Tag Archives: avion

Rock Guard Rescue- PT 3

For those following our Rock Guard 3R’s (rescue, restore, reinstall) we are on the final step.  Installation of our beautiful, newly rehab’d rock guard we salvaged off of a 1983-84 crunched Avion we found by sheer luck not more than 1.5 hours from our house and in a campground bone yard in a tiny town in VT.

Here is the before….and after…..then…..”THE REST OF THE STORY” ( yes, dating myself)

Below (left) is soon to be salvaged rock guard off a ’83-84 found in VT, (right) is completely rehabbed and now rehung back onto our 1973 Avion.  Note the “bling factor” and read on to see how and what we did!

Obviously the first steps of this rehab was literally just elbow grease to take off years of grime.  You can see all the steps we did including photos and videos in our Phase 1 & 2 blog posts.  We chose a high gloss finished on the interior and exterior of the guard which was professionally painted and finished by a local auto body detailer, Mac the Knife on Quaker Road in Queensbury NY.  He loved the diversion this project gave him over the long Adirondack winter!

The final phase 3 of this big project has been to reinstall the guard.  But there were some issues.    The hanging track of our original (the part installed to nose of trailer) was smaller than the “new” rock guard.  In fact it was 7 inches longer.

We determined that this longer length was actually preferable as it would take more of the pressure off those areas that historically start to show stress cracks on countless Avion’s we have seen (yes believe this was a 45 yr old design flaw on part of original manufacturers).

This meant, we had to first remove our original hanging track.  A little scary since we had never worked with rivets, etc.  But as usual Kevin had watched 100’s of hours on “how to rivet” on YouTube, purchased a few books and then all necessary equipment from Vintage Trailer Supply.  He felt confident in what he had to do.

First step:  Drill out old rivets holding hanging track on our rig.  Old track drilled out and removed.  Clean up of area really well is very important. We use a “bone tool” we buy at the auto parts store to remove old grime, butyl tape, any sticky stuff.  This one works perfect, it has a flat scraper end and a rounded end.  It is actually a hard nylon plastic which will not scratch your aluminum but give you the ability to get stuff off…even smushed bugs too!   Kev is “all about the prep!”

Installed 3/4 inch Butyl tape strip on back edge of new track before installation.

Install replacement (longer) hanging track onto trailer front.  Use stainless steel rivets for install, use Parbond to cover over each rivet head to prevent any possible water penetration.  Parbond along seam that runs along top of guard hanger where attaches to trailer.  This is a critical step.  When riveting or screwing anything into the skin of your trailer, you create a possible way for water to eek in behind and roll down into the holes made by the rivets or screws.  Using Parbond, (we use silver/aluminum colored and and our handy dandy dental hygiene syringe applicator (Amazon, 8 for $10) to a make perfect thin line edges.

We tried reusing as many of the original holes we could from where the original guard track was hung.  Unused holes were pre-filled with Parbond completely sealing them.  Kevin snipped off the tines of the rivets and used the rivet shaver to smooth them down.  Photo above with my gorgeous purple gloves shows rivets before trimming all of them.  Note the small magnetic level to ensure you are keeping the track placement level.  You can see some of the Butyl tape has softened and eeked slightly below the track.  No worries, as this will be unseen and underneath the top of the guard.  Better to have a great seal.

We let the track sit for two days to allow Parbond to dry out pretty well.  Then time to hang the rock guard.  NOTE:  All arm hardware had been removed before hanging so it was not in the way.  WE ONLY REMOVED THE ACTUAL ARMS, NOT THE RECEIVING HARDWARE since that had been re- riveted on and reinforced during the rehab by our auto body person!

We also found that the hardware locations on the NEW guard were not exact to our original.  So we did have to re position the “plunger” receiver on the bottom of the window on one side (only) about 1/4 ” out so that the receiver slot, see right photo below would meet the plunger pin.  Plunger pin hardware (bottom photo) is the one on streetside, note parbond behind, on top and in screw holes before reinstalling with stainless screws.  To re position the curbside one, Kevin drilled the holes into slot shaped and pushed the bracket to align as needed.  Once parbonded and screwed in place it is secure.

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How to Hang:  Carefully we hung the new rock guard

NOTE:  done as a two person job only please!!!  lift guard parallel to the ground and both people using step ladders, you slide the track on top of guard into receiver hanging track that is installed on trailer, slide guard across length of hanging track.

Hanging Problem!  Once hanging the guard- we noticed that our new guard was not seated very securely in its track.

This was the track salvaged with the guard so we knew it was right (and longer which was good) but for some reason it was way too easy to pop out when lifted up.  To combat this we studied the lifting process closely, watching the relationships between the track on rig and track on guard.  We realized there was too much “play” in the track on rig and that we needed to put something back there so that the bent “J” portion of the track on guard could not rotate back and the guard come unhinged should we hit some pot hole, etc. on the road.

We found some “U” shaped aluminum in the exact length needed at Lowes.  Cheap enough, under $15.  You can see it in photo below just in front of the wood strips we used as shims to force it close to the hanger on the guard.  We then used stainless screws and screwed this track (parbonded over each) 5 places on this track thereby securing it into the hanger track affixed to the trailer.  This process allows the rotation of the guard perfectly but it cannot slip upwards and pop out unexpectedly.

Below you can also see some of the added steel reinforcement strip that we had our auto body fellow fabricate to provide additional rigidity and support to the top of the plastic rock guard itself.  As mentioned previously, these guards are notorious for cracking where the arm hinges are due to years of stress on that particular part when traveling down the road.  These reinforcements are on the outside and inside so the plastic guard is sandwiched between.  They are applied with rivets and were painted at same time as guard so all match, inside and out.

