Friday, June 6, 2014

Preparing For 2014 Trek #2

I'm three days away from embarking on my next significant trek of 2014. The past three months have been spent dealing with warm, cold, cold, warm, cold, cold, cold, warm, etc. temperatures and rain, a little left over snow, a fair amount of overcast and some sunny days while planning and attempting to execute a number of modifications, refinements and the completion of some projects on My McVansion that I didn't get to before I left on the last 2 1/2 month trek.

Truth be told, I've also done some work on client projects, assisted as I could with the transfer of leadership/coordination of the Veteran Speakers Retreat I coordinated for the past twelve years, began a substantial revision of the Living Free blog site and my over all blogging philosophy and plans, done some contemplating of what I want to do when I grow up and a bit of just being LAZY.

The List of 40

During the last trek and when I got back to base camp in Keyser, I put together a list of 38 things I wanted to complete, modify or refine in/on My McVansion. I realized one thing over the past couple years of working on My McVansion . . . It's NEVER Done! It's just like having a house and a car, there is always a list of things to do and fix. One would think with only 50 sq ft of living space and a total foot print of about 102 sq ft including the "Engine Room" and the "Bridge" (or Cockpit, if you prefer) there couldn't be that much to do. Well, at least that's what I thought. Wrong!

I ended up with a list of 38 things I wanted to do to my tiny house on wheels before I took it out on the road again. Some of these are mundane, routine maintenance things. For example, getting the rear axle and bearing squared away after my breakdown in Blue Ridge, Georgia in early March. Check - Done! An oil change was on the list. Since I have been using synthetic oil for the past nearly 40 years, I only change my oil every 15,000 to 20,000 miles. I check it to make sure it's clean and filled to the proper point, but my engines run like a finely tuned racecar on synthetic oil. Check - Done! New windshield wiper blades are on the list, not done, yet, but will be before I roll. And, of course, making sure tires are rotated and at proper pressure, Done - Check. All fluids are checked and topped off. Oh yeah, and the automatic belt tensioner for the one belt on the engine that runs everything went bad as I was approaching base camp. So, new tensioner and new belt are on the engine. The radiator was replaced last year.

Beyond the mundane routine tasks are the projects I wanted to complete and refinements I wanted to make quite a number of other items have been checked off. So, on the List of 40, I have or will have completed about 28 by the time I actually embark on this new trek. I leave base camp on Monday, June 9, but will be in Winchester, Virginia stocking up and taking care of a few of the last scheduled items on the list. I'll actually head north on Tuesday, June 10. Some items will be saved for my next return to base camp, when I'm sure the 10 or 12 remaining items will have expanded with several more I come up with.

So, what are some of the things I've completed? Here are just a few:

1. New custom seat/bunk cushion/mattress covers (to replace the blanket I used to cover the mattress before.
2. Acquisition and installation of a new Sirius receiver for continuous, commercial free, uninterrupted music of MY choice, news from several outlets, talk, some old time radio and a little comedy without losing the stations as I drive from city and town to city and town.
3. Setting up a Sirius A La Carte subscription for $8/month with 50 channels (plus a few freebies Sirius throws in) I select for my own tastes. Believe me coming up with 50 was hard, I'll still probably never listen to more than the 10 I've programmed as favorites and possibly five or six more should I actually become bored with my favorite channels.
4. Installation of a smart charger for the 245 amp hour house battery.
5. Installation of a 400 watt inverter to power the 110 volt AC, compressor refrigerator while I'm traveling or parked without access to 110 volt AC shore power.
6. New block out window curtains all around plus a new block out curtain between the "cockpit" and the house part of the van.
7. Mosquito/insect/no-see-ums net covers for the two front windows in the "cockpit" and two of the fold out windows in the house part of the van.
8. An innovative idea for using LED lighting in the house section of the van. This will lead to further lighting improvements after this trek.
9. Some refinements to the cabinet containing the porta-potty - based on prior experience.
10. Construction and installation of a drop leaf keyboard shelf for the computer workstation in the back of the van.
11. Installation of a simple, yet very convenient and utilitarian console/shelf between the driver and passenger seat in the cockpit. This also provides for some storage below and an easily accessible place for the cockpit/house trash container to serve its purpose while being out of the way.
12. Installation of a small shelf to the right of the instrument complex in the cockpit and slightly over one corner of the console, yet not interfering with a passenger's comfort when I might have one on occasion (as I will next week when I pick up my son who is east from LA on some business. This shelf is the location of the 10-meter amateur radio rig I had installed on it. It's not operational, yet, but might possibly be during this trek.

