Stella’s Long Journey

In 2010, we bought a junky little neglected travel trailer. We didn’t know how old it was or even what make or model. The poor thing was a wreck, but it was cheap and in good-enough shape for us. So we dragged it home and started the long process of research and restoration. After posting on this blog, others came forward with similar trailers, and we eventually learned that ours was a 1969 or 1970 Play-Mor Model 150. We caulked, painted, tightened screws, replaced tires, removed rust, and camped and fished.

Our goal was never true restoration. We mostly just wanted a nice thing to camp in, and it was good DIY practice that would come in handy with the old house we’d soon be buying.

Then the Great Disruption happened in December 2011. Laid off and adrift, I put the camper in the back yard and shifted my attention to figuring out the rest of my life. One thing was clear: We would have to sell the house we just bought. After that, no idea.

We devoted ourselves to getting that house ready to sell, which became its own full-time job, and I learned a lot of valuable lessons about drywall, electrical, plumbing, lath and plaster, and paint. When it was finally ready to put on the market and I still had some a lot of free time, we returned to that trailer, which was patiently waiting in the back yard for some attention. We gave it a paint job and got it ready for what we anticipated was going to be a long time in storage—we didn’t know where we were going to end up, so we didn’t want to sell it just yet.

While our house was being shown, we took a final trip: up to Yellowstone, Montana, Idaho, Arizona, California, then to a storage yard in Colorado Springs, where it would sit under a tarp for a year while I looked for work in Chicago. We kept trying to convince ourselves that we could keep it, but it was becoming pretty clear that we were never going to be able to. And sitting in storage in Colorado with now-flat tires was just heartbreaking. So we sold it. Reluctantly.

In 2014, I’m at work at my new job in Chicago, still recovering from the Great Disruption and adjusting to life as part of the journalism diaspora. And this email arrives:

Good Afternoon Mike Eiler,

My wife and I just purchased a 1970 Playmor Camper … We were cleaning it out this morning and found an invoice with your name and e-mail on it from a purchase in Florida in 2011.

We have purchased the trailer to restore to its former glory. We are wondering if you might have any information on the trailer from the past. Pictures of the original inside and out, ownership, actual year of the trailer? We really want to do the camper justice and restore as it should be. We plan to use often once complete. Any information would be helpful.

Thanks for reading this e-mail and hope to hear from you.

Bill

The trailer! I had so many questions—where was it? Where has it been all this time? How’s it doing? We sold it to someone who was going to pull it with a Prius, which we didn’t think was a good idea. What happened to that guy, I wondered. (In fact, that receipt that Bill found was for a stacked cooler system for the Jeep because it needed more power to pull the trailer.) I forwarded the links to all of our posts and all of the information we had. I detailed all of the work we did on it and all of our plans that we never got to.

Good Morning Mike,

Thanks for the wealth of information and links. Pretty cool to see the history of this trailer. Jesse, the guy that you sold it to, DID pull it with his Prius. But only for several miles, he realized it was not going to work. He hauled it from Colorado, I believe, to Oklahoma with a jeep. He used a Town and Country mini van to haul from Oklahoma to NH. … He put it up for sale last week because he and his family are planning a move to Boston. The trailer was in storage in Maine when we bought it on Thursday.

Sounds like you replaced the bearings and tires in 2011? The cushions are great and we love the color. We plan to bring to our mechanic next week to have him look the underneath over and fix as needed. The caulk that you installed did the trick for the most part. We plan to remove any loose caulk and redo it. There is some water damage on both ends that we plan to fix. Did you replace any of the paneling inside? It looks like someone did at some point. We plan to repaint the interior and possibly the outside red areas. The stove is great and we plan to test it soon. The door window will be fixed and a couple of screens need repair. Sounds like we will continue your punch list.

I do have a question, please do not answer if you do not want to. We are curious as to what you paid for it in 2010 and what you sold it for. Please do not think me too bold, just trying to figure out the complete history. Also wonder if we paid too much for it. We feel in love with the trailer and knew it was to be our next project. As long as we are enjoying the restore, what the heck.

We are also restoring a historic home. It is an 1825 farmhouse, attached wood shed and 3 story barn. Typical New England stuff on a great Common in town.

We will forward a few pictures as we progress on the renovation. Any info is wonderful and we promise to do the trailer well. Have a great day and we will talk again.

Bill

After a long absence, the trailer reappears! It's in the Northeast with someone named Ken.

After a long absence, the trailer reappears! It’s in the Northeast with someone named Bill. Not his real name.

 

Colorado to Oklahoma to New Hampshire to Maine to Massachusetts? Quite a run for that old thing. Looks like we’ve both been on quite the journey. So me and Bill kept in touch through the years, and he’s updated me on all of the progress, and we’ve discussed the repairs I made and the ones I never got around to (garden hose as an electrical conduit!).

Hi Mike,

Thanks once again for all of this great knowledge. The more we learn, the more we love this little trailer 🙂 Thanks for doing your part to preserve this awesome trailer. Most people want new and big and better….not us. We are vintage through and through!! Whether it be our home, our trailer, or our clothes. We just like old things, they are made so much better than the newer models. The caulk that you installed totally helped get the trailer through the last few years.

