Wednesday, March 23, 2016

I swear we're moving into a van.

I can't believe it's been a month since my last progress report. I actually believe it might be less than a week until we're outta here. I spent a ton of time and energy getting the van ready. It's nearly complete. Living in the van is definitely preferable to the pile of garbage we're calling an apartment these days. I swear I'd like to torch this clownhole right now. If it's not empty by the 28th, I'm lighting a match.

This van is a personal dream come true. I love driving it. All hesitation about getting an extended van with a huge hi-top has vanished. In exactly no time I got used to the size, and I have had no trouble parking it. An extended, or "15 passenger" van fits fine in all sorts of parking spots. Being 6'1" and able to stand up straight inside is fantastic. Starting this project with a passenger van was a blessing.

Passenger vans don't have all the home-like touches of a camper van or "class B" RV. The layout and wiring are all simple. This provided a nearly blank canvas to get started with. That's my preference. Camper vans and RVs are already pre-complicated with a large volume of tacky shit I don't want or need. I'm hacking our house together Harne-style to stay awhile.

I used to see big vans on the road and get jealous. "What a great house that would make!" I was screaming inside my head. No more. Now I have the ultimate van, and all the other vans I see fall short of this majesty.

Turning a van into a house isn't rocket science. If you throw a bed in there, you're A-Ok. If you have a little bit of camping gear, you're the King of the Planet. I'm going a step beyond this, however, and applying my tiny house skills to create what I've long lusted after: a comfortable simple home that you can flip the bird from while driving away from life's pains-in-the-ass.

We own our home. It cost me and Kristin $2300, which we raised by selling textbooks in January. To be honest, there's money left over. We haven't done any real work since December, and it's mildly alarming that we're getting away with that. I've put lots of time into preparation, but I've spent plenty of time doing shit-all too. I'm so ready to go that my feet are starting to smoke.

On With The Updates:

Maybe I'll go into more detail later, but here's an overview. As I showed in the last post, I had to clean up some bullshit before getting started on the build. I removed all that rotten plywood, and solved the leaky rear door with some roofing asphalt shit that doesn't technically belong on the back of a van, but stops the hell out of leaks. Case closed on those leaks. I have soft black gunk around the perimeter of the back door, but water has no chance of getting through it. As for aesthetics, I'll survive. In the future, some white 100% silicone caulk might be better - but I was working in cold rain, and not many products can do that, and I wanted to move forward with the interior and Not Have Leaks.

I'm always working against a learning curve - or at least an experience curve - so every step has been a little haphazard. As always, if I could start again, it would be a lot easier the second time. No matter. You have to do everything once before you can try it a second time. I have a life of first attempts ahead of me, so I'll plod along and try not to criticize my work too harshly.

One of the main things we need is some ventilation. I spent something like $350 on Ebay to get some side windows, vents, and a skylight for the hi-top. The installation is the same for all of that. If you can install one vent, you can install fifty-nine of them. So I started making holes.

I traced out where the side windows should go, then I drilled out the corners and cut out the rest with a cordless jigsaw. Once the window fits the hole, you put some butyl tape around the flange and stick it in place. Some screws help squeeze it in place and make a tight seal. Same story with the vents and skylight: cut a hole, put butyl tape around the perimeter, screw the thing in place.

I admit that the addition of so many vents and accouterments detracts from our stealth. But I'll be just as happy to get some air flowing on a hot night. The three bumps along the roof look a little bit interesting from the side. Personally, I get a hoot out of it. I'm calling the van "Nessie" because of the famous Loch Ness Monster photo with three unidentified bumps coming out of the water.

Notably, the roof vent closest to the bed is a "Fan-Tastic" vent with a strong fan. RV people love their Fan-Tastic vents. The other vent was only $30. The skylight is a real cheap one - $37 - and does not come with a trim ring. Same deal with the side windows. Those are made for teardrop trailers, and were real cheap without the trim rings. I made my own trim, which was tedious and imperfect, but also nearly free.

We paid forty bucks for a carpet, which raised my hackles, since carpet can be obtained for free. On the upside, it looks good, feels good, and smells good - and I don't have to wait around for all the stoodents to migrate out of their dorms. I trimmed the carpet to fit, and secured it under the trim around the door. It's good.

Next up, electricity. I'm no 12v maven, but I'm happy with the result. I got two heavy-ish duty storage containers, and made a custom plywood lid that fits over both. The container directly behind the driver's seat is the perfect size to fit two Trojan T-105 golf cart batteries. The other container holds the battery charger, fuse box, and anything else electric-y that comes up. I screwed both containers to the floor of the van body. I cut a piece of foam to the size of the lid. My wonderful and supportive mother sewed together a cushion and a skirt to make it look like a little couch. Thanks, ma!

Our Apartment is Garbage

I don't understand the science behind acquiring shit you don't need, but I know it's a problem. I have 96% of my personal belongings already in the van. Our apartment currently looks like the aftermath of a bad yard sale. If I wasn't so drunk or asleep all the time, I'd probably have converted it to dust and ash by now. A vast array of knick-knacky shackles are keeping me from my palm trees. This limbo-bimbo has got to end.

Getting started...

View from the front.

Grinder-sanded and primer-painted this rust
Two-part bed platform

Lots of room for folding bicycles.

Cubby hole storage beside bed.

Battery box lid.

Cutting memory foam mattress with a hacksaw

Propane locker we probably won't bring.

Start Choppin'

Stick that winder in thar.

Took a day to tune up our folding bikes

This Raleigh Twenty is tuned UP.

Kristin's Folder

Bed, storage, and storage... installed.

$30 vent and $130 vent

Roof accoutremania.




Looking up.

Nessie's spine.

Nice rug!

Battery boxes.

The house battery setup.

Tiny couch over battery bank.

Reading light and 12v outlet for Kristin

Custom locking gate to make the whole van into a dog crate.