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Unfortunately, my wife, Julie was riding with me.  I tried not to stare too hard and snap my neck around (similar auto-response one experiences when spotting a bikini clad hottie sunbathing).  I nonchalantly commented, “That camper would be perfect for Field Day”.  Expecting the typical  “You have got to be %@#%&* kidding me?!” response, I braced the steering wheel fearing the worse.  She replied “You want to stop and take a look?” Nearly swerved off the road.  Didn’t expect that one. “Who are you and where is my wife?”  I’ll never figure women out.  I guess that’s why I love her. Anyway, I digress.  I did eventually stop back and took a closer look.  Seemed pretty solid, smells like old cigarettes and mice urine.  Surprise!  It’s full of Winston butts and Mickey poop.  Frankly, pretty nasty, but solid.  Being a 1964 vintage, it’s in pretty good shape.  No obvious signs of leaks (FACT: all campers leak.  Just a matter of where and how much damage done).
       Convenient ashtray                                        General Grossness
The Camo paint job was my style.  It also hid a lot of dings and dents and easy to touch up.  I could tell it used to be a nice aquamarine and white.  Must have been quite a looker on the dealer lot when LBJ was in office. It’s not like I was picking out a cozy camper to take my lovely bride on a second honeymoon in the Rockies.  I did see a diamond (or maybe cubic zirconia) in the rough, though.  And I was running out of time.  Paid cash, drug it home.  Break out the shop vac and bleach.

Much to do

My first plan was to simply gut the beast and slap up new paneling.  But as she (yes, it’s a she) was cleaning up, I started seeing the original quaintness that these little campers are so famous for.  The original pale yellow porcelain sink and propane stove cleaned up nicely.  The faucet pump even worked!  Plenty of storage, the cushions seemed in good shape, just needs a little TLC.  Kinda like the pitiful little Christmas tree Charlie Brown brought to the Christmas Pageant.  The interior dimensions is about 11’ x 7’ (minus cabinet space).  Just about right. The plan was coming together.  I didn’t want to alter the interior too much that would prevent any future restoration but I did need to make some modifications for FD.  And Lord knows what I would find if I started pulling things apart (no news is good news).  I removed the dropdown table and replaced it with a 4’ x 4’, ¾” operating table (that’s 16 sq ft of operating surface).  I removed the lid to one of the front storage cabinets (that is normally used as a bench/bed for the kitchenette) and drilled a 4” access whole through the floor to run power, ground line and coax.  All wiring will be routed through that bench, keeping things nice and neat.  There is also plenty of room for future battery storage for an AC inverter (next year).  I added an extra breaker to the little breaker panel and another duplex outlet. Fortunately, I had a spare window air conditioner that, with minor modifications, fit one of the existing windows perfectly.  SWEET!  Craig’s List came to the rescue, locating a simple (and cheap) dorm refrigerator that filled a space under the stove where I suspect an old propane fridge was once located.  I also had a small microwave that also perfectly fit into one of the cabinets by the sink. The only thing remaining that would convert this tin can into the ultimate Field Day machine was a powder room.  Believe it or not, there was a closet that, with some imagination and motivation, fit perfectly a portable chemical toilet.  Tight, but functional – all is well (I must install a vent fan for next year, believe you me!). Installed a stereo and speakers in the overhead cabinets (gotta have tunes during setup).  I routed the speakers to the roof during FD so passersby could hear the exchanges.  Toaster, coffeemaker and a HDTV, we’re good! Two days until liftoff I decided to test the running lights.  Soon found they had three modes of operation: Flicker, Dim and Off.  The sockets were rather badly corroded. I quickly installed new taillights with harness on the rear bumper.  I would like to repair the original lights but the wire is ran through the walls with no easy access short of cutting through the paneling (a project for another day). Fearing that peeling the old wallpaper off would structurally weaken the ol’ girl, I opted to do a quick and dirty with wood grain tack paper to spruce things up.  Funny thing, when that vinyl contact paper heats up in the sun, it shrinks like shrink wrap.  Couple of well placed staples delays the inevitable wrinkling and curling.  Next year she should have a bit more permanent wall covering. 
       Cleaned up nicely, huh?                                                                                                          Back to reality!
                     16 Sq. Ft. Operating Table                                                                                        Air conditioner and bunk
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Camo Ham

Whiskey Eight Camo Radio or A Fool and his Money Equals Yard Junk or Canned Ham Causes Indigestion

The quest

Ever since that fateful meeting of DELARA back in April where Larry, N9AUG, volunteered me to be a station manager for upcoming Field Day, I was a bit apprehensive (and overwhelmed). “So much to do.”,” I’ve never done this before.”, “Where do I start?” “AAAAAHHHHHH!!!!!!!”.  Time to panic! Calm down, deep breaths… I guess the first thing to do was to compile a list of equipment and supplies: radio, headphones, generator, laptop, Red Bull, Snickers, shelter, etc. “Radio and headphones? Check”. “Generator?  Check”. “Laptop? Check”, “Munchies and go-go juice? Check” “Shelter?” (silence). “SHELTER???!!!”, (still more silence) “Popup camper, tent, leaky tarp and a card table? Anything?”  Nutt’n.  I’m hosed. I asked a neighbor if I could borrow his camper.  “I’ll take care of it, honest.  Just a bunch of sweaty  guys with heavy fire prone radios and maybe some mud on the floor mixed with potato chips and spilled coffee”. Not sure why he turned me down. I did have access to a tent but I really didn’t want to go down that path unless that was my last option.  Just the thought of my precious Yeasu FT1000MP MKV lying upside down in a mud puddle after the obligatory thunderstorm that always seems to accompany our Field Days blows through.  And, I wanted air conditioning, if at all possible. I started scoping out Craig’s List (catchy name) for used campers.  Looking for a cheap popup that won’t take up much yard space should do the trick.  For some reason the words “cheap” and “popup camper” don’t coexist readily.  There are plenty of large campers listed: no title, rotting tires, floor removed (not flooring, the floor – you can see the driveway!) in my price range.  Pass. Down to 30 days until “CQ Field Day, Kilo Eight Echo Sierra”.  I guess a tent it is. The used camper and ham radio gods must have taken pity on me.  Driving down a side road, taking a shortcut to Kroger’s, I saw it.  My heart went pitter-patter, shortness of breath, light headed (I really have to get my cardio checked): the camper of my dreams!
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                     The throne                                                                                                      Narrow door, classic styling!

Showtime

I set up the Yaesu and accessories on the new operating table. Plenty of room for the logging computer. The logger will sit on the remaining kitchenette bench while the operator gets the luxury to a soft, leather bound office chair, that, believe it or not, I was able to squeeze through the 18” wide door. Under the air conditioner is another 6’ bench perfect for nappies. Bottom line, the little critter can house 3 overweight (or 12 normal size) hams. Perfect size and, did I mention, air conditioned?   Hitched her up and down the road we go. Roll into the park to see all the little worker bees hard at work erecting massive towers and loops.   The Camo Camper has arrived to applause. Find a great spot in back that should give shade for a good part of the weekend.
This is the story of one ham reviving a cute old trailer to serve a great purpose- communicate during emergencies. Specifically, this was made to be an operating station for the DELARA Field Day effort.