Camping 2017

It feels like a century since we put our 1974 Dodge Travco “Lucky Seven” into winter storage. We’ve thought about and planned for the 2017 camping season virtually since we put the RV away for the cold months.

Today, Lucky Seven arises from her hibernation. In  few short hours we will be pulling her into our driveway and hooking her up to hydro and water, checking everything over and preparing for this summer’s adventures.

Day Tripping

The first several weeks we will  limit ourselves to short day-trips. We have an annual day pass for Ontario’s provincial parks, and I believe one of the best parks in the province is less than a half hour’s drive from our house: Sandbanks Provincial Park has kilometres of sand beaches and trails to hike and enjoy on the shores of Lake Ontario.

We’ll be packing a picnic lunch or bringing along BBQ treats, and while my husband is walking the dog I’ll be collecting driftwood for my new venture Catch My Drift? my one of a kind driftwood art creations.

Gotta go get the Travco now. Going on an adventure soon!Craft shows image3

One of my art pieces 🙂

 

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Workin’ it in Winchester

Our first Girl Camp Canada vintage trailer and RV event August 6 was everything we expected it to be and more.

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Dinette set with 70s flair – dig the green swag lamp!

Held in Winchester, Ontario, just south of Canada’s capital city of Ottawa, the show was part of the town’s annual Dairy Festival. Along with meeting the owners of a charming Boler, a Serro Scotty, a Shasta and more, we took in the festivities in a new town we’d never visited before.

The Dairy Festival was as much fun as the trailer show. There were home-cooked meals, games and rides for the children, a beautiful outdoor community swimming pool to cool off in, and even a rod hockey tournament (my husband Martin came in second!).

The vintage trailer show was organized by Bonnie James and she did a fine job setting everything up. Plenty of people dropped by to check out our tiny homes and to learn about camping in a vintage trailer.

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(Above R-L) a Serro Scotty, Boler, and our Travco lined up for the show

Only one person recognized Lucky Seven as a Travco. His parents had owned one in the early 1960s and later purchased a Mahal. I had to resist throttling only one person, convinced that Lucky Seven was a Winnebago.

All in all the day was well worth making the 485 km (300 mile) round trip. Thanks to Bonnie and the rest of the Dairy Festival committee for hosting us. Hope you make it an annual occasion.

Tomorrow we’re going to a local show and shine, and probably another one on Tuesday. Afterwards will be the big Girl Camp Canada street show in Warkworth, Ontario on August 21. The only down side is we aren’t supposed to wash vehicles right now. Our community is in a severe drought situation and car washing doesn’t conserve water. I may have to drive Lucky Seven down to the lake in the next day or two.

 

 

Almost ready for camping

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Getting that 70s vibe
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Our RV mascots – Pin k Panther, Animal and Hippie Floyd

The Travco is certified and plated. Total repairs and registration – around $4,000.

All we have to do now is figure out how everything works, and we can go camping at last. We’ve tried to puzzle out the electrical system, but we’re stuck on how to get the air conditioner working, and how to get power to the outlets. A trip to the local RV centre Thursday to go through Lucky Seven with an expert will sort that all out.

We attended a Show and Shine in Trenton Sunday night, met some great people and had a good time. We even ate dinner for the first time in the Travco.

I’ve started customizing the interior, but the weather’s been very hot and humid and without air conditioning, I haven’t done much. A couple of period throws on the couches is about it.

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Lucky Seven on the bank of the Trent River

The One

Locking up the house at 2 a.m. we again wondered – Is this the one?

Our search for a Dodge Travco RV has taken us from Ontario’s cottage country to sunny South Carolina. We’ve tire-kicked and walked away. And, we’ve made plenty of (expensive) mistakes.

At 7 a.m. our plane lifted off, soaring to our last chance for a Travco. Landing in Madison, Wisconsin, we were met by a smiling lady holding a hand-printed “Travco Or Bust!” sign. The woman was Kay Cummins, our vintage RV angel.

