It may seem impulsive to have all of a sudden become 33% owner of an RV with my daughter Kate, but it's been a weekly (if not daily) topic around our kitchen table for a long time... and especially since March.
For me, it actually goes back to May 2019 when I realized that the vehicle I bought came with a "towing package," and suddenly I had the desire to tow a camper into the woods. (This is NOT NORMAL!)
For Kate, it goes back a few more years, having witnessed her friend Shannon (with the help of their friend Claire & her family) completely gut and re-do an Airstream trailer, and take it on the road. Plus, Kate has The Wanderlust even worse than me!
So when everything 2020 started to fall apart six months ago, the idea of a camper came up again -- big -- as a project to keep occupied while stuck at home and, also, as a means for escape. We bought a trailer hitch and magnetic tail lights so we'd be ready to go when the right thing came along.
Well. A whole bunch of people had that same idea! We'd call the minute we saw something interesting to us and already be 14th on the waiting list. It was very discouraging and deflating, so we were sometimes more into the search than others, and the whole idea was even temporarily shelved once or twice.
Kate's been going tent camping for 3-4 days at a time over the past month or so, and loving it. The weather's been great, for the most part, but rain has been an issue a couple of times and, well, it's really no fun at all to be in a tent in the rain. Thus, a resurgence of interest and determination last week to look for a camper and, on Saturday night, Kate found a 1987 Mallard Sprinter travel trailer in Wisconsin Rapids that seemed pretty great. By miraculous stroke, she was the first to call! Our Sunday plans spun on a dime. But first! It was a cash only sale, so we counted what we had on hand, ran out to withdraw our daily ATM limits from whatever accounts we could to get as close as we could... and thankfully, those limits are "daily" and not "24 hours," because we needed to withdraw just a little bit more on Sunday morning. We were on the road at a little before 6 a.m. to make the 1.5-hour drive and be there at 7:30 as arranged.
I'll have to qualify the following statement by saying that we truly don't know what the hell we're talking about, but IT WAS EXACTLY WHAT WE WERE LOOKING FOR for in terms of size (15') and condition. The lady counted our cash, we hooked 'er up, and we were home by noon!
The interior is very, um, let's say vintage '80s! It all seems in shockingly good shape considering that it's 33 years old. Most of what's "wrong" is due to sun damage -- faded paneling in places (I'm sure the walls & cabinets were originally much closer to the same color), deteriorated (brown plaid) upholstery & curtains, some plastic elements that have become discolored and/or brittle.
A lot of that will stay the same. We have no interest in a complete overhaul, nor in making it into a (gag) "glamper." A lot will also change... is already changing.
Curtains are down, tools are emerging!
Always the simplest and least expensive "upgrade" with the biggest impact -- changing the hardware!
The exterior was dirty but cleaned up SO GREAT (well, the one side so far). I think there are a few missing covers, there are a few little dents, and some of the decorative decals/painted stripes are a little worse for wear, but no sign of major water problems -- so zero complaints -- all fixable and/or waiting to be made-better-able.
Things like this fiberglass window flap/shade... which will likely be the canvas for a seascape painting. With a mallard flying over. Haha.
Now the bad news. Not really bad, but definitely a wake-up call and illustration of how much we have to learn. As mentioned, my vehicle came with a towing package and we acquired a hitch & ball, and an emergency towing light kit. When we were getting things ready to tow, the guy said, "You need a 2" ball." So we ran off to get one -- along with something else we needed, I don't remember what -- but I noticed that we already had a 2" ball. We got everything hooked up and hit the road for home. There was a little play in the ball/hitch, noticeable when we'd start/stop, but otherwise the camper towed beautifully behind my car. Turns out, what we actually needed was a 2-5/16" ball, so we looked for one when we went to get the beautiful new hardware. We couldn't find one with the properly sized shaft for our hitch... because, it turns out, I have a Class II towing package, and a 2" ball is the maximum. Ay yi yi. So now, a Class III package is on order and will be installed sometime next week. Once that's done, we'll get a properly sized hitch & ball. **
And, when THAT'S done, we'll tow it over to a local RV Service Center to have it/systems checked out. We already know that the obsolete heater doesn't work and that replacement parts are unavailable. This will give us a Ducky* To-Do List and we can figure out our priorities.
Meanwhile, we are RESEARCHING & LEARNING, LEARNING, LEARNING... and not thinking about just wallcovering, flooring, and fabrics. As much.
It's going to be a work-in-progress for a while, but usable. Adventure awaits! And I aim to go camping at least once or twice yet this year.
Thanks for your interest & cheerleading & coming along on this crazy ride! Hints and tips and things you love about RV'ing are more than welcome!
*Our travel trailer/camper/RV is a 1987 Mallard Sprinter. The TV series NCIS has been our go-to for a while now (many seasons & episodes, not requiring much commitment/attention, entertaining) and one of the characters -- the medical examiner, played by David McCallum -- is Dr. Donald "Ducky" Mallard (pronounced mal-LARD). Who knows if it will stick, but for now, we have a Mal-LARD Sprinter that we (it's maybe only me) call DUCKY!
**Turns out... the 2" ball is the correct size. LEARNING STUFF EVERYDAY.