How I Met Your Camper

Our last tent-camping trip to Bald Ridge Creek Campground right after tent setup and right before a torrential downpour.

After a year of tent camping in 2015, we decided we would continue to go camping as much as possible. Camping for us was an escape, usually an adventure and provided so much opportunity to bond as a family as well as experience unique parts of our state and potentially our country. And it is a great form of vacation, because going camping a couple nights feels like we were gone an entire week.

The third or fourth attempt packing for our first tent-camping adventure to Vogel State Park.

As we eyed a commitment to continue camping, the only part we did not look forward to each trip was unpacking gear and supplies from storage in order to expertly fit it into our car in order to unpack it at our campsite and repeat all those steps in reverse. The thought of a simple trailer that could hold our tent and supplies would be ideal, but a search for utility and teardrop campers revealed surprisingly high prices. That is when we broadened our search to include camper trailers and when we first laid eyes on Shana in pictures in a one month old craigslist ad. The thought of making family memories while seeing the world and immersing ourselves in nature in a restored antique peaked our interested.

2015 1961 Shasta Airflyte Reissue

President of Shasta, Mark Lucas, with a 2015 reissue of the 1961 Shasta Airflyte.

We were particularly attracted to authentically retro campers although many were either unaffordable or more work than we could confidently provide, because of the charm and value, assuming that depreciation had run its course. We love the style and simplicity of the 1950’s and 1960’s while still embracing the wonderful technologies that have come since. After all, we have remodeled a 1950 Cape Code home in Richmond, Virginia and a 1965 ranch near Atlanta, Georgia. The almost immediate sellout of the 1961 reissue of the Shasta Airflyte and introduction of the White Water Retro, CH Camper, Happier Camper HC1 and Serro Scotty remake indicates there are a lot of people like us, except that we prefer the original versus reproductions and imitations. Yes, the reproductions have modern amenities, but we admire those previous generations that lived well with simpler things.

One of the few pictures from the Stonecreek Church website featuring Shana before she was Shana.

An inquiry revealed Stonecreek Church was the seller. The church had purchased her out of imprisonment to disrepair from serving year-round as a hunting lodge in a huge pasture in south Georgia. The church had repainted the exterior, completely rebuilt the interior and applied “Stonecreek Story Trailer” branding in the style of Shasta’s original logo. The church is somewhat as a prop or setting where they would record stories from people whose life had changed as a result of the ministry of the church.

After initial contact through Craigslist and several conversations at home about the seriousness of our interest and availability of funds in our bank account, we setup a meeting. Our first meeting was a cold, heavily rainy January 22 of 2016 where our entire pulled into the driveway of the home of Stonecreek’s facility manager. There she was parked in the back yard. The homeowner gave us a guided tour the took surprisingly longer than 5 minutes given the size of the interior and the heavy rain discouraging an exterior tour. He was able to tell us about all the work done to restore her to her semi-original condition. He listed an impressive resume of work including gutting everything except the original wardrobe cabinets, reframing the interior with insulation, applying flexible red oak plywood with walnut trim, and staining everything with multiple coats of polyurethane. We left very interested, but with a few outstanding questions.  Could we tow it safely and without triggering cardiac arrest in the driver or passengers?  Would it fit into our carport?

One inch clearance in her bed.

A week later on January 30 we arranged for a test drive on a dry day with our 2005 Toyota Highlander. We had already installed a hitch for our 5×8 utility trailer, but towing at least one ton with limited visibility would be a bit different than a few hundred pounds with full visibility. We also weren’t interested in fees and hassles of storing it somewhere else. As we cautiously rolled down country roads to our home Shana elicited a few thumbs ups from passing cars. Then, we arrived at our home and attempted our first ever backing up a towed vehicle. After probably 50 switches from drive to reverse, we had her positioned for entry into our carport. Kimber was stationed adjacent standing on a chair to monitor the ceiling of the carport in relation to the roof of Shana. Matt had measured it and thought we had two inches to spare at the lowest point, but wasn’t sure of the uneven concrete and where the wheel base of Shana would hit exactly. As Matt slowly reversed it seemed everything was going to work until CRUNCH! Matt jumped out of the parked Highlander to find that one of the no-longer-in-use vent stacks had crumbled off the top of Shana. After the initial freakout, we backed her in with a total of one inch clearance. She fit into the carport, she wasn’t wrecked and no one had a heart attack by the time we returned her from the test drive. There was the now removable vent stack that was shrugged off knowing we would followup with a respectable offer to purchase.

We made an offer a day later, it was accepted and we brought her home on Saturday, February 20, 2016. The rest is a living history best documented here at Shana’s website.