Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Announcing Our New Website!

After getting lots of requests for easier to find resources, I decided it was time to redesign the blog. If you are reading this post, point your browser to the new home of Tales of the Toaster:


I will no longer be posting here on Blogger, so you will have to go to the new site to see coming developments!

As the new site grows, I'll broaden the content. Please also add your comments and link your blog to the new site!

Thank you for joining us so far on the journey of this restoration. Things are really moving ahead, so please go to the new site and keep reading!

Monday, April 21, 2008

Easy Days in the Big Easy

We arrived down here in New Orleans several days ago, a little early to enjoy a little taste of the city before starting work at the rebuilding effort we're signed up for the rest of this week. The past few days have been pure indulgence. We're staying at a wonderful B&B (the gorgeous and hospitable 1896 O'Malley House) located in the mid-town area, we sleep in (though for us, waking late is at 7:30), we enjoy touristy things like walking tours and riverboat cruises, and we spend our afternoons enjoying the breezes on the veranda reading books. We've also had the wonderful opportunity to get to know local Airstreamer Rick Olivier, his wife, Tania and his daughter Marsalla. It's been just about the perfect vacation, which we've truly enjoyed.

Rick is a portrait photographer, a musician and a dad with a deep love for the traditions and heritage that makes New Orleans such a special place. His photographs of the local celebrities are magic. You can feel the music coming right off the paper. Tania is a free spirit, too. She works here as a teacher--and has a true passion for exploration. She can't wait until Rick finishes their Safari and they hit the road. I hope their path comes North. I'd love to show Marsalla around Richmond and Washington DC.

Three years on and Hurricane Katrina still is a deep presence in this city. Coming down, I wondered if it would be treated as somewhat taboo. It isn't: the people here are legitimately proud of their resilience and eager to share their stories, which are truly inspiring. However, this is an area that has transformed. Certainly, the leading industry is tourism, which is hardly surprising. The other major industry is higher education--and that has given the neighborhood we're staying in a dominant college town feel. Small funky restaurants. A vibrant arts scene. I don't know if this was as deeply characteristic before the flooding, but it makes the environment truly enjoyable, even as the area rebuilds.

Much waits to be done, though. The city is filled with empty houses waiting for reconstruction and occupancy. In this mid city area, almost all the historic homes have survived, but so many are in need of attention. There is concern about owners who have procrastinated rebuilding for so long, choosing to remain in trailers. However, the vibe here is distinctly upbeat: the optimism is infectious here.

Yesterday local Rick Olivier hosted a little Airstreaming get-together. To our surprise, Airstream Life editor Rich Luhr and his family happened to be in the area. They brought their companions, Adam and Susan from Maine. It was great catching up with Rick and Eleanor, whom I hadn't seen for three years, since our whole restoration effort started. Rick invited over neighbors and Jim and Donna Clark. Earlier this winter Rick shot photos of Jim and Donna's 2005 Airstream at a local marina which will appear in the summer's issue of Airstream Life. What I learned from Donna was that the article won't tell the truly epic back story: after the shoot, it took an hour to extricate their trailer from the tricky parking spot. Then on the way home, Jim took a turn a little tight and their son heard a noise. A few yards later they realized they had a flat tire. Jim changed the tire, looked up and realized something more: the axle had bent! Somehow they limped home...and ordered a new axle.

Drinking ice cold sprites out on the porch, snacking on veggies, talking with the girls and watching the palms was just about heaven. Later, Rick gave us tours of his Airstream: again, we got to view an amazing bathroom renovation. We are postponing that part of our own effort because it is the least critical repair ahead. However, seeing what Rick...and Frank and Rob have done is downright inspiring. I can't wait to get there now either!

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Cherry Blossom Rally, Wrapped up

Well, it's been a busy week since leaving the CBR, but how to describe such an incredible 24 hours?

The rally was like going home. Most old friends were there, others were missed, new friends felt like old. We ate, we talked, we dreamed, we celebrated. Kids played, dancing with kites and remote control aircraft. It rained, as it always does at every CBR--and amazingly, our trailer did not leak, though we know there are holes that can seep. Funny stories were shared and challenges levied.

