Living in it… random pics of Vardo Life in the modern world…

Interior door....

Interior door….

The back yard....

The back yard….

The work/dining area....

The work/dining area….

Molding detail....

Molding detail….

Outside looking in....

Outside looking in….

My guardian on the inside...

My guardian on the inside…

Another view of the work area....

Another view of the work area….

Bed detail.

Bed detail.

Closet area...

Closet area…

Exterior Shot

Exterior Shot

Published in: on April 16, 2013 at 12:25 am  Comments (6)  

Still nothing going on….

Still have a “half a vardo” sitting waiting for the resurrection…. It’s a sad sight, a tarp is covering the structure, and all I do is shake the leaves off. Money and time are my biggest hurdles right now, but “plans” are still rolling in my head as to which direction I’ll be going in. One thing I’m sure of, it will be some sort of Bow Top design for less weight, just weighing the difference between a solid roof or one with folding walls and a canvass roof.

Once I get around to it, I will be posting more pics of the interior wood work of the former vardo…..

Published in: on March 23, 2013 at 4:42 pm  Comments (4)  

Death of a Vardo….

Vardo lovers, a sad thing occured a couple of weeks ago, the vardo is no more as I know it….

I had recently moved my family from Toledo, OH to a city outside Charlotte, NC… to start a new life, and take on a job opportunity. 95% of our stuff went on ahead, using the moving service “ABF”, and the smaller, more personal items were loaded into the vardo, to include a 40 year-old Grandfather clock. It was minus two degrees when it happened….

Southern Ohio, about 2am, about to cross over the West Virginia border. My 2003 Ford F-250’s bed was loaded to the top, and the Vardo on the hitch was loaded too. Couldn’t tell you what the overall weight was, but my truck’s “helper springs” were riding pretty hard. 55 mph and cruise control… that’s all I could do. My fiancee was following behind me with a four year-old strapped to a rocket seat in the back, and her 19 year-old son was sitting next to me. My headlights only lit up the road so much, until I saw a dark object… almost the same color as the road, and as the rocky mountainside.

It wasn’t a Deer….. it wasn’t a Cow….. it was a Pony. A fucking Pony. Standing smack in the middle of the interstate, I did all I could do to avoid it. I did avoid it, however, I wound up in the center median….. several thousand pounds of pure mass, traveling 55 mph, on snow. There was one of those massively large warning signs in my line of path, my traveling companion, clenching his entire body…. saying “sign…. sign!….. SIGN!…… SIGN!!!!!!……”

I managed to miss the sign, but the laws of physics were having a field day. “A body in motion tends to stay in motion…. and for every action, an equal, yet opposite reaction…” My trailer, and the truck, twisting back and forth, as I try to maintain and stabilize this action….. the weight of the vardo overcame the truck and whipped me around. My fiancee is still behind me…. watching….. in awe….. horrified and screaming.

We were traveling South. The vardo whipped me around so fast, that I skidded across the roadway, almost slamming into a rocky mountainside on my driver’s side. Now I’m facing North. The vardo….. The vardo un-hitched itself, broke the safety chains, skidded sideways when a wheel dug into the earth and flipped it, where it skidded on its side 30-40 feet to a dead halt.

My truck… both wheels on the driver side were burried, and my door was about 16″ from a solid rock wall. I got out of the truck, looked down the road, and saw the underbelly of the vardo. My fiancee comes running toward me, seeing if everyone is ok, sees the vardo, and softly, yet firmly says “now what are we gonna do?!?”. You know that place between “bum-fuck” and “Egypt”? That’s where we were…. 2am, and minus 2 degrees. Sweet.

I went back into the truck, engaged my 4×4, and could not get myself free. I called 911, and in about an hour or so, a trooper showed up, and he called a wrecker service. 2 1/2 hours later from the time of the accident, a wrecker shows up, pulls me out first, then scratches his head about the vardo. He raises his boom up high, attaches a hook to the axle up in the air and slowly rights the trailer. Now the damage is apparent. The entire left side of the roof line is broken, the cuppola is split and several roof trusses are broken. But overall, not that much damage on the outside. All the small, breakable, valuable things on the inside, including the Grandfather clock was a different story.

We didn’t want to endure the pain any further. I was able to hitch the trailer back up, and go on down the road. Less than an hour later, my fiancee, who is still behing me, calls me to inform me that the wheel on the left side of the vardo is smoking…. sparking…. catching on fire…. Apparantly, the impact broke the outside of the wheel hub. Next exit, stranded again. 5am, Saturday morning. Nothing is open, somewhere in WV. I waited a couple of hours when businesses open, and to my luck, everyone I called could not help. One man, who was normally closed on the weekends, agreed to meet me where I was. I already had the wheel off, and the hub removed, and when the man showed up, he took the hub to match it “somewhere” and return. I looked at my fiancee, and she at me…. and crossed our fingers. About an hour later, he returned with a new hub, installed it, and we were on our way. This was about 1:30 in the afternoon. So, from 2am til now, it was an endurance trial. And still had 5 hours of driving to do.