We plan to remove the rot inside and replace with some sort of similar paneling, maybe beadboard? We are trying to keep our costs down, as usual, and be true to what this trailer was meant to be. We will repaint with a yellow/tan combo? Semi-gloss will be a great idea for cleaning purposes. There is still surface rust on the frame, but the wood looks great for the most part. … The electrical is still a mess 🙂 Garden hose is still underneath 🙂 We plan to rewire it, nothing major. Maybe a couple of lights and plugs. We usually camp where there is not any power anyway. We do have plans for some possible solar for a little bit of light and charge the cell phones:)

My wife is wondering what ever happened to that great chandelier above the table? What a beaut!! 

Sounds like you did great with your purchase for $850 and eventual sale of $3600. Like you said, it ain’t all about the money. Sometimes the great times that you have in the trailer or home are priceless. We paid $1600 for it. Jesse started at $3000, then dropped to $2500. We had done some research after we found the trailer and thought it was worth at least $2000 in our opinion. After looking at on Thursday and seeing the work that was needed, we offered $1500 and settled on the $1600. I thought that we might have paid too much for it, but feel better now. $1600 and a few more hundred in repairs will go a long way towards making the trailer more comfortable. When we decide to sell her and move on, maybe the market will be even higher. Again like you said, the money is the least of it. We look forward to getting her fixed up and hitting the road.

We will send pictures as we open up some of the insides and then redo. Really great that you are still interested in this trailer. Chocolate chip cookies in a cast iron skillet? I bet the smell was outstanding, let alone the taste.

More to follow and thanks for the time that you have put into this so far, we appreciate it.

Bill and Mary

PS I think we are going to name her. My wife seems to always have to name our vehicles. I believe that we will be calling her Stella’s Stagger Inn 🙂

I think Stella’s a fine name, and I’m glad she found Bill and Mary.

Hi Mike,

Day # 1 of the restoration!! Exciting for sure! The rot that we found was as expected for the most part. .. The frame needs some attention, but not too bad. Also pulled all of the exterior lights. Plan to install new tail lights and all running lights. … Thought that you might get a kick out of the teardown. We will try to preserve as much as possible, but plan to remove all rot and damage. We also found the original green wrapped under the frame. Under the tail lights appears to be a cream? Maybe we will go cream and green? FUN!! Talk soon.

Bill and Mary

Underneath the paneling of our old little trailer.

Underneath the paneling of our old little trailer.

Play-Mor restoration

So that’s what’s behind all that gross paneling.

Play-Mor travel trailer restoration and repair

Hi Mike,

Well our restoration continues. We ended up removing a lot of the framing on the rear end:( We removed most of the exterior caulking and a few of the screws so that we could remove the rotten frame. Now time to rebuild the frame. We have the wire to run all new running lights, 8 total. New tail lights will also be installed because we are going to replace the cord running towards the back in the garden hose. We figured while we were in it, why not? Of course all of this is extending the process and increasing the cost. But in the end…….at least that is what we keep telling ourselves. All new wires to the running lights and tail lights will be installed. We also plan to run 110 and 12 volt to the inside for future electrical needs. We plan to use the receptacles over the dinette, over the stove, and near the old fridge. Probably put a 20 amp under the dinette while we are at it, just in case.

Oh well, that about does it from New England at this point. We had planned to be on the maiden voyage with her, but will spend this Labor Day Weekend doing labor on the old girl 🙂 Maybe next year.

Have a great weekend.

Another year passed, and I got periodic updates about the electrical, the paneling. So much work, and I was very pleased to see the results. In the interim, Bill and his wife became grandparents, celebrated their town’s 250th anniversary, and endured a nasty New England winter and some health problems that postponed more work on the trailer:

Hi Mike,

Great to hear from you. Great minds think alike, a few weeks ago I was in the process of sending you an update on the trailer, but must have been side tracked. Stella, the trailer, is alive and well. … At this point all of the rot has been removed, insulation installed, new 110 wiring complete, 12 volt wiring wired, all exterior lights replaced, new 7 way feed to the trailer, under side of trailer painted, exterior scrapped and ready for chalking and painting, interior paneling started and almost complete, then paint interior, curtain material picked out, windows re chalked and screens will be fixed. Take a look at the pictures attached. You will see the way we ran the new wires. We ran all new 110 and added 3 double receptacles and a GFI for exterior use, this side is complete and working. … We had a very long, cold, and snowy Winter up here in New England which shut the project down completely as our barn is not heated. We have also had a couple of health issues that are slowly resolving. To top things off, our daughter and son in law had their first child, our first grand daughter. We seem to be visiting them about every week in CT. Stella will move out of the barn as soon as she is weather tight and ready for the next 50 years of camping. … Thanks for the continued interest. I will continue to forward updates and pictures as we near completion. Happy July 4th!!

Play-Mor travel trailer restoration and repair

Some electrical work on Stella.

