It all started when someone posted a 1966 Apache tent trailer for sale on the local mom’s swap. For me, it was love at first sight and I had to have her. After all, Victor got this Jeep and it just doesn’t seem fair to not let it tow something. So I contacted the seller and set up a time to see her.
Sometimes in life, particularly when we try to live modestly and stick to a budget, there comes a moment when you have to do a thing because it is good for your soul. Even if it means blowing the budget for the month and rubbing pennies for the next few weeks. This tiny camper and the possibilities it holds became that moment for me.
It was cheap and my emergency fund is inclusive of covering an existential crisis. My ever loving and supportive boyfriend gave me the look of “I know that nothing I say will make you change your mind- and this might be fun”; so I bought her.
Like every oldy-but-goody, she has a back story. She’s a 1966 Apache Golden Buffalo (painted blue so she’s been dubbed “Blue Buffalo”) which was bought in the late 60s from the original owner by the seller’s father. She spent her childhood camping with her family; when her father passed away, she inherited it. Her family has used it for the past many years but decided it was time to upgrade (only because they had a friend buying a new camper who offered them a too-good-to-pass-up deal on his old camper). The Blue Buffalo is solid but needs some love, so they were selling it cheap. She had a tear in her eye as she told me about her father and how she hoped we would give this little trailer the love it deserves and honor her father’s memory. How can I say no to that? We arranged a pickup time and I walked away with a happy heart.
But then I got carried away. As I often do.
Victor’s ‘weekend’ is Monday -Tuesday so why not pick it up and take it for a test run? It was Friday and plenty of time to make arrangements. He said the Jeep needed the brakes done, which was in the plans anyway so we just had to do it now instead of later. We got up early on Saturday and dropped the Jeep off at Pep Boys (none of the local shops could do it the same day). The estimate was $200 plus a $40 rebate. Cool! Many hours later, they called and said it would be $700 because they wanted to also do the rotors and some piston thing and something else. Uhhhhh… no. Luckily we have a friend who is a mechanic and he was willing to do it at home on Sunday if we got the parts. Victor called Pep Boys back and told them to put it back together, we’d be picking it up in the morning. Dude didn’t like that and after giving Victor attitude, hung up on him.
O’Reilly had all the parts except the rear drums, which they ordered and were to be delivered at 3. We picked up the Jeep, got the parts, Victor was off to work, and our friend started the breaks. So far, so good.
Turns out the front brakes are still in decent shape so I was able to return those when I went to get the drums. Alex had an eye dr appt at 3:30 so I went to O’Reilly after that. Long story short (why bother shortening it now, right?), the drums were NOT there. The warehouse sent them to the hub store but the hub store never bothered sending them over– So guess who had to drive to the hood to get them. That’s right, this gal. Now I’m hungry and cranky and extra irritated. But I went to get the parts and took them back to be installed. He finished up, everything is awesome.
We’re all ready to pick up the trailer and leave in the morning. Of course Victor worked late, as always when we have plans in the morning. But he’s a champ and we actually got out the door 10 minutes earlier than planned. Hooray! Off to pick up the trailer!
Wait… why won’t it hitch up? Oh… we have a 2″ ball and the thing is 1 7/8″. Ughhhh. Ok, there’s a hardware store a few blocks away. We get the ball but don’t have the tool to switch it out. Seriously? Ok, off to Home Depot. Alright, somehow that took 2 hours?! Time to feed the baby while he fixes the hitch… Yes, good? Ok, let’s get on the road! What? The wiring thing doesn’t reach? Omg, we don’t have lights on the trailer. Calling UHaul… holding… holding… holding… the closest one doesn’t have it. It’s been 3 hours and we are barely leaving our neighborhood. Fuck it, we’ll go to the next one and hope they have it, and hope we don’t get a ticket, and hope we don’t get rear ended. Annnd traffic sucks, because this is LA. But, yay, they have the thing we need! FINALLY on the road!!
We should be there by now and we’re just leaving Santa Monica. Sigh. It was nearly 2 and we still hadn’t eaten yet. Thank goodness Victor knows the best roadside places to grab a sandwich. We were all a little hangry. Life is good, we’ll be there with plenty of time to set up camp and go to our favorite place for dinner. Better late than never!
Oh, shit. The tarp ripped and is about to fly off! Pull over!! Luckily, someone (me) had the foresight to buy a new tarp at Home Depot so it should have been a quick fix. But someone else forgot rope so we had to use bungees to tie it down. That worked for a few miles. Pull over, re-tie everything. Annnd pull over again. I decided it was time to find a hardware store and get some rope. We were basically in nowhere so options were limited. $13 for the world’s almost lowest quality rope. Great. But it worked. Back on the road.
