Sunday, January 31, 2010

Road Trip

Saturday morning we were up early for a 90 mile trip in the Sunrader to visit up in Sacramento, Ca. for a re-seal of the two front wrap-around windows. Dr. George is one of the few, if not the only places that take the care to stock parts for many older rigs.

After a quick inspection using a sophisticated low-pressure leak-testing device, the guys located the problem along the top of the rubber gasket that holds in the Lexan window pane. The gasket is a two-piece system that uses a rubber insert to compress the gasket against both the window and the fiberglass surround. Over time, the gasket dries out and shrinks from exposure, so it either has to be replaced or a sealant used in the gaps to restore a water-tight fit. It is a maintenance item that will come up every 3-4 years.

The fix only takes a few hours of shop time, but the sealant has to cure for a day or two before the rig can be driven, otherwise it won't seal properly. Hmmm. 90 miles from home, one vehicle. What to do?

It just so happens that the Sacramento light rail system has a stop right behind the shop, so we opted for public transportation home. Light rail to Amtrak...Amtrak to BART...BART to Pleasanton, and a ride home from Beth. Couldn't be simpler. It was 10am.

By 11, Duncan and I were walking across downtown Sacramento to the Amtrak station. With a quick detour to clump along wood plank sidewalks of Old Sac, nod to Wells Fargo and admire the statuesque pre-cursor to FedEx (it really beats a white panel truck, btw) we passed by the Railway Museum and walked into the train station.

The station is a bit like traveling through time, with echoes of an era before propellers and turbofans. And while in many ways the coaches are fully modernized commuter conveyances, it is hard to avoid the reality that for most of us, especially on the West Coast, trains are only a fall-back or perhaps a novelty.

Adding to the humor of Saturday's journey, part of the track between Sacramento and Richmond was under repair. This requires a 'bus bridge' between Sacramento and Suisun. The whole concept of a bus bridge seems odd to me, and I have a tough time imagining that operating a bus for 1/3 of the length of the train trip actually nets out a reasonable return-on-fare for Amtrak, but it provided another mode of transportation for the journey. (At this point, Duncan was starting to count them). So we ate our Quiznos sandwiches (with growing regret for not looking for something...ANYTHING...better) and waited for the Bus to board.

Just as we readied to depart, the Conductor came on board the Bus to announce the train from Suisun would be an additional 30 minutes late. Apparently there had been an accident earlier in the day that took our train out of service and this was the replacement. We finally boarded as the track-side clock approached 2pm, backed up briefly to switch to the Westbound track, and proceeded toward Richmond.

We crossed over the Bay at Benicia, where the old rail bridge stands in the shadow of two massive concrete viaducts for cars and trucks. And then, turned toward the Pacific at Martinez and out along the shore of the Bay, we alternately threaded through dockside refinery infrastructure and Bayfront homes. It is good to remember that trains provide a completely different view of the world as compared to the left seat in the fast lane.The transfer from Amtrak to BART in Richmond is fantastic: just a move from one platform to another and we were on our way toward Fremont. A change to a Dublin-Pleasanton train at the Oakland Coliseum brought our modes of transportation to six, with the ride home in the Honda taking it to seven. What was a 90 minute trip up to Sacramento in the Sunrader required 6 hours to cover on public transit. Whoa! But Duncan is a great traveling companion so we had some good laughs along the way and planned some destinations for once the rig is in traveling shape. Oh, and thank goodness for Madden NFL '08...(though I personally prefer the view out the window).

Now... how to get back to Sacramento next weekend to pick it up?

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Endless Carpet; Roof Repair

Plastic tarps are not only ugly, they can quickly cause scuff marks on the side of the motorhome, so the #1 priority for the weekend, weather permitting, was the resealing of the vent pipe cap on the driver's side.

I was in a bit of a hurry with rainclouds boiling in the distance, but a new cap ($3.99), some butyl tape and self leveling sealant and it should be watertight. Not a difficult repair, but it did take two trips to the trailer supply shop in San Leandro so it was a good part of the afternoon.

