Thursday, April 29, 2010

True Vambrosia! The Toast Mountain


1 jar of Hormel Dried Beef (found near tuna fish and other canned meats in the grocery store)*the large size is 5oz.. you can use either the small or large jar depending on how much meat you want.
*you may also use ground beef in a pinch

1/2 sq. butter (4 Tablespoons)

1 heaping tablespoon flour

3 cups of milk
--------------
Cut the dried beef into strips.
Melt ½ square of butter in skillet. Add 1 heaping tablespoon of flour. With a spatula, blend the melted butter and flour, cook the flour and butter together stirring continuously for a few minutes being careful that it doesn't get burned.

Stir in 3 cups of milk. On medium heat stir the gravy until it thickens, then add dried beef and cook another 5 minutes. Stir *continuously* until done .

Serve over toast mountain(this is important). To create the appropriate toast mountain, the toast should be dark but not burned then ripped(not cut) into bit sized pieces and piled high. You should to this while the toast is still somewhat hot, the slight pain involved makes the toast mountain even yummier!

I would say this will feed two people (depends on your people) ;)

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

A Happy Update


I thought it would be good to let everyone know what we are up to this last week so here is a bit of an update.

First, Heidi is now going to be contributing to the blog with her fun writing as well. She is no longer going to keep her old blog, "mimionthemove" updated so we will be moving her recipes and other interesting/useful posts here.

Taj's new leather captains chairs arrived last Monday so I have removed all the old carpet and seats/bases and am now in the middle of making new oak trim so I can finish the cork flooring. I am also recovering the old seat bases to match the new seats. I will be done with those projects soon and write blogs on each.

I also still have a few more fun projects to do right away that you will see blogs on very soon. Hope everyone is doing well and enjoys the smiles!

Monday, April 19, 2010

Hypervent

A strange phenomenon has plagued Taj off and on over the last year or so. Under the cushions there has been accumulated condensation which I now know to be common for many RV's and boats as well. As with most problems, there are quite a few solutions, the one we chose is made by a local Washington company, Hypervent Marine. In the above picture, it is the layer of white mesh between the cushion and the wood platform. It works by providing a path for air to get to the bottom side of the cushion.

They Hypervent is sold by the linear foot and is 39" wide. To do Taj's bed, I ordered 9' which was perfect. It cuts with regular scissors and is fairly simple to work with. The flap you see in the picture above is used to join 2 pieces together. I used 3M 77 spray adhesive to bond the seam.

In this last picture, you can see that I cut it longer than the cushions to also provide an air gap between the back wall and the edge of of the bed. The more air that can circulate under the bed, the better. I can't offer any experience yet as to how well this mod works, but I believe it will completely resolve the problem. I will post an update in a month or so and let everyone know how successful it was. Please check out http://www.hyperventmarine.com for more information.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Stuff reduction success!

Heidi and I have been really working towards eliminating all of the excess "stuff" that doesn't fit in Taj lately. We have had a much of it stored in her old van and here at my Dad's place and have been trying to decide what to do with it. Well when my sister Alisha mentioned a garage sale they were having, it sounded like an easy solution. We hauled it all over there last weekend and watched it all go home with folks who hopefully will make good use of it. We made a little money and we gave a lot of it away, the goal being of course not to bring anything back with us.

It was a huge success! We are now free of almost everything that doesn't fit in Taj! The old van of course needs to be sold, but we can do that from the road via Craigslist and just let Dad fill the date in on the title and hand over the keys. It is a wonderful feeling not to have all that extra stuff to worry about!

I suppose about now you are wondering why there is a picture of sea otters on this post! Easy, they are incredibly cute! We see them often here in the PNW and they are always worth a smile!

Monday, April 5, 2010

Headlight Restoration


I have been wanting to clean Taj's headlights up for sometime now and today just seemed like a good day to do it.

I purchased the Meguiar's Headlight Restoration Kit for right around $20 a couple months back.


The kit has almost everything needed to complete the project with the exception of a drill motor. A rechargeable 3/8" drill is the perfect tool for this job as it spins slow enough to not do damage to the plastic headlight lense.

