Off of the Grid

Posts tagged “Minnie Winnie

Teardown Complete!

YAY! We finally got the last of the old flooring out. Now there is just the frame and the chassis of the trailer. We have some wood cobbled together in-case we need to make the RV street safe but that is off to the side.

WOW! Just had to get that off my chest. OK. Here is what we found.

  • We found both steel beams bent by the passenger side rear dullies. Not sure what would have caused this kind of damage in this spot. Massive over burden? Improperly placed jacks? Accident? These will need to be removed and replaced.
  • Rust – a bunch of rust but fortunately less than we were expecting. You can tell this rig was not an East Coast vehicle. I was terrified we would get everything off only to discover that road salt had eaten away the very base of our home. At that point, we would be game over and homeless. There is a reason I haven’t been sleeping very well at night. The rust that we did find is treatable. PHEW!
  • The back steel beam going across the rear of the RV is slightly bowed up. You can see from the pictures. Again, not sure what would have caused this damage. We know from the people we bought the RV from there was extensive back end damage from them backing into something. I can’t remember what. This damage could have been caused by that. It looks like something we can hammer back into place but I will defer that to the hubby and a body shop.
  • We still have that one steel beam that is broken off the ‘C’ bracket extension. I showed that image previously but will edit the photo to make it a bit more obvious.

Otherwise, things look good! Everything from this point forward is a step towards putting Winnie back together. Stronger, and Better than before. When we are done, we will have a custom brand new 2017 RV.  🙂

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And so it begins…

Ok. We have made it to our construction destination – now it’s time to break everything down. These are our goals in breakdown:

  1. Take a good look at the metal frame that is supposed to exist and make sure it is in good condition. We plan to stabilize/repair/or replace what we need to.
  2. Start from scratch so we can build what we want. Ripping the walls and ceiling off will give us a better idea of the space we have to work with.
  3. Finalize our floorplan based on what we find and what we want.

Our needs for living in Winnie long-term are as follows:

  • Have space to live and not feel like we are living in 176sqft of space.
  • Have room for Daniel to work.
  • Have homeschool room.
  • Have a usable, workable kitchen that will support our love of baking and visiting.
  • Have room for Xan to play and mom to craft.

BIG goals considering our space! However, we think we can do it. It took us about two days to get the RV empty.  I have a large tent that I purchased last Fall. We set that up and discovered in the manual that the tent has an interior that is 200sqft. That is more space than our RV has! Needless to say, everything we had to move easily fit into the tent. I posted pictures of that earlier.

We started breakdown about four days ago and it’s going well. The frame is MUCH less substantial than we were expecting. Kinda scary when you REALLY see what is between you and the rest of the world. Not much. However, I am supremely impressed by Winnebago’s wallpaper. What is that stuff? While the luan wood broke easily, that wallpaper held on so tightly I am convinced it was part of the construction design to keep everything held together. Thus far we have one whole wall removed and the back is unattached. The filon on the back wall extends onto the roof so although the back is unattached, it’s still dangling there until we disconnect the roof. We have been doing this as a family affair and I am so proud of Xan. He knows how to use a power screwdriver like a pro, uses his own hammer (it’s real) to help break down the walls and is our pro screw picker-upper (we are using this cool long magnet thing on a pole). I tell him often, we couldn’t do this without his help and input.

We each stated what we really wanted in the rig.

  • Xan wants a gypsy pull down bed, and he wants Internet antennae on the roof. He says they will make us look like a robot transformer.
  • Daniel wants some private office space so he can close himself off if he needs to and he wants a real kitchen where he has the counterspace needed to really cook!
  • Paula (me) really wants to add tile to our design in the bathroom and a bathtub, no matter how small. (I think this has more to do with the fact that Xander has some cool Playmobile and Octonaut bath toys that I just can’t bear to give away.)

For Xan’s bed, we have found the space and can reinforce the wall to make sure his gypsy pull down bunk bed is as he wants. I mapped out the painted interior of the bed and gave him a few designs on how we can paint it (gypsy beds are always very decorated) so he is pretty stoked.

