After a three month hiatus to deal with Alicia’s mother moving in for the final leg of her life journey, I finally got back to working on our little camper in the hopes of making a one year anniversary trip back to our first trailer rally at Ocean Mesa campground in El Capitan, CA. The Aristocrat has been covered by a tarp all this time, but a scarily mild “winter” here in Southern California made its use almost non-existent; indeed, we’ve only had 2-3 days of rain (more like heavy mist) in the past 90 days. I’ve lived in Los Angeles for 30 years now and I can honestly say I’ve never seen such unbelievably gorgeous weather, even if the flip side is the worsening of our already severe, years’ long drought.
So, where was I? Oh, yes, our latest restoration progress. Well, we’ve made huge strides since Part 5 was posted way back in September of last year! First, I laid in a new linoleum floor, composed of red and gold tiles purchased locally at Linoleum City, up the street in Hollywood. I had to purchase enough tiles to cover 50 square feet (exactly 50 – 12″ tiles), the adhesive, and finally a sealer to be applied at the very end of my restoration. I had never laid down a linoleum floor, but You
Tube had dozens of good video tutorials on how to do it (let the glue dry slightly before laying the tiles down) and I had the floor in place in roughly half a day. I chose to cover the entire floor just to avoid less cutting around cabinets and bed rails, but either way would’ve produced good results.
Just prior to putting in the flooring, I nailed up the new interior birch paneling, using a clear spar varnish with a dab of yellow paint to give it a “retro” feel. This was by far the hardest task of the rebuild to date as we had to work fast to apply the varnish when the temperature was just right, wait for it to dry, then sand lightly and repeat – three times. Looking back, I should have definitely varnished the ceiling panels before putting them up as I encountered difficulty getting an even coat trying to brush the varnish on in an inverted position. Taking them down and redoing the whole thing would have made for better results, but I’m hoping that only I notice the uneven spots here and there.
From here it was time to reinstall the bed rails, kitchen counter frame and top, and decide exactly how I wanted to change things from the original layout to serve our travel needs more optimally. The former bed setup, for example, occupied practically the entire cabin when folded down for sleeping. To make things worse, once converted back into sitting area, a cabinet sat annoyingly over one seating space, making it all but useless for, well, anything. My solution was to eliminate the offending cabinet, then make two cuts on each side of the fold-down part of the bench seats, allowing for two seats even while leaving the bed intact. I plan to build a small, removable table that will allow for a tiny dining nook that our family of three can share without having to fold the bed back into place. All that said, the bed rails were easy to duplicate from the remnants I saved and went in easily. I even put the old dining table in place just to see how it would look and I must say the whole interior looks far superior to the ugly brown paneling that was installed by the manufacturer. The final step was to run the wiring to the two light fixtures and terminate them in the back storage compartment, where the dual battery setup will be placed. The propane line will be manipulated into place as well once the stove top arrives.
With the interior under control it was time to turn our attention to putting the aluminum skin back on, fitting the windows back into place, and sealing the outside against future moisture damage. First, I bought thick plastic sheeting from Home Depot and draped it over the entire outside framing, stapling it into place. Then, I took all the skins and windows and gave them a serious pressure wash in our driveway, blasting away a fair amount of paint in the process. From there, I clamped all the skin to the frame to see how well they lined up with the window openings and, to my pleasant surprise they were almost all perfectly positioned. Excitedly, I sunk a couple of screws, working my way down until… ARGH! I was just under an inch short on the height and was left with that amount of aluminum extending beyond the bottom of the trailer. I took a deep breath and didn’t panic, instead counting my blessings that I wasn’t off by even more and figuring I could just cut away the excess once everything is back together. With the help of my 15 year old, football playing hulk-of-a-son, I was able to fit all the windows back into their original locations and screw them down snugly. From here we will screw the side rails from one end to the other, sand the entire trailer down, and apply a new coat of paint to make our newly crowned family member – Baby Hoe-NAY – official.
Hopefully the next post will come from our first camping trip!