After a day of beautiful sunsets and warm breezes, we headed home, excited for our next rally.

Then we got to work. Many mundane responsibilities were left to hang for us to work on the trailer--and we had to get things in relative order before heading off for vacation.

Now we are in New Orleans, enjoying a few days of indulgent laziness before getting to work on rebuilding. But more on that later...it's vacation now and we are enjoying it!

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Scenes from the Washington DC Unit's 2008 Cherry Blossom Rally

Created with Admarket's flickrSLiDR.

Airstreams Look Better When They are Moving

Yes, our trailer hit the road! It took a couple more days than we anticipated...involving a whole lot of clearing out and a fair amount of work, but we managed to get her moving on Saturday morning, just in time for the last day of the Cherry Blossom Rally.

Getting to that point was laborious. It took a whole evening to just clear out the tools and parts that we'd accumulated in there. I cut and installed several belly pan patches, finished packing insulation while Rick wired up the electric system. Rick fabricated a more stable steel channel reinforcement for the doorway. We did lots of structural riveting, removed the handing gas lines and put repair rivets on the bottom of the belly pan. The tires were re-pressurized, we tested electric, wired in the jack and hit the road.

Two efforts did not lead to success, mostly because we lacked of the right tools and fasteners. After taking on a very laborious task of cutting the bottom of the front wall down 2/16" to match our now slightly higher floor, we tried to reinstall it. However, lacking the correct clecos, we could not make the holes in the old wall match up. We left a few rivets in and decided to wait to get the right ones later. Our second problem was re-attaching the front banana wrap--ie, the lateral aluminum strip on the exterior separating the belly pan from the upper skin. Our problem there was that we quickly realized that this would require longer rivets than those available from our local big box store. A drive to our local Fastenal distributor revealed that these would be a special order item. So, that, too, would have to wait.

We finished at 10:30 pm Friday night. Realizing it was too late, we crashed and slept very soundly. First thing in the morning, we hitched her up, sucked in our breath and watched the trailer finally roll.

So, all in all, we managed to accomplish what we felt was a critical milestone: we got our trailer to this year's Cherry Blossom Rally. Riding behind it in a passenger car, I could observe that it rode with a noticeable degree less bounciness than it had in 2005.

That accomplishment, however, is fairly subtle. It's not showy, but it is significant. During open house, I could see that some folks who had seen it before were a little surprised by our pride in taking our trailer from this state:
To this:
However, what we have now is solid...and eventually we'll reinstall all the pretty stuff once again! Nobody will call it a polished turd!

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Sealing Things Up

First: a little background on this weekend's efforts: A week ago Saturday, I managed to get myself working fairly late, put in a big effort, then pretty much passed out. The effort kept me down all day Sunday, Monday and Tuesday. Wednesday, I met a friend for lunch, barely keeping myself from falling over. Afterwards, I collapsed into a chair in my doctor's waiting room. The verdict came and it was surprising: tetanus. A week earlier, I'd had a tetanus shot, in preparation for our upcoming relief trip to New Orleans. Apparently, I had a reaction against the shot. Verdict: I would have to wait for it to pass--and I should look with extreme caution on taking a booster of that vaccine ever again. By Friday, I was on the mend and yesterday I put in a full day of work again (though I still have a sizeable lump in my arm) .

So, with little time ahead, we swung into action this weekend. My first order of action was finishing up the panel to seal up the old furnace hole. Over the week, I'd taken a file (properly called, to my endless amusement, a bastard file) to smooth off the edges and round the corners off. It's funny how rounding off the corners really transformed it from a crude piece of metal into something that looked like a real panel. I measured in a half inch and marked hole points every 3". With that, I slept--something I did a lot of in my fevered state.

