to simplify 2.0    notes from the open road

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Super Bloom

Curious to check out the wildflower super bloom I keep hearing about, I rolled up to the Carrizo Plain a few days ago, turned down a random dirt road, passed a sign warning that the road becomes something of a non-road in wet weather, took note of the relatively bone-dry conditions, and picked out a nice little spot to call home for a stretch.

7AM the next morning, I was awoken by a heavy downpour that lingered for a couple of hours, and just like that, I was marooned – and not 24 hours after returning to the open road. Pretty cool stuff. Of course, with a fridge stocked with plenty of food and beer, and bright yellow and orange for miles in all directions, being marooned never looked so good. 

Some decent binoculars entertainment yesterday as one cityslicking wildflower seeker after another attempted a long stretch of mud about a quarter mile from my campsite. The failure rate was a solid 100% for anything without all-wheel drive, and even some of them couldn't make it. Not much more a humble 2WD nomad could do but walk down and offer a tow strap to the proceedings.

Funny how so many had presumably come up here to see the wildflowers, proceeded to get mired in the middle of a vast sea of them for miles and miles, then just sat in their cars for hours waiting to be rescued. Once pulled back to dry ground, most just turned around and left. The humans do still confound.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Quantum Leap

Yeah, it's been pretty quiet around here for a while, but if it's any consolation, my relative silence over these past couple of months has been offset by some pretty nice improvements to the spaceship. Things are winding down now though, and with the open road once again calling my name, things stand a decent chance of returning to some semblance of normal soon. In the meantime, a few updates on what's been going on lately.

That's the latest view of the solar array, following a reworking of the wiring to achieve a much cleaner result. Lots of other smaller projects have been wrapped up in recent weeks too, but my biggest triumph is the new 24" external LED monitor that's been added to the mobile mix:

For a few months, I had been staring up at the ceiling above the desk and thinking...what if there was a monitor up there that could fold down when needed, and disappear back out of view when not? Then I came across the perfect size display on Amazon for a measly $110, ran the whole nutty idea by Q, and we commenced to figuring...

A few days of trial and error at the milling table followed, as we fabricated the whole thing from raw aluminum and a a little bit of steel. The results are nothing short of spectacular. Here's a shot of the monitor all folded up and nicely secured to that area above the desk:

The whole thing unfolds and is ready for action in seconds, it only draws about an amp and a half, and when secured to the ceiling, it doesn't even come close to getting in the way of any of the cabinets. And because the monitor's AC wall wart puts out 12 volts DC, wiring it directly into the spaceship's fuse panel was a snap. It's the perfect van-based external monitor and truly a massive improvement to my workspace. A quantum leap forward for movie nights too, thanks in part to the new stereo and seats.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017


I bet the list of Vanagon owners who have to switch into panamoric mode just to fit their entire solar array in one photo is a short one.

That's 100 new watts of the good stuff at right in the above picture, bringing the spaceship's total to a respectable 355. So that's one thing I've been up to since the last update. It's been a very busy couple of weeks with music work, but in addition to the above, I've managed to knock out some other key improvements in between bouts with those pesky little black dots.

Such as...

...a brand new 250 amp hour house battery to replace the previous four year old one. No, four years isn't such a great lifespan for an AGM battery, but I guess it's not terrible either. Anyway, I blame my two plus years of daily induction cooktop use. Live and learn.

And clearly, I did not plan very well for this sort of thing when building my cabinets. At least, I'm pretty sure there aren't any pro van conversions out there that require an engine hoist to swap a battery. At 160 pounds though, lifting one of these babies up and out of that center enclosure was simply not an option for this scrawny nomad. Enter the immortal hoist, and another seriously cool tool saved the day.

Speaking of cool tools, the 3D printer has been getting a decent workout around here lately. We turned a huge but super quiet CPU fan into a magnetic upstairs window fan (the plastic borders securing the protective screen were 3D printed):  

Yeah, it's a funky looking fan, but I think it suits the homegrown vibe of the spaceship's decor. It's pretty cool being able to sketch out a simple design...

...and an hour or so later have just the right part for the task at hand. Like these snappy bits that now secure my keyboard cover in place way better than before:

Still more to come...