Sunday, September 5, 2010

Duluth Tall Ships Trip

As promised in my last post, we made plans to take the Chaska Shasta up to Duluth for a short trip to see the "Tall Ships" tour. I spent way too much time agonizing over which campground we should stay at -- heck, it was for one night -- even a bad campground is doable for one night, right? Anyway, we finally chose the Spirit Mountain Campground which is just west of Duluth. This was a terrific choice -- the campground is beautifully rustic -- you feel like you are in the middle of a forest, yet there are modern facilities (i.e. bathrooms and showers) within walking distance of most of the campsites. Our only complaints about this campground is that the bathrooms could use a little TLC (they were pretty worn down) and it would have been nice if there was someway to turn off the streetlights around the campground at a certain time of the night -- we had one right over our site that make it seem like daytime all night. Anyway, I'm off topic way too soon. This was the first campsite where we could hook the Shasta's water system up to a water line. Everything worked like a charm. Keeping to the traditional Shasta design, we have two spigots going into the sink. One that directly hooks to the water supply from the campground and one that is connected to the water tank. As I mentioned in previous posts, I have converted the "hand pump" spigot to an electric (12 volt) pump spigot. We don't drink the water from either source.

This was also our first "big storm" trip. It started raining about 11 p.m. the night we arrived and rained all night until probably 6 a.m. This proved to us why we want to camp in the Shasta -- we were dry and comfortable all night -- it was a bit noisy, but we felt safe in our little 10 foot home-away-from-home.

We only spent a night in Duluth, but got two full-days of sight-seeing in on this trip. It was fun and we would definitely take this same trip again. I scoped out a few other sites at Spirit Mountain that I would consider staying at when we return. We took a trip through Jay Cooke State Park -- Beautiful! They have a campground too, but the Minnesota state park system (in typical "Land of 10,000 Taxes" fashion) nickel and dimes campers to death with fees -- so it is often more economical to go to a private campground -- plus, it benefits the mom & pop businesses way more...Ok... off my soapbox.

This was the last family trip we took in the '66 Shasta that we had nicknamed Chloe -- Fall set in and with it, back to school, winterizing projects and eventually the Shasta went into storage for the Winter.  

Monday, July 26, 2010

Sorry for the lack of posts

I had really hoped to keep up to date on this blog and the summer has gotten away from us.

The beauty of this camper is that we only really had to replace wood on the ceiling, which we did, with beadboard.  We did remove one cabinet which was not very functional and made it difficult to get into and out of the dinette.

We have taken the Shasta on a few trips since my last post. Each time we learn a bit more about what we need, etc. The Shasta has been a great home on every trip. Even though she is only 10 feet long, we sleep and camp two adults and our three younger children in comfortably.

A trip to Northern Minnesota a few weeks ago proved what babies we all are though. We were in the midst of a Minnesota heat-wave and found out that we had become very comfortable sleeping in air conditioned comfort. A windless night at 85 degrees made us think twice about an upcoming trip to Iowa and Kansas we were set to go in July.

I began to think about a solution. Window air conditioner units are not practical -- especially with the vintage Jalousie windows in the Shasta. I did not want to cut a 2 by 3 foot hole in the side of the camper. I was not sure if the Shasta would support a camper roof top unit -- plus they were prohibitively expensive! Then it hit me -- there was another option. We have several portable room air conditioners in various offices where I work (I work in a largely un-air-conditioned building). These room units have a 8 inch exhaust tube that goes to the outside -- this exhausts the hot air that is emitted from the air conditioner. Newer units don't even need a tube for emitting condensate -- they blow the hot air from the exhaust onto the collected condensate inside the unit -- evaporating it along with the hot air. Even if I had purchased an older unit, or if this unit cannot keep up with the condensate in it's evaporative mode, simply attaching a hose to the back of the unit and running it through the hole where the icebox used to drain would be acceptable.

So I went about trying to find a unit -- looking where it all started with the Shasta -- Craigslist. In the heat of summer, these units go very fast! As luck would have it, I found a used unit for a great price. I drove across town, found that the unit was in great shape so soon my new (at least new to me) air conditioner unit was riding shotgun with me back to the Shasta.

