The Serpentine and the Sweet Fruits of Abilene

Coming into Abilene I heard a Bad Noise I couldn’t ID from under the hood. A small pulley on the serpentine belt had broken off, and Junior’s torquey 3.0 liter turbo diesel  gleefully shredded the belt in tiny strips that proceeded to wrap around the crankshaft like some kind of 80’s Doctor Who special effect.


This belt drives the alternator (can’t charge battery), the AC compressor (no AC in Texas summer), the power steering pump (suddenly 5 times harder to steer) among other things. Luckily the water pump and fan are on a different belt, so I can still drive the van as long as I have battery power. Here I can use my solar setup to rescue myself, and I’m at this very moment wiring it up to the main battery to keep it topped off until I can repair the belt.

It took me about three hours of bouncing back and forth from above to below to pry off this shredded mess:

I *had* a spare belt with me, but the pulley is way too obscure a part. None of the local auto parts stores stock anything like it, so after spending the night at the local 7/11, I broke down and ordered a replacement kit. A super friendly local named David generously allowed the parts to be shipped to his address. They’re coming by Priority Mail, so I’m stuck in Abilene at least until Thursday or Friday.

I’ve experienced several local phenomenon here, including The Endless Cavalcade of Good Samaritans, The Social Scene at the Local 7/11, And Fishing for Beer. I’m enjoying my stay more than I thought I would.

David, who’s been nonstop help this whole adventure! Thanks David!


I was physically abused in the process:


After cleaning the oil, grime, and blood off my face, I was grateful to have some of Mom’s meatloaf on hand for dinner. Thanks Mom!



This entire process was “enhanced” by my skillful choice of parking, which, while shaded, also turned out to The Birdshit Capital of Abilene.




20170724_083336.jpgIn the meantime I’m rustling up the rest of the tools I need for the job, installing the new backup camera I got from Costco (the van has *no* rear windows), installing the alternator relay that will allow me to charge the batteries with the engine, and re-packing and organizing stuff so it’s easier to live in the van and get to things. I might even get as far as getting the sink installed, which would rock.

Despite it’s other shortcomings, my cargo bed with 11 ” foam mattress was very comfortable when I finally collapsed some point past midnight.

I need a fucking beer.

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Electricity and Water

Electricity is now beamed into my life from Heaven!

It feels good to be getting so close to being fully off-grid! I stole the already well-tested plumbing setup from the yurt, brought my composting toilet, and now have both 12 volt DC and 120 volt AC power.

The solar panels are now fully wired and online. I left extra wire length so I can move things around until I like the arrangement, but they’re 100% functional.

Here you can see me pulling 20 amps from the panels into my house batteries. I should be able to get a max of about 30 amps, but I can’t test that until the batteries are lower. The charger intelligently changes its behavior depending on how full the batteries are, and they were mostly topped up during this test. I’ll do more detailed testing once I’m not traveling cross country.


I’m not sure if I’ll have enough power to run my electric cooktop off of my current setup. I was going to bring a propane camp stove as a backup, but I decided at the last minute to leave both that and my convection microwave behind. I have my Starbucks Barista espresso maker, a one cup coffee maker, my Zojirushi tea heater for hot water, and my induction cooktop. The question is whether my system can handle running those as needed along with my roof fan and 12V Vitrofrigo fridge. I may also pick up a beater thrift store microwave in Portland once I know where it might fit.

While visiting my Mom in Hurst we went to the North Richland Hills Aquatic Center, which has a water slide and a resistance river all indoors! It’s amazing! She gets a free membership with her Silver Sneakers coverage under Medicare Advantage.


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Escape Velocity Achieved

Bursting at the seams with In-Progress Conversion Goodness, Junior finally made it out of Austin around 2 PM yesterday! The solar, fan, and bed are installed, everything else is in a huge, mostly organized pile of tubs and wire shelves. I Bogarted the sink system from the yurt, and elected, at the last minute, not to bring any propane or my convection microwave, so my electricity gobbling convection cooktop is my only way to cook. I don’t know if the solar system will be able to handle it alone, but once I get the alternator tie-in set up, I’ll be able to run the engine to get extra power if needed.

Headed out for West Coast Trip 2017!

I finished the cargo bed in a single day of hard labor, making several changes along the way. I’m not really happy with the result, but it makes my 11 inch memory foam mattress hover on top of the massive pile of crap I need to bring with me on this six week trip and allowed me to GtFO, so I guess it’s not a total failure. I started with the Sketchup design for the yurt cargo bed and made a simpler, smaller version with space for the wheel wells. Without the wells it would hold twelve 48 quart tubs.