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Here is the results, we are very pleased and safe in the knowledge that the guard is not going anywhere with our filler aluminum track safety addition.  You can see the reinforcement steel strip clearly on the video below too.  Obviously we removed the wood shims after this part of the project was tested and done.

 

Some still shots of the aluminum U track we added.  The last image shows the track before we installed this added piece.  You can clearly see all the “play” space that was there and needed filling up to prevent the guard’s track from jumping out by accident.

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Next came the re-installation of the support arms.  Here Kevin is showing a prelim of how we plan to add additional support arms when set up in camp.  First we needed to order additional arms, and do some changes to hardware.

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We had decided to copy a fellow long time Avioner we met at the Silver Avion Fellowship Rally in IN in 2017 and ordered two additional awning lift arms from Vintage Trailer Supply.  These would be used in conjunction with our originals to create add on support arms when we are camped.  More on that in a minute.

The new sets (sold separately) from Vintage Trailer Supply were a little shorter than our originals but would work.  Kevin drilled out the receiver hardware off the new ones opting to use our original hinge hardware to mount in its original location and holes on our window frames.  He used stainless screws, lock washers and nuts to install the arms to the hardware rather than riveting like was originally done.  Using screws allows for adjustments, replacing or repairs on the fly far easier than riveting.  Below is original mounting bracket that goes on window frame but with the NEW guard arm from VTS installed with stainless screw and lock washer, nut.

 

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We applied Parbond again behind the hardware before installing back on to the window uprights.  Using the original mounting hardware we could reuse the original holes which is always preferred over making more holes in your Avion.

Once we did this, we reattached to the bracket on inside bottom of guard.  These arm brackets stay attached permanently and are adjusted using wing nuts and washers on stainless screws (1 inch #10) so that the guard can be raised or lowered to just about any height.

The “new” old arms, now with just holes on both ends will be used for additional support for the guard when we are set up in a campsite.  These are screwed on with washers and nuts each time they are applied.  We strongly feel that this additional support (downward) provide superior support for the guard and take away some of the stress on the permanently mounted cantilever ones that hold up and out the guard.  We will simply store them in a little pouch and inside our exterior battery box so they are handy.

Finishing up the new support arm system and we are all done with this major rehab project.  Notice we have repainted the underside of our rock guard in a lite off white, high gloss.  What this does is it serves to reflect back out the light coming from our lamp (when guard is closed) and also to create a far brighter feeling when guard is open.  Previously, the back of the guard was the medium dark grey of the plastic composite material of the guard.  This darker color absorbed the light rather than reflecting it.  This small change to white has made a huge effect and one we highly encourage. Even just spray painting the underside white with over the counter high gloss paint yourself will help if you do not want to spend the money on the whole auto body finish like we did.

 

There is nothing more heartwarming and welcoming to us than the Avion Glow!!

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“We travel not to escape life….but for life not to escape us”

Safe journeys!

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Winter Storage Tips-Protecting your “Innards”!

We are among tens of thousands of RV owners who due to many circumstances (work being ours) we cannot just pick up stakes and move to follow the “70’s”  (temperatures that is!).  That day WILL COME….but just not now!

So we, like many will do the annual ritual of putting our RV “to bed” in winter storage.

I thought I would share with our followers some tips and pointers that we have employed and picked up along the way from other veteran RVers.

New to our routine this year is the employment of low voltage LED tube rope lights on the floor underneath the perimeter of our 1973 Avion 28′ travel trailer.

In following one of our all time favorite fulltimers, AStreaminLife.com, Steve and Courtney have promoted the use of under trailer lighting to ward off mice and other varmints when camping in the great outdoors.  Using their suggestion, we have purchased solar powered spot lights (check out AStreaminLife’s Amazon shop for the ones we purchased based on their excellent reviews)  to use when boondocking and then the above pictured LED Rope lights when we have electric hook ups available.

Well, so we got to thinking that if this has worked for them in the wild….why would it not also serve as a good deterrent indoors?  Since our RV storage garage (we rent near our house) has electricity (and we pay a little more for that each month) why not use this low voltage LED rope lighting we purchased to use while camping….during the winter too!  I akin the look to a bit of a “STAR WARS” effect!

We have consistently put rat/mouse bait traps in and around this garage for the past two seasons where we have stored our Pewter Palace.  This has been more of a preventative action but we have seen where the little green bait blocks have shown some “tooth wear” from nibbling varmints so yes, they are there.  BUT we have, knock on wood, not had ONE bit of any hint of varmint intrusion into our RV itself.

A few things you will need from the store before you dive into winter storage prep:

  • BOUNCE Brand scented dryer sheets (get the big box!)
  • Clorox (or similar with color-safe bleach) brand pop up wipes
  • Scented draw string tall kitchen garbage bags
  • LED Rope lights, white light bulbs- not colored
  • RV Antifreeze (the pink stuff!)
  • Plastic box type varmint bait boxes and the green hard bait blocks (these do not trap the varmint and let them rot in there, they bait them to the green block which then eventually kills them when they go to see a water source away from your rig!)baitbox

NOTE:  for the purpose of this blog post, I am not going to go through the entire black and grey tank dumping and prepping procedure or the system flushing for long term storage.  I am purely focusing on interior tips for winter storage to protect from varmints and any damage to interiors.

A few basic and kinda “no brainer” tips to prepping your RV for winter storage:

Remove ALL and ANY types of food stuffs, oils, herbs/spices -ANYTHING that acute little noses could sniff out and consider a potential food source during bleak, long winters.

Remove all liquid, aerosols, pumps and semi liquid items including canned goods because freezing will cause them to burst and create a total mess (not to mention serve as a glorious buffet dinner for varmints)!

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Our throw pillows, lap blankets, table clothes bagged in scented bags with Bounce sheets inside too!

