The Modern Caravan Scam An Airstream Renovation Review

Ellen Prasse, one half of The Modern Caravan, working while renovating our Airstream

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“This will get finished,” she tells me.

Her name is Kate Oliver and she is the self-described Designer who, as she makes sure everyone knows, multiple times a day, nearly every day, “runs the business.” She’s one half of The Modern Caravan, her partner–in business and marriage–being the couple’s builder, Ellen Prasse.

Kate is telling me that she’s going to get “this” finished because she can see I’m stressed. “This” refers to our family’s 1976 Airstream Sovereign travel trailer, of which I have prepaid $16,800 for three months of renovation work, not including materials.

She’s right, I am stressed. Largely because I have a shed to finish before winter, a project of my own. Partly because between the shed and the Airstream, I’m working like crazy to keep up with the expenses. I’ve spent the summer in the San Juan Mountains digging a 200′ long, 6′ deep trench to lay water and electric lines. I have carefully cleared a small driveway for us all to camp in our respective vehicles, our family in our 2006 Ford Van and The Modern Caravan, including their 8 year old daughter, in their own Airstream. We have all lived as neighbors for around six months at this point, as neighbors, as coworkers, as client and contractor. But mostly, as friends.

Kate is assuring me that The Modern Caravan will be finishing the project because Kate herself has been telling my wife, Renée, “We’re just trying to get as much finished as we can before November 1st.” Never me, only my wife, and though it has left both of us unsteady, we haven’t questioned whether they will actually get it done. They’re our friends, and when they said they’d be done by November 1st, nearly two months ago, I believed them.

November 1st, a full month short of the three months worth of time I’ve prepaid them, The Modern Caravan, who at this point in time are quite certainly our friends.

In the Beginning

“When do you think you’ll be coming?” I ask Kate, via text message. “Anytime is fine with us, but the later it gets, well, it will be cold in October, let alone November.”

Kate tells me they’ll be arriving late August. The contract says early August but we have no desire to force them to do anything that would make their lives any more difficult. As friends, we assume they’ll budget their time as the project requires.

The day they finally arrive, we exchange hugs and niceties, catch up on what we’ve all been up to since we’ve last seen one another, a few months prior during their last job in Phoenix.

“We haven’t had a single happy client yet,” they tell us during this initial conversation. “One client is suing us. Another won’t admit that we built their Airstream for them.” It’s all quite strange, but given that we all are friends, I place the blame on the clients. I like these women, Kate and Ellen. We have been friends for years. We’ve camped next to one another for days or weeks at a time. We’ve gone out of our way to spend time with one another. We’ve supported one another online, emotionally and just as friends catching up. And their clients? They’re all typically quite rich, spending tens of thousands of dollars on materials alone, “Most of our clients spend $50,000 on materials alone,” Kate tells me at one point.

We spent closer to $15,000, not including the labor costs of The Modern Caravan. All told, our Airstream renovation–not including the trailer itself, or the tires, axles, brakes and frame repair–will run around $30,000 by the time they’re done. Or, claim they’ve finished. But that’s for later…

“All of our clients,” Ellen tells me, “they watched us constantly. Looking over our shoulders, tracking our time. The last job?” she pauses, dramatically, “he wouldn’t let us leave until we finished, a couple of weeks late, and he wouldn’t pay us for that time either.” It’s alarming. I feel their pain. I sympathize with them.

“Well,” I respond, “let’s make this a good one. Want to stay here?” I point to the nicest spot on our land, overlooking a lake, water and electric hookups for an RV ready to go, a modicum of privacy that we, living in our van pointing directly at the road, will not be privy to.”

“We’ll see,” Ellen responds to my “let’s make this a good one.” It’s a strange response, and it disheartens me, but I spend the next two months making sure they have anything they need.

I give them the password to our WiFi, a relatively slow network supplied by HughesNet, with a 10GB download limit per month. “WiFi is necessary,” Kate tells me, as though it’s my obligation to provide them with access to the Internet (contractually, it’s not), something that–like all full-time travelers–they should be able to supply themselves if needed. She drains all 10GB within hours, uploading videos and photos of their previous project to their website.