Saturday, knowing my tendency to skate a drill on smooth aluminum, I decided to work slowly to guard against error. I started by drilling small holes in my marked spots with a very small drill bit. Then I took a #20 drill bit (one the size of Olympic rivets) and widened the outermost top holes to full size. Then Rick held it up to the hole while I looked for visual fit. When it looked right, I took a Sharpie pen and marked the holes on the skin of the trailer. I drilled in those holes, gooped the back of the panel with vulkem caulk and set my first rivets. Then I continued drilling out holes, gooping rivets with vulkem and cranking them in place. By far, the hardest part was the bottom, which curved over the belly pan. We tried bending the edge with a broomstick and a pvc pipe--with little result. Finally, by working together, one person forcing the panel to curve while the other riveted, we managed decent success. Completion was a cooperative result and we were both pleased with the result (moreover, today it rained all day and the panel never leaked!).

Today, we focused on completion. Rick finalized wiring while I attended to insulation. I put Reflectix insulation under all of the exposed exterior panels, sealed it with aluminum tape and filled in the gap with fiberglass batting. Most of the panels are done--but we ran out of batting, so I will have to finish up tomorrow. Overall, it was an exceptionally tedious job. There are few ways to make endless hours of taping and cutting sound exciting. However, the notion of gaining some decent warmth made it worthwhile.

After replacement of a couple of interior rivets gone awry, we quit for the evening. Tomorrow we reattach the inside wall. Then getting this trailer back on the road will start to become a real possibility...

Saturday, March 29, 2008


This is a view we've wanted to see for two years!

We still have a zillion bolts and screws to drive down (isn't that what Sundays are for?), we have lots of other things to attend to (including the very dead battery in our tow vehicle) but our front end floor is in.

Ironically, it wasn't until Wednesday that we realized why we've been having such a hard time getting this stuff in...the 3/4" ply we used (we think it was that thickness, but remember--we bought it two years ago) was a little thicker than the old flooring material. If you notice, we've started planing edges to match. Well, we are still learning...

Our approach to installing the flooring was by partial sheet. Full sheets are a stronger option--but not always most practical for installation. For us, partial sheets were a necessary compromise: I cannot handle full sheets of plywood by myself--in this marine grade, it's just too heavy--and finally, smaller pieces are just easier to fit.

We solidified the joints by battens, strips of wood screwed underneath, mating up the new pieces to the old flooring. It's a technique we learned from other members of our unit of the Airstream club--and it seems to work. It has involved a whole lot of screw setting (and we still have a lot more to do). However, now that the new floor is down, it's feeling really solid. That's very, very nice.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Slicing Aluminum Like Butter

Rick was out tonight, at a late business meeting, so I was on my own. My assignment: prepare a replacement panel to cover the hole left when we took the furnace out two years ago. Since then, we've covered the hole up with plastic--which isn't really a roadworthy solution.

Today, I used a new tool (electric metal shears from Harbor Freight) and cut out a panel to fit. The job wasn't tough, but I was working with new, expensive materials (T3 aluminum) and an unfamiliar power tool. My earlier experiences with fabricating aluminum wasn't positive--using tin snips I got jagged edges and had trouble manipulating the metal on inward curves. I had none of that trouble today--I just followed the line and the shears just plowed into the metal. Pretty darn cool!

This aluminum is a lot thicker than I thought, but it cuts up nice. I achieved fairly smooth cuts, but I want to sand it to remove a little waviness in my line and to possibly round off the edges. I'm going to need a new sanding belt to do that, though. This task is pretty easy and fun! I may just get hooked on fabrication after all!

Monday, March 24, 2008

One More Portion Down

Today after work, we attended to the right side of the front panel. I drilled in an access hole (so Rick can pass wiring through to the tongue after it is welded), drilled in pilot holes for self-tapping screws.Then, after considerable pounding, the board slid in. It has a slight gap towards the front, but once screwed in and bolted down, the front ended up solid.

Whew. Fortunately tonight we set up a lamp, since we finished well after dark.

In accomplishing this, we made one last use of a very useful tool...our cardboard template of the front curve. Rick drafted this from a tracing of the old rotted floorboards, then marked it with the location of the frame members and the outriggers. It served as a cutting guide and as a drilling guide. It worked, but now we will retire it to the basement.

Now, I have one problem. A new writer left a comment last night. I approved it in the moderation screen (sorry, a necessary evil since spammers started entering advertisements there) and then could not see it online. Ergh. I regret I must have clicked wrong. Phooey.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Getting Floored for Easter

Two years ago, we started this job by cutting out flooring sections. Today--after putting down insulation and trimming--we set in our first flooring section back in.

