Friday, November 21, 2014

Pimping - Oops, Make That - Primping and Prepping My McVansion For The Next Major Trek.

Well, as the old saying goes (from Robert Burns poem), "The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry." And that's true of my plans to be on the road heading west by October 1st. I had a project from a very long-term and very good client come in about 2 months later than it was supposed to. So, while I could have managed the project on the road, I was dealing with at least one new vendor and that made me a bit more wary.

The project was the production of a new book. It was an informational book about metal roofs and the ultimate client (my client's client) for the project was the trade association representing that segment of the industry. So, everything shipped from the book manufacturing plant (the new vendor) this past Wednesday and most of the drop shipments reached their destination today. My invoice is out and I'll hopefully receive payment very soon.

The Primping And Prepping

During parts of the summer and the fall, especially during this two month delay in my departure, I've been getting little things done on the van, making a few changes and modifications and so on. It's like having a house and a vehicle. There's always something that needs to be done. The only difference here is that the house and the vehicle are one and the same. And, as I had some extra time, I'm doing some of the projects I planned for a little further down the road.

Here is a short list of some of the general things I needed to have done to the van itself to be ready to get back on the road:

*Oil Change
*Top off all the fluids
*New cable linkages for the side door and the back door
*Front end alignment
*Make a modification to the van so I could get to my spare tire
(I'll explain that more if you ever see My McVansion in person)
*New wiper blades

My mechanic also ran the OBD1 codes (sure wish I had OBD2) and found one code that should not impact anything

There are a number of modifications/improvements I'm making to the interior "house" part of the van. Here's a list of what's done or will be done before I roll down the road in the next week and a half or two:

*New 1,000 watt (though it will run 1,200 if pressed) inverter
(the 400 watt inverter remains and will feed certain electronics
when necessary)
*Changed the storage units for clothes, food, cooking/eating utensils and other sundries (thanks again to Walmart)
*Added an indoor/outdoor thermometer
*Raised the galley counter top about 2" to accommodate the new storage units
*Higher current capacity 12 volt wiring and sockets in the galley area
*Mounted the LED digital volt meter in a panel with an on/off switch
*Installed the side and rear door block out curtains (sides were done)
*Built and installed 2 extra shelves in the right rear storage under my workstation desk accessible from the rear doors of the van
*Wired 12 volt power sockets to the workstation to power both 12 volt gear and USB equipment (I have USB adapters for the 12 volt sockets)
*Ran an additional 110 volt circuit to the right side of the van behind the refrigerator to use to power electric space heater from shore power
*Permanently mounted multiple 12 volt power socket blocks in the cockpit to be used for 12 volt power or USB power (with adapters) also ran various wires to appropriate electronics in the cockpit.
*Acquired a new ceramic radiant space heater
*Acquired a new Mr. Heater Portable Buddy propane space heater
*Acquired a Fantastic Fan Endless Breeze high velocity 12 volt box fan
*Acquired mosquito netting for several windows
*Acquired Sirius satellite radio with an A La Carte service ($8/month)
*Prepared moveable acoustical panels for when I need to turn the van into a voice-over studio for a client's work or some of my own projects
*Acquired a new Bluetooth speaker system that is one of the best I've heard anywhere to use for monitoring while I'm working on audio editing projects. It doesn't come close to matching up to my studio monitor system, but it's too large and this is a very good compromise (and it will sound great for playing back music and movie sound)
*Acquired a 12 volt power adapter for my laptop computer (more  energy efficient than using the 110 volt adapter)
*Acquired a two burner propane stove
*Acquired a few new cooking and food prep utensils and repaired the 110 volt plug on my small smoothie/chopper unit

And then there are the works still in progress:

*Install a microphone stand mount on the workstation desk to accommodate either a microphone or one of my digital recorders for voice-over projects (I think I have everything I need)
*Change out the driver and passenger seats with another pair I have in storage
*complete a cover for the right side rear wheel well shelf - shelf in place just needs cover
*install a drop leaf counter extension on the side of the refrigerator enclosure for added food prep area (counter is ready to mount)
*Sand, remove rust, prime and paint a few rust spots on the right and rear rain gutters
*Acquire a new large capacity back-up hard drive
*Acquire a variety of SD Flash Cards
*Acquire a new GPS unit (almost bought one, but decided against it, still shopping for the right unit at the right price)
*Acquire a new dash cam to replace my great Kodak Zi8 (that I want to use for more video documenting - I acquired another dash cam, but I'm trying to send it back, totally disappointing piece of equipment)
*Acquire a new 2 meter amateur radio rig and 2 meter and 10 meter antennas (I seem to have misplaced the ones I had)
*Rethink what recording gear I need to carry with me, the least possible
*Reorganize and reassign storage space for maximum utilization

Projects still in the research phase:

*Find some kind of better sink or camping sink arrangement for the galley as well as finding a satisfactory gray water arrangement.