Remove any rags, towels, pot holders that may contain even trace of oils, food handling, etc.   Varmints love to nest in cloth and paper goods like paper towels, napkins so remove them too and use them at home over the winter or store for next summer…..if you leave anything hang it on a hook or put in a scented trash bag with a Bounce brand scented dryer sheet in side bag with items.

Wipe off all counters, refrigerator inside and out, stove top, table tops, sink, dish drainer, cutting boards, pots/pans with a Clorox bleach brand pop up style wipes.

More about the cook stove– be sure to lift the stove top off, remove any crumbs, food particles, grease where the mechanicals are and wipe down entire area, grates, gas pipes, burners, etc with Clorox wipes,

Use a Clorox (or similar) brand pop up wipe to go over interior and exterior of refrigerator, toilet, sink, tub, all handles in kitchen and bathroom areas in particular.

2018-10-21-13.53.39.jpgWhy Bounce Brand?  We have sworn by the Bounce Brand of scented dryer sheets for over two decades now when camping doing our living history reenacting to keep away varmints AND crawling/flying bugs and insects.  Doing this type of camping we use a canvas tent, a canvas floor cloth (that is not connected to the tent sides like moderns are) and have often slept on air mattresses on the floor.  We are sometimes camping for 3-8 days and in all sorts of open fields, woodlands and in all sorts of weather conditions.  Bounce sheets are excellent for putting around the perimeter of the interior of a tent and they really DO keep insects away.  A benefit is that the inside of the tent always smells nice too!  We put sheets under our bedding, around the interior perimeter of the tent itself and inside our clothing bags/boxes.  It serves to rights that Bounce’s ability to ward off insects and varmints in a tent will do the same in a garage and RV!  We have used them successfully when we owned a Class A motor home for five years and now in our Avion for past two years. (knock off brands have not proven themselves nearly as effective!)

Prepping your bedding and cushioned areas:

We strongly recommend tilting up all mattresses and cushions that are in your sleeping and dining areas if you cannot or chose not to remove these completely and store them at home over winter.  Not only does this provide less of a “hacienda of dark seclusion” for any varmint intruders to build a nest, but it also provides far more air circulation around such materials thereby inhibiting mold, mildew, etc from building up on both the cushion/mattress and the boards that lay underneath them.

Doing this we have (knock on wood here…) never had any issues.

Below you will see on the left photo, our dinette cushions standing on long end and one of our twin mattresses on its side.  Note the other bagged items and placement of dryer sheets all around too!  These bags do contain comforters, extra throw pillows, beach towels.  We DO take our bed sleeping pillows home for winter storage and do not leave them on the RV.

What about Clothing Storage over the Winter in the RV?

We do keep a complete set of camping clothing on our RV at all times so we are ready to go at a moments notice.  We keep things organized by putting items in plastic lock lid style shoe storage boxes (they fit best in our over bed cupboards) and under bed lock lidded plastic totes, so winter prep is actual pretty minimal.

Here are some additional steps we do take for winter storage for clothing/dressing areas:

  • Bounce sheets get put inside the floor of all drawers and then on top of any items left in drawers.  Bounce Sheets also get placed inside every overhead storage cupboard and placed in every scented trash bag that is used for linen storage.
  • I am sure to remove any liquids, eg. perfume, deodorants, mousse, hair spray cans/pumps, etc. due to potential for freezing/bursting. Check bathroom areas and remove from all over and under cupboards from bath area too!
  • We remove any leather shoes/sandals due to potential for dusty mold and leather could be a food source in a pinch for varmints.  I leave things like rubber flip flops, crocs, etc.

Final Steps… that are often forgotten!

Remove ALL batteries from any flashlights, headlamps, portable radios, clocks, alarm clocks, kitchen devices, etc. and TAKE THEM HOME and use them over the winter.

Ensure you have correctly used RV antifreeze in your systems and retain some visible in the toilet bowl and put an extra dose down each sink drain to ensure there is some sitting in traps and bends in piping.

Be sure you have put Bounce sheets also in all interior AND exterior storage/mechanical areas like water heater box, oven fan area, exterior refrig access panel area, sewer service area, exterior storage areas that go underneath dinettes or beds, etc.  Here you can see our furnace and sewer pipe vent area being protected with dryer sheets.

Some notes on exterior/interior prep…

If storing your RV outside in winter the issue of “to cover or not to cover” is going to be yours.  It is recommended that all aluminum campers like our Avion and Airstreams NOT be covered because covers can adversely scratch the surface.  That being said, we do know Avion owners who have had decent luck with covers-much will depend on where you live.  If you do use a cover, be sure you allow sufficient ventilation so that mold and mildew do not happen inside the RV.

If your RV is outside in winter, be sure to check pressures, treat the tires with tire protectant and cover them from daylight with either a tire cover and/or sheet of plywood, etc.

Close all curtains to prevent fading of cushions and interior finishes-especially if wood interior like ours is.  If you have those pseudo fabric type pleated horizontal blinds I believe it is NOT recommended to drop them down as the pleats will stretch out and the shade will not look or work well in future. Perhaps in this case, if no curtains are available to draw closed, then take some old sheet, cut it up and place it over the valance and hang down over window to prevent interior fading while keeping the fabric blind up and pleated for storage.

We do not recommend installing Reflectix or similar silver insulation batting on windows because you may cause undo condensation on interior of windows unless you keep ceiling vents open to allow air exchange.  Plus, using Reflectix inside on windows will create a totally dark cave inside your RV which is what varmints would just love!

Spray all locks (storage bays, doors, hitch locks, spare tire locks, bike locks, etc) with your preference of lubricant to keep in good shape when not used for length of time.

