Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Back from the Abyss!

For those of you who missed my writing, I have finally returned. Where have I been? What have I been doing? Well, in summary, I have been swamped.


I have been learning new skills, including how to remodel a house. I did everything (drywall, tiling, wiring) but plumbing, I think; and I think I could even do that now with a bit of basic instructions.


I have been working 40 hours per week to earn money.

And, after all that, I have been putting in at least another 20 hours per week on remodeling the van.

After working over 60 hours per week for nearly 3 years, we are just about at our wits’ end. I feel like we aren’t functioning correctly anymore.


However, as of this week, we are considering ourselves officially retired again! Our last day at work was 9/2. Our last day at our rental house was this beginning of last week, after which we rushed off to deliver our cat to family and my plants to a friend. Now we can officially do what we want when we want! It feels really good to be able to do that again.


I can tell when my life gets less complicated again. My weekly alarms (watering plants, setting out trash, etc.) start getting turned off. My to-do list gets minimal again with many days having nothing on it. I can start doing things that I have wanted to do but neglected to do so for other more important tasks. Life is good.

So what is next? Well, as much as I wanted to get immediately to Australia after leaving work and house, I have realized that it is more important to just enjoy ourselves. We will still get the 2 years not working, it may just not all be in Australia and other exotic places. We still have to:

  1. Pack the van – This is more complicated than you might think. We have a lot of stuff to cram into a relatively small space and still have to make it easy to get to for the frequency of use. I expect that to take at least 2 weeks, but more likely it will take longer. Besides organizing, we still need to buy/make containers to stuff things so it easier to store. We might even do another test run to see if we like how we have packed it.
  2. Ship the van – Right now we are looking for shippers, trying to understand the process and fees, etc. A lot of work and not sure how long it will take to find the right shipper, nor exactly how long it will take to ship. Depending on whether we do Roll-On-Roll-Off (RORO) or container shipping, we are seeing transit times anywhere from 14 days to 6 weeks.
  3. Fly to Australia – Once the van arrives at port in Australia, we will finally fly down to meet it and get it through customs.


As you can see, we will be doing good to get there before Christmas. In the meantime, we are staying with family, saturating ourselves with them enough to last 2 years in case they don’t come visit us in our travels.


Sunday, September 25, 2016

A Requiem Motivation Lost

It has occurred to me that I should bring the blog up to date with our plans. We have moved out of our home and have a vacation house to ourselves for the time being. There is still lots of work to do, not the least of which involves the logistics of moving our 8500lb van across the pacific. Unfortunately I am suffering from a severe lack of motivation currently. Probably a side affect of working too hard. Hopefully it clears up fairly quickly.

The move out was fairly uneventful in and of itself. However we managed to get robbed/burgled on two separate occasions. This succeeded in adding some undesired and unexpected dramatic flair. First off some ingrate nicked my tool bag out of the back of the van. There goes $500 worth of tools. Then, only a few days later, when we had about 90% of our stuff moved out some brain damaged fools broke into our house. Finding little of value they actually took the sinks, ripped out half the cabinetry, and stole appliances fixtures etc. Running out of room in their van, they continued to rip out cabinets, and just left them sitting in the halls. They got less than $1,000 of stuff (resale value), but they did many thousands in damage. 8 months of remodeling trashed in less than two hours!

Anyways, one can understand my lack of motivation after completing a move out, driving about 2500 miles, and having been burgled twice, all in one month! So I am going to enjoy being retired for the time being.


Our plans are roughly as follows. We need to organize the van, and pack our gear into it. Jen and I need to finish a few minor van projects, nothing serious thankfully. While we are working on these items, we will be working out the details of shipping the the van. We have reevaluated our options, and are considering a 40ft high cube container. With a set of shipping wheels the van will fit into the 8ft 6in door opening. If anyone out there wants to split a container let us know, as we will have about 19ft of the container unused. Once the shipping is worked out and scheduled we will get our visas and carnet de passages. Of course the shipping is the biggest unknown. The logistics of loading, transporting, unloading, and clearing customs is very new to us. Not wanting to pay an enormous sum for someone to “take care of it” means we need to educate ourselves.


The most unpleasant thing to look forward to is cleaning the van. Australia has a notoriously strict zoological cleanliness policy on imported vehicles. A single insect wing, or a bit of dirt can result in a $400 mandatory steam cleaning. This means we will likely need to spend a few days crawling around the underside of the van to remove a decade of road grime, soot, and insect splatter.

Finally I can say, we are free and clear.  The clock is ticking a bit on our vacation clock, but at this point its slow enough that I don't mind.  

   

Friday, September 16, 2016

Who Needs Stuff?

