Moving In

There are still lots of little projects to do, but I’ve mostly been making progress on moving into Smokey II. I trimmed a second piece of foam the same size as the one already on the bed. This lets me turn it into a couch, as you can see here, or have an eight-inch thick mattress if I lay them both down flat. I’ll try it both ways once I start sleeping in here, which likely won’t be long now.

I wired up 12-volt and USB outlets in strategic locations around the van, based on the current layout. They’ll be easy enough to change if I want to, but it’s a good start for now. I mounted two outlets to the base of the driver’s seat to plug in both the fridge and my laptop when I’m sitting in the swiveled passenger seat, facing backward. That let me move my fridge back into the van, where I tied it and the table down so they won’t tip over while I’m driving.

At Yellow Wolf’s suggestion, I picked up this set of ten magnetic hooks. They stick to my angle iron, as you can see here, or to any exposed metal along the walls. I haven’t put too many of them to use yet, but I can see myself hanging stuff from them as needed. They say they can handle up to 100 pounds, so things like my various backpacks should work. I’m going to try hanging my new laundry bag on one of these as well.

I also got another cargo net for a pickup truck bed. Instead of a truck, I stretched it across part of my shelf, specifically the part I’m using for some of my clothes. This will keep them nicely contained while I’m in motion, and I can easily take the net down when I’m parked. Yes, this is the same trick I used over the foot of the bed in my old van. Why mess with success?

I mostly have my ham radio set up. The hardest part, the antenna, was taken care of by a mount from Alberta Radio Supply made specifically for the Transit. This way I can put the ham antenna in the same place next to the front fender as my previous van. I reused the same NMO mount and the antenna itself. While I had easy access to mount antennas to the roof or the roof racks, the van is already more than nine feet tall, and the antenna would stick up beyond that. I don’t mind sacrificing a little radio performance to keep the height down. If I feel like it, I could install a separate antenna mount to one of the roof racks and switch to it when I’m parked.

The Transit has no engine doghouse like the E250 — its V6 engine is short enough to not protrude under the dashboard like the V8s in older vans do — but there’s a perfect spot under the cupholders and gearshift lever where I installed the whole radio, without separating the control head. I don’t really play with it while I’m driving, so having the controls in front of my face isn’t as important. I just set it up before I go, or try out local repeaters while I’m parked. All that remains is to wire a power cord up to my house fuse panel. That’s an easy job, but as usual, I was overheating by this point. For testing, I’m running it off a cigarette lighter plug. I also need to wire up my internet router. I don’t use it much anymore, but it’s super useful when I can’t use Starlink, or when I want to mooch off free WiFi at an overnight stop.

This dragonfly decided to hang out on top of my AM/FM antenna. There’s no more story. It’s just a cool picture I wanted to share.

The place is really coming together. When I made a grocery run today, I stocked up the fridge and the van rather than bringing things into the house this time. I also picked up a couple of storage bins, and have already put away all my warm winter blankets and coats. (They’re right under the bed if I need them as I head north.)

One thing I have not designed into the van at this point is a place for my propane tank. I’m not sure I will. My stove can run off butane cans or the one-pound bottles for a camp stove. While I’m not throwing away my Olympian Wave 3 heater away, I won’t be needing it for the next few months. I intend to have a diesel heater installed by the time I need heat again, but I’ll keep the Wave 3 as a backup. For now, I’ll stash the propane bottle in the trailer.

There’s not a lot left, at least for phase one. There’s more to move out of the old van as heat and humidity permit, but I’m more than 50% there. I’m also cleaning things out as I go, and filling trash bags with things that aren’t useful to anyone anymore. It won’t take much to set Smokey I up for its next life, which I’ll explain when the time comes for it to go there. Let’s just say that like so many from New England, it will be retiring to Florida.

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