Mar. 22nd, 2016

sparr: (cellular automata)
No disasters this week! It's nice to start one of these posts without a "Today I Fucked Up" section.

I managed to give away two of the seats, and am going to give up on the rest in another few days. They are too bulky for me to store right now, and I'm striking out on finding people who want them. If I had a house I'd have already put them on the curb with a "free" sign.

I finished removing all of the unnecessary handrails. All of the verticals below the 6ft level are gone. The one under the kitchen is gone, along with the plastic box it surrounded. The retaining walls in the back are gone. They required getting under the floor, but fortunately there are access hatches at that level, unlike the stuff in the low floor that I need to crawl under the bus for. The only things left to remove now are the wheelchair backrest walls and the last of the wheelchair anchoring hardware.

I've ordered a couple of 90 degree elbows for the overhead handrails. Along with the other connectors I've reclaimed from the unwanted bits, that will allow me to add a second pair of horizontal bars above the living room seats. Eventually I'll want to be able to fold or remove the rails up there to make more overhead clearance in the living room area for aerials, suspensions, etc. I'm not sure how far in the future that is, which will dictate how much effort I want to put into extending the existing rails for short/medium term overhead storage. With two such bars on each side I can put a simple plywood shelf up there, eventually to be replaced with a light framed surface that can be used as a bunkbed. Extending that length further will add a third and maybe fourth and fifth overhead bunk / shelf.

Another round of hardware shopping got a sheet of thin plywood to make up to three prototype kitchen countertops. Hopefully I can hit the design I like, and then repeat it in hardwood (probably butcher block style). I also picked up the connectors necessary to connect the sink drain to the grey water aquatainer, although I forgot to get the adapters to insert my strainer trap. I'll have to add that next time. I haven't started working on the faucet yet because my foot pump hasn't arrived. I'm somewhat considering an overhead water tank at this point, although I might still want a foot-activated spigot to conserve water. I shopped for propane connectors and hoses but couldn't find what I needed and will have to check a specialty store or search online. Last item was a case of 6qt sterilite bins, which I'm going to consider standardizing on for the purposes of making racks and shelves for storing containers full of sorted and assorted stuff.

I decided to throw planning and caution to the wind and install the solar panels sooner rather than later. I couldn't find any layout that I liked for all four panels so I installed just three of them across the rear edge of the roof, behind the hatch, in front of the air intake and exhaust. I put sheet metal screws straight through the roof material, which isn't as secure as I'd like but will do for now. I kept all the screws in 4 lines so it won't be hard to reinforce with long thin strips of steel later. I've also bought some VHB tape for reinforcing and sound dampening and waterproofing the connection points. The wiring is very haphazard, taped to the outside of the bus, with the charger in the engine compartment. Rather than get into all the battery management wiring this early, which is a project I am putting off for when I can get under the bus among other prerequisites, I just plugged in at the alternator, one of the few places that I'm confident there's low-resistance direct connection to get power to the batteries. As I write this, I haven't been able to confirm yet that it's actually working aside from it telling me my batteries are already fully charged. It's night time right now and I'm running the lights and inverter in an attempt to drain the batteries a bit, so that hopefully come morning I will see them charged again, or better yet catch them in the act of charging.

While installing the solar charger I found yet another electrical junction box and well-labeled wire nest, this time inside the panel in the engine compartment that has a few gauges and engine operation toggles on it. I feel like I'm asymptotically approaching at least having seen all of the wiring harnesses. There are still a couple mentioned in the operators manual that I haven't found, but I know where to look for those when the time comes.

I discovered that half of the electrical defroster/defogger in the front windshield works and half doesn't. I'm going to poke at it with a multimeter and see what I can discern. Fortunately the working half is the half in front of the driver, so this isn't a particularly pressing issue.

I got rid of two of the benches to someone at the East Bay Burners social who wanted seating for their shop. I gave the rest to a friend in Oakland who has some storage space and is willing to do the leg work to give them away to good causes. With them gone, the interior feels even more spacious than it did before, although also exposing a lot more floor that I need to clean, and requiring me to improvise a new lock for the rear doors. Aside from the last things I need to unbolt, those seats were almost the last big things to get rid of.

Conversely, I made my first trip to storage to put more things into the bus. I grabbed bins with tools, more blankets/sheets, and some more clothes. I'm finally back to the wardrobe that I kept in the ambulance, rather than just what I packed for the Boston / Road Trip trip. The difference in having 2-3 weeks worth of clothes vs 5 days worth of clothes is a big deal.

I've been giving friends, acquaintances, and strangers rides. It's as fun as I imagined. I also accidentally had a ~15 person party when I parked in front of the burner social and left the doors open. Even with all the stuff in the way, it didn't feel particularly cramped with 6 people sitting down and 9 standing. I take this as a good sign that 20+ will be a viable party size once everything is installed.

Next steps, in no particular order: Build the prototype kitchen countertops, install everything, and see how it feels/works. Order and install propane accessories. Build a working sink faucet. Continue shopping for shower pan, and design the shower/toilet enclosures/curtains. Choose and order a toilet. Finish short term upgrades to overhead rails. Figure out how to get into the walls below the windows to find/see/measure the structural rails there. Build a prototype for the dining area table. Black out the windows, with curtains or foil, for night time privacy. Hang a less temporary curtain at the front of the vehicle, and disable the one overhead light that shines in that section. Make a more permanent set of supports for propping the windows open. Add door sweeps to the front edge of the solar panels. Install some sort of temporary stuff storage. Shelves, stacked bins, etc.
sparr: (cellular automata)
I am seriously reconsidering the placement of the kitchen. I'm glad I went with a rough prototype first; I'd be a lot more pressured to keep the current plan if I'd already done the work in real cabinet+countertop materials. I got it put together last night and ran into a number of concerns that I had previously anticipated but underestimated the impact of.

The current location barely doesn't block the electrical panel door, but it does eat up all the useful storage space that I had closest to that panel, which is where all my 5/12/24V power is coming from. I feel like I'm going to want that space in the future for larger electronics, such as the sound system, video recorder, etc.

I like the sink and drain that I got, but they are nearly/barely too deep for the current location. I can make it work, but the drain and propane hoses and installation would be cleaner in a location with more clearance below.

What if the kitchen goes just ahead of the rear door? This will eat up a little floor space, but also even up the open space depth on both sides up front. The kitchen and door on one side would line up with the dining table and seats on the other side. This would move the sink closer to the bathroom, and the stove closer to the dining room.

What will it feel like if the kitchen is in the bedroom area, next to the shower? Too cramped? Too annoying when someone wants to cook while someone is using the bed? Having the sink next to the shower and toilet would feel good, but having the stove there would feel weird.

Speaking of the bathroom... I still haven't chosen a toilet. I'm pretty sure that I want the toilet to be waterproof so that it can go in the shower, both to save space and to provide a seat while showering. That will be important with the shower having a slanted ceiling with 58-74" of headroom. The hot shower component is entirely portable, so I can erect a curtain and platform outside the bus for showering while camping. The indoor shower will be used in the city and possibly while driving.

I think that what I want to do with the bathroom space is to give it about a 3x4ft footprint, with one solid 5ft wall on the short/window side. The wall will be hinged about 2ft off the ground so that the upper section will fold over like a box lid, being the top of the box whose bottom is defined by the shower pan. This will preserve the open view through the bus when it's closed, as well as provide a table-like platform when the bathroom isn't in use, and avoid the need for the shower curtain to completely surround the shower.

Brainstorming, experimenting, and actually accomplishing things... all continue apace.

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