Mar. 15th, 2016

sparr: (cellular automata)
I'm making a habit of starting these posts with tragedy and repair. Early in our trip we asked "is the passenger side mirror shaking?". Later, that became "It's definitely shaking.". After getting to SF the upgrade to "It's shaking a lot, I should check that out" was short lived, soon to be replaced with "Oh shit, the whole thing fell off!". Fortunately it didn't fall far; the wires responsible for the power mirror on that side caught it, so all ~30 pounds of metal and motor and mirror just hung there as I slowed down and stopped. I couldn't make effective repairs in the dark and rain without supplies, so I dropped off a passenger and hurried to Home Depot while traffic was light. First thing in the morning I went in and bought some steel tie plates and somewhat beefy self-drilling sheet metal screws. They weren't up to the task of getting through the 1/8-1/4" cast aluminum body of the mirror housing, so I pre-drilled the holes up to almost the right diameter. An hour later, having juggled tools and fasteners and holding up the mirror, it was repaired, and only a little uglier, although a lot more industrial looking.

I made the last delivery from my commitments from the trip, leaving only one friend's stuff still in the bus needing to be handed off. It's just about down to me and my stuff and no one else to blame for how cluttered it is inside while I'm working.

I removed the last of the vertical bars that are coming out early in the project, the ones in the rear that had been folded up near the ceiling in order to more effectively attack my forehead. This leaves just four vertical bars installed, the two up front that are currently part of the overhead bar supports and the two in the back that are part of the divider wall for the "upstairs". I removed 7 more of the benches, including the doubles and single in the back, and flipped one of them around for what will become the dining/office table area. There is now a pile of benches and supports blocking the rear door that I am eager to get rid of. I've posted on FB and EPlaya and Craigslist in the hopes that someone will want them for an art car or tiny house. The last things to remove are the walls behind the wheelchair positions and the remaining vertical bars, which is pending getting certified for the metal shop at TechShop and finding some fittings.

With the dining benches in place, I am not happy with how much space that area takes up. The table will be 3x3ft which is great for board games and four-laptop office time, but much farther across than a normal four-dining booth would be. Including the angle of the seats, the whole dining area is about 7ft long. I think that I want to try to modify one of the benches so that it reclines flat. This would allow me to narrow the table and move the benches closer together without sacrificing the necessary length when converting it to a bed by lowering the table. I'll probably end up keeping one of the benches as a spare if I am seriously considering this plan by the time I get rid of the removed benches.

Removing the rear seats let me finally get a feel for how the bed would line up if it filled the back window bay. Unfortunately, this turns out to be too close to the ceiling. I'd have just the center of the bed for sitting up, even with a 2" thick mattress, so that plan is right out. The next lower candidate height gets me an extra 15" which feels comfortable for sitting and a close call for kneeling. The bed plan has thus shifted again, and I am now contemplating something like an ikea pull-out sofa with interleaved slats. The bed will default to narrower-than-twin, and expand to approximately full size with two mattresses side by side.

I'm still contemplating what I'm going to do for small item storage. Natasha threw together a bunch of cup holders and phone holders from cardboard and tape on the trip, and those are helpful, but eventually I'm going to want a bunch of small travel-safe shelves, pockets, etc. There's a lot of dead space behind the driver where I could store paperwork, and space I don't currently have a plan for overhead in the kitchen and other wheelwell areas. I'm considering a "back of the door" sort of organizer, as well as bulkier solutions with drawers.

I also went shopping. Offline first, at Home Depot and Target. I picked up the first half of the cleaning supplies that will be required for a thorough cleaning once all the unnecessary furniture is gone, and a few miscellaneous containers and organizational items. I bought a relatively small shop toolbox with a lock, which means thieves will either need a crowbar to steal my tools or the ability to run off with a hundred pound toolbox, and that second option will go away once I bolt it to the wall. I probably won't keep it forever, as I expect either more or fewer tools in the long run depending on whether or not I take the space in a workshop-y direction, but it will suffice for the first few months so that I can stop leaving tools in all of the seats.

