The stereo was playing Jimmy Buffett on a smoldering Sunday afternoon, with pink flamingos in the grass and Glen Houser rocking the 1976 Fairstream Argosy.
“That woman right in there,” he said, pointing inside the tricked-out camper to his wife Mindy, when asked what got him involved in vintage camper rallies. Growing up, Mindy’s family went camping a lot while his never did, he explained. When they got married, he became a camping convert, and his only regret is he didn’t start sooner.
The Sullivan County Park and Lake was packed all weekend as 109 individuals brought 52 slicked-up rides from six states to the second annual Southern Indiana Vintage Camper Rally there.
“It was such a hot weekend and miserable weather, but everyone had a good time,” Erin Dulin of Brazil said of the weekend where the heat index exceeded 100 degrees.
Dulin and her husband, Roger, as well as Janet and Dan Kleptz of Terre Haute, organized the local rally, and said many of the participants hit several a season.
“A lot of these people go from one rally to the next,” Duly said, noting the next one is July 29 through Aug. 1 in South Bend. Any camper more than 20 years old is considered “vintage,” she said, adding many of the participants buy, sell and trade while there. The oldest camper brought was a 1951 Vagabond. “Anyone that has one has a couple,” she said, adding with a laugh, “it’s part of the sickness.”
The Dulins brought their 1963 Shasta Astrodome and a 1961 Shasta SC-16 to the weekend event, while the Kleptz family brought their 1982 Leisure Craft Motorhome and 1967 Alaskan Truck Camper.
“This time last month we were in Tennessee,” Janet said, adding the diversity of participants is pretty wide. “Our oldest camper was 87 and our youngest was 10 days old,” she said of the people participating this weekend.
Dulin noted that many of the campers lack air conditioning as their owners want to keep them true to form. Many of those purists were sweating with the oldies this weekend, but the group still had a fun time with a Hawaiian-themed luau and other activities, she said. “We had a few scary nights with the weather,” she said as the group was packing up, ready to head home Sunday afternoon.
Rich and Karen Reichart of Lansing, Ill., were striking camp themselves Sunday afternoon.
“I’m just along for the ride,” Rich said with a laugh outside their 1963 Shasta.
Karen belongs to the group “Sisters on the Fly,” a national “cowgirl caravan” of women who enjoy fly fishing, western bedding and vintage trailers.
“I’ve had this one for two years,” she said of the teal and white camper in which their dog, Trixie, was playing.
The couple hits three to five rallies a year, while Karen, a pastry chef, also takes it on fly fishing camp-outs with her “Sisters on the Fly.”
“It’s so fascinating because you meet people from all walks of life,” she said.
Their camper’s “wings” along the side are in fact originals and true to the vintage style, but a tell-tale roar could be heard over the door as one noted the air conditioning unit Rich had installed.
“It’s just too hot,” Karen said, shrugging off any potential concerns of authenticity.
Brian Boyce can be reached at 812-231-4253 or firstname.lastname@example.org.