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Mike and Kay Cummins

 

She led us to a waiting vehicle, where we met her husband Mike. He and my husband Martin hit it off right away. Both shared many interests including hot rods, custom cars and drag racing. Kay’s sunny personality and her love of her late father showed immediately. On the drive to Baraboo she told us about Jerome Thiessen and his lifelong passion for flying, vintage trailers and hot rods. He even constructed his home as an add-on to an auto shop that would make professionals drool. His property boasted a private airplane hangar and runway as well.

But we were here for a Travco. While we stood outside admiring the surrounding Wisconsin dairy land, Mike opened a tall double garage door. Rising slowly like a curtain on a stage, it revealed the Travco. Our Travco.

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Jerome Thiessen’s 1974 Travco 270 – now our Lucky Seven!

 

The 1974 270’s pristine white paint glowed in the sunlight. The chrome trim sparkled, from the rims to the bumpers and everything in between. Mike climbed into the original driver’s seat and started it up. The engine purred. He backed it out of the garage so we could take in the beauty – the perfection – of this impeccably restored Travco.

Inside, the Travco continued to impress. Clean. Properly installed upgrades. Everything worked. I thought I was going to cry. Actually, I did a bit.

After we settled in and met Kay and Mike’s corgi dogs Rocket and Daisy, it was time for a test drive. I’ll admit I was scared. Not about the Travco dying on the road this time. I didn’t want to put a mark on it or get it dirty.

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Martin with Daisy and Rocket

 

Driving a Travco for the first time was an experience, to say the least. I’ve never driven anything so big, but it handled well. I learned to anticipate hills and start braking long before I thought I needed to. I had fun.

That evening, Martin and I spent our first night in the Travco. Night sounds of chirping frogs wafted in on the cool breeze from the open windows. Before going to sleep on the comfortable couch beds, we gave the interior a cursory search. It became a challenge to us to find something wrong with this Travco. We couldn’t.

I wish we could have met Jerome, however this was an estate sale. He passed six months ago from complications following an accident when he crashed a vintage half ton towing a vintage trailer after attending a hot rod show.

Next story – the journey home.

Another try

Here I go again, questing for my ideal Travco.

At this point “ideal” is a very loose term. Able to drive from Point A to Point B without collapsing in a heap of rust or the engine dying 500 miles from home is the new “ideal”..

It’s been quite a journey. We started in the spring of 2015 very naively purchasing a Travco 270 that sat in the bush for years. We started restoration without getting a mechanical safety first. Big mistake. After sinking several thousand dollars into parts, we found out the frame was a Swiss cheese of rust punctures, and unable to certify for road travel. The 270 was tow to a wrecking yard and we took a huge loss.

Since then we’ve been very gun shy. We’ve investigated many Travcos on Kijiji, through word of mouth and on Craigslist. We’ve had at least four deals fall through. The first two were unable to pass certification. One had been beautifully restored, but unsuitable for our needs. The last one proved to be a major disappointment. We made a deal for a 1969 270 and a few days before we were to pick it up, the seller pulled out.

We’d about had it with Travco shopping at that point. My husband wanted “any used RV, as long as we can camp in it.” I begged him to let me persevere a little longer.

A few months ago I answered a Craigslist ad from South Carolina. A two-line message for a yard sale, “and my Dad’s Travco”. No photos. No other information. I had phoned the owner and discussed a deal, but with the low US exchange on the Canadian dollar and the cost of travelling to Charleston to pick it up, I felt it wasn’t a good deal.

After striking out so many times I emailed the owner of this southern belle again. He said he still had the Travco and still wanted to sell. He assured me Old Blue was in good, drivable condition and could make the trip from Charleston to the Ontario border without a hiccup. And after comparing his sale price with what we’d been looking at in Canada lately, this Travco was affordable after all.

We worked out a deal and I purchased one-way tickets for myself, my husband and our 12 year old son for Charleston. Then the owner sent me a cryptic e-mail. We had settled on a fee of $6,000 US for the 1977 Travco. Now he was very interested in what prices I’d been quoted on other Travcos I’d been looking at.

Concerned he was going to hike his asking price, nevertheless I told him the truth. An hour later I received his answer:

“Me and Old Blue had a long conversation, and I’ve decided to let her go for $3,000. You have to promise to look after her. She’s a southern lady.”