But I must digress here. Insulation. Easy to cut. Annoying as all heck. Despite wearing full coverage clothing, a respirator and gloves, it left me feeling so itchy I had to jump right into the bath immediately after laying the stuff down. Ick. Thank goodness that stuff didn't go into my lungs! On the plus side, the Airstream now has a well-insulated front section (a welcome alternative to rodent poop and nut shells). Hopefully the effort will make cold nights a little warmer from here on in.

Bolting the flooring down was surprisingly laborious, but not particularly difficult. We needed to trim to get the piece to fit in, then we had to mark the location of the outriggers. Not having the access to use elevator bolts, we used self-tapping screws, setting them 3" apart (since we couldn't use the elevator bolts, we decided to set them fairly close. That means drilling lots of pilot holes and countersinking, which we took turns at. We found the countersink a slightly fiddly, since there was no effective way to gauge how deeply it went in. Rick (who drills with far more force than I do) felt he'd drilled some of his holes too deeply--but the screws still seemed to set fine. Getting the self-tapping screws to screw in--even with pilot holes--was also difficult. They were extremely wobbly. I couldn't handle this at all, but Rick managed--though that came with a few curses and retries.

There will be more bolts to set at the periphery, but we turned to attaching a batten (more screws!) and setting in the second half of the front section. Using a large sheet of cardboard to refine fit and map out the position of frame members, we raced to finalize the fit as dark fell.

Alongside that, we spent time on littler projects. Rick positioned the two new AGM batteries he purchased last week, set in the boxes and did small modifications to the trailer wiring. I scraped off old vulkem caulking and drilled out the broken rivets to clean up the old furnace hole (which we'd had covered by plastic). I don't quite know what to do there, but I will be covering it up with a new piece of aluminum. I may try placing the old radiator cover over it to disguise the patch, but that depends on whether I can pound the poor old dented piece into a reasonable shape.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Restoring Front End Stabilization

Rick's fall ended up being a blessing.

We came to realize that we attempted too much without providing compensating structural support. The upper shell was attached to the chassis by a couple of clecos--but we'd left the belly pan detatched. But as we pulled out wood, critical points of support got removed. It seemed manageable as we removed more and more rotted areas, until the cross-wise support of the belly pan got removed. Then we realized it had started to sink off the frame. Slowly the aluminum was dipping past the steel of the chassis frame where it was unsupported--causing it to rise elsewhere. The twist became clear when the door wouldn't shut easily.

So, this weekend has been a reconstruction effort.

First--we had errands to accomplish. For some odd reason, the little package containing the necessary hardware (except the hitch screws, which aren't included) and assembly instructions missing from our new power jack. Fortunately, our preferred parts supplier (Restless Wheels) is extremely reputable. They took a packet from an unsold jack and called Barker for a replacement for the missing one. So, we picked that up and picked up hitch screws (I had a chopped off piece of the old screws to match). While in Manassas, we went to Lowes (which doesn't have any closer stores) for a supply of insulation and aluminum tape. For some odd reason, our local orange big box store doesn't sell either Reflectix (reflective bubble wrap insulation) or aluminum tape. Once stocked up, we headed back home.

Since we had more exposed frame, we got cracking on getting it sealed. To be honest, we spent a good bit of time looking in on the hole, trying to figure out what went wrong. It quickly became clear that the problem was that by opening up so much of the floor, we lost stability in the upper shell. Cracking open the belly pan may have been a bit of a blessing. However, we still couldn't shut the door effectively.

So, taking a page from Frank's bathroom repair, we installed a jack to support the upper shell. However, since we hadn't completely opened the belly pan, we couldn't stabilize it against the ground. Instead, we used the frame as our base. That helped, but not quite enough. Our next thought was to put the lost rivets back in on the belly pan, but Rick felt we needed more space to get underneath. So, we started cranking on the new jack. Watching the frame, it became quickly clear it was still unattached, so we cranked it back down. However, as I uncranked, Rick let the door swing...and it shut. We stopped cranking, went up, went down. We shut the door again. It's never closed this well before. Result? The upper shell has been set at its best location. Both of us breathed much, much easier.

