Memorial Day to Labor Day

Before I launch into my “Oh, where did the summer go?” post, I just have one thing I want to mention…

Sisters On The Fly!

I have been coveting a membership into this collection of fantastic women since before Gracie and I met. If you aren’t familiar with them, they are a group of women who travel independently all over the country in mostly vintage campers. The group started in 1999 when two actual sisters went fly-fishing for the first time and decided that more women should get to do this outdoorsy stuff. Why don’t we do this more often? This camping thing is FUN. So they started Sisters On The Fly. If you are at any camper event, you can spot a SOTF camper almost immediately. Most of them are colorful, creative, and sometimes wacky. Their motto is “We have more fun than anyone.”

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A SOTF caravan is a sight to behold. 

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You don’t have to want to be a cowgirl. But I think it helps.

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More my style.🙂

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Goals.

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Wait for meeeeee…

You don’t have to like fishing to belong. They do a ton of activities and rallies. They also fundraise for various charities, like breast cancer research. They take care of each other. And there are only 4 rules when camping with The Sisters:

  1. No men.
  2. No dogs.
  3. No kids.
  4. Have fun.

The original sisters are Sister #1 and Sister #2. It is safe to say their idea has caught on. I am proud to announce that I am Sister #7537. It is my goal to get to at least one of their events next year. I am missing one next weekend in Hocking Hills, but we just aren’t ready yet. But next year? Hang on, ladies. I’m on my way.🙂

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Presents in the mail that made me giddy. Squeeeee!!!

So…what have we been up to lately??

Do you remember the beginning of summer? So many ideas. So many plans. I brought Gracie home on Memorial Day weekend, and I thought, surely, we would be out and about by now. Sure, she was looking pretty rough, but “some paint, a few throw pillows” as they say. Yeah, about that.

My goal for getting her ready to camp was that she needed to  be mold-free, leak-proof and have a bed. As of this weekend, WE ARE THERE. Sort of. Darn water. But we carry on.

Where we last left our heroine, she had freshly installed walls. Yay! That paved the way for getting the bed frame reinstalled. It took a little longer than anticipated, really only because regular life insisted on getting some attention and I had to take some time for that. But this weekend, I intentionally left the days free to get back to work.

The original bed frame went back in mostly intact. It’s kind of fun to take things OUT of my garage for a change.

The frame is built to accommodate a sofa that pulls out to a bed. But I was skeptical of how sturdy the fully extended bed was, and I don’t really anticipate needing it as a sofa. There is still the dinette at the front for sitting. So I am going to leave the bed out full time. That means some reinforcement was necessary.

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Framing. So nobody falls through. 

Once the framing was added, it was easy to slide the platform back on. Bed!

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So now it looks mostly like it did when we started. 

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The new foam isn’t here yet for the cushions, so for this little test, an air mattress is required. 

In case you were wondering, that is a twin mattress, which was just undersized for the platform. The actual space is referred to as a 3/4 full bed, which is just under a standard full mattress size. Quite comfy for one. Quite cozy for two.🙂

That does it. This calls for sleeping. Which I did.🙂

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Have we talked about this stunning quilt from my great-great-aunt? I love it. Thanks, Mom.🙂

The outside temps dropped below 60 on Saturday night, and it was a little chilly, but I attribute much of that to the air mattress, which is the reason I don’t like them very much. The second night I upgraded an additional blanket and brought out the heating pad, and was quite comfortable. I am looking forward to getting the new foam for the bed. Waking up in the camper is one of my new favorite things. Happiness.

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One of the other goals of the weekend was to make sure the van and the camper work well together. We have that pesky BMV appointment for the title on Wednesday next week, so I am nervous and wanted to make sure there are no problems with the hookup or towing. It took 2 months to get this appointment. I reaaaaaally don’t want to miss it because of something I overlooked.

For anyone doing this alone, these babies are life-savers. Solo Hitch Alignment System. Thanks to these telescoping poles with yellow markers on the ends, I could easily see how far the ball was to the hitch while I was backing up.

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You can tell from the nice shiny hitch in this photo that this is not Gracie.🙂

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Booyah.

I got pretty good at aligning the hitch and hooking up. The towing was the scary part. But I took her out twice to the neighborhood school parking lot to practice backing up and parking into a spot. I’m still no pro, but after about an hour, I was feeling more confident with how she moves in reverse. So now I’m not quite so scared to get her to the other side of town (HOLY CRAP) in 2 days.

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Success! 

So hold some good vibes for us. Because with any luck, I will have a post coming soon that involves the State Highway Patrol, a Common Pleas judge, and a beautiful shiny new TITLE.

Stay tuned!!!

Slow and Steady Wins… Something.

I know my progress posts are slow coming, but I really wanted to be able to show something for your patience, and until recently there wasn’t much to report.

Deconstruction goes really fast. Putting it all back together is achingly slow.

I got a little hung up once everything was torn out, because I wanted to test all the tail and marker lights before I covered all the wiring back up. But without a tow vehicle close at hand, there was nothing to hook up to. At some point, my neighbor took pity on me and volunteered to come over with his battery and some test wire, so we could hook it up and see what shines.

Scott

Thanks, Scott!

Luckily, the brakes and turn signals work great. Not so lucky but also not surprising, 3 of the 4 clearance markers were not working.

clearance markers

In case you were wondering, this is a clearance marker light. They go on the sides of the camper. Look how shiny and pretty the new ones are! 

