Sunday, June 27, 2010

Down To Reality

"R&D" has come to a close, and I feel as if I just said goodbye to an old friend.  I must put the "Roving Home" fantasy to rest and sharpen my home improvement skills for the next stage.  The time has come for me to start this build. 

If you haven't figured it out by now,  I made the purchase.  I am the proud owner of a very orange 1997 International Utilimaster.  And it is quite the vessel.

I met Frank at the "Department of Motor Vehicles" office of my choice, explaining to him that the only way I would perform the transaction would be to do it under the direct blessing of the State of California.  And, really, what could he say?  He had a stack of paperwork including three bills of sale between three unique parties, yet he possessed no pink slip.  I told him I was ready with cash in hand and he desperately needed to sell -- something about his daughter's wedding and the embarrassment of having to move in with your parents at the age of forty-seven.  I felt kind of bad for him.

Normally, I schedule appointments at the DMV ahead of time, and I don't think I've ever stepped foot inside a branch office other than for my first driving test and subsequent renewals of my driver's license.  Transfers of ownership I have always done through the mail, so I really can't fathom what all of those people were doing in front of the DMV an hour before opening.  But, the earliest appointment was weeks away.  So, we decided to go for it.  The line rivaled those at amusement parks for the newest attraction on opening day.

Honestly, I was sort of dreading the whole experience.  I mean, who wants to stand for forty-five minutes beside your adversary in a business transaction?  Awkwarrrrrrrrrrd!

I also wasn't thrilled about the wad of cash I had in my bag.  What if someone followed me from the bank?  You never know. 

When I walked up and met him in line I asked him where the van was.  " I left it at home, because I didn't have a ride back."  The perspiration on my upper lip was building.

Finally, we zig-zagged our way through the doors and up the steps to window "A."  Taking two front row seats, we settled in until our number was called.  During that time, the ice began to melt, and Frank confided in me that he shouldered a tremendous amount of stress right now in his life.  He hasn't seen his children in three months since having come down to southern California for the express purpose of selling the vehicle.  He's been trying for several years to climb out of the hole left by an ugly divorce, and he said that he's tired of all of the back-stabbers and opportunists that make up Los Angeles.  I said it's the nature of the big city and I'll bet that people in Chicago lock their doors at night, also.  But I didn't want to add salt in the wound.

While at the counter, we fielded a handful of questions from the moderately enthusiastic customer care representative.  I love "customer care."  It's one of my all time favorite corporate terms.  But I digress.

She asked why the "release of liability" form was dated for tomorrow...

Start over.  New form. 

She then asked why there were two VIN's in all of the paperwork.  "Well, the truck has one and the motor has another."  She asked me what my weight capacities were going to be and then tallied up our answers.  The registration wound up being over a thousand dollars in fees and surcharges -- almost double what Frank had assured me it would be.  Nonetheless, the van was now mine. 

On the way back to his house, he missed a freeway turn off while fiddling nervously with his GPS.  "I'm all tore up about the cost of that registration.  I can't even drive right.  Let's take off a couple hundred bucks.  I'm really sorry."

We arrived at his house, and I flopped down two envelopes.  I counted out the total, minus two hundred.  He walked into the next room, looking for the manuals.  I remarked to myself how easily I could have peeled two bills from the stack he left in plain view, and he probably would have never known it.  He really was a trustworthy guy from a small northern town.

Upon his return to the kitchen, he reached for the stack of bills and slid out a crisp hundred.  "Here.  You already gave me a deposit."  Yep, a good guy, indeed.  I had forgotten about that.

I climbed in and roared off under the hot summer sun. 

At work, I either say it or hear it nearly every day, "...the right tool, for the right job."  I've been missing a couple of key components for the Roving Home laboratory, and those are a table saw and drill press.  I kick myself every time I think about giving away my last table saw upon completion of my home remodel.  But it was sitting around collecting dust because I had nowhere to put it.  I literally gave it away on craigslist. Not one person wanted it for even a paltry fifty bucks.  Finally, someone came by to get it...for free!  And after the guy loaded it into his truck he handed me two twenties.  "I can't just take this for nothing, man.  Go buy yourself a case of beer."  It was a Delta contractor's saw, belt drive, with an iron table top.  I bought it for $160.00, and it was probably $400.00 new.  So, I guess it wasn't so bad.

But, the real treat is that I picked up my new tools and set them up in the garage. 

Look at these beauties!

3hp -- Psyched! 

And, I completed my Iport mounting box. 

I framed the black plastic port with wood and then cut out a larger frame that will be hung flush with the studs. 

And, that's what it will look like from inside the electrical closet.  The front will just look like a standard wall outlet pressed into a wall opening.

