at a standstill.

You’ve probably noticed I haven’t posted in a while. There’s good reason for that…not a lot has been going on with the van as of late. As some of you know, I have multiple jobs. While this keeps things interesting, it also means I sometimes (fairly often) have to work a lot and hop between all of them to keep myself afloat financially.

One of my jobs recently led into a new job opportunity at a yacht brokerage to be a yacht salesperson. Pretty cool, right? Never the one to turn down new and fun opportunities, I accepted immediately and have spent the last month or so transitioning into my new position. The only major downside at the moment is that because it’s a sales job and commission based, I’ve also not been making money at it while I train and learn the ropes.

I know that down the line this will all have been well worth my time and effort, but at the moment, it means that every extra cent I have goes towards gas and basic living needs and not the van. It’s a real shame too, because I’ve just ripped out the water tank to redo the water system and *hopefully* build a hand-pump system in which I manually pump the water from my main tank to a smaller holding tank above the sink and use it as a gravity tank. Sounds fancy, but it should be pretty simple. I hope.

In other news related to my job, I’ve decided (with painstaking deliberation) to stay in San Diego for at least the summer. In short, it’s because this is the first job I’ve ever gotten with real potential for growth. It’s also a job that one doesn’t just “fall” into as I seem to have. Usually, it’s older men with a lot of boating industry experience under their belt. To pass up the opportunity to learn this job and industry and have something far more substantial to put on my resume as well as a possible fall-back job at some point down the line would be pretty irresponsible of me. As much as I’d like to remain a vagabonding free spirit forever, I know well enough that the older I get the harder it will be to come by odd jobs that make ends meet.

Everything is up in the air concerning where my location will be this summer, but once I get that worked out and start selling some boats, work on the van will undoubtedly resume.

Until then, I’m so sorry for the brief hiatus. I’ll do my best to get the water system project going and post photos of that soon.

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she’s alive!

After a few days of tinkering that didn’t seem to be getting me anywhere, paired with advice both solicited and unsolicited from all sorts of sources, I finally got The Beast started today.

I took the old battery back to the mechanic who installed it to have them check it out and try to charge it. After testing it, they declared it faulty and, since it was still under warranty, they happily gave me a brand new one to take home. I stuck the new battery in place and gave the ignition a crank, only to hear a sad little click and then nothing.

At the recommendation of about four different people (including Charles who commented on my previous post…thanks!), I crawled below the van and smacked the starter with a hammer a few times. Hopeful, but still not convinced, I went back up and gave the keys a turn. This time she turned over! (And over and over and over…) I considered this good news though, as this was definitely progress!

After a few good pumps of the gas, switching the gears between drive and park, and quite a few more pumps of gas, she begrudgingly rumbled to life. I let the engine idle for about ten minutes, switched it off and then tried again. This time, there was no hesitation and she started immediately.

I could not be more relieved. It could’ve been something far more complicated and costly, but lucky for me, it was simple. I hereby solemnly swear, that I, Chelsea, won’t let the van sit for more than a week without running it from this point on.

I’ve got a few more things under the hood that need tinkering with, but after that I plan to take The Beast for a few small drives to start getting her ready for my long haul up the coast in the spring.

replacing the vents.

Knowing the deluge of rain a week ago is only the beginning of our rainy season here in San Diego, I moved replacing the vents to the top of my to-do list for the van repairs. I found an RV supply store in the area and got what I thought I’d need to make it happen so I wouldn’t have to rely on black trash bags to keep my van dry.

[Old vent.]

[My weatherproofing.]

[The old vent on the outside.]

[After closely examining the old vent, I’m seeing that it should have been the very first repair I did on the van…oops.]

[The fan and motor from the old vent dangling while I decided whether or not to install it with the new one.]

Replacing the vent was another repair I assumed would be simple, easy and maybe a two-hour project that ended up taking all day. I think if the previous owners had bothered to actually replace things instead of just trying to patch them up, it would’ve made things a lot easier on me. Removing the previous vent was the longest and most painstaking part of the process since they’d slathered on so many coats of sealant over the vent edges and screws. I had to scrape each screw free and remove them one by one, which was a difficult task in itself even once they were uncovered since quite a few of them were terribly rusted and stripped. This step of the process meant I only made it through replacing one vent and will have to set aside another full day for the second one when I can.

Once I managed to get the old vent free, I scraped up as much of the remaining sealant as possible before giving the area a good wash-down with soap and water. Upon inserting the new vent, I realized it had 28 screwholes as opposed to the previous vent with 24. This meant that not one of the holes lined up and I’d have to drill all new ones. I didn’t bother filling the old ones since I knew the putty tape would be covering each of them and I’d be sealing over the edge anyway. I hope that was the right call.

Once I got all the new holes drilled, I laid the putty tape down and lined up the new vent to secure with the screws. I then used the sealant that the RV supply store had recommended to cover each of the screws and seal the edges.

The previous vent had a fan, which I could’ve easily installed with the new vent using the old motor, but I hadn’t used it and didn’t see the point. I’m keeping it in case I change my mind down the line though.

I ran into a problem with the bottom of the vent that is supposed to cover the edges on the inside of the van. My roof is more shallow than the vent, so there’s about a half inch gab between the ceiling of my van and the vent. The easy solution would be to trim it, but there’s a lip that lines up with the vent and without going into much detail, it basically means trimming it would do nothing, so I’m still brainstorming a solution to that problem. Luckily, the inner part is purely superficial and has nothing to do with keeping the weather out, so I can leave that alone until I’m ready to deal with it.

a rainy day project.