I give them our cell phone booster, so they can continue to access the Internet, watch Netflix at night, work on projects that aren’t ours during time we’re paying for, and generally have a connection to the rest of the world. Meanwhile, we’ll be in our van, and anytime I need to work I’ll have to drive to a coffee shop or down the road at least to get better reception to use my phone’s hotspot. Not much in the way of thanks is offered up for either of these actions, certainly not the words, “Thank you.”

Those words are said at other times, though. Sometimes we cook dinner together, sometimes we all go out to eat with one another. We regularly sit around with drinks, after our respective work for the day is finished, sometimes at the fire pit, other times just wherever the hammers and nails found their day’s resting place.

Ellen helps me and my oldest son, Tristan, hang trusses on the shed I’m building. She generously allows me to use any and all of her multitude of tools, a money, time and life saver for sure. She helps with with electrical questions I have.

It takes me a few days to get the water fully hooked up for them, and Ellen is more patient about it than Kate.

Ellen spends her days working outside, from around 9am to 5 or 6pm, most days. Other days, she drives with their daughter to town to buy groceries or pick up supplies. Kate is rarely seen outside of happy hour, always working away in their Airstream.

Ellen smiles when we’re around, but often looks stressed when seen from a distance, when she doesn’t know anyone is looking. Her work is physical, laborious, and tangible. While Kate’s job is to design layouts and choose colors and finishes, Ellen’s job must be done with near exacting perfection, at least something close enough to it that the photographs Kate will take when the project is over–the ones that will be meant to wow their followers on Instagram–will look fabulous. Small errors, kinks and imperfections can be disguised, but in general the project must actually be done well.

I believe Ellen takes pride in her work. I believe Ellen feels that she does the bulk of the work, but never says that out loud, not to us anyway. She is the first to come out of their Airstream in the morning, holding yesterday’s pee in a jug, crossing the road to find a suitable place to dump it. She works all day, lunch is eaten quickly, and when the day is done she often cooks dinner for their family.

The Design

Kate comes out of their Airstream during the work day about a week and a half or two into the project, a small piece of paper in her hand. It’s the layout she’s prepared for our project. She’s ready to show it to me.

Months before they had even arrived, we sent them a list of things we really wanted to see in our renovation.

I should mention here, in case it isn’t clear, that our family of five has lived out of mostly vans and tents, largely spending our days outside, all over North America for the last ten years. We are no strangers to living simply, and cheaply, and it is precisely because of this that we are now looking to renovate our vintage Airstream, parked on a beautiful slice of lakeside nature, so that we can spend a couple of winters in one place and then rent it out to other people. Spending $30,000 on a travel trailer may seem lavish to some, but we have lived meagerly–usually without even our own bathroom–for many a year and now want something we can invest in, something that can be worth its weight years ahead. That is exactly what I have seen The Modern Caravan build for themselves, and that is exactly why we hired them, our friends, to do it.

screenshot of the Modern Caravan's guilt
The Modern Caravan revoked access to all of our shared documents. Guilty much? Of course, I made copies of everything.

However, I’m also a web designer and developer. I go through the process of designing things based around other people’s needs, wants and what will work best for them all the time. Sometimes those three things don’t always line up, and I know that it’s my job to make certain that the client is not only happy, but gets something close to the best thing they can. I don’t love clients who insist they’re always right, and I don’t pretend to have nothing to learn from them either.

As I look at the design Kate hands me, the small slip of paper with her thoughts, apparently fully fleshed out, I wonder about our list.

“I don’t want to use the fridge you’ve got,” Kate tells me of a 4.8 cubic foot, nearly new, perfectly good fridge we have. “It will break up the flow of the counter.” She wants the kitchen and dresser to line up, with no disturbances, for their length. She suggests another fridge, much smaller. I mention one with the same dimensions, but larger cubic footprint.

“Unless you can get it at 50% off,” she writes me one day, “you should go with my recommendation.” It arrives bent, dented and now–a couple of months later–is already has issues with the door closing. Worst of all, though? It doesn’t run on propane–just 120 and 12v electric. Curiously choice for a traveling Airstream renovator.