The Work Is Never Done!

Like I said earlier it's like having a house and a vehicle, they just happen to be one and the same. Sometime after I get back on the road, I'll take a batch of new photos showing the variety of improvements to the lifestyle in my particular tiny house on wheels.

Some folks keep things very basic, simple and almost primitive. They like the flexibility of being able to reconfigure whenever they choose to.

I prefer to have things laid out for my convenience and creature comfort. Don't misinterpret that last statement. My van is not a luxury unit like most of the $90,000 to $140,000 commercially converted vans known as Class B motor homes. But, my van is designed specifically for my needs and works darn near perfectly for me. It cost me many tens of thousands of dollars less than those classy Class B units. But, I haven't found a Class B that actually fulfilled my expectations. That being said, they are perfect for many other people and they are very popular.

A house (whether on a foundation or on wheels) isn't a home until you make it your home and that's what I keep working on with My McVansion. And there will always be one more thing, like, eventually, adding solar power to make it even easier to stay off the grid for longer periods. It's just a continual work in progress. For someone like me, I enjoy the challenge of using my creativity and the variety of skills and experience I have to create something that is my own designer original.

I will get more of these projects complete before I hit the road, however, the call of the open road is getting louder and louder. Stay tuned, the wheels will be turning westward very, very soon. 


  1. Nice to read about others progress. I think that our mobile lifestyles and homes come with the built-in adjustability factor. More and more I realise that the more years of living this way the more comfortable with our rigs we become. Of course learning about ourselves through traveling helps tremendously.

    I like your lists.especially how you separated the'house' stuff from the vehicle stuff.I may use that going forward. I think it would help me both with budgeting and with prioritizing.

    If you're keeping up with my blog you already know that I am rethinking and readjusting my McCottage! I didn't opt for a mansion. Lol

    Have a great day. Hope to meet you when you get out herein the SW Snowbird Meca!

    1. Thanks, Lesa --

      I have been following your transition. I had a 92 Dodge Grand Caravan - and liked it, but never used it to camp or live in. I wish I had, just for the experience. I'd sure appreciate the better gas mileage.

      Glad you found my lists helpful. I find that making them up helps me research the various purchases and then I indicate where I got the best deal for that specific item. Also, keeping lists (I add and subtract to and from them), as you said, helps me prioritize.

      Have you had a chance to see the new documentary that was released yesterday about our mobility lifestyle? It's very well done and well represented by Randy Vining, Bob Wells and others who are great spokes men and women for our lifestyle.

      Looking forward to meeting up with you, too, in SW Snowbird territory, Lesa, along with some of the others I know through their blogs.


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  3. Ed: Reading about rain gutters on a V-hikl, as they say here in SW VA, regardless of mode, fills me with dread. I remember when Tere and I were in Portland, ME, some years back on a perfectly delightful early September afternoon -- 72 degrees and sunny. Now, there is only one place in the world that Tere and I have ever been where we didn't think, "We'd like to live here," and that was Las Vegas. God, what an awful craphole. But that day in Portland was like a divine gift and we were already imagining our retirement (HAH! As if that will ever happen) there . . . until we heard the words "Rake the roof" -- as in what you had to do so that your whole freaking house wouldn't collapse from the weight of the snow. I don't even clean the gutters, and if there's a nail to be hammered in our house, Tere does it. "Rake the roof" now means that Portland and anywhere similar is out of bounds. I will never live anywhere where "rake the roof" is part of the vocabulary.

    Actually, coming on 15 years in Bristol, the town is finally coming around -- and we might actually spend our days here, or at least long enough to pay off the mortgage (13 years left at 2.75 percent, thanks to the presiden't HARP program). Next time you come see us, let's make sure we go to the new Birthplace of Country Music Museum in downtown Bristol. It's as much as paean to oldtime radio as anything, and you will love it.

    Safe travels. I'm sure living free has its quirks, but I am in perpetual envy and awe of you . . . and the length of this comment means exactly what you would expect: I'm avoiding working on a horrid manuscript. You wouldn't imagine what royalty publishers let loose claiming it just needs a "medium copyedit." Sure, if you think a complete rewrite and a bunch of PhDs who couldn't crank out a bibliographic entry if their life depended on it means a "medium copyedit." Well-prepared manuscripts are few and far between these days, but at least they keep on coming.