Monthly Archives: April 2015

Lassiez les bon temps roulez!

 

July, 2014

As June morphed into July,  we seized another opportunity to camp in Tallulah Belle, this time in the Dallas/Fort Worth area. Melinda had been involved with BeautiControl  cosmetics, and the company was hosting  it’s annual convention in Grapevine, Texas this year. She could have stayed at the convention center, but found out that there was a very nice RV park only two miles from the location, so we decided to take the camper and log some more time camping!  The park is named “The Winery”, also in Grapevine, and is one of the most upscale RV parks we have ever seen.  We reserved a space for  the event, and drove in on a Wednesday afternoon.

This park caters to the ginormous motor coach crowd, and a majority of the sites are large pull-through type, but all that was available to us was an unusual site on an elevated shoulder of the main road through the park, with a railing and a small set of steps leading down to the picnic table/seating area.  At least we were able to set up the awning over the picnic table. During the three days of Melinda’s conference,  I walked around the park, took some photos and got some more practice putting the tarp up at short notice, as it was unseasonably cool and rained several times.

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Our site at The Winery RV park.

The park itself was large, several hundred acres, with rolling green grassland hills and small ponds, several different locations for pad sites and cabin camps, and very well maintained.

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Looks like a golf course, doesn’t it?

 

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Every Saturday evening there was a firework show over the main pond, which was straight away from our site, so it was like a front row seat.

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Evening photo under the awning. We forgot the clip on lamps for outside illumination.

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They spent a bit more on their campers…

 

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Street view of our campsite.

 

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We’ve added the name to the rear of Tee Girl by this point.

 

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Birch glow at sunset. Nothing like it!

 

 

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Streetside view at dusk

We had the usual visitors, wondering about what year and brand of camper, and  hearing their fond memories of parents and grandparents who owned trailers “…just like that.”  We had a great visit, and as we  were leaving we were hailed by a fellow who worked for the park, wanting to see Tallulah Belle. As it turns out, this man had worked at the Shasta location there in Grapevine, Texas in 1962 when he had graduated from high school, he was wondering if maybe ours was one of the ones he had personally helped to build!

On the way back to Lafayette we stopped in at Terrell, Texas to take some photos of Tallulah Belle along with a late 50’s Soviet MiG 17 fighter, which is displayed in front of an antique store.

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Mid Century Jet Age!

 

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All clear on the flight line….

 

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The MiG was rated for 1300MPH, but the Shasta sleeps 5.

 

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Somehow these two Cold Warriors seemed to belong together in a photograph, although only one of them is still on active duty!

Home gain, after Grapevine, and we noticed something troubling. The birch wood above the front window had become discolored, and worse yet, was soft and spongy when touched. What the hell??  It seemed as if the wood had gotten soaking wet and was delaminating from inside.

Well, we had paid for a spot at a vintage rally in Fentress, Texas in September, which was to be Tallulah belle’s first rally, and we were going to have to fix whatever was causing the problem before that time. Problem was that with my 14 on/14 off schedule, that left precious little time until the rally.  So, upon my next time home again we would find and fix the issue.

With a VERY small window of time left, we started on repairs, which meant, remove the front window and the front skins, to find soaking wet insulation, which had caused complete failure of the interior birch.  To this day we stil have NO IDEA how the water got in as every seam was sealed with double layers of butyl tape, but somehow there it was, and it needed to be removed and replaced.  We ended up removing all the front wood, the streetside dinette panel and much of the framing. Gentle Readers,  remember that it is now September in Southern Louisiana and 100F temps are everyday. It was literally a frenzy, as we tore down, remade and reinstalled an entire front end in FIVE DAYS. I will let the following photos tell the story.

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Front end removed, ready to start cutting and installing birch.

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Another view of the missing front end.

 

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Blank slate…new birch about to become vintage.

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New front lower installed.

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Storage bin in place.

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New birch matches the old pretty well…

 

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About to fit the upper curve birch panel in place.

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Skins back on, getting it buttoned up.

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Five long exhausting days and the work was done, the trailer buttoned up and ready to go to the Fentress rally.

So we thought.

