Mar. 11th, 2016

sparr: (cellular automata)
It's been 4 days since we got to SF and I'm calling this the end of my first week off the road. I know, 4 days isn't a week, but Friday feels like a good day to summarize. Maybe I'll post twice a week, to separate weekend work from weekday work? TBD.

Last/worst news first... Last night I made my first serious driving mistake. I turned left from a right-curb parking spot too sharply and the tail of the bus got intimate with a nearby tree, leaving both a bit worse for wear. The upper rear corner of the bus lost two running light covers, which will serve as an excuse to take off a good one to measure for spares. Good news, I now know that some of the solid curvy rigid bits of the body are fiberglass. Bad news, I know that because there's now a ~12in section ripped away from the top corner. Good news, Gorilla Tape repairs seem to have been mostly successful, and will probably hold until I get around to sawing out the edges of the rip and patching with a bunch of fiberglass tape.

I installed a security system from Fortress Security Store. It came with motion sensors that I'm using already, and door/window alarms that I'm not yet. It has an audible alarm (currently inside the bus, to be moved to a secure location outside) and also sends me text messages (or calls me). So far I'm mostly liking it. The alarm functionality seems great. I'm minorly confused/annoyed about how the "call the alarm from my phone so I can arm/disarm or use it as an intercom" functions work, but those aren't essential. The backup battery life is a bit low, but that should be easy to rectify with a larger battery. This will be one of the few things on the bus with its own dedicated power backup.

I cut and peeled off a bit of the textual portion of the side decals, near the ground. They all peeled off easily. The one on the front has nice even paint behind it. The ones on the sides, not so much. Also, the sides were longer cuts, which got a little uneven as I went along. I'll probably end up covering those areas with more vinyl to be drawn/painted on. Additionally, removing the vinyl near the ground revealed the bolts that hold the bus skirt panels on. I need to get inside those to see what's behind some of the lower walls inside, as well as to get under the bus for various reasons.

I mostly installed two deadbolts, one on each of the front doors. I say mostly not because I had to use shims to account for the thinness of the doors, which is easy to fix later, but because the bolts don't span the gap between the door and the jamb. This is the first time I've ever had to install a lock in a place where the door doesn't touch *any* of the surfaces around it. There's a 1-2" gap between the door and the floor, jamb, and ceiling, and a 6" gap between the two doors (which is filled with rubber bumpers). I'll soon be making a steel extension for the jamb where the deadbolt is, as well as steel reinforcement for the door and the jamb. Both need to be stronger if someone tries to kick the door in, and that's on top of the need to repair the structural weakening I did by drilling through the door.

I removed almost all of the wheelchair restraint hardware. The parts connected to the divider wall legs and to the floor hardware came out easily. The floor hardware (sideways telescoping steel channel bolted to the floor) did not, due to rusted bolts that I need access to the bottom of. I'll be figuring out how to get under the bus some time soon; that will probably involve parking with two wheels on a high curb. The hardware on the wall of the bus was the best surprise, giving me a peek at the vertical structural members of the body. Apparently the vertical sections between the windows house more aluminum extrusion channel, with more T-nuts for attachment. This is wonderful news.

I took out the five vertical poles that stood alone, which makes the middle section of the bus feel much more spacious. That included removing the stop request buttons from all of them. It also meant getting inside the air/power/etc sections at the top of the bus for the first time, to get to the mounts at the top of two of the poles (one side) so I could remove the stop request wiring for those. Those mounts attach to the extrusion channel in the ceiling, again with T-nuts. One of the mounts, out of the five I checked, is inexplicably wobbly, despite appearing firmly attached. That bears further investigation. The three mounts on the other side still have their wiring wrapped up and tucked in until I get inside the ceiling on that side. I also removed a bunch of the connectors where the poles meet the handles on top of the seats, and discovered they are adjustable for different angles. I'll be keeping a few of the seats, probably mostly with handles, so I've got the option of doing something semi-structural with poles and connectors based on where the remaining seats end up.

Being up in the ceiling gave me a lot of new info as well. I've now seen the climate control ducting, and discovered that *everything* up there outside of the climate control unit itself is coated in a fine black powder/dust. I need to find out if that's intentional or incidental or bad. I've gotten a look at the door actuation mechanism, the coolant hoses to the climate control, the electrical wiring, and the fluorescent ballasts.

I happened upon a queen sized cushion (calling it a mattress would be a stretch, despite its size, due to its thinness and stuffing) at IKEA in the as-is section, 50% off for no reason I can discern. I grabbed it. It might not have a home in the bus in the long term, or it might get deployed across the living room seats for the last few sleeping slots, or it might get cut in half to make two smaller sleeping pads. Regardless, it's my bed for the duration of phase 1 of the build, and much more comfortable than the cheap hammocks I picked up for the trip. It's thin enough to fold in half or thirds, so it isn't much in the way. I also bought a small succulent plant, which is currently living in one of the front corner windows.

I opened up the camp stove that we bought but didn't use on our trip. At first glance, it doesn't look like it will be easy to flip the propane feed to the other side to make it fit in my kitchen space. I'll take a deeper look inside it once I have a sink, and either fix it or replace it before I cut out a countertop to hold them both. That project is on the agenda for this weekend or next.

I have safety/usage certifications scheduled at TechShop for the metal shop and MIG welding next week. Once that happens I can start working on the bed platform, a table for the dining area, hard points for the ceiling and walls, etc. I've got the shape of the bed platform down on paper and just need to lay out a precise design so I can dimension the parts. The table, which I want to be height adjustable to convert seats+table into a bed, is still on the drawing board. The hard points will probably just be 1/4" steel plate for now, with an eye to something more svelte in the future. If I can get certified on the waterjet cutter in time, I'll use that. Otherwise it's all about the band saw, drill press, and grinders.

I've been on the roof a couple of times now, for various reasons. My step ladder is tall enough for a precarious climb out the hatch. I probably need to get something more sturdy and safe eventually. Maybe something that works both inside and outside? I could make an 8ft ladder that attaches to the back of the bus for storage and exterior use, and can be brought inside and hooked into the hatch (protruding past the top) for interior use. That will probably happen around the same time I'm putting vertical bike storage on the back of the bus for travel, which is probably a project for phase 2, in April or May.

I've gotten word from my agent in South Dakota about the requirements to register the bus as an RV. I detailed them in another post. The short version is that there are 7 items on the list, and I need to have 5 of them. I already have 2, and expect to have 3 more in a week or two. At this point I'm waiting for him to send me the paperwork and let me know how I need to prove that I've fulfilled the requirements.

That's about all that's going on so far. I hope to post again on Sunday night or Monday morning with updates from the weekend.

PS: I didn't mention it last post, but I've started uploading photos to Flickr and Facebook. That includes all the investigation and improvements and damage I've done so far.


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