The real work begins…

Anybody that has done any do-it-yourself type of renovation or construction project will relate to my next statement.  Everything is more work than you think it will be.  Of course, there were aspects that went incredibly smooth, but even those took more time than expected.

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Pre-gut Video Tour of Trailer

As far as the condition of the trailer goes; remember when I said at first glance it wasn’t that bad?  Well, subsequent glances really started to contradict that statement.  A few pieces of the aluminum sheet that lined the walls were loose.  They were bent up and dented so the intention was to replace them, and now that we owned the trailer we could remove said panels and look in behind the walls.  What hid there was nasty.  Mice had made a home.  And I learned that mice will shit where they sleep.  With one panel off we could see the mice and their shit carried on behind the next one, so down it came too.  And the next one, and the next one, and the next one.  It became apparent very quickly that we would be gutting the trailer shell completely.  Haz-mat suits and masks were donned and the demo began.  The cabinetry was removed as well as appliances, water tank, water heater, furnace, shower and so on.  You get the idea – everything.  Everything was cleaned and treated with a kill all type spray to which I can’t recall the name of.  Typically, demolition work in a home can often be done with a few basic tools (Sawzall, hammer, big pry bar) and brute force.  Aluminium trailers are nothing like that.  Everything, and I mean everything, is secured, joined and fastened using rivets.  Lots of rivets.  Did I mention that shit loads of rivets were used?  I could happily go through the rest of my life without touching another rivet.

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With the walls all stripped and the trailer empty the next logical step was to repair the floor.  Fortunately, there were no rivets used on the floor.  But that is not to say that the floor wasn’t a royal pain.  It may have been one of the most difficult components to repair.  And now, with all the cabinetry removed we could see the condition of the entire floor.  Sitting for years, not covered, with broken roof vent covers allowing in all the elements it is not how I would suggest one store a camper they intend on using again one day.  All around the perimeter, there were soft spots and signs of rot.  The original 5/8” plywood all had to go.  We began that pain-staking process.  5 feet at a time a process of steps was followed and repeated.  The original construction of the trailer before any indoor buildout went as follows; build frame out of steel, lay thin fiberglass insulation across the top of the frame, cover the frame with plywood and screw down, drop upper shell onto plywood and secure upper shell through plywood and into the steel frame below.  So here lied the problem.  We did not have the means to lift the upper shell off the floor.  Many professional restorers will do just that.  And it makes sense because it really would be easier, if you could.  But we couldn’t.  5 feet at a time we removed the plywood, chiseled and broke it out from where it sat under the walls, supported the walls while we cleaned up everything below, including a squirrel’s winter stash.  I hope he’s doing ok.  The squirrel that is.  He had at least 2 lbs of sunflower seeds stashed below in the floor and I think he may have been sleeping there.  He certainly didn’t shit there.  I like squirrels.  Mice, not so much.  After a week or so we had the floor replaced with new 5/8” plywood, new r20 insulation below, and repaired a few broken welds that tied the cross supports onto the main front to back frame rails.

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With the floor mostly done and a flat surface to stand on again it was time to look at electrical and plumbing.  Just like a regular home, these items need to be completed before any walls are closed in or new cabinetry is installed.  Fortunately for me, I’ve met some great people through the years that were both excited and willing to help with the aspects I’m not well-versed in.  Electrical and plumbing would be what I’m referring to.

Fraser, who own NextGen Automotive and is a shop neighbor came through and did all the wiring except for the 120V wiring.  Starting with the exterior, all marker lights (18 I believe), which were a mix of numerous assorted styles as they’d been slowly replaced over the years, were replaced with new LED lights.  The original taillights were disassembled, cleaned up, repaired and re-installed.  All wiring associated with those lights, the trailer brakes, a new break-away kit, and the harness was replaced and re-wired with a new harness to connect to the pickup.  Cory, from Rooter Man, also a shop neighbor, came over and replaced the old propane lines and installed new regulators for the tanks as well as shutoffs prior to each appliance (water heater and furnace).  And I did the 120V wiring.  In a later write-up, I’ll detail all the electrical components and a review of their performance after we’ve had some time to use everything.

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With the “behind the walls” work is done we were ready to start finishing the inside.  But first, insulation.  The trailer appears to have been spray foam insulated from the factory.  Impressive for 1973.  I feel though that it was less about insulation and more about providing rigidity to the aluminum walls.  It worked.  It held up quite well over the years but was thin in many places.  We called in a spray foam company to top up the spray foam and try to fill the 2” thick walls as best as possible.  And of course, that didn’t go smoothly either.  We were experiencing slightly cooler than ideal temperatures so the foam didn’t set quick enough.  It pushed all our wiring outwards instead of setting around it.  It ran and pooled and cured in grapefruit size lumps, most of which would have to get cut off.  I need a beer break.

Soon the fun stuff begins…

Devils Tower- Americas First National Monument

By: Angela

 

On December 13 we visited Devils Tower in Wyoming. It is a pretty amazing thing to see. We were able to drive all the way up to the top parking lot with the trailer since it is their quiet season.

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The dogs, while not allowed on the trails around the monument, were allowed to wander around the parking lot area and picnic areas. Dylan and I wandered up the trail to see Americas first national monument up close.

