Van Shake Down Trip

March 30, 2018 Leave a comment

It was a bit like the curate’s egg – good in parts!

We took the trailer all of three miles from its storage to Dos Picos County Park and stayed for two nights.

The idea was to camp in the van and only enter the trailer if we had forgotten something or the van camping experience went pear-shaped.

We seem to have planned modestly well. We lacked a bread knife, decent corkscrew, enough pans to saute shrimp and prepare frijoles at the same time. Other than that, we were pretty self contained.

Oh, except it would be nice to have a ‘water thief’ and a short length of potable water hose to make filling our 5 gallon water container a little easier.

The power center worked well – charging up phones and such. We tested both hooking up a 110 VAC charger and the solar panel (not simultaneously, of course!) and both seemed to work as expected.

B reports that our ‘poor man’s’ porta-potti (a Home Depot-like 5 gallon bucket with a toilet seat atop it) worked OK and didn’t fall over.

We also discovered that the best way to keep the chiller connected whilst driving was to use the onboard inverter outlet in the rear of the van, which only supplies juice if the ignition key is on. This is safer than using one of the new 12 VDC outlets – which could draw the ‘house’ battery down if we forgot about it.

Now for the bad news. We haven’t yet insulated the van. The temps dropped to 39 degrees overnight. Despite having a 1500 watt electric fan heater working full blast, it was just. too. cold. for us California wimps. I (Simon) decamped to the trailer first, turned up the furnace to 11 and went ‘Aaaaaaaaah’ and slowly stopped shivering. B showed up a little later, cold to the marrow.

That said, the legacy inflatable mattress and new double sleeping bag was pretty comfortable, and I guess that if we’d thought about it, we did have extra blankets (one of them 12 VDC heated) which might have made things acceptable, but at 11 pm in the freezing-ish cold, and there’s a nice warm trailer right there 10 feet away…….

Anyway, that, right there is where the shakedown ended.

We need to insulate the van.

We need to make sure that we don’t stay in cold places with it until we have insulated it.

That’s not too big of a list, is it?

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Van Mods part 2

March 19, 2018 Leave a comment

Here are some photos of the partition, shelving and flooring supplied by Commercial Van Interiors:

Partition

Partition

Shelving

Shelves

Flooring

Flooring

Here is a photo of the Tekkonsha Prodigy P3 brake controller that I attached to the removable fuse cover. That way, if/when we sell the van, we can just get another cover for a perfect finish.

ProdigyP3

We got some Cordura seat covers for the driver and passenger seats:

SeatCovers

Most recently, we had San Diego Trailer Supply (great folks) install a ‘house’ (auxiliary) battery with a custom fabricated bracket attached to the vehicle frame underneath the van (thereby avoiding venting issues), hooked up a solenoid so that this new battery can be kept charged via the vehicle alternator when the engine is running, and they ran cabling across the underside of the van to emerge by the side door.

In this picture you can see the custom fabricated battery mount and the associated fuses:

HouseBattery

They also installed a roof vent with a built-in fan for us to wire up to the newly installed batttery.

VentOutside

VentInside

We’ve spent the last couple of weeks installing a ‘power center’, comprising a positive and negative bus for power distribution, a 20 amp PWM solar panel controller, a switch box to allow us to switch on and off things like the afore-mentioned vent fan, and a combination 3x ‘cigarette lighter’ sockets and 4x USB power outlets.

ControlPanel

In addition, we’ve started out to load the cargo area with all the stuff we’ll need – too much to list – but we found some great containers that are a tight interference fit for our shelves.

B also found some ‘hanging pouches’ which seem to be a great idea for keeping small things handy. Attached with Command Hooks:

HangingPouches

So, we’re nearly over the hurdles for all of the needs. Two major things remain – adding insulation and some sort of covering for the walls and ceiling to make the van more comfortable in inclement temperatures.

But, at least, we’re now ready for camping. Yay!

Categories: Uncategorized

Van mods part 1

February 23, 2018 Leave a comment

Well, we just got started on modding the new van. Basic principles are to keep it capable of doing anything that the original van can do, from hauling motorcycles to moving house, and still make it able to be camped in.

So, a light touch is it.

So far, we’ve had Commercial Van Interiors add new rubber flooring and the rails for Adrian Steel shelving, which shelves we installed ourselves. We also had them install a stout partition between the front seats and the rear of the van, in case of disaster and things were flying around in the back of the van.

We added a dash cover. And a Tekonsha P3 brake controller for the trailer.

Then there’s a whole raft of Amazon purchases – sleeping bags, levelers, cookware, and on and on, to make the thing habitable.

Plus, I mounted Hollywood bike mounts in the front of the cargo compartment, and the van is wide enough to have the bicycles mounted semi-permanently there without affecting ingress through the side door.

Most recently, B and I have been fashioning press fit window blackouts from black artist board, and now that is complete and working.

Next week, the van is headed to San Diego Trailer Supply for them to complete two tasks, install a roof vent, and a second, auxiliary, house battery wiring system, so we can run electrikky stuff, like charging phones and interior lights (and our Koolatron chiller) without draining the van’s starter battery.

After that, we’ll be ready for a shake-out trip. There’s bound to be many things that we’ve forgotten to deal with, so we’ll make it close to home.

Can’t wait. Want to get on the road with this rig. Patience, Simon…..

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We’re still here…..

