to simplify 2.0    notes from a life on the open road

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

In Review

Quiet times here in semi-rural New Jersey, where thanks to one of my bro's car ramps, I've been able to level out the spaceship in a corner of the driveway overlooking a lush forest preserve. Pretty good stuff.


Even though there's a choice of guest bedrooms available here, the van remains my home, so while the open road hasn't exactly been whipping by lately, I have been able to get a good sense of how all the recent upgrades are working out.

In a word, GREAT.



That's the new upstairs sleeping setup pictured above (stowed neatly away in daytime mode). A mere two inches of extra-firm foam lies between the sliding platform and my body, but it's been offering the best sleep of my life, and climbing up and down is a total snap thanks to the folding step I installed. An unexpected bonus of having a dedicated sleeping space is the freedom to leave whatever I'm working on at my desk out overnight (I previously had to put everything away just so I could set up the bed).



Speaking of the desk, that too is a real winner. Pictured above is the brushed aluminum keyboard cover I fashioned a while back with the aid of Q's welding chops. It serves as a protective cover for the keyboard while also making the desk into a single flat surface for when I'm not doing music work. The cover is held securely in place by four neodymium magnets, so it's a piece of cake to pull off and go into keyboard mode at a moment's notice. Behold:



On to the kitchen, the new faucet is a nice improvement over the old one, mainly due to the increased height and the ability to swivel it out of the way. Small stuff, but when you live this small, sometimes it's the smallest things really make a difference. Cooking with propane is also a welcome improvement over the induction cooktop of old. While the induction certainly worked, it drew a ridiculous amount of power, and the heat level wasn't nearly as flexible as it is with gas.



The new fridge, a Truckfridge TF65, draws literally half the power of my previous top loader, it's a much more efficient use of space, and it's unbelievably quiet. Another huge improvement all the way around.



Having had 500 watts of solar capacity for a couple of years, I was a little concerned that the modest 255 watts that I now have wouldn't be up to the task, but thanks to the reduced power consumption from the stove and fridge upgrades, the net result is that I now have more juice to burn than before. As I've said previously, the big unknown with the flexible panels I'm now using is long term durability, but so far they've been quietly going about their business without a single problem.



Last but not least, the new Propex heater (thermostat control pictured above) is yet another upgrade that's proven itself well worth the effort. It probably won't see any use for a while now, but I've had to fire it up several times in the past couple of months, and everything about it is great – low power draw (about 2 amps), low propane consumption, and much lower noise level than either of the forced air furnaces I had in my two previous RVs. 

Just for the sake of believability, I should probably say something about all the recent work that didn't turn out so well, but really, it's been a solid win all the way around. Heck, even my gas mileage hasn't changed noticeably with the new upstairs. If there's a big catch to this whole project, I've yet to uncover it.

It sure took a long time, a lot of miles, plenty of trial and error, and no shortage of busted knuckles to get to this point, but the spaceship is now dialed in better than ever for whatever may lie ahead. For me at least, which I guess is all that really matters, it now offers the ideal mix of creature comforts, ruggedness, mobility, and maintainability.

Onward.






Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Green

Not a color you generally associate with New Jersey, but don't let the typical view while descending into Newark fool you – green is a serious thing here. Especially after the ten relentless days of rain that marked my arrival. 


So a couple of weeks of blog silence and I'm fully recovered from all that van-build fatigue, marking the occasion a few days ago by fixing the transmission leak that's been dogging me for a few months. The shop here is far from Q-worthy, but my bro's trio of collector cars means the place is decently equipped to handle an above-average number of repair jobs.

I'll be living it up in the corner of the driveway for a little while, helping Mom through a rough patch health-wise, keeping the nieces in line, and doing what I can to make sure the craft beer collection out in the garage doesn't spiral out of control.


Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Rare Breed

Pit stop in Kansas to make some vitamin D 
From LA early last week all the way up to tonight's final stop in southern Pennsylvania – well over 2500 miles of driving – I've yet to see another Vanagon out there. A fluke? Or are they already such a rare breed?