Not to worry, VintageTrailerSupply.com to the rescue. (Tip: if you are a stock buyer, now would be a good time, as I fear I will be giving them most of my salary for the foreseeable future.)

Once the new lights were installed, and poor Scott had to come back over to test them again (I pay in chocolate chip cookies), we were back in business! All the lights work! Halleluiah! Now… on to the inside stuff, finally!

lights

New marker lights and reflectors. Old paint job. One thing at a time, people. We’ll get there.

For this construction part of the experience, I knew I was going to need a lot of time to plow on through, so I took a week of staycation and spent most of it in the camper. I started Friday night, with the purchase of foam insulation board.

I made one pass at the pink roll fiberglass insulation, but it expands rather quickly after you unroll it, so it doesn’t stay tight inside the studs, making putting the wallboard over top tricky. So back to Lowe’s I went for foam board. (P.S. Lowes is blue, Home Depot is pink. They are basically the same product and the exact same price.)

trial insulation

Nope.

insulation

I had them cut the boards in half so they would fit in my car. Except they still didn’t, by about 2″. So I was that crazy girl in the parking lot hacking away at her newly purchased insulation board with a knife trying to get it home. It worked.

Foam insulation board is sold by the 4’x8′ sheet and comes in different thicknesses. I chose 1″ thick, because it fit nicely in the framework. Each board has an R5 value (that has to do with the insulating value, if you care) and was $17 a sheet. It took almost exactly 2 sheets to do these 2 walls. (I was kind of proud of my layout skills.) It cuts super easy with a utility knife and you don’t have to be a wiz at measuring or cutting because wedging it into the space if it’s a smidge tight actually helps hold it in place. Win.

cutting

Yes, that’s my quilting tool. It has proven to be one of my handiest tools ever, time and time again.

This actually didn’t take very long, about 4 hours including breaks. Good thing, too, because this was one of those 90+ degree days and Gracie was getting a bit hot. Interesting tidbit, though… before I installed the board, I put my hand against the aluminum on the inside of the camper. Towards the bottom of the wall, it was about room temperature. Towards the ceiling were it was taking direct sunlight, it was at least 30 degrees hotter to the touch. Yes, you need insulation. Unless you want to hang out in a giant Easy Bake Oven. That’s up to you.

I was worried about how to do the ceiling panels overhead without them falling down while I was working, until the walls go back up, but that ended up being a pretty easy fix. Because they wedge in pretty tight, and they are so light weight, gravity didn’t really play much of a factor. On the panel with the most curve, I used 2 narrower pieces to catch the curve, and added a couple of small nails to hold it against the siding.

Once all the siding was in, it was time to tackle the walls. It took me a minute and some frantic Facebook trolling to figure out how to make templates for walls that are not straight. The side walls of the camper have a pretty significant curve to them. But my trusty compass was the answer (thank you geometry and Tim for the tip), and I was able to trace the curve (more or less) onto poster board. Then some trial-and-error and a lot of painter’s tape resulted in a template that was pretty damn close. From what I could tell at that point. (foreshadowing)

Once I was happy with the paper templates, I traced them onto cardboard, so I could dry fit them onto the walls. Now I had cardboard templates that were easier to work with.

From the cardboard, I was able to trace the 2 curve wall sections onto the plywood. Oh, we should probably talk about plywood for a second. (yeah, that doesn’t really excite me, either). The interiors of most vintage campers are constructed with 1/8″ birch plywood. It is beautiful, and exceedingly hard to find around here. Even the lumberyards didn’t have it and weren’t sure where to order it. Besides, even if I could find it, it is REALLY expensive, and wouldn’t match the 60 year old panels I’ve already got. Since there is no way to match them and I’ll have to paint the interior anyway, why spend that much money? So instead, I opted for 1/8″ utility board. The 1/8″ is really important, because the back wall of the camper curves significantly from the floor to the ceiling. It’s gotta bend. It’s about $5 a 4’x8′ sheet. I needed about 3 sheets to do these 2 walls. The bigger problem was getting them home. Luckily, I have a beautiful helpful friend with a van who came with me to Home Depot, helped me load them up and bring them home. It was over 90 degrees by 10 am. We were a mess. But we got it done. Thank you, Tracy!

Next up… man tools! Just kidding. If you were unaware, there is no such thing as man tools. Unless you are talking porn, which we are not. These are *power tools*. There is no mystery here. They don’t use muscles, they use electricity. And I had to explain that to someone recently. So don’t make me say it again. Away with mysogeny. Bring me my power tools! And you had better not make them pink, or I will throw something heavy in your direction.

man tools

I had every intention of doing a video of me using the jigsaw, but I was by myself and my videography skills are even worse than my cutting skills, so that didn’t work out. Use your imagination.

This is the part that has made me the most nervous so far… cutting the plywood. A.) I have not used a jigsaw before. B.) I don’t entirely trust my template skills. C.) I really don’t want to have to make Tracy haul back to Home Depot to get more plywood if I do this wrong. Please don’t do this wrong.

