The Maiden Voyage – Day 2

We continue the inaugural RV adventure from last time.  Sunday Morning broke at the RV park in Guthrie, Oklahoma, and bacon and eggs were prepared in short order.  We enjoyed an unhurried morning, then finally disconnected our utilities and rolled on towards town.

After a pit stop at Zion Lutheran Church in Guthrie (and an obligatory pot luck), we headed south to Oklahoma City and the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum.  It’s really a first-rate collection, and getting in on one of the guided tours adds a lot to the experience.  John Wane contributed heavily to the collection, and I personally enjoyed the film area of the museum immensely, which featured props and outfits from many famous westerns.

After a quick stop at an OKC outlet mall to satisfy all members of the party, we headed North for a cruise back to Wichita.  Everything seemed to be running fine until one of the alternator bearings started “talking” to us.  Shortly after those unnerving squeaking sounds started, I noticed a couple of orange flashes accompanied by much louder shrieking coming from under the engine cover between the driver’s and passenger’s seats.  This was, indeed, the sound of one of the bearings seizing in the alternator.  The first roadside emergency – this was turning out to be quite a trip!  I turned the engine off and pulled to the side of I-35 and got the added benefit of driving the vehicle a short distance without power steering or power brakes.  Thankfully, the designers of the Dodge RM-400 chassis made the vehicle with a separate belt to drive the alternator.  A quick cut with a pocket knife took the failed alternator out of the equation and we were able to limp along at 30 miles per hour towards Perry.  The self-imposed speed limit is because any faster would cause the single belt now driving the water pump to start slipping.  Oh, and the door flew open as we were getting back up to speed on the highway.  That will soon be rebuilt anyway to prevent that from happening again.  How exciting!

As you may imagine, not much is open in Perry, Oklahoma on a Sunday night, including the town’s only auto parts store, which didn’t open until 7:30 a.m. the next morning.  So, we were going to have our first boondocking experience on this trip as well.  What joy.  The night spent in the Homeland grocery store was not quite as comfortable as the previous, but it was honestly not bad, despite being in the 40’s outside.

The silver lining of stopping in Perry was a chance to eat at the Kumback Lunch, which despite the name, is open for all meals – including breakfast at 6 a.m.  This place is always a favorite stop on the way to OKC, and it came in especially handy, being one block from where we parked overnight.

After breakfast, the O’Reilly’s opened up and the friendly folks there were able to get a new alternator from Stillwater by 11 a.m., which gave us several hours to kill around the courthouse square.  After some enjoyable exploring on that rather brisk Monday, the alternator arrived and was installed after a few trips back and forth across the parking lot to the adjacent O’Reilly’s.  I must say, everyone in Perry bent over backwards to accommodate us during our unexpected stay.  In fact, I’m not sure I could think of a nicer place in which to break down.

So that’s it – after everything was in, we set for home, making a pit stop for lunch at Mary’s Grill in Tonkawa.  I’d say it was an excellent shakedown cruise, because we really got a taste of almost everything, including an inaugural visit to a dump station, which I almost forgot to mention.

Moving forward, work resumes on the project, including finishing up the solar wiring, studio projects, climate controls and more.  Stay tuned!


The Maiden Voyage – Day 1

The day finally came to take the Winnebago out on her first journey over 100 miles since I bought her.  The destination: Oklahoma.  Since my folks have been so instrumental in this restoration process, I figured they had earned their ticked aboard the vehicle.  The three of us set out from Wichita, KS around 1 p.m. after performing the final checks and loading everything in.  The plan was simply to spend the night in an RV park in Oklahoma and come back the next day (Sunday).  After a trip to the gas station and topping off the aux tank (17 gallons), we were on our way!

The primary purpose of this trip besides testing out the rest of the on-board systems was actually to get the flat spots out of the tires, which had developed from the vehicle sitting so long.  At certain speeds, the flat spots create a shimmy that’s quite noticeable.  I’m happy to report it was successfully reduced, although we still have some work to do on that regard.

We opted to take old US 81 (which turns into US 177 near the Oklahoma border) instead of the Kansas Turnpike for obvious reasons including speed, since we didn’t plan on going over 60 miles per hour on this trip.  It’s a good reminder to anyone unfamiliar with these vehicles that they are loud!  Almost as loud, in fact, as the cockpit of a Cessna 182.

Several hours later, we arrived at the Cedar Valley RV Park in Guthrie, Oklahoma.  The Winnebago certainly stood out among a sea of nondescript Jaycos and Fleetwoods.  This was actually my first time setting foot in a dedicated RV park (as opposed to a “trailer park” which has more modular homes).  Despite the number of campers (close to 80), it was very quiet and people kept to themselves.  Some were obviously planning to stay the winter as they had everything insulated and 420 lb propane tanks outside their vehicles.  One thing the average person might overlook is your RV water supply during the winter.  Each site has a spigot, and people get creative with ways of insulating their fresh water supply lines.  It did not get below freezing while we were there, but a sign at the front desk reminded visitors to top off their fresh tanks and disconnect hoses if they don’t have a way of insulating the spigots, as it can cost $200 to replace them.