The image above is a before shot. It doesn't show the true story though. The headlights had a very yellow color to the lenses and look much worse in person than this picture portrays. The clouding and color comes from constant exposure to sun, polution and other contaminants. It is a very common problem and quite simple to fix.

This picture was taken after about 15 minutes of work with the Meguiar's Kit. The blue tape is the easy removal painter's masking tape. I put it there to protect the other areas while working on the lights.

The process is simple. Mask off the area, apply the compound to the drill mounted buffing pad then carefully work the area with it at slow speed until you are satisfied with the results.

There are many other ways to do this, but the Meguiar's kit worked well enough for me and the results were decent.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Terminology page added.

I added a static page with "interesting" Van terminology on the horizontal link bar just below the banner. Let me know if you have any more good ones we can add to it.

Thanks!

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Small update

I just registered a new domain for the site www.vantramps.com

You can still get here from the old blogspot address, but this one should be easier for referring people to the site :)

Friday, April 2, 2010

Finding and buying a great Vanhome

Finding a good used class B RV or camper van that will work as a suitable vanhome is a surprisingly difficult task, finding one that is also a great deal financially is really a challenge. It is a challenge that can be overcome however! This is probably my longest blog post ever, but if I can help anyone with their vanhome purchase I will be thrilled!

Some pointers on searching:
The first thing to remember when searching for the right rig is that diligence is going to pay off. Make a list of sites to check, even bookmark them in their own folder and check each of them if possible once a day, otherwise as often as you can. When a good deal shows up, it doesn't last long and you don't want to miss your chance.

In lists where you are doing text searches, Craigslist for example, try several varied search strings like "camper van", "van rv" "van motorhome", if you aren't getting any hits at all, broaden the search even more. In some areas you might just be able to try "van" without having to wade through too many results. When I was hunting for Taj, I had a preference for Dodges and searched daily for "Dodge van" on Craigslist. That is the search string that led me to her actually. It was not listed as a Roadtrek rather a "Dodge Motorhome Van". The last method is to search by brand names you might be interested in. It can be productive to try them spelled incorrectly too for example "Roadtreck".

There are also programs available that can automate your searches and email you responses daily. Craigspal comes to mind but there could be others, definitely worth a check via your favorite search engine.

Resources to check:
http://www.craigslist.com specify your location
http://www.crazedlist.com multi location Craigslist search site
http://www.searchtempest.com multi location Craigslist site
http://www.classyrv.com
http://www.motorhomesonsale.com
http://www.rvhunter.com
http://www.rvtraderonline.com
http://www.roadtrekchapter.org/roadtreksforsale.htm
http://www.vancityrv.com/pre_owned_list.asp
http://www.vantasticvans.com
http://vehicles.oodle.com/?q=class+B+rv&sc=vehicle
http://www.jaxed.com/cgi-bin/mash.cgi?cat=cprv

Questions to ask:
Before wasting too much time digging around in a vehicle, it is a good idea to make sure the seller is able to release it to you. Ask if the title is free and clear and on hand and be sure it's VIN matches the vehicle you are looking at.

Find out about the history of the vehicle, what kind of use it has had(local weekend trips, summers across the country, live-in, daily driver etc). Also find out where most of it's life has been. A rig that has been lived in obviously has had more intense continued use and therefore wear on all the appliances etc. A weekender should have much less use and the summer roadtrip rig, somewhere in between. Knowing where the rig has spent most of it's time will give you a heads up as to what kind of damage to really watch for. Wetter climates could mean mold problems and rust, sunny climates tend to do more UV damage to tires and rubber components as well as sun damage and fading to the exterior finish.

Ask about leaks. Water leaks concerning both the plumbing system and roof allowing rain etc, propane leaks, oil & transmission leaks, tires leaking air, and any other leaks the seller can tell you about.

Ask if there are any known electrical problems now or in the past. If there is a coach battery and or inverter, what their capacity and age is, where they are located and how they are monitored.

Do all the appliances work? Would they be willing to show you how to operate them? If there is a fridge, does it work on each power source(lp, 110V electric, 12V)?

Ask about maintenance, any receipts or records they may have, manuals etc that might come with the purchase, when the last oil change was, what oil they have been using, what air pressure they keep the tires at and if there is anything else they can tell you or that they feel you should know about the van.

