Fred and I met on the internet last fall on the Teardrops & Tiny Travel Trailers forum and soon began speaking by phone to discuss build techniques when I still thought I wanted to try building the trailer myself. By winter I'd given up on that dream after feeling less, not more confident after taking a welding and a metal shop class, and had
Even though Fred sent me pictures of the build on an almost weekly basis the waiting was the hardest part. Once the trailer was done it was time to go get her.
Some people are terrified of meeting in person people they've met online. We've all read those horrifying stories where someone met someone on Craigslist (whether to sell or buy an item or for social reasons) and things ended badly enough to be a headline story on the 5 o'clock news.
The day I met Fred on the tnttt forum.
While some of my friends and family members had misgivings about my driving out to Michigan alone to meet in person someone I'd met online I have to say while I certainly appreciated their concerns, I didn't share their fear.
The thing is even though I didn't know everything about Fred, after seeing pictures of the other trailers he's built, that he's been a member of the forum I met him on for seven years, and six months of closely working with him on this project, I felt I knew him enough to trust him. After I arrived we were chatting one day when he commented on the leap of faith I took both in hiring him and coming out to Michigan. My reply was that while I'm always very cautious, sometimes you just have to have faith in people and be willing to trust them. I don't ever want to become so cynical that I live in fear unable to trust and allow new people in to become part of my life. As it turned out the only thing I had to fear in Michigan were the mosquitos. There were a lot of them and for some reason they loved biting me!
Fred's Alaska Teardrop CLICK HERE for its sale listing on the tnttt website
Kitai and I stayed for five days as guests in Fred's home and I have to say they may have been the five most relaxing, interesting, and fun days I'd had in ages. I have lots of fun in CA, and interesting things to do abound, but the ability to just slow down and relax isn't something easily achieved in a big city. The quiet of being in the country definitely agreed with me and Fred's calm nature and willingness to patiently show me how to do things and teach me how to care for and tow my trailer helped me to quickly understand all of the advice he was willing to impart. There's a lot about Fred's lifestyle I envy and hope to somehow replicate in my own crazy, busy, California lifestyle when I get home.
Currently For Sale: The Northern Light Traveler weighs 525 lbs.
A lot of people were shocked when I said I would drive out to MI to pick up the trailer when it was done. "Why don't you have someone local build it for you?" they would ask. The thing is I needed an atypical trailer builder.
The traditional way of building teardrops and tiny travel trailers is to use wood to construct the framing and interior walls of the cabin. The problem with wood (for me) is that the trailer would end up weighing around 1000 lbs, my car's tow limit. And therein lay the rub: I wanted to use my everyday car to tow my trailer, not get a larger car that would require more gas on the majority of days when I wasn't using it as a tow vehicle. So when I saw these pictures of a Mazda Miata towing a trailer Fred had built on the Teardrops & Tiny Travel Trailers forum, I knew it was going to be possible, I just needed the right construction methods.
They included a custom chassis and a welded tubular steel frame construction.
Between the tube steel I'd need to use rigid foam board to insulate the cabin. This is how Fred builds all of his teardrop and tiny trailers. The other benefit of using no wood is that I don't have to worry about dry rot if the trailer ever does leak. Leaks are inevitable so this would give me peace of mind.
The day after arriving in Greenville Fred took me to the DMV where I registered my trailer. In California if you walk into the DMV with no appointment you can wait 2-3 hours before it's your turn. In Greenville there wasn't even a line. We walked in, registered the trailer, and before I knew it I was walking out with my new Michigan license plate in hand. When I get back to CA I need to immediately transfer the registration to CA both because the state and my insurance plan require me to do so.
On day three of my visit I towed my trailer for the first time. On day four we had a bunch of errands to run so Fred put me behind the wheel and I drove us to several stops. Later, I drove down to a church parking lot to practice backing up. Backing the trailer out of Fred's driveway was pretty painful. But once I got to the lot I figured out the best way to do it was to use my mirrors to make sure I was turning the steering wheel the right way, then immediately start turning my head and looking over my shoulders rather than relying on the mirrors. It made a world of difference and before I knew it I was able to back out of a parking space, albeit slowly, but with no problems.
After meeting him and seeing his other trailers Fred inadvertently made me change my mind about one major thing: Before I got to Greenville I wanted to paint the trailer in fun colors. Now? I want to leave the aluminum bare (I'll still add some graphics) but the bare aluminum is Fred's style and even though I designed the trailer and he built it, I want some of Fred to shine through every time I look at The Glampette.
Before I knew it it was time to leave Greenville. Both Kitai and I were sad to leave (ok, I was sad to leave Fred, Kitai was sad to leave his yard and have to ride in the car for 10 hours a day) but the Glampette and I had some bonding to do and the road was calling.
To Fred I have to say thank you. Thank you for building The Glampette so perfectly for me. Thank you for teaching me so much along the way, for being such a wonderful host and taking such good care of me while I was a guest in your home, and for being my friend. I simply couldn't have found a more perfect person to have collaborated with on this build. Driving out across the U.S. for the first time and the memory of the five days I spent in Michigan will always remain very special to me and I'm definitely looking forward to retuning in 2015 to say hello when I travel your way to attend the Tear Jerker's Crossroads of America rally in Indiana.
My friend Oren commented on Facebook the other day that the trailer would add "smiles to my miles." It has indeed :)
If you're interested in purchasing an ultralight trailer like the Glampette be sure to check out the Northern Light Traveler Fred has listed on the T&TTT forum.
To be continued.
To follow my Michigan or Bust road reports here they are:
Days 1-3: Picking up my tiny travel trailer: 2364 miles to happiness :)
Day 4: Be still my glamping heart: The cutest vintage grill ever!
Days 4-8: Meeting Fred and The Glampette for the first time
Welcome to The Glampette: A peek inside
Day 8 Part 2: Around the lake and on to Wisconsin Wine Country
Day 9: A suspenseful night at the Kennebec KOA
Day 10: It could have been worse
Day 10 continued: Overnight at a Walmart, a traveler's rite of passage
Day 11: Montana to Washington car don't fail me now!
And my favorite RV Park was: Hi-Way Haven in Sutherlin, OR
4974 miles later our adventure comes to an end