An Adventure in Travel Trailer Renovation

We bought a gently used Keystone Passport Ultra Lite travel trailer last summer. We named him Albert. We took him out a few long weekends then stored him for the winter since living in New England winters can be harsh. In early April Albert was uncovered! Unfortunately we found a small hole in the roof that appeared to be caused by a fallen branch found at the site.  We immediately had to repair the roof.  Here’s a tip: Do NOT suspend your insurance for the winter! We kept the insurance allyear and thankfully it paid for the new roof. But this new roof got us thinking….yup that’s trouble!

 

Albert was going to get an interior facelift now that he had a new roof!  I admit I got very excited and this project keeps evolving.  My husband calls this mission creep. Don’t worry, even though he often doesn’t get my ideas or thinks I’m crazy when I explain them, he always loves the end result and tells me so.

Thus, we start with a plan.  The plan is to begin by removing the hideous, uncomfortable couch!  We found an affordable comfortable sleeper sofa, that fit in the space, on Wayfair.  The sofa was actually a jackknife sofa attached to a structural shelf supporting the slide so it doesn’t come close to the floor. The new sofa has to sit on top of it. We plan to build a platform that can be pulled out from under the sofa to support the sleeper and creating a skirting with outdoor fabric to go around the slide shelf which will hide the space underneath housing the slide mechanism.

 

A major part of our renovation plan was to removed the mattress on the lower bunk bed and build kennels for our dogs.  We couldn’t remove the entire lower bunk as there is plumbing, water tank and storage underneath which is why we couldn’t use store bought crates. Having four dogs, two of which are nervous chewers and one is still a puppy, means kennels are a MAJOR necessity!

 

 

We also removed all of the window blinds (many were damaged), valances, curtains and over the door cornice (which I recovered).  I special ordered fabric to make new curtains and I purchased outdoor fabric to recover the dinette which I ended up replacing all of the foam cushions due to deterioration.Another main part of our plan is painting….everything!  The walls, the cabinets, the bunks…the entire RV.  The walls and cabinets will be white in order to keep it bright and airy inside especially on gloomy, raining days in a strange campground.  This decision has evolved, of course, and we decided not to paint the wall behind the master bed but instead to apply faux reclaimed wood removable wallpaper which I spontaneously purchased at Walmart while on our first camping trip of the year.  A new backsplash in the kitchen area and new flooring would round out the plan for the main living area.

 

Our son will have the top bunk as his “room” so I gave him the option of choosing his own paint color (he chose a tintable chalkboard paint in a shade of blue) and the material for his curtain and his side of the divider curtain (the side facing the main living area will be the same material as the curtains throughout the rig and this will create a light blocking effect for privacy and sleeping in!).  A large shelf is added between the top bunk and the wall for space to put his video games console and tv but it also acts as a roof for one of the kennels.

We changed up the kennel area a bit by installing beadboard over the walls which will still lighten up the area with its white satin finish but will also protect the original walls from any damage so when we sell this rv in the future we can just take out a few screws and it will be perfect.  We used ½” PVC to construct the kennels and clamps to attach to the bottom of the top bunk and the “floor” of the kennels. We installed vinyl flooring over the bottom of the kennels to protect the wood from water spills.

 

The bathroom plan calls for new paint, new fixtures, new flooring, folding shower rod and possibly adding a backsplash.  This room is tiny and should take no time at all to complete!

It is a lot to take on. Why remodel a perfectly good camper? People have different reasons. Some have to do so because they have some kind of damage to repair.  Some just want it to feel it resembles their style and to feel at home.  Some folks worry about resale value. Will it lower the value of my camper? Will I not be able to sell it?  I thought about that too before deciding to move forward.  The reality is that people want upgraded rigs. They are sick of the drab browns that permeate the industry décor…unless you have multimillion dollar purchasing budgets for your rig.  There are more and more reality-based shows on tv about people buying RVs and the demand absolutely supports renovating.  Now, there is a catch, in my opinion.  You will have greater resale value and an easier time selling in the future, if you have a design that it appealing to the majority of buyers. What does that mean? Don’t get too eclectic in the permanent stuff.  Multicolored cabinets won’t be a selling point to the majority of buyers, instead they will see money needing to be spent and work needing to be done.  Put your flair into the removable items….accessories, curtains, bedding. It will look great, I promise!  If that doesn’t sit right with you then all I have to say is….It’s your home on the road, do what makes YOU happy!

So enough talk, I need to get this project finished and spend my summer chilling in a hammock next to a campfire on some new adventure.  I will share our progress so stay tuned. ‘Til then….Safe Travels and Enjoy the Ride!

Meet Albert – Our First Time Together

Albert is our travel trailer. A bucket list item for sure.  It has been a dream of mine to 1) own a camper 2) camp in said camper 3) customize the camper and 4) travel across the country.  #3 and #4 will be the subject of several future posts but it is the reason we chose this particular model.

