By Wendy Nugent, Harvey County Now
NEWTON—Someone asked Crystal Gray if she was going to fix all the hail damage on her vintage camper she’s renovated.
“I said, ‘No. That’s part of her journey,’” Gray said, standing in her driveway looking at the exterior of the bright yellow shelter.
The Cameo camper was built in 1968 in Columbus, and Gray bought it in November 2019 from a gal at Moxie’s in Newton. The camper’s name is Daisy Mae Fremont.
The “Daisy” comes from Gray’s favorite flower; May is her birth month, although she spells “Mae” differently than the month, and her late mother and her sister were gambling ladies on Fremont in Las Vegas, while living there.
“That was her favorite place to go was Fremont Street,” Gray said. “It’s therapeutic for me. I’ve had a really, really hard time wanting to do anything. Everything I did in here made me feel better and better. I knew she’d be excited. She would just love this.”
Gray also said her mom would’ve gone on her first outing with her.
After Gray purchased her camper, her mother got sick and passed away, Gray said, and after she passed, she sprinkled some of her mom’s ashes on Fremont Street.
She thinks her mother would’ve liked the camper as it is now.
“It’s like a glorified tent, but I love it,” the Newton resident said. “Sometimes, I can sit out here in the morning and have coffee.”
When she bought the camper, the color scheme included bright and/or saturated colors of red, blue, green, orange and black. The cushions on the table seating appeared to be a gold floral 1970s design and the refrigerator was bright red and yellow.
Gray has toned down the color scheme, using teal, gold and gray, perhaps to go with her last name.
“I redid the cushions,” she said. “I repainted all of this stuff.”
That includes storage doors and the old icebox she turned into more storage space with shelving.
A camper banner made by a woman on a vintage camper site carries Gray’s color scheme with it with gray, teal and gold.
The dining/work table is gray and the seating has gray cushions decked with throw pillows.
The entire camper is 122 square feet. In that space is a bed, storage, the table and cushions and kitchen.
“I like the coziness of it,” Gray said. “I’ve got patterns everywhere. I like it. I’ve enjoyed doing this.”
It was therapeutic for her after her mother died. She said she just keep feeling better after doing something to the camper.
“It’s exciting for me,” Gray said, adding her maiden voyage will be May 4 to Kanopolis Lake and she’s bringing her two dogs along.
Her camper has many supplies and she also plans to bring a Taser with a flashlight to help keep her safe, along with her book, “How to Fight a Bear and Win.”
The bed turns into a couch, Gray said, and there’s a microwave and hot plate. There’s also air conditioning.
Even the table benches have storage under them.
“You can really put a lot in here,” Gray said.
Even with not much space, Gray said there are vintage advertisements showing a family of four fitting inside a similar space.
Mostly, Gray plans to go to RV parks to camp and has become skilled at doing the hookup and hitch to the truck.
She’s also discovered a subculture of vintage camper folks who travel around together and there are vintage camper shows. She also has family in Ireland and looks at Ireland websites.
“They have this there,” she said. “It’s everywhere.”
Gray said she’s done things simply with the camper, like using rechargeable lights instead of ones that run on electricity, since some camper experts in Park City weren’t sure about her using the electrical system in the camper.
“The camper wasn’t in that critical of critical of a state,” she said. “The electricity does work.”
She just doesn’t want to take any chances in starting a fire.
Gray has done a lot of work to the camper, like decorating, painting, redoing the floor and putting in the air conditioning herself.
She still has a few things to do, but she basically finished the project three weeks ago.
Now, she has a camper diary called “The Joy is in the Journey,” and there are no pages filled out yet. Gray plans to change that.