Upgrades and Maintenance

The van is currently in Spacedock getting some needed attention, as well as some upgrades. I’ll be hanging out at Meg’s in Danville, Illinois for the next several days.

At the top of the list is a new set of tires. The ones the van came with weren’t fresh to begin with, and the miles I’ve put on myself have worn them even more. The place down the road from Meg’s has Goodyear Wrangler HTs in stock, and could install them today, so I went for it. They’re a “highway terrain” tire, optimized for pavement but more capable in light dirt driving than standard commercial van tires. I fully expect to be camping out in BLM land out west, and wanted tires I could be sure would get me there and back to pavement. I won’t be doing any serious dirt driving, though. Going exploring is what the motorcycle is for.

I also got a front end alignment. It feels fine from the driver’s seat, but when putting new tires on a new-to-me vehicle, it’s cheap insurance against wearing them out quickly. The front tires always had signs of unusual wear. I think it’s because the transportation company underinflated them, but this way I’ll be sure these will last as long as possible.

From Amazon, I picked up some window screens and a phone holder. The screens slip over the windows on my front doors, meaning I can open them without letting all the bugs in. The phone holder will let me make music selections on the phone itself while continuing to display Google Maps on my dashboard through Apple CarPlay. Now I won’t need to switch screens on my dashboard to change my tunes. Having the phone in a holder means this still meets the legal qualification for hands-free operation in states that have such laws. It’s also just a good idea. I have some ideas to redesign the covers in the long side windows at either end of the bed. I want to be able to partially open them to let more light in without the hassle of removing and storing them. I never do that because it’s too much trouble. But it would be good to open the shades and let more light into the back of the van, especially since as of today, the days will be shorter than the nights.

Since it’s cooling off, too, I picked up this Camco insulator pad pillow thingy that fits perfectly into a standard 14×14 roof vent opening. I’m closing things up completely at night, but I still lose heat through the Maxxair fan cover, which is just plastic. This plugs up the gap nicely, and makes a noticeable difference. Although I do have a propane heater, it’s not nearly as convenient to use where we mounted it as I’d expected. That’s something else I’ll have to redesign at some point.

The big upgrade, though, is an awning. I’ve been hesitant to do this because I don’t have a roof rack to install it on, and the fiberglass high-top roof isn’t strong enough to use as a mounting point. I finally figured out that I could bolt it to the frame above the side doors. It’s solid metal, and it’s tall enough that I’ll be able to open and close the doors with the awning up. I’m already starting to drive places with less shade than the east, so it’ll be great to be able to make my own — especially once I hit the desert.

I’m also doing a little bit of reorganizing inside the van. I find myself preferring the convenience of the butane stove instead of having to hook up the propane stove/grill every time I want to use it. So I’ve put the larger grill away under the bed, and will store the butane stove and extra butane on the shelf where the propane unit used to live. This is why so many people suggest living in your van for a little while before doing a big involved build. We didn’t have that luxury, but I can still move things around to make the setup work better for me. Since I’ll be in the same place for a little while, I can completely empty some of the cabinets, then repack them in a way that makes them more usable for my needs. Trisha packed them the way she wanted, which made sense at the time because she generally handled the food and cooking. But now, it’s my turn.

Beyond that, it’s more of the mundane. Laundry, for instance. I plan to head over to a Lenscrafters in Champaign to get my glasses fixed, since I bought them at a Lenscrafters in New Hampshire last year. And, of course, visiting Meg. This is really my last stop for a long time where I’ll be visiting someone I know, and even we’d only ever known each other online until I arrived at her house. It’s also the last stop before the Route 66 convoy begins. Our meeting point in Joliet is just 2.5 hours away, making this the perfect jumping off point, as well as a good place to get everything in order before we go.

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