Airstream Crunch Time

It's beginning to look a lot more modern! (to the tune of "It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas")

The countdown has begun. It is now DAYS, not months until we begin our travels. There is an overwhelming amount of work that needs to be finished. The motto, "low and slow" has been retired. Unfortunately, I think we can summarize the past few weeks with the new motto, "It's not done until we've done it 3 times!"  Often times things are dry-fit, installed, taken out, adjusted, then re-installed, only to find out something was backwards and needs to be (you guessed it) re-installed.

It’s not done until we’ve done it 3 times
— Michael James Mette

When considering purchases, we have often chosen to go with a more expensive, more quality product that was designed for RV use. This is not typical for us. We are budget shoppers, craigslist dealers, & up-cyclers. However, for the sake of simplicity, we have chosen products that other Airstream owners have used and recommend. For some reason it never turns out quite as easy as we hope. 

The new fans fall into this category. The standard recommendation is "Fantastic Fan." RV vents/fans range from $40 to $250+. I compared airflow and decided more was better. There was an off-brand that was comparable to Fantastic, but it was a 1/2" wider. I had heard stories of people who were able to slide the Fantastic fan right into the same opening as their old fan without widening it, so I thought this was worth the extra $20-$30 for a name-brand. Of course when Michael began installing it - he had to widen the opening. Not only that, but there was an awkward exterior patch right where the fan opening was. It was not keeping it's dome shape, so Michael's dad constructed some blocking in the ceiling  to firm it up before Michael installed the fans.  A full day's work and thirteen Dremel blades later, the fans look and work great! They are Fantastic. 

Our existing water heater had a leak. We went back and forth on trying to troubleshoot it or to just buy a new one and start fresh. Upon removing the old unit, Michael said, "It might not have been broken, but it's NOT going back in!" The previous owner may have been a bit overzealous with his caulk & adhesive usage. The pry bar had taken its toll on the old unit. There was much uncertainty about choosing a similar 6 gallon, a portable tankless, or the much more expensive tankless water heaters that are specifically designed for an RV and sized to fit into the 6-gallon opening. We found a sale on the tankless RV water heater and went for it.

Of course when we arrived in town to install it, it began raining. We popped out the awnings and hoped to still get some work done. (I'm pretty sure that we have not had a good weather day yet - so it is a good things we decided not to wait around for one)  We had saved our old metal door for the water heater since they only sell them painted. The trouble was that the water heater did not ship with the mounting bracket and our door had the vent in the wrong place. We could order a mounting bracket for $70, but we would have to wait for it to be shipped to us and then we would have to modify it to fit our space. Do you remember the nice people at the heating & mobile home supply shop? Michael convinced them to fabricate a mounting bracket.  It worked great, but the hot water heater didn't fit in our opening by a quarter of an inch. Michael would be spending some time with his Dremel tool once again! This trimming job went much more quickly, but the test run of hot water was unsuccessful. By then the rain had turned into a downpour and we decided that the water heater would take the back burner. 

We shifted our focus to inside the trailer, where we discovered a nice, big LEAK. As the  downpour faded, I rushed outside with a towel and some tape to cover some rivet holes that I found. Of course the tape was useless so I switched to caulk, but the leak persisted.  Could it be that the Fantastic fan installation was not so fantastic after all?  We decided to press on and address the leak at a later date.

Michelle applying caulk in the middle of the rainstorm in an attempt to prevent rain from dripping into our fuse box.

The next project was the sliding couch/bed. We knew that we wanted to make this out of aluminum, and we were able to make a solid bench seat out of scraps from the old closet door pretty easily. The sliding mechanism was where we had to get creative. After a lunch date with YouTube, we decided to build a sliding mechanism with drawer slides. The trouble was that we were unable to find heavy duty slides locally, and we did not want to wait around for some to be shipped to us. We decided to use a high quantity of slides with a 35 pound limit and hope for the best. We began calculating the height of the frame so that we could build it to accommodate the hardware and meet evenly with the bench beside it. With the frame built, we called it a night and would install the slides in the morning.

The next morning, (in the "rain that had now turned to sleet") we went to finish the project and lost all confidence in our cheap slides. Since it was during regular business hours, we were able to visit a local custom cabinet shop in hopes that they had stronger slides. All slides they carried were rated at 110 pounds. The catch was that they had to be mounted upright, on their edge. We bought a few sets and decided to add a few extra to account for the fact that they could be mounted flat. When we arrived in the trailer, we decided it was worth disassembling the frame and adjusting the height so that we would get the full weight capacity on our slides by mounting them properly.   By midnight, we had our bed working. We were proud.

It was still raining.

We were able to easily build frames for the rear bunk beds the next day and then decided to head home to PACK OUR HOUSE! That is right, people. We have officially given our key to the new renters and we have 95% of our belongings either in our van or in storage. This is for real.