Thursday, June 30, 2016

Rebuilding “Ms. Merry”, the Amerigo–And The Mystery of the Trampoline Floor

I’ve been reading George and the late Ms. Tioga’s amazing story, again, as of late, and I’ve always loved George’s narrative style, as he described his adventures being a Vagabonder Supreme with all his friends.

So, today I decided I’d try writing in his fashion, as I’ve always tended to assign human qualities to a great many things that have been a part of my life and talked to them like they were people on many occasions.

The Amerigo, you should already know her name, its Ms. Merry, of course! 

Now, Merry’s Chaufer, the trusty old white Dodge pickup, might be a tad more challenging, as his name isn’t really straight forward.   His name is Jake, named after his Grandfather, an old red 1979 Chevy C20 Camper Special who drove Ms. Dyna around for my parents when I was a little baby. Jake, however, likes to be called “Red” after his nickname “Redneck Express”, because he thinks it makes him sound tough like a junkyard dog, though he’s more like a sleepy black lab.

Red’s been taking care of Ms. Merry, resting on his back while she undergoes her surgery.   Both of them are looking forward to when Ms. Merry is finally done, and its time for Merry, Red, Dawn and Ms. Yuki the Cat to return to the asphalt rivers once again in search of the next horizon.
When we last left off, I was showing you all the new holding tanks for Ms. Merry the Amerigo, who is still feeling rather out of sorts with her insides out and about, scattered into various unsorted piles in the barn with old Mr. Kit, who simply grumbles whenever he’s woke up by me digging around looking for a bit of Ms. Merry to put back and generally mumbles something about “Staying off his lawn”. 

Today, I finally decided to tear into Ms. Merry’s floor, the last big mystery left in her bare skeleton. 
From the day I first looked at Ms. Merry in her dusty tent up in Washington, I noticed that her floor was rather springy, like walking on a trampoline in some areas.   This was very disconcerting, as no Truck Camper’s floor should bounce like a trampoline when you walk on it!

I figured at the time the floor was either built with too thin of plywood when Ms. Merry was put together, or water had gotten into poor Ms. Merry’s floor and the framing had rotted.

So, with all of Ms. Merry’s walls finally put back together and built stronger than ever before, I set about investigating this danged trampoline, as there was no way I was going to put 348 lbs of water on poor Ms. Merry’s floor only to have the tank drop through the first time she decided to climb of Red’s back. 

After a great deal of struggle, Mr. Ryobi the Saw and I cut out several peep holes in the floor so I could take a look into Ms. Merry’s floor to find what the trouble was.

The only problem was, every hole I cut, I only found foam!

After a while, Mr. Ryobi the saw was screaming “Enough, this old vinyl and plywood is hard for me to cut, you should using Mr. Milwaukee for this!”, so I got out big Joe and his little buddy Five-Pound, to start ripping up the stubborn plywood and let Mr. Ryobi’s battery go and recharge.

This is what we found:

No rot in the frame!  Yay!

Now, there is some water damage to the very thin door skin that covers the bottom, but it appears that’s the only thing affected, and I can replace that later when Ms. Merry’s got all her legs again and she can climb off poor Red’s back and give him a rest.

The plywood also wasn’t rotten, or thin….. like every other plywood piece in Ms. Merry, it was 5/8” plenty thick.   So, why was her floor so bouncy?

I didn’t find the whole reason until I spent several more hours with Mr. Ryobi, Big Joe and Five Pound.

Turns out, poor Ms. Merry’s floor wasn’t built very well Sad smile

Instead of properly securing Ms. Merry’s floor every so often with cross boards, her floor was simply made up of four 2x2s running length-wise the entire span of the floor with only a couple of very loose 2x4 pieces up towards the front to stiffen it.  You can see those in the pictures above.

So, with no solid cross beams, the floor in the middle just bowed up as Ms. Merry’s big rear end sagged down.

Well, we couldn’t have that!  So, I asked the two Atwood brothers, “Would you please lift up poor Ms. Merry’s rear end so it straightens back out and I can fix her floor?”

“Sure thing boss!  But, you’re going to have to turn us, you haven’t got us any power, yet!”  replied the Atwood brothers, who always love a chance to lift something big.

So, out came the crank, and I got myself into quite a sweat spinning down each of the Atwood brothers until Ms. Merry’s rear end had lifted just enough to straighten the floor back out.

Once Ms. Merry’s floor was no longer bent, I got out trusty Mr. Dremel and we cut out the old floor almost all the way back to the rear, removing the bent and twisted floor joists.

After I had finished vaccuuming up the floor and pounding over the staples left from removing the center floor joists, I proceeded to cut new 2x6s to frame up the floor in the front to be strong enough to support Ms. Merry’s new fresh water tank, and then several 2x4s to provide support for the dinette seat compartments where Ms. Merry’s batteries were going to go.