"The Modern Caravan did not determine there to be paint on the vista view windows." - Kate Oliver
“The Modern Caravan did not determine there to be paint on the vista view windows.” – Kate Oliver on these, the finished product

In their kitchen, though? A full size refrigerator, as RVs go.

“We can live with it,” I tell Renée, knowing that Kate and Ellen will not be waiting around for another fridge to come in. “We can use this one or wait and have me install it,” I say. Renée shrugs her shoulders in defeated agreement.

Upon first arriving, Kate tells us she can get us a wood stove from Tiny Wood Stove–former travelers and fellow tiny home livers–for free. She tells us how she’s getting a job there and will make us ambassadors or something to that effect. We’ll get a free fridge in exchange for a few posts a month on social media with the stove in the background. Then, she never orders it, or asks me to for that matter.

“It’ll come in December and you can install it yourself,” Ellen tells us about two weeks before they plan to leave. Waiting for December, I begin thinking, and whatever amount of frigid and snow that might entail (it was -3 degrees our first night back in the Airstream) didn’t seem like a great idea. So, I buy a different wood stove, supply all of the parts and…they still don’t install it correctly. Instead of placing it where we’d all agreed, where I’d bought additional parts–at Ellen’s explicit recommendation–to move it to a more ideal locale, they stick it in the middle of the floor. A 1976 Airstream is roughly 7′ wide, so placing a 17″ wide wood stove in the middle of that, with countertops on both of the walls, leaves very little room for little feet to run their daily games without burning themselves.

Left, The Modern Caravan's Instagram photo of where they placed the wood stove. Right, we think it works a little better not in the middle of the floor.
Left, The Modern Caravan’s Instagram photo of where they placed the wood stove. Right, we think it works a little better not in the middle of the floor.

They don’t place anything beneath the stove, either, instead setting it directly onto the wood floors.

“I recommend you get Pergo flooring,” Kate tells me, weeks before.

“I think I’d really like real wood,” I tell her. The Airstream will not be used for travel, often, and I don’t mind the extra weight for when it is. She disagrees fervently and this goes on for days. I look into all of the options, online and at local flooring and big box stores. “I just want real wood,” I tell her.

Renée finds Kate crying, alone in a corner of our land, later that day.

“Kate’s crying,” Renée tells me quietly. “Because you didn’t like the floors she chose.”

“Bunk beds,” Kate tells me another day, “aren’t going to work.” She shows me a second iteration of the design. In lieu of this feature I really wanted, Kate will take up the same amount of space with a long, open dresser spanning half the length of our Airstream. Not wanting to offend her again, I say okay and so my boys will now sleep at the dinette instead.

“You need to get this table leg,” Ellen sends me a link to a $500 hydraulic collapsible leg. It will serve as the sole, middle leg for the dinette. It will cause the table to be radically wobbly, and leave me scolding my children regularly for weeks until I accept that the thing will simply break one day.

“Don’t lean on the table,” I’ll say. “It’s going to break!”

And they, being 6 and 7 year old boys, will forget, want to lean on it, want to sit on it and climb on it and be 6 and 7 year old boys.

I put the table down one day, into the bed mode that it’s collapsibility is intended for, and realize that it’s still too wobbly to support anyone. That same day I read an article online where Ellen is quoted as saying, “Form and function, it’s got to have both.”

“I don’t want the bathroom in the back,” I insist at one stage in the design process, Kate presenting it over and again as the best option, “we like to have sex,” I tell her, blatantly. “And I don’t want my kids walking through the bedroom catching us in the act.”

She reluctantly agrees, and redraws the design to put the bedroom in the back.

“Why did she want to make the bathroom so big,” Renée asks, “when we said a small bathroom would more than suffice if we could have the other things on our list?”

We never do get a door on our bedroom.

“We’re not going to be able to do bunkbeds,” Kate further explains after the rear bath fiasco, as I imagine it played out in her mind. “There would be no room for storage.” It begins to feel like tit for tat, but only Kate is playing.

