Friday, September 30, 2011

9/30 Monthly Financial Breakdown

My life is expensive….or so it seems

If I sum up total expenses from 8/31 through 9/30 I get -$1900
A rough calculation would put my yearly expenses at $24K :(
but if we break it down there is hope.

Food costs: -$217  or -$54 per week
Regular Fuel: -$80 or -$20 per week
Leftover Renting Expenses: -$194 (water internet power and the fees associated)
Van: -$270   (includes: hands free sink kit, tune up kit, fan, BG fuel cleaner, fuel system repair, fire extinguisher)
Insurance: -$302 or -$50 per month   (I pay in 6mo intervals to reduce the premium)
Clothing: -$136   (New smartwool shirt, running shorts, rei shirt and golf pants. Worth every penny, I might buy another smartwool shirt and I'm tempted by the exofficio briefs)
Fun: -$364  (day sailing was 75 plus 40 for fuel and a book for 4, labor day trip fuel (125 approx), sushi dinner to celebrate the van 47, mini club dues for past few years 75)
Misc:  -$300  (flight to D-town for Thanksgiving and misc hardware for van)
Storage:  -$32   plus a sunk cost of 15 per month for mailbox

Ok,  clean out the unusual stuff and do a monthly for the rest
Food and fuel: -$300 (I don’t have any trips planned for next month)
Storage and box:  -$47
Insurance: -$50 
Clothes: -$100 (not sure what I want to add in regard to utility clothing to reduce my regular clothes)
Van:  -$200   (need an oil change but I don't anticipate any large projects for next month
Fun: -$100 (probably go sailing again or get sucked into a dinner out, idk)

Yearly expense estimate with new number is ~$10800... Yeay!

Cannot wait for next month's expense sheet, should be interesting.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Even famous people live in vans

That is the word on the street, apparently Sly Stone is homeless as well.

Starcraft is sucking my other 8 hours away from me,  I refuse to play it tonight and instead I will go to B&N to read some more of the 4-hr work week or Born to Run.

Monday, September 26, 2011

9/26 Weekend Update - Sailing!!

Anyone notice the lack of weekend goals post last week? I didn't write one because I needed an open weekend to do cool things.

Saturday I went sailing. I tried to sign up for the ASA101 class but it was full however the sailing club associated with the school was going for a day sail so I signed up to go with them instead. Spent 5hrs on the water with very steady winds. It was as awesome as I had imagined it to be. Traveling at 4.5-6 knots is very relaxing and being out on the water with no distractions other then the boat and the wind forces you to relax.
Upon returning to land there was an 8hr party of fancy food and wine, I do not drink wine but the food was very tasty. I stayed in the sailing school parking lot that night and spent half of sunday just hanging out with the other sailors and walking around the docks.

Sailors are way cool! Each one I met had more stories and personality then my entire office building combined. One guy spent three years surfing down the west coast into South America.

I know that I can not afford to be a boat owner, it takes a certain level of wealth to be one and I am clearly not at that level. However, I need to be on the receiving end. If the sailing company had offered me a job I would have taken it without hesitation. The best way to learn everything about sailing is to work with it daily.

Ill put up some photos of the day at some point.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

The minimalist and their things

EV posted a new and updated list of the things he owns although it is not as complete as previous lists. I am jealous. I probably have more then that just in the van, obviously he does not include disposable items like toothpaste or cleaning supplies or common shared items from the kitchen.

EV seems to be more of a non-tech minimalist, while Tynan is rocking the technomad minimalist side (and also lives in an RV)

I still owe the blog a pic of my storage unit. Since I moved the camera to a more accessible location I will accomplish this task this weekend.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Day 20 update - why is this so easy?

Happily the van no longer is as messy as that photo, I have removed a significant amount of stuff and packed away the drying laundry. Currently reading up on quick drying underwear, maybe two or three pairs can replace the entire pile I have now.

Last night I parked in a new hotel lot and was right next to the lot security car. I felt that this would be a good test of my urban camo. Sure enough the guard walked past about 1 hr later and didn't even break stride to take a closer look. I slept great knowing that I had my own personal security guard, the lot was very level, there were shrubs and other plants that helped cool down the breeze and act as a light block. I will return next week.

This life is too easy, I should have been living in a van two years ago. I am currently at Kroger using internet and recharging toothbrush (first device I have needed to recharge other then laptop or phone and the only one I have that does not have a DC adapter) and I also fill up a gallon container from the water fountain to deposit into the internal tank. There is an old Asian guy watching a martial arts film in front of me, looks like enter the dragon with Bruce Lee.