Stunned, I re-read the message a few times. He included his phone number so I called.

“Are you sure about this? It’s half what we agreed on.”

“Old Blue’s going to a good home. That’s the important part,” he said. “By the way, did I tell you Old Blue is a 320?”

This week we are getting everything in order for our latest Travco adventure. It’s our last chance at a Travco, as funds are stretching pretty thin. We hired an importer to handle the paperwork at the border. And we’re very excited to visit a part of the US we’ve never been to before.

I’ll keep you posted on our latest Travco adventure. We fly from Toronto to Charleston, SC on May 7.

I just realized. I still don’t have a photo of Old Blue to post!

Wish us luck.

Thinking spring

Last weekend Girl Camp Canada held their annual winter camp-out. Members from across the country spent the night in their trailers. Some went all out and parked their trailers outdoors, others visited their campers in storage, staying overnight while the camper was still under a tarp.

I wish I could have participated. The Travco is still in for mechanical repairs. What’s worse, the window of free time the RV centre gave us for electrical and water system work is closing fast. If the Travco isn’t delivered to them soon, they will be prepping for the 2016 RV shows and it will be many months before they will have the time needed to give this old bus a proper going over.

I’ve already had a couple disappointments before the 2016 camping season even starts. Every summer, Travco owners go to a meet in Brown City, Michigan, where the vehicle was manufactured. I was so looking forward to meeting fellow fans and learning about our vintage 1975 Travco 270. But the event has been cancelled.

Another big car show event is planned in London, Ontario, and some Travco owners are attending. It’s June 4-5. That’s the only weekend this year I have a commitment to work. And there’s no way I can get out of it.

I’m hoping we will get our Travco on the road this summer. And, we will attend an event some time soon. Camping is too much fun to miss another whole season.

 

Hydro One – Consumer Zero

Ontario’s largest electricity transmission and distribution utility is not my friend.

More to the point, Hydro One Incorporated’s emergency repairs call centre helped make January 11 the worst day of 2016.

It started Sunday night when, following a weekend of mild temperatures and heavy rain. After sunset an Arctic low saw the mercury plummet and the rain change to ice, then driving snow. During dinner a large branch snapped off a poplar tree.

The branch ripped a power line out of the house next door, damaging a component on the house called the ‘electrical service mast’, leaving them cold and in the dark.

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(Above) Illustration of an installed hydro service mast

Our house was unscathed. Or so I thought. Around 1 a.m. Monday morning I heard the gas furnace trying to start repeatedly without success. I turned on the lights to go downstairs and check it out. The light level dipped and rose in waves. Brownout.

The house felt warm, and this wasn’t the first time our 20 year old furnace acted up. My warm bed beckoned. I’d deal with this in the morning.

By 6 a.m. Monday the house was 55 degrees F. The furnace generated no heat. Some of our lights and outlets worked, but others didn’t. The coffee maker wouldn’t perk properly, but the scent of warm toast indicated the toaster functioned.

I reasoned the downed branch the night before must have grazed our hydro wires, causing the intermittent outage and dim lights. Unsure if the furnace issue was related to the storm damage or not, I contacted our provider Hydro One.

My call was promptly answered by a young lady named Ashley who assured me they were aware of the problem and a crew would take care of it by 2 p.m. Shortly afterward I saw an electrician and crew Hydro One crew next door. It is a rental unit, and the landlord was dealing with his tenants’ lack of utilities promptly.

With my son spending the day safe and warm at school, my husband and I bundled up in blankets and sweaters and watched the action next door. The electrician hooked up a generator so the family could heat their house and prepare their children for school, while the Hydro One crew climbed into the bucket truck and reattached the fallen line. By noon, the work was done. The house next door was warm and dry, its family back to a normal routine.

We watched the electrician and hydro crew finish up the job and pack up their equipment. Then they drove away. No one called us. No one came to the door to say we were next. Maybe they went on lunch break? We waited. One p.m. Two p.m. No crew came to repair our line.

I called the Hydro One emergency line again to find out what was going on. Ashley answered my call again.

