Thursday, October 30, 2008

California or Bust

5.5 days
10 states (count 'em!)
2650 miles

It's been a couple of weeks since the last post, and a LOT has happened in that time, so here are a few highlights so as not to bore you. We drove an average of 9 hours a day, so we could see the beautiful places we were driving though, arrive most places before dark and get set up.

Wednesday, Oct 22 :: Gadsden AL - Tupelo MS - Memphis TN - Little Rock AR
- Stopped in Memphis for some BBQ ribs - you just gotta!
- Checked Mississippi and Arkansas off Lisa's "states i've never been to" list.
- Airstream weathered its first rainy night at an rv park in Little Rock - didn't let in a drop!

Thursday, Oct 23 :: Little Rock AR - Oklahoma City OK - Amarillo TX
- Lost our brand new Alabama trailer license tag somewhere on the bouncy roads in Oklahoma...along with the whole metal piece it was bolted to! Guess we shoulda riveted the plate on...whoops. Had the paperwork at the ready. Never got pulled over.
- Stayed in an Amarillo rv park
- Had warm, happy memories of Birmingham's best birthday cake from our early party. Really, it was like a wedding cake. For breakfast. Mmm. Happy birthday Laura!

Friday, Oct 24 :: Amarillo TX - Albuquerque NM - Flagstaff AZ
- Had some seriously yummy (New) Mexican food for lunch. Smoky chipotle peppers. Discovered sopapillas.
- Were surprised to discover a pretty decent fixed gear bike scene in Albuquerque.
- Stayed in a hotel in Flagstaff because weather dropping to 20* overnight and Airstream not yet fully insulated.

Saturday, Oct 25 :: Flagstaff AZ - Grand Canyon AZ
- Both saw the Grand Canyon for the first time.

- Decided to camp up there that night and enjoy it some more - weather was really suprisingly warm, even overnight.
- Put a hole in the air bed (temporary set-up until we can rebuild the interior) - whoops - patch had a slow leak too - only had to reinflate once (at 3 am).

Sunday, Oct 26 :: Grand Canyon AZ - Hoover Dam - Las Vegas NV - Bakersfield CA
- Woke up early - got on our bikes and rode down to the canyon rim to watch the sunrise - took lots of pics of that - bedhead and all.

- Drove across Hoover Dam - they're building a HUGE bypass bridge up over it.
- Did the obligatory cruise down the strip and back - and are proud to announce that Vegas claimed a whopping total of $0 from these tourists.
- Felt glad that we had decided against claiming the radio-show-prize-package-turned-sketchy-time-share-"opportunity" at a new resort that ended up being on the far outskirts of town. We figure, if we never even really wanted to go to Vegas once, why should we obligate ourselves to go there every year?
- Checked Nevada off both of our lists.
- Stayed in a hotel in Bakersfield so we could get cleaned up and well-rested before arriving at our destination.

Monday, Oct 27 :: Bakersfield CA - Palo Alto CA
- Considered going all the way out to the coast and driving up scenic Hwy 1, but decided to just take the quicker back way up 5 and get there already. Will do some day/weekend trips. Maybe when the trailer's all polished and shiny?

- Drove up the San Joachin valley and gained a new respect for an underappreciated part of California - it was pretty and peaceful - vineyards, orchards, cacti, ranches, mountain ranges, and the occasional Airstream (even though we saw about 8-10 along the way, that was the first vintage one we saw on the road besides ours. Shared waves and grins with drivers).
- Not to discredit the aforementioned peace and beauty, but at one point we stopped and looked at each other and noted that the "Adopt-a-Highway" signs had tapered off somewhere behind us and we'd been seeing some weird trash on the side of that bumpers (plural), luggage, a baby seat, caution tape, a hubcap halfway up a mountain...?
- Arrived at our "home" for the next few weeks, in the Santa Cruz mountains on the peninsula about 25 miles south of San Francisco. We can see the Silicone Valley from here (except in the early morning when it's a big lake of fog with a mountain top sticking out of it) and if we climb the hill across the road, we can see the ocean about the same distance away.


