Restoring My Vintage Spartan to Glory

...and crafting a purposeful recovery

Month: May 2016 (page 1 of 2)

Loo Redeux

Prior to my rant about quality this past Tuesday, I had been evaluating the contents of the three buckets keep/toss/maybe.  So, let’s finish with maybe.  As mentioned, this third pile has grown a bit as both sentimentality and greed have conspired to create a more faithful restoration (yes, I may even break down and buy a vintage ‘fridge.  I will get my daughter on that).  I am considering keeping things now that I initially dismissed and most of these are coming from the loo.

The dismantling of the bathroom was the most difficult due to the plethora of pipes and fixtures wired, bolted and/or fused in place for over half a century.  It was also a bit disgusting as this was where the water damage was the worst, the mold most prolific and the mice, well, apparently they knew it was the bathroom.  It was also made difficult by the enclosure built around it, the pocket door and the vanity.  I have come to the conclusion that I really want the pocket door.  It is in great shape and all the framing and hardware I salvaged for a verbatim re-installation.  As such, I believe my best option is to duplicate the footprint of the bathroom for the sake of ease and authenticity.  This, I believe, makes salvaging the shower basin attractive.  It formed the entire aft wall of the bathroom and would obviously fit if I returned it to the original configuration.  It is also an odd size and would be difficult to replace with new.  Made of cast iron and porcelain, it is not the least fazed by time.  There are no big chips or damage but the finish is dull.  That is the only hurdle.  I had a tub “resurfaced” once in an old home and it sucked.  Within a year it started peeling off.  This issue will require more thought and I am open to suggestions. The toilet also has me thinking.  Initially I was just going to replace it with a new composting toilet which are becoming increasing popular and affordable.  Wherever Sparta ends up I will have a garden and, properly managed, “humanure” is now recognized as a perfectly acceptable soil amendment.  Also, I didn’t want to install a black water waste tank. Since I will be off grid, unless I build a septic system, there remains the question of what to do with the poop.  Composting makes great sense for a number of reasons but I am now wondering…would it be possible to use the existing commode as a composting toilet?  Since composting toilets are, by necessity “dry” I am not sure if this is possible.  More research is necessary.   I am tossing the sink.  It is too little and has no particularly redeeming aesthetics.  The final piece to be salvaged from the bath is the original electric radiant heater.  Typical of its vintage, it has wire coils and a fan and I am sure is not very efficient, but it looks cool.  Perhaps I can just keep the face-plate and replace the guts with something with less draw.  Here are a few pics and bye for now. sparta toilet

sparta bathtubsparta bath fansparta bath cupboardsparta br heat

A word about quality

Geezer Rant Alert !!!

In case you prefer not to hear me gripe about modern times, skip this post.  It will be a rambling diatribe from the embittered mind of a grumpy boomer (GB).  It will have nothing to do with actually restoring a vintage Spartan trailer but everything to do with why I have undertaken this task.  It concerns quality.  The word has been so badly abused by popular media, management tomes and marketing sales pitches that I am not sure anyone knows what it means.  Like the word “Natural”, often used to describe so-called sensible food choices these days,  Quality has been watered down to the point of meaninglessness.  In fact, “Google it” and you will find two significantly different, almost opposing, definitions.  Quality –

“The standard of something as measured against other things of a similar kind; the degree of excellence of something”.

or:

“The totality of features and characteristics of a product or service that bear on its ability to satisfy stated or implied needs. Not to be mistaken for’degree of excellence'”.

Hmmm?  In one case quality is about excellence, in another it is about the ability to satisfy and shouldn’t be confused with excellence.  I would posit that excellence is a sort of “gold standard”, a benchmark if you will of something’s inherent goodness which has relevance over time.  It is tangible, often measurable.  On the other hand, when quality is defined as “ability to satisfy”, it no longer has as much to do with the product and has MUCH more to do with the consumer.   Once it is measured “in the eye of the beholder”, quality is suddenly negotiable and changeable over time, like a fad.  Here is how quality has changed over the years as observed by this grumpy boomer:

GB example #1 – A telephone:  In 1957 we had in my Fresno home a telephone made by Western Bell.  It looked exactly like this.  It was on a counter in our family room and had a very long cord which enabled my sisters to secret it away to vintage-1957-bell-system-western-electric-c-d-500-telephone-with-four-prong-jack-73b9627185304e8ddc301dbb7bc5435e

their bedroom when some “Dreamboat” called.  I cannot tell you how many times this phone came crashing to the ceramic tile floor due to my getting entangled in the cord while running about.  With nary a chip in its durable, space-age plastic housing, the phone occupied its rightful place in our dwelling for at least 15 years, about the time I started making furtive calls to some junior high crush.

