Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Myrtle the Aluminum Turtle


I have finally decided what to name our trailer. I put the question out to my readers on my Facebook page and got tons of great ideas. I liked Ethel, Blue Betty, and many of the others. But after brainstorming about it and changing my mind 100 times, I decided to pick something completely different. The 63 Rambler is now officially named Myrtle.

Myrtle. You probably are thinking...what in the heck? Well there's a story behind that name. My grandmother's name was Myrtle. My husband and I have always thought that a child's middle name should mean something. My daughter is named after his great aunt and mother. My son is named after my grandfather and my husband's grandfather. When we were pregnant with my daughter, my grandmother told my mom that under NO circumstances was she to allowed to let me name a child after her. My grandmother didn't like her name, and she didn't want to pass it along to her great-grandchildren. I haven't considered her name for my children because of this request (she didn't have a middle name I could use instead).

However, for a cool retro travel trailer, I think Myrtle will do just fine. In fact, as you can imagine, she was often associated with "Myrtle Turtle." I think that almost makes sense as well since the trailer is like a little turtle with it's aluminium shell. I thought about using green in the color scheme, but I think I'll stick with red as my accent color.

So, right now I have done some work to add personality into the trailer. Keeping in mind I tried to keep the changes to a minimum, since I'll be doing a more full restoration this fall. (Window restoration, new seals and refinishing the interior walls)

The first thing I did was pull out all the cushions. I thought I might reuse them but it was pretty clear these were the original cushions, and they were pretty darn gross. I decided it was worth the cost of new foam and fabric not to have to sleep on a cess pool of other people's bodily fluids. (Yeah...I took it there) I have a cost saving idea for new foam, which I'll share once we get to that step. After pulling all the cushions out, I disinfected everything so we had a nice clean start.

After all those housekeeping items, it was time to paint. I primed everything that was original to the trailer. I know, I know. There has to be some vintage trailer purest out there that is shaking his/her fists at me. The problem was there was only a few original items that remained. Those few items didn't match the new pine tongue and groove. I decided one of the two needed to get painted, and I decided not to paint the tongue and groove because 1) there is a ton of it, 2) it's unfinished and 3) would use gallons of paint.

I used a new primer for this project..the high end Valspar Primer (meant for glossy surfaces). The original birch has a very shiny finish. I didn't sand the surface, so I really hope that the primer does what it claims to do. I did two coats of primer and three/four coats of Olympic One in a custom bright white mix. The original birch was interesting because a yellow-ish hue kept showing through the paint. After the six coats of paint, I decided I would live with the little yellow coming through.

As a reminder, here's what she looked like before I started my work...

And here she is after bit of paint...

So, she's starting to look a bit brighter. Now it was time to add in some color. I took the scratched up old knobs and gave them a new life with some Valspar spray paint in Nautical.

My final update is adding curtains. I search and searched for fabric to fit into my color scheme (Aqua, Yellow and Red(?)). I finally found a Moda fabric that was a bit vintage and a bit modern. I made curtains for each of the windows and under the sink. The final step was making straps for each curtain and curtain rods out of wooden dowels. I really love how they look in the trailer.

Our next steps involves new foam, new upholstery and new flooring. Then it just might be time to take Myrtle on the road. 


Monday, March 28, 2016

DIY Driveway Sign


I took a quick break from the fun of the vintage trailer (which does now have a name and some other fun to come soon) to do a project I've been meaning to complete for a while. We have a random pipe that sticks out from the light post on our property. I have tried to figure out what it was for, but haven't been able to think of anything except to hold a sign. 

Since there isn't a good way to remove the pipe, and since I now have a fun Christmas sign for it, I decided I just needed to embrace it and make a driveway sign. 

Since this was a simple project, I used materials I already had (all except the $2.00 I spent on the hardware). Using my Kreg Jig, I secured different scrap wood together to make a larger surface. I painted the entire board one color so the different pieces would blend together.