She explains that we’ll need storage beneath our own queen bed, and presents her idea for the massive dresser. This will be the bare minimum storage needed, she assures, since no closet is designed into the renovation.

“You won’t have storage under the bed,” Kate responds to me one day when I mention something or other we might store under there.

“What do you mean? You said the bed had to have storage, and it would be large since the water heater would be under there.”

“Oh,” she recalls the conversation. “Yeah, I forgot. My head isn’t in this game.”

Reassuring.

In the end, we can’t even really use the storage beneath our bed because, you know, a queen mattress is hard to lift and taking it off to get into our “closet” seems like more effort than it’s worth to just leave whatever it is we need out somewhere.

When Ellen’s finished building it, there will be no vents, no circulation of air at all except what pours in from below. Ellen won’t end up sealing the bottom of the trailer up, and so cold air coming in combined with our sweat at night will cause condensation to occur between the mattress and the platform. We’ll spend each morning lifting the bed up and drying it with a space heater.

This is something Ellen, the builder, should have been aware of…because they later post on Instagram that this exact same thing happened to them.

“We Have to Go.”

“Just gathering up some last minute stuff,” Kate says as she clears boxes of their tools out of my shed while I’m in doing some trim work.

“This is yours,” I hand her some caulking that they had brought themselves.

“Hold onto that,” she says, gathering more of their stuff, “you’ll need it.”

“For what?” I ask.

“Well,” she blurts out, “we’re not going to get everything done.”

November has just turned the calendar and while I knew they had planned to leave on November 1st originally, that date has come and gone and they’re nowhere near finished.

“What isn’t going to get done?” I ask her.

“The plumbing,” Kate says, matter of fact.

“That’s not going to work for me,” I reply. Kate goes into a whole thing about how her daughter’s dad is saying they need to come back to Indiana right now or he’ll take her away.

They are a traveling family, Kate, Ellen and their daughter. While they did tell us they needed to go to Indiana to fulfill some custody order–apparently 28 days or so per year that the dad was entitled to see his daughter–they were going to do it in December and January, thereby fulfilling both year’s 28 day requirements.

Now, suddenly, they need to leave, my family’s home for the winter incomplete.

Kate begins to cry during all of this. I feel for her, I tell her that we can figure something out. “Let’s have a beer,” I offer, Ellen approaching now as well, “and see how we can work this all out.”

They both refuse. Both women have had a beer in their hand every afternoon for most of the summer, but now they’re not thirsty.

“The contract states,” Ellen begins, immediately, to state what she believes their obligations are and are not. But she’s wrong, and I stop her after every statement to clarify. He knows, apparently, very little about the contract, and Kate stands, her eyes squinting, fully aware. I’m surprised, frankly, that Ellen goes so quickly to the contract.

“You don’t think Kate does anything,” Ellen continues, abandoning her contract approach.

“I never said that,” I say, though Ellen is right, I have never ever expressed this to them, or anyone else.

“You know I’m working like crazy, we’ve already used up the three months time,” Ellen furthers her attempts at putting The Modern Caravan in the right. “I work nine, ten hour days, seven days a week,” she claims. She doesn’t. She works approximately eight hours a day some days. Kate sends her to the grocery store other days, or I’ll go to Home Depot to pick materials up on Monday and Ellen will need to go again on Tuesday, for a lack of planning. Still, Ellen works hard and I know this. Kate, on the other hand, is nowhere close to her hours for the project. Still, I don’t say that.

Instead, I say, “If you need more money, I’ll pay you more. I just need this job finished.”

“No one wants you to pay us more,” Kate says, over and over again. “It’s my child,” she says, “I don’t want to lose her.” Her theory is that, after years of traveling around the country far from dad, after dad being an absent parent all of the child’s life, that suddenly a court will rip her daughter from her hands. Following through on this, however, also means that my entire family, young children and all, will be left without a warm place to live in a below zero environment, with no running water, for the winter.

The conversation goes nowhere. I try and walk away, Ellen tells me it’s not fair to walk away. I come back and Kate cries frantically as I simply state, “This is your fault, Kate. You run the business. You told me this would get finished.” They’re the ones who now walk away.