Fast forward to 2016.  Here is a stock Internet photo (chosen among hundreds) of a desk drawer full of phones.  Until last year I had one that looked exactly like this.  I finally tossed them.  Looks a bit sparta cell phones like planned obsolescence or is it just a case of changeable consumer expectations or “implied needs”?

Without getting into the merits and many advantages of Smart phones, I would ask this:  Does a drawer-full of now useless phones, all less than ten years old, reflect upon quality improvements in the telecommunications industry OR their ability to sell us on the the latest and greatest features as being indispensable to us? I think Western Bell’s standard of quality looked a lot more like the first definition above ( a standard or degree of excellence) while modern phone makers think quality is the ability to meet rapidly changing consumer expectations which I will call the “new needs”.  The problem with new needs is that they are ever-changing and are not really needs at all.  They are wants.  But how many of us have cursed our Smart phone or even, I daresay, been tempted to throw it when a web page failed to download quickly? Hence, a drawer full of useless junk, a sea littered with plastic packaging and a blurry definition, at best, of what constitutes quality.

GB example #2 – Music :  Don’t worry, I am not going off on rap or the state of pop music today.  I tried that in an earlier post and probably ran off 90% of my audience under 31 – that leaves my two loyal kids.  No, here I am addressing not the content of today’s music but its fidelity.  No kids, fidelity isn’t just a worthy expectation of one’s marriage vows.  It is actually a quaint old reference to the quality of sound produced by a recording.  Back in High School my summer job was at a Hi-Fi shop in Fresno.  There, in the sealed demonstration room, with acoustics geared to maximizing the pleasure of listening, sat a stack of “High Fidelity” magazines.  These periodicals were dedicated to the pursuit of the best possible music quality and were there to be perused while hearing, somewhat awestruck, the deep bass achieved by Keith Emerson’s moog on “Lucky Man” through a pair of Bozak Concert Grands.  Now I am willing to bet that the vast majority of Americans have never had such an experience – at least, not those under, say, 30.  That is not to say that such listening rooms which demo extraordinarily life-like music no longer exist.  They do.  There is one right down the street from me here in Santa Rosa.  It is just that almost nobody cares and we can thank digital music, esp. MP3s for that.  Without getting too deep into the arcane discussion of analog versus digital (a tired and endless debate), lets just say this.  Forty years ago quality analog music sound production sought excellence and was measured meticulously in frequency response, harmonic distortion, bass response, etc.  It was sought after and paid handsomely for.  It mattered.  Today,  when it comes to their music, most consumers expect convenience, portability and quantity of storage with relatively little concern for measurable sound quality.  Listen to the fidelity of music reproduced on the average Smart Phone as played through a $19 pair of ear buds and you will get my point.  What is my point?  Only that the bar for quality once set by McIntosh for its state-of-the-art tube amplifier is vastly different than that set by, say, Beats headphones.  That consumers now value the latter way more than the former is demonstrated by the fate of the two companies.  Two years ago Dr Dre sold Beats, a maker of trendy though not audiophile-quality headphones, to Apple for $3 billion.  McIntosh?…it has hung around, first having been bought by a Japanese electronics giant and more recently by a boutique Italian audio company.  It will cling to life as long as there are still a few souls out there who value and understand sound quality.

GB example 3# – Furniture : OK, one more and I promise I will stop.  Four letters: I-K-E-A.  Almost everyone who has lived in an apartment has experienced IKEA.  If you have had the pleasure of assembling an IKEA product you know first hand how much they embody style over substance.  A dresser, for example, will feature lovely teak veneers over fused sawdust and, once assembled, it will look great with that clean Scandinavian aesthetic.  But I have yet to own one that didn’t start to fall apart withing a year due to simple wear and tear (that would mean exceeding its carrying capacity of twelve pairs of socks).  It’s no wonder.  The drawers sat upon plastic runners literally stapled to the dresser’s interior.  Here is an Internet fun fact which will tell you all you need to know about the furniture giant’s popularity which stands in stark and, often, hilarious contrast to its quality:

“IKEA’s Catalog Is More Popular Than The Bible. Every year, there are almost three times more copies of the catalog printed than the bible. They started printing the catalog in 1951 and it has since taken on a life of its own, consuming a full 70% of the companies marketing budget every year and developing a devoted fan base of people who analyze the images looking for obscure books in the bookshelves, Mickey Mouse references and cats hiding in the fake households. There are now 55 editions printed in 27 languages every year.”

sparta ikea

A 70 year-old company has withstood the test of time despite poor quality

Funny, even the catalog writers know the product is Mickey Mouse. That is way more than enough out of me today.  Maybe tomorrow I will better understand the point of this rant.