 

Here’s what I have learned about using a jigsaw if you have never done it… (if you have, you can skip this paragraph). *Get a new sharp blade, with a high number of teeth. I used a scroll blade. *Secure your wood tightly to the table. This is tricky with 32 square feet of floppy board and makeshift equipment. I clamped it to my tiny work table on 2 sides, and used 2 sawhorses at various angles underneath. More sawhorses would have been better. I used what I had. *Don’t forget your safety glasses. *Keep the footplate tight to the table *Squeeze the trigger and go.

Ladies, if you haven’t done this before but you can use a sewing machine, you can use a jigsaw. It’s basically the same concept, but you are taking something apart instead of putting something together.

wall 1

Lower left wall, curves and all

I was holding my breath when I hauled the first piece into the camper to test fit, but…it worked!!! I was so relieved. It made the rest of the pieces go much easier. Until I got to the ceiling panel overhead.

ceiling test

Test run. Everything works in theory.

In theory, a 4’x7′ piece of plywood should fit precisely from the top of the back window, curving up the wall, and tuck neatly against the remaining ceiling panel. I tested it with a piece of scrap wood. See? It fits. Now, extrapolate that to a 7′ wide sheet of plywood, put it over your head, bend it against the wall and fit it snugly against the ceiling. Without it A.) crashing on your head. B.) snapping back from the curve and smacking you. C.) falling out of one side while you desperately hold it with your head and try to get the other side in place. Guess what? It doesn’t work that easy.

This is where I called in reinforcements. Cue the 17 year old boy. (Also, I took 1/4″ off the length of the board, so that we had a little wiggle room and it didn’t need to fit so tight.)

4 hands, 2 heads, and some muscle later, and ta da….

I believe my Facebook post said “Curved walls, bitches.” I may done a celebratory dance as well. The key to the whole thing is pushing it tight against the curve in the wall. That helps bring the edge in line with the other ceiling panel. We had the left side in, but the right side was fractionally off and wouldn’t lay against the ceiling. Ian leaned into the wall for one last push, and SNAP! It came in line. I love that kid.

Now back to that earlier, foreshadowing… if you look closely at the left picture above, you will see that the top of the wall has some gaps at the ceiling line. It turns out it is exceedingly hard to make templates when neither the wall or the ceiling are in place, and you are trying to guess with paper the way it will lay with plywood. I guessed a bit wrong. Thank God for trim and paint. That’s all I will say anymore about that.

I was standing in the camper tonight and realized that even with 2 months of work (sort of), I am still only getting back to the way it looked when I started. I’ve been fixing stuff, but not improving the look of anything. YET. It’s taking a lot more than I anticipated just to get back to zero before we can move forward again. Sigh… But that’s ok. That’s pretty much the same story every other camper rescuer tells. “I didn’t think it would be this much work.” But it is.

Moral of the story, if you are looking to buy a vintage camper, if it is 60 years old and they tell you it doesn’t leak, it does. It just does. Accept it and move on. It will be worth it in the end. Right?

RIGHT?

Let’s Get Together And Feel Alright

Well, the State of Ohio has decided that Gracie will NOT be attending Midwest Reggae Fest this year. I am sad. Oh, so sad. (I mean, we’re still going, just without Gracie.)

Part of the process of rehabbing a vintage camper, for many vintage camper enthusiasts, is getting a clear title on a vehicle that either has never had one before or is long gone, having lived most of its life in a field as a hunting retreat. Such is Gracie’s past.

The guy I bought her from said “no title, but you can just get a replacement title at the BMV.” (What did I know? He also said she didn’t leak, as a frame of reference.) (I have a second post coming about all the “I’ll justs” when it comes to this restoration. There are no justs, by the way.)

Every state is different, and indeed in Ohio, every county is different. The titling process is one of the hotly debated item in the vintage camper circles. Oh yes, there are vintage camper circles. Many of them. Some places in the country are relatively easy to title old vehicles. Some require the blood of an ancestor. Preferably one who has owned or has some connection to your camper. The general consensus is that a camper with a free and clear title is like having the keys to the Kingdom, and I didn’t quite understand all the hubbub, until now.

Here in Ohio, when I started the inquiry as to how to obtain a title for my 1960 camper so I can use her for more than a place to store my fresh kill, I got a lot of “you want to…what?” “wait…what year is this vehicle?” “so… it’s not a car… do you drive it?” “Don’t buy anything without a title.” (Yeah, you seem to be missing my point, there, buddy.) The BMV seemed as perplexed by my dilemma as I am. Eventually I got to a person who said with some disdain in his voice “This is a nine step process and there is no guarantee that the judge will sign off on it, even if you do it all.” But at this point, what choice do I have? I own the camper. I want to use it. I need a license plate.

As an aside, I live in Franklin County. Apparently, according to one vintage camper enthusiast pursuing this same process in Clark County, it is much easier over there. I have been seriously tempted at several points to “sell” Gracie to someone in Springfield, let them title it, and then have them “sell” her back to me so I can transfer said new title back to my name. But now I’m in it for the pride. Franklin County and I are gonna do this. They are apparently unaware of my fortitude.

