Sunday, January 14, 2007

The Super Camper: Rebuilding Begins

After removing the camper from the truck (thanks again for all your help, friends!), we got a chance to take our time and really survey the damage to the frame from an easier angle. Ryan appreciated not having to be underneath the truck for once!

One thing we didn't notice before was the severe kink and crack in the cross beam that supports the spare tire.

Here's another shot of the broken spring. Ryan was pleased with the strength of the extra bed mount support that he installed. For anyone who doubts the strength of rivets, these seven rivets allowed us to drive 20 miles, and sit for two hours in line to cross the border. If they hadn't held, we would have been in a far worse situation.

Even with the supports, the bed mount buckled slightly. Imagine the damage had the supports not been installed!

This photo is taken from above, looking down at the frame on the right side. You can see the little kink in the metal that pushes out along the bottom of the hole on the side of the frame.

All this damage has made us understandably depressed ever since the accident. That combined with the fact that Ryan wasted a week of vacation from work and we didn't even get to surf, has made for little to be excited about.

So when the surf report lit up in bright red, I was relieved to see Ryan with a smile on his face.
It was after sunset, so he grabbed his binoculars to help see through the darkness to the flag that sits atop the post office and gives an accurate reading of current wind direction and speed.

He liked what he saw...

...and set the alarm to wake us early for what was sure to be the biggest wind swell of the season.
The morning dawned, and it was big alright.

But far from perfect. There were lumps running this way and that, and often the waves would look amazing as they approached all the way up until the time they broke. We watched a few of our friends try it out but it looked like much more work than the payoff would warrant, so we just watched.

We weren't the only ones choosing to watch instead of paddle out.

Since the surf didn't provide us with an excuse for any more procrastination. It was time to begin rebuilding.

Ryan donned his battle gear and got into it.

Since we had ordered just enough Nida-Core for the project, with only a little extra, we had to get creative and pull together a bunch of bits and pieces of scraps to make the shape of the utility box door that was blown apart in the collision.

We then layed out layers of fiberglass tape and resined it into a complete piece.

Ryan fitted the aluminum angle along the edges and riveted them on.

This man looks like he needs a martini!

Ahhhhh..... that's better!

The next step was to begin rebuilding the utility box itself. Fortunately we had plenty of extra aluminum and steel sheet metal left over from last time.

We are very greatful that most of the damage to the camper itself is cosmetic. Only the front end was hit, so the very corner was smashed in which created a crease in the underside of the aluminum edge trim.

Ryan drilled out the rivet, used his grinder to make a tear in the metal and then set up the jack underneath the pucker to use the weight of the camper to try to flatten it out.

He then used his grinder to smooth out some of the scratches in the metal on the corner.

After receiving our estimate from the insurance companies appraiser, our depression level increased. Sure we didn't expect them to offer us the full amount at first, but the $4,500 appraisal seemed like a joke. It will obviously take much more than that to repair the truck. The Toyota was towed away to a body shop and now we just have to wait to hear their estimate, and find out what we can do next. In the meantime, we have been shopping for white 2004 Tacomas, with 4x4 and the TRD package. If you or anyone you know has one for sale for less than 50,000 miles, let us know!

Finally, we went to the Redondo Beach Brewing Co.

for a beer.

Monday, January 08, 2007

A Little Help From Our Friends

It's been a depressing holiday season. Not only is The Super Camper in need of intensive care, but we missed out on a much needed surf vacation. Coming back in time for Christmas and all the "what happened?"s was painful.

You can't go on depressed forever. At some point, you just have to take a step forward and start rebuilding. After the insurance appraiser finally paid us a visit and lightly inspected the damage, we finally decided to remove the camper from the truck so that we could get a better look at the damage.

Getting the camper on the truck was quite an ordeal in the first place. At that point, the camper consisted of just the fiberglass shell. Now, it has a 60 lb battery, a refrigerator, a heavy bed mattress, wooden cabinets, and a few other things that make it much heavier. Fortunately we have good strong friends that were happy to lend some lifting power.

The first step was removing everything tying the camper to the frame. Ryan and I went around and disconnected the tail lights, the bumper lights, the air lift system, the funnel drain, the extra water tank, and finally the bumper itself.

Soon friends began arriving.

We had help from a bartender, a surfboard sander, a tugboat operator, a longshoreman, a contractor, and with Ryan and I as an engineer and a pro surfer, there were a lot of theories coming from varying backgrounds on the best way to lift the camper from the truck and onto the sawhorses.

First we slid a long 4"x4" with a 2"x4" nailed to it to add strength, under the front part of the camper, and rested it on two saw horses. Then we cut up some 2"x4"s and nailed them to one of the sawhorses to lift up the back end.

Then the boys lifted the camper from the front, as Greg and I slid 2"x4's under the front end, one by one, to lift the front end. After a few lifts, the camper was raised enough to pull the truck out from underneath. The truck still didn't clear completely, so I hung onto the back end of the frame to lower it just enough while we slowly pushed the truck out from under the camper.

The next step was removing the 2"x4"s so that the camper rested safely on just the sawhorses.

Finally, Ryan could really see everything without having to be underneath the truck.

Thank you so much to Greg, Butch, Fuj, Scott, and Charlie. We couldn't have done it without you!
The next step, is taking it to a frame shop for estimates...