INDEPENDENT HILL, Va. (AP) — Some people think Kaitlin Draper and her older sister, Erin Kilday, are crazy.
But that hasn’t stopped them.
The sisters decided, almost on a whim, to buy and renovate a 1960′s era Airstream camping trailer to take on their annual family road trip at the end of the summer.
“Our family definitely thinks we’re crazy,” Draper, 25, said as she and Kilday, 31, prepared to work on the trailer, parked in Draper’s Independent Hill area driveway recently. “But I’ve kind of learned that owning an Airstream seems to be everyone’s secret dream. It’s kind of an American dream.”
At the very least, the sisters aren’t the first to call it a dream to own one of the rounded aluminum camping trailers, which have developed something of a cult following since their debut in 1931. On its website Airstream, Inc. quotes the company’s founder, Wallace Merle “Wally” Byam as saying in 1936 that he went into business “to make people’s dreams come true.”
For Draper and Kilday, their Airstream dream started last summer, as they made their annual road trip to their family’s farmhouse in upper Michigan, with dogs Lucy and Carmen in tow.
“We had to stay at these awful hotels,” Draper said. “People kept passing us in Airstreams and we thought, ‘We want to be like them.’”
So, in March they visited a dealership in Stafford to look at new Airstream trailers but, at $70,000 to $100,000, the trailers were far out of the sisters’ price range, draper said.
So they took their search to Craigslist, where they eventually found a 1969 Airstream Overlander for sale for about $3,000.
Kilday sold her car, bought a Ford F150 pickup truck and, on Easter Sunday, they, along with Draper’s boyfriend, drove up to New York to pick up their new trailer.
When they got their trailer back home to Prince William County, the real work began.
“There were all kinds of mouse droppings and things in the trailer,” Draper said. “We just decided to tear everything out and start from scratch.”
With the help of friends, the sisters gutted the trailer, taking out the cabinets, flooring insulation and everything else that was inside the trailer. Now they’re rebuilding.
“We just kind of jumped right in,” Draper said. “We’ve never renovated anything before, never driven a truck before, never owned power tools before.”
Kilday drew up a layout plan for the interior of the trailer and Draper, a graphic designer, created a website, http://www.silversistas.com, where they are chronicling their experience through blog posts, photos and videos.
“It’s definitely been a learning experience,” said Draper. The sisters have learned everything they know about renovation and Airstream trailers through Internet research.
“Most of it we’ve learned either through guessing or through the Internet,” Draper said.
They also have a few friends who have helped out, including a master electrician who agreed to help them rewire the trailer’s electrical system.
Their goal is to have the Airstream “camp ready”_fixed up enough so that they can sleep in it_in time for their annual Michigan trip at the end of August. After that, their work will continue. Eventually, they plan to fully outfit the trailer with solar panels, LED lights and other touches that will make it green and earth-friendly.
“We’re fascinated by this kind of off-the-grid, sustainable living,” Kilday said.
Draper said she and Kilday plan to keep the faded state stickers the Airstream’s previous owner stuck on the door, signifying all of places he visited and may eventually add their own. One destination they’re eyeing is the Airstream factory in Jackson Center, Ohio, where Airstream enthusiasts gather each year for Alumapalooza.
“I’m excited for all the vacations we can take,” Draper said. “We want to take lots of trips in the United States. We’re excited to have our own party camping mobile.”
In the end, Draper and Kilday say their summer project might be a little crazy, but they’re glad they’re doing it.
“This has got to be the craziest thing I’ve ever done,” Draper said. “I never thought I’d own power tools. I never thought I’d do anything like this, but at the end of the day, it’s kind of empowering.”
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