Gave more stuff away yesterday to Colin: shop broom, body weight scale and some shop tools, will probably give him the two 500w spotlights. Nothing new has sold on craigslist.

I came across an ok site which I thought would be more interesting but the couple only consumed rice, beans, tortillas, peanut butter, jelly, bread, and oatmeal for the majority of their meals with the occasional potato soup.  Maybe there is some better stuff in there but I do not have the time to read all the archives. I do however want to reduce my weekly food bill and I definitely need to eat through the excess I have in the storage unit. 

I would like to not use the fridge so much or at all, currently it is only required to keep my carrots and cheese cool (I suppose it keeps my fruit cool and it lasts longer, I might try keeping jelly too) but I will be finishing the cheese soon so the question is, is it worth having it run all day long for just that. I am having my doubts, especially when it costs 26 bucks per month in propane (excluding the random meals I cook). I could purchase a lot of carrots and cheese at that price. My next experiment will be to build a box out of Styrofoam for the bottom shelf and put a freezer pack in it. I will refreeze it at work and supplement with ice from work. HA, work...Still not arriving before 8am and to not look late I quickly walk into my office and turn everything on, then go back to the van and have breakfast. I don't know how much longer I can continue to work at this company.

In other random news, according to I like 55 of the 134 on the list. Can you guess which ones?

Monday, September 19, 2011

Van attempts to murder me...again!

(photo of the laundry and clutter removal chaos)

But I survived!

For those of you who are counting this is the second attempt on my life by the van, although much more subtle this time. 

Friday, my day off, I was leaving a hotel parking lot to go to my mailbox and then to the bank to deposit the cash from selling my car. Initial start-up and trip to mailbox was fine but leaving my mailbox I stated smelling fuel fumes. Some fumes, especially when the tank is full as it bleeds a bit off due to the design, but this was a bit excessive. Initially I thought that the spare fuel tank under my bed had popped it's vent port but upon inspection it had not. I continued to the bank under the assumption that it was just some vapor fumes and that they would go away with airflow.  It did not.

Arriving at the bank, I took a look under the fuel tank area and did not notice any evidence of leaking fuel so I continued onward. As I am getting up I notice gaseous optical distortions emanating from the motor.  Opening the engine bay cover revealed that the fuel supply line (cloth wrapped stuff designed to not rupture) had ruptured and was bleeding all over the engine and exhaust system. Clearly this was an attempt by the van to kill me for it had known that I wanted to drive to the beach this weekend and if I had it would have surely ended in a fiery blaze.  To fix the problem I cut the fuel line and spliced in a tube to bridge the gap. From there I deposited the cash and then drove to the auto store for some new fuel line.

Went to Lowes to return leftover project parts and screws, picked up a new class D fire extinguisher to replace the one in the van that was near empty.

After this near death event I decided to go to REI for some new threads. I purchased a Smartwool merino wool t-shirt (green), a REI brand micro-weight polyester shirt (red, clearance rack) and a pair of trail running shorts (grey, clearance rack).  Everything is amazing, it all feels so light and breathable vs cotton. The Smartwool shirt has magic built into it, it can go from being sweat soaked to perfectly dry in minutes and does not smell. The cotton t-shirt I was wearing to go to REI already needs to be washed after only a few hours of use. Clearly merino wool is FTW.

I've re-laced the hurraches I have to eliminate the between the toe string and need to go for a run in them to see if has made a difference. So far they are significantly more comfortable for just walking around in.

I feel safer parking in parking lots of hotels and stores then on the street, plus the streets are actually more noisy by comparison and have more severe drainage slopes. Paying attention to drainage slope becomes an important skill to have because it directly correlates to sleeping position and comfort.

I think I have run out of propane. The indicator LED for the fridge flame went out this afternoon and I have not had a chance to try and restart it. Guess I need to eat the perishable stuff tonight and get it refilled on sunday. Note: gas was refilled on saturday.

Other important information: It is finally raining.

Doing laundry in the van wouldn't be so bad if all my clothes were quick drying.

Weight reduction is now a goal, I am trying to cut my food supplies in half. Still carrying around entire containers of rice.

Project update:
Purchased GoToobs, cleaned up glove box, sorted out the window cover problem, and installed the tune up kit.
I remembered that I wanted to put on some exhaust pipe wrap to further reduce engine bay heat so on the list it goes.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

9/16 Weekend goals

The only goals I could come up with are kinda lame compared to the previous weekend goals posts. Mainly because I did most of the hard stuff with the van before moving in.

