I’ve never owned a RV. I edited in one once at Derby. A nice 30 something footer the station rented and parked in someone’s yard across the street from the Downs. Then there were the debates with my Uncle Bud about which was real camping. His travel trailer or my backpack. That is about all my RV experience.
I’ve never owned a van either. I drove one around campus a lot when I worked at University Television. It was fun, we’d drive up and down sidewalks to get to buildings when making deliveries or going out on a shoot. We called her Big Junkie, and she lived up to her name. She was in a wreck at some point and the slide door wouldn’t close real well. It would leak or snow on you if you were driving around in inclement weather.
The fleet of live trucks I now drive around for work are in much better shape, well once Unit 10 went away. Unit 10 was sweet. Imagine if Play School made a “My First Live Truck” and you’d have Unit 10. When I started in ’98 the van was already 10 or so years old. We’ll call it well seasoned, it had seen a lot of news. You could stomp on the gas when you got on the interstate in Lexington and keep it on the floor till you got to Richmond and never really break the speed limit. Once while covering a bourbon warehouse fire I had to keep jump starting it off the technical battery every time we stopped. At least it had two batteries.
So there is my RV and van experience up until now. I hope this current experiment works out a little better than some of my previous van experiences.
The Blank Canvass
Insulate…or die trying
Cutting more holes (fridge vents)
Rough Kitchen Layout
Almost Finished Kitchen
Power Center, holes, and propane detector.
Of course this will all change slightly due to the fact that the battery separator gets really hot. Not good in an enclosed space. NO, there have been no fires or melted wires. Just want to make sure that doesn’t happen.
Gas into Back of fridge
Gas line to stove runs in under the sink.
More pics of some of the stuff I’ve done over the past month.
The properly mounted battery separtor.
Inside the power center.
The inverter/charger on the left.
A look at the kitchen with the counter top laid and the stove set.
Water tank fill and vent.
15 Gallon fresh water tank, strainer (left), pump (center), fill hose (black and blue)
Running water! 12V pump switch is in the bottom left of the frame.
The gray water tank in the cabinet bellow the sink. A 5 gallon Barker portable tank. A last minute design change that saved some time and money.
Hung above the back door in our house, now hangs on the side door of our new house.
This page seems to attract a lot of attention so I thought I’d share some thoughts on the subject now that we’re on the map and I’m not sitting in driveway covered in blood, sweat and tears.
A year ago I was knee deep in van construction…ahhh who am I kidding I was in over my head. After about seven months of life on the road in a van I thought I’d run through some of the pro’s, con’s, do-overs and wouldn’t change a thing sort of stuff. OK not all seven months have been spent in our home on wheels, but enough time to figure some of this stuff out.
The Had to Fix:
-Thought I smelled propane around the fridge so I had to tighten some gas fittings in a state park in New York right outta the gate. Guess the newness of things and the road travel loosened them up.
-A frozen sink sprayer was replaced on the way to Mexico (seems it froze up and cracked sometime in WV when we weren’t van dwelling). Luckily the block of ice in the water tank never went Titanic on us, managed to melt and drain it out over Thanksgiving, should have done a better job draining down the water lines.
-Insulate, insulate, insulate. It sure seems to help keep the van cool in the sun. If only it would hold in more heat…guess I should have installed a furnace.
-Installing a good vent fan over the cooktop. Critical if you’re doing a lot of cooking in your rig.
-Mounting the drain tank inside. I didn’t want to do this at first, even had a tank to mount to the underside that I couldn’t (read didn’t want to take the time to) make work. This change has for the most part allowed us to avoid the dreaded RV dump stations. The tank is only gray water so I’m able to dump it about anywhere. I’ve used dump stations, pit toilets, flush toilets and fire rings. This greatly improves our ability to camp anywhere.
-3-Way fridge. Awesome. It was a lot of stress to deal with the propane and cutting holes in the side of the van, but well worth it not to be constantly having to buy ice. The thing works better than I thought too! Yeah Norcold.
-Swivel base. It took forever to get but it was worth the wait. We can spin the passenger seat around and create a sweet living room. I just wish the one for the driver’s seat would’ve worked out (too crowed, steering wheel)
-A comfortable bed. Nothing beats a good night’s sleep, and we tend to sleep a lot longer in the van than we did in our house. Can you get too much sleep?
-Storage space. We bought a big van for this very reason. At times it has felt cramped, but we have room for everything we need.