After fresh and wastewater connections were made in addition to 30 amp electrical service, meal preparations could commence.  The Indian galley is equipped with a 3-burner Coleman stove and oven, double sink, microwave and 3-way power Norcold refrigerator.  All were put to the test this trip and performed well.

James, Steve and Karen Copeland eat their first hot meal in the RV

The food didn’t turn out too bad either.  Not long after, it was time to fire up the Coleman furnace and turn in for the night.  Tomorrow was Sunday and none of us were quite expecting what would happen the next day.

To find out, stay tuned for PART 2 of The Maiden Voyage – coming soon!

– James

Building the studio

The radio studio inside the Winnebago is, without a doubt, the icing on the cake.  It’s certainly what I’ve been most looking forward to, and the materials have come from far and wide.  The studio is located where one of the twin beds used to be, which came out long ago. The hot water heater and a wheel well is located under the desk, plus some plumbing – all very manageable to box in.  The desk surface is 1/2 inch medium density fiberboard.  The top is finished with a layer of Formica.  With all the right tools, the Formica was surprisingly easy to install and the adhesive is truly amazing stuff.

You’ll notice the perforated acoustic ceiling tiles pictured below.  Those were a staple of radio studio construction for years, yet are rather hard to find now.  From what I can tell, there’s only one company, Classic Acoustical, still making these tiles and you need to buy a large quantity.  I was fortunate enough to reclaim these tiles from a dumpster outside Eisenhower Hall on the K-State campus months ago when it was being remodeled, so they are without a doubt the oldest parts of the RV, being from 1951.  They did require some touching up, which I accomplished with a combination of ceiling paint and flat white spray paint.  Not all the tiles have been installed yet, so look for another update in the coming weeks.

We still need to finish the structure under the desk, but the shelf over the desk is largely finished and wired.  I scored some vintage-looking 12 volt LED lights that cast a nice warm glow over the studio, plus a fluorescent-type LED fixture – all of which can be controlled independently.  Everything performed great during the WLHA Halloween Special, which was the inaugural broadcast for the studio.

Many more projects are coming up, including a test road trip.  Stay tuned!


The floor is finished!

The floor is finally finished, and there was much rejoicing!  I decided to go with EZ Click Luxury Savannah Oak flooring.  I had originally picked out some flooring that did not click together and required adhesive plus renting a 100-pound roller.  The more I thought about it and researched, the less I liked the idea of putting adhesive on the subfloor.  Many folks putting new floors in RVs are going with the “floating” floor idea, which is what this is.  There’s no adhesive, you just leave a 1/4 inch gap on all sides and put quarter round around the edges, and it works great!  I’m very happy with this decision.

It took a solid day to install the flooring and do most of the quarter round, as most straight runs around the perimeter are less than a foot.  The dinette was also rebuilt and all the cushions were washed and re-stuffed before everything was reinstalled over the new floor.  Now that these basics are done, curtains can be installed and the very exciting studio project can begin!

– James

New wall and flooring

The interior of the vehicle is quickly taking shape after months of prep.  Before the new flooring could be installed, a few more items had to be completed, including fixing one section of wall that had some water damage from the window.  Since no structural damage had taken place and the damage was old, we simply sanded the wood flush and installed a piece of paneling over the old wall with adhesive and fasteners.  The results were pretty dramatic, as you see in the image above.

Next, the floor had to be prepped for the EZ Click flooring.  Generally, not much prep other than sanding is required, but we went ahead and put some stain on the subfloor in case it does get wet in the future.

Next week, we’ll have a full flooring update and show the finished product. (You can see a sneak peek in the first photo, juxtaposed with the original green shag, which will thankfully be hidden by the dinette when it’s reinstalled.)

Interior Improvements Cavalcade

The floodgates of mini projects have now opened! There’s a lot of simultaneous action going on, and I’ve tried to document as we go along.

First, I’ve never been a fan of the stock Norcold refrigerator doors.  It’s a great refrigerator, but the old, warped plastic was like staring into a black hole.  I hadn’t come across a great replacement unitl I stumbled upon 2 x 4 foot whiteboard panels at the lumberyard. These were just the right thickness to slide in where the plastic panels had been, and it’s a great place to write out our very long to-do list!

Next, the toilet needed some attention, including a thorough cleaning and three new seals.  We rehabbed the old toilet because it’s actually a very nice porcelain unit – something that would be quite expensive today!  (Most RVs today have plastic toilets.)  In addition, a factory “oops” was corrected under the toilet where they missed and drilled the hole too big.  This was corrected by routing out part of the floor and filling in with a new wood doubler.

Finally, the stove top looked kind of sad and boring, so I decided to spice it up with some spray paint that will match the curtains (coming soon!).  I used high-temperature engine primer and enamel, so the heat from the stove shouldn’t be an issue.

Wall repairs, plumbing goodies, and hopefully flooring coming next week!