  • Put RV house batteries on trickle charger.
  • Chock your wheels, sounds crazy if you are on a level garage, but its just one of those things Kevin is fixated about…but its good practice because once you get in the behavior of always chocking your wheels you are less apt to forget when really needed!

You have NO IDEA who may be able to access your storage area……why take a chance?

  • Lock your RV doors even if in a locked storage garage.
  • Apply your hitch lock even if RV is locked in storage garage.

FINAL NOTES…..

As possible visit your baby at least once a month over the long winter— just to do a quick visual check around the inside and outside and to hug her and let her know you miss her and cannot wait to get back taking her camping again!

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Safe Travels!  We LOVE to hear your feedback about this post or any of our blog posts!

One life..Live it!

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Kevin & Luisa Sherman

Rock Guard Rescue-Avion Trailer, PT 1

We purchased our 1973 Avion in September 2016.  Quite a birthday present for me if I do say so!

Our rock guard (original to 1973) was in decent shape, with the logo faded and some stress cracks at the angle support hinge area on top.  Both of these “age-related illnesses” are ones that are very common and frequently seen in Avions especially those pre-1980’s. (you can easily see the cracks in photo below).

The previous owner to us had done a decent repair job on that right crack by reinforcing with a piece of steel behind it and filling in the crack on the outside with Parbond or something similar, but now after two years of our use we started to see the left side begin to show more of a pronounced stress crack too.

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These cracks in the solid formed hard plastic original rock guards like ours are common due to the sheer weight of the guard and the jiggling, torquing and bouncing it experiences when rolling down the road even though it is locked in at the bottom.  Hey, and our baby has done Alaska 2xs, California at least 4 times and Florida annually for at least 6 years—so after a total of 45 years and having only these cracks in her is truly not bad!

In May of 2018 we had taken our Avion out to Cayo Repair in MI to have some work done and on the punch list was to sure up that left crack to prevent further damage and to ensure that it would hold, at least for a few more years.  Chuck Cayo did a decent job with it which you can see on photo below where the rivet stud backs are showing through the horizontal piece of sandwiched steel plate.  But we knew at some point the inevitable question would have to be addressed to repair again or replace completely.

In the photo below you will also see where the two support hinges mount up underneath the top inside of the rock guard.  These hinges bear the full weight of the guard when opened (as shown) but also lock in place in the pull latches on bottom edge center of window to lock the guard in place for towing mode.  Thus all the stress is there despite the long tubular hinge that connects from the guard itself to the rig.

The photo below clearly shows the system by which the rock guard is “hung” to attach to the trailer body. (also the horizontal steel plate repair by Cayo) .The body has a receiver tube as we call it that the guard slides into from one side.

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It takes two people to effectively and safely remove or install the guard to the rig using this system.  The sheer weight of these original guards is a lot.

Newer replacement guards are being manufactured by Cayo RV Repair in MI and some other private owners these days. I believe they are made of fiberglass and therefore far lighter which is a good thing, however the ones we have seen are all black which we do not care for at all.   We prefer our muted grey which blends in with the aluminum body of the trailer better.

Here is a good photo for comparison, ours being on the left with its original as is condition, the one on the right is the fiberglass black replacement.

 

To Repair or Replace….THAT is the Question!

We knew we had only really two options with our ever growing cracks in our original existing rock guard.

  1. Bite the bullet and purchase one of the new fiberglass knockoffs (around $700-800 +S/H)
  2. Try to once again do repairs to our existing one in hopes to sure it up sufficiently for the wear and tear it would eventually get once we begin full timing in a few years.

Never Underestimate a Sunday drive to VT!

It brought us a TREASURE FIND or TWO!

One sunny Saturday in July 2018 I suggested to Kevin it would be nice to go over to nearby VT to scope out some potential campgrounds where we may wish to stay in coming years.  We like to physically see the campground and identify specific sites that we take note of for future calls for reservations.  We wanted places that would be grandkid-friendly and relatively easy to get to distance for us and for my daughter and son-in-law to drive to as they would be transporting the two grandchildren to us for a camping weekend.

Living in eastern upstate NY we can be to VT in a matter of 40 minutes.  Our trip that day took us over through Cambridge NY and then into the Bennington and Manchester VT areas of mid-state/western VT.  Using just my google map locator asking “campgrounds near me” we found several close by with no problem.  Our third one to visit though was the charm.  Not because we would want to end up camping there (no amenities, mostly all very run down, entrenched seasonals) but because on our way out the driveway Kevin shouted STOP! (I was driving) “WAIT…THERE IS AN AVION!”.  Yes, it was, abandoned and sitting among wreck, trash, bits and pieces from other trailers.  It was the campground owners graveyard of discards from two generations of ownership.  Yeah, they did not ever throw anything away!  Thank goodness!!

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We pulled off the drive and into the graveyard.  Wrangled over debris and checked her out.  Appeared to be a 1988 but the rock guard looked really, really similar in design and size to ours.  The poor rig had had a tree fall on her, breaking her center spine and was left in the graveyard to fill with rain, leaves, etc. etc. and used for storage, sort of, for perhaps a decade or more.  But the rock guard was crack free, moveable and hopefully would be ours!  We did have a tape measure with us, took measurements and tried texting and calling Cayo and posting on the Avion FB pages quickly to see if anyone could answer our question about if size of this one was same as our ’73 which of course was safely and out of reach back in NY.  A couple online FB Avioners replied they thought it would fit, but if the price was right, even if it did not fit ours, there was surely a market to sell it to another Avion owner who could use it.  That was enough security for us!

