Progress Easing into Summer

Even with all the focus on the build, life goes on. This week my uncle and cousin are visiting, so I’ve been enjoying a bit of a break while spending time with them. Entertaining visitors is always a great way to see more of your our town, and this was no exception. We went on a beautiful hike around Genoa (Nevada’s first settlement and one of the Pony Express stops) and visited a new estate distillery in town called Bentley Heritage. The Bentley family is a bit of a fixture in Carson Valley, and Chris Bentley really created something beautiful with this new business. Even the pipes and wiring are built artfully, and the bar and store present an incredibly classy place for a casual drink with friends.

Despite the distractions, I’m trying to stay on top of the build and figuring out how to work with some of the delays. With that in mind, I worked out a new schedule for the build that will allow me to keep some of my travel plans, even though I’m months behind schedule.

The latest (and hopefully final) leave date…

I get a lot of questions about whether I’ve already planned out my route. Unfortunately, I haven’t, so I can’t write a post about all my detailed plans. But I can tell you that there are some stops I’ll definitely making, and that I’ve come up with a slightly more practical timeline for the build.

First of all, my new timeline is broken up around the timeframe for some of my travel plans. I was trying to divide the build and travel stages into two separate periods, but I realized that doing it that way wasn’t serving me in any way: it was a disservice to the build, causing problems with my travel plans, and completely stressing me out. So I’ve broken up the build into stages around my plans and some major life events.


To Start: One of my cousins, Jaime, is getting married June 15th.

This was supposed to be my start date, with her wedding being my first stop. Instead, it’s going to be my first trial run. The goal is to definitely have finished the walls, floor, and ceiling by then, and hopefully have hooked up the electrical system. I’ll bring camping gear and treat the van like a tent, which will give me an idea of how well insulated it is and the very minimal amount of storage I’ll need.

The next major thing I wanted to do was head up to Alaska this summer to write about the current push to convert a large piece of the Alaskan wilderness into oil fields. It’s Alaska, which means I definitely need to go in the summer, and I’ll want a couple of weeks up there to work on the article. SuperDad’s birthday is in July, so I decided to leave after his birthday and head pretty much directly up to Fairbanks, Alaska.

I definitely want to have the kitchen finished by then. I can bring a sleeping pad and sleep on the floor if I need to, but having a kitchen can totally impact my mobility and cost efficiency. So the cabinets and counters for the sink, fridge, and oven will be top-priority from June 15th to mid-July

am planning two significant stops along the way. First, I couldn’t bear to drive through Ashland, Oregon without seeing at least one play at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. So I’ll probably spend a day or two there, fill up on creative charm, and then move on up to Canada. My second stop will be in Vancouver, where I plan to visit a very close friend from my exchange year in Germany. I’m thinking I’ll spend four or five days there, and then move on up to Alaska as directly as possible. This will hopefully put me in Fairbanks by late July.

I definitely want to be home in time for another wedding of another cousin of mine, Austin, on August 31st. I’d like to be back a little before then, probably around August 23rd, so I’ll have time to finish the bed and remaining storage, take care of a couple minor doctor’s appointments, and hit the road again by mid-September. Hopefully, any build details that remain at this point will be minor enough that I can finish them on the road.

I don’t have a plan beyond mid-September. I’d considered Denver, Colorado because the novel I’m working on is set there and it would be a great way to finish the manuscript. It does concern me that the weather will be getting colder, so we’ll see. Part of me wants to power through the cold for my art and part of me knows that if I do that I’ll just end up miserable and get nothing done. It will probably depend on how warm I can keep the van and what the weather looks like at the time.

I also want to visit my aunt and uncle in Illinois around October, so my route in September will have to play into those plans.

So that’s my current plan for the rest of the build and for the beginnings of my travels! It will still be a bit of a mad rush, as the more I get done in less time, the more comfortable I’ll be and the more likely I’ll be able to finish it all in September, but at least there are some hard leave-dates and a little less pressure to have everything done by those dates.

Finishing the walls

I’m not entirely sure when the walls will be finished, though I intend to have them finished this week. The passenger side is all installed, one of the driver’s side panels is in, and the second is cut and ready to go in. I’m hesitant to install it before some of the wiring is hooked up, because I won’t have easy access to parts of it after the wall goes up. I’ve tried to keep most of the connections accessible, but there are some things that there’s just no easy way to create access to them.

I also don’t want to cut the front driver’s side panel until the middle panel is up, so I can be absolutely certain of the measurements.

So while I’m quite close to having all the walls up, I can’t say for sure when they’ll be finished, and I want Dan to come and make sure all the wiring is good to go and connect a couple of things, and I’m not sure when he’ll have a chance to do so.

Passenger side wall before spackling and caulking the staples and cracks

Passenger side wall before spackling and caulking the staples and cracks

Dimmer switch for the front half of the lights after being installed in the wall, wire coming out of a hole for a 12V DC socket in the background.

Dimmer switch for the front half of the lights after being installed in the wall, wire coming out of a hole for a 12V DC socket in the background.

All in all, I’m pretty happy with the walls I’ve done so far. I’ve spackled over the nails and staples we used to attach the panels (along with some Gorilla caulk adhesive) and applied a rubbery caulk to the cracks between the panels. Now I’m sanding it all down and prepping it for painting.

In the meantime, I’m working on the arch around the cab, the ceiling, and getting the curtains up.

I was lucky to grow up in an amazing neighborhood full of wonderful neighbors. They feel like extended family, in a lot of ways. One of my neighbors at the end of the street, Nancy, offered to make the curtains for my van. She’s brilliant with a needle and thread, and has come through for me even though she’s had more than enough going on in her life without adding in a project just for me. I’ve seen one of the curtains already, and it looks really beautiful. I can’t imagine how long it would have taken me to do something similar, and it wouldn’t have looked nearly as nice. She’s said she’s going to bring them all by tonight, and I can’t wait to get them up in the van!

One thing we’ve been trying to figure out what to do with since the beginning is these weird foam blobs that came attached to the corners of the cab. They partly cover up the side airbags, so we don’t want to mess with them too much, but they’re also incredibly ugly. We’ve come up with a plan to paint them to match my color scheme and basically just work around them, though I have trimmed one of them that was intruding into the space my closet is going to go.

Another thing we spent a fair bit of time working on was this box for the charge controller and fuse box. The charge controller I originally got didn’t manage the load, as well, which is important mainly because it means it wouldn’t tell me how much electricity I was actually using. Dan traded me for one that does manage load, but unfortunately it also mounts on top of the wall, rather than flush, which means seeing a lot of ugly wires. I decided to build a recess for it, so I could cover the front and only see the screen of the charge controller, without any wires. It’s a cosmetic detail that turned into its own project, but I’m pretty happy with how it turned out. After the wall goes up, I’ll make the cover for it.

My electrical box

My electrical box

This week is going to be a bit of a whirlwind, hopefully finishing the walls, putting up the furring on the ceiling ribs and installing the beadboard ceiling I’ve picked out, hopefully putting up the curtains and connecting the lights, getting those last connections made for the electrical system, and possibly even getting around to painting.

Work is limited a little bit to the mornings and evenings as the weather keeps getting hotter, but there are still things I can work on from inside or in the shade of the garage, so I’m pretty confident it will all get done. Stay tuned!