Looking Back: Our First RV
At the time back in the mid 1980’s we really had no knowledge about the RVing lifestyle all we knew is we wanted something better than a tent for camping. We were living in Great Falls, Montana at the time and I was active duty Air Force stationed at Malmstrom AFB. We enjoyed camping next to a creek or stream in the mountains with our two boys. Hiking, exploring, taking in nature, hunting and fishing! What I didn’t like about it was sleeping on the ground or dealing rain soaked tents and gear. With a vacation trip planned and hunting season coming later in the year it was time to go looking for a travel trailer.
In those days there wasn’t as many RVs on the road as there are today so finding someone with a used one wasn’t too easy especially once the camping season had started. But my wife found an ad for one in the local newspaper and she called about it. After work that day we drove the short distance to the ranch it was at to see it. The rancher and his wife said it was too small for their needs and decided it was best to sell it. We looked it over and thought, its better than sleeping on the ground and would be nice to have a roof over our head and real beds to sleep on. Our boys were excited so the owner and I started to negotiate. We agreed on a price that both of us could live comfortably with and we toted it home. We were now owners of a 1967 13′ Cascade.
The trailer was old, and starting to show its age. It needed new tires which I bought a pair of the cheapest radial car tires Kmart sold. Keeping one of the old tires as a spare (glad I never had to use it). Inside, well it was all wood and starting to dry rot. Paint was needed to keep that in check. It had a furnace and propane lamps for illumination inside. There were a couple of 110v lamps, one over the dinette under the overhead bunk. A two or three burner range and an ice box…yes ice box not a refrigerator.
Once cleaned and stocked (including plenty of extra mantles for the LP lanterns) it was ready for the great outdoors. I remember making our trip back home to Wisconsin during the summer and camping along the way. My mom blessed us with having all of the cushions and mattresses replace which quadrupled its value! It towed like a dream behind our pickup truck. I can remember my first experience dealing with a power pedestal at a campground in South Dakota. It only had a 30 amp outlet and we only had a standard 15a extension cord. The park owner took pity and loaned me an adapter so we didn’t have to use the LP lanterns as it was in the 90’s and they turned the inside of the trailer into an oven.
It was also the first time we felt a bit out of place with our rig. The couple next door owned a huge trailer and wasn’t too happy that our little antique was parked next door. Over night there was a power outage, which we didn’t even notice. As I was packing up he complained that it was such an inconvenience for him. He had to roll over in his bed to push a button to start his generator so the coffee maker would come on. Gee, we had to light our LP lanterns and the gas range with matches to make them work! Today of course our motor home has more features including a generator and a coffee maker.
Our little trailer made a few hunting trips more comfortable, even on the coldest winter days. Nothing like the smell of bacon cooking well before dawn to get you up and ready to go hunting. We didn’t pay a lot for this camper, so if it slid down the side of a mountain road we figured oh well. Take our stuff out, save the cushions and pull off the tires and wheels. Come back for the rest in the spring.
Would you ever loan out your RV? Well we did…once. A friend and coworker asked if he could borrow ours to attend a family reunion within the state. We thought about it and said sure. That probably wasn’t such a good idea. Long story short, he backed it into a post in the middle of an otherwise empty field. The steel post that was to be used to swing the grill out over the fire pit. The impact caved in the rear of the camper and pushed the rear couch/bed up as far as the rear wheel tubs. Totaling it! In the end we settled on a trade. He got to keep the trailer and I got his Yamaha XS1100 Midnight Special motorcycle…which I drove almost daily for the next several years.
We returned to tent camping for a while and years later purchased another camper, this time a Jayco 12′ pop up camper…but that’s for another Looking Back.