Thursday, October 25, 2007

I'm a big fat liar...

I am a big fat liar and the person I lied to is myself. I actually believed that I had bought a vintage trailer that was in no need of restoration. I thought that I had gotten totally lucky and Anna just needed to be cleaned up, a little refinishing, minor stuff. Everything was pointing in that direction until this morning. We have gotten rain for the past two days. this is significant, because we have not had rain in about 40 days. With the rain came four leaks all at the windows. I am proud to say that the window glass and the sashes did not leak.

The water is coming in from higher up than the window, I suspect. It is probably a failed seal at the top of the window frame. Water is getting in behind the drip cap and then in the top of the window. This is all theory of course. My next plan of attack is to start at the top and work down sealing everything as I go. I will probably need to start at the astrodome and work out from there.

So the next thing I did was follow the water down. Well this is when reality hit me me hard, hard in the face.

The water has been flowing for awhile now in the bathroom. This became very evident when I popped up a tile way under the bathroom vanity and pushed a #2 pencil right through the floor with little effort.

Suddenly my project has expanded to include a bathroom removal, partial floor replacement, and bathroom renovation. I thought I had eaten a lot of elephant, to realize that I haven't even made a dent.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Bonded in Aluminum

An Airstream can do many things for you, things you would never imagine. Probably the best thing it will do is cause you to make a whole new set of friends. Maybe you drive your old friends off by talking about your rig non-stop, or perhaps it is the shiny aluminum that draws folks in... I am still trying to figure it out. Someone that I am enjoying getting to know is Rob Baker. If anyone does not know who Rob is, well your just missing out. Rob is the laugh behind the Vintage Airstream Podcast. Every two weeks the guys get together and record another excellent podcast that many wait for anxiously. Rob almost sold me my first trailer. A simple twist of fate prevented me from buying his trailer, but his love for Airstreaming convinced me that I wanted to be cool as him. I say that in a joking way, but seriously, Rob is very cool. He loves his hobby and loves to share it with everyone he meets. when I did get Anna, Rob was the first person I called. I think he was as happy for me as I was. Upon his convincing, I joined the WBCCI just so I could become a member of the WDCU. That was a good fit for us as I discussed in an earlier Blog. So last night, I got a call from Rob asking if I would be home today. He was going to recover a 13 panel 1957 21 foot custom not too far from my house. I right away asked if he wanted a hand or someone to ride along. This morning at 6:20 Rob picked me up and off we went.

The only hitch was with the hitch. The trailer had a 2 5/16" receiver and Robs truck had a proper 2" for a vintage rig. Rob already knew about the problem and brought along a new 2 5/16" to change over to. So this is where the problem starts. The ball was on Robs hitch for real. We used some penetrating oil.

Then we used some heat.

Then we used a big pipe to gain some leverage and slowly it began to loosen until it came off. An important thing to note; when picking up a trailer, always tie the door shut. Rob did and it still came open. If it had not been tied shut, serious damage could have occurred.
Another cool thing about Rob is his kindness. I had been looking for replacement lifters for my Astrodome. They were made by Laudue and are called Laudue lifters.

I had bid on them many times to see them sell for mad money. Ebay was not the place to go looking for that part. It appears someone could capitalize on that product if it could be reproduced at a reasonable cost. Well Rob knew that I needed a pair. He said he would give me a set, but they would require some work. The work required was cleaning the grime off and installing them... I have removed the grime and still need to install them. I need to get an Astrodome from Vintage Trailer Supply and I will be set. The point of this is to thank Rob for being such a great guy. If anyone reading this does not know him, well, you should try to get to know him. He is an officer in the WDCU and will most likely be president of the WBCCI someday. His passion for Airstreaming is infectious and is truely something to be enjoyed.

Some good news and some bad news it what I told my wife...

"The goods honey is that I cannot find any rot to the rear of the trailer and the frame is very solid with only slight facial rust...." "yeah, I asked for the bad news first"... "Well, the smell of hospital, that is to cover up the rodent urine that is all over in the belly pan. They used all kinds of interesting things to make nests with."... "Is that all the bad news?"... "No."... "Well".... "there is a nice rotten spot under the living room window. I don't think it should be too big of a deal to fix. I will need to remove the gaucho and tear up the rest of the floor covering." That is how I broke it to Beth. Hey, It could always be much worse if you ask me. I could have found the whole back end rotting away. The fear of that was in my head. That fear sent me under Anna with a drill to remove the rivets holding on a patch put on by the previous owner(s). As the patch came loose, so did the strong, pungent odor of mouse urine. The next thing to come loose was nesting materials, much of which found it's way into my shirt, toilet paper, rug, and part of a blue beret were all used along with lots of insulation. The final thing to come rolling out was the shed skin of a very large snake. I hope it was a black snake and it got so big eating a lot of mice.
The main thing that removing the patch did was to give me peace of mind. I have been reading a lot of Blogs that talk of the whole rear end being close to falling off. I was worried unjustifiably, that this might be the case with Anna. I had known that there was a patch to the belly pan located right under the black tank. I also knew that the previous owner(s) had replaced the old style Thetford valve for a new style Valtura. Knowing that something had been done in that area sent me into fear mode. To my surprise the floor is solid all the way out to the perimeter as far as I can reach. I even removed an access hatch under the tub drain so I could check out that area. No rot anywhere. I can see some evidence of water having discolored the plywood, but no damage was anywhere in the rear. The frame has some areas that have slight facial rust, but nowhere is it a serious problem.

