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John and Mandi

us --> van --> overland
1,679 days a wanderin'

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Bits and Bobs, Bringing It All Together

Jan 27, 2015
by John

The last few weeks (ends really) have been spent on some of the outstanding pieces that needed to be sorted before we could continue past the walls and to the real meat of the JaMvan build. At least one full day is still needed before all the walls can be permanently installed. Death by paper cuts comes to mind, albeit more like ten dollars worth of nickels and dimes.

First up was improving the R-value. There are as many ways of attempting to insulate a tin can as there are...tin cans. Research seemed to repeat reflectix as a great vehicle insulator so we decided to use EZCool, the self-proclaimed beefcake of the reflectix material world. No fancy degree required, just time spent rolling up pieces to work into the van bracing, crevices, and funky weirdo dumb ass angled compartments, an obvious sore spot with us by now.

Some of the larger cavities were also packed with extra marine batting to fill in the space a bit. Not really an R-value improvement, more of a secondary defense against dust and dirt penetration for those long and less than stellar roads we're sure to encounter. A bunch of cramming, cussing, and knuckle scraping later, we had a nicely stuffed pig.

Our primary application of EZCool consists of two seamless layers behind the walls. We didn't want to have any seams and also this is easier to roll up to store out of the way for any necessary roadside repairs or troubleshooting. The gigantic holes for the windows were cut in place, then repeated for the second layer using the first as a template. We did reinforce some attachment points at the top with reflective insulation tape as well as place a few strategic pieces to keep it all taut.

Is that a disguised lunar landing vehicle?

Is that a disguised lunar landing vehicle?

Maybe an industrial sized solar oven?

Maybe an industrial sized solar oven?

Hiding our mind protection system behind the walls, up yours aliens!

Hiding our mind protection system behind the walls, up yours aliens!

Penthouse Trim

Reaching the inevitable, the remaining wall and penthouse trim pieces, we spent the better part of the Martin Luther King, Jr three day weekend on sorting them out. We assumed the existing rear penthouse bumper would be re-used, not so after a closer inspection. Its fit didn't meet the John and Mandi standard, whatever psycho babble that actually means, so we started the weekend off with a big family breakfast then a trip to a local hardware store.

No less than three different widths of wood would be required to replicate said rear bumper, so an hour perusing the assorted warped lumber lead us to the craft and furniture grade section. Yay, we actually found what we needed without the need to rip it all ourselves. It's important to note that we do not have a table saw, everything has been cut using a saber (jig), skill, or air saw. The latter has only served in cutting out the second interior van wall for the window installation and the removal of some miscellaneous unnecessary brackets.

The trip home had us stopping at a flooring place to scope out the vinyl remnants, a soon to be started step. Although we weren't happy with the available selection, we did find a special order pattern that would have been pricey. They recommended we try another store, a backtrack from where we were, which turned out to be a great suggestion. Upon entering Mandi veered off to visit the restroom, a normal occurrence, and I wandered into the warehouse space. Two gigantic pillars of seafoam blue stuck out and beckoned me. YES! We had found this exact vinyl in red several months ago online, what we used in our vision planning, the seafoam would be much better.

When Mandi emerged she saw it immediately. "Would it clash with the turquoise?", her first words. We convinced the salesman to let us see it in the van, it stayed as we payed the bill. We've been worried about finding a remnant we'd like so this was a huge win. It's over double what we need so we may get a bit crafty in using some of the extra vinyl. It's pseudo commercial grade with a nice amount of cushion, loose lay too. A great start to the weekend even though we weren't able to make any actual progress on the van.

Crappy ass picture of the vinyl roll

Crappy ass picture of the vinyl roll

Sunday we awoke early to start the process of completing the last of the trim pieces. Like the walls, our ramp-up was a bit long, it took half the day to rebuild the new penthouse rear bumper. Building the front bumper, the existing one was MIA when we purchased the van, went a bit faster as it is much simpler due to the way the penthouse meets the van body. We finished up as the sun was beginning to set by building a bottom trim piece for the rear bumper. The existing mounting hardware was no longer sufficient so a late evening jaunt to the hardware store ended the day.

Wrapped EZCool to make the back curve, don't be pointing out her cellulite

Wrapped EZCool to make the back curve, don't be pointing out her cellulite

Purple nurple

Purple nurple

OK, we really like breakfast and it's hard to bust ass when family is inside a warm house chowing down on bacon. At the last minute we decided to help cook said large breakfast before starting our day. Two breakfasts later, yup...they were back to back so it could be stated as one b-i-g breakfast, we were installing the recently purchased hardware. A slower start than anticipated, these bones are getting old.

The penthouse framing in our van came to us completely encapsulated in an awful gray carpet which we have mostly removed, it will all be gone soon enough. The underside of the framing exposes some of the operational guts and could be a hazard, especially for the inebriated, covering it became the next step in our project. We had discussed it at length over the last couple of weeks so we knew exactly how to start. That didn't stop the usual kick-off discussion from happening, an almost catastrophic beginning to the day...eggshells anyone?

