A Long Time Ago …

R&E Vans

So anyway, Ed and I had a lot of fun building our own campers.  That led us to starting R&E Vans in 1975. Our goal was to build very nice campers. Along the way we built about 700 vehicles. A lot of those were 70’s party vans. We also built ambulances, a mobile training classroom and lots of campers.

We built on the ideas from our early campers and produced the Model 5. Pretty snazzy name, don’t you think?   We really neaded a good marketing type person. These were featured in national magazine reviews.  We sold them as far away as Alaska, well one anyway.

This a 1979 Model 5 built on a long body Ford van that I kept until 2012 when I sold it to a fellow in Massachusetts. He flew here, completed what needed to be done and drove it back.
Ed and I closed up shop in 1980. Gas prices were at an all time high if you could find gas. Interest rates were more than 20%. We saw no way to go forward and exited as gracefully as we could.
There is so much more to add about our time with this great camper and the days at R&E Van. I will try to edit and add more when I can find more pictures. I’m sort of new at this blogging stuff so bear with me as we get going.

Home2 started in 1978 as a Class B Ford Van Camper, the one pictured above.  Our shakedown trip was from Minnesota to New Brunswick, Canada and then down through New England and then back along the South sides of the Great Lakes.

As we did for many years we traveled with our dog, Xenia, a 65 lb Malamute. We called her the feed-it alarm system.  If we left her in the camper alone she would sit in the driver’s seat waiting for us to return.  She was rather imposing, rarely barked and was never tested.  On her leash taking us for a walk, she was the friendliest dog you could imagine.  If the other end of her leash was hooked to the camper at the side door, it represented a defensive zone that she protected for all she was worth.

That trip gave us all sorts of ideas on changes to make to add more light, more functional utility and what tools and equipment we needed to have in the camper all the time.  We went from two to five sun roofs, added bug screens, found a cooking set of pots and pans that nested nicely, bought dishes, kitchen utensils and silverware for dedicated use.  We got sheets, pillows and blankets to leave in the camper.  With everything set we were able to leave for a weekend, a week or longer with just loading clothes and food.

The Van Days
After we closed the doors on the R&E Van adventure Susan and I ready to hit the road with Home2.  We made modifications and adjustments that we found necessary on our New England trip.  We wrote to every National Park, Monument and Historic Site west of the Mississippi asking for information and maps. We got state maps from every western state. 
Finally on April 15th, 1980 we were ready to go.  Everything we owned that was not in the van was in storage. We were heading west, that was the extent of the itinerary at that point much to the dismay of my Mother.  And then it snowed 10 inches.  Two days later we actually left.  First stop at my folks house to say adios.  I think we had breakfast and then it was off.  My Mom asked once more, hoping for some itinerary, where our first stop was going to be.  I said the gas station.  And that is the way it went.  We went where it looked interesting.  Moved when we were out of food or books. and left my Mom know where we were using a pay phone or a postcard.
There and Back Again, 53 sq ft of mobile luxury
We spent almost then entire following year going almost everywhere West of the Mississippi and all the way up to Jasper in BC, Canada. We were the toast of the UPS drivers who almost always flashed their headlights our way. 
I will add more on this first retirement later. 
In the years that followed we traveled quite a bit in that Ford. It survived long past our great friend and companion, Xenia. She was a very nice Malamute that we had from 1974 to 1990, a long life for a Malamute. She went everywhere with us and the van was hers as much as ours. We put about 80,000 miles on it and spent at least 750 nights in it.
Late 80’s at Oshkosh for the EAA Convention and Air Show.  Our first trip there was in 1978 and our 8th or 9th trip there was just two years ago in 2012.  We saw as P-38 Lightning on both of those trips as well as many, many other airplanes.
The Next Step

Times change. We wanted to keep traveling but maybe with a bit more room. An actual bedroom and bathroom would be nice, we thought. So that leads us to the next step of the story, right after this…

In the beginning

Susan and I have had a long relationship with motor travel.  We met winter camping.  She rode up with me in my 1973 Jeep CJ5.  She liked my jokes.  A couple years later in the mid 70’s when we were both working at a Boy Scout camp, I was smitten.  As she likes to say She was patient and persistent, I was slow to the table.  Off we went in my home made 1974 Dodge van camper to International Falls, MN.  There was love in the air.  There still is. 

We went on many short trips and one long trip in that camper down to Big Bend National Park.  Never got there.  It was snowing all the way to Kansas City and forecasts were for worse further south.  So we headed East to the Great Smokies.  Never got there.  The weather was even worse.  So we headed South towards nowhere in particular.  This remains our favorite travel mode.  We go where we are pointed.  We ended up at Dauphin Island near Mobile, AL for a whole day and then it was time to head home.  3500 miles in a week.  Never again.  I have looked all over for a picture of that green van but alas the days of digital pictures were many years in the future.

Building that camper with my friend Ed Schulze (he built one too) led to more adventures that I will tell you about right after this …