Friday, June 26, 2020

A journey of a thousand miles..

With one step we made the transition from dismantling to rebuilding. 

After pulling up the original floor and sanding the deck to bare wood. We were presently surprised to find a floor in very good condition.  

On the curbside front, where the cargo door and fresh water drain met, there was a little bit of rot. 
We cut that out and spliced a piece of wood in and tied it to the existing substructure of the floor with pocket hole screws and Epoxy. Mostly this filled in any uneven gaps and helped to level the floor at the transition. 

Once we got to this point we pulled the trailer into the garage and leveled it before installing the new vinyl floor. We thought this would allow for the trailer to be most stable when attaching the cabinets and updating the plumbing. As we hit summer, temps here will be in the upper 90's most of the time and there is no shade until late evening where we were working.

Once every thing was in place we dry fitted the vinyl sheet for the flooring, laid down the adhesive and installed our new floor.

We then took the floor-plan measurements from our disassembly notes and laid out the location of all seats and cabinets on the floor. This will help with measurements for plumbing and electrical, as well as, visualization of the space.

We aren't planning major changes to the original layout, moving the water heater, and adding a gray tank are our biggest changes to the trailer that aren't structural repairs.

Using a flush trim bit and router makes quick work of cutting out the drawer holes for the kitchenette.

We removed old paneling and replaced rotted or broken frame pieces. the face is 1/8th inch cabinet plywood. it's designed to take the primer and Paint we are using to finish all the cabinet work with. We have something special for the ceiling.  (As a hobby I love woodworking and I get to put in wood (unpainted) ceilings, can't wait to see what we do.)

Those tape lines are coming in handy as we fit the refurbished dinette. Almost all new wood on this section, this was close to back door which leaked and water spread through that laminated paneling.

Partial mock up, verify everything fits and gimp covers all essential areas. After we have all the lower cabinets and seating test fitted we will lock it down.

With the holiday and prior commitments to help family with a deck rebuild we will be making light work over the next 2 weeks. Mostly, we hope to finish up the lower cabinet build and paint. 

Just to be sure everything is accounted for, Thor is taking inventory.

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Getting to know you...

Standing on the edge of a cliff. Nearly 30 meters below is a perfect landing in the most pristine tropical waters to be found. Behind you is the safety of flat ground. Life is not lived without experiencing it, to really experience life you need to occasionally step off the cliff. That doesn't mean you don't prepare for that step. (Blindly walking off cliffs can be experience limiting.)

While researching what would be involved in the leap, we ran across two gems of good advice: and We can't recommend either enough. 

After hours (days really) of binge watching Vintage trailer repair videos and reading advice on forums we felt like we could do this. The next 3 weeks were spent removing 13 billion staples 2.6 billion screws,  22 nails and about 300 lbs of caulking. Before you start taking anything apart photograph everything from every angle. We have several 100 pictures of how things were assembled in addition to the damage we were repairing. (As we start reassembly we missed some things and will have to figure those out.) 

We won't say much here but some pics to show what we found.

This picture shows the wing is not much more than rot dust and one benefit of all the caulking is it effectively made a mold of the skirt board. From about halfway forward in the cargo hatch that is not wood but caulking and silicone.

We got the curb side off, We messed up we forgot to take the roof off first. just the excitement of doing this we got ahead of ourselves. But note all the rot on the paneling in lower front and several inches missing in lower back. There is no skirt board, and if you look carefully the rear section of wall has started to collapse, 3 inches of rotted paneling and 2 staples are all that is holding that on. (Honestly I got a little sick thinking we pulled this 300 miles round trip with family for our first and only RV trip outside of our yard.)

Street side rear of the trailer. everything left of the brake light mount disintegrated when we tried to pull apart, We don't have pics of the curb side as there was nothing there.

Good thing there was those 12v wires in here as there was no wing or front framing left.

Piece by piece the walls came "tumbling" down.
And we still have a functional camper. A flat place off the ground to sleep and a place to take a seat and contemplate all the choices that have led us to this point. My favorite feature is the drop top roof for those starry nights. All the necessities. :)

Warning: This privy has no privacy.

What we learned about Thelma:

She is a tough lady; she certainly has seen some things in life and has not always been in the healthiest of relationships. She has weathered storms, including one that put a tree branch through her roof. Through all the abuse and neglect, she held it together to get to this point. Together, we have broken her down, seen what she is made of.  She is solid at the core and has a good heart. We will spend the next several months helping her put her life back together as thoroughly and completely as we can. 

With help from friends, old and new we will see a new and improved Thelma. 

Because we got to know you and we fell in love with you.

Tuesday, June 23, 2020

Adventure Awaits...

When we left off, we were about to remove some of the skin, aluminum siding. Regardless of what you see on YouTube, you need to remove exterior panels to properly repair frame and paneling damage to a travel trailer. Its time consuming, but not hard to do. (you will have nightmares about staples and rusty screws, for sure, but not hard work.) We got the J-rail off and started to pull staples. Turns out, they weren't attached to the frame, well because, there wasn't any frame. The lower front curbside wings had completely rotted away, the skin was attached to itself and the J-rail.

