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Our 7 days in the camper (FINALLY!)

 

Our AR Camper journey started exactly 4 years ago. Man, what a ride it has been. Crazy truck breakdowns, allowing Siri and the GPS to take us down the wrong path, falling out of tow trucks and falling out of the back door of the camper. Just a few of the memorable times Michelle, the dogs, and I have had. No boring trips!

This past week, we were finally able to take a real trip! 7 days with everything being fully operational in the camper. On the few trips we took prior to completing the camper restoration, we endured the ordeal without a working refrigerator, plumbing/potty, and made do with a limited supply of 12VDC power. This time, we had it all, baby! Woohoo!
Plus the truck now has a 12,000# rated winch on front, in case we get into a pickle.
Other than running out of gas in the middle of nowhere, the week went off without a hitch. We did have one crazy experience which is almost laughable, now. Looking for a gas station in northern NM proved to be quite a challenge. After spending 3 days at the lower Lagunitas campground. we arrived back at Tres Piedras, NM, only to discover no gas station. In addition, our intended route to head west towards Hopewell Lake was closed due to road construction. No sweat. We’ll just head to Navajo Lake State park, instead, by way of Antonito, CO. Guess what? Gas station out of business. Stuck between a rock and a hard place, we did all we could do. Let’s  head west and hope we can make it to Chama, NM. We climbed to the top of some pass in Colorado heading towards Chama. I swear, I didn’t think we’d ever get to the top. I’m the meantime I’m sweating bullets watching the gas gauge needle bounce off the E, not unlike a cartoon. We reach the summit and the truck says, see ya. I’m done, with one or two last lurches and chugs. And that was that. The incredible thing was that we got to the top before running out of gas. Believe it or not, we were able to coast all the way to the town of Chama. It had to have been 5? Miles. Talk about sweaty palms. All the while , Michelle was blowing on the windshield for that extra push. We coasted to a wide spot in the road, and I started walking to find a gas station. I won’t bore you with the details, but with the help of some really nice people, we got fueled up and were once again tearing up the highway in our 44 year old beast.

Also new to the camper was the addition of a 160W solar panel and 2 deep cycle batteries. We had more than enough power to run out furnace, lights, water pump, stereo, etc. made a believer out of us. Between this and the awesome Dometic refrigerator, we were set for the week.

For some specific highlights of our fun ride, please take a peek at the pictures below!
Happy trails, y’all!

Tony, Michelle, and the magnificent 7 travelin’ terriers

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Good morning, beautiful Lagunitas! 10,500 feet elevation. It’s a painfully slow and rough 28 miles or so of winding dirt road to get here. The plus side is that most people look for an easier place to get to. We pretty much had the mountain to ourselves. Stunning beauty.
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One of the two small Lagunitas lakes. I tried to catch some fish, but they just laughed at me as they jumped out of the water all around my line. In retrospect, I’m glad I didn’t have to clean fish.
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There must be 20+ varieties of gorgeous wildflowers. These asters are everywhere. Beautiful purple, red, yellow, orange, blue, and white flowers mixed in the lush greenery. It is paradise.
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Their best days are over, but still so pretty.
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Another view of the lake with the laughing trout.
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Yet another. As they say, the quiet is deafening. So serene. If you can’t decompress here…
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One morning, we were visited by an amazingly beautiful red fox with a white tail. He was gone before I could take a picture, but what a thrill to see.
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About 1/2 the pack. They had a good time. They always have a good time.
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I’m just a sucker for a winding mountain road.
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There is an upper campground, and a lower. The upper requires a steep hike down and back if you want to visit either lake. There is a toilet sort of, at the upper CG. It was, shall I say, not for the faint of heart. Thankfully, we have a fully functional and CLEAN bathroom in the camper. There is a much nicer vault toilet at the lower CG. Along with picnic tables and rock fire rings. No trash service or drinking water. But it’s also a no-fee campground. Such a deal.
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Just another example of the beauty. The pictures can’t come close to the real thing. Lots of AHH’s and OOH’s at this place.
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When you’re a princess, you don’t have to waste  your own energy. The servants will transport you.
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Hanging out with my bud, Malcolm. This was his first, ever, camping trip. He thinks it’s OK. Especially the part with bacon.
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“We don’t know where you guys are going to sleep, but we get dibs on this bed”
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The Continental Divide Trail runs through the Lagunitas campground. You really are on top of the world at this place!
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44 years old, but you’d never know it when driving down the road. The old truck is so capable with the massive V8. Just walks up the mountain without breaking a sweat. I think it was having as much fun as we were.
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We spent one night at Navajo Lake State Park. Beautiful facilities. Gorgeous lake. LOTS of people. It was a slice of heaven, folks, but not our cup of tea.
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Last stop was at the gorgeous Rio de las Vacas campground in the Jemez mountains, just east of Cuba, NM. The creek ran by our campground. OK, FISH! NOW YOU ARE MINE! But they laughed at me and I didn’t have to clean them. Worked out for the best.
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What can I say? I’m a sucker for wildflowers.

