Ladies and Gents – I’d like to introduce you to my best girlfriend, the lovely and retro “JoyBug”.
She’s a rare, rear-door, vintage 1975 Argosy Airstream…or as I like to call her “23 feet of potential adventure.” Let me tell you – she has certainly lived up to that tagline!
How did we find each other?
I rescued JoyBug in the summer of 2017 from a field in NJ, where she had sat for 20 years untouched and unloved. Long gone were the days where she had roamed the roads of the U.S., or heard the sound of laughter, nor the crackling of a campfire parked in the countryside. I had been infatuated with Airstreams for years, and dreamed for even longer of living in a tiny house as part of a simple, minimalistic lifestyle. So when I saw her, it was love at first sight. I knew that it was time to resurrect my dream of living on the road, and that JoyBug was to be the vehicle ( literally and metaphorically ) to transport me into that new life.
Why didn’t I just buy an Airstream?
Airstreams are coveted, and considered the Mercedes Benz of trailers – so to buy one even fairly new is super expensive. Besides, the idea of having something vintage appealed to me far more than having something new, as did the romantic idea of renovating something old. The Argosy trailer was made for only a few short years in the 1970s as an experiment by Airstream. They are painted on the outside, and kind of a cult classic trailer for those who love Airstreams. Finding JoyBug was super exciting for me, and while I had no idea what I was getting into upon purchase, I still have no regrets.
JoyBug was run-down, discarded, and forgotten, but she was also full of potential. She just needed to be loved. She needed to be resurrected. She needed a reboot. Truthfully, I couldn’t help but feel a strong parallel in my own journey to that of JoyBug’s, because at that time in my life, I too was in desperate need of a resurrection and a reboot. I had originally intended to do a deep clean, slap some paint on her and hit the road, but it turned out that getting her road-ready will be much more involved than I had originally imagined.
Why did I choose to do a complete restoration on JoyBug?
Joybug initially looked to be in pretty good shape, but upon deeper inspection I discovered that the years had taken their toll on her: to name a few…the subfloor was rotted, the walls contained mouse poop, and the frame was rusted. It was one of those situations, where the more of her I took apart, the more problems I discovered, peeling back a stinking onion, until at last I realized that the core of it was rotten. If I were going to make this space my home, I needed to start from scratch and do it right.
Considering that I was the least handy woman on earth, this undertaking was definitely one of both bravery and stupidity. I was after all, a female musician who had never held a drill before in her life. I didn’t know a rivet from a screw, a wrench from ratchet set, or an axle from a hitch. Yet here I was, suddenly taking on a total restoration of a trailer by myself. So, I can say with total confidence that it’s the restoration process has been quite a journey.
What work has been done?
In the last year, I am proud to say that I have gutted JoyBug, taking her down to her bare bones, and have slowly begun to rebuild her. Not only did I learn how to use a drill, and remove a rivet, but by using YouTube and Facebook forums, I learned how to use all sorts of power tools, and became capable of skills I never thought possible.
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Then I tore out the furniture.…
I removed all the plumbing…
I repaired the hitch….
I removed the interior skins….
I removed all the electrical wiring and insulation (where the mouse poop rained down on me)…
I dropped the belly pan (where more grossness rained down upon me)
I ripped out the subfloor…
I power washed the trailer to get ride of the smell of urine and mold (In February)…
I removed all the rust on the frame…
I repaired the frame….
I installed a new subfloor with 129 self drilled bolts (the blisters took weeks to heal)…
I designed the future interior layout and built a full-scale mock-up inside the trailer…
I have about 200 hours sunk into the restoration of JoyBug so far. Naturally as a novice, each new phase of the project has taken me far longer than I had originally expected. But there is no way to describe the level of pride I have felt, with every new task of the restoration that I have completed. It has been so therapeutic and cathartic to take this busted old trailer, and make something amazing and new with it.
So What’s Next?
Fortunately, the disgusting phase and real dirty work of JoyBug’s rebirth is mostly over, and I am now in the building phase of things. In the coming months, I’ll be working to get electric running, walls back in, tanks installed, new flooring in, plumbing installed, belly pan back on – furniture in… painting and decorating, and… well…. then the road trip begins!
I plan to travel the country, playing my music, sharing my poetry, writing books, meeting as many people as I can, and experiencing life in as many different places as possible. I want to build a life around my passions, and create a way of living that is rich in experiences, not things. And though it will be a simple life without the bells of whistles of fancy possessions or a house (with say, a toilet that hooks up to a sewer), I believe it will be the right life for me, because I will be able to focus on what I love now, instead of waiting until I’m retired and 65 to live my dreams.
When I am inside Joybug working on rebuilding her, I feel free. It’s an amazing feeling to be living and working INSIDE the embodiment of your own dream. In a way, I am restoring her, and she is restoring me. It’s incredibly empowering.
Very soon, I will say goodbye to my hometown of Atlantic City, New Jersey, and swap out my apartment for a 23 foot Airstream, and my neighborhood for the wild, blue yonder.
Till then, you can follow her journey to rebirth on the travel page! We’ll see you on the road!