Saturday, September 17, 2011

From Albatross to Awesome-tross

In 2009, I spent $2,000 on something that I didn't want.
I had no desire for it.
I thought it was a waste of money.
But...my wife really wanted it.
She doesn't ask for much.
So...I bought it.
I bought my brother-in-law's 1990 Coleman pop-up camper. They stopped using it in 2003. It was closed up and parked behind an auto-dealership for 6 years. It was a quick sale. He and I popped it up together....it was dingy and smelled like mouse pee. I still bought it.....although I didn't want to.
In the Spring of 2010...I hauled it north from New Jersey to Massachusetts and parked it in my side yard..I popped it up one more time, only to reveal some significant structural damage to the interior roof caused by a water leak. I closed it up ...and let it sit. I was still not convinced that it had any value whatsoever. I knew that I'd get around to looking into it sooner or later. Or maybe I'd talk Chrissy into just getting rid of it.
Well.....sooner or later became October 2011.....we planned a camping week in western PA with Chrissy's twin sister and her family....It was time to get to gettin' and rebuild and restore this albatross.
2 weeks ago, I pulled into the front yard and set it up **insert red-neck, hick joke about having a camper set up in your front yard here** There was much more mouse damage, droppings, and awful urine-smelling foulness than I had expected. At first, I was ready to stick it on the curb with a "free" sign on it.
But....
I got to work.
The first order of business was pressure washing the outside and then to the structural stuff. My grandfather and father have blessed me, generationaly-speaking, with a fairly well-rounded workshop. I've pretty much got on hand everything I need to build, weld, grind, drill, cut, torch, bolt, wash, repair, rebuild, anything that comes my way.
After day 1....I had repaired the structural stuff...but I still didn't want the camper. Then came the cleaning.
I spent a few hours everyday just scrubbing, cleaning, scrubbing, cleaning....bleach-water became my best friend. I must have pulled 5 million pebbles of mouse poo out of this thing. We took down all the curtains, took off mattress pads, and ran them through the washer a dozen times. I rented a carpet/upholstery cleaner and cleaned the daylights out of the dinette cushions. I should have taken pictures of the entire process....just to remember how utterly disgusting this mouse-motel was....but I didn't.

Anyway....the dust settled today. She's back. No longer an albatross...but rather a Phoenix, rising from the mouse-crap laden ashes....my "brand new" 1990 Coleman Plantation camper:

Here she is from the outside. She's a beast. 26 1/2 ft. long when it's all opened up. I had to patch a few spots on the canvas where the mice chewed through. I found a place online that will replace all the canvas brand new for a grand....maybe in a few years. For now....I need to settle on a home-grown solution.

Here's a shot from the back-bed looking across the galley. It's something like 160 sq. ft. of living space...bigger than my first dorm room. BTW...the little girl doesn't come standard...I added that accessory myself :^)

Sink, Fridge, 3 burner stove with oven...cuz you never know when you might want fresh baked cookies while camping. This beast also flaunts a hot water heater, furnace, 2 queen beds, air conditioner and....

A hard-walled shower and....

turlet....privacy, baby...dig it.

Anyhow...today, I worked most of the morning on it...finishing up the details....Tonight was pretty much the first night that It was all set up...all cleaned...and restored...and ready to go. Well...In true Leo Family fashion...there was only one thing to do:

Eat dinner in it!! Hot dogs, beans, and beer....a good old American meal for a good old American camper.
We hung out in it afterwards....jumped on the beds...did some puzzles...ate some cookies...watched a movie....




In 2 weeks we're hitching up this baby and cruising out to Amish Country, PA for a week of camping. The Amish make a lifestyle out of generational blessing, fixing what they break, making what they can, restoring what they have, and generally being resourceful and good stewards of what they have been blessed with. Although my camper is a bit modern for their taste....the work and commitment that it took to get it there is right up their alley.

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