Saturday, June 25, 2011

Maiden Voyage!!

Whew!  It's been a long time coming, but we finally went on our first trip with the Shasta!  Back in the spring, we went to the RV show and received a voucher for some free nights at a campground about 2 hours away (which might remain nameless to protect the innocent).  Although I'd really wanted to take our first trip at a place about a half hour away in case something went wrong, we felt confident enough that all of her systems were good to go to give this place a shot.  The photos of the pretty and serene lake were enticing.  With thoughts of campfires with marshmallows and chocolate oozing out of graham crackers, we set off on our first adventure with our newly renamed Dixie Belle the Beach Motel. 

I was able to get the registration done on Monday - FINALLY!  I took the bond, my other documents, the bill of sale and the amendment to the bond, and the lady at the DMV gave me the plates!  Yahoo!!!   What a relief!  The title should arrive in 3-4 weeks.  Yay.  From there, we put everything into fast forward so we could get ready for our trip.   
We had new trailer tires put on her the week before the trip.  We also had a spare mounted on a new 15" rim and hubby put it on the bumper.  Then, we spent a day in the parking lot of "The Store that Shall Not Be Named" with a guy who has a portable welder that we found through Craigslist.  He welded on the pieces for the anti-sway bar.  The tires and the sway bar made a HUGE difference in how well she towed, especially when semi trailers would pass us on the highway. 

Things went relatively smoothly for the whole trip, even though we were pummelled by falling pine cones the first night during a severe thunderstorm.  I woke up thinking that I heard raindrops, but it turned out to be pieces of pine tree and debris falling from the huge white pines overhead.  THEN the rain started once we got back into bed.  The Shasta kept us safe and dry, although I worried about the big dents on the roof that I was sure were going to be there in the morning.  My fears weren't realized, however.  She's just fine. 

We had another rainstorm the following evening, just as we had begun preparations for grilling some burgers.  We lost power, and we also got 4-5 inches of water in our campsite.  The water drained off quickly enough, but we were soaked and any thoughts of grilling dinner were kaput.  We had some overcooked macaroni and cheese, played cards and watched a movie when the lights came back on.

Most of our day was filled with swimming and digging in the sand on the beach.  The lake was truly wonderful.  Shallow water on a white sandy beach, shade on the beach to sit under and watch the kids play.  It was really nice the first two days and nights.  The third night was an eye-opener, though!  The place we stayed is primarily a seasonal resort type of campground.  There are about 100 or so overnight spots clustered together in the center of a seasonal / year round campground.  There were relatively few seasonal people around the first two weekdays that we were there.  On Thursday night, the seasonal campers started pouring in; and I don't think I've ever seen so many golf carts outside of a golf course.  We saw one or two golf carts zip by every minute or so.  Little kids, ages 7 or 8 were driving them, music was playing and they were just crusing around.  Until midnight.  We also found out that the piers at the lake are lit at night, and we could have gone swimming in the evening.  Kind of maddening to discover things about the campground on our last night there that the staff could have told us about - after all, weren't they trying to entice people to camp there by offerring free camping?  Hmm.   

We also discovered that the campsites don't have fire rings like we'd thought.  We had a fire one night, using our little grill as a fire pit.  Lesson to be learned?  Don't just ask if they allow campfires, also ask if they have fire rings!!

We were the littlest camper there until the last day when a Boler pulled in a few sites away.  It was very cute, with flowers painted all over it.  I wonder how Dixie Belle would look with big flowers painted on her?  Nah, maybe some flamingoes would be better, I think.

Overall, we had a very successful first outing, though!  Hubby is a little worried that our a/c install isn't up to the job, but I think most of the reason for the inability to keep up with the heat has to do with two kids who open the door and leave it that way - a lot!  We also had really high humidity and temps in the mid-90's.

Our setup time was greatly reduced, from the amount of time needed for the popup.  I think we were pretty much set up and level with the jacks on the corners and all plugged in within a half hour after we pulled in at our site.  Tucking things away and sorting out where everything was took a little time, since we really didn't know what we'd need or should bring, so we brought too much stuff.  As we camp more with her, we'll figure those things out and cut our time down. 

The pottie closet was a lifesaver.   The hinged door made an awful creaking noise when we opened it, causing my daughter to insist that we were making the noise on purpose to wake her up!   Ha - wish we'd thought of that sooner....