Another area of concern has been under the living room windows. The glass had been replaced and the operators were missing from these windows, that in it's self sent up red flags for me. The area just in front of the gaucho at the wall could push in when stepped on firmly. I needed once again to know for sure, so I removed the vinyl flooring and the linoleum tiles under that to find the brown plywood. The cool thing about the brown plywood is how it turns to powder when you touch it.

It should be no big deal to fix this one little area. I will need to remove the gaucho to get at it. Before I fix that area I had better remove all the floor covering and make sure there are not any more surprises under the surface. I am also going to create an access hole under the rot to make sure that the damage is not also to the frame. Better sure, than blind to a potential problem.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

to see thru or not...

I have found that replacing window glass is not so bad. The fact that replacing glass is so easy has lead me to removing the rock guard from Anna. I like the idea of being able to see through the trailer while in tow. The view is hampered by five layers of glass and, until today, a green fiberglass rock guard.

The rock guard or the "Rox- Sol Gard Canopy" manufactured by Thornton Industries of Knoxville, Iowa, had been an eye sore in my opinion from day one. I understand it's purpose but I never liked the way it looked on Anna. The dark color also really cuts down on the amount of light that makes it in. I decided to remove it. Removed about 10 steel screws, scored the silicon joint and off it came.

There was a wide bead if putty under the mounting bar that cleaned up with some naptha and a rag. Found a patch of shiny aluminum under it and some holes... big puckered holes created by big steel screws. The holes are easy to fill with Olympic rivets, but they are not in a straight line and some of them are directly next to a bucked rivet. I filled them, but feel they will bother me until I replace the drip cap above the window. Who knows might forget that it ever happened....most people would never spot it.

Well, now I should be able to see through the back window of the truck, through the front window of the truck cap then through the back smoked plexiglass on the cap, and right on through the front and back window of Anna. Maybe I should take out the screens to make it easier to see the Mack truck flying up behind me. It should work a little... okay, I just think it looks better without that thing.

Monday, October 15, 2007

window to my soul...

My goal has been to get the outside sealed up for winter. To me, the first logical, place to start sealing is the windows. I had purchased all new seals and gaskets for every opening. Steve at Vintage Trailer Supply took the time to go over each and every one needed. I began a few days ago on the two worst windows. The two windows that had been replaced with safety glass by the previous owner. His heart was in the right place, but his use of silicon was almost criminal.

I removed the windows by first removing the rusty screw that secures the end of the drip cap above the window. I was careful to make sure I lost the rusty screws that came out, they will be replaced with new stainless ones. From there the window just slides out the end. The very next thing that needs to happen is for plastic to be secured over the openings. No matter how confident you are, this whole project will take much longer than you can even imagine. It will rain as soon as you leave your Airstream unprotected. Just tape it up so it won't rain.
I used a hammer to remove the safety glass from the frames. I then had to cut the glass shards and silicon from the inner grooves. Silicon really loves to bond onto aluminum. I spent about 5 hours per window attempting to get all the little stuff stuck up inside the frame where gaskets were supposed to go. Paint thinner seems to have help in loosing the bond a little bit. A whole lot of elbow grease later and the frames were ready for a new lease on life. The next thing was to install the buthayl tape in the inner groove of the frame. The tape Steve at Vintage Trailer Supply sold me fit perfect... it was even offset on the paper backer to aid in lining it up perfectly. I think this is a very important part of creating a good seal between glass and frame. Once the glass has been placed on the buthayl, press it in real well so it is seated all the way around. You will be able to see it seal tight against the glass.

The next thing is the gasket that holds the glass in. Describing this step as a bitch is an under statement. The gasket takes a lot of learning. "The Airstream Learning Curve", it is much like the "Bell Curve", except the curve is shaped like a valley. I am not an expert. I am not an expert. I am not an expert, but here is the technique I developed by the fourth window. In the photos you will see one with my fingers pushing the gasket against the frame so the bottom edge is pointing towards the inner groove it is supposed to go into. The other one shows a putty knife tucking the top under the edge it is intended to go into. This is a two handed procedure, but I needed one hand to hold the camera. Once the gasket is going into the groove, I used the ball end of a glass cutter to force the gasket to seat into place. I was careful to stretch the gasket toward the starting point so that if it shrunk later the gasket would be somewhat compressed into place. The corners were mitered with a razor knife following the miter of the frame. A dab of Vulkem in the joint and it is done.

The trailer frames were very dirty and corroded. I used a battery of wire brushes, steel wool, and emory cloth to clean them all up and make them as new as possible.
New seals were installed into all the frames. This seal is shaped like an "O". It was really easy to get into it's channel. A small hook shaped dental tool made it so easy. The hook just dragged the flange right in as I pulled it down the seal.

