Slow Car Fast
THE LIVING ROOM ON WHEELS
July 22, 2012 - It turns out that one of the suppliers for Flyin' Miata also makes brake lines for Vanagons.
They sent me a set to try out. And after taking off the old rubber ones, I'm pretty glad I did. You can see the condition of the rubber! Yikes. That was a big problem just waiting to happen. Since we're planning on some mountain driving in the next few weeks, I'm much happier now.
Along with the new lines, Janel and I flushed the brake fluid. The pedal felt fairly good before, now it's nice and solid. A bleeder screw broke off in one of the rear wheel cylinders, but I was able to bleed that corner using the flare fitting and I'll swap the cylinder out soon.
I looked at the front brakes. Westys are not known for their stupendous brakes. No wonder! The pads are tiny.
entry 37 - tags: brakes
August 16, 2012 - Time for another adventure.
This time, we convoyed out to Pike's Peak to watch the hillclimb. The campsite was at about 11,000'.
The other Westy is the one that started us on this whole idea - Ryan's Subaru-converted bus. Brandon did the conversion and he borrowed it for the weekend, his first opportunity to actually try out the fruits of his labors. His girlfriend Leigh wasn't keen on the critter (she suggested call signs of "Golden nugget" for us and "Lawn nugget" for theirs) because of all the work he'd put into it, but she came around over the course of the weekend. Quite enthusiastically, actually. Brandon and Leigh bought the van once they got home!
It was interesting hanging out with the two campers. We shared cooking duties, compared features and traded ideas.
entry 38 - tags: pike's peak
August 16, 2012 - Janel hanging out in her mobile living room.
Janel hanging out in her mobile living room.
entry 39 - tags: luxury
August 16, 2012 - Keith cooking breakfast.
Pancakes!
entry 40 - tags: food
August 16, 2012 - Pancakes made from scratch.
Sausage. Real maple syrup. Fresh coffee from a French press. Camping is such hardship.
I'm wearing a watch so we can tell when the race starts. We were camped right beside the course, which was really convenient over the course of the day as we stopped back at the bus to get out of the rain or grab a bite to eat.
entry 41 - tags: food
August 16, 2012 - A gorgeous sunset to mark the end of the day.
A gorgeous sunset to mark the end of the day.
entry 42 - tags: scenery
August 26, 2012 - Time to hit the road again.
This time, it's an overdue trip to Lake Powell with a couple of sea kayaks borrowed from Brandon and Leigh. It's about a 3.5 hour drive from home...usually.
entry 43 - tags: lake powell
August 26, 2012 - Ka-BOOM!
We'd been watching this storm since about Cisco. 90 minutes later, we were heading into the light. It was a seriously active light show. We thought we might scoot around the end. But no.
entry 44 - tags: lake powell, weather
August 26, 2012 - We only went through about 10-15 miles of the storm, but was massive.
The wind was trying to blow Westy off the road while the rain came in sideways. We just about pulled over to wait it out, but there wasn't any traffic so we just straddled the centerline and powered through. After a very long trip, we came out the other side and found ourselves coming in to Hite, our stop at Lake Powell.
entry 45 - tags: lake powell, weather
August 26, 2012 - We pulled in a bit late.
Janel's parents had gone down a few days before, so we just pulled in beside them after being given directions like "turn left at the bathrooms and go past the big tanks". There was mud all over the road from a previous storm. We just left the boats on the roof of the bus and bunked down for the night.
entry 46 - tags: lake powell
August 26, 2012 - The next morning was more like it.
We unloaded the boats, had a massive breakfast and proceeded to simply enjoy ourselves. Janel and I went for a little tour together in the kayaks and we cooked tacos for lunch. At 4 pm. You don't go camping because you want a schedule, do you?
entry 47 - tags: lake powell
August 26, 2012 - Lake Powell is an odd place.
It's a man-made lake, but that understates the massive size of it. It's about 139 miles from one end to the other by boat. It's also surrounded by the red rock walls and canyons we know from Moab. But that's just not a landscape that's supposed to have large bodies of water.
