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Van awning

August 14, 2018 Comments off

After a day in the baking sun with no  shade, we decided that we wanted an awning for the van. Looked at Fiamma, but they were heckish expensive, so I trolled around Google and came across the Rhino Rack Sunseeker 2.5 meter awning. It’s made in the land of Oz, which is only worth pointing out because I don’t think I’ve ever bought anything made in Australia, except when I was physically on the continent.

The supplied fittings couldn’t be made to work with our van’s roof, so I got a local metal fabricator to make up some brackets that could.

And here it is:


And here it is unfurled (but not tied down):


It has a channel running along the front edge where we plan to hang screen material.

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2018 Rocky Mountain Trip Part 2

July 7, 2018 Comments off

In the last post to this blog, we left you cliff-hanging in Estes Park, CO, and the Rocky Mountain National Park. In truth, the sheer drops got the better of my heights phobia, and we turned around before getting to the top of the road. Awesome, anyhow.

Next day we set off to tour south east on hwy 36 and then back up the valley of the interestingly named ‘Big Thompson River’. Here be anglers (whilst we ate packed lunch):


Off we set, back down hwy 34, and then headed north, for a quick stop in Rawlins, WY. Rawlins has a pretty nasty history, exemplified by its state penitentiary. It also has two outstanding things:

A museum, which, amazingly, is pretty darn well curated.  It has an old covered wagon in the back – like an early RV…


and Rawlins has, surprisingly, a most excellent Thai restaurant.

Next up was Lander, WY. At a nice clean RV park with wifi that actually worked, for a change.

Almost by chance, we went to Sinks Canyon State Park, which is along a stretch of the ‘Popo Agie’ river. (pronunciation impossible)

When the river is at normal levels, it ‘sinks’ under the rocks, but when it is in full flood, it rushes down the canyon above ground. Which is what it was like when we arrived:

This is where it is supposed to disappear under ground.


This is just a picture of water.

There’s a trout pool a little downstream, and my, those trout are huge!


Dubois, WY was next. It is apparently pronounced ‘DUboys’, apparently as a protest at having a fancy french name imposed upon the town. Whilst we were there, everywhere was closed, but the Longhorn Ranch RV park was pretty nice, right along the river.

Onwards we went – close to the Tetons:



through Jackson (tiresome tourist destination) over the Teton Pass (holy moly, this is darn steep), and down, down, down to flatland – Idaho Falls.



B started having a little cough here. Nothing much, but some breathlessness.

We thought it might be about spending so much time at high elevations, or maybe an infection.

After a couple of nights, we started out north again, and headed to Lima, MT. Funky little one horse town in the middle of beautiful nowhere. We trundled along the 30 mile dirt road to the Red Rock Lakes National Wildlife Preserve, but it was apparently too windy for any wildlife to come out, according to a ranger. To be fair, it would have been better if we had come here at dawn or dusk.

By this time, B was having problems walking any distance, and she asked me to drive her to the place where we had dinner – most strange indeed, as it was only a few yards away.

So, we talked about this, and resolved to visit an urgent care facility in Butte, MT, the next day.

4am the next morning, B wakes me up and says, ‘I’m not going to make it to Butte, call 911!’

Long story short. A volunteer emergency ambulance crew turned up 30 minutes later, and take B to the little hospital in Dillon, MT, 45 miles away at 95 mph. I, gamely, follow, at legal speeds.

First suspicion is infection, so B gets hooked up to antibiotic infusions. A CAT scan shows blood clots in her lungs, so the antibiotics are stopped and heparin started.

6 days later, she is discharged from hospital (Yay, Medicare and MediGap – not a single dime does it cost) and we run for home down Interstate 15 with our tails between our legs.

Here’s what it looked like out of her hospital room window.


B is now stabilised on warfarin, and is doing OK.

But, holy fucking shit.

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2018 Rocky Mountain Trip part 1

July 6, 2018 Comments off

Knowing what we know now, and looking back, this trip started out with so much promise, and delivered on much of that. It was only later that dark clouds loomed, metaphorically, at least.

But this episode covers the early, optimistic, part of the journey.