I also picked up my stereo.  It has an auxiliary "in" from behind, so the iport cables will be run seamlessly through the walls right to the back of the stereo.  And, it's got a remote.  I can turn on my music from the comfort of my very own bed.  How excellent is that? 

Just waiting on speakers.  They're due to arrive any day, now. 


Saturday, June 19, 2010

It's on!

Well, you're not going to believe this...but I'm buying the van.  Woohoo!  Yep, the very same one I featured a few weeks back has remained for sale, unwanted and unclaimed.  The owner dropped the price by nearly $2,000.00.  So, I called him back. 

It's built like a Brinks truck, with a T44 diesel motor and an Allison transmission. 

Frank tossed me the keys and said, "Let's go for a ride!" 
"Giddy," is the operative term, here.

I gingerly took it through the paces.  It sure sticks to the road, no bumps or creaks.  The steering is solid and the engine purrs like it's brand new off the showroom floor.

He said that no one wanted it, and that too many picky buyers had all kinds of finicky demands.  For some, it wasn't long enough, and for others it was too tall.  He was a day away from just throwing in the towel and parting it out piece by piece on ebay.


So, here's where it gets weird.  He actually bought it from a friend who bought it from another friend and the title never actually changed hands -- to which I raised an eyebrow.  "Oh, no, bro, I've done lots of these transactions.  You just need a paperless registration.  No problem."  I said, "Great, then let's go to the DMV window together and transfer ownership at the counter.  If they'll buy it, then I'll buy it.  How 'bout them apples?"  So, we're meeting at the DMV on Wednesday morning.  My gut feeling is that he's probably right, because he didn't hesitate in his story and he's willing to go with me right to the source.  So, we'll see.  I'll post the results later in the week.

On  a lighter note...


My faucet arrived.  Look at that piece of craftsmanship -- wall mounted, with a 90 degree swiveling neck.  And, the faucet arm rotates 360 degrees.  So, you can drink out of it like a water fountain if you wanted too.  How crazy is that?  The valve component that attaches to the water supply within in the wall costs nearly double the price of those two chrome pieces.  Sheesh!   


My inverter arrived.  That's 1000 watts with a 20amp three stage charger, as well.  Pretty darned hi-tech if you ask me.  And, that panel with the LCD display is removable!

It comes with a 10' foot extension so you can mount the panel on a wall, nearby. 


Needless to say, I'm beside myself.  It was as if Christmas sprinkled a little holiday joy over my house, this weekend.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Final Design -- Version 2.0

Hey, Apple does it, so I can, too. 

The changes will not stop until the task is complete.  Or, "The floggings will continue until morale improves." 

I'm well aware that sticking to a design is crucial for the success of a very elaborate puzzle.  And, this is a gigantic undertaking.  People are kind of baffled as to why I'm doing it.  The corners of their mouth turn up slightly, smirking with disbelief.  I'm essentially building a house.  All of the same elements of construction and design will contribute to the success of this creative endeavor.  I'm kind of viewing it as part function, part art form, part experience to add to my life's "Book of things I've accomplished."

I really can't allow myself to fail at this task because I've blabbed about it to far too many people  There's no turning back, now. Embarrassment looms over me like a black cloud.

I'm only on this earth one time, so I'd better try all kinds of cool stuff, right?

Enough blabbing...

The overhead cabinets are now going to have a translucent panel in each door.  LED light strips will line the inside edge of the cabinet, giving a glow through the panels at night.  Wired through a separate switch - they will be flipped on only when necessary.  Also, I think the translucence will add depth to the cabinetry that will make the living space seem a bit larger and less confining. 

Behind the dinette, in the background, notice the two raised panels that look like file drawers with finger pulls.  The top one will flip up and the bottom one will flip down, creating a recessed bar with an additional small counter top.  The coffee maker and blender will be in there.   Swanky.  

Now for my next trick.

I'm adding a heater.  I was denying its value for awhile.  My rationale that the 2" insulation would encapsulate enough body heat during the night to make it comfortable is probably wishful thinking.  My girl and I will be going places that can get pretty cold (not necessarily freezing), so I readjusted things to accommodate a necessary creature comfort. 

That's a real flame.  It's like a mini fireplace.  My girl thinks it will add some very nice ambiance, and  I respectfully agree.   

Here's the application


To the right of the heater is the entrance to the bathroom.  The wall tile you can see is not really what's going to end up there.  Four by six inch aluminum tile will line the wall, but that stone texture I've selected is the only one that this program offers that's kind of similar.  It's only a suggestion. 

And finally, the bathroom vanity...


