Getting Back on Track

Let me start by stating the obvious: it was practically a different geologic period when I last posted. I’m truly sorry about that, and I’m going to try to get everything caught up and make sure that you, my few but very dear readers, don’t miss out on any of the misadventures. 

I’ve passed into an entirely new stage of this building process whereevery joint in my body hurts more-or-less constantly, and by the time the sun goes down I’m as close to braindead as a person who isn’t hospitalized can be. Home Depot and the local hardware stores have become such a milk run that I‘ve actually gone to them in the same clothes I slept in the night before, without brushing my hair (but I did brush my teeth, I still have some standards). I pretty much run off of coffee, music, and desperation, and spend most of my time trying to pretend it’s still February(which isn’t too big a leap considering the dreary, cold, depressing weather lately).

I’m not kidding about being practically braindead every night. The exhaustion is completely mind-numbingin a way that makes me feel really uncomfortable and anxious and just plain-old bad. I tried to write on several evenings the last couple of weeks and literally couldn’t understand what I was trying to say when I came back and tried to keep writing later on. I’ve been working a little less hard the past couple days, and I finally feel like I can string a sentence together(please let me know if I’m wrong about that).

That’s not an excuse for the lack of posts. I know I probably should have posted my ramblings anyway, and then we all could have laughed about my incoherence together, and I could have corrected it at a later date. I’m just so far behind schedule with the build that I’m feeling a bit down on myself — behind on the build, behind on the blog, and not really catching up in either despite attempts to do so.

At any rate, blogging hasn’t happened, and I’m going to try to rectify that. Let’s start with a quick bit of good news: I got my title! It arrived in the mail about a week and a half ago, and that’s one thing I really don’t need to worry about anymore, which feels amazing.

I don’t remember where I left off, and I’ll try to go check in the next day or two, but for now I’m going to guess. The last thing I remember writing about is putting in the framing on the step and hiring Dan to help with the electrical.

Dan was amazing. He came by on a Wednesday and the following Monday, for a total of seven hours, and got the whole thing wired up. He tested all the circuits for me, rewired the dimmer switch for the lights so they won’t flicker, and installed an isolator that will charge my leisure battery from my car battery. He helped me to simplify my system and made sure I had products that were really good for my purposes.

I observed the entire process and learned a lot. I actually felt confident enough to hook up some of the last, simple circuits on my own (I haven’t actually done it yet, but I’m going to have to in the next couple days, as we’re finally about ready to install the walls and the wires are all going to disappear). I was able to learn a lot about Dan, as well. He’s lived an amazing life, as an electrical engineer working on planes for the military, living on a sailboat in California, and retiring only to pick up a new career converting vans half the year in Nevada and repairing RVs down in Mexico the other half. He had a ton of advice for me, and I feel incredibly lucky he happened to stop by the garage sale all those weeks ago.

I’ll do a big electrical post eventually, detailing everything we did (I’ve taken a ton of pictures of all the connections, wires, and so on).

We held off putting in the subfloor because Dan mentioned he might cut into the insulation on the floor to run wire under the subfloor. That ended up not being necessary, so we could have put the subfloor in earlier; hindsight and all that.

When we took out our three pieces of subfloor, which are massive and stupidly heavy and generally a pain in the butt to deal with, and tried to fit them back into the van, we couldn’t get any of them to fit. To be fair, they never really “fit” to begin with. The first piece was one of the first pieces of wood we purchased, so we didn’t really understand how to take care of it in the weeks it waited to be cut and fit and installed. It sat outside, exposed to the sun and the cold nights, leaning against the fence. By the time we had finished the insulation and our templates and were ready to cut it out, it was totally warpedSuperDad was convinced it was still usable. I was skeptical, but I didn’t know a damn thing about wood and really didn’t want to buy another piece, so I was happy to believe it was all good.

Technically, it was “usable.”In fact, we’re using itwe’re cutting it up and using it as furring strips on the arched ceiling.

Me cutting out the subfloor.

Me cutting out the subfloor.