There is a lot of heat produced by the hot plate burners.  We can use them inside, but it will be better to use them outside when it's really hot.  We need to add an exterior outlet and also an outside light of some type. 

Our awning worked rather well, all things considered.  We put it up twice, and both times had to take it down due to rain and wind.  We purchased some hooks from Ebay that go into the awning rail at 2' intervals.  They stay attached to the rail and they're designed to be used with a tarp and 2 or 3 adjustable tent poles to create an awning.  They work very well, although one did pull out during the winds we had.   Now that we know how well they work, I'll make a nicer awning out of outdoor canvas that will work with the hooks.  We'd thought about using keder welt or rope to put through the awning rail, but it really is a pain to have to thread it in when camping alone.  These hooks will be much easier.

We had decided to have both of the kids sleep on the dinette bed, and this worked fine the first two nights.  On the third night, the girl pushed the boy off the bed - TWICE.  We should have realized this might be a problem, since her nickname was "Little Miss Kick and Flail" when she was little.  The first time she pushed him off was shortly after she'd fallen asleep.  We tucked him back into bed and scooted her back over on her side.  Then, we were awoken at 5am by a loud bang, which was our son landing on the floor.  Poor little guy.  He's okay, didn't even know what had happened.  Apparently, the girl took up so much room on the bed that he was edged out.  We'll use a bed rail until we can get the bunk done. 

We also saw a great idea for a drying rack that we'll adapt for the Shasta.  A camper next to us had mounted two flagpole holders on his bumper, then attached a 3 sided rack made from pvc to them.  Then he had ropes that went through the pvc pipe to hang wet towels and suits on.  We'd seen this system before, but we had a popup, and there's no access to the bumper when the popup is set up.  It will be much better than our little drying rack!  We'll definitely use this idea at some point in the future. 

Another thing we need to work on is a frame inside the closet for the plastic bins to slide in and out of.  We keep our clothes in plastic bins which fit nicely inside the closet.  They are clear so we can see what we have for clothes, and it's easy to give each person a bin to pack with their things before each trip.  The problem is that if we need something from the bottom bin, the bins on top of it need to be taken out of the closet and put on the bed.  So, a sliding rack system would make things much easier.  Kind of like making drawers for the closet.

All in all, it was a great trip.  We had s'mores, got sunburned, had fun swimming and walking around the campground, and we were able to enjoy some family time.  Yup.  Life is good.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Picture Time!!

Hubby has been bugging me to put more photos on the blog.  So, here they are!!  We are almost finished with the interior work at this point, just a few little fixes here and there.  The outside is another story...hahha. 

There are a few shots of the a/c fix that we came up with at the end.  We removed a very heavy, old and most likely unsafe propane heater from the closet, leaving a gaping hole in the side of the cabinet and a round vent to the exterior.  We live in NC and we camp at the beach most of the time, in the middle of summer, when the temps are in the 90's and the humidity is almost as high as the temp.  So, an a/c is a MUST have item.  This is the solution that we came up with.  It is NOT ideal, and it works as well as it does only because the Hubster is quite mechanically inclined, and he has a good working knowledge of what he's dealing with.  I wouldn't recommend doing an a/c install this way.  There is still a fair amount of heat gain from the back of the unit, and we are aware that it isn't the best way to do an a/c install.  BUT, it is working for now, for us, and that's all that counts.

So, with no further ado - here's the photos!!

Here's the potty closet door!  I used black vinyl to label it with a "moon" like an outhouse...hahaha.  I cut it where the door folds in half.  No doubt what's in the closet now!!

The gaucho, with our slightly too large futon mattress in place.  We want to be comfortable sleeping at night, so we chose to use a futon mattress from a futon couch that hubby made about 10 years ago!  Wow, how time flies! We'll cut it down by about 6" if it works well for sleeping.  The bed size is a "double" bed, or 75 by 48" wide, the futon is 54" wide.  You can also see the curtains that I'm making in this photo.  Love the fabric!  It's a Michael Miller quilting cotton called "Travel Trailer" and it's just lovely to work with.  I hunted this stuff down and bought about 10 yards of it.  I'll make some matching pillows later, I just threw the pillow forms on the bed to see what it would look like.  