Kate returns and promises to finish. I produce a list of things that definitely need done. They agree, but only if we leave while they finish the job.

We had planned on a trip to see friends and family for Thanksgiving anyway, so we agree. At this point, blindly, stupidly, I’m still trusting them. They invite two other groups of travelers over to help them in our absence, though I have been explicitly told by Ellen that she and only she can do the job, and additional people just get in the way. I’ve offered to help her finish all throughout the project, and for the most part have been told the help was not needed. Just as I’ve been told the project was always on schedule, never looking over her shoulder to verify, as requested.

“I don’t want to lose her,” Kate’s words ring in my ears, my family and I now gone off to Thanksgiving, as I see on Instagram they’ve left our job, still very, very much unfinished…only to spend their next few days hanging out with friends in the desert. So much for dad trying to steal away their daughter, they literally just wanted to quit. They had their money, up front, and now that we were gone, didn’t have to face the shame of bailing face-to-face with Renée, myself and our children as they left us shanked.

Left, a photo of our showerhead as posted to Instagram by The Modern Caravan. Right, what we actually came home to...and the bottom part was frozen so thick it busted the bronze.
Left, a photo of our showerhead as posted to Instagram by The Modern Caravan. Right, what we actually came home to…

What Now?

“No,” Ellen says via text message, “we didn’t winterize your Airstream after we tested for leaks.” She says it so matter of factly, it’s disturbing. I look back at an email Kate had sent, stating she’d finished all of the tasks we’d agreed they would before they bailed. The majority were blatant lies, and though our Airstream is livable–especially were it summertime–it is nowhere near finished.

We return to every pipe in the place frozen solid. All of our faucets, the showerhead, the water outlet and inlet, the freshwater tank, all completely frozen and broken. I replace all of the expensive fixtures and turn off the flow to the freshwater tank, figuring I can deal with that down the road.

There is paint all over the windows and the old aluminum paint showing through in other spots. I will have to move the wood stove into the proper position, build a platform for it. The expensive skylight fans they had us buy, all leaking onto our bed, the table, the floor. The aluminum on the bottom of the Airstream has not been put back on. The brakes and electric hitch, all relatively new, are no longer hooked up, their wires all cut.

I get to work thawing out pipes and the sewer outlet with a hair dryer. I eventually will get everything in working order, buying again things they left broken and spending my own time on hours I’d paid Kate and Ellen for.

“We scrapped that,” Kate would say, “Renée agreed to it.”

“I didn’t agree to that,” Renée would tell me later.

I was okay that we weren’t getting everything we wanted, or even what Kate had designed (Ellen, it turns out, bailed on many of Kate’s design features due to time or will.) Before Kate revealed they wouldn’t finish, I sat for nights in a half-completed renovation imagining the good times we’d have. I complimented them regularly. I was fooled.

Kate, the Designer

I have been designing for 18 years, everything from animations to billboards, business cards to websites. I understand that the client is not always right, however, they are paying, so it is a designer’s responsibility to either appease the client, or help them understand why your design is better than their ideas.

Make no mistake, Kate is very good at picking out colors and finishes. However, remodeling a travel trailer is about more than just pretty wood and oil rubbed bronze fixtures. It is about using the most out of the space you have to work with. Kate made some curious design choices, such as placing the cooktop two inches from the wall. “If I have time,” she told Renée one night, “I’ll put in a backsplash for you!”

This was just more of Kate’s posturing. She loves the glory one receives from a job well done, though she just doesn’t actually want to follow through on the job itself. So with her praise already accepted, the backsplash never went installed.

She also decided that the wall with two large windows on it would be the better place to put the long dresser, the wood stove right inside of the outside door. This means that while you’re washing dishes, you get to stare at a big white windowless wall, instead of out the window at your children playing in the beautiful landscape we managed to secure for this Airstream’s home. Anyone who’s ever done dishes–and Kate is one of those people–knows the benefit of a window in front of you while taking on such a chore.