While I was offshore, Melinda was cleaning and getting the shine on for Tallulah Belle’s rally debut, and she plugged in a vacuum cleaner in the front of the trailer, to find a dead circuit. The entire front circuit was not working. No lights, no power, nothing. CRAP!

DOUBLE CRAP!

Really???   Yes, really.  So with heavy hearts we had to cancel our trip to the rally. When I came in ashore again I had to remove the newly installed roof metal and trace the wires, to find a nick in the Romex which had cause a short. Four more days of work to remove, replace and button-up AGAIN.

At least the damage had been repaired.

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Back to Fredricksburg

Late May, 2014

After the bone-chilling and quick trip to the Texas Hill Country in January, we fell in love with Fredricksburg and wanted to return, with better conditions, as soon as we could. When the neverending winter of 2013-2014 finally retreated it was mid May, and Memorial day approaching, so we decided to get Tallulah Belle trip ready again, and this time we would be taking our camping buddies along…out three Snowshoe cats!

I know that many of you, like us, have pets and enjoy taking them on your travels. We had never had opportunity to take our cats along while tent camping, so this would be our first time.  To get the kitties used to the camper, we would have a movie night once or twice a week in the trailer, where we would put the cats into carriers, bring them to the trailer, let them out to explore and claim their own territory while we relaxed on the gaucho and watched movies. ( A favorite is “Puss In Boots”) After  several weeks of this routine the cats had learned all about the camper and had acclimated to it as an extension of their home space, so we had no problems in that regard.  We did, however, find some problems that were a result of the frigid January trip.

We discovered that during the 13F temps, the water in the lines had frozen solid –mentioned in a previous entry–which had caused damage. We replaced the Marey on demand water heater and had to repair the OEM shower diverter as a 3″ on center replacement could not be found. Sometimes working on these old trailers will force you into creative solutions that you never otherwise would have considered.  Speaking of ‘creative solutions’, during this period of repair and getting ready for camping season, we also finally addressed the refrigerator issue.

The PO had thoughtfully installed a new Frigidaire 4.4 foot dorm sized fridge before we took possession, and it is a nice size and quiet little fridge, perfect for the application. Except it was black. Not at all in keeping with the turquoise and yellow color palette of the interior’s final design. So we went over our options at that point. We found that available were

A. Nostalgia Electrics retro style fridge, which on the surface looks fairly retro, but if you read reviews it turns out to be cheaply built with plastic door hinge/handle and fittings, and lots of problems listed by those who bought them. This was available for a MSRP of $239.00

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B. Big Chill brand retro style appliances. These are meticulously designed and crafted appliances which have rave reviews, look perfect, and perform flawlessly. Unfortunately the MSRP of a dorm sized fridge is $1700, and another $300 shipping to get it to Louisiana. We were NOT going to spend $2K on a trailer fridge, no matter HOW great it looked!  bigchill_minifridge_beachblueBig Chill Fridge.

We decided to get creative, and make our 2013 model Frigidaire look the part to fit into a 1960 trailer.

OEM FrigidaireThis is a stock photo of our fridge.

Now then, how to make the new, blocky, unappealing fridge look like something that woud be in a Jetson’s era camper of the future??

Well, Gentle Reader, if you have been with me all this time, you will remember my referencing the use of the chevron detail in Shasta’s design scheme. (And in an early post, you’ll recall the chrome chevron on the trunk of my 1960 Chevy Impala.)  The answer was to paint the fridge a 1950’s appropriate pastel hue–in this case soft butter yellow to match the other appliances–and use various trim to get the correct look.

I started by taking the door off, since the fridge would not fit through the trailer doorway otherwise, and setting up a painting area outside under shade. I cleaned the exterior and  wiped down with  wash thinner to remove any traces of grease, then sprayed three light coats of sandable primer, available at any auto parts store. Let this dry for at least 24 hours, then lightly wetsand with 400 grit wet/dry paper and running water to give a totally smooth finish. I use an air compressor to blow water off and out f any crevices when finished but if you do not have a compressor available, just let it dry. Completely. When ready to paint use a clean cotton rag to sweep  surface of any dust or particles. and then I used three light coats of Krylon bright Idea yellow rattlecan paint, same as was used on the stove and heater cover.  Paint in good light and pull a solid wet glossy coat over the whole surface. Let cure for several days at least, Krylon takes a bit longer to completely cure. I chose to not clear coat since the other appliances had a soft satin finish rather than a deep high gloss finish, but make yourself happy on this point! When the fridge was cured, I used 1/4 inch chrome self stick auto trim to create the twin strips on the door, and a chrome trunk emblem from a 1960 Impala, ordered from a car restoration supplier. I had to grind off the lugs on the back of the chevron so it would sit flat on the door, and I used clear silicone RTV sealant to glue it into place.  I think the results speak for themselves.SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESNewly finished 2013 Frigidaire dorm fridge in place. Looks like it was installed from the  factory!

