#14 - The Rancherita

I have big, creative 3-D project that I work on, it's a 1975 Fleetwood Prowler, 21 ft. travel trailer.  I call it the Rancherita. 

It's not glamorous in the least --  it's basically my fort on wheels, held together by various caulkings, staples, nails, screws and tape.  I was an avid fort-builder as a child, and also while my kids were little.  So, I guess I still am an avid and driven fort-builder.

I bought this trailer, in even poorer shape, in July 2018, and have been renovating it ever since. It lives on a piece of raw property we have, in Nevada County.

The photos below illustrate its evolution, which is still a work in progress. I've got a number of loose ends to deal with.

Here we are on purchase day -- $500.  The thunderbird levels sealed the deal for me. 
The original design was two single beds/couches, a folding bunk above (cabinet folded down), and then a dinette which could convert to a child sized bed.  It was a lovely warm brown, fake wood paneling with purple and flowery cushions.  Being a child of the 70's and 80's, I was ready for something different. 
The fridge did not work, nor the hot water heater, nor the shower, but I was told that most of the rest did function, (including the brake lights, yay.)  These photos don't show the ceiling hanging low from water damage, or the rotting wall panels you could poke holes in.  Lots of water damage. 
I decided right away that I would open up the floor area by removing a dinette bench and one of the beds. Since it would only be Sean and I staying there, we didn't need that much seating/sleeping area.  
Underneath this bed was basically storage space and the main water tank.  I ripped out the water tank, as the trailer would stay on the property, hooked up to a gravity pressured water supply.  I still have the huge long tank, I held onto it for a future project -- making an outdoor solar shower! 
With the dinette bench, one bed, and upper bunk removed (leaving a shelf for storage,) I began tearing apart the damaged walls and ceiling.  
Water damage was particularly bad near the corners, windows, and roof vents. I had to do a lot of replacing and/or bracing the framing, and also applied a ton of stop-rot product to places that still had some solid wood. I also replaced the old batt insulation with rigid foam board and reflective insulation where possible. 
That brings me to the bathroom, where there was plenty of rot.  There was the original, non-functional shower with a metal wraparound, and little old toilet.  I knew I wanted to rip them both out and replace them with one comfortable composting toilet.
Mice had been living under the shower, as you can see. I stopped up the blackwater tank with the red plug, and had to build a slight platform over everything to accommodate the plug.  I figured it was best to leave intact.
This is the ceiling above the shower, which was very rotten due to leakage through the shower drain vent, above right. You can see daylight coming in around the black ABS pipe.  
That leads me to the roof.  This is a vent -- an uncovered vent, as all of them were -- where rain could just pour right in. Aaaaaahhhhhh!! 
The roof was important for me to seal up before weather hit, but only after I'd fixed the framing issues. I didn't want to fall into the kitchen whilst trying to seal the roof.  So when ready, I scraped a lot of loose stuff off, did some patching, and put on a elastomeric roof coating.  Also re-sealed/caulked all the seams and windows. (I don't have photos of the finished part.)
After feeling somewhat satisfied with the roof, I began priming and painting. This is the view from the door of the trailer. You see the small closet on the left, then the bathroom, then the fridge (which was a dirty orange color,) and then the back of the first dinette bench.
I wasn't sure what I wanted to do about the AC light fixtures and outlets running through the trailer.  The lights were heavy glass and metal.  When I tore one off, I decided pretty quickly that I wouldn't try to save them. Our trailer was going to remain off grid anyway, and the only electricity pulsing through its veins would be some occasional DC. 
This was the electrical center of the trailer, under the bed. It was a mess. I tried to sort it out, and actually got the DC current functioning for a couple overhead lights down the trailer.  But then, it went haywire, and I decided to abandon the whole system.  
Since the only power we really needed was in the head, to run a fan for our toilet, I decided to move the battery to back of the trailer (vs. the front).  I found a perfect spot in an outdoor storage compartment under the closet.  I created a whole new circuit for the toilet fan, and I was SO elated when it worked. I'm not sure I've been that happy since.   The new location is also better for solar charging, as the rear of the trailer gets better exposure. 
Since we're talking systems, here's the old propane regulator.  The stove was working okay, but not great. I replaced the old regulator, it didn't like that.  Then another, and yes I did all the tricks of opening slowly, etc... I think I need to clean the lines out, but need an air compressor for that, I think, that could work with our mini vintage Honda generator.  Still working on it. 
So now we're painted, all drawer handles removed, cleaned and spray painted nickel color, water tank gone, framing addressed, roof addressed.  Now I started putting up some pine planks.  
I got them as cheap as I could find, and they bowed a lot.  I sealed them with a clear sealant on both sides, lightly and quickly. I just worked with it best I could, and they started to fill in.  
All cutting and sawing for this project is done with a miter box w/ handsaw or a chainsaw, with the exception of a large piece of plywood I took home and asked Sean to slice with his circular saw (it wouldn't run on our generator.)
How about that floor? I eventually covered with the cheapest, thinnest vinyl "plank" flooring I could find. 
I took the cushions home to recover them there. The old 1975 foam was actually still incredibly comfortable. I found the original 70's design, under the 80's flower design. I decided to stick with the grey chevron material I'd found at a creepy fabric outlet in South Sacramento.
Sewing machines scare the crap out of me, so I sewed up the sides by hand and closed the final long seam with safety pins. 

