back in town and checking things off the list. Back from a few weeks of travel and since we're in portland it's a good chance for us to check some van projects off the list. Doesn't hurt that I blocked out a few weeks to work on a client fabrication that hasn't really come through, so the hours are available for us to be in the shop on our own projects.
Also doesn't hurt that were living in the van, so it's easy enough to sleep nearby, get to work early and crash easily at the end of a long workday...
We've realized that were living in a van that is anything but ready for habitation, so our focus is on creating more useful/organized storage, getting the roof rack and awning setup for shade and rain protection (when out of town) and probably the top of our list after waking up a handful of days now on a busy city street (in a van thats now full of glass)...window coverings for privacy.
Jen leapt in and took charge on that project and the result was some fantastically crafted, built-in insulation black out window coverings that we can easily store under the mattress (or in a custom cabinet later if we decide its needed), pull out when were about to boondock and rapidly convert into "stealth mode".
Our first night using them was a dream. We slept deeply in a a fully dark room and had no concern about being spotted or disturbed early in the morning as people start shuffling about before work. So good.
The rack/awning has been a more complex problem to solve. I have never been impressed with the awnings on the market for sprinters or larger RVs. Despite how much we loved the ARB awning that we used and abused on the bus, its not an option on the sprinter simply because the roof is 9.5' tall and we cant reach it. That leaves only auto/electric RV awnings and most of these are not built for extreme conditions and actually fold themselves up under the slightest of winds (which, given our desire to camp on mountains and beaches seems a not great fit).
The search for the perfect awning continues, but i've been working to build a custom roof rack for our van that will allow/house the perfect awning, our solar panel and hopefully even a small rooftop deck for coffee/sunrise and cocktail/sunset viewing. Suddenly i'm ready for a trip to the beach ;)
Regardless of motivation, the rack has been a more difficult solve. Custom brackets to fit the stock tracks were easy enough, but with the curvature of the roof in all dimensions almost nothing about the rack has been easy to dial in. Cut/weld/build/install a quick sample to attach and measure from, take measurements, uninstall and cut apart/reweld/rebuild and reinstall... Remeasure, remove, rebuild... rinse and repeat about 100 times and all I seem to be getting is really tired of climbing up and down the ladder on all four corners of the vehicle.
It has been an infuriatingly long process that has tested my wits and patience and few times a day has me asking why i didn't just buy a decent roofrack and install it (but where's the fun in that?). Progress is coming (all too slowly), and despite thinking I was done, and a exuberantly painting the rack for a final install... all i learn is that i have to at least once more cut it apart and reweld the entire rack. Argh. The pursuit continues. I shall eventually find my roof rack creation zen.
I take occasional breaks to further the inside and make the cabinetry/storage more useful (happy wife happy life), but we've still got a long way to go even on our "test" setup. Ive started working out the upper cabinets and some other details, but really we just need to commit to a few larger items (refrigerator, etc) in order to dial in the interior spaces and cabinets.
We've also found enough time to steal away for spring/summer activities with friends. Now that the suns out everyone is coming out of hibernation and its easier to find moments for bbqs, happy hours and back yard lounging. We even stole away to the beach for a quick trip and a surf session...
Nice to finally put the van to good use and i can speak from experience now that the interior works perfectly as a wetsuit changing room. Most nights however, we're still in town. Sleeping in the van and typically using it as an excuse to check out some neighborhood or show we typically wouldn't wander far enough away from home to see. It keeps us exploring and seeking out new things even when in town and we cant wait to get out an explore further afield!