Finally, using a 2x6 and a 2x4, I rejoined the remaining portion of the old floor joists from the rear into the new framing in the front portion of the floor. 

My poor arms and Mr. Ryobi the Drill were both fairly sore after driving in all of those large screws to clamp all those new pieces of wood togther so they’d become super strong once the glue set.
We also got to cut our first pieces of insulation Smile,  finally we’re putting things back together!
Put down a bunch more glue on the top of all that new wood, then drop in the new sheet of plywood….

Driving in a whole bunch of two-inch screws and the front section of Ms. Merry’s floor is done!


Well, that takes care of the front portion of the camper, I’ll be able to replace the plywood on the rear section as soon as I remove the toilet from the bathroom so I can move the shower stall out of the way and tear out the last piece of the original plywood.

When they built Merry’s floor, they ran a full eight foot sheet from the rear straight up to the front, then a second shorter piece to complete the run, hence the 2x4s in the photo of the original frame structure.   The outer edges of the overhanging section simply have small pieces of plywood added on instead of the rear being cut all from one sheet of plywood.

With the new framing and the same thickness of plywood as the replacement, the new floor doesn’t bounce at all and is quite solid. 

Next up, I’ll be finishing the framing on the front wall so I can then insulate and close it up, allowing me to then build the framed box for the new fresh water tank and then i’ll have a step again so I can easily get up to the cabover and finish the floor.

Once the cabover floor is in place, I can really start picking up the pace, first repaneling the ceiling up there, then installing the insulation and new quarter inch plywood to the walls in the cabover. 

I’ll be returning to more my regular-style of writing for my following posts, but I’ll probably continue to refer to the camper as Merry and my truck as Red, going forward, however, I think I’ll probably stop giving characterizations to everything else, even if it was kind of fun Smile

Till next time,
Safe Travels Smile

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Rebuilding the Amerigo – Tale of Two Tanks

You’ve probably already noticed the new fresh water tank in a few pictures from the previous posts, but if you haven’t here’s the new 41 gallon fresh water tank, temporarily sitting in her new home to check tolerances around the tank for plumbing that needs to enter the area. 

With the 2x2 frame that I want to add to the inside wall of the camper’s tub so that there’s insulation in that area, the water pump may actually end up by the water heater instead of on the floor by the tank. 

One thing I have decided is that since this tank has all the fittings on one side, and that she’s a side entry, I’m going to simply delete the gravity drain and do as I have to with my Heartland Fifth wheel, and use the pump to drain the tank when prepping her for long term storage. 

The second tank in this tale is the new waste tank. 

Here she is with all her fittings, waiting for me to finish the floor, and pull the shower so that the old tank can be dropped and the new one fitted into its place. 

That extra valve?  That’s for the diversion setup.   I had originally though about simply replicating how the KIT’s diversion setup worked.  What made me think that might not be the best setup this go round is on the KIT the toilet dumped into the opposite end of the tank from the pipe and the valve. 
On this camper, the tank drains on the correct side, and thus the toilet dumps in directly ahead of the valve, so not the best place to be back filling the tank from. 

My solution?   Add a third blade valve and an inlet on the upper side of the tank opposite the toilet and drain.   When I want to run the grey water into the tank, close the valve down by the hookup and open the one on the side of the tank.  This way the gray water enters the tank opposite the jon, and fills from the top.

I will be replacing the original shower p-trap with a HepVo waterless trap valve as it will be exposed to the weather due to space restrictions underneath the overhang, where as the tank and the pipes will be getting enclosed and a small duct line from the new furnace directed down to heat the tanks during winter operations. 


Sunday, June 19, 2016

Rebuilding the Amerigo–Close her up and install the other rear jack

Finally able to close her back up, and start replacing some of the worn exterior components before stopping to give Merry a much needed bath, getting to the stage where I need surfaces clean for new hardware to be installed (like the roof a/c unit). 

That line along the side of the wall is NOT the screw strip, that’s 41 years of dirt and debris that was behind the screw strip that never received any sealant, the strip on the tail fin was the same way, but I had already cleaned it up and resealed it by that point.

Sadly, I forgot to take pictures before I had to move the rig back into my drive way (new incoming neighbors, had to vacate the spare RV space Smile), so forgive the fence in the picture, my driveway isn’t very wide.