Long before Dan had even looked at my van, we’d cut it out along the templates, trimmed it, trimmed it again, hauled it in and out of the van 87 times, and gotten it just how we wanted it, done the same with the second piece, gotten them both stuck trying to force them to fit, cut most of the “tongue” off of the warped first piece, slammed them together with a hammer and finally forced them into place, devised a plan to bolt the warped piece down in places and hold it flat along the back wall with a furring strip, spent an hour trying to get the two pieces unstuck from each other, and roughly cut the third piece.

So this first, warped piece had issues to begin with. But after Dan had finished and we went to install the three pieces, it didn’t fit at all. We spent an entire evening trying to get the silly things to fit together again. At this point, I was thrilledto be buying another piece of subfloorinstead of fighting with that thing any longer.


After we had that new sheet of subfloor, it took us less than two hours to trace the old one, cut the new one out, and fit them all in to place. With the tongue-and-groove, they fit perfectly. So well, in fact, that we just put a little bit of heavy-duty adhesive under the edges by the cab and the back doors, screwed it into the top framing for the step, and called it good.

The third piece along the back doors posed a bit of a challenge, as getting the edge to line up perfectly with the insulation and the metal floor, as well as cutting precise rectangles around a couple of access points, is difficult to do when you have to remove the subfloor to cut it. When Dan was thinking about running wire along the floor of the van, he used a multitool to cut out some of the insulation that we’d already adhered to the floor. It cut through this stuff like it was nothing, completely blowing my mind. Dan told me that with the right blade, it would cut through anything like butter. I loved that it was handheld, great for precise cuts and for small spaces. 

I’ve been looking at packing lists lately, as well, and a lot of them recommend having a multitool on the road. So I headed to Home Depot and looked at multitools. Apparently, there are two brands that are really interchangeable and between the two of them, they can be used for the most applications. Ryobi was the one that was wireless, and that seemed necessary because it would allow me to use it in any capacity I might need to, especially on the road.

I did run into some issues with the accesories for the multitool. It isn’t sold with a battery or charger, and the battery and charger were each sold separately, as well. The tool itself was $69, the battery $59, and the charger $39. I was really torn, because that seemed like a lot of money to spend on one tool, but I also felt like it would be incredibly useful to have. So I loaded it all onto my cart and decided to think about it while I finished shopping.

I was looking at some 1x2s when a guy stopped and asked what I was buying from Ryobi. Apparently, he’s a big fan of the brand. I explained that I wasn’t sure if I was going to buy it yet and why, and we chatted for another minute before he went on his way. I kind of figured that was that, but about five minutes later he came back, with a Ryobi box in hand. It was an electric drill/driver set, with a battery and charger included, for $59. For the price of just the battery, I could get both of the pieces I needed, plus an extra tool that I hadn’t planned on getting.

I thanked him profusely and this time we did go our separate ways, but I still wasn’t entirely sure I should get the tools. It seemed like a lot of money to spend, I wasn’t sure how much I really needed them, and it was just more stuff I would need to store on the road.

I must have stood near the checkout in Home Depot for half an hour, going back and forth on the decision.But I bought them. And I’m so glad I did.

Square cutouts for the access points on the subfloor, done with my new multitool.

Square cutouts for the access points on the subfloor, done with my new multitool.

I’ve used both tools nearly every day since I bought them, and they’ve enabled me to get incredibly precise with some of the work. The multitool has two saw blades and a sander that it came with, which have helped to round off sharp corners inside some cubbies we’re building, get small pieces of wood down to exact sizes, and make sure that the subfloor and insulation are cut to match.

There’s a lot more to tell, and I’m excited to get caught up, but it’s nearly midnight and I’m starting to go a little brain-dead, so I think this is enough for now. I’ll format it and add a picture or two first thing in the morning, and hopefully get it posted by 10 am. Thank you for bearing with me

We weighed down the subfloor with everything we could find…. including a couple of the water jugs that we’re going to use for my sink system.

We weighed down the subfloor with everything we could find…. including a couple of the water jugs that we’re going to use for my sink system.