The owner of the campground came by driving his backhoe to gawk at these unfamiliars climbing around his Avion.  No worries, nice guy and Kevin quickly sparked up a perfect, nonthreatening conversation to allay the owners fears that we were some city slickers.  We are not, we are North Country folk too and Kevin knows his mechanicals, trucks, etc. to dazzle any New England car/truck junky.  After a very short and amenable conversation the deal was struck, tools offered to assist us in the guard’s removal and within about 15 minutes the new rock guard was being hoisted by Kevin and I into our Suburban.  Reddy our Cavalier Spaniel who had come along for the ride was not quite sure what this big canopy was coming over top her bed!

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This ends Part 1 of our ROCK GUARD RESCUE.

BUT THERE’S MORE LUCK TO BE FOUND!  Never underestimate what gems you may find on a Sunday drive!

Not more than 15 minutes down the road from rescuing this rock guard did we see a much earlier Avion (can you spot it in first photo below?) at a horse show along the road.

We veered quickly there to see that too!  And to our sheer delight, it belonged to a woman who ran a mobile embroidery business who was actually based out of CT.  Turns out it was a 1974, 23′ Travelcade. She had pretty much gutted the inside but had done some tasteful redecorating in prep for her boutique.

She was making custom designed hats, shirts, jackets for the horsey set.  She needed an awning for her new Avion soon to be traveling boutique on wheels.  Perfect!  We struck a deal to trade our old Carefree Awning system hardware for some custom designed clothing using our trademarked Avion artwork that we had commissioned an artist to do for us in 2017.  This was truly our double lucky day!

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My next post will be on the Rehab phase! Until then…safe journeys!

Luisa

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Some of Our Favorite & Inspirational Bloggers/Vloggers for the RV Life

Over the last 9-10 years, Kevin and I have put considerable time into researching, planning and beginning to execute a thoughtful plan towards our goal of “going full time” RVing.  In this blog post we tell you about four of our most favorite RV bloggers/vloggers and include a little about them and links to their blogs and YouTube channels.  They are entertaining, inspirational, educational and oh yeah…..travel to amazing destinations!

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This is not our rig, but very similar to our first RV a 1998 Itasca Sunrise, 32′ Class A.  No slides, under powered, but wetted our appetite for more!

Originally and shortly after we sold our Class A 32′ motor home back in 2012 we realized then–after she was not in our driveway, how much we missed life on the road.  Albeit at that time, and it continues, we only get to do long weekends and the occasional big trip of a week or two around the eastern half of the USA but—each time we do we are more and more convinced this is the right path for us.    We also know it is not for everyone.

Along our journey we have found some truly inspirational friends in bloggers/vloggers who have chronicled their similar journeys from the decision to forego the traditional and head into the non-conventional life of making a rolling home….your only home.  We also have learned there are many variances in between this.  Some people live a portion of their year on their RV while returning to their sticks N bricks for the rest of the time.  More times than not, these are snowbirds who fly south in the winter RV in tow (or behind the wheel) and spend a warm and sunny February in FL, AZ or TX.

imagesThere are others who “escape” the brutal hot sizzling summers of those same places for their “camp in the northern woods, cottage on a New Hampshire lake or the beach family compound on Cape Cod or the rugged shores of Maine.  For many and varied reasons they prefer (or cannot quite imagine not having) a structure to call home base.

For us….that decision was easily made.  We did not want to be tied to the maintenance of our rolling home AND the maintenance, cost and distance filled with concerns about the safety, etc. of a northern sticks N bricks home base.  We would rather have what we own on our back so to speak and know that where ever we wanted to be…we would be and that could change from year to year, season to season depending on where the wind and whims blew us.  I personally have owned one home or another since 1982 and I am more than ready to not have that responsibility.  We simply do not want to deal with frozen pipes, switching out storm windows or raking leaves in our retirement years.  Been there….done that….done!

So we watched, learned, read, and chatted with many who have made similar decisions such as ours to “go full time”.  This is not a decision we have made on a whim.  But don’t be fooled, we have some family and friends who think we are nuts….and others-like my adult children….who are totally supportive and know we will succeed.

After being “RV-less” for about three years the itch became unbearable.  We started falling for Airstreams but did not want to do a total restore and ones in road worthy, camping shape were out of our price range.  Quite by accident we stumbled upon Avions.  Their iconic aluminum, rounded exteriors, quality interior and exterior build and their reputation for excellent tow-ability had us sold.  It took us another two years to find one we wanted….and although we had anticipated having to fly across the country to buy one, we found one on Craig’s List right in VT not more than 15 minutes from my daughter and son-in-law’s house!

IMG_1507168528568We purchased our 1973 Avion, 28′ LaGrande in September, 2016 (some Birthday gift for me eh??!!) and we have never have looked back.  Each month we grow more and more fond of her.  We sold our house in Oct. 2017 and moved into a townhouse apartment all under the methodical plan of incrementally doing our downsizing exercises in prep for full time RV life when we retire.

Below are a few of our very favorite bloggers/vloggers and for various reasons we have noted underneath each one.  Along the way we have internalized and put into practice some of their suggestions and methods, and in other cases it forced us to have heart to hearts with each other to realize….yeah, that may have worked for them…but we will be more comfortable doing it “our way”.  Watching literally hundreds of hours of YouTube videos (we subscribe to most of our fav’s so we don’t miss an episode) to reading countless articles and books on the topic….we have grown in our understanding of what life is like on the road…and what we as a couple expect from the journey, each other and life in general.  It has been a good way to learn…together to prepare for this next chapter.

