Ramblin’, Scampin’ Coot

The drive to Backus, Minnesota was long and tiring, more than 350 miles. But that is where Scamp trailers are manufactured, and we chose to take possession of our new Scamp at the factory rather than have it delivered. This camping trailer adventure is a whole new experience for us, and we wanted the full tutorial from the professional staff at Scamp before we hooked up the trailer and towed it onto the highway.

Learning to love to the nomad life.

Backus is a tiny town, a spot on the map, but somehow the town has developed a labor force that has produced a superior camping trailer for 50 years through three generations of family ownership. We learned this when we asked why a 50th decal was affixed to the side of our Scamp, right beside the door. We claim that it also denotes the 50th year of our marriage because we ordered the camper exactly 12 months ago on our 50th anniversary year. A happy coincidence the salesman told us, but not factual. But that’s our story, and we’re stickin’ with it.

More importantly, construction costs and wait times have gone bonkers in the past year, and we were fortunate to order a Scamp when we did. The waiting time for delivery, the salesman told us, is currently two years, and the price has increased $4,000. But the company that produces the Scamp, Eveland’s Inc., honored their original quote on our model of camper and did not increase the price. How cool I that? Backus, Minnesota ethic.

Backus, by the way, seemed an ominous name for the start of our new adventure because it was a stark reminder that at some point during our first day with the Scamp I would be required to “Back-Us” into a trailer space at a campground. My attempts to back up trailers have often ended badly.

We bought the Scamp model built on the 16-foot trailer frame, which offered about the same living space as the RV truck that we rented to go on a month-long vacation to New Mexico two years ago. That trip was during the pre-pandemic days that now seem like a decade ago. We learned a lot on that trip, and that helped us choose the layout of the Scamp.

This camper is perfect for two. Try to pack four people in there and you will no longer be on speaking terms in four or five days. The layout: full size bed in the rear, toilet/shower in the front, dinette table on the port side, kitchenette on the starboard side with two-burner stove, sink, refrigerator, and microwave. The rig includes a 12-gallon freshwater tank, water heater, LP gas furnace, rooftop air-conditioner, ceiling fan, six slider windows (much brighter interior than the gloomy RV we rented), screen door, gray wastewater tank, black wastewater tank, AC electrical power hookup cord, DC batteries to power all the electrical stuff except the microwave, several plug-in connections for accessories, and all the “standard” equipment you would expect for towing the rig and setting it up on a camping site. Storage space is somewhat limited, but we are exploring how to use every square inch, and also how to omit a lot of unnecessary items

Frankly, I’m totally infatuated with this Scamp, and I intend to hook it to our pickup and travel back to the Southwest for a least three months this winter. My beautiful blonde wife says “We’ll see.”

The first order of business is developing a “pre-flight” checklist. Before we depart one campsite for the next we must remember: 1) crank up the rear support jacks, 2) unplug the AC electrical cord from the campsite fuse box, 3) disconnect the hose from the campsite water supply – if necessary, 4) drain the freshwater tank, 5) latch the trailer hitch securely to the truck’s ball hitch, 6) connect the trailer wiring plug, 7) check all trailer and truck running lights, brake lights, and turn signals, 8) secure the safety chains, 9) attach the trailer emergency brake cable to the truck’s tow bar, 10) crank up the front hitch jack, 11) remove the chocks from in front and behind the wheels, 12) close and secure the interior cabinet doors, 13) close the rooftop fan vent, 14) shut off the air-conditioner, 15) shut off the furnace, 16) shut off the water heater, 17) turn off the LP gas tanks, 18) turn off the DC power supply to the trailer’s interior, 19) close the trailer windows and door and deadbolt lock the door, 20) check to assure we have our cell phones, wallets, keys, and the dog, 21) pray we did not forget anything.

The first night of trailer camping at Minnesota’s Crow Wing State Park went smoothly. I did not crash the Scamp into a tree or picnic table when I backed it onto the trailer pad, and although it was not perfectly straight I was quite pleased with myself. We devoted the evening to learning how everything in the Scamp operated. The only confusion was with the refrigerator which is capable of operating on any of three energy sources: AC current from outside, DC current from the batteries, and LP gas from the tanks. How is this possible? We will eventually figure it out. For the present, it freezes ice cubes from the exterior AC source, and that’s good enough for our purposes.

As you can probably tell, I am excited about this new phase of life and am feeling upbeat and positive about the prospects. In fact, although my 15-year-old Ford F-150 has served us well I have placed an order for a new Ford Ranger pickup to tow the Scamp to places far and away and different. This may cause some tight finances in the next few years, but my fallback plan is to sell the farm and all our worldly possessions, pack the Scamp with the necessities, and live forthwith as nomads, answering to no schedules, demands, rules, regulations, or presumptions.

I have not yet mentioned that proposal to my BBW. It may be best to wait until the bitter cold days of December when leaving the North Country seems a reasonable thing to do.


To read more essays and stories about life in the North Country, visit the Author Page where my books are listed for sale in paperback or e-book format.

About Jerry Johnson

Curmudgeon. Bird hunter and dog trainer. Retired journalist and college public relations director. Former teacher, coach, mentor. Novelist and short story writer. Husband, father, grandfather.
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