I'm also rearranging the storage space under the bunk and under the workstation, installing AC wiring for 110 volt shore power, the 400 watt inverter and a, to be added in the future, 1,000 watt inverter and several other things that will make living in the 50 sq ft tiny house on wheels much more accommodating, comfortable and efficient.

Photos will follow. It's still pretty messy in My McVansion as I continue to work on these projects to have everything completed that I want done before I hit the road on Monday. I also have to work in a bit of time to vacuum the interior and wash the exterior of My McVansion to make it presentable as I travel the Blue Highways of Americana.

Trek #2 of 2014

Trek #2 will be shorter and is closed ended. I had originally planned to leave around Memorial Day or June 1st, however, I received an email from my son, who now lives and works in The City of Angels, Los Angeles, telling me he was coming to Hartford, Connecticut and New York City on business for his employer (he's actually an employee instead of a contractor for the first time in a decade), one of the Big 6 international accounting/consulting firms. And, he scheduled some time for us to get together. Hooray for me! It was two years ago that I last saw him in Seattle (where he lived for about nine years). So, we're going to meet up in northern New Jersey on Wednesday, June 11. So, we'll get to spend Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday hanging out and I have to have him at the Hartford airport on Sunday morning for a 9 AM flight to LA.

His trip east changed my trekking plans. The original plan had me going to New York State then into New England and probably bypassing New Jersey altogether on this trip. The modified plan is to pick him up, drive around Clifton and the surrounding area, visit the homes I grew up in, visit the schools I attended and Montclair State College - oops, University, my alma mater and partake in some good old New Jersey food. This will give him an opportunity to really get to know his roots from his father's side. He's well acquainted with his roots on his mother's side. Then, we may drive down to the New Jersey Shore, part of my old stomping grounds. I'd like to see how the recovery is coming along after Hurricane Sandy demolished some of my childhood memories. We might get as far south as to visit an old high school buddy I was hoping to see.

After I drop my son at the Hartford airport, I'm hoping to visit with an old high school friend and his wife in the New London, Connecticut area and the publisher of an on-line magazine for the voice-over profession who lives in Trumbull, Connecticut. From there I'll be heading to New York State with Syracuse as my primary objective where I'll visit a grad school friend (who coincidentally is also a minister and married my first wife and me) and his wife. I also want to visit my other alma mater, Syracuse University and the area around Syracuse where I spent two years of my early adult and business life.

The rest of the trip through New York State will be to explore parts of the state I've never been to before and revisit areas of the state I enjoyed when I lived there and since that time. There are also a few other friends I'm hoping to connect with up there. And, of course, I'm looking forward to connecting with and meeting up with other part-time and full-time, living free, nomadic friends I haven't met, yet.

Ultimately, I'll make my way over to Erie, Pennsylvania to visit with a friend who formerly lived in Canada, but came from and is a U.S. citizen. She became a vandweller about seven years ago and, while she has just acquired a new (to her) Class B van and is selling her red cargo van, she has become a homeowner, at least temporarily. I get the impression that she yearns, again, for the open road and the freedom it affords. She has a place for me to park overnight. By then it should be approaching the end of July and I'll begin making my way south to base camp again in West Virginia.

I want to be back to base camp on or before the beginning of August so I can get back to completing the remaining list of 40 items plus additional refinements I will have added to the list in the interim. The last weekend in August I'll travel up to Boiling Springs, Pennsylvania for the 27th annual Veteran Speakers Retreat. I'm looking forward to attending the retreat as a "civilian" this year and enjoying time with my friends without the responsibility of making sure all the details are taken care of, problems are resolved, keeping things on time and the variety of responsibilities of running an event for 50 to 60 people who have traveled from across the continent to attend.

Other than the Veteran Speakers Retreat, August and September is my preparation time for the extended 2014 Trek #3 that leads into Trek #1 of 2015. I expect this trek to extend for at least six months and, by the time I return to the east coast, I will have traveled through about 24 of the lower 48 states. But, this is a topic for a much later post. Watch for the upcoming photos and stories of my northern 2014 trek.

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