As I told a friend the other day, we're the kind of people who tend to err on the side of actually enjoying the view instead of missing it while trying to capture it for posterity...just a little thing we discovered about ourselves during our last ten years of traveling. Hence the delayed blogging. We did get some pics, however, as you can see, and if the ones here aren't enough, Ben posted more pics of the trip on his Facebook page.

Tuesday Oct 28 :: Palo Alto CA

The guys started doing their frame building apprenticeship...

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Unlucky Lizard

Maybe the coolest find yet: a mostly-still-intact lizard skeleton in the taillight cavity

Noticeable Improvements...

This one's a few posts within a post - it's been a busy but productive week. Plans to weld on Wednesday were thwarted by two days of much-needed rain, which normally wouldn't have been an issue in the shop, but since the trailer's down in the corner of the yard with its wheels off, they have to pull a rig down to it and run an extension cord out there, so they decided to wait until Friday to do any welding.

In the meantime, we worked on a few other projects:

- Put a hitch on our car (finally!)

- Started looking at the electrical situation. We're obviously going to get the running lights working before we can go anywhere, but the rest of it will be a project for later on. We had been thinking to replace the existing wiring with new while the bottom was off of it, but it turns out all the wiring for the outlets runs up to the top of the trailer, and since the outlets are above the windows besides, there's no way we could replace it inside the walls like the original without popping all the rivets and taking the inside wall panels apart. Not gonna go least not this week. The insulation's still intact (albeit old asbestos) so we're leaving those walls alone (at least until we get settled in California in a couple of weeks). Options: open up the walls and replace the insulation while we're at it; just put in some new outlets lower down the walls to come in from below (would have to do that right now while it's still open) and cap the old ones; run conduit on the inside walls of the trailer, which we could also do at a later date as we go. Need another remote consultation with Lisa's dad!

- Opened up the screen door that the previous owners had bolted shut. Protected this whole time, the screen's still like new in there, except for the tidy screw holes around the edge, and the ubiquitous periwinkle paint - yeah, the whole screen is blue too!

- Cleaned out the two air vents on top. They had been left open and had rusted and stuck that way, allowing rain in, as well as providing the squirrels yet another handy hiding spot for acorns. They're shut now, but are going to need replacing.

- Replaced the round plexiglas windows on the endcaps. We used one of the original windows to trace the new ones before it fell apart completely, and cut and smoothed the edges with a grinder wheel on the circular saw. Ben wrestled the new windows into place Wednesday morning and secured them with the original rubber and aluminum trim, and then PawPaw came by that afternoon with some clear caulk and they sealed 'em up. "Son," he said, brightening up, "I'm startin' to have hope for this ol' thing!"

Only the side windows are glass, and some of the panes are broken, but rather than just cut new glass we've got to find replacements for the whole mechanism that opens and closes them because those are pretty rusted out. We found one on ebay, but it's not the right size, and there's only one. We're still thinking about it - maybe we could alter it and have new glass cut. But we'd still need two more. And we want to check out Sonny's stash first...we've got a lead on a place south of Birmingham with about four old chicken houses full of Airstream parts. If we're really lucky we'll find some there. If not, we're just going to seal and secure the side windows for the trip out west and keep on looking as we go.

A Sturdy Welded Steel Frame

So Friday was the big day as far as the frame reinforcement went. Ben had been working by himself on most of the projects this week, so working with those guys for that one day straight gave him a whole new album of stories, which we are going to have to tell you on another rainy day 'cause it's just that good. In short, they navigated some setbacks, mostly of their own creation, Ben heard some new cuss words he'd never heard before (and we've hung around some colorful people!), and the result was that the frame is reinforced and level, the new tongue and hitch are in place, and a WONDERFUL discovery was made about the axle and wheel hubs.

The original drop axle is solid steel, and built to last. They opened up the hubs to see what kind of condition they were in, and the roller bearings and everything in there is still shiny new, packed with the original grease, and spinning freely. Excited, they called all those guys in to look at it, because they "just don't get to work on stuff like this anymore." They said that the axles they use are made of hollow tubing, and nothing's gonna be as strong as what we've got. We'll have them replace the small hardware that actually attaches it to the frame, but we're hanging on to the original axle and hubs, which the guys were going to overhaul and reassemble first thing Saturday morning on their own. Will update next week when we see how that went.