Play-Mor travel trailer restoration and repair

Hi Mike,

Yes a beautiful little girl, Sylvia 🙂 Hard to ponder and get our heads around being grandparents, but I guess it is time. So fun to spend time with her. Although the more time with spend with her, the less time on the trailer. Oh well, sometimes you have to set your priorities. At this point we have thrown out any deadlines and just want to get it right. Our barn is nice and dry and a pleasant place to work now that the weather is coming around. Stella, the trailer, seems to “like” it in there. It has given her time to dry out and regroup for the next run.

Good Morning Mike,

Take a look at the attached picture of “Stella”. Well we figured to finish the old girl this Fall, but it just did not happen once again. Our town recently celebrated a 250th anniversary so we needed our barn to host a little gathering. We moved Stella out for a few days to enjoy the outside for a while. The exterior is basically complete. The inside is all paneled and waiting for primer and paint. All exterior running and tail lights work. Inside electric also complete. We did not want to rush the finish stages so decided to wait until Spring. She is back in the barn protected from the New England Winter that is fast approaching. Hope that your Fall is going well.

Play-Mor travel trailer restoration and repair

She’s green now, which was her original color. Nice.

 

And then last week, this latest update arrived. Stella really is looking good, and though it’s taken longer than anyone anticipated, real life can sometimes be that way. Someday, Stella will have to retire, but for now, I’m glad she’s with Bill and Mary, and I feel lucky that I’ve gotten to know such fine people.

Hi Mike,

Happy Summer!! Long time no talk but wanted to send you an update.
When we talked last year the camper was coming along nicely, then
Winter hit and stopped the project. We just put a couple more months
into getting the old girl ready for a little camping. Please take a
look at the two outside pictures. What do you think? I will send a
couple of the inside in the next e-mail. Hope all is well.

Hi Mike,

Inside pictures attached. Basically the camper in done after almost 2
years of work. We still have to install the curtains, but for now
will leave off. We have the camper at a piece of land that we own for
our future home build. We plan to camp there for the summer. The
tires are not holding air for long and we need to restore the electric
brakes before it is road worthy. Now for a classic tow vehicle?
Enjoy the pictures. Did you recognize the cushions? We decided to
use as is for now. They seem in pretty good shape.

Morning Mike,

Glad you enjoy the updates. It has sure been a labor of love. More
time and money than we ever imagined 🙂 Basically done now and we can
camp at our land. It is an 11.5 acre field that was a part of an old
dairy farm. Nice and private and the perfect setting to actually use
the camper some. I am thinking of an old pick-up truck? Time will
tell. 

Enjoy your summer.

Bill

Play-Mor travel trailer restoration and repair

Play-Mor travel trailer restoration and repair

Interior looking great. Particularly those cushions!

Lentil Soup

I wanted to write this down before I forgot it.

Lentil soup can be super bland and boring but this one is really good!

easy and delicious lentil soup

Ingredients:
  • 3 Tbsp. Olive Oil
  • 3 Medium Carrots, Diced
  • 1 small Onion, Minced
  • 2 Stalks Celery, Diced
  • 2 Potatoes, Peeled and Diced
  • 2 small Zucchini, Sliced
  • 1 Tomato, Diced
  • 1 cup Dried Lentils, Rinsed
  • 4 Garlic Cloves, Minced
  • 1 tbs. Dried Dill
  • 1 tsp. Sea Salt
  • 1 tsp. Black Pepper
  • 5 Cups Chicken or Vegetable Broth

Directions:
1. Put olive oil in stockpot over medium-high heat.  Once heated, add all veggies except garlic.  Stir for a few minutes.  Add lentils, garlic, dill, salt, and pepper and cook a few more minutes until fragrant.
2. Add broth, bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 40-50 minutes until lentils are tender.

So you’re visiting Chicago?

People are always asking “what should we do when we visit Chicago?” Well, it’s hard to know exactly, everyone’s different. Here are some of my favorite things. This map includes local history spots, museums, landmarks and tourist attractions, things to do and see, activities, food, drinks, and of course yummy treats. The icons are all clickable and include URLs so you can visit the websites to plan out your trip based on exactly what you like and want to see.

Simple and delicious roasted broccoli recipe

I used to always just steam broccoli. Then one day someone suggested I roast it. Whaaaaaaat? Ok. With some olive oil and some garlic. Sounds good, right? But once I got started doing it differently, I couldn’t stop, so I also added some herbs, chili paste, and soy sauce. OMG so good.

simple and delicious roasted broccoli recipe- you'll never make it your old way again!

So, how do you make it, exactly?

I use frozen broccoli, put it into a baking dish, coat it with olive oil (I like a LOT of olive oil), add one or two cloves of chopped garlic, a sprinkle of my favorite herb blend, a teaspoon of chili paste, and a tablespoon of soy sauce. I roast it in a 400 degree oven for 20- 30 minutes. I like it crispy and roasty, you can cook it shorter or longer depending on how you like it.

You may never make broccoli any other way after this!

West Loop Chicago