January 13, 2018 1 comment

It’s been an awful long time since the last post. That’s OK, all it means is that we’ve been doing fairly mundane stuff that isn’t worth writing about.

First off, here are a few photos from our time off the leash in eastern Oregon, Washington and Canada:

This first one is from the Malheur Wildlife refuge in Oregon. A stag with a fine rack and a bird hitch-hiking along…

IMG_3362

The next one is from near Bend, OR. It’s one of the Sisters, taken from the rear side. By the way, it was late July at the time.

IMG_3383

Then later, we headed up through Washington State, following the Columbia River, and on a whim, went to Canada for lunch.

IMG_3435

So, there’s a big gap from then until now. The big news is that we’ve got a new tow vehicle, a mighty Nissan NV 3500 SV, which has a huge V8 engine and a petrol tank sized to match. Over the next months and maybe years, we’re going to turn it into a mobile living space. At the moment, it’s as raw as raw can be.

NVnLance

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Hey there…

August 11, 2017 Comments off

It’s been a long time without any posts. The main reason is that the Pacific North West has been socked in with serious smoke from fires for lo these many weeks. That makes landscape photography difficult, if not impossible.

What we’ve been doing is following i) a trek across eastern Oregon, to include Burns, Malheur National Refuge, a wild ride around 242, 126, and 20 out of  Sisters,. Then we went across to John Day and Baker City to discover the gold mining stuff.

Then ii), we have been following the dams along the Columbia River. Astonishing. Started out at Plymouth Park, WA, just west of the McNary Dam, then headed downstream to the Dalles and John Day Dams, and most recently, upstream to the Grand Coulee Dam. Which is where we are tonight.

We’re going to do laundry tomorrow, and into Canada for lunch on Sunday.

Stuff has been amazing, not least the whole notion of the ‘wipe-out’ flooding that caused the incredible erosion hereabouts. Hard to believe.

We’ll post some photos later, just keeping everyone in touch.

In the meantime, here’s a summary of how we felt about camp hosting:

“There is a huge difference between going camping for a few days, weeks, or even months, compared to being camp hosts. This is not necessarily a bad thing.

So, we’re coming up to the end of our nearly three month experience as camp hosts at a delightful RV park on a working cattle ranch in south central Oregon.

We haven’t moved our trailer in 2 and a half months! Since we bought it in late 2013, there has never been a gap that long without taking it somewhere. Because it has become ‘home’ to us. So, the first question is: Can you live and work comfortably whilst in a 15 foot trailer? Well, broadly, yes, if you are aware of what your partner is trying to do in the same space that you are trying to do something. It’s a compromise. Would it have been better if we had bigger accommodations? Probably so (somewhere to sit apart from the dinette would be nice). But then, it’s the first time we have tried this, and we like the size and weight of our trailer for all the sightseeing and travelling that we’ve been doing up until this venture.

So yes, we’ve managed being a bit cramped, but it’s OK. The view outside is worth it.

The ranch owner has been incredibly gracious, and our ‘boss’, co-hosts, have been great to work with, despite my destroying all things in my path in the early days, and that brings me to one of the great things about doing camp hosting – it’s a social activity almost as much as park maintenance and customer billing. You get to meet some really great folks with interesting stories to tell, from all over the country.

But, in the end, it’s about repetitive tasks, cleaning restrooms, irrigating, mowing and weed whacking grass, maintaining facilities. And endlessly manipulating check-ins, RV sites and reconciling accounts. And that’s all fine.

Except that it gets bit tedious. Especially when you’ve run out of local sights to see on your weeks off. And you know, the days are kind of long. From about 7:30 am until about 9:30 in the evening being paid 8 hours at minimum wage for one person – even though two people are being active for those hours. Take into account the ‘free’ RV space, electricity, water and sewage, so there’s a payback there, but even so, it’s close to exploitation. That said, our bosses wouldn’t turn a hair if we said we wouldn’t work beyond reasonable hours, so we’re somewhat complicit.

We have managed to get a good feel for how this part of the country lives, which is something we hadn’t anticipated. Coming from urban San Diego, this rural, farming/forestry region has completely different values – neither better nor worse – just different. The seasons dictate what people do, and the seasons don’t really exist in San Diego. Have you ever been to anywhere in San Diego (or any other city, for that matter) where the only Ford dealer closes on Saturday?”

 

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Lava Beds National Monument

June 26, 2017 Comments off

Yesterday, we went West over the hills, through the small town of Bonanza, dropped down into California and the  Lava Beds National Monument, which is, in summary, lots of lava and lava tubes (caves).  It’s the remains of what was once the biggest of the Cascades volcanos. And it is in a beautiful setting overlooking the plains. It has a small campground which we would be very happy to stay in, too.

Lava Beds

Lavafield

The first cave we encountered resembled a pair of eyes

eyes

The next one was bigger and blacker and colder (and a little bit green)

intodarkness

Next was ‘Skull Cave’ – awesomely huge

bigcave

Neat flowers and butterflies along the way

flowersbutterflies

Here’s me climbing down into a cave

s-cave

And here’s B looking down on me in the cave

bcave

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In Oregon, everywhere that’s interesting is at the end of a long, washboarded, dirt road.

June 23, 2017 Comments off

Like the hart mountain national antelope refuge. And almost everywhere we’ve been this trip.

It makes for a dusty vehicle – one wonders whether using the windshield wipers will grind a pattern into the glass because dust – but also for views like this:

viewfromhart

viewfromhart2

coming down from Hart mountain

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