Saving Money on a Renovation

As we are on the final leg of our Avion restoration I thought I would share some money saving ideas we used during the process. 

Let me preface this by saying, a full restoration is NOT cheap but it is possible to save some money on some things that would otherwise be expensive or time consuming. 

Here is our list!

  1. Paint: Probably the cheapest way to make a dark RV interior come to life for very little money. I estimate we spent around $275 in paint and supplies.  Of course, the hours I put into painting were crazy but it was worth it IMO. It makes everything so clean and bright!
    Cabinets – before and after
  2. Reusing old hardware:  I admit I wanted new hardware but when I added up all the cabinet doors and drawers I quickly realized the cost was more than we were willing to spend. So for a $4 can of spray paint I saved us over $200! 
    Hardware – before and after
  3. DIY:  This is definitely the big one!  Being handy will save you BIG BUCKS!  Even if you don’t know how to do something, I can guarantee that there is a YouTube video showing you how to do it. If you can follow instructions then you can do it! Also, having friends who are willing to lend their expertise helps too. While we could have built our lounge area ourselves, our friend Doug is a master carpenter and he made it much better than we could have. Knowing your strengths is key! But don’t be afraid of researching how to fix something. Sometimes it is easier than you think!
    The Lounge – even though our friend Doug built it, I did the cushions myself!
  4. Modify:  for example, we had to replace our awning fabric. Since our Avion has curved sides there is a curved arm bracket for the hardware. It’s the original Zip Dee awning hardware. We called Zip Dee and got a quote – $1300 just for the fabric! 😳. So we looked around and found awning fabric on Amazon for $200. We modified the awning fabric on our original hardware and made it work. Now we have an awning for very little money! Think outside the box!! 
    Using rivets to attach a modern awning fabric to a vintage awning hardware
  5. Consider all electric:  the fridge in our RV was no good. We had no choice but to replace it. Again we wanted to save money and by going with an Energy Star all electric fridge we saved almost $1000! Money that will be applied to our solar that will easily run this fridge while boondocking. And if you don’t boondock then an all electric fridge is a simple choice! Also, we have the added benefit of having more fridge space as the electric models don’t have all the gear on the back that the propane fridge does. And it fit in the same cabinet! Amazon for the win again! 
    New “stainless” electric fridge!
  6. Consider whether it’s a “need” or a “want”:  Sometimes the best way to save money is just to not buy something! I know, what a crazy concept, right? But sometimes there are things you can just live without. For example, I really wanted a Precision Temp hot water heater when it was apparent we had to replace ours. But again, it was a $1000+ so we said no to that dream and went with a $380 6 gallon propane one instead. 
    New 6 gallon water heater
  7. I wanted to get new countertops but again, the cost was more than we could bear. So the next best option was to redo existing countertops with an epoxy makeover! I was skeptical at first that they could make our countertops look decent again but I figured for $90 it was cheaper than the alternative. And you know what? They turned out really well! The one kit had enough to be able to do the kitchen, bathroom, desk and shelf behind the lounge! Definitely a money saving win!  And the kit can be used on almost any surface. 
    New “granite” countertops!
  8. Electrical and propane:  sometimes these systems seem daunting but with a little research the problems can be easily solved. Get yourself a test light and learn how to check for blown fuses. The 12 volt system is a pretty basic system and is easy to learn. Now be careful with the 110 system! Unless you know what you’re doing we recommend an electrician. Propane is also fairly simple and with a little working knowledge you can easily repair minor leaks or install a new changeover regulator! Just be careful to follow all safety procedures. If you don’t know what those are then seek a professional. 
  9. Don’t be afraid of hard work! Putting the effort into your remodel yourself will save you a ton of money. Granted, it might take you longer than a professional but you’ll have the satisfaction of having accomplished all this yourself. It’s a great feeling! Obviously, know your limits (especially with electrical or propane) but don’t be afraid of getting dirty! ☺️

In conclusion, our remodel of this vintage rig has been expensive due to having to replace some of the main components but the fact that we were able to do these things ourselves made the cost more bearable. If we had taken this rig to Camping World or some other RV repair place the cost would have been sky high!

And while we are nearly done with all the major stuff we know that down the line we will need to do more repairs. After all, Armani is nearly 40 years old!  ☺️ But we also know if something comes up we have the skill and moxi to be able to fix whatever is necessary.  And it’s a lot cheaper than repairing something in a sticks and bricks!

That leads me to one other thing especially if you are hitting the road for the first time. This life is not magically perfect! The same issues you had in your home WILL happen in an RV. How you deal with those issues is the biggie. The key is having fun and being able to enjoy this beautiful country in the process of tackling these issues. That’s what it’s all about! 

Cheers!!