May 18, we set off east on Interstate 8 east towards Yuma, where we were set to spend the night with Lew, a retired San Diego motorcycle cop, who we’ve met a few times, and have grown to have warm affection. He has his yard set up to not only accommodate his own trailer, but that of visitors as well. We spent the extremely warm evening imbibing all sorts of weird alcoholic devices and eating great steaks and fixings. In the morning we took photos and made our gratefulness obvious (we hope!).

This is Lew with B…


And with me 🙂


Then we set off for White Tanks Regional Park near Phoenix, which was as hot as Hades. We stayed for a couple of nights, and researched our new hobby – finding CVS pharmacies which actually stock the Rx refills that B needs.

On and up (in elevation) to Fools Hollow campground in Show Low, AZ. Lovely location, but we hope they didn’t pay the folks who laid their roads. But at least it was relatively cool compared to Yuma and Phoenix.

Next was an amble through north eastern AZ and western New Mexico via El Malpais National Monument, to end up camping at a very utilitarian RV park in Milan, NM. The CVS pharmacy search continued.

From this point, we kinda followed the continental divide, and crossed it maybe 10 times, possibly more.

After a couple of nights in Milan, doing exceedingly interesting things like laundry, we set off north again, through extremely barren high country which seemed to have an extraordinarily high number of christian missions to first peoples.

Through Farmington, CO and Aztec, CO, we made our way to Vallecito Resort RV park, a little east of Durango. The wifi sucked mightily, but at least the owner was honest about it. But, this area is a delightful little out of the way place in Colorado, and we were happy to stay there.




We checked out Durango, especially to figure out whether it would be a good thing to take the train to Silverton, but the heat and ‘touristiness’ of the place made us feel less than enthusiastic.

So, after a couple of nights of Vallecitos Lake solitude, we set off on the ‘Million Dollar Highway’ north from Durango, through Silverton and Ouray, ending up in Montrose for a night. Oh my, what a trip! 5mph twisties, up and down and around and around.



Here’s the weird town of Ouray


We set off towards Denver, stopping at Elk Creek campground, which was great.


Next day we backtracked to Black Canyon of the Gunnison. I confess that my fear of heights overwhelmed me…



We mosied on over to Pagosa Springs, and holy moly there are some springs there…


On the way back, we spotted chimney rock, and spent a little time there:ChimneyRock2

After this we went way up high (12,000 feet) over the Rockies, north and east to an RV park in Wheatridge, near Denver, for the weekend to visit B’s brother.

Which was just wonderful.

So, then we broke loose and went north west to Estes Park. And Rocky Mountain National Park:




Next episode up in 3,2,1….

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bit as tri-state

May 10, 2018 Comments off

Everyone knows that a computery bit is a 2 state thing. It can be either 0 or 1.

Not sure about that. In SQL Server T-SQL, it can also be ‘NULL’. That makes it tri-state.

Which turned out very useful in an application I was working on.


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Van Mods part 3

April 28, 2018 Comments off

Well, after the freezing camping episode, I hied me to Home Depot and got some ‘batts’ of Rockwool insulation, persuaded pal Bruce to allow me to use his garage to empty out the van, take the shelves down, remove the side panels and install some insulation behind them.

Well, that is a huge improvement, if only in sound deadening, as we haven’t tried camping in it again, yet. There’s nothing to see, because the insulation is behind the panels, so no photos.

And yesterday, we took the van back to Commercial Van Interiors in Kearny Mesa, to have them install roof insulation and headlining.

They proposed using Reflectix Double Reflective Insulation, but when I dug down into the detail, it seemed that for this application, the insulation wasn’t too good, an ‘r’ value of just 2. Compromising, we had them install a double layer of the stuff.

So we got a double-double, as it were.

On top of, or under, that (depending on your perspective) they installed headlining, which is awesome.



Now, we’re almost ready to go camping in this van. What we’re waiting for is a roof access ladder to go on one of the rear doors. We already have a bike rack that will hang on the ladder.

So, come on So Cal Truck Accessories & Equipment in Santee, you’ve had our money for a while. Where’s our ladder! Grrrr!

Next up: a short trip to Rancho Jurupa Regional Park next week. After that, we’re ready to rock. AZ, CO, WY & MT, here we come.

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Van Shake Down Trip

March 30, 2018 1 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 Comments off

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







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.


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


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:


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



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.


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:


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!

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