So here is the process for anyone pursuing a title in Franklin County, Ohio, and many other unlucky counties across the nation…

Step 1 Lien Holder Record Search– Go to the Title Office and have them run a lien search on the VIN number to get your title. Pay $5. Receive your denial notice. Explain to the person behind the counter what you are doing, endure their incredulous stare, have them explain to you again that this is a 9 step process and there is no guarantee the judge will sign off on it, pay $5, get your court-ordered title packet and the denial notice based on insufficient evidence [i.e. they can’t find a current title to reference] and hold it like it is made of gold.

paperwork 2

Step 2 Vehicle Owner Record Search – Complete BMV form 1173 requesting a last known address for the vehicle owner of record and mail it with another $5. Fill out the form, include the check, and pray like hell while you wait the required 15 days for a response. When the results come back “No information found”, thank your lucky stars and the vintage camper gods.

paperwork 3

Step 3 Certified Mail Notifications – If your form came back “no information found”, you are off the hook for this one. If someone’s name was associated with the VIN number of your camper, you have to send them a registered letter letting them know of your intention to title the camper in your name and wait for their response. Maybe it’s just me, but I foresee drama associated with this last part.

paperwork 4

Step 4 Obtain OSHP Inspection Receipt – Go to the BMV and request an OSHP inspection receipt (HP105), which basically is a paper authorizing the State Highway Patrol to do a “salvage inspection” to prove that your vehicle exists and has not been stolen. Pay $54 for this piece of paper. Go to the counter. Explain what you are doing. Endure the incredulous stare. Pay the $54. Get your paper. Hold it like it is made of gold, or $54. 

paperwork 5

Step 5 OSHP Inspection – Call the inspection location to schedule your appointment. Bring your vehicle. Receive the HP106 inspection document signed by the State Highway Patrol. Call the inspection location. Explain your situation. Listen to the incredulous stare through the phone line. Get the next available inspection appointment for 2 months from now and have the crushing realization that you will not be taking Gracie to Reggae Fest in 3 weeks. Hope and pray that the inspection goes well in September.

As I am currently in the middle of Step 5, everything from here on out is speculation.

Step 6 Filing Your Petition to the Court of Common Pleas – Fill out and bring to the Common Pleas Court in triplicate your petition to the court for the title, an affidavit in support of the petition, a judgment entry and any supporting documentation, including all the documents you have accumulated thus far. Pay the $35 filing fee. Receive your court time. Fill out all the assigned paperwork, plus any other documents, including but not limited to the bill of sale, your insurance documents, photographs of the vehicle, a picture of your sad but hopeful face, your mother’s maiden name, the blood types of your children, and personal references to your character, but do not include cookies for the judge as that might be perceived as a bribe or he/she might be gluten-free. Pay the fee. Get your court time. Wait. Panic.

paperwork 6

Step 7 Appearing Before the Judge – As listed in the paperwork, “After you file the Petition and supporting evidence you will be directed to an available judge who will consider your documents and any statement you may want to make to supplement your evidence. If the Court grants your petition the Judge will sign the Judgment Entry and direct you  back to the General Division to file the entry.” I assume it will go something like this… “Please oh please oh please oh please oh please oh please oh please oh please oh please oh please…” Followed by a stern look of disapproval, the prerequisite incredulous stare, and because I am sending out this good karma in advance, a signature on that Judgment Entry.

paperwork 7 - Copy

Step 8 Filing Your Judgment Entry – Present your signed Judgment Entry to a deputy clerk for filing. Get a certified copy to present to the title office for your certificate of title. Pay $1. Do a little dance. Laugh at the incredulous stare. But seriously, what is the $1 for? Just so they can gloat one last time?

Step 9 Obtaining Certificate of Title – Present your certified copy of the Judgment Entry to any one of the 4 Title Offices. Pay all applicable taxes and fees. Receive your title. Present your paperwork. Hop up and down in anticipation. Pay your fees. When they hand you the title, try not to yell “IN YOUR FACE, FRANKLIN COUNTY.”

Of course, Step 10 is to present the title for registration and receive a license plate at the BMV, but the title office doesn’t care about that. BUT I DO.

Midwest Reggae Fest 2017, save us a spot.

peace love and hippies

It Runs In The Family

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I know, I’m way behind in posting. The truth is, I’ve gotten hung up on some things that should be fairly simple, which makes it easy to start doubting yourself and giving yourself the old “maybe you should have thought this through a little more” parental speeches while staring forlornly at the behemoth in the driveway.

But the other truth is that I am on the verge of a ton of things that might fall together rather easily once I cross this hump, so I am crossing my fingers and telling my parental self to suck it. We’re here now. No going back.

I’m still shooting for Midwest Reggae Fest at the end of July. Gracie won’t be anywhere near done, but if she is at least water-tight, mold-free, and we have a bed to sleep in, I’m calling that a Win. At the moment, we are 2 for 3 on that list. Putting the rear walls back in so I can get the bed frame put back together is our latest hurdle. I would love to have gotten her painted by then, but that’s probably a pipe dream, so I should let that one go and focus on the important stuff. Like not getting wet while sleeping. So she’ll look a little rough, but with enough dancing and celebrating, maybe no one will notice.

In the meantime, I am going to save all the things I HAVE accomplished since the last post for the next post so it will look so much more impressive all grouped together. Cause I’m tricky like that.

So what are we doing here today, then, you ask? I thought you might like to know a little bit about what makes me nostalgic over this girl. I come by it honestly. Both sets of my grandparents managed to instill in me qualities that landed me here. Whether I am crediting them or blaming them is a matter of interpretation.

