When they go on vacation, Dean and Gloria Danter, of Glenwood, turn a few heads. That is because they have been traveling in a small “teardrop” camper. The camper was made by Dean, but he didn’t use a kit or a blueprint. He just winged it.
Gloria Danter, of Glenwood, sits next to the teardrop camper she and her husband Dean used to travel to Alaska a few years ago. The camper looks like a lunchbox compared to the other campers, but Gloria and Dean say they had plenty of space. Contributed photo
“I saw a picture in a magazine and said, ‘I can do that,’” said Dean. “I had never seen one of these things until I saw it in the magazine.”
Dean started with an old Bethany Chief camper he got from a friend, Oscar Barsness. He tore it down so just the base and wheels remained. Then he started building.
Dean works on the outer shell of the teardrop. Contributed photo
“It took about six months to finish… longer than I thought it would,” he said.
The teardrop camper is 4 feet wide by 8 feet long. It has a sleeping area, his and hers closet, a TV, a hatch area for creating meals, and electricity. Dean went to school for electric appliance repair and was in the commercial refrigeration and heating repair field for many years. He also spent 15 years in the photography business. These mechanical skills came in handy on his project.
“He is my jack of all trades,” said Gloria.
Dean knew this would be a different project than the norm, but he wasn’t worried about completing it.
“We aren’t talking about rocket science or anything,” he smiled.
Once finished, the Danters first adventure was to Alaska.
Right, Gloria and Dean in Alaska. Contributed photo
“It was a six-week trip, and we went about 9,000 miles,” said Dean. “We would stay at private campgrounds, state parks and national parks. To stay at some national forests it is just $5/night. Pretty much all we needed was a bathroom and a shower.”
“We saw Denali, Seward, Valdez, Whittier, and a lot of great scenery in Alaska,” said Gloria. “We saw a lot of wildlife.”
Even though the Danters drove on a lot of rough roads, the teardrop held up just fine. The Alaska gravel is rough rocks, and they are constantly on road repair.
“It worked perfect,” said Gloria. “Everything really worked well.”
Campgrounds are scattered all around in Alaska, so finding a place to park wasn’t an issue. And they even had a way to get connected to family and friends for free with an iPad and cell phone.
If we needed WiFi, we looked for a McDonalds, where we could get free WiFi,” said Gloria.
Gloria on the road with the teardrop, which opens up for storage in the back. Contributed photo
The next big trip was across country to Alabama and Florida. And although one would think the Alaska trip would be the cold one, it turned out to be this trip. There was a big snowstorm that they went through and ended up stopping in Indiana for repairs. The taillights went out on the camper after ice built up, and the ice wore some wires out. They took it to a shop and got it temporarily repaired. When they arrived in Florida at his brother’s, Dean rewired the whole thing.
It was much harder to find a place to stay in Florida than it was in Alaska, said Gloria, so they had to be a little more strategic in where they traveled.
The third major trip they took was to Texas and the Southwest. This trip was a hot one in September.
“It was 100 degrees in El Paso where we visited our grandson, Seth, who is in the Army, but the fan in the teardrop kept us fairly comfortable,” said Gloria. “The fan Dean put in there works awesome.”
Regardless of where the Danters travelled, one thing was constant — curiosity.
“People want to know where I bought it,” said Dean. “Some people were running down the road trying to get a look.”
The teardrop camper is small. That might seem like a drawback, but the Danters said there were times when it was a blessing.
“We could definitely get into spots other people could not because we were so small,” said Gloria.
The Danters, who will celebrate 48 years of marriage this year, do not have their next large trip planned. Gloria plans to use the teardrop more on shorter trips to northern Minnesota this summer to visit family. But, if they change their minds, they can always hop in the teardrop and head out.
“It is easier than an RV,” said Gloria. “You can just go.”