Remember Your Roots and Keep Them Colored

The joys of motorhome renovation ... or not

By Trena Eiden
Posted 6/8/21

I received an education this summer, somewhat free of charge, and I didn’t even have to go to college.

I renovated a 1984 Fleetwood motorhome we got from Gar’s folks, and the first …

This item is available in full to subscribers.

Please log in to continue

E-mail
Password
Log in
Remember Your Roots and Keep Them Colored

The joys of motorhome renovation ... or not

Posted

I received an education this summer, somewhat free of charge, and I didn’t even have to go to college.

I renovated a 1984 Fleetwood motorhome we got from Gar’s folks, and the first tidbit I gleaned was that renovation and ruination both start with R. In offering it to us, they were being kind, and it turned out to be a blessing. But there were days I loved them for their generous hearts, and days I wanted to murder them in their sleep.

When spring arrived in the South, we stored our camper in a facility that guaranteed its safety from anything except wind, water, pestilence or marauders. But it was cheap. Actually, we liked the place, though, after dropping it off, I tearfully looked back, feeling I was throwing my toddler to the wolves. Gar was skipping joyfully while whistling a catchy tune, happy he didn’t have to drag it back home, 1,900 miles from Florida to Wyoming. 

All our married life, we’ve been weekend campers, so without an RV roof over my head, Gar mentioned using our tent. I thought I hit him with the bedside lamp, but it must have been wistful thinking, because when I looked again, he and the lamp were both still upright. Gar’s dad saved our marriage — and possibly Gar’s life — by offering us an older motorhome he no longer had use for. With his encouraging, albeit misguided, “It runs,” we went to look at it. Now lean in, I’m about to impart some wisdom: “Run” is a relative term.

At first glance, I didn’t despise it, which was a real plus and a genuine surprise to Gar. It had been stored a long time — like maybe since it had been driven off the showroom floor — and was in need of an interior update. Looking back, if we’d crushed it to the axles and did a rebuild, it might have taken a lot less time. 

Going on Gar’s dad’s “it runs” statement, we expected just that. Not even, but 10,000 hours later, and about that much money, the final part, a fan clutch, was installed in Gar’s domain with expert Robert’s help. Eureka! We had an engine. 

In need of an abundance of elbow grease, which I steadily supplied, I began by Googling, “if I should” and “how to” remove contact paper. The internet assured me, before painting, I must take it off and by using a blow dryer, it would “come away with relative ease.”

Those lying SOBs. After hours on end of pulling, tearing and wrenching, the flesh from my knuckles was primarily what came away, and after much teeth gritting, the contact paper. Then, and here’s when my neighbor concluded I had an anger issue, the wood underneath ripped away with the contact paper.

I considered the walls destroyed, unless painting over shreds and splinters was the look I was going for, which it was not. With no choice, I spackled, primed and painted, then moved along to caulking, where my work really got iffy. I’m a perfectionist at heart, strive to do my best and am not satisfied until that’s achieved, but with caulking, I shouldn’t.

Gar came to inspect, and I read his thoughts: “We might have to burn it down.” Caulking when you’re clueless, will cause your husband to be a little more disappointed in you, when he didn’t think it possible, but stood corrected. He gallantly volunteered to redo and I graciously accepted.

I made curtains, reupholstered the cushions and painted a blind, which succumbed to my assault and never worked again. Obviously, it wanted to remark, “This may be the dumbest thing you’ve done to date.” Finishing my part first, while Gar’s head was still under the engine’s hood, I, without mirth, hissed, “My fingers are shredded from the inside work and my knees are mangled from the roof’s elastomeric application, so my expectation is, if you can’t get this running, you’ll have to pull it to campsites with the pickup.” He sighed, praying God would rapture me before sundown. 

My advice to ancient motorhome renovators? Do nothing. Learn to love brown. Never paint a blind. Sell a kidney and hire a caulking professional. Put a bomb in the toilet of those who tell you, AFTER THE FACT, “I painted over my contact paper and it turned out beautifully.” 

One night, during the renovation, I dreamt the motorhome was bugged. Whether Russia, the White House or local police, they heard a lot of swearing. A lot.

Comments