Camper built for Alaska trip where bears roam
- by Bob Phillips -
Diann Blackmon decided she wanted to tour Alaska as a post-retirement trip, but she wanted no part of tent camping in parks where bears roam. So, Bill, her husband of 33 years, decided to build a small trailer from the wheels up.
As Bill recounted, the conversation went something like this:
My wife came into my man cave and said “I have decided…”
“Okay, what?” I interrupted.
“I have decided that when I retire next year I want to take a trip to Alaska.”
“Great!” I responded. “We can take the Jeep and tent. It was at that point she informed me that would be perfect except she was not tent camping where there were bears. That was June of 2016.”
Although Bill had never taken on such a project, he set out with simple design sketches to build a teardrop camper. It soon became evident that a teardrop just wouldn’t work for them.
“After talking with her about the design, she had some issues. She didn’t want a kitchen since all of our cooking stuff was set up for tent camping. Also, she wanted a little floor space for the Porta Potty too. So I threw out the plans for the teardrop and decided on a squaredrop.”
Bill literally built the trailer from scratch, using 2-inch square 3/16” wall tubing. He said it was probably overbuilt but he wanted a solid foundation for travel over rough terrain.
“I skinned it with .040 white aluminum. 8 feet long, 5 feet wide, 4 feet tall, and it weighed in at 1,600 pounds. It took two months to get it ready for camping. I made small improvements on it over the next two years, adding an arm on the rear bumper for the ice chest that would allow me to swivel it out while camping and work as a table top too.
They named it “Away Wee Go” at the outset, but later dropped the “Away” to accommodate logo artwork.
“With 40 years in construction and having been retired for 10 years, it proved to be a fun and enlightening build.”
But this isn’t a build story; it’s a travel story.
“We left our home in Louisiana on May 10, 2017, heading west. Our plan was to work our way over to California, visiting all the national parks for several days at each stop. Then we drove up the coast all the way into Canada. We had our trusty Mile Post magazine, all marked up for stops and gas along with attractions we wanted to see in Canada.
“We crossed into Alaska on June 3, 2017. We were on the road almost a month and we were having so much fun. We had 6,650 miles under our belts and still going strong! For brevity, I will just say we did
all the things you would expect in Alaska for the 10 days we were there. We would have loved to have stayed longer, but we had miles to go and our trip home was going to be awesome as well.
“We headed to Jasper National Park in Canada arriving on the June 16. Then for the next five days we made our way south through Banff National Park and Waterton National Park to Glacier National Park, where we spent five days. We pulled out on June 24. From there we went to Red Lodge, Montana, and traveled Beartooth Highway 212 with lots of snow and people still skiing on the top. The views were awesome!
“We visited Yellowstone National Park, Grand Teton National Park and then headed down to Flaming Gorge National Recreation Area in Utah, arriving June 2. There was just too much to see and not enough time to see it all. We headed south on Highway 92, along the north side of Black Canyon of the Gunnison in Colorado and then on to Lake City, Colo., our go-to place for mountain Jeeping. We were there from June 28 to July 3 and only left because all the camping spots were booked for July 4, and we didn’t want to go into the boonies. We left Lake City and made our way down to Amarillo, Texas, where we stayed in the only motel during the trip. We arrived back home on July 4.
“We drove 13,970 miles in eight weeks and camped every night with the exception of the night in Amarillo. We camped boonies, commercial, national parks, and lots of government camps in Canada. We showed off the “Wee Go” many times and answered lots of questions.
“The camper performed better than we could have expected. We wondered if we could be that close for so long in a small Jeep and camper without getting on each other’s nerves. The answer was a resounding YES! We started planning next year’s trip before we left Canada and as it stands right now that is where we are headed next year.
“If time moves as fast as it did on our trip we can get on to the next one shortly. We hope to see you on the road!”
Editor’s note – If you would like more information on the build, go to: http://tnttt.com/viewtopic.php?t=66964