Shelly & Mark ~ Boondock or Bust

Avion Before Photos

I thought I would give you a look at the interior of our 1979 Avion 28J before I start sharing our restoration photos.

1979 Avion 28J – the skin is in great shape! We need to install a new awning though as the original is gone.

Someone had done some “renovations” of their own many years ago in the lounge area and added some parquet stick on flooring over the original linoleum so of course all of that is getting removed and redone.

The kitchen and lounge area before demo. Someone had applied sticky floor tiles to the original linoleum. Ugh.

Everything else had been left pretty much original though so we wanted to keep the vintage feel but make it a more modern living space.  Paint can go a long way in making a space gorgeous!

Kitchen stove and sink. The stove/oven works! The sink is too shallow and will be replaced.  Countertops will be redone and a backsplash will be installed.
The original cabinetry. It looks good at a distance but there were many holes that needed patching so the cabinets will be repainted.

We’ve already begun the restoration. We have removed the old non-working fridge, hot water heater, water pump and toilet. All new items have been ordered and/or installed. We are going with an all electric fridge. (We will explain our reasoning behind this decision in a future post.)

The fridge and old wall heater are gone now.
Looking back down the hallway you see the bedroom and the rear bathroom.

We still haven’t tested the AC unit to see if it works as we don’t have 30 amps at the house. Once we get it back to a livable condition we will plan a short trip to a local RV park to check it out. If it does work then we are on the hunt for a shroud and interior cover for it. If it doesn’t work then that’s an item for the future.

We are also still working on the furnace. Fortunately parts for it are easily obtained and we know we can get it back to par again. Basically that’s the only major item we haven’t had to replace yet! But, we bought this rig for its bones and exterior. We anticipated replacing all the major items so we knew what we were getting into. It’s a labor of love but we don’t plan on letting this baby go so we are in it for the long haul!

The large rear bath. Toilet had to be replaced.

And of course, another item on the agenda is solar. (We are Boondock or Bust, after all!) After having done the off grid cabin thing (and previous RV solar) we know what we need in terms of power. Again, that’s for the future but all I can say is that I’m so glad the cost of solar is going down!

As we’ve started on the renovations already I will be sharing as we go along. The lounge area is nearly complete so that post will be coming soon. It’s going to look gorgeous!

Our Latest RV Project

So it seems that we can never get away from a project. We admit it, we love bringing something old back to life again. First with our Georgie Boy Class A and then our Lance Truck Camper.

But this time we have something special. REALLY special!

Introducing “Armani” – a shiny and soon to be restored vintage 1979 Avion 28J travel trailer!

1979 Avion 28J “Armani”
1979 Avion 28J

No, this is not an Airstream. Yes they are similar but definitely not the same. Airstream aficionados would argue that Airstreams of that era were better quality. Avion enthusiasts would disagree. As you can see, we fall into the latter category. No offense to all our Airstream friends! We really love Airstreams and nearly went that direction. But our friends Doug & Denise changed our minds with their purchase of their 1978 Avion “Ava”.

Doug, Denise, Zoey & “Ava”

We located Armani via Craigslist in Phoenix, AZ. After a quick drive down there (well, 8+ hours one way) we determined that while Armani needed major interior work, the external skin, frame and “bones” were sound!  A quick stop at a tire store for some new “kicks” and we were back on the road by 3pm! We decided to drive to Flagstaff and stop for the night at a motel considering that Armani was not camp ready. 

That’s when we hit traffic on I-17 headed north. Some DUMB ASS had thrown a cigarette butt out his window and caused a wildfire! We crawled along for nearly 5 hours only going 43 miles!!  Please, people – if you smoke so NOT throw your butts out your window!! It’s beyond stupid!!

Stuck in traffic

All of this happened very quickly. We had looked at other Avions and had even driven miles upon miles to view them only to be disappointed. I guess everything happens for a reason!

We didn’t tell our friends of our purchase. They knew we were looking but that was all. We made the decision to get Armani camp ready (well, we could sleep in it and use the bathroom lol) by June 12 as we were meeting our friends at our favorite spot – Ojo Caliente!

Armani at Ojo Caliente! Notice the lack of awning and AC shroud! 🙂

To say they were surprised is an understatement. Look at Denise’s face!

Surprise!!

After the initial surprise we let them get set up while we prepared lunch and champagne to celebrate. 

Only the best!
And of course the cheese & meat plate for lunch!

We had a great time at Ojo Caliente and now we are off enjoying the beautiful mountain air of Pagosa Springs for the next month. We will also be putting Doug to work to get this beauty back to its former glory – you see, Doug is a master carpenter and has already renovated their Avion! The renovations have begun and we will be doing a blog post on those soon.

Cheers to the future!