Yesterday I decided to work on redoing the front of the fridge. When I bought the van, it had some of the quilted faux-leather upholstery covering the front of it that the rest of the van has throughout the interior. I liked it well enough, but it was a little ripped and bubbling out, so I ended up just ripping it off one day and decided I’d paint a map on the wood I found behind it. There was still some adhesive and backing left on the bottom of the wood so I spent a good half-hour scraping that off.

As I was cutting the roll of cork to fit I noticed the wood was bendable and was able to pull it off of the fridge since it wasn’t glued on. Turns out, they had flipped it around and the backside was some sort of fake wood finish. I was excited at first and thought about using the original as the backing, but I decided it clashed with all the other wood finish styles in the van and proceeded with the cork.

After cutting the cork to fit, I attached it with spray adhesive (which, as we all know, is NOT something that’s fun to work with in a tiny enclosed space). I ended up pretty coated in the stuff by the end of my project and had to wear a scarf while I sprayed it to fend off the fumes.

I should also note here that a huge storm rolled into San Diego yesterday and brought with it some serious wind and rain. Seeing as my focus has been on fixing up the inside of The Beast I haven’t yet gotten to repairing the cracked and badly sealed vents on the roof. In a hurried attempt to avoid leakage, I climbed onto the roof and used garbage bags and rocks from the yard to cover the two vents. During the process of ghetto-weatherproofing the vents I also managed to stick my knee through the better of the two vents, so I pretty much ensured having to replace both of them asap. Luckily, the weatherproofing worked and I didn’t see a drop of water inside The Beast even during the worst of the rain.

Since I wanted to paint a map on the fridge to put push-pins into the places I had been and map out where I wanted to go, I decided to cut out another piece of cork in the shape of the map and attach that and paint it to give it a little bit of a 3D look.

To do this, I used my now favorite tool, my staple gun, to staple a map I’d printed out along with the corkboard to a piece of wood I use as a portable desktop and cut it out with a utility knife.

I painted the map white while it was still semi-attached to the cutting board and then attached the map to the fridge using more spray adhesive.

I then got started on painting in all of the states…a painstaking task that took me a solid five hours to complete.

The western states were easy enough with their larger size and mostly straight edges, but I was dreading the east coast as I worked my way across.

When I finally finished up around midnight, my knees and back were absolutely killing me. Perhaps I should’ve waited to attach the map to the fridge until after I’d painted in the details. Unfortunately I didn’t take a better photo to show the raised edges of the map, which is my favorite part. I do plan to add Alaska and Hawaii (I doubt I’ll manage to find a financially feasible way to ship The Beast to Hawaii at any point…but I’d feel bad leaving it off the map.) I’ll also probably add a portion of lower Canada to it as well in the anticipation that I’ll cross the border at some point.

I haven’t yet decided if I want to label the states or not. I like the clean look of it as it is, but it might be nice to have the abbreviations on there.

I also plan to paint a quote beneath the map, but I haven’t decided for sure which one yet. I’m debating between a play on the Dr. Seuss quote from Oh, The Places You’ll Go! and having it say “oh the places we’ll go…” instead. That, or the J.R.R. Tolkien quote, “Not all those who wander are lost…”

Any input or ideas for another fitting quote?

learning by doing.

Up until yesterday, three Ikea collapsible cubes have been serving as my “dresser” of sorts for all of my clothing. After storing them stacked up haphazardly in the bathroom for a while, I decided it just wasn’t working and started brainstorming how to build shelves in the bathroom instead.

My brilliant sister (who just happens to be an interior designer) suggested that I instead hang a rod in the bathroom for my hanging clothes and turn the closet into shelves. Yesterday, one trip to Lowes, three trips to Home Depot and seven hours later, I made that happen.

The bathroom was a weird setup with two of the “walls” being made of the actual fiberglass of the camper top, so I couldn’t screw anything directly into it. That, paired with the fact that they also curved and angled in stumped me for a bit. I finally settled on attaching the rod to a piece of plywood with a 2×4 on the bottom of it for stability.

The photos below are the before/after with the rod setup in the bathroom. It turned out great and seems to be stable enough. The good news is, since I don’t have many hanging clothes, when I finally do decide to use the toilet, I should be able to just kind of shove them back and tie them up with a belt or something to keep them out of the way.

The closet space before…(the shape of it with the curve of the van and then how the closet narrows inward proved a bit of a challenge).

I started off sawing pieces of square rods to use as supports for the shelves.

The best decision I made all day was to get a staple gun, which helped me secure the square support rods to the already existing support system within the closet (the actual walls of the closet is thin and unable to be screwed into for support).

Once the initial support beams were installed, I cut more square rods to screw into those beams to be the supports that the actual shelves would rest on.

Loulou wasn’t digging all the noise I was making with the staple gun.

I used press board for the shelves so that it would be flexible and easy to cut since the spaces would have to be so custom-fitted due to the odd angles and size.

I added another support beam under the front of the shelves and then attached some cheap moulding I got and cut to size to give it a more “finished” look.

Clothing loaded up into my now functional closet shelving space!

To say that I felt accomplished after finishing the shelves is a huge understatement. I’ve never done anything like this before and didn’t really bother to do a lot of research to figure out the best technique beforehand. I just knew what I wanted and hoped I could somehow make it happen if I took it step by step. There have been countless days that I’ve woken up and wondered what on earth I was thinking when I acquired The Beast. My successful completion of the shelves is enough of a confidence boost to keep me positive about the ever-growing list of things I need to do to get the van into the kind of shape I want before I start traveling.

On a related note, I finished the flooring (finally!) and have yet to take photos. Perhaps an updated van tour will happen in the coming week.