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! ūüė≥. 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! ‚ėļÔłŹ

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!  ‚ėļÔłŹ 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! 


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 New Rig

Well, new to us that is. ūüôā 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. ūüėú

Our tiny house homestead build!

We’ve been very quiet lately! We left Santa Fe back in early March and got ourselves up to our new hometown in northern New Mexico. ¬†It was still COLD and there was still snow on the ground. ¬†The road to our property was impossible to get through, but we were close and that’s what mattered to us.

The road to our property - a muddy mess!
The road to our property in late February – a muddy mess!

We did manage to buy ourselves a 4 wheel drive vehicle though!  We found a well maintained (older) Toyota 4 Runner and snatched it up.  It needed new tires but otherwise was in perfect shape.

Our new little Toyota 4 Runner! Perfect run around vehicle

After about a week or so of nice sunny weather our road managed to dry up and we made it to our cabin! It was nice to see that everything was still in great shape and it had handled the winter well.

Made it to the cabin after 4 months away

Our RV pad we had put in last fall looked in great shape too and we couldn’t wait to get started on our build.

RV pad on property looking west
RV pad on property looking west

Here is an update on our build.  As we are maintaining a separate blog for our Tiny House project you can read about that here:

And the second installment:

And yesterday (4/4), after spending a month at an RV park in town we were finally FINALLY able to get our rig up the mountain and set up on the RV pad!  The thrill of waking up this morning to the sounds of nature were beyond compare.  It is beautiful here and quiet and the wildlife abounds.

We are home! You can see the cabin on the hill behind the RV.

It is still a bit cold but nothing we can’t handle. ¬†The solar on the RV is working like a charm! ¬†We sure love this life.

Be sure to follow our Off Grid Tiny Life homestead blog!  We are building a tiny house cabin on 5 1/2 acres in northern New Mexico.  We are completely off grid and will still continue to travel in the RV from time to time or even do some truck camping!

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 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. ūüôā

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! ūüôā

After spending two weeks enjoying the free camping it was off to California Рand 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!

Mechanical issues in month two

Ok, so this life is not all glamour and glitz! ūüôā ¬†I hope all the people considering this lifestyle will see that. ¬†Just like anything that is in the least bit mechanical, issues can and do arise. ¬†Yep, even with brand new rigs.

We have traveled from South Carolina across the entire United States to Idaho, then Oregon, Nevada and now California. ¬†We’ve done pretty good with all that mountain driving. ¬†Our truck has held up perfectly. ¬†And until we got to our second boondock by Lake Tahoe we hadn’t had any issues with the rig either.

When we moved from Scott Lake to Indian Creek it was a short 15 miles.  Probably a good thing too.  When we got out of the truck to get set up I smelled something funny.  I walked around and looked and this is what I saw:


Yep.  That be grease coming out of the hub.  Damn.  Damn. Damn.  Keep in mind at this point we had only had the rig for about 6 weeks.  Unfortunately, RV manufacturers use cheap grade grease figuring most people are probably only going to go on major highways and stay in clean and neat RV parks.

FORTUNATELY (for me at least) hubby is a master mechanic. ¬†Even though he is retired with a major back injury he was certain we could do the repair ourselves. ¬†I got to do the heavy work, of course. ¬†ūüôā ¬†And since one of the seals was leaking, Mark said it is always better to do all four bearings and hub assemblies at the same time, replacing all the seals and cotter pins.

Now, I won’t go into major detail about how it’s done other than to say it’s a time consuming job (if done right). ¬†Since my hubby is injured, it took us a few days to do all the hubs. ¬†To get a very concise description you can check out Dan from on the blog post he did regarding this. ¬†He does an excellent job covering it all. ¬†And Mark agrees with him that this should be done yearly but if you do see a failure before that then do it sooner and do all the hubs. ¬†You’ll be safer in the long run. ¬†And remember to use a HIGH TEMPERATURE grease!! ¬† Also, please let this be a lesson to EVERYONE out there! ¬†Always, ALWAYS inspect your rig before each departure and during EACH stop! ¬†You could save yourselves some serious issues and money by being careful. ¬†If we had continued to drive with the seals leaking we could very easily have had a fire, not to mention the bearings seizing up and the spindle being damaged to even possibly losing a wheel while driving. ¬†What was a $25 repair to do ourselves (not including my hubby’s beer expense lol) could have been in the thousands of dollars should any of the worst had happened.

