By Nanci Dixon
We outgrew our family truck camper the day the kids and their friends didn’t sleep in the tents outside and we did.
My husband said never again, so I was determined to get something bigger with sleeping room for all of us. I had always dreamed of having a motorhome. Something that we could just gas up and go – with a bathroom, a double sink, stove, AC, a furnace, and enough room for my husband and I, two kids and an occasional friend.
I had been going to RV shows for years and knew exactly what I wanted. The problem was that I had a taste for filet mignon with a tuna fish budget.
I scoured the papers, the RV dealers and Craigslist. Finally came across an ad for an old-style bloodmobile in the process of RV conversion! It had a bathtub, sinks, stove, a flex steel couch, toilet and an RV fridge all ready for install. It just needed “a little more work” to finish. And it fit our tuna fish budget! And so what if it had been a bloodmobile? I had Lysol and a scrub brush!
I was so excited!
A “little more work” was an understatement. It was literally a box with a door on one side and an exit door on the other. Most of the cabinets had been removed or hung half on/half off the walls. It was 28 ft. of a “little more work.” Someone in the midst of conversion had put wainscoting inside and painted the walls blue. It had plumbing pipes coming out of the floor, a toilet next to them, and a stack of RV appliances still in boxes on the floor. There was even a new fresh water tank in plastic wrap.
How hard could it be? We had built a room addition, did wiring and plumbing. “And look, Honey. Everything to install is new!” I whined to my husband. Reluctantly my husband agreed and off we went in our new-to-us bloodmobile.
So our “just needs a little work” came home where it became clear that it needed gutting and starting all over.
The first thing was trying to sell the truck camper. Seemed no one actually wanted a 1976 decorated-for-the-bicentennial way-too-heavy truck camper. So, never one to overlook an opportunity, my husband cut off the overhead bed of the truck camper with his chainsaw, dropped it into the pickup, and drove to the front of the house where we attached it with huge bolts and cut a hole to access from the inside.
As it was being sided to match the rest of the vehicle we went shopping at Winnebago. At that time, Winnebago had an overstock outlet store at their factory in Iowa. We bought chairs and ordered matching fabric to cover the couch. We even bought more RV windows to install. Everything that had not already come with the bloodmobile, we bought.
I was consumed with getting it done. We learned how to rewire the whole thing, install a converter, RV water systems, propane system, build custom cabinets. We were actually on a first-name basis with RV equipment supply companies and RV techs across the nation.
It took almost an entire year. Even in winter at 20 below with a kerosene heater and boots on to keep our feet warm, we worked. Our kids, then age 4 and 6, remember it as the year they had no Christmas, Thanksgiving, and hardly a birthday.
The inside looked good, but the outside… still not so much. We painted it in the backyard and were ready to go.
And its name? Well, we thought of several — Dracula, Bloody, Vamp… but in the end just “The Camper.”