Vintage travel trailers that make you go Canned Ham CRAZY!

Category Archives: The beginning

We head down to pick up the camper this weekend! Here’s a photo-journal of the trip

Driving south on I-5 my wife caught this clever image of the sunset through the side-view mirror.

Those little digits of your bank account  on a screen  just don’t hold a candle to the real thing. This is what we “traded” for our Camper!

We own it!!! Driving away down in So. Cal.

Bribing the kids to tolerate the 14-hour round-trip, we spend the rest of the day at Universal Studios.

What can I say? Awesome giant Krusty the Clown Head.

It’s a sign! Genuine Airstream vendor location inside the park.

Oh so retro.

Just a cool dragon

Iron work over a huge courtyard on the CityWalk at dusk.

Self Portrait

and miles to go before we sleep…


Now the real work begins…cleaning, painting, polishing, water, electricity, propane, dinette, etc, etc, etc.


Well, I continue to loose sleep because this ridiculous thing is still in my head. (Our 1954 vintage camper trailer which WE HAVEN’T EVEN PICKED UP OR PAID FOR YET!)

We found out yesterday that it won’t fit in the garage. Great. But it was going to be an outdoor sewing room anyway so I guess that’s ok…except…there’s no easy way into our backyard. Right now the best bet looks like tearing down and rebuilding 35ft of fencing so there will be a removable fence panel to drive through.

So I was up at 3:30 AM trying to figure that out in my head. I gave up trying to sleep and just got up to research fence panels. Found the perfect thing at Home Depot, then started thinking about painting.

It’s primed but needs a color topcoat. I want that shiny durable automotive finish, which means urethane. Which means acquiring an HVLP spray gun set up. I had no idea what that was until this morning around 4:30 am. Turns out you need at least 6cfm and 30 gallons of air, which is a big compressor. If that’s Greek to you don’t worry it was to me too until about 5:00am this morning. My wife thinks I just want to acquire toys, uh, I mean tools, and poo-pooed the whole thing. She found something on the web about using rollers to paint tractors. What??? Who ever put an automotive quality finish on a vehicle with rollers and tractor paint??? I thought this was supposed to look cute? Cute is a 30 gallon air compressor atomizing low volatility acrylic urethane with minimal bounce back or overspray. And don’t even talk to me about pressure regulators and fan patterns. I’m a You Tube painting graduate! So that’s all priced out and ready to go. If I ever actually paint it, between my wife’s mistrust of my motives, and this project ever really happening, I’ll post how-to details of what I learn for you all. (Honey, but then we’ll still have the equipment for other projects!)

Did I mention that WE DON’T EVEN OWN THE CAMPER YET???

We don’t even own the thing yet and while garage-saleing this weekend we bought all these retro mid-century items obsessed with how they’ll accessorize the camper.





So it’s funny. It’s hard to move on. I mean it’s hard to transition from one phase to the next. We still have a dozen or more “watched” trailers on eBay and the app keeps pinging us that they’re about expire. We secretly keep refreshing the Craig’s list screens we set up earlier to search for canned hams. We say to each other, “oh look, that orange one is going for so-much, I think we got a good deal.”

Is hard to break old habits. The obsession of searching for a vintage travel trailer is only a few weeks old but the intensity with which we did it make it an “old” habit. My wife even said, “that’s good we don’t have to look anymore.” I agreed. But that was the conscious mind at work. Somewhere deeper, the thrill of the hunt was still there. The lottery ticket-like potential of finding a bargain. Something you could brag about, the rare find everyone else missed. That mystery still lived.

Why is that? Are we not committed, not really ready to buy? No. I’m tired of looking. I’m done. I’m grateful to have found just what we want and be settled. Is it a resonant signal in our brains that’s still triggering, a shadow of previous intensity? Maybe. I’m not a neuroscientist. But I think that humans are settled in their ways. Routinized. Habit-bound. It takes conscious, real mental energy to move on. To recognize one phase as ended and another beginning. The faster we can do that in life the better off we’ll be. Because its reality out there and we might as well face it. But in the distant past, things changed slowly. So could we, and that’s how we were wired to be. But that wiring is now outdated and only our conscience mind can hope to move at the modern pace.

