TEXT BY SARAH STEBBINS
PHOTOGRAPHED BY ERIN LITTLE
While the rest of us were stockpiling toilet paper in April 2020, Meredith Brockington and Joe Graffius scored the ultimate COVID prize: a 2003 Montana Keystone fifth-wheel RV. The couple met two months prior at a Portland church group that Joe, who was in town visiting family, attended with his brother, Ben. Shortly thereafter, the addiction-recovery center he worked for in Alaska shut down. In need of a place to stay, he floated an idea with his dad, “What about a camper?” As it happened, his father had a friend with a fifth wheel and Ford truck he was looking to unload.
Meredith, a photographer, was on board with the purchase. “We’re not traditionalists — we want to travel and explore and we don’t think you need to wait until retirement to have that lifestyle,” she says. After their wedding this summer, they plan to live in the RV full-time and use it as a mobile photography studio and headquarters for Joe’s volunteer organization, Cups of Hope, which delivers coffee donated by Portland’s Rwanda Bean — where Ben is COO — and other provisions to the homeless.
The fifth wheel’s decals emblazoned with Montana logos and blue-and-purple mountain ranges didn’t exactly jibe with their artistic/humanitarian vision, so they stripped them off. Inside, they replaced tan carpeting with hickory-like vinyl plank flooring; sanded the mottled-beige wallpaper and painted the walls white; gave the oak kitchen cabinets a forest-green “nod to Maine camps”; swapped out gold light fixtures; and installed a fold-down table, created from a plywood scrap, where a floral sofa had been. From two pieces of oak-trimmed plywood, purchased for $100, they also crafted a headboard (inspired by ones Meredith admired at the Lincolnville Motel), the kitchen countertop, and the bedroom vanity and dresser tops.
ABOVE The bedroom vanity has a plywood top and doors.
Since the renovation wrapped in May, the couple has parked on property owned by friends in Belgrade and Gray. “The goal is to live mortgage free for awhile and save to buy land in Maine,” Meredith says. In the meantime, they’ll hit the road — perhaps touring national parks this fall and staying in the south or southwest over the winter. “We’ll see; the world’s our oyster.”