It was the calm before the storm. On November 8, 2014, the wind ceased and the autumn sun spilled over the buttes and prairies surrounding the Vaughan outpost. Elsie was parked in front of the Quonset. Demolition day had arrived.
We wanted to document the renovation process from a clean slate, so we did a little staging to rid Elsie of Craigslist Ray’s décor. This involved taking down begrimed velvet curtains, framed photos of classic hotrods, and an old 80’s sound system bolted to the upper cabinets.
Next up: the dis-assembling. We ripped out the vinyl wall divider and cushions, unhinged cabinet doors and drawers, unscrewed curtain rods and pulled out anything stuck to the walls, floors, or doors that didn’t belong. Phase one of the tear-down took longer than expected, because most screws in the trailer were of the clutch head variety, and at the time we only had one clutch head screwdriver (they are fairly obscure and hard to find). Clutch head screws, according to VintageTrailerSupply.com, are:
“Odd bow-tie shaped screw slots on your window or door hardware. They were used in the auto industry from the 1940s through the 1960s and a few of them worked their way into travel trailer manufacturing as late as the 1970s. To remove those old screws, you're best off using a screwdriver bit of the same shape and size.”
Jerry reminded me several times that I needed to hold the screwdriver level and press firmly to avoid stripping any screws (Back off, I'm a novice!). We wanted to reuse the old screws to save on the expense of replacing them all, which provided Mary (aka Carson's mom) and I a moment to prove our worth. We carefully labeled all the hardware in plastic baggies, taped them to their matching doors and drawers, and created our first trailer storage Tupperware.
Carson and Jerry tackled the heavier-duty parts of the teardown. They removed the old Dometic propane/electric refrigerator and tore out the propane furnace system below it. While the propane fridge did technically work, it was heavy and unreliable; we intended to replace it with a newer model. With the furnace, it was a very outdated system that a) clearly hadn’t been used for over 20 years and b) seemed too daunting and unnecessary to replace if we could use an electric space heater at most of our campgrounds anyway.
They also answered a question that had been looming since we first bought Elsie: "What's going on beneath that duct tape in the corner of the ceiling?" The ceiling work in Elsie is a story in itself - and one deserving of separate post we’ll write later - but this was the first visible hole we saw and Carson and Jerry were hell bent on patching it. They used a reciprocating saw to cut out the rotted wood, patched it with 3/16” plywood, and used the pneumatic nailer and wood glue to secure it.
Our first demolition weekend foreshadowed a few things to come over the next 8 months:
- Our ceiling hole was actually the first in a series of holes and disappointing revelations; Elsie was not as structurally solid as we had hoped.
- That contact paper was EVERYWHERE…it was going to ruin our lives.
- Jerry was definitely going to play the Dark Knight in this trailer remodel. “He’s the hero Elsie deserves, but not the one it needs right now. So we’ll hunt him. Because he can take it. Because he’s not our hero. He’s a silent guardian, a watchful protector. A dark knight.”
- It was going to look a whole hell of a lot worse before it got any better. (This saying is now officially trademarked by Jerry A. Vaughan)