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American Road Side decals!

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I have some exciting news, folks! One of our members has a limited supply of the American Road decals that were affixed to the rear sides of the camper. They cost $17.50  each.  What a great finishing touch for your AR! For more information, please contact Steve at the address below  THANK YOU, Steve! 👍 

ataroch@gmail.com

 

 


 

Announcing the availability of NEW F350 SCS Emblems!

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NEW! Super Camper Special Emblem Available NOW!

After 40+ years, a lot of our parts are showing their age! (I am referring to our trucks, here! What I wouldn’t give to be 40 again!) Anyway!

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Nearly impossible to find SUPER CAMPER SPECIAL fender emblems are back! Mark Helmberger of www.onceuponapart.com has beautifully recreated the super rare fender emblems used on all 1973-1976 F350 140″ w/b pickups. He offers them is all three configurations. Super Camper Special, Super CAMPER, and Super HAULER.

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I have seen these first hand, and they are beautiful. They are also affordable, especially if you’ve seen what NOS emblems sell for on eBay, (if you can even find them).  Although dimensionally identical, there are a few minor differences from the originals. They are chrome plated plastic, as opposed to pot metal (which means they won’t pit, oxidize, rust, or stain). The insert isn’t embossed, and they’re held on by 3M emblem tape rather than studs (which also has its advantages).  None of this is obvious once installed and I think even the most hardcore enthusiast should love these!   Unless you’re striving for a 100 point show truck, these slight changes shouldn’t make a difference.  It certainly doesn’t to me, and if I may risk sounding like a snob, I think our red/black truck looks pretty darned good. And it IS sportin’ a pair of Mark’s emblems. Just swapping out our originals with these (and ours weren’t all that bad, like the one shown at the top) made a dramatic difference.  It really helped make our truck look like it did in 1973.

You can order a PAIR of these for a mere $59.99 + $5.99 priority S&H anywhere in the US. That’s only $30 apiece! Original emblems on eBay typically sell for $125+, EACH! Order a pair from Mark today. You wont be disappointed.  He also has many other emblems available. check out his website below:

www.onceuponapart.com

 

TCM Calendar Contest

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At the risk of being tacky, I’d like to invite all of you to check out the Truck Camper Magazine Calendar Contest. One of the contestants just happens to be an American Road Camper! How about that?! There are some beautiful shots of all styles of campers. Please check it out and vote if you like. You certainly don’t have to vote for us! Here’s the link. While you’re there, you can subscribe to TCM. It’s free! It’s a great e-magazine published by some really nice folks. Thanks for taking the time to have a peek! Tony & Michelle http://www.truckcampermagazine.com/camper-lifestyle/time-to-vote-2016-tcm-calendar-contest

The light at the end of the tunnel

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Been at it hard since July 1. Much of, if not most of the wood structure needed to be repaired or replaced. This picture shows some of the new studs which replaced pieces that had completely rotted away.
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Here’s the new rear floor and side structures, still in process.
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Jump to last week. It’s always fun to see the shiny stuff! But it wouldn’t count for much if the hidden parts weren’t up to snuff. We really think things have come together well. Previously, the floor felt like a sponge. Everything is rock-solid, now. The door closes effortlessly with a solid “thunk”. There is still a lot to do, but I keep having to remind myself that we’ve come a long way. It’s been quite a journey.
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There’s still a ton of trim left to be installed. Baseboards, cabinet edging. And all of the cabinet doors will still be refinished.
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These are the new cushions. We’re happy with them. Not the original (unobtainable) fabric, but still with that 70’s feel. We think, anyway. The camper feels pretty good to us. Any thoughts? Stay tuned! It won’t be too much longer!
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Camper progress report

It’s been a productive week. The camper is starting to take shape. Most of the decayed structure has now been rebuilt. We’re now going back together with the rear floor area. The right and left side support areas are mostly back together. We still have a few more studs to replace and then fiberglass all of the areas where it’s required. Once we get to that point, we’ll address the inherently weak lifting points and beef it up with additional steel reinforcements. Stay tuned! Thanks for following along while we learn as we go. This really is a fun adventure! Really!

