Camping 2017

It feels like a century since we put our 1974 Dodge Travco “Lucky Seven” into winter storage. We’ve thought about and planned for the 2017 camping season virtually since we put the RV away for the cold months.

Today, Lucky Seven arises from her hibernation. In  few short hours we will be pulling her into our driveway and hooking her up to hydro and water, checking everything over and preparing for this summer’s adventures.

Day Tripping

The first several weeks we will  limit ourselves to short day-trips. We have an annual day pass for Ontario’s provincial parks, and I believe one of the best parks in the province is less than a half hour’s drive from our house: Sandbanks Provincial Park has kilometres of sand beaches and trails to hike and enjoy on the shores of Lake Ontario.

We’ll be packing a picnic lunch or bringing along BBQ treats, and while my husband is walking the dog I’ll be collecting driftwood for my new venture Catch My Drift? my one of a kind driftwood art creations.

Gotta go get the Travco now. Going on an adventure soon!Craft shows image3

One of my art pieces 🙂

 

We made it!!

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Martin and Girly Girl at Lake Consecon

Our first weekend camping in Lucky Seven was a great success.

We discovered a lakefront campsite at a small local campground on Lake Consecon, about 20 minutes from Picton, Ontario in Prince Edward County. The weather was perfect, the location comfortable and the people friendly without being nosy pests. Even our dog GirlyGirl made new friends.

Only one negative thing: The County is under a burn ban due to drought, so no campfires. We haven’t had a good rain here in weeks. Everything is tinder dry.

After missing camping last year during our search for a Travco, this weekend felt like paradise. A stiff breeze kept the stifling heat at bay both day and night. A little boy and girl followed their dad up from the dock with the catch of the day – a walleye and a grass pike. As dusk settled on the still water, a loon floated by, calling eerily between diving for minnows.

There’s nothing like camping in the summer, and camping in our beautifully restored Travco made it even better. We’ve reserved this site for the rest of the season, and will probably go back for burgers on the barbecue and a swim later today.

Life’s good at the campsite.

Almost ready for camping

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Getting that 70s vibe
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Our RV mascots – Pin k Panther, Animal and Hippie Floyd

The Travco is certified and plated. Total repairs and registration – around $4,000.

All we have to do now is figure out how everything works, and we can go camping at last. We’ve tried to puzzle out the electrical system, but we’re stuck on how to get the air conditioner working, and how to get power to the outlets. A trip to the local RV centre Thursday to go through Lucky Seven with an expert will sort that all out.

We attended a Show and Shine in Trenton Sunday night, met some great people and had a good time. We even ate dinner for the first time in the Travco.

I’ve started customizing the interior, but the weather’s been very hot and humid and without air conditioning, I haven’t done much. A couple of period throws on the couches is about it.

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Lucky Seven on the bank of the Trent River

Slow progress

Hurry up and wait.

That phrase has become my RV motto. The closer my family gets to enjoy our 1974 Dodge Travco 270, the finish line moves further from us.

The mechanical certification went surprisingly well. It needed a new drag link and a couple minor fixes – no big deal. When I called the garage to enquire how the project was coming along, the receptionist said “The mechanic didn’t see the crack in the driver’s windshield until he backed it out of the shop.”

Cracked windshield? I drove that Travco almost 3,000 kilometres (1,900 miles) a few days before. There was no crack. My husband and I decided to go see the damage immediately.

As I slid into the driver’s seat, a jagged crack at least eight inches long was clearly visible just above my direct line of sight. I would have definitely noticed the crack before the vehicle was purchased, or if it happened on the rough drive home around the south end of Lake Michigan. The crack happened during the Travco’s safety inspection.

The garage seemed to accept that the crack happened on their watch. The problem was where to find a replacement? Luckily the Travco we had to junk several months ago was at a local wrecking yard, with the new windshield intact.

We had to wait a few days for an installer to have time to do the job, so we took Lucky Seven to our local RV dealer for the propane system test needed for insurance purposes. The job was to be done Thursday morning.

Late Thursday, we went to pick up the Travco so we could use it for the long weekend. The job hadn’t been started. We were told to phone when the shop re-opened Saturday to book another appointment. Another summer weekend with no camping.

Saturday morning we were assured the job would be done Monday morning. That Monday we got the bad news. The inspection revealed the propane tank’s regulator had been installed incorrectly (facing up and down instead of sideways), the original stove/oven was not functional and the $1,000 furnace was missing entirely. Also, the propane tube which fed the furnace was capped unsafely.

