The wait

A company of two can be efficient, but quality doesn’t always translate to quick. We weren’t the only ones charmed by the Oregon Trail’r guys and their designs. That worked out well for us. We didn’t quite have all the cash and our schedules were too packed to allow camping.

When we placed our order one group of six teardrops was under construction and another planned.  We were in the third batch, about two years out. 

Two years is plenty of time to encompass anticipation and second guessing. Mostly we forgot unless we were looking for the perfect bedding, or camp plates, or unwrapping the totally cool Tiktaalik super slim kitchen knives gifted us by super great friends.

Oregon Trail’r sent us a video of our flight of teardrops hatching and snapshots as they progressed. I worried that the curtains would be ugly (they’re not), that we should have ditched the front rack in favor of the expensive extra interior storage (nope, we need that rack, it’s the perfect size for our 58 quart Orca cooler and a double stack of roughneck tubs that hold chocks, propane, huge asymmetrical purple tarp, hammock, and other essentials), and on and on.

We sorted through our existing gear. Kept the speckleware mugs, percolator, and dutch oven, decided the stove was too wimpy, and fell in love all over again with Bill’s family’s heirloom soapbox.

Bill’s family’s soap box is ready for new adventures

We started to play house in earnest.  I thought a wool blanket topped with a down comforter would sleep us through all kinds of temperatures. We love Eighth Generation, but the blankets available at the time didn’t grab me.  Pendleton’s Preston Singletary-inspired Raven and the Box of Knowledge did and, thanks to generous birthday and Christmas checks,  it joined our growing pile of teardrop supplies.

I gave in to the urge to glamp. I’m in my fifties,  I can do what I want. No gingham checks or cowboy prints,  but plenty of good design and comfort. My camp flatware is fancy and we ordered wine glass racks for the galley. I found marvelous virtual-colored double wall stainless coffee mugs.  Once for each of us (I like my coffee with cream).

I like cream in my coffee, Bill prefers his without. These virtual color mugs are perfect.

The build

Oregon Trail’r offers several basic models and a long list of options. The only model for us was the classic FronTear and it had to have the optional large rounded doors.

We went over and over all the other choices, deciding, discussing, and re-deciding. The list grew and got pruned over and over as we tried to decide if an option would be helpful or irritating and whether those we wanted were worth the price.

Luckily for us, Sawyer and Jon include a lot in their base models. The leveling jacks are easy to deploy and super sturdy. The thermostatically controlled reversible fan keeps the cabin comfy. The removable tongue is the most elegant anti-theft solution. We put the tongue in LuluBelle when we leave camp to explore. No more hitch to tow Brave Horatio away with!

The standard, cabinetry with it’s clean, curvy forms was a win-win. We liked it better than the more expensive frame and panel. Same with the mattress. We liked the standard better than the more cushiony option.

We opted for a front cargo rack. An excellent choice. Our Orca cooler and a double stack of sturdy tubs fit it perfectly. Our wheel chocks, axe, tarp, lanterns, frizbee, and other necessities fit in the tubs and it’s all easily secured for travel and convenient when in camp.

We wanted a close-to-tent-camping experience and both like to cook. Prep surfaces are more important to us than built-ins that get in the way of flexibility. We opted for Rubbermaid tubs instead of a built in sink and a regular campstove instead of the slide out burner. These choices gave us so much space in the galley! Our campstove travels in the galley hatch and comes out to live on the exterior counter when we’re set up.

We included one exterior counter in our original build and recently ordered another for the other side. I worry that they’ll look like nacelles, but am looking forward to having a cooking counter and a clean-up counter. The counters store tidily inside the cabin, secured under the cabinets when we’re in motion.

I laughed at the multi-color, multi-rhythm LED light strip offered for the galley until Sawyer explained that mosquitoes and other bugs are not particularly fond of red light. We use that LED light all the time. Sometimes in red, sometimes in candy-stripe disco mode. (Ben likes to sit on the galley counter and twiddle the remote control.) The stainless steel galley counter is worth every penny every time I use it (or even open the galley)! The paper towel holder is perfectly placed and super practical.

The Oregon Trail’r guys modified the optional dual slide-out trays to a center-mounted, wider single tray that we’ve not really used yet. Some rainy camp evening it may help us watch a movie or hold mugs of tea while we read. They threw in a net attached under the shelf and we use that all the time to keep charging phones tidy while we sleep.

Practical add-ons included a powder-coated exterior, radial tires, and a hitch for our bike rack.

It’s rare for me to be completely content with my choices, but we did well. Brave Horatio matches our need for practical, uncluttered, elegant camping.

The name

Brave Horatio on pick-up day at Oregon Trail’r. I think that’s a TerraDrop in the background.

I named Brave Horatio partway into our not-yet-decision to buy a teardrop, but I didn’t tell anyone. I finally admitted to Bill that I thought of our trailer as Brave Horatio after we’d decided on a FronTear, but before we placed our order. Choosing Oregon Trail’r to build our teardrop confirmed it as the perfect name.

