Stars and Screens is about drive-ins and the journey in-between; it’s a classic American road trip story. I’m expecting the trip to take more than a year, to cross just about every state in the Lower 48 (sorry Delaware—you’re out of the way and you have no drive-ins), and to be in near constant motion. So, you wouldn’t be crazy to wonder why I’m undertaking this adventure with only a tiny, thirty-five-year-old camper for shelter?
The easy answer is very easy: I already own the tiny, old camper.
Finding My Camper: Honeybear’s Origin Story
Honeybear is a 13 ½ foot Serro Scotty “Low Profile” travel trailer made in 1984. I bought it in November of 2017 from a retired couple near Inverness, FL. The couple had bought the camper from the original owner, an elderly woman who rarely traveled in her older years and let the camper fall into pretty poor shape.
Long before I saw it, the husband expertly repaired the camper’s metal frame and rebuilt the exterior walls; he handed over the interior work to his wife. Armed with a stack of old birding magazines, the wife decorated with cut-out photos of small, colorful Finches glued to the walls. She also sponge painted an interesting bird house community behind the sink. When I went to look at the camper, she told me she’d planned to join a lady’s camper club but after her first outing with the group, decided camping wasn’t her thing. So, they put the camper on Craigslist. I came across their listing a few hours after they’d posted it and snatched up the deal by the end of the week.
For six months, I lived in Honeybear while I worked for the NOAA Gulf Corps doing environmental conservation projects on Alabama’s Gulf Coast. In that half a year, I learned how to live small and adjust to life in a camper.
The Reality of Camper Life:
Despite the many, many Instagram accounts preaching otherwise, I learned that tiny living is not all roses and while “vintage” is cute, it’s also a synonym for “old.” I’ll admit, before launching this project online, I looked at bigger, newer campers—twenty-foot behemoths with ovens and automatic balancing jacks and bathrooms! But I couldn’t pull the trigger.
This is the more complicated answer to why I’m taking Honeybear on this adventure.
Why I’m Keeping My Tiny, Old Camper:
· “They don’t make ‘em like they used to.” While it sounds like something only a cranky old grandpa would say, in this case, it’s true. Honeybear is a Serro Scotty, a brand that ran from the 1950s to the 1990s and built a cult following around their quirky look and quality construction. The National Serro Scotty Organization still organizes caravans and camping trips for Scotty enthusiasts. People show up to these events with sixty-year-old trailers. Scotty “bones” are strong. A new camper that I could afford would be plastic-heavy and not nearly as durable.
· The night I permanently moved into Honeybear in Mobile, Alabama a freak snow storm hit the Gulf Coast. Snow storm in the Deep South means a fine layer of frost, like the kind that builds up in your freezer, attached itself to the roof of my camper and my outdoor rug, but it was cold enough. I woke up the next morning and blasted my space heater, turned on my hotplate to make coffee, charged my laptop, and plugged in the toaster. The toaster toasted the entire electrical system.
I found a local RV repair man and he explained the electrical capabilities of my camper, then he replaced the whole system in less than an hour. I already know what can go wrong with my camper, and for the most part, it has already happened and I’ve already fixed it.
· Honeybear doesn’t have a bathroom: this is both a pro and a con. The con is obvious—I’ve dedicated some serious time to thinking about how I’d handle a common stomach bug in the camper. The pro is a very simple water system. When hooked up to a campsite, a garden hose runs to the sink faucet and another hose runs from the sink to the campground’s grey water system. I have zero plumbing knowledge and managed to remove and replace the sink when I rebuilt the counter-top without causing a flash flood in the trailer. Campers with a bathroom face a whole host of potential problems—and the solutions to those problems usually involve interacting with your poop.
Camper Challenges on the Road:
I’m taking Honeybear on this journey because she’s well built, I know her history, and she’s a simple camper, but the Stars and Screens project is going to be very different from just living in the camper. I’m going to be constantly moving and I don’t have much experience towing the camper on the highway, breaking down and setting up on a regular basis, or boondocking. But those would be new challenges in any camper. My mechanic just gave Honeybear and once over and said she’s in “excellent shape,” so she’s on the team.