I decided to try my hand at free painting the flower border. I found some different inspirations online and tried to paint and sketch the flowers by myself. They aren't perfect, but they work well when you add in many colors and different styles. Just don't look too close. 

After I was done painting the flowers, I used my tried and true method of printing off letter and transferring it over with carbon paper. The entire thing got cleaned up with an eraser and a final clear coat to seal the wood.

The final step was to drill some holes for the brackets the helpful Lowe's associate helped me find. I'm really happy with my $2.00 project!



Monday, March 21, 2016

Introducing our 1963 Holiday Rambler Cab-Over


We had a pretty exciting weekend at our house. After searching for about two years, I finally found a vintage travel trailer for our family. I had found many trailers over the last two years, but it was exceedingly difficult to find one that fit my needs (small, easy to tow) and one that fit my husband's (enough beds for a family of 5, not a complete wreck). I had been looking specifically for a Holiday Rambler. I had done a bit of research, joined a owners group and thought that was really what I was looking for. Two came up during my search but they were both quite far away and were around 23 feet (too big for me).

Just a note about my search (for those who are also looking). I set up a Craigslist search as a bookmark on my phone and looked at the most recent listings within so many miles every single day. (Yes...2 years of looking every day). I also set up a custom search on eBay and organized my results by distance. I did have some local trailers come up on eBay so it was worth having the alert set up.

I finally found a vintage trailer on Craigslist a few weeks ago. It was a pretty perfect solution. Since it was a cab-over model, it had two bunks, a gaucho bed, and room for a dinette bed. Cab-overs are a bit more rare, and I think they have a bit of a cool factor as a result. The seller had taken the trailer down to studs and repaired any damage (the real killer of a vintage trailer is water). I hesitated because it was over three hours away, and the seller didn't know what brand trailer it was. (I had guessed by searching on Google it was a Yellowstone) The idea of driving three hours without much idea of the condition of the trailer or if it would even make the trip back made me sit on my hands for a couple of weeks.

I decided to at least email the seller just to see what he had to say about the condition. That really ended up being the reason I decided to purchase it. He was very forthcoming about what work had been done and needed to be done. He took it somewhere local and had the tires looked at and the wheel bearings repacked. So, on Saturday afternoon we dropped the kids off at grandma and grandpa's, and headed north. Since I thought I was purchasing a Yellowstone, I left the Holiday owners group I had been stalking for two years and decided to give up on that part of my dream.

Once we got to the trailer (three hours of loud country music singing later..ahem husband), we started to look over the trailer. There were problems here and there. Two windows had been removed (which I knew had happened), but the remaining original ones were caked in silicon caulk (NEVER USE THIS ON VINTAGE TRAILERS!!!) and expanding foam (both fixable but a HUGE pain to deal with). The finishing work wasn't terribly great, and I wasn't a fan of the ceiling material. But in reality, those were very small things. One huge surprise and almost made me jump up and down with excitement was a little painted over sign on the outside. To my surprise, this trailer was a Holiday Rambler. I felt like an idiot for not realizing it sooner. It was missing the trademark quilted design (a design that apparently made it's depute a few years later), so I didn't even think to check.

The original advertisement for the custom name plates.

So, I decided I would try to adjust the price to deal with those various issues (which worked), and we hooked up the trailer and set off home. I spent the entire trip with my fingers crossed that the trailer wouldn't just fall apart during the three hour trip. Every time we went down a hill, my stomach dropped that I would see the trailer cruising beside our truck.

She towed beautifully. The size ended up being just right. We pulled in at around 8 pm tired, but happy with our purchase.

Yesterday I decided to take a closer look. After speaking with my husband (and mostly to myself), I decided that our renovation will be a two stage project. Since the trailer doesn't leak right now and tows perfectly fine, I'm going to tackle cosmetic things this spring. That includes a bit of paint, new foam and cushion covers, flooring and building a dinette back into the floor plan.

