More Fun Than Anyone

by Jenny Montgomery for Montana 55
Photos by Kurt Wilson, Missoulian

When she first saw it in 2011, Andria Beers’ vintage trailer was in a sorry state.

Glimpsed from the road in East Missoula, it looked promising with its post-war, aircraft-style aluminum construction. But could it be brought back to life?

As it turned out, the trailer was a rare 1946 Curtis Wright Model 2 owned by Airstreams Mintage and was awaiting its next owner. Before long, Beers sealed the deal and the Mintage team was carrying out a full restoration of the trailer, with some contemporary modifications.

Carla Jo Wood, who ranches with her husband near Livingston, restored this 1959 Winnebago trailer to take on the road every summer with "Sisters on the fly," a vintage trailer club for women.

Carla Jo Wood, who ranches with her husband near Livingston, restored this 1959 Winnebago trailer to take on the road every summer with “Sisters on the fly,” a vintage trailer club for women.

“It was structurally unique,” said Kent Kraemer, who managed the project and who now owns Blue Moon Caravans in East Missoula. Kraemer said there are fewer than two dozen surviving Model 2s, and that Beers’ is one of only three that has been restored.

Beers’ trailer is unique for another reason: it was reputedly owned by Howard Hughes. Restored with a Hollywood theme – including a movie poster from a Hughes film built into the powder blue kitchenette – the trailer had a brief fling with fame when it was featured on a reality TV pilot in 2011.

“I like to joke that my trailer is extroverted and I’m introverted,” says Beers. “It’s hard to be anonymous – I’ll stop for gas and people will try to get in it!”

Beers sees her trailer as a retreat on wheels. “It was about being able to escape, get into nature
and leave technology behind.” Once she has set up camp, she enjoys cooking, lying under the stars, and
reading poetry. “Jim Harrison, Rilke, Terry Tempest Williams,” she says, recalling peaceful nights in the wilderness.

Beers also enjoys the feeling of accomplishment that comes from transporting and maintaining the
trailer on her own. “Some men ask, ‘Can you tow that all by yourself, honey?’ I try to be gracious about it,” Beers smiles.

Her sons, Caleb and Jude, have also enjoyed adventuring in the Curtis Wright. “They know its history and how rare it is. They like talking to people about it.” Beers, who grew up camping at horse shows
in a Winnebago with her late mother, is glad to be passing the trailer tradition on to her boys.

Sisters on the Fly
“I do have to go home and see my husband occasionally,” laughs Carol Jo Wood, who ranches with her husband near “a big bend in the river” outside Livingston. Each summer she hits the road, towing
her petite, red-and-white, 1959 Winnebago trailer behind her as she heads to a series of trailer rallies around the Northwest. Wood is a member of Sisters on the Fly, a vintage trailer club for women, and revels in organized campouts with friends throughout the region.

“I live rural, so I don’t have a big social circle,” she says as she stages her trailer, arranging vintage camping gear, folding chairs, potted geraniums, and cowgirl trinkets to create an ideal tableau of outdoor fun. The original Formica counters in her kitchenette sparkle with glitter, and the golden glow of the birch interior creates a snug haven.

“‘We have more fun than anyone’ – that’s our motto,” says Wood of Sisters on the Fly. Indeed, she is having the time of her life when I catch up with her at a rally in Roslyn, Washington, where she and her mother have set up camp along with over 170 other vintage trailerites. Her rig is resplendent, with its red calico “skirt” stretched across the back beneath her official Sisters on the Fly member number: #2635.

The organization, which has over 700 members in the Rocky Mountain region alone, holds vintage trailer events for women around the country. Local event hostesses plan activities such as fly fishing, kayaking, horseback riding and Dutch oven cooking to combine with trailer campouts. Strong friendships are formed. “Some gals have never done anything like this, so they join for the moral support,” Wood said. “And if anything happens with family, or with someone’s health, everyone really reaches out and supports everybody.” The Sisters have a simple set of rules: “No men, no kids, be nice, have fun!”

