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 On the Road Again

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soothsayer
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PostSubject: Re: On the Road Again   Mon Aug 07, 2017 8:56 am

On a side note, my dad asked for an update on the conversion and so I showed him these pictures. He grinned, laughed in a good way, and said "it looks like a living room". That was exactly what I was going for... a sleeper / slash mobile office. If you look at it, I can easily remove the bottom bed/shelf unit and replace it with a small desk and a chair, or a table and a few chairs. I am now set for whatever, whether it be camping, an extended long distance haul / vacation, or if I work some wonky hours (or if I'm asked to go work at a site far away).

Slide the couch against the divide, remove the bottom bed and toss in a queen... spousal trip.

...

Hmm... may need to make curtains to go on the living room side of the screen. Add that to my "five minute projects" list.
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PostSubject: Re: On the Road Again   Fri Aug 11, 2017 9:53 am

Propane and propane accessories

Getting geared up to install my stove... you know, one of the requirements of a motor home. My initial idea was to get a bathroom vanity cabinet from the Resale Shop, but in propane mounting brackets in the main compartment and have the drawers act as storage for utensils and plates and whatnot, with the stove going on top.

But then I learned there are some minor propane regulations when it comes to motor homes, campers, and the such. First and foremost is that the propane cannot be stored within the body of the vehicle. If you are using one of the small propane cylinders, roughly the size of a football, that's okay... the rules don't say anything about those. But a twenty pounder (the ones you get at gas stations), those have to be stored outside the body, and they have to be vented in case of gas expansion. Then there's stuff about having adequate ventilation, a carbon monoxide detector, and so on. As an extra notice, one should note that while it is legal to drive with the propane system on (running heater or fridge, as example), it is required that the system be turned off before entering a gas station or a tunnel. Who knew?

While my intention was to never actually have (or rather, use) propane, I still have to at least install the fittings to meet the requirements. So... here's the plan.

Within the black area of my sleep, I am putting up a cabinet and mounting the camp stove on top of it. I have the cabinet and the stove top already. I will be drilling a hole through the floor of my vehicle; since the floor is wood planking, this will be easy. On the internal side of the hole, I will put in a quick release valve, with a propane distribution post between the valve and stove; this will allow me to hook up other propane devices without having to connect/disconnect stuff (such as heaters or maybe refrigeration units). From the external side of the hole, I will run a hose to and through the utility box, which will then have the connections for the propane tank. The bottom of the utility box will have holes drilled to provide the necessary ventilation, with screening epoxied over the holes. Propane tank mounting inside the box will secure the tank, and the hose leading from box to hole will possibly be going through a PVC pipe just to provide extra protection.

I don't need all that precaution. I can just run the hose outside the vehicle and drop a tank 10' away, and I'd technically be legal. When done, roll up the hose and put both into a utility box. That's the quick "five minute project" way, but if I want to make this last, what I described above would be the preferred method.

I suppose a carbon monoxide detector would be a good idea... if anything, it'll be there for when I use the indoor propane heater. And, being a "necessity", it doubles the good idea-ness. As far as ventilation, pfft, I just open the back of the camper! Want a cross breeze? Open the door leading to the cab, with the windows open! Or, complete the five minute project in which I put those roof vents in. As you can see, I've got ventilation covered.
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PostSubject: Re: On the Road Again   Mon Aug 21, 2017 9:47 am

Four of my "five minute projects" were completed this weekend. I could have done more, but Saturday I almost had a breaking point and just had to get away from the house for a day of distraction. My magnetic screen is up (as are the curtains), ceiling rim is taken care of, lighting, smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, and my kitchen assembly.

I will have to trim the screen a little bit; it's dragging on the floor, so the bottom portion doesn't really clasp shut that well. I'm also going to have to create a couple magnetic clasp areas for portions of the screen that don't close properly (the very top and very bottom). Otherwise it is good to go. I'm also either going to have to hem the curtains or find some way to lift them up; they're 84" curtains, but the space they're in is only 78" high. It's not bad, and I'm sure that the few inches on the carpet will aid in keeping drafts down if I ever go winter camping, so that bit is neither here nor there.

The ceiling trim was accomplished by the use of duct tape. I used an olive brown colored tape to go down the middle, then a beige colored tape on either side of it, to give it more support strength. While it doesn't match the coloring of the panels, it does the trick in lifting up those portions that were saggy due to not being on a support strut. And in truth, while it is noticeable, casually walking through the truck you won't notice anything out of the ordinary.