As I went close the fan for travel, I realized I had a pair of differentially alive passengers. The only thing creepier than a spider above your bed is a spider with another possibly dead spider in its mouth above your bed. Thank God the Maxxair has a remote control!

Headed out for West Coast Trip 2017!

On previous trips to Portland, I’ve had the yurt or soul pad set up as a home base and primary residence, with access to the power grid, running water, and a bathroom. I have no idea how I’m going to be living in this wildly unfinished metal box for six weeks  *while* converting

it, but I know I’ll be doing at about 15-20 degrees F below where I’ve been doing it in the pestilential solar hellhole that is Texas in summer. Despite my best efforts to get up early, I’ve done most of the work within a few degrees of 100 F, and it’s been fucking brutal. I also have no previous urban van stealth camping experience, so it will be quite the adventure!

Headed out for West Coast Trip 2017!


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$300 For My Soul

My 1998 Geo Metro is my favorite car I’ve ever owned. I build my current home to fit inside it, driven it over 2000 miles one way to the West Coast twice, slept in it along the way, replaced innumerable bits of it, and today I sold it for $400 less than I paid for it in 2008. I will miss it dearly, but need to be that energy into new projects, currently Junior, my 2007 Dodge Sprinter that I’m converting into an urban stealth RV.

Thank you for your long and frequently disloyal service. The Metro is sold, long live The Metro!



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Final Countdown for Portland 2017

The Maxxair Deluxe 7000 fan is in! My second home is almost ready to roll for the West Coast for its inaugural RV adventure!

The van is waterproof and road-worthy for the first time since I cut a massive hole in the roof last week. This was the biggest project I needed to get done before leaving town! I can work inside the van on the road, but sawing a hole in the roof is another story…

Today I’ll be testing the solar charging system, installing the alternator charging relay, and prototyping a power board for all these expensive power components to live on. I have only three working days until I leave.


Here are links to the two Sprinter Source posts with the technical narrative. I’m putting them as separate links, because FB seems to removing inline ones.

And the updated pictures:

I’ve also gotten a lot done on the solar system yesterday, and I haven’t been down to the van since I did a test assembly in the dark last night. Hopefully Junior is not on fire. Today I will be buying and routing whatever wire I need to get the solar and alternator charging systems hooked up to the house battery pack. Right now it’s all just scattered on the floor barely holding together. I want to use welding cable for the final result, but will have to go with Home Depot or jumper cables for now.


Grumpy Scott does not like working in 100 oF heat!




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The $14,000 Hole

Today I hacked a massive hole in my Mercedes Sprinter! I’m still in shock.


This is the hole for my Maxxair Deluxe roof fan. I also made some smaller holes for my solar panels wires. More pictures here. All the gory build details here. I’m excited and horrified to have gotten this far! The fan should be installed by Thursday!


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Maintaining The Feet Fleet

The soles on these Keens had come loose, so I decide to try to re-attach them with the disturbingly snot-like but amazingly effective DAP Weldwood.




It’s been a few days since I glued them back together, and the sandals have been have holding up well so far. I’ll report back as time goes on. Not bad for $6 worth of Weldwood, only 2/3 of which I used for this repair.

Due to the 2013 Portland Thrift Store Miracle, I have an embarrassingly huge number of high-end sandals. At first I was super excited to find a pair of size 12 Keens and Rockports in the same visit to compliment my existing pair of leather Chacos. Things started to take on a supernatural air when I found another set of perfect Keens on a different trip. When I discovered the set of synthetic Chacos the next day, my joy developed a tinge of paranoia. But it wasn’t until I then found a set of brand new Birkenstocks as well as a third set of Keens that I finally had to take spiritual measures to stay the gods generosity. My level of privilege and luck is already shamefully high, and I was certain there were others large-footed men somewhere in Portland that could use some fucking shoes. Where was I going to even put them all? How much leather conditioner can one person own? Was that man speaking Japanese on his cell phone in the corner a member of the Yakuza after my sandals? Normal statistical odds had clearly been suspended, who knew what was possible?

After losing the phone guy by ducking through the toy section, I left the last pair of Keens next to a plastic Shiva statue and stayed away from thrift stores for a few days to allow the gods to re-focus their obsessive generosity elsewhere.

The aforementioned Chacos, my best hiking sandal with their super-tall soles, is beyond my ability to repair.

Through a trial of miles my sole has worn thin.

However, for $40, Chaco will re-sole the pair, so that’s probably what I’ll do there.

The Cargo Bed had a similar problem with the felt pads on it’s feet, so I threw them into the mix as well.



I’m ending with a duplicate of this picture because Facebook seems to use the last picture in my WordPress post as its main photo, and I haven’t figured out how to change that yet.


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