Monday, June 28, 2010

Solar Mounted and Roof Vent Installed! Road test!

The last of the big projects is done! This one took some time and thought and frankly, some cajones! I was very nervous about cutting holes and drilling into my perfectly good fiberglass roof on my van but hey, it had to be done.

The roof vent has an exhaust fan that runs at around 200CFM @ 1.10 amps. Thats not too bad, a little more than I wanted but hey it is what it is. I tried emailing the company before I bought it to get an idea of power draw but they never responded and I ended up just measuring with my multimeter. So anyone out there looking at the Ventline Ventadome, it uses around 1.10amps @ 12vdc. I purchased mine from here Eastern Marine. I havent had much of a chance to test its effectiveness at expelling heat but Ill have plenty of time for that in the future.

The solar panels are the upgraded panels I snagged off of craigslist. I sold my old harborfrieght kit that produced 45watts and picked up these two 80watt panels producing a total of 160watts! Power shouldnt be an issue anymore especially coupled with the battery isolator I will be installing soon. The panel mounting was a little tricky with my roof because it is not flat but curved on the outer edges. So we decided to mount the L brackets to the outside which allowed them to conform with the roof curve but still held the panel flat. Ill try and post a close up soon!

Still a decent amount of work that needs to be done but most of this can now be accomplished in after work hours where solid daylight isnt that important. I also installed my shelving in the rear (pic coming soon) which will double as storage and a solid mount for my longboard to ride inside the van!

On a side note, I drove to Kemah saturday night to hang out with friends and sell my Hobie Cat sunday morning. I filled up the tank to try and get a mpg test with all the newly mounted roof equipment and round trip I did 137 miles by time I filled up again last night. Guess what?!?!?! I averaged 19.5MPG on the highway with a bit of stop and go city driving by keeping my speed around 55mph and not racing from stop light to stop light. Ive been working on my method of "hyper-miling" for awhile but this is the best I have been able to achieve. This gives me high hopes for the trip and I might save a bit on gas! I really hope so because when I was in Costa Rica back in 2005, we were paying $5usd a gallon for diesel, and we paid $4 a gallon for gasoline in Guatemala in 2007. Gas prices have since dropped globally and Im hoping they will continue to stay low!!! Gas prices will have a huge effect on my trip and Im constantly re working my figures and trying my best to guestimate just how much I will spend. Some rough numbers I did today come out as follows.

35,000 Miles
/ 15mpg
2333 gallons of gas X $4.50/gallon = $10,498 just in gas!!!!!!! Sailboats dont look so bad after all!!!!

Im working to revamp this blog with some form of Google advertising and some donate buttons. We shall see how this pans out.

Stuff that needs to be done...

1) run all electrical, install lights
2) paint and pad shelves, rattle like hell
3) build mount for my breaker panel, run wiring
4) install isolator charging system and wiring
5) install switch to change electricity source for stereo
6) install car alarm
7) install multiple kill switches
8) install security cage over window where my head is when I sleep!
9) stove/kitchen work
10) build solid base for Wonderwash (portable washing machine, hand crank)

bleh... this list could go on :) what happened to simplicity David????? ugh!

Thursday, June 24, 2010

The Apprehension of Accomplishing Your Dreams

The time is getting close to departure. Im nervous. Am I ready for this? Is the van ready for this? What will I do for money when I return? Will I be able to stay on my budget?

The apprehension has been building steadily over the past few months and I often find myself completely unexcited about my upcoming trip. Ive been trying to conjure the memories of my trips past, the people, the food and the good waves but so far nothing has really been working. Ive even started re-reading "In Search of Captain Zero" by Allan Weisbecker to try and rekindle my fire of adventure.

In truth, I think everyone must go through this phase before taking the final step of your dreams. Accomplishing dreams can be a scary thing especially when they have uncertain futures in store for you. Maybe this is all the last bit of negativity and the world trying to pull me back, to keep me from doing what I want to do with my life. Either way, its weighing heavily on my mind.

Other parts of me think that Ive just started to become too "normalized", if there is such a thing. Ive become semi comfortable with the 8-6pm schedule, working mon-fri, health insurance and the money. Ive slowly let down my guard and bam I got blindsided by what I refer to as American Mediocrity, on the onrush of living a life unexamined and unadventurous. I must fight these urges at all costs for they are the very thing that will destroy who I am. I am unwilling to roll over and die the death I watch so many go through, struggling to find a purpose in their lives and some sense of being. Life is what you make it and Im trying to regain control over mine after being apparently asleep at the wheel for a tad too long. That was my safety mechanism at first, just be barely functional and hardly conscious in my day to day goings and time will fly by. That was true and worked for the most part but what I didnt see coming was the slow but steady degradation of my beliefs, confidence and dreams. Now is the time to get this train back on the tracks.