Having gotten these details completed, we went camping back at Fredricksburg over the Memorial Day holiday. We stayed at the KOA campground which is a few miles out of town and close to several of the wineries, which we were keen to visit!SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESLoaded up and ready to roll to Fredricksburg!

Arriving at the KOA we found that the sites we really wanted were taken, and we had to take a somewhat rainsoaked low site until a better site became available. No problem, except that there was no room to deploy the new yellow and white awning we had commissioned from “Awnings By Marti”, so we parked and spent the first night quietly. SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

 

The next day we moved to a site on the high side of the park, under a Texas live oak tree, where we set up the awning, the flamingos, the astroturf…the whole smash!

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It was Memorial Day weekend, we were in a Shasta and we were HERE!  Well, a little rain must fall on the even the best of occasions, and this weekend a LOT of rain fell on the Hill Country. It rained heavily three days in a row, but as always we were prepared…we brought a tarp to cover Tee GirlSAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES from the worst of the rain, and between showers we visited several local wineries. Highly recommended is “Six Shooter Tasting Room” which represents six different wineries, located all over Texas, and a very entertaining host. Of course, we just had to visit some of the BBQ joints in town also, doncha know.

One of our ‘traditions’ while camping is to sample local cheese, fruit, sausage and other delectables from wherever we are camping. SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESSAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESOf course we tried that here as well!

During the times of heavy downpour, when the trailer was covered with the tarp, we watched movies or news on the flatscreen, and of course, the Snowshoes lounged ferociously (as they are famous for doing).SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESSAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESSAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESSAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

Believe it or not, there was plenty of room inside the Deluxe for us and three cats, (be SURE to bring two litterboxes and change them completely daily!) but it was disappointing having so much rain fall and not be able to play tourist as much as we like to. SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

Despite the weather, we had a GREAT time. met another couple camping in a vintage Cardinal trailer, and of course they came to tour ours and we looked at theirs SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES but after the long weekend it was time to head back to Louisiana. Thankfully we had no issues or problems and the long drive passed smoothly. We now had successfully camped several days in another state with our kitties and bad weather, and had a great time.  Vintage camping has a way of making even the not-so-great days become memorable experiences!

We had come a LONG way in just one calendar year, as we were just beginning teardown  at this point in 2013.

 

 

A sad day.

As I type this, the date is April 13, 2015. Our Showshoe cat, named Gibbs, who was a  family member and camping buddy died last night. He was 9 years old. He was a finicky and peculiar cat, but he loved camping in the  Shasta. The gaucho was his turf and he loved to cuddle up with us at night. His last trip was in March, when we moved the camper to the family ranch for secure storage, and icy roads forced us to camp in a Walmart parking lot overnight. The cold and ice did not faze him, he had his humans and a warm safe place to sleep.

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Gibbs in foreground sleeping on his gaucho, Fredricksburg  Texas, May 2014

Ice Station Fredricksburg

January 2014

Having completed two trips with Tallulah Belle in late 2013, we looked forward to more adventures on the road, and so as the New Year rolled around, and I returned home on January 2, we thought that a trip to visit my folks on the family ranch in Central Texas would be a good idea. They had not seen the trailer except in photos and we had belated Christmas gifts to deliver (since I was offshore during the holidays). We also figured that while we were there, a short jaunt over to Fredricksburg, Texas would be nice. Fredricksburg is a lovely old German-Texas town, with wineries, peach orchards, lots of history and of course good food. (barbeque AND sausage). Melinda and I are both BBQ aficionados–remember my blood type is mesquite negative–so while travelling this would give us opportunity to hit some prime BBQ joints along the way.

