Sunday, August 29, 2010

Another RT 170 Battery Install

This is the recent battery installation done by my friend, and blog reader, Al. There are a few things worth noting about this setup that are different than what I did in my install. Like mine, these are AGM batteries that total 220 Amp Hours of capacity. The difference is, his both fit in the one side compartment under the bed instead of putting one there and one in back like my install shown below.

The AGM batteries I installed were from Full River and were group 31, 12 Volt versions. Al found nice sized Lifeline Batteries at 6 Volts. Of course that means wiring them in Series to get them at the correct 12 Volts, but the result is more available space after the install for other things and the exact same capacity battery bank. The difference in price is very small. For anyone considering adding a multi battery bank to their B, I would seriously consider the 6 Volt Lifelines! They save space as well as weight, both of which are a high priority for us Vantramps. Nice job Al!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Visit with Vantramp Glenn

Another borrowed picture! I really do need to use my camera when these cool Vantramps come into our current area! Glenn, a now full time Vantramp, is quite a character! He made the trek to Ogilvie, MN to visit with us at my Sister's great little farm just a few days ago. He and his traveling companion, Emily the cat, are currently making their way around the country via scenic back roads and blogging about their travels. You can read all about them both, and the mighty Falcon(his trusty vanhome), at It will be time well spent, I promise!

Glenn was a lot of fun to hang out with! Heidi and I, as well as my Sister Traci and her family, enjoyed learning about him and sharing stories, food and fun for the brief time he was here(overnight). I had a particularly fun time playing cribbage with him, but will spare him my recounting of that story. I am sure he is trying to forget it :)

In the past few years, Heidi and I have met many fellow Vandweller/Vantramp friends and have always found them to be excellent people, and Glenn is no exception! We will always consider him a great friend from here on and can't wait for the chance to meet up again!

Monday, August 23, 2010

Visit with Van friends, Charlene and Suanne

I am a bit overdue with this post as this picture was taken by me a few weeks back. Suanne was one of two Vandwelling friends that took time to stop in and enjoy a few days up at my mom's beautiful little setting in Floodwood MN. Here she is seen standing beside her van...Okay maybe not a van exactly, but it is an excellent little rig for her year long adventure. Suanne has modified her Prius to be quite comfortable and I am more than a little jealous of her fuel mileage! You can find more information about her journey on her blog, Suanneonline.

Also at the same time, Charlene stopped in, yep ol Swankiewheels herself! She managed to get out of there without me getting a picture of her so I snagged a few shots of her and her van(this one is really a van) from her blog Swankiewheels.

Charlene is on a quest to kayak all 50 states and is really an inspiration and a go-getter! While she was at Mom's, she put her kayak in the St Louis river(right behind the house) and paddled to the local park in town where her pre-delivered van was waiting. She is now parked in Wisconsin and gaining ground on her goal!

We really enjoyed visiting with both Suanne and Charlene as did my family. They are exceedingly nice folks and great cooks! We have always had a great time with Charlene as this was just one of several times we have been lucky enough to spend time with her over the past few years. This was the first time we had a chance to meet Suanne though and we found out quickly that she is not only an extremely sweet person, but also a serious card shark! I love good competition though and really look forward to our next chance to do battle with cards.

Safe travels Charlene and Suanne! See ya out there on the road again sometime soon!

Friday, August 13, 2010

One of my hobbies, Making Jewelry

The bracelet above is my first attempt at doing a 3 peg knit. It is made out of 26 gauge enameled copper wire and fashioned with some very simple, home-made tools. This particular bracelet is for my Mom's 63rd birthday. She doesn't read the blog very often so I am safe posting this, I think! She will have it tomorrow anyway. Mom, if you are reading this, close your eyes and forget you were here. Hey, is that your cat, Molly, I hear asking to be let out?

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

What turns my wheels!

Not long ago, the things that got my wheels turning were; how to make a car go down the quarter mile as quick as possible, building engines and, in general, modifying everything. Now though, and in the past few years, the things that keep my brain happy mainly revolve around making Taj more functional and independent of any public utilities as well as making Heidi's and my life more comfortable.

This last year, Taj has gone through many modifications, most of which I have detailed here on our blog. There are a few mods that have been done that I still have to write about and a couple that are close to being completed. This next year will be busy as well. Lots of new project ideas in my mind!

I love this stuff! Re-engineering and designing clever ways to do more in our little rolling home is so much more rewarding to me than most of the activities of my past. I am sure that feeling is due to the immediate and more obvious way each change made affects our lives. Even the smallest changes can have a clear impact on day to day tasks.

My general design requirements for the modifications I conjure up are as follows:

1) When dealing with a repair, the system involved has to end up better than it came from the factory. Possibly this means, better materials, fasteners, and often, an improvement in design.

2) Improved efficiency. In any system I am considering making a change to, the goal is always to end up with the most efficient end result possible. A lot of time is spent researching and almost any concept is deliberated in the quest for the best answer.

3) Simplicity in design. By this I am not referring to the easiest method to do something, rather that there is often a design that is very simple and elegant and perfect for the situation. It is that answer that you know is right as soon as it comes to mind.

4) Quality over quantity or speed. I am not a fan of shortcuts. Diligence pays off and even the things that nobody else sees matter to me. I enjoy knowing I can have confidence in my work for these reasons. Never any sleep lost worrying that something may fail. This also applies to the cost of doing a project. I refuse to go the cheaper route if there is a better alternative, even if it means waiting a significant amount of time. Sacrifices in life are sometimes necessary but when it comes to this type of work, I won't do it.

I made that small list to give an idea of how my mind works while designing. It isn't a formal thing I follow, rather habits and ideas I have formed over the years and do, for the most part, automatically. The list also isn't meant to be complete, but it does give a reasonable idea of how I think for this type of work.

So, what kind of stuff do I have planned for Taj's future mods? More electrical system improvements including solar, LED lighting, maybe some other forms of power generation. The fresh water system is going to get much of my attention with the goals being, access to the interior of the tank for cleaning, and a decent filtration/purification system. Overall there are a few areas I want to work on improving insulation, space utilization and functionality as well. On a slightly humorous note, I intend on designing and implementing a central vacuum. There are actually some pretty good reasons I have for doing such a seemingly silly thing for a van, but I will save them for that specific blog post. Not sure if it will happen next year or the following year, but I intend on adding an on-board compressor and air-bag system as well as a few other changes to the running gear. Sometime in the middle of all this, Taj is going to want some fresh paint I am sure.

There are many other projects on my mind as well, but I will spare you the details for the moment. Did I mention I love this stuff? The wheels are always turning!