Based on that, we pulled out the clecos in the front, pulled the belly pan up and placed new rivets in. This required a bit of drilling (the holes were too small), but the aluminum went right up and the holes lined up perfectly. That was a good thing. There are more rivets to go up higher, on the belly pan and along the banana wrap line (the horizontal wrap at the base--you can see its shadow running laterally above the tongue in the photo above), but the process of stabilizing is in force. Rick squared and we cut out a new replacement panel for the floor.

So, now we're in reconstruction mode, which is a really good place to get to.

Opportunity Drops in (on our Belly Pan)

It was a dark, dark Friday night. The wind blew through the trees. Lonely dogs howled at the moon. It was, as they say, an ominous moment.

After supper, Rick and I continued discussing our heater paradox (we are having a tough time finding a solution), so we went out to examine the logistics of the interior. Standing in the doorway, Rick rocked on his feet and slipped. He fell right into the hole he had cut into the flooring to remove rotted wood only a few weeks early. His foot went through the crack at the center of the belly pan, where the two panels met.

Oh, no.

This morning we checked out the damage. Some rivets sheared in the bottom (replaceable). Fortunately, no metal was bent. However, trouble with the door showed that we altered a critical structural connection with the upper body. We pushed the belly pan as close as we could to its original position and that relieved the door stress.

Well, there are different ways to look at this. Riveting more of the belly pan back together, patching the places where it sheared will be a pain. However, the access gave us a good chance to look further back and to treat more of the frame. I quickly cleaned up the area, mixed up some rust converter and applied it to the frame.

So, our mission is to get the work in the front done as quickly as possible and to seal up the belly pan. Luckily, there isn't too much to do on that. We're in good shape, but the next few weeks will be busy ones.

On a related side note: A few months ago, I installed Google Analytics on this page. That's a service that gives information on traffic a site generates. It's a useful tool for understanding who an audience is and how to improve. To my surprise, there's a decent degree of traffic here, even though I've done little to promote this blog. Apparently, a couple of other sites link back here. A significant degree of traffic come from a link on VintageAirstream.com. Wow, I am so honored by this! Then I looked at the description given to my blog:
The Nightmare known as finding out just what a vintage trailer can hide...
I love your website, but I beg to to differ, RJ! I'm enjoying myself way too much to consider this a nightmare. Certainly, there have been challenges with fixing this vintage pile of metal--but we've been able to face them. We repaired the front end relatively fast--we chose to do more, and then let the project fall into a hiatus. For me, I'm really enjoying learning more about the trailer and figuring out how to fix it. Both of us also feel that the result is worth it. When we are done, we'll know our trailer will be up to decades of serviceable miles on the road. We'll know how to do field repairs. But ultimately, we've learned repair is mostly a matter of attitude.

So, Rick slipped. Things like that are liable to happen. Yes, we do have an extra job ahead. But we also have access to places in our under-body that we've never previously had access to. We got to inspect a significantly larger amount of the frame (and found it's in pretty good shape. We get to replace more insulation. No significant damage was made.

And all of that is pretty excellent. I just hope our future mistakes are as productive!

Monday, March 10, 2008

My Grandmother's Century

It's hard to say goodbye, but sweet to appreciate all the joy that came from a long friendship and a deep love. Yesterday, my grandmother passed away peacefully after living more than a hundred years of wit and adventure. Short stature never stopped her from being an avid sportswoman. Born to a small rural town, she was a bright, spirited young girl who longed for bigger horizons. A nursing scholarship proved the ticket to life in the big city of Boston, the love of her life and eventually to achieve professional success that inwardly she desired but couldn't acknowledge until she was much older and retired. I got to know her as an adult while assisting her with caring for my grandfather as he died of cancer. I rediscovered her as a deep friend, someone with hidden inner strength, determination and tolerance. I can't say how lucky I feel to have had her in my life.

