Wednesday, June 29, 2011

63 days

Only 63 days till my lease on my apartment expires....63 days until I become a van dweller living in a vw westfalia.
I submitted my notice on tuesday, one hand written note, which was surprisingly easy considering the12 page document I had to sign off on to be allowed to move in.

It sounds like a lot of time but it is not. In all reality I have 7 full weekends to get the van done. Not only do I need to get the van done but I also have to purge my stuff. I started the purging process last night by photographing some of the items I posted earlier. Time to sell on craigslist or give away to friends. The fact that I managed to create a small pile of stuff within 15 minutes is eye opening to the fact that I have too many items that are not being used enough to justify having, like the pyrex baking dishes and the printer, so much crap. How did all this stuff creep into my life? Although I did find something amazing among my stuff, a laptop bag. I had no need for this older bag because I had a nicer one for my old laptop but by some amazing feat of coincidence it turns out to be exactly the size I need for my new laptop.  This purging experience will be both terrifying and liberating, I am excited.

Van progress is limited to some touch up painting on the nose panel and water tank thinking. There are lots of rock chips but I will get them all filled in. With the success of the seat storage bins, I have drawn up some plans to add an additional 25 gallons (in small individually built tanks in hidden areas) under the van for a total of 35 gallons and if I use the roof storage bin for water I will pick up another 12. I have plans for a grey water capacity of 22 gallons.  Does this seem out of balance? 17 days of drinking water and the rest for cleaning? but with 2 gal showers that is approx 9 showers so it is probably 11 days of drinking and 11 showers. If I add the roof bin then I get 15 days drinking and 15 showers  but then I run out of grey water storage capacity at shower 11. I really need to become a water ninja because 47 gallons of water weighs approx 376 lbs.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Progress update: thwarting thieves

This weekend netted some interesting progress and a delicious discovery:
My body seems to think that napping face down on the floor for several hours is a good idea,

I purchased a pint of L90D color code paint to touch up the van's paint chips and hopefully use on the new body panels if they ever arrive. The paint is such a good match that I filled in all the chips from the seat belt latch hitting the door frame and some other scratches on the rear hatch area. I need to clean up the rusty rock chips on the nose panel and fill in.

It took two days to fabricate the secret storage bins that go below the front seats. This is a well known area to for vanagon owners to hide stuff due to it's location. The top bin in the photo goes under the driver seat and can hold my laptop, the bottom one goes under the passenger seat. The passenger side has the main battery and a vent hose which makes it a smaller box but still very useable.  Both are 12 inches wide by approx 15 inches long and 2.5 inches high.

I recently learned that the reflectix needs to have an air space next to it for maximum effectiveness so I need to pull the insulation and install spacers.

My apartment complex sent me a note letting me know that my lease is going to expire in august and that I have a week to decide if I want to renew (at a higher rate). One bloody week to give a 60 day notice when we get rent reminders at 15 days and one week prior to the due date. I wont renew it but it only gives me 7 weekends to get the van ready and sell off my daily driver. Anyone interested in buying my Lexus?

A purging of stuff must happen, I'm sure everything except the bed would fit into the van but it wouldn't be livable. The amazing Bed, frame and headboard are out, Pachinko machines are gone (although I really want to keep them), toaster and bread maker both are useless for me. The pyrex baking dishes can go too. Spice rack is just for show and so is the westclox clock. Iron and board can go, I really dislike wearing clothes that need to be ironed, just one more useless step and a waste of resources. I guess I can let go of my woodworking stuff, it is bulky and I hardly have a need for it. The vacuum (I'd like to keep this as well, such a nice unit). Ill have to let my alarm clock go since it needs AC power, can be replaced by my phone or maybe I will use the european phone I have as just an alarm clock. Ikea chair and end table are out, same with the dining room table that I built.
I feel ill thinking about all this stuff.

There are other items that I will have to take back home and store, like the mini stuff, books, and other keepsakes.

