The Camper Test
December 8, 2017
Three Rivers Trading Post
Three Rivers, New Mexico
The Camper Test
Last night was the true camper test! I have been staying in my head start bus conversion as much out of convenience as necessity. Convenience as I have blended well with Trading Post activity and have been producing more art than I do at home, and enjoying the company. Necessity as in spite of having several reasonably functional vehicles, none of them are functional at the moment. Drivable yes, but not roadworthy, a side effect of a summer of leisure compared to my usual efforts. If my income had been more measurable each would have had the minor repairs required, but they didn’t. The inevitable domino effect got the best of me. That’s ok, by Monday they will all be working again, all three of them, ha ha.
But this is about my camper! Even the camper has suffered through the shortage of funds and what began as a well-planned project has instead evolved into a work in progress. It was most fortunate that I had already delved into the major construction before my dismissal in May and in short order had the walls paneled and all but a few corners trimmed. I lay vinyl on the floor and built the bed, though I later spun it cross ways for better utility and convenience. I strung a 2×2 across the front for a privacy curtain and installed the woodstove and until recently it was enough.
Two weeks ago I slept in the camper at my sons’ house and braved the first cold night. The oil filled electric heater I used to keep the chill off in the big bus served the purpose, but just barely. The next morning I hurriedly threw a few braces over the cab section, as much for the storage potential as for the added enclosure and heat retention. I covered it with cardboard that I had wisely scavenged from a dumpster, the box for a large appliance and too good to pass up. If I had not anticipated its immediate usefulness at the time, I had considered covering a window at the house. I am glad I had it!
Here at Three Rivers we are at a low enough elevation to avoid much of the cold. Until just days ago the tomato plants were still thriving, though the frost had bit their foliage. Even the roses were still blooming in Tularosa, just fifteen miles away, as it has been a mild winter. I have been boasting of having to turn my heater down at night and have at times even thrown off blankets, until now. If the night before last the heater still sufficed, last night got too cold. I finally lit a fire as I wanted to be cozy, being spoiled from the years of woodstoves, and was soon too warm. I played with the damper and stoked the fire before I went to bed, again pulling off blankets through the night.
I woke up this morning and stirred the ashes in the woodstove before I dressed, as it was comfy enough to do so. I had turned the electric heater down last night, but there were still glowing coals, and soon another fire. I heated my wash water on the stove, and it kept my tea warm also. I finally, as it was getting too warm, opened the curtain to the day. A rim of frost sat thick on the base of the window. The front door, outside the blanket that still divided the cab from the camper, had more. I took quick pictures and texted my son, “I am sure glad I had a woodstove!” He replied quickly, “Yea, me too!” He is so much like me and I am grateful for that! In fact, he is using the old parlor stove I had originally bought for the other bus but decided it was too cumbersome for that. Besides, it is a handsome stove with all the chrome fixtures attached and deserves to grace a living room, which is does in royal fashion.
The camper test. If there is still much to do to finish my project so much of it is aesthetic. What remains as necessity became quickly obvious when the temperature plummeted last night, though previous experience had taught me already. Having lived in the big bus for nearly six years I learned well, I just haven’t had the time or money to address things. Soon I will enclose the ends of the wheel wells that weren’t covered by the bed, and cover the platform to staunch a few drafts. I will likely use cardboard as it is cheap and light, and a good insulator also. And, I shall finish the platform in front above the cab, and enclose the opening as I had already planned to do. I will then have a near finished product, less a little shelving and a table. I will throw another rug on the floor also, it gets cold in the night as there is no skirting.
I slept well last night and I am plenty warm even now, with the fire smoldering lightly. I burned but a handful of wood and kept myself comfortable, and then some. This tells me what I needed to know, that I could escape to the wilderness and be fine, and even enjoy it. As money allows there will be more, a small gas stove, an inverter and batteries, and eventually a solar panel. I need to build a back porch for the propane and batteries, or enclose the latter in the front. There are a few things I need to learn and purchase but even now I am as self-sufficient as I need to be. If the project was intended more for luxury than a dwelling, it has proven its worth for both. It has passed the camper test!