Here are our favorite bloggers/vloggers.  They are not in any particular order because each offers us different windows on life on the road that are equally important in our planning phases.  You will notice a bit of a pattern here where 3 of our 4 fav’s are also Airstream owners.  Similar enough to our Avion…we all love round aluminum corners!  LOL

courtneyAndI-1A Streamin’ Life:  Steve and Courtney.  Now mid- 30-somethings who figured out a way to retire early (31 & 34) and we have followed since their decision to sell their two houses  a couple years ago (had recently married), sell their stuff, purchase an Airstream (an older one, 30′) and hit the road full time.  Both were still working the first year in their Airstream, living stationery in an RV park in Tucson, AZ while preparing their rig (and themselves) for hitting the road full time.  They are level headed, practical and very good money savers and managers.  Their blog is full of helpful videos on managing trip expenses, planning big trips and week long trips, downsizing to what is really needed and what is not.  They travel with their two dogs which also has given us tips on travel with our dog, Reddy as well.  Courtney and Steve are a terrific resource for how to determine your financial needs to go full time, save up for early retirement and more.  The recently launched a terrific online course to teach others how to plan Epic RV Adventures for more about that click here.   To check out more about Courtney & Steve and their adventures around the USA visit…..Their Blog/website     Their YouTube Channel

P1466425Less Junk, More Journey:  Marisa and Nathan.  Once again, these are “kids” as we refer to them as…basically Marisa is one year younger than my son, and Nathan is three years older than my daughter.  I am sure in some way I live vicariously through them and their journeys trying to imagine them as extended family.  Kevin and I will often refer to them as “the kids”.  Their blog has some terrific, easy to navigate pages like their FAQ that really gives you a terrific way to see their answers to many questions you may have about how they made their decision to go full time, steps they took, etc.  Their young daughter, Hensley is a year younger than our grandson Lucas and a year older than our grandson Sawyer.  She has been on the road since infancy and it is so fun to watch her explore, learn and travel with her fabulous, down to earth parents. Watching where they go, how Hensley enjoys it and some of their methods for keeping sanity on the road with a toddler has given us great ideas for when our grandsons are with us in our RV (it is our hope and plan that they will do more and more of it as we have more time to travel) Their Blog      Their YouTube Channel.

loloho rigLong, Long Honeymoon Kristy & Sean.  Also known as “Lo Lo Ho“.  What started out as a honeymoon on an RV has progressed into well over a decade of extended travels from this wonderful couple.  For over 12 years, Kristy and Sean have made dozens of highly informational videos on everything from backing into a campsite, to dissertations on generators,hitch locks, and many more pieces of equipment, etc. to their epic journey across Alaska (actually our other two bloggers have just done the Alaska trip now too in the last year!)  Last year, Sean was diagnosed with a cancerous brain tumor but with proper medical intervention and a bit of a slowing down of some of their multiple month trips he is fully on the mend with no tumor reported at his recent medical check up.  Wow! miracles do happen!  This couple maintains a bricks N sticks home and plans big trips each year to various parts of the USA from the Keys to Maine, from Seattle to Atlanta and everywhere in between.  Their video titles are well organized and were especially helpful when we first started RVing….they have some great tutorials to keep you out of trouble!  Their sense of humor and little bit of Laurel & Hardy type of format is so fun.  Sean’s writing style and sense of humor is unbeatable and Kristy is the perfect foil!  Their Blog    Their YouTube Channel

cherie and chris, technomadiaTechnoMadia:  Cherie and Chris.  These were one of the very first full time RV couples we found and began following. They are wanderlust spirits who travel the country in their upgraded retro vintage bus (yes, converted from a passenger tour bus).  Their specialty is their amazing knowledge of tech tools, internet on the road gear, trouble shooting electronics and over the years they have tested, reviewed and scoped out many pieces of internet and mobile gear that full timers may need or want.  A little over a year ago, Cherie and Chris decided to park their RV bus part of the year and bought a large trawler style yacht which they plan to do the “great loop” the Inter coastal Waterway around the eastern/central USA in sections over the next five years or so.  They are typically based in the FL area but also do presentations and speaking engagements at many large national rallies so they also travel all over.  They could be considered more of the senior statesman when it comes to full time life on the road, having done so for well over 15 years now.  They travel with Kiki their cat who is a star all on her own.  Their Blog   Their YouTube Channel

Summing it all up…..

We appreciate the time and talent that each of these bloggers/vloggers bring to the world of full time RV living or mega traveling.  Each of them share a candid snapshot all the time into their lives, their ups and downs, their triumphs and tribulations.  We have learned so much and not to seem like we are bragging but we sense we are far more informed that many other would be, soon to be, or already are..full time wanderers.  We owe this all to these folks and the many others who we watch from time to time on their blogs. We follow or at least check in with about a dozen RV couples and singles who focus on various subjects.   We simply wanted to highlight the top four that we follow…otherwise this blog post would be longer than it already is!! LOL

Thanks for tuning in.  Please visit our friends above. and PLEASE……Let them know that Kevin and Luisa Sherman from “The Pewter Palace.com” turned you on to them!

Safe travels and please subscribe to our blog so you don’t miss a another post!

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Luisa and Kevin Sherman- ThePewterPalace.com

Avion Medalions and Emblems and more….including Resource List

Clearly anyone who owns an Avion understands that they are historic preservationists in the most fundamental sense.  Not only do they maintain, restore and covet their aluminum beauty…they also USE it as it was intended to be used—for enjoying the outdoors, sheltering from weather and creating memories with loved ones and dear friends.  If they did not revere history and love nostalgia they would own a modern cardboard box, flat top trailer with little to no personality and certainly not built for the longevity that the Avions can boast to this day.  (our Avion turned 45 years old this year-2018, and I challenge any modern box campers to be on the road in excellent running order in 45 years!).


NOTE:  at the end of this blog post I have a list of resources for reproduction items talked about throughout this post.  Enjoy!


Almost monthly, there are questions about, or seekers of information on the various medallions, decals, numbers and company markers on the trailers. 