We decided to add an additional 3′ onto the back of our RV. Our Minnie is a rare, diesel 28′. We have heard so many people say that it can’t possibly be a diesel and that Winnebago didn’t make a 28′ rig. Well, they did and we have one. But – it gave us the idea. Since most of the longer Minnie Winnie’s are 31′ – why not just extend ours? Voila! Daniel will have a hidden room at the back of the RV 3’L x 7 3/4″ W where we have extended the rig. In the back, there will be a floor to ceiling cabinet to help stabilize the RV. There will be two other floor to ceiling items that will form a triangle in the RV to provide equal support to the frame as a whole. His desk will be behind the wall of the shower. We will add a small opening window to the space so he has some airflow and natural light. This fulfills his major need to be able to work separate from the family. We have designed our kitchen to have a nice work space by the stove and convection over, with the refrigerator near-by and a place for his spices. It will be an ‘L’ shape with an extendable counter on one side and he wants a double sink where before we had a single. We will use the traditional RV design where we have a cover for the sinks to turn the space into workable counter space.

The bathroom and my vision. In a small space, every opportunity to be alone is a treasure. The bathroom is one of those places where you can satisfy a bodily function AND get some alone time. In our old bathroom, it was so small, it was hard to use, impossible to relax in and dark. YUCK! In our remodel, we will have a real bathroom. How are we planning to do this? We are rotating the toilet so it sits at an angle on a raised platform (think squatty potty). We have to have the platform to get over the wheel well. Before, only the toilet was raised so high your legs would dangle cutting off circulation to your feet and was very uncomfortable. You were not encouraged to linger. The solution, a nice rounded platform to support the height of the angled toilet and our knees will no longer be hitting the door as we sit, and our legs won’t be dangling anymore. Our knees will be at the appropriate height for comfort. There will be a nice sized small vanity where I can put bathroom things. Our hand hammered copper sink will go there. This was something from the original time we remodeled. Then, the shower/tub. Originally I was thinking a walk in shower where we tile the floor and a wee bit up the wall. They frown on tile in a rig because they don’t think the tile will adhere to the wall with all the driving vibrations and bumps. However, I am seeing tile on counter-tops on newer models so we are going for it! We will tile the floor of the walk in shower and treat the heck out of the walls to ensure they remain waterproof in as many ways as we can find.

I have been brainstorming different ways to get a tub of any shape in there until I did the math. Originally I was thinking we could extend the height of the shower rim to something a bit bigger. Maybe 8″ to 12″ high? This wouldn’t be a soaking tub but would be enough for a kid to play, to wash a dog or rinse something out. Weight is always a concern. The volume of our walk in shower if we go to the full foot in height for a rim would be 12 cubic feet which works out to about 89 gallons of water. That’s 742 lbs. And that’s just the water. Not the weight of the tile, person, supports, etc., etc., etc..   Hummm… Nope!  No tub for us! I HAVE found another person who tiled their shower and kept the weight down by using alternative materials. I was very excited to find that! So I can have my tiled shower, just no tub.

Here is a rough – not perfectly to scale floorplan. We need to go out and measure everything again so I can start the different view plans and we can put in the electrical and plumping details. Under the master bed we are building a lazy susan dresser thing where our clothes will go. The cabinet you see in the back is a floor to ceiling as is the pantry you see by the door and there will be a cabinet thing on top of the bookcases.

IMG_3179

Looks like we will be able to get almost all of our ‘WANTS’ in this remodel. We have started breaking her down. We have the back wall disconnected and dangling by the skin. One whole side is off and we are almost ready to pull off the other. We have discovered how little of a frame there is which is a bit disconcerting and have plans to beef it up a bit. Check out the pictures and let us know your thoughts.

Here is a quick video of Daniel driving Winnie to bed. She has a nice covered shelter that she goes into. Night Winnie! More pictures to come and everything is down. Woo-Hoo!

Goodnight Winnie!


Security Blanket

Someone recently asked me if we would sell Winnie.

I had a moment of panic. “Get RID of Winnie?!?” I think my world actually stopped rotating for just a moment. In that space, I suddenly realized how much of a security blanket our RV has become for us. Even though Winnie is a bit big to drag over our shoulder, I’m not sure that Daniel and I wouldn’t go that far to keep her with us.

The conversation in question was with a homeless person who was selling found items at a street sale. Our son had decided that was the moment that he must take a nap in the camper top of our Eurovan so we were there for a bit. We had shared that we had experienced some hardship and if it weren’t for the RV, we’d have been in shelters or living under overpasses. Most likely, our family would not have survived intact.