The dinette bench and table are DONE!!  Well, not quite done, we eventually plan to laminate the table with the boomerang aqua laminate we have in storage, but we wanted to make sure the table was the right size for us first.  Nice, huh?  The cushions are covered with a vintage-ey green slubby fabric that I found on sale at Joann's.   I just made simple boxed cushion covers over the 4" thick foam, then covered them with batting.  They're quite comfortable for sitting, not sure about sleeping yet! 

The whole dinette!!  This area is where the kids will sleep.  The dinette table makes into a bed that is just a bit larger than a twin size.  Eventually, we'll add a pole cot above the dinette for our son to sleep on.  For the next few camping trips, we'll just have them bunk together.  Might make them appreciate each other a bit more....or it might be the source of great contention between them.  Not sure which yet.

The view from the door of the dinette.  Lots of seating room, big table, plenty of storage beneath the benches.  You can also see the electric fridge from this view. 

Fridge and microwave!!  We chose not to install a regular stovetop and oven.  We don't "cook" much when we camp, an oven wouldn't have been used very often, so it would have taken up valuble space.  We chose to make a shelf for a pair of hot plates that can be used inside or outside.  The fridge is a compact unit that can be removed if it should die at some point down the road.  Same with the microwave.  We usually make popcorn, heat up canned food and quick meals in the microwave, so it made sense to make a space for one.  We'll keep condiments, meat and veggies in the little fridge.  We keep drinks and beer in a cooler with ice outside. 

A good view of the kitchenette.  The countertop is just painted 5/8 plywood for now.  The sink is a bar sink that is temporary, and we don't yet have the backsplash installed.  We have laminate for the permanent countertop and we'll put the original sink back in.  There's LOTS of counter space.  LOVE IT. 

Beneath the sink!  The sink sits over the wheel well, so there's a little bump-up shelf in the front.  The paper towel rack will be mounted once I figure out where to put it.   I LOVE the towel bar inside the cabinet door.  You just don't find great stuff like this on the new campers. 

Sliding doors beneath the entire kitchenette.  This one is shallow due to the wheel well behind it. 

You can also see the outlet strip that hubby put just inside this shelf, underneath the countertop edge.  There are two outlets here, so that we can plug in the coffee pot or hot plates without having cords dangling all over.  There is also a strip of 3 outlets just beneath the upper right hand cabinet for fans or a radio, etc.  The bathroom has an outlet added as well, we've plugged in a small night light for lighting needs in there.  Hubby also put another outlet in the  closet for the a/c and fan unit that are in there.  Other than that, we have just what the camper came with - 3 outlets, one on each lighting fixture.  Hubby upgraded the electrical service with a 30 amp inlet (marine style, furrion brand) to make sure we'll have enough oomph for a microwave and a/c. 

Fridge, with storage for pots and pans beneath. 

Pots and pans storage.  I am so thrilled with the amount of storage this little beauty has. 

You can see the back area of the kitchenette a little bit here.  The fridge is shallow, leaving about 8" of space behind it.  Hubby installed an on-demand propane hot water heater behind it.  The controls for it are accessible from the exterior door that was for the old propane fridge that this camper had originally.  Hubby build a new vent and ductwork for the heat to vent to the outside beneath the countertop.  **This is not a recommended use of this propane outdoor hot water heater.  The model is an Eccotemp L5.  We need hot water only for washing dishes, faces, and occasionally washing hair or bodies at the small sink.  This unit produces a serious amount of heat and it's not approved for interior applications.  Since we won't be using it very often and it's also got a huge access door vent right in front of it, we feel quite safe with this installation.  We'll monitor it over time to see how it fares.

Sliding access panel doors beneath the gaucho. 

A/C installation in the closet.  This photo is turned sideways, sorry about that.  Originally, this closet had a cavity for the propane furnace.  We removed the heater and decided to install a 5000 btu window a/c unit in this space.  There is a boxed vent beneath the a/c unit, and an air intake vent in the side of the camper from the old propane furnace.  A 6" industrial fan blows the hot air out of the duct at the bottom of the camper just in front of the wheel well. 

Top of the unit.  A piece of plywood sits above the supports in the cabinet to partition the a/c from the closet.

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There is a small cabinet door that will go back on here to cover up the duct (on the right) at allow access to the switch once it's mounted in place.  A blast gate will go at the bottom of the duct.  We'll open the gate, turn on the switch, and the power will go to the small fan and the a/c. 

