Saturday, October 20, 2012

little Van update...

I have spreading my time between the van and working on my tiny house of late and have been neglecting this little blog. The van is still going although it is time to re-think how it is being utilized. It is still set up as an RV but lately I have been thinking about taking out the kitchen to use in my tiny house. I have not been camping in the van in awhile and I could really save some money by using the kit from the van. I have also been knocking around the idea of selling the van since the cabin seems to be where I am going to make my home now.
  I have done some projects which are kind of universal to the van and house....I recycled a used fuel pump into a 12v pump for the Zodi shower. It has increased output and can be hooked up to the van battery instead of the little 6v battery pack that came with the shower. This is working as my house shower now but would be a great conversion for someone who is using a Zodi in a van.

  I also mad a 12v extension cord which is my main source of power in the tiny house, running of the van's deep cycle. I fashioned the cable out of an old extension cord, a pair of alligator clips recycled from a set jumper cables and a three socket 12v plug-in thingy. The battery in the van charges while I'm driving around and when I get home I plug the house into the deep cycle for my lights, DVD and fan. at some point I will add a solar or micro-hydro system for the house but for now, this system is working great.

well, that is all for now.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

and another new alternator..and a new grill.

So I have been pretty inactive on my two blogs. Working on the Tiny house has stalled and I have settled back into the vandaminium for the summer, or at least until I get the cabin moved. The good news is that I found an amazing place to move the house to (and park the van until then) but the bad news is that I am too broke to do anything about it. I have been trying to stay off the river and focus on the headhunting job which I know will bring me success at some point. As much as I love rafting, it is a viscous circle of poverty and I have decided that although I do not need to be rich, I need to make a better income than I have been as a whitewater guide. last weekend the alternator went out on the Van (taking the battery with it, I am told). Replacing it was not too hard but I needed help to get enough tension on the belts. Everything seems to be working now and I feel pretty good about learning how to do yet another thing on the van. Hope this combo lasts longer than a year!!!

I have been living pretty lean lately, dividing my time between Marshall NC and my job which is about an hour away. With gas prices the way they are I have been boondocking in a national forest area called Mills River. There are beautiful campsites along the river and camping is free when you are outside of the campground. I have been going there and spending a few nights a week to cut down on my long commute and other than a 75 dollar seatbelt ticket (dumb!!!) it has been a great experience. Dinners have been pretty hum-drum but the other day I decided I wanted to grill and I found a great folding charcoal grill at one of the local box stores...

This thing is great, folds flat and is easy to clean. There is no lid which kind of stinks but as a hibachi it works great. The other night I grilled a steak and cooked rice and green beans on the stove in the van. The grill is really neat and is definitely the coolest purchase I have made in awhile. 

Well, that's about it for now. Safe travels! 

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Excited for summer... has been a while. I have been making a go of my new career (just eeking out an existance) and noe raft season is back. Hopefully my spirits will lift as I have been down in the dumps lately. Work has stalled on my tiny house. I need to move it and find a somewhat permenant spot for it. it will have to be done soon as it is sitting in the parking lot of the raft company. It was easy living this winter since it was so mild. I did not use much propane or wood so that was a bonus....

I camped in the Vandaminium for the first time in a long time the other night. For the last few months the van has become a catch all of clutter from the shack and I really noticed it when I tried to do a camp out. Today I am dedicating to the van. There a re a few things to be fixed...namely my winshield wipers that quit working. I will also tackle the stereo system which does not seem to be getting enough juice. I am going to re-route the power to my spare battery and hope that it will stay on. I also need to re attach the front speakers.

Inside, I am going to clean and reorganize. I really want the van to be ready for some adventures as I have been stuck in the parking lot for three months and I am feeling the itch to travel a bit. Last night I went grocery shopping and stocked up the pantry so I can jump at a moments notice and hit the road.

Other than this wiper and stereo the van is doing OK. I am still having some steering issues and I need to address them but all in all it is running pretty good. OK. I am getting to work.....after this cup of coffee.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

OK.......some news. Finally

I have neglected this blog....mostly because I am focused on making my new tiny home livable. I went to Cincinnati to sell trees for the Christmas season. It is a 6 1/2 hour ride and the van did great although the steering column seems to be getting looser. I took a look and found that it is also cracked and will have to be welded or replaced. It will have to wait. I am focused on making my shack nice for the winter....

The dual battery setup is working flawlessly and the fridge is working like a champ. I have been keeping some essentials in it even though I have a full size fridge in the outpost where I am parked. I pulled the bedding and mattress foam out of the van and I am using in my new "house". The van has become transportation and a giant closet. It is nice being able to stretch out but I do miss the cozy-ness of the van (not that my 128 square foot home is much bigger!) If I can find a nice spot for my house nest summer I think I will buy a small gas saver car and use the van for just camping. I am going to keep it though, you never know when you need a home on wheels.

My new job is going.......well? It is a new type of work for me and I am left on my own mostly so it is hard to gauge progress but I like it and hope that I can make a career of it. If so, I will be able to work from anywhere in the world!!!! Until then I am trying like hell (If anyone reading this knows any maintenance managers in the waste industry, please have them email me!!!! ;).

That's it. Nothing exciting. Pleas check out my other blog which I have been devoting a little more time to lately.

Travel Well,

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

The Van..........Long Haul.

I drove the van to Cincinnati from Marshall last Sunday.....Here are the stats...