Where We Began – Me and Gracie

My maternal grandparents, Howard and Bernice Simon, were lovers of all things history. They were the keepers of the family lore, the family cemetery and a great deal of the family belongings. My grandmother was a genealogist by trade and many of my early days were spent in cemeteries and talking over stories of relatives long gone. My grandfather kept a family museum, an actual museum, in the basement of their house that was lovingly cataloged and dusted for anyone who wanted to take a look. Most of those items now reside in the Boardman, Ohio Historical Society museum.

Bernice and Howard

Bernice and Howard

My paternal grandparents, Ernie and Claire Cooper, loved the simple life of camping and being outdoors. They owned a trailer that stayed in a campground at Lake Berlin, OH, as long as I can remember. Much of my childhood summer memories revolve around that trailer, the other long-term residents of the campground who were our deepest friends, and hours on the lake or around the campfire. Fridays in the summer were “packing up for the lake” days, and I remember the 1/2 hour drive to the campground almost mile for mile.  I feel utterly blessed to have gotten to spend so much time with them there, basking in their undivided attention, and hanging out around that little trailer with people who were at least 50 years my senior. The smells and sounds of camper life are closer than the 40 years since they happened. I’m not exactly certain how big that trailer was. My kid brain wants to make it enormous, but in reality it was probably somewhere around 25′ feet long.  (Dad or Aunt Shirley, feel free to correct my estimate.)

Claire and Ernie 1981

Claire and Ernie

Enter this broken down old dented up aluminum tin can I have named Gracie. She’s old. She has memories. And she talks to me.

Here’s what I know about her so far…

The Trotwood Trailer company’s birthdate is in 1932, at the height of the Great Depression, when 2 school teachers in Trotwood, Ohio, decided to take their hobby out of the garage and share it with the world. They were innovators, developing new axle systems and were the first company to introduce the side door floor plan over the rear entry, which is now the industry standard. They are credited as the inventors of the “canned ham” style trailer, a most celebrated and coveted vintage trailer style with its own cult following. By the time Gracie was born in 1960,  neighbors were not surprised to see 12 trailers a day rolling out of the factory near downtown setting out on new adventures across the country. Trailers ranged in size from 13′ to 43′. Gracie clocks in at a relatively diminutive 16′ from tail to tongue.

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I found this old map at a flea market. I plan to have it framed with a star placed at the location of the factory (just above where it says OLDTOWN) to hang on the wall when she is done.

Sadly, fire destroyed the Trotwood factory in 1981, and the company was not able to recover. It was never rebuilt. There aren’t many Trotwood Trailers left anymore as age and the elements have taken most of them. But their reputation as being well-built and sturdy is what makes them sought after by collectors. Where other trailers of the same era have rotted away, much of the original frames and structures of Trotwoods are frequently still intact, if they were loved and cared for in any way. Gracie is one such trailer, despite her desperate appearance and stint as a hunting trailer in a field.

So this is why I feel connected to her. I believe I am preserving a bit of Ohio history, which my Simon grandparents would love. And I hope to have a place to create new memories with people I love, on which, I like to think, my Cooper grandparents would have gleefully come along. It’s fate, really.

My aunt said recently that my grandparents are looking down on me and smiling. I’m smiling right back.

 

 

The Starting Gate

I have set myself a goal. I need Gracie to be leaf-proof, mold-free, and sleepable (like, with beds and stuff) by the last weekend in July. She doesn’t have to be done. She doesn’t have to be pretty. But I need her to be functional, because I wanna party. That’s my 50th  birthday weekend, and we are heading to MidWest Reggae Fest at Clay’s Park in Canton, OH. It is sure to be an outstanding weekend, and I would love to bring Gracie along as part of the celebration. Plus, it means not sleeping on the ground in a tent. A big plus for me.😉

(If you are interested in Reggae Fest, check out the website here. So. Much. Fun.)

That gives us about 8 weeks. Therefore, we can’t be sitting around. We got work to do.

Before

Before we dig in to the dirty stuff, I want to give you an idea where we are starting. So here are some “before” shots for reference as we go along. Hopefully, at some point, we will look back on this fondly and laugh. Without crying.

exterior 2

A close up of Gracie’s boo boo. Apparently, one of her previous owners jack-knifed her into her own car while backing up. Oops.

interior 2

A peek inside the front door.

interior kitchen 4

I’ll be honest, this is what captured my heart. These countertops and cabinets are nearly perfect.

interior dinette 3

The dinette, also nearly perfect. Just don’t look at the wall.

exterior logo

Kinda proud of this, the original logo.

 

interior bunks

A look toward the back bunk area, with the top bed down.

Not sure why I don’t have good pictures of the cabinet opposite the kitchen area that has the larger cupboards and the fridge, but trust me, they’re there. The fridge is not original, but that’s ok. Yay, cold stuff and ice cubes.

 

Some of the less attractive features, the (really gross disgusting) (I think it was blue, but I can’t be sure) carpet in the back half and the (what the hell where they thinking) green “marble” stick on tile in the front half. And those nasty mini-blinds on the front window, along with the side roller shades that were screwed to the wall (see the inside the door pic). Don’t ask me, I don’t know either.

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Love that carpet/tile combo. Not.

But here is our biggest problem… so far…

interior bunk water damage right

Yeah, that’s mold in the corner, over the top bunk. Try not to breathe while you look at these pictures, just in case.

There is a similar, although less damaged section in the opposite corner. So that is where we start.

