aka: Is That a Screw, Brad, Bolt, Rivet, Nail, or Staple?

There are some serious anatomical issues with–ahem–undressing Petunia, both with my body and hers.

Dear God I didn’t know I could get this dirty. I mean this literally: I’ve never been so physically, head-to-toe dirty. And smelly. With random bits of “things” stuck in my hair. Try crawling underneath a trailer that has 57 years of wood rot and an accumulation of dust, old wasp nests, spider webs, mud, rust and splinters. Then you’ll know what I mean.

Before I go any further, let me just admit I’ve come indoors for a lunch break. I get so focused on Petunia that I forget to eat (not usually a problem for me, like, EVER). I come inside so ravenous I could eat pork-and-beans out of the can. Except my hands are so sore from removing rivets–I mean screws, no wait, bolts (jeez)–that I can’t use a can-opener.

I’ve taken to putting my hands in the freezer on a regular basis. And not just because it’s 80-some degrees out (though the recent heat wave is a additional incentive, believe me). Portland, Oregon gets a TON of rain, so you’ll never ever catch me complaining about the heat. Bring. It. On. That said, it’s freaking HOT out there. But that’s not why I’m prone to fondling frozen foods these days.

No. My delicate/middle-aged/desk job hands have ratcheted, unscrewed, pried, hammered and dug out about 172,414 brads, bolts, rivets, screws, nails and staples. And I’m only half-way done. Let me just say that the “arduous” task of banging on a keyboard right now–accompanied by potato chips straight from the bag–is a most welcome respite.

A sampling of the screws, brads, bolts, rivets, nails, and staples on Petunia’s exterior, and the tools it takes to wrench them loose.

But, back to Petunia.

I may have mentioned this–because I’m obsessed about this in the way one obsesses about a cruel and unjust world–vintage travel trailers are built from the inside out. The building you’re sitting in right now–unless it’s a vintage RV, of course–was built from the outside in. Like normal, just and righteous buildings should be built. With RVs, however, the structural integrity some from the cabinets (who knew?) and everything else is built from that point outward.

So if you want to beef up the insulation and the electrical, replace wood rot, or repair the interior walls that have been damaged by water (can you say “black mold”?) or do literally anything else to the trailer more complicated than changing a light bulb, you’re stripping the thing to the bones. Yeah.

But back to me.

I’m extremely grateful that it only takes five minutes to drive to the local Ace Hardware store. I’m even more grateful that these “helpful hardware folks” actually know what they’re talking about. (Although I think I saw one of them duck for cover when I walked in the door yesterday.)

Yeah, I’m there, like, every other day with one or another problem, question or new tool requirement. I used to indulge myself in Italian leather flats. Now I invest in power tools. I also used to change my clothes before I went into the store mid-project. How quaint.

Speaking of tools, it turns out I need to replace the 57-year-old water tank. As was put to me on a vintage trailer forum: “Who knows what’s in that thing?” Oh God. But here’s what’s worse: See that “fill” spigot below/left? That fill thingy has to be removed from the pipe that leads to the water tank (that dirty blue thing below/right).

Left: Exterior water tank fill thingy. Right: Interior water tank.

So here are the instructions I got from the vintage trailer forum (my new BFFs, along with Bill from Ace Hardware and John from Miller Paints):

…cut the water pipe to the tank to remove the fill. Once cut, you can put the pipe in a vice, heat it up very well and unscrew the fill off the pipe…

Vintage Trailer Talk

I seriously love these guys. It only took me six readings of those instructions and eight hours of sleep to figure out what they meant.

So, back to the water tank.

Has anyone seen my blowtorch?