It actually worked quite well! And I like that I can take the covers off to wash, if I want (which I probably will this week, because the mice came back while we were gone.)

So let's see how it all looks, with the paint, planks, new upholstery, and other improvements!

Here you can see the new cushions in action, and the brightness of the white paint over the old paneling. The ceiling has some metallic duct tape on it to seal some seams -- I'm cool with it, I like shiny things.
I found a used, small bistro table at the local Habitat for Humanity ReStore. I wanted a smaller surface, and to be able to move the table around. Plus, the old original table wobbled a lot.  This one is perfect (and since the trailer is stationary, it won't go flying through the wall on a trip.)
I was so thrilled to score a $5 backsplash.  I'd seen photos of people going wild with tiles, stamped tin, lots of cool stuff, all a bit pricey.  This contact paper was uber cheap and pretty damn perfect to cover the layers of old wallpaper. I had to cut and place carefully to match up the lines, it was worth it. 
And how about the awesome jalousie windows? I love them, they catch the cool breezes beautifully. A couple needed new handles, and a couple need patting down from outside to seal all the way.  I left the original propane lamp up, too, because I needed something to bump my head on.
Here's the typical, lived in look.  Bed's out, you can see the new floor is a grey, wood looking kind -- hides dirt pretty well.  I'm really happy with the pine planks along the wall, above bed, and on headboard.  They give it a cabin-like feel. 
I spent extra and put cedar planks in the bathroom.  I'm sooo happy I did, they still smell incredible and look awesome. The curves were tough, but I managed to fit it all together. I did the inside of the closet the same way.

You can't see it, but there's a little, working (cold water) sink and medicine cabinet in the bathroom, too.
Here's the crown jewel of the trailer. This thing cost almost twice as much as the trailer. It's a Nature's Head composting toilet.  I hooked up the vent hose to the former shower drain vent, which goes up to the roof, right behind that wall. It works great.  With the exception of a gnat infestation, which I think we overcame with the addition of diatomaceous earth to the compost, we love this thing. 
I made this seat here where the previous bed was, it's a nice reading spot.
Our nights are lit mostly by Luci solar lights.  If you don't have one of these, you should check them out.  We have three or four we keep in the trailer, and hang from the hooks made where the AC lights once hung.  They emit a wonderful light, and are charged everyday on a tray we take outside. 
I also installed these LED, battery operated puck lights under the cabinets, and one on the wall of the bathroom.  You just give them a nudge and they're on, great light, and I've yet to change any batteries. 
My dad showed up at the land with this old family quilt in the back of his truck, cushioning some tools and machines. I promptly swiped it to put on the bed/couch in the trailer.  It's a nice addition of home. 

Although it still has a couple leaks, and mice still like it too, I love my little trailer, and can't wait to keep adding various improvements. It's the kind of thing, among many, that keeps me awake at night. 

Do you have a similar project? Please write in the comments below, and feel free to email me a photo or two to add to this post. 
Thanks for reading! 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

4 comments

  • rod
    rod
    Nice project! I'm a full-time traveler, love the lifestyle. Of course listening the two of you during a sunset creates a much better setting while in the woods. ;)

    Nice project! I'm a full-time traveler, love the lifestyle. Of course listening the two of you during a sunset creates a much better setting while in the woods. wink

  • Rita Hosking
    Rita Hosking
    Thank you, Rod! This trailer doesn't go anywhere, thankfully. I imagine if it did, it would twist and turn and 40% of my work would come apart, but who knows. I do like the idea of traveling with it.

    Thank you, Rod! This trailer doesn't go anywhere, thankfully. I imagine if it did, it would twist and turn and 40% of my work would come apart, but who knows. I do like the idea of traveling with it.

  • Bill Apgood
    Bill Apgood
    Wow! Great job! The fitting on the cedar, the pine trim, that reading area, even that contact paper and the vinyl flooring really transform from what it was - so much brighter. It's good to have a place to retreat to (not from). And good that you swiped that family quilt. Hey, maybe this makes you an honorary member of the Good Sam Club.

    Wow! Great job! The fitting on the cedar, the pine trim, that reading area, even that contact paper and the vinyl flooring really transform from what it was - so much brighter. It's good to have a place to retreat to (not from). And good that you swiped that family quilt. Hey, maybe this makes you an honorary member of the Good Sam Club.

  • Rita Hosking
    Rita Hosking
    Thanks Bill! Yes, I was indeed pondering what criteria were involved in joining the aforesaid club.

    Thanks Bill! Yes, I was indeed pondering what criteria were involved in joining the aforesaid club.

Add comment