TG and I love to travel and over the past decade have been methodically checking off international “Bucket List” trips. In March of 2020 we had managed to save enough frequent flyer miles for another trip-of-a-lifetime: first to Finland to see the Northern Lights, then on to Nepal for a trek to the Everest View Hotel, the highest hotel in the world.
And then the COVID hit and international travel was canceled for the foreseeable future. “Maybe in the fall,” we thought as spring turned into summer. By mid-August, with no end to the pandemic in sight we knew we were not flying anywhere any time soon.
But we live in Florida, a vacation destination itself, with more national and state parks than anyone could possibly visit in a year.
And after that there is the whole USA to explore!
After doing the math, we decided the only way to affordably travel with two dogs was to purchase a camper.
The last time TG and I camped was in 1986 when we drove down to the Keys and pitched a tent.
Camper shopping is a little more complicated. How much did we want to spend? What did we really need? How big of a vehicle with how many “bells and whistles?”
Must-have’s included cabin A/C so we could leave Oscar and Maddie alone during the day, a big enough bed for two adults and two dogs, a bathroom, and a kitchen. Since we would take turns driving, we also both had to feel comfortable sitting behind the wheel.
TG spent hours combing through the many For Sale websites and together we made several trips to check out likely prospects. Some were too used, some were too big, and some TG could not even fit his legs under the steering wheel! He’s not called “Tall Guy” for nothing!
And then we found her: a 1987 Terravan turtle-top with a Ford 460-cubic inch engine. She was 21 feet long with plenty of storage and priced well within our budget. She had everything we were looking for including cabin A/C, a bathroom, a little kitchen, and even a generator!
The Autocheck score was great.
And as luck would have it, she was being sold by a mechanic who was willing to customize a few things before we even picked her up including a pull-out queen size bed,
a table big enough for both our computers,
and a roof rack that will double as a night-sky photography platform.
With the name Terravan Turtle-Top it was only fitting we re-named her “Terrapin.”
We drove the 200 miles home to Okeechobee,
and dropped her off at Total Roadside to have the tires replaced, oil changed, and a few other odds & ends.
While we waited, I sewed new curtains and cleaned the existing seat cushions. TG shopped for some of the items we will need while out at campsites, such as an outdoor dining table and a bike rack.
Since she’s been home, we’ve spent the last few weeks making her our own and learning our way around the cabin.
Back-up camera? ✔️
Fresh/gray/black water systems? ✔️
House battery? ✔️
Propane fridge and stove working properly? ✔️
Awning pulled down and rolled back up? ✔️
The next step will be sleeping in her in our driveway one night and then we will be ready take her on the road.
Our first night camping will be at Kissimmee Prairie Preserve State Park, just 45 minutes away and one of our most favorite places in Florida. We’ve always wanted to spend the night there, so we’re very much looking forward to it!
We plan to spend this first year traveling around Florida and have penciled in destinations from the Panhandle south to the Keys.
So, stay tuned … Tall Guy and JET are back on the road, and oh yes, Dashboard Jesus stays!