The entirety of our remaining possessions fit into a 6x12ft space. With room to spare!



I really need some time in my hammock. Already I miss my awesome desktop/workstation as well. But to be free of my  neighborhood and done with my job? Priceless. We have finished moving our stuff out.  By Sunday we will be free and clear.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Almost Moved Out Update

We are loading the van with gear as I type this. The house is 85% boxed up. We will be transporting our storage items to storage soon. One last push left, and all I want too do is take a nap. Sometimes I regret being responsible.


While all this has been going on we managed to squeeze in a few last modifications to the van.
First up was getting the hitch mounted winch provisions worked out. I am going to use Anderson connectors for the winch power. As a plus it will make jump starting a breeze.



The front bumper doesn’t have a receiver, so I bolted one on. Note that I have modified this bumpers attachment provisions to make it quite stout. Obviously if you get crazy it is possible to bend stuff or worse.





Here are Jen’s slip over seat covers. They have ½” of medium density foam laminated to microfiber faux suede. They are held on with Velcro straps and cord, so they can be removed for cleaning if needed. Pretty damn good from where I am sitting.





Here is the forward table installed. I used sequoia table system with a 29” table leg.

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This is the front cab curtain. Its primary purpose is to keep heat and AC in the front when driving. It also can be used when privacy is needed and the windshield curtains are too much work.




I bent some steel rod into a track for the slider mosquito net.






The cabinet sliding doors are finished and installed. Some screen door tension clips keep them stable.



I also installed some USB 3.1 compatible charging ports in the center dash console. These beauties can provide 2.4A each.

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Anderson power connectors have been mounted front and rear to power the winch. 2 gauge wire is used.

Here is the rear unit with its liquid tight boot.







Here we have the trail ready winch.





I mounted the forward connector under the hood near the battery.



Friday, September 9, 2016

Time Crunch, (AKA How to Procrastinate)

Getting down to the wire as we need to move out in 10 days. To this end we are trying to wrap up any projects that require the garage.  At least that's what I tell myself to justify ignoring move-out preparations.

We wanted to use the shower curtain outdoors, so I set four 10-24 riv-nuts in the door. Eye bolts are screwed into the rivnuts. Some rope and 6 cheap carabiners finish it off.





I also just finished up a mega-drawer for the rear storage area.
















I am also making a floor mounted table for the passenger seat (when swiveled).



The UPS Fairy also dropped off a present.






Of course now I need to add disconnects for power and bolt a receiver to the front bumper. I really need to tear myself away long enough to start cleaning and packing over 2 years of crap. It is amazing how stuff manages to collect in any free space!

Thursday, September 1, 2016

When Is a Project Really Finished?

In this case, a project is finished when you need to start living in it!  We need to be out of our house in a few weeks, so the last few major van items need to get done NOW!  Thankfully the list of van items continues to dwindle as we chip away at the final touches.  We are feeling the crunch now though.  Gratefully, we can change our schedule if necessary.

First up is the indoor shower. I used stainless rod and tubing to make a curtain rod that attaches to the roof. I set 4X 10-24 rivnuts into 2 of the ceiling frame tubes. These receive captive thumb screws which attach the rod. The rod/frame splits into two halves for storage under the bench seat. I used ¼” OD rod and 0.27” ID tubing. The pan is a water heater drain pan. We have the option of draining it into the sink (by hand) or running a drain tube out the slider door.







With much cursing the solar panel assembly was removed from the roof. I added a third frame member and beefed up the mounts. The new panels use a slightly different frame extrusion, so I had to re-drill the mounting holes. Of note is that the new panels have a different solder patter on the cells, and they are about 1/8” less tall due to the altered frame profile.





After much thought and debate, I decided to bond ribs to the back side of the panels. The glass on these panels is fairly thin, and flexes quite a bit when loaded. I used aluminum U channel bonded with sikaflex 252. I made the adhesive layer 1/8” thick to reduce the risk of delamination due to thermal expansion mismatches.



I will also be making a few aerodynamic shrouds to reduce turbulence, and hopefully eliminate the buffeting of the roof vent, and wind loading of the panels.

In order to maximize cooling and AC performance, I replaced the missing air deflector on the passenger side. I am also going to add some shrouding to the bottom of the bumper and around the skid plate. This should ensure that more of the high pressure air at the front of the van flows through the cooling pack. The new fan clutch is noticeably louder when driving at low speeds, and coolant temperatures seems to be better controlled. I am seeing 180-195 on the freeway with 90F ambients, which is much improved.



Jen has made some really nice padded covers for the front seats and she has nearly finished the interior curtains. We are still working on attachment methods for the slider and front curtains, as our first attempts were not secure enough.