Kate, the Designer? I don’t think so. Kate the Interior Designer, perhaps, but Kate the Airstream Renovator — she’s got a long, long way to go and I feel for her clients, past and future.

Kate, the CEO

“People don’t understand,” she claims almost daily, “they think I sit around inside doing nothing every day. I run the business!”

To Kate, that means working on their website and putting up pretty pictures of their projects on Instagram. I’m sure it also means staying on top of budgets and whatnot, but from our project, I can’t be sure about that. She had no idea where she was with our budget a few weeks before they quit. “How much did we spend so far?” she would ask.

This, despite the fact that I had shared a spreadsheet detailing the costs with her. She just couldn’t be bothered to look.

She was supposed to be working three months worth of full-time work in two months, but we rarely saw her. When she did come out, during the work day, she would be working on her book, or trying to get a job with Tiny Wood Stove. No doubt she’s doing the same to them, now that she’s their social media manager.

Ellen, the Builder

Ms. Prasse is an amazing and accomplished carpenter. She taught me much about electrical work and aside from the fact that they–purposely, as text messages will reveal–filled our Airstream’s plumbing to the brim with water and then left it for two days to freeze, without telling us, she is likely a good plumber as well.

However, she is doing nearly all of the actual work. For every hour Kate spent drawing pictures without really thinking about how they’d work (i.e., forgetting about the storage she touted as so necessary below our bed, in an attempt to justify her big ol’ dresser, and another time when she said that having a fridge that didn’t allow for a propane mode would be a “big selling point”), Ellen spent a week cutting wood, sanding it, laying floorboards, replacing aluminum, wiring our Airstream and more. Then, she gave up. For all of the patience and attention to detail she spent on the first 75% of the job, she just bailed on the rest.

Ellen is loyal to Kate, to an alarming fault given how the design half of the marriage treats the build side. Ellen will stand by her wife no matter how wrong she is, and that is admirable. Still, knowing who Ellen is, it must tear her up a little inside to know that all of her meticulous hard work goes out the window when her wife decides the project should be over, even when it’s not, and corners get not just cut, but rounded off and left on the ground to rot. We are not the first clients to feel this way, according to The Modern Caravan themselves, “we have never had a happy client.”

The Modern Caravan, the Personality

“Living our truth,” their Instagram profile used to read. But after they shared their side of our renovation–pretty pictures careful to hide the broken pipes, the disassembled brakes, the leaking skylights–and we shared our side of it, they began to receive comments on their Instagram post questioning some decisions.

“That wood stove seems awfully far out into the middle of the floor,” one mutual follower wrote. That comment was deleted. And then another, and another, and another. They claim to be living their truth, but they squash any questioning of their methods or results. Eventually, because of all of this, they deleted one account and made their @themoderncaravan account private.

Mutual friends–actual, real world friends–were blocked, most of which never took one side or another. Kate, and Ellen I’ve come to realize, are simply unstable people afraid of criticism of any kind. They changed their Instagram profile to past tense, “We traveled and renovated Airstreams.”

The Fire with Friends

At one point in our time living here together, another couple came to visit. They were mutual friends of both The Modern Caravan and our family. We spent the first night around a fire, talking about music and travel. Both Renée’s mom and my own were also visiting.

“It’s white men, I hate to tell you, David,” Kate–between dropping f-bombs left and right in the presence of my children’s grandmothers–began her rant. “I’m sorry, and no offense, but white men are ruining this world.”

Perhaps we are, or they are, or however you want to put it. But David, David is not ruining the world. He is a scholar and a librarian by trade, an astronomer and musician by hobby. He is the softest, most gentle man raising two daughters with his wife in a modest home in the New Mexican desert. He cares for his diabetic wife and those young girls as though they were dandelions gone ready to blow their seeds across the field, ever careful to make sure they can go into the world and blossom into what they may want to become but also holding them like precious last moments with a dying lover.

“No offense,” Kate said to me on another occasion, “but he’s a bald fuck.” This was around a different fire, months prior, somewhere in Texas, and I don’t recall who she was talking about but I am lucky enough to join the ranks of Jean-Luc Picard and the Rock as a super sexy bald man. It’s hard not to take offense when someone says something like, “Bald fuck.”