Anywho…we purchased Albert last June. His owners lovingly cared for him while they had him. We were in love at first sight when we saw the ad on our local facebook sale page.  He is glorious!

We couldn’t wait to get out on the road with him.  We had a business trip so he had to stay parked in the driveway for a few weeks but then we decided to hit the open road!  OK OK that is probably a stretch.  We had a weekend and tickets to an Arlo Guthrie show at the Flying Monkey so we needed to venture fairly close to home.  We had stayed in a few Jellystone campgrounds in the past and decided to give our local NH site a try. So we headed to Ashland NH to the Jellystone campground.

We got checked in and staff brought us to our site. It was in the front wayyyy to the end of the campground. We were the next to last site. There was access down to what I would call the fishing dock. It was some stairs down to a very small wooden deck with railings all the way around it and it sat above the river. You could definitely fish from it.  We did not.

Staff attempted to assist us in getting Albert onto the site but they were less skilled at it than my husband who had only backed up our rig twice now. They directed him and if I hadn’t screamed poor Albert would have backed into the tree the first time and would have scraped a tree all the way down one side the next time. My husband just ignored their directions at that point and he nailed it! With Albert parked nicely on the site we were told our hookups were all the way to the other side of the site (wrong side of the camper too) and I questioned it because of the location and that it had the site number of the site on that side of us. I noticed our hookups were actually on the other side of a tree but had our site number on them so we went ahead and got hooked up.

We got the patio rug out to cover up the dirt site. I wished we had a rake because the site had a lot of trash and partially eaten food strewn about.  Mental note to put that on the camper shopping list.  This was exactly the purpose in this short weekend trip.  We wanted to get to know Albert and figure out what we needed.  I owned a pop-up camper many, many years ago but it didn’t have all the appliances and features that Albert does so it is like starting from scratch.

Let’s be real. The campground was not bad in and of itself. The sites were a decent size. Our site backed up to a hill of greenery separating us from the majority of the campground. That was very nice. Location-wise I would say we won the lottery.

We had our dogs who drew a lot
of attention from the kids, especially our big fella.  He is fuzzy and loves kids. It was nice to be in a spot that had some foot traffic (those going to the fishing dock) as opposed to being enroute to the store, pool, inflatables or near restrooms.  It was still relaxing.

My husband was eager to try out the outside stove.  We met a great guy who was camping next to us with his kids and he helped us find a secret valve to turn the propane on for the outside stove. That was super helpful. And, I have made a rule no cooking splattery foods (ie, bacon) inside.  We pretty much figured out how to use everything except the oven.

We spent the rest of the day relaxing in lounge chairs outside with the dogs leashed up next to us. When it was time to head out to our Arlo Guthrie concert, we brought the dogs inside and put them in their crates. We don’t know yet how they will manage in the camper so the crates it is! We did leave the radio on for them (Did I mention there is a built in entertainment system?? With indoor and outdoor speakers! So cool!).  When we returned all was well and we went to sleep.

The next day was sunny and warm but not hot. Hubby cooked bacon and eggs on the outdoor stove and I sat at the dinette watching him through the window and attempting to do some work on my laptop. This turned out to be a hassle. The advertised wifi was not coming up. I checked in with the office who informed me they don’t have wifi and that they say they do to get people to come to the campground. Alrighty then. Thank God for Verizon! I turned on my mobile hotspot on my smartphone and I was back in business.  Sorry Jellystone, but as a business owner this is not just an amenity, it is a necessity that I was counting on.  Subsequently, we learned wifi is often an issue at campgrounds even if they do have it. I see another blog post in the future!

We went to check out a new restaurant and had lunch.  Then spent the afternoon doing nothing. Doing nothing is rare for me. Sitting with the dogs in the shade on a summer day was sweeeeeeet!  I had more opportunities for the big fuzzy dog to love on some children too.

Remember we promised you that we would be REAL here? Well if haven’t noticed already we are living up to that promise.  And it’s about to get really real.  Later in the afternoon a woman and her three teen daughters arrived in the site next to us. Turns out they had two aggressive dogs and were not restrained. There is a rule at campgrounds that your dog has to be restrained at all times. This is to keep campers safe which also keeps the privilege of allowing people to bring their sweet pups with them. If you have pets that are not social just keep them inside away from the other campers.  It’s good for everyone.

While we overall had a great time camping with Albert, it was mostly because we enjoyed exploring the camper and figuring out how everything works.  Albert was light and pulled like a dream. We barely knew he was there as we traveled the back roads and highways of New Hampshire.