It Has Meaning
Susanne Lucas, owner of Montana Spa & Boutique in Kalispell, learned of Sisters on the Fly through the
club’s fundraising booth at the local fairgrounds. The group was selling pink flies tied by members to raise money for Casting for Recovery, a non-profit that combines breast cancer education and support with fly fishing retreats. Sisters on the Fly has raised over $150,000 for Casting for Recovery.

“When I saw that, I thought, ‘I want to belong to this!’” says Lucas, whose maternal grandmother
passed away as a result of cancer. She visited the Sisters website right away (sistersonthefly.com) and
learned how to get involved.

Next, she began the hunt for the perfect trailer. After finding her 1963 Shasta Airflyte online, Lucas and her husband drove 19 hours to pick her up. “My husband was a little annoyed with me,” she laughs, yet he soon embraced the project and restored “Rosey” in his Quonset hut alongside his vintage cars. The pretty “canned ham” trailer has since gained a personality of her own.

“It has meaning for me – it’s not just a bunch of girls going camping,” says Lucas, who now serves as “Assistant Wrangler” for Sisters on the Fly in Montana. “To me it represents the strength of women, and the women in my family.”

A Little Home
Following a period of illness, Kathy Verley of Superior, was ready to embrace the fun side of life. She
decided to partner with her husband Ken to renovate a trailer for herself, one she calls “my little home.”

She and Ken had so much fun with the project, they have since renovated trailers for their two nieces and great niece as well.

Ken focuses on the exterior and systems while Kathy enjoys decorating interiors.

She incorporated upholstery and pillows she made from vintage chenille fabrics in their pink and white
trailer. Their tow vehicle is a stunning 1955 Lincoln Capri. “Everybody wants to talk old cars with him and old trailers with me,” she laughs.

Kathy too is a member of Sisters on the Fly and enjoys caravanning with the group to trailer rallies as
far away as Coeur d’Alene and Moscow, Idaho. “It’s like one big family,” she says of her newfound crew.
“People honk when they see us coming.”

Taking Business on the Road
Sarah Calhoun of Red Ants Pants, a women’s work clothing company based in White Sulphur Springs, finds that her vintage Airstream is an asset to her business. On her regular “Tour de Pants” journeys
around the U.S. and Canada, the eye-catching aluminum trailer serves as a conversation starter as
well as a home on wheels. Calhoun and her team “roll in with pants and beer” and hold house parties or park in front of breweries and distilleries, showing off their wares.

Calhoun’s Airstream has also served as a dressing room backstage at the Red Ants Pants music festival
she organizes.

Whether they entered the vintage trailer world seeking friendship, a business solution, or solitude,
all of these Montana women have played a part in rescuing part of America’s travel heritage. Trailers
dating back to the early 20th century are being lost to the scrap heap at a rapid rate, due to the expense and expertise required to restore them. In rural areas of Montana, some are simply burned.

“Rescue, restore, rally” is the motto of Vintage Camper Trailers magazine, which recognizes the
important role these trailers played in automotive history. In the age before jet travel, they were an
efficient way to move a family from place to place for temporary work or vacation. Trailer travelers were known as “Tin Can Tourists,” and were a common sight on mid-century Montana highways, as families
took to the road in search of adventure in our National Parks and other wild areas.

“I had five brothers and we traveled from California to Montana every single year. We were packed!” recalls Lucas. “We just loved the outdoors.”

There are other options for those who shy away from restoration. Retro-style trailers have been released by Shasta as well as popular teardrop manufacturers, such as T@B.

As contemporary enthusiasm for vintage trailers grows and rallies become more widespread, motorists
may see more summer travelers pulling colorful canned hams and sleek aluminum beauties along Montana’s scenic highways.

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  1. November 3, 2016
    Sounds great! I recently joined SOTF and I'm looking for my trailer. The prices are so high though, I don't know if I'll ever find one I can afford. But I am looking forward some day to being on the road with my "sisters"! Reply

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