Shasta Town

By Martinique Davis
Winter/Spring 2011-2012

A cloud of condensation billows from the open door into the crystalline, cool afternoon, and I’m tempted to pull it shut and stay inside a little longer.

I want to snuggle back under the down comforter, pull a corner up to my chin, and sit in the orange glow of the gas-powered lamp overhead; the one my husband has, miraculously, fixed seven times now following various mishaps. It’s nearly impossible to find replacement parts for an original gas lamp in a 1964 Shasta camp trailer, so every time the thing gets knocked over by the kids or we forget to unscrew its components from the wall before heading out on a bumpy ride and it smashes to the ground, he painstakingly glues the lamp back together.

That’s what you learn when you own one of these decades-old camp trailers—how to put the various pieces back together after they fall apart. The way we fix things is a common topic of conversation among our neighbors in this little improvised community we call Shasta Town, in a dirt parking lot full of camping rigs. When our friend Matt’s puppy clawed the screen door one night at the Circus-Circus KOA campground in Las Vegas, he found a replacement door online. When one of our electric light’s glass globes shattered into a million pieces following the rough ride to Chaco Canyon, we found an even better one (a delicate floral design in frosted glass) at the Second Chance thrift store in Ridgway—for only $2. I don’t participate as much in the fixing-up discussions, though, since the interior design of our 14×9-foot abode is more my realm. Meg and I trade curtain-sewing tips: “They’ve got to be double-thickness,” I’ll tell her. Or Frannie and I will discuss the detailed care of the all-important cushion-cover, that it must be stain-resistant and given regular treatments of Scotch-Guard.

It’s what we talk about when we get together, those of us who own one of these vintage Shastas (or Serro Scottys, or other camp trailers that by their age or appearance could be considered “vintage”). We’ve taken them everywhere—from beaches in California, where the sand that stuck to the soles of our feet still remains in the cracks of the panels of faux-maple laminate flooring; to weddings in Norwood, where the circle of our rounded-up camp trailers felt like a gypsy caravan. We’ve taken them everywhere, but we always bring them back here, to this parking lot on the east end of Telluride: Shasta Town. It’s home.

It started one summertime as a place to park our rigs for those down times when they weren’t on the road. Yet during the festivals, Fourth of July, or just any old spectacular summer afternoon in Telluride, those uneven lanes of mismatched old campers became our homes-away-from-home. Few of us actually live within Telluride’s town limits, and so the cozy respite those four trailer walls could provide was enticing: a quiet place to decompress after a long day at Bluegrass…a dry haven during an ill-timed rainstorm…a comfortable spot to change a diaper and feed a cranky child while running errands in town.

Telluride’s abrasive winter weather deterred some of Shasta Town’s summertime regulars, but not all of them. The cold actually made our little community even more inviting for its year-round contingent, who found a convenient place to suit up for a powder morning and a comfortable spot to trade stories after a day on the mountain when the après-ski scene in town was too much. “Shasta Town became our in-town ski locker room and boot valet…just without the locker room or the valet,” says one winter regular.

Our trailers, tenderly tinkered with when they break and often hanging on by just a few well-placed screws, are not immortal. We love them, but perhaps we love them a little too much. Despite our great affection, we seem to wear them out…and in doing so, we know that they have only a few good years left in them.

Our Shastas won’t last forever, and neither will our makeshift village. In fact, this winter could be Shasta Town’s last: Telluride’s town council recently awarded a local businesswoman a special permit to use our vacant lot as an events venue, starting next summer. But that’s the beauty of trailer life: It is, by nature, impermanent. We will hitch up our Shastas and move down the road, carrying our homes-away-from-home—and the stories we shared together during our years at Shasta Town—with us.