Us: Woo hoo! New Passport!
Us: Woo hoo! Dory2 is ordered!
Us: Woo hoo! Lola Too is here!
Xmas 2021: Damn, you guys.
Here she is! “Lola Too” has now been officially welcomed into the Levenberg family (is it fair to call it a fleet yet?). First I want to share the story of her naming. Lola’s original owners, Gwen and Jim Mazza, are classic car aficionados and had spent 8 years lovingly restoring a 1951 Bentley named Lola. When they finally sold it, the gentleman buyer cried when he heard the name, because that was also the name of his late wife. So they wanted the same name for their Alto and I assured Gwen that it would never change. She will always be Lola Too.
Best. Picture. Ever.
She had a long journey from the storage facility in North Carolina and it was no small feat for Gwen to clear her out before the shippers got there. We got daily updates on her progress across the country, and more often than not, the photos looked like blizzard conditions that I was very happy to not be driving through. They took her straight to Randy’s and were amazed to see him raise the roof and test out the Caravan Mover. They said, “Wow! That’s an amazing trailer!” and were perhaps less confused about why someone would pay to have a tiny teardrop shipped across the country in winter. I smile every single time I look at the picture Randy sent us to let us know she’d arrived. Every time.
Randy’s Alto Fleet
When we went over to get a look, we saw that Randy has been amassing quite the fleet of his own. It was really hard to see poor Dory all crunched up next to Lola. That was emotionally quite difficult, but we were able to get a good look inside and sort of take stock. Gwen had disclosed that there was an oopsie with one of the rear window screens when lowering the roof. It looks like that damaged the curtain track too, so there will be a future project there to fix that up. Besides cushion color, there are some key notable differences between Dory and Lola, the most obvious being that there is a “BFW.” In the Altoistes group, the Big “Front” Window has long been the point of contention between the haves and have nots. We have always solidly fallen into the latter group, so this will be an interesting experiment to try it out first hand by way of comparison. For the record, Dory2 does NOT have this item on her current order, so if we change our minds, we’ll have to decide quickly. I won’t divulge which way we’re leaning, so place your bets.
Think this will go with my color scheme?
Another few differences were things we needed to change. Lola came with very nice 15″ wheels and a MaxxFan cover over the ceiling fan. Both needed to come off in order to get her into the garage and that turned out to be a really good call. There is also a very nifty hinged shelf that goes over the bathroom area. This would be great for extra counter space when at camp, but not so great if you have 2 showers happening every day. We will be taking that out, but it’s just velcro attached, so an easy thing to put back in. Then there are all the little mods we made to Dory. Some of these are more personal and not really necessary to function, so can be skipped for now. Some are super handy for the way we have learned to comfortably camp, and those will be on the re-do list.
*sniff* Just got some dust in my eyes here. I’m okay…
Once Randy was finished with the big ticket items and a good solid inspection, he surprised us with a text to come outside and see what Santa had left for us. There she was waiting for us, all washed and dolled up with some Christmas bling. As we were looking around inside, my eye caught sight of my little Dory, tucked away in her proper place. Randy had thought to move her into our new little home as a reminder to ‘just keep swimming.’ Seeing her there was a moment. Like there have only been a couple times in my life when I have been stopped dead in my tracks, literally jaw dropped by an act of profound kindness. Have I mentioned that we love Randy? Just want to make sure that’s clear.
No problem. Probably a whole mm of room to spare.
It feels like it’s been a year since we’ve moved a trailer into the garage, but in reality, from the day of Dory’s accident to the day of Lola’s delivery, it was only one month and six days. Richard moved Heaven and Earth to get us a 1723 in time for our planned winter trip departure date. And he succeeded. Except we are locked down and all the campgrounds are closed. *sigh* But still, that is an awesome feat and he really came through with all the tightly moving parts. And speaking of tightly moving parts, getting Lola under the garage opening was a bit exciting. Dory always cut it close, but had maybe an inch to spare. Lola looked like she was a hair’s breath away in two or three spots. It could be because her newer suspension rides just a little higher, or the fact that she is unpacked, or the fact that her dolly wheels are properly inflated and their axle is not bent. We were ready to let some air out of the tires, but didn’t need to. That antenna was not one of the high points, so that was good news. Out of curiosity, I do not understand the point of a TV antenna. I had thought the days of broadcasting over the airwaves was long passed, but perhaps someone can enlighten me. As we never watch live television, this is all sort of a mystery. In any case, she made it in and with the modifications we had done to our garage, she was even able to open up completely inside. This is a real game changer and I am so happy we did that. This allows us to do all of our packing, cleaning, and little projects right inside the garage.