We were looking at a potentially costly solution. To replace the stove, furnace and do the other repairs would cost over $2,400. We dismissed the furnace. It can be replaced at a future date, if at all. The RV dealer is looking into an independent propane appliance specialist who may be able to fix the stove. If not, we will have to get a new gas stovetop, or forego propane altogether and get an electric one. Not a bad idea, since the Onan generator can power everything short term if we’re boon docking.

For now, we wait. Again. We’ve been invited to three car shows in the next week and it looks like we won’t be attending any of them. Maybe in a week. Or two.

 

The One

Locking up the house at 2 a.m. we again wondered – Is this the one?

Our search for a Dodge Travco RV has taken us from Ontario’s cottage country to sunny South Carolina. We’ve tire-kicked and walked away. And, we’ve made plenty of (expensive) mistakes.

At 7 a.m. our plane lifted off, soaring to our last chance for a Travco. Landing in Madison, Wisconsin, we were met by a smiling lady holding a hand-printed “Travco Or Bust!” sign. The woman was Kay Cummins, our vintage RV angel.

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Mike and Kay Cummins

 

She led us to a waiting vehicle, where we met her husband Mike. He and my husband Martin hit it off right away. Both shared many interests including hot rods, custom cars and drag racing. Kay’s sunny personality and her love of her late father showed immediately. On the drive to Baraboo she told us about Jerome Thiessen and his lifelong passion for flying, vintage trailers and hot rods. He even constructed his home as an add-on to an auto shop that would make professionals drool. His property boasted a private airplane hangar and runway as well.

But we were here for a Travco. While we stood outside admiring the surrounding Wisconsin dairy land, Mike opened a tall double garage door. Rising slowly like a curtain on a stage, it revealed the Travco. Our Travco.

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Jerome Thiessen’s 1974 Travco 270 – now our Lucky Seven!

 

The 1974 270’s pristine white paint glowed in the sunlight. The chrome trim sparkled, from the rims to the bumpers and everything in between. Mike climbed into the original driver’s seat and started it up. The engine purred. He backed it out of the garage so we could take in the beauty – the perfection – of this impeccably restored Travco.

Inside, the Travco continued to impress. Clean. Properly installed upgrades. Everything worked. I thought I was going to cry. Actually, I did a bit.

After we settled in and met Kay and Mike’s corgi dogs Rocket and Daisy, it was time for a test drive. I’ll admit I was scared. Not about the Travco dying on the road this time. I didn’t want to put a mark on it or get it dirty.

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Martin with Daisy and Rocket

 

Driving a Travco for the first time was an experience, to say the least. I’ve never driven anything so big, but it handled well. I learned to anticipate hills and start braking long before I thought I needed to. I had fun.

That evening, Martin and I spent our first night in the Travco. Night sounds of chirping frogs wafted in on the cool breeze from the open windows. Before going to sleep on the comfortable couch beds, we gave the interior a cursory search. It became a challenge to us to find something wrong with this Travco. We couldn’t.

I wish we could have met Jerome, however this was an estate sale. He passed six months ago from complications following an accident when he crashed a vintage half ton towing a vintage trailer after attending a hot rod show.

Next story – the journey home.

One little, two little, three little Travcos

Time’s getting short.

Wednesday morning at 2 a.m. we start the final leg of our quest to find a Travco. Flying to Wisconsin we meet Kay Cummins and her husband, who handpicked us to re-home her late father’s 1974 Travco 270.

It’s been quite a journey. It all started a year and a half ago when I graduated from a year’s study in post graduate Public Relations. My husband and I agreed to sell our C class RV the year before to fund my education. Now, we wanted to get back into camping. I had used my journalism background to write for KOA Kampgrounds two years prior and found I enjoyed this type of work. The idea of vintage campers particularly intrigued me.

The first Travco I met was in the long grass of a farmer’s field. Someone had brush-painted it black and added cheap flame stickers to the sides, which had long since peeled away. It was a project vehicle, far beyond what I was willing to tackle.

The second one turned out to be our biggest mistake. This 1975 270 ran, but after spending significant money on upgrades, it was still uncertifiable to drive on Canadian roads. My husband encouraged me to give up at this point. I, however, saw this as a mission.

Then out of the blue I was contacted by two Travco owners interested in selling! Both of these Travco 270s were in the Muskokas near Gravenhurst, Ontario. We took a weekend and met one of the owners at the site the two Travcos were stored at. The idea was we would purchase the 1969 270, allowing him to purchase the other 270.

After expressing our interest, the 1969’s owner wanted to think about the deal for a couple days. By the end of the week he had changed his mind, and the other one was unsuitable for our needs. Strike out number three and four.

