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Have glamour, will travel

Sun., June 6, 2010

Sisters on the Fly no ordinary campers

The sign on the front of one vintage travel trailer camped out at Riverside State Park on Saturday read:

“I am fairly certain that given a cape and a nice tiara I could save the world.”

Maybe the members of Sisters on the Fly aren’t about saving the world, but they are about restoring old trailers and putting the glamour in camping – or “glamping.”

You won’t find any man camps with this group. Men aren’t allowed.

Only women and their vintage trailers from the 1940s, ’50s and beyond, decked out with antiques, doilies, beds decorated elaborately with pillows, quilts and old-fashioned suitcases. Outside picnic tables are adorned with fresh flowers, candles, braided rugs, wine glasses and all the creature comforts of home.

Most have a theme.

“It’s like a traveling dollhouse,” said Spokane’s Grace Brown, known as Sister 472. Her trailer, called “Scott with a Potty,” is a 1963 Serro Scotty Sportsman with a black Scottie dog and blue polka dots painted on the side. The inside is an oasis of pillows, Scottie-themed décor and vintage items.

“We get to come here and just be silly,” Brown said.

All members of Sisters on the Fly have a number, usually posted on their trailer. The group boasts more than 1,400 members who hail from all over the country.

The group started in 1999, when sisters and fly-fishing aficionados Maurrie Sussman and Becky Clarke were sitting around camp enjoying a glass of wine on a Montana fishing trip. They decided that more women should enjoy the experiences of the outdoors, and they now plan vintage “cowgirl caravan” outings all over.

“It’s mushroomed,” said Pam Heron, of Marrowstone Island, Wash. Heron is Sister 79, and the first to join from Washington state. Her trailer gets a lot of attention and is over-the-top, all-out cowgirl. There are pillows and trinkets in every corner, nook and cranny.

“It really is a form of empowerment,” Heron said. “When my husband sees me hook up and take off, he has a lot of pride.”

Women hitch up and head out on the road to fish, shop and bond. This weekend’s camp is not a “sanctioned” Sisters on the Fly event; it’s an informal gathering of women from this area. It’s planned around the Farm Chicks Show this weekend at the Spokane County Fair and Expo Center. About 20 women brought trailers this weekend and set up along the Spokane River at the Bowl and Pitcher campground.

“I think we are enchanted with the idea that you get to go somewhere with your home and your personality on wheels. It’s playing house for grown-ups,” said Julie Thorson, Sister 444. “It’s also the ultimate in repurposing and recycling.”

Thorson, of Troy, Idaho, is the editor of Horse and Rider magazine. The outside shell of her trailer has old-fashioned cowgirl decoupage. Her campsite sports numerous country antiques, saddles and fresh-cut flowers.

For the Sisters, there are no club meetings, requirements or rules – except for the “no men” thing. In fact, to be a Sister, you don’t even have to have a trailer; you can tent it.

But most women become infected with the bug and seek out their own trailer to trick out and show off.

Like Rene Groom, of Kennewick, who joined the Sisters after camping in Spokane with the group last year.

“I just fell in love,” said Groom, now known as Sister 1281. She bought her 1967 Aladdin this winter, and this weekend is the first glamping trip with the new wheels. Her trailer has a Roy Rogers theme.

Not all trailers are completely decked out. Yet.

Kari Brewer, Sister 724, rescued her 1958 Corvette trailer from her neighbor’s yard, for $150. This is her first trip out, too.

“This is my girl escape,” the Yakima woman said. “Nobody asks me to cook or clean while I’m here.”

And, like most women in the group, she comes for the sisterhood.

“You meet these women who inspire you, counsel you, challenge you,” added Heron. “I wish every woman on Earth could have what we have here.”


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