I refuse to let myself be frightened anymore by American media, political scare mongering and frankly everyone around me including my family. "They'll kill you down there!" my Mom said. "I dont know why you want to throw away your life for some silly adventure" - people at work say. "They dont even have functional police down there!" - says the uninformed masses. "Do they have hospitals? How will you stay healthy??" - says the other group of uninformed masses. American media has done a fantastic job of making everyone in this country afraid of their own damn shadows and frankly its just sad. Couple that with a blind patriotism and belief system that teaches us from birth that we are indeed "BETTER" than everyone in the world and you get a soupy mix of misguided advice from people who dont know anything about anywhere Im headed, much less a major city a couple of states over in our own country. I find it hilarious that people continue to riddle me with advice and horror stories about places Im headed that they themselves cannot even find on a map! All of this has taken a heavy toll on me as one can only ignore so much, especially when I throw my life on autopilot for a few years to bide time. Id like to thank those that read this that have contributed to the behaviour I outlined above, you have done nothing but scare me and attempt to ruin my dreams. Ill remember to piss all over your desires and dreams, when and if you ever have the balls to form any.

Im still searching for that feeling I used to have when I would set out on adventures. Hell, Im searching for the feeling I should be having about finally accomplishing my dream, a dream some 5 years in the making! It has been a long and hard road filled with bad direction and shitty side streets. But here we are, 49 days from departure. Im sure my anxiety and apprehension will give way to the ultimate high that is living your dream, I just have to get rid of this mental block and constant negativity around me. As my best friend Rami told me the other day, this close to leaving and possibly never returning again.... You're either with me, or You're not. In the latter case, get out of my way.

Thursday, June 03, 2010

Van Update... Bed Finished

Solar panels for the van

Frame sizing

Fiberglassing even more holes!

Frame installed

Bed in place! Look at the mess underneath!

My new dog Chica, enjoying her spot. Notice the walls???
Phew! Its been a while since I have last posted! I was reminded recently that I needed to update my blog and when I checked I saw the date of April 6th!!!!! That is just totally unacceptable! So much has happened since then that it is literally impossible to recount.
I picked up the solar panels on sale at Harbor Freight for $160. They provide 45 watts of power which is not very much but I figure like this.
Stereo @ 50 watts / 12volts = 4.16amps per hour x 5 hours = 20amps
Laptop @ 50 watts / 12volts = 4.16amps per hour x 3 hours = 12amps
Lights @ 80 watts / 12 volts = 6.66amps per hour x 2 hours = 13.3amps
= 45.3 amps/day
IF I run everything listed and for as long as I have estimated. Trust me there will be DAYS at a time I will not power on that laptop! Anyays, the panels will pump out 3.5amps X 8hours = 28amps if the conditions are right. I have metering setup on my battery to watch it closely as drawing it below 50% greatly reduces the number of cycles (times) it can be discharged and recharged. I know my panels are a little undersized and I have been considering selling them to pick up something larger (130watts = 7~8amps per hour roughly) but its very $$$. The average 130watt panel will cost you around $600 new but I have been able to source some used bulk panels for about $350. The problem is, you have to buy 2 most of the time and I DO NOT NEED 260watts of power and the roof space it will consume. ugh... decisions. The good news is I am installing a battery isolator which basically allows my "house" battery to be charged by the altinator as the engine is running WITHOUT affecting or drawing power from the main starting battery. If I run my house battery dead, I will still be able to start the engine with the main starting battery.
Enough battery/solar talk! The bed install went pretty smooth other than the bed being too close to the frame rails that run up the walls (check the pics closely). Basically, every drill we owned was too big to fit in this gap so I had to do a lot of hand screwing of 2.5" wood screws through 2x6s and that my friends was NOT fun. Ive been monitoring the temps inside the van with a little gadget I picked up and they are pretty close to ambient when I have the windows open during the day. I have seen her hit 117F inside with all the windows closed!!!!!!! I will be installing reflectix insulation on the ceiling and windows soon. Then I will install some new carpet over the reflectix in the ceiling and paint it black as it is not quite the color I want. Floor carpet is also coming in soon.
I also recently purchased a roof vent with a built in 12v exhaust van, RV shower head with a start/stop button on it to conserve water while soaping up and washing hair, and a DPDT switch. The switch will allow me to run power to my stereo in a special way. I can run power from the main starting battery (woops, I said no more battery talk didnt I?) and from the rear house battery to this switch. As Im driving I can tell the car stereo to run off of the starter battery but when Im parked/camped, I can switch the power source to the rear house battery so I wont draw from the main. The switch even has an OFF position to totally kill the radi o from any type of power draw!
Well thats been about it that I feel like typing. Ill keep you guys posted on my progress... just 70 more days to go! Wooo Hooo!!!