This is the space we had to work with.  So, an a/c unit sticking out of the side of the cabinet is far better than a big empty hole.  ha!  This is only a temporary mock-up to test it out.  The whole thing will be finished out nicely when Hubby is done.  The wiring will be run properly, and this side will have a panel over it.  The area beneath the a/c will be storage for a small tool roll, and access to the switch and blast gate. 

Our happy little camper!!!

Arrrrghhh....the TITLE saga continues......

Well, now.  Thought everything was all clear for the title.  EVIDENTLY not.  I went to the DMV on Thursday of last week and I should have known something was wrong.  There was no line!!  So, I walked right up to the counter and gave the lady my documents, told her I needed to title a camper, I had a bond, and the license and theft inspector had already signed off on it.

So, she looked at my documents, asked me for my license, and I thought we were all set.  NOPE.  The bond and my license have to state the same name.  EXACTLY the same.  My license has my full name, and the bond had my middle name abbreviated as an initial.  Oh, and to top it off, the bond also misspelled my last name, putting an "i" instead of an "l" in it.  ARRRRGGGHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH. 

I was almost in tears.  I think the DMV lady took pity on me, because she gave me a card for someone who does indemnity bonds locally.  I called them and found out that they do a LOT of them.  And they do them on the spot, no waiting for weeks to get them.  Ugh.

I called the person who underwrote my bond, told him the problem, and he asked me to send him the corrected information via email.  Now to wait for the corrected bond to arrive.  What a PITA.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Title? Seriously?

Today was the day that someone from the DMV came to inspect the ol' girl and check her VIN.  If you didn't join us in the beginning of this tale, let me bring ya up to speed. 

We bought this old Shasta without a title from a couple that lives in NC, about an hour away from us.  It had been infested with mice, some haphazard repairs had been made, but even those were failing.  Wse rescued her and walked away with a Bill of Sale, the trailer, and then set about to get a title on her.

The first step in the process was to determine how much she was worth to the DMV so we could get a bond for 1.5 times the value.  Letter received from the nice guy at the DMV, phone call made to find someone to tell us how to get a bond.  Called our insurance agent, who referred us to another agent.  Several phone calls later (and another week) and the bond was applied for.  The bond was received almost a month later, but was wrong, and had to be reissued.  Wait another two weeks.  Called the DMV to have an inspector come see the trailer.  Wait another 3 weeks, called again.  Storms in the NC area had put a heavy demand on the inspectors to track down the owners of the vehicles that the tornadoes tossed about.  An appointment was made for TODAY for an inspector to come and see the FrankenBeast.

So, here we are!!  The inspector looked her over, made sure the VIN matched the bill of sale which matched the bond.   He asked how I knew it was a 1964.  I told him about the sink and the furnace dates.  He asked to see the sink.  (glad Hubby had cleaned it!)  I dragged it out of it's hiding spot in the garage, and showed it to him.  He explained that the reason why the sink has a date on it is that there is a FEDERAL requirement that the manufacturer put a date inside the vehicle.  On newer vehicles, it's usually a sticker.  On Shasta's, it's on the SINK.  Interesting tidbit.

He then went to his car and typed in the VIN on his computer.   He typed in all of my info, printed two copies and told me to bring the form, the bond, the bill of sale and my driver's license to the DMV down the street.  I can request a new title and I should have it in my hands in as little as 3 weeks.  YAYYYY!!!!!!!!!!

Now, because I'm such a slacker, I figured I'd post some new photos so you can see the progress we're making on Frankie.  She's such a least inside.  The outside is still as ugly as a bucket of toads, but beauty is only skin deep, right?

Here's the new kitchenette!  Hubby reused the cutting board, drawers and the door under the sink.  Everything else is new.  He used fir for theh face frame, and a combination of 5/8 plywood, pine dimensional lumber for the inside frame and some birch paneling for the inside of the cabinets. 

The large opening on the right is for the minifridge, the opening in the center is for a microwave, and the opening above that is for storing the hotplates. 

He also added sliding doors along the entire length at the bottom.  This will be storage for small electric appliances, pots, pans, bowls, pitchers, etc.  sooooooo much storage!!

Another view.  You ca n see the vents behind where the fridge will go.  The fridge will sit about 8" away from the rear wall to allow for the water heater.