  • I need to add a fuse to the radio wiring circuit and while there I will do the wiring for the auxiliary power socket on the dash (also need to get a fuse). Need to find a power source to plug in soldering iron or get inverter.
  • Clean the front storage box on the roof. I put the stickers on and now it looks funny with just a small clean spot. 
  • Need to add more water to the internal tank, doing laundry last night used up 2 gallons and I still have lots more to do. 
  • I wanted to velcro the more commonly used items to the inside of the kitchen cover 
  • Need to go to REI and get a couple more GoToobs
  • Clean out the glove box, so much crap has piled up in there that it is getting difficult to close
  • The window covers are piling up in the middle of the van and taking up too much space, I need to sort through and keep the essential ones in readily accessible spots and put the rest in the pop top bunk. 
  • Do some research on the LED light project
  • I guess I need to install the tune up kit, doesn't do much good sitting in the box
I need to add more photos to the blog, large blocks of text are boring to read through and it is a good reason to use the camera. 

more to come...
in the mean time have a look at

Monday, September 12, 2011

Letting go of stuff and weekend observations

Saturday I donated some stuff to goodwill:
I released the drop leaf table into the wild, godspeed bizarre creation.
The GE alarm clock, shower attachment, printer, dish rack, computer speakers, and some shirts. I have stuff on craigslist but have not sold anything this week. I was a fool to have purchased all this crap and  now I am paying the price once again. I will be giving a few garage things to a friend and someone is interested in purchasing a lot of the woodworking stuff later this week.

The Lexus is sold. cash buyer. I am feeling much better having sold the car, I was worried that it was going to get towed out of the apt parking lot since I no longer live there. 

My diet is getting worse, surviving on peanut butter and honey on chips and some random fruit. Also having plain popcorn.

Grey water tanks were drained into a very dry looking shrub in the park. Main water tank was topped off from auxiliary storage tank under van.

The weekends are strange. During the  week it is easy to be in the van, drive to work and park all day, drive to parking spot and sleep but the weekend lacks structure. I feel like I am aimlessly driving around to do random tasks. I've also lost most of my motivation to do anything, only want to relax on the beach or in the pool.

Still can not get to work on time, showed up at 8:30 today. I am starting to suspect that it is a lack of sleep or poor sleep quality that is causing this problem.

No progress on van projects. It was really hot and I had no motivation.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Gotoobs rule! and weekend goals

My box from amazon containing the new fan and gotoobs arrived yesterday. The Gotoobs are sweet. I went with the 2fl oz bottles with the suction cups on the back. Now I can remove the heavy and bulky bottles out of my gym bag and refill these when they get low. Saves weight and space in the van. I even get to have a bit of fun in the shower with bottle races. Stick them on a moist glass surface and watch them slowly race to the bottom!

The fan is awesome as well, although a tad bit too big for my small space. Speed one is comparable to a slow breeze while 2 is good for kite flying, speed three is hurricane like. The best part is that it is very quiet, even on speed three.  I can sneak it behind the driver seat for storage, almost like it was made to fit there. Ill snap a photo.

A box from GoWesty also arrived, it contained my tune up kit and the sink switch kit. Tune up kit is obviously just a bunch of new parts for the motor.

The sink switch kit is a very slick kit.
There is a rubber diaphragm which, when stepped, on will compress air and trigger either a momentary or full on switch. There is a fine line between momentary on and the full and I need to get my foot adjusted. The reason the switch is funky is that it is designed for triggering cameras where you press the shutter button to get the autofocus and exposure readings and then press harder to take the photo.

Funny observations in the van:
the food in the fridge needs to be packed very carefully to prevent stuff from rolling around while driving. I didn't realize how much moving the food can do and lost a pear due to excessive abuse.
Moisture is also a bit of an issue with the fridge.
When cooking for one, be sure and keep a variety of snack food to offset any shortages that occur.

I have not figured out which direction is better for sleeping, facing the front of the van or the back. If facing the front, your head and chest is surrounded by the cabinets and above the engine compartment which radiates heat for hours after you have parked and thus making it harder to go to sleep while the feet get exposed to the cross ventilation. Obviously you would want to sleep with head/chest in the cross ventilation to stay cool and sleep better but the outside temperature change from 10pm to 6am is significant enough to require blankets. So the question is, would you rather fall asleep easily but have trouble waking up or the opposite?

I still can not get to work any earlier then 7:15. I think it is somehow related to the sleep problem above and the shortness of the alarm on the phone. I miss my GE alarmclock.

