Restoring My Vintage Spartan to Glory

...and crafting a purposeful recovery

Month: February 2017

Weather Window

Yesterday I took advantage of a break in California’s record-setting weather by spending some time in Sparta.  I was happy to see that the pond surrounding her had receded and that the power was back on.  Yes…two weeks ago, when I last braved a visit, the electricity was down.  The solar system upon which I depend was out of juice – perhaps after an extended time without sunshine.  As if to signal a change, the plum tree next to Sparta has begun to blossom.  Is Spring here?

Growing grass and blooming buds

So, saw in hand, I tore up more floor in need of replacement.  Part demolition and part exploration,  this process is getting me much closer to several key decisions about Sparta – decisions involving power, fresh water storage, grey waste, future toilet needs and plumbing.

Between the trailer wheel wells, there is a section where the frame drops lower and the space between the bottom of the subfloor and the belly skin is nearly 10 inches.  Elsewhere, that gap is closer to 6 inches. This, I’ve concluded, is an ideal location for fresh-water storage – a key issue because I will be “boondocking” and unsure as to the availability of H2O at Sparta’s future resting space.  I will need at least 60 gallons of potable water.  However, not all of that space is usable because my central heat ducting runs north/south along  the entire length of Sparta.  My partially exposed undercarriage now fully reveals my waste lines, venting pipes and twelve-volt power lines running stem to stern for navigations lights.  So. based upon these revelations and with a desire to blend utility and future value, I have concluded the following:

  1. I will install three 21 gallon poly tanks in the space between the left wheel well (visible in the picture below) and the ducting to the right.  They will be connected in tandem and will be for potable water only. I have found them online for $39 each plus $80 shipping totalling $200 on Ebay.
  2. I will reroute the gray water line connecting the shower and sinks and bypass the toilet.  I will install a new black water waste line for the toilet dropping straight down to a discharge outlet.  It will be capped.  I will be using a composting toilet, but future owners may prefer a conventional toilet so I will leave that option in place with a toilet ring at floor level.
  3. I will install exterior inlets for fresh water to supply the three tanks on the exterior wall behind the kitchen.
  4. Gray water will be routed to an exterior outlet opposite the kitchen and I will most likely let it flow to an evaporation pond near a compost heap.  Should a future owner want a gray water tank, they can install one from below through the belly skin.  I don’t need one.  Sparta will never be in a trailer park during my watch.
  5. I will install an outlet to receive shower water from a rain water collection system yet to be designed.  Sparta’s roof seems a natural area to divert precipitation (with a few minor modifications)  and it will flow to a 1,000 gallon exterior tank ($519, plus the cost of fittings, valves, pump, etc.)
  6. Shower and sink water will be heated with an on-demand propane system of modest capacity (military-esque showers).
  7. I will pull out the 12v navigation light wires and put them in a location with easier access.

Even the weakened sections of the floor give up stubbornly

Three of these in tandem.

Detour gray waste around toilet flange

Inspiration

Finally…the rain has let up and I can reach Sparta without waders.  Although my work on the floors has continued, it has been sluggish due in large part to the foul weather.  It has been a bit demoralizing and dampening of spirit.  But, alas, with impeccable timing my daughter sent me a lovely, hand-crafted wallet as a gift.  It depicts a restored Spartan trailer in a bucolic setting and the words “Keep your eyes on the prize”.    Talk about a shot in the arm!  Let’s get back to work and let the sun shine in.  Thanks, Leslie.

Where form and function collide

As I continue to remove compromised sections of flooring, I am at a cross roads – the point where decisions must be made between authenticity and utility.  I have learned in this restoration process that Spartan trailers brought back to original condition (fixtures, design and interior appointments) are more highly esteemed by collectors and fetch much more money at resale.  Although resale is not a primary motivation of mine, value-added is a consideration as I proceed and I don’t want to do anything to Sparta that turns her into a white elephant (Have you ever seen some of these remodels with vinyl windows, cheesey wood paneling, exterior paint jobs, etc.?  Big mistake).  But at some point resale has to be tempered by what will work for me as I contemplate life in Sparta – esp. living off-grid.

This brings me to the subject of water – where to get it, where to store it, how to move it and how to recycle/remove it.  Spartan trailers were designed to be docked with access to shore power, fresh water and waste disposal.  I, on the other hand, intend to park Sparta on a remote piece of land in the Sierra Nevada Mountains with none of the above.  I will produce my own power, collect and store my own water and figure out what to do with it when I’m done.  So tearing up the bathroom floor has me wondering what to do about water storage tanks (fresh, gray and black) and the network of pipes connecting them.  There is also the question of moving the water (for example, the shower and sink water flow may require electric pumps.)  Energy conservation has to be factored in here to accommodate my largely solar-dependant lifestyle.  Without going into all the ruminations of my twisted mind, let me just share concisely what I am considering at this point:

  • Place shower and sink water storage tanks in the ceiling, utilizing gravity flow (possible pump-assist) and maybe using the roof to collect rain water flow (this would not be potable).
  • Install seperate fresh drinking water tank below kitchen with seperate tap and refillable from exterior inlet.
  • Install gray water tank to collect shower and sink runoff with exterior outlet for watering plants, etc.
  • Eliminate black water tank and install composting toilet.

There are lots of tank options for sale out there, both ready-made and custom.  Composting toilets are also a great option.

Water takes are available in many shapes and sizes

 

Bye-bye flush toilet.

With apologies to purists, at some point plastic become the most practical solution.