 

 

 

tongue and groove

60 year-old tongue and groove drawers from Sparta which have withstood the test of use

 

Postscript : May 25, 2016 – I have thought about it and I realize that yesterday’s observations are really about fear.  Fear of the accelerating passage of time, of the loss of a way of life which was familiar and understandable to me and of becoming irrelevant.  I wonder if that is what is really at the core of all this…this struggle against aging.  It is the fear of impending irrelevance.

 

Was entirely ready to have Tom remove all these defects of trailer…

I am just about finished dismantling everything from the floor up and have determined what to keep versus what to toss.  The things I removed from Sparta fall into three categories – definitely reusable, not reusable and salvageable but questionable.  As I have taken inventory and mentally placed items in those classifications I have come head-on again with the question of authenticity.  I am putting more and more into the first bucket.  The deeper I get into this project and the more I read online, the greater my inclination to salvage as much as possible from the original.  This is driven by avarice (I am finding that authentic restorations are much more valuable out there) and motivated by sentiment (remember my earlier reference to my 300 disc CD changer).  I like old stuff and it seems a shame to throw-away perfectly good things.  By the way, I have become more familiar with the Spartan Trailer community and learning about what is truly coveted within its ranks by joining two groups on Facebook:  http://www.facebook.com/groups/spartantraveltrailers and another one called “rollin’ oldies vintage trailers”.  The first one is particularly geared to Spartan aficionados and both require membership.

So, back to my buckets.  I have already covered in some detail the stuff worth keeping.  Things like cabinets, light fixtures, doo-hickies (window cranks, etc.), mirrors and some interior trim (window frames) are no-brainers.  Much of this stuff is authentic, irreplaceable and adds vintage charm.  I have shared pictures.  Here’s more.            sparta bath cupboardtongue and groovesparta crosshatch                                                  sparta good

sparta circuit break

This is where I draw the line at authenticity

In the second “trash” pail are the obvious things which will be jettisoned.  Old, water-damaged birch paneling, bags and bags of fiberglass insulation (laid double-thick on the ceiling by the way), shredded wood, metal trim, termite-damaged trim [more than initially reported (those little bastards are tenacious)] and, of course, anything having to do with that toxic mess of a floor that will soon be torn up and bagged as hazardous waste (still awaiting lab verification of asbestos risk).  Say bye-bye….  Also, the entire electrical system has to go.  It is still in place for now, except for the breaker box, but all the wiring will eventually get tossed,  once the autopsy is complete and the central nervous system is better understood.  sparta gb

sparta panelsOf course, I have mentioned the old appliances and they are going.  They are neither charming nor redeeming in any way.  They will fit through the very large window mid-ship which I will remove for said extraction.   And then there is the furnace:  Get a load of this monstrosity.   I have concluded that this beast is the recovered booster rocket that launched Sputnik way back when.  At over 150 pounds and 43,000 btu’s, I am thinking it is both overkill for a space this cozy and probably horribly inefficient – assuming it works at all, which is a stretch.

sparta sputnik

Get a load of those rocket exhausts. I wonder if this trailer had glass-packs.

Primum Non Nocere (First, do no harm)

If anyone noticed I have been away for a bit.  My demolition deadline has dictated more work and less blogging – plus I have worked some catering double shifts this week.  So let’s catch up.

I am happy to report that after today, I expect all remaining wood to have been stripped from Sparta, except for the floors.  I have grown especially troubled by the asbestos lurking under the original 9″ linoleum tiles.  As I read more about it (blame Internet information overload), I think I may need to be abundantly cautious about the removal and disposal of said flooring.  But there is a chance that there is NO asbestos in the floor, rendering my caution and extra effort unnecessary.  So I just emailed a local environmental testing lab here locally to see what it would cost to confirm or allay my fears.  More on that later.