Cutting a small 8 inch round hole in the side of the camper was much more acceptable to me than other venting options. Vintage camper enthusiasts are probably cringing right now, but really, the cut was minimal. I placed the vent near the other utility connections on the front, street side of the trailer. I purchased one of those louvered dryer vents in white. The vent fits right in along beside the gravity fill water connection. It is hardly noticeable. When you look at newer rigs, they have all variety of doors, vents, connections, and other dohickeys.

I found that the air conditioner fit perfectly in the closet - this allowed it to be out of the way when it was not being used and when we wanted to use it, we just opened the closet door. The exhaust venting tube made a 360 degree loop with the excess storing in the area under where the icebox sits (note that my Shasta's icebox was removed by a previous owner, so I have filled the space with a smaller A.C. refrigerator and a small microwave).

We knew that we made the right decision when we arrived and set up camp in Iowa. The outside temperature was near 90 degrees, but we slept comfortably -- under blankets inside the Shasta. The next two nights in Kansas were equally restful. It does not take a lot to cool a 10 by 8 foot space! The humm of the air conditioner also drowns out any late-night parties that may be occurring outside of the camper.

We did get a bit tired of opening and closing the closet door so by the 2nd night, I temporarily removed and stowed the closet door. This made things a lot more comfortable. I am thinking of removing the closet door and storing it at home and crafting a two-section door for my Shasta's closet so that the lower section could be opened when the air conditioner is being used. While I did not mind cutting the 8 inch hole for the exhaust -- I would not consider ruining the original closet door -- so I would craft this 2 section door out of something else and keep the original door intact and safely stored for replacement when I want to return the Shasta to vintage condition.

All in all, the Air Conditioning made sleeping a lot easier. Call me spoiled -- but I don't want to sweat when I sleep. Of course, I also want a few more comforts of home in my rig -- that's why I opted for the Shasta and not a tent-camper or worse (at least for me) a tent. I don't want to rough it that much!

Well, better sign off for now. We love the Shasta and hope to go see the Tall Ships in Duluth for at least a night. I'll let you know how that trip goes.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Assessing the damage

As you can see by the hole in the roof, this is what we started with. There was water damage that permeated the entire front ceiling panel. It appeared that this was fairly new water damage though, so I did not run into mold or really that much damage to the surfaces that the ceiling was in contact with (i.e. walls). The nice part was that I did not need tools to remove the ceiling. A gloved hand moved through it all.

Bringing Her Home...

My wife is a Craigslist expert. She regularly shows me campers and other items that she likes so that fateful Sunday morning in early April did not phase me too much when she showed me a 1966 Shasta Compact on her computer. I went along and encouraged her to contact the guy selling the camper. We were the first to call! She talked to him a bit more and as she spoke with him, I listened in to about half the conversation -- gradually becoming more interested. By the end of the conversation, she put her hand on the phone and asked my permission to purchase the camper, sight un-seen!

I guess I must have been in a pretty good state of mind because I agreed. Several hours later, we were two hours north of our home and sealing the deal.

As we were hooking up to pull away, I noticed that there were absolutely no safety chains on the trailer.  Now I have this voice in my head that is my father's voice and I could hear him, clear as day, disapproving of this setup.  I was unsure what else I could do --  Keep in mind that this was a Sunday afternoon - approaching evening and we were two hours away from home. I knew of one home improvement store about 10 miles away that we had passed on the way to get the trailer. I anxiously drove those 10 miles sure that the trailer was going to unhook itself from the tow vehicle and take out both the cars behind me as well as the gem we had just purchased. We pulled into the store and found that it had closed 10 minutes earlier -- lights were dark and no cars were in the parking lot (so I could not even beg someone to let me in).

I remembered passing a 24 hour Walmart about 10 miles further South. As I hit every bump and pothole on the way out of the Menard's parking lot, again knowing for sure that the trailer would be freeing itself at any moment, we made our way back onto the highway and made it to the Walmart after 10 more anxious miles.