Online, as usual it was all Amazon all the time. I'm giving up on converting the camp stove that I bought and am instead getting a small two burner cooktop designed for an RV. I'm getting three 7gal aquatainers, one for fresh water and two for grey water (sink and shower). I'm going to try to improvise a height adjustable faucet for the sink by using an adjustable showerhead arm. For the sink I decided to try a small rectangular one meant for small bar prep areas which seems like it should fit pretty well. And, the most unusual item I decided to get, a metal spray can meant for showering, made by Zodi. This is a big departure from my original idea of a pump and on-demand hot water heater, but it's a lot simpler and more versatile, with fewer dependencies. Showering will involve pre-heating water on the stove, but I think I can live with that.

I did not order a toilet. I'm still waffling on whether I want something with a black water tank or the kind that wraps up the waste to be thrown away in a bag or a composting toilet. There are a lot of pros and cons to each approach. I asked a few questions on Amazon listings and will probably ask a few more before I decide. I'm also going to reach out on a few subreddits and forums. With the lower headroom, I am even more motivated to put a waterproof toilet inside the shower, to act as a seat.

Once the hot shower hardware arrives I'm going to need a shower pan and curtain. I'm working on figuring out how I want that to work. With my current plan to put the shower in the upstairs area, headroom is at a premium, so I need to get the curtain to conform to the ceiling a lot more closely than I originally planned. It's looking like I'm going to store the grey water tank in the shower, and move it downstairs for drainage while showering. If that plan doesn't work out, there's room between the upstairs short wall and the back door to hang a flat-ish grey water tank when it's not in use.

Having ordered the cooktop and sink, I can start to lay out the countertop and figure out where the cutouts will be, where the faucet will go, and where I'll have some tiny amount of clear surface. The first draft countertop will just be plywood coated in some non-flammable waterproofing. Later I might try something fancier.

I've reached out to some friends and found someone who I can pay to clean the interior for me. Not that she'll be doing it alone; I expect to do as much work getting access to the nooks and crannies and moving stuff around as she does on the cleaning. The end result should be that I won't have to worry about dust and dirt and grime getting on me and all my stuff as I'm installing nice new/clean hardware.

Having so much of the furniture and so many of the bars removed has made it feel even more open inside than it originally did. I am very happy with how spacious it seems, looking from the front to the back. So far all of the plans are on track to keep that sight line almost completely unblocked. There's a lot of small tasks ahead for temporarily securing/installing all of the necessities, but it's enjoyable and I can see the light at the end of the [first] tunnel now. I expect to have a comfortably livable space in the next few weeks. Once I reach that point, then I can start making longer term plans for bigger renovations, like the floor, windows, walls, insulation, roof deck, etc.
sparr: (cellular automata)
Here are my options:

1) Laveo Dry Flush. This toilet works like a Diaper Genie. There's a very long mylar bag bunched up in the seat, with a small section filling a bucket. You do your business into the bucket, then a machine sucks out the air and twists the bag so the waste is sealed in a section, then it extrudes more bag to fill the bucket again. ~15 flushes later you remove all the waste, double-bagged, and incinerate or trash it. $500 for the toilet, $1 per flush. Zero smell. Zero exposure to waste during disposal. Fastest disposal option.

2) Cassette toilet. Basically a seat and bowl on top of a waste tank. Do your business, flush with a small amount of water, clean the bowl if necessary. Special chemicals deal with odors. Empty the tank every few days of usage by dumping into an RV waste tank or a toilet (multiple flushes) then rinsing and dumping again. $150 for the toilet, $0.05 per flush. Little smell. Exposure to unprocessed waste during disposal.

3) Composting toilet. A seat on top of a larger waste tank, plus a separate bottle for urine. Flip a lever when switching from urinating to defecating. Add sawdust and good-bacteria to tank occasionally, turn a lever to stir the waste after each usage, clean the bowl if necessary. Empty solid waste with a shovel every couple of weeks of usage, preferably into a garden. Empty urine into a toilet or as fertilizer. $500-1000 for the toilet, $0.10 per flush. Little smell, more dirt than poop. Exposure to urine and compost/humanure during disposal. More labor involved in disposal.

The cost comparison is obvious. The ecological impacts are relevant. The comfort of my guests, both in using the toilet and in possibly being tasked with emptying it on longer trips, are relevant. I'd appreciate feedback on these options, especially from anyone who has used one of them before.


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