Demolition is one aspect about home improvement that I really enjoy.  Almost any knucklehead can do it (so it’s not as intimidating), it proceeds relatively quickly thereby creating a sense of progress and achievement and it is very educational.  As I have performed this dismantling, I have learned much through simple observation – much like Medieval med students did when dissembling a cadaver.  Gross but true.  They didn’t have a repair manual back then and I really don’t now.  So I am taking a lot of pictures, using a Sharpie to label things/locations that might be reusedDissection_of_a_Cadaver and praying a lot, as I suspect these fellows to the left once did.  The other great thing about demolition is that not too much can go horribly wrong – I mean, it’s not like the patient can die.

 

 

sparta before

Wednesday, 7:35 am

sparta bones

Wednesday, 9:36 am

sparta foil

Wednesday, 11:18 am

So here’s an example of the immediate gratification that can result from demolition work.  This vivid illustration is made possible by the wonder of time-lapse photography:

Fly in Amber (cont’d)

OK, back from the edge.  No point staring down into the abyss for too long.

So as I mentioned in an earlier post, the demolition of Sparta had been started by the prior owner and had only affected the front half – the “observation lounge”.  No joke, this 1946 Spartan Manor ad described the forward cabin in those exact words.  Now as much as I am guilty of occasional hyperbole,  even I have to question this description.  Seriously, Observation Lounge in a trailer?Sparta observation  I picture some snoopy  neighbor in a trailer park peeking through her curtains, “observing” someone getting out of the shower and telling her husband, “Goodness gracious, George.  You’d think he’d have the sense to shut his blinds!”.  Even in 1946,  marketing folks could spin a tale.

My demolition, therefore, has concerned the aft, a much more difficult section because the kitchen, bathroom and bedroom have a lot more going on.  This is where the plumbing, central heat, fixtures, most of the electrical (including junction box) and virtually all the cabinets reside.  There is a reason someone chose to start up front and I am eternally grateful they did.  There has proven so much good, salvageable stuff in back.  Although there is some water damage, particularly to the kitchen and bathroom, the cabinetry has held up remarkably well and is totally reusable.  Credit fine wood, workmanship or both, these pieces will refinish beautifully – saving me lots of money and allowing a more faithful restoration.  There are also usable and original light fixtures, wood trim, mirrors, small wall heater, etc. that will be a joy to resuscitate.  Have a look.  I gotta get ready for work.

The L-shaped kitchen cabinet is solid and functional. Sandpaper, stain and poly and it will look great.

The L-shaped kitchen cabinet is solid and functional. Sandpaper, stain and poly and it will look great.

sparta crosshatch

Nice diamond pattern mirror

sparta tinsparta br heatsparta br cab

sparta doors

Fly in Amber

My interior demolition of Sparta continues apace, so my self-imposed deadline of month end looks safe.  Soon, there will be nothing left of her but aluminum and glass – and those fixtures and finishes I salvaged for her rebirth.

The experience of dismantling this old Spartan has stirred mixed feelings which I had not anticipated.  At times, I feel a raw, savage power as wood and trim succumb to my pry-bar.  Or, I might feel a giddy glee peeling back layers of silver insulation like an impatient child on Christmas morning.  But mostly, I have a sense of respect and, even, reverence for this old relic which has a story to tell.

Sparta is a big time capsule, filled with fragments of the past left behind in haste.  I wrote earlier about my nostalgic tendencies and I guess I’m also just curious about Sparta – who built her, who lived in her, why’d they leave?  I wonder about the craftsmen who painstakingly assembled her.  Was Wally the welder happy just to have a job in post-war Oklahoma?  Was Rosie the riveter disappointed that instead of building aircraft for a massive war effort she was now making travel trailers for the rich?  Who knows, but whatever their thoughts, I cannot help but be impressed with the quality of workmanship that went into these.  What is most striking is the absence of plastic.  Basically, any plastic used in Sparta was for a purpose – mostly to insulate switches, wire and plugs to protect its occupants against nasty shocks.  Also, just a bit of kitchen and bathroom laminate and that’s it for plastic.  Period.  I have a friend rehabbing a more modern trailer and Sparta feels like King Tut’s tomb compared to her Barbie House.

