James Cowlin, a nature and landscape photographer, and his partner Barbara Kemp Cowlin, a painter, are partial to teardrop camping on U.S. Route 89. The couple run the website, U.S. Route 89.com and the U.S. Route 89 Appreciation Society and they camp out of a custom 4x8 teardrop they've named the Pod. U.S. Route 89 runs down the western U.S. from Mexico to Canada: from Nogales, Ariz. in the south up to Glacier National Park in the north, and the Cowlin's journeys have taken them to various sites in Arizona, Utah, Idaho, Wyoming and Montana.
The 700 lb. Pod was built by Preston of Teardrop72 in Utah and has a double bed with a 4-inch foam pad, shelving with IKEA plastic bins for storage, a skylight, a galley with a work surface and a storage box on the front that holds a 5-gallon water bottle, a charcoal grill, a couple of camp chairs and a Mr. Heater, a small propane heater that warms the teardrop on colder nights. It originally had birch siding, but the couple has since had the sides of the trailer covered with aluminum. I asked James and Barbara a few questions about their teardrop trailer:
Why did you decide to see Highway 89 in a teardrop trailer?
our first couple of long trips on US Route 89 we tent camped. We had
been tent camping for many years on family vacations. What we realized
was that the amount of time wasted in setting up camp and taking it down
was really slowing us down. Also, there is nothing worse than breaking
camp in the rain and having to deal with wet equipment.
other hand, we wanted to be able move fast and light and not be slowed
down and restricted by an RV or a large trailer. Many years ago I had
seen a teardrop in a campground at Zion National Park and it had stuck
with me. I did a bunch of research on the web and discovered Teardrop72
in Logan, Utah. The teardrops that Preston builds are a good design and
reasonably priced. Also, Logan is on US 89 so it was a perfect fit.
What do you like best and least about traveling in a teardrop trailer?
we like best is that our bedroom and kitchen are right there ready to
be used whenever we are ready. No set up required and it keeps us dry
and warm no matter what the weather. Also, because the trailer is light
it is easy to tow and it has little impact on our gas milage.
suppose that downside is the lack of a toilet and shower. In that sense
it is the same as tent camping. Consequently, after three or four nights
in the teardrop, we will check into a motel and have a nice hot shower.
If you had to have another one designed, what would you change or keep the same?
one thing I would like to add is a solar power panel and storage
battery hooked up to lights inside and in the galley. We could also use
it for power for computers and phones and for a small electric heater to
take the chill off at night. I’d also like more counter space for food
preparation, maybe some sort of swing out table.
What has been the reaction from other people on the road?
come up to us whenever we stop at a gas station and in campgrounds to
ask about our teardrop. Usually the first
question is, “Do you sleep in there?” I gladly give people a guided
tour, which takes about a minute and half, to show them how comfortable
and practical it is.
Our teardrop is a great conversation starter
and gives us the opportunity to talk to people about traveling on US
Route 89. It is part of our message about driving the slow roads of
America and enjoying the journey as much as the destination.
Where are your favorite places to camp?
look for the smaller federal and state park campgrounds whenever we
can. They are usually in nice locations and not too crowded. Often we
will find a campground central to an area we want to spend time in. We
leave the trailer in the campground and day trip to explore and take
photographs. It is nice to know that we have a warm bed waiting for us
at the end of the day.
What are some of your favorite pieces of gear that you find invaluable on the road?
many years I struggled to make the perfect cup of coffee while camping.
I tried everything from an old fashioned percolator to a French press.
Then a friend turned me on to the AeroPress. It is the perfect system
for making a great cup of coffee and it is a snap to clean up. I wrote about the AeroPress on the our blog.
have also developed a two cooler system for keeping food and beverages.
We have cooler that plugs into the power outlet in the back of our
Honda Element. I keeps perishables reasonably cold unless the weather is
really hot. We keep an ice chest behind the front seat with cold
beverages and snacks. Doing it that way cuts down on the amount of ice
required and makes sure that there is a nice cold brew for the end of
Note: Members of the U.S. Route 89 Appreciation Society get a 5% discount when they purchase a trailer from Teardrop72.
Photos courtesy of James and Barbara Cowlin