On either side of the mirror you can see the illuminated panels with LED light strips behind them.  On the left, protruding from the wall is the sconce I featured a couple of weeks ago that I converted to 12 volt.  The wood will be very dark and there will be a nice spot light over the sink.  A nice linen shower curtain will wrap about a third of the way around, blocking the doorway and the vanity. 

Oh, and a funny sidebar:  A guy at the airport this weekend saw my fiddling around with the 3d model and asked me if I was an interior designer.  "No," I replied as I flipped my scarf to the other shoulder.  Seriously, he wants to design a room addition and I think I could have swindled a few bucks out of him.  Too bad he lives in Seattle. 

Nonetheless, he complimented the layout, and that was nice to hear.

Okay, done....

...i think. 


Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Final design...I promise.

My schedule has operated on overload, as I spend my weekdays working a very demanding full time job.  I have also taken a weekend freelance gig, so needless to say, progress on the great Roving Home project has encountered some setbacks.  But never fear, for I have gained a profound understanding of the whole picture by spending quality time with my basic design. 

I've reviewed, revised, realigned and retooled the Roving Home.  And, with the help of Google's remarkable software, "Sketch Up," I have made some amazing discoveries.

After staring for weeks at a two dimensional line drawing that I created in Photoshop, I just couldn't wrap my brain around details that only three dimensional rendering could flesh out.  From scratch, I patiently assembled a model of my interior and solved a nagging problem that I had brushed under the rug with the thinking that once I get the vehicle, "I'll just figure it out."  Laziness leads to haste, and as the old adage goes, "Haste makes waste." 

I have no desire to stand in the middle of my van after driving it home to a garage painstakingly prepared with accessories and tools, only to start my build first by wondering just where in the heck I'm going to start my build.  Time is money, and right now I've got only a few scattered moments here and there to toss the puzzle around in my brain. 

Here's the first rendering I did during my lunch break, spread out over a few days. 

That's an overhead view of the galley.  The recessed gray areas represent the stainless steel sink basin and stove top.  Stainless steel sheets will line the two gray walls that surround the galley counter top.

This a reverse of the previous angle, featuring the dinette with a foreground view of the bathroom.  Above the dinette table, you can see what represents the wall sconce I made a couple months ago.  That unit serves as a light source and also as a light box that will illuminate my photographic transparencies.  I can create a vacation image right from my ink-jet printer and fix it to the light box for an instant gallery change-over.  I must have art in my life.  To create is to live. 

Here is where Sketch UP made me see the light.


The bed platform, made with a slatted wood mattress support, will expand as it is pulled forward over the counter top on the right and the ledge on the left.  The double stacked foam layers will then be spread out, side by side, thereby creating a queen sized bed.  In reviewing the first picture, you'll notice the spice rack on the counter top. That small ridge will border the bed frame on one side, while the wall will contain it on the opposite side.  I found a very fancy wall mounted faucet that swings to one side. 
You don't want to know how much that thing costs, but it's worth every penny, because it solves a great problem with one fell swoop with simplicity and elegance.  I almost welled up with tears at the sight of it.  For so long I had understood with complete conviction that a counter mounted faucet would function as the most obvious and right way to go...yet it was seriously clogging up the flow (no pun intended) of my whole design. 

I had crazy ideas as to how my sliding bed concept would actually work.  Then I began to realize I was kidding myself as to its safety and effectiveness...until I found this faucet.

It's like saying I have to cut a straight piece of wood with a perfectly square right angle, yet I'm determined to do so using a hand-held jig saw rather than a much more expensive table saw.  I have learned through trial and error that buying that expensive table saw is the only option.  I would then make that cut and fit that square piece of wood perfectly into the spot it needs to go.  After which I would wake up every morning to a job well done, rather than my regret of a job poorly done.

Once again...

That wall mounted faucet will swing to its left and rest against the wall, freeing up room for the slatted bed frame to expand open and slide over the counter top.  The sink basin will be mounted under the counter with a nice finished edge, and the stove will be mounted flush with the counter top.  Butcher block covers will rest over the openings thereby creating a solid counter top, suitable for my nighttime transformation.

Any comments on the color scheme?  I'm thinking a dark brown stain on the cabinetry found in the original Airstream.  I'm leaning toward a light color or even just a clear sealer/urethane for the counter top.  Maybe I'll match that on the kitchen table.  The knobs are the flush-mounted push/pull variety with a chrome finish.  And, the wall over the bed and the dinette will have a textile of some sort that I think will be a light sand/blonde color.  All of this is subject to change, of course.  

As of now, all sights are pointing toward the horizon in search of the ultimate van in which I will build The Ultimate Roving Home.