So, I'm skipping a week off from Airstream repairs. It's a delay that just has to be managed. As some readers may know, I spent most of this winter working in the Capitol of Virginia, during the legislative session. Before that, progress on the trailer slowed as I was pretty fairly overwhelmed in the fall during the reelection campaign. Now, I am back home in Northern Virginia, looking forward to repossessing my after work hours, but preparing to go to Boston. Fortunately, I was able to go up earlier this week and say goodbye while she was still alive and aware. Now I get to wish her off to her bigger journey. Looking at the shot above (incidently, she was almost my age when it was taken), it's pretty easy to see her reunited with my grandfather, taking on new off-road cycling adventures once again.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Maybe I Do Know Jack...

There is a deep satisfaction from recognizing that I have gained an atypical skill...that I am becoming proficient in something that isn't retiring and girly.

For me, that seems to be grinding. After cutting bolts, bar stock and flat steel...I don't feel much hesitation at all in putting on the goggles, whipping out the grinder (my trustworthy one is a cheap Harborfreight model) and letting it rip.

I can wear nail polish, ladylike suits and heels--heck, do it all the time! Inwardly, I know that I am the master of cold steel--well, that's just cool!

This weekend's mission was cleaning up the hitch. I am so appreciative of the comment to my last post, questioning bringing the bottles forward on the hitch. In fact, this really won't shift the location of the bottles much at all--they were fairly far forward, due to the (now removed) battery box. Even after removing the bottle box, they remained stable, despite the "aft forward" placement. However, we had to remove the holder to allow access to the front panel when we repaired the frame. Now we are just looking at replacing it. My half baked idea was to put the spare tire behind it.

To this end, I started drawing out template pieces for the tire carrier. Trouble is--I can't seem to find a way to position it so it doesn't interfere with the sway bar clamps. It's a bit maddening, since right now that darn tire is just a royal PITA (don't get me started ranting, it might never end).

My schematics got interupted by a bit of an emergency. I came in and found my kitty's face full of pollen in the early afternoon. A websearch and examination of the offending plant made me realize worst fears: she seemed to have ingested parts of lillies, a plant that will induce renal failure in cats within 16 hours. After a confirmation call to animal poison control, we rushed her off to the local emergency animal hospital for 48 hours of purgitives, fluids and observation. Morning blood tests showed we got her in time: she is miserable, but healthy, despite her near brush with death. We breathed easier today and I got serious about cleaning up that hitch.

Removing the deadman switch was easy. This original switch was a critical safetly element--if the trailer should become accidentially unhitched, the brakes would bring it to an immediate stop. Dutifully, past owners would connect the battery cables to the deadman switch. It was a ritual, confirmed even when we got the trailer in for its state inspection. Trouble is, nobody thought of how this original bit of engineering worked: just what would cause the brakes to engage? When I found an original schematic for this system, it suddenly made sense:

The circuit was obstructed by a clip, that connects by cable to the tow vehicle. If it's pulled out, the circuit complete and engages the trailer brakes. Getting a new one cost less than $20, offered greater reliability plus a lower profile. Excellent deal.

I ground on that and the bolts for the jack. We have a brand new Barker power hitch--maddenly missing its hardware, but we'll get that by next week. So, after ensuring the trailer weight was supported, I turned my grinder to that. I managed to free the jack, but two of the treaded bolts look like they will need specialty tools and more persistence. Still, I am overall, happy with the results.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

What to Do When Far Away

The Toaster is half a state away and I am in working land. Yesterday at 5:30 pm, I managed to remember to order aluminum. I called Airparts, referenced the many people who referred me and ordered a combination of alclad and utility aluminum sheet goods. It was confusing, but it's on its way and I think I'm cool. They are also having a cleco sale (clecos being the rather cool "temporary rivets" that are really useful)--so I ordered 50 of them. The lady who helped me (I wondered if it might be the woman standing in the aluminum roll in the photo on their webpage) was reassuring. I needed that. I was totally confused by the options for shipping, specifications, etc. She fixed all that. It should arrive next week, so unfortunately, I was too late to get it for the weekend. It's ok. I still have to fit in ordering paint and the switch--the latter seems harder to figure out, so we may just head out shopping on Saturday.