We made it to Santa Barbara and needed gas. Easy enough. But they don’t have a bathroom. What? Really? And the baby needs to eat again. We found a park and some shade, used the restroom, and I fed the baby. Back on the road.
We should have made it to camp @2-2:30. It was now 7:15 as we pull in. But the sun is still up, the weather is perfect, and we have a great campsite! I was given a 2 minute lesson on how to put the tent up, but figuring it out is part of the adventure. 20 mins later, we have a home for the night! Victor and Evan jump in the Jeep and go down the street to get firewood while I feed and change the baby. We are all stoked for clam chowder. They come back and we jump in the car to go eat. Omg, we are so hungry. I pull up the map to see how to get there. Oh. They close in 5 minutes. Plan B. What’s close by in Grover Beach? We ended up at a place we dubbed The Hipster Spoon (don’t ask me the actual name). It was pretty good and the service was great. I give it 4.5/5 stars. Next, off to Vons for s’mores making supplies. Then back to camp. Things are going well. Fire, s’mores, relax. Yes. This is what I needed.
It’s getting late, Helena needs to sleep so I head inside. Zzzz 2am and she wakes up, which is normal. Except this time she is in a new place and it’s really dark. Cue SCREAMING. Not just crying like she’s awake and hungry. We’re talking wake up the whole campground full on screaming. And she’s completely inconsolable. I have Victor grab my sleeping bag and I move out of the tent and into the Jeep. Helena calms down, eats, and falls asleep. Imagine sleeping in the back seat of a Jeep… Now imagine that with a baby on you. Needless to say, not much sleeping was done. But now it is morning, baby is happy, it is a beautiful day, and we can drive on the beach here! We go get some breakfast and pack up camp. Dare I say it? All is going well.
Obviously the trailer can’t go on the beach so the plan is to leave it in the lot. We don’t have a padlock so a quick trip to the local hardware store is in order. Easy peasy. Everyone there was super nice. To the beach! Half a mile later, at a red light, the Jeep decided to shut off. It was about 1:15 and we were at one of the busiest intersections in town. Sigh. We had power (so not the battery) and the engine was spinning; it just wouldn’t turn over. Victor jumped out and popped the hood to see if it was anything obvious. Not 5 mins later, a man stopped to see if we needed help. He said he was a volunteer for Friends of Grover Beach; they pretty much drive around and see who needs a hand. Cool! The men pushed the Jeep (trailer in tow) to the side of the road so at least we were out of the way. The nice man took Victor to get some gas even though the gauge was at almost half, just in case. The gas did not help.
Shortly after that, a nice couple stopped to see if they could lend a hand. The guys checked the battery (nope), checked a few other things (no luck) and determined we may have lost our spark. The lady drove me to Auto Zone to get some parts. .. but nope. Several other people who stopped at the light asked if we needed help, one guy even gave us a can of starter fluid. I decided Grover Beach is the friendliest town I have ever been in. At 3:00, we decided to call AAA because it was clearly a problem we could not fix; the tow truck should have been there by 3:35. The awesome couple was still with us offering moral support and a ride to wherever we needed to go. I should mention she is 8 months pregnant. 3:35 came and went, still no tow truck. Finally at 4:07 a guy called. Apparently there was an accident which took priority because we weren’t blocking traffic. The tow truck finally showed up at 4:30- a solid 3+ hours after we broke down. Our new friends know a guy with a shop so we had the tow truck take the Jeep there. He couldn’t take the trailer but we (ironically) broke down in front of a used car dealer who has an empty lot next door. They were kind enough to let us park it there for the night. Kerri and Mackendy, our new best friends, drove us because we wouldn’t all fit in the tow truck; luckily they have a vehicle large enough for 4 adults, 2 kids, and 2 car seats (they also have a 14 month old baby). They were even kind enough to help us find a hotel for the night. Of course it is leading up to a holiday so most of everything is booked but the Best Western came through, even though it was more of a room than we needed.
Poor Victor was totally wiped out and glowing like a radioactive lobster. We all showered and decompressed for the evening. Note to self: Gino’s Pizza is DELICIOUS. Here we are, the morning after, hanging out at the BW. I’m going to take Evan to the pool after I eat a slice of leftover pizza. 1pm Wednesday, we finally heard back from the mechanic; the culprit was the ignition control module- the thing that tells the spark plugs to fire. We replaced the ignition something else (the thing that actually does the firing) on the side of the road. Clearly not the problem but a part that probably would have needed to be replaced soon anyway.
With a little luck, we will make it home without any more … adventures… It might be a little while until I can convince my family to go camping again
Epilogue: we did manage to get home without any trouble and it WAS a long while until I got them to go camping again.