The second thing that happened really pissed me off.  As we were getting ready to leave Indian Creek I noticed the water pump acting weird.  It was sucking air and acting like there was no water in the tank which I knew to be false.

After arriving at Glass Creek in the Mammoth Lakes area, the water pump gave up the ghost. ¬†Yep, only two months old and it died. ¬†After searching the Mammoth Lakes area for an RV parts dealer (ha ha) we did happen to find a place that did trailer rentals. ¬†They had a small parts department and we were able to acquire a new water pump. ¬†Granted, they pretty much raped it us on the price ($115 versus $60 on Amazon) but when you are in need of water you do what you got to do. ¬†Again, very fortunately for me, hubby saved the day and was able to install it in a matter of minutes! ¬†Whew! ūüôā

The old pump (top left) and new pump installed (top right).  Bottom is the box for the new pump.
The old pump (top left) and new pump installed (top right). Bottom is the box for the new pump.

Yes, we could have arranged for the pump to be replaced under warranty but frankly we didn’t want to go through the hassle. ¬†And knowing that the hubby could install it and probably better than an RV place we decided to deal with it ourselves.

One thing we know is that without a little bit of mechanical knowledge, this life could get old, fast.  Knowing how to take care of things yourself is really a saving grace when possible.  Granted, some things are easier to let a qualified mechanic or RV repair person do, but if you can take the time to learn some simple maintenance you will enjoy this life a lot more.

Happy trails!

Shelly & Mark ~ Boondock or Bust

Boondocking by Indian Creek Reservoir 

After leaving Scott Lake dispersed camping area, we made our way over to Indian Creek Reservoir. ¬†Now, while there is a campground there ($20/night for RV… no thanks). ¬†We were after FREE camping. ¬†ūüôā

To get here, you will take Airport Rd off of HWY 89 that goes to Markleeville, CA. ¬†Head toward Indian Creek Reservoir. ¬†Right before you get to the “airport” (really just a landing strip – there are no outbuildings, etc), on the right there is a small little turn off with a little area that’s cleared off. ¬†Keep an eye out, it’s easy to miss!

The sign on the road - don't overstay your welcome! 14 day limit!
The sign on the road – don’t overstay your welcome! 14 day limit!

There is a small road that continues up the mountain that you could easily tent camp at but unless you have a little tiny RV there isn’t room for a rig there. ¬†Great views tho!

Can you see her?
Can you see her?

There were a ton of deer in this area and we were graced with them nearly every day.  Lots of does with older fawns but we did see a few bucks as well.

Our view
Our view
Another view
Another view

We spent our limit of 14 days here.  There was water to be had for free in the day use area of Indian Creek Reservoir and there is a dump station there as well ($10).  With our composting toilet and only grey water tanks we were able to stay the whole time with no trouble at all.

Ahhhh.... peaceful
Ahhhh…. peaceful
Great place to relax
Great place to relax

We had great parking for our solar and still plenty of shade in the afternoon. ¬†The temps ranged about 80-85 during the day and high 40’s to low 50’s at night. ¬†Perfect!

So nice!
So nice!

We were all by ourselves the entire time we stayed here. ¬†We did have some people stop by who were curious, obviously, but mostly we had the place to ourselves. ¬†There is a bit of road noise from the small amount of traffic that goes to the reservoir but all in all it was a very peaceful place! ¬†We would certainly return. ¬†And it’s FREE. ¬†Did I mention that?? ūüôā

Nestled among the trees
Nestled among the trees

This spot is located about 5 miles from Markleeville, CA (no cell service there but wifi to be had) and about 30 minutes from Carson City, NV and Lake Tahoe, CA.

We DID manage to get 1-2 bars Verizon 4g with our Wilson 4g booster.  I think if we could have raised the antenna higher we would have had even better signal.  No AT&T service though if we went to the top of the hill we could get one bar 4g.

All in all a really nice boondock!  Where are we headed next?  Well, our general plan is to make it down to New Mexico as we are going to the Balloon Fiesta!  But as we have a few weeks until then we are going to meander our way down 395.  Possibly go to Mono Lake!  But as our plans are set in jello only time will tell.