Two years ago, copier serviceman Bill Guernsey was travelling through Alaska, visiting several villages along the Kuskokwim River. That’s when tragedy struck. On one unfortunate afternoon, Guernsey crashed his plane into an iced river after taking off from Upper Kalskag.
Fortunately, he was alive, but he was severely hurt. He had seven fractured ribs and his “back was broken in three places,” Guernsey says. “My neck was whacked out and my scalp was ripped from eyebrow to ear.”
For the next two years, Guernsey was doing intensive rehab, focusing on putting his life back together. During this time, he also began work on a project that he had been putting off for years— the building of a 16-foot long bright red rocket on wheels.
Guernsey got so into the project that he was spending about six hours a day, six days a week on the camper. That might sound like a lot for a guy trying to go through rehab, but Guernsey says that his injury actually helped him during the process.
“A lot of the people notice the detail in there. I did a lot of that when I was in recovery because it’s just small bench work that you could sit or stand and just make little things,” he said. “You can work on the details that you wouldn’t otherwise bother with.”
As far as decorating goes, the camper has been fixed as a tribute to Guernsey’s ambitions growing up. Across the walls are dozens of photos and magazine covers, especially classic covers from the 50s and 60s. One of his favorite magazines, Popular Mechanics, is the most popular. In fact, he always loves to point to an August 1959 cover story “Race to the Moon: Are the Russians ahead?” as his favorite wall-hanging.
Concerning his camper’s theme, Guernsey says, “Everything was atomic when I was growing up. It’s the Cold War. The time of the nuclear age and the rockets and the bombs. Everything that came out was going to be powered by nuclear science. Atomic is like the turbo of today.”
Obviously, adding to the nuclear age feel is the egg shape design, which was built on a skeleton of ribs covered with bent wood lathes, and then coated with papier-mache and glass fiber.
The entire vehicle is certainly one of the coolest home projects we’ve seen in some time, as it pays homage to an entire era of scientific development and innovation.
When asked what he would being doing next now that this project was completed, Guernsey said, “I want to build another camper — a 24-foot zeppelin. When I do it, I’ll do a lot differently — it’ll be a cylinder. I’ll stretch it. It will be longer and bigger. I want it to look like it’s manufactured. And it will have an infrared camera — to see the bear in the dark.”