“The crew can’t repair your line because the mast is bent. You have to get an electrician to fix the mast, then have an inspector pass it, then call us back to schedule a crew to reattach the line,” Ashley said.

We weren’t the only house in crisis, but we managed to find one who could fit our job in. A half hour later his office manager phoned back.

“When can we expect you?” I asked.

“Well, there is a bit of a problem,” said the voice on the other end. “You have an outstanding invoice from 2009.”

One thing I pride myself on is paying bills on time. It’s a matter of honour. Mortified, I assure the office manager the oversight would be cleared up immediately. I need an electrician ASAP. My son is coming home from school and it’s been over twelve hours since the house has had heat.

While waiting for the electrician to show up, I drove to the bank to get cash to pay the embarrassingly overdue bill. After using the cash machine, I pulled out from my parking space, only to have the rear of the car struck by a van coming out of a car wash. Police were called, reports written up and after another hour’s wasted time, I made it home, now with a damaged rear passenger quarter panel and split bumper.

The electrician was finishing up when I arrived. He poked around inside the fuse box with a tester.

“You are definitely not getting enough current in the house,” he said. “But it has nothing to do with the mast. It’s intact. Call Hydro One back and have them come do the repair. The issue is with their line, not at your house.”

He added there was no point calling a furnace repairman as the low voltage issue meant the furnace could not turn on properly.

I called Ashley back. Now we had been in the cold and dark for fourteen hours. We were all cranky and shivering, including our four cats and one dog. The hamster went into hibernation.

“Did your electrician call an inspector? I have no record of an approved inspector passing the mast repair. My notes report the mast is bent. Until your electrician follows proper procedure and I get a report from an inspector I cannot send a crew out.”

The electrician passed this news on to his boss, who made some more calls to individuals more highly placed than Ashley. After another hour’s wrangling, we discovered Ashley had been reading the work order for the house next door, on which Hydro One completed the repair six hours earlier.

By 8 p.m. the temperature in the house had dropped to 8.8C (48F). We were huddled around an oil lamp listening to a battery operated radio stuck on a hip hop station.

The bucket truck and crew discovered someone had thrown a bicycle chain over the line leading into the back of our house. Over time, wind action caused the chain to wear through the wires, creating a ground fault. This made our lights dim and the furnace non-functional. It had nothing to do with anything attached to our house.

The power came on, the furnace kicked in and we were relieved, if not entirely happy customers.

As we watched the bucket truck recede down the street, the furnace kicked out and died. Again.

Calling a furnace repair tech after regular hours costs $100 per hour here. Not in my budget. We had one small ceramic heater. We huddled around the small heater until bedtime. My husband is susceptible to lung issues, and his den is the smallest room in the house, so he took the heater. I thought my child and I would be OK until morning as long as we had lots of blankets.

At 11 p.m., our little Jack Russell mix nudged me. She had to do her business. A half hour later she nudged me again. And again at 1 a.m. About once or twice a month the dog has tummy troubles and gets me up four or five times in the night to go outside. This was one of those nights.

So I wouldn’t disturb my son’s sleep, I chose to sleep on the couch in the living room. The couch backs onto the north wall of the house. I froze. For awhile, our black kitten curled up on my blanket on top of me to share body heat. At around 1:30 a.m. a loud bang reported from the north wall of the house, enough to make me sit bolt upright, sending the kitten flying off my chest. The frost got into the walls of the house and probably split a support beam.

The next morning, I had a total of two hours of sleep and my son was sick from being so cold. The house thermometer read 7.2C (45F). The furnace technician arrived promptly at 8:30 and repaired the furnace. We all went back to bed until 11 a.m.

Although Hydro One’s customer service department made our lives a living hell for a day and a half. But, they also made me realize how lucky I am. We were cold and miserable for a few hours, but we knew heat would be restored in a matter of hours. We were dry, had lots of warm clothes and blankets and had plenty of food. And, we had funds to pay for the furnace repairs. Things could have been worse.

While this was going on, my husband suggested I contact the garage where the final repairs are being done on our Travco, to see how things were going.

I refused. I wasn’t willing to push my luck any further.

*featured image courtesy of depositphotos.com