Liz and I have been tent camping together since we met in 1985. We live in New Jersey and have camped all over the Northeast, but our favorite haunts are in Pennsylvania. We currently own 2 trailers, a 2007 Airstream Basecamp, and our favorite, a 20 foot 1972 Argosy travel trailer.
When I was growing up, my family camped every summer. We started with a 10×18 foot Sears tent (there were 6 of us), then in 1968, Dad bought a Hilltop Panda Deluxe hard top tent trailer. We used that for many years, going from New York to California or Colorado every summer, with stops in every imaginable place along the way. Long about 1974, Dad traded in the Hilltop for a 22 foot travel trailer (the brand escapes me), but as I was off in school in another state, I only went out in it a couple of times. They didn't keep it for long, selling it in 1976.
Fast forward to 1985 when Liz and I met… I introduced Liz to camping and she took to it like a duck to water, she was HOOKED! For years, we used a 9×9 foot Hillary that we bought in 1986 at Sears. Some of our best tent camping was in state parks in Pennsylvania and West Virginia. We camped at every possible opportunity until about 1997 when I changed jobs and life got a bit crazy.
On a Friday in early November 2006, I was driving to a photo shoot in Lakewood, NJ and had to pass by Colonial Airstream. I noticed a rather strange sight on their lot, something that looked for all the world like a horse trailer. I had some time to kill, so I swung around for a closer look. The trailer was, of course, the Basecamp. I got a tour (and a brochure) and went off to photograph the Subaru dealer down the street. That evening, Liz looked at the brochure and the bug bit hard. The next day we were back at Colonial, and by late afternoon, the 9th Basecamp off the production line was ours.
Our 2007 Basecamp
We towed the Basecamp to Mom's house in Massachusetts at Thanksgiving to show it off (Dad had passed away in 1998, he would have loved it), but didn't get to actually camp in it until early May 2007. On our first “real” trip, we found a lot of things lacking in the Basecamp design, mainly in the tent to trailer interface. Undeterred, we started fixing the trailers “issues”, and despite of a history of hard to trace leaks, it IS a fun little trailer.
We took the Basecamp to the Airstream factory in Jackson Center, Ohio in August for some warranty service (read that as leak fixing). While we were on that trip, we found a 20 foot Airstream Safari at a local dealer and fell in love with the floorplan. Yes, I know, we only had the Basecamp for a few months… Regardless, the cost of the new 20 footer was out of the question. So, with the Basecamp fixed and back in tow we headed off, back to New Jersey.
In September 2007, I was sitting in the lounge of the Kansas City airport waiting for my flight home from a photo assignment when I found a listing on the airforums.com classifieds for a 1972 20 foot Argosy. No price was listed, but the photos looked pretty good, so I gave Liz a call to let her know I had found our “new” trailer. That weekend, we contacted the owner and made arrangements to drive to North Carolina to pick it up.
Here's a shot of the Argosy on our second night out on the way home (the first night was spent in a Wal-Mart parking lot).
I should mention… When we picked her up, we only had a straight drawbar hitch (no weight distribution) and the trailer brakes didn't work. We pulled her to an RV dealer in Hendersonville, NC who, in that sweet southern way, asked us to kindly remove it from their lot. We towed her up to Camping World in Statesville, NC where their service folks did a bang up job of putting in new brakes and installing a proper hitch. They didn't care that she was butt ugly… We picked up a pair of 20lb propane tanks at Home Depot, which helped making the tow MUCH nicer. It's amazing how much some weight on the tongue helps!
The GMC van in the picture, while an OK vehicle for towing the Basecamp, just didn't cut it with the Argosy. It has a 5.0L engine and 3.42 gears, so taking hills was a bit slow. It has since been replaced with a K1500 Suburban with a 5.7L and 3.73 - MUCH better!
The Argosy was advertised as “ready to camp”. OK, are you done laughing yet? Technically, you COULD have camped in it, but:
Once we got her home, we dicovered a lot more, such as how much bad plywood there was in the floor (and the dead black tank), but I'm getting ahead of myself…
I was chatting with the owner of the campground and mentioned the problem with the black tank valve. He suggested a tank chemical to try that might free it up, so that ewvening I put a couple of gallons of water down the toilet with the bottle of stuff he had given me. The next morning, no deal, the valve would NOT move. Remembering an old trick for cleaning out tanks, I put 10 pounds of ice cubes down the toilet as we pulled out of the campground, figuring that 100 miles or so of sdriving with the ice in there should break up whatever was holding up the works. About 2 hours later, we pulled into a truck stop for lunch. When we came out, I noticed some water under the rear of the trailer. Yes, you can see it coming…
I stupidly took off the cover on the dump valve and WHAM! several gallons of ice cold water, mixed with some foul smelling chemicals and dried up crap came rushing out of the tank valve! It made quite the puddle on the parking lot… That evening, we stopped at a KOA near Hagerstown, MD and I got under and looked at the valve - it WAS closed, it just leaked REAL bad.
The rest of the tow home was pretty uneventful, except for the underpowered and undergeared tow vehicle. 10mpg was bad enough, but to get that and have to crawl up minor hills was adding insult to injury.
By the time we got home, we had made a lotr of decisions about the renovation. First thing to come out was the bathroom. The sink, shower pan, and shower control console were all a horrible mess. I took them to Dr. Gelcoat in Port Monmouth, NJ where they repaired all of the cracks and shot a beautiful white epoxy finish, making them look better than new. We also ripped out the old carpet, and by doing so, discovered a lot of plywood damage. We spent a full weekend doing the demolition, plywood repairs, and a few more days painting the interior. We used Glidden Gripper primer and Glidden Evermore interior satin paint.
I hate painting…
Then it was on to the plumbing.
The fixtures in the bathroom were shot, and the kitchen faucet didn't have a lot of life left, so we ordered some replacements from Fitzgerald's RV in Atlantic Highlands, NJ. We also ordered a replacement light fixture for the bathroom - the original dying about the third day we had it home.
One of my gripes in the plumbing was the lack of shut-off valves. Since the bathroom was out anyway, I decided to make manifolds for the hot and cold water. Each outlet on the manifolds has 1/4 turn ball valves and all lines to the fixtures are braided stainless steel.
Water supply manifolds
The black tank was shot. We might have been able to salvage it, but decided not to take the chance. Since it is only the two of use, we opted to get a Thetford 465 Porta Potti and eliminate the black tank completely (the trailer was retro-fitted with a gray water tank by a previous owner). I know that some will consider this heresy, but hey, what is an RV toilet but a Porta Potti with a big holding tank? My theory is that if ya gotta drop the kids off at the pool, use the campground facilities. The bathroom in the trailer is best left for that 2AM pee… Regardless, the 465 has a 5 gallon tank and is at “regular” toilet height.
The next thing to get done was new flooring. We chose Traffic Master Allure from Home depot. We used just under 3 boxes (including waste).
The bathroom vanity was pieced together with parts from the original and some wainscoating we had in the garage. It is temporary as we plan to make a new one as well as a new door for the bathroom closet as a winter project.
We were in a bit of a hurry to get the trailer campable as we wanted to tow it to Massachusetts for Thanksgiving. This time, we would stay in the trailer! We got her back in camping trim in just under six weeks. There is still a lot to do, but the worst is behind us now. The exterior paint will wait until Spring, but the interior decorating is well underway.
Gotta have pink flamigoes!
Sam gives a gaucho his seal of approval
We had our anniversary dinner in the Argosy on Nov 30th
… to be continued…