“No offense,” imagine if I said, “but female renovators who travel in an Airstream are fucks.” I think offense would be taken, no?

Of course, I never said anything remotely close to that. I stood by them through all of their daily turmoil, their expressions of disbelief as to how people could not wholeheartedly support their traveling lifestyle, and their general disregard for anyone but themselves (more so with Kate than Ellen, granted.) It turned out to be wasted compassion. The devil isn’t thankful when you offer to light his cigar, he’s just happy to have something more to burn you with.

Halloween

The end of October was closing in, and one day my family erupted from our van in full on All Hallow’s Eve regalia. We were under the impression we’d all be going to town to trick or treat together, but at the last minute things changed.

“Are you coming honey?” we asked their daughter, holding back tears in her superhero outfit from last year. “No, my mom says they have too much work to do.”

We offered Kate and Ellen, away from their daughter, to take her with us. We would be meeting friends, and grandmas of friends’ children, so there would be plenty of supervision.

“I can’t, I would just have too much anxiety knowing she was gone.” She assured us she’d, instead, take her daughter to the gas station to get some candy.

“We just have too much work,” Kate repeated as we climbed into our car, ready to collect our share of treats. I assume they worked into the night, but when we returned they were back in their Airstream.

“Some friends are coming to help us,” she told us the next day. They spent that afternoon and evening not working, but drinking into the night with those friends. The following morning they didn’t begin work until sometime in the afternoon.

Kate used her daughter as an excuse to hide her own anxiety over trick or treating, just like she used her to quit on our project.

But of course, I enjoy drinking myself, though if it meant my kids couldn’t do something or my work wouldn’t get done, I might rethink my priorities.

The Attack

Early on in The Modern Caravan’s stay on our land, a man violently attacked Ellen. I heard the attack through the trees and immediately rushed to her aid. I did everything in my power to scare the man away, and he eventually left, but not before destroying a piece of Ellen.

I was furious. I cried with her, with her wife, all night. I spent several of the following days going to court with Ellen to get a restraining order secured.

Time went by, he never came back, and eventually the day came when Kate and Ellen would tell me they wouldn’t be finishing our project.

“We aren’t really that good of friends, if you think about it,” Kate said to me during what would be our final conversation.

She would go on to tell me about her traumatic past, one that paled in comparison to my own, was worse than likely many others, and all around seemed like a strange conversation to have with someone you just told you weren’t friends with.

And so, having only known one another for years, spent two straight months hanging out together, happily, every day, and…having saved her wife’s life…it became clear to me that no, we were not friends. At least, Kate did not value the friendship my wife and I provided she and hers.

So, Would You Recommend The Modern Caravan?

Unfortunately, no. I did not want to write this. I wrote them time and again asking for some type of resolution. Radio silence. I was encouraged to, by family, friends and several lawyers, sue them. I chose not to. But I do want to tell this story.

$30,000 dollars later, yes, we are left with a more beautiful looking Airstream interior. One might argue that it would be difficult to make anything less beautiful than the 1976 decor we had once tried, but failed, to mask over. But aside from some walnut countertops and nice flooring, we are no better off than we were pre-renovation. Busted pipes and leaky roof, a less functional kitchen, and no brakes. Exterior aluminum hanging from the bottom and our bumper and sewer pipe not secured, we’re nowhere near road ready, which is not an issue for us personally, but would certainly be ideal for anyone who wanted to, I don’t know, travel in their travel trailer. I feel like we got something a little more finished but significantly less functional than I could have built myself, should I have saved the $16,800 I spent on The Modern Caravan’s two months of labor. I don’t doubt that, given additional desire and time, perhaps even money, they could have done better, but the fact is, they didn’t, and from their own mouths, this isn’t the first time they’ve left folks significantly unhappy.

I want to save anyone else, rich or poor, traveler or weekender, from suffering what we’ve had to, from being stolen from and lied to by Kate Oliver and her vision of a modern caravan.

Video of the Modern Caravan’s Work