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Dillsburg man makes Gypsy-style caravans

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Chuck Rhodes speaks with Gypsy caravan builder and author Tim Lemke. Chuck Rhodes speaks with Gypsy caravan builder and author Tim Lemke.
The inside of one of Tim Lemke's Gypsy caravans. The inside of one of Tim Lemke's Gypsy caravans.
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By design, they are low-cost, light weight travel trailers and ideal for camping. But wherever they go, they get attention.

Author of the book, "The New Gypsy Caravan," Tim Lemke said at one time he's had a line of 10-15 people waiting to look at his trailer.

And to Lemke, that's part of the fun of his bow-top shelters, designed and built in the spirit of traditional Gypsy caravans. His caravan models are now found all around the world, not only at campgrounds, but in back yards as spare bedrooms and playhouses.

"I started researching Gypsy caravans because I knew that they were really efficient [and had] a couple of hundred years of experience that I didn't have. And that's where the idea came from," said Lemke.

His caravans are built to be carried on standard trailer frames, towed by a small car or truck. Carefully planned interiors combine cozy sleeping areas with practical storage space. But not much else.

 "Two [people in here] is nice.  Three is a little uncomfortable. Four -- hope your children are small," he said with a laugh.

Lemke said it would be fair to describe these as tents with an attitude.

His original caravan, 20 years ago, featured more authentic-looking -- but heavier -- tongue and groove wood. Later models adopted thinner plywood panels, a lighter polyester canvas top with insulation, extra windows for ventilation and more efficient shutters to guard against the elements. The response to his caravans encouraged Lemke to publish his own "how to" books for those who want to make their own.

The hard part? Keeping the instructions simple.

 "That was really the challenge," he said. "In fact, we simplified it from the original one to each successive generation."

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