In 2012, my husband and I inexplicably found ourselves without income. Not just broke but absolutely nothing coming in. Since social services look at the previous years income, we didn’t qualify for any help. Daniel kept looking for work and I started looking at getting anything. But we couldn’t pay our rent. It became a daily question of where were we going to park the rig? It wasn’t a question of could I find a job, but rather, how was I going to get there? We had dear friends who were offering to let us park the RV on their property for free but they didn’t have power or water and they were a good half hour outside of the city limits. No buses. And we didn’t have anything but the RV to drive. How would I get to work? The daily question of whether we were going or not became an almost scheduled argument. The need vrs the practical. We would scrape up enough to ensure that our son never went without a meal, and then our animals but Daniel and I couldn’t say the same about us. You know, when you don’t eat for a while, you get some pretty major headaches. No wonder homeless people tend to be grouchy. Job sources in Tucson were telling Daniel that they wanted him, but “not right now.” We were out of time. Daniel contacted possible employers in Austin, TX who were very interested in him a year before and let them know he was available. They indicated they absolutely still wanted him and to come on out. What a bad idea that was.

We headed out to Austin with the last of our funds. Monies we had scraped together by selling whatever we could. Before we hit the AZ border, we had to replace two tires on the rig. We made it into Texas and found that our belts were seizing. We fixed that and discovered a bit further that our glow plug actuator had failed. I think Winnie was trying to tell us something. In stops and starts, we limped into Austin and made it to the WalMart parking lot just off the highway. Daniel had found some short term contract work that he could do from home which meant he was shlepping off with his laptop to the nearest site of free internet to do his work. It wasn’t a lot but it kept us going for a bit. Unfortunately/fortunately for us, he is very, very good at what he does so the work was completed for the project in short order. But it was income and we were desperate for anything. Turns out Austin is very expensive to try and RV camp in. We couldn’t find an RV park for under $55.00 per night and that was more than we could reasonably spend. Couple that with the fact that there was a music festival going on and all the parks were full. We were stuck. We had to get someplace where Daniel could get cleaned up and ready for his interview. Our generator was out of fuel. We’d been without power for long enough that our refrigerator was dead and useless, our water tank was empty and our black and grey water tanks full. We had to find someplace to dump, and at least load up on water. We found a state park to stay at, and paid the precious money for one night, the night before the interview. We all bathed, and enjoyed the creature comforts only power can bring and got ready for the next day. We got Daniel to the interview, and he was in there for 10 minutes. No joke. Apparently they were a bit miffed at him from the year before when he called and said he had found work in Tucson so we would not be coming to Austin after all. They stated they would like him to take all the non-standard stuff they didn’t want to waste their full time programmers on, but they didn’t have anything for him now. All the other leads in Austin seemed more interested in our story of the journey out there, than in any real offers. We had wasted the last of our funds, and all of our hopes on nothing. We had been assured, “Yes, absolutely we want you right now!” only to find smoke and mirrors.

We went back to the parking lot at WalMart. We sold what was precious to us and which had lasted through all our other purges. My harp. Daniel’s bass. And any recording/music equipment the pawn shop would take. Any remaining jewelry I had of any value, any tools – whatever we could sell, we did. It earned us a measly $700.00. We could stay in Austin at the WalMart for maybe two weeks with that, or could journey back to Tucson where at least we would have a place to go, and community to help us out until we got back on our feet. It was a no brainer. We headed back to Tucson.

It took us 8 days to get to Austin, and 3 to get back to Tucson. Our RV Park manager had heard we’d hit some seriously rough patches on our journey and so saved our spot. Another tenant had left with their slot paid up through the month so the RV Park Manager let us stay in the slot that was paid. We wouldn’t have to worry about the rent for a month. When we drove into Tucson not sure where to go at 9pm at night, we were able to come home to the place we had been for over a year. Arriving back, the job offers that were pending suddenly became available and Daniel had viable work for the first time in 5 months or more. We came home to Tucson, and Tucson welcomed us back with open arms and hearts. I can’t say that I have experienced that anywhere else.

I remember when we were on the road, looking at the people camped out under the overpasses of the highways and realized, without Winnie, that was us. Two very highly capable, educated, talented professionals were 1-step away from sleeping under a bridge. I have never been so humbled in my life. I didn’t believe it before – but so many of us in this economy are living one paycheck at a time and that’s all it took. That one paycheck no longer coming in. Nothing saved. Nothing to fall back on. It truly can happen to anyone. I remember sitting there, looking at my husband and my son in front of me laughing, and being so thankful to Winnie. We had a roof over our head. We were together. We had a home. Running or not, we at least had our home.

So, get rid of Winnie? Naw, I can’t see that happening. We are doing better now, hard lessons learned. But Winnie will always be that security blanket. Come what may, we have a home. A home that we built with our own two hands. A place that has sheltered us in heat and cold, in rain and wind. A place where we have loved, and fought, and laughed, and discovered. She might be a bit big for a security blanket, but there ya go. What can I say. 🙂