Weekend goals:
Get rid of more stuff!! My storage unit makes me ill when I look at it. Ill snap a pic this weekend.
Drain grey water tanks and start refilling main water tank, I am currently at the yellow led marker on the control panel so I am guessing that is roughly equal to 5 gallons left. If so then there is an equal amount in the grey water tanks. I will probably add some chlorine to the tanks before draining. 
Do some laundry and swap out for different work clothes. I am curious to see if the new pants come out wrinkle free, if so then I am sold and will get the two other colors and donate all my old pants.

Need to wire the cigarette lighter port to the auxiliary battery and also get a dc timer so I can have the fan run for say 30min right before I go to sleep.
Stickers will get put on, I am tired of having to move them around the van.

Speedometer cable issue was just a lost clip on the end of the cable at the wheel, fixed with a bent paperclip.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Day 7 of van life and holiday weekend

I parked on the street last night and it was weird but in a good way. Despite being 2 blocks from work I was still 15min late. I got to wear my perfectly fitting new golf pants to work on tuesday and I am convinced that polyester clothing is the way to go. I picked up these at academy sports off their clearance rack for $12, apparently thin people don't go to this sporting good store because all that they normally have are L, XL and XXL which explains why these were on the rack.

Long holiday weekends are like monkey wrenches. They remind you of how much time you are wasting at work, kinda like getting a shot glass full of retirement only the hangover is tuesday morning.

I spent the long weekend in Boerne, TX at a friend's ranch. Just relaxing, swimming in a pool/lake, shooting guns (apparently this is considered to be a form of fun?), sailing and kayaking. Lots of good food and perfect weather. I even managed to sleep in the top bunk and watch the stars.

Obviously I took the van there, instead of driving along I-10, I traveled along the barely used alt 90 highway.  It takes longer  but the quality of the drive amazing. There are no billboards or advertising, almost no cars or trucks, protected from the wind and the speed limit is more aligned to what the van is capable of doing.
Only problem I had was the speedometer system seems to have given up, I either need a new cable or a clip but for now I know what my speed is based on rpm.

Thoughts on the van.
It is awesome.

Things to do:
The cabinets and fridge need illumination. Having to use a flashlight and search for food or shirt in the dark is terrible. I've got plans to use surface mount LEDs and magnetic switches. Not sure if i want to tie directly to battery power or use 9V batteries.

Sink switch kit is coming, same for the fan unit. I also ordered a tune up kit as I was feeling  a bit of hesitation at higher rpm's but driving a few hundred miles seems to have cleaned it up, also added a can of BG fuel system cleaner before the trip.

The fridge is operating. Food is staying cool, I am actually impressed by how well it is working. I doubt I can make ice cubes. I need to figure out a way to vent the heat from the fridge outside the van, I was thinking a pair of computer fans at the window screen will be good and then use some type of fabric to channel the heat. Perhaps the insulated window covers can double as the channeling fabric.

The gas peddle is still getting hot on long trips, this time I figured out that the heat is transmitting through the metal rod to the peddle. I need to crawl around and see what I can insulate to reduce this (or drive with shoes on).

Still need to put the new vinyl letters on and install the cam screw (although I might wait till I have other things to do in the engine bay to do this)

Need to find a place to drain the grey water tanks and also start carrying around a water bottle to top off the water tank. I might drain the auxiliary tank, currently not needed and the water in there is approx 80lbs. Not taking showers in the van saves a ton of water but I still want the capacity for the extended, middle of nowhere, trips that may happen at an undetermined point in the future.

I want to velcro some commonly used items to the underside of the stove cover, kind of a pain to be digging around in bags all the time. I ordered some gotoobs for the shower bag.

Need to get rid of more stuff. I have a box for goodwill to drop off today.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Day 2 of van life

Technically I have only slept in the van for one night. The day I had to move out I spent way too much time dealing with small items and cleaning up the place. I had everything out by 11pm but the van was packed and I would have been sleeping on a table so I spent the night at a neighbor's place.
I did sleep in the van last night and it was awesome. The heat is annoying but with a fan I should be ok, the morning temperature is very comfortable. If I can park with the rear hatch open I may not need a fan, I purchased this piece of steel that allows the rear hatch to be opened like 5 inches but still locked in place.

It feels weird not to have a place to go to, I get in the van and feel like I need to be driving somewhere or doing something.

The fridge is stocked with food that shouldn't go bad for a few days.

I need to change out the switch for the sink, it wastes to much water while I struggle to get it to turn off with wet hands. I've ordered the GW foot switch kit.

Apparently I hoard food and water and packaging material. This is a problem, need to eat through my supplies and finish off my water supplies. There are plenty of locations to refill my water tanks.

No rain for this weekend, apparently TX is too hot and dry to attract the tropical depression.