After the camping season this year, we're going to try to do some of the tougher stuff over the winter. My husband wants to remove the new paneling to put it back on a bit more finished. If he's going to remove that, I'm going to tackle the windows and attempt to find replacements for the two large windows that were completely removed. I rejoined the Holiday owners group and already have a lead on some original 1963 window replacements. I'll also tackle the foamed up windows. We'll do a once over on the wiring to make sure it's still in good shape (the previous owner did have that looked over, but I'd like to look again). I want to remove the toilet and furnace (Both are original, but useless to us. I may as well get some more closet space in the process). I also want to reseal the roof and install a new ceiling fan/vent. The door needs to be completely rebuilt. The last step will be a new paint job on the outside. My husband wants to keep the blue, but I kinda want to go aqua (it is my favorite color after all). However, I had a 1972 bug that this project is replacing, and ol' Dum Dum was baby blue as well. Maybe it's fate she remain that way.

The final surprise our '63 had for us was a envelope of paperwork. I didn't notice it until yesterday, but the trailer came with every single piece of original paperwork for the trailer. I have manuals for every appliance in the trailer (regardless if it's still there) and all the original advertisements and information for the trailer itself. It has been really cool going through the paperwork and seeing the notes from the very first owner. I've already had request from fellow 63 owners to upload it into the owners group I'm part of.

I'm not going to go completely original. So much of the original cabinets and appliances have been removed, that I know it's not going to be a full restoration. So it's going to be part restoration and part glamper-ation.

My husband and I still arguing about what to name her. I keep coming back to something Wizard of Oz themed which just makes my husband roll his eyes. We shall see what kind of name she takes on. I already have found my membership with Tin Can Tourist and Ramble On Club invaluable for tutorials and pictures of original trailers. The community of vintage trailers is extremely welcoming, and I'm hoping I can make some events once we get her fixed up.

I look forward to sharing the work of our little vintage trailer on my blog! Ugly House projects are winding down (for now), so this will be a fun project on the side. Not to mention I'm a huge advocate of families camping. The kids have already asked to sleep in her even though it's about 30 degrees out right now.

Paint job is fairly new (and DIY upclose). It's missing a couple extra lines of paint, but it's pretty close to the original design. The awning rail is still there, and I plan on getting a vintage recreation made.

 The previous owner removed the large back window and the large front window (to add air). We're going to put those back in eventually if I can find recreations or original replacements. All lights on the outside work.

Bunk windows are packed full of expanding foam. I will be pulling these windows this summer and replacing the glass on the one broken one. A good cleaning and new seals should make them good as new. 

We aren't exactly sure what we're going to do here. We're thinking we want to keep the A/C for convenience sake, but we also really like the original windows. We have to do something with that spare tire set up. 

 The old windows were replaced with these new sliding windows. I don't know if we'll keep these. The original ones were much larger. 

The trim needs to be pulled and resealed properly. (People. Quit using expandable foam!!!!) 

Small dents here and there from hail. We probably aren't going to get too worked up about that.  

The door needs some TLC. I found instructions online on how to rebuild the door from scratch so I think that will be our fix this winter. 

The interior is in fairly good shape after the previous owner replaced all the paneling and reconfigured the interior. We need to do some finishing work, but it will work nicely for this year. 

Gaucho bed pulled flat. 

Front bunk. 

 Front bunk. Not a fan of the plastic like paneling used on the ceiling. Once we're sure we're water tight, we'll be replacing with a wood paneling. 

Kitchen area. The fridge and stove were removed, but I think we'll just replace the fridge. We do most of our camping cooking over an open fire (pie iron!!!) or on a propane stove. 

Original door and furnace. We don't want to hook propane up to the trailer, so I'll be removing the furnace. An electric heater will do the trick if we really need it (although we don't camp in very cool temps). The door leads to the worlds smallest bathroom. We'll be removing the original toilet and just add a closet into the room.  