Once settled and in agreement, again, we cut the first piece of six and were on our way. The process was rather straightforward: decide on length, take several width measurements since the van body does weird ass shit, pick a starting and ending width, mark on board, connect the dots, cut, dry fit, cheer, drill mounting holes in steel framing and newly made board, file corners and metal surfaces to remove burrs, vacuum up sharp bits, take board inside, cut and adhere marine batting, cut out batting around attachment holes, cut and attach marine vinyl with staples, poke through attachment holes in the vinyl for ease of installation, bathroom/coffee/water break, back to van and bolt in place, no rinse - just repeat.

All six pieces were in but daylight was rapidly fading, no time to revel in our achievement. We rushed about to get our three distinct work areas cleaned up before the sun was lost to its daily slumber. The long weekend was over, a bunch of wall bits completed.

Lemon lime goes prime time

Lemon lime goes prime time

Orange and yellow and green...oh my!

Orange and yellow and green...oh my!

Van Trim Revisit

We had previously painted the plastic trim pieces that cover the seat belts and front seat innards purple. Mandi followed several proven techniques, pure internet rubbish, for painting plastic properly. It looked really cool but several pieces received a fair amount of scratches when Ujoint installed our newly upholstered captain's chairs. We had since pressure washed the majority of the paint off of them, then spent a couple of evenings using scrapers to remove the remaining bits.  Fortunately, we have changed our plan enough times we've ended up with extra purple fabric to cover them with.

In between completing the walls and starting then finishing penthouse trim we were able to cover the seat belt pieces in a couple of evenings. The finished product looks much better than the paint, hopefully we won't tear it up swiveling the passenger seat. We should have thought of this in the beginning, oh well. Some patience and a can of 3M General Trim Adhesive (#8088) is all that is needed. Of course, wrapping the funky angles takes a little bit of genius.

It's astonishing how this little change elevates the cohesiveness of our overall design. The type of fabric we used on the headliner is a close match to the purple, Mandi did that on purpose, so it creates a nice flow down the columns. Mandi has already sewn new upper penthouse covers out of the purple, the death of the remaining drab carpet, which will complete the purple and green rim around the van. These little wins are really invigorating after fighting the contoured, contorted, van walls. The four smaller seat pieces remain, a couple of evenings worth of work.

Perplexedly punched panels of pure purple

Perplexedly punched panels of pure purple

We also managed to bolt on our ARB awning during the melee of bits and bobs. Having an awning was a decision we agonized over for several months. We reached out to some past and present Pan-Am travelers and received mixed responses with a slight edge towards having one. We've owned several campers, some we used the awning and others we did not. We kept thinking of the Pleasure-Way van we owned, its Fiamma awning was used only a few times. No harm nor foul in having one for this trip, worst case someone gets a great deal while we are on the road if we decide we don't want it.

Can't be ignoring her outards

Can't be ignoring her outards

Window Bolsters

One major obstacle remained before completing all of the wall pieces, the window bolsters. This was one that really had me on the ropes, Mandi not so much. I had trouble visualizing it which slowed our progress down a bit. Sometimes I just need to shut up and listen to Mandi, she's the crafty one. Ultimately we decided to use air conditioner weather seal to fill in the gaps between the walls and the windows.

Once started, we wanted to capitalize on having the window walls off by also adding our curtain hardware. Instead of the traditional RV curtain rods we chose to use some loop hardware, think medium duty picture hanging, to attach our curtains to the walls. A simple method that should allow us to tie the curtains full, half-top, half-bottom, and rolled up. We figure we may end up ruining curtains from daily use so we are trying to make them easily replaceable without having to remove the wall or any hardware. We installed eight tying points on the driver's side and five on the passenger's, the kitchen counter will cover the bottom of the passenger side window.

Adding the bolsters ended up being fairly easy, my senseless anxiety completely unnecessary. We attached the a/c weather seals together with 3M adhesive, wrapped them in fabric by pinning it, sewed it printed side out to leave a one inch tab, then stapled it by the tab to the back of the wall around the window access hole. The tab is at the bottom of the bolster flat against the wall so minor adjustments for gravity (expected sagging) were needed while we were stapling it. We did make the first bolster a bit short, whoopsie, but were lucky enough to have sufficient fabric on the bolster to stick a small piece of extra a/c weather seal into. We left the passenger side long and trimmed it to the exact length while stapling it in place for a tight fit.

As expected, there were a couple of areas that weren't filled in 100%, we created secondary bolsters out of EZCool wrapped in the same fabric to shore it out. This time a sleeve was sewn to slide the EZCool into as it's not attached but held in place by pressure from the front bolster. Each side is a bit different in where and how long the gaps are, custom lengths were needed. Mandi's original idea was to sew a big sleeve to fit the window exactly and stuff it with marine fill, probably the best way to do it looking back, note to any home builders thinking of doing the same. Maybe our rear sleeves made from EZCool will help with insulating, we'll see.

Hey, are you growing flowers in your gaps?

Hey, are you growing flowers in your gaps?

We ended up a bit early with a half-day this past Sunday for other obligations and a regrouping of sorts. I've been a bit preoccupied with finishing the walls, we're somewhat under prepared to move on to the next step(s). We spent an hour staging out how everything should fit, ogling our accomplishments thus far. We crossed the 100 days remaining milestone, a crazy one for sure, with our van starting to resemble what we envisioned oh so long ago. Over several humps for sure!

We love it when a plan comes together

We love it when a plan comes together


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