Demo Day(s)

Technically, the very first thing I did while I was waiting around for the tow truck on that first day was rip up the carpet. Might as well be productive, right? Out it went. Cough, wheeze. Next, as soon as we were home, and I mean almost immediately because it bothered me that much, was to get those hideous window treatments out. I literally threw them out the door with glee. Also quick to go were the foam cushions for the bunks. I was hoping to reuse them, but closer inspection left me grossed out, so I think they will serve as templates for new cushions instead. I was astonished at the amount of foam also wedged under the bottom bed inside the bed frame. Add it to the list of Why Did They Do That.

At this point I was able to do a bit of cleaning. Walls, cupboards, surfaces. The cupboards are surprisingly intact. The insides are very clean in the undamaged sense. And if it weren’t for the holes in the front overhead cabinet from the (insert cuss word here) previous owner poking holes in them with a screw driver to hang speakers, the front cabinets and insides almost look like they did when she rolled out of the factory in 1960. Thanks, (insert cuss word here) previous owner.

The next morning I was able to start putting a plan together. And that plan entailed getting into the moldy corner. I started by taking out the bed platforms (2 for the top and 2 for the bottom, because they slide out). Then off came the moldings that held in the top bed frame. And then out came the bottom bed frame, but not without a lot of swearing and yelling at old stubborn screws.

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This little blanking screw was the only thing holding the bed frame to the camper.

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One screw… I will not let it beat me.

Once the beds were completely out, I could start ripping into the wall and ceiling panels. Literally. Much of them came off in my hands, they were that water and mold damaged. Blech.

Note: safety glasses, masks and ventilation are critical here. Just do it.

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On first examination, it didn’t look like there was much frame damage from whatever leak was plaguing our girl. That was wishful thinking. However, considering her age and the condition I have seen of other similar models, I still think we got off pretty light.

I will admit to you that I do not believe I have ever uttered a string of curse words more vile and lengthy than I did during this portion of demolition. You know how they say that things built in the mid-20th century were made to last? They came close. I seriously believe that no one ever intended these interior panels to come down again.  They used a fastener I have never seen before in my life. From the front, it looks like some sort of decorative brad or pin. But on the back-side, it has a sick twisted screw end. There was no way to grab them from the front side of the plywood. My dream of getting the panels off semi-intact to be used as templates for the new plywood crumbled in a sea of profanity as I had to literally rip off sheets inches at a time until the Nail From Hell was exposed and then pry it out with the claw end of the hammer. What. The. F#*&. They are now my mortal enemies. Get thee behind me.

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Looks so innocent, doesn’t it?

 

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Demon spawn hardware

Along with all the old plywood came the moldy insulation. That was fun. But finally she is exposed. Her insides. Gross.

I need to stop here a moment to reiterate that I am a rescuer and not a restorer. It is at this at this point in our story that a more financially lucrative person would opt for a full frame up restoration to completely rip out and replace the rotted part of framework and put all new skins on to start over. I am not that person. I fully understand that the steps I am about to tell you are going to make some die hard renovators gasp in horror. Too bad. This is my camper. Get over it. She and I are getting along just fine for the moment, and when we need to take more drastic steps, we will. Until then, bite me.

Ahem. Sorry.

Side note: we found evidence of a few former inhabitants. Some dead. Some still alive. Imagine me, in full safety gear, jumping back in horror and doing a writhing shuddering dance. That was me, meeting the ant colony.

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A little spider nest. I can handle this.

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Abandoned wasp nest. Kinda cute.

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No. No. No. No. No. No. No. There is no video, but the floor was moving.

First up (after insecticide)… get rid of the mold so we can all breathe. Everything moldy that could come out came out. Everything else got sprayed down with a heavy dose of bleach and left overnight.

In the morning, I was breathing easier. Literally. But now it was more obvious the locations and extent of the damaged framing. Two spots in the floor took the worst hit. The screwdriver test (poking it to see what flakes off) pretty much took out whole sections of mushy wood. Ungood. So, a little google and you-tube action led me to 2 products… Wood Hardener and Wood Filler. I used Minwax products found at Home Depot.

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The wood hardener looks and smells like nail polish remover. Once you clean away all the loose stuff, use a small disposable brush to apply over anything that remains soft and let set for a couple hours. Like magic, you have hard wood. (Don’t make me go there, perverts.) Then mix up the wood filler (mostly putty looking stuff with a little hardener mixed in) and use a putty knife to fill in the gaps. But work fast. And I mean like lightning. The instructions said to only mix up what you could apply in 15 minutes. But they meant 2 minutes. By the time you get the first layer down and figure out how to work it, it starts petrifying. I won’t show you a picture of how it looks applied, because eventually the new wall will cover that sin. Live and learn.

Now that the insides are more stable and I am fairly convinced we won’t disintegrate on the road, it’s time to go outside to see specifically where that water was getting in. It didn’t take long.

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What the…

Here’s a tip… if you take off molding and replace it with something else, and your new piece is not as long as the old piece, DON’T LEAVE A GAPING HOLE WHERE THE OLD NAIL USED TO BE. I didn’t think I would have to say such things out loud, but apparently I was wrong. Another item added to the Why Did They Do That List.

At some point, all of this molding will come off and be cleaned up and/or replaced with new (of the correct length), along with new butyl tape underneath to ensure a good tight seal. In the short term, I plugged the hole with caulking, as well as several other places along the trim that were a bit, shall we say, drafty. No longer.