1 Full tank of gas.....31 gallons
Still on that tank.....395 miles later
Van ran like a champ
Guessing I am getting around 14-15 MPG

That is all.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

been a while... I have been neglecting this blog a bit as I have been working on my new tiny house but here are a few updates from the Vandaminium....

I am getting ready to head to Cincinnati for my tree gig. I have been doing this for the last three years and it has proven to be a great way to make some cash for the winter. The downside is that it is 6 hours away. The van seems to be running strong so I am pretty confident that I will have a good trip. We will be staying in an old kindergarten up there. We had a great house to sleep in last year but that has been rented and this year we will be crashing in an old school. Prolly creepy.

My new headhunting job is going well. I am making a lot of phone calls and although I have not gotten any fantastic resumes in I am sure that if I stick with it I will make some money next year. As it stands I am working 20 hours a week at 10 dollars an hour which is plenty to survive on. The money that I make at trees..I plan on putting into the cabin.

I have not purchased any new van living gear. My Zodi shower crapped out on me. The pump went. It's not a big deal as I wanted to switch to a 12v pump anyway. I will wait on this. I have been living at our outpost which has hot water. I can fill a bucket up and use my fountain pump shower (more on that later).

There are a few items that occasionally live in the van with me....namely a Travelchair camp table and a camp kitchen stand that I got at Wally World...

First off....The table. It is great. It is lightweight, sturdy, easy to assemble and easy to clean. The only downside is that it has a bunch of parts. The leg assembly, the table top and 4 "tent pole" pieces that I am afraid I may lose. They are not shock corded (which would be great) and the bag that holds the table is pretty loose at the top. That being said, I have had this table for almost 7 years, used it hundreds of times and it spent 27 days on the Grand Canyon with no issues. I love this table! It does take up valuable cargo space so it does not live in the van but it's always close for camping/boondocking trips.

The "camp kitchen" is a different story. The link above is for a nicer one from Amazon and anyone thinking of getting one I would suggest anything but the model that I bought at wally world. It works and it's light but it is flimsy and complicated and not that well made. The one from Amazon is much nicer (a friend has it) and I would recommend that one.

That's it for now....back to work on my tiny house....

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Adding a second battery to your rig.

Adding a second battery does two things...

1. It allows you to run your extra van electronics longer and...
2. It ensures that your starting battery will have enough juice to get you going in the morning.

I have always had 2 batteries in my van but one of them was a jumpstart battery pack that I only used to power a small fan in the summer. I had a 12v solar panel to charge it and I would put it out during the day to charge. The battery pack worked but when I added the Edgestar fridge I quickly realized that I needed a second, high capacity battery to run it and a way to charge that battery.

I settled on a type 27 marine battery from Advance Auto Parts. I bought it and a plastic battery box and some heavy gauge hookup wire. I also ordered a battery isolating solenoid from

I built a small tray inside the cabin of the van and although this is not the best place for the battery, it was all that was available. There was just no room under the hood. The battery box is vented since most batteries produce hydrogen gas (very explosive!!) when charging. My van is a conversion van and the interior lights, radio and CB run from a dedicated fuse box inside the van. There was a cable attached to the starting battery for this fuse box and instead of running a new wire I simply attached the existing cable to the house battery side of the solenoid....

Yes the SOLENOID. This is a very simple relay that makes a connection when 12v is applied to a terminal. Hooking the solenoid up is very easy. Mine grounds to the vehicle so I found a spot near my starting battery, scraped the paint away and screwed the solenoid in with self-tapping screws. On one of the main posts of the solenoid I added a heavy gauge battery cable to the positive terminal on my starting battery. On the other post of the solenoid I ran an 8 gauge cable to the positive terminal on my house battery. I grounded the house battery to the body and my second battery was almost ready to go. The solenoid needs to be turned on/off by the ignition. Under the hood of my van was a connector (for something) that was not hooked up. It had 6 connections and with a little trial and error I was able to find a connection that provided 12v when the ignition was turned. I ran a wire from this to the small post on the isolator and made sure it worked by listening for the solenoid to click when I turned the key on.

When I turn the van on the solenoid closes and connects the second battery to the first (and the alternator). When I turn the key off the second battery is isolated from the starting battery....simple right???

I also hooked up my solar charger to the second battery with a charge controller. The solar charger cuts in when the battery is low and turns off when the battery is fully charged. The charge controller is super simple and I mounted the solar panel on the roof and bought an extra long cable to hook it up.

From my second battery (house battery) I am running my fridge, a 3 way 12v plug for my cell charger and any extras, a 12v fan mounted over the drivers seat, another fan that clips on near the bed, my pump for my sink, and a 12v hand vacuum when needed.

Everything is also fused. I have a large fuse on the wire running from the solenoid to the second battery, a fuse between the second battery and the fridge, between the second battery and the pump, the interior lights are on a dedicated fuse panel and the fans both have fuses built into the 12v plugs. Everything should always be fused.

Here are a few things that I learned during my no order whatsoever.

if you are running a cable through sheet metal, use some cable protection through the hole like a rubber grommet (this was a 200$)

make sure your grounds are good

fuse everything

use the heaviest cables you can afford and nothing less than 10 gauge

draw everything out on paper first

cable management is very important especially under the hood

label your cables

use the proper connections on the end of cables

don't electrocute yourself

disconnect both batteries while working on the system

learn how to reset the clock on your radio

That's it for now.....