The lighting units are those LED closet lights. Not the kind where you press the bulb to activate; I had gotten those, but I wasn't happy with them. No, there are small LED strips; the two on the ceiling have five? six? soft white lights, and the two on the horizontal have four bright lights. Both types have a remote control to activate them, and while the control for the two horizontal I will be attaching someplace to the truck, the control for the two ceiling lights will be loose / just sitting wherever. The reasoning for this is twofold: the one for the horizontal lights looks like a normal wall mount switch, whereas the ceiling lights is just a button... stick it in your pocket, go into the woods to pee, turn on the lights to see where the truck is at. *shrugs*

Smoke and carbon monoxide detectors probably wouldn't have been needed, but if there's the possibility of having propane active in the truck, it certainly wouldn't hurt.

Kitchen assembly consists of a small shelf unit, a cabinet, and a two burner camp stove. The cabinet acts as a normal cabinet, storing dinnerware and utensils and whatever, while the shelf will hold canned goods; will be rigging up some sort of strap or bar to go across the openings of the shelf so that nothing slides out. The camp stove is mounted onto place, and fits perfectly on the shelf. I'll be mounting a fire extinguisher on the wall next to everything. There's also plenty of room between the shelf and the door if I wanted to put a cooler there.

Going to be hitting Menards this noon hour to grab some glow-in-the-dark spray paint. Planning on spraying the sides / top of the ramp. Not the part you walk on, just those side support rails. Way I figure, if we're camping, the ramp will be pulled out. They'll "charge" during the day, and will be visible at night so we know where to step or walk.

With the magnetic screen being up, I consider this vehicle good to go for camping trips. Too bad this coming weekend is the fair, and the following weekend is the bridge walk. Maybe I'll sleep in it on Friday?

...

In the series of pictures below, the first is of all the lights turned on (you can see what I mean about the bottom of the magnetic screen), the second is from inside with just the ceiling lights on (bright enough, kinda warm / comforting), and the third is the kitchen assembly.



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PostSubject: Re: On the Road Again   Tue Sep 05, 2017 9:37 am

Weekend Update, September 4

Just a few minor things.

1. Primed the top and sides of the ramp rails (not the walking area), then coated them with the glow-in-the-dark paint; turned out very nice. While it doesn't glow like most items, it glows enough to be seen. No one will be able to walk through and trip over the ramp, saying they didn't see it. I think the main reason it doesn't glow brightly is because it's already spending the "charge" as the sun sets. But, between what it does glow, and the white primer underneath, it is still bright enough to be seen. Safety first!

2. First aid kit and fire extinguisher have been installed.

3. Mosquito screen has been trimmed a bit more; magnets pull it shut much quicker now. I think I'll still have to add weights to the bottom of the screen, only because I noticed a good breeze does pull them apart.

4. Bug deflector is up. Window deflectors will be going up soon.

5. Last ceiling panel is up (within the overhanging area.

6. Radio is this close to being swapped out.

UPCOMING

1. Attach the stove to the shelf unit. It's recommended that the stove does not sit atop anything combustible, so I'm going to use the stove legs to keep it off the shelf, and just attach it by the legs with some U shaped clamps.

2. Swap headlights. Driving at night with this is a pain; I'm thinking the headlamps are original... old. The light is yellowish.

3. Hem some curtains for the overhanging area.

4. Maybe get a retracting screen for the door leading into the cab. I figure, if it's hot, if I have the cab windows open, it'll create a cross-breeze. Don't need mosquitoes coming in from that direction.

5. Look into a stable wall mount for a TV.

6. Still need to put in the RV outlet and the cable junction.

EXTRAS

1. Craft a PVC roof, curved, and cover it with a tarp. Need this before winter time, so that the weight of snow doesn't press down on the roof and so ice doesn't build up or seep inside.

2. Need gravel! I have some treated 4x4s and some bed lining to make a parking spot, just need gravel. Don't want the truck just sitting on grass.

..

Side note: Steve poked his head in the other day, rather likes things. He says it looks more like a cabin then it does a truck.
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PostSubject: Re: On the Road Again   Fri Sep 08, 2017 1:10 pm

Duh
or: why didn't I think of that earlier

Was at Goodwill during the noon hour, looking for... nothing, really, just a time waster. Was walking past the area in the back corner where they have the backpacks, suitcase, and blankets when I had an epiphany. I've been trying to find short curtains to place over the overhanging area, haven't been able to find what I was looking for, and came very close to making my own: why not just use bed sheets?