We rolled out on a bright sunny warm (75F) day and travelling conditions were good, but as we got into Texas a strong wind started up, which demands lots of caution and attention. Pulling a large box in a 30MPH crosswind can be tricky, and the tail can wag the dog if you aren’t careful. Our path took us through Round Rock, and we stopped at the Salt Lick, a locally well known bbq joint.

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The Texas BBQ Tour had commenced!  After lunch our drive to Central Texas took us through Temple and Gatesville and we finally pulled off the road at Star, Texas to make the final few miles to the ranch.   Stopping for a photo at Bennett Creek, we had to hurry as the road was in constant use from 18 wheelers enroute to local dairies, so we had to take a quick photo and then skedaddle, but we were just a few miles from the ranch, so it was not a problem.

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Bennett Creek, Mills County, Texas

That night a STRONG cold front blew in, and temperatures dropped to the mid 20’s, so as we set out the next morning we had clear but frigid conditions.  Finding ourselves in Llano near lunchtime we HAD to stop at Cooper’s…one of the best damn BBQ joints on the planet!!

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BBQ heaven…Cooper’s in Llano.

We got to F’burg in late afternoon, the temps were still in upper 20’s and we wanted to stay close in so we camped at a big RV park inside city limits. Very nice place, great amenities and the owners were canned ham people also, with a  old Mobile Scout in the process of restoring.  Once again we were slotted between ginormous motor coaches from cold weather states (the term is ‘snowbirds’) who stayed in warmer climes during winter months. The town still had Christmas lights up, but holiday crowds had gone so it was a very pretty place.

Also very cold.

The temp that night got down to 13F and we had the ceramic heater to keep us warm. With all the new insulation, the trailer stayed cozy enough but all the water in the tanks and lines had frozen solid. We were noobs, remember? Thankfully there was a large shower facility, laundry station and ‘community hall’ in the center of the park so we really did not need to use any of the facilities inside the trailer.  Good thing,, too. Even the water in the Porta-Potti was frozen solid.

After a couple of days we hitched up and began the long (13 hour) drive back to Louisiana, which was pretty uneventful, however when we got to  Beaumont, Texas (it was full dark by that point) we were pulled over by a Texas Department of Public Safety trooper on the side of I-10.  We had all our paperwork in order, but when the officer greeted us she pointed out that our trailer license plate was missing.

When we bought the trailer, the PO had just bought new Minnesota plates, which were good until March 2014, so we were waiting for those to expire before we got Louisiana tags. Since we had bill of sale, title and other paperwork, the trooper let us go, but she admitted that she really wanted to see the trailer and the missing plate was a convenient excuse!! We gave her a tour of Tallulah and also gave her a photo because she commented that she really wanted to show her mom what a restored camper could look like. Vintage trailers have fans all over!!!

Arriving home safely, we unhitched the trailer and unpacked the truck. All is well, right?  Well…not really.

Unknown to us, the hard freeze had frozen up all the water lines and had ruptured the new on demand heater and the original 1960 shower valve/diverter. We did not make this discovery until May, when we next planned to go camping. The ridiculous winter and cold temps of the 2013-2014 winter kept us from even thinking about camping until the last weeks of May, and then as we were planning a Memorial Day trip, we discovered the damage.

The heater was out of warranty, so we were out of luck there…$150 for a new unit. The PEX lines I was able to replace fairly easily but the diverter was made of brass and split on it’s backside. NO replacement could be found. The water taps were 3″ on center, which was standard then but nothing is made in that size now. I was forced to remove the diverter, file the back smooth, use JB weld to seal the split, file it smooth and then another layer of JB weld to completely cover the backing plate.  What a painful lesson to learn.

When cold weather is coming, DRAIN YOUR SYSTEM.  Oh sure, we know that NOW.  There’s that RV learning curve again.

Fledgling (again)

   Part II    Road trips, lessons learned and other ephemera.