Four windows in 24 hours of tedious work... now I'm about half way done. Looks good if you ask me.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

How much gas does it take?

I sat down and did the math. My math is not the fuzzy kind they use in Washington, these were hard numbers. I divided the the total miles driven by the total gallons used and came up with a hard to swallow number... 9.63 miles per gallon. That all said, I would burn about 244 gallons of gas each way to BoZeman, MT. That means it would cost me about about $671 each way if I could average paying $2.75 per gallon. This past summer we almost ran out of gas in the Black Hills. We stopped in some gas station that was charging $3.60 for the lowest grade. There was a giant log right next to the register. I had wanted to go to BoZeman this summer for the International Rally, but now I have to seriously re- think that one. Two weeks from work, $1300 for gas, $275 in rally fees, $275 for electric hook up... Think I would be better off attending a bunch of local rallies instead.
Some of my poor gas milage might be the fact that when ever I see a SOB on the road in front of me, it becomes my mission to pass them. There is some alter ego deep inside me that takes over... He drives the gas petal into the floor board, and keeps it there until I am past. As I pull along side, the real me looks over at the SOB driver and gives a friendly wave. I am sure the other driver has to wonder why I am in such a hurry to get myself up the road. I wonder if other Airstreamers suffer from this also. My tow vehicle is only a Dodge 1500 with a 318... the long 8' bed must eat up 1/3 of the horse power. I blew past some Nascar fan pulling a Prowler behind an F350 diesel like he was sitting on a church pew. The look on his face was that of a man that had just seen Dale Ernharts ghost. I smiled and gave him the casual two finger pointing wave. He waved back with one finger I think. Is this some sort of superiority complex that I have developed after buying Anna? If I ever enter into therapy I will need to bring this up.

Sunday, October 7, 2007

We had a #&@$' %* great time....

This weekend we went to our first rally with the WDCU. As I think I had stated earlier, we are/ were Airstream virgins. We have never owned an Airstream or even a travel trailer, but this weekend my family became "experienced". We joined the WDCU on the recommendation of Rob Baker. He told me that the unit was young-minded, all about camping and having fun. Everyone was laid back and very open. The other aspect that I was attracted to was that there were families with kids. Ava made friends instantly and was off playing at every free moment. I found all the kids to be very well behaved and felt very comfortable knowing that they off wilding in the play ground. I truly enjoyed everyone I met, and look forward to camping with all of them for years to come. The Reason for the rally was to install the new officers. Being the newbie, well,... all that means little to me at this point. Maybe as I get more active it will mean more, but for now... Instead of calling Paul "the Prez", I will now call Pete "Prez". The installation dinner was a lot of fun. Garnett steamed up some wonderful crabs... must have eaten 7 or so... alright 8. The new Officers dressed up in fine formal attire, fitting an Installation Banquet, however way too over dressed in my opinion for a camping club. Sure hope it all gets straightened out.

There were some beautiful units there. They ranged in from 1958 to, I think 2007. I can safely say we had the least shiny trailer at the rally. I really like it that way. Beth says she is going to polish it, but I hope she changes her mind. I like the dull pewter look much more than the bright. To each his own...
Anna felt like home and all three of my girls seamed to feel comfortable too. The next rally we are attending is Cherry Bosson in April, then in May, Ottawa, Canada. I need to go check map-quest and see how far that is.... 528 ,eight and a half hours... wonder if Rob will have courtesy parking available on May 21 so we can break it up into 2 days... much easier with Halle if we keep the days drive to about two- three hour sprints.

Friday, October 5, 2007

riled up for a rally

I have been wide awake since 3 am... we leave this morning for our first rally ever with the Washington DC Unit. I woke up and my tiny little brain was just racing with all the details of getting off. This is Anna's shakedown trip. I have not taken her out except to be inspected when she came home to us. How will she perform on the 4 hour journey to New Port News Virginia is a big question. I wonder if Wally Byum and his gang had the same jitters as they embarked on the first carravan. I wonder if his mind was racing in the early morning hours. Anna sits hooked up, fully packed, just waiting for the rest of the family to wake up. Her pink Dometic refridgerator has been burning for two days now and when I filled it full of food yesterday evening it was nice and cold even on the middle setting. I wonder why we do not use more of these propane refridgerators. The thing is 45 years old and still works perfectly. We belong to communal farm in West Virginia (not really a commune, but a communally owned property that use to be a farm) and the gas refridgerator had been working strong since 1948. It was replaced this past summer not because it was broken, but because some of the members wanted a more modern gas refridgerator. Some were tired of looking at the pyhcodelic paint job from the 1970's and thought it too old looking. So a new white one was ordered. Unfortunately when the new one arrived, the old one was tossed out into the side yard and the door was bent so badly that it cannot shut anymore. All those years of service to be tossed out and damaged beyond use. The cool thing about the gas refridgerator is that there are no moving parts, nothing to break down, no circuit boards to burn up. I plan to keep Anna's dometic in place and use it for another 45 years.