Number five was a diesel conversion in Sudbury. Now cautious, I arranged to have this one towed to a garage and have a professional look it over. It had a lot of issues. The examination cost $600, but in the end it saved me a ton of heartache and wasted travel time.

Number six’s owner assured me this Travco 320 was in excellent, drivable condition and would make the long trip from Charleston, South Carolina to the Canadian border without a shudder. He had so much confidence in “Old Blue” he assured us he would pick us up at the airport in her and escort us around the city.

He didn’t meet us at the airport. We spent several days in Charleston waiting for good news. Finally Old Blue’s 440 engine came to life. As we eased her out onto the main road Old Blue coughed, trembled and died in the middle of the street. The smell of burnt wires emanated from the engine compartment.

Not wanting to be trapped on the wrong side of the lone exit door, we grabbed our bags and leaped from Old Blue. As far as I know, the 320 never moved under her own power again. That mistake cost another few thousand dollars in travel and a week in time.

My husband was done with Travcos. Convinced they were jinxed, he had me agreeing with him. For one day.

The day after we arrived at home, I received a message from Kay Cummins in Wisconsin. Kay had been following my published reports of woe, and had an offer for us. Her father, an accomplished vintage hot rod enthusiast and mechanic, had passed away earlier this year, leaving several vehicles in his estate including a completely renovated 1974 Travco 270. Were we interested?

It took some convincing, but finally my husband and I agreed to give a Travco one more try. We arrive in Wisconsin on Wednesday noon, and Kay and her husband will drive us to our latest Travco.

Of course we regret the wasted expenditure on our Travco quest, but we don’t regret for a minute the people we have met along the way. Whether in person or on the phone everyone we’ve met has been passionate in their respect for and love of the Dodge Travco brand.

The first things Kay wanted to know was what we’d name this Travco. When – not if – we get it across the border and home, we’re christening her “Lucky 7”.

 

Another try

Here I go again, questing for my ideal Travco.

At this point “ideal” is a very loose term. Able to drive from Point A to Point B without collapsing in a heap of rust or the engine dying 500 miles from home is the new “ideal”..

It’s been quite a journey. We started in the spring of 2015 very naively purchasing a Travco 270 that sat in the bush for years. We started restoration without getting a mechanical safety first. Big mistake. After sinking several thousand dollars into parts, we found out the frame was a Swiss cheese of rust punctures, and unable to certify for road travel. The 270 was tow to a wrecking yard and we took a huge loss.

Since then we’ve been very gun shy. We’ve investigated many Travcos on Kijiji, through word of mouth and on Craigslist. We’ve had at least four deals fall through. The first two were unable to pass certification. One had been beautifully restored, but unsuitable for our needs. The last one proved to be a major disappointment. We made a deal for a 1969 270 and a few days before we were to pick it up, the seller pulled out.

We’d about had it with Travco shopping at that point. My husband wanted “any used RV, as long as we can camp in it.” I begged him to let me persevere a little longer.

A few months ago I answered a Craigslist ad from South Carolina. A two-line message for a yard sale, “and my Dad’s Travco”. No photos. No other information. I had phoned the owner and discussed a deal, but with the low US exchange on the Canadian dollar and the cost of travelling to Charleston to pick it up, I felt it wasn’t a good deal.

After striking out so many times I emailed the owner of this southern belle again. He said he still had the Travco and still wanted to sell. He assured me Old Blue was in good, drivable condition and could make the trip from Charleston to the Ontario border without a hiccup. And after comparing his sale price with what we’d been looking at in Canada lately, this Travco was affordable after all.

We worked out a deal and I purchased one-way tickets for myself, my husband and our 12 year old son for Charleston. Then the owner sent me a cryptic e-mail. We had settled on a fee of $6,000 US for the 1977 Travco. Now he was very interested in what prices I’d been quoted on other Travcos I’d been looking at.

Concerned he was going to hike his asking price, nevertheless I told him the truth. An hour later I received his answer:

“Me and Old Blue had a long conversation, and I’ve decided to let her go for $3,000. You have to promise to look after her. She’s a southern lady.”

Stunned, I re-read the message a few times. He included his phone number so I called.

“Are you sure about this? It’s half what we agreed on.”

“Old Blue’s going to a good home. That’s the important part,” he said. “By the way, did I tell you Old Blue is a 320?”

This week we are getting everything in order for our latest Travco adventure. It’s our last chance at a Travco, as funds are stretching pretty thin. We hired an importer to handle the paperwork at the border. And we’re very excited to visit a part of the US we’ve never been to before.

I’ll keep you posted on our latest Travco adventure. We fly from Toronto to Charleston, SC on May 7.

I just realized. I still don’t have a photo of Old Blue to post!

Wish us luck.