We arrive at our new home, beaten and emotionally torn, and waited til the next day to open the doors to the vardo. Everything that was on the bottom, was on top, and vice-versa. Oddly enough, the only thing that broke was a wrought-iron table. The Grandfather clock survived, as well as everything else. The vardo doors were still square, as well as the windows and the framing. But, the damage to the roof is beyond repair. Now it sits, with a tarp over the entire roof, waiting for my next move.

I will be disassembling the vardo, from the ledge part – up. I will be turning the vardo into a bow-top instead.

The moral of this story is, for all you vardo builders out there, and for those who are thinking about building one…. never… NEVER…. skimp, or compromise on good building practices. “Over-engineering” saved the vardo, its contents, and my life. If you are in doubt about something… ASK!! If you have a gut-feeling, follow it. Spare no expense in using the proper tools, material and equipment. You’ll save yourself much heart-ache later down the road, even if a Pony is standing in your way….

Published in: on February 12, 2011 at 10:26 am  Comments (10)  

Gallery of Images

Here is the building process of the vardo, starting from a bare frame to livable condition….

Published in: on October 14, 2010 at 12:22 am  Comments (2)  

One Chapter ends…..

Hello my friends….
It’s been a while since I’ve been here, I’ve been without internet for the past several months, and now I’m back on track. The chapter of living in the Vardo has ended. I’m now back to living in a house, surrounded by stuff, more stuff than I can imagine. The Comedian George Carlin once said “A house is nothing but a place for your stuff…. we buy more stuff…. then we need to get a bigger house to keep the stuff we bought…”
Boy, was he right, and life is a comedy.
It was a humbling experience living in the vardo, stripping yourself down to the bare minimum, things that you need, but not so much what you want. A warm bed, food and some creature comforts. I haven’t had TV for over a year, no couch to sit on for that matter. And with an area 3 feet wide by 7 feet long of floor space, there was no place for a couch anyway! Yet, it was my sanctuary. My little piece of the world that I could truly call “my own”. It’s one thing to build a vardo, and use it for events, as my vardo was originally intended for, but to actually LIVE in one, that’s something else. I don’t know much about the Romany way of life or any other people who followed the same lifestyle… hardly done any research except to look at pictures of Vardos.
With little research, I had a first hand experience in what their life might have been like, but with a little modernism. I cooked outdoors, bathed outdoors (in nice weather, but used the bath house most of the time), lounged outdoors under my canopy, or sitting by the fire pit. Played my drum, and my audience was nature. Then, I thought to myself, “I AM a Gypsy”. Wow.
In February of ’09, I had moved from the KOA where I was to a YMCA campground on a lake. Friends, it’s true, you get what you pay for. I cut my rent in half, had a beach for a front yard with stellar views. But I had neighbors who were addicted to OxyCottin (aka “Redneck Heroine”), and had a habit of calling my vardo “one of them there Cabooses”. Didn’t even bother trying to correct them, I would have dammaged their last remaining brain cells.
In April, I decided to have a bone spur removed from my left foot, and was out of work for a while. I had decided I was in need of a change, and packed up the vardo and moved to Cincinati, OH. Put the vardo in “storage”, and it sat for a couple of months. Things didn’t work out there and moved again to Clarksville, TN in July. I wound up leaving the vardo in OH until the following October, when I went back to bring it to TN. Within a matter of days, the Vardo has been completely emptied. NOW I can finally finish it, after all these years. It was tough living in it and working on it at the same time… there was only so much I could do.
It’s getting a new floor, interior trim, built-in cabinets and benches and exterior paint and trim. Completely different from the pictures you’ve seen already. However, sand was kicked in my face when I was at a financial low-spot…. I had a bunch of material for the Vardo stored at a Public Storage in SC, wood, trim, window stuff, copper flashing, etc… and they auctioned off my stuff late last September because I was a couple of months behind…. without even notifying me. Ghetto bitch.
So, back to square one on many items. Sucks.
In closing… for those of you who are building a Vardo, build it light and strong, and if you have an opportunity to live in what you’ve created, go for it…. it’s a wonderful experience!!! I would’nt trade it for the world!
Published in: on November 6, 2009 at 7:01 am  Comments (2)  