Ran to Walmart, bought two twin size three-packs; contains a flat sheet, a fitted sheet, and a pillow case. I'll be using the two flat sheets (folded in half) to act as curtains for the overhang. And this way, I have {fitted} sheets to go over the mattresses. Win / win!
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PostSubject: Re: On the Road Again   Tue Sep 12, 2017 11:04 am

Weird

Since installing the radio, my battery has been draining. I cannot figure out why; all the colored wires match. Reading up on this at work, seems it is a common occurrence. I'm going to have to check the negative terminal, make sure I tightened it back on all the way. Apparently, the quick fix is to simply pull the fuse (for preset station memory), but I don't want to look for a quick fix.

I'll have to check the brand of radio, too, see if something is screwed up with them. The previous radio was just fine, could go for weeks without worry.

Rather pisses me off.

...

Now, there was a blue wire that had a black shrink seal on the end. I did find a match for it, so I took the seal off and connected the two. Perhaps that is the culprit? That'll be a final test I suppose; undo that connection, see what happens.

{edit}

Last night I checked the battery connections (nice and tight) and then I went through the wiring chart for the radio; the solid blue wire was for "power antenna / power amp". I'm no expert, but since the van doesn't have a power antenna or an amp, I don't see how there could have been a drain... but I went ahead and disconnected that just to be safe.

I'll check the van tonight when I get home, see how quickly it fires up. Drove around the Crivitz area for about a half hour yesterday so the battery would get a good charge. Hopefully that blue wire does the trick.

I did notice that, when the radio's faceplate is removed, there is a small red blinking light, probably one of those false security alarms thingies. I'm hoping that that isn't the cause of the drain. Regardless, after seeing what goes on tonight, I may just pull the radio's fuse (after charging the battery again) and see if it is in fact the radio, and not something else. I can't imagine what, as the only change I've done electronically was the radio.

{editing the edit}

Checked a few things online yesterday afternoon, and yes, it seems an inoperable power antenna will drain the battery, but over a length of time. The forum accounts I read showed that a bent antenna that can only retract halfway draws some juice from the battery. I couldn't tell you how much, but I reasoned that, with that wire essentially being "live" and attempting to lower a device that was nonexistent, it might just try to draw that electricity a bit longer. I don't know, I still can't see how something that doesn't exist is able to drain power, but *ehh*, whatever.

When I got home last night, I went to the conversion; it started up like it did on day one, and the battery gauge didn't show any drop from the day prior. Yay me! I'm still a little suspect though, not believing it was the power antenna, so I will wait a second day before firing it up again; the first was a 24 hour period, and when that wire was connected, there was noticeable decline in the battery and starting time. With the wire disconnected, the 24 hour wait started without an issue... so, just to double check things, I'll wait 48 hours (Friday afternoon), thinking that if there is a drain, that long of a period should be enough to have some effect.
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PostSubject: Re: On the Road Again   Fri Oct 27, 2017 10:45 am

sleeping on the job

Last weekend, I spent my first night in the conversion. I didn't go anywhere, just kept it parked in the back yard. I wanted to test or experience a couple things: it was supposed to thunderstorm that night, so I wanted to hear just how loud it was inside (it rained, but it didn't storm), and I also wanted to check the feasibility of using it as a living quarters.

1. Using my laptop as a television, I can say that a 15 inch screen works well and can be seen clearly from the couch, though I doubt subtitles or on-screen instructions would be legible. This works as I have that 19 inch television sitting in the basement.

2. With the bed laid out, there's only a foot or so of space between the couch and the bed. Not the best, but it's workable. Anyone coming out from the overhang is definitely needing to be mindful so as not to step on the person sleeping below.

3. There is still a fair amount of noise coming in, though probably not as intense as, say, a tent. It's like being in a house.

The weather that evening was rain, with a nighttime low of 62*. Using a thin-to-standard blanket, I was fine.

...

This coming weekend, I plan on sleeping in it again; in particular, Saturday night. Nighttime low is supposed to be 27*, and I'll be testing how well it maintains heat.

I have a gas heater for the conversion, but I won't be using it. Instead, I'll be using a small space heater, one that's geared for small rooms. I'll be running an extension cord from the garage and in through the van's window (I have window visors in place, so nothing will drip inside), then run the cord through the cab access door. I may attempt to cover the door or window opening, we'll just have to see.

