my first and only fan, I asked her out for coffee. I was working in NYC at the time and she assured me that they would still be serving coffee when I returned to Boston in a month.

We became inseparable after that (a la lesbian, sans U-Haul!). I spent the winter and early spring renovating Taco. There was extensive water damage, but the camper is a structurally sound canned ham, with "framing" to hold all of the cosmetic parts in place.

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The ceiling was a mess. Leaking roof vents created a driftwood effect beneath the vinyl-sheathed surface. I cleared the decay and installed new vents and a weather-proof roof sealant to prevent further damage.

By the end of Phase 1, my spirits were knocked around a bit, but still optimistic. After I removed all of the rot and unwanted bits, I began reconstructing the floor and ceiling.

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The floor had lots of water damage and after I had stripped it down to the metal pan, I decided not to put more rot-able wood down — instead, I used 2″ thick rigid foam insulation and covered it with 1/2″ plywood. I put the bench seats back in — with storage and hiding places for Sophie, the cat — and sanded and painted all existing doors, cabinets, and walls a cheery yellow-white. Accent walls were painted "Tropicana Cabana." I used vinyl, stick-down tiles in the dining area and the bathroom; hickory stained floating laminate floor for the rest.

I stripped the ceiling down to the "rafters" – curved 2 x 3's that keep the roof domed and provide a substrate for the sheathing. I filled the bays with cellulose insulation (a vapor barrier to hold it all in) and sheathed it all with 1/8″ luan plywood.

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I found a product online that provides a bit more insulation and is cute as all hell; styrofoam tiles with moon craters. They are 20″ x 20″, super light weight, and adhere fantastically to the luan. The directions were in Russian (I think), but it was all very self-explanatory. After the ceiling was in place, I added my light fixture and roof vent trimmings. I coated the roof with an alkyd rubberized sealant to keep the weather out.

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After everything was put back together, we decorated! I salvaged all of the hardware, appliances — except for upgrading to a ceramic heater — and most of the light fixtures.

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This is where Kelly shines — she's responsible for finding all of the good deals and making sure I could keep on trucking in style and comfort. I added in a few of my favorite adornments.

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I was ready to roll!

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Stay tuned for more installations from Marla and Taco — including what Sophie's up to, stories about the people Marla meets, and tales of sleeping in many a Walmart parking lot.

  1. I can't wait to see more! What an impressive restoration.

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  2. I adore this!! I cant stop looking at all the details!

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  3. Love the story of Taco and getting on the road with Sophie and falling for Kelly, things look wonderful for you!

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  4. I love the cute red polka dots, so adorable. Your camper is decorated better than my house!

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  5. As someone entirely obsessed with the idea of renovating an Airstream & traveling the country in it (seriously, ask my boyfriend, I drive him crazy talking about it), I LOVE THIS POST! I am looking forward to future updates!

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    • Hah! I have been driving my husband mad with talk about doing the same thing with an Airstream and traveling for over a year now. Although, now that I see this amazing camper redone, I think it wouldn't even have to be an Airstream – but I still totally love them.

      This camper is inspiring and I LOVE it!

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  6. Oh. My. Lord. SO CUTE! My boy doesn't like camping, apparently, despite liking hiking, biking, swimming in lakes, canoeing, archery, and other outdoorsy stuff (I know, right?). But as his main arguments are not being able to shower daily and not sleeping in a real bed with a roof over his head, I hope to someday change his mind with a little camper just like this. Adorable.

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  7. This is the perfect time for the Housemartins' song Caravan of Love: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V6GXV0FNEeI

    Also, I love your little caravan so much I just kicked awake my boyfriend who's sleeping on the floor to tell him that we're buying one and traveling around the country for our honeymoon. He's too half-asleep to argue. Winning!

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  8. You did such a nice job. We are starting to restore a small trailer and would like to know where you ordered the ceiling tiles. Thank you for any info and will be watching you site!

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  9. Very nice job on that camper! I'm starting a total rebuild this spring. Hope it come out as nice!

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  10. Man, I want one! My fiance and I are looking for a trailer… wish I had the skills to do this! It'd have to be bigger, since my fiance is a tall guy who likes some leg (and head!) room! So probably bigger. And oh boy, I remember when my family (only 8 of us 11 kids in my family were born at the time!) lived in an RV. SOOOOO many Walmart sleepovers! We pretty much lived in Walmart. Got so bad, we stumbled into the men's room more than once when that day's Walmart had the bathroom doors on opposite sides from the last one! lol I miss those days….

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