It was 10 am Friday morning at a tree-covered lot on Sauvie Island, 20 minutes north of Portland, Oregon. I was stretched out on my bunk working on my laptop when I saw a wonderful thing out of the corner of my eye. I sat up. I couldn’t believe it! I grabbed my field glasses, which happened to be nearby, and peered out the front window of my Airstream trailer. Yep. It was what I thought I saw! It was an American Clipper.
Do you remember the feeling you got when you opened your first Barbie doll or when you come across a photo of a long-loved memory? My heart leaped out with joy and excitement. I wanted to rush out and throw my arms around her.
There were only about 5,000 American Clipper trailers made. Back in the 70’s, I had the luck of being able to share one with Diane, a great friend of mine. For a number of years, our Clipper was a our rolling playground. The Clipper was fully equipped with a bathroom, full kitchen and could sleep five stretched out snoozers plus a little more room for dogs (three between the two of us).
Diane and I had a great time personalizing it. We pimped our new RV out with wood laminate floors, a premium sound system and some wonderful fabrics I had brought back from India a few years earlier. It was gorgeous and well stocked with three martini shakers. One Christmas, I rolled up to the office that I worked at, loaded up seven girlfriends/co-workers and a designated driver. We partied our way to the grand opening of a nearby Crate & Barrel. We called it the gypsy gin wagon.
Several years later, another friend’s dad was retiring from OreIda, so Mary (a friend of mine from an art class) and I hit the road again, heading out to celebrate with the family. At the time, we thought it wasn’t that far, people from Portland are always going back and forth. “It will be a fun trip!” we said. We couldn’t believe we hadn’t done it already. Looking at the map, we were surprised to learn that it was at least eight hours away. Well, let’s just say it took us longer than eight hours to get there.
Ever heard the saying “if it’s not leaking oil, it’s not a Dodge?” Well, our Clipper was a Dodge: a real, bonafide Dodge. We started leaking oil as soon as we saw Portland in our rear view mirror. Three exits past Multnomah Falls, I called the mechanic in Portland who “fixed” the leak and told him that we were leaving a trail like a snail. He told me to just keep pouring oil in her – and we did – gallons of it! Our Clipper became known as the Valdez.
Every 50 miles or so, we’d pull over to a gas station, pop the hood and pour in another quart. This attracted lots of attention and every gas station attendant from Hood River to New Plymouth had advice for us. Except the one we really needed, which was how do you possibly get a three foot dip stick back into the engine? Oh, you don’t know either, but you have a tip on how to keep your cuticles trimmed – really? Well, thanks brother but I have that one covered!
Twelve hours later with the engine rattling and oil spewing, Mary and I finally arrived at our friend Ron’s childhood home. Larry, his dad, had the extension cord ready to plug us in and Betty, his mom, had the drinks iced. There are not many people who would welcome you AND your oil slick – but the Crumps did. And most people would have turned back to Portland, but Mary and I didn’t. We had one heck of a weekend that we still talk about years later.
Eventually, we had the oil leaked fixed. Diane had a nice time giving the original mechanic a piece of her mind. “He’s already got a piece of my wallet, he may as well get the rest of me!” she said. Even after our RV was fixed, we still called her the Valdez, until we sold her a few years later.
And, Diane and I have a friendship like cement.
I kept watching the little Clipper as she rocked through the pot holes in my park and made her way back out to the main road. I couldn’t help but feel just a little sad that she didn’t stay for a while.
I bet you have a story to tell!