With the curtains to the overhang closed, the back door closed, the main curtains closed, and with the ceiling being insulated, I'm thinking things will be pretty good. With the curtains, I've essentially created a living area of 120 square feet. I was originally going to create foam inserts to go over the screened wall for winter camping (which I might still do), but for now I'm hoping that the main curtains will act as a "good enough" barrier. Could always go with the heavier thermal curtains, but that's something to be considered at a later date.

My main concern with this would be heat loss (or cold absorption) through the walls; the only thing there is aluminum sheeting and half inch thick plywood. If I can feel the cold radiating from the walls, I'll know that I may have to look into insulating them as well. That was another "original intention" I had, taking down the plywood, putting in insulation, putting plywood back up... but I decided against it as a time and cost saving measure (believing the plywood would make a good barrier). I am really going to hate having to dismantle everything if this doesn't work.

I don't really seeing myself conducting further tests after this one. Sure, there will be colder temperatures coming, but a lot of that is due to wind chills. If a small space heater works under these conditions, then a normal heater will work just as well.
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PostSubject: Re: On the Road Again   Mon Oct 30, 2017 8:26 am

winter camping test

So I did spend the night in the conversion this past Saturday, and for the most part it wasn't too bad. I put a small single room space heater (Pelonis HF-0020T) in the back of the van at roughly 6p, having run the cord through the cab access door and then through a window. The outside temperature at that time was 40*, with an interior temperature of 45*.

I headed out to the van at about 9:30p to make the bed and get my laptop ready. By time everything was up and running, the outside temp was 33*, inside was 56*. I didn't crawl into bed until about twenty minutes past midnight; outside temp didn't change much (32*), and the inside dropped down to 54*.

I did wake up a few times during the night, but that was mainly due to sounds like the train and the nearby bar. I woke due to the cold a couple times as well; I checked the temperature every time I woke up because of the cold, and the lowest I recall seeing was an indoor temp of 45*. That was during the 5 o'clock hour, and if I remember right, I believe the outside temp at that time was supposed to be 26*.

All told, it seems as if the van maintained a 20* warmer temperature than the outside. Not too bad! I'm fairly certain that a bigger or better space heater would have done a much better job, so I have no doubt that my indoor propane heater (it's called Mister Heater Buddy) will work. People use this type of heater in tents, RVs and as an emergency heat source, so I'm not worried at all. From reading reviews, this type of heater does go through propane quickly if it is set on high (3 hours for a small canister), but if you don't mind wearing clothes, you can put it on low (6 hours for a small canister) and be fine. I intend to use a 20 pound propane tank, the size you see at gas stations, and that's supposed to last 5-6 days.

From what I experienced, there are a few things I can do to improve the heat retention of the van. First, I need to get some pipe insulation tubes of some foam noodles to line the inside corners as you can feel the cold radiating from between the plywood and the aluminum shell. I hadn't thought of that before, but considering that the corners are just the single layer of aluminum, it'll help a lot. The second thing to consider is the use of heavy thermal curtains. Right now I just have up some basic room darkening curtains, and while they did help in acting as a heat trap, they could have been better. I probably could try insulating the sides as well, but that would be quite involving; not only would I have to remove everything I put in (which in itself is no big deal), I'd also have to take down the e-track... not to mention having to align all the holes exactly when putting the stuff back up. No, I figure between the shell and the plywood, it'll be fine. As it was, while the walls were cold to the touch, they weren't freezing... and hell, if people can survive in a nylon or canvas tent while winter camping, plywood will be perfectly fine.

Points to consider: next time I will probably need a thicker blanket, and I'll need to go to bed with socks on. As it was, I used a normal thin blanket, folded in half; it worked, but it could have been better. I also went to bed wearing a thin sweatshirt (not a real sweatshirt, but one of those fake thinner ones) and sweatpants. No socks. I probably would have been more comfortable wearing socks. But hey, that was the point of this test, to see what improvements need to be done.

On a side note, I may need to think about installing a funnel system to act as a urinal. For winter camping, not for everyday use. Unless I want to crawl through the access door and go outside that way. Let's just say that when you're sitting on the couch watching a movie and you have to go pee, going from 56* to stepping onto the bumper and aiming outside in 30*, it makes for a big difference, not to mention the fact that there is a big heat dump when you open the back door.
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