I saw the ad on Craigslist for 1973 18’ Minnie Winnie. She was recommended for the upcoming 2017 Burning Man. A brightly colored monstrosity. Orange, green, yellow stripes and arrows covering a chalky white paint. Hideously beautiful. Inside was not any less of an eye sore. Everything was original in the RV, a shag green carpet in the main cabin and an equally puke yellow shag in the driving cabin. We were sold the original cushions that had the musty smell of years of people having smoked in the RV and their dirt and strange smells. The dinette table was warped and the laminate had peeled away years ago, leaving us with molting plywood edges. The woman took us for a drive and water started leaking out of the back light. She ran, for that short amount of time, even on semi flat tires and missing a belt. The bathroom had a sunken roof, and was missing a hose for the sink to the shower head, with the original orange laminate on the bathroom floor and walls and a teal color covering half of the lower wall. Since I had the joy of bathrooms in Southeast Asia, a shower, toilet, and sink in tiny quarters with no divider is not something that particularly bothered me. All in all, the RV was a beautiful mess and I loved her. I was lucky that the woman who sold her to me was originally going to try and renovate her herself, so she included a wood laminate for the floor, a wooden topper to cover the stove, and a faux marble table to replace the original RV dinette. I was not lucky in the fact that the woman was not completely honest with me when she sold her. So I may, or may not have, committed a crime when registering her with the DMV. Being someone of strong moral fortitude it never once crossed my mind to forge the signature of the dead wife of the original owner on the title.
The RV broke down while trying to drive it to a friends house, smoke billowing out of the hood. Somehow my friend and I managed to get her where she needed to go. The first thing fixed was installing a belt and new alternator, which allowed us to drive the RV for short distances with no problem. After that I was pleasantly surprised to find the electrical still worked, as well as the propane. This meant I could use the refrigerator and the stove. I’m not sure how long those propane tanks have been in the RV but I have yet to use the last of it even after 6 months.
Living in her while renovating her presented even more of a challenge. I had just moved to Carson City area and only knew one person and didn’t really have a place to stay. In fact I had been living in my Honda Element for the better part of a month. I had just gotten a job and needed a more convenient place to ready myself for work, rather than furtively brushing my teeth in a walmart bathroom. With the RV it was nice to have a little more room to stretch out and pee at night without having to make a midnight run into the 24 hour Walmart. However, even with the RV, Walmart parking lots remained my home for a while as I worked on her and had her checked over by professionals before an RV park would even think of letting me stay at one. I ripped out the carpet in a Walmart parking lot and installed flooring with a bottle of whiskey for courage, and tore down the ceiling and replaced it. Slowly the RV began to change: over-sized dog beds replaced the smelly musty cushions; tapestries, wallpaper, and paint covered the walls, ceilings, and refrigerator; new fixtures replaced the old as bronze elephant heads became handles; old cabinet doors were removed and replaced with open storage. My biggest upgrades for the RV include a solar panel system and gravity fed water system. Solar panels became my main source of power after my RV 30 amp plug melted. The gravity fed water system replaced the old water tank and plumbing after our pipes burst during a 14 degree night in the middle of winter.
Now I am readying myself for a massive road trip, with the plan to explore much of Baja and going coast to coast. To make sure I don’t break down on a highway in Mexico I ended up having the whole front end rebuilt and buying brand new tires adding an extra $4,500 to the original $2,000 price tag (of course this price doesn’t include titles, insurance, and remodel). Worth it if I can get the RV to drive another 100,000 and live in it without having to pay rent or hotel room fees while I travel. Next post will be less of a wall of text and include another list of things I have learned while living in an RV.