Meanwhile, a quick shot from last weekend--our proposed tongue configuration...

The concept here is to have the bottle carrier up front, then have the tire behind it. To support the tire, I will weld a piece of steel lengthwise to the tongue, then attach some kind of holder that we can bolt the tire into. Getting the spare tire mounted will be a huge convenience--there really is no convenient place for it either in our truck or trailer (it ends up something we are constantly trying to accommodate).

We haven't quite figured out what we want to do with the old battery box traces (immediately behind the tire). There's a hole (for the wires) and that bit of molding--I'm thinking a patch may be needed, but maybe we could turn it into something functional. Are there any innovative ideas out there?

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Wintertime Forward Motion

Winter improvements have been tough, due mostly to work that keeps me 130 miles away from home on weekdays (and a life that has kept me spending most weekends attending funerals)...

But things are shaping up (and thankfully fewer people are dying).

My biggest token victory came Saturday morning. An incipient leak was finally blocked (yeah!) after years of effort. Over several weeks, I took spare moments to clean out old caulking out of all the seams between panels at the front of the trailer, using a dremel tool and a nylon brush attachment (it was just small enough to get at the caulking with minimal impact to the aluminum). I cleaned all the channels up to just above the roof curve (that's all I could reach). I washed out the channels after that. Finally, I refilled the crevices with parbond. Saturday I woke to a rainy morning. I ran out to check. My leaky spot was cold--but quite dry. Victory!

This morning we went shopping and measuring. I realized that while we had the pieces of wood cut to fill in the floor, we had to finish up odd jobs that we needed to complete before covering it. Ironically, the shopping was sort of a waste--we ended up buying a harness that we didn't need and both of us decided the power jack we bought was just too flimsy for the cost. They will get returned to Camping World.

So, here in order is my checklist of priority actions I need to take on the front tongue of the trailer...at least as I see it today:
  1. patch battery hole
  2. weld in cross member for spare tire holder
  3. remove crappy old deadman switch
  4. weld new tank holder
  5. paint new tank holder
  6. attach new harness, connect to interior electrical 110 volt system
  7. wire in 12v connection
  8. drill hole and install new deadman switch
  9. paint any exposed metal
  10. finalize underfloor wiring and install flooring (already cut)
All of this will require a couple of supplies. I need a new deadman switch. I need a crossbar and tire carrier. I need more paint & aluminum tape. I need insulation. I have a tank holder, though. I figure I can order the steel that I need cut from a local metal supplier, so my last task today will be drawing up a mockup for it.

On the inside, I will also need to get some insulation for filling in the holes in the floor. We're also considering wiring some low voltage lights up into the overhead rack before replacing the inner wall. Finally, I need to build a big patch for the hole where the furnace used to be (and if I can hammer the old vent cover, it will go back in its place). Then I can put in the flooring.

Barring replacing the axles (I don't know quite how I'll get that done), what is ahead of me all seems fairly reasonable. I can accomplish this stuff with minimal assistance from Rick. Then I can put the furniture back into the trailer and maybe get some use--though non-urgent jobs will continue. With axles and this work, the trailer should be minimally roadworthy. We do need to work on the rear end, but honestly, it doesn't feel like the situation there is nearly as dire as what we faced up front. And, since we've been down this road before, it's not nearly as tough to fathom taking on the job. I just want to use my trailer first!

Recent activity, I have to admit, comes from prodding from Frank, the bathroom rebuilder of VAP fame. We went to view his efforts over the holiday season. To my surprise, Frank in person is quite different from the Frank I hear on the podcast. He is, by training, an artist. When I saw an antenna holder he fabricated by hand out of sheet metal, it clicked in my brain...his background in sculpture means metalworking training. It shows. Also, in person, he's much more serious. This guy has oodles of focus, which he manages to hide when he appears on the podcast. I don't doubt for a second that his trailer is going to be a showpiece.

Ending up the day, I just finished measuring and making up a template for a cross bracket for a tire carrier. Rick and I agreed on L bracket and I'm still figuring out what to do for the carrier itself. I still have 130 more miles to go before I rest tonight. With any luck, by next week, I'll be welding!