In this article I will attempt to answer many of the questions and in some cases provide some current links to where some of these items (or reproductions of same) may still be obtained today.  Also included are links to other websites where directories of the Travelcade member ID # may still be looked up.  Sadly, currently no one source of all those numbers exist so the hunt is on and if someone would eventually scan and post the books in an archive it would be like winning the lottery for a lot of us!  More about that in a subsection below.

Lets start at the beginning…the birth so to speak when an Avion was coming off of the assembly line.

As a side note, see our post about our trip to Benton Harbor MI in April 2018 to see a video of the plant that still exists but now is a cheese factory.

Avion Coach Company Medallions and Logo Markers:

pre 73 avion nose front
This is the company logo on front of a pre-1973 Avion.  How to tell?  The originals from 1956-1972 have the “pie slice” multiple riveted sections converging in the front, then from 1973 onward the design changed dramatically -see example below which is our Avion.  This was the first and only real major structure change the Avion (Cayo) corporation ever made to these trailers.
our 73 Avion nose, breadloaf style
Notice that the design change in 1973 created what many of us call  the “breadloaf” style.  This design change added significant headroom inside and more front storage over sofa or dinette and far more headroom in the rear bathroom area.  It also meant a far larger, and curved three section front window which was fitted with a rock guard.  The rock guard is on hinges and raises up.  The guard provides protection to windows and shade for the interior.   I will put a source to purchase a reproduction rock guard at end of this post.  The metal Avion Logo was moved to below the window and a stenciled AVION motif added to the rock guard.  We will be repainting ours this spring.
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This is the rear of our Avion the day we bought her.  She was quite dirty and needed a bath!  You will see the Avion logo medallion also on the rear above the bathroom window. More about the decal sticker above the light later in a separate blog post.

These logo medallions from what we have seen were almost always painted red.  Today many look like a pale/faded tomato red, but from what we understand a deep true red was more similar to its original color. Over time, the colors have faded.  This is the same with the rub rail- that vinyl strip that slides into a channel that goes around the trailers mid-belly in two layers with a shiner (non-anodized) strip in between them (at least on the years surrounding our years of production.  In the 80-90’s the colors for Avions turned more to using blues and black.  You can see that along the way one of the three previous owners of our trailer replaced the rub rail with black which is very common to see these days.  The rub rail material is not easily found in the right size.  Resource list at end of this post.  Some people have taken to painting the rub rail vinyl back to red, or from faded black to black.  It can be done, but I have seen them and to me it looks a bit like a cob job.  Perhaps if you were to actually remove the vinyl and spray paint it it might be better—but no way am i promising you will ever get that rub rail back in the channels again very easily!

2018-04-01 14.08.23As another side note to the company medallions, above is the dealership plate from where our 1973 Avion was originally sold from.  This dealership does not exist anymore but we have located where it was through old news clippings and at the time surely it was on the outskirts of Dearborn Heights in a rural area– but now that address is smack dab in the middle of a very built up almost urban environment.  Our little lady did not travel that far from her birth place to be purchased for the first time.  Many Avion’s also still have their original dealer emblem on them.  Again, its all about nostalgia for us and we wear it proudly.

Below is our LaGrande “model” medallion which appears on both sides of the trailer to the rear-basically even with where the bathroom is located (at least with 70’s models).  Early Avion photos (50’s-60’s)  we have seen do not appear to have these though there were some model names.  See second photo below for placement.  Many of these model plates that we have seen are, like ours is pitted.  They are stainless but age, and in our case, being kept in Florida near the ocean in the winters for many years has caused the pitting.  If a rig has been kept under cover or in a garage these emblems may be in far nicer condition.  The background is dappled/textured a bit and supposed to be painted all flat black. Only the raised lettering is supposed to be shiny.  The “Travelcade” models (a wee bit of a step down, basic model of Avion) also have them in the same locations.  It is not advisable to remove these unless you really know what you are doing.  (again, this was before our baby had her first bath!)

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This photo is after her bath!  Note location of the LaGrande emblem on rear, about even with the bathroom shower area.  These are also riveted on.

HOW CAN I TELL HOW OLD MY AVION IS AND HOW LONG IT IS?  In the photo below you will see the vehicle details on the orange plate that was afixed to the trailer upon completion at the Avion assembly line plant.  This is not our trailer but you can see and tell the year, month, and production # as well as the model style “LaGrande”.

These plates are very important when looking at purchasing a new to you Avion or for reference for a rig you currently own.  Hopefully you still have one on your trailer.  This one is located just to the right of the door entry.  This is also where ours is, however there is another plate on the streetside as well that also has important trailer information and should be documented.

There is an excellent resource website maintained by “DR G”, Dr. Don Gradeless that is a treasure trove of manuals (PDF by year) you can download or view, info regarding Avion specs and also early rosters of some Travelcade member units.

His website is at:      http://my.execpc.com/~drg/avionrem.html

Here is how to read the numbers (see image below)- this stands for trailers made at least in the 1970’s that we know and cannot attest to how earlier or later models may be marked.

 SERIAL NUMBER         75-L-28043

1975 production year   L = LaGrande Model      28 = foot length   043 = 43rd trailer made that year.

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Trailer Travelcade Member ID Numbers and Units:

I will be including a whole separate blog post about the history of the “Travelcade” membership club because it really was cool!  But for purpose of this post, I refer to the wonderful Avion history book written by Robert Muncy (link to purchase here) entitled SILVER AVIONS AND CAYOS.  Muncy writes that the Travelcade club of Avion owners got its start in 1959 and had its highest rendezvous turn out of 818 Avions in Coldwater MI in 1970.  Please see my future post about the Travelcaders and their club soon!