 We'll be restoring the original foot print in this area to include a folding down dinette set. The table is the original table to the trailer. The ladder will work for now, but we're going to be building a replica of the original. The original actually hooked into the side of the bed to be a guard rail for the top bunk. 


Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Why NOT to go to Disney World: My Honest Review

It may seem a bit crazy or hypocritical to write a post about why not to go to Disney right after our trip to Disney World.

I went to Disney twice as a kid. I loved those trips. I have fond memories of those vacations, and I was eager to share more memories with my own children.

I did have fun with our children, and we did make fantastic memories. I am grateful we had the opportunity to take our children. However, after our trip, I'm not so sure if I would chose to go again, and here's my honest review why. (Click here for DIY Disney World Projects and other tips and tricks for your vacation)

1. It's Expensive.

Most vacation destinations are expensive. No one will be surprised to hear that a Disney vacation is one of them. What I found a bit shocking was the lack of bang for your buck.

So, you spend approximately $400.00 to take a family of four to Magic Kingdom for one day. That doesn't include food or hotel. We went during a non-peak time. Most rides had a 40 to 90 minute wait. You get three fast passes to use. So, unless you get to the park at rope drop or stay late (both not great options with young children), you may ride 5 or so rides. That's almost $80.00 a ride. A ride that you waited an hour to get on and only took 5 minutes to do. Ouch.

2.  It's Outdated. 

Those rides aren't exactly the most exciting rides either. As an adult (and after visiting Universal Studios last year), the rides seem pretty dated. Our children didn't want to visit the thrill rides (which are also fairly old apart from the seven dwarfs ride).

Our daughter very much not enjoying the new Seven Dwarfs roller coaster.

Now to be fair, my children thought they were all pretty cool since we don't do amusement parks often. I know there's a delicate line of keeping classic rides and adding new rides. However, I found some of the new rides (Pan, Pooh and the Little Mermaid) were pretty boring. Lots of animatronics with black lights. Little Mermaid broke down a few times as well as the Buzz Lightyear ride. Toy Story Midway Mania was a blast, but it was the only ride that had the same technology that Universal uses almost exclusively. The wait on that ride was around 2 hours without a Fastpass+. I noticed that Universal studios often uses a mixture of 3D technology with a roller coaster like experience so you feel like you're actually inside the movie. I wish Disney would catch up with the times and use the same technology.

3. Customer Service is Lacking.

I know there's many people out there that are going to think that I'm crazy for saying that the customer service wasn't good at Disney. They, after all, have rules like the "No Sad Kids Rule." However, I had two particularly bad experiences with my time at Disney and nothing came of talking to their customer service team about it.

First of all, I got food poisoning. We ate at our hotel (Pop Century) the last night we were there, and like clock work 3 to 4 hours later, I was very sick. Not only does being sick simply suck, but I'm also pregnant. So, I spent the entire morning feeling terrible and then had to get on a plane for 3 hours and in a car for 4 hours. It was a LONG day. I'm glad that we didn't get the dining package because I would have been terrified to eat at the same restaurant after that experience, not to mention that I would have been freaked out to eat at any quick service restaurant after that.

The second experience really got my feathers ruffled. I decided before we went to Disney, we would purchase the Memory Maker package. The main goal of getting the package was to get the pictures of the character interactions, because I knew I'd be busy handling the kids and autograph books. The pictures with the characters aren't anything particularly special, but at least I got the pictures.

Until we went to see Anna and Elsa. Yes. The two characters my daughter was so excited to see didn't have functional cameras. Now the real pain, what really makes me angry, is they didn't realize that the cameras weren't working. So, I didn't take my own pictures. Stupid, I know. But, I trusted since every other time the cameras worked, they would that time. This is our picture with Elsa.

Really great huh? When I contacted customer service, I was basically told, too bad, too sad. So, in what world would anyone ever purchase Memory Maker in advance when it's possible the pictures won't even turn out? I won't be doing it in the future for this simple reason. When you purchase a service, you expect that service to work. If the service doesn't work, which I understands happens sometimes, there seems like there should be some sort of response other than "Well darn, that happens some times." Avoid Memory Maker and purchase the pictures after the fact if you want them.