Cheers to the new endeavor!

Ojo Caliente Mineral Hot Springs Resort

On our way to South Carolina for our daughter’s college graduation (yeah!!) we stopped at Ojo Caliente Mineral Hot Springs Resort.  It was Mark’s 50th birthday so we thought we would have a nice little mini vacation before heading off to the heat and humidity of the south.

Ojo Caliente Mineral Hot Springs Resort
Ojo Caliente Mineral Hot Springs Resort

Ojo Caliente is famous for its waters.  Discovered by Native Americans centuries ago and then conquered by the Spanish in the 1500’s when they discovered it (and displaced the natives as well).  It holds a lot of history as well as the healing powers of the water.

There are many types of waters that are located here:  Arsenic, Iron and Soda water just to name a few.  There are multiple pools located throughout the resort with varying degrees of heat (89 to 104 degrees).

The resort has many different accommodations available including an RV park!  Now, as RV parks go, it is pretty basic and it is quite expensive for what you get IMO ($40/night) but it is still cheaper than staying in the hotel. 🙂

The RV Park consists of power and water hookups only (no sewer).  There is a dump station but they charge $20 to dump.  Kind of a rip off, I think.  The spaces are a bit primitive, unlevel and can’t really accept large rigs (30′ would be pushing it).  BUT there are many wonderful aspects to the springs that overrides the downsides to the park.

Our site at Ojo Caliente - fairly large compared to some
Our site at Ojo Caliente – fairly large compared to some

We spent 3 days at Ojo.  The first day we were so overwhelmed with all the springs we couldn’t decide which one we liked best!  On the second day though we knew we loved the Soda Pool the most.

Mark in the Soda Pool – 103 degrees, indoors and a quiet zone – no talking!

We also really loved the mud zone!  Yes, MUD!!! It sounds odd but wow did our skin feel great afterwards.  You get wet, then mud up and lay out to dry.  Then you wash it off.  Your skin is silky smooth and so soft!  Mark didn’t think he would like it but he had to admit it was pretty awesome.

All mudded up and baking dry! 🙂

One thing we especially enjoyed was the FOOD!  The Artesian Restaurant was amazing in every way.  We had lunch and dinner there every day and even breakfast for Mark’s birthday as well.  We really spoiled ourselves with the food!

That was just a sampling of the food.  We ate our way through the menu to be sure. 🙂  In fact, we probably had these Green Chili Fries 5 times while we were there.  SO GOOD!

Green Chili Fries. YUM!

For Mark’s birthday we did something pretty special – we rented a private hot spring for just the two of us.  It had amazing views of the cliffs, a kiva fireplace and we snuck in a bottle of champagne to celebrate!  Not something we would do every time we would visit but certainly an amazing treat!

Private hot springs, kiva fireplace and champagne! Happy birthday, my love. 🙂

All in all it was an amazing three days!  And the best part?  This is only 1-1/2 hours from our property in northern New Mexico!  How awesome is that?  Knowing we are close enough we can spend the day there or even take the truck camper for one night.  Yes please!  We will definitely be back!

Our beautiful view from the lounge chairs!

Our Quick Truck Camper Makeover

When we bought our truck camper at the beginning of July we knew we only had a couple of weeks to get it squared away for our trip to South Carolina at the end of the month.  We were on a time crunch to say the least!

The first thing we did upon bringing it home was to check all systems out.  Everything works (that we can tell at the moment) and it was good to go.  We could have taken it the way it was but honestly it smelled like it had been closed up for a long time and it really needed some deep cleaning.  Next thing I know I am going on a painting frenzy!

The interior was outdated and blah.  We thought white cabinets would brighten every thing up!  It sure did.

I will be adding a tile backsplash but for now some leftover yellow paint from the cabin works just fine.

I had the teal left over from our cabin door.  I really like how that pop of color looks!

Didn’t do a drastic change in the dinette.  The cushions and fabric were still in good order but we added new curtains and of course painted all the cabinetry white.  The walls we went with a real light tan.

The bathroom before had that hideous wallpaper.  I stripped it all off and then painted with an exterior semi gloss paint.  I know it won’t hold up forever to the water.  When we get back we will be tiling the walls of the bathroom and replacing the flush toilet with our compost toilet.

Bedroom before

The bed area before had a cabinet above where our heads were.  The space is tight enough without that cabinet so we removed it.  Painted the walls a lighter version of the bathroom by adding some white to it.

Whew!  It was a lot of work and we accomplished it all in just two weeks.  We also redid the floors!  We had some leftover flooring from the cabin.  We think it turned out great.

Floors before and after!

We have made our way out to South Carolina – an 1800 mile trip!  It’s been a lot easier than pulling the trailer (even we did tow our 4 Runner) and so far everything’s been great!

