Irene Rawlings

Sisters on the Fly

During the golden age of trailer travel, from the 1930s to the 1960s, Americans found it easier than ever to get away from it all while taking all the comforts of home with them. A new type of vacation was born that combined the adventure and economy of camping without the need to really "rough it."

In the next four decades, however, people began traveling almost exclusively by plane, overflying the national parks and roadside attractions that were a part of their childhood memories. At the same time, motor campers became more utilitarian but less interesting, as wood and aluminum gave way to molded plastic and vinyl.

Now, Sisters on the Fly—the little girls who climbed into the backs of the station wagons pulling their families' Airstream trailers on cross-country adventures—are rescuing these relics from fields, ranches and farms. They are finding vintage trailers through want ads, in junkyards and on the Internet. They are restoring their finds to their original glory and creating comfortable spaces in which to make new travel memories.

"Our motto is 'We have more fun than anyone,'" says Maurrie Sussman (Sister #1) who, along with her real-life sister, Becky Clarke, (Sister #2) are the founding Sisters. They were sitting in a drift boat in Montana one day, happily drinking a glass of wine in celebration of catching an eight-pound brown trout and thought it would be so much fun to share the experience with friends. Maurrie won't say who actually caught that big trout because, "it is a fish tale, you know." She and Becky were taught how to fish by their mother, simply known as Mazie (Sister #4), when they were just little girls. Mazie also taught them the art of telling a really good fish story.

The two sisters started Sisters on the Fly in 1999, a group that soon grew to a dozen members who met in Montana for fly-fishing. That dozen grew to more than 2,000 women all over the United States, in Canada and Australia, each with a vintage trailer and a story about the trailer's history. Many of the rigs are from the 1950s and 1960s, range from twelve to sixteen feet in length, and contain between 100 and 150 square feet of interior space. Models include the popular Shasta, Scotsman, Aloha, Holiday, Aljo and Empire. "We find if to so comfortable to drag our own bedrooms with us," says Maurrie. "After a hard day of fishing and having fun, it is pure bliss to fall into your own featherbed."

Selected Works

Non-fiction
Hanging the laundry is a labor of love that connects us to our mothers and grandmothers, and to the simpler times spent sharing recipes, remedies and closely held secrets over the back fence. With tips for creating a fabulous laundry room, information on laundry collectibles, hints for easy care of heirloom linens and traditional wash-day recipes like lavender ironing water and verbena soap, The Clothesline puts a positive spin in everyone's rinse cycle.
From restored trailers to all-weather tepees, whimsical yurts, converted packing crates, modular ski pods, inflatable one-room huts, renovated train cars, vintage wooden boats, and even a 747, Portable Houses takes you behind the scenes to meet the designers, architects, builders and owners who will inspire you to choose the portable life style. Illustrated with photos of some of the worlds most ingenious portable structures, this book shows how to make movable homes functional and practical by including tips on acquiring travel tools and gear, problem solving and converting the dream into a highway-legal reality.
What's stronger than campfire coffee and wider than the Montana sky? It's the bond shared by Sisters on the Fly, a group of more than 2,000 women, ranging in age from 22 to more than 90. They enjoy fly fishing, playing poker for pennies, cooking food in cast iron (heavy, yes, but you don't have to go to the gym quite so often) and telling tall tales around the campfire. Sisters on the Fly find (sometimes for as little as $50 in a farmer's field), restore and travel in their uniquely decorated "homes on the range." Their one-of-a-kind vintage trailers have iconic names such as Sister Sioux, Rhinestone Cowgirl and Calamity Jane. Sisters on the Fly features tales from the open road, chic trailer décor, recipes that would make John Wayne himself weak in the knees and plenty of hints and tips to help transform a vintage trailed from "trashed to treasured."

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