Ask them what their typical fuel mileage has been, how long the LP can typically last before refill, what the capacities are for the various tanks, fuel, water, waste etc.

Finally, ask them if there are any problems you should know about and why they are selling it. It also couldn't hurt to make a checklist of these questions before you go to see any perspective vans.

What to watch for:
When evaluating and inspecting the potential vanhome, one thing that will give you a great perspective is to sit quietly in the various chairs and on the bed etc and imagine yourself "out there living". Can you picture where your stuff will go? Do you think you can be comfortable over the long haul with the space it offers? Does it have a good vibe? It is important to feel good about these things since this is more than just buying a vehicle, it is a home!

You can really get a feel for how something has been taken care of by noticing the tiny details. Wear is going to happen with use, but excessive wear, stained carpet, many scratches indicate a owners who aren't very careful and may have had the same disrespect with more important aspects of caring for your potential future home. If you see upgrades, for example, an added shelf or light, was it carefully mounted or just slapped in place with little thought?

If the van has holding tanks check to make sure the toilet seal works by testing it with a couple cups of water. Pour them in when you start checking the rig over then when all else is done, look again, the water should still be in the toilet.

Check the engine area to see if it is clean. Make sure the oil is not excessively dirty, transmission fluid looks clean and doesn't smell burned, belts and hoses look decent and not cracked and the battery area is in decent shape and not covered with corrosion.

Pay special attention to the tires, ask the age, look for cracking from weather on both the tread and sidewall, check the pressure and notice if the tread is wearing evenly. If there is strange tread wear, it could indicate potential alignment issues or driving with the incorrect air pressure. The date of the tire can be determined by the code stamped on the sidewall. Since 2000, the last 4 digits tell the week and year. First 2 digits for the week and the last 2 for the year.

Check the glass for cracks and lights for functionality. Look over the exterior for obvious damage etc.

The test drive:
This is something most people are pretty familiar with. You really just have to be observant and keep your ears open for strange noises, pay attention to how easily it starts etc. While driving it, give yourself extra time to stop etc and notice how well the brakes work. Notice if it pulls one way or the other or if shakes can be felt the steering wheel at all. Does it accellerate smoothly and shift smoothly?

Take it through the paces, in town and at speed on the highway and make sure to notice the temp, oil pressure and charging, gauges.

Final Thoughts:
Price is something you will have to decide is fair on your own. There are guides of course, but too many factors are involved to rely soley on them. If it looks like a vanhome you will enjoy and you can live with the price they are asking, that is what matters.

If you are not confident in your ability to evaluate the mechanical aspects of the van, you should take it to a shop that offers that service, most do for a reasonable fee. An RV repair center can do a more inclusive evaluation if one is in the area.

I would never buy a rig I couldn't check over first nor would I buy one that gets delivered. Other people might feel comfortable doing this, but I value my financial assets more than that. Too many scammers out there looking for easy money.

Hopefully this post will be helpful for those looking for a vanhome! Choose wisely and your life as a Vantramp will be a great one!

Maintenance

There is just something about Port Angeles that attracts the coolest people! With very few exceptions, the businesses I have dealt with here have been top notch and very kind. We just had the pleasure of dealing with Rick at Tranco Transmission Service and highly recommend them! I am pretty picky about Taj and who works on her. Usually it is me, but something just doesn't thrill me about laying on my back under her. I would rather leave the transmission to the real experts anyway. She was in very good hands and well taken care of.

We had her tranny fluid(synthetic) and filter changed, bands adjusted(didn't need it really), One cooling line replaced since it had a tiny leak, new universal joints installed and the rear differential fluid(synthetic) changed and the fill plug replaced since it was leaking a bit.

From what they told me, Taj's tranny is in very good condition! Not bad for a home with 131K on her now!

Preventative maintenance is just one of those things that has to be done. In a vanhome, it is easily twice as important as any other typical vehicle. When you dedicate as much time and money into customizing them to be your home, it is important that you get the most out of the mechanical side of the equasion. Of course in Taj's case, when her major parts wear out or fail, I will be upgrading and re-engineering as always, but I would rather put that off as long as possible so we can spend more time enjoying her out on the road now!