November  2013

After all the sweat, all the blood (literally) and hours of toil, Tallulah Belle was ready to go on her first camping trip. Now, don’t get the idea that she was COMPLETE, for what you learn is that  these canned hams are never truly COMPLETE. You just go camping and when you get time you make whatever change or upgrade you can. Remember this whole endeavor is supposed to be about , err… fun. Yeah, that’s right, fun!

One of our oldest traditions is an annual pilgrimage to the Texas Renaissance Festival, held in Plantersville, a small town north of Houston.  I can see furrowed brows from here already…I will try to explain. RenFest is an event that is held for 8 consecutive weekends in the autumn, on a large site built to resemble an English village, circa 1500 A.D.  Musicians, minstrels, jousting, knights, pageantry, food, drink all to be found in abaundance.  There is a large, 300 acre campground nearby where the performers and anyone else who wants to camp can do so for a small fee. We had been attending this event for many years but this year, we were camping. In a by-God real winged trailer!!

The campsite is just open space, with water taps and port-o-lets scattered around, so obviously no hookups would be available. We had purchased a Yamaha 2000 watt quiet generator to produce power and we had the water tank full of freshwater as well as several jugs of drinking water, so we were prepared. A word to the wise…when you buy your generator, be sure and buy a good length of HEAVY DUTY chain and a solid Master lock. Sad reality is that not everyone at an event like this respects your personal property.

Our trip took about seven or eight hours from Youngsville to Plantersville, and we got there with no problems. Tallulah Belle pulled easily and no surprises. Rolling in on a Friday afternoon, we made our way onto the grounds and pulled up at a likely spot. Now, when I say it is an eclectic crowd, that is writer’s shorthand for everything-from-500K-motorhomes-to-canvas-lean-to’s. And the owners who accompany those motorhomes and lean-to’s. We were parked near a large pine tree and no one else within 25 feet or so.  We were here!  Of course we had not yet obtained an awning, so we just set up a fire pit and a couple of folding chairs near the door,and had a campsite!

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Note the Yamaha generator chained to the tree for security.

That night we enjoyed a nice fire and hot cocoa, while a non stop stream of fellow campers trooped by our Tee Girl, asking to see the interior and being amazed that a vintage camper could be this comfortable.  Of course, a slow soaking rain had started, but we had brought a green poly tarp just in case, so I deployed the tarp over the trailer and we listened to the patter of rain. And the continuous pounding of the drum circle.  Yes, a dedicated cadre of hipsters forms a drum circle near a huge bonfire and carries on all night. Despite the rain.   Ahh  youth.

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Nothing like that warm birch glow at night! We carry an Astrofurf mat for the door to try to limit grass and mud migrating inside.

Next morning we were greeting by a sunny, bright crisp morning, so we made our coffee and went outside, to find that overnight  a LOT more campers had arrived and now we were in the middle of an enclave of haphazard tents and pull-behind campers of all descriptions. SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

Our first morning.

We have accumulated fairly elaborate costumes for Renfest, so we made ready and found our way to the entrance, dressed as a nobleman and his lady.

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View of a small part of the Renfest grounds.

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The Sea Devil tavern, with bawdy wenches and singing pirates. Great fun!

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At the Ded Bob Sho.

One of our favorite attractions is the DedBob Sho, a ventriloquist act, with a smart-ass skeleton (Ded Bob)  and his human (Smuj) who insults, makes bad puns and hits on the ladies. If you go, make sure to watch Ded Bob!

The second night was thankfully rain-free, but the campground had become very crowded, so we had lots of close (10 feet away) neighbors, and the revelry at the campgrounds was really crazy.  One of the pirate performers has a mid 60’s canned ham, with a stripper pole inside and a bonfire and lifesize Jenga game next to a roaring bonfire. No cameras allowed there, for obvious reasons!

On Sunday, after a late breakfast it was time to head out for the trip home.  The best part was, that we can pack everything up and be ready to roll in about 20-30 minutes!

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Stopping for lunch at Yo Mama’s BBQ in Montgomery, Texas. Excellent BBQ!

Of course, being a part of the vintage camper clan, Melinda always keeps her eyes peeled for other old campers on the side of the road during our travels. While passing through Cut-and-Shoot, Texas (YES, that is an actual name!) we spotted an old canned ham in a dilapidated used car/junk lot and pulled over to investigate.

