Monday, January 20, 2014

First of Our 2014 Getaways

It may be January, but that doesn't stop the urge to get out, get away, and get together--not for the Girl Camping Girls!

So, when a bout of dry weather came along last week, three of us pulled the plug on everyday life and headed for the trailers we have parked for the winter at a low, snow-free spot on the Salmon River. This is our view as we descend from the colder, snowier zones up north.

And here is our little enclave as seen from across the Salmon.

We arrived, unlocked our trailers, turned the heaters on, and poured glasses of wine right away, even before the chill was gone inside. Happy! Campers!

This is Miss Sherry's Outback, Pistol Pete. It's roomy enough for her to bring her kitty and her dog, Jada.

Here we have Trigger Happy, Miss Mig's Hobo. (Pure coincidence about the trailer names both referring to firearms.)

This is my 'tin can cabin,' dubbed Hacienda del Sol. It's a 1972 Airstream Land Yacht.

This is her 'little captain,' G'Petto. He's a Schipperke, a breed developed as a boat dog.

I have this fabulous '57 Aljo as my next-trailer-neighbor.

Though it got down to the 20s at night, daytimes were sunny and pleasant enough for us to do some local exploring. This is about a mile or so downriver from our camping area, which is near the left end of the bridge.

For most meals, we pooled our groceries and took turns cooking or putting out snacks and drinks. One of Mig's breakfasts consisted of scrambled eggs with fresh onions, on pitas topped with fresh avocado spread and strawberries on the side. Yum.

One night, we went for a nice meal at the local small-town supper club. Sherry treated us…thanks again, Sherry!

By chance, we happened to be on this trip when the moon was full. With clear skies, the nightly moonrises and moonsets were incredible. This is shortly before the moon dropped behind the divide that separates the Salmon and Snake rivers.

One morning, the moon was lit by this aura as it slipped away from sight. It looked as bright as a sun. (That look was deceptive, however, as everything outdoors was covered in frost.)

All we had to do to warm up was to go back inside our trailers--I sure didn't mind this view of the Salmon from the rear window of mine--or go stir up the campfire. No obligations and no worries.

A fine four days!

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

A Frame for Cleaning J-Rail Trim

J-rail, also known as rain rail, is the aluminum trim that follows the basic shape of your trailer. Once you've removed it for a painting/resealing project, you'll probably need to clean it of old silicone, butyl tape, paint, moss buildup, and so forth.

Trouble is, it's easily bent while you're doing all this to it. Then it's difficult to get a good seal behind the segment that's tweaked.

To prevent this, and for ease of handling and storage, you can screw the trim onto a wood frame made of three pieces of lumber. Half a dozen screws are enough to hold the trim down firmly enough for cleaning and polishing.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Painting a Trailer: What I've Learned (So Far)

Last spring, I was the lucky beneficiary of a free trailer--a 1961 Aloha compact. I had never painted a vintage trailer before, but there was no question that the trailer needed a fresher face than this (seen on the day I brought her home).

What did I have to lose? I'd probably never get a better opportunity to learn as I went along. Here's a look at the progress so far:

I'm now making plans to paint another trailer, and based on what I've learned from this one, I'll do this:

* Strip the lights, trim, and windows. If I'm going to go to all the time, filth and bother to do a paint job, then it's worth it in the long run to reseal the trim and all the windows with new butyl tape and sealant. It's also a lot easier to do the sanding and other prep for the painting itself when you don't have trim to worry about. (Tip: Leave the windows in until you're done cleaning and resealing the roof. You'll end up with less mess inside.)

* Deal with the roof first. If the roof leaks, and even if it doesn't, there's no point in doing anything else until you're sure the roof is OK.  The toughest part is getting the surface cleaned, especially if there are layers of old roof coating up there. Prepare for this to take a while. Instead of using caulk, I applied Eterna-Bond roof-seal tape over the seams and around the vent cover. The tape is 4 inches wide,  hyper-adhesive, and designed to grip through a wide extreme of temperatures. It comes in a roll, like duct tape, and you press down a piece cut to match the length of the seam. That part goes fast!

* Prepare for long periods of The Uglies. There's nothing pretty about the cleaning/sanding/priming process of getting prepping a trailer for paint. You will get filthy. And tired. And sweaty. And discouraged. You'll be assaulted by fine particulate as you're grinding and sanding, and will wear a respirator if you're smart.

* Wait for optimal painting conditions.  After you've gotten this far, it's tempting to forge straight ahead with painting, but don't do it unless conditions are just right. Read the label on your paint, for optimal air temperature and humidity conditions. I had this trailer at the primed stage by the end of July, but by then, it was too hot to paint it, even in the shade. I ended up waiting until early October before spraying on the top coat.

* Clean and polish the windows and trim before reinstallation. Check out the window and trim in the top photo, then compare to this one. Take my advice, and go power-tool for this job; I used Mother's aluminum polish and a hand-held electric buffer with cone-shaped head, also by Mother's, that I bought at my local tire store.

* Stock up on stainless steel screws. These are the best for putting everything back together again.

* Spring for the cost of new light covers. There's nothing very redeemable about faded, brittle, 40-and-50-year-old pieces of plastic. In the overall scheme of things, the cost of new light covers and flanges isn't all that great, and they add so much to the makeover, overall.