Sunday, February 28, 2010

panels are in

uneventful day. Got the panels in fairly easily. There are definitely some inconsistent gaps between the ceiling and the wall panels. Nearly all of it will be hidden by cabinetry. I'm going to look for some kind of trim for the finishing work. Went to Lowe's and returned the crappy drill I bought yesterday. Also bought a bunch of wood for the bed frame. Should have that done tomorrow. maybe.....
You can click on the pictures to see them larger.
Oh, of course there was one mishap. I took out the little wall light and accidently bumped the back of it against the van frame. It showered sparks. Now none of the interior lights work. Just another thing to do. Gotta find the fuse box and poke around.

Saturday, February 27, 2010


I've picked up on some of the lingo the kids are using these days. LOL, ROFL, the more intense Roflcopter, WTF, etc. etc. Well if you didn't know there are entire websites devoted to the 3 simple letters: FML. It means F*** My Life. People use it as an expression of frustration when it just seems that everything goes wrong.

We woke up to an additional 6 inches of snow and 28 degrees. FML. But I was psyched to get the paneling in today. All of it! Started working by 8:00. I wanted to get the ceiling in first so I grabbed a panel and trudged through knee deep snow to get it to the van. Of course the van is parked at the edge of the driveway that drops off 8 inches at a 45 degree angle so I slipped and ate shit. Unfortunately I was carrying a piece of plywood that I was trying to keep dry that landed on top of me before being covered in powder snow. FML.

Of course it didn't fit right so I had to carry it back to the basement for additional cuts. Finally got it about right but needed to pound it upward to get it in place. I have no mallet and was 100% determined not to go to Lowe's today. Washcloth+hammer+duct tape= 'rubber' mallet. FML

The second ceiling panel didn't want to fit either. As an added bonus the van was 1.5 inches longer than 8 feet. So 2 sheets of plywood comes up just short enough to create a gap. I had to
fashion a 2x2 strip for the rear which of course took about an hour. Then I used my 'mallet' to pound the ceiling in place. The sheet metal screws are fairly short so I don't bust through the ceiling so I had to press my head as hard as I could against the roof while simultaneously achieving the delicate task of starting a screw which of course falls off the bit 9 out of 10 times. FML

I cut the door panel out of pre-stained wood then stained the edges. Of course the holes I drilled didn't line up with the door holes so I drilled new ones then plugged the bad ones with the old plastic 'plugs' that were on the old panel. To screw the door handle back on I had to open the door just a notch to access the handle. I glanced outside for a second and got snowblind just before trying to find the tiny hole in black plastic. I thought I was lined up but the screw was not in the hole and dropped off the bit, bounced once, fell through the tiny crack in the door, and disappeared into the snow. FML.

I searched for a while with my hand until it went numb. FML. Then I got clever and got a magnet. I searched with that for about ten minutes to no avail. FML. Then I spent the next 20 minutes with a hairdryer, blowdrying snow until the little brass devil appeared. FML.

The rear door panels were a PITA. The one with the door handle in particular. Plastic flexes so it was easy to take off the old one. Wood does not bend it breaks. Oh, well. It looks fine. FML.

I was poised to get all the paneling in today. It was only 3:00ish. I had to make some tricky cuts on the first panel but my measurements worked out. Amazingly. I was screwing it in when the battery on my drill driver went dead. I went to replace it only to find that neither battery would fit back in. It was broken. I tried hard to figure it out. To make it work. I ended up duct taping the battery on but the springs kept pushing it out. I was determined not to go to Lowe's. If I could hold the panel with my left hand and balance a screw on the bit then push it to the surface and pull the trigger while simultaneously pushing on the battery with my forearm it would work. I'd set up for this feat of coordination and the screw would fall off the bit everytime. FML. I ripped the duct tape off, determined to fix the drill but just ended up bashing it into the floor repeatedly. If it wasn't broken before it sure was now. FML

I went to Lowe's to spend 100$ on a new drill. FML. The tool guy told me that my drill was under warranty. It had a 2 year warranty! But I don't have the receipt. "No problem" he told me. They can look it up using my phone number. "Man, these guys are great" I thought. So I drove home, got the drill, and returned to Lowe's where they informed me that "We only keep track of receipts for 30 days. You'd have to send it of to Porter Cable to be repaired." FML.

So I bought a Black and Decker for 10 dollars less than my old PC. Got it home and discovered it's a POS. FML. Should have spent the extra 10 to get the same drill I had. Of course the batteries were dead so I set one on to charge. Waited 15 min. then took it out and got half a hole drilled before it died. FML.

I did not finish the paneling today.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Nothing is as easy as it seems...

I've been working on the rig. First step was to get everything out. the shelving came out easy. The bulkhead was a bear. It sounds so simple to drill out the rivets holding it in but of course I broke a bunch of bits and had to take more trips to Lowes. Before I knew it, it had been an all day affair. The next day I took out the plastic wall paneling and installed the insulation. This rig is gonna be warm in the winter.

Yesterday dad came up to help me with the wiring. I'm going to have a deep cycle battery under the passenger seat. the fuse box is going to be in the cabinet under the sink behind the driver's seat. You can see the wiring in the picture. I've got a pretty simple electrical set-up so far. One fluorescent for lighting the main living area, 2 leds for lighting the kitchen area, a fan in the right rear, an inverter, and a 12v socket. The 12v socket may eventually power the fridge. All the wiring had to be run first so it could be under the wood paneling which goes in tomorrow.

I wanted to cut the wall panels first so I could stain the edges but... I ran out of time and knew I'd be a full day behind if I didn't get the stain on today. I'll cut the panel tomorrow and for the rest of my life live with the unstained 5mm edges on the panels. Unless it's gonna drive me crazy, then I'll stain the edge. We'll see how noticable it is. Keep in mind most of the panel edges will be hidden by cabinetry. we'll see.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Max...The Road Warrior

Buying a new vehicle was a very difficult decision but I had to man up and do it. I've loved Troy, my 1986 VW Vanagon Westy, with all my heart. But it got to the point where I was unable to leave town for climbing trips. Kind of defeats the purpose of having a camper van if you can't leave town to camp! So I was faced with the difficult decision of either putting 1000's of dollars into a full restoration or spending 1000's of dollars on a new rig. I bought a new rig.

This is Max...the Road Warrior. Obviously named after Mad Max. Max is a Dodge Sprinter cargo van with a 2.7 liter turbo diesel Mercedes engine that will supposedly run up to 400,000 miles at about 30 MPG's. Sick. He is an empty shell of a rig that was used as a work truck in Iowa. Note the shelving, ladder rack, and bulkhead. I flew to Iowa to pick it up, filled up the tank across the street from the dealer, then drove it home, only stopping for gas once! It has a big tank. 800 miles on a tank and a quarter.

I plan to share the details of the conversion on this blog. My beta is not only ironclad in climbing but in all aspects of life as well, including van conversion. And so the effort begins. Here are some pics of Max in his current state.