Before leaving for South Carolina we went to Ojo Caliente Mineral Hot springs.  I will be doing a post on that amazing place soon!

Our New Rig

Well, new to us that is. 🙂 We have downsized to a 1986 Lance 900 series truck camper!

The camper is in great shape and all systems work! The only thing it doesn’t have is AC but it is wired to have an AC unit in it. At some point we will add one in.

Our 1986 Lance 900 series and 2006 GMC 2500 HD

Looking good on the GMC!


Inside is a bit dated of course. What can you expect from the 80’s? So, our mission is to totally update it and make it a bit more modern! And as we are leaving for South Carolina on July 25th we better get cracking!

What will we do for AC in the south? Well, we are just going to throw a window unit in it as a temp solution. Yeah, it will be a bit redneck-ish but better that than melting in the heat!

LOVE the counter space in the kitchen!
The fridge works great!
Large booth seating with a nice window for views
Queen size bed with lots of storage space
Full bathroom but will be using our composting toilet instead

In the next couple of weeks we will be adding solar, repainting everything and generally just giving it a really good cleaning. There are some minor repairs to make but nothing that is too difficult.

We will get as much done as we can before leaving for SC and our daughters college graduation and will finish up all the renovations when we return in August!

Our plan is to leave our little off grid cabin before the snow flies (generally October) and then hit the road for the winter!

Stay tuned for our maiden voyage. Hopefully it all goes as planned but you never know with us. 😜

Ok, now where was I?

Oh yes… on to Quartzsite!

The holidays kind of got me sidetracked.  We left New Mexico on November 2nd with the intention of stopping in Quartzsite and taking it all in before heading to California for the holidays.  Since we had never been to “The Q” before I checked out Wheeling It’s blog to see where they recommended.  There are many BLM areas in Quartzsite that are free 14 day stays as well as an LTVA area (Long Term Visitor Area) where you can pay to stay ($180 from Sept 15-Apr 15).  That area includes a dump station and water.  The basic BLM areas provide no services at all.

Ahhh... all set up!  Time to relax.  Our spot at Dome Rock BLM
Ahhh… all set up! Time to relax. Our spot at Dome Rock BLM

We took Nina’s recommendation and stayed at the Dome Rock BLM area.  It’s a pretty basic desert BLM area with a lot of large flat surfaces to camp on.  It’s on Dome Rock Rd that gets a lot of traffic and Interstate 10 isn’t too far off so there is a bit of road noise but it has easy on/off highway access and for a 2 week stop it worked out perfectly.

The town of Quartzsite is quirky, to say the least.  It is basically one big rummage sale with a few good deals thrown in.  Since we arrived the first week of November there wasn’t a lot going on really but that was alright with us.  We spent a lot of time enjoying the abundant sunshine, had tacos at Taco Mio (awesome tacos!) and managed to get our pizza fix on at Silly Al’s.

We made a couple of day trips as well.  Lake Havasu City is a MUST SEE as well as the London Bridge!  If you’re ever in the area you must get there to see this beautiful place.  The river is glorious, the town is pretty cool and the drive is breath taking!

One really great thing about this life is you get to meet some amazing people!  Laurie & Scott of LaurieandScott.com contacted us to let us know they were heading to Quartzsite and would love to get together.  Awesome!  So we met up with these two wild and crazy kids at Beer Belly’s Adult Day Care.  Beer Belly’s is an open air bar in the middle of everything!  At the time we were there they were not serving food but apparently when they do they have great burgers.

As things worked out, we had a great time with Laurie & Scott!  They even camped with us one night and we had so much fun chatting with them.  They are such great people! (Instagram @laurieandscott).  They are really into health and fitness and offered a bunch of great ways to stay healthy on the road!  If you’re struggling with diet and fitness or just need some encouragement, by all means, contact these wonderful people!  They are fabulous coaches and will help you reach your goals while still enjoying life!  Everything in moderation, people. 🙂

With Laurie & Scott at Beer Belly's!
With Laurie & Scott at Beer Belly’s!

We also managed to meet Wheeling It (Paul, Nina, Polly & the cat crew) in person!  I’ve been following their blog for years and they are truly the sweetest people.  Extremely helpful and Nina knows her stuff when it comes to finding the best boondocking sites!  It was a brief meet and greet with promises to get together in Desert Hot Springs for happy hour.  Our kind of people! 🙂

After spending two weeks enjoying the free camping it was off to California – and the HOT SPRINGS!!  A month of visiting family for Thanksgiving & Hanukkah and soaking in hot pools of glorious spring water.  Ahhhhh!!!

Goodnight, Quartzsite!  See you in a month!
Goodnight, Quartzsite! See you in a month!