Rosie the Icon

The “We Can Do It” poster created by the War Department to recruit women for industry, has taken on a life of its own, spanning generations. The image has been used on kids’ lunch boxes and campaign mailers. Recently I discovered P!nk’s video — her “Rosie” is a champion for the underdog. Check it out:

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During and After Photos

Now I know about aluminum primer, which is useful information if you plan to paint aluminum.

The decals came from a sign shop in San Mateo.  They did a great job, but I’d have gone elsewhere if I’d known about the dead end street.  Let’s just say I need practice backing the trailer.  It was a twelve minute turn around.

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Exfoliating Mighty Mouse


It wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be.  I discovered rubbing compound. Who knew that fifty-seven years of oxidation would buff off? I bought one of every compound they carried at Napa Auto Supply and went to work.  The stuff that exfoliated best was for polishing mag wheels.

The camper needs a name.  Mighty Mouse was suggested.  Mighty Mouse might be about the right vintage.

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Field of Dreams

This gallery contains 5 photos.

          That’s what came to mind when I first arrived at Vintage Campers in Peru, Indiana.  I’d foolishly worried about not being able to find the place.   Proprietor Dan Piper explained that he’d  “got the disease … Continue reading

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1954 Beemer

Airstreams are the Cadillacs of tin can campers.   In Wax, Tilly lives in a sixteen foot beauty in Parking Lot C.  I found  a 1948 Wee Wind, restored, for thirty-eight thousand dollars — about thirty-six thousand more than I intended to spend.

I reviewed my criteria: ideally mid-century antique, polished aluminum, light enough to be pulled by my Ranger and road-worthy.  And of course cheap.  Which ruled out anything called Airstream. I had to broaden my search.

A cruise through cyberspace brought me to a field in Peru, Indiana, and my introduction to the rare Beemer travel trailer. The owner, Dan Piper, has assured me the trailer will polish to a mirror finish if I put the time in.  The tires are new and it comes with a spare. It’s ready to roll.  The work it needs is cosmetic and I can do it myself.  I think I’ve found my tin can camper.


In “Wax” Tilly discovers a shortage of housing near the Richmond shipyards and is offered an Airstream …

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The Genesis of the Tin Can Camper Book Tour

My friend Rube baits me.  He’s one of the most creative people I know, but he enjoys launching my pursuit of his ideas more than acting on them.

About ten years ago, I was accumulating found construction materials for my beach shack.  I was collecting granite countertop scraps when Rube read about a bowling alley that was being deconstructed in Oakland. Rube decided that an old bowling lane would be the perfect material for unique countertops — especially if you could preserve the lane markings in the final finish.  Of course I loved the idea.  “It would be very cool,” I agreed.

I imagine he was grinning as he hung up the phone, knowing I spend hours trying to track down an architectural salvage company with a bowling alley in the inventory. He probably thought I’d get into a bidding war for the material.  I did eventually find it.  But the wood had been piled outdoors, and a late season storm had ruined it.

I’ll never learn.  Or maybe I don’t want to.  I think often of Rube’s idea to build a straw bale Italian villa.  You’ve got to admit, it’s a great idea.  Great ideas aren’t always practical.

In early March, Rube called me to tell me his in-laws Elly and Ernie, in Minden, Nevada, had an old travel trailer that a renter had left behind.  He said they would give it to me.  I’d been toying with the idea of a camping book tour — my characters lived in an Airstream during the war — and here was an offer of a free camper.  The details were vague, but I hadn’t seen Elly and Ernie in more than a year, and a drive over the Sierra seemed like a fine Sunday activity.  Maybe it was meant to be.

Long story short: it wasn’t.  Rube had misjudged the size of the trailer by 50%; there was no way my Ranger would pull it.  And among the many things it needed, it needed tires — which is probably why it was left behind.  But the die was cast and I was now convinced that I needed a vintage camper for my book tour.



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