I continue to unearth clues as to the former occupants.  A friend of mine who has, for lack of a better term, a sixth sense walked through Sparta last week and she left troubled by its energy.  She did not sense death and horrific tragedy (probably no ghosts, sorry) but felt that some evil or dysfunction was present.  I, lacking in any supernatural powers whatsoever,  have felt no such disturbances, but I did stumble across something yesterday that reeked of sadness and hit particularly close to home.  I believe a former occupant was alcoholic.  As I peeled back a wood cubbyhole under the bathroom sink, I came across an empty bottle of vodka, once hidden.  And not just any bottle – an airline mini.  You see, I have learned through harsh experience that normal people do not drink straight vodka in the bathroom and, unless they are at 35,000 feet, they most definitely don’t imbibe from tiny bottles.  But sneaky alcoholics attempting to avoid detection do – vodka, in particular, because it is “odorless”.  Hah! – the fiction.  Been there, done that.

This I found crammed into a nook revealing a shy tippler or a thirsty rat with fashion sense.

This I found crammed into a nook revealing a shy tippler or a thirsty rat with fashion sense.

Now an addict of any sort living in a trailer is hardly news, but I was moved by this find.  It saddened me to know that this trailer may have once housed two tortured souls – one in a constant pursuit of clandestine relief and another living in confusion and bombarded with denials.  I think of my long-suffering ex-wife and feel tremendous compassion for her.  That she remained hopeful for me for so long despite the mounting evidence of my alcoholism is heartbreaking.  I think I need to sit with this feeling awhile before I continue…

Aluminium, as they say across the pond.

This will be a brief post.  I promise.  As much as I enjoy writing, it has occurred to me that I have spent more time waxing eloquent about Sparta than actually working on her.  Yep, I am coming to the conclusion that work is one of those things I prefer contemplating – perhaps that’s why I’m allowing myself 18 months for this project.  I know myself.  But (AA cliche alert!) self-knowledge avails us nothing…one actually has to commit to change.  So I am committing to having the demolition work completed by the end of next week.  Except for the floors.  They will be torn out by the following Friday, May 27.  By June 1, there will be nothing but a gleaming aluminum shell awaiting a glorious transformation.  You heard it here first.

Jesus, that only took a paragraph, for one little commitment.  Didn’t I once promise you pithy?

Let me talk about aluminum – something I am developing a great appreciation for.  Until 100 years ago, it was a seldom used metal, difficult to refine and quite rare in its usable state – so much so that Napoleon preferred it over gold as the dinner ware for the most special of guests.  It is, interestingly, the third most abundant element in the Earth’s crust and amazingly versatile and useful as a building material.  Aluminum really came into it’s own during WWII, particularly in the production of aircraft, weapons that ultimately helped turn the tide against the Axis powers.  The reason?  Specific strength, also known as strength-to-weight ratio.  A listing of common construction materials when ranked from lowest to highest on Wikipedia reveals concrete at the bottom (a specific strength of 5) and Colossal carbon tube (55,000) at the top – think earthquake rubble versus Tour de France.   A spider web?  1069. Aluminum alloy?  204.  Oak?  125. Steel? 63.

In addition to its specific strength over 3 times that of steel,  aluminum has another admirable quality – it is basically rust-proof.  All metals corrode when coming in contact with air.  In turn, metals emit a layer of corrosion-resistant molecules to slow further deterioration.  Think of it like a callous on a hand subject to weathering and repeated friction.  While steel, a ferrous metal, develops a thick and unsightly layer of rust to delay corrosion, aluminum releases a thin haze of aluminum oxide as a defense.  While this process might take the shine off a once gleaming Airstream,  it does not undermine its strength and ultimately useful life as rust does to steel.

As an aircraft company, Spartan had a great deal of experience with and affinity for aluminum and used very little steel in its trailers (just the chassis, screws and hinges).  Wood was employed only for interior aesthetics.  (Except during the early ’50’s when aluminum was diverted to the Korean War effort and Spartans were briefly wood-framed).   This happy fact was made abundantly clear to me yesterday as I continued my demolition work and found the following: Rust in the front door hinge and termite damage in a two foot section of front door trim.

Since the under-carriage and tongue had already been treated for and protected against rust, this little door hinge is all I had to contend with.

Since the under-carriage and tongue had already been treated for and protected against rust, this little door hinge is all I had to contend with.

One little can and rust is put to bed and a door hinge ready for a coat of paint.

One little can and rust is put to bed and a door hinge ready for a coat of paint.

Note extensive trim damage and pebbly termite waste. Has this old trailer been framed with wood as many were back in the day?

Note extensive trim damage and pebbly termite waste. Had this old trailer been framed with wood as many were back in the day?  I hate to contemplate.