The delicious thing I mentioned: I had my first peanut butter and honey sandwich on saturday, no one told me that they were so awesome. I'm drooling just thinking about it.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011


Dear leftover bar of soap,
Fuck Off! I hate your maker's business model. From the minute you entered my apartment I had a feeling that you sucked. Your consistent white color, the ergonomic curves, the lame ass scent that you think other human beings would want to smell. I hope you disappear but that shouldn't take too long considering the rate of decay you have. You manage to turn from a waxy solid substance into cake icing in the 2 minutes it takes for the water to get warm. I don't appreciate lathering up in paste, make up your mind, be either a solid or a liquid but don't try to be the other when you clearly are not. You also seem to be happy with leaving me covered with a film that is comparable to sunscreen. I am sure my coworkers appreciate me coming in as if I had been at the beach. I think you were also designed for hairless organisms because any type of hair will become embedded within the central core. I HATE YOU!!

Monday, June 20, 2011

weekend progress

The insulation panels are done, front door panels installed, sub-carpet mat installed on top of new reflectix layer for foot-wells, glove box adjusted, window seals thoroughly cleaned, polished bumpers, and tightened up door latch handles.

The pvc water/grey tank idea is on hold due to the high cost of the pvc. Looking into alternatives, perhaps the plastic jerry cans would do, need to get measurements from underneath the van.
Researching RV toilets.

Fridge mods are still not done, need to go to radioshack to get fans and switches.
Still waiting for the body panels and window covers to arrive.

Need tires too, usual tire places were utterly useless.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Welcome Mats = Female Nearby

There is a direct correlation between welcome mat ownership and women. I’ve seen it with my own laser corrected eyes.  If you live in an apartment complex which has balconies or porches you can test this out. Look for the welcome mats and then have a look at the balcony or porch, Ill bet you will either see family items such as children’s toys or multiple chairs and a table with perhaps a wind chime, a plant or two, and other decorative items.  This is a clear indication of a family which will have a women either within or an often visitor.  A lack of children toys however does not directly correlate to single women, spying will be required to figure that out. 

The true bachelors are easy to spot. Go have a look for porches with one chair, Ill bet you a dollar they do not have a welcome mat.

If this world was starcraft, the welcome mat would be zerg creep. 

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Weekend goals

This weekend should be an interesting one for van projects.
  • My goal is to install foam insulation over the reflectix on the side panels and install more reflectix on the front floor, possibly even some behind the grill. 
  • Next goal is to have both front door panels installed and maybe the rear hatch panel as well but I want to put in a hatch opening mechanism before I put that panel back on. The rest of the panels will have to wait for the bodywork to be completed. 
  • I need to finish polishing the poptop and the storage bin but high garage temperatures are slowing progress on this. The body needs a polish but it can wail till body work is done.
  • Fridge fan mod with switch needs to happen too. 
  • The storage bins below the front seats seems like a fun one to do too so maybe that will be a priority for this weekend as well. The bins require either sheet metal bending or wooden box construction, I have not decided yet. 
Water tanks; of all the things I have to do to the van this is by far the most challenging. The question is how much do you plan on using for drinking and how much to go to grey water. Supposedly we need 1 gallon of water per day for proper hydration. At my best I was able to do a nice shower with 2 gallons so my daily consumption is 3 gallons at one shower per day rate. The stock tank is 50L ~13 gallons. I ordered the 45L ~11.8 gallons tank because it fits in the space and will probably be less expensive in the end.  With this new capacity of 25 gallons now the problem becomes grey water storage. 8 days @ 3 gal per day is 24 gal but 16 is going to grey water. I already have a space above the engine for a 5 gal storage unit but space under the van is getting limited and I would need to hold an additional 9 gal. There may be space for another 5 gal under the rear seat but do I use the two smaller tanks with the main tank to have a fresh water capacity of 24 gal and use the new 12gal tank as the grey storage? Do I become a water ninja and reduce my showers to 1 gallon, stretch out shower intervals to every other day? By the way, 24 gallons of water is heavy, approx 200lbs. Exactly what I need to get my van to go faster up those hills, I doubt I will see highway speeds ever again with all this extra weight. Probably wont be able to have passengers either with the every other day shower plan. Another factor is the portable toilet, I dont have one yet but I guess I need to start wondering about it's capacity.