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Turned out to be a late 50’s Yellowstone in sad sad shape, but who knows, someone might be willing to bring it back to life?

Needles to say we had a rollicking good time on Talluah Belle’s first trip, and in fact the next weekend we took her to a local Wildlife management Area on the Atachafalaya River (pronounded chaff-a lie-ya) to spend several days, just us and nature. SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES 10247318_10201943547458499_6015135792360486996_n SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

As RV newbies we were still learning what to do, what to pack and how to camp. This sure beats the heck out of the ‘roustabout’ days of the tent and tons of gear camping trips!

Next chapter– “Ice Station Fredricksburg”

 

 

 

It Don’t Mean A Thing if it Ain’t Got That Bling

Mid October 2013

I was back at work on my two week rotation by now, so when I returned from my hitch we dedicated ourselves to getting Tee Girl ready to go camping in November. First up was finishing installation of the external aluminum trim, windows and edge molding. And reinstalling all 1200 stainless screws holding the aluminum panels on. We had not done this in order for the new screw heads to retain their shiny appearance, and add a bit more ‘bling’ to the  overall effect. This was a tedious and time consuming task but worth the effort. After several days all the (now gleaming) polished trim and windows were back in place and the trailer was looking spiffy.

Remember the wings, from the earlier chapter?  The first thing we bought?  IT WAS TIME.  Tallulah Belle got her new shiny better-than-original wings installed also. A milestone, and we could not have been happier. Wings, bay-bee!!!!!

During the summer we had found a website which offered the wide whitewall tires that are an essential item for a trailer like this, and had ordered a pair. The vendor is Diamondback tires, and they sell genuine trailer tires, which have stiffer sidewalls than passenger car tires, as well as have white rubber rings vulcanized onto the tire surface. You CAN buy a type of white rubber ring that is held in place by the rim of the tire but those can flap at road speed and we really didn’t want that kind of fix. No compromises, remember?

With our new tires we visited a local tire shop and had them mounted on the trailer’s wheels, and then the wheels put back on the trailer. Our camper uses Ford car/truck 5 lug 5.5 inch bolt pattern wheels, which were standard issue on gazillions of Ford vehicles from mid 50’s until the late 70’s, and can be found in wrecking yards everywhere. ALWAYS HAVE A SPARE!  We had also bought two beauty rings for 15″ wheels, so that the wheel/tire combo would have that 50’s cruiser look we all love so much.

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Come Fly With Me!

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New wheels, tires, baby moons and beauty rings installed.

The same week, we took Tee Girl to a local trailer business so that they could install all new 12V wiring for exterior running lights and tail lights. I was just too worn down and time critical to do this myself, it was worth $200 to have it done.

We were also frantically fitting out and wrapping up the interior as best we could…the upholstery and gaucho were in place, trim and hardware installed, flatscreen TV in the gaucho area installed, all the details which make the total. We had cut and shellacked a panel for the inside of the door, installed the newly rechromed Bargman L-66 door latch with new lock mechanism, curtain rods and fixtures above the windows, etc.

Melinda drug out her sewing machine and the bolt of vintage 1957 atomic barkcloth she had won on Ebay and made curtains for the windows, and we had also accumulated period correct dishes, drinking glasses, anodized aluminum cups/pitcher and other such items as one would find in a camper in 1960, so we found places for all these items to fit, in a frenzy of detailing.

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Door birch panel.

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Inside and outside detail of Bargman L-66 door latch.

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Dinette area details.

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Before curtains.

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Dinette and gaucho with new barkcloth curtains.

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29″ Flatscreen for watching movies on rainy days.

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Nighttime illumination is two remote controlled battery powered LED lights. Since we did not install a 12V system inside, we use these while travelling or when no power is available.

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Note the 1950’s rounded toaster on the shelf above the cooktop. Pretty slick, yes?

You can also see the cutout from the sink opening used as a way to give more counter space.

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Interior details.

Tallulah dishes

The dishes and glasses we found. Pattern is Salem NorthStar, circa 1958.

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You didn’t think we’d forget THIS did you??

By the end of October, with RenFest  just around the corner, we knew that we’d be able to take her CAMPING!!  Of course, it’s not finished, but more on that to come…