Can we also take a minute to say that many cast members were down right grumpy? I can think of maybe 2 or 3 that actually seemed to like their jobs...and they included the Jungle Cruise captain, a security guard one day we went into Magic Kingdom and....well that's really the only people that left a lasting impression.

4. Character Interactions were Boring. 

I think my expectations on character interactions was probably too high. Maybe I remember the days when you'd run into a character at Disney and they would take some time to have fun. I remember when I went on my first trip, Chip and Dale stole my autograph book. My brother and I had a good laugh at the entire thing. Goofy and Pluto did dance with our kids, but other than that it was pretty clear that the goal was to get as many people in front of the characters as possible. The children were practically pushed out after their picture. The picture that may or may not turn out.

I do have to say the story time with Belle was one exception. That experience really is exceptional. My daughter loved the fact she could be part of the story. And I couldn't help but laugh at my son being a little salt shaker. I would say of all the experiences at Disney, that one was the one that lived up to the Disney magic I have heard so much about.

On the flip side, we did the Disney Junior character meal at Hollywood and Vine. I have a feeling our experience is probably on par with most character meals. The food was marginal, the kids got maybe a minute with the characters and it was our most expensive meal. Plus, no photographers for your Memory Maker that may or may not work.

So, if you decide to go to Disney this is what I would suggest:

1. Don't do the Disney Dining Plan. Now, I know if you have two hungry teenage boys, the plan might make sense for you. However, we did the math and to get our money's worth our five year old would have had to start eating like a NFL linebacker. We decided to spend our money on ordering groceries and one nice meal (our character meal). That being said, we only spent approximately $400.00 on dining for the 5 days we were there (plus $50.00 on groceries).

2. Make Fastpass+ reservations early in the morning. Once you use up your Fastpasses, you can get more. Really they are the only way you're going to get do some of the rides. During our 2 1/2 day visit, I didn't see the wait for Peter Pan go down to below 60 minutes. That's a long wait in a boring queue for a short ride. Even the Jungle Cruise was 60 minutes or more most of the time. And that ride has been around since my parents were diapers.

3. Plan out important character interactions. If you're kids are into character experiences, make sure you plan out which ones are the "must see" ones. We knew that Anna & Elsa and Mickey were the most important so we had Fastpasses for those. Lines often go down for Mickey during parades, so keep that in mind. And think about the time you're going to spend waiting v. how much time you get with the character.

That's one kid that is excited to meet Mickey.

4. Think twice about Memory Maker. My son doesn't like pictures. I didn't think of this when I bought my package. He rarely would look at the camera. I could have easily gotten the pictures taken without Memory Maker and just purchased the ones he was actually looking in. Plus, as I stated above, you never know if the pictures will actually work. So, you need to take your own back ups anyways.

Isn't this one flattering photo?!? Yikes.

5. Think twice about character meals. At our meal we got maybe a minute with each character. The food was okay. We had to wait almost a half hour for our reservation and since we didn't get seated quickly, the characters left before we were done with our meal. It cost our family of four (with a 5 and 3 year old) almost $200.00. Really, that's pretty crazy. I don't think we'd bother with a character meal in the future simply because there is nothing special about the interaction. We could have gotten more time with the characters if we had found them "in the wild."

6. Don't do pin trading. I saw I think 3 cast members the entire time we were at Disney with pins. That was quite the change from the last time we went when I think I saw most cast members with pins. Not mention, apart from one person, the cast members with pins weren't very friendly. My kids didn't want to ask them to trade pins with them for that reason.

Over-all, we did have fun and I don't want to be a complete downer. It was a family vacation we'll remember forever. I just think we'll do something else for our next family vacation (an all-inclusive resort sounds pretty amazing).

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