Monday, June 13, 2011

stopping the mindreaders

who knew aluminum covered bubble wrap keeps the mind readers at bay

This photo sums up my weekend, picked up a roll of reflectix insulation from Lowes and fitted it to all panels except for driver and passenger floor. Way too much fun to do and surprisingly easy too. It is supposed to insulate but my goal is to reduce radiant heat from motor and sun, from what I've been reading the most important part is to insulate is the fridge panel. The fridge is in my living room right now plugged in and running, I want to run it for a few days to make sure everything is working and to do some of the common mods like the more powerful fan and interior cooling fan.
More reflectix will be added to front floor to reduce heat absorbed from radiator. Tempted to make a full set of window covers out of this stuff.

The other important project this weekend was taking the bench and seats out at a car wash and power-washing them. I scrubbed them down with fabric cleaner then went at it; they sat on my porch in the sun all day to dry but will need another day or two for the foam to be totally dried out. Looking good!

Next major project will be some bodywork, the dreaded kitchen rust is there but edge seams look to be in good shape for the patch panel, the slider and rear arches will be getting new patch panels as well. The previous body work was amazingly bad; instead of pulling dents and hammering it out it was covered up by riveting flat metal over the damage and using filler, some 3/4" thick, to smooth everything out. I removed the bad filler and found the camper propane stickers still underneath! yikes! I will be trying something new this time with the panels, instead of welding I will use body panel epoxy. Unfortunately I wont have the ability to paint a good finish coat but maybe when I return to Denver I can do that.

The water tanks are also being worked on. The hot water system will be a grid of pvc mounted in the luggage rack on the roof with the reflectix insulation below it to help reflect the sun back on the pipe and as a blanket to keep the heat in, I need to come up with an easy way to remove the grid and place it remotely if the van is in the shade. Also need to tie into the main tank line so I can utilize the pump and refill the grid. I have doubts about the pressure for a gravity feed shower so there may be a need for another sprayer pump as well as an air bleed valve
The grey water tank is either something I build or the 45L tank from eurocamers.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Van progress

This weekend was not as productive as I was hoping although I did do the inspection/title/registration stuff on Friday, a rather costly adventure I might add.
  • 3 coats of soundproofing to the doors and another layer on the floor. 
  • Ive started polishing the pop top fiberglass but each section must be cleaned with a toothbrush and simple green to get it spotless before polishing. 
  • I cut off the rattling exhaust hanger straps, they were not needed due to some exhaust shop welding the rear box to the brackets but I discovered that there are also internal rattles. 
  • Re-torqued the CV joint that I recently replaced the boot for.
  • Passenger seat track removal/clean/regrease. 
  • Stripped/Painted LPG tank
  • Replaced LPG regulator
  • Operated Stove and Fridge on gas (I took that photo in the van, playing with the presets in Lightroom gave me this cool image, comment if you like it)
A little story on the LPG tank or rather how I was almost killed. The tank is held to the body by 4 bolts. I removed the lines into the van, took off the mud guard, and loosened the bolts. When I removed the second bolt the whole tank slid out of its position and dropped to within inches of my head. The only thing stopping it from hitting me was the AC lines and some zip ties.  I should be dead or at the least have a severe concussion. If the tank had hit the floor instead of not hitting my head it would have landed on the filler/vent valve probably breaking it off and leaking out the tank in rapid order.

In other good news, record breaking heat this weekend while I was in the garage, over 100 degrees each day.
I need to get the aux battery setup and operating so that I can have a fan or something, no wait, better idea, how about I go to another state that isn't so hot during the summer.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Saying "No"

It is amazingly hard to say "No" to people I know who want me to do fun things with them but it must be done.

Last night I needed to edit photos from a wedding and a random photoshoot I did when I got my camera, they needed the usual workup (color correction, crop, sharpen, lens distortion correction) but a friend wanted to play starcraft. I caved in and played. Why? because starcraft is frustratingly fun and addictive.  Now I wish I had worked on the photos because having them online lets me use them as a portfolio to send to potential clients/employers. Although this small cave in wasn't that bad, I did get out of the "obligatory" company-supports-some-random-charity dodgeball event later this month by lying about my weekend plans but sometimes you don't realize when your time is getting sucked away.