Tony & Michelle

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Here is the rotten rear floor panel that has been removed. Nice, huh! :)
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The right side structure that supports the refrigerator, furnace, water heater and dinette was seriously shot. It felt really great to see this section come back to life.
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Another view of the dinette side before the window was reinstalled.
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Framing in the appliance access areas.
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Peekaboo! The nasty, rotten  structure was removed exposing the truck bed.
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Sorry that the pictures are in no particular order. Here is where we are today. Both side structural areas are mostly together and the rear floor panel is glued in place. Still lacking are rear wall studs, some other reinforcements, and the fiberglass work which bonds the wood to the body. Getting close and it feels and we think, looks, really good. 
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Before the side structure went in, the forward camper body 2×4 supports had to be cut out and replaced. They are screwed to the lower body skirt and held in place with fiberglass mat and epoxy resin. There is one of these on each forward side. One under the refrigerator area and one under the kitchen sink.
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One reason the wood rots in these is that the windows were installed with a low quality, very typical in the RV industry, gray putty tape and non-stainless steel screws. The putty dries out and the screws rust away. The water seeps in and in no time, the wood structure behind the fiberglass body goes away. We have hopefully corrected the problem by using an automotive grade window butyl tape and stainless steel screws. I pity the person who ever tries to remove one of the windows in the future.

 

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More camper rebuilding fun!

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Peekaboo! Looking down through the inside of the gutted camper to the truck bedside. The plywood panel that once covered this area was rotten.

The picture featured at the top shows Saturday’s progress. Still a long way to go, but it feels good to see the nasty, rotten wood, being replaced with new.  The new panel shown in the feature photo at the top, is almost ready to be permanently glued, stapled, screwed, and fiberglassed to the shell. But before that can happen, the missing vertical studs and appliance framing needs to be created.  Stay tuned!

Thank you for following along as we learn how to save our camper (and have an adventure before the real adventure begins!). Yeah, it might be easier to buy a new one, but what fun would THAT be? :-)

’til next time,

Michelle & Tony

americanroandcamper.com

 

 

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Looking from the outside-in through the propane tank storage area. This is what’s behind the gray plastic liner.
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We’ll be nervous until the structure inside is back in place. We have  placed several jacks around the perimeter of the shell as support. No disasters, please.
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Looking out the refrigerator access door. The once-wood frame is hardly there. Under that, is a 2×4 that was glassed to the shell as additional support. The fiberglass is still there. The 2×4 is long gone from rot.
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…and next to the refrigerator lives the furnace. More rot.
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And to the right of the furnace is the space for the water heater. No wonder everything felt so loose and flimsy.
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Starting to scrape off the sprayed on insulation around the affected areas.
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Laying the rotten panel on top of the replacement plywood to use as a pattern. Not much to go on.

 

The fun has begun!

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Knowing all along that this day was coming didn’t make it any easier to swallow. 42 years, + the fact that this camper spent its entire life outdoors on the west coast and  in the northwest. Despite the fact that the AR camper had a wonderful one piece fiberglass shell, it still had an inner structure and floor made of wood. The roof vents, windows, and plumbing all developed leaks over the years and caused the damage shown in the pictures.
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Everyone who owns one of these is aware of the incredibly weak jack lifting points. Particularly the RR corner. All it consists of is a small 3/16″ steel plate bolted to the 5/8″ plywood. The plywood is attached to the body along the sides by 1×2 wood strips which are glued to the shell with fiberglass resin. . I’m hoping to re-engineer this area and will post my updated fixes as they happen.
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The rear door seal was prone to leaking, also. The rear entry footwell had carpeting which only compounded the problem. I’m willing to bet that most of these campers have rot issues in this area, unless they’ve been indoors their entire life.
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Looks a lot like Walter White’s utility closet. I think he made a reference to “fruiting bodies”. Looks an awful lot like rotten wood, to me. 😉 I do know that he showed a LOT more enthusiasm tackling his mess, than I am feeling at the moment.
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The right side structure that supports the refrigerator, furnace, and (leaking) water heater is heavily damaged. It will really feel great once these areas are like new again. Or I should say, hopefully better than new.
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Just plain scary. Nasty.
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The stuff bad dreams are made of.
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Kind of sad that this is the best example out of our 3 campers. I’m hoping that doing he next one will be a breeze. (Yeah, right)
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One thing I’m pretty sure of is that I will be able to remove the shower stall through the dining area window. It looks like a tight fit, but doable. I’m thinking this has got to be how Starcraft did it. There’s really no other way. If this works out,I believe our parts/donor camper has a pristine shower, plus it was equipped a Thetford marine toilet and a holding tank. I’d much rather have that than the Monomatic recirculating beast, affectionately referred to by people in the industry as the “fecal fountain”. There’s a lot of behind-the-shower-stall plumbing involved, to switch to the marine job. Not really possible, or as least practical, without pulling the enclosure out. This should be a win-win. 
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Just more of the fun…
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The wooden framing around the dining window needs help, too. :-/ Stay tuned for some progress reports!

If you're interested in the American Road Camper, you've come to the right place! Come on in!