Lots of progress has been made. Trailer hitch, ball and wiring harness has been ordered from UHaul. (Branch in one city quoted me $100 more than a store in another city nearby. Do different franchises have that much pricing discrimination?) We have made arrangements with a neighbor to borrow a truck in case the special order doesn’t come in on time. We’ve planned next weekend entirely around this trip, including a visit to Universal Studios to bribe the kids into compliance for the 13 hour trip. Still seems crazy but we’re doing it.

Today, Saturday of Labor Day weekend, we went to the Scottish Highlands Festival. You haven’t lived until you’ve seen women throw telephone poles end over end.


OK, let me back up. Why are we buying a 1954 canned ham camper trailer that’s got few, if any amenities, only partially restored, might not fit in our garage, and is a 13 hour round trip away from where we live. Are we crazy?

It all started many years ago when my wife, who’s an avid sewer and quilter wanted a sewing room in the back yard. We’re in a four-bedroom house with three children, so you guessed right–no cute, sunlit sewing room at have all to herself in the house. So an out-building was the next step. BUT it had to be cute. Not a shed. Not a thrown up box of some sort. It had to be a cute building with lots of windows. Something a creative artist would love.

That idea percolated for a long time. We don’t even have a garden shed to put the lawn mower (which of course I though should come first) and life was busy, so the idea stalled. Then, I’m not quite sure how, she got the idea of a camper trailer. Of course modern camper trailers are expensive, but much more importantly, not cute. So a vintage camper trailer it was. This flash of insight was a few weeks ago. I resisted, stalled, dismissed and was generally unhelpful about the idea. (Now I’m writing a BLOG about it–that’s a turnaround!)

She got obsessed. Crazy even. She bought a craig’s list app for $1.99, (I’ve bought maybe 1 app in my life and it was $0.99) she searched eBay every hour. She’d wake up at 6AM and immediately get on her iPad to search. Like I said, I had no interest.

Then she got to me. The practical, cost-efficient, sensible side of me (This project won’t be any of those things, I’m sure, but she knows how to work it). We’re planning on taking the kids on a road trip to San Diego in November down Route 1 in California and seeing the sights along the way. We had already talked about a family vacation driving up to Oregon next summer to explore. We wouldn’t have to stay in hotels. We could stay in charming campgrounds. It would be less expensive. It would be fun. The kids would love it. Even though there’s three of them plus us and these things usually hold only two people, they could sleep outside in a tent and us inside.

The mantra was having it’s effect on me. I was getting hooked. I became more and more interested in the craig’s list postings. I downloaded the same app (hey it’s free for me now that she’s already bought it). I began searching eBay myself. We began exchanging links over email during the day. I began to stay up past midnight looking, searching, combing the web for everything and anything I could find. (Tin Can Tourists is a great site for history and listings

I started to think it would be fun and interesting to do an authentic restore of a mid-century camper. It’s part of Americana. To hit the road with family and friends, toexplore the great outdoors, toget in touch with our roots, that’s what life is all about! And we can buy kitchy stuff to decorate with at garage sales… So I was definitely hooked, and in on the hunt.

The state we’re buying it in

We talked to the owner, he accepted our offer, and we committed to buy a 1954 La Cabana Canned Ham trailer!!

This is kind of crazy. Where do we put it? Garage? Might not fit. Side yard? Full of plants. How do we get it–don’t own a car with a trailer hitch. It’s in southern California, we’re in Northern. Kinda crazy. It’s old…58 years old to be exact. I’m sure these things wern’t made to last more than 10-ish years back then. The owner did some work renovating, for which we are very appreciative and extremely grateful–I’m not exactly a retired railroad worker with tons of time to tear down and rebuild a vintage camper. (Although I could do it given the time, I assure you.) My wife doesn’t think I’m very handy, but I can do anything they make a manual for. No problem. Just an issue of time. Well–this will be interesting.

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