Start off with the driver’s side rear jack.  It probably looks familar, that’s because this jack leg is actually going to be in that spot, I just need to replace the plastic head pieces with on it with the ones that came off the KIT, the electirc jacks are going on the Amerigo, but one of them has a failing set of bearigs in the acme screw, so I’m reusing one of the spares that were on the front of the Amerigo to replace the leg and keep the motor and other useable bits from the original that was on the KIT. 
Until I pull the shower stall out of the wall, I can’t finish bolting it in place, so its not completely completed, but its six carriage bolts away from being done.  Smile  Let me tell you, hand driving in eight 5/16”, 5 1/2” long lag bolts with a hand socket, during a thunderstorm (one rolled in on me while I was sealing this corner back up) is all kinds of suck.
I have replacement black vinyl strips to go on all the screw strips, just haven’t started putting any on yet till I pretty much done with fiddling with the strips.  Like to get on a roll with the heat gun and knock it all out at once (Got 200 feet of shiny black cover ready to go). 

In addition to buying new vinyl for the trim strips, you can also see that I’ve replaced the fresh water fill port, the city water connector, the range good vent cover, and the tail light assemblies. 

The tailights was a bit of a trick given Monarch Lights hasn’t been around in a while.   Luckily there’s a company called Grote, which manufactures all of the older parts still, so I was able to find a brand new set of exactly matching tail lights and all new marker/clearance lights.  

Best part?  You can pretty much look any of them up by Grote’s part numbers on amazon and they’re all prime Smile.

Still need to order the license plate assembly though, there, I may favor a newer metal one over the original plastic job which is falling apart.

The shower power connector has new wire waiting inside and is all hooked up, waiting for the new distribution panel to go in and the vent assembly for the new furnace is in place. 

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Rebuilding the Amerigo–Haven’t we been here before?

Having had to put the cabover on the back burner to get the floor done, which required finishing the demolition of the cabinets on the driver side, I seem to have come back to where I started, with the rear of the camper opened up and another wing rotted, and a 2x4 the consistency of florists foam. 
Hrm…. something seems to be missing here….. can’t quite put my finger on it…..
All the beam you see missing? I pulled that with my fingers.  I’m amazed that wall hadn’t buckled.   The 2x6 pieces running above the 2x4 were probably the only thing holding it together, and I pulled those out by hand as well….
Yup, just a bit of water intrusion….   The electrical cord connector came through here…
There we go, that’s better Smile.  And no, the top beam is quite solid, that’s just surface staining. 
Much, much better…..
What’s the 2x6 for?  To run 5 1/2” lag bolts into to tie the front edge of the jack bracket into, naturally Smile.   Unlike the passenger side, where I literally could only tie in from one side due to the lack of space to over lap the corner, on this side, the jack doubles as the seal on the corner material.  

Since it’s goign to be takign the twisting action of the jack there, and no door in the way, I added a 2x6 beam in to spread the anchoring load into and help tie it all together a bit better.
Added in the missing 2x2s along the edge as well.  Those go a long way into stiffening up those tail fins.
With this side open, I was able to confirm that I have in fact, run out of dry rot, minus any discoveries in the floor, which from what I could see where the cut through for the drain pipes was, were in fine shape. 

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Rebuilding the Amerigo–More work on the bed

Got some more work done on the bed, finished clearing out the cabover floor with the help of the missus (She found ripping it out to be very cathartic Winking smile). 

The new bed platform has been partially assembled in a dry fit, but won’t be able to be installed until I finish some other areas first so I can rebuild the front step and safely get in and out of the cabover area. 

At current, my only method of ingress and egress is to wedge my foot by the water heater or the propane compartment and try to swing my 350lbs up onto a very small ledge and not miss and go through the cabover skin. 

I am still debating if I want to simply cut two layers of my very expensive foam board to go under the mattress or use the faced roll of bat insulation I already have on hand to under the mattress and fill all of the air gaps present between the top of the bed floor and the skin of the camper. 

The rigid foam board would only fill in the space between the framing, still leaving the large gap underneath, where as the fiberglass would fill the entire space.
Once the tank step is partially assembled, I can use it to get up and dry fit the new floor, which will over hang the edge inside the camper by about four inches, adding the missing length needed to make the cabover bed area large enough for a standard queen sized mattress. 

Because the original floor frame design was poor and the over zealous use of spray foam by Gardner in ‘75 (They seem to have taken the approach of, “We’ve got a new toy! Let’s Foam all the things!”), I had decided to build a second frame that would be anchored on top of the original, giving us 2x3 framing under the mattress and a solid beam across the front of the cabover near the window to keep the bed frame stiff and properly load bearing. 

You can see in the photo below the 2x3 that will over hang the exisiting front edge of the cabover floor so that I can suck it up tight against the new floor and anchor the two together from two different directions. 
Once the all the frame members are dry assembled and the new platform is test fit, it will be glued together permanently.   Then the 2x4 front sill and stringers to go from the front edge of this frame under the shelf by the front window will be attached and the whole unit will be glued and screwed permanently into place.