Collinsville Trade Day

We weren't planning to go down to the shop on Saturday morning - Ben's brother Will, his wife Laura, their son William and Polly the pup dog stayed over Friday night and we all went over to Collinsville Trade Day in the morning to see what we could find. That "one special treasure" eluded us, but we did get to see a whole lot of tools, animals (mostly chickens, bunnies and pit bull pups, but plenty of other varieties to go around), t-shirts, fried food, and miscellaneous junk. And the people-watching is out of this world. Laura's favorite overheard conversation:

"Y'all got 'ny duffel bags?"
"Yup. What kind you need?"
"I been lookin' all ov'th'place for 'em. There ain't none here to Tuscaloosa."
"How many you lookin' for?"
"Just one. My husband gon' fill it with dirt'n' teach my grandson how to tackle."
"Well, that's a good i-DEE-a!"

Ben stopped by a knife stand and had his sharpened, and we came out the other side in the most incredible farmers' market that'll put any city version to shame. Tell you what, Mexican immigrants know how to grow some food! Laura thought everything looked more bright and colorful too. Lisa bought armloads of fresh veggies and we came home and grilled up a fabulous feast of steak and shrimp kabobs, hamburgers, curried potato salad, spicy pickled okra (wow! who knew that was so crisp and good?! Thanks, Will!) and corn on the cob.

Next Steps

reattach axle, new wheels, interior paint stripping, subfloor & insulation, rivet belly pans back on (not necessarily in this order)

Saturday, October 4, 2008

A Weld-less Trailer?

Progress over the last couple of days:

Lisa gave herself a good bruise whacking her thumb knuckle with a hammer while chiseling up the floor tile. We got a good look at the subfloor, which was in surprisingly better shape than we'd expected but still needs to be replaced, so that came out too. Now it's completely gutted except for the frame.

Would you believe there's not a single weld on that thing? They put the whole trailer together with screws, u-clamps, bolts, and buck rivets (the old style that took two people to put in, one on each side). All the weight of the front and back ends is hanging on these sketchy joints where the steel pieces butt up against aluminum ones. It's amazing it lasted as long as it did - if it hadn't been stationary it probably wouldn't have! So the next step now is to beef up the frame with steel beams. We drew up some plans and figure it'll add a couple hundred pounds to the trailer, not a big deal considering it was only about 1,500 to start with.

The new center pipe came in Thursday - another 4-inch round like the original, only we're going to weld steel beams to it instead of screwing it onto aluminum. The guy who delivered it looked kind of puzzled. "I've been bringin' square pipe to this place for years, and they ain't never ordered nothin' like this round one!" We're planning to do the frame welding on Monday when Gary's back from his deep sea fishin' trip down in the "Gu'f."

Also on the docket for next week is to strip the old paint out of the interior. We tried some paint stripper last week that just didn't make a dent in the 50-year old paint. We picked up some more potent, industrial strength stuff and tested it on a small patch, and that worked. We'll deal with that next week too so when the frame welding is done, we can put the new subfloor in.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Lucky Tiger

As mentioned, the guys at the shop had already pulled off the belly pan from the front and center of the trailer, but the back one was still on. So when Ben pried up the subfloor back there, he was in for an adventure. A lizard went scurrying for cover.

He called to one of the guys, "Hey, you ain't faint of heart, now, are you?"

"Naw, not me."

"Come over here and look at this." He pointed to some 4-inch cockroaches.

The guy backed up, shaking his head. "Oh, no no no no. Uh-uh."

Apparently squirrels had been nesting in there for generations. While hauling 20 gallons (literally - 4 five-gallon buckets full) of acorns and shredded paper and t-shirts out of there, Ben also discovered a spice ball, a key of some sort, a fuzzy miniature rabbit, and an old red bottle of Lucky Tiger Rose Hair Dressing (with Lanolin - just 39 cents!). His granddad, PawPaw, stopped by to see how things were going and said he remembered that Lucky Tiger. He popped the top and stuck it right up to his nose. Ben's dad said that's the kind his dad (Pops) always used.

Oh yeah, and a decrepit hundred-pound water heater, still full of water, that had sunken through the floor in the back under the bed. Out it went.