It is during my foray into the caulking gun world that one of my neighbors told me “You need a man for that.” I am fairly certain that he understands now that I do not. For the record, I have several awesome very supportive and helpful neighbors. He is not one of them.

Up On The Roof

(For your listening pleasure and ear worm of the day…)

Now that I have seen the condition of the roof up close and personal, and the source of the water has been eliminated (I hope), the roof top itself needs some attention. From my elevated kitchen window, the roof looked discolored. Closer inspection revealed that whatever old roof sealant there was had long since worn away, and the aluminum roof panel was exposed, allowing it to start to rust in places. This is no good. No wonder it gets so hot in there. It’s like a giant Easy Bake Oven. 12The roof was brushed off and scraped, cleaned with a mild dishwasher detergent in water with a broom and rinsed, then left to dry. The next morning, I hit the worst spots with a rust inhibitor and let it dry (it’s fast.) Then I put on 2 coats of roof sealant, which pretty much goes on like a thick paint. Oh my gosh, the difference. It almost glows.

roof before 2

Roof before. No bueno.

roof after 2

Roof after. I don’t know how to say “better” in Spanish.

Later that night, a storm blew over, giving us the first test of my handiwork. The roof was wet. The insides were dry. You rock, Gracie. As an after note, the roof work was done about a week ago. I got up and checked again today. You can see where some spots that didn’t get adequately scraped before have started to come up. At some point in the near future, I will have to go back up there, do another better job at scraping the loose stuff away, and give her at least one more coat of sealant. But for now, this is so much improved, I am gleeful.

It is about here that progress begins to slow significantly, because demo is fast, but reconstruction is much slower. I spend a lot of time staring at things trying to figure out what is supposed to happen next and how the hell I’m going to do it. So I will end this (excessively long) post here, and pick it up with putting things back together.

Stay tuned, because I get really excited about using new power tools. In case you are keeping track, we are ahead of schedule. Damn. I just jinxed it.

 

She Followed Me Home

Where were we? Oh yeah… I bought a vintage camper. Um… I’m sorry…whaaaat? I must have lost my mind. But I love her. And I’m turning 50 in a couple of months, so Happy Birthday to me. I am giving myself challenge and adventure for my birthday.❤

Her name is Gracie, and she’s a 1960 Trotwood Cub, 16′ from nose to tail. This is what she looked like when I found her.

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And of course, we had an adventure just getting her home.🙂

I had great plans for pulling her with my 2010 Chevy Equinox, only to discover that my 4 cylinder engine has a tow weight of 1500 pounds, and Gracie comes in at an only slightly larger 1750, without any cargo at all. So we need to go to Plan B. Plan B was Mark’s van, but with his mother’s passing this week, the van fell to the bottom of the priority list, as it should. So we’re on to Plan C. (Judy, we’ll miss you, and I’m sorry we didn’t get to do a camping trip together. We’ll catch you on the other side.😦 )

Plan C is to have AAA send a flatbed to come get her from her former (neglected) home because of her sincerely flat tire and then rent a Uhaul pickup to get her from the tire store back home. By myself. Right. That’s the plan. A girl’s gotta do what a girl’s gotta do.

exterior flat tire

That’s preeeeetty flat.

Apparently, AAA doesn’t like to send flatbeds, because they are expensive, so they didn’t bother to relay ALL the information I gave them about our situation. But after a couple hours delay and several phone calls with the towing company, our ride finally arrived with the proper truck. And we were off and running. Or on and driving. You know what I mean.

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Here we go!

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“Does this trailer make my butt look big?”

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Uh oh… Just a readjustment on the road. Whew!

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Roadside assistance.

The tire store, Taz Tires, was chosen because they had the tires I needed and they are halfway between where we started and where we needed to end up. So it seemed logical. I had never been there, but we all set our Google maps, and headed out. Turns out, the store is in the not-very-flatbed-friendly inner-city. Also, the first address Google maps sent us to was boarded up and abandoned. My drivers are not impressed. A quick call with someone who spoke very little English revealed that they had moved up the street, so we kept going and finally found them.

My rural-based knights in shining armor where less than excited about the ghetto location of the tire store I chose. and I think they were happy to leave us and go. But they were good sports. Thanks, Flynn Towing who drove all the way in from London, OH for this tow!

The gentlemen at Taz Tires were excited to see us pull in. I think. The owner assured me that they had very good tires for me. So I left Gracie in their capable hands while I went to get the Uhaul truck.

Did I mention that this was the Friday of Memorial Day weekend, and everybody and their brother were moving that day? When I arrived at Uhaul, there were 10 people in line ahead of me, and 2 attendants. They were doing their best, but still, an hour wait…

I finally get to the counter to discover that Uhaul trucks normally are stocked with 2″ ball hitches. My Gracie is a delicate flower, so she only needs a 1 7/8″ hitch. No problem, you can just buy the accessory adapter you need there. Except that they were out of them. Which is when I started to panic, and it must have shown on my face. Karen, my trusty Uhaul guru, disappeared out the side door for a few moments and then reappeared lugging a 1 7/8″ hitch with the correct adapter for the Uhaul. “Just bring it back.”

You guys, she gave me the hitch off of her PERSONAL VEHICLE, so I could get Gracie home.