This is Thor, he has been checking on every step of the process. he loves his trailer and will not let us mess her up. 

This is Thor, he has been in on every step of the process he loves his trailer and will not let us mess her up.

At this moment, just like you reading this, we said, "What have we done?!" We immediately saw what looked to be a complete waste of money. We bought this trailer to spend a year or two in it camping and testing out RV adventuring; here it is disintegrating before our eyes. Before going to far off the deep end let's see what else she is hiding.

As you can see the front panel was rotted pretty good as well. We tried just to replace the frame structure, but the sheet paneling was to rotted to provide any strength so we pulled that out and rebuilt it. 

Heya decided to join the team, because you can't have enough supervisors on a job.

We got the new panel built and its about here things took a drastic turn. Taking a break from the panel build, we went back to Thelma and did a little more investigating. Just with what we had opened up so far we can see both side walls need paneling replaced, neither of the front Skirt board had survived in tack. The walls had pulled away form the trailer leaving a 3/4 to 1" gap along the floor. A previous owner resolved that issue by pumping tubes of Caulk and silicone in the gap. Now caulk is wonderful stuff, but not sure it was intended to keep a 3500 lbs trailer together running the interstate at 65mph. Just a guess though.

Kinda hard to tell but the bright white spot and the gray bubble just below are about an inch thick line of caulk that runs from the front to the wheel well. This was on both sides. All the screws had rusted out as well. 

We stopped and went to look at new trailers and investigated how much it would cost to haul this one to a salvage yard/dump. It felt like it was worth the loss to not deal with this. Timing of things plays an important role in life's decisions. With most of the country shut down due to Covid-19, we didn't have anywhere to go. A new trailer while not financially out of reach would have a huge impact on the traveling budget for the next few years, and we haven't even tested RVing to see if we really liked it. We already know we like to remodel. So....  Why not?

Thelma even warned us the very first time we met.

Adventure Awaits....  You just don't always know what it has in store for you.

Monday, June 22, 2020

Welcome.. We didn't know what we didn't know!


Summer of 2019 we bought a vintage travel trailer, a 1972 Aristocrat Landmark (Thelma). Our intention wasn't really to get a vintage trailer but to find a used trailer with a floor-plan that worked for our family and didn't break the bank. We had a budget set to begin shopping on craigslist and local RV centers, and actually very quickly found several that appealed to us. 

Because we were, and still are, very new to RVs, we began to talk to others looking for tips on how to buy a used trailer. We got a lot of great advise. Perhaps the most important thing we could pass along to anyone starting out, "make sure you take someone that knows trailers or motor homes very well when you tour a prospective unit." (We didn't do that, do as we say not as we did.) Its amazing the things you will miss just because you don't have experience with trailers or coaches. Just because you work on cars or flip houses doesn't mean much, RVs are their own beasts.

Back to Thelma, We did research before buying but really just didn't have the experience needed to make good decisions. Her pics on craigslist were great. No she isn't a classic curvy canned ham that everyone seems to go after, She was more earthy, she came from a time when style was giving way to function. She welcomed you in with light walls and comfortable warm tones. She felt like a cool summer's night parked on a northeastern beach with the with sun sitting behind you and a line cast out into the waves. 

That's right, we lost objectivity. 

We checked the things we know: what condition were the tires, the frame, was the floor solid, do the appliances work? Do the lights work? we asked questions about maintenance, did it ever leak?

What we didn't know was how to interpret what we saw and heard. And, as mentioned, we had lost our objectivity. She felt comfortable. We found a couple things wrong, tires were rotted, "the trailer was parked in the sun so it got to them". There was evidence of a leak in front cargo hatch, "the light leaked one year and we fixed it so should be good now, as it hasn't leaked since".  A lot of people would blame the sellers for not fully disclosing their experiences while owning the trailer, but the responsibly really was on us to know what we were getting into. 

We took Thelma out a couple times at the end of the summer and found things weren't adding up. The new floor wasn't installed correctly and pealed up, the "fresh" paint on the interior caused the veneer on the paneling to peal away. The light that was"fixed", it still leaks, along with the two vent stacks and refrigerator vent.

Before winter we caulked the areas that leaked, and set out on a plan to fix the light and repair what looked like minimal rot on the front of the trailer (in that cargo area under the broken marker light).

About 2 months ago, spring of 2020, the Season the Earth Stood Still.  We started those repairs to get ready for a delayed camping season. We had material and some more knowledge, the how to video kind. What could go wrong you say?

That's were this blog will really start. 
We will have a few quick updates focused on what we found when we sat down and really started to get to know Thelma. (Getting caught up to where we are today. Get an idea of where she has been and where she may yet go. We'll try to share as much as we can about the things we learn along the way. 

Thelma's journey, like so many others, didn't start the way we thought it would. But, we think it will be an adventure to share.

A journey of a thousand miles..

With one step we made the transition from dismantling to rebuilding.  After pulling up the original floor and sanding the deck to bare wood....