The photo below is our Avion, our “Pewter Palace” as we call her with her original Travelcade ID numbers and geographical unit emblem.  Not all Avion owners joined this optional club and so if you do not see any type of stickers like this (front and rear streetside is where they should be) then the owners did not partake.  Benefits of the club included a printed newsletter, attendance at rendezvous (FL, MI, WI) and the ability to order and wear some of the truly awesome “Travelcader Swag” like earings, jackets, knitted caps, pith helmets, bolo ties and more….remember….this IS the 1960-70’s!!  See some of the swag we have gotten so far in this previous post or on our Avion Swag post page.

Our trailer’s second owner was from CT and therefore was part of the New England Unit which sadly no longer exists.  In fact, the whole “Travelcade” club and movement died out after the corporation sold to the Fleetwood RV company in the 80’s.  Happily, a diehard group have resurged the zeal for hosting rallies of Avions again and now there is are very active “Sliver Avion Fellowship ” units based in MI, TX and more recently one started in Arkansas.  The trend and desire to all get together again is growing each year as is the popularity of owning one of these classic, well-built beauties.  We attended the Silver Avion Fellowship Rally in Elkhart MI in the summer of 2017 and had a blast with over 25 Avions of all designs, lengths and styles present.  The MI group, I believe is the one who got the whole Fellowship rolling again.  Search Facebook for The Silver Avion Fellowship and ask to join. There is a similar named fb site for the event too. I believe that black numbers and letters were the standard issue of these rigs.  People attending the Travelcade official rallies back in the day would register with their trailer number.  There were published member directories for each year and geographical unit.  If you are lucky, someone at one of today’s Fellowship Rallies may come with one and you can look up your original Travelcade member’s name, address, etc.    On occasion someone will also post out on one of the Avion FB pages that they have access to one of the books , or you can post out on the Avion Owners facebook pages that you are seeking a “look up” for the numbers on your rig.  Folks are more than happy to help find this nostalgic piece of history out for a fellow Avion owner.

As you can see by our membership number—our trailer owner’s were the 14229 members enrolled.  WOW!

Below these emblems, or on the curbside somewhere near the front side panel, some Avions also have a vertical list with smaller letters of the location and date of EACH Travelcade Rendezvous that they had attended.  It is an amazing story for your Avion and we highly recommend that you LEAVE it, or if needed get repro stickers if some of the letters or dates are worn off.  Some trailers only have a shadow (left from fading of the finish) on their rigs.  Again—this is a badge of honor that should be maintained in our opinion and we know many other Avioners agree.  So please keep them visible!  We wish we had some but perhaps our owners were more interested in just reading the member newsletter than traveling south.  We do know they took our trailer to Alaska twice though!

If you look very closely below you will see under the “pie slices” a discolored area on the body.  In the right light, you can see EACH of the rendezvous that this trailer has been to.  It was quite amazing and yes—a badge of honor we are happy to see they have kept even though the actual black letters are long gone.  Those letters were issued to you when you arrived at the Travelcade Rendezvous.  Today’s Silver Avion Fellowship Rally we attended in MI is reissuing these once again and we will put it on our trailer once we get our clear coating done by Chuck Cayo this spring.

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Below are some resources for items mentioned above.  Please do remember to check back to my blog often as I will be adding an entire post about the Travelcaders and club which will include some vintage photos of rallies, people wearing Travelcade swag and more… including where to buy reproduction Travelcade Large Member Stickers like what is on the front and rear of our rig (we have purchased new ones to replace our very faded and worn out ones)

CURRENT RESOURCES THAT WE ARE AWARE OF: 

(these were viable at date of this post, sorry if no longer active)  Please contact me if you find new or other sources!!

Our Facebook Page for the Pewter Palace: https://www.facebook.com/PewterPalace/


Avion reproduction Rock Guards:   Chuck Cayo- Cayo Repair, Watervliet MI.

https://www.facebook.com/pages/Cayo-Repair-Service/116726535054286  (Chuck is an old school kinda guy—-and is the guru of Avions (his grandfather co-owned the original company and Chuck grew up with them from his father.  They do not have a website, but this listing gives phone info)


SILVER AVIONS AND CAYOS, book by Robert Muncy (a must have for any Avion owner)

https://www.muncywinds.com/silver-avions-and-cayos.html


Rub Rail Vinyl strips:

(1)  Chuck Cayo (above) keeps black in stock most of the time.

(2)  Others have used sources found on Airstream (gasp!) forums, recently someone used vinyl stripping found on a website that sells it for lawn chairs.  He said it worked well.  I got some samples, nice colors but is very thick and not sure how well it will last with temp changes/extremes of full timing plus would be really hard to insert in because it is flat, not curved and very stiff.  They said do it on a sunny warm day, and use a heat gun to soften and insert- perhaps with a putty knife to help tuck into track gutter.

(3)  Vintage Trailer Supply also at least from time to time does carry limited sizes and colors since this is a type of trim that is found not only on Avions, but Airstreams and other vintage rigs.  https://www.facebook.com/vintagetrailersupply/


(4)  Travelcade Member ID #’s and Units:  This is a very recent link that I found posted on one of the handful of Avion facebook pages that i belong to.  So far, I believe the folks who have ordered from her have had a positive experience.  Mind you, you must have a steady hand to apply these…or take the letters and numbers to a professional sign shop or automotive detailer who does this kind of thing and have them apply them!  As mentioned, so far, we have only seen black letters on originals but I believe some current owners are using red for their numbers.  I guess its a matter of choice.

https://www.etsy.com/listing/598338016/avion-number-decals-airstream-avion-rv?ref=shop_home_active_1

As always, I hope you have enjoyed this post and gotten some “take aways” from it.  I would love to hear your feedback, or if you have other sources for the items discussed above or anything to do with Avions.  Its all about helping each other to preserve and enjoy our beloved Avions as much as we call.

We look forward to meeting fellow Avioners on the road in days ahead….till then…

ONE LIVE–LIVE IT!

–Luisa

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