-Remote switch for inverter. Finally did this modification this month at our friends house. It was simple thanks to this message forum (How To HERE) and speeds up making coffee in the mornings. No longer do we have to open the hatch and reach under the bed to turn the inverter on.
-Add a solar panel. The second battery will last about 3 days if we aren’t driving. We don’t run our inverter a lot (pretty much just to make coffee) when we are parked. Between the lights, the fan (if we run it), propane monitor and brewing joe we don’t really draw that much power off the battery. A solar panel would extend our time between firing up the engine, but would have been a costly addition. I’d now like to apologize to those in Potrero who we might have woken up while brewing coffee. We really didn’t leave the van running that long!
-An external door for filling our water tank. We have to swing out the bikes, open the back doors, move some stuff around and open a hatch to get to the water tank fill. We’ve gotten it down to a dance and it doesn’t take that long, but having the fill inside a door that is accessible from the outside (like a real RV) would be a help.
-Penthouse top. On those cold mornings and nights when we’re stuck in the van it would be nice to be able to stand up. Having a penthouse top from Sportsmobile, or a pop top from GTRV Westy would be nice. The biggest con to that wish is our roof box. I don’t know if a pop top could support the weight of our box.
-4WD. Quiggley please. We thought we could get around not having 4WD, but we like to get off the beaten path, nothing extreme, just out and about. We’ve taken this van into some necky places and made it back out alive but it would have been nice knowing we had the 4WD option in case we got stuck. It has limited what we can do in some places by keeping us from getting to certain trailheads (we hate bumping down washboard with our entire house rattling along) and has caused us to keep searching down FS roads looking for a camping spot where we can get in and out if it happened to rain overnight. We knew we would like 4WD going into this adventure, the price and availability of 4WD vans affected our decision to go 2WD.
So for the most part everything has been operating smooth as silk. I guess the long hours of stress and labor in that driveway on Lindy Ln really paid off. I said throughout construction I wanted to get it right so I wouldn’t be trying to fix stuff on the road and wasting valuable rest and recreation time. So far, so good. Even for an older van everything has held up great. WIth all our weight, roof box, and bike rack we’re still getting between 14 and 15 miles per gallon. As with any project there are choices to be made that are dictated by time, money, personal preference, availability of supplies, etc. You have to figure out what is right for your needs when you approach a van conversion. There are tons of internet resources and a few good RV parts houses and/or dealerships out there to get ideas from. Go to an RV show. Crawl in, around, and under RVs. Ask to check out other people’s rides. Its not as hard as it looks (at least that is what I’m going to tell myself if I build another van someday). Feel free to e-mail us any questions.
A bunch of RV nuts, I equate it to a the Red RIver Climbing of RVing
A really informative Class B forum (especially if you have RT or PW)
RVing to the extreme
This one is interesting
A how to page
The 12V side of life
More on RV batteries
March 15, 2011
Ahhh spring time is in the air. The grass is greening up, the birds are chirping and the days are getting longer. True signs of a season change. But you know how else I know its spring? We’re getting more hits on our van construction page. Laugh if you will but its the truth. Soon after we made this blog public (ie Google searchable) we noticed that most incoming traffic was going to the van construction page. Turns out a lot of people dig homebuilt camper vans. And after combing the internets for ideas and information while building ours, I can attest to the fact that there aren’t very many good homebuilt van sites on the world wide web. So as we blogged about our travels we always got a chuckle that the only real interest this site was the van construction page.
Like clockwork we noticed the spring spike in hits. It started a few weeks ago, it seems that after a long cold winter the dirtbags are stirring. Tired of being cooped up all the rock climbers, adventurers, and those suffering from seasonal induced wanderlust start day dreaming of escape. They turn to the Google and end up on our blog. Who can blame them really? What better way to shake off the winter blues, see the sights and recreate than in your very own home built campervan.
Speaking of shaking off the winter blues, we’re dusting off our rig and getting ready to set sail once again. I’ve been tidying up a few odds and ends that have fallen by the wayside while we were in New Zealand and then rocketing across the country for the harvest last fall. The biggest change of all was recovering the headliner. Seems the thirteen year old factory job was starting to give out. Changes in temperature and increased moisture from cooking and living aboard had worn out the glue holding the fabric to the backer board. No worries, just pop out the factory headliner, strip off the old fabric and foam to recover with a material of your choice.
While I’m not sure about our choice in finishing, Jill loves it. Definatley different, it lightens things up from the deep dark factory navy blue that was original to the van. Our new headliner might not fly on the high fashion runways of Paris this spring, but it sure will look good out on the road.