Now I did not even know if Walmart would have a safety chain for a travel trailer - but it was worth a shot. So I made my way back to Sporting Goods on a Shasta Wing and a prayer and was pleasantly surprised to see that they had one. Within a few minutes I had purchased and installed, the best I could, the chain. Now, I could at least drive knowing that if she did disengage herself from the car, at least she would still follow me until I could pull over.

The remaining trip was uneventful. The trailer followed us just like a new found lost puppy. The little Shasta seemed to know that she was going to a new, loving home! When we got home, our kids (who were staying with Grandma who had come over to watch them while we made the trip North) came out and fawned over the new camper. My wife and I knew that we had a lot of work ahead of us, but it would be worth it in the end. We started making plans for family trips that night!

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

1966 Shasta Pictures!

Here is a shot of the inside. You can see the damage to the ceiling. As I later found out, the water damage was NOT caused by a leaky vent as first thought -- there were several pinhole sized holes in the roof. I have learned to love Eternabond!

Here is the exterior shot of the "door side" of the camper.

Welcome to my 1966 Shasta Page! How it all started...

For several years my wife has been a Craigslist Junkie showing me all sorts of campers that she has found that needed new homes. I have to admit that my first foray into RVing was not good -- we bartered to rent a mid-sized class C RV and drove it to South Dakota several years back. We left against my dad's recommendations (Dad has owned RVs for the past 10 years) as the wind was gusting at 30 to 40 M.P.H. and our trip would take us headlong into strong thunderstorms with tornadoes, and all sorts of bad things. But you know how it feels when you have been looking forward to hitting the road -- nothing would stop us! Our trip would have us leaving for SD the same day my daughter was getting out of school for the summer -- so we thought it would be fun to pick her up at school on our way out of town. And it was -- while all the other kids were getting on busses for an uneventful ride home, my kid was boarding an R.V., fixin' to mow the West!

Within 15 minutes of starting our trip, I started getting an idea of why my dad had reservations about us setting out on the trip -- my knuckles were white from firmly holding the steering wheel after numerous gusts of wind seemed to be trying to push the R.V. into the ditch or, worse yet, oncoming traffic. By the time we reached our first night's stop in Sioux Falls, S.D., I was glad to be in camp. We were camping where I could get wi-fi and I had brought my laptop. I logged on to see what the weather had in store -- and it was clear that the winds that we had fought coming this way were just the beginning of a huge storm that was just West of Sioux Falls -- this is the one with all the tornadoes, lightning, etc. I remember thinking at that moment that perhaps I was a bit careless as a parent -- why would I have placed my family inside a tin-can when a huge storm was heading our way. I scoped out the nearest storm shelter and made a plan. As it turns out, the storm moved to our South and we only got rain.

The rest of that South Dakota trip was pretty much uneventful, but I found that campground selection plays a huge part of how satisfying the trip will be. We stayed in five different campgrounds during this trip -- and several were clearly wonderful -- Badlands K.OA., Deadwood K.O.A. and others, not so much. One of the campgrounds near Mount Rushmore (sounds like MOA) was clearly cattle-car material. The place was so huge that we felt forgotten. Our camper neighbors around us seemed self-absorbed and not friendly at all. I began to look forward to coming back home -- which is never what you want to do on a vacation. I decided that perhaps RVing was just not for me.

So I somewhat reticently agreed to look at the 1966 Shasta Compact that my wife had found on Craigslist on that fateful Sunday morning. I later found out that we were extremely lucky to have been the first call that they guy selling it received and he agreed to hold it for us -- we bought it sight-unseen. We later found out that he had dozens of calls -- one guy tried to buy it out from under us... but the seller was true to his word -- he kept it for us. $650 later and it was ours!

I have to say that this was a bit like buying a mystery prize -- we did not know what we were buying and we certainly did not know that we were now in the vintage travel trailer club. It has been fun seeing how others have refurbed their Shastas. I will say that it is a bit of a fever.

That was mid-April. A lot has happened since that day and I hope to catch you up to date in the coming days, weeks, months...

Welcome to my blog!