Sunday, June 4, 2017

Our New Old Camper

A year or so after we moved to Idaho we purchased a pull behind camper from one of our neighbors.
It was in very good condition and a great camper for a great price.
The only draw back to it was that it was 26 feet long.
Neither LC nor I cooked inside a camper.  
We had no interest in showering or bathing or even using a bathroom inside a camper.
I had been an adventure racer for many years.
LC had spent three years on the ground in Vietnam.
Both of us would pee (and more) in the woods any day of the week instead of having to change out nasty holding tanks.
In short, it was way more camper than we wanted or needed, but at the price and condition we got it, we couldn't turn it down.
What we had WANTED was a small camper.
A dry cabin on wheels.
Before we had the chance to actually camp in our 26 footer, we came across a post on a local Facebook classified site.
An elderly couple of very limited means had recently gained full custody of their three grandchildren.
They had a small camper and were desperately looking for a large one so they could take their three boys camping.
After contacting them we came home with a 1973 Nomad.
And they went home with a 26 foot.......something.
We also came home with a slew of other random things we had found in the couples barn.
They felt badly about trading a beat up, smaller camper for a 26 foot camper that was in much better condition.
They had little money and insisted that we take a number of other things that caught our eye, to try and better even the deal.............
The Nomad was 16(ish) feet long.
Did the refrigerator, the stove, the shower, the sink and the all the rest work?
We didn't care enough to ever find out.
We used that  camper a few times that same summer.
Did nothing to it. 
No maintenance.  No repairs.  Not even a critical review of what actually DID need to be repaired.
But for a few trips, we enjoyed the heck out of our beater camper.
And then we stupidly and carelessly parked it in back of the yard at the end of the season.
Where it sat, unloved, uncared for and unkempt throughout the long, cold winter.
Not surprisingly, by the following spring one entire side of the roof was waterlogged, and so was the insulation immediately below it.
 As LC and I looked over the inside and outside of the camper for the first time that spring we realized how uncaring we had been with this beast, how trashed it really was, and how much of that was due to our own negligence.
We bought a junker, used it a few times without thought, and then parked it in the yard again without thought, and now here we were................

All last summer LC and I looked over at our forlorn camper and wondered just what to do with it.
Should we fix it up?
Gut it?  Repair it?  Set it up the way we envisioned our camper in the first place?
Should we pull off the camper and transform it into a flat bed trailer (which are worth their weight in gold out in Idaho)?
Should we just trash it and buy another camper?
Buying another camper was a quickly dismissed option.
The campers we could afford would have their own issues that we would have to repair.
And so we waffled all last summer.
Camper-flat bed.  Camper-flat bed.  Camper-flat bed.
By mid-fall we had finally decided.
The frame on the mess we had sitting in the back yard was solid.
The shell was solid.
The windows were solid.  Mostly.
We decided to gut what we had, and repair and rebuild what we had.
And so the destruction began.................
For a couple of weeks straight we tore stuff out.
Toilets and sinks and bath-tubs (oh my).
Walls and insulation.
Benches and floors.
Day after day we tore everything out of our camper, loaded it into the bed of the truck and hauled the waste to the dump, until we finally (finally) had a blank slate to work with,................
Armed with a couple of hundred dollars worth of plywood, lumber, insulation, paint, brushes, caulk, putty strips and screws, we began to rebuild.
Pulling out every window and resealing.
Pulling out rotting wood braces and replacing with new wood.
Replacing insulation.
Endless measuring, cutting and installing walls.
And floors.
And ceiling.
Both LC and I had committed to getting as much done as we could before cold weather set in, and we worked countless hours day after day, week after week................

Kory supervised our work every step of the way.
As always, just happy to be a part of whatever we were doing............
As the days got colder and shorter, both LC and I began to realize that we were not going to get this huge project completely finished before winter.
But it was coming along just great and both of us were energized and enthusiastic because we could finally really envision what it might look like when we were through.
More cuts.
More staples.
Endless cuts. 
Endless staples......................
Once the ceiling, floor and walls had been rebuilt, LC continued working on the inside cutting wood strips to trim out the seams, while I began painting the outside of the camper.................
Starting to stain the inside...................
And then one day we realized we were done for the year.
It was late enough in the year that the place where we purchased the stain had stopped ordering stain, so going further with the inside was effectively at a stand still.
The weather was too cold. 
So cold in fact that portions of the paint I had put on the outside had slid right off the camper.
As I looked at the sections of paint that had literally slid down the sides I knew that it wasn't just the cold.
In my haste to get it all done before winter, I hadn't scuffed up the surface.
I had just painted.
I knew better.  
But at that point, LC and I were done.
No more building.  No more staining.  No more painting.
We looked at each other with a sense of satisfaction.
Our new camper was more done than not. 
And with Christmas only a few weeks away LC and I just smiled.
Park it.
Forget it.
Worry about it again in the spring................

 Once warm weather hit, we were both psyched and ready to tackle our camper again.
Learning from my haste of the previous fall I scuffed the surface of the outside of the camper and repainted the whole damn thing.
And it stuck.
While I was painting the outside and finishing off the staining on the inside, LC built a double bed in back for us.
Most of it was built from 2x4s but the head board and foot board were rails from a log bed we had had sitting underneath a work bench in the garage for a few years, and we cut them down to fit our camper-bed.
 We fretted for a good while about what we would use to cover the rough plywood floor.
Should we get a piece of linoleum?  
Should we paint and urethane?
And then I remembered that we had a huge area rug (that I had bought at a church bazaar sale for $2).  It fit perfectly.
Kory needed a bed, and we built a bench seat in front (using one of the old cushions from our "old camper" as a mattress).
We needed overhead shelves (both to sturdy up the camper walls and for storage) and so we built shelves front and back.
I painted the front window cover white and trimmed with the same dark green that was on the rest of the camper.
I had an oversized place mat with a bear, pine tree and paw print graphic and I asked my artistic neighbor to replicate them for us on the window cover.
A few weeks after starting our spring renovation, I was so sick of looking at the camper that I just wanted it DONE ALREADY.
About a month ago we finally decided that we were done.
 And we decided that we were very pleased with what we had done.
We love it.
It fits us.
It fits our needs.
Our new, old camper....................
Storage shelf above the main bed for kayak paddles and fishing nets.
Storage under the bed for clothing, and two containers that hold everything from plates to pans to flashlights to headlamps to toilet paper to cutlery and more.
Covered fender wells with storage on top for small things like watches, wallets, keys etc.
Battery operated tap lights on the wall.................
Storage shelf above the bench for fishing poles and tackle boxes.
Three compartments with lift up lids on the bench - stores life jackets and camp stove.
Camp chairs and collapsible table fit on either side of the bench.
We used the curtains that were in the old camper.  Two couldn't be reused so we bought coordinating curtains................
We have a spice rack/paper towel holder on the wall, a metal cowboy sign with hooks to hold Korys leash, and three ammunition metal signs.
Aside from tap lights, that's all we have on the walls...............
It cost us about $400 and three months of our lives.
But now we have a camper exactly like we want a camper.
We love it.
A whole lot of work, but totally worth it.
We made plenty of mistakes along the way, and there are still some minor things we want to do for the camper before we tarp it and store it this winter, but for now we just want to enjoy it.
A couple of weeks ago we took it out for the first time, and camped up in Challis.
That story to follow..............

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