Steadying up for travel

Although progress has not been as fast as I would like this past week, we’ve completed much of the Safari project list.

While the dinette was out, I had good access to the kitchen plumbing, and so this was the opportunity to get in there and alter the fresh water plumbing just a tad, so that Eleanor would have easier access to her pots and pans (stored under the sink).  With all the PEX equipment and supplies on site for the Caravel project, it was a simple matter to cut out a section of the original installation and re-build it to provide  a few inches more clearance.

Mike and I also managed to finish the floor installation.  It got harder as we moved rearward in the trailer.  Each wall required a custom-fit plank, as nothing was square and very few lines were even straight.  We put in an hour or two most days until it was finally done on Wednesday.  The process was frustrating at times and we spent as much as 30 minutes on some sections, but in the end it came out well and we’re both proud of the job done.

Vince's tool

In an earlier blog I mentioned a special tool from half a century ago.  This is it.  You just press it up against a corner and it gives you a template to mark the plank for cutting.  Such a simple tool made cutting some of the complex areas much easier.  I only needed it in three spots, but for those spots it was a big time-saver.  I have nicknamed it “the Vince” in honor of Mike’s father who stored it in his tool shed all those decades.

When the floor was mostly done we switched over to a few other incidental projects in the Safari.  As you can imagine, eight years of heavy use and many thousands of miles (probably well over 100,000 at this point) do take a toll on the interior.  Screws back out, aluminum holes stretch, caulk lines will tear, rivets pop, etc.  We’ve actually been fairly lucky in this regard.  I have yet to find a single rivet needing replacement in our Safari–and we’ve never coddled it by avoiding rough roads.

I’ve already found a few screws missing in hidden spots, which have been replaced.  Sometimes the screw hole is stripped and a new one needs to be drilled; at other times it’s easier to replace with a larger screw.  This is all simple and routine stuff.

The big concern we had was the refrigerator.  It has been shifting in its position as we travel, and causing damage to the surrounding cabinetry, like scuff marks and cracks.  Mike and I disconnected the refrigerator and slid it out a foot in order to study the problem.  This required disconnecting the propane line, AC power, DC power, two bolts in the back, and four screws in the front, which only takes about 10 minutes if you know what you’re doing, or 30 minutes if you’ve never done it before (like us).  It’s slightly more complicated if you have the recall kit installed by Dometic (five more screws and some sheet metal have to be removed).

The major problem we discovered was that upon the last service, the two screws at the top front of the refrigerator hadn’t been put in.  Secondarily, the bottom screws were seriously cocked at an angle and didn’t seem to be well secured.  This allowed the refrigerator (which weighs about 120 lbs) to shift at the top, much like a person swaying on his feet.  On the road, this was a lot of force on the cabinets.  We replaced all the connections, slightly adjusted the position of the refrigerator, and re-secured the fridge with new screws in new holes.  It doesn’t move at all now.

The next project was the bathroom vanity.  It has been moving too, lately.  Over the years Eleanor has used her smaller hands to get through the maze of under-counter plumbing and tighten one of the two screws that hold the vanity to the aluminum wall to temporarily resolve the problem.  But that hole finally enlarged too much to hold the screw, and the screw has vanished.

The fix there is simple in concept.  Just drill a new hole in the L-channel that abuts the wall, and put in a new screw.  The problem here turned out to be that there was no way to get a drill in place.  We ended up removing the sink, drain line and stopper, and loosening the faucet, just to get access.  Once that was done it was easy to drill some new holes. I replaced that one screw with three.  That vanity won’t be going anywhere soon.

Of course, this meant we had to reinstall the sink, etc., and re-putty the drain seal, so the total job time was probably close to two hours.  It’s the kind of job I really don’t want to pay anyone to do, because it doesn’t take a ton of skill or special tools, just patience.  Eleanor and I did it together, and now that we’ve done it, we know it’s done right and the vanity won’t come loose again.

Today we’ve got some minor tasks to tackle, mostly cleaning up and finishing the caulk at the floor edges.  Being slightly ahead of schedule, I’m thinking about tackling one more major project: building a new multi-purpose cabinet to hold our microwave, laundry bin, and recycling.  I’ll post more about that in the next few days.