It's beautiful. And a great place to explore with a kayak. We also went for a run down the lake a bit with Janel's dad, who has spent countless hours messing about on the lake, usually under the pretense of fishing. We came across a gorgeous red sand beach with a sandy bottom and parked the boat right on it so we could go swimming.
Does this sound like a fantastic way to spend a weekend? It should.
entry 48 - tags: lake powell
August 26, 2012 - Of course, there were s'mores.
There have to be.
Our visit to Powell was hot. Highs around 91, so I spent quite a bit of time just soaking in the lake.
The Westy worked perfectly all weekend. Our biggest problem was cooling down at night. We put the mosquito screen in the back hatch and propped it open to get a cross-breeze, but the lack of screen in our upstairs window meant that a few lucky flies got us up in the morning. So that's on the "fix it" list.
entry 49 - tags: lake powell, bugs
August 26, 2012 - Cruising home.
We trundled along happily at 60-75 mph the whole way in nice sunny weather, a dramatic difference from our trip out. There were a couple of exciting moments with big unexpected crosswind gusts, but the bus failed to fall over despite Janel's expectations. She also found out how much fun it is to ride waaaay in the back.
entry 50 - tags: lake powell
October 15, 2014 - Time to do something about the fridge. It's an ammonia-based absorption fridge that can run on 120v, 12v or propane.
It really only works on 120v or propane, the 12v power consumption is horrendous with minimal cooling. Even on propane, it's more of a cooler than a fridge because it only runs about 40F cooler than ambient. When it's 100F outside, that's not good enough. We often just brought a big ice chest on trips, but that got in the way.
I decided to replace it with a compressor-style "truckfridge" that is considerably larger inside and runs much colder with a lower power draw. How much lower? The old fridge pulled something like 16 or 17A continuously when running. The new one, 2.3A and it only runs about 30% of the time. You can imagine how much happier the batteries will be. And it's cold enough to freeze popsicles.
Here's a size comparison.
entry 51 - tags: fridge
October 15, 2014 - There are two sizes of truckfridge.
I chose the larger of the two because that's how my brain works. This required quite a bit of reworking for some fairly subtle changes. It didn't take long for the van to look fairly derelict.
entry 52 - tags: fridge
October 15, 2014 - This is the kitchen.
The center divider needs to move over by about 7/8" to clear the new fridge. Seems simple, but that means complete and utter disassembly. Followed, of course, by new tongue and groove work to move the wall and change the width of the right side drawers. There was some internal rewiring required as well. I reassembled it with extra bracing to make it stronger than original. This is the "before" shot.
There are no pictures of the carnage. Needless to say, it was pretty epic.
entry 53 - tags: fridge
October 15, 2014 - Several days later, here's the end result.
The black fridge has a new face in matching laminate and the trim has been painted to match the original. This poorly lit photo makes the laminate color look like a bad match, but in person it's very good. The door does stick out a bit more, but if you didn't know Westfalias you'd probably think it was stock.
The old fridge door is going to be repurposed elsewhere. Later.
entry 54 - tags: fridge
October 15, 2014 - Check out the trippy blue LED.
Also the new drawer - that's new, bonus storage space that didn't exist before. So the new fridge is colder, has more space inside, uses far less power. Win all around.

There's a new 12v outlet on the top right of the cabinet, perfect for recharging phones and the like when parked.
entry 55 - tags: fridge
October 15, 2014 - There were some other tweaks as well.
The grey box is our solar controller. It was wired in in a very obtrusive place before, now it's hidden behind the driver's seat but very accessible. The 120v outlet beside it is new, and it gives me the option to recharge the auxiliary battery directly using a pigtail that's permanently mounted on the battery. That will let us effectively run the fridge (and all the other interior power) off 120v when we're plugged in.
The red switches in the background are a disconnect for the house battery so it won't drain while the van is not in use, and an override for the audio system so it can be run off the house battery when needed.
The battery has enough power to run the fridge for about two days without recharging, and all the interior lighting is LEDs to keep the other draws minimal.
entry 56 - tags: fridge, solar