So, I masked off with blue tape both sides of the door hinge, sprayed on some Krylon and, boom, rust problem solved.

 

As for termites, they barely got past the front door before realizing that Sparta made poor nesting territory.  Thank you Reynolds!

 

 

Here comes the bride…or last call?

I mentioned in an earlier entry that a 42′ Spartan is more of a house than a trailer.  In fact, long before tiny houses became the current rage, large trailers were built, in part, to satisfy the huge demand for affordable housing in post-WWII America.  Today, old trailers are a great, ready-made tiny house alternative and circumvent code concerns in most jurisdictions for the simple fact that they have wheels.  But calling a trailer a house is almost like comparing the one-night-stand to the bride-to-be.

Let’s start with the bride.  She is courted, wooed and vetted to ensure respectability and compatibility.  On the big day she is fussed over, groomed, painted and rendered flawless (not unlike staging a home for sale).  She may never look that good again.  Expectations run high. sparta bride

beer goggles

Bending light beer

The one-night-stand?  Well, as seen through beer-goggles, she looks pretty great at 2 am, needs a ride because her friends abandoned her and, for the price of a drink, well, what does one have to lose?

Yes, I’m a pig but this horribly misogynistic analogy conveniently makes a point.  It is the morning after, I have awakened and am thinking about chewing off my arm.  Don’t get me wrong.  I love Sparta.  But as the dust literally settles and my infatuation is tempered by some harsh realities, I am starting to regret that last Kamikaze.

First, there is the title.  You know, that thing that proves ownership.  I have none and in my haste to acquire this gem during a day-long road trip, I did not give that issue adequate thought.  I’m thinking “$4k, registration nearly twenty years old, abandoned in the corner of a dive bar – what could go wrong?”.  Well, in the State of California this will be my worst DMV experience on steroids…forms, red-tape, fees, infinite hold-times.  Do I even need a title?  If I want to insure it or sell it, yes.  I suppose I could just go off grid and who’d be the wiser, but that doesn’t sound very prudent.  Fuck.

Then, there’s asbestos.  Just about every linoleum floor tile laid before 1985 contains asbestos.  A naturally occurring substance (we eat and breathe it in tiny quantities all the time), it was fused into plastic floor tiles to add strength, flexibility and colorfastness. When left undisturbed it is rather harmless.  When torn up during a remodel you need to call out the Hazmat Team.

Asbestos tape accross plastic containment area.

Yikes!

sparta demolish

A proven and safe method of asbestos removal

Anyone with a TV set is familiar with the word mesothelioma.  Google it and the first words that appear are lawyers (naturally), cancer, malignant, etc.  Unfortunately, there is no cure.  I can’t just run down to the free-clinic for a shot.  Shit.

Finally,  there is the dawning realization that there might be a huge disconnect between the task at hand and my skill-set.  It is human nature to exaggerate one’s capabilities when confronting a challenge.   But I may have severely misjudged the scope of this project.  Electricity?  I have rewired countless switches and outlets.

Watt, me worry?

Watt, me worry?

Water and waste pipes?  I have flaunted my plumber’s crack a few times.  What’s to know?

More sophmoronic redneck humor

More sophmoronic redneck humor

“I got this”, the wanna-be contractor says after two episodes of This Old House.  But I’m starting to feel like the little boy walking through the cemetery after dusk on a dare, whistling a  feeble tune.  I want my mommy.

 

Who ya' gonna' call? Dust Busters.

Who ya’ gonna’ call? Dust Busters. Or maybe Fury Road.

 

 

 

All Twerk and No Play

Good morning.  Happy Mother’s Day.  It’s a weekend –  that time when this chef logs lots of stove time and not much trailer action.  Last night I watched Justified on Amazon (yep, the new Prime time) and this particular episode concerned some redneck Meth cooks.  As they sat around their campfire, sipping whiskey and polishing their firearms, a rival reprobate showed up to advise them that if they didn’t get out of the meth business, their “cookhouse” was liable to go up in flames – an occupational hazard of that dubious profession. As their semi-literate exchange took place, the camera panned the scene and I’ll be God-damned if the subject in question wasn’t a 1957-ish Spartan Imperial Mansion.  Though it sported an unfortunate paint job as befits it’s knucklehead occupants, the forward-slash front end and scalloped siding were unmistakable Spartan flourishes.  Here was proof positive.  I am now officially trailer trash.  What’s more, I am of the toothless meth head  variety.  Has it really come to this?  Before the episode was done, the threats were made good upon, and, one Molotov cocktail later, there was one less Spartan on this planet (yes, they actually blew it up.  Shame.).