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It felt good to be able to stop for a short visit and stretch our legs out. Could not resist taking this picture on the way out when we saw the sign “Do not feed the prairie dogs”

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We also attempted to get a group shot of us but that will take some practice to get down pat. Hard to take a picture when two (Gus & Rubix) out of four dogs are stranger dangering the person taking the picture.

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The start of things to come

Building a home is no easy task.  In fact it’s an assembly of numerous not so easy tasks all performed by people who’ve spent years learning and honing their skills.  In part I’m sure that’s why it looks easy.  But as I said, it isn’t.  And yet despite knowing full well that it wouldn’t be easy we decided to do it, telling ourselves “we’ve got this, it will be easy!”  So with with the delusion meter set on full we jumped in and began the frustrating, tiring, maddening, infuriating, defeating and not the least of which; rewarding process of building our new home – on wheels.

It was sometime in June or July of 2017 when we decided it was time for an adventure.  We left the beautiful province of British Columbia in 2011, I think.  I really can’t remember.  I think that’s part of getting older?  So, let’s say in 2011 we moved to Saskatchewan.  At the time it was the land of opportunity in western Canada.  A booming province with good paying jobs was exactly what we needed to kick start life.  Make money, buy house, save for retirement and general adulting.  Fast forward to June 2017, or was it July?  The point is it’s been 6 years and we’ve made money, not bought a house, not saved for retirement, and the idea of adulting in some respects is less appealing than ever.  It’s time for a change.  We want to move back to B.C.  We are outdoorsy, mountain loving folk and we miss it.  B.C. will be home again.  Before it becomes that though we knew we needed a break.  We need to “find ourselves” again and put some perspective on life.  We need an adventure.  We need to spend time with each other and with our much-loved furry friends experiencing new things.  So, with that in mind we set out to travel and explore a bit of the U.S.A. prior to our move to B.C.

Planning for the Adventure

If it was just the two of us we’d throw a tent and the usual camping gear in the back of the truck and hit the road.  But it isn’t.  We have 4 dogs.  Yes, 4.  And none of them fit in Angela’s purse.  Erika, a 12-year-old black lab that thinks she’s 2. Jake is a 9-year-old Australian Shepherd – he’s awesome but he’s also an asshole.  Rubix is another Aussie, she is 5 and has the energy of 5 other dogs in her at all times.  And then there’s Gus.  Gus is a 2 or 3 year old Great Pyranese mix (border collie maybe?) that sort of landed in our lap and has stayed, and he’s scared of the world.  Jake is a jerk to Gus.  So we needed an adventure home for the next 5-6 months that would comfortably accommodate 2 adults and 4 dogs (1 asshole).  We began looking at travel trailers that would work with some minor modification such as removing the dining table and putting some kennels in place.  We found a few that would have worked but upon closer inspection each had issues such as soggy floor, leaky roof, rotten walls and so on.  Then we came across a 1973 Streamline.

“Hey Dylan check out this Airstream!”  Angela has a thing for Airstreams and VW camper vans.  I thought they were cool but I was skeptical.  The ad said things like “great shape” and “all original”.  I didn’t really want or have time to get into a big project.  In July we discussed leaving at the end of October.  So that was only 2-3 months to get our shit together.  We had to deal with our possessions, be it selling or storage or whatever, wrap up work, find a trailer, modify trailer, get the rest of our shit together and get on the road.  Multiple times a day for weeks on end we were scouring the classifieds across 3 provinces looking for “the one”.  Finally in mid August I called the guy about his Airstream.  “Well it’s not actually an Airstream, it’s a Streamline”.  What the hell is a Streamline?  Well it’s what you think an Airstream is but a different brand.  “But it’s in excellent condition, all original, just has a couple bullit holes in it”.  Excuse me?  “Ya well it’s been in storage in a yard and some kids decided to use it for target practice.  But the holes are just in glass that can be replaced.”   So after many questions and a couple days of back and forth with assurances from the seller that it is exactly as he says it is, we agreed on a price and I sent him a deposit to hold it until we could make the 700km trip to pick it up.

2 weeks later we roll into High River, AB to pay the balance on the trailer and take our new future adventure home home.  We met the seller at his place and followed him a few blocks to the storage compound to see the trailer.  First impressions were good.  It appeared straight, the bullit holes weren’t as bad as I’d pictured in my head, the tires looked new, and it appeared to be in original condition.  Then we went inside.  The inside is where the “great shape” stopped.  At first glance it wasn’t too bad.  A few soft spots on the floor, mostly in the corners, appliances were rough looking (I still have no idea if they worked), the bathroom needed a serious cleaning, and it seemed the front 7 feet was missing whatever was supposed to be there (chairs? booth? couch?).  After a fairly thorough inspection Angela and I got back in our truck to discuss.  There was no way we were paying what we’d previously agreed to.  But it was cool.  It was really cool.  Thoughts of what it could be overwhelmed the reality of how much work it would be.  But we just drove 700km and the seller has a sizable deposit that I have a feeling he’d already spent.  So, we negotiated further until reaching a number I was comfortable with considering the extra repairs needed.  700km later we had the beast back home.  We were excited!  What did we get ourselves into?

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The real work begins.

to be continued…