The Atomic Camper
by: Bob Phillips
The camper is the handiwork of Bill Guernsey of Anchorage. Severe injuries sustained in a small plane crash in late 2012 gave him ample time during a lengthy recovery to design and build the camper, a 16-foot-long bright red rocket on wheels. An Anchorage newspaper article said it “looks more like a 1950s comic book character’s ride” rather than a camper.
How did it get the name? In the newspaper article, Guernsey put it this way: “Everything was atomic when I was growing up; the time of the nuclear age and the rockets and the bombs. Everything that came out was going to be powered by nuclear science. Atomic is like the turbo of today.”
It took Guernsey two full years to complete the camper, working 6 hours a day, 6 days a week. His recovery allowed him time to include fine wooden detail on the interior that manufactured campers can’t provide. That was part of attraction that led Victor to buy it.
He saw the camper posted for sale on the Anchorage Facebook Marketplace in May, called Guernsey about his interest and went to see it the next day after work. He was so impressed after a tour of the camper that he wrote a check that same day and picked it up later that week.
“I like sci-fi for starters,” he said. “When I saw it in person and Mr. Guernsey gave me the complete tour and details on its build I was very impressed by how much work and innovation he had put into it. I could tell it was built very solid. I think the uniqueness of this camper and that it can actually be taken camping clinched the deal.”
Victor has made a few improvements to the camper. “We reupholstered the sofa on the port side. It was changed from a light blue to a red color more in line with the color of the camper. I also added a camera on the back to watch traffic behind me as we are driving and towing it “
What he likes most about the camper is its uniqueness; there is none other like it.
“My girlfriend, Carrie, likes the galley,” he said. “It comes in handy when it’s raining out and we can choose to cook inside. I think my favorite thing is the solar power system that allows us to have some convenience off grid.
“We enjoy the outdoors, such as fishing, hiking, camping and traveling. Our kids are grown so it’s just the two of us and a mini-schnauzer in the camper.
“We have taken it out only about four times since buying it. So far our best trip was our first outing in it. We went to Soldotna (Alaska) and parked at Edgewater RV Camp for three days. We went there to go fishing down in Kenai. The camp put us on a spot near the main road and we had lots of people pulling into the park to check us out, take photos and talk to us. In addition many folks at the RV camp stopped by as well. We met a lot of folks and kids on that first outing.”
“The little kids have the best comments. I overheard a little boy, probably about 4 or 5, telling a friend of ours as he pointed to the camper, ‘It’s a rocket; it goes into space.’ “There was another little two year old telling his mom that he wanted the rocket. His mom told him that he would have to get a job and save up to get one. He didn’t want to wait that long and cried all the way back to his RV, moaning how much he wanted the rocket.”
Victor said future changes he anticipates will include changing out the water tank with something that looks more like a fuel tank. He’s researching metal type containers, like beer kegs or small barrels. He also wants to change the “starboard couch” with one that converts to a bed.
He’s hoping to take it on a long trip next summer.
“If time permits and I can get vacation approved, next year we would like to take a road trip from Anchorage to Dallas, Texas, through Canada via the Alcan Highway. On the return trip we would like to stop in Roswell and Los Alamos, New Mexico, and the town of Vulcan in Alberta.