One of my favorite books is The Singing Creek Where the Willows Grow. The controversy about the authenticity of Opal Whiteley‘s diary doesn’t concern me. The thing itself is quirky, charming, joyful, and utterly unique. I like to lose myself in Opal’s world joining Peter Paul Reubens (a pig), Thomas Chatterton Jupiter Zeus (a woodrat), Felix Mendhelssohn (a mouse) and her faithful, ever present dog, Brave Horatius.

Wherever Opal goes, Brave Horatius always follows after.

I have a crap memory. (My natal family accuses me of making stuff up, but it’s really my crap memory combined with our boring past. I don’t make it up, I make it better.) When I talked or thought about the book, Brave Horatius morphed into Brave Horatio.

Opal’s diary describes her life outside Cottage Grove. Oregon Trail’r is only about 30 miles north. Perfect. We would go on adventures and Brave Horatio would follow along after.

I think it was Bill who said something about actually putting the name on the trailer. Our daughter is an artist and graphic designer. She offered her design skills. Jon and Sawyer had the equipment and were happy to render Sarah’s file into reality. Not only did Brave Horatio have a name, he now shares it with the world.

Lulubelle towing Brave Horatio

I thought I’d be a little embarrassed and a self-conscious flaunting BH’s name, but I’m not. He’s just sweet and cute and isn’t afraid to put himself right out there. I have things to learn from Brave Horatio.

The decision to teardrop

I grew up tent camping. My dad was a forester and we spent a lot of time with him in the woods. We sometimes used campgrounds,  but were just as likely to set up in a remote spot known only to dad.

My sister and I on our summer-long trip across the US (mom and our babysitter are behind the picnic table…are they washing their hair?)

We once camped for more than a month about ten miles up the Elwah River. Mom and my oldest sister (13) packed my twin brothers in.  They learned to crawl in the meadow outside our tent.

Another sister (11) packed in the beer, leaving a couple in every creek all the way up. Dad and his crew were grateful for that beer after clearing trail all day.

I was part of the middle group (4, 7, and 8). The only thing we packed was ourselves.

I still pick up trash wherever I go

We’d spent the entire previous summer camping eastward across the US and westward across Canada. Yes, my mom was pregnant with those same twins.

I have fond memories of my dad’s famous gray egg and bacon breakfasts and mom’s weeny wrap and s’more dinners.

In college Bill and I borrowed sleeping bags, piled in the back of a friend’s truck, and slept under the stars. Later we accumulated some gear, borrowed more, and camped with our kids.

Bill and I have never overnight hiked. We bulk-camped near our travel vehicles.

We live in Western Washington and camped mostly on the Olympic Peninsula.  Aquacamping was our circumstantial specialty. We’d pack a bag of briquettes to make a campfire from soggy wood,  weren’t surprised when our friends and their kids ended up in the van after the hollow they pitched the tent in became a stream in the middle of the night,  and spent many days back at home drying out sleeping bags, tents, tarps, and kids.

We also got older. 

Sleeping bags on the ground became padded with mats and inflatable mattresses that sagged throughout the night. There’s nothing like waking up when your partner, who kept you sleeping on a thin cushion of air, rolls out of bed, depositing you abruptly on the cold hard ground.

We got more involved with other things and stopped camping as much. I missed it.  Bill missed it too, but let me know he was done sleeping on the ground.

I like the whole living outdoors aspect of camping. Trailers with satellite dishes aren’t for me. I also do not want to haul my poop down the road.

We started looking at vintage trailers in library picture books. Canned hams were cute,  Airstreams classic, and some of the boat-camp combos fascinating. I was both drawn to and repulsed by the lengths people went to in outfitting their too-twee, too-cute trailer ensembles.

We’ve kept coming back to teardrops. Aesthetically pleasing and about as close to a tent as you can get without sleeping on the ground.

I had opinions. I always have opinions. I don’t see why you shouldn’t have form AND function and generally lean a little toward form.

Classic camping (or at least picnicking) in a red VW bus. That’s me in the carseat.

My teardrop would need to be curved from stem to stern. It needed a rounded door. The galley needed to be spacious and attractive. I didn’t want a built in stove or sink. I didn’t want a heater or air conditioner. I didn’t want ugly curtains. 

Bill needed two doors. Looks are important to both of us, but he’s the more practical half of our duo.

We didn’t have money to actually purchase and in the back of our minds we thought we’d build someday as we do with most things.

We liked Vacations-in-a-Can’s Chili Peppers and Orange Pops, but never got closer than pictures. We tracked down a few want-ads and started to keep a mental list of the bits that seemed prone to failure. We looked at lots of too big, too straight, too not-quite- perfect teardrops…and all the while we slowly added to our kitty.

I don’t know where Bill first ran across Oregon Trail’r. I do remember that the first Frontear I saw had a squarish door.

The more I looked the more I liked.  They had a rounded door option. It was fun to look at the spec sheets and mix and match to fit my wish list and budget. Best of all they’re located just outside Eugene, practically on the way to both my and Bill’s parents.  Eventually we emailed for an introduction 

Jon and Sawyer are awesome. Sawyer agreed to meet us on a weekend and Jon stopped in with his family and stayed to talk. You can tell that they are proud of their work,  enjoy each other, and like to teardrop camp, each in their own way. Their personal teardrops are their display models. They comfortably attended to their small kids while we were there and I knew I could trust them to put the same care into creating Brave Horatio.