Next up, more carpet removal therapy. The cab is now completely free of shag and only a good brushing and vacuuming away from being ready for a new carpet kit.
The over cab area was relatively easy to clean out compared to the main floor of the coach, probably because it can all be done standing up. For good or for bad, the carpet removal uncovered some remaining damp from the week of rain. The front window seals will need to be replaced and that's probably more than I'm willing to tackle in the driveway for now. Better to discover the issue now than after a bunch of new carpet and finish work goes in.

The quantity of fasteners used to attach the carpeting is astounding. I have piles and piles of little rusty staples everywhere in the rig. I suppose the good news is that we'll be that much lighter when underway once things are all restored. I'm interested every time i pull back a bit more carpet, as it further reveals the structure of the Sunrader. Lots of stainless steel screws and fiberglass. Its in remarkable condition for 20 years old.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Under the Weather

Nothing like a giant series of rainstorms to expose any leaking. The bathroom vent pipe, which goes through the closet and up through the roof of the Sunrader, started producing a small trickle of water when the rain picked up.

The seal around the vent cover has been plastered with gobs of silicone over the years and really needs a proper replacement. I've yet to decide whether to tackle this one myself or have the pros do it. I think it is a relatively simple matter of resetting it with some butyl tape and a tidy bead of silicone, but I'm hesitant simply because of the downside risk. There is a bit of old, easily repairable water damage in the closet but I'd prefer to limit the problems if I can.

Given the quantity of rain in the Bay Area, pontoons may be a necessary addition to the rig as well. I'm just sayin'.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Carpet, carpet, carpet and more carpet today. There was a time when green-brown shag was the thing. That time has clearly passed.

The good news today was that the floor looks almost entirely sound. There is a bit of dry rot way in the back that may or may not need to be addressed. I may go get a second opinion.

Duncan helped out for a bit, replacing the speakers in the cab. Fortunately, we had some more recent vintage Kenwoods aging in the guesthouse garage. They're a perfect fit and a quick upgrade from the paper cones that came stock in 1990.

Ripping the carpet out of the cab of the truck was almost as big a chore as getting it out of the back. For whatever reason, the installation included about a dozen screws hidden in various locations throughout the cab.

Plenty of holes to fill before the carpet is replaced with something more appropriate. I am still trying to decide whether to use something like Dynamat in the cab. It's heavy (downside) but could make a considerable difference in road noise.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Here are a few quick snapshots from day one. You can see the extra classy pseudo-camo seat covers. I think they may have been from the Sarah Palin collection at Hunters World. The window coverings are already coming down and should be entirely removed tomorrow. Next the carpet, which is everywhere. The cab of the truck is in very good condition in spite of its age. Hopefully a new stereo will fit in the budget at some point...

Lots of tear-out today. First the old window coverings and the seat covers (Camo? Really?) and the spray-glued on black dashboard carpet. Fortunately, the dash underneath is like new -- impressive for a 20-year-old vehicle.

All the seat cushions in the back will be replaced completely, as will the over-cab bed. The wall-to-wall 'was it originally green or brown' shag carpet will come out too. Ick. Plus, it has too much 'history' in it, frankly.

The walls in the Sunrader are essentially foam insulation with a wallpaper-like interior finish. There are quite a few screw-holes that will need to be filled in, then the decision is whether to paint or paper over the existing finish. Both seem viable choices, and there just isn't that much surface area to cover which should make it relatively quick.

The current thinking on the cabinets is to go with grey paint to come closer to matching the truck cab interior. Personally, I prefer the rig to look more like a truck and less like it is trying to be someone's apartment.

Starting Today

Well actually yesterday...We took possession of a 1990 Sunrader 21' mini-motorhome. It sits on a Toyota V6 chassis with a 1-ton rear-end. It took about a year to find one that was in decent enough condition to start with for a restoration project.

I'll post some photos in a bit. Today is for assessment and list-making, decisions on color and upholstery, paint for cabinets, and a general clean out.

Oh and a bike ride. That'll have to happen too.