Spring is in the air and of course my thoughts turn to gardening. But since I always start my garden seeds way too early I have decided to work on one of my campers instead.
Nadine was the first camper I bought. She is a 20 foot 1973 Nomad and was a true love child of the 70’s with Avocado Green and Harvest Gold reigning supreme in her décor.
Can I just say – Wow? No wonder so many people did drugs in those days.
Yes, she was a vision of loveliness right down to the torn linoleum.
Nadine wasn’t the camper I had always dreamed of (I was really hoping for a ’50 or ’60 model) but when I was able to talk the owner down to $250 she followed me home anyway.
I had done some work to her right after I bought her but I was never thrilled with how she had turned out so last fall I decided it was time for a major overhaul.
I saw her shutter as I approached with the crow bar.
First item – the shower – which I had never used because it leaked like a sieve and was like trying to shower in an upturned coffin. It was so small I had to step outside to change my mind. 10 minutes and it was gone.
The stove went next. It still works but frankly, propane has always scared the ‘pee-wadding’ out of me especially when it is confined in a small ‘tin can’. I’m sure it was perfectly safe but did Nadine really need propane? Could she be all electric? It wasn’t like I went camping just to bake cakes and scones in her cute little oven, right?
And her Avocado fridge (that never worked) had been removed and was now serving a life sentence in the greenhouse as mouse-free storage for all my garden seeds. Have you priced a camper fridge? I have and that’s why the replacement one was all electric.
It would be so much easier to pull into the campsite, plug her in and have everything work without any pilot lights to contend with. And of course there would still be a battery backup complete with a solar charger for lights if I didn’t have hookups.
So out came the stove, gas lines, propane bottles and everything that was hooked to them.
And why stop there? The cabinets were cheap, falling apart and trashy. The drawers didn’t slide right and were open on the inside of the cabinet so that any mouse that came through the wall had access to the silverware, dishtowels and anything else stored in the drawers. Nasty! I started out carefully removing all those damn ‘bow-tie’ screws that are so popular with camper factories but soon gave up on that. The crowbar became my tool of choice and the cabinets came out in pieces.
Nadine has always been full of surprises and the electrical was no exception. As was the lack of insulation and the ancient bird nest that fell out of the ceiling.
Safety Note: Always, always, always wear a dust mask, eye protection and gloves when your doing demolition in an old camper!!! (There are even times when a full body Hazmat suit could come in handy too but that’s another story.)
Since this rebuild is geared toward keeping things simple I have decided to also remove some of the sewer vents too. There were 4 of them – kitchen sink, shower, toilet and bathroom sink. Is all of that really necessary? I hope not because with the help of a reciprocating saw we are now down to the one for the toilet.
The shower is gone and the kitchen sink will have a simple drain down by the tires as the older campers did so those vents are not needed anymore. I haven’t decided if I want to keep the bathroom sink or not but since it’s so close to the toilet the same vent should work for both of them. This left 3 holes to patch on the roof along with the large vent for the stove hood which was removed shortly after the stove. Hail had done a number on all these vents so sealing them up has already stopped most of the air and water leaks in her shell.
The water lines had been redone (by a real plumber) right after I bought her so they are still good but the aluminum water tank (which was original to her) had sprung a major leak on her last camping trip about 3 years ago. I knew the tank had to go but by the look of the floor underneath it the leak had started long before we saw it.
Out came the chipboard flooring and two of the supports which were rotted through.
When it comes to old camper it’s just easier to start ripping out stuff. And don’t stop until all the damage is gone. Get to the bottom of it before you start rebuilding or you will have problems with it forever.
In Nadine’s case, her whole front end had problems. There was a leak along the first seam of the roof panels, a large leak on the top of the front window and the right front corner of the floor was pretty much destroyed by the constant leak from the water tank.
This was one of the roof beams.
There was also some water damage from the clearance lights above the front window and almost nothing left of the wood under an outside access storage door. There has been a lot of removal and replacement of wood – one board at a time.
While working on the roof leak I also learned that silicone caulking is truly a ‘Tool of the Devil’.
Someone in Nadine’s past had desperately tried to stop the roof leak with silicone. And from the looks of it, it must have worked for awhile but over time the leak came back and more multicolored layers were applied. I’m betting their theory was ‘if a little is good, a whole lot must be better’.
All I know is that Nadine had more silicone injections than half the starlets in Hollywood – combined!!!
For the record, I would also like to state that I really hate removing silicone caulking. Maybe there’s an easy way to get rid of it but if there is, I haven’t found it yet. There are still several days of working on ladders ahead of me before it’s all gone so I will keep at it and let you know how it goes.
I have big plans for this camper including a ‘fix’ to take care of this spot where someone had ripped off some of her siding. To bad I didn’t get to hear that story…
They did patch it but I’m hoping to do better.
Nadine has lots of potential and even the cats seem to enjoy her. They almost look like some weird kind of decoration spaced out on her back bumper enjoying the morning sun.
But then again, maybe they’re just pointing out that matching tail lights would help too.
Oh, so much to do and so little time before the camping season kicks off. I guess I better get to it!