The above examples were external, what happens when it is internal? I come home from work around 5:30pm, the first thing I do is go out and work on the van and once I've reached a good point to stop I can go back in the apt. Next is a shower and a quick dinner while at the computer checking email and whatnot. Whatever time is left after dinner is what I use for photoediting. If the order was reversed, the photoediting would take all my time and I wouldn't get anything done on the van. When I work on the computer it is a giant time suck, I've made the mistake of getting online first thing in the morning on my friday days off and suddenly it is 4pm and nothing has been accomplished, I am very tempted to disconnect my internet. If I ever wanted to get work done  I have to say no to myself and reject the temporary distractions of the internet, my dvd and music collection.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

The Van = Awesome

For those of who do not know, I own a 1986 Volkswagen Westfalia. A van that sleeps 4 people, has a two burner stove and sink, with a fridge. Google search if you want more information. This particular van was purchased from a very nice lady in Colorado Springs who had owned it since 1993. Judging by its condition I would say that she was a decent owner, almost everything worked and it was in decent shape but vehicles from CO tend to be good due to the lack of relative humidity. Another aspect which I find to be both a drag and a benefit is that it has an automatic transmission which probably is the reason the original motor is still going strong, no hard running.

I drove the van back to Houston and even got some sleep in it but getting it to a livable condition will take some work. Plus I just have to take everything apart, clean it and reassemble just because that is who I am. Besides would you really want to be sleeping on a bed that you didn't clean? Plus there was a lot of little black dog hairs that were driving me crazy.

So here goes my list of things I can remember doing:
First off I have already had my first breakdown after going on a caravan trip with my van friend Wayne, the Fueling computer died, so Ive got a used 86 computer.

  • Removed and Cleaned Carpet
  • Cleaned bed covers
  • Cleaned All window curtains
  • Cleaned and repaired all door panels 
  • Removed interior to put on 3 coats of Quiet Coat soundproofing (this stuff is awesome)
  • Stove knob shaft was broken - I machined a new shaft since you cant buy these anywhere
  • Removed stove and sink to polish stainless steel
  • Replaced broken window slider
  • Cleaned and Repaired Dash Cluster - reconnected clock circuit
  • Replaced aftermarket stereo with awesome factory unit, rewired to power it properly and performed key in radio mod and added secondary aux input
  • Cleaned dash hoses and vents
  • Scrubbed down Fiberglass top - next step is to polish and wax it.
  • Replaced broken headlight adjusters - Adjusted headlights using line and wall method
  • Replaced broken high beam lens
  • Adjusted misaligned license plate cover
  • Replaced torn RH inner CV - while down there I noticed that the other 3 CVs need to be replaced
  • Adjusted throttle switch
  • Degrease engine which probably has never been done in 25 years due to engine location and access - with interior out it was easy to use a power washer several hours in the garage after to clean an dress up the rest of it.
  • Repair rust hole in coolant pipe - finally got to use my brazing kit
  • Repaired fuel tank fuel level sender
  • Repaired water hookup cover
  • Tightened up mirrors
  • cleaned all body and engine ground points
To Do:
clean front seats and rear bench seat
grease seat sliders and swivel base
Fridge coolant mods
Second battery
AC recharge
Rust repair/treat
Bodywork and paint
Poptop Canvas
Grey Water storage tank
Propane tank repaint
rear hatch pull string
replace skylight vent with factory unit
Insulation and thermal window curtains
exhaust hanger rattles
brake fluid flush
headlight relay mod and switch light mod
Extra gauges and gauge pod

More to follow as I think of it. Oh and photos will come too as soon as I can get them edited and into my flikr account.

My back is feeling great

The long holiday weekend proved to be very good. I spent way too many hours working on the van which I will post in a follow up the list of things Ive done to it but the key is that whatever was bothering my lower back seemed to have slipped back into place. Hooray for hard work!