Restoring artifacts from the past is a slow, painstaking and sometimes tedious process.

I’ve never participated in an archaeological dig, but sometimes restoring the bus feels like one. I may not be digging million year old dinosaur bones out of the ground — I imagine it takes a bit more skill to extract dinosaur bones and reconstruct the skeleton of an actual creature from them than it does to peel the paneling, insulation, wiring and plumbing out of a 1969 Travco — but the aim is the same: bring the past back to life.

The problems is you never quite know what the past was really like. Is that a bone a finger joint or a toe? Should this be attached to that or was it always flopping here? Do I need this random bit of 12V wire tucked behind the under the sink? And, most ominously, the moments you find yourself thinking, “what in the world is that?”

I’ve also diagnosed a potentially serious disease in restoration projects that primarily manifests itself like this: “Well, as long as I’m in here, I might as well check the ______”.

Next thing you know, instead of just fixing some rotting wood behind the kitchen counter you’ve completely re-done the entire plumbing.

It’s all fun though. Especially getting all the crap out. Tearing out the ugly roof wart air conditioning unit and kicking it down to the ground where is shattered was especially satisfying (see a picture of said wart). Falling through the rotting floor under the hot water heater and almost punching my foot through the black water tank, less so. Fortunately I’ve mostly been working barefoot. I’m pretty sure a shoe would have had just enough extra weight to have cracked the tank.

1969 Dodge Travco, rotted wood under the water heater and water tank photographed by luxagraf
The rotted wood under the water heater and water tank

The air conditioning is gone though and that’s all that really matters. I hate air conditioning. I have it in my home because when air conditioning came along we promptly threw out all the things that made it possible to live without air conditioning. So now we build houses in the worst possible way and then pay a ton of money to keep them cool. Progress. Never mind that humanity somehow managed to do for 60,000 or so years, give or take, with, gasp, no air conditioning at all. To hear most people these days those first 60,000 years had to have been one long miserable existence.

I disagree. I think life without air conditioning is grand, if a bit sweatier here in the south. But we don’t intend to spend much time here in the south. And yes, I have spent several summers here in the south without air conditioning. I survived. I even enjoyed it.

I did install a fan in its place. I’m not an animal. I even went in for the fancy reversible fan with temperature controlled shutoff, which should be more than sufficient to keep things from getting too bad. The thing is — forget for a moment that I reject the notion that life should be constantly comfortable and climate controlled — let’s stick to the more universal idea that not being too hot is generally more pleasant than being too hot… it’s an RV, if it’s too hot where we are, we will fire up the magnificent Dodge engine and go somewhere cooler. I really need to tear out the rear A/C too, but for now it stays.

It should go without saying that the heater has likewise long since departed via graceless and shattering fall to the concrete. Nothing replaces the heater. Instead we now have enough storage space under the stove for more useful items like a slow cooker, a cast iron dutch oven or two, a few jars of fermenting veggies and maybe even a sauerkraut crock.

Next on a chopping block is the two way refrigerator which will replaced by an icebox and the Onan generator which will be replaced by nothing. The ice box move freaks everyone out, “oh my god, how will you live without a refrigerator?!” Technically, we’ll still have one, it’s just going to be in the form of a 12V freezer, which will allow us to freeze things we need to freeze (ice blocks, bulk purchase meat, huge batches of camp beans from aforementioned dutch ovens) and then turn it off when we don’t need it. The other things we need kept refrigerated will do just fine in an icebox.

Almost nothing in the average refrigerator actually needs to be there for any health reasons. If you’d like to learn more, read up on how long distance sailors store food.

The generator will be replaced by couple solar panels on the roof which don’t take up 10 cubic feet, are silent and don’t belch smoke. Looking forward to the storage space that will buy us in the back, under the bed.

 photographed by luxagraf
Travco t-shirts (printed by a band called The Swell Season — never heard of them).
 photographed by luxagraf

Slowly but surely progress happens. Or what I call progress, which this case means reverting to technology of roughly 1955, around the time technology slips into solipsism. Well, except solar, that, along with incremental improvements in energy efficiency are about the only decent tech inventions since 1955. And those are few and far between. My 1969 Ford F250 gets as good or better gas mileage than the current line of Ford trucks.

Which is not to say I hate technology, just that most of it serves itself or its makers, not its users.

Solar is a notable exception — possibly the best idea/tech we’ve ever invented. I mean, I’m not crazy anti-tech, I just think the good, sustainable ideas are few and far between. But I’m not a delusional lunatic who thinks I’m living in the Victorian era by playing dress up or anything. I just don’t really like air conditioning. Or heaters. Or generators. And I prefer a good fire to electric light. Hmm.


Simon September 25, 2015 at 7:23 p.m.

I can see where you’re coming from on some of this stuff, blown air and heat bother my allergies. Not sure I understand the 2-way fridge downgrade though. Have you ever lived with just an icebox? Not easy. And you have have to buy ice a lot.

Scott September 27, 2015 at 7:58 a.m.


I have lived without refrigeration a good bit, ‘69 travel queen campers, various boating adventures and some extended backpacking adventures. I also spent 8 years running restaurant kitchens. What I took away from all that is that very few things actually need to be kept cold. For those things that do, an icebox is sufficient (provided you put extra insulation around it and have reasonably large block of ice you can go 5-8 days without needing more ice).

And, as I said in the article, we’ll have a 12V freezer to create our own ice. But without that you’re right, buying ice is limiting.


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