Yup… still here…

Nine months… Nine months of living in a vardo! What an experience! I have become quite used to not having all the creature comforts you would have living in an apartment or a house. It’s been all this time without a TV, and quite frankly, I’m not missing it! I’ve been spending my time talking with other vardo owners and builders, exchanging ideas and helping out… this community is growing!
This vardo has been up and running for over three years now, and the only thing I found that is in need of repair is a small corner of the roof where the rubber membrane became torn due to a branch pulling into a spot for the grand finale of our local Piccolo Spoletto festival. The wagon was set up as a "henna vendor" and dressing room for a bunch of bellydancers.
Other than the small rip, which discolored the wood underneath, overall, the vardo is still in prime condition. I recently went around and gave the exterior trim a couple of coats of much needed polyurethane, and performed some accent painting. Within the past couple of months, I finally finished the trim around the door, and now starting to work my way back toward the bed. The cuppola is now finished, all the windows above are trimmed out… stained and gold leaf applied. Looks good! Next is to paint the exterior of the cuppola, and finish off the roof membrane in a nice brown color.
Published in: on December 27, 2008 at 11:23 pm  Comments (1)  

The saga continues…

It’s been a while since I’ve been here, a couple of things happened in my own personal journey through life, and one of these things lead me to a decision – to actually live in my Vardo! I’ve been living in my craft now for the past 5 months (from the date of this writing), and I am a "modern gypsy". My vardo was never intended to be lived in on a full time basis, only to be used for events, possibly two weeks at a time, if not a couple of days.
I have this thing set up like a miniature "home", complete with computer, stereo, fridge, appliances and a/c (no tv, although I watch movies through my playstation!). I finally created a canopy that attaches to the roof, to create outdoor living space and performed a stained-glass treatment to the windows in the cuppola (pictures uploaded into new album). At first, it was a bit daunting, but soon became used to it, thinking of this little place as my own piece of paradise. I went from a $1,400 mortgage payment on a house that’s still falling apart to a $435 lot rental at a KOA (water, electric, internet access included!). I get alot of passerbys, stopping to ask questions, see what I’m doing, or just smile. I usually respond "It’s nothing new, we’ve just became more efficient at it (as I point to all the fancy motorhomes and trailers), it’s just a modern interpretation on an old design"
Published in: on August 27, 2008 at 2:59 am  Comments (1)  

The conception.

Hmmm… where do I begin? I started with running several ideas through my head as to how it will look. Then I was thinking about features, functionality and construction.
Seeing several different styles of vardos on other sites, they all had unique features. Some had fabric tops, some had solid tops, some came apart and some collapsed onto itself. I chose to take a little bit from all, adapted them to my purpose and started creating.
I did not have plans. I did not create plans prior to building. It was engineered as I went. The trailer frame dictated how I was to attach the floor and walls. Materials dictated how I was to do the rest. I had been saving wood for the project when I first thought about building. I was working in construction as a carpenter, and the amount of wood that was being thrown out over the course of time supplied the means. Before construction actually started, I had saved over a pallet of 2x4s, a dozen 2x12s and various lengths of 2x6s and 2x8s. Materials on hand actually dictated how I was to build.
Napkins, plain paper, notebook paper, graph paper, computer program, scrap wood… plans were written on all, and were all written through the various stages of construction. Vardo building on-the-fly. The roof was actually designed after the walls were standing erect. "O.k., the walls are up, what am I putting on it?"
Being I am a carpenter, and have been working on houses for quite a while, both remodeling and new-construction, when I was building this thing, I was thinking "miniature house" and that it had to sustain hurricaine-force winds as it is traveling down the interstate. The vardo was built just like a house, 2×4 walls, all 16" apart. The framing is held together 95% by exterior grade deck screws and 5% 4" galvanized nails. Lag bolts, carriage bolts, hurricaine straps, hurricaine ties & braces throughout. The framing is bullet-proof.
After the framing was done, the overall dimentions became 8x14x13. While it was still in its framing stage, the size didn’t really hit home until I started to put the skin on it. After the skin was on, and the walls and roof became "solid", I stood back, way back, and said: "My God…… what…. have I done?!?"
Published in: on May 4, 2008 at 11:42 am  Leave a Comment  

The birth of a Vardo..

It was a cold and wet couple of weeks at Pennsic 32, an event I go to almost once a year. Rain was comming down in buckets at times, and a constant mist in others. The local “roads” in this camp site turned into a mudslide, with water becoming calf-deep in some areas.
The waterproofing agent in my tent became bare in some areas, allowing water to come in if the rain hit just right. For several nights, I pushed up on the roof of the tent where the water collected, to expell. If I didn’t do this in time, the collected water turned into a water torture… one drip at a time…. smack in the middle of my forehead. Gahhh.
This was my second event, I was still learning the “lay-of-the-land”, where all the roads go, all the camp sites and the treasures within. One day, as I was walking around this lake, I stumbled upon someone’s creation. Someone had built a wagon to live in at this event. It sort-of looked like an old “chuck-wagon” from a distance, but as I approached, it was painted in all these different colors, with murals and paintings of some Juggler.
Published in: on June 30, 2007 at 10:23 pm  Leave a Comment