It seemed like a good idea at the time.
I was a fairly recent engineering gaduate. My company, Control Tech, paid for a year of specialized training, and grad level courses. I was the corporate expert on the controls and instrumentation of chemical process plants. Part of my time was spent in the main office, doing design and CAD work. A growing portion of my life was spent in the field: startups, turnarounds, and trouble shooting the integration of new controls and technology to WWII era plants and refineries.
Living in motels, out of a suitcase, and only eating restaurant meals was getting old and unhealthy fast. CT offered a per diem, or an expense account, for my onsite costs. The per diem rates hadn't been adjusted lately and didn't meet current prices. The expense account should have been a break-even deal, but had me financing the company, on my credit card, at 23.99 percent, for the month or two it took for CT to get paid, then reimburse me.
The old hands owned large camp trailers, or mobile homes, and lived in campgrounds or parks. Some purchased rural property, built pads, pulled in cable and utilities, and lived there. There was a market for those lots and trailers. Some spent turnarounds, the short, intense, 24/7 shutdown, rehab and restart projects, in the plant parking lots.
Joan's idea was the purchase of a small, light, self-contained camping trailer that I could pull behind my company Suburban. Airstreams were way over my budget. Conventional trailers weren't built well enough, or designed properly for my intended use. Casitas, fiberglass trailers, visually similar to the Airstream, seemed the answer. Casita is a small operation, out in the boonies in Rice Texas, and they don't have dealers or showrooms. Trailers are built to order, and it takes a while. Putting down twenty thousand for something I hadn't seen or touched was a problem for me.
Joan had an answer: long weekend, plant tour in Rice, "gently used" seventeen foot Liberty Deluxe available nearby. Road trip! Joan loved travel, and tent camping out of the Suburban. The owner answered my concerns about the length of the trip by offering an overnight trial of the rig. Two tanks of gas and on the road again.
I met Joan as a high school senior on a campus tour. I was a middler, just starting to intern for CT at the time, conducting tours to help make ends meet. I helped her move in next semester. I showed her the campus, the places to hit in town. We were dating in a week, exclusive in a month, sleeping together in two. She was a nurse. I was an engineer. Our match was made in heaven.
We married when I graduated. In a campus population of thirty thousand, there was never anyone else for either of us. We'd love each other forever. We kept our apartment off campus, now without roommates, for her, and when I was in town. It made economic sense too. I needed a dependant. Uncle Sam now got into my wallet for a quarter of my pay, rather than half! Hey, I said I was an engineer!
The Casita site was impressive. They mold the shells in halves, stack them like two opposed meatloaf pans, then epoxy and glass them together. The internals are also fiberglass and made integral with the shell before the finishes are applied. I was impressed with the quality and functionallity of the units in progress on the shop floor. I was sold!
Our overnight host was impressive too. Dark chocolate brown, he met us in a short wet swimsuit. Every inch of his body was sculptured muscle. He stood a head taller than I, a foot wider at the shoulders, narrower at the waist. I was intimidated. Joan was shocked, her mouth fell open, and I swear she drooled.
Rahmell took us on a brief tour of the farm, by the pool, out through the horse barn, to where the Casita was parked next to a twenty two foot Airstream Bambi.
"Don't laugh," he said, "I'm a male model. I use the trailers for a dressing room on outdoor shoots. I needed more space and headroom, and I'm getting enough work to justify the Airstream." He took us on a tour of the Casita, showed us where the clean linens were stored, and helped move in our bags. He offered the use of the pool and mentioned having hamburgs on the grill. Joan asked to use a restroom, and he took her off to the cabana.
It took longer than I expected for Joan to return, but, as she had changed into a swim suit, I understood. Our time at the pool was fantastic. The water was warm. The food and drink were great. The air grew cooler, but there were gas heaters built into the umbrella stand at the table. Joan brought me one Corona that tasted weird, but I was able to finish it without embarassing myself or our host.
Sleeping in the Casita was everything I'd hoped for: Snug, warm under covers, romantic. Joan was an angel in my arms. A gentle breeze stirred the window sceens. "What do you smell?" I asked.
"No, Silly. That breeze could be carying anything. The salt mist from the Pacific at Malibu. The steam from a lobster pound in New Hampshire. The pinion pine and cactus flower from the Nevada desert. The sagebrush at Dead Horse Point in Utah. A salt marsh. Autumn leaves and wood smoke in Vermont."