Remember the aluminum trailer Granny and Grandpa hauled behind their treasured 1940s Chevy?
Well, I found it.
It’s parked at The Shady Dell, a vintage trailer park near Bisbee, Arizona. Looking as good as new, it wows retro seekers, and is worth a dickens of a lot more than Gramps shelled out for it.
Jen Luria, Shady Dell co-owner, sports a trademark ponytail, bangs, a coral pink cardigan, jeans and loafers. Think Debbie Reynolds circa 1950. She’s an avid collector or vintage purses, aprons and dresses, and, together with partner, Justin, has successfully reversed this trailer park business into a page out of ’40s and ‘50s Americana
I clamber into the 1957 El Rey, and step back in time. A caramel-coloured electric radio is a reminder of the frustration of tuning those things. Hawaiian plastic mugs with wooden handles standby for Kool-Aid. Hibiscus-motif curtains, anchored by a brass rod, accent the avocado green walls
“This is pre-Wi-Fi camping,” grins vintage Jen.
A tinny washbasin takes up most of the loo area sans bath or shower. A chenille bedspread drapes the double bed. There’s a galley kitchen – including a coffee percolator that probably still produces great java, and a selection of Life magazines.
Prefer an Airstream? Jen and Justin have one. Though sans loo, it was sufficiently state-of-the-art to feature in Bride’s Magazine 1949.
If 1950 is more a visitor’s style, there’s the luxurious (for the era) Airfloat. With Ol’ Blue Eyes crooning his magic from the record player, or The Long, Long Trailer (naturally) on a telly worthy of a museum, I picture an “I remember when…” kind of evening.
And, yes, the Airfloat comes equipped with all mod cons.
[Left, inside a vintage RV. Ursula Maxwell-Lewis photo]
Since acquiring the place in 2007, Justin and Jen have embellished the informal park which houses eight restored trailers with parking meters, neon signs, a collection of vintage vehicles, and a whimsical surprise – ‘VIP suite’ Chris Craft Yacht. Sadly, the Diner (with soda bar) has closed, but it sure looks cool.
Either before, or after, your trip down memory lane, you’ll be lured into roaming around Bisbee.
The historic old copper mining town was once a bustling hub between St. Louis and San Francisco. Tucked into the centre of Brewery Gulch, one of town’s main attractions, is the Copper Queen Hotel. Completed in 1902, the interior retains the boomtown aura of an old movie set.
After touring the Queen Copper Mine, I adjourn to watch an affable glass-blowing guy who indicated he was really entertaining himself, rather than the passing tourists.
I browse through local handcrafted jewellery before my inner tourist runs out of steam. The Bisbee Coffee Company picks up the slack with Mexican hot chocolate and mouthwatering pastries. Check Yelp for a 10 per cent off coupon.
Hightailing it out of town in the afternoon I head for the Dragoon area and the Triangle-T Guest Ranch, one of the film locations for 3:10 to Yuma.
Reminiscent of an old movie set, the ranch claims a guest history of cowboy movie greats like John Wayne. The casita-style ground-floor rooms are named after the rich and famous. I draw General Pershing who, based on the black and while picture on the wall, looks more forbidding that romantic. I consider taking him down, but it seems a bit rude, so I leave him stare.
Cool dark wood antique interior contrasts with the desert heat beyond. My horse is saddled and ready to mosey on. She seems rather resigned, but my trail leader is a wealth of information about history and native plants.
[Cochise Trail Ride, right. Ursula Maxwell-Lewis photo]
This is Cochise country. History records that the legendary Chiricahua Apache chief is buried in those sunburnt Dragoon Hills. Precisely where remains a mystery. Cochise’s Apaches, and his lone white friend, Tom Jeffords, took the secret to their graves.
Riding along parched golden trails in the shadow of massive balancing rock formations and healing desert plants, I bask in the idea of the gutsy old warrior’s spirit still scouting rebelliously just beyond our ken. Strangely inspiring.
The next morning, Doc Holliday (of Gunfight at the OK Corral fame) and his pals breeze in. Today, the gunslingers are looking for flapjacks and sausages, not a fight. They chinwag about the shoot-out reputed to have lasted only 30 seconds, but lasts lifetimes in legends and movies.
These are just a few offbeat, kooky, alternative ideas if you’re inclined to vary your Snowbird rambling this winter.
– Ursula Maxwell-Lewis is a member of the Travel Media Association of Canada.