Friday, November 18, 2016

What’s in a Name?

Well, we are in the last sprint to get the van shipped off. We have chosen a shipping company and have started the carnet application, so hopefully just a matter of a couple of weeks before the van is at port.

But, before we can ship off, I was hoping to pick a name for the van. We are struggling a bit with this one. Jonathan says that the van hasn’t done anything worthy of a name yet, doesn’t have enough character. However, last time we chose a name, it wasn’t really based on anything about the van. We had just found a fun theme inspired by a character on Burn Notice. The character Sam Axe always used the alias “Chuck Finley.” Always refused to use anything else. If he needed an upgrade, it went to Charles Finley. “Chuck Finley is forever” was his mantra. We loved that and thus dubbed the vanagon, with my flair for the dramatic, “Charles Theodore Finley the Third,” fondly known as Chuck.

Now it is time to pick a new name for the new van, but Jonathan hasn’t liked anything I put out so far. I have been looking for a gender-neutral name so it can still be Jonathan’s mistress (female) while still being a “he” to me (all my vehicles are male). Failing that, I have also been looking for a travel-related name. My ideas so far (in no particular order):
  1. Darcy – gender neutral, I think. I think of Mr. Darcy, but I also know of many females with a first name of Darcy.
  2. Samwise Gamgee – Frodo’s faithful and loyal friend, willing to carry him to the ends of the earth. How can you go wrong with naming a van that? LOTR fans, anyone?
  3. Sir Ulrich von Liechtenstein (aka Will) – Shout out to A Knight’s Tale, an old favorite of mine. It is not travel-related, but it is Europe-related (this van hails from Germany as well) and a very fancy name just for fun. We can call him Will, like his friends in the movie do.
  4. Walter Mitty – from The Secret Life of Walter Mitty. I loved this movie! Just makes you want to go out and travel the world, doesn’t it?
There can also be a bunch of plays on words and names (see this website for examples for pets). I am not very clever in that arena; I know I have a many friends who are, though. So, do any of you have any suggestions? Post here so that others can feed off your ideas, or contact us directly. We would love the input!

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

October Updates

Greetings from this side of the internet.  Its been a few weeks since our last update, so its time to post our progress.

We have requested a large number of shipping quotes.  After a lot of back and forth we have decided to try container shipping.  Due to the 2.585 meter height restriction for high cube shipping containers, we will be needing to fit the van with steel shipping wheels.  These are custom made from steel plate, and will lower the van about 6 inches so that it will clean the door aperture on a container.  A generous friend has offered us the use of a CNC plasma cutter so that we can cut a set of these wheels.  Another option would be to use bare rims, but sprinter rims are fairly hard to come by, and are not cheap (plus they take up a lot of room).

Shipping routes from the USA to AUS are generally cheapest out of the Los Angeles port of Long Beach which is a hub for these routes.  Most of Australia's south east coast is common rated, so freight costs are the same for Sydney Melbourne etc.  There is some variance in port fees, but they seem to be fairly minor.  I have contact with a few fellow sprinter owners in Melbourne, so we will likely ship to that port.

We have a little bit of work left to do as we shoehorn all of our equipment into the van.  I still need to make a few storage dividers and some tie downs, but overall it is progressing nicely. We still need to request visas and acquire our CPD Carnet for the van.  We are holding off on these until we have a ship date for the van.  The temporary import of the van is tied to our visa expiration date, and the Carnet is only good for a year (it can be extended).  So these items all need to have similar/close start dates.

I spent a few quality hours under the van with a pressure washer over the weekend in an attempt to remove 10 years of road grime.  Mercedes felt the need to coat most of the vans underside (as well as inside the body cavities) with a wax like anti-corrosion product.  The good is that the van is rust free underneath.  The bad is that this wax has road grime and soot embedded in it.  I did the best I could, but factory fresh cleanliness is not a reasonable possibility.  Hopefully the Australian inspectors are lenient.

We have over 10 thousand miles on the vans chassis, and about half of that on the complete conversion.  At this point the van is pretty well shaken down, and  most of the minor issues have been resolved.  I still have a coolant seep or two in the water heating loop (new clamps?), and a oil seep or two as well.  I think I have most of them remedied, but there is a lot of plumbing.  Surprisingly we have had minimal issues with the conversions systems other than a few design/layout deficiencies which cannot be remedied at this stage.

Our future plans are still fluid at this point, but we are hopping to have the van in transit by the end of November.  We are requesting a fast ship, which should hopefully keep the transit time under 20 days.  If all goes well we will be on the road in Australia before 2017.

This is likely to be the last round of van modifications before we post up a complete "tour" of our new home in the coming weeks.

Here are the bug screens.





A hold down for the folding table.



Some protection for the AC unit.



I have created a system to allow for wifi access and a shared network for our electronic devices. A wifi router produces a local network, WAN is provided by a Ubiquity Nanostation. The nanostation has a powerful antenna, and allow us to connect to distant wifi networks. Using a suction cup mount allows us to position the nanostation on a window (or outdoors, as its weather proof).









I made a more permanent storage solution for the winch and recovery gear in the rear. Custom length bungee straps and eye bolts allow for strapping everything down.



A rack on the other side holds the various hand tools we need on a regular basis.



After much head scratching I couldn't find a good place for the maxtrax inside the van. I decided to fabricate a mounting rack on th passenger side rear door. It bolts through the hinges, and uses one hole in the door skin.