As I write this it makes me long to be back on the road with Albert who is presently covered and winterized in a little wooded cove on our property blanketed with snow. I drive past him every time I leave or return home. Each time I greet him with a “Hi Albert!” as I pass by.  I am counting the days to wake you from your winter slumber, Albert and we will be off on our next adventure.  As Willie says “I just can’t wait to be on the road again”…

Here are a few RV resources you may like:

RV Checklist

Travel Diary Software – Nomad Notes

Guide for RV, Truckers Mountain Directory

The Mile High Experience

 

 

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We didn’t know what to expect when we landed in Denver that Thursday morning.  With little sleep due to all the changes in our home overnight with a friend, her son (our son’s best friend) and their dog coming over to hang out with our son and menagerie of pets while we are gone, we were a bit lazy.  We used our new found Uber app to request a ride to the hotel from the airport. A few minutes later we were in the car and taking in the city for the 45 minute ride.  At first it was sprawling land with minimal buildings but it quickly exploded with new luxury condo construction sites and urban structures. I have to say I love how many trees Denver has maintained throughout the downtown area unlike other cities I have been to where they look like a concrete plant exploded and left a 5 mile radius of a concrete puddle. Well on to the hotel.

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The Hyatt Regency is smack in the middle of downtown and directly across the street from the Denver Convention Center where we were about to spend three grueling days at a convention for our business.  The plan was to go out and explore a little of the city while we had free time but like I said, we got lazy…and we were blinded by the tantalizing access to the Regency Club on the 35th floor that our new key card provided.  We filled ourselves with 5 star hor d’oeuvres and free non-alcoholic beverages (a few of which we snagged to put in our in-room fridge for later).  The Club was gorgeous. Soft velvety dining chairs amid leather club chairs and sofas.  Dark wood tables and granite counter serving areas were beautiful yet the massive windows overlooking significant landmarks like Broncos stadium, Union Station, etc were the real focal point. We went back up for dessert later that evening and let me just say…diet? What diet?…those desserts were out of this world.

 

 

Saturday night we decided to go out for dinner. We found an interesting restaurant in one of those local brochures you find in the lobby of hotels.  It looked intriguing and different.  One of our travel rules in our family is that we want to frequent local joints when we travel, not the chain places we can go to any old time when we are at home. I mean, really what would be the point of traveling then?  So this restaurant happened to be the oldest in Denver and has a true wild west motif.  The Buckhorn Exchange has old time newspaper menus inside it’s old brick building. Be prepared for the hundreds of stuffed hunting trophies on the walls, hanging from the ceiling and standing on the floor!  We got a super fun selfie with those scary bears. The upstairs bar is an old covered wagon.  They had an old timey musician that evening in the upstairs lounge which was filled with victorian parlor furniture.  The food included selections of elk, buffalo, quail and rocky mountain oysters.  My husband had those.  I was not so adventurous.  I highly recommend going here at least once on your next stop in Denver.  The area is up-and-coming so keep that in mind and I don’t think I would plan to walk alone particularly after dark.

 

We managed to get outside of the four walls of the convention center on Sunday to get lunch.  We walked up to the 16th Street Mall and found an amazing farm to table counter service eatery called The Moder20160911_123342n Market. Let me tell you this place is IT!  Do you know how hard it is to find stevia at restaurants? This place even has the brand name stevia. The food was organic, fresh, plated beautifully and delish! It’s a popular place with a long line and full seating at lunch time so that tells you how the locals feel about the food.  We sat outside at the little tables and enjoyed the gorgeous weather.  

 

20160911_132838We took a walk back to the convention center by going down 16th Street.  The mall itself is outside and has an old historic feel for the storefronts and the street. Only the mall bus and police vehicles are allowed to drive on this portion of the street.  Word of warning for downtown Denver is this. There are a great deal of homeless people around. Some speculate it is the recent legalization of recreational marijuana that is drawing these folks in from other areas. Maybe or maybe not but some of these folks are aggressive.  Be careful and I wouldn’t advise walking around after dark without a group of friends with you.

 

 

Our last day in Denver we rented a Jeep Wrangler through Zipcar.   This was our first experience with using a Zipcar and it was outstanding.  Not only was it incredibly inexpensive, it was super easy.  We downloaded the app, paid a small membership fee to join, selected a location to pick up our zipcar (which happened to be directly across the street from the hotel) and selected which vehicle we wanted. We were ablerocky-mtn to reserve it in advance but if you are more spontaneous you can take a chance and reserve it when you are standing there.  We walked over to the Jeep, pressed the unlock button on the app and like magic the Jeep unlocked! The key and a gas card were inside waiting for us. Did I mention gas and insurance are included with Zip Cars? Sure beats the $240 quote the rental car company inside the hotel gave us for a one day rental!
Anywho,  we drove out to the Rocky Mountain Arsenal Refuge and took the roof panels off the Jeep before we headed out on the wildlife drive.  It was incredible.  We came across bison, swans, pelicans, prairie dogs, birds and various other creatures. The serenity just filled my soul.

We just didn’t have enough time to explore the area more on this trip but we did make note of some places we want to see when we return such as the Denver Mint which is a great stop for families but plan ahead since the hours are wacky.  I know you are all wondering if we enjoyed a little recreational toke.  Nope, none of that and we decided that the Rocky Mountain High t-shirt with the weed plant on it was probably not a good souvenir to bring back for the boy.  We don’t want to be those parents or maybe we do?