Project Vintage Thunder

The latest on Project Vintage Thunder, by Airstream Life magazine. Sponsored by George M Sutton RV, Reese hitch, Dometic USA, PPG Paint, Axis Products, GSM Vehicles, and Zip-Dee. Vintage Thunder is an "honest" RV refurbishment and travelogue. We tell you what really happens ...

Saturday, June 25, 2005

Plowing Forward

When you've got to make miles, it's pretty much sheer work. Owing to a lot of last-minute prep, we didn't really get on the road until 1 pm yesterday. Right before departure I discovered that one of the tire valves was leaking. The cap on the valve stem was holding the pressure so the tire had not lost any pounds, but when I removed the cap it started to hissssss....

Fortunately my father had the correct tool and the correct replacement valve in his basement to fix the problem in a matter of minutes. Lucky break -- I thought for sure we were going to spend the afternoon in a tire shop, waiting. As it was, the valve was replaced in two minutes and with his handy air compressor we had the tire pumped back up and ready to go right away.

So after that we hustled our way down the highway. There's nothing charming to be said about dealing with rush hour in Hartford CT, or the struggle to find an overnight stop (ANY stop) at 10:30 pm somewhere east of Port Jervis. Suffice to say we found an overpriced spot eventually. The Wal-Mart in town had nearly as much charm and about the same traffic noise, for free, but the town prohibited us from parking there.

We used the Internet-in-Motion system extensively along the way. Eleanor sent an e-card to her brother from the highway, and I used every rest stop as a chance to deal with some business issues via email I couldn't resolve before we left. It's actually relaxing to have the connection as we go, so problems don't mount up that have to be dealt with at the end of the day. Of course, I'm also using the "black box" to send you this blog right now.

A small confession: I did succumb to "traileritis" on Thursday night. I didn't buy the '74 Argosy 22 that I had considered earlier, but on Thursday I spotted a cute 1963 Serro Scotty Sportsman (15 ft) and somehow found myself the owner of it by nightfall. Here's a pic. I think we'll tow it to the National Scotty Rally in Pennsylvania later in July.

We have no idea where we'll stop today. The adventure is ON!

Friday, June 24, 2005

Heading to Springfield

We are nearly ready to go. Yesterday, I tweaked a few items in Vintage Thunder in preparation for this major trip to the WBCCI International Rally in Springfield MO (and many other points as well). I put a new 12v electrical connector on the wireless router, since the previous one was loose. The router tended to shut off randomly, which was annoying when we were traveling and using the laptop in the truck. (One moment we'd be online, then the wireless signal would just disappear.)

We also did considerable re-packing, based on our experience from the Homecoming trip. On this trip, we expect to be on the road for a minimum of two weeks, perhaps longer. So the packing is that much more intense -- remember, we're bringing my office on the road, too. I've got it all in here: paper, files, magazines, CDs, DVDs, laptops, etc. Now all I need to do is stop off at a computer store and buy a portable laser printer. My current HP Laserjet is a bit too large to take in the trailer.

Amazingly, the Argosy 24 has swallowed it all. It has taken some careful packing, but we've got an incredible amount of stuff here. We've loaded most of the heavy stuff toward the back to compensate for our tongue weight, which was a bit higher than I would have liked on the last trip. (Don't worry, we are still in a safe zone on the tongue.) Should we decide to go to the beach, we're ready. If we need to cook a meal for eight, we're ready. Hiking, browsing, working, partying - we've got what we need to do it. And we're still about 1500 lbs below the GVWR for the trailer.

We also need to pick up a blue boy (blue tank, for graywater disposal). The International rally has only one pump-out scheduled and we are not allowed to run graywater out on the ground due to the porous nature of Missouri limestone. Since Vintage Thunder has only a 10 or 12-gallon gray tank, we'll have to collect the graywater and tote it over to the (nearby) dump station daily. I hate to have to buy one of those things because they are huge and expensive ($100+) but in this case we have no choice. We'll stop at a RV store along the way, and store it in the shower during travel like everyone else does.

When they were fixing the Fantastic Vent leaks, Colin's guys also installed wiring for a macerator pump. I'll talk more about this later, but basically it's an electric pump that attaches to the dump valve. I was asked to try this out by folks at Airstream and report back on it. I'm leery of it, but I'll give it a try.

First stop today will be Danbury CT to pick up a sewing machine for a friend of mine, and then we'll camp somewhere nearby, perhaps just over the border in NY. Look for daily posts from here on in ... perhaps we'll see you on the road?

Monday, June 20, 2005

Found The Leak!

It's hard to believe. But after taking apart the A/C and doing careful leak testing, the mystery leak has finally been found. And it was not in the A/C as we all had guessed. It was in the forward Fantastic Vent.

Take a look at the picture. As best we can tell, a screw which mounted the vent was overtightened, which cracked the plastic flange (edge) of the vent. The screw worked loose later, which allowed the plastic flange to lift off the roof a tiny bit. As a result, the hairline crack and the loose screw created a "T" shaped gap along the flange (as viewed from the side). This was just enough for heavy rain to seep in, and run through the ceiling to drip out from both vents.

Before the trailer was painted, the crack was very subtle. Once the trailer was painted, the crack was impossible to see. It was found only by applying a spray hose and feeling around for moisture.

The solution is simple: a bit more Vulkem. Problem solved. We'll test it in Missouri, where we are sure to have at least one thunderstorm. Finally ... do I dare say we are done with leaks?

Three days to go before takeoff!

Sunday, June 19, 2005

The Next Argosy?

Sorry for not keeping the blog updated as much as before -- we've been socked in with work (unrelated to Project Vintage Thunder). But on Saturday I was able to tow Vintage Thunder back over to Plattsburgh to Colin's shop for him to fix the A/C leak.

Three days of rain this past week confirmed that the leak occurs when parked, not just while driving. And there's no doubt at all in my mind that the leak is from the air conditioner. The curious thing is that the water can emerge from either the forward or rearward Fantastic Vent, but never comes out the A/C. This may be a useful clue -- water gets into the A/C but then is shunted into the ceiling area. Once we have the thing apart, it will hopefully be obvious where the rainwater is seeping. Colin will be on that job Monday.

Meanwhile, I have done a bizarre thing. With Vintage Thunder all but complete, and traveling the roadways, I found myself taking a 20-mile detour on Saturday to go see a 1974 Argosy 22 which is for sale. It is a sad sight: badly spray-painted white, dented along the front curbside and on the rear dome, repaired with stainless screws rather than rivets, and filled with dead flies.

But the interior furniture is perfect, and all the appliances work (except perhaps the water heater). The floor has one area of rot that I could find, perhaps more, but there is no strange smell inside and the layout is very nice.

No doubt the trailer has many issues to be resolved, some of which will not reveal themselves until the belly pan is off, and the cleanup work begins. It needs tires, axles, clearance lights, re-painting, a new window, a new toilet and new floor covering. The white spray paint on the exterior and the two dents probably wipe out its market value entirely ... and yet, I find myself strangely compelled to buy it. The interior is cute as can be, and the 22 foot length is very manageable.

I have no time, no place to work on it, and no logical reason in the world to own yet another trailer. This must be a disease. Somebody stop me!

Countdown to the next roadtrip: four days. Destination: Springfield MO (WBCCI International Rally). Will we see you there?