So We Bought a Mini-Motorhome….


When I was nineteen, or maybe I was twenty, I went in halvsies with my best friend Vanessa on a 1972, or maybe it was ’73, Toyota Chinook. It was waiting for us with a For Sale sign in the window on the side of a dusty road, or maybe it was a paved road, in a small town near Sacramento. I can’t recall if we even haggled at all for that tiny little motorhome. We called it Chinookie for short ;). It was love at first sight and we were compelled to shine it up (or at least bathe it) and take it on the biggest adventure it had ever known. Who’s to say what Chinookie had seen before we picked it up? I’m pretty sure it had never had two college not-quite-drop-outs-but-really-long-break-takers drive it deep into Mexico. Chinookie was a bit spartan in the amenities department. It had a pop-up top that allowed for standing when it was extended, a hand pump sink that drained into a jug, and a couch that folded down into a bed. It also came with a portable, yet questionable, toilet which we quickly jettisoned in favor of rest areas and shrubs.  Oh yeah, Chinookie had am/fm stereo and a cassette deck. We were in heaven. Costa Rica bound, it was Vanessa and I in Chinookie and Vanessa’s beau, Welles, following in Althea (his Nissan Pathfinder). We made a pitstop in Acapulco to pick up Gary and Ollie (my beau and his dog, respectively). Finally the team was together!  We were living the dream. There was no stopping us! Literally. The master cylinder cracked on the way down the mountain after spending Christmas in Oaxaca. We coasted into Puerto Escondido, home of the Mexican Pipeline and amazing, fresh-off-the-boat sashimi with high hopes of finding a cheap mechanic to solve our braking woes. Apparently at that time (I don’t know about now) there were no mechanics who work on,  nor parts for, Toyota trucks in Mexico. Toyota fork lifts, sure, but not pickups. So we parted ways with our beloved Chinookie in that crazy little surf town. Traded with a man named Mr. Bush for a trailer made from the bed of a pick-up. Mr. Bush owned a house of ill-repute outside of town and had a very nice wife who shared her sunflower seeds with us as they made the deal of a lifetime (Chinookie was quite a catch even in its cracked state). We went to the lumber yard and got some plywood and to the ferreteria for some hardware and built a lid for the trailer. All of our worldly belongings were packed lovingly into the trailer and we piled our selves haphazardly into Althea for the duration of the journey. Four sweaty bodies and a delightfully gassy dog who chose my lap as his preferred seat more often than not continued on, undeterred, for destinations south. We were halfway through Guatemala before the wheels fell off of that deal. Literally. But I digress, that is the story of how I came to love green oranges- not the story of how I came to have a soft spot in my heart for mini-motorhomes.

Little Chinookie and the lovely Althea aimed south!

Anyhow, decades have passed and I have still not gotten over my dream to travel the world in a tiny little motorhome. Over the past few years I have broached the subject of buying a small RV with my husband. He has never tried to talk me out of it but at the same time he is very familiar with the fleeting nature of my big ideas and proceeded down the road to purchase with ample caution. Wise man. Finally this winter the stars aligned.  I was struck with mini-motorhome fever at the same time a glorious (to us) Toyota Sunrader arrived on Craigslist. It had a fiberglass body on a Toyota pick-up that brought me back to the days of Chinookie. The Sunrader had everything you could need (except AC) inside. It was in good shape, had low miles, and was only a mere 500 miles away! We were the first people to contact the seller and it only took 10 minutes of persuasion and a mildly-sizable-nonrefundable deposit via Paypal to convince him not to sell it before we could come and check it out.  We were feeling pretty confident. He skipped a pool tournament to meet with us and convince us that our rash decision was a good one. It had some issues that might have made us think twice if we hadn’t jumped in heart first. For instance it has a noticeable wee tilt to the drivers side. Dude said it was like that when he got it and it hadn’t ever given him any trouble. Fair enough. Dude drove into a low clearance garage and tore off all the vents on the roof. Gaping holes covered in garbage bags secured with duct tape. No worries. I’ve got a handy hubby who is really good at fixing things that other people break. That little Sunrader was destined to be ours. We talked him down enough to leave with our dignity intact and the adventure began.

We are so very happy with our Sunrader!

The next chapter in mini-motorhome life centers around fixing some of its issues and giving it a respectable make-over. We are not aiming for pinterest glamping style but definitly a fresh new look. Emphasis on fresh. Replacing the  sad abused toilet made the top of the list! More to come on that front. This is going to be a work in progress for a while.

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