She doesn’t look like much… Yet!

The Wind Rose: The Beginning

Renovating a 1997 Fleetwood Mallard for Full-time Living (Part 1)

“This is crazy,” I thought as I walked into the used 30-ft trailer that would hopefully be our new home.

And it is crazy. They’re not meant for full-time use, after all. The 1997 Fleetwood Mallard we were standing in had just over 200 square feet of living space, which is about the same as the living room in most homes. That’s fine for a weekend; when you’re eating from paper plates and cooking hot dogs on a campfire and spending most of your time at the beach. But for day-in and day-out use for two people? Insane.

Read this article on my blog, where I have the full renovation series for rebuilding this travel trailer into a functional tiny house! https://webuilditourway.com/

And yet, as my husband and I crawled all over every inch of that 206 square feet, checking everything off on our 12-page checklist… we saw that the travel trailer had everything we needed for daily life. The kitchen lacked counter-space, but otherwise, it had everything that a modern person uses to make a meal. Double sink, apartment-sized fridge, 3-burner stove with an oven. There was a dining table that fits 4. There was a couch that could probably fit 3 people (and it doubled as a bed). There was a bathroom with a toilet, sink, and shower. There were a queen-sized bed and a wardrobe.

The kitchen, dining, and living room, with the front door to the right. The bathroom is immediately to the left of the couch.

When you boil it all down, that’s what you need on any given day. A place to cook. A place to eat. A place to sit. A place to sleep. And a place for bodily functions that are much better off private and unspoken-of. Everything else is just frosting on the cake. There was hot water, heating, and AC, a satellite for the TV, and plenty of places to plug in your stuff. It was small, but after all, there were only two of us. When you’re 26 and you have two degrees worth of student loans, a small, cheap, portable apartment sounds like a dream.

After all, a travel trailer is really an amazing thing. It’s a house on wheels. It’s all the comforts of home that you can take with you wherever you need to go. It’s like a modern gypsy wagon. It’s a vehicle for adventure. No matter where you are in the world, you can still sleep at home.

Of course, all those magical theories about what it would be like to live in a travel trailer butt up hard against the realities of no storage space, no counter space, a short bed, and the absolutely Tiny bathroom. Even as we happily checked things off on the list, I was making a mental list of what we needed to change.

Room for a baby, but not for a full-sized adult! The toilet is just to the left.

I couldn’t believe how small the “bathtub” was. There was hardly room for both of my size-10 feet in the bottom, and half of the tub was a 1' high bump to fit over the wheel well that I guess you could sit on if you were a child. My 5'5" high head almost brushed the ceiling because of how the tub was elevated off the floor. There was no way my 6ft tall, burly man of a husband was going to be able to shower in that. He could probably do just as well at the kitchen sink. So I knew the bathroom needed a redo.

Standing in front of the couch and looking towards the back of the camper. A short bed is fine for short people, not for us!

Then there was the “queen-sized” bed. I knew from my research that RV Queen is a whole different size, and it’s 5 inches shorter than a regular queen. My husband’s feet were going to be sticking off the end. Not too much of a problem for the occasional weekend or even week-long vacation, but it was not going to work for every night. However, if the bed was any longer it would be touching the bathroom wall and we wouldn’t be able to walk around the sides of it to get in. So, in order to lengthen the bed, we’d have to move the bathroom and closet walls. Oh well, I was planning to change the bathroom anyway. I put it on my mental list.

The fridge is immediately to the left of the stove, and that’s all there is to it!

Finally, the kitchen. I love to cook. My husband loves to tinker with new recipes, brew cider, make cheese, and try hot sauce recipes. We are foodies and the kitchen is our play area. I knew that the tiny, 2' strip of counter space between the sink and the stove was not going to cut it. Even with the handy cover that turns the sink into a cutting board, it just wasn’t going to work. I wanted the kitchen to wrap around the front of the trailer to make an L shape, with the refrigerator at one end and a pantry at the other. The sink would be moved to the middle of the counter at the front of the trailer and I’d gain a lot of extra counter space for our future kitchen adventures. Of course, in order for that to happen the dinette would have to go. It was ugly and uncomfortable anyway, I told myself as I mentally erased it from the floorplan.

Driving off into the sunset with our new home in the rear-view mirrors!

As I looked around the clean, lightly used travel trailer and considered the changes I wanted to make, it didn’t seem like that much to ask for. A usable shower, a regular length queen bed, and a decent amount of counter space. Just a few things. I figured I was reasonably intelligent and competent, and with my part-time job, I had the time. I figured I could learn a few things online, make the changes, put on a new paint job, and be happy. We paid the man, shook hands, and drove away with our new (old) home trailing behind us on the highway out of Roanoke. It seemed like an amazing thing, to own a fully working home on wheels. With just a few changes it could be comfortable and truly ours.

I’m sure you won’t be surprised to find out that things didn’t go exactly as I hoped.

In this series, I’m giving All of the details about the renovation process through every step, as performed by me, a 26-year-old woman with No experience in construction. I found that many of the blogs I read about RV and travel trailer renovations were lacking in details, usually only giving broad strokes like “we did demo on the inside for a few days.” Also, most of the time the husband did the work, and the wife just blogged about it. That’s fine for them, but as the one doing the work, I’m going to have first-hand experience with the trials and errors involved in demolition and renovation. I’m going to have plenty of pictures and discussion on my decision-making process and my methods of choice.

Click on the link below for the rest of the Demo/Reno story as work progresses on The Wind Rose.

For non-members of Medium, check out my blog. There’s No paywall!

Writing to you from beautiful Coastal Oregon (Tillamook area), I’m a Forest Service Botany Field scientist, backpacker, farm wife, DIYer, and writer.

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Samantha Goodwin

Samantha Goodwin

Writing to you from beautiful Coastal Oregon (Tillamook area), I’m a Forest Service Botany Field scientist, backpacker, farm wife, DIYer, and writer.

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