Anyone who has bought a new car is familiar with this experience.  My Google search reveals that it goes by a number of names – the Baader-Meinhoff phenomenon, frequency illusion, confirmation bias and observer-expectancy effect (who comes up with this shit?).  If you buy a red Jetta, suddenly you will notice tons of them.  After I bought Sparta, I saw one on the way to work at a place I had driven by a hundred times and it had previously escaped me.  And now, it makes a cameo appearance on TV.  Could there really be that many Spartans out there?  No.  They didn’t make that many.  But, it’s funny how the brain works.

Ooops. Where does the time go?  It’s time to tuck my mullet up under my chef’s toque and get to work.

"I love what you've done with the place!"

“I love what you’ve done with the place!”

Twerk

A Tale of Two Trailers.

Well, I got through yesterday on two levels.  First, my son’s departure.  Second, Cinco de Mayo.  May the 5th.  May I have my fifth?  Just kidding.  Big party days don’t tempt me.  Hell, I didn’t even enjoy them back in the day – New Year’s, St. Paddy’s, Cinco de Mayo, those are all for amateurs.  True alkies don’t need a reason to drink.  Any day ending in “y” was enough for me.

After venting the pain of Italy’s gain by tearing apart Sparta’s forward interior yesterday, I came home, showered that God-awful fiberglass off of me and remained in my robe for the duration – sulking, texting back-and-forth with those family members still on this continent and streaming Netflix.  No, I didn’t descend into “poor me, poor me, pour me another” (sorry AA members and those familiar with the many program slogans sprinkled about my blog.  Sometimes I just can’t resist a cheap cliche).  I try to just sit with my feelings now – good, bad or indifferent.  I realize that streaming multiple episodes of Catastrophe (actually, that’s on Amazon) isn’t really processing my emotions, but it beats the hell out of Smirnoff blue straight, no chaser.  Plus I feel so much better today.  It helps that the last text I received last night before drifting off to sleep was “Love you” from my daughter.

This blog entry’s title suggests that Sparta may have two tales, two sides.  She does.  As I was assessing her condition yesterday, the old parable of the blind men at opposite ends of an elephant came to me.  One holding the tail, the other a tusk and yadda, yadda, yadda.  From the pictures below, you might see two different things:

The elephants posterior

The elephant’s posterior (actually it’s a midway well wheel, but I am exercising literary license by sticking to the story)

The elephant's tusk

The elephant’s ivory

sparta walls and ceilings

My predecessor had a “panel by numbers” redo in mind. Perhaps these would make great templates.

sparta wood grain

Not quite sure what this wood is. It’s a 1/8″ ply from Home Depot at $10 per 4′ X 8′ piece. Note stained section on right side.

either a really nice, clean Imperial Mansion ready for show or a badly dilapidated version in need of help.  She is both. Unfortunately, when fixing a trailer you can’t cherry pick.  It’s an all or nothing proposition.  If some of the floor needs replacing, all off the floor needs replacing.  Have you ever tried to match 60 year old linoleum?  Same goes for the birch paneling.  I suppose I could sand and refinish old and new wood, but since all the insulation (which disintegrates in my hands) and wiring need to go, I am going with all new wood, probably something with a more interesting grain.  Also, some safer wiring might ensure that I don’t just become another crispy critter found in a burned-out shell of a trailer – a fate worse than ignominious.

So by the time I finished my cathartic demolition yesterday, I was left with a forward cabin reduced to skin and bones and just a bit of connective tissue.  I am leaving the wiring in place for now since it may be instructive when I rewire Sparta in the future.

From this perspective Sparta's aircraft pedigree really shines,

From this perspective Sparta’s aircraft pedigree really shines,

Last night, while sitting in bed recovering from streaming binging,  I bought a book on Amazon entitled:

RV Electrical Systems: A Basic Guide to Troubleshooting, Repairing and Improvement,  by Bill and Jan Moeller – 1994

Since I know squat about electricity, I thought this might be a good idea, but I’m too snobby to buy such a tome from the “Dummies” series.  I will let you know if this book is worth the $13.

So the morning is wasting.  Time to take care of a little housekeeping and get back to the work of restoring…”It was the best of times.  It was the worst of times.”

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