Karen, at Uhaul on Morse Road, (I hope you’re not getting into trouble for this), you are my hero. Seriously and truly. Girl Power.

So back to Taz I go in the Uhaul, later than I had hoped, to find no tires installed, 3 men still under the camper, and not looking happy about it. “Veddy veddy hud jub. Veddy hud jub.” Apparently, Gracie doesn’t like having her feet messed with. I get it, Gracie. I’m not a fan either.

With some perseverance and about another half an hour,  new tires were on! They guys helped me hook her up and the most stressful part of the day (because the stuff before wasn’t stressful enough) began as Gracie and I pulled out into traffic, hearts pounding, prayers sending.

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I look skeptical.

I took the long way home. There was no way Gracie and I were getting on the freeway just yet. We bounced and rolled our way through C-bus. (Somewhere along the way, we lost the exterior light fixture and light bulb. Sorry to whoever’s car they must have fallen on.)  And oh yeah, my street is narrow. And I live on a cul-de-sac. And I have to back her in to my driveway.

THANK GOD, my dutiful friend Stacy, who was on Ian Transportation Duty, was still at my house when I arrived to help with the “turn this way”, “no, a little more that way.” With much backing and forthing, and turning and looking, and this way and that way, I DID IT.

Gracie is home.

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That was just the first day of our adventure, but this post is already too long, so I will save what happens next for the next installment. It’s dirty and gross, but I’m still hopeful and I haven’t cried yet, so you will just have to wait and see for yourself.

Thanks for following along! See you soon, from Gracie’s insides…

 

 

 

 

Here We Go Again…

Hey, Internet. It’s been awhile. Like, 2 years awhile. How ya been?😉

So, I’m on a new adventure. Because I needed one more thing to do on top of the garden, the house, the kids, the job, the boyfriend, the boyfriend’s boat… now seems like a great time to start a giant renovation project on something I know absolutely nothing about. For the moment, anyway.

In case you didn’t know, on pretty much the spur of the moment, I bought a vintage camper, a 1960 Trotwood Cub, and promptly named her Gracie. She’s one of the original “canned ham” variety travel trailers (more on her history later). I’ve been wanting a cute little camper for awhile now, even though the kids kept saying, “But Mom, you don’t camp.” To which I replied, “But I WOULD if I had a cute little camper.” That’s my logic, and I’m sticking to it. But just think! Music festivals. Weekend getaways at the lake (Home Away From Sailboat). Trips to visit the relatives in far away places we’ve always wanted to go. Or close places, even. But in a cute little camper.

I wasn’t planning on doing this right now. I was just window (Craigslist) shopping and day dreaming. And then the seemingly perfect lady just fell in my lap. So I ran out right away to see her and fell in love. And then panicked. And then bought her anyway.

So this weekend, I am finally going to bring her home. Hopefully. She’s got a seriously flat (and possibly rotted) tire that is causing her to list heavily to one side, so I am having her flat-bedded to a tire store, and then towing her back to my house with a rented truck for the holiday weekend for a more thorough examination of her insides. I am biting my nails in anticipation of all the things that can go wrong with this plan.

You guys, I am so scared. Who knows if the guy who sold her to me was truthful in anything he said about her not leaking (I already know that’s not true) and being road-worthy with just a new tire. Or that the electric works. Or that the tail lights work. Or that the propane is hooked up right. Or that the frame is in good condition. Or…I don’t even know. That’s the problem, isn’t it? I don’t even know what I don’t know yet. And it’s really just me. This is my project, and my baby, so I don’t expect anyone else to jump in (unless they want to).

And then… I read all these blogs with these amazing renovations, many of them done by single women. And I think “I can so do this.” And so I will do this. Slowly. Painfully. Joyfully. Incrementally. I will do this.

I have been lobbied hard to document this endeavor in a blog, and since I already have one, Bird Uncaged seemed like a logical place to start. I don’t know about the vlogging thing, though. Holding a camera with one hand while I pull rusty screws out with the other seems unlikely. But I will do the best I can to let you come along on my adventure. That way, I will have someone to cry with when I get overwhelmed and in over my head. And you will bring me wine out of pity.

One note to all the vintage camper purists out there (I had no idea of their fervor until I entered this world)…

I am not you. I love what you do, but I don’t have that kind of money or skill set. And I want to use Gracie, not just look at her in my driveway for the next 2 years. So as much I would love to completely overhaul her in the way she deserves, that level of restoration might not be in the cards just now. My short-term goal is to get her water-tight and resealed, maybe painted, and take care of any safety issues. And then just do the best I can for the rest. It might mean getting a paint job over some dents and bruises. It might mean fixing up some interior panels I will have to replace again at some point in the future. And I hope to someday have the means to really do her proud. But for right now, I am willing to forego my Vintage Camper Trailer Magazine spread so that I can round up the people I love and head out onto the road with Gracie in tow, sooner rather than later. I hope you understand. If you don’t, that’s ok too. Just keep your scoffing to yourself, because I already love her, bumps and bruises and all. I saw a camper blog recently that said “I’m a rescuer, not a restorer.” Yes, that.😉

And now that I have unburdened myself of that expectation, I feel my anxiety begin to subside. A little.

So here we go. Somebody please say whatever prayers you have to whatever God you think cares about vintage campers, because we’re about to get this party started. This bird is uncaged. Again.

Me and Gracie. Day 1.

Me and Gracie. Day 1.