We weren’t aiming to do this right off the bat, but those plastic latches did not know who they were messing with.
Practically the first project we did, after doing a thorough scrub down and steam clean, was the latches. We’ve always seen the plastic push button latches as a weak spot in Altos and we have little patience when one of them doesn’t work on the first click. Pretty much the first time we tried opening the kitchen cabinet, the housing pulled out. We were like, “Yeah, no.” We have spares lying around that still haven’t gotten installed in a friend’s trailer, so out came the drill. Richard’s template worked like a charm. It is important to note that if you do this mod, there is no room for error or turning back. You have to drill a much larger hole than the one for the original latches, and you have to put an extra spacer in the “keeper” location so that the latch will engage tightly. I just mounted the keepers that came with the Southco latches using double sided tape and that works just fine.
Thumbs up to the coroplast storage idea I stole off another Altoiste. These cups made it through the collision without a single chip.
Other projects on the ‘must do list’ included putting up organizers for the bedroom area, the entry area, and the shower. I installed new Chilewich carpets in the same style as before, and changed out the shower head to an Oxygenics model, with a flow controller so the water turns completely off. I also put in coroplast cubbies for the glass coffee cups and am happier with how that went than I was with Dory’s. In fact, in being forced to do a bit of rethinking due to the lack of overhead cabinet storage and different under bench dimensions due to the Truma Combi heater/water heater, I must say I’m pleased with how it all went together. I had some very specific bins for pantry items that fit perfectly in front of the water heater. Now that whole space is taken up by the Truma. In exchange, there is space in the entire under bench area by the bathroom. That allowed me to put in another set of “Like It Stackable Drawers” for pantry items. Those drawers are the perfect fit with one exception: you have to remove one of the door knobs on the driver’s side sliding panels and switch the orientation of the doors so that they will open all the way enough to open both sets of drawers. Not sure if I’m explaining that clearly.
What a fun idea! I added our names and the Mazzas to send off to the next Altoiste.
One happy discovery in the things that were packed in Lola was a “Pass Along Platter.” This was given the first time at the rally in Oregon back in 2016. It has since been passed along to other Altoistes and has made its way through Canada and the east coast. It’s really fun that it found its way to us, especially in the way it did. I know just where to re-home it next so that it can continue its Alto journey.
Looking ready to roll!
So all that’s left is packing. I love love love the bigger fridge and that will be a game changer for long trips. I love love love the Truma heater and that means not only snuggly quiet comfort, but also the fact that we can hang out in Lola in the garage with the heater on in electric mode. And yes, we’ve had our first sleepover and she is super comfortable. She passes the sleep test as well as the Kitty test. Having a television in there is turning out to be more fun than I expected and that might be something we put in Dory2. For movies, I think we’ll still want to go big with the projector and screen set up, but for a bit of fun, or when we’re too tired to do all the set up, the TV is a nice option. She’s in really great shape. The kitchen and bathroom seem brand new and lack the ‘lived in’ look that Dory has. Even the black cushion support wedges look nice (because they have not been squished a couple times by the roof going down).
Yup. Gonna need a new one of those.
Before we hit the road (IF we are able to hit the road), we will need to pull out the backup weight distribution hitch and make sure it looks level for towing. The fact that we have a backup weight distribution hitch set up is a small triumph for me. Way back in 2018 when we took our second once-in-a-lifetime trip to Quebec in order to attend the 20th anniversary rally, I purchased this off an Altoiste who was looking to get rid of it. We had a perfectly good one, but I like to overkill backup items (says the woman with a backup Alto). Richard insisted I was crazy and couldn’t believe I expected to drag that thing all the way across the country, only to have it sit on a shelf doing nothing. When Lola got packed up for delivery, Gwen put the sway bars inside, but not the hitch, and missing this part would have grounded us until we could obtain another. Well, well, well, who’s the crazy one now, eh? That feels satisfying.
Happy Holidays, y’all!
We are happy and Altoed again. We love all the people who helped make this happen; from the ones who alerted us to the sale on another site, to Gwen for choosing to sell to us given our sad sad loss, to (again) Randy for helping us every single step of the way. We may not have been able to keep our winter reservations, but it was not for lack of an Alto. Despite the trauma, a little Christmas miracle has been pulled off. We are grateful for all of it.