Welding Roof Supports and Dreams Together

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With our first hired help, Andy and I prepared for Welderman Paul’s arrival and the official kick-off of our 1965 Clark Cortez motorhome’s welding jobs.

This meant removing six corroded roof supports, which were no longer holding up our roof due to about two inches of the bases being eaten away by rust.

Earlier, we had asked if Paul (the founder and owner of RVA Mobile Welding Services) could replicate the supports and — after confirming he could — we went to work marking the offending supports with red spray paint then labeling each with painter’s tape to be sure our replacements went in the right place.

Now it was time to cut the support from our antique RV before Paul’s arrival, which saved time (and therefore money).

Andy somehow labeled this as my job, saying he could use time wisely by getting ahead on other tasks so I admit I felt dumped in the deep end. While I had become quite confident in my angle grinder stripping wheel skills, a cutting disc was different.

“I’m really scared,” I admitted, remembering the vision of Andy cutting out our first support to give to Paul. “The sparks are flying. They were landing on your skin — I imagine it’s going to hurt a lot.”

Here I paused, waiting for my husband to kindly interject and say something such as, “No, no — It won’t hurt at all. You’ve got this — You’re strong. You’re capable.”

There was an awkward silence. He was waiting on me. I was waiting on him.

Then I got a smug grin as to say, “So you’re impressed I worked in fire?”

I ignored his pride.

“Is it going to hurt a lot?!” I re-asked in a voice definitely up several octaves. “Is it going to hurt as much as it did when the metal shards from your angle grinder went into my neck?!” I had to prepare myself for the level of pain our steel beast dished out, the level of pain I was willing to endure.

“No, it’s not as bad,” Andy told me, cutting off my thoughts, “not as bad as the metal pins.”

With a heavy sign, I got ready — Safety glasses and respirator on then a brief lesson in angle-grinding cutting discs. It was time. “Okay, okay,” I said, prepared to showcase my newly learned knowledge. “I’m really scared, but I’m just going to try it first.” Listen, if there’s one fact you should know about me it is that fear is one hell of a motivator. And I also like to prove I can do any job a male can. Deep breath. Angle grinder on.

After a bit of working the cutting disc back and forth and fiery sparks flying, sure enough I’m the female badass I knew I could be.

This, of course, meant I needed to open our RV’s window to yell my progress to the outside world. “AND — I DID IT! I CUT OUT MY FIRST METAL PIECE!”

“Is it square?” Andy asked, re-entering the Cortez. This question was quite confusing though because the goal of cutting is to make one singular cut which, in theory, means removing the sides (the sides of the square?). Men are strange in their creation of tool names and tool objective names. One cut should create one line — not one square shape.

“What do you mean square?” I asked, feeling deflated. He was clearly asking because there was an inadequate element to my job.

Andy moved directly in front of me and looked up at what was left of our ceiling’s roof support.

“Is it straight?” he asked and sliced his hand in the air in front of me. His air-slice formed at 90-degree angle.

Surely I had missed something so I copied him — squaring off in front of him and looked up at the cut of my angle. “I mean, it looks like the side of a triangle,” I confirmed … but what did that prove? I had followed directions and angle-of-cut was not mentioned in my lesson.

“It needs to be straight,” Andy announced and sliced the air in front of me again.

“I thought the goal was just to cut it off?” I retorted back.

“I did say to keep it square … ” he responded so — thanks to modern technology and our obsessive desire to document our Cortez overhaul — we paused to consult video proof.

For the record, he had in fact told me to keep the angle grinder ‘square’ — which I suppose I ignored because that’s the oddest, most confusing expression.

“Well, maybe you will fix that portion,” I told him and politely handed over my angle grinder before stepping out of the way. While Andy worked diligently to correct my error and move to the other roof supports, I gradually gained cutting confidence again and returned to the job. I’ll have you know too the next supports were cut with perfect 90-degree angles (or, uh, ‘square’ cuts for those with odd minds).

Six rusty roof supports were now cast out of the Cortez …

and placed on the grass for our welderman Paul who arrived as if on cue.

After quick greetings, Paul immediately began measuring and bending metal square tubes to replicate our roof supports.

As Paul did this, Andy and I returned inside to smooth the metal with our stripping wheels.

Past this, the exciting work would begin!

Turning on his MIG welding machine and flipping his super badass welding mask down, Paul squeezed the trigger on his welding gun, releasing argon gas (which shields the welds from impurities in the air that would negatively affect it). At the same time, a tiny wire is moved forward and a high voltage of electricity is released. This combination melts the wire into a little puddle, which welds two metals together.

All felt quiet except for the zap, zap, zapping from electricity as Paul laid beads of weld on the shiny metal and then — in a matter of minutes — our first new support was in place …

From the moment Paul stepped onto the farm, I felt the progress to overhaul our Cortez move forward faster.

The day felt monumental — Three people were focused on the singular goal of restoring our antique motorhome, and that realization gave me a massive boost of encouragement.

As the zapping continued, Paul slowly moved around our RV, working up the passenger’s side first …

and before we knew it, he had swapped sides and was heading down the passenger’s side.

Suddenly, as fast as the work began, it was done. Time felt slowed, and Andy and I stood next to Paul to look at the job …

The three of us didn’t move. We all simply admired the new roof supports.

“What do you think?” Paul asked. “I think they turned out well.”

Without a doubt, Andy and I confirmed Paul’s thoughts, and it was then I realized plans change. Andy and I had started this journey with the desire to restore our motorhome solo — a fact I was immensely proud of — but with Paul beside us, I felt equally proud of our decision to ask for help. Sometimes, goals change and that’s not only okay — It can be great.

I remember telling Paul his work was perfect, but it was more than that …

It was Paul’s positivity, his lack of hesitation when he saw our motorhome, and his desire to help one possibly ridiculous couple weld their dreams together.

It was perfect — all of it — and we couldn’t wait to welcome Paul back to the farm again.

#Welding #Roof #Supports #Dreams

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