Restoring My Vintage Spartan to Glory

...and crafting a purposeful recovery

Month: October 2016

Let it rain

Talk’s cheap…and so am I.  So I really wasn’t excited about paying someone to help me with my leak test –  $15 an hour to mark leaky spots with a sharpie.  Fortunately, the first major storm of the season rolled into the Bay Area yesterday so I decided to let mother nature assist me.  In order to manage the flow of water onto Sparta, I decided to cover her with plastic sheeting before the rains came.  Then, as it rained, I would be able to peel it back, incrementally, to see where the water seaped through.  So, Thursday was spent spreading  5 rolls of 1 mil. 9′ X 12′ plastic over Sparta – not an easy task for one person in a light wind.  But I managed to do so, securing them as I went with duct tape.  img_0936img_0937

When I awoke yesterday morning the rain was coming down as forecast, so I bussed out to the trailer, Sharpie in hand.  I also brought a desk lamp to provide maximum visibility of even the smallest leaks.  To my relief, I found the plastic undisturbed by the increasing winds.  So I then began the process.

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Weird ceiling hole. Acid or corrosion?

Starting with the ceiling,  I examined Sparta from stem to stern and found not a single leak coming through the roof.  There were leaks in a few expected places like furnace stacks,  but I was very pleasantly surprised to find little in the way of serious breaches. This is pretty amazing when you consider the thousands of rivets holding Sparta’s roof in place and is testimony to just how conscientious Spartan’s aircraft assemblers were back in the day.  Incredible.  I did, however, find a hole in the ceiling that was lurking behind some insulation remnant.  It was patched and there was no water coming through, thankfully.

Having detected no roof leaks, I then inspected the floor and, in particular the perimeter, to see where there was standing water. This revealed issues with the windows and the problems were either with the window glazing or the seams where the windows were mounted.  In all, I found 15 leaks and there is work to be done, again, mostly with the windows.    Some glass will need to be reglazed and certain windows sealed.  The doors were fine.

After continuing rains this weekend, a dry-out is forecast for mid week and I will return with my Captain Tolley’s Creeping Crack Cure to plug the holes.  Given that the leaks fell far short of my expectations, I may not even need both bottles.

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See puddling in trough. Note: shiny floor in foreground is RotFix residue, not water.

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There was one wall leak along an aft cosmetic detailing seam

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“I’s feelin’ near as faded as my jeans”

Two months.  Brief in the life of a 60 year old trailer, but an eternity to its owner itching to restore her (and paying $275 rent per month just to sit idly).  I have been unable to work on Sparta since my last entry on 8/10/16.  Life has intervened. The interferences keeping me from Sparta are among the very things that compelled me to buy her in the first place – things beyond my control which I want to take back.

Two months ago I got word that I was being evicted.  Not due to anything I had done but because the landlord chose to sell the house I was renting.  Home values were rising so fast in Santa Rosa that she couldn’t afford not to.  So there I was, staring at a 30 day notice to vacate and wondering “Shouldn’t I by now be immune to the vicissitudes of life and in control of my affairs?”.  The short answer, of course, is “No”.  Control is an illusion and anyone who thinks they have it is advised to stroll past any cemetary.  But the longer answer is more complicated and nuanced and gets to the very heart of why this trailer project so appeals to me.

Thirty-five years ago I graduated with an MBA from Yale University, convinced that I was the master of my destiny and better able to “write my own ticket”.  I joined a multinational, publicly-traded hospital corporation and then proceeded to move over the next 3 years from New Haven to Hickory, North Carolina, San Luis Obispo, CA, Birmingham, Alabama and, finally, to New Orleans – all with a wife and, ultimately, a baby in tow.  Although these moves were occasioned by promotions, titles and pay increases, the final relocation concluded with my being “rif-ed” (reduction in force – a modern acronym born of the tendency for larger companies to shit-can loyal employees when they become  inconvenient).  Lesson learned?  Not really.  I continued for another 14 years to play a stooge, surviving a corporate bankruptcy, a merger, another layoff and, a short time later, becoming the victim (operative word) of an Internet start-up’s implosion.

Fast forward to 2014.  I moved to Santa Rosa, having first secured virtually all my worldly possessions in a storage facility for safe-keeping until I made longer-term arrangements.  The Napa earthquake that summer entombed my things and there they sat for 18 months while the city, an army of engineers and the facility operator debated the safety of the structure and the ultimate fate of its contents.  That left me feeling helpless, inconsequential and, oddly, free.  “Freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose” (thanks Mr Kristofferson for lyrics which were to become a great source of solace) and as I awaited word on the the ultimate outcome of my own personal storage war,  I became OK with the prospect of having nothing.  This evolving minimalism coincided, conveniently enough, with the fallout of years of excessive drinking and the resulting jettisoning that occurs when one awakens, drenched but alive, from a booze tsunami.  Add to that my growing appreciation for Buddism and its tenets of impermanence and dis-attachment and I was primed, almost grateful, for the prospect of being relieved of my life’s acquisitions.  I even began to ask myself, “to take possession of one’s life, must one have his possessions taken?”.  “No Grasshopper, you are simply trying to justify bad luck exacerbated by a reckless lifestyle as a means to explain and accept your misfortune”.  Nice try, though.

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My storage unit. Shaken and twisted

So last month I moved to a tiny little apartment – one that I would have scoffed at in my more grandiose days.  I then rescued my liberated possesions from their lengthy post-quake limbo, only to find many of them damaged by a good shaking and subsequent water leaks in the crumpled storaged unit.  Some things were destroyed altogether (mildewed Persian rugs) while others (an antique upholstered chair and a very expensive modern Italian display case) were badly broken.  For the past month I have been repairing  items strewn around my apartment, which has began to look like a workshop,  complete with the odor of varnish, epoxy and other toxic substances.

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Free at last

 

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Mildewed and disgusting

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Badly damaged display case

 

 

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Bringing it back

 

 

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Everything’s fixed. Yellow antique chair to the right had a shattered leg. Now good as new.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Not long after moving into this flat, I had my headlight, tail-light, tire pump and rear wheel stolen from my Kryptonite-secured bicycle.  I knew that I wasn’t living in the best part of town but, seriously, it only took two days for some homeless denizen to render useless my only legal means of transportation.  I’ll admit to feeling a bit like Job and in my drinking days this would have been cause for a pity party and a lost weekend.  But sober and mindful, I just let the feeling pass.

As I write this, my apartment is finally settled,  my bicycle repaired (and stored inside) and my thoughts drift to Sparta.

OK, so what am I getting at?  Just this.  My trailer project appeals to me on so many levels but in the context of this particular narrative here are Sparta’s more salient virtues:  1)  I own her free and clear and the land upon which she ultimately rests will be mine as well.  She cannot be forclosed upon or repossessed. 2)  Unless I move her to Tornado Alley, she will not likely be taken from me by an act of God. 3) I will live independant of the world, off the grid and fully self-sufficient.  4)  Up in the Sierras, my things will likely not be scavenged by the destitute and desperate, who pick at the carcass of my bike for the sake of a meth habit.  5) My 400 square foot home will ensure that I keep it simple and sparce, as I have become fond of living on and with less.  6) Finally, my relatively inexpensive trailer lifestyle will allow me to “retire” in one year,  living comfortably, debt-free and working only on my terms (cheffing here and there) and never again finding myself pink-slipped.

Of course,  I still don’t really control anything.  But I have set up my life to reduce the risk of loss, their enormity should losses occur and with the ability born of experience to ride out whatever calamity should arise.  All this helps me sleep pretty well each night.